Before Jack Kirby worked with Stan Lee on the Marvel Super-Heroes of the sixties, he was partnered with a great creative talent named Joe Simon. It was Simon and Kirby who launched Captain America and the Boy Commandos and the Newsboy Legion and who invented romance comics and who became one of the most popular creative forces in comics of the forties and much of the fifties. Their studio produced great comics, many of them written and/or drawn by Joe and/or Jack but also employing other top talents including Mort Meskin, Al Williamson, Doug Wildey, George Roussos, Bill Draut and many, many more.
Joe Simon saved a lot of the original art to the comics they did and just before his death in 2011, he was looking forward to assembling a big art book featuring some of that art, presented "warts and all," meaning that you'd be able to see stray pencil work, smudges and pasteovers and corrections and everything. In my 2008 book, Jack Kirby, King of Comics, I presented a Simon-Kirby Fighting American story printed right off the originals and Joe loved the look of it and the idea of letting people see the artwork, up close and personal like that. He made a tentative deal with the folks at Harry N. Abrams Books, who'd published my book, to put out a whole book like that and he asked me to be its supervisor. When the estate representing Jack Kirby's interest (which is sharing in the book) asked me also, I couldn't say no.
The project got off-track for a time when Joe passed but since he wanted it out, it's coming out. Amazon is giving November 11 as the date but I have a printed copy here so I wouldn't be surprised to see it available to all well before then. You can advance-order it over at this page.
It's a big book. The pages are 9" by 12¼" and there are 384 of them. That is not the size of the original artwork. I love those big collections that do that but I find them hard to read and harder to store. This book is meant to be read and to that end, I included as many complete stories as we could locate.
Most of those 384 pages contain artwork by Simon, Kirby or someone who worked for them. Some though have an intro by me telling a little about Joe and Jack and what they did. And some pages have an article by Joe's son, Jim on what the world of Simon and Kirby looked like from his unique perspective.
That's about everything. I always feel uneasy about plugging my books on this site but I don't consider this my book. It's Joe's and it's Jack's and if you're familiar with their work, you'll want a copy.
The First Lady of Animation Voices, June Foray, is 97 years old today. That's ninety-seven, only three shy of a century. She is living proof that you can live to a ripe old age if you're small and have a big mouth.
Oh, and it also helps if you're beastly talented, very industrious and loved by many generations who grew up hearing your voice in cartoons, commercials, dubbing movies, everywhere.
That's June posing with the second of her two Emmy Awards. She got the first one when she was 94 and the second when she was 95. What the hell took them so long?
Happy Birthday, June. Just keep having them.
This is a 1974 episode of the game show, To Tell the Truth. If you're interested at all in it, you'll probably only be interested in the first game in which the panel has to identify the real Jack Mercer.
Jack Mercer was an assistant animator and story sketch artist at the Fleischer Studios on the early Popeye cartoons. He did a decent impression of the character and was known to do it around the office. A gent named Billy Costello had that job but the studio was unhappy with his unreliability and tendency to demand more money…so one day in 1935, they decided to dump Costello and put that kid in the job.
Reportedly, Mr. Mercer had to overcome a crippling case of Mike Fright in order to get through his first cartoons but he got used to it and got to be very good at it. He even began voicing other characters in addition to Popeye and was heard in non-Popeye Fleischer films, including Gulliver's Travels. He continued to write cartoons the rest of his life but was often heard in them.
So for the rest of Mercer's life, he was Popeye and he moved his residence to wherever he had to live in order to continue to voice the spinach-eating sailor — Miami when the Fleischer Studio relocated there, then back to New York when production moved back there, etc. In the late seventies, Hanna-Barbera was producing Popeye cartoons so Mercer lived out here. I got to meet him briefly at one of those recording sessions but it was too brief for me to have an interesting story about it to report here. He died in 1984.
Play along with the To Tell the Truth panel. I'll bet you do a better job of figuring out which one he is than they did…
A lot of people — mostly those who'd have to pay a little more — insist that raising the minimum wage in this country would cause all manner of disasters, mainly but not exclusively to destroy the economy. They always say that and according to William Finnegan, they're always wrong.
We note the passing of Bob Palmer, a veteran Hollywood publicist whose clients over the years included Sir Anthony Hopkins, Faye Dunaway, Michele Lee and Bob's friend of many years, Dick Van Dyke. I met him on several occasions around Dick and I recall one time we talked about the hard part of his job, which was saying no to people. If you're a beloved star, like so many people that Bob Palmer represented, you get a flurry of requests to appear at this event or pose for that photo or endorse this cause or sit for that interview. You need someone to politely say no to at least 90% of them and at this, Bob was a master. Nice guy, too. He was 85 and had been a publicist since he was 20.
I don't track this kind of thing but This Day in History informs me that today marks 26 years since Garfield and Friends debuted on CBS. One of the happiest professional experiences of my life was to serve as writer, voice director and co-producer of that series.
Odd thing about that "co-producer" title: I didn't ask for it. I never even asked to be credited as voice director or for the songs I wrote so I wasn't. But after the first time the show was nominated for an Emmy, one of the executive producers, Lee Mendelsohn, suddenly realized that if it won for Best Animated Series, I would not be receiving one of those nifty statues.
The rules were changed a year or two later to include someone who'd written more than a certain percentage of the episodes. I don't recall the number but I was then writing all of them so I obviously would have qualified there. Before that change was instituted, Lee — who literally has more Emmys than toes — decided it would be wrong for him to get one for Garfield and Friends if I didn't. (He needn't have worried. Though nominated a couple of times, it never won.)
Designating me a co-producer meant I'd be included so they made me co-producer. My actual duties did not change nor did my compensation. But I got a lot of messages congratulating me on my promotion…which shows you how meaningless some credits in television can sometimes be.
We did seven or eight seasons of the show, depending on how you figure. It aired over seven seasons but according to CBS and my contract, we did eight. They just made the show an hour its second year and aired Season Two and Season Three at the same time.
Writing it was a lot of fun because after the first few episodes, I was just left alone to write whatever I wanted and to hire the voice actors I wanted. It was so much fun to go in and work with the core cast: Gregg Berger, Thom Huge, Frank Welker, Julie Payne, Howard Morris and, of course, Lorenzo Music in the role of Garfield. I miss those sessions and some of those people. Some, I can't miss because they're still around to repeat their roles on The Garfield Show, the new series starring the lasagna-loving feline.
One of these days, I'll get around to writing more about this series. I'll tell you every problem and crisis we had and you'll think, "That's all?" Because it really was a joy — one that came into my life after a series of experiences in animation that were not and which had left me thinking I'd give it up and find something else to write. I'm glad I didn't.
I just made a wrong turn on my harddisk while looking for something and I found a file called "Rodney Lines." I have no memory of how or where this came from but it seems to be lines from Rodney Dangerfield's act. Here's what was in it…
- I come from a stupid family. During the Civil War, my great uncle fought for the West!
- My father was stupid. He worked in a bank and they caught him stealing pens.
- When I was born, the doctor came out to the waiting room and said to my father, "I'm sorry. We did everything we could but he pulled through."
- My mother never breast fed me. She told me that she only liked me as a friend.
- My father carries around the picture of the kid who came with his wallet.
- When I played in the sandbox, the cat kept covering me up.
- I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.
- Some dog I got. We call him Egypt because he leaves a pyramid in every room.
- What a dog I got. His favorite bone is in my arm!
- I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent back a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof!
- Once when I was lost, I saw a policeman and asked him to help me find my parents. I said to him, "Do you think we'll ever find them?" He said, "I don't know, kid. There are so many places they can hide."
- I remember I was so depressed, I was going to jump out a window on the tenth floor so they sent a priest up to talk to me. He said, "On your mark…"
- I had a lot of pimples, too. One day I fell asleep in a library. I woke up and a blind man was reading my face.
- Last week, my tie caught on fire. Some guy tried to put it out with an axe!
- A girl phoned me and said, "Come on over! There's nobody home." So I went over. Nobody was home!
- I was making love to this girl and she started crying. I said, "Are you going to hate yourself in the morning?" She said, "No, I hate myself now."
- During sex, my wife always wants to talk to me. Just the other night she called me from a hotel.
- One day as I came home early from work, I saw a guy jogging naked. I said to the guy, "Hey, buddy! What are you doing that for?" He said, "Because you came home early."
- I went to look for a used car. I found my wife's dress in the back seat!
- I went to see my doctor. I told him, "Every morning when I get up and look in the mirror, I feel like throwing up. What's wrong with me?" He said, "I don't know but your eyesight is perfect."
- I remember when I swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. He told me to have a few drinks and get some rest.
- I told my doctor I think my wife has V.D. He gave himself a shot of penicillin.
- My psychiatrist told me I'm going crazy. I told him, "If you don't mind, I'd like to get a second opinion. He said, 'All right, you're ugly, too!'"
- Last week I saw my psychiatrist. I told him, “Doc, I keep thinking I’m a dog.” He told me to get off the couch.
- Last night my wife met me at the front door. She was wearing a sexy negligee. The only trouble was, she was coming home.
- I asked my old man if I could go ice skating on the lake. He told me, “Wait 'til it gets warmer.”
- I met the surgeon general. He offered me a cigarette.
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I'm working on a number of those long essays I put up here about my family and/or early career…but none of them are ready to post yet and pressing deadlines await. So up goes a soup can to tell you that posting will be light here today. I'll be back but I'm not going to sit here and feel guilty about neglecting the blog for paying work.
Why is it that when it's beastly cold, I can always turn on my TV and hear someone on some political-type show say, "Well, so much for the myth of Global Warming," as if the whole premise of Global Warming wasn't that it would cause extreme temperatures in both directions? But when it's blistering hot — I think this is hottest September 16 on record in Los Angeles — I somehow never hear those people saying, "Well, maybe there's something to it after all."
Ah, but just wait until it's cold again…
I used to mock and defame candy corn on this site. I stopped about the time I lost my sweet tooth and gave up all candy. After that, there didn't seem to be any point in singling out candy corn.
In the interest of equal time for past libel, I thought I should link to this article that Jim Kosmicki wrote me about. It covers some of the past and new alleged glories of candy corn. I still don't like the stuff…but then I don't like any candy anymore.
Your obedient blogger is about three discs into watching the DVD collections of Harry O, the 1974-1976 detective series starring David Janssen. There were a lot of these private eye shows on at the time and I thought this was one of the best, at least based on the episodes I managed to catch. Back in the pre-VCR days, it wasn't that easy to follow your favorite show…and after it went off ABC, the 44 episodes didn't get a lot of rerunning. So I'm seeing episodes I've never seen before.
It was a very smart show that rarely went for clichés or sensationalism…and on the rare occasions when it did, the gruff calm of Mr. Janssen made it all feel fresh. He was really, really good.
The series went through some format changes. The first half of Season One was set and shot in San Diego and there's some wonderful scenery. (Episode #10, "Material Witness," starts with a gangland killing outside the El Cortez Hotel where many of the early Comic-Cons were held.) Then it moved to Santa Monica and brought in Anthony Zerbe as Harry's police foil. He was real good, not that his predecessor, Henry Darrow, wasn't.
It is said that the ratings on Harry O, while never great, could have warranted a third season but that ABC needed to find a place on the schedule for Charlie's Angels. I'm not sure that's so. (Harry O aired Thursday nights at 10. Charlie's Angels aired Wednesday nights at 10 its first season. Farrah Fawcett-Majors was a regular on Harry O its second season.) But the contrast between the two shows said something about the direction in which television was going at the time.
You can order the two seasons of Harry O on DVD here and here. They're those "made to order" discs with no extras and there are a few video glitches here and there but they're very watchable. Season One costs fifty cents more than Season Two, I guess because it also includes the pilot. If you're only going to buy one, I remember Season Two as being better than Season One.
I'll write another, probably longer post about the series once I get through them all. I'm not going to rush because this is not the kind of show you can marathon and besides, I'm enjoying this and in no hurry for it to end.