Thursday, April 29, 2010

More Filler: Bill's Free Comic Book Day

Tomorrow, May 1, 2010, is Free Comic Book Day. For those of you out there who are not  comic book geeks, FCBD is the day your local comic book shoppe passes out free comics to one and all, in a misguided effort to lure new customers into reading comic books. What actually happens of course, is that new customers don't show up, and people who already read comics get a whole bunch of free ones. Still, it's a nice idea.

In the spirit of Free Comic Book Day, and in keeping with my new concept of posting old work I have sitting around, here is a comic from me. For free. It's the first part of Kaptain Keen and Kompany #3, from 1987. This was a comic my dear pal Gary Fields and I produced during the Black & White comic boom of the mid-eighties. If you missed the whole story behind this comedic masterpiece, click here.

Here's Part One. Part Two will follow presently, unless objections from viewers are numerous. Keep in mind this is 23 (!) years old, ignore the typos and other obvious errors, and enjoy.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's Filler Time!

"Anything worth doing is worth doing well". That well-worn quote even applies to posting a blog.

It is rather difficult to come up with something entertaining (or at least interesting) on a semi-regular, let alone daily, schedule. There are those blogs out there that manage to do it by taking a gimmick, like say, making every single recipe in a giant woman's classic cookbook and blogging about it. This makes daily entries easy, as you always have something to write about. You can also do something others might find informative, like polling other cartoonists about their tools and inspiration, and publishing the results. This also gives you a wealth of postings.

Another challenge to publishing a blog is the complete lack of financial impetus. Why publish if you ain't getting paid? You have to do it because you enjoy it. Sure, you can litter your site with ad links (as I have done) and wait for the money truck to roll in with revenue. The truth is though, the ads  you see don't generate much more than chump change, at best. Advertisers don't often even send freebies to blog authors in gratitude for mentioning their products. Haven't these guys ever heard of payola?! Case in point: I have mentioned Doctor Who action figures with an almost annoying regularity on this site. Have the manufacturers sent me anything in gratitude for raising awareness of their product? They have not. Not even a lousy Zygon figure.

You can make big money from your blog, of course. You just have to create a blog that details how you have made every recipe from a giant woman's classic cookbook. Then you have to turn it into a bestselling book and have the book made into a major motion picture. It's harder than it sounds. Trust me. Really, you do a blog for the fun of doing it. 

That doesn't mean you should just throw up whatever piece of crap you like whenever you fell like it. In producing this Kavalcade of Kartoon Komedy, I try to post something that is fun to read and pair it with an appropriate image. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes not. 

I realize, though, that I still don't post often enough. In an effort to rectify this situation, I have decided to throw up whatever piece of crap I want, whenever I want, BUT! On a more regular basis. So, from time to time, you'll get to see random images from "archives", as well as my "sketchbook", sans commentary.  Starting right now. 


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Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Last Saturday, I did something I haven't done in years. I went to a comic book convention.

A comic con,  for those of you that have never heard of one, is a gathering of comic book fans that feature appearances by comic creators, exhibits and lectures on comic-related subjects, screenings of rare genre films, merchandise for sale like old comics and toys and, of course, lots of people dressed up like their favorite comic characters.

When I was a lad, Boston was host to a wonderful series of comic conventions. They were huge, multi-day affairs with  stellar line ups of cartoonists. Over the years, though, the Boston cons lost their momentum, and eventually faded away.

I had not been to one of these Nerdapaloozas in years, so I was intrigued to learn that a Boston would be host to one. The Boston Comic Con 2010 promised a big line up of guests, and was being held in a big, fancy convention hotel on the waterfront. I talked Perfect Wife into joining me. It was to be her first con, and I hoped it would be as grand as the ones I attended years ago. 

It wasn't. Not by a long shot.

True, it was a well attended event. Actually, it was a jam-packed event. The line to get in stretched down the street. After waiting a while in the bracing winds, we finally made it inside, and discovered why the line was so long. Yes, the con was being held in a fancy Boston hotel, but it was being held in its basement. A basement much too small, with dealers and fans trying to squeeze through the narrow aisles.

This was not like the cons of my youth. On the day I attended, there were no special lectures or film  screenings. It was really just a glorified flea market with some cartoonist sitting around selling sketches and signing books. I was very disappointed. I think PW was appalled, although she is much too polite to say so. There were some highlights though:

• At every con, there are fans dressed up in costumes. Some of the costumes were really impressive, some not so much. I, of course, enjoy the cheese factor of the pathetic attempts at costuming. At this con, I particularly liked the fat, balding middle-aged Superman, the hefty, five foot tall Batman and the Black Canary who should have spent more time fighting crime, and less time eating Twinkies. For some reason, there were a lot of people dressed as the Batman villain Two-Face. Maybe it's an easy costume to throw together or something. The only problem with some  of them was that the people wearing them had so much adolescent acne, it  was hard to tell which was the "good" side, and which was the "bad" one.

• At this con, I learned a valuable, money saving tip: For the best prices on things, bring an attractive woman with you. Pretty girls are as rare as personal hygiene at a comic con, and most geeks don't know how to deal with them. Being a hot babe, Perfect Wife was able to haggle down the price of an action figure I wanted from the stammering, awkward dealer. He was unwilling to adjust the price for me, but PW turned on the charm and, BINGO! We got it for half price.

What was the action figure? A Star Wars Ewok. That's right, an Ewok. I know it sounds pathetic to be delighted at the purchase a "children's toy", but, I have a massive collection of Star Wars action figures (dolls) and all that was missing was an Ewok.

Actually, that is pathetic.

• The big saving grace for this con was the guests they had lined up. They had some real heavy hitters, like Jim Lee, Mike Mignola and Steve Rude. I know those names mean nothing to the public at large, but in the comic community the are major playuhs. I didn't care about any of them though. The guest I was most pleased to see was MAD Magazine legend Sergio Aragones. I have met Sergio as a "fellow professional" a few times, and he is always nice enough to pretend he remembers me. This time was no exception, and Sergio was kind enough to autograph a photo I had taken of him and PW at a cartoonist's event a few years back. He was also gracious at declining our invitation for coffee. Classy guy.

I met a bunch of lesser known artists too. Some are destined for obscurity, some I expect to see a lot more of in the future. One of the latter was artist Kelly Yates. A really nice guy. The fact he draws stories for the Doctor Who comics doesn't hurt either.

So, while there were some bright spots at the con, ultimately I was disappointed. Hopefully, it was a success for the people who ran it, and they will learn from their mistakes and do a better job next time. If there is a next time, that is.

Lest you think I am being a Negative Nelly, I am not the only fan who was underwhelmed by the event. Check out my fellow geek David's thoughts here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I wanna go play with my Ewok.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Let's Shmooze!

When someone asks me what my favorite comic strip of all time is, I do not hesitate. Sure, Pogo was great. So was Krazy Kat. Like a lot of modern folks I loved Calvin & Hobbes, too. My favorite one by far though, is Al Capp's Li'l Abner.

Li'l Abner, for those of you that are unfamiliar with the strip, featured the adventures of one Abner Yokum, a hillbilly boy/man, and the residents of his hometown, Dogpatch, U.S.A. I could waste endless paragraphs on the history of the strip, as well as the amazing characters, hilarious plots and incredible cartooning it featured. Instead, I think I'll let my pals at Wikipedia do the heavy lifting for me. If, for some tragic reason, you are so ignorant, you never have heard of this masterpiece, hang your head in shame and click here.

Why do I love this strip? Well for one thing, it's beautifully written and hilarious, something modern strip cartoonists seem to forget a strip is supposed to be. Even if the story lines in this strip were awful, though, I would still love it for its fantastic artwork. Capp was a brilliant cartoonist. His drawings are alive and funny and beautifully rendered. The pretty gals he drew were okay, too. It's well known that Capp had a lot of assistants on his strip (including Frank Frazetta and Jack Rickard!), but the style of the strip originated with him, so he deserves the accolades. I always loved his art, but now that I have attempted my pathetic "tribute" to him featured here, I am truly humbled by his genius.

Sadly, Li'l Abner ceased publication in 1979, but there have been lots of reprints of the strips over the years. Unfortunately, a lot of these reprints are really expensive, so I only possess a handful. Happily, though, the other day I was at the library (you know, that place that loans out the books that no one goes to anymore?), and I stumbled across a book entitled: The Short Life and Happy Times of the Shmoo, by Al Capp. This gem contains two strips featuring one of Capp's most beloved creations, The Schmoo.

In the first story from 1948, Li'Abner discovers The Shmoos. The Shmoos were rapidly reproducing creatures that provided humanity with all of life's staples: milk, eggs and even pineapples! If you looked at a Shmoo hungrily, they dropped dead out of sheer happiness, and flung themselves into a pan. Boiled they tasted like chicken, broiled like steak, and there was no waste! Their bodies could be used as clothing or building materials (depending how thick you sliced 'em), and you could even use their eyes as buttons, and their whiskers  as toothpicks. No one needed to watch television anymore, either, as "Shmoosical Comedies" were  far more entertaining. Naturally, people having everything they desired for free is bad for big business, and the bulk of the first story deals with corporate types trying to exterminate The Shmoo.

The Shmoo were wildly popular back in the day, and Capp brought them back many times. They were so popular, in fact, that they became a merchandising phenomenon. Shmoos appeared on everything from toys to furniture to clothing. There was never a Shmoosical Comedy produced, though.  This volume also features one additional Shmoo tale, in another funny continuity from 1958. It also feature a rambling introduction by Harlan Ellison, but I'd skip that unless you want to read read precious little on Li'l Abner and Capp, and a whole lot about Ellison's first trip to NYC.

In case you can't tell, I highly recommend this collection. If your local library doesn't carry it (and I doubt they do, I think I  got lucky), you can snag a copy from Amazon. If you've never read Li'l Abner before, I envy you. You're in for a treat.

It might be the next best thing to having a Shmoo. Or two.

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