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SHAZAM! My Secret Origin As A Captain Marvel Fan

With one magic word:  SHAZAM!

Although the super-hero boom in comics of the 1940s was undeniably started by the incredible popularity of Superman, and manifested in countless attempts to copy/capture/re-create/steal the Man of Steel’s successful model, Superman wasn’t necessarily the best-selling superdoer in the funny-book business.  For a time in the ’40s, Superman was outsold by his biggest rival, the original Captain Marvel.

For those who don’t know this original Captain Marvel, lemme give you the brief.  A young, orphaned newsboy named Billy Batson is granted secret, fantastic power by the ancient wizard Shazam; whenever our Billy speaks the wizard’s name, he is magically transformed into the World’s Mightiest Mortal, Captain Marvel. The wizard’s name is itself an anagram of the wonderful abilities Billy can access when he calls on the power of Shazam: The wisdom of Solomon! The strength of Hercules! The courage of Atlas! The power of Zeus! The skill of Achilles! The speed of Mercury! If you are a mad scientist like Dr. Sivana, or an evil tyrant (and literal worm) like Mr. Mind, or just another nogoodnik in The Monster Society Of Evil, get set to get your ass kicked by Captain Marvel!

I’ve been trying to remember when and how I first got hooked on Captain Marvel, who would ultimately become my all-time second favorite comic book hero (after The Batman). As a kid in the ’60s and early ’70s, I had heard of Captain Marvel, even though Cap was long gone by that point. The first Captain Marvel I ever saw was a Marvel Comics character who’d usurped the name from its rightful owner. Even as a stupid kid, I eventually figured out that Mar-Vell of the Kree couldn’t be the same Captain Marvel referenced on TV shows like The Good Guys and The Monkees.

(Digression: one of my many favorite moments on The Monkees was when Peter Tork had been kidnapped and tied to a chair. Left alone, still bound to the chair, our brave Peter shook ‘n’ shimmied his way in front of a mirror, squared his shoulders, and cried out with a defiant, “SHAZAM!” And the mirror shattered, prompting Peter to say, “Well, that’s seven years’ bad luck for Captain Marvel!”)

Thanks to Melanie Mitchell for screenshot

My first exposure to Cap was second-hand, in the letters page for a Lois Lane Giant. The letter-writer complained of a scene in a previous Giant where Superman fended off a number of super-powered suitors vying for Lois’ fickle affection; one of the defeated suitors, lying dazed on the floor, was Captain Marvel. The fan took issue with this, saying something like, “I know you put Captain Marvel out of business in the ’50s, but there’s no need to gloat over it!” The editor, E. Nelson Bridwell, replied that it was meant in fun; Lois Lane artist Kurt Schaffenberger had previously been one of the main Captain Marvel artists, and had included Cap’s image as a joke. Bridwell further commented something to the effect that Captain Marvel had been one of his own favorites as a young comics fan, and that he’d never wish to be disrespectful toward the World’s Mightiest Mortal.

I dug out that previous Lois Lane Giant, and I found the page and panel in question. There he was. So that was Captain Marvel! And now, I wanted to know more.

Coincidentally–but relevantly–I found a Super-8 movie projector in the attic. On subsequent visits to K-Mart and White-Modell, I saw Super-8 movies for sale, including Super-8 movies starring Charlie Chaplin, Super-8 movies starring Batman…and Super-8 movies starring Captain Marvel! I acquired them all in short order.

Long before the home-entertainment Utopia delivered by Betamax, laser discs, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, and on-line streaming, 8mm and Super-8 films were short, silent movies made for home consumption. My two Captain Marvel Super-8s were twelve-minute distillations of the first and the final chapters of the 1941 movie serial The Adventures Of Captain Marvel.

The chronology of my Captain Marvel fandom gets a little confusing; so much happened either all at once or in short order, and I have difficulty putting it all together 45 years later.  But figure we’re in a rough timeline of 1972 to ’73 or so.  I watched my Captain Marvel Super-8s over and over. I read a single page of the first Captain Marvel comic book story, reprinted in Jules Feiffer‘s book The Great Comic Book Heroes (which contained just that one page of Cap, for legal reasons we’ll touch on in a few paragraphs). I was getting well hooked on Captain Marvel, albeit with relatively little to go on.

But two events kicked my Shazam mania into overdrive. In this time frame, it became clear that my teeth were a mess, and that I would need braces. One evening, following an early (and physically uncomfortable) consultation with the orthodontist, my parents decided to treat me to an evening with the Syracuse Cinephile Society.  The Syracuse Cinephile Society was a monthly (I think) gathering of film buffs, who would convene upstairs at a downtown bar called The Firebarn to screen vintage films. This was not my first visit to the Syracuse Cinephile Society; my cousin Maryann had already taken me to The Firebarn to see Humphrey Bogart in Dead End, and she also took me to see Errol Flynn in The Adventures Of Robin Hood, though I don’t recall for sure whether that was before or after Mom and Dad took me to see….

Tom Tyler as CAPTAIN MARVEL!

…Well, they took me to The Firebarn to see the Syracuse Cinephile Society’s screening of the complete twelve-chapter movie serial, The Adventures Of Captain Marvel.  The whole thing! With sound, unlike my silent little Super-8s! Mind you, this was over three and a half hours of serial action, three and a half hours originally intended to be enjoyed over the course of three months in twenty-minute weekly installments, not in a single evening as your butt hurt from sitting and your teeth ached from orthodontic invasion.  But it didn’t matter. I was captivated. SHAZAM!

By this time, I probably knew a little bit about what had driven the World’s Mightiest Mortal off the newsstands decades ago.  The folks in charge of DC Comics were none too thrilled about the success of Captain Marvel, a character published by Fawcett Comics. DC sued, claiming that Captain Marvel was a copy of Superman, and a violation of DC’s copyright on mighty caped guys who could fly.  Fawcett eventually capitulated, and agreed to retire Captain Marvel permanently. Captain Marvel and the rest of The Marvel Family (his sister Mary Marvel and their pal Captain Marvel, Junior) disappeared–seemingly forever–following their final appearance in The Marvel Family # 89, cover-dated January 1954.

One of my favorite comic books in the early ’70s was a reprint title called Wanted: The World’s Most Dangerous Villains, a DC book that usually featured stories from comics’ Golden Age, the ’40s. The fourth issue of Wanted was a particular favorite, with a lead story reprinting the original Green Lantern‘s first encounter with Solomon Grundy, and a back-up of Kid Eternity (another of my faves!) facing his evil opposite number, Master Man.  But, for all that, the one thing in this issue that just ’bout made my head explode was this one-page house ad:

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

Captain Marvel was coming back?! At DC??! Not even world peace or a Beatles reunion could have been more welcome news to me at the time.  Well, maybe a Beatles reunion. World peace is nice, too. But I could barely contain my glee at this announcement.  Captain Marvel was coming back!

The new comic book was called Shazam! During Captain Marvel’s nearly two-decade absence from newsstands, Marvel Comics had claimed the Captain Marvel name as a trademark, preventing DC from ever using that name as a comic book title. Curses! But I loved the new stories at the time, and I really loved the fact that DC was including a Golden Age Cap reprint in each issue. I figured this was the start of a new Golden Age!

But DC couldn’t quite get a handle on what to do with the World’s Mightiest Mortal. The scripts aimed to be charming, but usually settled for silly instead. Even with a new Saturday morning live-action Shazam! TV series, the character just never really caught on in a big way. Matters weren’t helped by the then-unknown fact that DC hadn’t actually purchased the rights to Captain Marvel; it was merely a licensing deal with Fawcett; that meant there was a limit to how much exposure Cap could get at DC, at least without DC having to pay additional fees that, frankly, wouldn’t have been worth it, given Captain Marvel’s lack of blockbuster sales appeal.

In the decades since, DC did eventually assume full ownership of Captain Marvel, and the character has appeared as a member of the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America, and on animated TV shows including Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Brave And The Bold. There is a Shazam! feature film in development, with Dwayne Johnson signed to play one of Captain Marvel’s enemies, the mighty Black Adam. So the World’s Mightiest Mortal lives on.

Unfortunately, DC doesn’t call him Captain Marvel anymore; now, the character is just called Shazam. Marvel Comics owns the original name, and has its own Captain Marvel movie coming, with Brie Larson in the title role. It bugs me a little that the original Captain Marvel can’t use his own name, but that battle was lost a long time ago. I read Marvel’s Captain Marvel comic book regularly, and I’ll see Marvel’s Captain Marvel movie when it’s released. That’s the way it is, and I accept it.  I’ll even enjoy it, I betcha.

Marvel Comics’ Captain Marvel

But, in my heart, I know who the real Captain Marvel is: a little kid with the biggest, best secret in the world; a kid who can move mountains, and fly around the world, and shrug off bullets and bad guys with a smile and a twinkle in his eye; a kid who can shed the troubles and limitations of frail humanity, and become a champion like no other; a kid who can become, at will, the World’s Mightiest Mortal.

It’s a pretty good deal. All it takes is one magic word.

Categories
Birthdays

Jack Palance

Born on this day in 1919, in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania, actor Jack Palance. Palance had a 50-year career, appearing in Shane, The Silver Chalice, Che!, Monte Walsh and City Slickers.

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Boppin'

Comics And LP Cover Cavalcade Supplement # 1: Paperbacks And Rock Mags

Normally, this is a lightly-annotated but otherwise random collection of images of comic book and rock ‘n’ roll album covers. Today’s edition shifts just a little for a cavalcade of rock magazine and paperback covers instead. Consider me a Renaissance blogger.

One of the many prizes I scored in the dealers’ room at DC Comics‘ 1976 Super-DC Con in New York was this paperback novel from 1966. Produced as tie-in product for the immensely popular Batman TV series starring Adam WestBatman Vs. 3 Villains Of Doom is slightly less camp than the TV show, and seems a bit closer to its original comics inspiration. According to DC Wikia, the novel incorporates three Batman comic book stories from 1947-1950, and places them within a framing device of The JokerThe Penguin, and The Catwoman competing for the Tommy (as in Tommy gun), the underworld equivalent of an Oscar for, y’know, best–or worst–bad guy. Listen, criminals may be a superstitious and cowardly lot, but they crave validation just like regular folks do. You like me! You really like me! HA-HA-HA-HAAAA! Waughh! Meow! Ahem. I haven’t re-read this in many years, but I recall that it was a fun and entertaining pulp-lite superhero book. Credited author “Winston Lyon” is as fictional as Alfred and Commissioner Gordon; the novel was written by William Woolfolk, prolific veteran author of many novels, comic books, and screenplays. Batman Vs. 3 Villains Of Doom was only the second prose novel to star a DC Comics superhero, following George Lowther‘s The Adventures Of Superman in 1942.

Creem magazine was one of the all-time great rock ‘n’ roll rags, and it will be the subject of a near-future edition of my rock magazine reminiscence series He Buys Every Rock ‘n’ Roll Book On The Magazine Stands. (My series itself was inspired by a recent invitation from Devorah Ostrov and former Creem regular John Mendelssohn for me to contribute to Reet, a new online magazine in the proud and plowed Creem tradition.) This fairly reverent 1987 special Creem edition dedicated to The Monkees may seem an anomaly for the notoriously snarky Creem because…well, because it is an anomaly for the notoriously snarky Creem. But nor was it a unique anomaly, as the perpetrators of Creem weren’t exactly above chasin’ a quick buck by pandering to a perceived mass pop market. Hell, my first Creem mag was a 1977 spotlight on The Bay City Rollers, and I kinda wish I still had a copy of that. That said, I know that Bill HoldshipCreem‘s editor in 1987, was and remains a Monkees fan himself, and his guidance produced this lovely souvenir document of resurgent Monkeemania in the ’80s. This I still have, and I’m keepin’ it. One regrets The Monkees never did a Creem Profiles Boy Howdy! bit…did they?

Harlan Ellison was my favorite writer when I was a teenager, and no other author has ever really challenged his position at the top of my literary pantheon. Ellison was an enormous influence on my writing, and on my attitude toward writing. His essay collections (in particular The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat) were as essential to me as his fiction. I don’t remember how I started on my path to Ellison Wonderland. My first exposure to his work was the time-traveling Star Trek episode “The City On The Edge Of Forever,” which I adored (although Ellison despised the changes made to his work in the televised version). I saw his name in comic books, as co-writer (with Roy Thomas) of “Five Dooms To Save Tomorrow!” in The Avengers # 101, and as inspiration for a character called Harlequin Ellis in Justice League Of America # 89 (written by Mike Friedrich). My friend Bob Gray may have recommended I check out Ellison’s books. My first was Paingod And Other Delusions, a collection of short stories that included Ellison’s masterful “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said The Ticktockman.” I was hooked immediately, and set out to accumulate as many Ellison books as I could, as fast as I could. I saw Ellison speak at Syracuse University around 1976 or so, and I was riveted as he read his then-unpublished short story “Hitler Painted Roses.” After the lecture, Ellison autographed my copy of his No Doors, No Windows, and playfully tried to hook me up with the diminutive co-ed standing in line in front of me. Um…that’s not why Ellison’s my favorite writer. But it didn’t hurt.

Shortly after I left Buffalo to return to Syracuse in 1987, I suddenly became a bigger, more devoted fan of The Flamin’ Groovies. I don’t know exactly why, but it grew out of my increased attention to Goldmine, the bi-weekly tabloid for record collectors. I’d begun freelancing for Goldmine in late ’86, the start of what would be a twenty-year run as a GM stringer. I started ordering sundry delights from Midnight Records, one of Goldmine‘s regular advertisers. And again, I have no idea why I abruptly fixated on the Groovies at this time, though I think their track “First Plane Home” may have played a role in my Groovies revelation. It wasn’t like I didn’t already appreciate the group; I’d owned their Shake Some Action and Now albums for years, and absolutely loved them. Either just before or shortly after my move to Syracuse, I finally grabbed a copy of 1979’s Jumpin’ In The Night, the final Flamin’ Groovies LP released up to that point. “First Plane Home” freakin’ blew me away, just as “Shake Some Action” had done years before, so I guess I do know what sparked my 1987 embrace of the Groovies. And now I needed more! Midnight sold me an Australian fan magazine, Flamin’ Groovies Quarterly, a new (!!!) Groovies album called One Night Stand, a CD of live performances (Groove In), and an all-Groovies edition of one of my fave rave rock reads, Bucketfull Of BrainsBucketfull Of Groovies filled me in on the back story for what had become one of my all-time favorite bands. This was an invaluable resource when I interviewed the Groovies’ Cyril Jordan for Goldmine in 1992.

1970-’71. I hated sixth grade. Hated it. About the only good thing I can say about sixth grade is that it was slightly better than seventh grade, the way shingles is better than leprosy. The only other good thing about sixth grade was The Pigman, a novel by Paul Zindel. My reading teacher Mrs. Mott read the book to us in class; oddly enough, I don’t remember any of us ever having the book in front of us while she read, which seems strange for a reading class. I was already reading at a high school level, so I betcha I could have followed along acceptably. The book was fascinating, sad, emotional, unforgettable. I believe I had another class in a subsequent year that also studied The Pigman, and I read it on my own at that time. My original well-worn copy is long, long gone. I replaced it with a fresh copy a few years back, when my own daughter was entering high school. She declined the option of reading it herself. But I owe myself the pleasure of re-visiting it. (A pretty classmate named Diana was the third and final only good thing about sixth grade, but she never noticed me anyway.)

When I started my recent look back at rock mags of days gone by, a few friends mentioned Rock Scene as a favorite. I bought the occasional issue of Rock Scene in the late ’70s/early ’80s, and browsed through many more of ’em on the racks at The Liftbridge Bookstore in Brockport. But Rock Scene never meant as much to me as Creem or Bomp!Trouser Press or The Pig Paper, nor even the distrusted Rolling Stone. In retrospect, I probably should have dug Rock Scene more than I did. Really, the magazine was like a more specifically rock-oriented version of vintage 16 or Tiger Beat, focused far more on pictures than on text. There’s nothing wrong with that, and you’d think my uber-pop sensibilities would have taken to that like a High Times reader takes to chocolate chip cookies. I recall seeing an uncharacteristically snide remark within a Rock Scene piece about KISS that would have been right at home in Creem, and maybe there was more of that if I’d been paying attention. And Rock Scene did feature The Sex Pistols and The Ramones, and I was for damned sure in favor of that! I don’t think I kept any of my few Rock Scene purchases from the time, but I’ve picked up a couple of old issues at record shows in recent years. My Rock Scene fan friends were right; I was wrong.

Flea markets and used bookstores. From these fertile fields, I amassed a decent collection of paperback novels based on the ’60s TV spy show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I don’t believe I ever saw the show when it originally aired, but I certainly knew of it and its protagonists, Napolean Solo and Illya Kuryakin. My first Man From U.N.C.L.E. adventure was a Big Little Book (The Calcutta Affair) ’roundabout fourth grade. In the mid ’70s, I saw a film called The Spy With My Face on CBS‘ late movie. The Spy With My Face was an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., expanded with extra footage for a 1965 theatrical release. Hey, reduce, reuse, and recycle! I loved it. Although I started snagging the paperbacks soon thereafter, I confess I’ve yet to read one. But I still have them, and I’ll get to them one day. One of the many great things about books is that they have no expiration date. I’m told the Man From U.N.C.L.E. books also hold the distinction as the first resource to spell out the full name of U.N.C.L.E.’s evil adversary, THRUSH. We knew from the TV series about the United Network Command for Law Enforcement; it was the novels that suggested the bad guys were the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity. Hence, y’know, bad guys. I’ve since seen most (all?) of the TV series episodes as reruns. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a brief mention of actress Yvonne Craig, later to become TV’s Batgirl, steamin’ up the spy business on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Although Yvonne Craig did appear on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. series, this scene did not appear on the TV show. Somehow I sense you’re not surprised. This is from One Spy Too Many, a 1966 feature film expansion of a two-part episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Craig was not even in the original TV two-parter, but was in an earlier episode. With her clothes on.

The first punk record I ever heard was “God Save The Queen” by The Sex Pistols. The Ramones would ultimately mean a great deal more to me, but the Pistols were also important, and I still enjoy blastin’ “God Save The Queen,” “Pretty Vacant,” “Holiday In The Sun,” and “No Feelings,” among others. Punk magazine’s document of the Pistols’ American tour and messy demise was the cover feature on either the first or second issue of Punk I ever owned; I think I picked this up before I purchased the previous issue, which cover-featured The Dictators. The Sex Pistols issue was Punk‘s first as a slick magazine, transitioning from its previous tabloid format. This issue earned bonus points with me for also covering The Bay City Rollers, though apparently many Punk readers were simply horrified to see the Rollers in a punk zine. I thought Punk was a terrific, terrific magazine, and I regret that I missed most of its run. I did snag an earlier issue (with a John Holmstrom drawing of Joey Ramone on the cover, and hilarious interviews with David Johansen and the hapless Dorian Zero contained therein), and a subsequent issue starring Joey Ramone and Debbie Harry in the magazine-length photo-funny “Mutant Monster Beach Party.” Punk was gone too soon. I own two different retrospectives of the magazine, one hardcover and one softcover, and neither gives me what I really want: a comprehensive reprinting of every single page of every single issue of PunkNOW!!!

My addiction to superpulp paperbacks in the ’70s prompted me to pursue spinner-rack reprints of decades-old adventures starring the likes of The ShadowDoc SavageTarzanThe SpiderThe AvengerOperator 5Conan the BarbarianEllery Queen, and The Lone Ranger, plus novelizations of ’30s comic strips starring Flash Gordon. I wish there were even more, and I wish I’d picked up the then-new Vampirella novels a couple of years later. My favorite series was probably The Phantom. Like the Flash Gordon books, these were prose adaptations of old newspaper strips, and I consumed them with great delight. Their covers were perfectly prototypical ’70s era pulp paperback fare, colorful kindred spirits to the other willfully-garish drugstore potboilers, even with a costumed hero mixed in with the prerequisite sex and violence. The cover of The Veiled Lady is a prime example, as The Ghost Who Walks deals hot lead from his firearm while cradling and protecting a buxom damsel in distress. My favorite Phantom novel was the debut entry, The Story Of The Phantom, which seemed more complete and accomplished than its sequels, but I enjoyed every one I read. And I read a few: The Story Of The PhantomThe Slave Market Of MucarThe Scorpia MenaceThe Veiled LadyThe Mysterious AmbassadorThe Hydra Monster, and Killer’s Town, with The Goggle-Eyed Pirates a more recent internet purchase. For those who came in late.

I’m tempted to suggest that Hot Wacks Quarterly didn’t know whether it wanted to be a rock magazine or a girlie magazine, but I think its editors knew precisely what they were going for here. Hot Wacks specialized in coverage of bootleg recordings, but wasn’t above the use of rock-related cheesecake photos to help sales. Even so, the magazine never connected for me. I owned two or maybe three issues, realized my indifference, and moved on.

The inverse of Hot Wacks QuarterlyThe Beatles in Oui.

Hey, I had fun doing this! There will be more comics and LP covers to come, of course, but maybe we’ll look at some paperbacks and rock mags again, too.

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The Pulps

I’m not 100% certain how I first became aware of pulp magazines, but the book pictured above was certainly an early clue. I recall seeing the hardcover collection The Pulps at World Of Books in North Syracuse in the early ’70s, maybe as early as 1971, but probably ’72 or so. It was one of a number of books that caught my eye all at the same time, right alongside comic book celebrations All In Color For A DimeJules Feiffer‘s The Great Comic Book Heroes, and Crown Books‘ Superman From The 30’s To The 70’s and Batman From The 30’s To The 70’s. Edited by Tony GoodstoneThe Pulps was the only one of these books that I didn’t acquire in that early time frame. I was certainly intrigued by it nonetheless.

My real indoctrination into the world of pulp magazines came via Steranko‘s History Of Comics, I’d say around 1974. My high school library had both volumes of Steranko’s captivating account of the Golden Age of comics, and I spent a lot of time immersing myself in those books. Steranko’s chapter on “The Bloody Pulps” fascinated me, and fanned the flames of my nascent interest in The ShadowDoc SavageThe AvengerThe SpiderOperator 5The Phantom DetectiveThe Black Bat, and G-8 And His Battle Aces

(What’s that? I should have been studying when I was in the school library? Ahem. Just move along.)

I read my first pulp adventure–The Land Of Terror, a Doc Savage paperback–before reading Steranko’s account of the pulps, and possibly/probably before spying The Pulps at World Of Books. I told my story of discovering Doc Savage here–a sequel describing my discovery of The Shadow is forthcoming–and of my teenage fascination with superpulp paperbacks here

Somewhere in there, I picked up my first pulp anthology, The Fantastic Pulps (edited by Peter Haining), plus my very first actual pulp magazine, a flea market purchase of a forgotten random issue of Dime Detective. The flea market also provided me with a copy of The Crime Oracle And The Teeth Of The Dragon, a trade paperback reprint of two vintage Shadow pulp novels, reprints which included the illustrations from the original pulps (something the paperback reprints lacked). 

In the ’80s, when I was living in Buffalo, I snagged a few more ragged pulps at the flea market. In later years I also bought some of Anthony Tollins‘ exquisite pulp reprints starring The Shadow and Doc Savage, and some Black Bat and Spider books, too.

And I finally did buy a copy of Tony Goodstone’s The Pulps. Some time early in this newfangled new millennium, I saw a used copy on display (in very good shape) at Metropolis Books, one of the best little book shops that ever was. Metropolis was also in North Syracuse, pretty much kitty-corner across the street from where World Of Books used to be. I told Metropolis owner Mike Paduana about seeing The Pulps on the shelf when I was eleven or twelve, and gestured in the direction of the cafe that now occupied the hallowed ground that had once been World Of Books. And I mentioned to Mike how I always wanted that book when I was a kid, but never got around to getting it.

Mike kinda looked at me for a second before saying, “What are you waiting for? You know you’re gonna buy it today.”

Yep. Mike was right. Years later, it’s on my bookshelf next to The Great Comic Book Heroes. Some things just take time.


Back cover of my Amazing Stories pulp, offered here for my friends in The Charlton Arrow Facebook group, a fine bunch of folks who have a thing about Uranus. And who wouldn’t have a thing about Uranus?

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Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: https://carlcafarelli.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-greatest-record-ever-made-updated.html

Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe FlashcubesChris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. A digital download version (minus The Smithereens’ track) is also available from Futureman Records.

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Boppin'

Superpulp Paperbacks!

I have always loved to read. As a teenager in the ’70s, my prevailing interest in superhero comic books led me into superhero and fantasy hero paperback books. Most of these were reprints of pulp magazine adventures from the ’30s and ’40s, starring such ten-cent stalwarts as Doc SavageThe ShadowThe SpiderThe Lone Ranger, and The Avenger. I also read a few of the Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, maybe a Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard or a James Bond by Ian Fleming,Ted White‘s original Captain America novel The Great Gold Steal, and paperback prose adaptations of comic-strip storylines featuring Flash Gordon and The Phantom. There were also the Weird Heroes books, a series of then-new pulp hero anthologies (and some solo titles, too). The Phantom and The Shadow were my favorite series, and The Great Gold Steal was my favorite individual book.

At the Super DC-Con in New York in 1976, I picked up copies of two original hero pulp paperbacks from the ’60s, Batman Vs. 3 Villains Of Doom by Winston Lyon (aka William Woolfolk) and The Avengers Battle The Earth-Wrecker by Otto Binder. I thought the latter lacked the panache of Ted White’s Captain America novel, but I kinda liked the Batman book’s attempt to balance the camp of the TV show with the demands of an adventure novel. When the first Superman movie came out in 1978, egotistical novelist Mario Puzo had a contractual clause prohibiting a paperback adaptation of his Superman screenplay; instead, comics writer Elliot S! Maggin was brought in to write an original novel, Superman, Last Son Of Krypton, that was a far better book than anyone would have been likely to cobble together out of Puzo’s ramblings.

The ’70s were almost a Golden Age for paperback superhero novels. And I still wanted more! In the book All In Color For A Dime, I read about Captain Marvel Story Book, a 1940s comic book series starring Captain Marvel in prose novels (with illustrations), and I ached to see these reprinted as paperbacks, available for me to pluck from the spinner rack and purchase for my own reading wonder. I wanted there to be new Batman novels, and new Green Hornet novels. Hell, why not new Blue Beetle novels, too?

I still pick up the ’70s vintage books on occasion, but I don’t have the same teen interest in immersing myself in superhero pulp. I have an Operator 5 novel I picked up in Florida in 1974, and a G-8 And His Battle Aces book I bought in  Berkeley in 1999, but I’ve never read either of them. I’m still on the lookout for a reasonably-priced copy of William Rotsler‘s Blackhawk novel. I have a few Captain Future paperbacks, but have never found them interesting enough to finish reading. (On the other hand, I loved the too-few Dick Tracy books written by Max Allan Collins.) There’s a plethora of pulp reprints available now; Vintage Library/Sanctum Books does an amazing job with its ongoing series of double-novel presentations of The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Whisperer, and even Batman’s then-contemporary pulp counterpart The Black Bat. I can’t keep up, but I still buy them every now and again, and I’m glad they exist.

But, except for a few collection purges inspired by the need for rent money years ago, I’ve kept most of the ones I already have. They have no expiration date. They don’t spoil. If the mood ever strikes me again, pure pulp adventure remains within easy reach.

I still wish someone would reprint Captain Marvel Story Book, though. Downloading ’em just ain’t the same, man. Just ain’t the same.

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Batman

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.My introduction to Batman, my favorite comic book character, came in the person of Adam West, star of the 1966-1968 Batman TV series; I wrote about that here, so we don’t need to cover all that again. For now, suffice it to reiterate that no TV series ever had as great and as lasting an impact on my life as did the campy, twice-weekly adventures of The Dynamic Duo in 1966.

But that’s just the first part of a first impression. Where did I go from there? Well, the massive nature of Batmania ’66 made the Caped Crusader as ubiquitous as The Beatles had been just two years before. There was so much Bat-merchandise everywhere you turned; the J.M. Fields department store had a small section devoted exclusively to Batman tie-in stuff, and I still have the Batman wastebasket I got there.

One of the most intriguing Batman products would have to be the bubblegum cards. There were two entirely different series of Batman cards; there was a series featuring stills from the TV show, capturing images of Adam West and Burt Ward capturing Gotham’s Most Wanted, and there was another series with painted, pulpy images of Batman and Robin battling their deadliest foes. Oh God, those painted cards were awesome, and I sprang for a complete set of reproductions a couple of decades ago. Those cards, with their hints of an unknown wonderland of Batman adventure, were my first teasing taste of (excuse the expression) a Batman beyond what I’d seen on TV.

(I recall a similar feeling of Bat-discovery in, I think, a tie-in from Hostess or some other sweet treat distributor, which carried images of Bat-villains I’d never seen, like The FoxThe Shark, and The Vulture; I got another sideways glance into Batman’s vast rogues gallery with coloring-book appearances by The Bouncer and Blockbuster.)


I can’t quite remember my first Batman comic book story. I have a vague memory of a battle with The Joker involving giant tubes of paint (which would have been from a 1966 Kelloggs promotion), and that may or may not have been my first. If not, then the honor probably goes to a 1966 Signet paperback, collecting Batman reprints in black-and-white. Most of the reprints were from the ’50s–I particularly loved a Joker story called “The Crazy Crime Clown!”–but the first story in that book was a reprint of Batman’s origin story by (uncredited) writer Bill Finger and (too-credited) artist Bob Kane, as it appeared in Batman # 1 in 1940 (except for, y’know, the expensive color part). I still have that paperback, and if that’s where my Batman comics-readin’ started, then I picked a hell of a great place for my Batman to begin.

Subsequently, the first bona fide Batman color comic book I owned was Batman # 184, purchased off the rack at a grocery store in Aurora, Missouri in the summer of ’66.  I’ve purchased a few more Batman comic books since then.

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Comic Book Cover Cavalcade #1

As the music portion of my former series Comics And LP Cover Cavalcade already split off into its own separate LP Cover Cavalcade, the comics portion also needs its own space. This inaugural entry of Comic Book Cover Cavalcade shares five DC Comics covers from the 1970s.
ALL-STAR COMICS # 58 (January-February 1976)

When writer Gerry Conway left Marvel Comics for DC in the mid 1970s, one of his highest-profile assignments was this opportunity to revive All-Star Comics, which had been the home of comics’ original 1940s super-team, The Justice Society of America. Continuing its numbering from the final JSA issue of All Star Comics in 1951 (pretending All-Star Western # 58 and onward never happened), the new series initially soft-pedaled the old ’40s JSAers to focus on the three younger heroes–Batman‘s former partner Robin, former Seven Soldiers of Victory member The Star-Spangled Kid, and a buxom new character called Power Girl–who comprised the team-within-a-team referred to as The Super Squad. Conway script, Mike Grell cover, Ric Estrada pencils, and inks by the legendary Wally Wood helped get the new All-Star Comics off to a solid start. Conway returned to Marvel before long, but the series continued with style and distinction.

BATMAN # 253 (November 1973)

I was thirteen years old in 1973, and I was a big, big DC fan. The Batman was my favorite character, and you bet I insisted on calling him THE Batman. The Batman was a creature of the night, a dark avenger, not the campy crusader whose TV show hooked me on superheroes when I was a mere child of six. No! The Batman was serious stuff! You can look back now and smirk at my sanctimonious nerdiness, but I say to hell with you. I was having a grand old time, and I remember the comics of this period with great fondness. Writer Denny O’Neil was on a roll, having already given The Dark Knight a new classic adversary in Ra’s al Ghul; penciler Neal Adams and inker Dick Giordano provided sleek visuals that were as integral to the mood, setting, and storytelling as any word within the captions and balloons, and alternate penciler Irv Novick (also inked by Giordano) deserves credit for maintaining that style in the many issues Adams didn’t have time to draw. In Batman # 251, O’Neil, Adams, and Giordano had reintroduced The Joker in “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!,” returning the character to the murderous roots of his debut in 1940’s Batman # 1. It is not an exaggeration to say that “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” influenced every single Joker story published since 1973.

And, a mere two issues later, The Batman got to meet his greatest inspiration, The Shadow. DC had licensed the character of The Shadow in hope of tapping into ’70s-era nostalgia for the pop culture playthings of the ’30s and ’40s. I was all in, as I read my Doc Savage paperbacks, watched The Marx Brothers on Saturday night TV late shows, listened to old adventure radio shows (including The Shadow) on the public station’s Radio Rides Again presentations, and devoured histories of comics, histories that taught me about the Golden Age of Comics in the ’40s, and even about the blood ‘n’ thunder pulp magazines that helped to sire those comics. Pulp magazines like The Shadow.

The Shadow was the biggest single influence on Bill Finger and Bob Kane when they created the character of The Batman in 1939. I knew that, so I was more than primed for The Shadow’s DC’s series (written by O’Neil), and absolutely psyched to see The Shadow finally meet his disciple in the pages of Batman # 253. Beneath an atmospheric cover by Mike Kaluta (regular artist on DC’s The Shadow), the actual story by O’Neil, Novick, and Giordano could be viewed as anti-climactic, or even a cheat. The Shadow is an off-stage player in most of the tale, stepping out from the shadows only near its end. I didn’t care. I loved it without reservation, and I still do.

DC SPECIAL # 10 (January-February 1971)

If I had to pick my all-time favorite comics artist, I would acknowledge the above-mentioned Neal Adams and Wally Wood, plus (of course) Jack Kirby, and a long, long list that would include Dick SprangCarl BarksJack ColeAlex TothJim Aparo, and…listen, we’re gonna be here all night, and I haven’t even mentioned Marshall Rogers yet. But when I have to name just one, I usually say Nick Cardy.

And I don’t pick Cardy on the basis of most of the covers he cranked out as DC’s go-to cover guy in the early to mid ’70s. Those were fine, obviously, but his best work was his brief stint as the regular artist on the Batman team-up title The Brave And The Bold, his Teen Titans (especially his later issues), and his exquisitely-rendered Western series Bat Lash. Oh, and the gorgeous covers he drew for Aquaman.

And there’s also this gloriously atmospheric cover for DC Special # 10, dressing up a basic collection of 1950s cop and fireman stories, reprinted from old issues of Gang Busters and Showcase. Calling them basic isn’t meant as a put-down–I read this damned thing over and over when I was 11–but there’s nothing inside that could hope to match that dynamic Cardy cover. 

SHAZAM! # 8 (December 1973)

The same pursuit of the nostalgia market that prompted DC to license The Shadow also led to the company licensing Superman‘s biggest sales rival from back in the ’40s, the original Captain Marvel. DC had effectively sued Fawcett Comics‘ Captain Marvel out of existence in the early ’50s. When licensing and attempting to revive Cap in 1973, DC Publisher Carmine Infantino‘s intent to restart the World’s Mightiest Mortal’s former comic book Captain Marvel Adventures was immediately thwarted by another, more powerful rival. Marvel Comics had trademarked the Captain Marvel name for its own unrelated use during the original Cap’s decades-long dormancy, and wasn’t about to allow DC to use it. DC went with the alternate title Shazam! instead. Each issue of DC’s Shazam! series featured vintage Cap reprints backing up the new adventures, and the reprints were…well, better. A lot better. The eighth issue was a 100-Page Super Spectacular collection containing only the old stuff, and I felt like it was a gift given to me directly from the Rock of Eternity. This was just magnificent.

SHOWCASE # 100 (May 1978)

DC’s original try-out book Showcase survived on newsstands from 1956 to 1970. It was a series that offered readers an opportunity to sample potential new series, with sales presumably determining which concepts would graduate to ongoing series and which would, y’know…not. Some point to Showcase # 4 (which introduced a brand-new superhero called The Flash, inspired by the 1940s character of the same name, but reimagined as something minty-fresh) as the beginning of comics’ Silver Age, and I would agree. Showcase produced a lengthy list of, well, showcases for both new characters introduced in its pages and already-existing characters given a shot at joining DC’s A-list. The series was revived briefly in the late ’70s, and that revival brought us Showcase # 100.

For this celebration, writers Paul Kupperberg and Paul Levitz teamed with artist Joe Staton in an attempt to craft a new adventure that would feature at least a cameo by each and every one of Showcase‘s stars and woulda-beens. Well, almost; Showcase # 43 had featured a reprint of a British adaptation of the James Bond novel and film Dr. No, and DC’s license to thrill with 007 had never been renewed. And I’m not positive, but I don’t think The Doom Patrol or Power Girl–the stars of the Showcase revival issues that preceded # 100–made it into the big party either.

But yeah, everyone else is represented, from Fireman Farrell through Manhunter 2070. Even Archie ripoff Binky, even Dobie Gillis and Maynard G. Krebs stand-ins Windy and Willy. We’ve got Bat Lash, AquamanGreen LanternLois LaneThe CreeperThe AtomSgt. RockEnemy AceThe Teen TitansDr. Fate and HourmanThe Challengers of the UnknownThe Inferior FiveThe Phantom StrangerJonny DoubleAngel and the ApeTommy TomorrowThe Hawk and The DoveThe SpectreAnthroAdam StrangeThe Sea DevilsThe Metal MenSpace Ranger, the pop group The ManiaksNightmasterCave CarsonRip HunterB’wana BeastDolphinFirehair, Johnny Thunder, and Jason’s Quest protagonist Jason. Maybe someone else I missed. Hell, maybe 007 is in there somewhere, hidden behind the rest of this large cast.

And it’s a blast. It’s goofy in all the right ways, serious where it needs to be, and never so serious that it gets in its own way. Forgive the comparison, but it’s like a Marvel movie in comics form, a lighthearted superhero epic that satisfies. It’s fun.

Quick! Someone go back to 1973 and tell my 13-year-old self that’s it’s okay for superheroes to be fun. Lighten up already, young man.

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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.
The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:
Volume 1: downloadVolume 2: CD or downloadVolume 3: downloadVolume 4: CD or downloadWaterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 134 essays about 134 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).

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Faces On The Wall

My first rock ‘n’ roll posters were hand-me-downs, but they were choice hand-me-downs. When my sister went off to college in 1970, I assumed possession of her Beatles posters. These painted portraits of your John, your Paul, your George, and your Ringo remained on my wall while I was in middle school and high school, and left North Syracuse with me when I commenced my own rock ‘n’ roll matriculatin’ in the fall of ’77. The posters served me well on one occasion in ’76 or so, when WOLF-AM‘s Beatles Weekend offered a free Beatles LP to the first caller who could correctly identify the color of George Harrison’s eyes. A glance at the poster, a sprint to the phone in the kitchen, a hastily-dialed call to The Big 15 so I could blurt out BROWN!, and a copy of the Help! album was mine.

I also remember my sister having a Dylan poster–my first conscious exposure to Bashful Bobby Dylan’s name–but I think she must have taken that one with her on her journey to higher education. ‘Sfunny, because I remember much later mentioning Mr. Dylan to one of the guys in my dorm suite in the Spring of ’78; my suitemate glanced up at my Beatles portraits, and asked me which one was Dylan.

Although I plastered my walls with graven images in high school and college, I had relatively few commercial posters. In college, my cherished Beatles posters shared wall space with LP inserts (from the White Album, from The Beach Boys‘ Endless Summer, from a collection of movie sound bites by The Marx Brothers, and from records by The HeartbreakersThe Runaways, etc.), promo materials, maybe some comics art, Flashcubes gig flyers, magazine pages (including a poster ripped from a Bay City Rollers fan mag), a Molson Golden Ale poster, and a few Playboy centerfolds. The promo items–posters and flats–mostly came from Brockport’s Main Street Records, which offered such bonus bounty in its handy-dandy Free With Purchase! bin. Decorating was easy!

And I did pick up a few commercial posters along the way. I believe I got my KISS poster from my college friend Fred, who had outgrown KISS and wanted nothing further to do with the group. I bought a couple of posters upstairs at Syracuse’s Economy Bookstore, one featuring my boys The Sex Pistols and one starring my presumed future spouse Suzi Quatro. There was an awesome Batman poster I wanted, but never quite got around to buying. I did get a Suzanne Somers poster at Gerber Music; that was sorta puzzling, because although she was certainly cute, I didn’t have any particular thing for her, nor for her sitcom Three’s Company. Why a Suzanne poster, instead of, say, a Farrah Fawcett? No idea.

After college, I don’t recall ever putting up many posters in my apartments. I really wanted to get a poster of The Monkees circa the time of resurgent Monkeemania in ’86, but never saw one I thought appropriate. Now, decades later, I have but a few posters on my wall. There’s a Frank Miller The Dark Knight Returns poster framed in my office, staring down a great framed Ramones poster I received as a gift. But that’s it, other than the framed two-page spread from my Goldmine interview with Joan Jett (autographed by Ms. Jett herself) and the framed artwork from Rhino Records‘ Poptopia! CDs, which Rhino gave me as a thank-you bonus for writing the liner notes to the ’90s Poptopia! disc, plus a few small items (a picture of Syracuse University basketball great Gerry McNamara, an autographed picture of Red Grammer, my Ramones wall clock, and a wall hanging my sister gave me decades ago, which reads A Creative Mind Is Rarely Tidy). That’s the sum total of wall decorations in my office at home.

I still have those same Beatles posters. They’re a bit tattered now, certainly worn, rolled up in a drawer because there’s no longer any point in even trying to flatten them or do a better job of preserving them. George Harrison’s eyes are still brown. The Pistols, KISS, and Suzanne Somers sheets are long gone; even Suzi Q has moved on. The Beatles remain. John. Paul. George. Ringo. Dylan must have been on holiday that day.

I still regret never buying this one for my dorm room wall.

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You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.

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The Game Of The Name

Can you name, name, name, name them today?

When you write fiction, you generally have to come up with names for your characters. Even in short fiction, you may find that referring to your players just as “He,” “She,” “That Dude,” or “Designated Pronoun” can grow tiresome over the course of your narrative. The expectation of names isn’t absolute, and I think I’ve done some effective short pieces where individuals are not given specific handles. More often that not, though, your baby needs a name.

Where do our fictional names come from? Well, that can be answered the same way we reply when someone asks us where we get our ideas: I dunno. The creative process is enigmatic, elusive, mysterious, and stubborn, and it tends to drool a lot. And it never picks up the damned bill at diners. It’s a right bastard, that creative process. Rather than risk our sanity trying to make sense of That Dude behind the curtain, maybe it’s best to just look at the results.

My first character creations were superheroes, scrawled on construction paper, notebook pages, and loose-leaf sheets when I was in elementary school. Skipping past some of the maybe less-than-entirely-original names I gave to a few of my characters–BatmanKid ColtThe Avengers–I recall coming up with various good guys and bad guys named Rain-Hat SamJemThe PowerThe Bolshevik BatGloppyThe Scarlet Redman, and Jack Mystery. (I re-visited Jack Mystery as an adult, and he coulda been a contender: The Jack Mystery Story.)

Eternity Man and Jenny Woo

I continued to create and name more superheroes as the years passed, from Captain Infinity, The Trident, and Lawman through the more recent Eternity Man (with his co-star Jenny Woo). But let’s move past superheroes; most writers probably aren’t going to be using superheroes in their stories anyway. What are some of the more…civilian names I’ve concocted?

In sixth or seventh grade, I created a baseball player named Skip Keller. Ol’ Skip would have been the star of a series of sports comics, absolutely none of which I ever got around to writing. Slacker, thy name is CC. In 2019, I resurrected the Skip Keller name for an entirely different character, a former pop star turned songwriter and producer, in a short story called “Hitcore.” That story didn’t sell, but I like it a lot, so its day ain’t done yet. For “Hitcore,” I also named two other new characters: Mephisto Records receptionist Amber (no last name designated), and successful rock auteur Willington Blue. They’re all going back to the drawing board for some tweaking (maybe even in pursuit of a novel-length story), but the names will remain.

Amber? No, it’s The Green Hornet’s trusted confidante Casey

The Beat And The Sting was me pulling at the threads of an idea for a Green Hornet ’66 story. To The Green Hornet’s familiar supporting cast of KatoLenore “Casey” Case, and District Attorney Frank Scanlon, I added the rock group Ben Arnold & the Turncoats (with the lead singer’s real name Arnie Bennett, plus guitarist Roger Hartwell, bassist James Thomas, keyboardist Steve Davis, and drummer Tommy Hammond) and Century City crime boss Samuel “Sammy” Vincenzo. This story has potential, but no plausible path to publication at this time.

Terry Legend and Malice were names I gave to detective creations in the ’70s. Terry Legend was a parody character I used once in my high school literary magazine, and Malice (first name undecided) would have been the deadly-serious lead in an unwritten story called “The Children Of Malice.” I may yet use both names, but if Terry Legend does return, he won’t be a parody character anymore (his comic-booky name notwithstanding).

One of my favorite blog pieces here is Jukebox Express, a wholly fabricated account of a make-believe 1950s rock ‘n’ roll B-movie made by various fictional people we’ve seen in film, TV, comic books, etc. The players, from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s Sophie Lennon and Gilligan’s Island‘s Ginger Grant through That Thing You Do!‘s Troy Chesterfield and My Favorite Year‘s Stan “King” Kaiser, all came with their names pre-attached. But I came up with the names of their characters: Rose “Mama” MammamiaKirby LeeArchibald Toby, and Rocco “Death” Manzetti, respectively. My favorite among the names I slapped together here is Rocco’s moll Cupcake O’Hara, played by The Rocketeer‘s Jenny Blake. Yeah, I put a lot of work into this trifle.

The short stories I completed in 2019 contained but a few named characters. Of the unsold batch (in addition to “Hitcore”): “Dreaming Deadly” starred Sam and Billy, and an unnamed girl; “Sword Of The Chosen One” starred Flora and Anna“Montie Pylon Finds His Holy Grail” starred Montgomery Pylon and Louise; and “The Greatest Thud Never Heard” included no named characters at all. The first story I sold last year, “Guitars Vs. Rayguns,” included no named characters. “The Picture Of Amontillado” starred Dorian Gray and Wild Edgar Poe, and I don’t think I’d get away with a claim of creating either of those names. 

That leaves my loosely-connected Copperhead stories, two of which sold, one of which is pending, and a fourth is in its early stages of this-ain’t-ready-yet! Each of these feature a lead character–The Copperhead KidThe CopperheadCodename: Copperhead, and Copper–and not many other names: a Sheriff, a Deputy, Ma and Pa, an unnamed sister, Cody, a Director, a Director’s Wife, a family in peril, various goons and no-goodniks, and some assorted pronouns. Those were all the names needed to tell the story. For now.


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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 127 essays about 127 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).

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REJECTION ACCEPTED: Trying (And Failing!) To Write For DC COMICS

My vulgar sci-fi rock ‘n’ roll comedy short story “Guitars Vs. Rayguns” hit comic book stores last week. Specifically, it appeared as a bonus feature in the pages of the AHOY Comics title Billionaire Island # 5. If you’re looking for a foul-mouthed, fast-paced, three-chord space farce, I humbly suggest you snag a copy of Billionaire Island # 5 and read “Guitars Vs. Rayguns.”


Written and sold last year, “Guitars Vs. Rayguns” was my first-ever fiction sale. I’ve sold a few more since then, but you never forget your first. Its publication casts my memory back to some previous failed attempts. Now, I do have some skimpy credits as a professional freelance writer of nonfiction. But I always wanted to write fiction, too. 

And I especially wanted to write for DC Comics.

DC Comics was my first and most prevailing missed target as a would-be writer. My first attempt to break in at The Line Of Superstars was a handwritten Batman story, about which I remember nearly nothing. I began writing it while at my cousin’s wedding reception, probably around ’73 or so, maybe ’74 at the latest. The only detail I can recall of the story (other than the fact that it was simply awful) was that it was set in Syracuse, as The Batman had traveled here from Gotham to consult with local police regarding the shooting death of a city teenager. That part was based on a true story at the time, though apparently the Syracuse Police Department wasn’t really able to enlist Batman’s help. Stupid real world. I finished “writing” it, and mailed it off to the good folks at DC. I don’t believe I even received a rejection slip.


Roughly concurrent to that–perhaps even in the same mailing–I also concocted a handwritten story for the Shazam! comic book, starring the original Captain Marvel. The story may or may not have co-starred Plastic Man; as a reader and fan, I know I wanted these two lighter-hearted heroes to meet, but I don’t recall if ol’ Plas made an appearance in my Captain Marvel mini-epic. The story itself concerned Captain Marvel’s arch nemesis Dr. Sivana devising a way for his equally-evil son Sivana, Junior to become the super-powered villain Captain Sivana. Just as Billy Batson’s magic word “SHAZAM!” transformed the young Batson into Captain Marvel, Sivana, Junior’s shouted “SIVANA!” changed him into Captain Sivana. Hero and villain fought to a standstill, until Captain Marvel suddenly veered off and challenged his evil foe to follow him to Savannah, Georgia to continue the fight; confused, Captain Sivana repeated, “Savannah, Geor…?!” and instantly changed back into mortal form. Savannah is a homophone for Sivana. I am so damned clever. Captain Marvel zipped back, slapped a gag on Junior, and carted the lot of those miscreants off to the hoosegow. The folks at DC were speechless. I never heard back on this one either.

Around 1975 (I think), I tried again, this time with a full script. Typewritten, too! “The Overtime Crimefighter!” showed a typical day (and night) in the busy life of The Batman. I think I still have this one somewhere. I don’t remember much of it, other than Batman systematically dismantling my fictional version of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the group that had kidnapped and brainwashed heiress Patty Hearst. I am nothing if not topical. Of course, “topical” ain’t quite the same as “not terrible,” and “The Overtime Crimefighter!” earned me a form-letter rejection.

But I would not be deterred! I was far too oblivious for that. My friend Mike DeAngelo was a very good artist, and I thought we could collaborate professionally. I worked up another complete Batman script, “Nightmare Ressurection!” It was a sequel to a classic Batman story from 1966, “Death Knocks Three Times!,” reviving a villain called Death-Man, unseen since his one and only appearance in Batman # 180 in ’66. My story was grim, frenetic, and nonsensical. Not even Mike’s art samples could save this from rejection.

The team-up that will never be: Captain Infinity and The Batman

After “Nightmare Ressurection!,” I took some time off for college and–believe it or not!–girlfriends. Yep, man of the world, that’s me. In the early ’80s, I tried to create a theoretically original character called Captain Infinity. It was, frankly, not thought through at all, but it was intended as a cosmic tale of a prince from a far galaxy renouncing his throne and fleeing his responsibilities; his escape route brought him to Earth, and hijinks ensued. I wrote a synopsis and introductory pages for the pilot story, “The Splitting Of Infinity!,” and sent it off to resolutely unimpressed DC staffers. I don’t blame ’em a bit.

I tried a few more times with DC in the ’80s. I submitted a plot treatment for another new character, Lawman, designed to be the resident, non-powered local hero in a crime-ridden urban neighborhood. Lawman was meant to be a superhero version of a neighborhood watch program, with one guy playing the role of masked hero, backed up by a small network of friends and allies determined to take their city blocks back from the thugs and ne’er-do-wells. I also submitted treatments for a couple of existing DC properties. One of these was a story about Green Arrow, stuck on monitor duty aboard the Justice League‘s satellite, dealing unexpectedly with an attack from Mala, an obscure Kryptonian bad guy whom Superman defeated in the ’50s. Another was a Justice League story called “The Trial Of Dr. Light!,” which would have introduced a new supervillain group called The Predators. My memory of The Predators is sketchy, but I know I intended them to be a team that worked together like the good guys would, without the back-biting and betrayal that characterized most groups of honorless thieves. One of The Predators was named The Miracle Worker, and his schtick was a device used to tap into other dimensions, including a solid dimension that allowed him to create floating chunks of dense matter upon which he could effectively walk on air. The female Predator Deathsong, who was The Miracle Worker’s beloved sister, was able to destroy people, property, even planets with her singing–kinda like Mariah Carey. There were two more members of The Predators, but I remember nothing else beyond the fact that it was all very, very ’80s, and DC rightly passed on the lot.

DEATHSONG! Her music will kill you.

Those Green Arrow and Justice League treatments were submitted alongside one more original character pitch, intended for DC’s New Talent Showcase book. That character was called The Trident, a World War II-era super-scrapper I envisioned as an answer to the unanasked question, “What if Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had created a two-fisted black superhero in the ’40s?” That question remains unasked and unanswered. My treatment for The Trident’s debut in “A Trident Glows In Brooklyn!” was a preposterous mess about a black police officer working his Brooklyn beat circa 1942, and being granted super-abilities by some cosmic do-gooders called The Men Of The Trident. No, I don’t think it made any sense either. Writer Roy Thomas had recently introduced a black hero called Amazing-Man in the pages of his WWII Justice Society book All-Star Squadron, and I wanted The Trident to be the second black superhero retroactively placed in that 1940s DC milieu. I viewed The Trident’s racial identity as incidental, which may have been foolish; but I liked the idea of a hero who just happened to be a black guy, just as The Guardian and the Silver Age Green Lantern (the two overriding influences on my concept of The Trident) just happened to be white guys. Foolish or not, someone at DC felt it wasn’t necessary to reject it outright. The letter accompanying my spurned ‘n’ returned Green Arrow and JLA proposals noted that The Trident was being forwarded to the editor of New Talent Showcase for further consideration.

That was 1985, and it was the last I heard from DC. But it’s as close as I ever came to achieving my dream of writing for DC Comics.

(I did write one more complete story using DC characters, a pulp short story starring The Batman and Aquaman. I never submitted it to DC, but I like it a lot, and never tire of pointing folks in its direction: The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze.)
And while I never did break in at DC, I have now sold four short stories to AHOY, and I’ve cashed the paychecks for each of them. Call me a late bloomer. I started this as a teenager. I’m still doing it. More to come.

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