Archive for September, 2021

Posted Saturday, September 25th, 2021 by Barry

Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics (1933)

Today is our holiday.

Those in the audience who know the difference between CGC and CCA. What a cosmic treadmill is. Who Stan Lee or Julius Schwartz was.

Today is National Comic Book Day.

Rejoice in the newfound success of the formerly underappreciated medium. Fly the nerd flag high. This is a true American holiday.

The United States popularized the genre beginning with comic strips in newspapers.

Dell Publishing offered a 16-page periodical of original material in 1929 called The Funnies. A precursor to the modern comic book, it was more a collection of newspaper strips.


Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics (1933)

Eastern Color Printing’s Funnies on Parade was published a few years later, 1933, but only consisted of eight pages of reprinted material.

Publishing pioneer Maxwell Gaines and sales manager Harry Wildenberg partnered with Dell Publishing for a 36-page one-shot called Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics distributed through Woolworth’s department stores in 1933. It has not been determined if the book was given away or sold.

Reprinted inside were syndicated comic strips The Bungle Family, Dixie Dugan, Joe Palooka, Keeping Up with the Joneses, Mutt and Jeff, Regl’ar Fellers, and Somebody’s Stenog.

Eastern Color Printing and Dell Publishing teamed a year later to print a second volume, simply called Famous Funnies: Series 1. This one did carry a 10-cent price tag on the cover.

Proving to be a money maker, Famous Funnies became a monthly periodical. By the second issue the book would feature new material. It would run 218 issues.

In 1938, the first issue of Action Comics created a new genre with the Superman’s debut on the cover and inside. Soon mystery men (and women) dominated the comic medium.

Romance, western and every other imaginable story staple populated the newsstands and spin racks.

Following World War II superheroes began to fall out of favor. Horror and crime comic books came to the forefront and later under scrutiny. A witch hunt neutering an entire industry cast a shadow over the medium for more than a decade.

Not until the reinvention of superheroes in the 1950s did comic books start to enjoy a renaissance. Upstart Timely Comics, soon to be known as Marvel Comics, became a force in the four-color world and, by the following decade, were on par with the former National Periodicals.

By the end of the Bronze Age, the medium reimagined itself to reflect a more mature audience. Comic books would also suffer from a speculators market fueled and fed by greed by the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s.

By the dawn of the new millennium, Hollywood had helped legitimize comic books with blockbusters earning multimillions.

Currently the technology that has helped propel comics to such heights threatens to crumble the medium. How long they can maintain their cultural significance hinges on the faithful who read them and the craftsmen who create them.

How to celebrate should be obvious. Happy National  Comic Book Day.

Posted Tuesday, September 21st, 2021 by Barry

Fantastic Four (1961) 1

“If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself,” John Lennon.

More has been said and thought about the city that never sleeps, but today is about more than just the most populated city in America. Today is about the state itself. Today is National New York Day.

New York state is 54,555-square miles, while its namesake city is a mere 302.6-square miles housing 8,175,133 people.

It’s also, arguably, the home of the world’s greatest super heroes. Not just the Fantastic Four, though they’ve been tagged as such. No, this is about all the mystery men and women who call New York City their home.

Fantastic Four (1961) 1

When super heroes first graced the four-color pages of comic books, they hailed from Metropolis and Gotham and Central City. Granted these cities were modeled after real-life counterparts, but they were still fiction.

Young Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel envisioned their hometown of Cleveland as Metropolis. Gotham was New York City, but with an alias.

And, so on.

When Stan Lee wanted to settle his first heroes, the Fantastic Four, he looked around him and saw New York City. So, the FF lived in NYC. Pretty much all who followed did too.

If they didn’t live in the city, they lived close by.

Over time other titles showcased different parts of America, but New York was always the birthplace for Marvel’s heroes. This is why the Fantastic Four represent National New York Day. They were the first to call the sprawling metropolis home. It has been the backdrop to many adventures and refuge after all of them.

Again, today is not about the city, but the state as a whole. Remember the 11th state for its history, elegance and grace, but mostly for the heroes who call it home.

Posted Saturday, September 18th, 2021 by Barry

Incredible Hulk (1968) 420

This is a day most people don’t want to recognize. Today reminds people they should still be afraid. Afraid and careful.

Today, Sept. 18, is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. Today is a day to focus on the number of persons infected who are living longer lives with HIV/AIDs. An estimated 1.2 million persons are HIV infected in the United States. Of those, around 24 percent are 55-years of age or older.


Incredible Hulk (1968) 420

The day is designed to focus on a dark reality, too. The campaign hopes to make others aware of the growing number of grandparents who are primary caregivers of children who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS.

Incredible Hulk issue 420 was casually released to readers with little warning. Just a red ribbon and grim cover belied Peter David’s Lest Darkness Come inside.

Making his final appearance is long-time Hulk friend Jim Wilson. He had been revealed as HIV positive in Incredible Hulk 388. Issue 420 is his swan song, dying from complications arising from AIDS.

Betty Banner plays in a separate scenario as she works to stop a suicide attempt by a young man diagnosed as being HIV positive. Her attempts are met with tragedy as the man ends his life while selfishly keeping his secret from his girlfriend.

The letter’s page is forgone for the issue allowing comic industry pros: Michael Kraiger, Nicholas J. Vance, Barbara Slate, Jeph Loeb, Joe Rubinstein, Mindy Newell, Chris Cooper, Gary Guzzo, Don H. DeBrandt, Tom A Tenney and Kelly Corvesse a chance to voice their stories and feelings about the ongoing battle.

An estimated 74.9-million people have been infected with HIV since the disease first began taking victims in 1981. Since then, 32 million have died of AIDS-related illnesses. In 2018 alone, 770,000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

The National Institutes of Health launched National HIV/AIDs And Aging Awareness Day in 2008. To become more involved, visit The AIDS Institute.

Posted Thursday, September 16th, 2021 by Barry

Gumby 3-D (1986)

Play-Doh was initially invented as a wallpaper cleaner by Noah McVicker of Cincinnati, OH, to fend off soot from coal burning furnaces. Technology moved on and oil furnaces became more prevalent.

By this time McVicker had died, leaving the family business to his son, Joe. He and his mother enlisted the aid of a brother-in-law/uncle and started marketing it as modeling clay for classrooms in 1955. Seeing the success of the product in a different application, Joe merged with his uncle in Rainbow Crafts Company, Inc. in 1956. He filed for a patent in 1958, though it wasn’t approved until 1965.


Gumby 3-D (1986

In 2006, the Toy Hall of Fame inductee was given its own day, National Play-Doh Day, by Hasbro.

Representing the clay is Gumby, modeled and created by Art Clokey in the early 1950s. The name came from the muddy clay found at his grandparent’s farm called “gumbo.” The clay used to “animate” Gumby was never Play-Doh, but we’re taking license for the day.

Gumby first hit the airwaves in 1955. Guest appearances eventually led to his self-titled The Gumby Show that same year. A total of 25, 11-minute episodes were prepared for NBC for the 1955-56 viewing season.

The Gumby Show entered syndication in 1959.

Original episodes ceased in 1969.

Comedian and actor Eddie Murphy brought Gumby back to the spotlight with live-action parodies on Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s.

Ninety-nine new animated episodes were prepared and aired in syndication beginning in 1987.

He was brought back in reruns for Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network in 1992 and Gumby: The Movie was released in theaters in 1995.

Along the way, Gumby made his way into the four-color medium. Over time he has appeared in several titles over many years. No one seems to have chronicled his history in comic books, but it appears as if he first graced the cover of his own book in 1986.

Publishers Papercutz, Blackthorne, Comico and Wildcard have played host to his adventures.

To celebrate the day, participants are encouraged to find a stash of Play-Doh and let their imaginations do the rest.

Posted Monday, September 13th, 2021 by Barry

Action Comics (1938) 23

Doff the hat, toss the bandanna, let the world see the chrome on the dome, today is National Bald is Beautiful Day.

More and more men are celebrating the freedom from morning grooming, trashing the combs and reveling in their new found time. No longer must they spend the extra time and money shampooing and coifing.

While Yule Brenner may be the first choice as spokesman, he never graced the cover or interior of a comic book. No, the logical choice is Superman’s number one archvillain Lex Luthor.

Luthor’s criminal career can be broken down into three eras. He began as a red-haired “mad scientist and manipulative warlord,” according to the forward in Lex Luthor A Celebration of 75 Years.

His follicelly-challenged appearance first came to be in the Superman newspaper strip then Superman issue 10, courtesy of artist Leo Nowak, though he first appeared in Action Comics 23 with a full head of red hair.

The loss of his hair was addressed in Adventure Comics 271. The Silver Age story also provided a new origin for Luthor. In the tale, young Luthor was a fan of Superboy, even building a club house/museum dedicated to the Boy of Steel’s exploits.

When an accidental fire began at the club house, Superboy put the blaze out with a puff of super breath. Luthor was uninjured, but his hair had fallen out due to a mixture of fumes from Kryptonite he was studying and the blow from Superboy.

The feud was on.

Luthor continued to battle Superman throughout the Silver and into the Bronze ages.

It wasn’t until after Crisis on Infinite Earths he became more of a business man. Writer/artist John Byrne retooled Superman and Luthor. The villain became a mashup of Ted Turner and Donald Trump with a dash of Marvel Comic’s Kingpin.

Using his considerable fortune for leverage, Luthor launched himself into the world of politics as the new millennium arrived. A botched attempt at weapon’s trading and a bounty on Superman’s head backfired leaving Luthor a fugitive and to abandon the Oval Office.

Writers continued to reinvent Luthor throughout the ensuing Crises, events and company reboots.

Luthor has accompanied the Man of Steel outside the printed page to the silver screen, the small screen and video games

While our choice for spokesman for National Bald is Beautiful Day has such a rich history, the day itself does not.

To celebrate, well, do whatever you want; read some back issues with Luthor as the protagonist, shave your head or compliment someone who has.

Posted Saturday, September 11th, 2021 by Barry

911: Artists Respond, Volume One

Any American can tell you what today is. Maybe not by its proper name, but by its call numbers: 9-11.

Today is Patriot Day. The day remembering the first attack on American soil since World War II and the ill-conceived Japanese bomb balloons.

September 11 is an annual reminder 2,977 people died at the hands of 19 hijackers. Six-thousand others were wounded. Airline deaths totaled 265 with 2,606 at the World Trade Center and surrounding area and 125 at the Pentagon.

The bulk of deaths were centered in New York, birthplace and still home to the comic book industry. Marvel Comic Books has long used the city that never sleeps as its backdrop. DC Comics have modeled Batman’s denizen after the sprawl of crime and darkness.

911: Artists Respond, Volume One

It was only fitting the comic book industry respond with a publication to raise monies for The World Trade Center Fund, Survivors Fund, September 11th Fund and the Twin Towers Fund.

9-11: Artists Respond, Volume One was published by Dark Horse Comics, Chaos! Comics and Image Comics. Both volume one and 9-11: The World’s Finest Comic Book Writers & Artists Tell Stories to Remember, Volume Two, feature short stories and single-page work from professionals throughout the industry.

Featured in the title were writer/artists Brian Biggs, Mike Diana, Dylan Horrocks, Roger Langridge, Liniers, R. Sikoryak, Dean Motter, Jon. J. Muth, Dave Cooper, Will Eisner, Batton Lash, Frank Miller, Al Davison, Bryan Talbot, David Alvarez, Layla Lawlor, Tony Millionaire, Mira Friedmann, Mark Crilley, Doug TenNapel, P. Craig Russell, Tommy Lee Edwards, Mitch O’Connell, David Chelsea, Sam Henderson, Ron Boyd, Phil Elliott, Stan Sakai, Jim Mahfood, Paul Chadwick, Darko Macan, Leland Myrick, John Paul Leon, William Stout, March Rosenthal, Enrico Casarosa, Mark Martin, Brian McDonald, Brian O’Connell, Terry Anderson, Becky Cloonan, Eric Drooker, Chris Eliopoulos, Davide Fabbri, Tatiana Gill, Steve Guaraccia, Jim Hill, Eric Kilkenny, Scott Morse, Peter Pachoumis, Nijo Philip, Lark Pien, bill Pressing, Aaron Reiner, Laurie Ross, Paul Slobada, John K. Snyder III and Jim Valentino.

Writers: Alan Moore, Joe Casey, Jeph Loeb, Robert Smigel, Roger Stern, John Ostrander, Trina Robbins, J. Torres, Fabian Nicieza, Mike Carey, Jason Hall, Steve Darnall, Stephen Banes, Art (Ferran) Brooks, Marie Croall, Tom DeFalco, Bob Harris, Anthony Johnston, Dan Jolley, Robert Kirkman, Pablo Maiztegui, John McCrae, Steve Niles, Marti Noxon, Brian Pulido, Jamie S. Rich, Randy Stradley, Stephen Walsh and Walt Whitman.

Artists: Renee French, Dave McKean, Dave Gibbons, Peter Kuper, Paul Lee, Sean Phillips, Mike Collins, Guy Davis, Michael Kupperman, Kevin Nowlan, Humberto Ramos, Jose Luis Agreda, Ale Maleev, Ivan Reis, Hilary Barta, Guy Burwell, Chynna Clugston, Rich Ketcham, Cliff Richards, Joe Pimental, Daniel Acuna, Mike Huddleston, J. Scott Campbell, Anne Timmons, Carols Megila, Melinda Gebbie, Pat Moriarity, Alcatena, Istvan Banyai, Dawn Brown, Will Conrad, Bill Dodge, Mike Gestiv, Rich Hedden, Todd Herman, Francisco Solano Lopez, Mary Mitchell, Tony Moore, Mike Norton, Joe Jorsak, Eric Powell, Steve Rolston, Gregory Ruth, Tsuneo Sanda, Robert Solanovic, Ben Stenback, lee Townsend, Kelly Yates and Leinil Francis Yu.

Other comic books focused or featuring the 9-11 attacks include Amazing Spider-Man (1999) issue 36, The Big Lie, The Boys, The Call of Duty, Cartoonists Remember 9-11, Ex Machina, Heroes, Human Target, A Moment of Silence, The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, In the Shadow of No Towers and I Love New York.

A bill to make September 11 a national day of mourning was introduced in the U.S. House on Oct. 25, 2001, by Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY) with 22 co-sponsors. A resolution was made to proclaim Sept. 11, 2002, as the first Patriot Day. From 2009 to 2016, President Barack Obama proclaimed September 11, as Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance. In 2017, President Donald Trump proclaimed Sept. 8-10 as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance and proclaimed September 11 as Patriot Day.

In observance, the flag of the United States is to be flown at half mast at the White House and all U.S. government buildings and establishments worldwide. Americans are encouraged to display flags outside their homes. A moment of silence is to be observed to correspond with the attacks, beginning at 8:46 a.m. (EDT) the time the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Patriot Day is not a federal holiday; schools and businesses remain open in observance of the occasion.

Posted Thursday, September 9th, 2021 by Barry

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) 139

The Teddy Bear we have on tap as today’s mascot is not the cuddly kind found in beds and bedrooms of the young, but a disillusioned wrestler named Max Markham.

President Theodore Roosevelt is to thank, in a round about way, for National Teddy Bear Day today. In 1902, then sitting President Roosevelt declined to slaughter a bear cub while hunting in Mississippi. The media of the day picked up on the story and illustrator Clifford Berryman immortalized the gesture in pen and ink. The cartoon appeared in the Washington Post Nov. 16, 1902. It prompted New York store owner Morris Michtom to create what we now call the Teddy Bear.

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) 139

The stuffed animal has become a staple of most childhoods and a best-selling toy.

Markham’s inspiration came from Spider-Man enemy the Jackal who crafted a custom exoskeleton. The exoskeleton was covered in a faux grizzly hide in homage to Markahm’s ring persona.

The Grizzly attacked Daily Bugle Publisher J. Jonah Jameson for exposing Markham’s violence in the squared circle in a series of articles. Of course, Spider-Man stepped in to save his long-suffering nemesis only to face the Grizzly and Jackal in their next encounter.

The Grizzly has been a minor character in the Marvel Universe since his first appearance December 1974. Since then, he has made occasional appearances for rematches with Spidey and later became a crime fighter to aid the Web Head.

Markham would relapse and become a criminal again, often appearing in animal-themed gangs. He would eventually flip back to the light side, teaming with Scott (Ant-Man) Lang. Markham would work for Lang at the Ant-Man Security Solutions.

Three other versions of the Grizzly would populate the Marvel U:  Ace Fenton, an old west bank robber; Grizzly, an A.I.M. operative; and Theodore Winchester, a member of Cable’s Wild Pack.

No one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for creating National Teddy Bear Day. Suggestions on how to celebrate include gifting someone a Teddy Bear, donating Teddy Bears to a local organization for children, hosting a Teddy Bear party and sharing memories of your Teddy Bear on social media.

Posted Monday, September 6th, 2021 by Barry

Popeye and Business and Office Careers (1972)

While waiting for the burgers to grill, drinks to chill and stomachs to fill check out a piece of the past while celebrating Labor Day 2021.

Popeye and supporting cast head to the office for a walkthrough of white-collar life circa 1972.  There, host Popeye explains job opportunities from the ground level up. Receptionists greet the reader along with an explanation of their duties.

Popeye and Business and Office Careers (1972)

Next stop are typists and their duties followed by file clerks. Each stop is punctuated with “interviews” from respective workers and the level of school needed to perform their functions.

Following are the stenographers as are legal secretaries.

Popeye doesn’t stop with the workers, but spotlights the machines they must use as well. This leads to the people who operate them and their duties.

Those who finish the book are encouraged to participate in planning their future work career.

Other books designed to set readers on a career paths included in the Career Educational Series included Health, Environmental, Communications, Transportation, Construction, Consumer & Homemaking, Manufacturing, Hospitality & Recreation, Marketing & Distribution, Public Service, Personal Service, Marine Science, Fine Arts & Humanities, and Agri-Business & Natural Resources.

King Features distributed the educational comic books to schools, hospitals, offices, etc.

Labor Day dates back at least to 1882 and the Knights of Labor. Central Labor Union Secretary Matthew Maguire is said to have proposed a national holiday to celebrate the worker.

Others attribute the notion to Peter J. McGuire, vice president of the American Federation of Labor.

Whichever the case, President Grover Cleveland backed a September commemoration and Labor Day became officially recognized as a federal holiday in 1894.

Posted Thursday, September 2nd, 2021 by Barry

Barefoot Gen (1973-1987)

Dec. 7, 1941, “a day that will live in infamy,” led to two others:  Aug. 6, 1945 and Aug. 9, 1945.

Not as controversial at the time, the two dates mark a rip in the fabric of time and history. They mark the dropping of two nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, in an effort to bring World War II in the Pacific to an end.

Since then, the decision to detonate the two bombs has come into question. Not one we’re going to debate.

Instead, to commemorate National V-J Day (Victor over Japan) we’re going to look at a serious treatment of the events before and after the bombings in a medium many believe exists for laughter.

Barefoot Gen, or Hadashi no Gen, is told from the viewpoint of a six-year-old Keiji Nakazawa who survived the bombing. The account began in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump titled Ore wa Mita, or I Saw It, in manga form.

It was printed in the United States in 1982 through Educomics.

Barefoot Gen (1973-1987)

Barefoot Gen is a serialized, longer version of I Saw It. While the original was printed in 1972, the extended telling began in 1973.

Gen Nakaoka, based on Nakazawa, is the protagonist who relives the final days of the war. His retelling of Japan’s actions is not flattering and the book was banned for a short period in its home country.

When the bomb is dropped, Gen loses his father and siblings. He is left to care for his pregnant mother. Together they bear witness in the aftermath.

Eventually they learn to live under American occupation, staying in an old bomb shelter. Gen joins the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza, to help feed his family.

Gen makes a break with the gangsters and meets Katsuko, an orphan marked by burns from the bomb. As an orphan and scarred, she is discriminated against and cannot attend school. Gen becomes her teacher.

While Nakazawa’s story doesn’t end there, Gen’s does.

The manga has sold more than 10-million copies worldwide. It was made into three live-action films, the first in 1976: Barefoot Gen; Barefoot Gen: Explosion of Tears in 1977 and Barefoot Gen:  Part 3 Battle of Hiroshima in 1980.

Two animated films have been made, Barefoot Gen in 1983 and Barefoot Gen 2 in 1986.

A two-episode television drama was released in 2007 simply called Barefoot Gen.

In addition, books and theater productions have retold the story.

National V-J Day recognizes Allied Forces’ victory over Japan during World War II. The official surrender to the Allies was Aug. 14, 1945, but the signing of the peace treaty was not held until Sept. 2, 1945.

President Harry Truman declared September 2 to be the official V-J Day.