May 30, 2002 · 12:00 AM PDT ·
BEGINNING THIS COMING Friday night/Saturday morn, TV Land is running episodes of The Monkees, Fernwood 2Night and Mary
Hartman, Mary Hartman on the weekends. I never quite warmed to the ongoing tale of Ms. Hartman but most episodes of The Monkees are
still funny and Fernwood is a scream.
I don't have anything particularly interesting to say about any of them. Just wanted to make sure you didn't miss them.
SPENT A LOVELY EVENING at a special seminar at the Museum of TV and Radio in Beverly Hills — a show about the early and
late days of Monty Python, with Eric Idle present to intro and answer questions. They ran an episode of Do Not Adjust Your Set, a show
he did, pre-Python, with Terry Jones and Michael Palin. He described it as a "kids' show," as perhaps it was based on its time slot. But
the sketches therein — and in other episodes I've seen — would not have been outta place as prime-time Python. This was followed by
a documentary about the guys' later work, shot on the set of Life of Brian.
In the pre-screening Q-and-A, Mr. Idle was charming and very funny, even in the face of one or two geeky questions. (One lady
asked, "Would you sing for us?") He said that his sequel to the Rutles — All You Need is Lunch, which I saw at a previous
screening in the same room — will air soon, as will a program made up of concert footage from his touring show, Eric Idle Exploits Monty
Python. He politely dodged questions about The Men of Python ever reuniting for anything but gave the impression that he isn't expecting it
He opened his little talk by quoting a line of George Harrison's — "If we knew at the time we were going to be The Beatles, we
would have tried harder" — and said (approximately), "At the time, we all just thought of Python as just our next show and we had no idea it
would become what it's become." Later, he said that he thought it was a fortunate thing that all 45 episodes of the TV show were completed
before the series reached America and their fame exploded. Success, he said, changes a show...as witness what happened to Saturday Night
Live once (another approximate quote:) "everyone in the cast became Chevy Chase."
He's an enormously witty, bright man. The only thing that could have made the evening better would have been if they'd chucked
the films, good as they were, and had Eric Idle talk about an hour longer.
MARK IS BACKED UP on deadlines again so this site may not have many updates the next few days. As usual, we promise to
make it up to you when we can. And a special thanks to all of you who've lately used the "tip" function and sent us cash. (I'm even
behind on writing my thank-you e-mails for them...)
May 27, 2002 · 5:00 PM PDT ·
Dear Friends of Mine —
Thank you but I have now received quite enough copies of the w.32.Klez.H virus. You all seem to have it and, while I appreciate
your generosity and eagerness to share it with me, I must respectfully decline. I have not even been receiving your swell, unsolicited and
perhaps unintentional gifts. Fifty-some times in the last few weeks, the Norton AntiVirus program that I have installed on my computer has
alerted me that an e-mail has been sent to me containing said virus. Each time, it has prevented it from getting through, God bless it.
I don't wish to point fingers or assign blame but it seems to me that simple consideration for others on this World Wide Web would
suggest that you should have such a program installed. Nothing personal but I think it is bonehead stupid not to have a good anti-virus scanner
on your computer, just for your own sake. Add in the likelihood that you will probably someday not only get a virus but spread it to others and
we have a situation where you can be both foolishly self-destructive and inconsiderate to others at the same time.
Even with proper protection, you might contract and spread a computer virus. There are no Zero Defect defenses, and many worms
and trojans, like the w.32.Klez.H will use your computer to spread themselves to others without your knowledge. That one searches your computer
for e-mail addresses and sends a random file from your hard disk to any addresses it finds, accompanied by a disguised version of the virus.
Without you even lifting a finger, your friends may receive e-mail from you and open it and contract the virus. (Some of these noxious
booby-traps even spoof the "From" address so the virus may not have come from the person the e-mail seems to be from.)
So it is impossible to be 100% safe. Nevertheless, we could cut way, way down on these if everyone would at least make the effort
and install anti-virus software. You can download a trial copy of Norton AntiVirus by clicking here. And if you have that nasty old w.32.Klez.H virus, you can rid yourself of it by downloading this program. If you won't do it
for others, at least do it for yourself. Better still, do it for me. I'm sick of getting pipebombs in my e-mailbox.
P.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney just announced that the Bush Administration had advance knowledge of the w.32.Klez.H virus.
And Vice-President Dick Cheney just accused the Democratic party of playing politics with the accusation instead of doing something patriotic like
passing large tax cuts for Texas-based energy producers.
May 27, 2002 · 3:30 AM PDT ·
THE OXYGEN NETWORK is running the old half-hours of Love, American Style from the late sixties/early seventies and I'd
forgotten what an amazing mixed bag that series was. Many episodes are unwatchable but some are quite fun, either for the guest stars or the
funky 1970 sensibilities and fashions. They ran one the other day where a wonderful character actor named Eddie Mayehoff took a dreadful script
and just made it soar. (If you don't recall his name, he's the guy who played Jack Lemmon's lawyer in How to Murder Your Wife.)
And there was a haunted house episode wherein Vincent Price sure raised the level of the proceedings, and another where Shecky Greene
and Cass Elliott played a very funny couple. Against this, you had an awful lot of episodes that now look like they were cast out of the
commissary staff — "stars" who I don't believe were even known entities then, let alone now. Others suffer from two different strains of
"pilot" error. They're either failed pilots that were played off as episodes of Love, American Style...or "backdoor" pilots, meaning
that the producers were trying — usually, too hard — to whip up something with spin-off potential. (Happy Days evolved out
of an unsold pilot that was folded into the series but that was a singular exception.)
Most episodes aren't that wonderful as entertainment but there's a certain charm to the period and a fascination in seeing some of the
great character actors at work. As I write this, I'm watching one with Louis Nye, Eve Arden, Robert Q. Lewis, Michelle Lee and Joanne
Worley...struggling and occasionally succeeding in the deathless sport of triumphing over one's material. Tomorrow, I believe they're going to
run one with a very young Albert Brooks playing — you'll never guess this — a cold, self-absorbed Yuppie-type. I've set the TiVo to
record every episode but I often bail out about three minutes in if there's no sign of treasure.
IT WAS NOT SO LONG AGO that Republicans were throwing fits: No matter how much sexual dirt they released about Bill Clinton,
they couldn't seem to put a meaningful dent in his approval ratings. Lately, Democrats seem baffled that revelations about pre-9/11 bungling
aren't causing George W. Bush's numbers to drop. I think the two situations are even more similar than that...
The American people saw the move against Clinton — as they are seeing the criticisms of Bush — for Politics As Usual...or
perhaps Politics As Usual, ratcheted up to a bloodthirsty level. Then, as now, there is/was no national doubt that the folks defending or
assailing would instantly swap rhetoric if the other party was in the firing line. Moreover, there's this: In politics, you don't get done in
by your enemies attacking but by your allies deserting. Nixon did not call it quits because Democrats were assaulting his integrity but because
key Republicans were tip-toeing off the reservation. Clinton had a few Democrats lobbing mudballs his way but there was never any real jeopardy
that they would vote to remove him from office. If a few had so indicated, it might have started a save-your-ass stampede...but when Senator
Robert Byrd introduced his motion to dismiss the impeachment trial, Clinton was home-free. Byrd was the elder statesman Democrat most likely to
break ranks and, since he didn't, no one did. These days, Republicans seem pretty solidly behind Bush, at least in public, at least as long as
he has the power that comes with that kind of seeming voter support. A few are asking hard questions — more about the F.B.I. than the
White House — but Bush is in the same reflexive, safe position: His poll numbers are high because it's only the opposition party attacking
him. And it will only be the opposition party attacking him because his poll numbers are high.
Will this last? I dunno. I think we're going to hear a lot more about Bush not responding to advance warnings, about his
Enron connections, about other past business arrangements that paralleled the Enron debacle. I think we're going to hear an awful lot more
about Dick Cheney making millions off dealing with nations that now reside on the Axis of Evil. And, of course, we haven't heard the last of
Florida. I doubt the president's rep will get too tarnished until we get closer to the moment when some Democrat challenger — or perhaps
John McCain as an independent — starts looking like a viable, preferable alternative. That's assuming anyone ever ascends to that
position and, yes, I know it may seem pretty unlikely, these days.
But when Democrats are out there bashing Bush, as they have been lately...I don't think that means much. It may make Talk Radio
and the cable news channels more interesting...may shake loose some campaign donations to Democrats...may even give some vicarious satisfaction to
the 15-20% of Americans who think we have weasels in the White House. But I don't think it means much. The American people never gave
much weight to Democratic criticism of Republicans or vice-versa but nowadays, I think it's really meaningless. After the whole
Clinton-Lewinsky thing, we now presume that if the guy in office so much as hiccups, the opposition party will be out there screaming it's proof that
he's immoral and incompetent. Democrats may be able to hassle Bush, investigate him, embarrass him and stall his agenda...but they cannot bring
his poll numbers down. Only Republicans can do that.
May 26, 2002 · 2:00 AM PDT ·
THIS IS SCARY: Collectors of old comic books have always
been antsy about the condition of their collectibles — so much so that, years
ago, it was a not uncommon joke in fanzines to write about folks who were afraid
to ever take a comic out of its plastic bag in order to actually read it.
Lately, Reality, as it tends to do, has caught up with Satire. A group
called the CGC (which somehow stands for Comics Guaranty, LLC) is in the
business of grading comics, assigning them point values for their condition and
then sealing each into what is called a "slab" — a hard plastic shell that
prevents the comic from being touched or, God forbid, opened. This is to
ensure that the assigned grade is maintained and that the book suffers no
degradation...but, of course, since a buyer cannot examine it, the grade on the
little label is all they have to go on. If they open the slab to see if
the Near Mint comic is really Near Mint, it's no longer officially Near Mint by
CGC standards. Those who care most about condition are now operating
wholly on faith.
I don't entirely understand the CGC scale. A "10" means the item is in mint condition and a "9.9" also indicates mint
condition. Back when I cared more about the collecting world than I do now, it was commonly held that mint was mint, period. An
oft-quoted saying was that if you had two allegedly-mint copies of the same comic and you could tell the difference between them, at least one of
them was not mint. Now, apparently, there's mint and then there's mint. There's also Near Mint/Mint (9.8), Near Mint+ (9.6), Near Mint
(9.4), Near Mint- (9.2), Very Fine/Near Mint (9.0) and so on. A numeric value of ".5" indicates Poor condition, which is a relief. I was
expecting it to denote "Lower End Mint."
In any case, the silliness of it all is evident in the above picture. The whole thing probably makes some sort of sense with
regard to very rare Golden Age comics. I mean, if I had a perfect condition copy of Batman #1, I don't think I'd be reading it or
letting others do so. But folks are grading/slabbing pretty recent, easily available books. Someone recently offered on eBay a copy of
Groo #1, as published by Image and now sporting a 9.9 CGC grade, which I guess means it's mint but not really mint. They put an opening
bid of $89.95 on it with a "Buy It Now" price tag of #149.95, but there were no takers at either price. This is a comic that usually sells for
around ten bucks in non-graded excellent condition and, if anyone cares, I have in storage an unopened crate of 500 copies, straight from the printer
and I think Sergio has more than that. Vastly more recent — and less in-demand — comics have also been graded, slabbed and offered
at ten times their usual going price.
Curiously, the Groo offer also stated that — and I quote: "A hand signed certificate of origin with your name will
indicate that you are the first owner of this comic." Leaving aside the value of a certificate signed by someone you never heard of, how could
you be the first owner of a comic published in 1994? Who has owned it since then? Does the guy selling it not own it? No, because
elsewhere in the offering, he states: "This comic was purchased at the time it was published directly from the distributor and placed in storage
until now. Comics were never on display at any convention or store shelf and are guaranteed to be unhandled by prospective customers." So
the mint copy that's not totally mint was purchased but has never been owned. Got that?
DOZENS OF FOLKS have sent me copies of or links to obits for Dave Berg. It took a week but he made all the major
newspapers and services. Now, let's see if anyone in the comic industry press will do anything.
May 24, 2002 · 1:00 AM PDT ·
WE SEEM TO BE dwelling on the subject of Death here at POVonline. A recent entry in this category is Joe
Cobb, who's being identified in newspaper obits as "the fat kid" in the silent "Our Gang" comedies. That's a bit confusing because, first of
all, Cobb did appear in the first few "Our Gang" talkies before Management decided he'd grown too old and replaced him with "Chubby" Chaney.
Secondly, most folks will miss the distinction of the deceased having appeared in silents and will confuse him with "Spanky" MacFarland, whose career
was wholly in sound films.
In any case — and boy, I'm getting morbid here and I don't mean to — Cobb was 85 when he passed away last week. We
need to face the reality that we are very close to the day when every single human being who worked in silent films, on either side of the camera,
will be gone. The last time Leonard Maltin and I were together, we got onto the topic and between us, we could only name about a dozen, all
well into their eighties or nineties, all former child stars who remember very little of those days.
Lately, as a couple of veteran creators have passed in the fields of animation and comic books, I find myself among younger folks who
are muttering, "Boy, they're all dying on us." To some extent, that's true. The men who worked in the so-called Golden Ages of theatrical
animation and comic books are all in their eighties and nineties though, happily, there are a lot more of them around than we might think. This
is not the case with silent films, a field which had its Golden (and only) Age twenty-some years earlier. Joe Cobb was twelve when the first
talkies were made and an era ended.
There will probably be no notice when the last silent film performer leaves us and, in truth, not that much will change. Still, I
can't help but get a little whiplash at the passage of time and the missed opportunities. When I was around twenty, I went out to the Motion
Picture Country Home a few times to see Larry Fine of the Three Stooges. Larry was not a silent film star but he was surrounded by them
there. He introduced me to Babe London, whose obits later identified her as "the fat girl" in Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy
comedies. She, in turn, introduced me to at least a dozen silent film veterans — this was around 1972 — and I now wish I'd spent
more time with those folks and taken some notes. I don't even recall the names of some of them. Later, I went up to the home of the great
producer, Hal Roach, and spent an afternoon chatting with him about "Our Gang," Laurel, Hardy and (especially) Charley Chase. Mr. Roach enjoyed
the chat and invited me to come back anytime but I guess I figured he'd always be there. I never got around to going back.
There's no real point to all this, other than that we have to keep reminding ourselves not to take people for granted. There are
plenty of great animators and comic book creators around who can tell us about working for Disney in the thirties, DC Comics in the forties, EC in
the fifties, etc. We need to respect them, honor them, interview them. We need to remember that future generations will not have that
opportunity and — eventually — we won't, either. Let's make use of these people (in a nice way) before they're extinct. And
next time I post here, it'll be about someone who's alive. Promise.
May 23, 2002 · 4:30 PM PDT ·
HERE IS THE press release that came out today on the death of Dave Berg...
MAD'S "LIGHTER SIDE OF..."
ARTIST DAVE BERG (1920-2002)
David Berg, one of Mad Magazine's best-loved and well-known cartoonists, passed away on May 16 at the age 81 at his home in
Marina del Rey, California.
Born in Brooklyn and the son of a bookbinder, Berg is best known for his strip "The Lighter Side of..." which first appeared in
Mad Magazine in October 1961 and went on to appear in 365 subsequent issues of Mad. Berg's first article for Mad was "Modern
Furniture," which ran in issue #34 in August 1957. Berg is the author of 17 books — fifteen for Mad Magazine and two theological
"To overstate Dave's importance in Mad would be virtually impossible," said Mad co-editor John Ficarra. "For
many readers, Dave's 'The Lighter Side of...' served as an introduction to the magazine. His unique comic observations on Americana really hit
"To this day "The Lighter Side of..." remains one of the most popular features in the magazine," added co-editor Nick Meglin, "a
true cultural touchstone. Dave will be sorely missed."
At the age of 10, Berg's artistic talent was noticed by his teacher, who suggested that Berg attend art school. At 12 years old,
Berg received a scholarship from the Pratt Institute to attend a Saturday morning art class. After high school, Berg attended the Cooper Union
and at 20, Berg went to work at the studio of Will Eisner.
Berg began his career in comics by filling in the backgrounds of Eisner's "The Spirit." He then moved onto writing and drawing
the "Death Patrol" and "Uncle Sam." It was at Eisner's studio that Berg met fellow cartoonists Al Jaffee and Jules Feiffer. Jaffee
introduced Berg to a circle of peers that included Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder. He would later share a studio with Kurtzman, who would
suggest that Berg work for Mad.
After two stints under Stan Lee at Timely Comics and a stint at Archie Comics, Berg successfully submitted a script to Editor Al
Feldstein for Mad Magazine, which was illustrated by Bob Clarke. Berg submitted a second script, "Modern Furniture," and, upon
submission, Feldstein suggested that Berg draw it and include himself in the art. Berg did, portraying himself under the name "Roger Kaputnik,"
which his mother called him during his childhood. Kaputnik, along with the faces of Berg's friends and family, have consistently appeared in
virtually all of Berg's "The Lighter Side of..." strips.
Berg served in the Pacific in World War Two as a soldier in the Air Corps. He was awarded the "Chair for the Great Cartoonist"
from the University of California at Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife, Vivian, and his son and a daughter.
Okay, those of you who are with me in this: Let's see how many news sources — those that specialize in the comic industry and
those that don't — do any more than paraphrase this press release and perhaps toss in a little of what I posted here a week ago. I'm sure
The Comics Journal will actually go out and interview a few folks, speak to those who know Dave's history, get a few quotes about him from
co-workers, etc. Let's see if anyone else does.
May 23, 2002 · 12:00 PM PDT ·
IN 1968, Marvel experimented briefly with publishing Spider-Man in magazine format. The above panel — drawn by John
Romita, Sr. and Jim Mooney — appeared in The Spectacular Spider-Man #2 with a cover date of November, 1968. At the time, I was 16
years old and the president of the Los Angeles Comic Book Club. I was also flexing my limited artistic muscles...which are pretty limited but
which include a grand ability to forge. I'm not good at originating drawings but I can sometimes replicate them — or could, back when I
was in practice. I once forged a Jack Kirby sketch so precisely that it took Jack a minute or two to decide for sure that he hadn't done
Anyway, being a sixteen-year-old boy, I did a lot of silly, horny things, one of which was to re-create panels from comic books but
relieving the female characters of their wardrobe. (Once upon a time, I would have been embarrassed to admit this. I have since learned
that about half the guys my age who could draw at all — including most who later became professional comic artists — did this.) I
did a few of these of Wonder Woman, Supergirl and others, and the guys at our comic book club were more excited than if I'd suddenly demonstrated the
skills of Rembrandt. They began picking out cover and panels, asking me to reproduce them, disrobing the women in the process. A few even
offered money. My greatest subject was the above panel, expertly duplicated but with Gwen and Mary Jane naked. Because of the poses
— which hide the ladies' crotch areas — and the dialogue, several of our club members were certain that Smilin' Stan and Jazzy Johnny had
similar thoughts in mind. Many of my friends demanded copies and I think I must have whipped up at least a dozen of this one.
At last year's Comic-Con International, when I interviewed Mr. Romita, I showed the panel and told the story. He had a grand
chuckle over it but swore the notion had never occurred to him.
No, I'm not going to post the undraped version. I'm not sure I even have a copy of it anywhere. But imagine the ladies
naked and re-read the text. (The Spectacular Spider-Man was a sales flop in magazine format. If they'd done it my way, they'd have
sold a million...)
TODAY MARKS one week since Mad's Dave Berg passed away. I have yet to see news of this in one single mainstream
news source. And the few places it's been reported on the Internet all seem to be derived from (or linked to) this site.
The above is not intended as bragging about a "scoop." I could scarcely care less about that. But I do care mightily about
the fact that the so-called news sources that cover things like the weekend grosses of the Spider-Man movie and which pass on any press
release a comic book company issues have such a lackadaisical attitude about stories like the death of an important cartoonist.
UNLESS YOU TELL IT NOT TO, a TiVo digital video recorder will record TV shows that it thinks you may want to watch. It
does this on its own but the picks are ostensibly based on your tastes. You can mark certain shows "thumbs up" or "thumbs down," depending on
whether you like or dislike them. TiVo continually builds a database of these votes, factors in your past recording picks and then figures out
a list of shows you might like and records them when there's empty space. Or, at least, that's the way they say it's supposed to work.
I'm starting to think one of the TiVo programmers has a thing for Raymond Burr. I can't recall requesting or thumbing-up a single
cop show, Raymond Burr appearance or even anything about a guy in a wheelchair but TiVo won't let an episode of Ironside go unrecorded.
It also really loves Lucy, grabbing every possible installment of I Love Lucy, which can mean six a day with all the cable channels I receive,
and just as many episodes of M*A*S*H...though never the ones with McLean Stevenson. It also thinks I'm dying to watch any show featuring
actual footage of high-speed police chases. (I don't. I can just look out my window...)
But it gets some things right. It's been recording a lot of biography-type shows for me, including pert near anything on The
Biography Channel. The other day, it picked up an episode of Box Office Bio, detailing the life of Peter Falk. Watching it, I just
heard this line of narration...
Peter became the highest-paid television actor in the business, earning as much as $500,000 an episode — a huge sum in the
Ah, remember those ancient, pre-inflationary days when a measly half a million dollars was considered "a huge sum?"
These days, everyone makes that kind of money.
is a new collection of Evanier's POV columns about comic book collecting, comic book creation and comic book consumption coming in late
July from TwoMorrows Publishing. It will contain some old columns, some new
ones and illustrations by Sergio Aragonés and God knows what else, but it will be well worth the wait. We hope, we hope, we hope.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME