Sunday, July 31, 2011

Don't Count Your (Digital) Chickens...

As this (relatively) recent article points out, Paypal President Scott Thompson predicts that by 2015 -- yeah, only four years away, fellow babies -- the wallet will have become a thing of the past.

Mr. Thompson is quoted as saying “We believe that by 2015 digital currency will be accepted everywhere in the U.S. – from your local corner store to Walmart. We will no longer need to carry a wallet.”

In a word, "Yeah, right."

(Okay, okay, that's two words -- my fabled math skills deserted me for a second, it seems -- but you get my freakin' point.)

Let's face it, a man in Mr. Thompson's position is more than just a tad biased on this subject. Add to that a smidgen of wishful thinking, I suppose...

I'm just trying to think of how his electronic-only money system would work at a flea market, a neighborhood yard sale, or when you want to hit your friend Bill up for a twenty-dollar loan until Friday.

Maybe someday, but within four years? As I said above, "Yeah, right."

Oh, by the way: This is Scott Thompson...

...not to be confused with this other Scott Thompson, who does a terrific impression of Queen Elizabeth II.

Just sayin'.

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Comical Wednesday: How Green Was My... errr... Lantern?

In my last post, I wrote an overly-dramatic and tongue-in-cheek story about my figuring out that Skip Simpson had "padded" the votes for my poll about what the very first subject for Comical Wednesday* should be. I decided that either The Golden Age Green Lantern or the actual winner, Long Underwear Characters, would be first, depending on which post got finished first. I really "got into" the writing of the post that follows, so... Green Lantern won. (Besides, the Long Underwear post promises to be a lengthy one despite my best intentions, so I need to make it a multi-parter... and I didn't want to start my Comical Wednesday entries with one of those!) Next week: Long Underwear Characters... Part One!

Maybe you saw the recent Green Lantern movie. Maybe you didn't. Maybe -- if you saw it -- you liked it. Maybe you didn't.

No matter.

You see... Today's post isn't about that Green Lantern, Hal Jordan (although he will be mentioned here and there). It's about the first Green Lantern of the comic book world, Alan Scott. And although I could easily supply you with an overly-wordy, in-depth history of the character -- come on, you know I could -- this is going to be a relatively text-light (for me) roller-coaster of images, where I tell you only the very basics of what you "need" to know!

So hang onto... errr... whatever you want to hang onto, fellow babies, because here we go!

First, here is an absolute, bare-bones, reader-friendly history of comic books, and DC Comics in particular. I'm purposely leaving out a ton of crap information! You're welcome:

1. Comic books in the format by which we know them today (more or less) started out by reprinting popular comic strips of the 1930s. These (mostly) 64-page comics ate up a lot of material quickly, necessitating the creation of stories specifically for this new medium.

2. The 1938 debut of Superman in DC's Action Comics #1 started a wave of super-powered (mostly), costumed (almost always) "mystery men" in comic books. In the years preceding and during World War II, DC Comics alone (along with its "sister" company, All-American) introduced scores of new characters, including Batman, Wonder Woman, the Sandman, the Flash, the Spectre, and others. This ended up being called "The Golden Age of Comics" several years after the fact.

3. During the Golden Age, several of the DC and All-American heroes banded together in a group called The Justice Society of America, which made its home in All-Star Comics.

4. Superhero comics were the rage during WWII -- although hardly the only kind of title published, of course -- but sales started dropping drastically, roughly coinciding with the end of the war. By the early 1950s, most of the superheroes were gone. "Big guns" such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman survived. The superheroes were mostly replaced by horror stories, "crime" comics, adaptations of famous novels (most notably the Classics Illustrated series), Western titles, movie adaptations, sports comics, "teen" comics (notably the entire Archie Comics line), anthropomorphic "funny animals," romance comics, etc.

5. During the mid-1950s, DC began re-tooling some of its 1940s concepts for a more intellectual, "science-minded" readership. Thus began the "Second Heroic Age," better known as "The Silver Age of Comics." New versions of Green Lantern, the Flash, the Atom, Hawkman, and others began appearing throughout the rest of that decade and well into the 1960s. During the early 1960s, the former Timely Comics, now re-christened Marvel Comics, revived and/or re-vamped some of their 1940s characters like Captain America, the Sub-Mariner (that's pronounced sub-MARR-in-er, not sub-ma-REEN-er, btw), and the Human Torch, as well as introducing new concepts like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, and the "incredible" Hulk.

6. Sometime soon after this Silver Age began, the comic book writers -- urged by young adult readers/fans who still remembered the original versions of their heroes -- started bringing the older characters back, integrating their 1940s-1950s fictional histories with the new breed.

7. And that's where I came in. As I've (partially) explained before, the pre-adolescent, nowhere-near-Silver Fox branched out from the Superman and Batman titles (which made up my earliest attempts at reading) to the early Marvels, as well as others in the DC line (plus the "lines" of numerous other comic publishers, too).

*  *  *  *  *

Okay, as promised, now I cut down on the words (as much as possible), and start throwing the pictures at you!

Unfortunately, I missed the following four key issues... barely.

And why were those issues "key" issues, you wonder?

Briefly, The Flash #123 ("Flash of Two Worlds") re-introduced the original Flash, and explained that his 1940s and 1950s adventures had occurred on another, parallel world, which became known as Earth-2. ("Our" characters lived on Earth-1.)

The two Justice League of America issues pictured above brought back some of the Justice Society's members, in the first of many inter-dimensional JLA/JSA crossovers to come.

And finally, Green Lantern #40 was the first team-up of Earth-1's Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan and Earth-2's Alan "Green Lantern" Scott in the Green Lantern title itself. 

At this point, I was well aware that comic books had been around longer than I had, and wanted to learn more about the so-called Golden Age.

DC was nice enough to reprint "Flash of Two Worlds" not long thereafter, by the way.

By the time of the second JLA/JSA crossover, I was buying JLA regularly. The yearly team-up of both groups was my favorite event!

I missed the following issue of Green Lantern too... but isn't this a great cover?

Well, fellow babies, although I've always loved the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, I developed an affinity for his oddly-garbed (to say the very least!), apparently color-blind, Golden Age, Earth-2 counterpart, Alan Scott. But I had to content myself with Scott's occasional GL and JLA appearances until the early 1970s.

In late 1971 or early 1972, y'see, I found (and purchased) a virtual treasure trove of books about comic book and comic strip history, in the markdown section of my local Waldenbooks. (More on that some other time, I'm sure!) My favorite was, no doubt, Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes from 1965.

Feiffer's nostalgic tome reprinted several Golden Age comic stories of Superman, Batman, the Human Torch, Captain America, Will Eisner's The Spirit, Plastic Man.. and the very first Green Lantern story from All-American Comics #16!

Here's a little-seen treat for you, by the way! It's a never-published, preliminary page for the Green Lantern origin!

And here's the very first page (sans color) of GL's fabled premiere story.

And here's the cover to that same issue!

Green Lantern was created by artist Martin Nodell (1915-2006). In 1984, by the way, Martin Nodell drew a few pages for the All-Star Squadron Annual. Here's one of them, before it was "fixed" by the DC editors.

And then, for Green Lantern's 50th anniversary in 1990, Nodell was once again allowed to draw his most famous creation in this special issue.

Here are two pages from this, the last new Nodell drawings to appear in the GL title.

Back to Green Lantern himself. As the series went on, he proved to be incredibly popular. He appeared regularly in All-American Comics, All-Star Comics, Comic Cavalcade, and of course, his own title, known as... errr... Green Lantern.

For quite a while, he had a comic relief sidekick, a cab driver with a heavy Brooklyn accent named Doiby -- "Brooklynese" for "derby" -- Dickles. Eventually, Doiby was phased out. Stories relied more and more on a super-villainess called the Harlequin, who was actually Alan Scott's secretary, Molly Mayne. She had a crush on him, and began a half-hearted life of crime to get his attention!

Unfortunately, with the slow-but-sure fall of the superhero titles, Green Lantern himself was eventually supplanted in billing by a Rin Tin Tin wannabe named Streak, the Wonder Dog! Oh, how the mighty [had] fallen!

The less said about that canine kibitzer, the better!

Anyway, fellow babies, if you're wondering whatever became of the Alan Scott & Molly Mayne romance, it took almost forty years for it to reach its logical end!

And they lived happily ever after... pretty much.

After that, I watched with a gradually-growing disinterest as DC tried to keep Alan Scott as a major player. They played with his aging process, and even tried giving him a new identity as "Sentinel," as if there was a problem in having one more damned Green Lantern in a universe which contained 3600!

Thankfully, the Sentinel bit didn't "take." 

They've done a lot more to the character since I stopped reading new comics, but as for me? I'm finally done with my own reminiscences!

By the way, I should probably mention that all of the Golden Age cover scans (and interiors) were taken from the internet. I only own one Golden Age Green Lantern appearance, the All-American Comics #99 which embarrassingly states on its cover that it contains "An exciting adventure featuring Streak the Wonder Dog and Green Lantern!" (Second billing to a freakin' mutt! Who'da thunk it?)

Why did I mention that I only own one of these valuable Golden Age comics? I guess I didn't like the thought of any of you turning... errr... green with envy!

*  *  *  *  *

And on that note... Thanks for your time.

*And many thanks to Alan Burnett for the unsolicited but otherwise ideal "Comical Wednesday" title. Next time you visit the USA, Alan, swing by Massachusetts and I will buy you a beer... or two!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Stuffing It

The polls have closed, fellow babies, but Oh, the perfidiousness!

Alas, for one brief instance, I allowed myself to throw myself upon the mercy of my readers, and oh-so-humbly beg for advice, for guidance, for direction! I wondered which of several earth-shaking, pulse-pounding, senses-shattering topics should be the very first comic-related subject dealt with in my new, weekly non-meme... which two of my faithful followers insisted on referring to decided to refer to as "Comical Wednesday," and what happened?

Skip Simpson, my trusted friend and writing partner of thirty-plus years (not counting our brief "feud" in 2009) teamed up with a young(?) man known only by his Blogger alias of Sharp-Eyed Reader, in a vile conspiracy to stuff the virtual ballot box in favor of The Golden Age Green Lantern!

Who would ever have thought that a Massachusetts-raised Progressive Democrat like Skip would be reduced to election tampering? *sigh*

In the comments section of my "Help Wanted" post, however, Skip "came clean" and confessed his sins, no doubt prompted by many sleepless nights of... No. Wait. That would only be one sleepless night, I guess. Oh, well. Whatever.

Of course, I'll forgive Skip. I know I could never find another artist who works so cheaply friend like him. And I suppose I'll even forgive "Sharpie," although I may make him wait a few extra weeks for my Golden Age Starman post, just to teach him a lesson.

So anyway, it turns out that three, maybe four of the votes for The Golden Age Green Lantern were legitimate, and there were four legitimate votes as well for Long Underwear Characters.

Under these complicated circumstances, then, you may understandably be wondering, "Which of these two categories gets the coveted position of the premiere Comical Wednesday post?"

Good question, that!

Uhhh... See you Wednesday! Heh.

Thanks for your time.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In Search of "Frank Reinhardt" -- A "Sepia Saturday" Post

Today's Sepia Saturday theme is to be determined by each individual "player's" interpretation of the photo prompt that was offered, that of a NASA researcher in 1964, wearing a prototype space suit for the Apollo Moon Project.

Kinda reminds me of Mattel's Major Matt Mason, but I digress.

I ignored the space travel connection, and instead decided to go with the "researcher" aspect for today's post.

To mess with the old opening quote from Dragnet, "The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the subjects."

During the years I've spent as a flea market dealer specializing in (mostly) paper collectibles, I've chanced upon a lot of old family photographs. I've often wondered how these photos have managed to become part of estate sales and the like. It's a disconcerting thought that no surviving family members were around who wanted them.

In fact, a woman I knew who had dealt with antiques for 65 years before recently retiring had burned all of her own family photos. She was a childless widow who did not want her photos providing some other dealer with selling stock at her expense.

Sometime during the early 1990s, I purchased a sizable collection of "miscellaneous paper." I didn't really take the time to go through it thoroughly until less than five years ago. Among these collectibles, I found a few, rather small photographs from the World War II era. Most -- if not all -- of them were taken in Europe. Some featured the same man.

One of them featured a name (as well as a few other odd notations), written in large letters on the wall of a ruined building. (I doubt that the name was of the American soldier pictured in the shot, however. Just sayin'.) If you look at the extreme right of the photo at the top of this post, you'll see the beginning of these "notations." I cropped about a fifth of the photo to insure the man's privacy.

In fact, I'm going to make up a name for him right here and now, just for the sake of my story. Let's call him "Frank Fallon Reinhardt."

The other photos, reproduced below, show various soldiers and shots of buildings.

Looking at this small stack of photos, I wondered what I should do with them. Should I keep them together and try to get a couple of bucks for them at my flea market stand? Should I merely throw them away?

Frank Reinhardt's name -- as well as the listing of a town in Pennsylvania, emblazoned on that cropped-out wall in that same photo -- gave me an answer that would sit well with my conscience.

I would find Frank Reinhardt, if he was still alive, and send the pictures to him.

Fully realizing that "Frank" can either be one's given name as well as a shortened form of "Francis," I began an internet search for both "Frank Reinhardt" and "Francis Reinhardt." I found several entries. My most encouraging findings were a Pennsylvania listing in the 1910 census for a Frank Reinhardt, and the name of a Frank Reinhardt who operated a cleaning service right here in my home state of Massachusetts!

I took the liberty of making an after-hours call to the cleaning service, leaving as brief a message as possible describing my flea market acquisition.

Not too long after -- a day, maybe two -- I received a call from Frank Reinhardt! His dad, Frank senior -- Frank Reinhardt III, as it turned out -- was a World War II veteran, and was 80 years old, still alive, and living in Maine! (My 1910 Frank was probably the grandfather of Frank IV, but Frank and I didn't get into that.)

My communication with Frank -- Frank IV, that is -- continued via email. I filled the bed of my scanner three times with different arrangements of all the photos -- but regrettably, can only find the first two series of scans now -- and emailed the scans to Frank.

Shortly thereafter, of course, I sent him the actual photographs via "snail mail." The last time I heard from Frank was very soon after that. He explained that he'd been recovering from surgery, and said that once he was well, he would "head up to Maine and hopefully my Dad will recognize the photos or the individuals in them."

That was in 2007. I've emailed Frank a couple of times since, with no reply. So I've yet to learn if Frank senior appreciated and/or enjoyed receiving the photos.

Early Friday evening, however, when I began drafting this post, I decided to do a little more research.

Frank's cleaning business now has its own website. That's where I learned that Frank's middle name is Fallon, not a terribly common name.

Unfortunately, additional searches told me that a Frank Fallon Reinhardt from Maine had passed away in 2010, at the age of 82.

Alexander Pope once wrote that "[a] little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Sometimes, sadly, a little more knowledge can be somewhat... depressing.

Thanks for your time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Help Wanted!

Short and sweet, for a change...

In my last post, I told you how I'm going to be running mid-week posts devoted to comic books, cartoons, comic strips, etc. (for a while, anyway). Well, I have lots of ideas, but I'm undecided as to which subject or character(s) to showcase first.

If you're at all interested as to where I'm going with this, please feel free to vote on which one it'll be! Choose from a few subjects I've provided on my sidebar. Polling ends Sunday evening, one minute before midnight.

That's right, I'm actually asking for advice! (Please note the date, as it doesn't happen often!)

Thanks for your time... and your vote!

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