Sunday, October 30, 2011

JLA # 10, "The Fingers of Felix Faust!" FORWARD

Just in time for Halloween comes one of my two  mystical stories, the first appearance of that evil sorceror Felix Faust in my bilingual JLA's continuity. Unlike the Time Lord and Dr. Light, however, even though this is his first appearance here in my comics I establish that Felix has faced off against the JLA before. I figured I couldn't act like ALL of the villains I was using were new, right? If that was the case, who have they been fighting up until this time, right?
This brings up a question I had when introducing Felix: what is the difference between a wizard and a sorceror? I remember I could not decide which English word to use for the Japanese "maho-tsukai."  I know I was leaning towards using the "wizard," if only because some people might be familiar with it from things like "The Wizard of Oz." Plus I was already going to use a character called The Weather Wizard so I figured it would muddy the water a little less to stick to one word. HOWEVER, as soon as I realized that the female version of "wizard" is "witch," and I didn't want to call Zatanna a "witch." So I went with sorceror and sorceress. If you read this and find that I used the word "wizard" anywhere, please let me know! 

This is one of my favorite covers, but mostly because it was a direct steal from Murphy Anderson's version from JLA #10. I, of course, actually used this visual when I had ten members to dispatch. The story, too, is based on this actual comic, but my story is more straight-forward than the original source. 

I took yet another type of beginning for this adventure: I start with Green Arrow on monitory duty in the satellite bemoaning that he is stuck there while others are having adventures. I always liked this type of opening when it appeared in the real JLA comics; it made it feel like the DC universe was vast and always busy. So I was anxious to use the same set-up myself when I got the chance. It also allows me to write the first appearance in "my" DC universe of Aquaman's wife, Mera, and his brother, Ocean Master, along with re-appearances of Robin and Hawkman. In fact, all of these characters would make repeat appearances.

This was the last issue I did during the 1992-93 fiscal/school year, which means it was printed in February or March 1993. I didn't know it then, but this turned out to be the last issue that my good friend Mariko-san helped me with. From April 1993 she got a real job and was no longer able to help me. I did find others to pick up the slack, but looking back I see that she and I had a real connection that I was not able to re-create immediately with anybody else. So here's a final tip of the hat and waist-level bow to Tadokoro-san. She was the first and one of the best assistants I could have asked for.

JLA # 10, "The Fingers of Felix Faust!"

Another one of my favorites, this is a direct copy of the cover to JLA #10 by the great Murphy Anderson.
I still like what I did with it, though.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mid-Ohio Con Wizard World 2011 (part 2)

The continuing sto-ry of a guy just trying to help people have a good time in the ocean of geekdom and crazy known as the Mid-Ohio Con Wizard World Columbus....!

I Rescue "Buck Rogers"
So I got up early and headed back down to the Columbus Convention Center for the second official day of the convention and my third day as a volunteer. I had talked to my daughter and she had told me she would be joining me sometime in the afternoon, so I had told the Staff that I would only work half a day. I only felt a *bit* guilty about this because I *had* promised them all day. On the other hand, I had already worked hard for them for 8 hours on Saturday and some time on Friday. Also, other volunteers who hadn't worked nearly as hard as I had were already done. So I figured I had earned a couple of free hours with my daughter. 
I came already prepared with my red VOLUNTEER shirt and my name tag. I said hello to Wizard staff people I knew and then I set about checking on the THIS WAY etc signs set up in the convention hall. I figured (rightly) that they had been moved around overnight. After that was done, I was asked to help bring down lap-tops and other techno stuff to the ticket office so we could scan bar codes for ticket holders. By the time that was done I was out front being a traffic cop again. This time, it wasn't so much for OUR people but for those people who were in the convention to attend a beauty show or a cheerleading competition. I don't know how many times I said, "Your event is straight down through those glass doors and down the escalators. This convention is for comic books."

Somewhere in there an elderly gentlemen walked by and said to me directly, "Good morning! Ready for another day?" I looked and realized that it was Mr. Gil Gerard, the actor-guest who had portrayed "Buck"  in the late-70s TV series Buck Rogers in the 24th Century. I answered him that I was and wished him well. At that moment another volunteer AND another beauty show person walked up, so I turned away from him to address them. In the corner of my eye, however, I noticed that Mr. Gerard was continuing to walk on instead of turning to go up the escalator to the actual convention. I quickly said, "Excuse me for a second!" to the other volunteer and chased after Mr. Gerard. I caught up to him and said, "I'm sorry, but I think you're going the wrong way!" He laughed and said, "Yes, I was just thinking that myself. None of this looks familiar." It turns out that on Saturday he had come in the other way (directly from the Hyatt) so hadn't realized he was on the lower fall. He thanked me and we parted by both saying, "Have a good day!"

I Face A "Crazed" Fan
After the box office opened and the people started getting in line to be admitted things slowed down. It was nowhere near as chaotic as yesterday, thankfully! After about an hour I was called down to the Program Room to help crowd control. It turned out that the Q&A with James Marsters ("Spike" from Buffy The Vampire Slayer) was over-run with people. There were only two quiet (dare I say timid?) girl volunteers there, so Khandice on the Wizard World staff called the box office asking for help. Now I'm not sure if she called for me particularly or just for someone, but when she saw me she said, "great, the crowd control god", so....! Right away she put me to work speaking loudly to the line (about 150 people) telling them to relax and that they would all be allowed in but that they had to stay orderly and that we would like them to not leave any empty seats in-between each other so that everyone could get in etc. It was at moments like this that I definitely felt the power of "the uniform." They were responding to me because a) I had a red Wizard t-shirt on; b) I was speaking to them forcefully but genuinely; and c) because some of them had probably seen me before at the box office. Still, it was definitely a heady experience to speak and be listened to....surreal, and kind of scary, too.

We started letting people into the room but we knew that there were too many people and not enough chairs. So we filled all of the seats and then started doing Standing Room along the back wall as well. Even then, Khandice insisted that if once all the "space" was taken no one else would be allowed in. As you can imagine, the people at the end of the line were getting more and more frantic that they would not be admitted. By this point the people I had promised would be admitted *had* been admitted, so I didn't really feel bad about stopping the line at any time. Then at 10:59 or thereabouts for a panel that was supposed to start at 11 AM, we basically got to the end. However, a somewhat large young woman (about my height but weighing maybe 180 pounds) stepped forward and said, "I AM going in! He's the only reason I came to this convention, so I AM going in!" .......I was momentarily taken aback by her tone and her chutzpah....while I was struck speechless (it has been known to happen, haha) Khandice stepped forward and calmly said, "We will try to get everyone in. We don't want to have to exclude anyone. Just give us another minute to continue to organize the place." To me, this meant that Crazy Woman might not get in, but it would be in everyone's best interest to let her in. In fact, one of the people in front of her who had just been let in turned around and said, "If it means that much to you you can have my space. I don't mind...."

Suddenly, he was there. James Marsters, the star I know OF but have only seen on one or two episodes of Torchwood and Smallville, was standing in the doorway ready to go in. He looked at Crazy Woman and said something akin to Good Morning, How Are You Doing? smiled at her, and then walked inside.

Crazy Woman started crying tears of happiness (or maybe it was craziness). I walked up to her and whispered, "See? You got to meet him just because we stalled you out here. Give us a second and you'll be taken inside." She nodded dumbly, then followed Khandice as she motioned her in.

That was basically the fill. My job for the next ten minutes was to stand outside the door and apologize to all the latecomers that the Q&A had gotten too full and that we couldn't let anyone else in. Most people totally understood. As for Crazy Woman, this experience definitely gave me a different perspective on these fans. Is this why the word "fan" comes from the word "fanatic"? Hmmm....

"Pavel Chekov" Publicly Chastises Me
Next up for me was helping to organize the 1 PM panel session, which was for Star Trek's "Pavel Chekov," Mr. Walter Koenig. Now you may remember that I met him yesterday and gave him my Aquaman button after he noticed it on my VOLUNTEER t-shirt. I hadn't expected to see him again today, but I figured if I was standing here I would stay and listen to him, as he was always one of my favorite characters on one of my favorite shows. By this time two more volunteers had shown up ro replace the timid girls. One was a very laid-back gentleman maybe a little older than me. The other was a college woman who was a bit, shall I say, bossy. We'll call her Bossy Volunteer Woman. She had run this room all day yesterday and evidently knew what she was doing. That was fine, I was perfectly okay with taking orders from her. In fact, after about a half hour of organizing the line and telling all of the people that they would in fact get in (we didn't start letting people into the room until the star was on his way), she turned to me and said, "Go tell this guy that we'll be ready for him in about ten minutes." She didn't know who he was or what he looked like! I walked back to his booth and walked up to his handler/agent/relative (whichever it was) armed with a copy of the program and told him that Mr. Koenig was expected in about ten minutes. The agent said, "Fine. Come back and get him when you're ready." So now I was going to be a bodyguard to the stars! I jumped at the chance at going back. I went back to Bossy Volunteer Woman. The line had gotten longer. I told everybody the same stuff I had told the James Marsters crowd; it was just a matter of time, to be orderly, etc and that I would soon return with Mr. Koenig. And off I went! 

I met his agent again and he told him that it was time to go with me. Then I began to clear the way for him to get to the Program Room. I gotta tell ya, it's a weird feeling walking through a crowd saying a little bit loudly, "Excuse me" with Mr. Walter Koenig, a celebrity you have known from TV your entire life, following right behind you! What made it even more odd is that as soon as I walked up to him I noticed that he had taken the Aquaman Shrine sticker I had given him yesterday and stuck it to his nametag lanyard!!! I laughed and said, "I have to insist on getting a picture of you with that later. Thank you so much for publicizing Aquaman!" He said something quiet and we were on our way. While we walked he mentioned something about maybe translatinig his speech into sanskrit and I told him that I could translate it into Japanese if he wanted me to, as I was an interpreter. Then he said, "That would be great, but sankrit isn't an actual spoken language anyway, is it?" He seemed a bit entertaining, just on the walk over to the room! We got there and I ushered him in. Bossy Volunteer Woman said to me, "Are you the moderator?" and I looked at her dumbfounded. "!" So he was left on the stage and began to take questions all by himself.

What followed was about 25 minutes of pure fun. I listened to him tell stories about Star Trek and Babylon Five (a series he was on that I have seen only sparingly). He told about his argument with Bill Shatner about how "Shat" would steal other cast members' lines. When someone asked him about his upcoming Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, he said that he was planning an event around it (June 2012, I believe) but all he really wanted to do was live to see it, as he was getting long in the tooth. We all applauded him for that.

The official Wizard photographer and videographer were there recording everything. I asked the photographer if the pictures he was taking would be posted somewhere and he assured me that they would. I smiled broadly, knowing that most if not all of them would include a picture of Aquaman stuck to Mr. Koenig's nametag! If I ever see any of these photos I will be sure to post one here.
Near the end of his half hour I was thinking to myself  that I needed to somehow find a way to remind him that time was running out. I was trying to decide the best way to get his attention in-between the end of one story and the beginning of another question when Bossy Volunteer Woman walked in and whispered to me, "Get him to wrap it up." I told her I would, but this flustered me. He was talking about Babylon Five again and winding down. I figued I could intrude in-between segments at any minute. Suddenly, Bossy Volunteer Woman was at the door again and signalled me to come out to talk to her. She wanted me to know that the other volunteer was gone and that she was going to go try to find "the 1:30 guy" (my favorite artist, Mike Grell!). I told her fine and walked back in. 

Mr. Koenig was saying something about "And that is what happened...." or something similar. This is when I made my fatal error. I assumed he had just finished his earlier story, so I stepped forward a bit and said, "I hate to say this, but we only have a few minutes left, so we have to ask Mr. Koenig to wrap this up...." or something to that effect.


Mr. Koenig looked over at me and said, "That is a terrible way to finish this time together. You just don't do things that way! I am going to finish my story because I refuse to be pulled from this stage!" The crowd erupted with applause as I bowed/supplicated myself in his direction and said, "I'm sorry." I figured he was just angry at being "handled" so abrubtly. He continued, but now he was talking about the time he pulled a joke on George Takei about making Star Trek VI!  

So unbeknownst to me, while I had stepped out of the room to get talked to by Bossy Volunteer Woman, Mr. Koenig had *finished* his earlier story and had started another answer! I had rudely interrupted him!! As soon as I realized it I felt terrible. I enjoyed his last story but I now felt much less elated than I had even moments before. :-( 

He finished his story (it was hilarious) and walked off the stage to a standing ovation (yes, I was clapping, too). As soon as he joined me at the door I said again, "I am so sorry. I hadn't realized you had started another story." He said that what I did was not the way to have done it; I should have flashed my hand at him or come up and stage whispered to him. He seemed peeved. (!) I said again, "I'm sorry. I didn't know what to do." To which he said, somewhat like a disappointed parent,  "Now you do." My daughter had arrived in the interim and was now walking with us. She introduced herself to him, and they chatted for a moment. I asked him if he needed me to escort him back to his booth or not; he verified the general direction of the main hall and then said he could make it on his own. I said, "thank you" and he walked off. 

So I got Mr. Walter Koenig mad at me. :-( 

This experience left a bitter taste in my mouth for the rest of the day. I felt like I had been a victim of circumstance. No one had told me how to "get the star to wrap things up." I see now that what I did was wrong. I should have done something to get his attention; signalled my watch or something. I do hope he doesn't think I was a perfectly crass jerk. I certainly didn't mean to be, and I *have* learned "my lesson."

Here's the punch-line for this story: my daughter and I walked around the convention and bought some t-shirts (Wonder Woman for her, Aquaman for me). We walked by Mr. Koenig's booth and he had a banner with his photo Then and Now on it. She looked up at it and said, "Oh, he's that guy. I didn't recognize him." She had liked Star Trek and played with the action figures as a little girl; however, she hadn't recognized this 70+ year old man as "Chekov." I thought that was pretty funny.

Before we left I had three things I wanted to do. I watned to get artist Phil Jimenez to sign my TEMPEST comics. However, he had a hugely long line waiting for him, so I decided not to wait. Then I went to get Mike Grell to sign a copy of the Aquaman trade paperback with his stories in it. Lastly, I picked up the following sweet piece of art by "amateur" artist Terry Huddleston. My daughter had bought me an Aquaman piece at last year's Con by him, so I knew and liked his style. I had seen this poster at the Baltimore Comic Con but by the time I had tracked Terry down to buy one he had sold out of them! At that time I verified that he would be at Mid Ohio again. Then I stopped by yesterday to "reserve" my copy. It's huge...something like 24 by 30. I didn't want to cart it all over the Con, so I picked it up on my way out.

What's really funny to me is that except for Hal instead of John, those first ten characters are the members of "my" JUSTICE LEAGUE. Pretty cool.

Terry is a great artist. Check out his page is you like this. If you buy anything tell him the Columbus Ohio Aquaman guy sent you. :-)

So ends another exciting and eventful comic book convention. Will I volunteer again at next year's Mid-Ohio? Probably. It's a free way to get into the Con AND have a chance to meet and greet (and piss off) various celebrities, haha! (sigh)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mid-Ohio Con 2011 Wizard World (part 1)

Wizard World came to Columbus this past weekend and I was there! I volunteered to help set up on Friday and to work both Saturday and Sunday. I had a great time, but boy! did I work. Here are a few of my adventures.

I got there at 8 am as requested and found that instead of being late, I was actually early. As I parked I saw to my amazement the DeLorean from BACK TO THE FUTURE and the Batmobile. They were actually *parked* infront of the Hyatt/Convention Center. I knew that their owners would charge for photos at the actual convention, so I quickly pulled out my crappy phone camera and took some pictures. Here's the best one.
The work itself was easy. Wizard Staff people Amina and Khandice were super-nice and easy-going. I made friends with two guys, Eric and Dave,  and we did most of our work together. Right away I was reminded that there is a strong bunch of people who go to these things who have less than stellar social skills. One volunteer was a "diva" who tried to regale us with all sorts of stories. Another was can I put it...."40 year old virgin" type? For those of you out there who think *I'M* that type, this guy was WORSE. 'Nuff said.
By the way, by the end of the day the Batmobile was IN the convention hall surrounded by ropes so you couldn't get a good photo of it without paying for it. Haha!

I got there at 8 am again and I was one of the few that had carried over from Friday, so Amina and Khandice knew me. Eric and I were asked to help with a new guy named Russ (coincidentally!) to set up the banners in the Q&A Room and in the "lobby" (for lack of a better term) and we did that as other new volunteers came in and milled about. Then all of a sudden where there hadn't been anybody there were crowds, and we got thrown into crowd, I mean, "line control." I am NOT good at making approximations of crowds, so instead I will tell you that there were lines of people from the ticket (wrist-band) kiosk back to the lobby doors (a distance of atleast 60 feet) on both sides north and south, from 9:15  until about 12:30.  It was chaos. Of course, I was in a perfect spot to wish "Good morning" to Walter Koenig ("Chekov" from Star Trek) and to one of my all-time favorite artists, Mike Grell. So there's that.
We got lunch (Pizza Hut again) at about 1:30 pm, and then I was asked to go into the actual Con and help Line Control around Billy Dee Williams' booth. It seems that his line was going past his booth and blocking traffic in the aisles. So my job was to stand at the end and hold it "open" over the aisle and then to move it along. Yes, a "traffic cop" for crowds. The word came down that Mr. Williams had to go to his scheduled photo op (one-time photo with him for a measly sum; Adam West was charging $60). So I stayed at the end of the line saying, "We're sorry, Billy Dee Williams isn't signing any autographs at this time." Well, I got to the end of the line and his booth was right next to Walter Koenig's booth. As I was telling Mr. Williams, "Welcome to Columbus!" Mr. Koenig called me over. He said he had noticed my Aquaman button and wondered where I had gotten it. I told him that I had worn an Aquaman t-shirt that morning, but that the Wizard staff had given us Volunteer t-shirts to wear, so I had to take Aquaman off. However, I figured that would happen, and I wanted to show my allegiance to my favorite hero, so I had brought the button with me. Mr. Koenig told me that he collected character buttons and would like to find the same one. I told him, "It would be my pleasure to give you my Aquaman button" and took it off and handed it to him. He said that he would pay me for it and I said that would not be neccessary; that it was my pleasure to give it to him. I then rushed off and got an Aquaman Shrine sticker I had in my bag and gave it to him, telling him we have a site that is all about Aquaman. He thanked me, and let me take his picture. Unfortunately, it didn't come out. So I have no photographic proof....yet. (more on this later)

That was the end of my day volunteering/working for Wizard. I then walked around and ran into *this* attractive woman.

I am not one to usually take photos of cosplayers, but on the other hand, I don't usually run into AquamanGirl, so...! I overheard one of her friends say to her, "So you're not the only one who likes him!" They were dressed as Batgirl and Supergirl, by the way. I never had girl friends like that. ;-)

At 4 pm I went to the HERO INITIATIVE booth where I had signed up to volunteer until the con ended. The HERO INITIATIVE is a federally chartered not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping comic book industry veterans. Financial aid is available for comic creators who may need assistance, as Golden and Silver Age page rates tended to be $5 for art and a penny a word for scripts. Rarely was there a pension plan or health benefits. HERO is a chance for us fans to give back to the people who are directly responsible for so much enjoyment. So I helped man their booth and sell raffle tickets and donated works. It was for a good cause and I enjoyed doing it. For more information or to make a contribution please click HERE.

At the HERO booth Mr. Mike Grell was in attendance. Often artists will donate their time to the HERO booth; any money they receive for sketches or autographs done during that time goes to HERO instead of into their own pockets. I chatted with "Iron Mike" (who I have met/seen at several cons over the past few years) and then asked him, "Can I get you to do something with Aquaman for me for twenty bucks?" He said, "You show me twenty bucks in that HERO jar and I will give you 'something Aquaman.'" So I quickly did, and he pencilled me the wonderful illustration shown below. 

I am seriously thinking of framing it. I was and still am overwhelmed. My favorite character by one of my all-time favorite artists. :-) 

That ended my adventures on Saturday on a high-note. I went out to eat with my visiting friends Greg and Shanna, which was great. Then I went home and watched the Blue Jackets be defeated by the Ottawa Senators, which was *not* great. Then I went to bed to get up and do it all again on Sunday.....

Wherein Russell "rescues" Buck Rogers :-) and later, gets chastised by Pavel Chekov :-(

Friday, October 21, 2011

Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki May 9, 1996 Wedding Bells

Did you have a good Golden Week vacation? I went to Nagoya to attend a friend's wedding.  I was looking forward to it because I had heard that Nagoya's wedding ceremonies were lavish. The bride changed clothes five times and the groom changed four times. The groom was an American, so the reception had a very international flavor to it.

In Japan the custom is to give money as a wedding present. However, in America in general we don't do this. Of course, it depends on the person, but many people give hand-made presents or something that would have special commemorative value. Also, for people who must come  a long way to attend the ceremony and reception, their presence itself is considered a heart-warming gift.

And in America, the bride and groom do not give away gifts to their guests. In my case, we held a wedding ceremony in America as well as in Japan, so I wanted to mix the customs between the US and Japan. We took lacquered trays with us from Miyazaki to give out as gifts. When we handed them out at the reception, our guests were surprised by the gesture. And then to our surprise, many people tore the wrapping paper off right there to look inside. Many people said, "Oh, it's so beautiful!" and were happy to get it. This was an obvious cultural difference, don't you think?

This was written to a Japanese audience, so if you're not a Japanese person reading this you're probably thinking, "What the....?"
1. In Japanese weddings the man and woman change clothes atleast twice; usually more. The woman starts in white kimono then changes to a colorful version while her new husband remains in his black or gray kimono. Then they both change into "western" wedding clothes: a gown and a tuxedo. The woman may change again into another cocktail dress.
2. Nagoya is famous in Japan for having even MORE lavish ceremonies than I just described. In fact, my friend's ceremony was wildly extravagent. I could not have imagined being the co-star of such a ceremony!
3. At Japanese ceremonies each guest is given a present from the bride and groom. We gave out colorful stove-top kettles, for example. Other gifts I have seen or received over the years include hot water pots, lacquered trays, boxes of food, and glassware.
4. No Japanese person would be caught dead opening up these gifts infront of the bride and groom or their families. It just isn't done. The fact that guests at our US wedding actually did this shocked my wife and Japanese friends, which is why I wrote about it here.

This is the first time I used the sign-off "See you next time!" I remember my editor and I argued about whether people would be able to understand it; I figured they would NOT, but she over-ruled me. We used it for the rest of my run.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

JLA #9 "Next Issue Preview!" (for JLA #10)

Next time, that Master of Black Magic FELIX FAUST will appear! He is casting a terrible magic spell in order to take over the world! And in order to collect three magical objects he enslaves the JUSTICE LEAGUE to act as his fingers! If the JUSTICE LEAGUE can't escape, what chance does the world have!?! Magician super-hero ZATANNA also guest-stars...but will she be able to help!?! Next time: "The Fingers of Felix Faust!" in JUSTICE LEAGUE No. 10!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

JLA # 9, "Nothing Beats The Royal Flush Gang!" AFTERWARD

So..what did you think? Even as I re-read it as I uploaded it for the blog I was struck by just how well constructed it is. Okay, if you disagree with me I want to hear from you. My ego is not so large that I won't entertain other opinions, but...gosh, to me this reads like a professional comic book! Sure, the art is not great in places, but I'm talking about the story: each individual member comes across a menace separately, they all fail at stopping it on their own, and then they come together to tackle it together, with every character having a moment to shine. This is classic JLA stuff, people! I must have been channelling classic JLA writer Gardner Fox when I wrote this story.  :-)

A few specific bits I liked....and again, feel free to disagree (or agree) with me if you would like. I'd like to hear from you.

1. Absent Members. In my world, every member should not be at every meeting. The whole point of the JLA is that not all the members can attend every time. So for this LA-based adventure I chose to not use the four characters who had appeared in Number 3 (my mutation on JLA #130). Hawkwoman and The Flash also appeared in that story, but they were the monster, so I figured that didn't count. And by the way, I did keep a running tab on how often a member had been absent or had been featured prominently. I tried very hard to keep everybody at about the same participation Superman or Batman hogging in *my* DC Universe!

2. I borrowed a cool visual trick from the comics and featured the characters' logos in their chapters or, in this case, their appearances. Did you notice? Of course, once I picked a logo I was stuck using it. This, for example, was the GL logo at the time. Not bad, but I always preferred the one-line slanting version with the lantern in the center. Oh, well. The other thing about this panel is that it shows that I featured cartooned-versions of LA landscapes. They were very easy to see in the Hawks' air-battle and on the page where the four flying members spread out to search. I enjoyed doing it, but it was hard work to try to be "realistic." So I tried to keep future action to fictional places like Gotham and Star City after this, haha.  

3. The Royal Flush Gang "head-quarters" is at one of the amusement parks in Los Angeles. I thought that was clever of me. If they hadn't been caught red-handed I figured they could always deny that they were the robbing versions, and that somebody else had just stolen their "look" to commit crimes. Unfortunately, they were busted LIVE, so, never mind, haha.

4. There were quite a few card jokes or puns or comments in this story, and this is one of my favorites. My other favorite was Hawkwoman telling Jack that she and the husband might not "beat" a royal flush but "a pair" would beat a one-eyed jack. I thought that was clever. (Yeah, my arm is getting a little hurt patting myself on the back, haha). Obviously, this story was a "try-out" for Hawkman and Elongated Man to see if I should make them members. (There's another try-out coming up next issue!)  I was pretty sure the boys would like Hawkman, but Ralph Dibny sort of resembled a traditional Japanese horror character with his elongated neck, so I was afraid he would not be popular. I had every intention of not adding him to the group if the kids didn't like him. They seemed to find him amusing, however, so SPOILER ALERT he eventually ended up joining.

Any ease I hoped for by cutting four members from the story was erased by adding two guests and by having to draw those incredible RFG costumes...ack! I always wanted to bring the RFG back, but decided drawing the costumes was too much trouble, so never did! (Now it can be told, haha).

So to sum up....I'm awfully proud of how this issue turned out. Sure, the art sucked some, but I think you could always tell what was going on, right? That's the first goal, haha. The art never got in the way of the story. Nearly twenty years later, it still reads pretty good. ;-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Aquaman Header at the Aquaman Shrine

One of my more recent honors has been that my buddy Rob Kelly over at The Aquaman Shrine used a piece of my art as his monthly header.

This year is the 70th anniversary of Aquaman's published debut (MORE FUN COMICS #73, Nov 1941) and to help celebrate this, Rob decided to open up the header on his popular blog to his (and Aquaman's) artistic fans. Because my birthday is October 1, I asked him to "reserve" that month for me. If I could come up with something good enough, I would be able to claim bragging rights and get a heck of a birthday present.

Well, I failed and I didn't get anything good enough to him.

Just kidding! THAT would have made a boring post!

Helping to celebrate Aquaman's birthday, I originally wanted to have seven different Aquamen; however, his history doesn't really break down that easily, AND there have been *quite* a few different versions of the character. Also, I came upon the idea of "aping" the various artistic styles of his artists. So although these all look different, they are all actually by me...and no tracing, either. Note: I *really* wanted to include a version of the Craig Hamilton "camouflage" Aquaman, but it was very very difficult trying to copy Craig's style. Eventually I just gave up. :-( 

Here is the header in all its glory:

From left: Aquaman in his debut by Paul Norris, Filmation cartoon Aquaman, Aqualad by Ramona Fradon, Mera & Aquaman getting married by Nick Cardy, Hanna-Barbara Super Friends Aquaman, Jim Aparo Aquaman, Jim Calafiore hooked Aquaman, Butch Guice Sword of Aquaman, Brave & Bold Aquaman, and current (!) Ivan Reis Aquaman.   

And now, for the purists, here is the actual original! You'll notice right away that it is not as elongated (great word!) as it ended up being. Although I used an 11 x 17 sheet of paper, I also ended up filling the entire page! (oops!) Rob said that he liked it, but he couldn't use it because it wasn't long enough without having to crop out, say, Aqualad and Brave & Bold Aquaman (bottom left and right, respectively). So I went back to it and re-arranged it to what it turned out to be...but not before coloring it, of course!

I really like the white background. I also liked how I chose different greens and oranges for the different versions, too. I kinda like how it turned out! :-)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AQUAMAN...and happy birthday to me, too. And thanks, Rob, for helping give myself a great birthday present I'll never forget. :-)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki April 26, 1996 (Something To Think About Before Golden Week)

I notice the number of fathers who participate in school events/activities seems low. Certainly last week's Elementary School Admission Ceremony had few fathers in attendance. Also, in children's books in the library if there is a note at the back of the book it usually begins, "To the Mothers." At the town hall when there are PTA meetings or Sports Association meetings the vast majority of the participants are the mothers. Why is this? In America I think both parents try to attend, or they switch off in their participation. I am often told that the fathers cannot attend because they have to work during the day. However, nowadays don't many mothers also work outside the home? I think it's important to make time for the children's sake.
Do you know the classic Disney move, "Mary Poppins"? In that movie the father thinks only of his job, spending no time with his children. The nanny, Mary Poppins, helps him realize that the love of his children is more important than work.

I know that fathers work very hard at their jobs. However, for whose benefit are you working? If you don't become friends with your children while they are small I think you will have somewhat lonely lives when your  children are older. Golden Week is upon us. I hope you can enjoy a lot of good parent-child time. Please have a fun holiday week.

By the way, "Golden Week" is a made-up Japanese word. It isn't English.
I wrote this in 1996, and as far as I know the situation in Japan is still the same: the father overworks and is emotionally distant from his children.
For those of you who don't know, "Golden Week" is the week from April 29 until May 5 when the entire country basically shuts down. April 29 was originally Emperor Hirohito's birthday and was always a national holiday while he was alive. Then when the Japanese Congress (called the Diet; I don't know why) passed the new post-war Constitution on May 3 that became Constitution Day and was made a national holiday, too. Lastly, May 5 was always a holiday called "Boys' Day." (Girls' Day is on March 3.) It became a national holiday as well and its name was changed to Childrens' Day. (If you want to be cynical you can see that the boys got the holiday and the girls got nothing, but that's a topic for another post...!)
Emperor Hirohito died in 1989, but rather than mess up the tourism and vacation industries, and to show him respect, the country kept April 29 as a holiday. It became Green Day ("midori no hi") and then sometime in the 2000s it became Showa Day ("Showa" was the name of his reign). The current Emperor's birthday is December 23 and it is also a national holiday.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

CBJ vs Colorado (3-2 SO) (10-12-11)

We are currently zero for four.
Yes, we have played four games and lost all of them. :-( This is the worst start-up in franchise history (11 years for those of you who don't know). Also, last night's game was the lowest attendance ever, at less than 9,000 people in an arena built for twice that. (Our season opener was a sell-out at 18,000, though.)

All that being said, last night was probably the most fun I've had at a hockey game in a long while. Part of the reason was where we were sitting: we got special tickets and started sitting in row B in section 116. After the second period the people in front of us left and told us we could have their seats. So...yep, we were in THE FRONT ROW. Like up against the plexi-glass. Like we could reach out and touch the players...except for those 1/2 inch of plastic between us, of course. It changes the "feel" of the game when you are watching from that close. I don't think I would want to have these seats every time, but every once in a while....yes! See the photo below of Jan Hedja? This was taken FROM OUR SEATS. :-)

The other reason I enjoyed last night's game was because instead of just me and the wife, the daughter and a friend of mine joined us. We got four free tickets, so as soon as the daughter heard where the seats were, she re-arranged her work schedule to make the game. That left one more seat, so I asked my hockey loving buddy to join us.

During one of the times when the ice is being cleaned, one of the CBJ cheerleaders came down to our section to give away free t-shirts. I got up and was dancing to get his attention, then he gestured for me to keep at it, so I did for about 15 seconds or so and he tossed me a shirt! Then my buddy jumped at him as if to "check" him, and people thought that was funny, so he got a free t-shirt, too! Of course, they were smalls, so I gave mine to my wife. My buddy said he was going to wear his as a muscle-t, but I *think* he was joking. 

We also got free ice cream and popcorn, the latter making the $6.75 beers taste a little better. 

Lastly, we all had our favorite players to cheer on. Jan Hedja, who last year played for the Blue Jackets, now plays for The Avalanche. It was like old-home week to be able to cheer him on again. Kris Russell is my favorite player, and he was *right there* several times during the evening. And Derek Brassard is my daughter's favorite, and he got a penalty in the second period. Well the penalty box was one section over, so my daughter grabbed her camera and scooted over there to take about a dozen photos of him. Too funny.

Unfortunately, even though we had the lead up until the third period, we ended up losing in a Shoot Out. So we got ONE point, but no victory. The streak continues....! :-(

Next game is on Saturday in Dallas. Go Jackets!!

POGO: October 1st is the New January 1st

I meant to post this last week but I forgot. Here's a classic strip from January 1969 (I believe) reprinted from the first POGO book I ever owned, IMPOLLUTABLE POGO. In it, Howland Owl, Churchy LaFemme, and Beuregard (three of the more so-called clever critters in the swamp) consider making October 1st the first day of the year instead of January 1st. Notice that Pogo and Porky get fed up with their ideas and walk off. :-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

CBJ: vs Vancouver (3-2)

Now I *knew* before we went to the game last night that the Blue Jackets would lose to the Vancouver Canucks; after all, they went ONE game away from winning the Stanley Cup last year! (they lost to Boston) So a defeat was anticipated.

What I didn't expect, however, was that we not only led for a little while, we held our own for almost the whole game! This was not some fine thrashing from a venerable Pro Team to an Upstart Younger Brother team; no, this was a match!! Like I said in the Season Opener article, I would much rather see a great match that leads to a defeat than a boring rout over a bad opponent. And this was a heck of an exciting game! 

A few random thoughts....

Because the opponent was officially a Canadian team, our lead Anthem Singer Mr. Leo Walsh (LEO!!) sang both Oh, Canada and The Star-Spangled Banner. I think I like Oh, Canada. It's a pretty song.

I really like the Canucks' ORCA-leaping-out-of-the-ice "C" logo. It looks semi-Inuit or Eskimo and just is cool with a capital "C."

I really like our seats! The way our team has been playing, sitting under the cannon on the "attack twice" side is just SO exciting! Although my wife and I are *not* big fans of the big old guy who sits in front of us, other than him we like our new seats very, very much.

If we get our new team-mates used to each other we will have an awesome team. I couldn't count the number of times a player would pass a puck to somebody who either wasn't where he just had been or who didn't realized Player X was going to pass it and wasn't ready to play it. When these kinds of nuts-and-bolts things get worked out, we will be a very good team indeed. 

This is our third loss in a row, which is our worst starting record ever. Well, sure, I'd love a win, but I hold true to what I just said: we are working out our kinks and our weaknesses. By the time super-Defense Jim Wisniewski gets to play on Oct 25 I think we will be a force to be reckoned with. (At least, I hope we will be!) 

Tomorrow night we are sitting in special seats to witness the return of Jan Hedja as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. My wife and I are going with my daughter and my buddy so we are sure to have a good time. My buddy is an even more rabid hockey fan than I am, and my daughter will be our designated driver, so, win-win.....and hopefully we *will* win (sorry, Jan!)  

Go Jackets!!  

JLA # 9 "Nothing Beats The Royal Flush Gang!"

Monday, October 10, 2011

JLA # 9, "Nothing Beats The Royal Flush Gang!" FORWARD

Welcome back to the 9th issue of my bilingual Justice League comic-book. You're in for a treat this time because, even though the art sucks in certain places (it always did/does!), overall this is one of my favorite issues. Why, you ask? Well...I'm not *really* sure,  but every time I go back and re-read it I get to the end and think, "Yeah. That worked." For those creators out there (be you musicians or artists or actors or whatever) do you know what I mean? Sometimes you just think after you create something, "that was good." That's what I think about this one. I remember reading about how LA is the bank robbery capitol of the US, and somehow that little fact turned into this story. :-)

Words of thanks again go to my good friend Mariko Tadokoro, who was definitely getting "into" the vibe of what I was trying to do. I'd love Japanese people to read this and tell me if this issue's Japanese reads better than, say, issue 6. My guess is that it does....

By the way, in Japanese the words for FLUSH and FLASH sound the same. So I made a point of saying in the notes to this story what the difference was. I didn't want any kids to start calling the Scarlet Speedster the Flush, ya know.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I (always) do, haha! :-)

JLA # 9, "Nothing Beats The Royal Flush Gang!"

One of my all-time favorite covers. Even now, many many years later, I look at it and say, "This is good." :-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

CBJ: 2011 Game Two vs Minnesota (4-2)

I suppose I should *first* say that I went to school in St. Paul, Minnesota oh-so-many-years ago and I always liked the Minnesota Northstars. When I came back to the US in 2001 and found out that Minnesota had actually LOST their original team and had to create a new one, this "Wild" team of which we are about to speak, I have to say I was disappointed with my Minnesota brethren. HOW could you have lost the Northstars?! Then I looked into the situation a bit and found that, shock of shocks, it was a business decision by the owners. Of course it was. So now I absolutely *hate* the Dallas (North) Stars because their owner moved them from their home in Minnesota for the oil-rich pastures of Texas, and I cheer on the Minnesota Wild whenever they play anyone except the Blue Jackets.

And boy, did we get played last night.

If we had quite a few great moments and possibilities on Opening Night, we were flat-out BAD last night. My wife places most of the blame on Goalie Steve Mason; she has never seen the "potential" that everybody keeps saying he has or had. I see a team of rookies and newbies who haven't gelled and simply can't play together well yet. How many losses do we have to sit through before the team gells, you ask? That is the $64,000 question. For now, the pain continues. Personally, I can't wait for RW Jared Boll (one of my favorites) and Defense James Wiesnewski (sp?) to get back from Injured Reserve and Penalty, respectively.

Jeff Carter looked good out there last night. I can't wait to see him play against his old team, the Philadelphia Flyers! Derek Dorsett and Matt Calvert also looked good, although Matt was injured when one of the Wild high-sticked him in the mouth. Ouch!!  

Monday night we play the Vancouver Canucks. They nearly won the Stanley Cup last year, so we have our work cut out for us. (sigh)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

CBJ: 2011 Season Opener vs Nashville (3-2)

It's been a hell of a week, so I apologize for not having anything to post. I got behind in my prep work and then I lost the will to live, let alone the will to post, haha. That all changed last night, as Columbus Blue Jackets opened their 2011-12 season against the Nashville (Sexual) Predators!!

So we actually lost, 3-2, but the game was EXCITING! If you are an NHL fan, you have to admit that the first thing you want to see at a hockey game is excitement. The (close) second thing you want to see is a win for your team. Am I wrong?
 I would rather watch a nail-biter thrill-a-second loss than a stomp, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, we did a lot of things right last night. We were in it until the very end. Sure, we lost, but only by one point and if we manage to improve some of the sloppiness out there (missed passes being number one) I think we will end up doing very, very well. I am still optomistic!

Also, sitting behind the goal on the side of the cannon (Attack Twice) is waaay different than sitting on the other side (last year's seats). Gone hopefully for good are the people talking about work or dating or what-have-you....we were surrounded by serious hockey fans last night! (Maybe it was because it was the opener...haha!)

The next game is tonight against my old college era team, Minnesota. Hopefully we'll get a win there. Then we're back home on Monday and Wednesday. Yuko and I are going to both of those games. :-)

The other fun thing from last night is we went shopping at the CBJ store. I was promised a new t-shirt for my birthday. I wanted a new RUSSELL 10 shirt because now that Kris Russell signed my first one I don't want to over-wash it etc. I *almost* got a CALVERT 11 or an UMBERGER 18 but in the end I picked RUSSELL. How could I not, right? ;-)

When we headed to the check-out Yuko pointed out some car stickers and the wall emblem shown we ended up getting both. Pretty cool, huh? Thanks, honey!! Now it's on the wall in our dining area, with the signed photo of Jan Hedja on the other side of the tapestry. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Birthday to ME!!

It's been 47 (?!) years since I made my debut on this mortal plane and boy! has it been a wild, crazy ride. Lately I've been thinking that maybe I am going through a mid-life crisis, but that's impossible; that would mean I'm gonna live to be 94, and, uh....NO. ;-) I have been thinking about my life lately, though, and that made me think about what has been important to me....

Obviously, my family and friends are my most important possession. I've travelled the nation and the world (literally) and I have been blessed enough to have made friends everywhere. "I know I have a heart...because it's breaking." So thank you, everyone who loves me, because I love you, too, and I couldn't have made it here without you!

Then I started thinking about important cultural timepieces that helped make me the man that I am today...SO, I decided to throw a few photos together to try to show you who I am. I just started jotting down things that are important to me, and suddenly I'd thrown together approximately 50 images of songs, movies, TV shows, people, places, and things that mean something to me!

Again, I didn't include any personal photos of the wife, daughter, friends, or family because I didn't want to embarass them. If you're reading this, you can probably include yourself in that list. :-)

If any of these images don't make sense to you, feel free to ask me for the stories behind them!