Category Archives: Cartooning

Galactic Pratt

One of the first comic books I bought after my family moved to Massachusetts in 1968 was Marvel Super-Heroes #18, featuring the introduction of an oddball band of space rangers called the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel Super-Heroes #18, Jan '69

Marvel Super-Heroes #18, Jan ’69

Written by Arnold Drake and drawn by Gene Colan, the original incarnation of the Guardians was a one-off try-out story that went nowhere for decades. Today, a completely revamped version of the team includes a 1970′s Marvel character called Star Lord, who is played by Chris Pratt in a big, new movie that is getting generally favorable reviews. A Pratt saving the galaxy is something I’ve gotta see.

And where did Groot the tree character come from? He’s one of Marvel’s old, pre-Fantastic Four monsters.

I Challenged GROOT!

I Challenged… GROOT!

Click Me Deadly

Last week, Denro tipped me off to a half-price sale of Criterion videos at Barnes & Noble. I picked up the Blu-ray release of “Kiss Me Deadly” for twenty bucks. It’s based on a Mike Hammer story by Joe Sinnott’s longtime buddy, Mickey Spillane. Mickey was supposedly not happy with the ending, where director Robert Aldrich managed to bring the Cold War into the story, but I think this quirky and murky movie is both entertaining and fascinating. The whole thing is on YouTube, for now anyway, and I suggest kicking it up to full screen mode at 720p and kicking back.

4-Panel Pastis Pastiche

Every day I receive a large selection of comic strips from GoComics in one of my e-mail bags, for which I pay a smidgen less than $12/year. One of those strips is “Pearls Before Swine,” by Stephan Pastis (yes it’s Stephan, not Stephen). Last week, on Wednesday, I saw this.

GoComics

The second panel of “Pearls” sure looked like it was either Pastis trying to draw like Bill Watterson, or perhaps it was by Watterson himself, but maybe just a bit out of practice. On Thursday I had no doubt that we were seeing the return of Bill Watterson to a syndicated comic strip for the first time since December, 1995, when he brought “Calvin & Hobbes” to a poignant, if early, end.

On Friday, Michael Cavna, The Washington Post’s comics blogger, made the official announcement. Pastis tells the back story at this link. I’ve stitched Watterson’s four panels together into a single strip.

Click to enlarge!

Click to enlarge

For myself, what makes Watterson’s return to (what those older than myself call) the Funny Pages truly special is its connection to cartoonist Richard Thompson, whose Parkinson’s Disease prevents him from continuing his own superb comic strip, “Cul de Sac.” The original art from last week’s “Pearls Before Swine” will be auctioned and the proceeds donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. I am, for personal reasons I have been asked to keep private, hooked into Michael’s disease and his foundation, and that was even before “Cul de Sac” first appeared in The Boston Globe.

The connection between Thompson, Pastis, Watterson, and M.J. Fox is Chris Sparks, the guy behind Team Cul de Sac. This is Chris enjoying holding onto the original art while he can. It will be on display at the Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC from June 20-22.

ChrisSparks

Watterson seems to be slowly entering the public eye again, through his art, if not in person. Besides drawing the poster for the documentary “Stripped” that I mentioned back in February, he drew this picture in recognition of the recent retirement of Lee Salem. Salem was the guy at Universal Press Syndicate who bought “Calvin & Hobbes” but who missed seeing the potential in “Dilbert.”

Lee Salem

Here’s another look at the “Pearls Before Swine” original art. I’d love to know what Watterson uses when lettering, because the ink on his originals never looks very black compared to the line art. If it’s a type of India Ink he must dilute it.

Pearls

Urbont Legend

Urbont

Jacques Urbont, aka Jack Urbont, is an old-school composer in the Tin Pan Alley tradition. With Bruce “Mission Impossible” Geller he wrote the Broadway musical “All In Love,” but most of Urbont’s credits are for television.

The music Urbont composed that is familiar to me was for the syndicated 1966 cartoon series, “The Marvel Super Heroes.” The introduction and closing for the show are found on a FlexiDisc called “Scream Along With MARVEL,” that came with the 1967 membership kit for the Merry Marvel Marching Society. I posted the record back in 2007.

The DVD of last year’s PBS documentary, “Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle” includes a marvelous extra feature with Urbont, who explains and performs each of the intros and themes he wrote for the Marvel Super Heroes cartoons. (Note that “Superheroes” is today spelled as a single word.)

I assume Stan Lee’s assistant that Urbont mentions was Roy Thomas, but I don’t know that for certain. Urbont exudes an infectious enthusiasm that is quite similar to Stan’s own effusive personality. Urbont’s lyrics capture the spirit of the Marvel characters perfectly, and I love seeing how proud he is of this material. I just wish that Disney, which now owns Marvel, would release a complete DVD set of the cartoons. A few years ago they were supposed to be made available for streaming on Netflix, but that didn’t happen.

Joltin’ Joe under the weather

Joe Sinnott, Jim Steranko, Mark Sinnott

Joe Sinnott, Jim Steranko, Mark Sinnott

Joe Sinnott hasn’t been feeling well lately, and he even pressed his son Mark into service finishing the inking job on the latest Sunday installment of the Spider-Man syndicated comic strip for Stan Lee. Although Joe checked out fine on Monday he’s suddenly come down with a case of pneumonia and he’ll be at a hospital for a couple of days. Mark’s wife Belinda says that Joe should be okay, dehydration is his biggest problem, and I’m looking forward to hearing that he’s home again and resting and back as his drawing table.

Where have all the papers gone?

Bill Watterson ended “Calvin & Hobbes” at the end of 1995, the year that the Internet revolution began, thanks in great part to Windows 95 with its built-in support for TCP/IP. It was the beginning of the end for newspapers — which had been predicted as far back as 1972 — so Watterson got out when the getting was good.

There’s a documentary about the future, or the lack of it, for syndicated newspaper comic strips. It’s called, naturally enough, “Stripped.” Bill Watterson drew the poster for it, his first published cartoon in almost twenty years.

violante-placido

Wait! No! Sorry. That’s Violante Placido. Here’s the Watterson drawing.

Watterson Stripped

And here’s the trailer for the documentary. The video is available only on iTunes, which means I won’t see it until it’s on Amazon or Netflix.