Category Archives: DC Comics

Bob & Dick


I’ve noticed quite often that when someone, say, at church dies, who I might have known for a couple decades, they always have a back story revealed at the funeral I would not have imagined. Whereas the stories of public figures – actors, singers, and the like – are usually well-known to me.

So I was surprised that I was surprised to learn much more about Robert Culp, the actor who died last week at the age of 79. Not only was he a performer but also a writer and sometime director, often of the series on which he was performing at the time.

I knew Culp him best as Kelly Robinson on I Spy, partnering up with Bill Cosby’s Alexander Scott. Cosby was a well-regarded young comedian, but known for his stand-up routines, not dramatic performances. Yet Sheldon Leonard gave him the job, Cosby got three Emmys in three years, and Cosby and Culp became good friends.

But what struck me when I get to Gordon’s very nice obit of Robert Culp was this book cover of the Whitman novelization Message from Moscow by Brandon Keith (1966). I read this story at least a few times in my early teen years, but oddly I don’t remember that much about it, except for one thing: the villain was quite literally “hoist by his own petard.”

I Spy: I watched that show religiously for the three years it was on. I venture to say 90% of black Americans watched it, just like most black folk watched Nat King Cole’s short-lived variety show a decade earlier. There just weren’t that many opportunities to see people of color on the screen – and when you did, they were often in minor, often demeaning roles. I appreciated how both Culp and Cosby demanded that Cosby’s race not be a centerpiece of the show. I may have to go to HULU and catch an episode or two to see if it is as good as I remember it.
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I should mention the passing of Dick Giordano, whose ascension to the position of DC Comics’ editor-in-chief corresponded to me starting at the comic book store FantaCo, in 1980. I wasn’t a big DC fan, but I did find myself picking up more of their books in the decade or so he was in charge far more than in the period before. I have a vague recollection meeting him once very briefly at the San Diego Comic Con, and he didn’t SEEM like a corporate stuffed shirt. I suspect that was because, most of all, he was an artist, specifically a quality inker, so he was inclined to try to undersand and appreciate the artist POV. A much better remembrance here.
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Oh, and this is coincidentally related. My buddy Steve Bissette has been musing at length about Forgotten Comics Wars of the mid to late 1980s. Subtitled How Angry Freelancers Made It Possible for A New Mainstream Comics Era (Including Vertigo) to Exist, it is a very interesting take on an era when I was actively involved in the retail comics biz. I was going to compile the 12 parts once they were all released, but Mark Evanier, bless him, beat me to it. And ME notes: “That last installment has bittersweet meaning because of the recent passing of Dick Giordano, who was in the midst of the controversy.”
ROG

Roger Answers Your Questions, Scott and GayProf

Happy Easter! Appropriately, I’m answering questions from a couple of good eggs.

Scott, who I recently offered a few questions to, has responded in kind.

1. Who do you think will win the NL East this year?

Why, the M-M-M-M-Meh-Meh-Meh-Meh. I’d rather not say; I don’t want to jinx them. They have a new front-line pitcher which should avoid that near-record collapse from last year.

2. Who is your favorite singer?

Gee, that’s hard. I like lots of different singers for a lot of different moods. People such as Nat King Cole and Sam Cooke certainly would be on the list, but so would a lot of rockers. I find it difficult to separate the vocal from the material. Mike Love of the Beach Boys has a bit of a nasally sound to his voice, yet those BB songs on which he sings lead work for me. Other living singers? Cassandra Wilson immediately comes to mind.

3. Who is your favorite comic book hero? (Gay Prof adds: “I hope the answer to question number 3 from Scott is Wonder Woman.”)

Oh, GP, I so do hate disappointing you. Let me explain how I got into comics in college. A new friend of mine collected them. I thought he was crazy, then I started looking at them. The first one I bought was Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1. I thought he was pretty cool. (Later, he decided to change his name to the boring Power Man, and my interest waned.)
Luke Cage appeared in the shadows of Amazing Spider-Man #122 and was on the cover of #123, which got me interested in the webslinger. At about the same time, I was interested in Sub-Mariner #50 (or so) at a point when Bill Everett, the golden age artist who had created Namor, returned to the book. In fact, Sub-Mariner was the first book I sought out back issues of. I got into the Defenders because Namor was in it, then the Avengers because of the Defenders-Avengers war. So I was a Marvel zombie. I’d say my favorites are Spider-Man, Namor and Luke Cage, but I discount anything that might have happened in the last decade or so.
Conversely, I really wasn’t interested in the mainline DC superheroes that eventually bored me in my childhood (Superman, Batman, Flash). By the time I DID look at Wonder Woman, she wasn’t even wearing the star-spangelled garb. These stories were so damn EARNEST – they marketed some of them as “Women’s Lib” issues – their term, not mine. I owned this particular issue, maybe my first, but didn’t stay with it long, I’m afraid, GP.

4. What was your favorite subject in school?

Spelling. Eye wuz allwayz a gud speler. And math. I always liked arithmetic and algebra. I like how if you have a long number and the digit adds up to nine, then it’s divisible by nine. Numbers are magic. I’m more likely to remember someone’s phone number than someone’s name.

5. What was the toughest subject for you in school?

Shop. I had it in seventh and eighth grade – wood, ceramics and something else. The wood items never came out evenly; the ceramic things kept blowing up in the kiln. Strangely, ninth grade metal shop wasn’t so bad, maybe because the tools were more precise so I couldn’t muck things up so much.

GayProf: My question would be what food is your ultimate “comfort food?”

Mac and cheese. My wife makes it, grating the cheese. We’re not talking blue boxes of Kraft here.

Scott, I’ll answer your other question soon; it’s tied into Nik’s, and should best be answered together.

ROG

Who You Callin' A…. QUESTION

Ebony magazine has a July 2007 cover story, stories, actually, in which it proclaims that it “engages Black America in an honest examination of race, language and the culture of disrespect.” It’s interesting, because in the time I’ve been reading Ebony, and it’s been, off and on, since I was a kid, this is the first time in a very long time that the magazine has provided multiple stories on one topic. Throughout, there was a timeline of race and language, then a series of articles. Worth reading, at least in the library.

The one piece that intrigued me the most is the one that suggests that there are thinks a member of the tribe can say that an outsider (say, a white male like Don Imus talking about black women) cannot. There’s a guy of Polish descent who I’ve played racquetball with, and he has occasionally provided himself with an ethnic slur that I would never say myself. This is an obvious notion that reminds me of a story from my childhood:
My sister Leslie was teasing our sister Marcia on the school playground; it wasn’t very nice. But when one of Leslie’s male friends started teasing Marcia with the same words, Leslie slugged him.

So my question is this: What do you say in your tribe or tribes, however you define it (ethnicity, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, fraternity, sorority, family) that is verboten when it comes from the outside? I’m really curious about this, because, except for very good friends, who I can tell when they’ve done an air-headed thing, I’ve never been all that comfortable with that kind of talk.
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A couple things other people I read have discovered that interested me greatly.
1. From the U.K.’s Chris Black wonders whether attacks on Barack Obama as not black enough from some black groups might not make him even more attractive to some white voters. For a pol from across the pond, I think Mr. Black is pretty astute about American politics. “Not black enough” always reminds me of a Joan Armatrading lyric (from the title cut of an A&M EP, “How Cruel”)
“I had somebody say once my black was way too black,
And someone answer she’s not black enough for me.”
(I guess I’m not the only one who came to that conclusion. There’s a slow-loading Blogspot blog, Seattle for Barack Obama, that used that very quote.) I’m not sold on Senator Obama, but these kinds of attacks make him more sympathetic, I think.
2. The guy in the overalls found this citation to a 1970 DC Comics survey, conducted by a groovy Flash and a Superman we can dig, asking their readers to rap about what they’re interested in reading about. (Rap meant something different in 1970.) Right there between “pollution” and “space flights” is “black people”. I think that in 1970, I probably would have been offended, but now, it’s just hysterical.

ROG