Sunday, April 13, 2014

Voting Opens for The Inkwell Awards

The following press release is courtesy of artist Bob Almond, director of the Inkwell Awards. Want to participate? Visit http://www.inkwellawards.com Bob can be reached at dmralmond@gmail.com

(New Bedford, MA/USA—April 14, 2013) The Inkwell Awards, a non-profit organization devoted to educating and promoting the art of inking, invites the public to vote for the industry's best of the past year. The official public ballot will be available on the Inkwell Awards' homepage from April 15 through April 30. Voting is open to everyone, whether fans or professional peers. The winners will be announced at the live awards ceremony at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC June 20-22 on Saturday the 21st at 12:30 pm. 
As with last year, the ballot will still list the nominees for the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame lifetime achievement award, which were chosen by the internal and separate Hall of Fame Nomination Committee (made up of the core committee, former committee members, ambassadors, contributors and existing Hall of Fame award recipients). To avoid a “popularity contest” where recent names have more influence than past masters, the two winners have been chosen by the HoF Nomination Committee rather than the public and will be announced at the ceremony. Current nominees are listed as a courtesy. Past Hall of Fame award recipients include Joe Sinnott, Terry Austin & Dick Giordano, Klaus Janson & Al Williamson, Wallace Wood & Kevin Nowlan, Mark McKenna & Scott Williams, and last year, Dick Ayers & Murphy Anderson. 
“We’re so excited for this event, where everyone’s hard work will pay off and the best of the best ink artists and their work will be recognized,” said Bob Almond, founder and director of The Inkwell Awards (AKA "The Inkwells"). "Inkers have their own fans and followers, and often go unsung or glossed over in traditional awards events. Ours caters specifically to ink artists and allows several to be recognized and appreciated in various categories.” 
Ballots and instructions can be viewed at The Inkwells' web site beginning on tax day, April 15. A direct link will additionally be posted on their Facebook group page, where people may also ask any questions. 
The Inkwell Awards is an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and promote the art form of comic-book inking, as well as annually recognize and award the best ink artists and their work. Now in its seventh year, the organization is overseen by a committee of industry professionals and assisted by various professional ambassadors and numerous contributors. They sponsor the Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Kubert School and host the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Gift that Keeps Giving from Artie Simek



Sensei Carlos Varon—my long-distance dobro from Legend Shotokan (thanks to our shared O’Sensei Richard Lenchus)—recently contacted me with a generous gift of comics and related books. When I asked him how he stumbled upon this little treasure trove, he told me they were once a gift from Artie Simek.

Sadly, you have to be a certain age, and a certain type of fan, to get goose flesh when the name Artie Simek is mentioned. But I certainly did.

Born on January 6, 1916, Arthur “Artie” Simek was what folks once called a calligrapher and what comics jargon calls a letterer. Starting with Timely (Marvel’s precursor) in the 1940’s, Artie didn’t receive his first confirmed credits until years later on both a 12-page Batman-Superman story in World’s Finest #91 as well as in Batman #112 (both in 1957). He went on to letter DC’s Showcase and House of Secrets, then shows up in 1959 on Marvel’s Kid Colt, Outlaw


Along with Sam Rosen, Artie was one of Marvel’s two principal letterers: The two hand lettered the word balloons and sound effects in nearly every seminal Marvel title, and likely designed many logos. If you ever hold a Fantastic Four #1 in your hands, those are Artie’s letters. His last lettering job was on Giant-Size Defenders #5 (July 1975). He died while working on the book.

Sensei Carlos Varon grew up in Elmhurst, Queens, NY. One Halloween, he and a few of his friends knocked on a door and shouted “trick or treat!”  “Imagine my surprise to get a comic book,” write Carlos. “How cool was that?” The other kids seemed a little disappointed in getting a book and not candy, but Carlos was thrilled—and Artie Simek saw that in his face. “He invited me into his home,” said Carlos, who was instantly amazed to see the many drawings and an active art board. “I can still recall the pile of comics and storyboards on display. He told me he worked on Marvel Comics as a letterer and I was not sure about that, but he took the time to explain and even offered me a few of his full-size storyboards. As a dumb, young kid, I said no thank you. Boy was I na├»ve!”

But over time, Simek gave young Carlos a number of books that he had worked on. “My collection really grew from that visit,” says Sensei Varon.

And now mine has, thanks to Carlos’ generous gift.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Artie, but my friend Gene Colan once described him as “a real Norman Rockwell character. Artie Simek could play the spoons. He'd have two spoons in his hand, and he would flip them around, they would bop up against each other, and before you knew it, there was a melody there. He was wonderful.”


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Harlan Ellison Gives Comic Book Babylon a Rave Review

On a certain level, I've been waiting 35 years for the letter I received last week from Harlan Ellison regarding my latest book. He writes (and I am ossified to read):
I found COMIC BOOK BABYLON an imperial hoot. Have now read it three times, and Susan has read it once. It takes me time to read it, because every name you drop, every anecdote you tell, sparks drift-rememberances of my own...and I pause...and I think...and I smile or frown. It is an Aladin's treasure cavern of piquant down-low and memory. It is--as you well know, you schmachler--one helluva book! And I am dead-chuft to be in it. As always, you are a mensch and a Solid Brother! All love from us here in the Trembling Terrain, to all of you there in the Apple Vicinity. Yer pal, Harlan
If you haven't ordered COMIC BOOK BABYLON yet, I urge you to do so. AardwolfPublishing continues to offer the hardcopy with a guarantee of delighted or your money back. It's also selling fairly well via Amazon for the Kindle, but I make pennies on that and, let's be honest: holding a book in your hands is nicer than holding a Kindle.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Friday, March 7, 2014

It's Will Eisner's Birthday.


Born on this day in 1917, Will Eisner is someone I'd have missed had my own heroes not informed me of his importance. Singing hosannas of one sort or another to the previous generation of creative pioneers is one of the obligations that writers and artists share, as far as I'm concerned. Ripping techniques alone is hardly homage.

Mark Ellis, the excellent writer of modern pulp fiction and come-back quips, who I've grown fond of, summed it up (and brought the date to my attention) on his Facebook post:

WILL EISNER [was] a man who was just as influential in both the art and business of comics as Jack Kirby. Although he was justly famous as the creator of THE SPIRIT, Will was a a true pioneer...he continued to explore and expand the parameters of comics storytelling. He's credited with creating the term of "graphic novel".

According to Will, he coined the term on the fly, and had no idea he was basically creating a new publishing category.
Me? I touched Will several times. The first occasion was a chance meeting in San Diego, where famed bookseller Bud Plant introduced us. The next time was when Harlan Ellison put us together on the phone because Aardwolf was seeking the perfect cover artist for a project.

I have no anecdotes beyond some very strange things that occurred later at Will's memorial service (which I've detailed in "Four Days at the Races" in my book ComicBook Babylon). I was just grateful to know Will for the the five or six total minutes that I received. You'd have been, too.

Friday, February 21, 2014

When Will People Start Dropping *My* Name?


Adam-Troy Castro, the excellent writer of numerous Hugo-, Nebula- and Stoker-nominated SF and horror tales (to say nothing of four Spider-Man novels) has a review of my ComicBook Babylon in the forthcoming issue of SCI FI (out in about 60 days). He was kind enough to share the generous review with me which said, among other things:

Much of [Meth's book] deals with the shameful neglect many of the four-color field’s most important creators experienced when health or fashion no longer smiled on them… There are many illustrations by Michael Netzer, who manages to capture not just the physical appearances, but also the personalities, of the luminaries under discussion.

Meth… doesn’t mince words. If he admires somebody, he is unsparing in his praise; if he considers somebody a jackass or a momser or a shnorrer, he puts his mockery on the page.
If you haven't ordered the book yet, Aardwolf Publishing now has signed physical copies. And Amazon is still giving away selling the digital version for just 99-cents so there's no excuse not to read it. And someone whispered to me that Marvel is none to happy about it.

In other news, Michael Netzer and I are teaming up again for a 5-page story in the forthcoming Jewish Comix Anthology. The project will also include work from Robert Crumb, Joe Kubert, Harvey Pekar, Art Spiegelman, and Will Eisner. It was a genuine honor to be invited into this prestigious collection. If you’d like to take a look at or participate in their Kickstarter (and I hope you do), click here.







Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Worst Good Rats’ Show I Ever Attended

Mickey could play and chew gum at the same time.
The first Good Rats show I attended was during the abysmal days of the Carter administration. My pals and I hitch-hiked down Rt. 46 to Dizzy Duncan’s in Parsippany, NJ, a standing-room-only affair that we were legally too young to walk into, but if one didn’t know how to shimmy up the drainpipe and slip in through the torn shingles on the roof their street their cred was dead zero. I was 16 and looked 14 and recall trying to suck the beer out of my baseball cap after some mook in biker's garb spilled a Budweiser on my head. I stood by the stage, my nose as high as guitarist John Gatto’s heels, and got a gander of Mickey Marchello, whose bird's nest of a beard and obviously mad eyes made him look like La Barbe bleue. Front and center, Peppi Marchello was screaming, “I’m a Mean Mother.” It was love at first sight citing.
Stefan Marchello, Long Island's
new godfather.

Nearly four decades later, I’ve stopped counting how many Rats’ shows I’ve been to. It’s like trying to remember all of your kid’s birthdays. Blame it on good living. And the worst Good Rats’ show I’ve ever attended? No such animal. They were all primal events. This is a family affair, boys and girls, as in Manson meets Adams.

What am I talking about? Come see for yourself. My pal Peppi sings with the angels now but his boy Stefan is still doing it and rumor has it brother Gene Marchello will be guest soaring on lead guitar and dueling vocals at the upcoming show at the Tap Room at the Somerset Hills Hotel, 200 Liberty Corner Road, Warren, NJ, on March 21.

Double your money back if not satisfied. Just take it up with the management.

Artists' rendering. Have you seen these men?




Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Comics' Soft White Underbelly

I've had warm and generous responses to Comic Book Babylon since its release as an e-book for the Kindle and other platforms. Want one? Visit Amazon by clicking here.

The physical paperback can be purchased from Aardwolf Publishing. Visit the Aardwolf site if you'd like one. There are still signed/#'d copies available.

This blog entry will be a repository of links for press about the book. Thus:


The Real Heroes and Villains in Comic Books is an in-depth review from the excellent writer Bob Duggan at BigThink.com

You Might Come to Comic Book Babylon for the scandal, but you'll stay for the people is an insightful review from Jack Abramowitz on ComicsBulletin.com

Bob Layton on Meth is an interview courtesy of Westfield Comics.

Dan Jurgens on Meth is an interview courtesy of BleedingCool.com

Pop Culture Hounding Cliff Meth is a podcast on BleedingCool via Chris Thompson - a long and fun broadcast interview

The Comic Book Babylon Facebook page (join us!)

Booksteve Reviews Comic Book Bablyon

Observing Comic Book Babylon: Cliff Meth Speaks for the Old Guard (courtesy of FanboyPlanet.com)

Review of Comic Book Babylon at MyReviewer.com

LibraryThing Review of Comic Book Babylon


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dan Jurgens On Meth

reprinted from BleedingCool.com

Dan Jurgens, best known for his lengthy runs on various Superman titles, usually finds himself on the receiving end of a Q and A session. But the artist/writer extraordinaire who brought us such iconic works as “The Death of Superman” recently took some time out to interview author Clifford Meth, whose new book Comic Book Babylon (Aardwolf Publishing) is raising eyebrows.
Not to be confused with Tim Pilcher‘s recent book about DC Vertigo UKClifford Meth‘s Comic Book Babylon is a brutal and frenzied behind-the-scenes view into the lives of many of comics’ most important creators. Artists and writers like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Walter Simonson, Joe Kubert and Harlan Ellison enter into some of their most candid conversations with Meth as the author also details, for the first time, his historic battle (alongside partner Neal Adams) to obtain royalties for X-Men co-creator Dave Cockrum.
Jurgens: We all have comics we remember because of the impression they made on us in our youth. Might’ve been the story, the art, the character, a combination of all that or the chocolate malt you spilled on it. What’s the one single comic you remember from your youth, the impression it made on you and why?
Meth: I remember my first comic book pretty much the way I remember the first girl I slept with, although the comic lasted longer in retrospect. But the first comic that was important to me wasCaptain America #156, which concluded a story arc that had begun with issue #153. Steve Englehart was a master script writer and he’d decided to explore the conundrum that existed as Cap was frozen before the conclusion of World War II (until the Avengers rescued him in the 1960’s) but nevertheless continued to battle Reds in the red-scared ’50s. The Englehart series, which benefitted from Sal Buscema’s very clean, very enjoyable story-telling, defined Captain America for me. America’s savior had to be beyond politics, impervious to prejudice, not really super-human—despite that Super Soldier bullshit—but ethically flawless. They just don’t make saviors like that anymore.
Jurgens: You’re well noted for your willingness to step up and help some of the greats who came before us. Why? What sent you on the that path?
Meth: I was fairly young when I recognized that standing up to a bully, regardless of the consequences, was the only way to walk through life. That can be applied anywhere from the schoolyard to geo-politics. Men of good conscience can’t enjoy their meals when someone else is starving, but that’s especially true if the starving guy had his meal ticket stolen by a corporation.
Jurgens: If you could be any super VILLAIN in the world, who would it be and why?
Meth: Magneto. Not Stan Lee’s Magneto, who was over-bearing and mad as a fox, but rather Chris Claremont’s Magneto. The way Chris wrote him, Magneto had a moral imperative. Who can fault a man for wanting to protect his own kind? Charles Xavier never gained my partisan loyalty, or even my verisimilitude for that matter. It was always Magneto.
Jurgens: Your ultimate creative team and dream project you’d have them create?
Meth: I would have to pick John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star and create an album, with George Martin producing. The final song would have to be an anthem of some sort, ideally by John, with guest vocalists in the choir, and Peppi Marchello would be there, and so would Phil Ochs. And I would have Jeffrey Jones paint the album’s cover and Roger Dean paint the inside gatefold and Allen Ginsberg would do a broadside insert that Sergio Aragones would illuminate. There’d be a pullout poster by Steranko and portraits of all the participants by James BamaMartin Scorsese would document the entire “the-making-of” for later release, which Harlan Ellison would narrate. And I’d write the liner notes.
Jurgens: Coke or Pepsi?
Meth: Coke. I never quite got over Peppi's boycott of Israel.
For more on Comic Book Babylon visit www.aardwolfpublishing.com

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Joe St. Pierre Knows How I Can Really Screw Up

I like to think of myself as a decent guy. But I guess everyone thinks of themselves that way.

To wit: I went out of my way to write “Joe St. Pierre Knows Why I Don’t Read Comics Anymore” to promote a comics project from Joe. And, along with that piece, I posted an image from David Lapham because I thought it was Joe’s. Why? Because it had Joe’s signature on it (he had autographed it) and that was the photo I found when I was rooting about looking for a cool image from Joe’s Valiant days.

Worse: I talked about Joe’s gorgeous Valiant work instead of telling you nice people about his Liberaider comic strip, which is, after all, where he is now.

Worse: My babbled depiction of Joe made him feel that I’d painted him as a sexist when Joe, in truth, is anything but. It wasn’t my intention. I was just goofing around about his long line of female groupies queuing up for an autograph. But what do I know about groupies? All of my readers have hairy legs.

Worse: When Joe brought all this to my attention, I got a little defensive. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.

And then I sat down and missed a real deadline because I had to make things right.

I’ve removed my earlier piece, now, which talked about why I can’t read comics anymore and how lovely the old comics smelled and how today’s comics don’t smell like anything and how they are printed on advertising brochure paper instead of decent pulp. I said some other things, too, that probably aren’t worth remembering. At least I can’t remember them.

And now I’ll append that I don’t do plugs anymore either because all it does is come back to bite you. If you don’t believe me, I’ll show you the scars.

But before I stop: Go read Joe St. Pierre’s Liberaider.
Clifford Meth thinks Joe St. Pierre is the cat's meow.
But he sure has a strange way of showing it.

At Last, An Alternate History of the Comics: The Truth



After a successful Kickstarter, I was hoping my book ComicBook Babylon—in the making for nearly a decade—would be here for the holidays. And I was right. Only it will be President's Day, not the festive gift-giving season. We’ll live with that. I imagine some people give gifts in February, too, even if it’s only a shovel.

ComicBook Babylon tells stories that I’ve kept to myself for many years. I’m finally comfortable imparting many of those stories now. Some of them I’m still uncomfortable with but I have a good lawyer. At least he tells me he’s a good lawyer. His name is Leo. I had a puppet named Leo once, too.

At 340 pages, ComicBook Babylon is like a multi-ring circus. You’ll find Stan Lee speaking very frankly about Jack Kirby, Alan Moore speaking very frankly about Hollywood, Frank Miller speaking very frank millerly about Marvel, and so forth. Okay, they may have occasionally spoken to others frankly, too, but my detailed stories regarding Dave Cockrum’s fight with Marvel—or, more accurately, mine and Neal Adams’s fight with Marvel on behalf of Dave Cockrum—is something you haven’t seen the whole truth about, until now. Neither have you read Bob Layton being this candid. Or Joe Kubert. Or Herb Trimpe. And what really happened to Gene Colan? And why did Harlan Ellison want to punch Jim Warren in the nose? And what happens when Barry Smith can't find his Windsor?

The book is late but it’s finally done. I was done months ago and now Michael Netzer—who illustrated exquisite portraits of his illustrious peers and designed the book—is done, too. This is a beautiful book, with covers by Dave Cockrum and Mike Pascale. I’m proud of what it says and how it says it.

Copies should be going out in late winter. If you ordered the book from the Kickstarter promotion, good for you. Aardwolf hasn’t made copies available yet on its website and won't until they are in hand. But my friends—both on Facebook and the real ones—can order my personal, “publisher copies” directly from me while supplies last. This is how I get paid, people. If you’ve enjoyed my work, please buy one.

As always, everything I do has a money-back guarantee. Imagine hospitals offering that. Talk about population control!

If you want a copy—signed, personalized, or otherwise—please send me a message or email so I can reserve one of mine and then mail me a check for $26.95 (which will cover postage). Let me know how I should sign it, if at all.

With thanks,

Clifford Meth