November 18, 2002 · 2:30 AM PST ·
WHY IS THIS CHILD CRYING? Hey, you'd cry if your father had dressed you up for Halloween as the idiot
barbarian, Groo the Wanderer. Devout Groo fan Jason Nuttall claims that his daughter Rebecca insisted on this
costume, but I'm suspicious. She was born 9/11/2002 to Jason and spouse Melissa, who promptly nicknamed her "Li'l Groo." That means the
kid was around six weeks of age at Halloween — a bit too young to really know about the Groo comic book, though emotionally mature
enough to work on it. But don't fear for young Rebecca. She's young. She'll have years to outgrow this traumatic childhood
indignity. And if she doesn't, that's okay. She'll grow up like her dad and we can always use another reader. (Thanks,
WHAT HAPPENS when animators drink too much soy sauce? They produce masterpieces like this. (Shockwave required)
ONE OTHER THING about the end of Pee-wee's Playhouse. You may recall that, around the end of 1988, Ralph Nader went
on a Boston-based radio program to complain about a pay raise that Congress was about to vote itself. Somehow, the suggestion emerged that, in
the spirit of the Boston Tea Party, irate citizens should protest this action by mailing a tea bag to their representatives. The concept made
the rounds of talk radio programs and before long, Congresspeople were waist-high in orange pekoe. In February of 1989, Congress voted down
that increase, and the radio hosts crowed about their supposed power. (There was some question as to whether the bill would have been defeated
anyway, but The Great Teabag Protest went into the history books and has not been repeated. Matter of fact, I don't recall hearing a peep when
subsequent raises were adopted.)
Not long after l'affaire teabag, Paul Reubens had his much-joked-about arrest and word got around — erroneously —
that CBS had dropped his show because of it. A talk radio host in San Francisco decided this was a major injustice and launched a similar
protest. For this one, folks were urged to register their outrage by mailing CBS a pink bow-tie since (I guess) Pee-wee wore pink bow-ties.
When you think about it, this is a really dumb idea — several really dumb ideas, actually. Even if the show hadn't
already stopped production, even if Reubens had unfairly lost a series he wanted to continue...there have to be more shameful injustices in the
world. Plus, if you want to inundate the offending party with mail, you ought to pick something easy for the protesters to send...like, say, a
teabag. Almost everyone has a teabag around the house and they cost around six cents apiece. How many of you have a spare pink bow-tie
handy? How many of you, assuming you cared about Pee-wee's Playhouse, would go out and purchase one for a couple of bucks and mail it to
Anyway, I was over at CBS, visiting the Childrens Programming Department a few weeks after this particular crusade was announced.
Posted on one wall was an article about the radio host and the movement he had spawned. In the piece, he reported on the dozens of other radio
shows that had picked up the cause and urged viewers to mail their pink bow-ties to CBS, along with irate letters and threats to boycott the Columbia
Broadcasting System. The campaign had been, he said, a smashing success. An inside source had told him that the network was swimming in
angry mail and pink bow-ties.
And posted next to this in the CBS office were all six protest letters they'd received, along with the one pink bow-tie.
I WANT TO THANK all of you who've donated cash to this site as per the little tipping box below. I try to write a personal
"thank you" for each donation but I got way behind, and some of the ones I did send bounced back as "undeliverable." Anyway, the gratuities are
appreciated. Rest assured it's all going to buy really stupid crap on eBay.
November 17, 2002 · 2:00 AM PST ·
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS is reporting that actor Paul
Reubens — best known for the character Pee-wee Herman — is in legal trouble again, this time relating to a charge of possessing child
pornography. I have only the most casual acquaintance with the guy and know nothing about his sexual interests, past or present, that hasn't
been in the newspapers. Still, it struck me that his 1991 arrest (for indecent exposure) was a bit of a raw deal. Whipping it out in an
adult theater during a porn movie? I haven't been in one of those places in a couple of decades but I have a hunch that such behavior is not
unprecedented and that other patrons are not overly offended. The crime, alas, lent itself to so many jokes that it got more attention than it
In any case, I think his career history is getting a bum rap here. The AP story linked above contains the following line...
After Reubens' 1991 plea, his children's show was canceled and his star faded, but he has played supporting roles in the films
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Blow."
Not exactly accurate. Almost a year before the arrest, Reubens and CBS had mutually agreed the time had come to close down
Pee-wee's Playhouse. At the time of the incident in the theater, its last episode had already had several airings and Reubens had pretty
much abandoned the character, as was evident to anyone who saw the
mug shot. He had long hair and a beard, and had obviously not played the crewcut, clean-shaven Pee-wee in months. The "scandal"
caused advertisers to pull out of the last few scheduled reruns, so CBS dropped them. Instead of all the episodes of the final season having
the customary three reruns, a few had only two. Implying that the show was canceled because of the bust is therefore, at the very least,
misleading. (A friend of mine who has worked with him maintains that the failure of Reubens' second movie — Big Top Pee-wee
— did a lot more to kill off Mr. Herman and Paul's movie career than the arrest.)
Actually, in terms of employment, he hasn't done as badly as the above line would indicate, especially considering that he no longer
plays the character that made him a star. Beyond the jobs mentioned in the AP story, he also had nice parts in Batman Returns, Mystery
Men, a number of other movies and a recurring role on the TV show, Murphy Brown. For whatever it's worth, the industry buzz is that
Reubens is occupied with his own projects and has turned down a lot of offers.
But I guess it makes a better story to say that the kids' show host got busted, his show got axed and his career hit the skids.
This new arrest may actually make him unemployable but, considering what some other stars have gotten away with, I wouldn't bet on that.
November 16, 2002 · 4:30 PM PST ·
TWO GREAT NEWSPAPER STRIPS — Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon — were created, written and drawn
by the late Milton Caniff. Mr. Caniff had assistance with the drawing part of the job from men like Dick Rockwell and Ray Bailey...but one of
his most valuable aides never put pencil or pen to the illustration board. That was Wilhelmina "Willie" Tuck, who functioned for decades,
beginning in 1939, as his office manager, cook, messenger, and all-around protector. Sometimes called "The Sweetheart of Palm Springs" after
Caniff moved his home and office there — she was a splendid hostess for all who visited the great cartoonist.
Sad to report, she passed away November 11 at the age of 84. According to Shel Dorf, who worked as Caniff's last letterer, "She
was a key member of the Caniff operation, keeping him on deadline, getting his strips to the syndicate. She was crucial to all that and
well-loved by anyone who met her."
November 16, 2002 · 3:00 PM PST ·
THE INTREPID Heidi "Ace" McDonald — comic book editor and reporter, par excellence — is on top of the Stan
Lee lawsuit story. She's even managed to scrounge up and post an actual copy of Stan's complaint, which she's posted over here at Comicon's Pulse News section. Go there if
you want to get the latest.
November 16, 2002 · 2:30 AM PST ·
DID YOU CATCH Al Gore with David Letterman last night? Dave often strikes me as utterly bored with a guest. It's
like, "Okay, come on, tell the pre-planned anecdote, let me screw with you a little, then show the clip and get out." But with his
too-infrequent political guests, Letterman sparks to life and asks good, evocative questions. Meet the Press could interrogate one of
these guys for the full hour and not get as many timely, direct answers out of a politician as Dave can get in 15-20 minutes. Plus, he gives
them the opportunity (though not a lot of help) to be funny.
Gore was. I still think the least encouraging thing you can say about the Democratic Party right now is that he's the
front-runner...but with Dave, he was engaging and direct, and if he'd talked like that 30 months ago, all the screwy balloting in Florida couldn't
have kept this guy out of the Oval Office. He told the story about the newsfolks who misunderstood a speech of his and (as cited here) reported that he and his wife had opened a low-cost restaurant. Then he praised Bush for certain
post-9/11 actions but criticized many other actions in direct, responsible terms. I liked him a lot more on Letterman than I ever did on my
Why is this? Beats me. Almost without exception, I like these guys more after they've lost an election than when they're
out hustling for votes. Bob Dole seemed shifty and it was like he was mouthing G.O.P. talking points he didn't really believe. That was
before he went down in flames; after, he was candid and personable. Michael Dukakis turned into a human being in his post-defeat interviews and
Walter Mondale spoke with refreshing honesty about the whole demeaning election process. We never really saw those sides of them before
There was one moment in last night's interview when Gore seemed evasive, though any politician would have given the same answer.
Letterman asked if another White House run was in the offing and the former Veep said just what you'd expect him to say: That it's too early, that he
hasn't made up his mind, etc. (He also had a great line about how his family has already voted on the issue and he's recounting the
ballots.) Of course he'll run if he thinks he has a chance, and he probably does. Which means we've got about another year of Al Gore
being open and affable in interviews before he throws his hat in the ring and becomes guarded and stiff again.
November 15, 2002 · 6:00 PM PST ·
MUCH TO MY SURPRISE, the membership of the Writers Guild has voted to accept three of the four proposed changes to the credits
manual...and the margin of loss for #4 (the most controversial change) was much smaller than I think anyone expected. The complete vote totals
are available here. This will probably mean that the committee that
drafted these proposals — or some successor-in-interest to that committee — will begin drawing up some more. Most likely, they will
cautiously visit some of the more extreme suggestions that have been talked about but never formally proposed. These would include some sort of
acknowledgement, probably in the closing credits, of writers who participate in the rewriting of a screenplay but who don't qualify for the
traditional up-front credit.
In any case, the news here is that WGA members — who said an overwhelming no to the last vote on changing the credit rules
— now seem more open to the concept. That presumably will mean more changes, some of which could genuinely change the way the industry
works. Stay tuned.
November 15, 2002 · 4:15 PM PST ·
SEVERAL OF YOU have e-mailed me copies of this
column by William Safire which seeks to alert the world to the clear and present danger presented by the Bush Administration's snooping on the
citizenry. I've got to admit I've come to disbelieve anything Mr. Safire writes. This is the man who was dead certain that Hillary
Clinton (and maybe Bill, too) would be indicted in Whitewater, Filegate and Travelgate. This is also the man who claimed that our government
had proof of an "Iraqi connection" to 9/11 conspirator Mohammed Atta. Perhaps he's right this time, but I sure hope not.
I FLIPPED through a copy of the new Mad at the newsstand. The parody of The Onion was written by Scott
November 15, 2002 · 1:30 PM PST ·
SINCE ABOUT the second issue of Mad, people have been saying, "Remember when Mad used to be funny?"
Sometimes, that's just carping for the sake of carping. But sometimes, they're right that it has lost its sense o' humor for a while.
There have been weak periods. Still, even at its lowest ebb, I've always found it worth purchasing for Mort Drucker's caricatures, Frank
Jacobs's poems, Sergio Whatzisname's cartoons and one or two other class acts. The last few years, it's been on a decided upswing, and every
issue has a couple of pieces that are as humorous as anything they've ever run.
Want a free sample? My buddy Tom Galloway just called my attention to this parody of The Onion from the current issue.
Satirizing a satire is not easy but whoever wrote this pulled it off, I think. (The author's credit is presumably in the current issue, my
subscription copy of which has not arrived.)
The above has nothing to do with the fact that I have a new book called Mad Art that is due out in the next few weeks. But I
never miss an opening for a plug.
I MADE A HOWLER of a typo when I originally posted this morning's news item — one of those nasty ones that inverts the
meaning of what you meant to say. Fortunately, it was so outrageous that it was noticed by dozens of you who wrote to inform me. It's now
corrected, and I thank of you who e-mailed to be helpful or impugn my competence.
November 15, 2002 · 2:30 AM PST ·
IT'S FASCINATING to study the Internet chatter about the current lawsuits of Marvel's first editor (Joe Simon) and its second
(Stan Lee) against the company. Some fans are worried sick that one or both legal actions will harm their favorite comic book company, or that
Captain America will somehow be wrested out of the Marvel Universe. Still others are asking how Marvel could have been so "stupid" —
that's the usual word — to give Stan terms that, if honored in spirit, would yield such an avalanche of cash.
None of these opinions seem particularly on-target to me. What with corporate takeovers, in-fighting, and occasional gross
mismanagement, Marvel has survived major financial holocausts the last decade or so. This, after all, is the company that paid $286 million for
the Fleer trading card company, then paid $150 million for the Skybox trading card company, then sold the combined Fleer-Skybox operation for $26
million. Compared to that kind of fiduciary wizardry, Mssrs. Simon and Lee are pretty small threats. A likely outcome of the Simon matter
is that Joe will get money and Captain America will stay right where he is. The charge that Stan is greedy is even more unfounded.
I think some folks don't get that Marvel has been a major cash cow for various executive-types for a long time. People who have
had a lot less to do with its success than Stan — some of whom did darn near everything wrong except to negotiate good contracts for themselves
— have walked away with more loot than he will ever see. Those who think he's greedy are comparing him not to other execs but to guys
like Kirby and Ditko, who saw just about nothing from their brilliance. That fact still troubles me, and probably always will. But if
Stan doesn't fight for what his contract guarantees him, the money in question will not instead go to Ditko or the Kirby estate...or to anyone who
ever had anything to do with creating a comic book that I liked.
Ultimately, these battles are (sadly) not about who merits what for past creative efforts, but about the interpretation of clauses in
contracts and how a very large money pie will get divided. It is an unfortunate reality of business that you never get the compensation you
deserve just because you deserve it. If you get it, you get it because you made the right deal at the right time with the right language...and
sometimes because you filed a lawsuit at the right moment. It shouldn't work like that but it does.
Lastly, some folks have commented that, wherever he is, Jack Kirby must be laughing his ass off at these developments. No, I
don't believe so. I can't really explain why I think that, other than that Jack never smiled about much of anything that related to the topic
of Marvel Comics and money. He wouldn't be too thrilled with all those news articles that identify Stan as the sole creator of all those
POVonline GETS RESULTS! I am assured by a nice gent in the NBC Press Relations Department that they will correct
the credits on publicity for Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol. When I go, I want that mentioned in my obit.
THE PROBLEMS with this site apparently have nothing to do with Bill Clinton, and everything to do with a server problem at the
hosting company. If you're reading this, the crisis has probably been solved. But maybe not.
November 14, 2002 · 11:00 AM PST ·
NO, THERE WAS NOTHING wrong with your computer. This site has been intermittently off-line for the last twelve
hours. I'm not sure who to blame it on so I'll blame Bill Clinton. That always seems to work for some people.
November 14, 2002 · 2:30 AM PST ·
HERE IN ITS entirety is a current NBC press release...
"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" returns to NBC in the fall of 2002 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the program's first airing
on the network in 1962. "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" was the first ever made-for-primetime animated television special and is credited for
starting the genre. Making its network debut on December 18, 1962, the 60-minute special aired for six consecutive years on NBC. The holiday classic
is a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and features original songs by Broadway greats Jule Stein and Bob Merrill (Funny
Girl), as well as the voice talents of Jim Backus (Gilligan's Island), Morey Amsterdam (The Dick Van Dyke Show), Jack Cassidy and June Foray (The
Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle).
This is all nice to hear...but the composer's name was Jule Styne, not Stein. And June Foray was not in the show at all.
She's not in the credits and her voice isn't present in the soundtrack, and I phoned her last night and double-checked, just to make certain.
It ain't her. For some reason though, her name keeps turning up in articles and database entries about the special.
While I've got you here: There's an audio outtake that is sometimes circulated on the Internet, plus it turns up on some of those
"Celebrities At Their Worst" CDs. It purports to be Don Messick and June Foray ad-libbing dirty dialogue at a recording session...and it
isn't. I mean, it is two cartoon voice actors screwing around in a studio, but it's not Don and June. The man in the recording is
the late Bob Ridgely. Ridgely was an on-camera actor (he was the executioner in Blazing Saddles, the flasher in High Anxiety, the
game show host in Melvin and Howard, the bigoted businessman in Philadelphia, and the TV announcer in That Thing You Do, to name
five of his many credits.) He was also a TV promo announcer, a cartoon voice actor (Thundarr the Barbarian, Tarzan, Flash Gordon) and
one of the filthiest, funniest people I ever knew.
That's definitely him in that audio clip, not Messick. I think I know who the woman is but I'm not 100% certain so I won't
mention a name. It is, however, absolutely not June. If anyone tells you it is, tell them they're wrong. Let's see if we can
unattach her name from this.
November 13, 2002 · 11:30 AM PST ·
BOOKSTORES all over seem to be closing their physical doors and opening virtual ones. The science-fiction emporium
Dangerous Visions in Sherman Oaks has recently gone that route and will henceforth sell only online. The trend is a shame, though I have to
admit my contribution to it. I used to go to bookshops incessantly and now I seem to visit them only when I'm near one with time to kill.
Otherwise, I do my browsing at Amazon like so many of you.
The last physical event of the Dangerous Visions store is, appropriately enough, a signing by Harlan Ellison of the new, 30th
anniversary edition of his landmark s-f anthology, Dangerous Visions. If you'd like to obtain a copy of same, the autographing is at a
photography studio next to the old, now-shuttered bookstore on Saturday, November 23. Or you can order one or more copies via the Internet
(though only if you do so in advance) at the Dangerous Visions website, which is at
www.readsf.com. Henceforth, that's where they'll be doing all their business.
You can also, of course, order this important book at Amazon.Com...and if you do so by clicking on our links here, this
site receives a teensy cut of what you spend there. But buy Dangerous Visions from Dangerous Visions, instead. You'll get it
autographed that way and, more important, you'll support a worthy business. Art Cover and Lydia Marano are the folks behind the store and they
are well-deserving of your bucks.
November 13, 2002 · 11:00 AM PST ·
SOME ARTICLES. The New York Times has an obituary up for
Hilary Bader. The comics news site Newsarama has a good legal analysis, almost in layman's terms, of the status
of Joe Simon's suit with Marvel. And a news site in San Diego has a very sad piece about the dissolution of Forrest Ackerman's collection
of sci-fi memorabilia.
The last of these is called to my attention by Loston Wallace, a fine illustrator who works for DC Comics and various makers of
role-playing games. You can get a peek at his work over at
November 13, 2002 · 3:30 AM PST ·
SO, STAN LEE — the man who invented the No-Prize — is complaining about the No-Profit. As I said before, I
hope Stan gets every last dime they owe him.
In the meantime: Year before last, the legendary Smilin' One was involved in one of those Internet companies that did a swan-dive into
economic oblivion. As its stock went South, so did its business head, who departed for Brazil. There, he is reportedly still in prison,
negotiating his extradition to the U.S.
Before Stan Lee Media crashed and burned, it produced an array of "webisodes" — short cartoons done in Flash animation, viewable
on your home computer and featuring new Stan Lee creations, including "The 7th Portal" and "The Accuser." An array of fine writers and artists
worked on them and so, briefly, did I. From what I can tell, no one — including Stan — was entirely satisfied with the
product. Too many cooks and all that, plus the short webisode format seemed quite confining to Stan's ideas. So I'm not recommending the
shorts but I am informing you that they're available again for download on the 'net. At this website, you can view them online or save them to your hard disk. Either
way, your computer will need some form of Shockwave Flash, while you'll need a certain tolerance of continued stories that were never completed...and
probably never will be.
November 12, 2002 · 12:30 PM PST ·
THIS JUST IN: Stan Lee files lawsuit against Marvel Comics. Here are the details. I still think this will get settled out-o'-court, but it does suggest
that relationships between Stan and Marvel are even worse than anyone thought.
POVonline READER Michael Kilgore writes, with regard to an earlier item here...
It's easy to pick on the old Perry Mason episodes, especially for the witness-stand breakdowns that occurred much too often
on TV and never in Gardner's books. But Perry's practice of trying the case in the preliminary hearings was common in the original books as
well. The books had more time to let other characters note how unusual that was, but there it was.
(They were also a bit dated. One book ends with Perry telling Della that he'd marry her, except that then she'd have to quit
being his secretary.)
Maybe these shows are an example of the quality the studios can achieve when the author acquires ultimate power over the production.
(See also: Harry Potter) The show cast long-time heavy Burr as the hero at Gardner's insistence, and Burr is a dead ringer for the descriptions
in the books.
Mr. Gardner made a good choice. Raymond Burr is terrific...though I recall a neighbor lady, back when I was a kid, who had an
alternate view. She was a big believer in the philosophy that people were whatever they played on the screen; not that a guy who portrayed a
murderer was really a murderer but that he had to have some murder in his heart to play one. Mr. Burr, she was positive, was as reprehensible a
human being as he'd been in most of his earlier screen roles, and she was quite vocal about this. I think she watched each week with great
certainty that Perry Mason had to be the murderer. She didn't live to see him play Ironside but I'm sure she'd have been among those who asked
how Raymond Burr lost the use of his legs.
But of course, you're right. They should listen to the author more often, and it's often not a matter of differing judgment but
of politics that they don't. I once worked with a producer who said, "If they did everything the writer said, they wouldn't need me."
November 12, 2002 · 2:30 AM PST ·
WANT TO KNOW more about the court decision that Joe Simon won, allowing his copyright claim to go forward on Captain
America? Click here.
November 12, 2002 · 1:00 AM PST ·
AMONG HIS MANY running, self-deprecating gags — his stinginess, his age, his alleged hairpiece, his vanity, his violin
playing, etc. — Jack Benny had his movie career. It really wasn't unsuccessful, what with the classic To Be Or Not To Be and
others that weren't as great but were entirely watchable. Still, he did jokes about making a swarm of bad movies until The Horn Blows at
Midnight was so bad, no one ever wanted to let him in front of a camera again. This is not true, as you can see for yourself. Turner
Classic Movies is running The Horn Blows at Midnight the morning of November 15.
WE WERE TALKING here recently about John Cleese and his assistant, the Pantomime Goose named Kim "Howard" Johnson. The
other day, DC Comics announced that a forthcoming project in their "Elseworlds" series will be a Superman story called True Brit, created by
Mr. Cleese and Mr. Howard. The "Elseworld" line contains tales of the DC characters in alternate realities, and this one is about what might
have happened if Superman's spaceship had landed in Great Britain instead of the U.S. of A. Sounds like fun.
DC ALSO ANNOUNCED a two-volume Archives set reprinting the issues of Challengers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby. An
excellent comic, well worth collecting in hardcovers.
THIS IS PRETTY SILLY. The cable/satellite channel Bravo is running The Larry Sanders Show in its laundered
version. Some language is edited or replaced via alternate takes. But if you go to the Bravo website each week, you can watch a clip with the "f" word intact. Isn't this just admitting to
their own timidity?
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