Tippy Teen in “The Fright Before Xmas” (1967)

« … there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. » ― Clement C. Moore, A Visit From St. Nicholas (1823)

Not too long ago, we glanced at the interesting case of Tower’s teen line, another instance of works insufficiently popular to be properly reprinted, yet still sought after by collectors and aficionados and consequently on the pricey side. And so it is within this limbo that Tippy Teen and Go-Go and Animal find themselves consigned, in the rather fine company of Sugar and Spike and Angel and the Ape. Let’s not strand them there for the duration, please.

So why do I consider Tippy Teen superior to Archie? For one thing, while there’s some underwhelming artwork to be found here and there (sorry, Doug Crane), there’s nothing dismal (no Al Hartley, no Dick Malmgren, no Gus Lemoine, no Stan Goldberg…), and the writing is generally superior, thanks to, among uncredited others, the great Jack Mendelsohn (recycling and updating his old scripts, but that’s not the end of the world).

Here’s a little seasonal piece I find quite witty and charming. The well-paced work of an anonymous scripter and my beloved Samm Schwartz, it appeared in Tippy Teen no. 18. The whole issue’s quite solid, and since it’s in the public domain, you can enjoy it right here.

SchwartzTippyXmas01ASchwartzTippyXmas02ASchwartzTippyXmas03ASchwartzTippyXmas04ASchwartzTippyXmas05ASchwartzTippyXmas06A

SchwartzTippyTeen18A
This is Tippy Teen no. 18 (March 1968, Tower). Cover artwork by Samm Schwartz.
Tippy18MonkeesPinupA
What kind of a grinch would I be if I failed to include the Monkees pin-up promised on the cover? I shudder to even entertain the notion. In the usual order, Messrs. Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones and Michael Nesmith.

-RG

The Prodigious William Stout

« You know, the dog food that Billy Jack loves! » — The Firesign Theatre

Ah, September the 18th. Today’s the birthday of the staggeringly accomplished William Stout (born in 1949), master of ancient reptiles, bootleg record covers, friend of The Firesign Theatre, former Russ Manning assistant (none but the best would do!), and I’ll spare you the illustrious details of his career in cinema. Still, let’s look around a bit, shall we?

AlienWorlds3A
Here’s an unforgettable cover from Alien Worlds no. 3 (July, 1983, Pacific Comics). This scene gave me nightmares, and still raises a shudder. These critters look like a hybrid of a platypus and a piranha. Happy landings!
StoutRhinoA
Stout’s wonderful original logo for Rhino Records, circa 1974.

Speaking of ’74, isn’t that rhino a dead ringer for Swan’s oleaginous right-hand man, Philbin, from Phantom of the Paradise?

PhilbinPhantomA

StoutFiresignNextWorldVersoA
This is the back cover (the recto is equally sumptuous) for The Firesign Theatre‘s 1975 opus, In the Next World, You’re On Your Own, featuring a pair of classic sidelong suites, Police Street and We’ve Lost Our Big Kabloona.
StoutCocaineA
A clutch of underground classics? Sure. Here’s Cocaine Comix no. 1 (Feb. 1976, Last Gasp).
Stout50sFunniesA
Another number one (with a bullet, of course): 50’s Funnies no. 1 (1980, Kitchen Sink). More lies inside!
StoutHotWeatherA
A favourite page from Stout’s masterpiece (or certainly his great labour of love, at the very least): The Dinosaurs: A Fantastic New View of a Lost Era (1981, edited by Byron Preiss). This piece (the first he drew for the book) is entitled Hot Weather. « After lifting his head for air, he drank more and then wallowed his whole length and breadth into the ooze, vocalizing for the first time that day, and loudly. »
StoutWeirdTripsA
Say hello to friendly Ed Gein. Weird Trips no. 2 (1978, Kitchen Sink). Please note the sinisterly-customized Kitchen Sink Enterprises logo, Wrightsonbrand coffee, and EC Comics narrator The Old Witch impishly peeking from a lower-right shelf. And yes, can’t go disemboweling your fellow man and woman without a copy of Gray’s Anatomy. Preparation is everything!
StoutTCJ81GainesA
Well, there never was any doubt that Mr. Stout was an EC Comics überfan. The Comics Journal no. 81 (May, 1983, Fantagraphics).
StoutAmazonWomenA
I did bring up his Hollywood work, so here’s a sample. I wasn’t going to go with his the far-too-familiar Rock ‘n’ Roll High School poster… you all know it already, so where’s the fun in that? Of course, Joe Dante’s Amazon Women on the Moon again (1987) raises the eternal question: « Who made Steve Guttenberg a Star? »

And that’s Bill Stout for you: stunningly versatile, but always himself. Could any artist strive for more?

-RG

Let’s Hear It for Bobby Sherman!

« You’ve got his likeness
emblazoned onto
the top of a tin box

Perfect big heart
perfect blue eyes
perfect teeth and
perfectly 
flowing locks » — The Motorz, ‘Bobby Sherman Lunchbox’

It’s birthday number seventy-six for singer, actor, songwriter, Charlton comics star and all-around swell guy Robert Cabot “Bobby” Sherman, Jr. (born July 22, 1943).

BobbySherman1A
This is Bobby Sherman no. 1 (Feb. 1972). Story and art by the much-maligned Tony Tallarico. You know what, though: he’s alright in our book. One of these days, we’ll make our case.

His Getting Together co-star, Wes Stern, also celebrates his birthday this Thursday, July 25. He’ll be seventy-two. You may remember Wes from his recurring rôle as Brenda Morgenstern’s shy, foot-fetishist beau Lenny Fiedler on Rhoda (early on, before the show utterly went South).

BobbySherman02A
This is Bobby Sherman no. 2 (Mar. 1972). Story and art by Mr. Tallarico.

Bobby and Wes had the singular honour of starring in seven issues of their own Charlton comic book (February to October 1972). Our excerpt is number 2’s « A Guide to TV? », written and illustrated by Tony Tallarico and shot from the original art. Good-natured fun, especially when the Getting Together cast of characters is around. In the 1971 Fall season, the snappy little show was off to a promising start, but found itself, in the eleventh hour, scheduled against the powerhouse tv hit of 1971, Norman Lear’s abrasive All in the Family, and that was all she wrote.

BobbyShermanTV01ABobbyShermanTV02ABobbyShermanTV03ABobbyShermanTV04A

BobbyShermanTV05A
Ah, back in those innocent days when watching seven hours of TV was the stuff of humorous exaggeration. Now (depending on how it’s defined and whom you ask) it’s *below* the daily average.
BobbyShermanTV06A
Inside joke alert: “Honest Ed Justin” alludes to one of Bobby’s songwriting partners, Ed Justin. Here’s one of their musical collaborations. And, hey, two posts in a row featuring Tricky Dick cameos… I’m on a roll! Incidentally, ‘Amateurs Tonight” predates The Gong Show by nearly half a decade. Was Chuck Barris perchance a Charlton reader?

BobbyShermanTV07ABobbyShermanTV08A

But that’s all water under the bridge. By the mid-70s, Bobby basically walked away from the grind of public life, and the odd tour or charity event aside, he’s been volunteering with the LAPD, training recruits in first aid, CPR, and so forth. A solid citizen, no irony or sarcasm intended.

One more?

BobbySherman4A
This is Bobby Sherman no. 4 (June, 1972). M. Tallarico strikes again!

Once again, we wish the most joyous of birthdays to Bobby and Wes! 

-RG

Edward Gorey: An Author Who Went for a Walk

« Painstaking drawings with an eloquent orchestration of hatchings and tickings, marvelous details of period and setting, a narrative that leapfrogs from the precise to the unexplained, a tone of vague delights in both visual and linguistic oddities. » — ‘Mr. Earbrass Jots Down a Few Visual Notes: The World of Edward Gorey’ by Karen Wilkin (1994)

So very much has already been written and said, in all media, about Edward St. John Gorey (February 22, 1925 – April 15, 2000) that there seems little of substance to add. As his work’s ultimate appeal rests in its enduring, expertly wrought sense of mystery, it should be in the Master’s spirit to show rather than tell. Consequently, here’s a gallery of favourite extracts from Gorey’s voluminous œuvre. I’ve omitted both my personal pick, The Willowdale Handcar or  The Return of the Black Doll (1962) and the too-obvious-by-half The Ghashlycrumb Tinies or After the Outing (1963), the former because I’m planning to examine it more leisurely in the future, while the latter… still manages to squeak in, after a fashion. See our bonus at the end.

GoreyGuestA
The Doubtful Guest (1958).
GoreyHaplessA
The Hapless Child (1961).
GoreyWugglyA
The Wuggly Ump (1963).
GoreyOsbickA
The Osbick Bird (1970).
GoreySummonsA
The Disrespectful Summons (1971).
GoreyNosebleedA
The Glorious Nosebleed (1975).
GoreyDaffodilA
The Broken Spoke (1976).
GoreyInsectesA
The Broken Spoke (1976).
GoreyLoathsomeA
The Loathsome Couple (1977).
Gorey&Guest
The author and his creature in New York City, 1958.
GoreyNothingA
Bonus bits: An entry from The Ghashlycrumb TiniesN is for Neville, who died of ennui ») turned up, of all places, in Byron Preiss‘ splendid The Beach Boys (1979), which chronicled the band’s history up to that point through reams of quotations and illustrations, matching a gazillion visuals artists with a favourite BB tune. Gorey’s entry (reprinted and détournée with the author’s consent) was the setup for a dyptich. It provides a visual for Busy Doin’ Nothing (1968) one of Brian Wilson‘s finest compositions from his years in the wilderness; well before Seinfeld, it’s a song about nothing, set to a lilting bossa beat. Hey, get the mug!
SimonsonGoreyA
I generally have little use for Walt Simonson‘s work, which I find overly-mannered and illegible, but I give him full marks here for wit, creativity and musical discernment. His contribution to Byron Preiss’ book focused on Brian Wilson’s bucolic I Went to Sleep (also 1968), a companion to Busy Doin’ Nothing and a fascinating miniature that gives a sense of Brian’s eventual creative direction had he not been forced to stick with the tried-and-true, official Beach Boys sound to this day. Simonson does a very effective Gorey pastiche, don’t you think?

« You know, the kids had quarrelled, so they’re taken off to see a corpse, which is decayed and completely hanging. It was parody. » — Gorey, interviewed by Clifford Ross (1994)

Oh, and if you should find yourself in the vicinity of in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, do drop by the Edward Gorey House!

-RG

Peter Tork, Man of Music… and of Comics

« I know she’s having a fit, she doesn’t like me a bit, no bird of grace ever lit on Auntie Grizelda » — Diane Hildebrand / Jack Keller, 1966

Now’s the time to wish Peter Halsten Thorkelson, he of the open, Nordic look, a most joyous 77th birthday, regardless of what Your Auntie Grizelda may think!

Pete was born in Washington, D.C. on February 13, 1942, which makes him the doyen of the group. Like Mike “Wool Hat” Nesmith, he was a musician first, likely the group’s most instrumentally proficient. Peter wound up auditioning for the tv show after his name was suggested by Stephen Stills, who wasn’t quite right for the part… but definitely a good sport.

Peter and his fellow Monkees were featured in their own Dell comic book (is there any greater honour?), which lasted from March, 1967 to October, 1969, seventeen issues in all (with some reprinting.) That was one of Dell’s few savvy moves in their waning days, and one of their few readable titles outside John Stanley‘s output.

FawcetteMonkeesIdea2A
Peter the muse. From ‘Way-Out’ West, The Monkees (1966, Popular Library). See below!
FawcetteMonkeesCoverA
This cute lil’ volume contained a bunch of fun (what else) Monkees romps written by Howard Liss and ably illustrated by Eisner- Iger Studio veteran Gene Fawcette.
DelboMonkeesBeezleA
José Delbo‘s splash page from Beezle, Beezle, Who’s Got the Beezle?, The Monkees no. 8 (Jan. 1968, Dell). Scripter unknown… but he’s pretty good.
Monkees3A
The issue in question: The Monkees no. 8 (Jan. 1968, Dell)
Monkees4A
The Monkees no. 4 (Sept. 1967, Dell)
Monkees14A
The Monkees no. 14 (Oct. 1968, Dell)
ClowesGrizeldaA
Ah, but Dan Clowes has known it all along! From Eightball no. 13 (Apr. 1994, Fantagraphics)

Update: Peter Tork passed away on Thursday, February 21, 2019, barely a week beyond his 77th birthday. Au revoir, Peter!

-RG

Just a Humble Boy From Tupelo, Mississippi

« When I was a boy, I always saw myself as a hero in comic books and in movies. I grew up believing this dream. » – Elvis Aaron Presley (1935 — ?)

Today, somewhere, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll celebrates his eighty-fourth birthday, be he alive, dead or undead, he lives on. And never forget: Elvis is everywhere!

mod1a
A most salty salute to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll on his birthday! Compared to earlier decades, the 1980’s (and on!) were not kind to the anthology comic book. Thankfully, the meagre rewards and resounding indifference weren’t enough to quite dissuade some foolhardy souls from giving the format a go. But the fanboys wanted spandex, they wanted continuity and they soon wanted their « decompressed storytelling ». Bah. 
In 1981, Kitchen Sink Comix published the lone issue of Terry Beatty‘s labour of irradiated passion, Tales Mutated for the Mod. (June, 1981). Unlike John Byrne and others’ unceasing and pointless ‘tributes’ to Fantastic Four No. 1, this cover version of Harvey Kurtzman‘s Mad No. 1 is fiendishly clever. Kudos, Mr. Beatty!
panterelviszombiesa
Gary Panter crafted this loving tribute in 1984, a one-shot published by RAW. Such heady stuff was well ahead of its time!
elviszombiesbacka
The back cover… this beats Power Records‘ meek offerings flat!
heartthrobs95a
The oft-inaccurate Grand Comics Database really fumbles it this time: the instantly-recognizable icon on the right is, according to them… Fabian. Dopes. Hamilton, Ontario’s Win Mortimer (1919-1998), inducted into the Joe Shuster Hall of Fame in 2006, drew this cover for DC’s Heart Throbs no. 95 (April-May 1965); given the time period and The Pelvis’ shirt, he would presumably be shooting the dire Paradise, Hawaiian Style. If you’re of a mind to commemorate the King’s anniversary with one of his mid-60s cinematic offerings, better opt for the far finer Tickle Me (1965).
elviseeriea
His (alleged) paper boy claims, and I do want to believe him, that the Big E has peacefully decamped to the quietude of Eerie, Indiana. Looking good!

-RG

The Old Year’s Final Boarding Call

« On New Year’s Eve the whole world celebrates the fact that a date changes. Let us celebrate the dates on which we change the world. » — Akilnathan Logeswaran

Earlier this month, as we showcased Justin Green’s Musical Legends, I mentioned that I was reserving one of the strips for a special occasion, and it has come.

JustinGreenLastTrainA
Originally published in the December, 2001 issue of Pulse!

« Shedding light on past and present musicians — and there are countless possibilities — is  a real challenge. But when it works, the comic vision can change the listening experience. » Justin Green, from his Authoroonist Acknowledgements & Apologies (2004).

This entry stands out from its brethren in that the artist was personally involved in, or more precisely a witness to, the events depicted. In addition, no famous or semi-famous musical figure occupies the spotlight; instead, we get a gentle, low-key, soulful anecdote.

Who’s Out There has had a good year, and so we thank all of you readers around the world (and I do mean around the world: according to WordPress’ statistics, comics fans visited us from a whopping eighty-three countries these past twelve months) and wish each of you a wonderful, or at the very least better, year 2019.

-RG

Justin Green’s Musical Legends

« My father had a lifelong interest in helping musicians. I even encountered his presence when reading the autobiography of Anita O’Day. She said that there was a real estate man in Chicago who always made sure her band had a place to stay. That was Pop. » – Justin Green

How did Justin Green, one of the Founding Fathers of the Underground Comix movement, wind up holding down a regular feature for a decade (1992-2002) in Tower Records‘ in-house magazine, Pulse!? The whole chain of events began with a strip about his dad’s drinking. Of course.

GreatMomentsA
« It was my father’s spirit that instigated this cartoon project…. this was ’91 (Blab No.6, Summer 1991, Kitchen Sink Press), and I was living in Sacramento. Mark Weidenbaum was then an editor at Pulse! Magazine, published and distributed by Tower Records, which had its headquarters in West Sacramento. He had just seen the piece when he found out I lived nearby. He wanted to explore the idea of an ongoing musical biography cartoon feature. »
MusicalLegendsGlassA
The second instalment (April, 1992). A little Einstein on the Beach, anyone?
MusicalLegendElvisA
August, 1992. Elvis certainly had his faults, but racism or ingratitude were not among these.
MusicalLegendsGaryA
My own introduction to the Reverend’s music came, as it surely came to many others, through Jackson Browne‘s fine cover of his Cocaine (Running on Empty, 1977). « I was talking to my doctor down at the hospital. He said, ‘Son, it says here you’re twenty-seven, but that’s impossible — you look like you could be forty-five’. »
MusicalLegendsVenutiA
The strip frequently appeared in colour. Here’s my favourite example, from April, 1994. And here’s a fine Venuti performance. No, he wasn’t *always* joking.
MusicalLegendsRoddA
Ah, Rodd Keith, the main man behind those infamous Song Poems ads, comic book fixtures in the 1970s. The weren’t a scam… not in the traditional sense. November, 1996. Lend your ear to his «Ecstasy to Frenzy».

While Green isn’t a native virtuoso draftsman like, say, R. Crumb or Rick Griffin, and he’s only fair-to-middling when it comes to likenesses, he *is* a born storyteller, and that’s really what’s most needed for an endeavour of this nature. Compressing a lifetime, or at least a career, into a single-page strip (two at the most!) is remarkably tricky and demanding, and if it looks deceptively easy here, he’s succeeded.

In selecting strips for this post, I didn’t lean towards my own favourite musicians, opting instead for what I felt were the strongest pieces, regardless of topic. However, I’m reserving my very favourite for a special New Year’s Eve post. Hope you enjoyed these musical time capsules! If you did, you’ll be happy to learn that the fine folks at Last Gasp collected the set in 2003.

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown II, Day 31

« Here, plainly, was a guy for whom cartooning held no mysteries. He was more than a master; he was a virtuoso, a source, an innovator whose style was completely natural and original and flexible enough to embrace dashed-off vulgarity and painstaking elegance, often in the same panel. » — Jim Woodring on Jack Davis

Here we are, coming to the end of our countdown (or count-up, depending on your point of view), and who better to convey the magic of Hallowe’en than the late, great Jack Davis (1924-2016)? Don’t answer that. 😉

DavisMonsterRallyA
Detail from Monster Rally (1959).

« A 1959 collection of humorous horror songs by Alice Pearce and Hans Conried, Monster Rally (LPM/LSP-1923) sports a classic Davis painting – blending horror and humor into what amounts to a cutely-weird piece of art. Davis has mentioned that this scene is one he really enjoying doing and that he was quite pleased with. An ad for this album in issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland from back then read ”An insane and fantastically entertaining album featuring Hans Conried and Alice Pearce, singing and screaming ghoulish new songs like ‘Monster Rally’, ‘The Thing‘, ‘The Invisible Man‘, ‘Not of This Earth‘ and others. The album cover by Jack Davis is a masterpiece – suitable for framing.” » Excerpted from Dick Voll‘s article Just for the Record: The LP Cover Art of Jack Davis (Fanfare no. 5, Summer 1983; edited and published by Bill Spicer).

And here are a mittful of extras, since I’m more inclined to treat than to trick on this special day.

DavidHorrorPicsA
« From approximately ’59, Davis did a huge quantity of work for Topps Gum Co. Over the years, he did ‘Funny Monster Cards’, ‘Wanted Posters’, ‘Funny Valentines’, ‘Batty Book Covers’, ‘Wacky Packs’, ‘Silly Stickers’ as well as standard baseball and football tradings cards. » — Hank Harrison, The Art of Jack Davis (1986, Stabur Press). This, incidentally, is one of the ‘Funny Valentines’.

DavisSlimDracA

DavisSlimWolfA
Davis’ classic Slim Jim commercials of the late 1970s. Of course. Can you believe they ran these earlier… with the bold-type, all-caps slogan of WHAT TO SINK YOUR TEETH INTO WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY AND YOU’RE NOT A WEREWOLF… but sans Davis art? Thankfully, some bright kid at the ad agency saw the opportunity and managed to be convincing enough.

In closing, thanks for bearing with all my divagations through this second edition of WOT’s Hallowe’en Countdown, and let me wish you a most spooky Hallowe’en, one and all!

-RG

Mother Earth’s Plantasia

« Unless you’re some kind of masochist, I would imagine that you’d like to begin your plant experience with the easy, almost impossible-to-kill group. »

A sunny reminder of some of the plant world’s myriad of virtues, from 1973’s Mother Earth’s Hassle-free Indoor Plant Book by Lynn and Joel Rapp, a terrific little tome that bears the probably unique distinction of having yielded its own soundtrack. Not only that, but its own *excellent* soundtrack, Mother Earth’s Plantasia by Canadian-born songwriter, producer and electronic music pioneer Mort Garson. The LP was distributed through one of the wackiest marketing schemes I’ve ever encountered: it was given away with the purchase of a Simmons mattress from Sears. Uh?

PlantasiaRubinA
« A green thumb is simply a positive state of mind about growing things. »

I see Plantasia’s even been reissued a few years back on fancy 180 gram vinyl. But you can hear it in its entirety without making the considerable financial investment, thanks to this lovely tribute on the Music Is My Sanctuary blog.

The book (and LP booklet) are illustrated by « Marvelous » Marvin Rubin… who quite deserves the sobriquet, if you ask me.

RubinPlantasia01A
« I was first introduced to Bromeliads by a 75-year-old semi-retired mechanic named Rafe ‘Frenchy’ DeLago. At least I thought I was. It turns out that I was actually first introduced to Bromeliads by my mother and the Dole Company, but neither my mother nor I knew it at the time. Truth is, my mother still doesn’t. You see, all pineapples are Bromeliads. In fact, all Bromeliads are pineapples! »

RubinPlantasia02A

RubinPlantasia03A
As confirmed by George Orwell’s sole comic novel, Keep the Aspidistra Flying.
RubinPlantasia04A
« Those plants will grow in your house, all right, but they’d grow better if you lived in a greenhouse. »
RubinPlantasia05A
« It is well known that plants grow best to classical music, but we have been told about a hip Dieffenbachia who loves The Rolling Stones. »
RubinPlantasia06A
« As people in the plant business, take it from us: the worst pest when it comes to killing plants is Homo sapiens. »

RubinPlantasia07A

– RG