Hello and Welcome!
Hello and welcome to the revived, web-based Jach Spake! To read the entire introduction to my new website, click here.
Bruce Pelz Fanzine Collection
The University of California, Riverside (UCR) is the home of the fanzine collection willed to it by the now-deceased Bruce Pelz. He was a member of the legendary Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and his fanzine collection has been estimated to be the largest in the world.
Dwight Decker tells me that Fred Patten, former Central Mailer and Honorary Member of the comics apa CAPA-alpha and a father of comics fandom, has also given his collection of fanzines to UCR. It has been added to the Bruce Pelz Fanzine Collection. That would explain the inclusion of many later fanzines and apazines.
UCR has cataloged this collection and a listing can be found online along with a search engine to enable you to find your favorite old fanzine either by the name of the publication or that of its editor/creator. Copies of chosen fanzines can be ordered from UCR, but be forewarned that at $2.50 a page it can be pricey. I imagine that a call to UCR can determine if the collection is open to the public at their library.
You will find at the Bruce Pelz Fanzine Collection copies of old Jach Spakes, CAPA-alphas, Ibids, Torches, Alter-egos, and even Rob Solomon's self-destruct apa Exponent! Our fannish efforts are all there for all to see for all posterity!
Michigan State University also has a fanzine collection, but its website doesn't provide a search engine as robust as that found at UCR.
The caution advised long-ago to those who felt they could tell-all in what they considered 'private' apa mailings has again been proven sound.
An Interview with Phil Seuling
Teacher, Fan, and Con-man Extraordinaire
Click here to read a 1971 interview with Phil Seuling, a founding father of comics fandom.
A related item about the interview is at: November 3, 2003 Jeff and Bob and Bill and Roy
The US Without Borders
Well, not precisely.
The country's not ridding itself of its boundaries, but the Borders Bookstore chain has announced the closing of half of its Waldenbooks stores (found in shopping malls) and many of its poorer performing Borders Bookstores in January and February 2008.
In this Internet age of buyers leafing through books at the bricks and mortar shops to sample them and then purchasing them online from competitors, it's only a matter of time before the physical storefronts take a hit. As is, another step that Borders is taking is to sever its online ties with Amazon and start up its own Internet store.
I was surprised to find that the local Borders near me was being shuttered. It's an immense shop that's always very, very busy. It was so well-stocked that school kids and college students used to go there to do research for their papers and assignments especially since it was open to 11 PM every day of the week. That's probably why the town's public library eventually extended its closing time to 9 PM nightly. Articles in the local newspaper cite the company's inability to negotiate a new lease with the property owners as the reason for the Borders here in town closing.
The bookstore's loss is the public's gain... at least in the short-term. As part of the shut-down, the closing Dalton's and Borders are having large sales which start at 25% off all items and then ratchet up to 75% as the closing date nears.
How can you tell if a shop is closing and find one? Go to the Borders website and check out the individual stores near you. If there are no events listed on a particular shop's calendar, that's one slated to close. Click here to find.
September 23, 2007
The BBC has just aired a wonderful, hour-long documentary on the comic book work of Steve Ditko. Entitled "In Search of Steve Ditko", it traces his work in comics and expertly critiques it with discerning eyes from such notables as Jerry Robinson, Alan Moore, Ralph Macchio, and John Romita Sr. There's a wonderful moment when Stan Lee appears and verbally and in print credits Steve Ditko as a co-creator as Spider-Man. Stan reserves for himself the status as creator since he came up with the idea, but the written statement of his displayed completely on screen credits Ditko's full activity on the Spider-Man as plotter and designer and as being instrumental in the book's early success.
The documentary can be viewed by scrolling to the middle of this web page here.
You can click here to see some more Ditko-ania that I've put together.
Itís Still Not Your Dadís Comic Books
More junk came in the mail today. I got a catalog from the folks at Marvel Comics who are trying to peddle a whole bunch of merchandise. At first, I reflected fondly on Marvel's initial merchandising stunts in the 1960s. The t-shirts, posters, and the M.M.M.S. buttons.
This new catalog has innocuous items like those, too. There are also reprint books, figurines, backpacks, and even limited printings of Jack Kirby's art. Those weren't around way back then.
Upon perusing the catalog a little closer, I found a lot of Marvel merchandise that definitely wasn't sold in the sixties let along even contemplated!
There were tongue and belly rings featuring the symbols of Spidey, Daredevil, X-Men, Hulk, et al. Yuck!
There were leather trench coats available up to size 3XXX Large with the Punisher symbol on it. The last time I looked, the Punisher wore trimmer clothing than that.
The piece d' resistance was a Marvel Martini Set complete with, "stainless steel Marvel themed tray, shaker, jigger, tongs, stirrer and recipe book". Here's another quote from for this indispensible item: "Nothing like a good martini to help you mutate in a Super Hero."
Like the Comics Buyers Guide, Marvel also isn't a member of the Comics Code.
Don't look here for a web link to this either.
The New York Times ran an article today about newspapers around the country shedding comic strips to save space and cut down on costly pulp paper. It's funny that the writer of the article didn't mention that the Times doesn't have any of these problems since it features no comic strips at all.
Itís Not Your Dadís Fanzine Now
I got this in the mail once before and when I got it again just recently, I thought I'd bring it up here.
There's a magazine out there and it's all about knives, swords, hatchets, anything that's sharp and menacing. For some reason, I was sent a promotional brochure and an invitation to subscribe to this mag. The brochure offered snippets of articles entitled Knives of the Year, Knife-Making, Tornado Knife, and (my favorite) Men's Knives.
Just how did the publishers of this august publication get it into their heads that I fit into their demographic target?
Could it be because I subscribe to one of their sister publications, The Comics Buyers Guide? No wonder The Comics Buyers Guide isn't a member of the Comics Code!
Don't look for a web link to the knife mag here. Ugh. I'm not providing one.
Itís Not Your Dadís Comic Books Now
Todayís New York Times Magazine section cover-features an article about graphic novels entitled, "How Cool is Comics Lit?" by Charles McGrath. Itís been something like 40 years since comics have been cover-featured on the magazineís cover. I believe the last time "Social Relevancy" in comics was the aspect covered and hot topics appearing in comics like the effects of racism and drugs on society were highlighted. This time the focus is more on the content than the vehicle and on that point I believe the author is mistaken.
Interestingly enough, todayís article is in the more mainstream magazine section as opposed to the New York Timesí Book Review magazine where studying publishing industry trends is more apropos. The article leads off attempting to portray the advent of graphic novels as if it was a natural progression similar to novels supplanting poetry as popular literature, but that is hardly the case.
While there have been a few cases of original material first appearing in graphic novel format, so as to take advantage of the sub-categoryís larger size, even the most popular graphic novels started elsewhere. "Maus" was first serialized in issues of RAW and "Watchmen" appeared in twelve monthly thirty-two page comic books. The notion espoused in the article that the graphic novel affords creators more pages to play out their stories ignores the multiple issue story-lines that have been prevalent in comics since Lee and Kirbyís Galactus series in the Fantastic Four. Extended stories can be traced back to Gardner Foxís Justice League in the early 1960s.
The graphic novel is succeeding because the flimsy 32 page comic format is not. The success is not because of what the graphic novel affords the creators. It is not because the readership wants comicsí answer to novels. The graphic novel is succeeding due to what the larger form provides the publishers. It provides the industryís two giants, DC and Marvel, several long-sought goals. The first is a decent return on their investment. Who can make money off of a $2 magazine these days? The second is bookstore distribution of their merchandise. The vast bookstore chains are a new and reliable venue in which the publishers can sell their wares and ensure their continuation as publishers as opposed to being mere springboards for more profitable product extensions. Currently, DC and Marvel make more money from non-publishing efforts than from publishing. The third is the opportunity for the industry to break loose from the chains that bind it to contracting for x number of hours of press time at the printing plants. These presses have to be fed and have to crank out comics, good or bad, as opposed to letting the presses go idle and pay for unused press time nonetheless. The fourth is the possibility of the industry gaining the legitimacy of becoming true publishers, forsaking for good its pulp, dime novel magazine origins, to publish when the material is worthy as compared to when contracted press time has arrived.
Most graphic novels, if that is what trade paperback sized comics are to be called, are hardly novels. There are probably more anthologies reprinting old comics than original material on the shelves of the big box bookstores. This is whatís supporting the new graphic novel format. For every "Maus" or "Ghost World" on the bookshelves, there are many more reprints of ---what else?--- super-hero comics both of recent and ancient vintage. Marvelís and DCís efforts support the cornerstone for this genre and smaller firms like Fantagraphics, which almost went belly up due to unfortunate business decisions last year, trail behind despite their more original offerings. Eventually, comic publishers will forsake the 32 page, monthly format and publish their adventures of Superman or Spider-Man upon determining when there is a profit to be made in coming out with a new graphic novel.
Once that point is reached, the sub-category of graphic novel will live up to its own description. As it is now, those few true graphic novels out there now co-exist with and are supported by the reprints of super-heroes in spandex. Without the reprint anthologies, the graphic novels are just oddities without a place to be found in bookstores.
Now, just how did the Times expect this article to be authoritative without mentioning the graphic novels of Will Eisner?
Click on the URL below for the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/11/magazine/11GRAPHIC.html
Cranky Julie, RIP
Julie Schwartz died this past February. Now that heís been long laid to rest, I can add my reminisce to everyone elseís.
I last saw him at a Manhattan comic convention in December 2003. Truth-to-tell, it was the only time I had seen him at a comic-con as he was never present during the years I routinely attended comicons in the 1970s and 1980s. Julie was sitting next to Neal Adams. I had brought my fifteen-year-old son Charles with me, for what was his first comicon, and he waited patiently in line to get Nealís autograph. Charles had his copy of "Superman vs. Mohammed Ali" and Neal graciously signed it even though it wasnít one of the wares on his table.
"Did you get Julie to sign it, too?" I asked Charles.
"Who's Julie?" he asked. Kids!
"The old guy sitting next to Adams. Thatís Julius Schwartz, the editor of the "Superman vs Ali" book youíre holding! The guy who revived Flash, Green Lantern (twice) the Atom, and Batman!"
I remember the first time I met Schwartz. It was in the middle of July 1971. I had recently struck up a friendship with a local Brooklyn boy who had set up a newszine to replace "Newsfangles", the one Don and Maggie Thompson had been publishing. The kid was only 13 or so but he seemed rather entrepreneurial and held promise. His zineís name was "Et Cetera" and his name was Paul Levitz.
As I said, Paul was just a kid then and come summertime he was shipped off to far-off sleep-away camp. This would have wreaked havoc for his newszine since he couldnít gather the news. Back then, the only publisher who would talk to him anyway were the folks up at National Periodicals/DCÖ and they would only give him their shipping lists and bare-bone summaries of the contents of the comics. Marvel wouldnĎt even talk to him. So, Paul asked if I could go up to National Comics and collect the monthly publishing list and some news.
I was amenable to that. Iíd never visited a comics publisher before even though they were all in my backyard. I asked my old buddy Bob Zimmerman to come along with me, figuring it might be a treat.
It was anything but a treat. Bob and I were two jaded and savvy New York eighteen-year-olds who were unimpressed by much of anything.
DC was up at 909 Third Avenue at the time, atop the street-level FDR Post Office. When we got out of the elevators on DC's floor, there was a painting of Superman alongside of the elevator doors.
Our first port of call ---and the only one I can remember--- was Julie Schwartz's office. He was old then, in my mind, and very cranky. Some people are now saying that crankiness was part of his charm. Oh, boy.
Julie didn't want anything to do with us and was quite dismissive toward us in attitude and speech. In retrospect I can say it was because he was having a bad day.
Determined to show us up for the ignoramuses he thought we were, he asked, "Do you guys know who John W. Campbell is?"
"Sure," I said, "he's the editor of Analog Magazine." I wisely refrained from voicing my opinion that, in my mind, Analog was the dullest, driest sci-fi mag on the stands. Bob and I both worked part-time at a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library and were often called upon to recommend good sci-fi books to be purchased. I once suggested to the branchís lead librarian that they cease subscribing to Analog and instead get Galaxy or Amazing or F&SF.
"Well, John's dead," snapped Julie. "He died yesterday." After that, seemingly defeated, Julie gave us the shipping list for his stable of books and we hastily departed to find another editor.
I later learned that Julie was an agent for sci-fi writers, fronting for Bradbury, Kuttner, Lovecraft and others and, as such, dealt very frequently with Campbell. Campbell was responsible for giving Isaac Asimov his start in publishing.
When I read that Julie had passed on, I told Charles. He was quite shaken by it, having seen the guy just two months earlier. Most kids his age haven't met anybody who's died. I explained that Julie was old and ill and that he had left us all with a lot of memorable comicsÖ not to mention one memorable moment Bob and I had with him.
You Can Bank on Jersey
To append to my comments below about bank consolidations and the disappearance of Jersey banks...
A quick search of the Internet yielded the New York Community Bank, (NYCB) a firm I had read about that is scarfing up banks right and left like many other voracious firms but with one difference. It maintains the names of its acquired banks. The chief executive heading up NYCB, a gent who rose through he ranks from teller on up, realized the names of local banks hold considerable sway over folks in the old neighborhoods. He doesn't plaster NYCB's name over the hometown names of the banks acquired. Thus, the names of Queens County Savings, Richmond County Savings, and Roosevelt Savings Bank (my old bank in Brooklyn), among others, still exist!
And so does one of NYCB's outposts across the Hudson River: The First Savings Bank of New Jersey.
The Bloom is Off the Rose
*** This is an update to my article of December 4, 2003 Rose is...? ***
I've only been following Pat Brady's Rose is Rose comic strip for a year or two and have quickly found it to be one of my favorite strips. I guess I was late in coming to it because it has now changed.
Don Wimmer (who has drawn Ripley's Believe It or Not since 1989) has assumed the artistic chores on Rose is Rose as of March 2004 and the strip's just not the same. Figures are no longer as angular and elongated as formerly. Varied perspectives and vertical approaches to horizontal panels are employed just for the sake of it instead of using them shrewdly to advance the story in what is a constrained medium.
I sent a message of complaint to Mr. Brady and got in return a canned response stating the future for the strip was bright with Mr. Wimmer being on board. Ho-hum.
Both strips are syndicated by United Media.
The Bank with Heart
Over the years, I've watched one bank after another here in New Jersey be eaten up either by one another or by interlopers from out of state. Many were devastated in the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s. When we first moved here there were so many banks with Jersey in their names that I couldn't keep them straight in my head.
There was United Jersey Bank, First Jersey Bancshares, Commerce Bank of New Jersey, First National Bank of New Jersey, et cetera. All gone.
All but one. The only Jersey bank that remained after years of consolidations was the Trust Company of New Jersey, aka Trustcompany Bank, aka The Bank with Heart. It's the bank that holds our mortgage. However, it, too, will soon be gone.
Although we keep deposit accounts at a major bank so we can easily access our money from a large multitude of ATMs, we have always used small, local banks to get mortgages for our homes.
The reason was well-depicted in an old TV commercial that showed a stack of dust-covered documents being passed from hand-to-hand at a big, bureaucratic bank as the voice-over droned, "Your loan will be approved any day now... any day now."
When we applied for our current mortgage at Trustcompany, the loan officer hand-delivered our application to the bank president for approval rather than wait two weeks for the next meeting of the bank's mortgage committee. Now, that's service!
So it was with much trepidation that I recently read that the Trust Company of New Jersey has been gobbled up by a larger institution with headquarters in New York State.
The bank's long-time owner/President, a Holocaust survivor, recently passed on and the second generation is selling out. I assume its partly due to pressures from within the industry and from plain old greed. A lot of workers I've met in our local office and in the home office will be losing their jobs. It's a shame.
The towering TRUST COMPANY OF NEW JERSEY neon signs over Jersey City's Journal Square will come down. The bank's name etched in stone atop its many Romanesque columned offices will be covered over with its acquirer's ticky-tacky emblem. Two dozen Trustcompany locations are already destined to be closed so as to give the acquisition of the firm the illusion of an immediate profit. And when you submit a loan application, it'll be sent off to a processing center who-knows-where!
We've already gotten a notice to send next month's mortgage payment to someplace in Connecticut! Yikes!
Mutts on the Table
One of the best new comic strips to come down the pike in the last ten years is Patrick McDonnell's Mutts.
Cute doggie Earl and rascally Mooch have an understated charm that's reminiscent of the relationship between Snoopy and Charlie Brown before Snoopy took to the air in his imaginary Sopwith Camel.
Mutts is a down-to-Earth examination of how pets fit into the lives of their masters and vice-versa.
McDonnell's sensitivities derive from his simple yet eloquent style that draws upon the love and empathy that the strip's characters have for each other.
This latest book is a wonderful reprinting of many of his best daily and Sunday color strips. Also included are notes that cite the sources of the title panels of the Sunday strips that pay homage to old record albums, comic book covers, famous works of art, and movie posters.
The true fan of the Mutts strip will consider this book a 'must-have'. However, I have to admit that if you've been purchasing the Mutts collections printed so far, there's scant new material in this hardcover book. For a book of its size, the autobiographical information is very lean. There was probably more to read about McDonnell in a recent Star-Ledger newspaper interview than in this book. (( Unfortunately, I cannot link to this interview here as the Star-Ledger did not bank it on its website. But, wait! Click here for an interesting Q&A he had with readers of the Washington Post. ))
I bought the book for myself as a frivolous, self-indulgent treat. You might not want to do likewise.
You can see this book at Amazon.com by clicking on its image above or here. You'll find this review of it there, too!
Happy New Year!
May auld acquaintance be forgot... Huh?
It's not January 1st! It's May 1st!
Excessive programming at work, that old bug-a-boo, dissuaded me from doing anything here for a few months.
There's some good news... search engines like Google and Yahoo and webrings like Comic Book Resources and Digital Webbing have all (finally) begun to list my site's new URL.
So, remembering that it's better late then never, I'll make a belated new year's resolution to update this site at least weekly.
My brother recently send me a link to a web page which featured a card trick from magician David Copperfield. Choose a card, click on it, and David tells you which card you chose. It should only take a second for you to realize that clicking on the card told the web program which card you chose. ((Sorry, but that web page is now gone, so I cannot link to it anymore.))
There's a far better card trick. It's called The Wizard. Here's how it goes. You ask a friend at a party to pick a card out of a deck and to show it to everyone. Then you phone up The Wizard who proceeds to tell your friend the card he chose. That's it. Period. Your friend chooses a card, you call The Wizard, and The Wizard tells your friend the card. The simplicity of it all always stuns the audience.
Considering how the Wizard trick has been around for over fifty years, I don't mind revealing the secret of how it's down.
First, you will need the pre-arranged services of a confederate who's not present and who you will be phoning. He's going to be The Wizard.
Tell a gathering of your friends that you have an acquaintance, known as the Wizard, who can guess a chosen playing card over the phone. Have one of your friends choose a card and show it to you and everyone else there. Then phone The Wizard.
When The Wizard gets on the line, immediately ask, "May I speak to the Wizard, please?" Your confederate should be thoroughly familiar with this trick and know what to do. (It helps to have several "Wizards" in case one can't take the call.) The Wizard's response will be to recite the suits of the deck slowly, "Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, Spades."
When The Wizard says the proper suit of the card chosen, you interrupt him by saying, "Fine, I'll wait."
The Wizard then slowly counts from two to ace. When he chooses the proper number of the card chosen, you interrupt him again by saying, "Hold on."
You then give the phone to the person who chose the card and tell him to ask the Wizard what was the card. The person will ask your confederate and he will tell him the card chosen. When your friend says, "You're right," your confederate merely replies, "Of course," and hangs up.
If done smoothly, this will work very well. If done more than once at a party, be sure to use the same phrases when you speak to the Wizard so that people will see that you're not giving The Wizard any verbal clues. I've done it many, many times over the years to great success, confounding my audiences.
I must confess that the trick was first pulled on me some thirty years ago by friends in California. Once done, they asked me what I thought.
My response? "The guy on the other end of the line is counting cards and you're signaling when he's right." In this instance, I confounded the tricksters by being too sharp for them.
By coincidence, I was browsing a used book store on Hollywood Boulevard a few days later and I bought a copy of Bud and Lou: The Abbott and Costello Story, a biography by Bob Thomas. From that book I learned that The Wizard trick happened to be an old gag they used to pull on their friends. The bio' stated they fleeced Jackie Gleason one night in the late 1940s of quite lot of money this way.
So, have fun with it. If you call on me to be The Wizard, I'd be glad to oblige you.
Rose is... ?
One of my favorite comics strips these days is Pat Brady's Rose is Rose. It chronicles the Gumbo family, Jimbo, Rose, and little son Pasquale. A couple of years ago this was just another overly-sweet, sachharin family strip not too much different from the Family Circus, a comics panel guaranteed to bring on diabetes to the routine reader. Both featured cloying children, the typical child-like approach to life's events, overly-responsive parents, and ghostly images of imaginary friends. The strip's biggest gimmick, once upon a time, seemed to be Pasquale's baby-talk, happily discarded long ago.
But, something changed in Rose is Rose to distinguish it from the dreadful Family Circus. Over the years, creator Pat Brady dropped his cartoony approach for the most part for a highly-stylized attitude replete with seven head tall characters (usually found in super-hero comics), strange juxtapositions of figures, forced perspectives, and angle shots of all types.
If it were just the unique art style, that'd be sufficient to hold my interest. Brady strives to be creative in the little space afforded his comic strip and forces the readership to accept the fact that the world is not a two dimensional 2 by 6 inch strip and that comic strip art has not gone the way what appears in, ugh, Cathy. He succeeds in pioneering.
However, Pat Brady has gone further. His Gumbo family is not your typically average Leave It To Beaver family. No sir. If it was only the fact that child Pasquale had dreamt up an imaginary friend, a guardian angel, that could be dismissed as a routine and acceptable application of a childhood creation that is as old to comic strips as the fairy godfather in Crockett Johnson's Barnaby strip from the early 1940s.
It seems Pasquale gets his innocent psychosis from his family. The parents' mental statuses are suspect.
Papa Jimbo is fixated on Mama Rose being the corpulent person she used to be. It comes up frequently in the strip. Funhouse mirrors, fish-eye camera lenses, convex rear-view mirrors for his bicycle, and over-dressing her on wintry days are some of the devices he's used to see her as she once was. This penchant of his is even documented at the strip's official website.
Mama Rose is worse. She has an alternate personality known as Vicki and she's a biker and everything that Rose is not. Rose dresses like a dowdy housewife in baggy clothes and it's only infrequently that her rather nice, svelte figure is revealed. Her approach to life is steady and conservative. But when indecision nibbles at her, she metamorphosizes into Vicki, a biker chick with a leather jacket and hot pants (both short), chains on her apparel, wild mane of hair, and tattoos (of roses, of course) on each well-exposed thigh. In psychopathic fashion, Vicki can make the decisions that Rose cannot. Unfortunately for the readers, Vicki only appears when Rose cannot deal with mundane matters like driving with the windows open on an Indian summer day or buying spicy foods. Her wild side never appears during the overly dramatic kissing schemes she springs on her husband.
A recent trip to the doctor found the family physician recommending medication for Rose's mood swings. I wouldn't find this funny even if the wife of a friend of a friend weren't medicated for such.
Now, if only Jimbo were fixated on Rose being a biker... then the strip would really heat up! Sadly, Jimbo wishes Rose were exactly the opposite of her alternate personality. He never longs for Vicki with Rose obliging. Talk about unrequited love!
Despite that, they seem to be a loving couple. However... their constant requests of each other for simple affection appears forced and demonstrative of their longing for something which might not really be there.
Next comic strip to be placed under the microscope: the equally stylistic 9 Chickweed Lane.
Updated at: May 4, 2004 The Bloom is off the Rose
Great hairy fishnuts! The little bird with the big schnozz has returned! Opus the penguin, previously in the comic strips Bloom County and Outland, has returned to the Sunday funnies.
Apparently, creator Berkeley Breathed found it all too tempting to stay on the sidelines during the charged political environment of the Bush II years and felt he had more than a little something to say.
The new strip Opus started up November 23 and is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Unfortunately, the strip is not available online (at least not yet) and not every paper in the country has the good sense to carry it. You'll just have to wait until newspapers wake up (which is going to be tough to do since it might mean dropping Cathy or Shoe) or until some unofficial website carries the strip.
You can read the Washington Post article here.
The secret word is...
Reflecting on the Groucho image I used way down below on this page, I'm reminded that as much as Google.com is a great search engine for websites, it's also a great search engine for images. I've been using it for many of the spot illoes on my site from cutesy cartoons to photographs. Nowadays with the Internet and Google, you don't need the pictures that come along with applications like Front Page and Print Master. Simply do a search in the Images tab on Google and you'll find a ton of suitable pictures.
Groucho's just about the funniest person I can think of, so I gave Google a whirl to see what I'd find and published a few of the more interesting ones here. To sample a ton of Groucho cartoons, illustrations, drawings, photographs, and imagery, go here.
Just be glad I didn't publish the photo of a parakeet dressed like Groucho.
Teen Titans theme oddly reminiscent
Has anyone besides me noticed the distinct melodic similarities between the theme songs of Cartoon Network's latest hit Teen Titans and the 1960s hit Secret Agent Man? Considering the Japanese origins of the singers of the Teen Titan theme, you can sing the lyrics of Secret Agent karoake-style to the instrumentals of Teen Titans. I know I do.
The late Beatle George Harrison got into hot water in the early 1990s over supposedly borrowing the melody of his My Sweet Lord from He's So Fine. I remember a disc jockey on the radio mentioning the similarities years before the suit was brought against Harrison. You can read about it here.
It could happen again. Give both tunes a listen.
You can hear a 30 second snippet of Johnny Rivers singing his classic Secret Agent Man here.
You can hear a 30 second snippet of Puffy Ami Yumi singing their ---what I believe is--- derivative Teen Titans here.
Is it true?
There are a lot of urban legends, stories that the public invents and swallows gullibly because it is easier to assume than to investigate. The old E.J. Korvette's Department store was started up by eight Jewish Korean War veterans. Chef Boyardee is as fictitious as Aunt Jemina and Uncle Ben; it's a combination of the names of the three founders, Boyd, Art, and Dennis. Mussolini made the trains run on time in Italy. Humphrey Bogart was the model for the original Gerber baby. Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham as the result of an editor's challenge. The White House is so named for the paint applied to it after being burned in the War of 1812. Did John Hancock truly expect King George to see his John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence?
The truth about these statements (some are true and some false) are revealed at Snopes.com. It's an interesting site that examines a great multitude of legends and tells you whether they're false or true.
As for comics legends: Was Donald Duck
banned in Finland
because he doesn't wear pants? No. Was blood
the band members of Kiss mixed into the red ink of their Marvel comic
book? Yes. ((What's with Marvel and bodily essences anyway? Mark Gruenwald's
ashes were added to the ink in Squadron Supreme; but this is not mentioned at Snopes.))
Did George Reeves, who was TV's Superman in the '50s, kill himself
by trying to fly like his character? No.
New York, New York
I started subscribing to New York magazine way back in 1972 on the recommendation of Joe Brancatelli. It was a ground-breaking, trend-setting publication at the time. It was the first weekly magazine that focused on a city and its politics and its businesses and its livlihoods. Co-founders Clay Felker and designer Milton Glaser infused the magazine with a fresh style and a unique emphasis. Joe admittedly and obviously picked up a lot of New York's stylish elements and employed them in his own Comics Fandom Monthly fanzine.
Felker's ousting from New York magazine was big news and can be read about, at all places, on a New York magazine webpage here. Milton Glaser left, too. Glaser has among the many famous iconic designs to his credit the I Love NY symbol and the redesigned DC Comics slug used now for some fifteen years. Read Pete Hammill's comments on Glaser, here. Despite the departure of its co-founders, New York's success continued even without them, even through a series a new owners including, ugh, Rupert Murdoch. The magazine's topic matter insured a large readership.
I hung on for years and kept my subscription going despite New York magazine becoming less politically-bent and my moving out the city. You can take the boy out of Brooklyn but you can't take Brooklyn out of the boy. Then, too, I continued to have a connection to New York City since I was still commuting to Manhattan to work weekdays.
Finally, about three years ago, with New York drifting far away from the magazine it used to be, I let my subscription lapse. And that was that after twenty-five years.
Or so I thought.
Recently I started getting New York in the mail again. It was amusing to receive it weekly as before. But I had not re-subscribed. I phoned the specialty subscription service I've used for over twenty-five years and they told me they had no record of me subscribing once more. They suggested I call New York magazine directly and I did just that.
New York told me that they were re-activating a select group of expired subscribers for a period of six months. I ventured to guess that some of those subscribers may very well be expired, but that went over the head of the phone clerk. So I told the clerk, "Thank you very much, but please stop this freebie subscription. I don't want New York anymore and don't care for what I suspect is a scheme to artificially inflate circulation to boost the advertising rates." The phone clerk said it would take three to four weeks for the copies to stop coming in the mail.
Meanwhile, it's been three months and the issues arrive every Monday. Furthermore, a glance at the mailing label on the cover now shows that my freebie subscription to New York has been extended a year!
Why can't this happen with a magazine I really want?
BTW- Joe Brancatelli's great travel website can be found at Joe Sent Me.
The comics we keep
Being that weíre all comic book fans here, we all collect comics. But, Iím not talking about collecting comics. Iím referring to those comics we donít bag, board and box away. I mean those comics that we keep on hand for easy and frequent reference and re-reading.
To read the entire article, click here.
Does Marvel Comics know about...
Building upon the topic of trademark infringement mentioned a few days ago, does Marvel Comics, publisher of Marvel Mystery Comics in the late 1930s, know about Marvel Mystery Oil? I remember first seeing this product in auto supply shops back in Brooklyn in the late 1970s. Clicking on the image to the right will take you to a web page that describes the product made by Marvel Oil which started up in 1923. I haven't been able to determine which Marvel Mystery came first. A visit to the website of Marvel Oil's current owner, Turtlewax, brought no solution. I've sent the query to Turtlewax's web page and will await an asnwer.
Autumn for Hitler
A few days ago, the Sunday edition of the New York Times ran an article recounting the woes of what used to be the biggest hit on Broadway, The Producers. No other show won so many Tony Awards (twelve). No other show recouped its initial investment so quickly (seven months). No other show presumed to run for years on end withered so quickly (less than three years).
How could a sure-fire hit about a sure-fire flop suddenly flop? Where once before you had to kill to get tickets, now the St. James Theater where it's appearing in New York is one-third empty.
The Times would have you believe the show was for insiders, people intimately familiar with the stage. Or that the audiences aren't good enough, aren't hip enough. Or that many vacationing foreigners, a large segment of theater-goers, aren't interested in attending. Or that it was Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, the original stars, that sold tickets. Or that rumors now proven to be true of Lane and Broderick returning for a short engagement had prospective ticket-buyers delaying their purchases?
What everyone is forgetting is the inherent weakness of The Producers. This is a play about a comical Hitler, for goodness sake! Nazis goose-step all over the stage! Hitler sings about conquering France! And then there are all those portrayed characters who have alternate lifestyles... not that there's anything wrong with alternative lifestyles. It just doesn't play in Peoria!
That this is a stumbling block for greater success can be realized by referring to the source material, namely the original motion picture. Sure, the movie The Producers won Mel Brooks an Oscar for best screenplay. But the movie was a dud, acclaimed by only a small cadre of fans who knew it to be the gem that it was. It only played well in metropolitan areas. Brooks had a tough time finding a distributor for the flick and had to settle for second-tier Embassy Pictures to handle it.
Did the current day producers of the Broadway play The Producers honestly think they had another Lion King or Cats on their hands, a show that would run for seven or eight years, a show whose tunes people would be forever humming, a show that high school students would put on once its run on Broadway was over, a show that little old ladies with dyed blue hair from synagogue sisterhoods would pile onto buses to see at Wednesday matinees? If so, they got a true Max Bialystock fleecing.
"Shazam," Sgt. Carter!
While searching the Internet for a electronic funds transfer illustration to adorn the article below, I came across this symbol for an ETF network used by a consortium of midwest banks. I wonder if the legal eagles at DC Comics know anything about it? The combination of the word and the lightning bolt are definitely infringements on DC's trademark. To find out more about the Shazam ETF network, you can click on its symbol shown here ... just be sure to come back!
PS'ed off at the USPS
My snail mail went from adequate to down-right poor once we moved to our current home eight years ago. And the United States Postal Service can't seem to do anything about it and doesn't care.
The first thing that rubbed me the wrong way were weekly magazines coming out of order. I visited the town post office and the manager there told me that all magazines are sent through the distribution system in the order they arrive. So I asked her how it was possible that the July 14th issue of the Comics Buyer's Guide arrived before the July 7th issue... that the June 29th Business Week preceded the one dated June 22nd? She said she'd discuss it with the regional postmaster. She took the covers of the magazines I gave her with the publication dates and arrival dates noted on them. I never heard back from her.
The next problem was the local mailmen using magazines or advertising circulars as wrappers for our mail. We'd find all of our day's mail tucked within the pages of a magazine or circular. This meant having to leaf through each page or shaking magazines looking for hidden mail. When two bills from two different insurance companies that I've done business with for 20 years failed to arrive, I figured the bills must've been hidden away in an advertising circular that we eventually tossed in the recycling bin. Time and time again I've told the mailmen directly to their faces and phoned in complaints about this. I told the local postmaster that I am supposed to receive each piece of mail separately ---isn't that the type of service the addressee pays for and expects?--- and shouldn't have to search through my mail for my mail. She agreed and said she'd talk to our mailman. The problem persists.
Then the USPS started to remove mail boxes from street corners. I didn't take too much notice at first since I usually bike down to the post office or use the mail box at the bus station. When a notice went up on the mail box at the bus station saying the box was going to be taken away, I phoned the post office to complain. I got a young lady on the phone who wrote down my comments and took my name and phone number. She suggested that I leave my mail in my home's mail box and the local mail carrier will pick it up. Considering how my route's mailman typically leaves other people's mail ---both incoming and outgoing-- in my box, I said that was unacceptable. Besides, a lot of my outgoing mail contains checks to pay bills and I'm wary of leaving them out in my box where they could be stolen.
The coupe de grace came when I told the young lady from the post office on the phone that perhaps I should pay my bills electronically and she said that was a good idea! Imagine! Rather than listening to and heeding complaints, the USPS doesn't mind losing further business.
The mailbox at the bus station is still there. The only thing removed was the TO BE REMOVED sign that was affixed to it. Nonetheless, I'm putting less mail into it these days. My bank offers customers at my lofty level free electronic payments to major vendors and free mailed checks to lesser vendors. I just log onto the bank's very secure website, stipulate how much, to whom, and when my money should be wired and the money's on its way! It's easier than writing out checks, stamping envelopes, and dealing with the USPS. Soon, even the Federal Reserve Bank will soon be promoting electronic payments in a big way with an eye toward weaning the public off of writing checks. As is, less and less checks are being written and mailed each year. Just what the USPS will do about this additional fall-off in business is beyond me and my concern.
Jeff & Bob & Bill & Roy
It all started innocently enough when I got an e-mail message from Bill Schelly two weeks ago. Bill and I were members in the comics fan group CAPA-alpha and he's currently working in an editorial capacity on Alter-Ego, Roy Thomas's revived fanzine. He wrote me as a courtesy to let me know that he was going to seek permission from publisher Gary Groth to reprint an interview that I conducted with Phil Seuling in 1972.
I told Bill he'd have to seek permission from me and co-interviewer Bob Zimmerman since I sincerely doubted that Gary renewed the copyright on the interview. Bob, who is an accomplished author with three books and dozens of magazine articles to his name, very quickly pointed out that Gary did not have anything beyond first publication rights anyhow regarding the interview with Seuling.
Phil Seuling ---for those who don't know--- was the bombastic guy who founded and ran the NY Comic Art Conventions in the late 1960s through the early 1980s on the July 4th holiday. That's him on the right in a 1972 photograph. He also has the dubious distinction of being the father of the direct sales market for comics. Phil was such an integral part of his comicons that they were called Seulingcons and they died with him when liver cancer took its toll in 1984.
I took out a copy from my files of the old interview Bob and I conducted and re-read it. Despite Bill Schelly calling this interview "great", I thought it to be no more than blow-hard Seuling (pardon me for maligning the dead) attending to his own agenda of self-aggrandizement, pitifully attempting to re-write the history of early comic conventions in New York City for his own egotistical reasons. Seuling ran rough-shod over his two interviewers, who at 19 years of age were hardly much older than the high school students he taught. Quite frankly, I didn't see any merit in re-printing the interview, but who was I to turn down a deal before the offer?
Making a quick and dirty estimation of the number of words in the interview came to 9400 words. Bob had already told me of his usual word rate for magazine articles and I knew there was no way Bill would accede to even a fraction of that! Being that it was an interview, Bob said a smaller payment, perhaps just a token payment, would be in line. I agreed, especially since with Seuling commandeering the interview from Word One, the 9400 words were mostly Seuling's anyway.
I suggested to Bob that a plug for his latest book in Alter-ego should be one of our bargaining points. He said fine and that I should negotiate on behalf of both of us.
So, I wrote to Bill and asked to hear his terms. I mentioned in my e-mail message that I was an MBA on Wall Street and that Bob was a well-published author. I figured that Bill should know we weren't 19 year-olds anymore.
Bill wrote back. Having gleaned from my message that we were expecting financial remuneration for our interview, he deferred the monetary aspect to Roy since Roy held the Alter-ego purse-strings.
Roy came back. He said that any money would have to come out of Bill's small stipend since the interview would appear in Bill's portion of Alter-ego.
Then Bill wrote again. He said this meant there was no money that could be offered for the interview. Bill was embarrassed it had come to this. If I didn't know Bill, I would have said he and Roy were playing "good cop, bad cop." I said to Bill that I didn't realize I was dealing with a fanzine. I couldn't believe publishing Alter-ego could provide monies for Roy, Bill, and TwoMorrows Publishing, but not for contributors.
I told Bob that we should forget the whole thing. I wasn't interested in helping Roy make a living for nothing. However, Bob said I should try again. He felt that fandom shouldn't be denied seeing the interview. Bob would forego receiving any money just so long as they ran a plug for his latest book in Alter-ego. I couldn't let my own feelings block Bob's wishes. I suggested I ask for two free one-year subscriptions and a sidebar plugging his book. Bob agreed.
Bill did also once I re-opened negotiations by returning to the table.
The sticking point came when Roy made it known through Bill that they wanted the right to re-publish the interview a second time with free year-long subs forthcoming. I said no to that since we were affording them one-time publication rights and only that. Bob concurred with me.
To Bob I privately said: If there is one thing comic book fans have learned, it's don't sign away rights in perpetuity. At least in the old days when comic book creators were scammed of the rights to their creations they at least got paid something!
Roy wrote back saying that not getting reprint rights didn't make the deal worthwhile.
And I replied in Marxian style that I'd cancel my subscription to Alter-ego if I had one. I had cancelled 31 years ago because publication of A/E was interminably delayed and Roy was not living up to his boast of showing fandom how to publish a fanzine professionally.
Apparently things haven't changed.
It's the passing of an era...
Or should I say it's the passing of an area code?
After forty years, RN3-1545 is passing into other hands.
It had mathematical harmony. 3 times 15 is
Hello and welcome to the revived, web-based Jach Spake!
If you've been wondering why updates at Jach Spake! have been missing for some time, read on!
I permitted my old web site over at Homestead.com to lay dormant for two years. During that time I dealt with the normal humdrum matters in life and the extraordinary events of 9/11.
The most important humdrum matter was my son's bar-mitzvah. Planning and organizing the event took up a lot of time. Whatever work I did on the web during that period was for my son's bar mitzvah website. Using the Homestead's proprietary and very intuitive software made this an easy and pleasurable chore. Hopefully I can adapt readily to the Microsoft software I'm using on this new website. My son's site came complete with invitation, photographs, and maps. A follow-up page produced a few weeks after the event allowed guests to see photos taken at the celebration.
The extraordinary impact 9/11 had on my life was the temporary re-location of my firm away from our building directly across the street from the World Trade Center towers. That's my building in front of the twin towers in the photo to the left. For those who haven't already heard, I was in the basement of the WTC, alighting from the interstate subway, when the first jet hit the north tower. I left the WTC and the area promptly and safely and didn't know about the fall of the towers until I had walked up to midtown Manhattan some two miles away. So, although I saw the mighty fires raging in the WTC towers from the street below, I did not see any of the horrorific aftereffects.
My company moved to our computer center in New Jersey for six months and then we returned to our building in Manhattan. During that trying period of time, in which we had to resurrect old procedures, the company managed to continue its operations in a "business as usual" manner. However, it is in trying times when weaknesses are exposed and deficiencies noted. It resulted in the dismissal of several members higher up on the organizational chart and me being happily re-assigned to a most preferable area of the department. This was the only small good thing to come out of that disaster.
I've written more extensively on 9/11 and its impact on me here.
The last thing I wanted to do during the last two years was spend my free time at home feeling pressured to produce a website. I had found enough outlet at the keyboard through programming at work, writing e-mail messages to friends and participating in various online groups.
Nor did I want to return to the hard-copy pages of the amateur press alliance CAPA-alpha. The thought of having to deal with deadlines and printed copies was just too repugnant in my mind. I contend with enough deadlines on the job each day.
Then when Homestead raised its website hosting fee to a level I felt inappropriate for a hobby, it prompted me to take two steps. First, I dropped Homestead. I also decided to re-new the Jach Spake! website by taking advantage of the free web space my ISP Comcast provided.
The approach I took with my first website when I started it up four years ago was to post short articles from time to time, URLs for which appeared on the main page. The articles featured my musings of trends in comics publishing and retailing and reviews of comics. In a way, it was a precursor to today's blogs. I imagine I'll continue in that vein by posting first to this main page and then to spin off what I've written to linked sub-pages.
One of the first things I did was spend an hour or two hour scanning and re-building my old Jach Spake! logo from the 25 year old original art. I also found a nifty template on Microsoft FrontPage that came complete with a comic book balloon background and jaunty funny book lettering font. FrontPage is slowly becoming less of an puzzle wrapped in an enigma to me as I rely on a couple of books I've bought or borrowed and on my intuition.
So, as I said at the outset of my last time around on the web, what you won't find here are petitions for your pennies, pseudo-Stan Lee struts, or camouflages of collapsed careers in comics. There'll just be my pointed comments!
This page was last updated on 02/19/10.