Friday, February 17, 2012

Back In Back Issue

On page 345 of the current Previews comic shop catalog, there is a solicit for Back Issue #56. It’s their “Avengers” issue, and among the pieces in it is my examination of Clint Barton’s Hawkeye. I’m really excited about the piece and the folks I was fortunate enough to talk with about the character. Of course, I would love to have had the opportunity to speak with the late Mark Gruenwald about his epic Hawkeye four-issue limited series, but I was able to talk with the amazing Brett Breeding who inked the first half of that series, and the entire creative team behind the West Coast Avengers limited series – longtime Avengers scribe Roger Stern, penciller Bob Hall, and inker Breeding. I also had the chance to speak with Roy Thomas about the transitions he put the character through in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I had a great time researching, conducting interviews for, and writing this piece.

The Hawkeye story is significantly longer than the Elektra piece I wrote for Back Issue last year, which allowed me to stretch a bit and explore the depth of character added by Hawkeye’s strengths and flaws, specifically the egotism required of a non-superpowered character to be successful in the world he inhabits and the self-doubt resulting from that same set of circumstances.

You can order your copy of the magazine through Previews, or get it direct from the publisher (which comes with a free digital copy of th
e issue) or pickup just the digital copy at a discounted price for your tablet or PC. There's sure to be plenty of Bronze Age comic-y goodness packed in the issue! Hope you’ll check it out!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


My sister was visiting last weekend, and we went to see our only living grandparent: our mom's mom.

That’s grandma on the right holding yours truly, and my bratty big sister between her and our grandfather, circa 1970.

She’s 91 years old, lives in the same house she and her first husband purchased in 1942, and is as independent and feisty as hell. While visiting, Karen and I wandered upstairs and into basement, places we hadn’t been through in decades. We talked a bit about what memories have survived and what tangible items are still around. Among the many things I remember about the house is the Evel Knievel Scramble Van. My sister and cousins and I would play with this thing every time we visited. Grandma kept it on the floor of the front door entryway in front of a vintage glass-door cabinet. While walking through the second floor and basement, I kept an eye out for it among the boxes and puzzles and other items accumulated over the last 70 years. Unfortunately, it wasn’t stowed away in either of those places.

On a whim, I decided to look in the entryway before we left to see if anything from my memories remained there. As I turned the corner, that old familiar cabinet came into view. And once my vision cleared the little room, I couldn’t believe what I saw. There it was: The Evel Knievel Scramble Van! Right where it was supposed to be. Right where I had no right expecting it to be. It has inexplicably survived all these years in the exact spot I remembered it being in! I unburied it from a box of candles and other tchotchke and set it on the dining room table to inspect it.

The vinyl sides of the van had that old sticky feeling – that accumulation of decades-worth of being brought to life with a combination of little kids’ imagination and their grimy little hands. The back of the van opens, but one of the tabs was broken. I didn’t see the Evel Knievel action figure or his bike anywhere, but the blue roof ramp was there, along with some other random toys stuffed inside the van – some I recognized from childhood, some that were clearly of a newer vintage.

At some point I need to go back and inspect the van further, perhaps clean it up a bit, and also look for Evel Knievel and his gyro powered stunt cycle and launcher, but in that moment I just snapped a quick photo on my iPhone (as a validation of my memories as much as anything else) before returning it to the place in which it so clearly belongs.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Just Wouldn't Stay Away

Weaving my way through the past, I am uncovering all these seemingly disparate connectors between memories. Flipping through The ZOOM Catalog and seeing the lyrics to “The Cat Came Back” jolted me from my toddler years and my sister to my late teens and my girlfriend Pam. You see, our first official date was to the Animation Festival at the Akron Civic Theatre in February 1989. For whatever reason, I kept the flyer from that event. And, while looking at the single images for each of the shorts on the back of the flyer stir flickers of recognition, it’s “The Cat Came Back” that has always stuck with me most vividly. I know the song to this day. It conjures a jumble of ZOOM, my parents listening to folk music on WKSU, The Muppet Show, and being at the Civic with Pam.

I’ve written about Pam before (particularly scattered throughout the End of the Eighties posts), she’s the one who really helped unlock my
creative side. “The Cat Came Back” evokes all those same emotions associated with a dramatic end-of-adolescence love. It’s a song that is as tied to my remembrances of that relationship and that era as any song by Depeche Mode or Peter Murphy.

Bonus Artifact:
Tucked in with the Animation Festival handbill was this mimeograph-type upcoming events flyer for March 1989. Man, what an incredible line-up of shows! I think we only saw Hairspray and Holy Grail, but I would love to have seen all of these offerings in the grand theatre.

One of Loew’s atmospheric movie houses, the Akron Civic was a lady in decay after years of neglect, like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. Downtown Akron was struggling and hollow and empty too, and a convenient gathering place for the all the punks from Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Richfield, Bath, and farther afield (like my little town between Akron and Canton). I know this was a universal hangout because not only did I hang out in places like the old and deserted parking deck behind the Civic, but so did my future wife Tracy with her friends (although we didn’t know each other at the time).