Saturday, March 15, 2008

Separated at Birth: Donna Troy, Screamin' Mad at Posters

Teen Titans #23/New Titans #55
L: Teen Titans #23 (September-October 1969), art by Nick Cardy
R: New Titans #55 (June 1989), art by George Perez
(Click picture to Themyscira-size)

Saturday Morning Cartoon: "Club at the End of the Street"

"Club at the End of the Street" by Elton John (1989),
directed by Derek Hayes

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hear Bully (and his pal John) live from Comic Book Club!

Comic Book Club
Comic Book Club, March 11, 2008. L-R: Show host Alex Zalben, Bully, John DiBello (under Bully), Brian Heater, Heidi MacDonald, Kiel Phegley's knee. Photo by queen of my little stuffed heart, Lucy Anne.

If you missed the comic book event of the season, now's the time to hear this past week's Comic Book Club via their audio podcast. It's always a pretty fun show, but this specific week it had an added bonus: a little stuffed bull! Well, and my good pal John, who did most of the talking. I was a bit shy. Tune in, listen, and find out we need to get Oprah reading comics! I think she'd love All Star Batman and Robin, don't you?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Marvel Bullpen '69: Now with more Steranko than ever before.

From Fantastic Four Annual #7 (November 1969), a portfolio of Marvel Bullpen personal photos! Clip and save! Paste 'em in your locker! Trade with your friends!

Bullpen Photographs
Bullpen Photographs
Bullpen Photographs
Bullpen Photographs

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the Cap

Captain America musical
Ad from Marvel Comics dated March 1986 (This one was in Fantastic Four #288)

The mid-eighties Captain America Broadway musical—like a lot of Stan-hyped comic-to-media adaptations—never happened, more's the pity, but doncha wonder what the role of the "10- to 14-year old girl" woulda been? I'm gonna guess it was the role of Girl Bucky (Buckarella?). And after all, 1986 was the year we saw famous boy sidekicks replaced by spunky young teen girls, so what more natural evolution for Cap than to have a female sidekick? I think it woulda gonna something like this:
Captain America and Bucky

Alas, like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world will never know.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Self-indulgent hype: Bully on stage tonight!

Comic Book ClubAnd if you can't make Marvel-Con '76, why not try this fine event instead?

If you're in the New York City area, tonight, Tuesday night, March 11, you can see me, Bully the Little Stuffed Bull (plus my pal John DiBello) live on stage as a panel member for Comic Book Club, the weekly live comic book talk show. Me 'n John will be part of a panel which also includes Heidi MacDonald (Publishers Weekly's The Beat), Brian Heater (The Daily Cross-Hatch), and Kiel Phegley (Wizard Universe).

The show runs at the PIT (People’s Improv Theater at 154 W. 29th Street (in between 6th Ave. and 7th Ave., closer to 7th, look for the bright red door and walk one flight up). The show starts at 8 PM Tuesday 3/11 and lasts about an hour. Tickets are $5 at the door, or you can preorder online for an added $1.12 booking fee here. And if you miss it, you can check out the podcast, which'll be online sometime this coming Friday!

Please come out and see yours little stuffed truly talk about comic books. As I always say, it's fun!

Marvel-Con '76: Featuring free Kung Fu Lessons!

Marvel-Con '76
Click image to embiggen. Ad from Fantastic Four #170 (February 1976)

Ten things that tickle my fancy about this advertisement:
  1. Hour-long art lessons by John Buscema. Man, that conference room musta been packed.
  2. Writing lessons by Roy Thomas! If you haven't read every comic book published between 1941 and 1950, don't bother showin' up!
  3. Cartoon Stan Lee and his unkempt locks.
  4. Ten bucks admission for all three days. This year's New York Comic Con is $60 for a weekend. And John Buscema's not gonna be giving art lessons at that, I bet!
  5. Meet the Amazing Spider-Man!
  6. And other super-heroes in person!
  7. The fabulous Hotel Commodore, mere moments away from where I work but no longer in business. Thanks to Donald Trump, it's now the Grand Hyatt. But here's what it looked like. Look, can you see John Romita wavin' out the window?

    Hotel Commodore

  8. Apparently Marvel-Con '75 was pretty successful, but according to Stan, this one will boggle your mind even further than before!
  9. Free kung fu lessons.
  10. Person to send your con application to? Vince Colletta. Don't write your application in pencil, kids...he'll erase all the lines!
Ten bucks? For all that? Sign me up, Stan. Sign me up.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Wodehouse a Week #45: The Swoop

A Wodehouse a Week banner

The Swoop, or How Clarence Saved England (1909) is one of Wodehouse's short works: while a usual Wodehouse takes me a back-and-forth subway commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan to read, The Swoop occupied a quick bus trip from Bryant Park to Union Square. (As I like to say, not so much a novella, more a novelleenee.) It's a bit of an oddity in the Canon—not quite a children's book, certainly not a romance, and, a few jabs at Sir Roderick Spode's politics aside, quite possibly the closest thing to a political satire Wodehouse has ever published. It's uniquely British of course: invading armies are met with disinterest and ennui by the people of England until a patriotic young Boy Scout and his company drive them off. So uniquely British, in fact, that it took until 1979 for The Swoop to be published in America, although a revised and abridged version featuring an invasion of America was published in Vanity Fair in the US in 1915. (I wonder how this book was viewed in retrospect during the time Wodehouse was seen as a traitor by many while he was a German P.O.W. and did lightly humorous broadcasts for the Reich.)

The Swoop's hero is fourteen year old Boy Scout Clarence Chugwater, the sole voice of patriotism in his family. How solo? So solo that he's the only one who even notices or cares about a foreign invasion:
He entered the dining-room with the speed of a highly-trained Marathon winner, just in time once more to prevent Mr Chugwater lowering his record.

'The Germans!' shouted Clarence. 'We are invaded!'

This time Mr Chugwater was really annoyed.

'If I have told you once about your detestable habit of shouting in the house, Clarence, I have told you a hundred times. If you cannot be a Boy Scout quietly, you must stop being one altogether. I had got up to six that time.'

'But, father—'

'Silence! You will go to bed this minute; and I shall consider the question whether you are to have any supper. It will depend largely on your behaviour between now and then. Go!'
Literature is full of kids seeing danger where adults don't (heck, the Harry Potter series makes it living off it), but Wodehouse's point is less than children are aware of it than that England's casual social mores don't allow them to be in an uproar. It's intended as a comic rather than an alarming point, however: The newspapers bury the invasion news under the cricket news, locals are more alarmed at the destruction of their golf greens under the heels of the marching armies, the populace views the Albert Hall as more picturesque in bombed ruins than in one piece, and plans are made to charge the armies small admission fees to enter historical sites. When the German generals arrive at the Chugwater house, Clarence's family treats them not much differently than if the vicar had popped by for a spot of tea. Long before Messrs. Hilter and Bimmler arrived at an English boarding house, the German invaders are met with remarkable calm and indifference:
'I say,' exclaimed Horace, who sat nearest the window, 'there are two rummy-looking chaps coming to the front door, wearing a sort of fancy dress!'

'It must be the Germans,' said Reggie. 'The paper says they landed here this afternoon. I expect—'

A thunderous knock rang through the house. The family looked at one another. Voices were heard in the hall, and next moment the door opened and the servant announced 'Mr Prinsotto and Mr Aydycong.'

'Or, rather,' said the first of the two newcomers, a tall, bearded, soldierly man, in perfect English, 'Prince Otto of Saxe-Pfennig and Captain the Graf von Poppenheim, his aide-de-camp.'

'Just so—just so!' said Mr Chugwater, affably. 'Sit down, won't you?'

The visitors seated themselves. There was an awkward silence.

'Warm day!' said Mr Chugwater.

'Very!' said the Prince, a little constrainedly.

'Perhaps a cup of tea? Have you come far?'

'Well—er—pretty far. That is to say, a certain distance. In fact, from Germany.'

'I spent my summer holiday last year at Dresden. Capital place!'

'Just so. The fact is, Mr—er—'

'Chugwater. By the way—my wife, Mrs. Chugwater.'

The prince bowed. So did his aide-de-camp.

'The fact is, Mr Jugwater,' resumed the prince, 'we are not here on a holiday.'

'Quite so, quite so. Business before pleasure.'

The prince pulled at his moustache. So did his aide-de-camp, who seemed to be a man of but little initiative and conversational resource.

'We are invaders.'

'Not at all, not at all,' protested Mr Chugwater.
In fact, several armies have landed in Britain: Germans, Russians, Swiss, Arabs (led by the infamous and historical 'Mad Mullah'). The Chinese invade Wales, Monaco lands in Scotland. There's Turks, Moroccans, and (fictionally and more than a bit politically incorrect by modern standards) 'dark-skinned warriors from the distant isle of Bollygolla.' Wodehouse gets in a full short chapter of potshots at the British press relating how various commentators and columnists react to the invasions, and, in what would be a frightening and terrifying account in anyone else's hands, deftly describes the bombing of London in a single chapter, which I present to you in its entirety:
Chapter 6

Thus was London bombarded. Fortunately it was August, and there was nobody in town.

Otherwise there might have been loss of life.
It's only ten years since The War of the Worlds, and more important, Wodehouse is writing this in a golden age of invasion literature. Of this genre, our good pal Wikipedia tells us:
Invasion literature (or the invasion novel) was a historical literary genre most notable between 1871 and the First World War (1914)....1914 the genre had amassed a corpus of over 400 books, many best-sellers, and a world-wide audience. The genre was influential in Britain in shaping politics, national policies and popular perceptions in the years leading up to the First World War, and remains a part of popular culture to this day. he's poking fun not only at British culture of the time but popular British literature. He brings in elements of his school stories from slightly earlier in his then-new writing career: deft and daring young Boy Scouts who repel the invaders in a manner that makes Kevin McAllister look like a thug: Clarence Chugwater arranges for the opposing generals to star in West End theaters and sets up a rivalry over which show is the most popular. It's all done with a light touch that's forgivable in its silliness, but you'd be mistaken if you read this and didn't recognize it as Wodehouse: there's little here that's reminiscent of his other work. It's today read mostly as an oddity or by completists who are reading the entire Wodehouse canon in a set period of time for some reason or other, but I can certainly tell you it's a pleasant way to spend a brisk bus trip down Fifth Avenue on a bright March day.

Wodehouse aficionado that I am, you may be shocked and stunned to learn I never owned a copy of The Swoop. Until, that is, a few weeks ago. On looking at my Wodehouse list and checking it twice, I remembered that there's still a very small hoof-ful of Plum's books, mostly early ones, that I don't actually own. Amazon to the rescue: The Swoop is back in print in at least a couple public domain editions. Mine (printed by Bibliobazaar) features the odd design choice of a peacock on the cover. There are no peacocks in this book. You can order the slightly-apter-covered Arc Manor edition by clicking on the Amazon link to the upper right. Arc Manor publishes an extensive line of mostly-early (probably out of copyright) Wodehouse with, if I might be blunt, quite primitive cartoon covers, but you've got to applaud their service of keeping some of this rare stuff in print; I would have traded my eye teeth for it when I was but a tiny stuffed calf. If a little bull had eye teeth. In any case, swoop on down and invade your bookstore and demand they stock or order these for you. Not only will you at last read the tale of Clarence, Boy of Destiny, but you'll also learn what you must do when the Swiss invade our borders, flipping open their handy multi-pronged knives and threatening to take away our clocks and chocolate.

A Wodehouse a Week Index.

Mystery Science Monday: Aquatic Wizards

"Aquatic Wizards" (1955), MSTed version from Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode #315 (1991), featuring Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, and Kevin Murphy