Graphic novel: Michael Jackson in Comics

as talented as he was eccentric

Michael Jackson in ComicsA friend of mine provided me with a digital version of Michael Jackson in Comics, a 190-page item from NBM Graphic Novels, officially released on February 12. Conceptually, I liked the idea of a narrative, broken up by various artists showing bits of the story.

It’s interesting to me that I actually knew a fair amount of the Michael Jackson story beforehand. I was familiar with his abusively controlling father, Joe trying to whip the Jackson 5 into shape. Like millions, I watched the 25th anniversary of Motown, when he debuted the moonwalk. But I had forgotten about his friendship with young Ryan White, who had become the face of HIV/AIDS in America.

Specifically, I wrote a paper in library school about how MTV didn’t allow black artists on the channel until the Columbia/Epic label threatened to pull ALL of their artists. Now, it’s hard to think of MTV without the videos from the Thriller album.

But the writer gingerly deals with the more “wacko” elements, such as his surgeries, his children, and the allegations of abusing young boys. Clearly, he believes Michael’s versions of the stories or thinks we just don’t know the facts.

The graphic pieces, done in the many styles, I enjoyed, for the most part. I preferred the pieces that actually expressed a point of view, rather than merely restating what was in the text. In particular, I thought Vox’s The Man With the White Socks, about a goofy fan, was a bit humorous.

Prolific

I take it that someone named Céka wrote both the text and scripted biography. He’s noted on Amazon as “also the author of the Rolling Stones in Comics. Formerly a copywriter in advertising, he has scripted over 30 graphic novels.”

The narrative is much better with the art. While some of the text was necessary, especially in the beginning and the very end, the story got very repetitive. If those text sections were edited down by about 50%, it would be a much better collection.

Moreover, he tended to use a lot of exclamation marks unnecessarily! And whoever did the layout would put hyphens to break up words in a most bizarre way! Mon-ths, for instance!

MJ was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Twice in five years. As the introduction to Michael Jackson in Comics notes, well beyond his passing in 2009, he “remains one of the most adulated and mysterious stars in the world.” I expect that is still true.

“Incredible singer, brilliant musician, amazing performer, he was just as talented as he was eccentric, adored as well as reviled with sordid accusations, sadly caught between a stolen childhood and a suffocating star system.”

Michael Jackson: erase performers?

Jackson 5.Diana Ross Presents.1969The ever-inquisitive Arthur asked about a recent post:
About your Rolf Harris song [Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport] – it raises a question: Are we under any obligation to erase performers or songs we once liked because it later turns out that they were either allegedly or actually terrible humans or allegedly or actually did terrible things, like Rolf?

I should note that I was totally oblivious to the charges against the singer. “Harris was convicted of 12 indecent assaults at London’s Southwark Crown Court in June 2014, one on an eight-year-old autograph hunter, two on girls in their early teens, and a catalogue of abuse against his daughter’s friend over 16 years.”

That’s mighty disturbing. Had I known that, I might have passed on that particular song for the list, not as a way of rewriting history but rather not wanting to be perceived as condoning pedophilia. Am I going to go back and delete that musical link? No, because I didn’t know at the time.

Arthur continues: After Leaving Neverland aired on TV here, radio stations announced they were banning Michael Jackson’s music (despite the fact that many of them never played it, anyway, because the music they played was completely different genres or eras). It seems to me that the three reactions are to join the mob, defy the mob and continue to like whoever it is, or to just keep quiet about liking whatever it is or whoever the person is—cowed into silence by the mob. What do you think?

Now you’ve really hit a nerve. I haven’t seen Finding Neverland, and I don’t know that I will. But I do not dismiss the allegations out of hand.

I was writing a post about what songs I would singing karaoke to, a post I haven’t had a chance to finish because of the lack of time. Clearly, though, the songs would include the early works of the Jackson Five. If I were to pick one, it’d be The Love You Save, but ABC and I Want You Back would also be appropriate.

In the day, I was right in Jermaine’s vocal range. Even now I’d join in with anything that Michael, and Jackie, who also hit some really high notes, weren’t singing. For The Love You Save, in addition to harmonies, I’d sing, e.g.:

Those other guys will put you down
As soon as they succeed!

and

The way they talk about you
They’ll turn your name to dirt, oh!

Am I going to stop singing along with Jermaine because of something that Michael reportedly did? Nah. For that matter, will I cease playing Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album, which I believe is better than Thriller? Absolutely not.

If I were DJing a wedding – unlikely, but I did so once – would I play J5 or MJ? I don’t think so, but only out of an overabundance of caution about offending others.

But where would it stop? I could name any number of musicians who were/are schmucks, and who are on the radio daily right now. Where the line is from which one can erase performers – an ahistoric action I’m most uncomfortable with – I just don’t know.


What if Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” had been recorded in the thirties? Wayne Brady and Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox answer that musical question

N is for Noteworthy? (ABC W)

A former contestant on 16 and Pregnant (that’s a show?) recently passed away.

For the longest time, I have been fascinated by what people are considered to be famous. The late Andy Rooney, who was best known for his commentary on the CBS News program 60 Minutes from 1978 to 2011, did a special around 1979, where he mused who was noteworthy. To him, Paul McCartney was famous, but Michael Jackson was not. Of course, this was before the album Thriller came out; I suspect Rooney would have altered his opinion.

In the days prior to 157 cable channel, it was pretty easy in the United States to ascertain that whoever was on national television had a modicum of fame. That is no longer the case. A former contestant on 16 and Pregnant (that’s a show?) recently passed away, and it was reported in my local paper; of course, I never heard of her.

There’s a database called Datasets I belong to, and it put out, at the end of this past year, an international list of “celebrity deaths”. The roster for April 11, 2016 included:

Ed Snider, 83 – American sports executive (Comcast Spectacor, Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia 76ers)
Doug Banks, 57 – American radio personality (The Doug Banks Radio Show)
João Carvalho, 28 – Portuguese mixed martial arts fighter
Hokie Gajan, 56 – American football player and broadcaster (New Orleans Saints)
Veenu Paliwal, 44 – Indian motorcyclist
Alan Hurd, 78 – English cricketer.
Alvin Lubis, 37 – Indonesian musician.
Miss Shangay Lily, 53 – Spanish drag queen.
Steve Quinn, 64 – British rugby league player (York, Featherstone)
Albert Filozov, 78 – Russian actor.
Emile Ford, 78 – Saint Lucian singer (“What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?”) and sound engineer.
Édgar Perea, 81 – Colombian politician and football commentator.
Tony Ayers, 82 – Australian public servant.
Peter J. Jannetta, 84 – American neurosurgeon (Allegheny General Hospital).
Huntly D. Millar, 88 – Canadian medical technology executive.
Yura Halim, 92 – Bruneian politician, Chief Minister (1967–1972) and lyricist (national anthem)
Richard Ransom, 96 – American businessman (Hickory Farms).
Anne Gould Hauberg, 98 – American arts patron, founder of the Pilchuck Glass School
Ruth Gilbert, 99 – New Zealand poet.2016-04-11
Dame Marion Kettlewell, 102 – British naval officer, Director of the Wrens (1966–1970)
Mohsen Gheytaslou, 25–26 – Iranian soldier (65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade).
A. R. Surendran, no data – Sri Lankan lawyer
Tibor Ordina, 45 – Hungarian track and field athlete

I know NONE of these 23 people, save for Ford, who I heard of only vaguely. I did read Ransom’s obit. Let’s try February 13.

Bořek Šípek, 66 – Czech architect and designer
Flakey Dove, 30 – British racehorse, winner of the 1994 Champion Hurdle
Trifon Ivanov, 50 – Bulgarian footballer (national team)
Slobodan Santrač, 69 – Serbian football player (Yugoslavia) and manager
Barry Jones, 74 – New Zealand Roman Catholic prelate
Giorgio Rossano, 76 – Italian footballer.
Antonin Scalia, 79 – American judge, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (since 1986)
Nathan Barksdale, 54 – American heroin dealer, dramatized in The Wire
Bud Webster, 63 – American science fiction and fantasy writer.
Angela Bairstow, 73 – English badminton player.
Robin Ghosh, 76 – Bangladeshi composer.
Avigdor Ben-Gal, 79 – Israeli general, GOC Northern Command (1977–1981)
Yvonne Barr, 83 – Irish virologist, discovered Epstein–Barr virus
O. N. V. Kurup, 84 – Indian poet, recipient of the Jnanpith Award (2007)
Mike Shepherdson, 85 – Malaysian Olympic hockey player (1956) and cricketer (national team).
Edward J. McCluskey, 86 – American electrical engineer.
Sir Christopher Zeeman, 91 – British mathematician.
Rafael Moreno Valle, 98 – Mexican military physician and politician, Governor of Puebla (1969–1972), Secretary of Health (1964–1968).

Of the 17 people, and one horse, listed, the only one I had unequivocally heard of was Scalia, the SCOTUS justice whose vacancy President Obama was not allowed to fill. I do remember reading the obituaries of Ghosh and Zeeman.

I thought to write this when Zsa Zsa Gabor died in 2016. While she was in some 30 movies, she was most famous for being famous, a precursor to Paris Hilton or those darn Kardashians.

In December, Arthur posted YouTube Rewind: The Ultimate 2016 Challenge plus some 2016 music mashups. I knew hardly anyone in these videos – I must be getting old – but I didn’t care at all.

ABC Wednesday – Round 20

J is for the Jackson 5ive

When the group moved from Motown to Columbia/Epic, Jermaine stayed at Motown, largely because he was married to Motown boss Berry Gordy’s daughter Hazel for a time. Little brother Randy replaced him as the group became The Jacksons.

L-R: Tito, Marlon, Michael, Jackie, Jermaine
L-R: Tito, Marlon, Michael, Jackie, Jermaine

My sister Leslie, who’s a little younger than I, had each of the first four non-Christmas LPs of the Jackson Five (or Jackson 5ive, as Motown sometimes cutely designated the group). I wanted to write them off as a silly piece of “bubblegum soul”. The problem with that was twofold:
1) I rather liked many of the songs, and
2) I discovered that my vocal range was quite compatible with Jermaine, who had the second lead on many of the songs (Tito sang low harmonies, Jackie high harmonies, and Marlon somewhere in the middle)

Oh, there was a third thing:
3) that preteen Michael was pretty darn good

The first album had I Want You Back [LISTEN], a #1 hit in 1970, but also Who’s Lovin’ You [LISTEN], a cover of a Smokey Robinson song that, when I listened to it, I thought, “How old IS this guy?” He was an old soul.

The second album included both ABC [LISTEN], the title song, and The Love You Save [LISTEN], both of which went to #1 for two weeks in 1970. The imaginatively titled Third Album contained I’ll Be There [LISTEN], #1 for FIVE weeks in 1970. I was always a sucker for Maybe Tomorrow [LISTEN], the title song from the fourth album, which only went to #20 in 1971. They had other hits, most notably Dancing Machine [LISTEN], #2 in 1974.

I won’t necessarily admit to having watched their animated series, which is now available on DVD.

When the group moved from Motown to Columbia/Epic, Jermaine stayed at Motown, largely because he was married to Motown boss Berry Gordy’s daughter Hazel for a time. Little brother Randy replaced him as the group became The Jacksons. Their first hit was Enjoy Yourself [LISTEN], #6 in 1977.

Michael, who had done some solo work even with Motown, had some subsequent massive albums on his own, with Off the Wall, and Thriller. But the brothers, including Jermaine, got together for the 1984 Victory album and tour. Michael, of course, went on with his own career arc.

The group never broke up officially, but they haven’t recorded an album since 1989, though Tito, Jackie, Jermaine, and Marlon did appear in some bizarre reality show back in 2009, which ended up including their reactions to brother Michael’s death.

 


ABC Wednesday – Round 14

August Rambling

GayProf noted Perry when he wrote: “Numerous songs en vogue right now celebrate women consuming alcohol to the point of blacking out, hooking up, or hurling (not always in that order). ”

Because I was out of town, I managed to miss a couple of significant cultural anniversaries. One was the 50th anniversary of the first real Marvel superhero comic, the Fantastic Four, by Stan Lee and Jack “King” Kirby. Mark Evanier explains why it had a November cover date. Check out this hour-long Kirby documentary. And here’s a link to the intro to the FF TV show.


The other was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lucille Ball. I watched most, if not all, of the episodes of every single one of her ongoing series, from the seminal I Love Lucy (1951-1957; 8.9 out of 10 on the IMDB scale), which started before even TV Guide and I were born but lives through the clever concept known as the rerun; to the star-studded (and too long, in my recollection) episodes of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1957-1960; 8.6); to The Lucy Show (1962–1968; 7.3), which was the one with Lucy as Lucy Carmichael, Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz in the earlier shows) as Viv, and Gale Gordon as Lucy’s testy boss, Mr. Mooney.

Then there was Here’s Lucy (1968–1974, 6.8), where “Lucy Carter, a widow with two teen children [played her real kids with Desi Arnaz, Lucie and Desi Jr.] takes a job as a secretary for her stuffy brother-in-law [Gale Gordon, again.] Finally, there was Life with Lucy (1986; 6.0) “Lucy Barker, now a grandmother living with her daughter’s family” Gale Gordon also appeared in this show.

They declined in quality somewhat – Life with Lucy was particularly bad, as I recall – but if I didn’t quite LOVE Lucy, I liked the woman from upstate New York (Jamestown) quite a bit.

I believe this was Lucy’s favorite scene from her first series.

As you may have noticed, Katy Perry becomes the second artist, following Michael Jackson, to send five songs from an album to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and during his birth month, no less. An accomplishment to be sure, though the charts don’t reflect the same level of sales they used to. (Similarly true of top-rated TV shows: the numbers are far less than they used to be.) Not incidentally, GayProf noted Perry when he wrote: “Numerous songs en vogue right now celebrate women consuming alcohol to the point of blacking out, hooking up, or hurling (not always in that order). “

In pictures of models, “there are women (and occasionally men) contorted into positions that, were you to see actual people in them, you’d find curious or peculiar or perhaps even alarming.”

Natalie Cole with the Allman Brothers. Check out the sidebar for David Crosby, Graham Nash, and others.

On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data could reproduce the voices of humans with perfect fidelity. Brent Spiner can do the same with the voice of Patrick Stewart.

My new Kickstarter fave: Stripped is a documentary love letter to cartoonists and comic writers who’ve delighted newspaper readers for decades. Since 2008, 166 newspapers have shut down, leaving the future uncertain for many syndicated cartoonists. Amidst this industry upheaval, Stripped follows 60 cartoonists, including luminaries like Jim Davis, Scott McCloud, and Jeff Keane, as they navigate the uncharted waters of a new digital world.

Having seen the trailer for the Spider-Man movie reboot, I have no reason to actually see the movie. The first two movies with Tobey Maguire were great; even own them on DVD.
***

Two music legends died this month. Jerry Leiber of the songwriting duo Leiber & Stoller wrote more songs than just about any pop composer. Here’s a list of most of them. Listen to Big Mama Thornton singing “Hound Dog”, some four years before Elvis Presley. Also, hear Charlie Brown by the Coasters; coincidentally, Carl Gardner, leader of the Coasters, died a couple of months ago.

Nickolas Ashford, who died August 22, was the songwriting partner and husband of Valerie Simpson. Ashford & Simpson wrote songs for Motown artists, Aretha Franklin, and others, as well as performing themselves. Hear Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell do You’re All I Need To Get By. Also, here’s a song originally performed by Ray Charles, I Don’t Need No Doctor (live) by Humble Pie.

The Jerry Leiber Cover Story on Coverville.

The Salon story about Leiber and Ashford.

GOOGLE ALERTS

Roger with the hula hoop

Rollie Roger Green T-Shirt

Roger Green, the proprietor of Hair by Roger, said noise and vibrations from the work were spoiling the salon’s ‘peaceful environment’. A spokesperson from United Utilities said: “We are fully aware of the impact this scheme has had on the community…”

“The Black Boardwalk Cat is a distinctive animal that has acquired an unusual place in the hearts of many university employees and students,” said Roger Green, associate professor of political science and public administration.

Forgotten Book: THE THROTTLEPENNY MURDER, Roger J. Green. My contribution this week to Pattinase’s Friday’s Forgotten Books is a book I read in 1993.

Former Wisbech Mayor and Wisbech Standard editor, Roger Green who died in a road traffic collision on the A47 Wisbech bypass…. This particular Roger Green got a LOT of coverage.