Why a duck (as opposed to other fowl)

It’s all too much

Smilin Ed 1Back in June, my friend Mary, not to be confused with my other friend Mary, asked me about the derivation of the duck. This is both easy in the micro sense and unclear in the macro.

In my FantaCo days, we published this comic book called Smilin’ Ed. Ed was a rat. I mean literally, FantaCo’s rascally rodent mascot. The character was drawn by the late Raoul Vezina. The stories were by Tom Skulan and Raoul. Invariably, he put us FantaCo folk in the stories. I was a duck.

Why was I a duck? I’m not sure. It may that I used to do a decent imitation of Donald Duck, only less comprehensible. BTW, I can still do that. Why? Why wouldn’t I?

Then again, I’ve always had affection for fowl since I first heard Henhouse Five Plus Two cluck In The Mood. I knew then that almost any music could be done in chicken.

I’m a duck in the Smilin’ Ed story in the X-Men Chronicles, and in a huge birthday card that Raoul drew of me reading the New York Times. He did this particular drawing for a friend of mine. When I got my own URL, I decided to use the drawing.

Which reminds me

I’ve been, in my purported free time, working on a Wikipedia page for Raoul. It’s not that I have too little information but too much. His friends, including one who has recently died, have sent me at least 100 emails. They contain tidbits of info about Raoul, including a bunch of items I didn’t know. He did a few album covers. Music was as much a passion of his as art. He often combined the two.

For instance, he had started, but never completed, a comic book about the legendary Albany band Blotto of I Want To Be A Lifeguard fame. I’m hoping that when my family goes back to school, whenever that might be, I’ll get back to it.

What if the FantaCo Chronicles had continued?

We did magazines about the X-Men (Dave Cockrum cover, edited by me), Fantastic Four (John Byrne cover, mine), Daredevil (Frank Miller cover, edited by Mitch Cohn), the Avengers (George Perez cover, Mitch’s), and Spider-Man (Byrne cover, mine).

spider-man chroniclesAlan David Doane, who was a regular customer at FantaCo, the comic book store/publisher where I worked from 1980-1988 asked:

If you could have edited five more FantaCo Chronicles volumes, what comics/characters would you have chosen, who would be the main interview subject in each, and who would you have chosen to draw the covers?

First, a review: we did magazines about the X-Men (Dave Cockrum cover, edited by me), Fantastic Four (John Byrne cover, mine), Daredevil (Frank Miller cover, edited by Mitch Cohn), the Avengers (George Perez cover, Mitch’s), and Spider-Man (Byrne cover, mine).

I was happy to get almost anyone good to do the covers. Owner/publisher Tom Skulan didn’t want Cockrum to do the X-Men cover, not out of artistic taste. He believed Dave was also doing that Official Marvel Index cover for the X-Men. We tried getting several others, including Wendy Pini of Elfquest fame.

Byrne was great for the FF front cover, but Perez was late for the back, which is why the front and back were the same, and for no additional charge. Miller was supposed to do Spider-Man but he found that he could not, and Byrne did that cover extremely fast.

After getting chewed out by Marvel’s Jim Shooter, we were steering away from doing any more of their titles. In fact, a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Chronicles (and other “underground” titles) was even announced but never released; that would have certainly been edited by Mitch Cohn.

I was in early conversations with Denis Kitchen about doing something with Kitchen Sink Enterprises, which surely would have been driven by Will Eisner’s Spirit.

To your question about future Chronicles:

The Defenders, with an emphasis with Doctor Strange. Writer Steve Gerber, for sure. Cover by Sal Buscema.

Captain America and Iron Man, who of course, shared Tales of Suspense; this would make indexing easier. Cap writer Steve Englehart; I LOVED that run. Cover by John Buscema.

Characters related to the Fantastic Four: Silver Surfer, the Inhumans and Black Panther, for sure. She-Hulk? Luke Cage? Oh, what the heck – Stan Lee. Cover by Byrne.

The Hulk and Sub-Mariner, who were in Tales to Astonish for a time. Bill Bixby, because I was a big fan of My Favorite Martian. Cover by Herb Trimpe.

Thor plus any Avengers not covered – Ant-Man/Giant Man, et al. The underrated Marie Severin. Walt Simonson turned the Thunder God upside down.

Of course, I have no idea if I could GET any of those artists, save for Byrne. Maybe we would have asked Fred Hembeck, who was friends with a number of artists in the Mid-Hudson. And he could have done a great take on Tales to Astonish #100.

Trivial metadata surrounding music

I’ll bet some of them used to read the side panels of cereal boxes.

A friend of mine wrote this about his wife: “[She] likes music but isn’t obsessed with the trivial metadata surrounding it — you know, she knows a song when she hears it but might not know the title or artist, or underlying themes, or what studio it was recorded in, or if the band’s usual drummer was replaced by someone else for some reason on that particular song — that sort of thing doesn’t interest her.”

My wife is like that. And so are many folks who read my blog who DON’T know who Holland-Dozier-Holland are, or Barry and Greenwich, or Doc Pomus, or even George Martin when I mention them here, all of whom are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They do know Carole King from the album Tapestry, but Gerry Goffin, or Mann and Weil, not so much unless they happened to have seen Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

What I realized is that my friend, and much of the crew who worked at FantaCo, and the director of my library, and Dustbury, and Chuck Miller, and I are the anomalies. We’re the geeky outliers who used to read the liner notes of albums to find out who wrote each song, who produced the tracks, even each song’s running time. We discovered that the person who wrote X also both wrote AND produced Y.

I’ll bet some of them used to read the side panels of cereal boxes. I know I did: thiamine, niacin…

I tended to surround myself with like-minded people and fooled myself into believing that almost everyone is like that. Then I post something on, say ABC Wednesday, and folks know the tunes but not the names.

I get the comeuppance I need. I’m the weirdo who knows Classical Gas by Mason Williams is exactly three minutes, designed to accompany some video on The Smothers Brothers TV show, without looking it up. But not everyone’s brain is filled with such musical trivia. And that, I suppose, is a good thing.

Jack Kirby would have been 100

just search Mark Evanier’s page for info about Jack Kirby, or at least go to his August 28 posts each year.

Jack-KirbyThe Wikipedia post reads: “Jack Kirby (/ˈkɜrbi/; August 28, 1917 – February 6, 1994), born Jacob Kurtzberg, was an American comic book artist, writer, and editor widely regarded as one of the medium’s major innovators and one of its most prolific and influential creators.” This is understatement; he was known as King Kirby for a reason.

Check out this page for just some of the characters he was responsible for creating or co-creating.

Lots of people can write more eloquently than I about Jack Continue reading “Jack Kirby would have been 100”

Keeper of the FantaCo flame

Annamae Hebert was a real mom, in the best meaning of the word, even to me.

Truckstop
The interesting and unexpected result of this blog is that I’ve become a keeper of the flame for things related to FantaCo, the comic book store where I worked from 1980 to 1988, and its early staff. A fellow named Jim Abbott emailed this picture of a sign by Raoul Vezina (d. 1983), the great artiste of Smilin’ Ed.

Jim writes: “I doubt you’ve seen this. It was on the front of 279 Fair Street in Kingston [NY], owned by my friend, the late Bruce Talbott, of New Paltz Continue reading “Keeper of the FantaCo flame”