Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tales of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers

The other day I received a comp copy of Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers, an almost-500 page $50 hardcover volume containing virtually all the Batman art Marshall did. While Marshall is perhaps best-known for his collaboration with Steve Engelhart on a run in Detective Comics, his first Batman story was actually the last chapter of my Calculator series in 'Tec. And that almost didn't happen...

The Calculator series had been running as a back-up in the book, with the villain battling The Atom, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Green Arrow, and Hawkman in succession, all leading up to a confrontation with Batman. Mike Grell pencilled the first two tales and Ernie Chua (Chan) did the third before Marshall came on board. Editor Julie Schwartz and I loved how Marshall handled the GA and Hawkman chapters and wanted him to pencil the book-length final chapter.

But we ran into a bit of a roadblock. Vince Colletta, who was DC's Art Director at the time, did not think Marshall was ready to handle the lead story in a book, particularly a Batman story. Eventually, Julie prevailed, Marshall pencilled the story, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Anyway, back to this hardcover collection. The copy on the dust jacket flap reads: "Marshall Rogers was born in Flushing, New York on January 22, 1950. Rogers worked in comics for many years but is best known for his detailed and realistic work on Batman during his run on Detective Comics in the late 1970's. Considered extremely influential by both writers and artists to this day, he left an indelible mark on the world of comics."

And that's it! Despite the hefty page count and equally hefty price, this book has no introduction or foreword of any sort. There is no mention of any of Marshall's other work -- for DC and other publishers. There is no further info about his career and no commentary by any of the writers, inkers and editors who worked with him. There isn't even mention of the fact that Marshall died in 2007!

It's not like the information is a secret. Wikipedia has a long entry about Marshall and his career. Even DC's own online Database has more info about him than the book does!

One thing the book does have, however, is a misplaced apostrophe on the back cover: "Roger's (sic) Batman stories introduced  ideas and visuals that remain a staple in Batman tales to this day."

Maybe they could correct that when they do a second printing...and add some more biographical material to all the empty space on the end flaps.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It Must Be True-- I Read It on the Internet!

Wild animals running loose... in Ohio? Sheriff's staff takes part in a big-game hunt after the owner of a private zoo lets them loose and kills himself! If you saw this in a movie or read it in a book, you'd say, "How ridiculous!"

Tea Party urges small businesses to not hire any new employees in order to ruin the economy and bring down Obama and the Senate and their socialist agenda? Are these people who are not being hired the ones who are Occupying Wall Street?

Muammar Gaddafi dead? Captured? Shot in the leg(s)? How can we be sure it's him since no one can even agree about how to spell his name?

A 67-year old Canadian man was arrested for drunk driving for the 24th time? At some point, shouldn't someone have taken away his car keys?

Riverside County, California sex offenders have officially been prohibited from distributing trick-or-treat candy and lighting their homes with Halloween decorations. No comment.

A single cup of ice cream has more fat than a hamburger and more cholesterol than 10 glazed doughnuts. So, a burger and five donuts is the much better choice?

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Day at the New York Comic-Con

It's been a couple of years since I last went to the New York Comic-Con. I usually find such massive conventions a bit too much after a couple of hours and, after seeking out a few familiar faces and chatting, I head home.

That was pretty much my plan on Saturday. I took a 10:00 train to the city, got to the Javits Center at about 11:15 and figured I'd be on a 2:00 train home. When I showed my badge to a Con employee and he directed me onto a line that snaked down the hill and around most of the building and back again, I was thinking that I might just give up and be on a train at noon. After being on the line -- which, to the credit of the Con personnel moved steadily -- for about ten minutes, I came upon another Con employee and asked if there wasn't some other entrance for the Comics Pros. He looked at my badge and said, "Why are you on this line? You should have gone right in!" He gave me his name, sent me back up the hill, and said to tell whoever I encountered that he had sent me. This time, however, I walked right in.

There were half a dozen old friends who were on my short list of people I wanted to see. A couple of them were scheduled to be doing signings at one booth or another, but otherwise, they would be wandering around like I was. The Archie Comics booth was easy to find once I entered the hall, so I headed there, thinking I might find Paul Kupperberg. Kupps wasn't there, but Michael Uslan was, signing copies of comics and his book, The Boy Who Loved Batman. As Michael and I talked, Kupps and John Workman walked up. Moments later, Allan Asherman and Arlene Lo walked by and joined us, followed by Jack C. Harris.

Sidebar: Back in the very early days of our careers at DC Comics, then VP/Production Manager Sol Harrison decided that we "kids" should put together a company-backed fanzine called Amazing World of DC Comics. He came to my desk and said, "Go get the rest of your pals and bring them to my office." So I went to my compatriots and said, "Sol wants to have a Junior Woodchucks meeting." I was making a joke, using the name of the faux-Boy Scouts that Huey, Dewey and Louie of Donald Duck fame belonged to. But the name stuck...and we became DC's Junior Woodchucks.

So I'd been at the Con for about five minutes and already I was reunited with three of my Junior Woodchuck pals -- Michael, Allan, and Jack. We all talked and laughed for awhile, reminding one another of stories from the old days and deciding that we could start a comic book company -- Old Fart Comics.

John Workman, yours truly, Paul Kupperberg, Jack C. Harris, Michael Uslan, Allan Asherman (photos courtesy of JCH)

Michael had to depart for a panel and the rest of us headed over to the Kubert School booth to say hi to Joe Kubert. Joe was signing a book when we got there and I said, "Excuse me, Mr. Kubert. If we come to your school, could we get jobs in the comic book business?" Joe looked up, laughed and said, "You? No way!"

Allan, Arlene and Paul then split off for other destinations as Jack, John and I headed to Artists Alley, where I wanted to find my old pal and collaborator, Alex Saviuk. Jack had already seen Alex, so he led the way. After chatting with Alex for awhile, we decided to wander. I still had Marty Pasko and Tony Isabella on my short list of people to find.

We made our way to the DC Comics booth. It has been thirteen years since I left staff at DC and about ten since I last did any freelance work for them, so I did not expect to know that many people there. As it turned out, the only person I did know was editor Karen Berger. Karen gave us another name to add to our list, saying that Len Wein was also at the Con.

Time flew by quickly as we made our way around the Con, stopping to have long or short conversations with Walt and Louise Simonson, Joe and Hillary Staton, Denny and Maryfrann O'Neil, Arvell Jones, Bob Wiacek, Bob Kahan, Robin and Elayne Riggs, Craig Yoe, Jamie Graham, and Mark Mazz. Along the way I was greeted by a fan who had seen my presentation at the Pronto Comics meeting in August and another who had been present when I spoke at a meeting of the comic book fans at Hofstra University about five years ago. And in the "I didn't expect to see you here" department, we were taking a break when I spotted one of the Teaching Assistants from CTY walking by. She was as surprised to see me as I was to see her.

With Michael Uslan with the splash page of our Batman collaboration

At about 4:15, Jack, John and I decided to head back to Artists Alley for another try at finding Marty, Tony and/or Len. Our route took us past the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art booth, where Michael was signing his book. We stopped for another chat with Mike and he and I posed for a photo with the splash page of the Batman story we collaborated on way back in 1976.

Just as we were talking about the guys we had yet to find, up strolled Tony. He looked at Jack and me and said, "Am I having an acid flashback?" "More like acid indigestion," replied Jack.

While Tony and I chatted, I mentioned that we had yet to find Marty and then glanced up to see him walking right past us. We pulled Marty into our group for another lively conversation about the "old days."
With Marty Pasko, Jack, and Tony Isabella

At about 5:30, the group started to split up for different destinations and I decided it was time for me to head home. So I bid my pals farewell and headed out through the throngs of costumed and non-costumed fans.

Alas, we never did find Len.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Swimsover 2011

Our neighbors on both sides have had their pools closed and covered for weeks, but ours has remained open -- as usual -- through Columbus Day. As seems to be the norm, we were rewarded with temperatures in the 80s over the three-day weekend and I was able to get in a few more swims. (Laurie's mother used to say, "It always gets hot around the Jewish holidays" and that holds true, regardless of when in September or October those holidays fall. Not surprising, then, that Saturday was Yom Kippur.)

But following my one last swim yesterday afternoon -- with both air and water temps in the mid 70s -- our "Temperature Team" of thermometers is now off duty. The cover awaits the arrival of the guys who will close the pool for the season. And we look forward to next April and First Dunk 2012.

The way time seems to be flying by, that should be in about a week...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Strange Adventures in Halifax

Sometimes you have to wonder where coincidence ends and cosmic intervention begins.

Case in point: We are on a cruise and make a stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia. One of the highlights to visit in the city is the Citadel. Not surprisingly, this massive fortress sits on the top of a hill overlooking the harbor... a fairly steep hill, at that.

Ignoring the suggestion of a friendly traffic director that we follow one street about six blocks and then head straight up the hill, I decide that we should zigzag, thereby making the trek up the hill a bit less strenuous by breaking it up.

So what are the odds that our across-and-up path should take us up a side street where the only comic book shop in Halifax, Strange Adventures, is located? Laurie will insist it is the hand of fate that does this.

So we enter the shop and, as she is wont to do, Laurie immediately asks if the owner is there. Cal Johnston identifies himself and Laurie says, "You should meet my husband. He's famous."

As I am wont to do, I just roll my eyes and say, "Oh, here we go." We have gone through this scenario in other places and it usually leads to a response like, "Oh...okay." This time, however, as I identify myself, Cal exclaims, "Wow! The Answer Man is in the house!"

Cal and I had a pleasant conversation about my Answer Man column that ran in the comics in the '70s and '80s. I offered to autograph some books, but the most recent volumes containing reprints of my work (Secret Society of Super-Villains, Greatest Batgirl Stories, and Showcase: Robin #2) were all sold out.

Cal apologizes. "If we'd known you were coming, we would have ordered a few more copies."

"I'm sure you would have, but I didn't know I was coming!" was my reply.

Despite the lack of comics I wrote, Strange Adventures is quite well-stocked. Comics, books, and related material are all arranged to attract attention and invite browsing. It's easy to see why they are called Canada's best comics shop. As Laurie put it, "I have no interest in comics, but I would buy things here."