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Late Night Stuff

Back in this post, I predicted that Stephen Colbert would not do his new Letterman-replacing Late Show from the Ed Sullivan Theater, at least at first. Well, it's been announced he will. I'm curious how that will work. I figured Colbert would need a new set and a major building renovation, plus time to just plain move in and then do some practice shows from his new stage. I also figured CBS would want Dave to do his last show on a Friday and then have Stephen commence the following Monday so as not to concede the time slot for several weeks with Letterman reruns or some sort of filler programming. Let's see how they manage this.

And I may also have been wrong with my prediction that Colbert would do his first show on March 2 so Dave's last show could close out the February sweeps rating period. Letterman writer Bill Scheft on his blog recently posted…

THE SHOW has ten months left, give or take a week. I am just focusing on the journey and not the destination, which a Zen-like way of saying I’m repressing. That said, I am thrilled with the news Stephen Colbert will be doing his version at the Ed Sullivan Theater because all the union guys will be retained. I continue to be amazed at the number of people, and people who should know better, assuming I will be going to work for Colbert, like it’s GM just getting a new President. That has now morphed into people, the same people, asking me if the Colbert people are in the building yet. Yeah, I got a file cabinet and a rack of his suits in my office.

Ten months suggests the May sweeps…which perhaps not coincidentally is when the last Johnny Carson Tonight Show occurred. Colbert's last Comedy Central show is just before this year's Christmas break so he might be off the air for more than six months.

Go Read This!

Elaine Stritch left us twelve pieces of advice for creative folks.

Sunday Morning at Comic-Con

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The Cartoon Voice Panel, photo by Bruce Guthrie: Jim Cummings, Sherry Lynn, Arif S. Kinchen, David Sobolov, Colleen O'Shaugnessy, Josh Keaton, me in the back.

Quick Draw! seemed to go well yesterday. Sergio Aragonés, Scott Shaw! and Floyd Norman drew rapidly and humorously. They were joined for one game by three more cartoonists — Bill Morrison, Carol Lay and Tom Yeates. To play our "Secret Words" game, I brought up two funny friends of mine — actor-writer Jim Staahl and Simpsons scribe Tom Gammill. Tom more or less took over the proceedings, which is kinda what I expected.

The Cartoon Voices panel went well, too. We had Jim Cummings, David Sobolov, Sherry Lynn, Arif S. Kinchen, Colleen O'Shaugnessy and Josh Keaton, all of whom have some wonderful credits and of course the talent to destroy (in a good sense) the script I handed them to read. Today at the second Cartoon Voices panel, the cast will be reading the same script — "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" — and then I plan to retire it…to the probable cheers of those who attend these panels.

I spoke briefly on a panel for Abrams ComicArts about The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio, a forthcoming book of art from back when Joe Simon and Jack Kirby not only wrote and drew great comics together but hired others to work with them doing this. I'll tell you more about it one of these days.

Due to overlapping panels, I left that one, which was deliberately placed as far as possible from my next one, and hustled over to moderate "That 70's Panel" all about comics from that decade. We had on the dais Elliott S! Maggin, Steve Leialoha, Walt Simonson, Louise Simonson, Anthony Tollin and Len Wein. It seemed like a pretty interesting panel but I can't think of anything to quote here other than this: When all of us got into comics, it was widely predicted that the industry didn't have long to live; that plunging sales would soon doom the form. At a time before anyone invented Direct Sales Distribution, that was a pretty sound prediction and we all to some extent believed that. All but Len Wein. Len said — and this is an approximate quote — "I was always certain comics would survive because I wanted them to survive." Happily for us all, he was right.

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The 70's Panel: Front row is Steve Leialoha, then Walt and Louise Simonson. Back row is me, Elliott S! Maggin, Tony Tollin and Len Wein. Photo by Bruce Guthrie.

In the evening, I went to parties and such. Downtown San Diego was so busy that Uber declared one of its "surges" where their rates go up due to a shortage of drivers on the road. Last time I looked, they were charging 2.75 times their usual fares, making them actually more expensive than cabs.

On the way back to my hotel after my last panel of the day &;mdash; this was before the parties and such — I witnessed something disturbing. A gent dressed as a "serious" barbarian — but who seemed to have the I.Q. and concern for humanity of Groo — was wielding a realistic plastic sword, swinging it about, apparently under the impression that since it was plastic, he could not possibly hurt anyone. I saw him come darn close (too close) to unknowingly sticking it in the eye of a small child in a passing stroller. Another two inches to the left would have done it and it was just chance that no injury occurred. Just chance.

I really like the cosplayers. Most of them show ingenuity and talent and passion. I do sometimes tire of hearing people who only know Comic-Con from news segments on TV assume that everyone at the con must be costumed because that's all the news camera usually show. Still, I think the con would be greatly diminished without those who dress up as characters. (Though I will admit: I've never quite understood the urge, either at cons or at Halloween, to make oneself up as a zombie or walking dead. In my entire life, I've never thought, "Gee, I'd enjoy looking as repulsive and sickening as possible.")

The best one I saw today — and if anyone got a photo of him I can post, please send it to me — was a gent in a Star Wars storm trooper suit, only just from the neck down. His head was covered by a Cookie Monster mask. Very funny. About 95% of the cosplayers are terrific.

All that said, I think it's time someone also said this: About 5% are spectacularly inconsiderate of others. Swinging around a plastic sword in a crowd is bad enough but to do it around kids in strollers? I think some of that body makeup has closed off the pores that feed oxygen to the brain.

Can someone please tell these people that a guy with a Smartphone who says, "Hey, can I get a picture of you?" does not give you the right to suddenly stop in the middle of an aisle and block traffic for your photo-op? I've been seeing a lot of near pile-ups at the con because these folks don't even look around to see what hazards or congestion they're creating. Twice yesterday, I had to play Unappointed Traffic Cop and suggest someone take two steps to the side to pose so that wheelchairs and scooters for the disabled could get through.

But of course, the guy with the plastic sword bothered me more. When I pointed out to him what he'd almost done, he just shrugged and said, "Hey, it's plastic, man," with an unspoken subtext of "Hey, don't bother me! I'm Conan!"

A dealer at the Phoenix Comic Convention told me he hated the cosplayers and wished conventions would oust them. He said, approximately, "They clog the aisles in front of my booth and make it difficult for customers to see my wares, and none of them ever buy anything. They're just here to get attention. Hell, most of them don't even have pockets and wallets!" I don't side with that guy. I think they're great and so what if they don't buy anything? And like I said, 95% of them do it right. I just think 5% of them need to learn some consideration for others, including the fact that even plastic weapons can jab passers-by and even injure someone.

Off to the final day of the Con where it's a four-panel day for me.

Today's Video Link

Some time ago, I posted a link to this video by a gent named Paint who sang four-part harmony with himself about four Disney movies. He's back — or should I say they're back? — with four more. If you didn't view the first one, go watch it before you watch the second…

Before I Panel…

There are a number of articles online (like this one) about sexual harrassment at Comic-Con. I keep meaning to write a long post on this topic and it will take a while because when you deal with a topic as sensitive as this one, you have to pick your words very carefully and then proofread to look for anything you wrote that someone could possibly misunderstand…and someone will, anyway.

I think this issue has managed to be both under-reported and exaggerated at the same time. I also think that while I am wholly on the side of those who think this kind of thing must be stopped, outrage alone is not enough; that coming up with workable solutions is necessary and that if you aren't coming up with any, you really aren't helping. You may even be making things worse by demanding things that are humanly (and perhaps legally) impossible.

One of my solutions is that we stop using the term "sexual harrassment," which is easily misunderstood. Many people think it refers to a case where someone in a position of power — a teacher or employer, say — uses that power to take advantage of someone they think is both powerless and cute. That's very wrong but it isn't the same wrong as groping a scantily-clad lady at a convention. The groping would more correctly be labelled as something else — perhaps assault or…well, I'll try to come up with a better word for the crime before I write my long piece. And if I don't stop here, this will become the long piece and I'll miss my panels. So more to come.

Saturday Morning at Comic-Con

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Carolyn Kelly
Photo by Bruce Guthrie

Change of plans: For the remainder of this convention, I will not be found much, if at all, sitting at Table I-8 in the hall. You will find my buddy Scott Shaw! there and I encourage you to stop by and visit and if you're a small kid, he'll draw you a mean Fred Flintstone or Fozzie Bear. But you will not find me seated alongside him. I tried that for a day or so and realized how much I don't like sitting behind a table at a convention. This is no reflection on anyone who savors the experience but as long as my Orthopedist will keep injecting my knee with Cortisone, you will not find me doing that for very long. I may write more about this after the con.

I spent yesterday in business-type meetings and doing interviews and moderating but one panel. I will make up for that today and tomorrow. But the one panel was a good one, a panel noting the 101st birthday of the great Walt Kelly, creator of (arguably) the greatest newspaper strip ever done, Pogo. Oh, if you thought it was Peanuts or Krazy Kat or Doonesbury or Marmaduke, I wouldn't argue. I might if you said Little Orphan Annie and I'd win. But I just think Pogo is great and so do a whole lotta folks who filled Room 8 yesterday to hear Leonard Maltin, Maggie Thompson, David Silverman (director of The Simpsons), Jeff Smith (that Bone guy), Willie Ito (who once did some ghosting on Pogo) and Carolyn Kelly speak glowingly of it. Carolyn is, of course, the daughter of Walt K. and she's also co-editor of the series of books from Fantagraphics that are reprinting every single Pogo newspaper strip in chronological order.

That's her above holding a mock-up of Volume 3, which is currently being printed for a November release. I dragged her co-editor Eric Reynolds up on stage to also talk a bit about it and we were all excited and happy and if you ever want to have a good time, just hang around with Walt Kelly fans. Better still, read Walt Kelly.

In the evening, many of us shlepped over to the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton for what turned out to be the shortest Eisner Awards ceremony ever. By that, I mean it was actually over on the same date it started. I presented the Bill Finger Award to Robert Kanigher, Bill Mantlo and Jack Mendelsohn and that was nice. Also nice was that my co-presenter was Athena Finger, granddaughter of perhaps the most undercredited man in the history of comics. Athena is receiving a lot of love at this convention and great support for the campaign to get her late grandfather recognized as the co-creator of Batman. More on this in a future posting. I also accepted a Hall of Fame Award in behalf of Irwin Hasen, best known for the super-hero feature Wildcat (which he co-created with BILL FINGER) and for the newspaper strip, Dondi. Irwin couldn't be there because he's just too short.

Nice ceremony. Nice afterparty. My congrats to the winners, who all seemed to be deserving…which is not to say that all the nominees were not. I gotta go prep for four panels today, the first of which is Quick Draw! This one could be bloody because this time, they're playing for keeps. Later.

Friday Morning at Comic-Con

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I snapped the above photo of a sign on a door into Comic-Con. It amused me to think that anyone thought there was any adult supervision of anyone inside.

Thursday seemed less crowded than usual to me…and apparently, only to me. Others were still moaning about how wall-to-wall the place was with human beings and many who went to elaborate lengths to not look like one. If you ventured into certain sections down certain aisles, I'm sure that was so. But where I was, the walkways seemed manageable.

I tried something different this year…different for me, anyway. Partly because I feared my knee might be bothering me, I secured some space in the hall and figured to spend much of the con sitting there, right alongside Sergio instead of roaming the convention floor. That cortisone shot I got in my knee on Tuesday kicked in at just the right time. My knee stopped hurting about the time I was ready to make my first trip from my hotel room to the convention…which was fortunate because I learned that my tolerance for sitting behind a table is about fifteen minutes. After the con, I'll write a longer piece about why I feel that way…and why you won't find me doing that much in the future as long as I'm ambulatory.

This morning, I'm due at the Dark Horse booth at 10 AM for an hour of signing copies of Groo Vs. Conan alongside Sergio. I will tough it out but really. If I wanted to sit around doing the same thing over and over and over, I'd go back to writing Scooby Doo cartoons. It pays slightly better.

Four panels yesterday. The first was one I was on but didn't moderate about the great, unheralded co-creator of Batman, Bill Finger. I planned to repeat a lot of my "defense" of Bob Kane — the quotes are because much of his credit-claiming seemed indefensible to me — but there wasn't time. I did get to meet the charming Athena Finger, granddaughter of the late, wronged writer. She and I will be co-presenting three Bill Finger Awards at the Eisner ceremony this evening.

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Phil Geiger took this photo of me, Anthony Tollin, Neal Adams, Denny O'Neil, Michael Uslan and Len "Two Badges" Wein. Click on it to make it bigger.

My second panel of the day was great. I moderated "Batman in the 70s" with Neal Adams, Denny O'Neil, Michael Uslan, Anthony Tollin and Len Wein. I'm sure there will be many accounts and probably an audio of the whole thing posted to the 'net in the coming days. Neal and Denny were particularly interesting as they discussed their collaborations on the Caped Crusader and how they reinvented him more or less forever.

Then the third panel…ah, the "Jules Feiffer Goes Noir" panel. It was billed as Paul Levitz and m.e. interviewing the great writer-cartoonist and that's what it would have been, had he been able to make it out from the east coast. Amazingly, few walked out when it was announced that Mr. Feiffer was not present. But we sat and spoke of him and his work for 50 minutes and attendees seemed to find that an acceptable alternative. (When I heard he wasn't coming, my suggestion was that we go down to the bad part of town, find some hopelessly-inebriated derelict, slap a Jules Feiffer badge on him and bring the guy in to be interviewed. How many people, I figured, even know what Jules Feiffer looks like, anyway?)

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Tom Yeates, me, Sergio Aragonés and Stan Sakai.
Photo by Bruce Guthrie.

Lastly, we had the annual Sergio and Mark Show on which we spoke of Groo Vs. Conan and upcoming projects and discussed our silly careers. We were joined by Stan Sakai and Tom Yeates and it was covered briefly here.

Today, I have that signing, many meetings and but one panel — a spotlight on Walt Kelly and Pogo at 3:30 in Room 8. If you're not there, you'll miss the announcement that Volume 3 of the Fantagraphics series that reprints that great newspaper strip in full has gone to press. The later…the Eisner Awards. I have to go get dressed and practice signing my name as fast as Sergio signs his. Bye now.

My Latest Tweet

  • I'm at Comic-Con where the definition of the word "legend" has devolved to "anyone I ever heard of."

Today's Video Link

If you have four women around, preferably with strong thighs, you might want to try this…

Recommended Fred Kaplan Reading

Fred Kaplan writes that the choice of weapon used to bring down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 pretty much proves Vladimir Putin has blood on his mitts.

Fred Kaplan also reminds us that back in 1988, this country did something uncomfortably similar.

Wednesday Morning

Sergio and I are driving down to San Diego and should be set up in time for Preview Night. A couple of folks have written to say they intend to drop by my station in the hall — I-8, to the left of Sergio, where I'm poaching with Scott Shaw! — to buy whatever I'm selling. Well, that'll be cheap because I'm selling nothing. I may be the only person behind a table in that building who is selling nothing…intentionally. I'm just there because my knee being what it is, I need a place to sit instead of wandering the premises like I usually do. My knee's appearance, by the way, is made possible by a shot of Cortisone from a nice man at the Beverly Hills Orthopedic Group.

Preview Night used to be three hours of the con at a more leisurely, less-crowded pace. Now, it's a place to say, "My God, if it's this packed for Preview Night, imagine what Saturday's gonna be like in this room!"

That statement, by the way, is kind of a throwback to a time when not every day of the convention sold out…so Saturday was the day with the most attendees. Now, since every day is long since sold out, every day is the day with the most attendees. Still, there are those who put on panels and fight for Saturday slots because they think that's the day most people are there.

One last tip before I post a Video Link, change the header and go finish packing: The convention has a great shuttle bus system that not only will take you to and from where you're staying, it can easily drop you off in other parts of San Diego with great, less-crowded restaurants. The city also has a fine trolley system that can be boarded and unboarded right across from the convention center…and I kinda love that almost all the taxicabs have names that suggest they're from different companies when they all obviously come from the same place. I would avoid the bicycle-driven pedi-cabs if I were you as they tend to overcharge and overturn.

Hope to see some of you down there. Where's the damn power cord for my razor?

Today's Video Link

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I spent a number of years of my life hanging around a magical, mystical place called The Silent Movie Theater here in Los Angeles. It's still there and it's still called that but it's no longer exclusively a silent movie theater. I wrote about the place in this article.

The story of that business is fascinating and mesmerizing and it's told in a new documentary called Palace of Silents that I have not yet seen although I'm in it. I'm eager to see it and they tell me I'll have a copy shortly but in the meantime, I wanted to alert you to it. Here's the trailer. I'm the first interviewee you see on camera…

Today on Stu's Show!

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And today (Wednesday), Stu's guest is Fredd Wayne, who has had one of the longest, most impressive careers of any actor working today. Large chunks of it have been spent in the guise of Benjamin Franklin, and that's who Mr. Wayne was playing when I first became aware of him. He seemed to be popping up everywhere as Franklin, including a memorable episode of Bewitched (see above). Once I learned his name, I spotted it at one time or another in the credits of darn near every TV show I watched, including The Twilight Zone. Stu can fill the show today by just naming the shows Fredd Wayne guested on and I look forward to hearing him talk about some of them. He can't possibly get through them all.

Stu's Show can be heard live (almost) every Wednesday at the Stu's Show website and you can listen for free there. Webcasts start at 4 PM Pacific Time, 7 PM Eastern and other times in other climes. They run a minimum of two hours and sometimes go into major overtime.  Shortly after a show ends, it's available for downloading from the Archives on that site. Downloads are a bargain at 99 cents each and you can get four for the price of three.

By the way: Last week, I was swamped with work and I just plain forgot to post the plug for that week's Stu's Show. His guest was Murray Langston, AKA "The Unknown Comic." Murray is one of the funniest men in his profession and his appearance on Stu's program just confirmed it. It's in the archives if you'd like to order it and laugh a lot.

Tuesday Morning

I am hereby updating my fearless weather forecast for San Diego during Comic-Con. I still say it'll be clear and sunny with nighttime temps between 68° and 70° but I'm upping my prediction of daytime temperatures five degrees to between 75° and 80°. This applies to the convention area near the water. It'll be slightly higher in other parts of the town.

I will be spending those days scurrying about to host panels and attend meetings. At 10 AM on Friday, Sergio and I will be signing copies of the first issue of the newly-released Groo Vs. Conan mini-series for an hour at the Dark Horse booth. At other times, you'll find him at Table I-7 and when I'm not off doing something else, I'll be at I-8 between him and Scott Shaw!

If you're attending the con — or if you aren't and want to pretend you're there — you might want to install the con's new app for iOS or Android. It's very nicely designed and it looks like it'll be quite useful.

I haven't posted a lot of Tips About Attending Comic-Con because everyone else seems to be doing that these days. The main thing I suggest is that you simply accept the fact that you're not going to be able to see and do everything you want; that you avoid crowded aisles instead of complaining about them; that you consult the Programming Guide (and most of the convention website) before you go and do some planning; that you hydrate often and shun the convention center snack bars; that you attend all my panels; that you wear the most comfortable shoes you have, regardless of how they look on you; that you bring more money than you expect to need; that you make it over to Artists' Alley at some point; that you be wary of cosplayers with pointy sticks or other weaponry; and that you just plain Take It Easy.

Oh — and one other suggestion: Out back behind the convention center, easily accessible from doors on the second and third levels, there's a wonderful marina with a real, live ocean. It is not, as you might assume, some kind of IMAX® C.G.I. effect. It is actually there.

Take a moment now and then to wander out there and inhale actual air and to get away from all the dealers and attendees and people dressed like Robotic Zombie Smurfs or whatever the hell they're supposed to be. Go out and look at boats for five minutes now and then. You appreciate everything inside that convention center so much more when you don't allow it to make you utterly forget about Reality.

Gotta go start packing. I don't think I'll be taking my Robotic Zombie Smurf costume this year…

Today's Video Link

A group of people with real good voices sing a medley of Disney songs about flying. You'll like this…