Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Insect Asides, Part Nine ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post


From the late 1930s until 1984, almost all comic books were in color. Then came a black & white title from a couple of unknowns named Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The comic, originally planned as a one-shot, had the unlikely title of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

You've probably heard of them. Even if you don't follow comics.

The Ninja Turtles were still very much in the comic fans' consciousness in early 1986, when this story appeared. I don't remember if it was solely my idea, or if the idea developed between Ken Carson and myself, but issue #102 of Insect Man teased the reader for several pages. It certainly seemed like we were going to have an unauthorized appearance by the TMNT in a story called "The Nexus." (And as far as "unauthorized" stuff goes, it didn't hurt that Nexus was the title of a popular comic series in the 1980s.)

Issue #102 may very well be my favorite of all the Insect Man issues I wrote. I've said two or three times in this overlong "Insect Asides" series that Ken Carson's art improved with every issue, so this issue was better than the one before it, which was better than the one before that, which was better than the one before that, etc. etc. etc.

Since losing his right arm (and thus, his livelihood as a commercial artist), Greg Nile has let himself go to seed, but the ringing of a phone with a rotary dial brings a call that reminds Greg he has an appointment of sorts.

Some quick notes: Greg Nile and his lovely wife Denise lived at 409 Wilson Avenue in Cirrus City,
Massachusetts. "409" was a Beach Boys song written by Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Gary Usher.
I don't recall why I picked "Calico Circle" for the Masons' street address, but "714" was the badge
number of Dragnet's Sgt. Joe Friday. "Hava Beer and "Hack Cigarettes" were Ken Carson's creations.

Rex "Insect Man" Mason shows up at his parents' home, and the four silhouettes are shown again. But Rex is not the one they are waiting for, or so the caption tells us.

And I can't remember why Ken and I decided Rex should start growing a moustache...

Isn't Ken's rendition of Rex Nile's 1965 Mustang gorgeous?

Rex's parents are named Richard and Betty. I named them after two characters I loved when I was at the learning-to-read age, Dick "Robin" Grayson, Batman's sidekick, and Betty Kane, the "Bat-Girl" introduced in 1961's Batman #139. Betty was (temporarily) removed from continuity by the time Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon arrived in 1966 (in Detective Comics #359, cover-dated January 1967)

The 1961 Bat-Girl and the 1966 Batgirl!

Scythe is copyright © Holly Basiner and Frank Hunt, remember? But Ken and I really loved using her!


Five? Five?!? Oh, crap, looks like these aren't the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles after all! Then... Who are they?


Officially, the five ninjas shown above were called the "Baby-Faced Ninjas," but the behind-the-scenes name that Ken and I used was the "Cabbage Patch Ninjas," thanks to the Cabbage Patch Kids craze of the 1980s. IIRC, it was Ken's idea to model their outfits on Shang-Chi (from Marvel's Master of Kung-Fu series), the Green Hornet's partner Kato, Marvel's Elektra, and the yin-yang symbol.



Gotta love this Ken Carson touch!

Again, the exact reason fails me, but I think Ken and I were trying to permanently
get rid of Insect Man's wrist bands. But later artists ignored that. And as for
"David M. Lynch, Script & Layouts"? Layouts? Me? I don't even remember doing those! 

The next two issues were slated to contain, at long last, the stand-alone stories that Chris Coleman and WW. Bird had contributed months ago. But as I revealed in an earlier chapter, I had become rather... territorial... about characters which were, in all fairness, not mine. So, how did I handle that?

Heh. See you next week...

Thanks for your time.

Insect Man, Insect Man's Weird Tales, and all related characters and titles are copyright © Paul B. Howley.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Gone with the Wind... Almost


Okay, fellow babies, before I tell you the story behind today's title, I want to give a shout-out to someone I've mentioned on this blog before, namely the rhyming guy named Pat Hatt -- and yes, that's his real name -- the author of the It's Rhyme Time blog, as well as plenty of books! Recently (last Wednesday) Pat did a post called "A Silver Showing As The Whoopdis Keep Growing!" This is part of a month-long series where Pat is basing posts on various comments he's received on his blog over the years. Each day he devotes an entire post to a different follower of his blog, and Wednesday, it was my turn! So check it out, including the comments below it. Lots of nice comments about Yours Truly and my own skewed slant on things.

*  *  *  *  *


So, what did I do on Saturday, August 4th? Well, lemme tell ya...

I recently had some car problems, but I had to travel from my town of Webster to Oxford, the town next to it. (Oxford's where I grew up.) It was raining very lightly on the morning of the fourth, so I grabbed an umbrella and left the house around 9:30 a.m. I stopped at an ATM, withdrew $20, and then walked to 7-Eleven to break the twenty for bus fare.

The bus pulled up right as I left the store. (The bus stop is about 50-60 feet from 7-Eleven.) I boarded the bus, and the driver said "How are you?" "Wet!" I replied, "Despite the umbrella!" She said "There's a tornado warning." I said "That's all we need."

I sat down near the front of the bus. Two more people got on. One of them strapped a bicycle to the rack on the front of the bus.

Suddenly, the wind increased tremendously. So did the rain. The bus was rocking back and forth.

A large tree next to the area where people stand or sit to wait for the bus snapped in half like a matchstick.

A very old photo of the corner of Davis Street and Main Street in Webster. That big tree was
the first one to fall. That concrete pillar in the middle of the photo is where the bus was parked.

Right after that, a second tree broke and fell. Luckily, the wind pushed the trees away from us, toward the railroad tracks and 7-Eleven, and not toward us. Two trees landed partially on the tracks, but not even in 7-Eleven's parking lot.



One of the passengers said she could see the actual tornado, but the direction in which I was seated didn't allow me to see it. The driver was freaking out a bit, and someone said a little girl in the back of the bus was, too.

My friend John texted me at around 10 a.m. to tell me there was a tornado warning in effect for Webster. I replied "I'm in it." And if I could have texted "in" in italics, I would have!

I just looked at all the huge windows in the bus and thought, Well, we're f***ed, but I was wrong. The three-story brick building on the other side of the street the bus was parked on shielded us from the brunt of the storm.

I didn't even have time to get nervous. The whole thing was over in a couple of minutes. Not far from us, within our line of vision, a couple of buildings had sustained some extensive damage.


The Mobil station across from 7-Eleven lost its roof (shown below), as did a dance studio a few hundred feet further down the road (not shown below).


The town razed two buildings in record time. They were gone well before midnight. (The two broken trees at the bus stop are also gone.)


And hey, remember the Friendly's Restaurant I showed y'all in my "Keeping It Short" post a few days ago? Well, the sign at the entrance to that little plaza currently looks like this:


And by the way... When the bus finally left the bus stop, the bicycle was still strapped to the front!

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Insect Asides, Part Eight ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post

As predicted last time, Insect Man's Weird Tales became just Insect Man with issue #101.

Here we go again! Pack a lunch.

After having written the demises of the Baron and the Mummy in Insect Man's Weird Tales #100,  I devoted most of issue #101 to Insect Man's final battle with the Bat, and how the forces of Counter-SKULL made desperate plans to vacate SKULL Island.

All the way back in Larry Young's Insect Man story in issue #88, two SKULL agents named Penrose and Winston were mentioned. I later used their names in issue #95 (my first Insect Man story), in a flashback sequence. So I figured I'd finally show 'em -- and kill 'em off -- along with all the other people I so gleefully wiped out in the "Fractured SKULL" story.

So... In Chapter Five, penciled by Holly Basiner and inked/lettered by Ken Carson, Brian Harvey dispatched one of them, as the baddie sneaked* up behind him...

Ken Carson actually complimented me on that "budda-da-da-dow" sound effect,
assuming I'd subtly made references to Buddhism, Dadaism, and Daoism! I
replied quite honestly, "Actually... I just thought it was a really cool sound effect!"

...and Mr. Secret, wielding a shield a la Captain America, broke the neck of the other.

Now. In the first paragraph of today's post, I said that "the forces of Counter-SKULL made desperate plans to vacate SKULL Island." Why were they in such a rush? Heh. Y'see, last issue, during Mr. Secret's flaming fistfight with the Mummy in the latter's second-floor office, the floor was severely weakened by the flames. This allowed the Mummy's computer -- a huge contraption that was probably a relic of SKULL's earlier days during the 1960s and 1970s -- to crash through the floor, and continue falling completely through the foundation of the building itself, and beyond! As is explained in this issue, SKULL Island was actually a dormant volcano in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and as (bad) luck would have it, the giant computer somehow reactivated said volcano. (Okay, okay, maybe my science was a bit shaky, but nobody's perfect.)

At this point, the lovely-and-lethal Scythe showed up, telling Greg and Brian all that fun stuff about the "reactivated volcano." She also told them 1) the island was probably going to erupt in about twenty minutes, 2) they shouldn't worry about her, because she had her own way of escaping, and 3) Brian really needed to get Greg to a medic, due to his horribly-burned arm!

Of course, Brian and Mr. Secret decided to find Rex "Insect Man" Mason before fleeing the impending explosion. That was a great idea, until...


Notice the "#100" after "End Chapter Five!" That was the original destination for this
chapter, remember? You'll see a similar notation at the beginning of Chapter Six, below! 

Cut to Larry Young's penciling/inking/lettering in Chapter Six. Insect Man is chasing the Bat down a long hallway, where he (Rex) finds a discarded rifle.


After using his insect powers to catch up to the Bat, Rex begins one of those comic book fights in which long-ass speeches accompany fisticuffs! This can be done only in comic books. Don't try this at home, kids!




Rex unmasks the Bat, revealing him to be the brother of Hur-Bi, the alien who gave Rex the Insect Man ring twenty years earlier. (That family connection no doubt has something to do with how Hur-Bi gave Rex the paper which contained the location of SKULL Island, ya think?) But since Larry Young's depiction of the unmasked Kur-Bi (yes, yes, named after comic legend Jack Kirby) looked very little like the Hur-Bi drawn by Ken Carson in issue #97, I had to explicitly mention the family ties in Chapter Seven's dialog, just to make it perfectly clear to the reader!

At this point, Brian Harvey shows up, telling Insect Man that they need to get off the freakin' island before approximately eight more minutes elapse! While Rex is distracted, however, the bruised, bloody, and otherwise disheveled Kur-Bi vanishes by teleporting through the wall.

Kur-Bi thought he was safe. Too bad he was the mercy of a bloodthirsty writer, namely me!


Using Clark Kent as the TV anchorman was Larry Young's idea. And I loved it!

Chapter Seven was penciled, inked, and lettered by Holly Basiner.

Over the next few weeks, CounterSKULL disbanded. Insect Man showed up to pick up his final check, and ran into Greg Nile. Greg's badly burned arm had been amputated.

These stories truly were products of the 1980s. I put "orders" in quotes to show that Greg didn't
really boss his wife around. I musta been watching Donahue at my fiancée's house when I wrote this!

Ah, yes! I remember Paul Howley's reaction to the shot of Greg Nile
flipping his empty sleeve as if it were yesterday: "That's gross!"

I didn't ever want anybody to bring the Bat back, so I established that they found his dead body, partially eaten by sharks (see Larry Young's illustration above). Y'see, fellow babies, in comic books, if you don't see the body, it usually means that a hero or villain is not dead. And sometimes, even if you do see it, they come back anyway. But I digress..


Good ol' "Yer-damned-right-I-hold-a-grudge" Rex ends up throwing Jüngstadt in Brian Harvey's face for the umpteenth time, talking about the former superhero called the Hornet, who died on that fateful day eleven years earlier. Rex admits that he didn't even know the Hornet's real name, taunting Brian by assuming Brian didn't know it, either. (Kind of a dumb assumption. As the head of Counter-SKULL, Brian Harvey would have known all his top agents' nammeds, right? Oh, well...)

Brian corrects him. As it turns out, the Hornet's real name was Thomas Harvey. Yep, Brian's younger brother. Oops.

Rex realizes -- finally -- that the tragic loss of all those Counter-SKULL agents years earlier wasn't Brian's fault. It wasn't Rex's fault, either. It was nobody's "fault." Thus is the proverbial stick removed from Rex's forty-year-old butt, and he and Brian are on good terms again, at last.

One more page remained in issue #101. It took place at a bus station in Worcester, Massachusetts. Once again, my favorite collaborator (a/k/a Ken Carson) penciled, inked, and lettered it!


Okay, take a rest here, readers. Lord knows, you deserve it!

Thanks for your time.

*You can use "snuck" instead of "sneaked" if you want to. I never will.

Insect ManInsect Man's Weird Tales, and all related characters and titles are copyright © Paul B. Howley.

Scythe is copyright © Holly Basiner and Frank Hunt.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Playing with Words (A "Grammar Nazi/Short Shorts" Post)


Some random points, in no apparent order!
  • Years ago, I would wonder why Bono, the lead singer of U2, pronounced his name "bonno" instead of "boe-noe," like Sonny Bono. Then I found out that his real name is Paul Hewson, and that "Bono" is short for Bono Vox, a Latin phrase which means "good voice." And as I recalled from high school, the Latin pronunciation of "bono" is "bonno."
  • I'd never heard of record producer and music executive Marion "Suge" Knight until his arrest for murder in 2015. Actually, "heard" isn't quite the right word. I read about his arrest online, and when I saw the name "Suge" Knight, I thought "Sooj?" What the hell kinda name is "Sooj?" Well, as it turns out, "Suge" is short for "Sugar Bear," so obviously it isn't pronounced the way I pronounced it in my mind as I read it... But I'd like to have a few words with the guy who decided on the spelling of "Suge."
  • Every so often, someone will write a short version of a word and make up the spelling of the abbreviation. (I did an entire post on the abbreviations for "microphone" here.) Sometimes these shortened words work for me, sometimes not. I've seen people abbreviate "favorite" as both "fave" and "fav." "Fave" makes sense. It would rhyme with words like "stave" and "knave." I've also seen "fav," which strikes me as wrong. I see "fav" and think, That rhymes with "have" and "salve." Another word is "vacation," sometimes abbreviated in print as "vacay" (which makes perfect sense to me) and sometimes "vaca" (which does not make sense to me). I'd pronounce that second one as "vacca," which rhymes with the way that most people think people from Massachusetts pronounce words like "hacker" and "tracker." Actually, Vacca was the name of a 6th-century grammarian, which seems very appropriate in this case.
  • This isn't really grammar-related, but if you sneeze and someone says "God bless you" or "Bless you," you probably say "Thank you" to him or her. Do you thank people who say "gesundheit" (as I do) instead? People rarely say "Thank you" to me when I say "gesundheit." Why? I'm wishing them health. So, if anyone ever says "gesundheit" to you after you sneeze, thank the sucker. Or I'll hunt you down and smack you.
  • I'm seeing more and more people writing "awe" lately, when (for example) something is really cute and they mean to write "aw" (or "aww")! As my friend Betsy recently said, that works "only if you really are in awe!"
  • Sometimes I'm writing dialogue (or just my blog, which I kinda write like I'm actually speaking to you), and I want to stress a word, so I'll drag it out a bit. For instance, when you read "realllly," you probably read it just the way I want you to read it! I've seen people do this in different ways, ways which -- once again! -- I just might find fault with. If you stress "big" by writing "biiiig," it works... But sometimes, people think that just repeating the last letter of any word will have that effect. When I see a word like "loveeee," I don't read it the way the writer intended. (If I were to stretch out a word like "love," I'd probably write "luvvvv" or something similar.) To me, "loveeee" would be pronounced like "lovey," and as most of us know, "Lovey" was Mrs. Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island.
  • Finally, speaking of abbreviations, I've seen people try to stress expressions from texting or the internet, like "LOL" ("laugh out loud," or "laughing out loud," as you know). I've actually seen things like "lololol" which would technically translate to "laughing out loud out loud out loud." ("OKAY, I GET IT. YOU WERE LAUGHING OUT LOUD!!!") Another one I saw recently was when Kendra Wilkinson tweeted "lmaoooo," which would mean "laugh my ass off off off off!" That makes a lot of sense, right? Oh, well, other than "btw and "IIRC," I generally stay away from those kinds of abbreviation anyway.
Hey, no big finish here. Just some random points, as I told you at the beginning of the post!


Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Insect Asides, Part Seven ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post



For Insect Man's 100th anniversary issue, I wanted to do several things to shake up Rex Mason's world. I wanted a definitive close to the whole SKULL saga, which meant we'd get to see all the "bad guys" crushed in various ways. Oboy! Of course, I also had some plans for the "good guys," Insect Man's supporting cast.

The standard issue of Insect Man's Weird Tales was eight pages. I figured a "giant-size" issue #100 -- maybe twenty-four pages -- would be pretty spectacular. However, as I mentioned last time, by the time artwork started coming in from the various artists committed to draw individual chapters, many of them going above and beyond my expectations, it was clear that we were never going to fit everything in one issue.

As it had "always" been planned, IMWT #100 featured a gorgeous cover by professional artist and inker Will Blyberg. And as "promised" in issue #99's page eight advertisement, the 100th issue -- well, actually, issues #100 and #101 -- contained pencils and/or inks by everyone who'd ever drawn Insect Man!

The story began as Insect Man alumnus Chris Coleman showed Insect Man, Mr. Secret, and dozens of Counter-SKULL agents storm the gates of the SKULL stronghold, located on -- where else? -- SKULL Island, located somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. (They were let in by some double agents which Counter-SKULL had placed within the SKULL ranks during the last few months. As it turned out, there were a lot of those double agents!)

Phase Two of the attack was when airplanes overhead -- Well, where else would they be? -- began dropping Counter-SKULL parachutists onto the roof of the SKULL complex. By this time an alarm had gone off, and SKULL's nominal leader, the Mummy, had several sections of the huge building sealed off and filled with a non-lethal gas. SKULL and Counter-SKULL agents alike were knocked unconscious, including Insect Man, Mr. Secret, and Counter-SKULL head honcho Brian Harvey!.

And when Insect Man awoke from the effects of the gas, he awoke slowly, and was somewhat delirious at first. He, Mr. Secret, and Brian Harvey were tied up for interrogation by the Mummy and the real power behind SKULL, a strangely-garbed alien known only as The Bat. And it was here that IM's creator, Paul Howley, drew my scripted two-page tribute of sorts to the original 1960s and 1970s Insect Man stories.

By the way, Chapter Two's title, "Images of Heaven... That Took Me to Hell" was a line I borrowed (and changed a bit) from Peter Godwin's song "Images of Heaven." The actual line was "Just images of Heaven that take me to Hell." Not sure if any of the Insect-Maniacs (as I lovingly called the IM fans) caught it.

Paul Howley is still a better artist than I am!


I liked the "blackmailing little kid" reference. (Well, I should. I wrote it!) Kid Secret's origin, as written by Paul Howley, always reminded me of how Bucky Barnes got to be Captain America's partner.


Of course, Kid Secret's origin was probably even more like the version below, which Marvel published in a brilliant self-parody comic series called "Not Brand Echh!"


Anyhoo... Chapter Two was finished by W.W. Bird, who had drawn the Mummy's origin story in IMWT #98. Briefly, Insect Man, Mr. Secret, and Brian were able to break free, and the Mummy and the Bat escaped through a sliding panel in the wall.

Now came Chapter Three. Ohhhh, boy...

I'd drawn and lettered the "Next Issue" ad in #99 before I'd seen the actual pencils for "The Kola Konspiracy" (which I had inked as "D.W. Cranston," remember?). Unfortunately, that meant that somehow, the so-called artists from #99 would have to make some contribution to the two-part "Fractured SKULL" storyline.

And we did, in the form of what comic book people call "layouts." Layouts basically decide how the actual penciled page is -- duh -- laid out, as far as how many panels there are, who stands (or jumps... or flies...) where, how they act (or interact if there is more than one character in a panel), what scenery to show, and so forth. This meant that there was no actual artwork by either of #99's artist to worry about! That also meant that the ever-reliable Ken Carson got to pencil, ink, and letter the entire chapter. And he pretty much stuck to my layouts, naturally adding little touches of his own.

I have to provide some background info here. The bald guy with the sword is the Baron, introduced in Chris Coleman's three-part Insect Man story after Larry Young brought IM back in IMWT #88. I decided to brutally wipe him out -- the Baron, not Chris Coleman! -- and used a costumed mercenary named Scythe, co-created and owned by Holly Basiner and Frank Hunt, and introduced in the Basiner-drawn issue #94!

Ken Carson and I both liked the character, and used her more than once, with the kind permission of Holly and Frank. Don't forget, the artists and writers of the Insect Man stories were all customers of Paul Howley's store That's Entertainment, so we all came to know each other eventually. In fact, all of the IM creators (except Larry Young, I believe) attended Rex "Insect Man" Mason's 40th birthday party at my home on April 18th, 1985!

Ken and I consulted with Holly and Frank about Scythe, her background, and why such a cool character worked for scumbags like SKULL! (Her family was being threatened, as it turned out.) They told us quite a bit more about her civilian identity, her personal history, and her motivations, some of which I alluded to in the following implicitly-bloody sequence.



Next, in a chapter penciled and inked by Dan Courtney (except for the last page, inked by Chris Coleman), I decided to kill off the Mummy! When first introduced in the 1960s by Paul Howley, the Mummy was revealed to be a classmate of Greg "Kid Secret" Nile's named Alan Strest. I further elaborated on that in IMWT #98. Anyway, Greg (now Mister Secret, thank you very much) only found out the Mummy's true ID when rifling files in the Mummy's second-floor office.

Unfortunately, the Mummy showed up, a battle ensued, and the Mummy fired a ray-gun at Mr. Secret, which set poor Greg's right sleeve ablaze. Despite the intense pain, Greg proceeded to beat the crap out of the Mummy, which in turn set the Mummy's ancient wrappings on fire.


At this point I had to interrupt the "Fractured SKULL" story, which would be continued with #101. It was then that Chris Coleman provided the following advertisement, revealing how I had finally decided to deal with all non-Insect Man submissions from then on!


(By the way, I mentioned in Part Three that the white area Ken Carson placed on IM's jacket emblem turned the body of the unspecified insect into an "I.M." And I wrote that I was "pretty sure that nobody else ever drew it that way, probably because nobody else ever noticed what Ken had done." Well, I was wrong. The drawing above shows that Chris Coleman was very observant!)

Tune in next Wednesday for yet another chapter in the interminable story of the myriad thoughts behind my writing (or co-writing) of the Insect Man saga.

Thanks for your time.

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