Friday, August 31, 2007

Candle in the wind

Ten years ago today, the world lost one of its real-life heroines: Diana, Princess of Wales.

I remember vividly the moment I heard the news. The girls and I had gone to see the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. We were playing a tape in the car as we drove home, so we didn't have the radio on. Just as we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge, the tape ended, and I switched on KCBS, the local news radio station. For the first few moments, we didn't know whose death was being reported. Then, Diana's name was mentioned, and reality sank in.

Princess Diana and I were the same age — she was a only few months (July to December) older than I. In a way, I think, her mortality serves as a continual reminder of my own. To a very real degree, we are all "candles in the wind."

In tribute to "The People's Princess," I offer a few thoughtfully chosen selections from my gallery featuring the comics' Princess Diana of Themyscira, better known to the world as Wonder Woman. Comic Art Friday regulars will have seen most of these artworks before, but all deserve another look.

A pencil and ink sketch by Amazing Spider-Man artist Ron Garney:

Diana in a pensive pinup, by Silver Age veteran Dan Adkins:

Diana in patriotic mode, rendered by longtime Green Lantern artist Darryl Banks:

Diana in battle against a fearsome foe — a scenario conceived and penciled by Brazilian legend Al Rio, and embellished in ink by Suicide Squad artist Geof Isherwood:

Diana leading an airborne assault — pencils by rising star Michael Jason Paz, with inks again contributed by the great Geof Isherwood:

Diana standing strong in a classic pose, as portrayed by Wellington "The Well" Diaz:

Diana aloft, wielding her golden lasso — Geof Isherwood pencils and inks:

Diana and her invisible airplane, rendered in Golden Age style by one of the true masters of the art form, Ernie Chan:

Diana in moonlit wonder — a unique presentation by James E. Lyle:

In the words of songsmith Bernie Taupin:
And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind...
Never fading with the sunset
When the rain set in.
And your footsteps will always fall here
Along England's greenest hills;
Your candle's burned out long before
Your legend ever will.
We still remember, Diana.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Unclear on the Concept, thy name is Lohan

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hero of the Day: The Big Kahuna

In the midst of a dismal season for the Giants, a moment of class and brilliance shone like a beacon in last night's game at The House That Barry Built.

During a break in the action, a camera operator for Fox Sports Bay Area trained his lens on a young man in the stands, who was busy with a laptop, scorebook, and headset microphone. It was obvious to any observer the kid was calling his own play-by-play and recording it into his computer.

In the next half-inning, the camera's eye found the young man again. This time, Jon Miller — the Giants' lead announcer — was seated next to him. When the duo appeared again a short time afterward, Miller and the boy were ensconced in the press box, with the kid nestled between Miller and his broadcast teammate Dave Flemming as they called the game.

This incident resonated with me, recalling my long-ago days as an aspiring sportscaster, sitting in the upper deck at Candlestick Park and pretending I was Hank Greenwald. At the time, I would have traded my most prized possession for a chance to have one of my announcing heroes take notice of me and invite me up to the booth.

I'm sure Jon Miller remembered times when his present dream job had seemed like a distant, nearly impossible fantasy, as it perhaps does to this young fellow. He certainly gave that kid a memory he'll never forget as long as he lives. It cost Jon nothing but a few minutes of his time.

In a sports world fraught with scandal and scuttlebutt, it's a joy to see a sports professional taking time just to do something nice for a fan. I know these moments happen much more often than we ever hear reported, but it affirms one's humanity when we catch a glimpse of such a case as it happens.

Good on ya, Big Kahuna.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Beating a dead horse

The story didn't garner the attention of the Michael Vick debacle, but...

Russell Baze, the winningest jockey in the history of thoroughbred racing, has been suspended for 15 days and fined $2,500 for using his whip inappropriately during a race.

In the first race on last Thursday's card at Bay Meadows, Baze was cruising to a commanding victory aboard heavily favored Imperial Eyes when the horse misstepped and, obviously injured, faltered on the home stretch. Baze tapped his mount with his crop once. When the horse continued to slow its pace, Baze switched hands and applied the whip again. Imperial Eyes, moving at barely a trot by this point, limped to a second-place finish.

Although Imperial Eyes was able to walk into the equine ambulance under his own power, track veterinarians determined that the horse had broken the cannon bone in its left foreleg. The four-year-old gelding was subsequently euthanized as a result of the injury.

Following an inquiry, the Bay Meadows stewards cleared Baze of a potential animal cruelty charge, but sat him down for a whip violation. Baze will begin serving his suspension the Sunday before Labor Day.

In a press statement, Baze seemed sincerely remorseful:
I'm not going to try to make any excuse for what I did, because there is no excuse for it. In the heat of the moment, right at the finish line, I made a bad decision. I felt he (Imperial Eyes) was off, but I never felt in great danger of going down or that he could be a hurt horse. I made a bad decision, it's my responsibility and I'll take the punishment for it.
KM, my resident horsewoman, and I watched the replay of the race on Thursday and again yesterday, and it was clear to us what happened. Baze, well into the lead and mere yards from the finish line, felt his mount fail. With so short a distance, however, the veteran jockey believed he could keep Imperial Eyes moving forward just long enough to finish first. Russell wasn't being intentionally mean to the animal — he just wanted to win, no matter what. Baze's competitive instincts — the instincts that propelled him to a record-shattering 9,826 trips to the winner's circle — overcame his better judgment. In the heat of the fight, he made a stupid mistake.

I doubt he'll make the same error again.

By all accounts, Baze would be one of the last people to mistreat the creatures upon which his livelihood depends. I've seen enough of Russell's behavior around horses at the Sonoma County track to believe that's true. This incident, however, goes to show what can happen to any competitive individual in a weak moment when the desire to win at all costs trumps sound judgment, even in the best-intentioned of us.

I'm thinking that more than a few other professional athletes — baseball players and football players, boxers and bicyclists, track stars and weightlifters — could learn a valuable lesson from this.

I'll refrain from mentioning any names.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Always bet on Black... Panther

Over at Comics Should Be Good! — a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree — columnist Brian Cronin is challenging readers to list their 10 favorite characters from both Marvel and DC Comics.

I've been tinkering with my lists for a couple of days now, and I'm finding the task infinitely more difficult than I had thought it would be. Not, ironically, because I'm having trouble paring the lists to 10 characters each, but because I'm struggling with the concept of "favorite." What do I mean when I use that word? The characters whose adventures I read most frequently? Those whose appearance in a story will cause me to pick up a book I might not otherwise buy? The precious few with some special meaning to me personally? The ones whose images I collect? Yes, in some respect, to all of the above.

Which isn't helping my list-making any.

When I finalize my lists, you can be certain that I'll share them in an upcoming Comic Art Friday.

Certain to make my Marvel list — whatever that list ultimately looks like — is T'Challa, the Black Panther. I've been an avid Panther fan since he first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966), one of the earliest comic books I can recall reading.

The Black Panther was the superhero universe's Jackie Robinson — there had been a handful of non-offensive black characters in mainstream comics previously, mostly at Marvel (Gabe Jones of Sgt. Nick Fury's Howling Commandos, for example, preceded T'Challa by three years), but the Panther was the first costumed superhero of African heritage to appear in a mass-market comic.

A common error made by ill-informed writers is citing the Black Panther as comics' first African-American superhero. A native, and ultimately the king, of the African nation of Wakanda — and proudly not American — T'Challa doesn't qualify on that score. That honor is owned by the Panther's fellow Marvel hero, the Falcon, who arrived in the pages of Captain America in 1969 (and co-headlined the title for a while in the '70s).

Nor was T'Challa the first black superhero to star in his own comic book. Luke Cage (later called Power Man, he now battles evil simply under his own name) holds that distinction with his debut series, Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, which landed on newsstands in 1972. (In fact, an obscure character named Lobo was the first African-American headliner in mainstream comics, with a two-issue series launched by Dell Comics in 1965. Lobo, however, was an Old West gunslinger, not a superhero.)

Although I've become a devoted follower of the current Black Panther series written by movie director and Black Entertainment Television executive Reginald Hudlin, I still believe that T'Challa's best interpreters were Don McGregor, who chronicled the Panther's exploits (illustrated by artists including Billy Graham, one of the few black artists working in comics at the time) in the early '70s series Jungle Action, and Christopher Priest, who partnered with artist Mark Texeira (and later, the penciler/inker team of Sal Velluto and Bob Almond) for a memorable five-year run beginning in the late 1990s.

Today, the Black Panther is an acknowledged star in the Marvel Universe. He's married to one of its most powerful and beautiful heroines, the mutant Ororo Munroe, better known as Storm. The Royal Couple of Wakanda are currently guest-starring in the book where T'Challa's adventures began — Fantastic Four — in a highly entertaining story arc penned by Dwayne McDuffie of Justice League TV fame.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

And the world said, "Duh!"

Quoth La Lohan: "It is clear to me that my life has become completely unmanageable because I am addicted to alcohol and drugs."

I believe we have a new front-runner in the Most Obvious Statement of the Millennium sweepstakes.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesday turkey trot

Uncle Swan here, blazing through a barrage of lightning-quick thoughts, observations, and emotional outbursts. Steady as she goes, Captain.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Bright college days

I have officially become an obsolete parent:

My only child started college today.

KM is a freshman at our local junior college, a fine institution of higher education with a Starbucks across the street and a Taco Bell on the nearest corner. (Hey, she might get hungry.) She's taking four classes #151; English, psychology, art history, and her fifth year of Spanish.

Since KM is only just beginning to drive, Dad's taxi service will shuttle her to and from campus for the time being, giving the old man a daily opportunity to bask in the reflected glow of academia and pine for lost youth.

I recall my own first day of college as though it were only 28 years ago. (Which, not entirely coincidentally, it was.) That first evening, with the summer waves lapping at the distant Malibu shore, our resident assistant gathered everyone in our dormitory's main living room. He passed around a roll of toilet paper, telling each student to take as many sheets as he felt he needed. Once the roll had circled the room, the RA announced that, for every sheet of TP one had taken, he had to reveal a fact about himself. (The first sheet counted for name, hometown, and major.)

Being no one's fool, even at the callow age of 17, I had taken a mere five sheets — hardly sufficient to peel back the veneer of mystery with which I prefer to enshroud myself. One of my fellow dormies, conversely, unspooled so many squares of tissue that he was compelled to expose knowledge to which none of the rest of us really needed to be privy, such as his favorite sexual position (I'll give you a hint: it's a two-digit number) and his preference in pubic grooming (I'll give you a hint: Gillette).

Living at home, KM will escape such torture. At least for this academic year.

In the immortal words of the legendary Tom Lehrer:
Bright college days — oh, carefree days that fly,
To thee we sing with our glasses raised on high.
Let's drink a toast as each of us recalls
Ivy-covered professors in ivy-covered halls.

Turn on the spigot,
Pour the beer and swig it,
And gaudeamus igit-tur.

Here's to parties we tossed;
To the games that we lost —
We shall claim that we won them someday.
To the girls, young and sweet;
To the spacious back seat
Of our roommate's beat-up Chevrolet.
To the beer and Benzedrine;
To the way that the dean
Tried so hard to be pals with us all.
To excuses we fibbed,
To the papers we cribbed
From the genius who lived down the hall.

To the tables down at Mory's
(Wherever that may be),
Let us drink a toast to all we love the best.
We will sleep through all the lectures,
And cheat on the exams,
And we'll pass, and be forgotten with the rest.

Soon we'll be out amid the cold world's strife.
Soon we'll be sliding down the razor blade of life.
But as we go our sordid separate ways,
We shall ne'er forget thee, thou golden college days.

Hearts full of youth,
Hearts full of truth,
Six parts gin to one part vermouth.
For the record, the first college punk who shows up at my house to pick up my daughter in a beat-up Chevrolet will be invited to admire my knife collection.

Up close.

[UPDATE: Now there's an odd coincidence. After I posted this article, I took my daily stroll through my blogroll. Two of my favorite bloggers, Mark Evanier and The Ferrett, both riffed on Tom Lehrer in their posts today. Great minds really do think alike. That, or my tinfoil hat has stopped working, and aliens have infested my brain.]

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Friday, August 17, 2007

The one-L lama, he's a priest

Today's Comic Art Friday is dedicated to the memory of comic book artist Mike Wieringo, who, as noted in this space on Monday, passed suddenly and unexpectedly from this life earlier this week. The comics industry desperately needs a few dozen more talents like him.

From my earliest days as a comics reader, I have been fascinated with the so-called Golden Age of comics — that period beginning in the late 1930s and continuing into the early 1950s when superhero comics as we know them today first evolved. When I was a kid, there weren't as many avenues for obtaining old comics as there are now — not that I could have afforded them anyway — but I devoured reprint stories from the classic period whenever I could find them. Through reprints, I first discovered the glorious artwork of Lou Fine on The Ray and The Black Condor, Mac Raboy on Captain Marvel Jr. and The Green Lama, Lee Elias on the original Black Cat, and of course, Will Eisner on The Spirit. I also read voraciously any books I could find on comics history, especially Dick Lupoff's All in Color for a Dime and Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes.

My obsession with all things Golden Age is reflected in this Common Elements scenario, which brings together the aforementioned Green Lama and Marvel's master of the mystic arts, Dr. Strange. The artist here is James Ritchey III, whose 32-page unpublished story, The Green Lama: Man of Strength, can be viewed on his ComicSpace page.

The Green Lama was an intriguing character, not only because he gained his superheroic powers in a Tibetan lamasery — as did Dr. Strange; thus, the "common element" between the two — but also because he was one of the earliest positive, reasonably accurate portrayals of a practicing Buddhist in American popular culture. Created by author Kendell Crossen in 1940, the Lama first appeared in a pulp magazine, Double Detective, as a takeoff on the then-popular hero The Shadow. The Lama soon made his way into comics, where he starred in his own series in Prize Comics throughout the early '40s. Crossen, who wrote the character's comic book adventures in addition to the pulp novellas, scrupulously researched the Buddhist faith and wove its precepts and vernacular into his stories.

Recently, comics publisher Dynamite Entertainment announced an upcoming series entitled Superpowers, which will resurrect a slew of Golden Age heroes, including the Green Lama. Superstar artist Alex Ross and writer Jim Krueger will helm the series. I'm eager to see how this project will develop. I'll bet Dr. Strange is, too.

As Ogden Nash once wrote:
The one-L lama, he's a priest.
The two-L llama, he's a beast.
But I will bet a silk pajama
There isn't any three-L lllama.
And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Got a little Captain in you?

Moments ago, a young woman with the charming name of Sabra Elise Johnson (no relation, I take it, to Israel's greatest superheroine) won this season's championship on So You Think You Can Dance.

Okay, now that I've just admitted to watching So You Think You Can Dance, I feel an overwhelming need to recoup my man cred.

How's this...

It's not too early to remind you that Wednesday, September 19 — just over a month from today — is Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Perhaps coincidentally, a genealogical society known as English Heritage is inviting people with traceable pirate ancestry to a series of gatherings being held in the U.K. over the next two weekends. This weekend, pirate descendants will shiver their timbers at Dover Castle in Kent; next weekend, swashes will be buckled at Whitby Abbey in North Yorks.

Anyone sharing the surname of any of the six most legendary English pirates — Sir Henry Morgan (namesake of a popular brand of spiced rum), Captain William Kidd, Edward Teach (better known as Blackbeard), John "Calico Jack" Rackham, Anne Bonny, or Mary Read — gets into the shindig at no charge.

Everyone knows pirates can't pass up a freebie.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What's Up With That? #51: A hole in the bucket

I'm no rocket scientist — the wags among you are shouting, "No [insert vulgar reference to excrement here], Sherlock!" even as I type — but here's what I don't understand about the current situation with Space Shuttle Endeavour.

First, let's set the scene. When Endeavour launched last week, a piece of debris from the main external fuel tank — either insulating foam, or ice, or a combination of the two — struck the underside of the shuttle, causing a small gouge (3.5 by 2 inches) in one of the orbiter's heat shield tiles. Similar damage, on a considerably larger scale, resulted in the post-reentry destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia five years ago.

Now to the source of my confusion. NASA knows all too well that debris flying off the fuel tank and striking the shuttle can cause damage that puts the orbiter and its crew at risk. And apparently, numerous post-Columbia attempts to eliminate this flying debris have proven unsuccessful. (It's my understanding that NASA has been able to minimize the castoff of foam and ice somewhat, but due to the nature of the fuel and equipment being used, can't curtail this entirely.)

So why doesn't NASA devise a shield of some sort to protect the underside of the shuttle from flying debris?

The first guy who drove any distance in a primitive automobile surely said to himself, "You know, I love this machine, but getting smacked in the face by bugs, raindrops, and other airborne junk really sucks." That's why we have windshields on our cars to this very day. How hard could it be to invent a lightweight panel that attaches to the base of the shuttle, between the orbiter and the fuel tank, that deflects hurtling detritus in the same way that a windshield does? The device could be jettisoned at the same time as the fuel tank, and the shuttle would speed on its merry way unharmed.

Surely I can't be the only person who's thought of this. I'm not even an engineer, but it seems perfectly obvious to me.

And since we're on the subject, NASA has expended beaucoup time and effort conducting model tests to determine whether the damage to Endeavour is significant enough to require repair before reentry. I don't get that. If you can fix the problem — and NASA says they can — why would you not? Why go through all of this exercise in "cautious optimism" that the damage won't endanger the shuttle and its crew, when you could eliminate the worry altogether by just sending an astronaut out with a repair kit to patch the hole? Who wants to be sitting at the Johnson Space Center witnessing another Columbia-like disaster and thinking, "Maybe we should have run that test one more time"?

I guess that's why I'm not a rocket scientist.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Happy trails, Ringo

The news hit me like a sucker punch to the solar plexus when I fired up the Dell this morning:

Mike Wieringo died yesterday.

My favorite artist among comics' current superstars, Ringo — as he signed his work — apparently succumbed to a massive heart attack at his home. He was only 44 years old, a vegetarian, and a devoted fitness buff.

It's true: The only certainty in life is uncertainty.

Wieringo's run on Marvel's Fantastic Four, in partnership with writer Mark Waid, helped interest me in comics again after years of discouragement with the dark tone of many of today's superhero books. Ringo's manga-influenced style was light, agile, more than a little cartoony (his work often reminded me of C.C. Beck, the original Captain Marvel artist), and above all, charming. He breathed as much life and personality into his characters as any comics artist I've ever seen.

Just a few weeks ago, fellow collector Damon Owens and I were discussing the artists whom we most desperately wanted to commission. I didn't have to think twice about the first name on my list: Mike Wieringo. It saddens me deeply to know that now, I will never have the opportunity. I'll also miss Mike's terrific blog, where he posted lovely new sketches several times each week, along with his thoughts about his career, the comics industry, and life in general.

I only own one piece of Ringo's art (I'm kicking myself hard this morning over the Ringo Captain America sketch I sold a while back, when funds were tight), but I will treasure it always:

Recently, I finished reading Mike's latest work for Marvel, the delightful miniseries Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. A fun, old-school superhero story, it was one of the highlights of my comics year thus far. Late last year, Ringo illustrated a two-issue story in Ms. Marvel that I also enjoyed immensely. Pure, unadulterated fun is sometimes tough to come back in comic books these days, but you always could count on Mike Wieringo to deliver the goods.

My heart weeps today with Mike's family, friends, and legion of fans.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

I'll take Deceased Game Show Creators for $2000, Alex

I never had the pleasure of meeting Merv Griffin. But it's fair to say that Merv — who died this morning at the age of 82 following a battle with prostate cancer — had as direct and as profound an impact on my life as anyone else whom I never met.

He was, after all, responsible for the 15 minutes of fame that have been my calling card for nearly 20 years.

As has been widely chronicled, Merv Griffin created America's favorite quiz show, Jeopardy! in the 1960s. It's the modern version of the show, which began airing in 1984 and continues as a syndication juggernaut today, where I made my national television debut in 1988. Thanks to Merv's forward-thinking genius, an incredulous, fresh-faced kid got the chance to steal a soupçon of celebrity that has proven surprisingly difficult to escape.

Even though my Jeopardy! journey has returned me briefly to the spotlight four times since my original five-game run — the 1988 Tournament of Champions, ABC's Super Jeopardy! tournament in the summer of 1990, a special called Jeopardy! Battle of the Bay Area Brains in 1998, and the Ultimate Tournament of Champions two years ago — I never found myself face to face with the man who started it all. The closest my ship and Merv's ever came to passing in the night was during the Super Jeopardy! taping, when the contestants were domiciled at the Beverly Hilton, which Merv had recently purchased. The place was a cacophony of renovation at the time — hordes of construction workers surrounded me at every turn, but not the elusive Mr. Griffin.

Merv sold Jeopardy! and its lowest-common-denominator companion property, Wheel of Fortune, to the Sony Pictures empire in the mid-'90s. Still, his stamp remained on the quiz show that helped build his legend, in the form of the oft-imitated theme music, which Merv composed.

I still have the letter, on Merv Griffin Enterprises stationery emblazoned with Merv's familiar namesake mythological creature logo, which first heralded my entry into game show history. I just wish I'd had the opportunity, just once, to shake the man's hand and let him know how much I've loved being a minuscule cog in his entertainment wheel.

That, and the $103K.

So long, Merv. Thanks for all the fun. (And for all the checks.) Wherever you are, be sure you phrase your responses in the form of a question.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

From two hands, one

If you're a reader of comics — or just a regular visitor here on Comic Art Fridays — you know that comic book art, as we see it in published form, is usually the work of three artists:
  • The penciler, who designs the layout for each page and creates the initial drawings.
  • The inker, who redraws the entire page in india ink, refining and finishing the drawing and making it suitable for printing.
  • The colorist, who adds color to the black and white art — using a computer, more often than not these days.
Most of the comic art I commission is the work of a single artist, who may — depending upon our negotiated agreement — either simply draw the piece in pencil, or both pencil and ink the art. Many times, however, I will commission a pencil drawing, or acquire one from another collector, and later decide that I'd like to have the piece finished in ink. When that happens, I'll send the art off to one of several excellent inking specialists for embellishment.

Here's a rough pencil sketch of Mary Marvel, drawn by one of my favorite current artists, Al Rio.

If I'm not mistaken, Al sketched this as a preliminary to a commission project for another collector. As you can see, the pencil art is loose and undefined — the artist is "thinking out loud" (on paper, of course) about what he's going to draw.

I asked Bob McLeod — in my opinion, one of the most skillful artists in the comics field, both as an inker (for which he's best known) and as a penciler — to complete Al's artwork. The result arrived on my doorstep this very afternoon, just in time for Comic Art Friday.

What began as a rough outline has become an exquisitely detailed, complete work of art. Rio's design is clearly still there on the page, but much of the drawing's personality has been interpreted by McLeod. Not only has Bob added definition and shadow to the picture, he's also given Mary Marvel light and life. You can see how much actual drawing Bob did to finish the piece — as opposed to merely tracing Al's outline — and how the finished art reflects McLeod's sensibility as much as Rio's.

As this comparison shows, comic art is a uniquely, almost mystically collaborative effort. Two creators — often, as in this case, working independently of one another (given that Al lives in Brazil and Bob lives in Pennsylvania, I doubt that they've ever met) — meld their talents to produce a drawing that embodies the artistic perspective and philosophy of each. The final work is different from what either would have created by himself, and yet is beautifully representative of each artist's style.

I think "magic" just might be the perfect word to describe that.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pass the DayQuil on the left hand side

Sorry for the paucity of posts this week, true believers. I've been under the weather since Sunday.

I'm feeling somewhat perkier today, so you can look forward to a fine and fancy Comic Art Friday tomorrow.

Now back to my rest and liquids.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007


The name is Bonds.

Barry Bonds.

And he now owns the most storied record in professional sports.

I'll have more to say soon, but for this electric moment, that one number says it all:





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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Truth and beauty, horsehide edition

Bonds: 755 career home runs.

A-Rod: 500 career home runs, and 11 years younger.

This is all ye know in baseball...

...and all ye need to know.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

America's Junior Ms.

Among the many distinctions that apply to this happy little corner of the universe that I call "home," Rohnert Park is home to the annual California's Junior Miss pageant. In fact, the venue where the event takes place is a mere stone's throw — assuming you possess a howitzer-like throwing arm — from my humble abode. And, it just so happens that all of California's Junior Misses will be gathering here in but a week's time, to crown one of their own to represent the Golden State at the America's Junior Miss 2007 national finals in Mobile, Alabama.

Personally, I think winning a contest that's going to send you to Mobile, Alabama isn't much of a victory. But then, I'm not a pageant parent.

I am, however, desperate for a clever lead-in to today's Comic Art Friday, which features Ms. Marvel, often erroneously referred to as "Miss Marvel."

This is what happens when I get desperate.

Maybe it's simply because I'm resistant to change, but I've always remained partial to Ms. Marvel's original costume, in which she made her debut in those long-ago, fashion-eccentric 1970s. Sure, it was merely a feminized retooling of the already familiar uniform of Captain Marvel — Marvel Comics' space-spanning stalwart, not the "Shazam!" guy. Sure, it was impractical as superheroing wardrobe — who'd wear a billowing scarf into a fistfight? Sure, it was clearly designed for sex appeal — what's up with the navel-baring midriff cutout? But doggone it, it was cool.

So, thank you, Matthew Clark, for presenting Carol at her sartorial finest. Exquisite linework, by the way.

These days, of course, the divine Ms. M. sports a drab, monochromatic outfit that looks like a high-necked tankini with a stylized lightning bolt (or is that a letter "S"?) down the front. The scarf migrated from her throat down to her waist, where it functions as a belt... on a costume that really doesn't appear to require a belt. Insanely long gloves and thigh-high boots complete the ensemble.

It doesn't really work for me visually, but doggone it, Jeffrey Moy sure makes her look cute in it. But then, Jeff can make a superheroine look cute in anything.

Now that I think about it, Ms. Marvel's current uniform, accented with its sash and opera gloves, makes her look for all the world like a pageant contestant during the swimsuit competition.

If Carol were in the running for America's Junior Miss, she'd get my vote. (I don't think they have a swimsuit competition in America's Junior Miss, but I told you I was desperate.)

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Everything I really need to know, I learned at the racetrack

KM and I enjoyed our annual father-daughter outing to the races at the Sonoma County fairgrounds today. Now that she's 18, I take it as an honor that KM still consents to go anywhere in public with me. But, given her singular obsession with all things equine, she'd never miss an opportunity to spend an afternoon admiring an endless parade of well-kept horses, even if it means hanging out for several hours with the old man.

Going to the track is always an educational experience. Permit me to share with you some of the life lessons I gleaned from today's excursion.
  • In between races, the track should perform a valuable public service by airing episodes of What Not to Wear.

  • A fish taco is a welcome taste treat in any surroundings.

  • Russell Baze is one of the greatest athletes of our time. He seems like a nice fellow, too.

  • Everyone is an expert at the racetrack. Often, the greater one's handicapping expertise, the fewer one's teeth.

  • The produce man from our supermarket is stalking me. I see him everywhere.

  • Operating a parimutuel betting window must be one of the suckiest jobs on the planet.

  • I could never be a track announcer, because (a) I'd get the names of the horses confused, and (b) I can't talk anywhere near that fast.

  • There really ought to be a law against micro-miniskirts on women within shouting distance of menopause. Or maybe just on women, period.

  • Describing gelded horses as "chopped off" is probably not the most effective means of communicating certain facts of animal husbandry to one's children.

  • Every time I see a jockey, I want to buy him a sandwich.

  • People who wouldn't dream on shoving their hands into a recently used toilet have little compunction about reaching out to capture droplets of the waste water being used to dampen the racing surface, even though it's pretty much the same thing.

  • The gray horse never wins. Except in the sixth race at Santa Rosa.

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