Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Catblogging

From the Pocket Book of Boners, illustrations by Dr. Seuss (1943).


You're darn right I pre-ordered two of them

The world is a little bit brighter now that a 12" vinyl Sleestak doll exists. It's really a bank, but why would I use it for that?. This toy is made for playin'!

It's about dang time!

Come December I will also have someone to take on vacations and prison visitations with me and dress in cool thematic costumes and Bully will have someone to play with.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Return to Normal

From the collection It's a long way to Heaven by Abner Dean (Farrar and Reinhart, 1945).


Monday, September 24, 2007

Opportunist in a Strange Land

From the collection It's a long way to Heaven by Abner Dean (Farrar and Reinhart, 1945).


Sunday, September 23, 2007

A journey through HOSTILE WATERS

Science Fiction authors are often lauded for their prescience in predicting the future of technology and society. What is not often remembered though is that SF authors have about the same rate of success in predicting the future as the average psychic. That is, if one makes enough guesses eventually one will be spot on. The difference between a psychic and a science fiction author being of course that the writer usually doesn't receive $700 an hour for making stuff up.

One of those authors who made an educated guess and created a concept many are familiar with today was William John Barris. As far as I can tell Barris was one of those writers that didn't work exclusively in Science Fiction as I can find only one credited work bearing his name. Full bibliographies in pulps works and magazines are sometimes lacking and it may be that Barris was quite prolific in the era. Writers often went uncredited or worked under a house pseudonym for different publishers. Then again, he may have been a one-shot writer and this is his only work.

But what a work it was.

Hostile Waters was a short story originally published in the October 1938 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story chronicles the changes wrought upon the world when nature rebels against humanity. Hostile Waters is cautionary tale of the environment long before it became vogue to do so in pop culture. The plot of the story was typical of the works of that era. A serious problem, possibly extraterrestrial, is presented that holds the threat of destroying all life on the planet until a lone scientist discovers the method that saves the day. This premise is one of the thematic underpinnings of most pulp stories that were carried virtually unchanged into the comic book genre.

But it wasn't the story-telling skill of the author (or lack thereof) or the prose given editorial limitations that is most interesting. What is worth noting is exactly what it was that Barris introduced to readers in his tale. As described by Barris one of the most basic elements required to sustain life on earth, that of water, attacks humanity without mercy. As Barris wrote:

"Any sufficiently large volume of water would become inimically motile. A person could drink from a pump or perambulate in summer showers or bathe and in that manner much of civilization proceeded as before, blissful and caring none. Rivers, lakes and oceans were no more a frontier of commerce and exploration. In a fortnight mighty warships that feared no country's navy or condition of inclement weather vanished into the deep as the favored coasts were riven by waves and scoured sterile. The farmer's pond was a thing to approach with caution or flee outright. To a man we fled before the wrath of God's broken promise and sought refuge in the hills and deserts and prayed for drought."
In short order the protagonist of the tale became curious as to why only humans and not lower orders of land animals such as cows and aquatic life such as whales and fish were attacked. Risking death to procure a large tank of "hostile water" the scientist discovered that the sample was infested with uncounted "tiny clockworks, joined as chains and fetters". The scientist realized that minuscule machines were in control of all the molecules of water and were programmed to assault humanity. So it was that in what may have been his only credited published work Barris effectively predicted nanotechnology decades before it would begin to receive attention in scientific journals and fiction.

The story, forgotten for years was at least held in some regard by a few editors, namely Harold Oakes of Analog. On each occasion Hostile Waters was reprinted in science fiction magazines it was when Oakes was an editor. The story even received cover attention. Of the two reprintings the May 1958 cover of Astounding has the most egregious disconnect to the story. The aquatic warriors are not featured in the story in any form. Covers wildly disparate from the featured story is another element that successfully made the transition in the evolution of pulps to comic books.

The next and last printing in the August 1970 Analog would feature a much more accurate representation of the story, though the technology in the deep sea exploration vessel was admittedly updated for the cover art to be contemporary to 1970.

The story would once more show up in a radically altered form as a throw away comic book story in an early 1970s Charlton horror comic book anthology. All of the science fiction elements are gone from what is clearly a ripped-off plot. The names of the doomed lovers on a lake remain intact and enough of the scene is similar to the original Hostile Waters story to lend me to extrapolate that some unknown staff member at Charlton had a subscription to Analog in 1970.

For such an obscure author Wm. John Barris had an amazing life in print from his one mostly forgotten effort. In my reading of decades of pulp work that were reprinted into the 1970s for new and appreciative audiences one of the secrets to the Barris story surviving and having the occasional revival when other authors remained lost in obscurity was not so much the introduction of nanotech or skill in authorship.

What Hostile Waters has in common with stories from the same era that enjoy a new life in reprints is that the detailed descriptions of technology and society in the stories are left vague either through design or from lazy writing. Steam-punk and the world of H. G. Wells have their place but when seeking low-cost inventory stories to fill pages in an an anthology title an editor would undoubtedly choose those works that can be read by contemporary readers and still be compatible with readers and allow for the required suspension of disbelief.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Joker is a freak

The weird, not-at-all-out-of-context image of Bunny in a watermelon costume being fondled by a creepy old man is from the Harvey Comics all-ages title, Bunny #3 (November 1967).

The Joker is from here, so play along or he'll kill you. The Joker, that is, not Reid. Maybe.


Tasers are the new nightstick upside your head

While I agree with Dr. Zaius that the message of Andrew Meyer is being eclipsed by the elation of those who think an old woman slipping on a banana peel is funny, the tasee is fortunate in one regard. Thanks to technology, a few years ago Meyer's skull bones might have been on the receiving end of several batons instead of a hand-held pest zapper.

I am kind of with the police on this one as far as the zapping goes, in the the interest of their personal safety. It wasn't as if the police marched in and zapped Meyer without preamble, though it doesn't appear anyone tried to ask him to leave either except for shutting off his microphone, which seems to be the proper etiquette for that forum which Meyers chose to ignore. However right or wrong the police were in removing Meyer, once the situation escalated and he resisted then the police are making sure that they go home at the end of their shift. They have no way of knowing if the person they are detaining is crazed. A weapon could be anything as innocuous as a pencil and inflict serious damage in close quarters.

I do hope that in the event I ever get dragged of by the police some day that I have the same presence of mind as Andrew Meyer to make sure I hold up the book I'm carrying so the cover always shows to the camera.

Maybe it will be this one just for the conspiracy freaks. Or perhaps even this classic.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Superman - Doomsday: Rectum? Darn near killed 'em!

If Superman Returns was full of scenes like this it would have been a much better movie.

From the Superman - Doomsday animated movie.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Happy Birthday, Joe Kubert!

Today is Joltin' Joe Kubert's birthday!

Nobody could draw tough guys and action like Joe Kubert. His name is synonymous with comic book hard core mega-action! In fact, one could say that Joe Kubert comics helped me while growing up. I didn't go through puberty, I went through Kuberty!

Tarzan #245 featuring a very special guest appearance by Schatzi (January 1976).

Kuberty is that time on a young boy's life when, bereft of other role models, he takes inspiration, strength and solace from classic tales of heroism and bravery in the search for adulthood. My strong sense of ethics and morality all came from the lessons I learned from comic books, mainly the four color adventures rendered by Big Joe K. You could do worse in life than emulate Sgt. Rock or Tarzan.

My mom is also a Joe Kubert fan, though she didn't know it. The only comic she ever read when younger was the adventures of The Rock and still knows all the classic characters by heart. Go mom!


Wikipedia entry on Joe Kubert

September 2007 PS Magazine
! Free preventive maintenance magazine in PDF form courtesy of the United States Military! Featuring awesome military art by Joe, a really surreal cover and maybe even a Joe Kubert caricature of Angelina and Brad!

All my Kubert

Joe Kubert's influence on Rick Veitch and his latest effort.

News story about the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning. Ignore the dumbtard user comments.

What If...Joe Kubert never emigrated to America?

The Golem! Joe Kubert has visited the legend of the Golem a few times in his career. Most notably in his character of the Ragman, co-created with long-time DC partner Bob Kanigher.

But this Golem by Joe from the Golden Age of Propaganda Comics has a special charm all it's own.

Crunch C-Rack, indeed.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Zoltar, not to be confused with Moltar or Maldor

Set piece from the film Beastmaster 3 in the exterior dining area of the Studio Diner, adjacent to the Stu Segal studio in San Diego. Ate a birthday breakfast there the other day. The balcony has an awesome view overlooking a canyon and the back of a warehouse with a large number of barrels marked as containing flammable materials.

You can see how the props were used in the film here.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hey baby

I generally dislike the on-going Spider-Girl series from Marvel. Well to be accurate, not disliked exactly, more like didn't really care about the concept. Which is odd because the entire run is like reading a late-seventies Marvel series and as everyone knows 1970s Marvel was just about the best Marvel ever! I can't blame Defalco, Frenz, Buscema and the rest for my lack of interest. They are doing what many creative teams seem unable to do these days...regularly put out a title without undue delays while giving quality entertainment.

But then I became a bit more interested in the book because of one character I noticed in Spider-Girl #12 (Nov 2007)...


Darn it. Now I have to keep buying this series just to see what is going to happen with Little Ben.

Homicidal infants are always good for sales.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Catblogging

Way back before comic book artists at conventions charged high rates for sketches in order to offset or discourage the predatory practices of "fans" who then quickly turn around and sell the art they procure online, I was lucky enough to meet up with the cartoonist, the late B. Kliban, who was a guest at the 1981 San Diego Comic Con. We were lounging at the hotel pool (he was a guest, I was a Comic Con attendee pretending I was allowed pool-side with the celebrities). We talked for a bit and eventually I let him know my mom was a big fan of his work and that she had all of his books and several merchandised items.

Unprompted, Kliban asked for my convention art pad I carried around for autographs and sketches and drew a variation of his "Sneaker Cat" piece. I was prepared to pay a premium for the work but he refused any gratuity. What a gentleman. I had the sketch professionally framed and presented it to my mom for her birthday.

I heard from other people shortly after that meeting that Kliban would often give away his art. Sometimes when people asked Kliban to autograph a book of his strips he would take the book and tell the autograph-seeker to return sometime later that day. To their surprise, Kliban would have filled the margins and blank spaces of the pages of the collection with cartoons, notes and other drawings. Since Kliban was a big deal with best selling cartoon books and a licensing franchise in full swing that he could remain so approachable was pretty cool.

I'm not saying that the creators of today would not perform a similar feat for a real fan but certainly the market of today would make an artist think twice about giving away a sketch, because in many instances the artist would in effect be working for free for someone who is basically a reseller out to make a quick buck off of their work.

Thanks again, Mr. Kliban. Your gift adorns a wall of my mom's house to this day.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Do Not Disturb

After being geographically separated for five months from my wife she flies in to California today from Maryland (aka Stupidlandia).
I might not be posting for a few days as we patronize the fine museums, cultural sites, pristine beaches and excellent dining establishments San Diego has to offer.



Sunday, September 02, 2007

Saturday, September 01, 2007

How did I come to this?

I used to bike 10-plus miles a day, visit museums and surf on the ocean. I spent weekends jumping from that cliff-in-La Jolla-that-shall-not be-named, doing things and meeting people.

As I lay on the floor yesterday unable to move I wondered what the heck has happened to me. This was not the life I planned. If I was the type of person who blamed others for the choices I had made I would have been totally pissed off.

The problem started with a slight twinge in my lower back that continued for a few minutes. Then the small itch exploded into agony without any intermittent escalation. It felt as if Zeus tied a lightning bolt to a hob-nailed boot and rammed his foot up my anus. Twice. I dropped to the floor in mid-step, barely managing to control the descent enough not to slam my head onto anything and rolled over flat onto my back. It took a awhile to stop sobbing. After a time the pain in my back faded enough that I could move my arms, not that it did me any good. All I could manage was a weak flailing.

I just know I did a great "Chekov-face" right before I collapsed.

I tried to get up but couldn't. I had complete muscle failure in my lower back and when I did manage to move a bit the pain came burning right back. If I could have reached my phone I would have called for an ambulance, but it was in the kitchen and it may well have been in another state for all that I could reach it.

To make my situation worse the four stupid dogs that live in the house kept coming over and licking my face and ears. I guess they were checking me out or were concerned but they all eat poop as between-meal snacks so I failed to appreciate their slobbering efforts all over my face. My main concern other than poop-saliva on my face was that at that moment I was basically a wounded animal in the midst of a pack of dogs. I guess I should have been grateful they didn't tear me to shreds and feast on my remains in a frenzy of applied Darwinism.

So for the next half of an hour I lay on my back on the furry, dusty floor. Eventually, I got the idea to use my arms to push/slide me over to a table so I could use it to stand again. That took a few minutes and when I reached the table it was unsuccessful since I couldn't lever myself up to to grab the edge. I managed to roll over without soiling myself and spent several minutes getting to my feet incrementally. I then staggered over to the couch where I experienced a whole new level of spinal agony as I lay down. I basically had to let myself fall and hope I landed in a way I could reposition for comfort.

Aside from the horrible, emasculating pain the next 4 hours sucked. The channel the television was on was showing really bad Kung Fu movies and the remote was over by the set. The house was hot. My drink was on another table and I couldn't reach it. The stupid dogs kept bugging me to play and jumping on and off the couch, which really hurt when the couch shook.

Is this my future? In between periods of restless sleep I imagined shopping for those spring loaded cushions that help you get up out of a chair and replying in the affirmative when a cashier offers to have someone take my groceries out to the car. That sucks.

Several hours passed and I was eventually able to get up and go to the restroom without falling down. After about a day the pain went away.

I better be nicer to the kid. He'll probably be taking care of me soon.