Thursday, November 14, 2019

In Search of Ancient Bertrams # 1 "Bertram's Boats"!

One of a number of things I've become known for as a translator and dialogue writer/creator for European stories published in American Disney comic books is the use of the name "Bertram"! 

I can't exactly articulate WHY this particular repeating quirk developed, and so pervaded the my body of work, but a very likely reason for HOW it did dates back to now-vague memories of an issue of BUGS BUNNY that I read in the 1960s.  I'm certain the particular story in question was a reprint from an earlier Dell issue.  

In it, the name "Bertram" was used... and I liked it.  It made me smile.  And, for some still unknown reason, it was funny... and it worked!   
"Bertram", in itself, is not an overtly funny name.  Indeed my first exposure to the name was "Bertram Cabot, Jr.", a pivotal character in the classic episode of THE OUTER LIMITS; "The Man Who Was Never Born" (1963), starring the late, great Martin Landau!  

But, somehow, in the context of the Bugs Bunny story (which I hope to identify and post on, when I locate it as part of The Great Comics Reorganization and Storage Retirement Project), the name WAS funny... and that feeling "stuck-with-me" from that point on! 

Once I was finally privileged to become part of the comic book creative process, I thought to "pay back" the writer of that dimly-remembered Bugs Bunny story and use the name in UNCLE SCROOGE # 275 (Gemstone, Cover Date: March, 2008), in the FIFTH story I ever worked on, as a gag-riff on the once-popular "Beefsteak Charlie's" restaurant chain.  

...And, I've been somewhat regularly "paying-it-forward" to readers (whether they want it, or not) ever since!  
 ...From "Burgers to Burgers" with Bertram!  

And so, as part of the aforementioned (...all together now) Great Comics Reorganization and Storage Retirement Project), I will, from time to time run across "ancient and forgotten Bertrams", scattered across my comics collection like a trail of breadcrumbs, and will report their rediscovery here as part of yet a new subset feature... "In Search of Ancient Bertrams"!

First up (or, more precisely, first FOUND) is from MICKEY MOUSE # 153 (Gold Key Comics, Cover Date: December, 1974) and the opening splash panel of its lead story "The Secret of Drake's Island", written by Carl Fallberg and drawn by Paul Murry (the comic-book-Mouse's most classic team of creators)!

Catch the SIGN at the lower-most right... "BERTRAM'S BOATS"!  

With a presumed extra-special bonus reference to writer and editor Del Connell - "Catch the Big Ones with Delbert"!

"The Secret of Drake's Island" was originally published in MICKEY MOUSE # 67 (Dell Comics, Cover Date: August-September, 1959), though the reprint referenced here was the first version of the story that *I'd* seen!  

We shall return with more "In Search of Ancient Bertrams", as such Bertrams are uncovered!  

Thursday, November 7, 2019

“Mickey Mouse on a Secret Mission” The Secret Text Files!

I would imagine all writers have moments like this...

In the midst of your everyday activities, you run across something you wrote and, for any number of reasons, was never used.  What follows is such a specimen of unseen text that was intended for Fantagraphics Hardcover Library of "Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson - March of the Zombies" (2015). 

Due to a variety of factors that I suspect were too unimportant for anyone to clearly recall at this date, I found that I had prepared an introductory text for “Mickey Mouse on a Secret Mission”, a story that had already been assigned to Thad Komorowski - who, as you would expect, did an awesome job with it!

As lesser-luck would have it, I learned (or realized) this rather important fact after I had completed my own text intro.  And so it lie dormant on some old "memory stick" while I hurried a text intro for a different story into production...

...Until I rediscovered it today, and decided that it would make for good "Blog-fodder"!  (No gangster jokes, please!)     

So, from out of a past that, for whatever reason (choose your own), seems much more distant than it really is, we present... 

“Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something ‘Blew’ by at Incredible Speed” … or, “It All Comes Out in the Walsh”! 

If the now-popular phrase “game changer” existed in late 1942, there’s no doubt it would apply to the coming of Bill Walsh as writer of Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse newspaper strip continuities. 

Defying the apparent contradiction in terms, Walsh simultaneously takes us to “familiar places” and to those completely new.  “New places” applied particularly to subject matter, with many notions that were inconceivable just a few years earlier.   

His first tale, later given the “spoiler title” of “The Nazi Submarine”, is essentially a short, gag-oriented story of Mickey going undercover to bust a black market gasoline ring.  Where it leads, however, is a place where “no Mouse has gone before”, a confrontation with Nazis! 

Consider that our hero has vanquished villains of every stripe, from ordinary “egg-robbers”, to western bandits, mad scientists, and even crooked lawyers.  But, this was a new and universally feared type of evil now infiltrating the shores of Mouseton.   We’re hardly allowed recovery from the shock, before Bill Walsh ups the ante, in his epic second effort, by sending Mickey on an unprecedented “Secret Mission”. 

As our essay title suggests, “Mickey Mouse on a Secret Mission” is a nicely executed balancing act of “Something Old” and “Something New”, beginning with Mickey’s kidnapping.  The perpetrators of the abduction are eventually revealed as government agents who recruit the Mouse for a patriotic mission, mirroring 1936’s “Mickey Mouse Joins the Foreign Legion”. 

Other familiar beats include:  Mickey’s unsuccessfully donning a disguise to gather intel, as seen in “Mickey Mouse Outwits The Phantom Blot" (1939), and Mickey’s spirited midair melee with Peg Leg Pete from “Island in the Sky" (1936). 

However, it is Walsh’s nice satirical twist on this “skirmish in the sky” that also places our story firmly into the “New” column, as Mickey’s modern combat techniques fall far short of his good old fashioned brawling, when it comes to giving Pete a pummeling. 

The “New” side of the ledger is also livened by Walsh’s use of sub-conscious or out-of-body selves for both Mickey and Pete, a heretofore never attempted “sideways vertical” panel in the strip of October 5 (which Western Publishing reformatted into an ACTUAL vertical panel for the reprint in WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES # 48, 1944), and the story’s main focus: the super-plane known as “The Bat” – let alone Pete’s startling conversion from “garden variety thug” to Nazi spy. 

Since “something borrowed” (from prior Gottfredson continuities) is also “something old”, let’s advance to that “something that blew by”.

Walsh and Mickey use the super-speed and sheer power of The Bat to wreak havoc on the Nazi war machine with deftness of action usually reserved for animation.   As great a practitioner of the classic Disney style, within the “still” medium of the comic strip, as Floyd Gottfredson was, the non-stop comedic destruction brought on by The Bat seems to have “upped his game” all the more to keep pace with Walsh’s mile-a-minute mauling of our enemy’s vaunted might.   

If there is a minor criticism of “Mickey Mouse on a Secret Mission” to be made, it is in Walsh’s overall pacing.  The training and initial flight sequences, as humorous and entertaining as they were, played out over 23 strips, from July 29 thru August 24.  In stark contrast, Pete’s capture was accomplished in only ONE strip – and, in actuality, one PANEL.  Perhaps the front-loading of gags led to a forced and abrupt ending to Pete’s spy stint that moved even faster than did “The Bat”!

Not to worry, however, because Bill Walsh would “work it out”, and his seemingly-limitless imagination would introduce us to such memorable characters and concepts as Eega Beeva, The Rhyming Man, “The Lectro Box”, and “The World of Tomorrow”!  …I can’t wait to see it all unfold again! 
[END of Unused Text] 

...And "unfold" it most certainly did - making us all the merrier for it! 

For anyone who has the book pictured above (...And WHY WOULDN'T YOU?  It's great!), check out the text I *did* submit!  

If there's anything I learned from watching the great Irwin Allen's 1960s sci-fi TV shows, it's that "you never throw something away, if you can use it again"!  So, have a gander (not Gladstone) at the amount of material from this unused text that I repurposed for the published text on page 134.  

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Robot News: November 2019

This friendly face can mean only one thing... IT'S TIME FOR ROBOT NEWS!  

Courtesy of our great friend Achille Talon, as "Aristide Twain"...

...and Jerry Mathers as "The Beaver"!  

Before we recede any further back into 1960s TV, HERE IS THE LINK TO ROBOT NEWS!  

In the great Lost in Space Robot tradition, we must issue a WARNING (Danger! Danger!).


So, do not activate if you're at work, in close proximity to a sleeping baby, sleeping grizzly bear, or sleeping baby grizzly bear - or if you are directly beneath an outcrop of ice and snow that could become an avalanche!  Got it?  Affirmative!  

It's a YouTube play-list, so several installments of Robot News should play in sequence.  So, don't blow a gasket - or a power-pack - waiting for the latest installment!  Or, just skip-around once the play-list displays!

ENJOY, Will Robinson!  

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Happy Halloween 2019!

I've always wondered how this came to be...

"Frankenstein and Dracula", on the cover and in the lead story of THE FLINTSTONES # 33 (Gold Key Comics, Cover Date: April, 1966), and not "Franken-stone and Dracu-slab"?  

There's also The Wolfman and The Mummy thrown in for good monstrous measure! 

If you have this comic, dig it out and re-read it (...or read it for the first time)!  It wasn't a Halloween-timed release, but it should have been!  

One more interesting Halloween thingee before we close (the coffin?)... 

Here's the cover of WORLD'S FINEST # 152 (DC Comics, Cover Date: September, 1965).  There are FIVE characters on the cover, in costume.  Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, and Dick Grayson are obvious, but WHO might the "other two" be?  

(Click to Enlarge!)

But, the real interesting (sorta) "Halloween thingee" (I just LOVE writing that!) is found in the issue's letter column, where a mom writes in about making a Batman costume for her son!

First, this was 1965, and I doubt there were ANY "Batman costumes" available anywhere!  The Dark Ages for cosplayers, perhaps?  No Batman, Joker, Riddler, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy costumes to be photographed in... and, in fact, no Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy - period! 

YOU had to LAND US is in 1965, didn't you?! 

Then, there is the REPLY from editor Mort Weisinger, or more likely his assistant the amazing E. Nelson Bridwell...

(You'll really want to Click to Enlarge!) 
Poor "Mom" (whose name we have judiciously withheld)... If only she'd waited ONE YEAR, until 1966, there would be Batman costumes, and stuff (even thingees) EVERYWHERE! 

Happy Halloween! 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

New York Comic Con 2019: Post Three of 3!

Um... History's first... WHAT? 

Ah, leave it to Uncle Scrooge to cleverly and succinctly lead us into our topic... (Of course, that was back when Uncle Scrooge REALLY DID speak both cleverly and succinctly, unlike the way he does now.)

...But, I legendarily super-digress! 

The phenomenon of the behavior we now call "cosplay", at least in the context of its invading and overrunning what were once "Comic Book Conventions" in actuality - but have now largely become "Comic Book Conventions" in name only - pretty much occurred before my very eyes.  

In the early eighties, when I first discovered comic-cons as a treasure trove of back-issue wonders, cosplayers were a very small subset of the overall number of attendees. 

They were dressed largely in homemade Star Trek uniforms or, a little closer to the con's reason for being, comic book superheroes and villains.  While we comic book readers and collectors may have looked at them slightly askance, they were an unobtrusive sort who kept to themselves - and almost no one photographed them!

Now, they would seem to be more of a "majority" than the people like me who actually READ comic books and accumulate them for the sheer joy (not profit) of it!  

And all that should be fine with me as I am generally a "live-and-let-live" sorta guy, who objects only to things that make life personally more difficult, bothersome, or distasteful to me. 

But, the sad fact is that cosplayers do exactly that, in their (absolutely unintentional, I must add) actions that hinder my focused quest for comics!  

Perhaps few folks photographed the people-at-cosplay in Ye Olden Days, because it meant that you actually had to PHYSICALLY BRING A CAMERA to the comic con - and, if your aim was to "enter light" and "exit heavy" (with lots of back issue comics), you didn't need to increase the load, by carrying a camera.  

Now, everyone has a camera, via their cell phones, and the "stoppage of traffic" to photograph cosplayers has become an epidemic! Aisles are choked to capacity. Traffic doesn't move without great effort, and heaven help us if an emergency should break out!  

The cosplayers themselves, with their over-large, unwieldy, and unnecessarily dangerous props like swords, battleaxes, and even inappropriately broad wingspans, only add to the inconvenience and the hazard.   

Now, if you think this means I want cosplay banned, you're wrong. That "live-and-let-live" thing remember?  

BUT, here's the solution that's good for everyone...  Designate an area - a LARGE area - for cosplay! Plenty of room for prop 'n' costume preening and, most important of all, photography!  Even partitioned cubicles for dressing, so that you may peruse the rest of the con in the greater comfort of civilian clothes.  

Have it it folks!  Pop those flashes, or whatever cell phone cameras do, until your batteries drop dead of exhaustion!  Live your dreams, without interfering with my comics shopping!  

...Ah, but who's gonna listen to an old curmudgeon!  ...Even a legendary super one like me! 

Friday, October 18, 2019

New York Comic Con 2019: Post Two of 3!

I bought my first ever back issue comic books in the spring of 1980.  I made my most recent back issue comics purchase... today! 

That's a lot of water under the bridge, or comics stored in the long box.  And the experience is both very different from - yet very similar to - the way it was almost 40 (!) years ago!  

Today's purchase was made online. The sites that offer comic books as their primary business (Lone Star, Mile High, and others) couldn't make it simpler.  Just enter the issue title and number and, there it is... or, isn't - if not in stock. But what could be easier and more direct?  

Yet, there is still a thrill in comic-shopping at a big show like New York Comic Con... finding a desired comic from a display of many long boxes, holding it in your hand... tossing it up and letting it hit you on the head... Oh, wait... Scratch that one... It's from Uncle Scrooge!  

...Opening it, right then-and-there, to examine it for hidden flaws - something you don't get to do online!  Finally, there is the negotiation on price, which after so many years of READING Uncle Scrooge, and over a decade WRITING him as well, has simply become "part of the process" - and part of the fun!  

But, my experiences at New York Comic Con 2019 and prior such shows reveal some less-convenient aspects to this type of shopping that are becoming growing trends.  

While the overall shopping experience is made easier by NYCC "consolidating" (thanks, Scarecrow!) the comic book dealers into one corner of the vast convention floor...

...Thereby lessening (though, alas, not eliminating) my exposure to THIS... 

...It's beginning to be the DEALERS themselves, who are making the experience less convenient - and less fun - than it ought to be!   

I can't fault dealers for the aisle-clogging, space-monopolizing, impromptu cosplay photography sessions that occur in front of their booths, preventing customer access.  I'm certain they find that to be far more a problem than I do.  But here are a few pet-peeves that, once again, are becoming trends.  

SELECTION:  Obviously, every customer's taste in comics differs but, at a show of such scope, shouldn't dealers bring more varied - and less recent - stock to sell at such a unique event?  

It is beyond me why there are so many dealers at NYCC stocking little or nothing beyond "recent stuff" that you could easily pick up at a comic book shop!  

Why would you take such inventory to a big show like this?  And, in a town with a healthy share of comic book shops like New York, why would anyone come to NYCC looking for it?  

This should be a place where you come to find the unusual... not the everyday!  

LAYOUT:  Okay, this one is largely due to my (slightly advanced) age... but boxes ON THE FLOOR, as opposed to being up on the display tables, pose problems of personal physicality and of logistics.  

Honestly, my back and my knees can't take very much of this - and I'm in good shape for an "almost-official-senior-citizen".  Unless something looks very promising, I just pass floor-boxes up without a sniff.  That's bad for me and the dealers.  

Logistically, with all the crowding of aisles, sitting or kneeling on the floor to peruse such boxes can be hazardous to the person looking through the box, and those whose line-of-sight is not trained downward.  

 Why "look down", when there's so much to "look up" at?  

ORGANIZATION OF STOCK:  More and more, I'm finding boxes that are NOT MARKED OR LABELED AS TO THEIR CONTENTS, save a general indicator of what "age" (Silver, Bronze, Modern - if that) and general price range.  

I'll only speak for myself but, under the crowded and generally uncomfortable prevailing conditions, I REALLY don't wish to look through rows of "un-marked - or under-marked" boxes!  Especially if all I end up finding are things that are of no interest to me!   

If you're going to have a full box of "Nineties Marvel Dross", be considerate enough to mark the box "Nineties Marvel Dross"!  

It's an obvious "Win/Win"!  I don't waste my time, AND I don't block your display from those who weren't originally burned by the overabundance and falsely-inflated values of "Nineties Marvel Dross" and, for some unfathomable reason, want that stuff today!   

Why shouldn't I KNOW what publisher and general era I should expect to find in a dealer's long box?!  ...Seems such basic organization and labeling was almost always the rule, until recently!  

SHARP STIFF MYLAR:  Yes, I understand you want to make your better books "look their best" but, when thumbing through several boxes of comics in "sharp-edged, stiff Mylar casings", I just end up slicing my fingers - and leaving your booth in pain.  Small wonder I keep none of my personal comics in them, regardless of worth! 

OVERSTUFFED BOXES:  Another source of finger-pain is trying to look at each comic in a grossly-overstuffed long box!  Sometimes they are packed-in so tightly, they DON'T MOVE!  And, if they don't move, I can't get a look at each one without taking them OUT OF THE BOX - one-at-a-time, or in large chunks!  

I realize that your optimistic goal is to sell enough OUT OF these boxes so that there is plenty of room by show's end.  But this is just another annoying and discouraging factor, that has made me "move-on" more times, during this show, than I wanted to!  

IN CLOSING: I wish to emphasize that not all dealers at New York Comic Con 2019 are guilty of these practices. I daresay most aren't - or, at least keep them to a less-annoying minimum.  

But, all of these things are, alas, clearly on the increase as the "old time professional dealers" begin to fade away.  

With online comic book sales easier than ever, I would like to think those involved with a grand spectacle such as New York Comic Con would do everything possible to keep the experience "special" (it still is), but also convenient.  

I'd expect one or two more posts on NYCC 2019 before it's all over!  Be here for them, please!  

Saturday, October 12, 2019

New York Comic Con 2019: Post One of 3!

If you told me, back in 1980-1981, when I attended my first "New York comic cons" (lower case c's because they were more frequent and went by name different proper names), that I would be writing about New York Comic Con 2019 on my Blog, I would stare at you in utter disbelief... I would also ask you "What's a Blog?"  

Yet here we all are... with you readers waiting breathlessly for my report on the proceedings... (that is, if by "waiting breathlessly" you mean "not giving a hoot"... or maybe just a "small hoot")! 

I attended all four days, filled a bunch of holes in my remaining want list, was characteristically annoyed by the usual things that annoy me (think the classic-era animated, put-upon Donald Duck type of "annoyed") - but, in the end, the now-cliched-but-often-true "good time was had by all!"  

I often wonder why they call these gatherings "Comic Cons", when ACTUAL COMIC BOOKS - the first, second, third, and last reason I attend - are increasingly marginalized!  

New York Comic Con has a tendency to relegate comic book dealers to a few aisles in one corner of the vast hall.  Hopefully, the crude drawing below will give you a sense of what I mean.  

I don't know if the use of the term "ghettoized" is still politically correct to use, but that is exactly what the comic book dealers are... and at an event that supposedly and by-its-very-name ought to feature them. 

The rest is dominated by toys, gaming, apparel, props, art prints, media personality items, media giants, and more non-comics doo-dads than you can shake a stick it.  ...And, if you DID "have a stick to shake", it would probably bump one of the all-too-many cosplayers, and those photographing or otherwise fawning over them!  More on that later... 

On the bright side the... um, er... "segmentation" (better word?) of the comic book dealers makes for an easier comic shopping experience, because there's no need for a hardcore comic shopper like me to traverse the entire space.  

I will always prefer the days where comic books were - by far - the dominant attraction of something that calls itself a "Comic Con". Yes, there's much to be said for "making the tent larger"... but now that "tent" has become too large for comfort!  WAAAY TOO LARGE!  

Still in all, it was a successful weekend comics-wise.  Sixteen issues in all, completing five runs. Virtually all of that was accomplished on Thursday, with one straggler pick-up on Friday, and three more at the close of day on Sunday, when last-minute deals are most likely to be made.  

Highlights include:

ADVENTURE COMICS # 297: My last missing issue from when it ran those wonderful "Tales of the Bizarro World" backups, written by the great Jerry Siegel!  

Four issues of BOB HOPE:

Here is but one. 

Chartlton's JETSONS # 6 (completing that run)...

...With an AMAZING DISCOVERY THEREIN, that I plan to fully highlight on the Blog someday.  But, for now, you may satisfy your curiosity by reading these two entries I made on the GRAND COMICS DATABASE (at which I've finally become a full-member indexer) - HERE and HERE!    

HINT: Be sure to read the "Indexer Notes"!  

And, after nearly 30 years, I finally got a really nice copy of MICKEY MOUSE # 138, to replace the terrible old... er, "ratty" (Sorry, Mickey!) one I've had all along!  

...And for only TWO DOLLARS!  That's a great comic, very likely written by Cecil Beard, drawn by the vastly underrated Jack Manning - and featuring villains Emil Eagle, Dangerous Dan Mc Boo, and Idjit the... the... the... um, "very nasty little person?"  (...Would we even see Idjit today, I wonder?)  

All this classic seventies Gold Key goodness for HALF THE PRICE of those "Fresh and Modern" things the parent company is inflicting on us today! (...Didn't ya just KNOW that was coming?) 

Me?  I'll take vanilla... and MICKEY MOUSE # 138!  

We'll be back with more New York Comic Con 2019 posts!  But, for now... As I used to say when "The Issue At Hand" was a print column... "Good Night and Good Comics Reading!"