Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Holy Prairie Home Companion Grail

Garrison Keillor had a ton of fun with this rather sardonic number the other night on A Prairie Home Companion, and I had a ton of fun listening to it...


A sign of a great humorist is when he can satirize his own. 



Throughout 2014, as APHC's 40th anniversary loomed on the horizon, he repeatedly stated that retirement wasn't also looming on the horizon.

So, who knows? 

Personally, I'd like to see him keep up his astounding pace until he's well into his nineties, so valued is his weekly show and writings in my life. 

It should be noted that his people are walking back his reference to retiring after the 2015/16 APHC season. It's clearly on his mind, though, and I wonder if having Chris Thile guest host two shows in February was an audition of sorts for a replacement. 

Thile did a decent job, but he doesn't have the all-encompassing, riveting yet soothing radio presence that GK does. I'm not sure I would make it a point to listen if Thile were to replace Keillor. With decades of broadcasts at my disposal, I might settle for a rerun over an APHC without Keillor.

Speaking of reruns, the Holy Prairie Home Companion Grail for me is that first broadcast from July 6, 1974. I've often wondered why it can't be found anywhere. 

Last week, I responded to the MPR article on Keillor's "announcement," mainly as a counter to the number of posts ragging on APHC. There were several anti-Keillor commenters, all of whom basically wrote a variation of "He sucks now, but used to be brilliant"; "He's always sucked"; "About high time he retires. He does the same stuff all of the time. And he sucks."; and of course, "He sucks."

One in particular torched Millennials for keeping APHC alive, even though GK hasn't done (in the opinion of that commenter) anything fresh on the show in years (a guest host for two weeks notwithstanding). However, Millennials lack historical context, the commenter wrote, so he can get away with it.

Seriously. That was his well-reasoned and thoroughly considered opinion.

Here's what the commenter said:  Keillor has been running reruns since about 1984, he hasn't really done anything new or original for a very long time. The only thing that keeps PHC going are the millennials that think he is doing new stuff because they have no context.

I had to chuckle. People will blame my generation for anything and everything, even keeping an NPR radio star on the airwaves. The reporter, Bob Collins, pointed out that this was simply absurd, as Keillor's demographics don't necessarily include an overwhelming number of young people.

Anyway, I replied to the commenter and then an exchange over the availability of the first APHC broadcast ensued with Collins.

I apologize in advance, since this is only of interest to APHC aficionados. Frankly, I can count on one hand the number of those I know. Including myself.

******
Me: It's amazing to this Millennial how virtually any topic can engender some sort of snarky, disparaging remark about us as a whole. It's gone from being annoying to enraging to amusingly cliched.

Regardless, I *love* APHC in its present incarnation, and I actively seek out recordings of the show's earliest episodes. (I'd love to get my hands on some of the broadcasts from the 70s.) The Internet is wonderful for providing context to current interests.

Also, I'm not sure why many of these commenters think Keillor is repeating himself. That seems like an easy criticism birthed from generational groupthink and nurtured in the School of the Good, Old Days.

I tune in to hear the same songs--whether they're folk, blues, or hymns; I look forward to the same segments like the News from Lake Wobegon, Guy Noir, the Ketchup Advisory Board, etc. etc.; and I tune in to hear Keillor mix it up with the same singers from all genres and every stage of life. There's 
nothing wrong with sameness, especially if it's still enjoyable and presided over by an original creative mind like Keillor's. (And Keillor does play with the format more than people may think, including the show being guest-hosted the last two weeks.)

I had the privilege of attending one of Keillor's "Radio Romance Tour" performances, and I can honestly say that few performers have ever been as engaging. The show went for three solid hours, and Keillor even performed during the 
intermission. It was memorable in every possible way.

As far as the retirement news goes, I think he might mean it this time. I'll miss him. A lot. But I respect the instinct--all too rare among performers--that there comes a time to "gently fade into the twilight."

******

As he usually does with readers of his stories, Collins then responded:

Collins: Someday I'll dig up and secretly distribute the link to the encoded first-ever APHC show that I was banned from posting years ago and I think it'll be obvious what the challenge to public radio developing the next iteration of a show with that same appeal has.

*******

Me: That would be incredible! Is there a reason why the first show is so hard to find and why you were banned from posting it? One that you can print publicly of course...

*******

Collins: It doesn't exist other than in the bowels of the MPR building. Nothing was digitized at the time. Then the Smithsonian requested a copy of it so I dug it out and encoded it (RealPlayer format, of course).

I was managing editor of the web site then.

I posted it in relation to the story that the Smithsonian was going to feature it and it was up for about two hours before Keillor's people (or Keillor, I don't know) called the bosses to take it down, which I did.

Somewhere, on some server, it still exists, however.


******

Pete: I'm actually relieved to know it still exists somewhere. I've heard Keillor express embarrassment over those early shows. His fans wouldn't judge them, though. It would be fascinating to see how the format has evolved.

I plan to get my hands on this broadcast someday, though.

******

I have to say, the embargo, the embarrassment, the elusiveness of that first broadcast: It just makes me want to hear it even more...

And that's the News from La--...

Oh, right. GK says that every week. Hasn't said it differently in 40 years, in fact. Guess it's time for him to retire...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Monday morning, Joe Torcivia informed me of the profoundly sad news that Chris Barat had passed away over the weekend.

I never met Chris in person, and we only talked once on the phone and that was over a decade ago. But Chris has been a presence in my life for over 20 years.

I first "met" Chris in the letter columns of Disney Comics. Among the many intelligent and incisive writers who graced those pages, two stood out to this young fan: Joe and Chris.

I later had the good fortune of becoming friends with Joe, and through Joe, I was introduced to the world of fanzine writing via his own column, "The Issue at Hand," and The Harveyville Fun Times! (THFT!).

******

Aside: In my humble opinion, Disney fanzine writing reached its apex with the publication of the following issue of the sadly defunct Duckburg Times, written not so coincidentally by both Joe and Chris:




******

Soon after I met Joe, I graduated from high school. Finances and indecision forced me to delay college, and my recourse was hardly unique for a low-income kid. I began working fast food and outside of church activities, not doing much else.

I was desperately in need of a constructive activity that involved more than watching TV and reading, and Joe proved to be a motivating factor during those stagnant years between high school and college. He urged me to begin writing for THFT!, and he told me to write about my love for the Ducks or whatever else "fannish" happened to pop into my mind, and I listened.

It was good for me, because it kept my brain churning and my mind working creatively as opposed to rotting away with every monotonous flip of that day's burgers.

When Mark Arnold printed my stuff on Joe's recommendation, I was initially nervous as to how readers would respond, then pleasantly surprised to see how supportive they were.

And no one was more supportive than the Chris Barat I had esteemed for many years through those Disney comics letter columns.

Chris always gave feedback at the end of his "Richville Ruminations" column to the other writers, adding his thoughts to their topics. If you've read Chris' blog at all, then you know his thoughts were always worth reading no matter what the discussion. Knowing of me through Joe, he was considerably gracious in his evaluation of my amateur commentary. Like Joe, he treated me as an equal, never as a young thing of a fan with less knowledge and perspective than he had.

However, Chris' response to one column I wrote has left an impact that still influences the decisions I make as a writer to this day.

The column was about Walt Disney, a man I greatly admire. I was reconstructing his life, using as my source material two biographies I referred to within the column as the "cream of the crop."

This literary judgment was incredibly naive on my part. The truth was, these were the only two in-depth biographies the local library had on Disney. Thus, I assumed they must be good, seven or so years of copiously sourced school research papers be damned.

These biographies were actually two of the worst and most inaccurate biographies on Unca Walt that anyone could ever read, let alone base a retrospective on. Neal Gabler had yet to release Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, Michael Barrier was still penning The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney, and the wealth of Walt-centric material by the likes of Jim Korkis and others was still in the future.

Anyone who has read Chris' amazingly prolific output will know that he was never rude, never mean, and never harsh. Even when he disliked something, he was considerate, academic, and professional in his evaluation. But above all, he was honest.

And in this case, Chris was all of the above and honest.

In his next THFT! column, he pointed out my mistake in choosing those biographies as sources, but he did it in a way that did not humiliate me or ding my credibility as a young writer. However, it did right my course, so to speak, as he gently urged me to be more careful in the future as to what sources I was using and to be aware of the reputation those sources had.

Although I was embarrassed at the time over my carelessness, his simple piece of advice has never left me. I can't tell you how often his constructive and carefully worded criticism comes to mind as I write material far outside the realm of the Disney Ducks or Walt Disney.

My tenure with THFT! was unfortunately brief. The extra time I had for fandom waned in the mid-2000s as I entered college and my schedule was crammed with work, extracurricular activities, and various other pursuits. Through no fault of theirs, I fell out of touch with both Joe and Chris.

But I didn't necessarily stop reading either of them, thanks to the rising popularity of blogging. In fact, over the years, I have spent hours reading Chris' work, first at The BaratCave (which has regrettably ceased to exist) and then at his most recent News and Views by Chris Barat.

When I started my blog in 2009 and inevitably began writing about the Disney Ducks, Chris was always there, encouraging me with feedback and referencing my work in his posts. I was still an equal in his eyes, a fellow fan.

When my Dad passed away in 2012 and I spent the long night and morning afterwards coming to grips with the darkness of death by writing and posting, he and Joe were among the first to extend their condolences and support. Chris and I even exchanged Christmas cards for a couple of years.

Although our communication was infrequent and we were primarily long-distance acquaintances, when Joe told me of his passing yesterday morning, I felt as if I had lost a mentor and a friend.

At the risk of sounding cliched, there is an unmistakable void within this corner of the Internet today, and that void will never be filled.

Gone is the expectation many of us have held for the past month that his voice would return to us through his blog. As Google informs me, I have visited his page many times, especially in the last few weeks hoping to find him back and in full force.

I will miss his writing, I will miss his style and class. I will miss his intellect and insight. I will miss his thoughtfulness and kindness. But above all, I will miss that he is no longer around.

Sail into the light, old friend, and touch the face of God.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Peanuts Forever


Fifteen years ago today, the last original Peanuts comic strip appeared in newspapers around the world. Just two months earlier, the strip's creator, Charles M. Schulz, had announced his retirement after a series of physical problems revealed that he was suffering from colon cancer.

The night before this strip appeared, he passed away in his sleep.

To this fan and admirer, his death was surprising, but not shocking. It actually seemed fitting and poetic in a way since each of his characters was really an extension of his personality. His life and experiences and perspective gave them voice, and once that voice ceased to be, it was only appropriate that his characters should cease to be.

Except neither his voice nor his characters have gone away. They're still in newspapers every day and still being read by millions. They're still on television throughout the year (including tonight!) and still being watched by millions, often garnering larger audiences than the shows they're up against.

Above all, they're still amassing fans, many of whom were born in the last 15 years.

It's interesting to compare the Peanuts comic strips side by side with the new strips. They're fun and at times creative and humorous, but often feel more like reprints than the 20- or 30- or 40- or 60-year-old Peanuts strips do.

When someone as uniquely original as Schulz passes on, his body may die, but his voice doesn't and when that voice is speaking for the human mind and experience, it will never seem old or tired or dead. That voice and the embodiments of that voice will be eternal.

Those l'il folks running through those little panels may have been an extension of Schulz's personality while he was alive, but in the years since he left us, it has become clear that they were really us all along.

And we are those characters--Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy--no matter our age and no matter what age we live in...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dwelling on Ducks #7: The McDuck Inspiration


The only time the wildly popular author Janet Evanovich, who is perhaps best-known for her series of novels about female bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, ever crossed my radar was about four years ago when my wife (then-fiancee) and I were moving into our house and I was helping her unpack boxes and boxes of books. This was in addition to the boxes and boxes of my own books that I had just unpacked.

Sometimes, I'm not sure if it's gravity or the sheer volume of books in our house that's keeping us earthbound.

Bethany loves the Plum series, yet I had, quite frankly, never heard of them. She told me how great the stories were, I nodded, and kept unpacking. Her profusion of praise failed to motivate me to...um...plumb the depths of Evanovich's oeuvre.

So, that's the extent of my acquaintance with one of the most popular authors in the world today. I mean, apart from seeing Evanovich's books in all kinds of stores everywhere, be they dollar, grocery, or actual bookstores.

Literally. They're everywhere. And if it's not Janet, then it's John, James, and Sparks, but usually, it's all of them, with a few Browns and Thors sprinkled in for good measure.

But this week, Evanovich crossed my radar again, thanks to a link provided by one of Joe Torcivia's readers in the comments section over at his blog.

Back in December, Evanovich was interviewed by The New York Times, and at the head of the piece was this lede: "The author, most recently, of 'The Job' is a big fan of Scrooge McDuck."

Being an unabashed fan of Ye Olde Miser, that was enough to pull me in.

Sure enough, her love for Scrooge came by way of Carl Barks' classic stories:

What kind of reader were you as a child?

I loved reading, but I didn’t have access to a lot of books. I was allowed to take one book out of the library every week. And I got a hardcover book for Christmas and for my birthday. I filled in the gaps with comics. And to tell you the truth, comics were my first love anyway. I especially loved “Uncle Scrooge” and “Donald Duck,” with “Little Lulu” coming in second.

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

“North of the Yukon,” by Carl Barks. Actually, I’d have to lump together all those early Scrooge McDuck books by Carl Barks. They gave me a lifelong love for adventure stories. And I still aspire to have a money bin like Scrooge and push my spare change around with a bulldozer.

******
Joe speculates that she may have meant "Back to the Klondike" as opposed to "North of the Yukon," but no matter. Both are excellent stories, each representing a different period in Barks' career, with "North" being published in the twilight of his career...



...and "Klondike" at the peak of his career...


And both stories are masterpieces of romance and adventure, elements that are apparently woven throughout many of Evanovich's stories.

When it comes to The McDuck Inspiration, I can completely relate to what she is saying. 

As I recounted here, my first brush with Barks came with the DuckTales' television adaptation of "Back to the Klondike." 

The merits of this adaptation have been debated extensively, but to the five-year-old me who was watching it at the time, I had never seen anything like it in my admittedly short life. So help me God, The Get Along Gang had never been as captivating as DT's "Klondike." 

In fact, I would be willing to wager that a Klondike bar is more captivating than The Get Along Gang.

******

As an aside, I dare you to watch The Get Along Gang theme song and not want to gouge your eyes out with rusty, shit-encrusted pliers...


Provided you still have eyes to read this, I honestly don't know how I sat through episode after episode of that mind-numbing balderdash. 

The Clubhouse Caboose toy was kinda cool, though.


Kinda.

******
As a second aside, it's not that the message of The Get Along Gang was bad. 

It was just annoying. 

As a three- or four- or five-year-old, you're already being told to get along with other people all of the time. You get it, got it, and don't want to do it. 

All *you* want to do is play with *your* toys and watch *your* cartoons. 

Please. No fine print about getting along with others who want to do the same things you want to do just a little bit differently from how you want to do them.

Still, you're hearing this message ad nauseam. And you're pretty damn sure that you've caught most of the people telling you this in the act of not getting along with others.

Then, you turn on the TV, and these way-too-cutesy creatures, who are drawn to look and talk the way all cartoons would look and talk if  "advocates" like Peggy Charren (God rest her soul) had their way, start yammering at you, just like the adults, to get along, and not just get along, but get along as a gang.

I'm a three-year-old loner! Don't force me to hang out with other kids, and I won't have to worry about getting along! 

Or if you're going to tell me it's cool to get along, at least make the means of delivering the message cool. 

Y'know, like...





******

Although Evanovich is leagues ahead (and presumably millions, too) of this unknown writer, I can also relate to what she is saying because watching the Barks-based DuckTales episode at that particular time in my childhood changed me forever. The quality of the storytelling and the richness of the characters took me through the TV-screen looking glass and into a deeper and more nuanced world of fiction, showing me the sheer pleasures the human imagination can devise and dream up.

Whether I wanted it to or not, any creative endeavor from thereon out would be influenced by the Disney Ducks in some way because they, by way of Barks, showed me there was more to entertainment than overly simplistic plotlines and one-dimensional characters. 

In fact, somewhere I have binder upon binder of roughly sketched Duck stories, plotted across several years and written sometimes after school as I put off doing my homework and sometimes on a lazy summer afternoon when I didn't have anything else to do or when I didn't want to do anything else. 

And before that, I had ripped off the Ducks and created a family of bears who looked and talked like the Ducks. 

In fact, my science project one year, in either 6th or 7th grade, was on animation, and I attempted to do a flipbook of my own Donald Duck cartoon. It was largely a failed project and probably the worst attempt at animation before Flash came along, but still, I wouldn't even have tackled such a project if it hadn't been for DuckTales and the Carl Barks comics to which the show led me. 

Of course, I've picked up a myriad of other influences along the way and I continue to discover new ways of telling stories, but the impact that even an adaptation of a Barks' story has had on my craft (dare I call it art?) can never be erased, and for that reason, as with Evanovich, Barks will always be my first influence. 

It's The McDuck Inspiration alive and at work long after his creator laid down his brush for the last time.

******

Now, picture a cluttered studio, a well-worn art table, a mess of sketchings, and a kindly, ordinary-looking 50-something hunkered down in the middle of the quiet chaos. 

Numerous matters are going through his mind, such as the dissolution of a recent marriage; the need to pay the rent; the neverending roster of deadlines (here a 10-pager, there a 32-pager); the lack of creator credit (while the guy who does get the credit has probably never read a damn word you've written since his time is spent on far-flung fantasies like theme parks and intricately animated, money-losing features); the complete disconnect between you and your readers (thanks to the just-mentioned lack of credit); the knowledge that you've written and drawn 100, maybe 200 of these stories (you've lost count) and before it's all set and done you'll have written and drawn 500, maybe 600 more... 

How do you stay fresh? How do you maintain the quality? How do you keep satisfying yourself and your work ethic? How do you pay the bills? How do you find happiness?

I'm romanticizing a bit, of course, but the last thing on this artist's mind is inspiration and influence. It wasn't until the final years of his comic-book career that Barks had any clue that his work meant anything other than disposable entertainment. 

Sure, his stories were part of the bestselling comic books of the time, but how much did he really think this remarkable feat was because of him and not because of the fella whose name was above the title?

Barks was just trying to create narratives that pleased himself, he would later say, without the realization that he was influencing a future international bestselling author, stoking the imaginations of two of the greatest filmmakers of the future, and who knows how many other creative and intellectual stalwarts. And of course, there were and are the scores upon scores of little tykes like myself, spanning generations, decades, and soon centuries, whom he was influencing.

He simply wasn't aware of The McDuck Inspiration.

I quietly chuckle when I read in-depth analyses of not just Barks, but any author who didn't have the convenient knowledge and passionate motivation of their own fame to spur them on. Today, with these authors' entire output available to us, either in printed volumes or in digitized files, we're able to analyze, dissect, praise, criticize, and bastardize their work. 

"Why was this story brilliant, yet this one wasn't? What a stupid plot twist! He really thought that story would work?! Oh, but this one is genius!! This one is tripe!!! Etc. etc. etc."

But they were just trying to pay the bills. Like the rest of us. 

And yet they did good work that will last forever. 

To me, seeing someone like Barks, who was devoted to his craft under less-than-ideal circumstances, is more of a creative inspiration than the DuckTales episode that first sparked my desire to create on that rainy afternoon in 1987.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Movie Mash-Up #13: The Devil's Parade

The other day, a friend sent me this edition of the extremely clever and slightly afflicted webcomic, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:

Okay, so maybe you're offended by that and maybe you're not. This style of humor is par for the panel for cartoonist Zach Weiner, the addled brain behind SMBC

Maybe the reason I enjoy the strip so much, apart from its insistence on playing only left field, is because he often screws around with religious conventions, not unlike Gary Larson once did...




And those are just four of dozens of panels Larson churned out during his heyday in which God and the Devil were as much a part of The Far Side universe as ants, dinosaurs, and fat, nerdy, overgrown little boys. I recall reading these when I was younger, finding them funny, but then nervously remembering that I should be offended at such blasphemy. 

I wonder how many Muslims actually found the Charlie Hebdo covers...

Never mind.

Sometimes, it's best not to finish a sentence. ;-)

However, when I read that particular SMBC cartoon, for some reason it brought to mind this piece of 1975 cinematic camp...


I've actually never watched this movie, which surprises me. I harbor an affection for 1970s low-budget films that feature 1960s TV stars so  hampered by their small-screen success that they were forced to take any job to pay the rent and the alimony. 

Seriously, look at that cast: William Shatner, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino, Tom Skerritt, (Academy Award Winner) Ernest Borgnine, and Keenan Wynn.

On top of those heavyweights, The Devil's Rain was future heavyweight John Travolta's first movie, although I believe he doesn't have any lines. This would soon change. On the set, he was introduced to Scientology by one of the other actors, Joan Prather. Soon after, he joined, and suddenly he had a lot of lines to say. 

The lesson, kids, is: If you want to jumpstart your acting career, join a sci-fi religion while saying nothing in a movie about the Church of Satan that stars the world's best-known sci-fi actor.

The Devil's Rain was also edited by Michael Kahn, who would go on to be Steven Spielberg's only editor following their successful collaboration on Close Encounters of the Third Kind two years later. 

It wouldn't be the first or last time someone named Kahn would slice and dice Shatner... 

#lamejoke

Anyway, I really should watch this movie someday. When you know more than five facts about a film and you've never seen that film, it shows you have a special commitment to procrastination.

I have, however, watched this scene, which can't help but embed itself in your brain...


Hollywood was obsessed with movies about the Church of Satan and Satanism in general for a good deal of the late 1960s through the 1970s, it seems. The Devil's Rain was one of many flicks that had besieged filmgoers with the real or imagined horrors of the Church of Satan since this 1968 masterpiece tempted the insanity...

 

After recently viewing Rosemary's Baby for the first time, I could see how it captivated the nation. But what I'd really like to know is, Why then? Why in 1968 did the nation suddenly become fascinated with the Church of Satan? Did it really have that much of an impact when it was founded in 1966? 

Or was everyone just hungover from the tumult of the sixties, and the Church of Satan seemed to represent the Morning After better than any other religion?

Oh, speaking of the Church of Satan, this fella...


...that's Anton Szandor LaVey. He founded the Church of Satan.

He also appeared in The Devil's Rain. And served as the film's technical adviser.

For a low-budget, B-grade horror flick, that movie had all of Dante's levels occupied...

Now, watch this. It's not about Satan...

Monday, January 26, 2015

2 Memes About Puppies

Okay, so I'm lying. But would you have really read any farther if I had titled this post, "2 Memes About War"?

I came across this quote from President (and General) Dwight D. Eisenhower the other day from his "Chance for Peace" speech.

Now, the next sentence I should write is: "This quote still resonates, especially in light of today's wars." But would I really be sharing it if I didn't think it still resonated? ;-)

Here it is:


And here's a fuller version of that same quote for context:

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

This speech was given on April 16, 1953. I can only imagine what those statistics, figures, and calculations would be today.

Well, actually, I don't have to imagine. Here's some perspective, via another meme and taken from the perspective of our returning soldiers...


Both of these memes were featured on Sen. Bernie Sanders' Facebook page. As my politics and social philosophy have slid increasingly leftward, I've become as much of a fan of Sen. Sanders as I could possibly be of any politician. (I appreciate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, too, but I'm not quite sold on her sincerity.)

Sanders says or regurgitates what I frequently think about war, the middle class, my generation (those horrible, good-for-nothing Millennials), and poverty and how all four intersect. He raises issues that are often shot down by the Right with such simplistic statements as: "Capitalism works"; "The poor just need to get off their lazy asses and find a job"; "Cut government entitlements and you solve the problem of the poor"; "Kids are too lazy and expect too much, and that's why they're still living with their parents"; and the ever-popular "Increase the defense budget."

More often than not, the Left ignores the issues Sanders raises and gives the Right what it wants, albeit in watered-down form. 

I wish we could have a Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential contest (preferably the Sen. Bernie Sanders), and I would like nothing more than if the GOP candidate was a Sen. Ted Cruz (preferably in the form of the slightly more tolerable Sen. Rand Paul). 

It would be bloody nice if our elections featured sharp contrasts in the points of view presented, but that's not how the pollsters, money-men, lobbyists, and professional campaigners sell candidates. The package has to be all-in-one-and-one-for-all. 

So, say hi to these two familiar faces...


Hey! If you've stuck around this long, you deserve those two puppy memes...



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dwelling on Ducks #6: At Last! All the Ducks Come Home to Roost!

Well, scratch that. They're not quite coming home...

Yes, Disney owns the largest comic-book publisher in the world. And yes, this comic-book publisher sold more comic books than any other publisher in the world in 2014.

But that doesn't mean Disney should be bothered with using the largest comic-book publisher in the world, which it owns, that sells more comic books than any other publisher in the world to relaunch a line of comic books featuring the very characters who made Disney comics the best-selling comic books in the world 60 years ago.

If you and I were sitting in a boardroom and we had at our fingertips the ability to publish (some of) the greatest funny-animal characters side-by-side with (some of) the greatest superhero characters on the same shelves under the same imprint, you and I would have a very short meeting, because you and I would take our palms, slap our foreheads, and say, "Thank you, frozen Walt and eternal Stan, for blessing us with this gift."

But.

That is you. That is I...I mean...me. And we are not Disney. The company. In fact, much to our mutual relief, we will never be Disney (the company).

So, Disney (the company), in its eminent wisdom, the kind of wisdom that inspired its home-video division to inform potential consumers of the recently released DuckTales The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp that they would be buying a...


...and nothing more, nothing less (but if it could have been less, then that would have meant more to Disney)...

...that Disney, owner of the...oh, never mind, has decided to outsource its upcoming comic-book relaunch of its classic characters to another, lesser-known comic-book company. Which it does not own.

For those of us still "scarred" (in a way that only we first-worlders could be scarred by an entertainment conglomerate) by the disrespect shown to our beloved furry, anthropomorphic buddies by the Boom!kaBoom! line, we can bless our bagpipes and refrain from cursing our kilts that this other, lesser-known comic-book company is perhaps one of the best publishers of licensed characters around today. 

That company is, of course, IDW, whose offerings include such excellent titles as Star Trek Ongoing and Popeye

Today, IDW announced the debut of its Disney comic-book line with this lush and handy poster that evoked all sorts of tingly, feathery feelings from this small corner of fandom...


There are two salient points to be made based on this poster: 

First, IDW has learned from the mistakes of its predecessors and has focused on establishing its Disney comics line with the "Core Four." Lifelong fan Joe Torcivia has long maintained that this is the foundational strategy for keeping these books alive in the modern comic-book marketplace. (He's right.)

They've also made these books affordable, avoiding the mistake that both Gemstone and Gladstone II made with their respective lines. Instead of being a cringe-inducing $6.95 or $8.95, Uncle Scrooge #1 will be an industry-average $3.99.*

Never fear! It wouldn't be a Disney comic-book line without completely unaffordable editions of stories that have been reprinted and repackaged a ridiculous number of times. If these yet-to-be-priced lobster rolls are your sandwiches of choice and won't tighten your money belt too much, have at 'em. And if you see me on the street someday and you happen to be carting these volumes around (probably in a cart), please, sir, may I at least see the cover and maybe the first two or three pages? Just a glance. That's all.

The second observation is directed at Disney (the company): I love IDW's Legacy Cover Themes idea. I would hope that because IDW is tying these books in with the Disney theme parks,  you, Disney (the company), will see fit to allow these titles to grace the plentiful shelves of the numerous stores within said theme parks. 

I'm sure you MBAs have heard of synergy. I know Marvel has...

Anyway, I would hope that you, Disney (the company), would do this as a boost to and celebration of the new Disney comic-book line of your classic characters, butttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt...y'know...

Regardless, beginning with this title in April*...


...Disney comics are indeed back, and this duckling-at-heart would like to give a hearty...


*Yes, they rebooted the numbering for all but Walt Disney's Comics & Stories, but at this point in Disney comics' sullied history, who cares? They're back.

**UPDATE TO THE ASTERISK: Many thanks to Chris Barat for pointing out that the traditional numbering of Uncle Scrooge has been maintained in parentheses. I'm a big fan of parentheses (as my missives frequently show), but yeah, it's a wee bit of an odd strategy. Nevertheless, at this point in Disney comics' sullied history, who cares? They're back.

Did I just repeat myself?