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Batty Batom Bullpen – Neal Adams

posted on July 8, 2017

What can I say about Neal Adams that hasn’t already been said? I can say he did the Jupiter Moon cover for Batom Comics, that’s what! It’s the latest cover revealed in the gallery section on this site and it’s a gem. A battle between Jupiter Moon and Queen Morphine inside a Wally Wood inspired spaceship interior. Neal even acknowledges his homage to Wally with a “Thanx Woody” next to his signature.

 

I first became aware of Neal when he was creating the Ben Casey newspaper strip. In fact, I own a Ben Casey Sunday page which Neal asked me to make a copy of for an in-the-works Ben Casey collection. Sounds like Neal didn’t hang onto all of his release sheets, a problem I can empathize with as I’ve been putting together the volumes for the Complete Funky Winkerbean. If the Casey book comes out, I’ll stand in line to buy the first copy.

If you haven’t seen the Jupiter Moon cover, you owe it to yourself to scoot on over to the Gallery section and check it out. And the best part is that the Jupiter Moon cover, along with all of the others will be joining the battle against cancer when it’s auctioned off for the benefit of the Lisa’s Legacy Fund for Cancer Research and Education in November. Thanks, Neal.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #71 June 1967

posted on July 7, 2017

June 1967. Yes, fellow, Flashionados, the summer of love has finally arrived. Now I realize that the dating of comic books back in the day was usually a bit ahead of the pub date displayed on the cover, but that’s merely a technicality. I’m sure this book was sitting on the desk in my room when the big summer of love bang exploded, which, by the way, happened at the stroke of midnight on June 1st. How do I know that with such exquisite precision? Because June 1st was the day that the Beatles magnum opus Sgt. Pepper went on sale. A mere two weeks later, the Monterey Pop Festival took place and the confluence of these two events changed everything. Pepper was on the radio everywhere and the seismic changes that were about to take place in the world suddenly had a soundtrack. If I may, allow me to drive the point home with a brief digression about my personal intersection with Pepper. It was finals week at Kent and one particular final in my philosophy class just happened to land on the morning of June 1st. The final exam in the class was at 10:00… which was also the same time that the record store in downtown Kent opened. And inside that store the very first copies of Sgt. Pepper would be for sale. So I found myself faced with an immoral dilemma (when someone else is paying for your college education, trust me, it’s an immoral dilemma even if I did pay some of it back down the road). Do I go to my philosophy final and drive the final nail into a course that was going rather sadly for me educationally speaking, or, do I listen to what my heart, head and every fiber in my being was telling me to do and go get that copy of Pepper. I was a walking cultural war. On the one hand was the accumulated wisdom of generations of deep philosophical thinkers, and on the other hand was my thinking. I made a call and chose popular culture over established culture and never looked back. So instead of kicking back with Kant and Kierkegaard, I was in my dorm room rockin’ with Rita and Rigby. It would have been an even braver decision if, when the incomplete showed up on my grade report, I hadn’t called up the philosophy department and lied about being at the exam. They were very nice and allowed me to return after a couple of weeks to “retake” the exam. I used those two weeks to actually read the textbook (while listening to Sgt.Pepper of course) which turned out to enhance my understanding of philosophy considerably. Happy ending. I went back and this time aced the exam. Talk about having your cultural cake and eating it too.

Sometime, while all of this transpired, The Flash #171 showed-up and turned in a well above average Flash tale featuring Dr. Light (who should have been featured on the cover). Digression number two: Dr. Light, even with a uniform that was slightly retro even then, was a classic character-you-like-to-hate Silver Age villain. The fate that awaits him in the future at the hands of modern writers is truly disgusting. But, that’s not the purview with which this blog has been charged. Anyway, the tale was a classic romp between the Flash and Dr. Light and even brought in Dexter Miles the curator of the Flash Museum for a killer splash page showing him shooting the Flash (it was really Dr. Light in disguise). The story even includes some flashback sequences showing Dr. Light battling the Justice League in JLA #12, the Atom in Atom #8, and Green Lantern #33 (with Carmine turning in a very credible Gil Kane GL pose). A classic Silver Age story very well done. Nowhere in site, however, do the middle-aged men who created this gem make any reference to the cultural maelstrom unfolding outside their office windows on Earth Prime. I frankly doubt they were listening to Sgt. Pepper’s call to arms.

Match to Flame – 46

posted on July 5, 2017

My next attempt at a strip was a little less starry-eyed but still born out of a sense of fun rather than deft calculation. I had only been working on Funky for about three months when I was visited by an aspiring cartoonist named Bob Vojtko, wanting me to evaluate his work. He had a crisp, clean, and inviting look to his cartoons that belied his short time on the planet. I think he may have still been in high school at the time, but he clearly had some decent cartooning chops. I should have tried to discourage him and urge him to take up truck driving (insecure cartoonists, remember?), but instead I shared with him all of my insight gleaned from my total of ninety days or so on the job. Over the next couple of years, Bob would come by from time to time to show me the latest stuff he was working on. On one particular occasion, as I leafed through his latest batch of cartoons, I saw something that piqued my interest. Now memory can be kind of selective so I’m hesitant to say how much was already there and how much I later brought to it, but what intrigued me was a drawing of a little rabbit wearing big round tortoiseshell glasses. That was what started the wheels turning a little bit. I was amused by the premise of a shy little geeky rabbit who couldn’t get a date. So I asked Bob if he would mind if I took a whack at working something up around that character. Bob said fine, so I began assembling a cast of characters for a strip set in a national park that I initially called Woodsite. I worked on it intermittently for several months until I had the cast I wanted. It started with Norman the rabbit, who had to read books on how to pick up girls. He was followed by Ranger Woodsite, a forest ranger who was forever getting lost in the woods; a mountain goat who was afraid of heights; Warden Jordan, whose allergies kept him indoors; and even a fly who envied and resented the great reputation that bees had. The final piece to go in place was a somewhat disreputable bear named Rusty who lived for the big mixer/kegger that annually kicked off mating season. It wasn’t anything earthshaking, but it was kind of cute. At least it amused me, and it amused Bob. So we took some of the best stuff and he began working it up into a strip. Within a short while we had enough samples to send off to the syndicate of the strip that we were now calling Rusty.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Three