Saturday, February 28, 2015

R.I.P. Chris Barat.

Image above is from Chris' Blog: News and Views by Chris Barat. 

Christopher Eugene Barat, devoted husband to Nicky, best friend to me since 1987, and beloved member of our little Blogging community passed away on Sunday, February 22, 2015, from complications following kidney transplant surgery, at the unthinkable age of 52.

At TIAH Blog, we routinely mark the passing of comic book creators and character actors whom I’ve admired but never met – but THIS is not only difficult for me to write, but difficult to accept personally as well. 

Together and separately, Chris and I have experienced too many good times and great things to even begin to count.  Now, those good times have ended – but they will never really be over! 

Left to Right: Chris, Joe, and Dell and Gold Key Comics writer Don R. Christensen, at some unspecified time in the late '80s. 

I’m fond of saying that everything begins somewhere.  Just as someone must have introduced Ub Iwerks to Walt Disney, Bud Abbott to Lou Costello, Dean Martin to Jerry Lewis, Jerry Siegel to Joe Schuster, Bill Hanna to Joe Barbera, Stan Lee to Jack Kirby, John Lennon to Paul McCartney, and Jerry Seinfeld to Larry David, it was Dana Gabbard (through his fanzine “The Duckburg Times”) who introduced me, still relatively new to fandom myself, to a college-age writer named Chris Barat. 

In those pre-Internet days of 1987, I had recently completed a paper-printed index to the MICKEY MOUSE comic book series, and had set my indexer’s eyes on a new animated television series based on the Disney character comic-book work of master artist Carl Barks, called DuckTales. 

Seemingly out of the blue, Chris expressed a similar desire to Dana and, as any good editor would, Dana introduced me to Chris, stepped back, and let unexpected wonders happen. 

Though the mails, Chris and I worked on our DuckTales Index, each taking notes and contributing observations on every episode, then recorded daily on VHS tapes.   All the more incredibly, as I recall, Chris did not have a VCR, and formulated all of his contributions strictly from memory. 

When the project was complete, Dana published it as the double-sized, now-legendary, DUCKBURG TIMES # 24/25, which covered only the First Season and, of necessity, shortened or otherwise limited our commentaries.  

Published by Dana Gabbard. Cover by William Van Horn
A deluxe, full version was privately produced by Chris and myself, covering all episodes with detailed summaries and long commentaries – but, alas, being produced before the Digital Age, we were unable to reproduce it in modern times. 

Reading it then, and all the more so reading it now, the most amazing thing to me is that Chris and I meshed SO WELL that I can no longer tell exactly who contributed what to this research work. 

Some vestiges of this emerged in the text intros to the two trade paperback volumes of “Carl Barks’ Greatest DuckTales Stories”, published by Gemstone in 2006.    

From there, we went on to produce complete, to that point in time, indexes to the UNCLE SCROOGE and DONALD DUCK comic book series.  All three of these efforts hold a proud place on my den bookshelves – and I’ll often consult those before logging-on to the Internet, if such information is needed. 

Chris became a true “Friend-in-Fandom” over the years that followed. 

The period of transition from Gladstone Series One to Disney Comics (1990-1991) was an memorable time to share with Chris.  Excited and enthusiastic phone calls occurred almost every Thursday night (recall that “New Comics Day” was then on Thursday, not Wednesday), after 9 PM when the (pre-cell-phone) telephone rates went down.  The third week of the month, when Disney Comics’ MICKEY MOUSE ADVENTURES and UNCLE SCROOGE were released was a “must-call” night.  As soon as these comics were read and digested, we’d be discussing stories and material for our Letters of Comment. 

To one extent or another, this would persist throughout the nineties and beyond, covering such topics as “The Disney Implosion”, some of the high points of DC Comics like “The Death of Superman”, “Knightfall” (Batman vs. Bane), and especially LOBO, Don Rosa’s “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” (…and Chris’ particular objections to the “interfering” and “intrusive” ghosts that talked to and guided Young Scrooge), transitions of Disney comic books to Gladstone Series Two, Gemstone, Boom! Studios, and the coming comics from IDW in 2015

There were frequent visits to my place in Brooklyn, particularly during the period we were both single, where we’d watch hours and hours of vintage live-action and animated TV shows on VHS, and look at older comics.  Chris was for me the friend I did not have, growing up in the sixties and in the Silver Age of comics.  One day, while watching a random episode of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, our mutual sentiment was: “Imagine having a new one of these every week!”  (…and, for me, imagine having someone to enjoy it with.) 

Naturally, the Disney and Warner Bros. animated series of the late ‘80s thru the ‘90s were prime material for us.  We thrilled to the TV animation renaissance that was occurring before our eyes.  Especially, after those dark times of the ‘70s thru mid ‘80s.   
DuckTales was his favorite Disney show, and Pinky and the Brain was his favorite Warner Bros. show.  

Chris began to accompany me on my annual trip to Comic Con International San Diego where, at first, he was overwhelmed, but he quickly acclimated and enjoyed the experience immensely.  Over the years, more and more of our mutual friends would become a part of this, creating some of the greatest memories anyone of the fannish persuasion could have. 

It's all thanks to Dana!  Left to right: Chris, Joe, and the guy who introduced us, Dana Gabbard, at San Diego Comic Con 1995. 

Once the San Diego days wound down after 2003, I would still see Chris every year at Baltimore Comic Con, until I eventually made New York Comic Con my event of choice.

And, no discussion of those “fannish” activities could be complete, without the glue that held everything together, our mutual journey into the world of APA and Fanzine writing, starting sometime in 1994.  It was here that “The Issue At Hand” (aka TIAH) and “News and Views” became our mutual “brands”, which we carried forward into multiple publications (Chris also did “Richville Ruminations” for Mark Arnold’s “The Harveyville Fun Times” , while I simply ported “TIAH” over there) and finally into the Blogosphere in 2008. 

At his 2003 wedding to Nicky, it seemed only fitting that I quoted from Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge in my speech – and it was a month or so later that I would meet Esther, so 2003 was a “Forever Milestone Year” for both of us.   Nicky was the best thing that could have happened for Chris, and their mutual love was always clearly on display! 

I quoted from this comic.  If you're going to borrow, borrow from the best! 

And it all started with a Mouse… er, “Gabbard”!  See all the great things you’ve been responsible for, Dana?  

Chuck Munson and Chris ride the New York City Subway.  Thankfully, I'm BEHIND the camera for this one!

Over those years, beyond 2003, the enthusiasm continued, though with fewer phone calls and more e-mail – and, of course, eventually the Blogs.  We both found our way into script-writing for the comics we loved, thanks entirely to David Gerstein.
When Chris entered the hospital, there was no doubt on my part he’d be free, clear, strong, and well to enjoy the coming Disney comic books from IDW that we both anticipated.  This leads me to my last (and perhaps most unforgettable) memory of Chris.

The last night that we spoke by phone, January 30, 2015, he was in the hospital and sounded very weak. We were discussing those comics and how I expected him to be home and well, long before they began. I had just finished my first draft of dialogue for the backup story to appear in the second issue of UNCLE SCROOGE, which I liked a lot. I ended up READING IT TO HIM, doing the dialogue, and describing the accompanying art. He got a lot of laughs out of that, and told me how good it made him feel.

The upcoming UNCLE SCROOGE # 2 (# 406) from IDW.

He was the only person (other than David, as editor) that had any knowledge of it, at the time. It was so good to hear him laugh. He was looking forward to getting a copy when it came out. So sad that will not happen, but he DID get to experience "that much of it as did exist", and I'm forever happy about that.

Such a final interaction was an extraordinary one that I don't think COULD have happened between two other people!  I’ll never forget it.  

And, Nicky… Esther and I feel so profoundly for your loss!   Chris was truly one of a kind!  He didn’t have a mean bone in his body, or a negative thought in his mind.  It showed in every word and in every deed.  He was the best kind of friend a guy could have and, doubtless, was an extraordinary husband.  

Image above of Nicky and Chris is from Chris' Blog.

Other members of our Blogging community have their own special tributes to Chris.  Please visit them. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Our Tribute to Chris Barat.

Be here on Saturday, February 28, 2015, for our proper, detailed, and truly heartfelt tribute to our departed friend Chris Barat.  

It took some time for me to make this as special as I could for Chris!  

...I only wish he could see it.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tragic News.

We will temporarily suspend all activities at TIAH Blog due to the tragic passing of Chris Barat.

Far more than merely a member of our little Blogging community, Chris was one of my closest and very best friends since 1987, and one with whom I shared a great many wonderful experiences over that time.  It's hard to imagine the particular types of fun our group of fandom and blogging friends has had, and not think of him.  He will be so very, very missed.   

We’ll be back soon – hopefully, with a more fitting tribute to Chris. 

In the meantime keep his spirit alive by going to his Blog, and reading any number of the detailed research posts he put up…

…Or peruse same in this Blog and other Blogs he frequented.  (A list of those Blogs displays at his own Blog.)

…Or, read a comic, watch some animation… and imagine the great fun of discussing it with him afterward! 

My memories of such times will be with me forever!

To Chris and his devoted wife, Nicky… Thank you for all of it!  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Comic Book Review: SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 8 (March, 2015)

Comic Book Review: SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 8 (March, 2015)

As we used to say in the old APA and Fanzine days: 

THE ISSUE AT HAND IS: SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 8 (Cover Date: March, 2015)

Released: January 07, 2015, by DC Comics.  

SUMMARY:  "Future-Doo Where Are You?"  

Per my own current sensibilities, one of the best comic books on the market today is SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP, written by the brilliant Sholly Fisch and drawn by various artists -- though, in this case (as well as the previous issue) -- by the great modern Hanna-Barbera character artist Scott Jeralds.  Though I expect THIS COMING SERIES OF COMICS will give it a little competition.  

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 8 breaks slightly with previous stand-alone issues in that it offers something of a mini-time-travel arc, continuing from SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 7 (reviewed HERE). 

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 7 takes our Mystery Inc. Gang from their present (let's not reopen the can of worms put forth by the final episode of the amazing TV series SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY INCORPORATED and wonder if "their present" is either 1969-1970, or the early 21st Century), to the Stone Age of The Flintstones... and all the way to the future of The Jetsons!  

To quickly digress, before we crack the covers of SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 8, you can find a discussion of the particular merits and demerits of the cover itself HERE.  

Once in the future, the two sets of classic Hanna-Barbera characters meet and become acquainted.  

This brings about my only true disappointment with the issue... the highly anticipated meeting between Scooby-Doo and Astro.   Below are my fannish observations from a previous post: 

"As far back as 1970, I said that Scooby-Doo, Muttley, and Astro should be able to hold a conversation, given their 'Don Messick-onian linguistic roots'.

"Now, the question is, will the Scooby-Doo of SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 8 be the 'Traditional Scooby-Doo' of SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU (as voiced by Don Messick), or 'More Recent Scooby-Doo' of SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY INCORPORATED (as voiced by Frank Welker), who was practically speaking 'the king’s English' – with a few 'Rrr’s'  thrown in to acknowledge his roots, by the end of that series. 

"If it’s the latter, Scooby might find Astro a bit too primitive or pedestrian for his tastes."

Well, gosh... after all that personal anticipation and build-up, all we got was this.

I guess it's my own fault for anticipating so sublime a moment, (...and, perhaps for even USING the word "sublime" in such a context), but at least we got an unexpectedly good moment in the previous issue when Scooby met Dino.

But, now that we've gotten past the minor cover quibble, and the "Scooby meets Astro" moment, there's nothing but great stuff ahead, folks... so let's go!  ...And remember to click on all comic images to ENLARGE for ease of reading. 

I dunno about you, but I'd have always figured there would always be Time Machines galore in the future!  Heck, we've had stories about 'em from the Victorian Age to the present day.  

But, in a truly great bit, imagine Fred's surprise to find that there are NO Time Machines in the future of The Jetsons, to send the Scooby Gang back to their own era!  

Come to think of it, I cannot recall any reference to a time machine in the original JETSONS series.  (I try not to think much about the '80s series.)  

There was at least one Time Machine reference, in Gold Key Comics' THE JETSONS # 19 (Cover Date: January, 1966), but I guess we'll not accept that as canon.     

Um, consider for a moment that "May 20th, 2041" isn't all THAT far off anymore!  ...Scary!  

George also took a time trip to Bedrock, in Marvel Comics’ THE FLINTSTONES # 4 (Cover Date:  April, 1978), but we’ll let that one go too.   

...Should I even try to remember how that "Jetsons Meet the Flintstones" '80s thing went?  

...Naaah!  There's NO Time Machines in the future!  Let's move on!  

Other great (Have I used that word enough, yet?) bits found in SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 8 include the following: 

Shaggy makes a sandwich. Though, wasn't the household appliance in question called the "foodarackacycle", and not an "Instant Sandwich Maker"?  

Anyone who's ever seen the opening credits sequence to THE JETSONS (...and who hasn't?), where George's Space Car conveniently folds up into a briefcase, must have wondered what would happen if...  It took until SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 8 to finally witness it.

It seems that wherever the Mystery Inc. gang goes, ghosts and trouble follow.  Also, crooked businessmen who often masquerade as the troublesome ghosts.  

Can't you just hear Don Messick doing that voice?
Therefore, it adds that, when investigating the sudden appearance of "The Space-Age Specter", come to haunt the Spacely Sprockets firm, Mr. Spacely's chief rival, Mr. Cogswell, is immediately considered to be a suspect.  

...But, since the is the first time the Jetson characters have been a part of this staggeringly overused plot device, there is some natural skepticism -- until Fred offers a keen observation...

How do you not LOVE that!  

Of course, our heroes take up the case...

...And, because we avoid spoilers in these reviews, we will stop our story recap here.  

But, I will say that any guess as to the identity of "The Space-Age Specter", made by myself or any of my intrepid commenters in previous posts, did not come to pass!  I really like it when a comic such as this can still "out-think" longtime, and perhaps jaded, readers.

And, the resolution was kinda-sorta like that of Scholly Fisch's lead story in 2014's SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU # 47 - but that's all the spoilers you're gonna get here.  

Scooby and friends eventually do get home in a marvelous ending plot-twist, which I will not spoil, and even George has a happy (if temporarily so) ending!  

Excellent job, as is his usual, for writer Scholly Fisch -- and let's take one more moment to enjoy the fantastic art of Scott Jeralds.  Just look at how he captures the ATTITUDES of all four characters in this drawing below - and of George and Mr. Spacely in the one above! 

Capturing "character attitude", as opposed to just good figure work, is not as easy as it may seem!  Excellent job, as well, to Scott Jeralds!  

This team is SO RIGHT for this sort of material, we can only hope there are more such opportunities for them to do so in the future.  

  SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 8, as well as the ENTIRE RUN of the series, is highly recommended to anyone who is inclined to visit this blog -- and, heck, to EVERYONE in general!  

Get it!  Read it!  Enjoy it!  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It’s Hanna-Barbera Week!

Back in November, we had “Vincent Price Week”, so why not declare this “Hanna-Barbera Week”! 

First, celebrate Hanna-Barbera Week by visiting the Blog of our friend Adel Khan and read his “Hanna-Barbera Happiness” post of February 17, 2015.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. 

Then, come back tomorrow for our Comic Book Review of SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 8 (March, 2015), featuring The Jetsons! 

 It’ll be Hanna-Barbera-riffic!  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

R.I.P. Gary Owens.

Gary Owens, a performer with a unique and instantly recognizable voice, passed away on February 12, 2015, at the (no longer old) age of 80.

Gary Owens is best remembered by the sixties and seventies generation as the announcer for the groundbreaking NBC TV series ROWAN AND MARTIN’S  LAUGH-IN (1968-1973), which changed the face of television comedy and introduced many enduring stars and personalities to the medium. 

But, before – during and after – that Gary Owens was known to us animation enthusiasts as a popular animation voice performer. 

In 1965, he was Roger Ramjet.

In 1966, he was Space Ghost.

In 1969, he narrated The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. 

In 1976 and beyond, he was The Blue Falcon to Dynomutt, and teamed-up with Scooby-Doo and the gang.  (…Um, think we’ll soon see The Blue Falcon and Dynomutt in the SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP comic book title?)

He even reprised his role as Space Ghost in 2011, on BATMAN THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD!

And narrated features on THIS SERIES of DVDs

Mr. Owens’ list of credits can be found HERE

Rest in Peace, Mr. Gary Owens… we will “hear” you forever!