Monday, February 4, 2019

Robin by Dave Itzkoff

I recently read Robin by Dave Itzkoff, which was published in May 2018.

I think anyone who first saw Robin Williams doing standup during the 1970s or that first year of Mork and Mindy will never forget the impact he made. A rapid fire mouth & imagination, I laughed so hard. I took pride in the fact that he spent a lot of time in Northern California (high school in Marin, theater & stand up in San Francisco). I’ve always wondered about his marriages, friendships, career ups & downs. This book has all these details. Knowing how Williams took his own life, you see some warning signs with his substance abuse and problems with depression.

I really connected with the description of Robin's childhood / early teen years where he was mostly isolated in his room, playing with his collection of toy soldiers & figures (for me, comics and science fiction), watching comedy on TV and rehearsing bits on his own. One of my fond memories of my father was watching Jonathan Winters on TV and both of us laughing at Winters crazy humor and impressions. Robin Williams was watching those same shows and getting inspired to turn into a younger even more manic version of Jonathan Winters. And then, about to enter his later teens, Robin moves to California with his family and encounters a different type of world, just like I had done with my family.

Quite a few people that Itzkoff interviewed in the book felt that Robin kept his humor / impersonations as a way to distance himself from other people. I don't think that is a unique situation, many standup comics and people in the entertainment business display the same characteristics. The biography of Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin reported that he was much the same way.

You get a real sense of what it was like for Robin to work in Los Angeles during the Mork and Mindy years, working comedy clubs at night after the TV show, staying up until dawn partying in various adjacent towns, fueled by cocaine. The movie Popeye was supposed to launch Robin's movie career and it was a failure, a terrible mismatch directed by Robert Altman. He didn't really have a smash movie hit until Good Morning Vietnam in 1987, but along the way he did interesting work in films like World According to Garp, Awakenings and Moscow on the Hudson. After 1987 it seemed like Robin could do no wrong until the infamously bad Patch Adams movie in 1998.

The last few chapters are heartbreaking. On and off again bouts with alcohol and drugs took a toll on Robin's second marriage. He had a third wife and was happy for a while until Lewy Body disease affected him (which they initially thought was Parkinsons). Robin took a job on a TV sitcom, The Crazy Ones, mostly for the money, but it wasn't successful.  I couldn't help but remember the movie Robin made with Bob Goldwaith called World's Greatest Dad. His son in that movie hangs himself in his room, much like Williams himself would do later on. 

The book is not all sad, there were so many brilliant points in Robin's career and family life. If you're a fan like I was you will enjoy reading it. Nuff said.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Adam Hughes brilliant covers for Superman

Adam Hughes has always been a craftsman and one of the clever designers of comics covers for the past decade or so. He's great at drawing women but even in his convention sketches he has a sense of whimsy. Starting in 2018 with the latest relaunch of Superman he has done some spectacular work with the character.

This cover to Superman 1 was a doozy - with Superman completely bursting out of a telephone box to save the day. Of course there are no more public telephone boxes, at least in my area of the world. I loved this image so much I use it as a watch face on my Apple Watch.

The cover to Superman 2, when I first saw it, took me a while to grok completely. Your attention first goes to Lois throwing up her hands, then to the bullet, and Superman's blurred figure in the foreground gives you a great impression of his super-speed. Faster than a speeding bullet!

Superman 3 cover was Adam Hughes' take and on the shirt reveal for the chest emblem. Since that had been done a hundred times before (most notably on the Man of Steel 1 cover by John Byrne), Hughes decided to take it back a few more seconds to the removal of the tie. Thanks to modern techniques we can see the S symbol below his white shirt.

Well this is also a daring and unexpected cover because Superman is so tiny and barely recognizable at the top. It's a glorious image of the Daily Planet at sunrise or sunset. I think mark chiarello, the Senior VP Art Director at DC Comics (who was sadly lost that position recently), deserves credit for the success of these variant covers. By removing the logo entirely such a design is possible. And you can see what Hughes was going for, capturing Superman to match the classic motto: Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

Now if Superman 4 cover was successful because of no logo, the one to Superman 5 did have it, as a faint as a dark shadow on a moonless night. This cover was an homage to a Golden Age cover...

...Superman 32 from 1945, by Wayne Boring. There are even coffee mugs with this Boring cover, which I found while Googling for it.

Superman 6, probably my least favorite out of this set, but still humorous, showing bullets bouncing off his head and body. I don't connect with it that well because he looks a bit goofy, his hair looks funny, and why is he wincing? Also I wish we saw the bullets instead of the star effects.

After issue 6, DC & AH! took a break. Superman 7 variant was by David Finch, issue 8 was by Rob Liefield. I believe he starts again after that, I have seen images and they are very good. I will follow up later with a future post. Nuff Said!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Flash 65 variant cover by Michael Golden

Loved this variant cover when I saw it this week...

By Michael Golden, very clever for The Flash. Nuff Said!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Conan the Barbarian variant covers by Frank Frazetta

Conan the Barbarian is back in the cultural zeitgeist due to Marvel's 2019 relaunch. The first issue had quite a few variant covers. Here are some mockups of cool variants that a fan named James Hanson shared on Facebook.

Frank Frazetta's famous paperback cover paintings, repurposed as Marvel Comics covers!

Dark Horse did a Frazetta cover series a few years ago, but somehow these look much cooler with the classic Marvel masthead.

The next two are placed on other classic issues of Conan...

The Frost Giant's Daughter.

Rogues in the House.

The last one here is not by Frazetta but by...

... Berni Wrightson! Nuff Said.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Art Jam: Will Eisner, George Perez and Sergio Aragones!

From a George Perez FB group: an unlikely jam piece by George Perez (Starfire), Sergio Aragones (Groo & little people), and Will Eisner (The Spirit) in 1985!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Justice League Unlimited: Dark Heart

Ever since signing up for the DC Universe streaming service, I've been doing a rewatch of both Justice League animated series, the original and Unlimited. I've been making screencaps and gifs of my favorites scenes.

The 10th episode of Unlimited, Dark Heart, was written by Warren Ellis. It bears all of his trademarks:

  • A fascination with technology and science fiction - in this case, alien nano tech.
  • A simple way of explaining the threat: the entire planet about to overrun by nano bots!
  • A clever way of turning a relatively obscure/unused character into a hero who can deal with this problem: Ray Palmer, The Atom.
  • A good deal of light hearted humor.

Wonder Woman kicks a lot of ass in this episode. She's aggressive in fighting off the bots and transporting Ray Palmer to the ship containing the "Dark Heart" of the bots. At first she carries The Atom in her hand and then transfers him to a location any fan would love (she needs to punch things without damaging him).

In addition to the usual Justice League team, many other second and third tier DC Universe characters show up. One of my favorites has always been the Western character Vigilante. This singing cowboy crimefighter traded in a horse for a cycle and that appears here.

The very last scene has the camera pull back so you can see the wide array of DC Comics characters assembled on this team. The Shining Knight, Blue Devil, Vixen, Doc Midnight, Wildcat and many other characters. Even Aztek who was around during the Grant Morrison JLA era.

Nuff Said!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Superman by Chris Samnee

Beautifully executed drawing of Superman by Chris Samnee in 2013, love the colors and perspective here...

Nuff Said!

Ratings and Recommendations by outbrain