November 10, 2002 · 1:00 AM PST ·
WE TOLD YOU a few weeks ago about a great website devoted to the life of Hans Conried, one of our favorite
actors. (He is seen above in make-up for his recurring role as Uncle
Tonoose on The Danny Thomas Show.) Now, sight unseen, we're going to recommend a book — Hans Conried: A Biography; with a Filmography and a Listing of Radio,
Television, Stage, and Voice Work. Its author, Suzanne Gargiulo, must
be the world's foremost authority on the man who played Snidely Whiplash,
Disney's Captain Hook, the master of The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, etc. I have just ordered a copy
at Amazon.Com and you can do likewise by clicking here.
Then, after you get it, visit Suzanne's site where she posts additions and corrections. Suzanne's past research work on this delightful thespian has
been so thorough and perceptive, we've got to have a copy.
ARE YOU A COMIC RETAILER? If not, you can skip the rest of this item. If you are, go read Peter David's current column for Comics Buyer's Guide. Not long ago, comic
book editor-reporter Heidi MacDonald, wrote in CBG that "most retailers" did not support Marvel's current policy of not overprinting their
comics — a common practice elsewhere (and previously, at Marvel) which allows stores to reorder. The head honchos at that company took
great umbrage at Heidi's statement and insist she's wrong and that retailers adore it. Peter is now conducting a survey to determine if they're
right or she's right.
I have no horse in this race. I don't talk to many retailers and don't know enough about retailing to know if I support (or even
understand) Marvel's policy. But I know I support Heidi and Peter, so go participate in the vote. And I'll bet you the David Survey will
be twice as accurate as any Zogby Poll, and a lot more meaningful.
I SAID EARLIER that I didn't know Hillary Bader too well. Presumably if I had, I would have known that she spelled her
first name Hilary — with one L. Much of the Internet seems to have it wrong, too...but I should have known better than to trust the
oft-errant forces of Cyberspace. My apologies. It's Hilary Bader, not Hillary. But I wasn't wrong about it being a tragic loss.
November 9, 2002 · 2:30 AM PST ·
I DON'T THINK I have to mention this but some of the best comics being produced today — at least of the super-hero or
adventure variety — aren't produced today. They're the Archive Editions that DC is bringing out to reprint its old comics in fancy
hardcover keeper volumes. Yes, they're a little pricey. Yes, some of the reproduction sometimes shows a bit too much retouching.
Yes, I sometimes write the forewords.
But they're still great to have — every one of them — and they're developing a following of fans who don't just collect
them. They lobby DC as to what the next ones should contain. Spearheading this is a fellow named David Stepp whose website sports a list of all the Archives to date, plus news of what's
upcoming. He also runs periodic online surveys (one recently concluded) as to what DC should next bring forth, and they seem to have had some
influence in those decisions. Whoever said fans can't make an impact?
A FINE WRITER named Hillary Bader passed away yesterday after losing her battle with ovarian cancer. I am not certain of
her age — mid-forties, perhaps? — other than she went way too soon. Her credits included the Batman Beyond and
Superman animated programs, comic books based on those shows, various recent incarnations of Star Trek on TV and in bookstores, and the TV
series, Xena: Warrior Princess. I didn't know Hillary well but the few times we chatted, she seemed passionate about her work and
dedicated to achieving even bigger and better things. I'm sure she would have achieved them and am sorry to lose her and her wonderful
November 8, 2002 · 2:00 PM PST ·
SPEAKING OF COURTROOMS: The Hallmark Channel has started filling many hours each day with old episodes of Perry Mason
starring Raymond Burr as the world's greatest attorney. The shows stand up well, thanks to strong performances and a nice parade of guest
actors...though, like many older programs, it's jarring to see how cheap they now appear. Most corners were cut, even to the extent of having
Mr. Mason argue most of his cases (and win) in preliminary hearings, where there's only a judge. That way, the producers didn't have to spring
for twelve extras to fill a jury box. In many episodes, the most interesting (and therefore, costly to film) story elements occur off-screen
and get described by someone. Still, like I said, they hold up, largely due to Mr. Burr.
You might want to set your VCR or TiVo, grab a few and see if you like them. And you can find out absolutely everything you want
to know about the series at this website, which is an online version of the
definitive volume on the topic, The Perry Mason TV Show Book by Brian Kelleher and Diana Merrill. (The Hallmark Channel, by the way,
seems to be airing the shows in sequence. They're currently about halfway through the first season.)
JUST TO CLARIFY: My language seems to have confused a few folks. Sergio and I are attending Mid-Ohio Con. And
Joe Simon has not won ownership of Captain America. He has won the right to take his case to the next step.
November 7, 2002 · 7:00 PM PST ·
NOT A GOOD DAY FOR MARVEL: Some time ago, Joe Simon lost the first round of his lawsuit to reclaim ownership of Captain
America. Today, even as Stan Lee was musing to the press that he might sue Marvel, the decision against Simon was reversed. If you want
to read the actual decision, you can download a PDF file of it here.
Basically, Simon was acting under the recent revisions to the copyright laws
(fomented in large part by the late Sonny Bono) that give the creator of the
work the right to reclaim a copyright at the point where it would originally
Marvel had argued three points against Simon's claim. The
first judge threw out two of them but found against Simon on the third. An
appellate court has now unanimously reversed the third point, so Joe's case can
proceed and Marvel will have to come up with new arguments and/or refight the three on which they lost. Or maybe they'll just offer
Joe a huge sum of cash. Or both.
Actually, no one knows precisely what this means in terms of the final disposition of the character and I'd be the last to claim I
do. But I can tell you that there have already been several other suits of this nature filed — some quietly settled, others
ongoing. And I can say with some certainty that if Joe prevails, and probably even if he doesn't, there will be a lot more. In the
sixties, The Avengers found Captain America frozen inside a massive iceberg. Joe Simon's suit is just the tip of another, even larger one.
November 7, 2002 · 5:00 PM PST ·
IN A PROBABLY-FUTILE attempt to save myself some e-mail answering time, let me answer some questions here about the
supposedly-threatened Stan Lee lawsuit against Marvel which may never be filed and, if it is, will probably never go to trial. This is, from
what I can tell, not an argument over who "deserves" what in the sense of whose contributions warrant the greatest compensation. It's a
contract dispute: Stan is saying his contract says he's entitled to X dollars and that Marvel hasn't given him those X dollars. Marvel says
they've given him whatever he's supposed to receive.
The real arguable part seems to come if, as stated, he's entitled to a percentage of profits. That would mean this is probably
all about what some call "Hollywood Accounting." This is when the studio makes a movie, grosses twenty times its cost but arranges the
bookkeeping such that every conceivable expense of operating the studio is considered an expense of the production in question...ergo, no profits for
the profit-participants. This happens often. Until a few years ago, I believe Paramount was claiming that the entire Star Trek
franchise had never shown a profit. Eddie Murphy famously dubbed profit share as "monkey points" because, said he, no matter how much the film
took in, the studio would always find a way to argue on paper that it was still in the red. This is why stars like Murphy get their cuts from
gross (all cash received) instead of net (all cash received minus expenses). I once did a project where the definition of the profits in which
I was to share was so unfavorable, it could have been replaced by the phrase, "There aren't any." If the show had become a monster hit and
taken in $100 million over its cost, the studio could have just paid itself a $100 million consulting or facilities fee and said, "Sorry, Mark.
Still not in the profit column."
Huge lawsuits are threatened every day in Hollywood over "Definitions of Profits" — contract riders that lay down the rules for
what the studio can and cannot deduct as an expense of the production. Sometimes, the suits are settled out of court because the studio finds
an excuse to pay the claimant some cash in exchange for dropping all actions. Frequently, the studio stonewalls and the participant in the
theoretical profits gives up and goes away. Only rarely do these cases get before a judge and, even then, they're usually settled before a
verdict. One of these scenarios will presumably occur with Stan's threat...though, knowing Stan, it will also involve an outer space invasion,
a couple of gods and at least one tragically-misunderstood hero. I do hope he gets every nickel to which he's entitled, if only so he can pick
up the check next time we have lunch.
November 7, 2002 · 11:30 AM PST ·
SERGIO AND I will not be traveling to Mid-Ohio Con (see previous item) via National Airlines, partly because they've never flown
to Columbus, Ohio and partly because they went out of business yesterday. This is sad news, and not just on account of I'm stuck with a mess of
frequent flyer miles from a defunct air carrier. No, the reason I have all those useless points is that I really liked National...as much as
you can like an airline company...which, admittedly, is not all that much. But any time I went to Vegas or New York on my own dime, I tried to
fly National if the schedule even remotely worked. The flights I flew were always on-time, the employees all did everything you'd expect
airline personnel to do, and their section of the terminal in Vegas (their hub) was the most comfortable airport in which I've ever done time.
Whenever I was coming home from L.V., I actually used to go to the airport early because I could set up my laptop on a table in the food court, sit
there and work in pleasant surroundings. (Much of Fanboy was written in the National Airlines area of
McCarren Airport...a fact I hope did not contribute to this bankruptcy.)
I suppose it's silly to "miss" an airline and I'm sure that, had I flown National more often, I would have had at least one of those
nightmarish, "I'm never flying with them again" experiences. I'm talking about the kind of trips that kept me off Southwest for years —
until the day that was the only airline that could get me where I had to go. Of course, they were fine then, which is good because it looks
like that's how I'm getting to Las Vegas in the future. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry National is no more. It's always
depressing when someone can do at least part of the job well and not turn a profit.
November 7, 2002 · 10:30 AM PST ·
IF YOU CONSULT YOUR VOLUMINOUS NOTES, you'll recall that my colleague Sergio Aragonés and I are among the guests at the
fun and fabulous Mid-Ohio Con, November 30 and December 1. You can get details by clicking
here and (this part's the news flash) you can see a schedule of panels, including the three I'm on, by clicking here. There's one with Sergio and me, one where I interview animation writer-producer Alan
Burnett, and one where I ruthlessly interrogate EC editor-writer and Mad's head honcho, Al Feldstein.
SPEAKING OF NEWS FLASHES, the Dow Jones news ticker is reporting today that Stan Lee is threatening to sue Marvel Comics in a
breach-of-contract type suit. One suspects this is a threat that will never see the inside of a courtroom but it makes for colorful news.
Here's the story.
November 7, 2002 · 3:00 AM PST ·
IF YOU WERE TO poll everyone who ever drew comics as to who among their ranks was the most admired, I'd bet anything that Alex
Toth would finish up there in the Top Five, maybe the Top Three. His work in comic books has been unfortunately sporadic. He spent much
of the sixties and seventies working in animation where he practically invented the visual style of the low-budget adventure cartoon on shows like
Space Ghost. The Herculoids and The Mighty Mightor. He hasn't done much in either venue for the last decade or so, but you can
sure find a lot of artists in both who learned from and still attempt to ape Alex. There are several books in print that offer his comics and
many of the model sheets he's drawn for animation. They're all highly recommended and, if you won't take my recommendation, ask anyone who
works in either field.
Someone (I'm not sure who) has set up a website that presents and discusses Alex's work. Many of the discussions come from Alex
himself, who contributes hand-lettered essays and annotations, thereby conferring "official" status on the enterprise. Here's the link.
November 6, 2002 · 7:30 PM PST ·
SOME OF YOU have been asking if there's a site where you can see a well-known M.C. Escher drawing re-created using Lego
blocks. Well, yes, there is. (Thank you, Buzz
November 6, 2002 · 12:00 AM PST ·
I JUST REREAD what I posted an hour ago and decided I could have said it better and shorter and clearer. So I will now
I think very few of the names that were on ballots today — Democrats or Republicans — deserved to win. I think
they're a lot of crooks and cowards and do-nothings and they're at the worst when they win big and think they're unanswerable. I honestly think
I'd feel the same way if the Democrats controlled as much of government as the Republicans now seem to control.
I do not believe the Republicans won because America really wants the agenda of John Ashcroft and Trent Lott and, at least on the
domestic side, that of Bush and Cheney. Nor does America want all of whatever the Democrats have to offer, assuming they ever figure out what
it is. What America wants is something much closer to the middle than what the Republicans will now argue they have a mandate to enact.
So my problem is not that the Republicans won big but that somebody did.
There. Now, you don't have to read the previous post. Good night.
November 5, 2002 · 11:00 PM PST ·
AS I WRITE THIS, it looks like a gala evening for the G.O.P. and a bad one for the Democrats. I'm disappointed for a few
reasons. One is that, as my estimation of all public officials in both parties plunges, I've come to like the notion of divided
government. I think most elected officials are pretty awful in both ethics and in performance of their duties...and I think they're at their
lowest when they think they're all-powerful. Another reason is that I believe Bush, Cheney and many of their buddies should be investigated at
least as thoroughly as Whitewater and Clinton's genitalia were investigated and that will never happen with Republicans in control.
And I guess I'm disappointed in a few races that misrepresenting your opponent and the issues seems to work as well as it ever
did. That was my biggest beef with the first President Bush. I wasn't bothered when someone voted for him because they thought he was the
best man. I was disappointed in my country when they voted for him because they thought Michael Dukakis was going to let all the murderers out
of prison or that our democracy was somehow threatened by flag-burning.
Right this minute, the Minnesota Senate race is still uncalled, but Mondale's running back and the guys on CNN are saying it's because
voters were upset that the memorial service for Paul Wellstone was too partisan. If voters went for Mr. Coleman because they thought he'd
better serve their state, fine. I don't know enough about him to say he would or wouldn't. But to vote for him for any other reason is,
I'm sorry, stupid. He did not become more competent, nor did Mondale become less so, just because of how a memorial service was run. (And
I think Republicans, grasping for a quick issue to use against Mondale, did a good job of selling that event as much more partisan than it actually
Lastly, I guess I'm disappointed for the same reason I'm usually disappointed in elections, no matter how they turn out. It's
that we can't rise beyond the notion that winning is all that matters; that everything the other side does is to be condemned and spun and even lied
about, if necessary, while the sins of your side are denied or ignored. I think both political parties in this country have behaved abominably
and broken laws and taken money they shouldn't have taken. And I don't think I have any respect left for people who only want to talk about the
crimes and shoddy ethics of the other side. Only when absolutely pressed to the wall will Republicans do anything about Republican wrongdoing
or will Democrats condemn Democratic shenanigans. If you win, you get away with it all.
If the Republicans control the Senate after tonight, it won't matter that much to me except in the ways just stated. First of
all, after Florida, it's now Standard Operating Procedure to re-fight some votes with court action and charges of fraud, and to talk of
party-switching, so it may get undone. Even if it isn't undone, the pendulum eventually swings back and unexpected things happen even before it
does. Maybe Bush will be a bit less eager to go to war with Iraq now that he has to start thinking about 2004. Maybe Democrats will get
their act together and find some better candidates than what they've offered us in the past. I had to vote for Gray Davis today and, believe
me, it didn't feel good.
I think I understand why people vote Libertarian or Green or for some other party that hasn't a chance in hell of electing
anyone. I can't believe that too many people, Democrats or Republicans, felt that wonderful about the votes they cast today. Unless, of
course, all they cared about was winning.
TURNING TO MORE IMPORTANT MATTERS: I've lately been watching old episodes of Hawaii Five-O starring Jack Lord as the
unflappable Steve McGarrett. They inspired a new entry in the section we call
NOTES from me. Click on
the underlined words to go read it.
Also: If you're really interested in Hawaii Five-O, here's a link to a
website that will tell you everything you could possibly want to know about it.
BEGINNING SUNDAY, TV Land is airing one of its Inside TV Land specials that may interest you. It focuses on "TV's
Top 40 TV Themes and features interviews with composers, performers and historians. One of the gents in the latter category is Earl Kress, a
friend of this website (and its proprietor) who discusses Hanna-Barbera music. Earl, by the way, produced several fine Rhino-brand CDs of such
material, and we have him to thank for finding many of the masters in the vast, sloppily-catalogued H-B archives.
November 4, 2002 · 5:00 PM PST ·
A DEAR MAN named Jonathan Harris has passed away just shy of his 88th birthday. I call him a "dear man" because he always
called me (and every male he met), "dear boy" and because he was an enormously charming gentleman. He was everything you'd want an aging
character actor to be — theatrical in gesture and melodramatic in every emotion. He had about ten wonderful show business anecdotes and
when I directed a show he was in, I heard each one about six times, sometimes twice in one day. Each was a fully-realized performance, worth
enjoying again and again and again...especially the one where he told about stealing his manner of speaking from Tallulah Bankhead.
Jonathan was best known for his years as permanent "Special Guest Star" on the TV show, Lost in Space, where he played the
villainous-but-whiny Dr. Smith. Cringing from outer space aliens or swapping banter with robots, he always had that "star" quality: You
couldn't take your eyes off him. Before and immediately after that series, he did dozens of guest star roles on television and whenever possible,
returned to his first love, which was the stage. He told me that, back then, he loved everything about acting except the inevitable fans who
confused him with Ray Walston. He would rant — hilariously — about the well-meaning idiots who thought he was the star of My
Favorite Martian. (The mistake was due to more than physical resemblance or the outer space motif of their respective shows. Jonathan
often toured in Damn Yankees, playing the role originated by Mr. Walston.)
Around 1970, Jonathan began to find a few more things he disliked about on-camera performing — the endless auditions, the
childish (to him) casting agents, etc. — but he still loved acting too much to abandon it. He turned almost exclusively to voiceover work
and did quite well in it...though, in a fit of irony, one of his first animation roles was a character based on Ray Walston in the My Favorite
Martians cartoon show. Everyone loved working with him, though it was difficult to not go home talking like Jonathan...or maybe
Tallulah. He was truly infectious in only the best way, and he proved conclusively the show biz adage that the most glorious villains are
played by the nicest people.
HERE'S A MORE FORMAL recommendation of the new issue of Comic Book Artist, which spotlights Gold Key Comics. It's
chock-full of info and interviews (including one with moi) about one of the most successful and ignored-by-fandom comic book companies of all
time. Western Publishing was an amazing operation that sold a staggering number of funnybooks in its day. At one point, the books they
considered unsuccessful were outselling the books that other companies considered successful and some of those were pretty good comics.
CBA editor Jon Cooke has gathered loads of valuable info about the company and some of the people behind its glorious history.
As Jerry Beck notes over at Cartoon Research, a number of
great comic artists like Pete Alvarado are barely mentioned. This is because the story of Gold Key Comics is too vast to be covered in one
magazine, even as packed as this one is with info. There is much more to be said, especially about the funny animal comics...and I hope we'll
see a sequel in the not-too-distant future.
November 4, 2002 · 9:30 AM PST ·
AND IT LOOKS like Jesse Ventura ain't all that smart, after all.
November 4, 2002 · 9:00 AM PST ·
THE GRAPH ABOVE is all about you. It shows which browser software you folks used to connect to this site last week.
Around 84% of you use Microsoft Internet Explorer...mostly versions 5 and 6, though about 5% of you are still back in the Mesozoic Era with version
4. (Upgrading that would not be a bad idea. You're already not seeing a lot of websites with the formatting that their designers
I posted this because we're hearing a lot these days about the monopoly that Microsoft has in certain areas, particularly about how
they've all but forced their browser on the public. I assumed they had the lion's share of the market but even I was surprised by how large
that red section of pie is. It's significant because Opera is a faster program and Netscape offers a lot more features. The advantage of
Internet Explorer is in its availability and compatibility with other Microsoft products. I use it because it interfaces so easily with
Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Front Page, etc. They're not leading the market because they're the best. They're leading
because they're the biggest.
EXCELLENT ARTICLE by composer Cy Coleman remembering his collaborator, Adolph Green. Go read it.
AND go read the transcript of Jon Stewart's
appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources. Mr. Stewart thinks CNN has failed us, and does not hesitate to use their air-time to say
why. He's also pretty funny about it.
I HAVE NO FIRM predictions for tomorrow's elections. I know something utterly unexpected is going to happen, especially in
Florida. I know that a number of pollsters are going to have to explain why they missed by as much as they did. I know that a real
unpopular guy is going to win the gubernatorial race in California. And I know that we're in for at least a couple of "post-election elections"
with court challenges to the votes, plus attempts to get senators or congresspeople to switch parties. But beyond that, I don't have a clue,
and neither does anyone else.
is available at any comic book shop with a lick of sense. This scintillating collection of Evanier's POV columns features amusing
pictures by Sergio Aragonés and bizarre articles about the history of comics and the world of comic book fandom. If your store is
senseless, you can order a copy over at the website for TwoMorrows Publishing or
from Amazon.Com. You'll be glad you
did...or, at the very least, I will be.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME