Sunday, July 29, 2018

Keeping It Short ~~ A "Short Shorts" AND a "David'Z RantZ" Post!

Today, fellow babies, we have a short post where every item falls into the categories of "Short Shorts" and "David'Z RantZ!" If anybody will appreciate these, I'm betting that Lynda will... if she sees today's post.

1. The photo at the top is of the Friendly's Restaurant in my town of Webster. Not sure when the photo was taken, but it doesn't matter. Anyway, I was in there to have breakfast about a week ago, and two women sat at a booth nearby. One of them was a) one of those people who wouldn't shut up, and b) one of those people who speak loudly enough so that I wanted to say "Are you talking to me? Cuz I can hear you just as well as the lady you're sitting with!" Boy, was I glad every time she took a mouthful of food!

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2. Why do some drivers pull all the way over to the right side of the lane they're driving in, just before they make a left turn? Do these idiots think they have an eighteen-wheeler, or what?

*  *  *  *  *

3. For quite some time now -- like, maybe thirty years -- I've seen a very disturbing "fashion," if one may even call it that. Guys of all ages wearing winter coats and short pants, and quite often, the ensemble is topped with a baseball cap. If it's cold enough to wear a winter coat, it's too effin' cold for short pants, okay? One good updraft on a thirty degree day, and dude, your sex life will come to a screeching halt!

I guess they're making a "statement," that statement being, of course, "I'm a freakin' moron!"

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4. And while I'm ranting about short pants, why on earth do so-called "shorts" seem to be getting longer and longer as time goes by? Men's shorts nowadays are practically capri pants!

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5. I've been dropping a few blogs from my blogroll lately. These are blogs -- and there haven't been many -- that are written by people who never visit my blog anymore. I mean, never. Some people visit once in a while. Some visit regularly and rarely comment. Some only visit when I comment on their blogs, which means they only end up visiting my blog whenever they post. All of that is fine by me. I don't demand you read every post of mine! I don't demand that you comment on every post, either. (Not that I could enforce either "demand.") No, I'm talking about those who haven't shown up in months, regardless of the fact that I've been reading their blogs regularly, and commenting more often than not. Let's put it this way: If you're reading this now, I doubt I'll ever delete your blog. So if you're thinking, "Gee, does he mean me?" Well... no.

*  *  *  *  *

These are Cardassians, not Kardashians! There is a difference... I suppose.

6. I know I'm getting older. Whenever I encounter a magazine like Us Weekly, People, or In Touch Weekly, I'm amazed by the various celebrities that I've never even heard of! Their numbers are increasing daily, it seems. And there are many whom I have heard of, but I'm not sure what television series they've been on, or what songs they've released, or what movies they've made... To list just two examples, I know the names Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, but I can't name a single song that either has ever sung. Okay, okay, that's not quite true. I am aware that Katy Perry released a song called "I Kissed a Girl," but I only know that because the song generated some controversy.

I do know who Bruno Mars is, if that means anything to you.

And by the way, I also know of the Kardashians, and their two half-sisters, Kendall and Kylie Jenner. I just don't care.

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Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

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

I did not show this sequence in my last chapter of "Insect Asides," but at the end of Insect Man's Weird Tales #98, Rex "Insect Man" Mason burst into Brian Harvey's office with a piece of paper. On it was the location of SKULL's main stronghold, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. I never specified if this paper contained the longitude and latitude of SKULL Island, or if it was a map. Rex explained that somehow, Hur-Bi (the alien from Menro-6) had slipped the paper into Rex's Insect Man glove!

Of course, that raised the question of how Hur-Bi had that information...

Anyway... I figured issue #100 would be the issue to have the final battle between SKULL and Counter-SKULL. And I had a few other ambitious plans for that issue as well. (More on that later.)

So..... What could I do for #99?

Issue #100 was going to have a lot of death and destruction, so I decided to make IMWT #99 another silly issue, as #97 had been.

This wasn't too long after Coca-Cola had replaced its oh-so-successful ninety-nine-year-old formula with a new one. If you weren't alive then, you have no idea how big a story this was at the time.

Anyway, I came up with a twist on the story. Coca-Cola has their official version of what happened. I had mine.

I don't know how it was decided that my best friend at the time, Dave, would draw the issue I'd scripted. Y'see... Dave wasn't really an artist! And I definitely don't know who thought it would be a good idea for me to ink Dave's pencils. After all, I was also a "non-artist."

I decided to ink and letter Dave's pencils using a pseudonym of "D.W. Cranston."

I had come up with a cover idea that I thought was pretty creative, and I drew that.

Now, remember, "Dave wasn't really an artist." That became even more apparent when he handed me the pages for the issue's interior. Quite frankly, they were pretty bad. It then, horribly, became my responsibility to try to improve the issue with my own terrible inking "skills." I basically had to redraw the whole freakin' issue. And! I! Couldn't! Draw!

It was okay that the issue was going to be drawn "cartoony," because it was a silly issue. But bad cartoony is never acceptable.

Therefore, I'll spare you the sight of that issue's artwork... almost.

I do want to show you one panel which I had suggested to Dave. The one below:

It was a swipe from a Neal Adams panel that appeared in "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge!" from Batman #251.

I'll also spare you the whole story of the "New Coke" debacle. But here's the very last page of the story:

That "It's a hit" line, by the way, was a slogan from old Coca-Cola ads. You can almost/kinda/sorta read "It's a Hit" on this old jackknife.

Usually, issues of Insect Man's Weird Tales consisted of a cover and a seven-page story. But the actual story of "The Kola Konspiracy" was only six pages (plus a cover) so we could run the following ad (which was also drawn and lettered by "D.W. Cranston"):

"Let's all be there" was the 1984-1985 season slogan for the NBC-TV network. Just sayin'.

That's right! I had come up with the ambitious idea to have every single artist who'd ever drawn Insect Man contribute to issue #100. (At least, I think it was my idea. If it was Paul Howley's, Ken Carson's, or any combination of the three of us, my apologies to whomever it was! I'm not trying to grab undeserved credit.)

That was a coordinative nightmare! Not only that, but as the accumulated artists started turning in their pages, what had been planned as a (maybe) 24-page issue swelled to become twice that size!

How did we handle that, you may wonder?

Well, time was really tight for me this week, so I had to make today's chapter relatively short. Catch you next week, fellow babies!

And thanks for your time.

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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

If you've been wondering where I've been going with all this, well, so am I. I'll probably just stop somewhere in the middle of things. I actually started out intending to tell only the story I relate in today's chapter and my previous one, but thought I should give just a little background on how I came to write for Insect Man's Weird Tales to begin with, and -- surprise, surprise -- got carried away. So here I am with chapter five, of six, or seven... or more!

Before I follow up Part Four's revelations, let me tell you what was going on in my mind during that time. (As if you could stop me, right?)

Everybody wanted to jump on the Insect Man bandwagon, it seemed. Even as I was plotting and scripting IMWT, other That's Entertainment customers were writing, drawing, and submitting their own Insect Man stories. These were stand-alone tales that had nothing to do with the continuity I was trying to establish. Not only that, but there was at least one writer/artist who wanted to contribute a three-parter featuring his own character, a character that had nothing to do with Insect Man.

I have to admit, all of these submissions bothered me, just a bit. You see, although Insect Man was definitely not "mine" -- he was and is Paul Howley's -- I was already becoming a bit... territorial... with the character. Not that I had any real right to be territorial, I hasten to add! But I was having fun, and didn't want to relinquish the plotting reins, as it were. I was also aware that issue #100 was fast approaching. Some time earlier, Paul had received a gorgeous Insect Man cover illustration by professional comic artist Will Blyberg. (More on that later.) This cover drawing was perfect for issue #100. I wanted to write a story suitable for this landmark issue, and I only had issues #98 and #99 to set everybody up for it.

I was lucky enough to get all of those other submissions postponed until some vague time after #100.

One of those "postponed" stories had been written and drawn by W.W. Bird -- "Bill" to me -- and for one reason or another, he ended up penciling, inking, and lettering my script for Insect Man's Weird Tales #98.

I've made a lot of jokes on this blog about my having the "kiss of death." All I have to do is think about someone I haven't thought about in ages, and he or she f***ing DIES.

Well, as I told you in Part Four of "Insect Asides," at the end of the story I'd written for IMWT #97, I blew up a space shuttle... and this was plotted, written, drawn, and published in 1985. The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28th of the following year!

The beginning of #98 dealt with the immediate aftermath of the explosion which I caused, sorta.

Now, I want to call your attention to the word "villain" on page two. I'll even give you a close-up:

Looks almost like the A and the I were lettered by a different person, dunnit? Well, they were. They were lettered by me. Regardless of having my freakin' script right in front of him, Bill misspelled "villain" as "villian," like so damned many people do! And I had to fix it so nobody would think it was my goof.

And no, I wasn't being paranoid. A couple of years later, when I co-wrote the script for my first "real" comic book, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the artist of the book also lettered it. Although every use of the term "compact disc" was spelled just that way (D-I-S-C) in the script, artist Ken Penders wrote "disc" sometimes, and "disk" other times! And a magazine review of U.N.C.L.E. #1 made a wisecrack about how the scripter couldn't decide on the spelling of the word.

For that matter, the script and the scripted dialog in that very same issue referred to a man wearing a fedora. But when Ken Penders drew the man, he drew him wearing a derby.


Back to Insect Man...

You're probably wondering how Rex "Insect Man" Mason and Greg "Mr. Secret" Nile survived, right? Well, to make a long story relatively short, this multi-billion-dollar advanced prototype of the space shuttle had a flight recorder (a/k/a "black box") on board. And since I'd read all of Paul Howley's original Insect Man stories, I knew that during his career, IM had acquired the ability to shrink, like Marvel's Ant-Man or DC's Atom, years ago.

So! When the shuttle was attacked, a quick-thinking Insect Man removed his power ring, and handed it to Mr. Secret so Greg could turn into a tiny bug. Simultaneously, Rex shrank down to a similar size, and both heroes got into the black box! (I know, I know, kind of a cheat, time-wise, but hey...)

Issue 98's "Mummy Dearest," by the way, was as deadly serious and gruesome as the previous issue had been silly! I came up with the never-before-revealed origin of Insect Man's foe (and long-time leader of SKULL), the Mummy. Paul Howley himself told customers that it was one of the best six comic book stories he'd read that month. And since the rest were "real" comics, I considered that to be quite a compliment.

Finally (for this chapter, anyway) let's jump ahead a few months to when the real-life space shuttle disaster occurred, okay?

By the time of that real-life shocker, IMWT #97 and #98 were "old news." A few more issues had come out in the interim, and That's Entertainment had the last five or six on its new comic rack, along with all the "real" comic books.

Paul's cousin Steve also owned a comic shop, called The Outer Limits. Paul and Cousin Steve would telephone each other constantly during the day just to share goofy jokes, questions, stories... Whatever crossed their minds was fair game. After all, if you "sell funnybooks for a living," as Paul often said, you have no right being totally serious.

As you'll no doubt recall, I wasn't just the sometime-scribe of Insect Man's adventures, I was also an employee of That's Entertainment. So Paul and I were both in the store on January 28th, along with several customers.

Suddenly, the phone rang. (Well, how else could it ring?) Paul answered it. It was Cousin Steve. Steve told Paul that the Space Shuttle Challenger had just blown up after liftoff. Typical Cousin Steve phone call. Naturally, Paul thought it was a joke... but only for a second.

Paul shared the awful news with the rest of us, and a few minutes later, I looked at Paul and said "Do you know what I just thought of?"

His eyes got a bit wider. "Your Insect Man story?" I nodded.

That was eerie.

One day soon after January 28th, I was all alone in the store, behind the counter. One of TE's regular customers -- we'll call him "Conrad" -- walked in, strode purposefully up to the shelf holding the recent IMWT issues, grabbed a copy of either #97 or #98, and waved it in the air, yelling "The FBI is going to be looking for this David Lynch guy!" or words to that effect.

Obviously, he didn't know me by name.

I had to explain to him that:
  1. I was David Lynch. (Still am, last time I checked.)
  2. I'd merely written a fictional story. I didn't really blow up the Challenger.
  3. The FBI couldn't give a rat's ass about me.
A lengthy aside here: In 1988, Marvel Comics was publishing several titles as part of what they called their "New Universe." The New Universe titles took place outside the Marvel Universe, home to Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, etc.  One of the New Universe's storylines had the entire city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, destroyed by an otherworldly force. Well, right around that time, that same "Conrad" found some sort of weather chart on some computer somewhere, which had a huge dark spot in the area of Pittsburgh. He thought the city had really been wiped off the face of the Earth! (Let's just ignore the fact that no TV or radio news mentioned this supposed tragedy.) "Conrad" brought a print-out of the weather chart (or whatever it was exactly) into That's Entertainment, declaring (IIRC) that all comic book fans were going to hell, because their hobby had obliterated Pittsburgh.


And back in 1985, I was developing the story that came to be called "Fractured SKULL!"

To Be Continued...

And next time? The issue that non-artist David M. Lynch drew 90% of!

Thanks for your time.

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

STEVE DITKO, 1927-2018, R.I.P. ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post

Sorry, fellow babies, no Insect Man chapter this week. Next week, I promise!

One of the most innovative artists in the history of comics has died at the age of ninety.

Steve Ditko obituaries are showing up all over the place because of his two best-known co-creations, Spider-Man (and that is how you spell it, not "Spiderman" or "Spider Man") and Doctor Strange.

A partial list of characters he created, co-created, and/or drew would include the Creeper, Stalker, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, the Hawk & the Dove, Shade the Changing Man, one of the many DC Comics characters named Starman, Machine Man, Rom, Mr. A, the Question, and yes, even Squirrel Girl! And villains? Scores of those, as well. Just listing the Spider-Man foes would make this article longer than I intend to: Doctor Octopus, Sandman, the Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, the Scorpion, the Lizard, the Chameleon...

Ditko started contributing to comics in the early 1950s. He created or co-created many superheroes, but even if he hadn't done a single costumed character, he would hold a place in history for the incredible horror/fantasy stories he drew (among other genres, of course).

Ditko rarely spoke on record about his contributions to comics. He was a reclusive type who preferred to let his work speak for itself. He didn't give interviews after the 1960s ended, and he is only on record as having attended one comic convention, and that was in 1964. The last known photograph of him dates to the early 1970s, I believe.

There's obviously a lot more I could write about Steve Ditko, but I'm going to give you a plethora of images instead, interjecting only when I feel it's appropriate. (Click on any image for a larger version. In fact, I strongly recommend that you do so!)

Ditko's version of the Blue Beetle.

Captain Atom and Nightshade face The Ghost (no relation
to the antagonist in this summer's Ant-Man and the Wasp).

One of my personal favorite Ditko characters. Only six issues in 1968-1969
(plus a debut/origin story in Showcase #73 before that), but I loved 'em!

As the 1960s became the era of the hippies, Ditko's surrealistic artwork on the Dr. Strange series convinced many of the younger generation that Ditko was "one of them" in terms of experimenting with psychedelic drugs. In reality, though, nothing could be further from the truth. Ditko was extremely straight-laced and conservative.

His character design was incredibly inspired. When he and writer Stan Lee decided to finally show "the dread Dormammu," Ditko drew something decidedly different.

Later in Dr. Strange stories which appeared in Strange Tales, he created the look of another character, named Eternity. Eternity was one of those beings that transcend mere good and evil.

And inevitably, the evil Dormammu met and battled Eternity! However, a recent Ditko obituary claimed that this multi-part story "culminated with Strange and Dormammu joining forces." Wrong. See for yourself. Dr. Strange was merely a frightened observer.

I was young and naive enough to believe that the above sequence actually dispensed with both of them for good. Ha. Not in comics...

Ditko's "faceless" superhero, the Question.

Ditko often inked his own work, and sometimes he inked others! Thus, this sequence
from Fantastic Four #13 (penciled by Jack Kirby) has the inimitable Ditko touch.

One of my all-time favorite artists, Wally Wood (1927-1981) inked Ditko's pencils on
The Destructor (shown above) and Stalker (shown below). IMHO, the result was terrific!

Ditko's Mr. A, whose philosophy was as black-and-white as the artwork here!

Steve Ditko's style was so distinctive, his version of characters with which he was not so strongly associated often differed from the norm.

Loki and Thor...

The incredible Hulk...

Dr. Doom...


...and finally... Well, I'm not sure who this guy is, but he sure looks familiar, doesn't he?

 A little tribute from 2008's The Spirit.

And now, it is with great pleasure that I present one of the most memorable segments of the Silver Age, from The Amazing Spider-Man #33! Stan Lee's words and Steve Ditko's pictures provided a sequence that still has comic fans talking!

Basically, Spider-Man is trapped in an underwater complex, beneath tons of machinery. Watch how Stan and Steve combine to make the reader agonize along with the hero.

Rest well, Steve. You've earned it.

Thanks for your time.
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