Thursday, May 23, 2013

Superheroes and Spinner Racks

Shortly after my first Mad Magazine, at some point I discovered comic books. I'm not sure who gave me my first one, or what it was. Most likely it came from my Grandma Beba's house, there were magazines of all kinds there. Current, old, respectable and not-so-respectable. My step-grandfather was a fan of Zane Grey westerns and pulp magazines. At Grandma's I remember first seeing Argosy, Real Detective, Amazing Worlds and other pulps from the 30's and 40's. No one thought they were worth anything then, and they were too "new" to be considered old. Old was turn of the century. Old was Civil War. The Depression was still fresh in most adults minds, World War II was still talked of like it happened last year.

So I'm sure there were comic books at Grandma's, and that is probably where I first encountered them. What I do remember is being immediately hooked. I remember being as young a 6 and scouring yard sales for comics. You could pick them up for a penny or a nickel apiece.

By the time I was 10 or 11 I know I was using allowance money to buy new comics off the spinner racks at 7-11's, drugstores and supermarkets. By the time I was in 6th grade, I was collecting. I started counting how many I had. Milestones were reached. 100, 200, 500 comics! In Middle School I would get $1 for lunch most days from my mom. I would forego the second milk (a big deal for a chubby kid) so I could get 32 cents change back. New comics were at 30 cents each by then. I know I was buying new ones at 25 cents, and remember reading an article in the back of a DC comic about the price increase. Anyway, with tax a new comic was 32 cents. I could sometimes buy as many as 5 comics a week with my lunch money change!

My earliest interest was in Batman, fueled by my devotion to the Adam West series. But the Batman in the early to late 70's comics was not like the TV show. He was better. Bigger, smarter, serious. A true detective. Often Batman would pull out a flashlight in a dark room. But his flashlight was much cooler than any I had ever seen. It was the size of a small cigar. It was bright. No one had flashlights like that in the 70's. Today everyone has tiny little LED flashlights. When I was a kid though, that tiny little flashlight was the coolest thing I ever saw.

The art in Batman was just astounding. Never has that period been matched for quality, beauty, and the ability to move a story forward at just the right pace. Neal Adams stood at the top of all the artists who drew Batman.

Adams' pencils and Dick Giordano's inks defined the look of Batman for me. Only one other artist ever came close to matching the quality, and because he produced such a quantity, Jim Aparo is definitely my favorite Batman artist of all time. I would buy books I really didn't care for (Batman and the Outsiders) just because Jim Aparo did the art.

Years later I discovered through fan magazines that Aparo was a triple threat artist. He only worked on books where he could pencil, ink and letter the whole issue. Creative, talented and consistent, Aparo's art became a permanent part of my inner world. His faces were perfect. His musculature precise. The streets, buildings, rooms were not just background, they were part of the story, and they were rendered perfectly.

At some point in the late 70's I began earnestly collecting, determined with each trip my family made into town that I had money in my pocket so I could pick up the next issue. When I could not find an issue, I would volunteer to go into town with mom or dad at every opportunity, in the hopes of finding a store that did not send their unsold comics back so quickly, and thereby score a back issue to fill in a hole in my collection. Back then comics were almost always sold on "spinner racks" at the 7-11, drugstore, G.C. Murphy's, Woolworth's, or supermarket. I didn't even know that there was such a thing as a store devoted only to comic books. I would discover my first comic book store in 1979...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Comic Book Life

I've been having trouble settling on topics for the blog lately. That kind of indecision always results in no production, no posts.
Recently I've been thinking that I need a theme, a general topic that will spur me to come back each day or at least each week, to finish the thought, to wrap things up.
My problem with that? If I make my topic Theological or even devotional, its more study time that I really need to be devoting to the church. So I need a topic that will not take away valuable study time.
Over the last few years, one of my most enjoyable reading topics has been comic book history, especially the stories behind the creators and comics I enjoyed in the 70's and early 80's.
That gave me the idea for what I hope is a continuing series on this blog. Though it will not be "spiritual" or even devotional, it will give you insight into my history, thought processes, my love for art.
I will occasionally interrupt this series for a devotional or theological discussion, and the comic posts themselves may at times lend towards some observations on Christianity.
So today I want to start with my first exposure to comic books and comic book art, at least my earliest memories of it.

I was born on October 22, 1966. In January of that year The Batman television series debuted. A few weeks before my birth, Star Trek premiered on NBC. Though I certainly did not watch these two shows in their original runs, I remember clearly watching both in re-runs on weekends and afternoons even before I started Kindergarten. Batman especially struck a cord, stirring both artistic and heroic feelings in a young boy. A cousin of mine says he remembers me saying around the age of four that when I became a teenager I planned to be the new Robin.

Somewhere around the age of five, my grandmother gave me one or more Mad Magazines she had gotten, no doubt, at a yard sale or auction. I was immediately hooked. The art was what got me first. The caricatures of famous people are what I remember the most. I was a child of television, and to see these men could draw Mike Connors (Manix) or  Buddy Ebsen (Barnaby Jones) in a funny,exaggerated style just drew me in. I became an instant fan of Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, Don Martin, and the marginal drawings of Sergio Aragones. 


Jack Davis especially inspired me to try my hand at drawing. My earliest drawings were most likely copies of Davis characters. To this day, my preliminary and thumbnail sketches feature Davis style zig-zags at the elbows and knees.


Mort Drucker's TV and Movie Parodies also were large sources of inspiration. He did everything so consistently, it would be easy to write him off as uninspired or just re-hashing the same stuff. But his level of technical brilliance could not be ignored. Of Drucker, Charles Schultz once said, "Frankly, I don't know how he does it, and I stand in a long list of admirers... I think he draws everything the way we would all like to draw."


And of course Mad was where I first found Sergio Aragones. His "marginal" drawings and occasional full page wordless strips were always funny, always well drawn, and a world of their own. I remember seeing him on a Dick Clark show in the late 70's, he drew the intro and commercial break cartoon bumpers and occasionally would do instant cartoons on an easel during the program. Once I watched him explain his process, showing how he (then) used a fountain pen to do his drawings because they were fluid and fast and required less pressure than ballpoint pens. I bugged Mom and Dad at every drugstore and department store until we finally found a Shaeffer Fountian Pen that used cartridges. I used that pen for over 10 years, practicing my cartooning, both funny and political, and sketching incessantly.

From Mad, it was a short leap to the Superhero and Mystery Comics that I would read the rest of my life.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

18 and counting... but differently!

It's been two months, yes, two months since my last post. I've had several posts in mind. Several articles on topics upon which I would like to comment. But procrastination hit again and I "never got around to it" once more.

Last time I talked about my son Luke turning 18.

Today I would direct your eye to the sidebar which says, today, "I've lost 18 pounds using MyPlate." Click on the link. Go ahead. You won't regret it, unless you want to stay the same forever. Most of us in this day of processed, fast, and pre-packaged food could stand to loose a few pounds. I can. That's why when my friend Barry Secrest told me he had lost over 50 lbs using this site, I decided to check it out. Its from LiveStrong, Lance Armstrong's foundation, that he is no longer involved in I guess. It is FREE... and like my good friend Roger Boguski likes to say, "free is better than cheap!"

I started using the site April 8. Its easy to do. Create a user name, password, and set up your profile. Height, weight, age, activity level, etc. Then how much you would like to loose per week. I'm set up for 2 lbs a week, but I'm averaging well over 3, almost 4 lbs a week.

Basically the site works like a Weight Watchers Journal, just online and FREE. You enter what you ate (almost any restaurant and thousands of brands of food are in the database) and the site calculates calories and takes it away from your daily total. Oh, and when you loose, your daily total drops. I started out with 1,884 calories a day. After loosing 18 lbs, I am only allowed 1,749 per day. BUT... walk, run, lift some weights, do some yard work... it all counts as exercise you can enter, and calories you burned are added to your daily intake.

I am walking 4.5 miles every morning Monday through Friday. I get  a little over 800 extra calories to eat each day I do this, and I STILL LOOSE WEIGHT. I'm down more than a full pant size, hoping to go down one more by June. My energy level is much higher, my blood pressure is now almost too low. I'll have to talk to my Doc about reducing  or removing some or all of my BP medications.

I weighed 280 lbs on April 8. I weigh 262 this morning. Another week or so and I should be in the 250's. I haven't been that light since 2005.

I'll keep the widget up on this site, and you can check it and keep me in prayer. Unfortunately I have had to keep my "comments" disabled due to heavy spam. If you wish to communicate about what you read here, drop me an email at or tweet me @revbaptist

If you need to drop some weight, do it. Don't talk about it and then eat a piece of cake. Just get on track and stay there. I quit eating wheat last July, you can find posts about it in the archive. I am still wheat-free for reasons stated in my previous posts. But I'll tell you a little secret: even if you don't buy my reasoning for staying away from modern, genetically modified wheat, dropping it from your menu is still one of the best good health actions you can take. Why? Because when you cannot eat wheat-cake, cookies, Twizzlers (yep, they are made of wheat) and ton's of other foods that only make you fat are off limits. I have not had a single piece of cake, a cookie, a doughnut, or a snack with modern wheat in it for what will soon be one year.
Makes it easy to stay on track when all that junk is not an option.

Proverbs 23:20, 21...Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

1 Corinthians 3:16, 17...Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

Also pray that I return to a regular schedule blogging. This is good for me.

'Till Jesus Returns,