Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Movie Posters of Bob Peak

I've been meaning to mention that I had the good fortune to visit a gallery showing a couple weekends ago of "Bob Peak: The Father of the Hollywood Poster" at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra. Tucked away in the downtown area of this small incorporated city east of downtown L.A., Gallery Nucleus is a funky little art gallery and art store.

Even if you have never heard the name of Bob Peak, chances are you've seen his work. The gallery features a mixture of original pieces, limited prints, and rough comps and illustrations. As the title of the showing suggests, there is an emphasis on his iconic movie posters, with films like My Fair Lady, Pennies from Heaven, Star Trek, The Spy Who Loved Me, Apocalypse Now, Camelot, Superman, and The Year of Living Dangerously represented in the exhibit. But as a visit to his official website shows, Peak was an all around commercial illustrator, whose work appeared on magazine covers like Time and TV Guide, and in fashion and advertising art, postage stamps, etc.

As I've said in the past, it's always a treat to see an original piece up close which can give you a sense of the artist's working style. Here, you can see that Peak used mixed media in some pieces, often employing cutouts and other approaches for his work.

I'm posting this kind of late since the show ends this week on June 25. But if you get the chance, run over and catch it!

For a brief piece about the show from the Los Angeles Times, go here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NOW IN SOLICITATION: Rob Hanes Adventures #12

The following announcement was recently distributed to my e-newsletter list:

The 12th issue of the long-running, critically acclaimed action-adventure series, Rob Hanes Adventures, is now in solicitation from Haven Distributors and scheduled for release to retail comic-book stores in July! (Haven item #ROHAWCG012.)

Purchase the issue at your local comic-book store by asking your retailer to order Rob Hanes Adventures #12 through Haven Distributors. (Note: To encourage readers to order the issue through their local retailer, the issue's availability online at the WCG Comics website and other sources will be delayed by at least a month.)

In the self-contained full-length issue, Justice International agent Rob Hanes is hired to extradite a beautiful female felon back to the U.S. and becomes stranded with her on a desert island after their plane goes down in the Pacific. High adventure is alive and well in the 21st century—complete story every issue! Cover by guest artist Benton Jew.

The issue features a full-color cover, 24 black-and-white pages, and a $2.99 cover price.

For a preview of the issue, click here.

As always, thanks for your support! There is plenty of exciting new developments slated for the series coming soon that will be announced shortly after San Diego Comic-Con, where WCG Comics will again be making an appearance.


Rob Hanes Adventures is an all-ages comic-book series about a modern-day globetrotting troubleshooter and soldier of fortune. Under the auspices of worldwide Justice International—a worldwide private investigations and security agency—Rob travels the world on assignment, facing adventure, intrigue and romance at every turn! Every adventure is complete and self-contained every issue which allows readers to jump in with any issue!

Inspired by the pioneering adventure work of Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates and Will Eisner’s Spirit, Rob Hanes Adventures brings a fresh, modern-day spin to the classic adventure serial strip genre. Comics veteran Kurt Busiek, a fan of the series from the beginning, says, “Randy has done a great job of keeping alive the legacy of sophisticated high adventure that artists like Milton Caniff and Alex Toth created and perfected in comics. And he’s managed to do it by developing his own style and voice, and by keeping it fresh and modern, without making it feel or look old fashioned or out of touch.”

Series writer-artist-creator Randy Reynaldo is a Xeric Foundation grant recipient and a Russ Manning Award for Most Promising Newcomer nominee. The series debuted as Adventure Strip Digest in 1994, running for four issues until being re-booted in 2000 as Rob Hanes Adventures. A Xeric Award supported trade paperback, the Rob Hanes Archives, compiled the series' original run as a small press zine in 1996.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Celebrity Sightings

Having lived my entire adult life in West Los Angeles has given me the opportunity to see A, B and C list celebrities out on their daily business. My wife often teases me for my ability to recognize even the most minor of character actors, often stating that, aside from the actor's agent and mother, I'm the only one who would ever recognize them. (I like to think this comes from my work as an artist, which requires me to be very aware of faces!)

I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a kick out of it. By the same token, I'm no autograph hound and never try to bother anyone I see, drawing simple satisfaction from having spotted them. Nevertheless, I've made it a habit, when I remember, to note these sightings! So without anymore further ado, below is a list dating back to the mid-1990s. I'll post pre-'90s sightings in a future post....

Steve Hytner, actor, played recurring character Kenny Banya on "Seinfeld" (Jan. 4): Having breakfast with his family at Carrows Restaurant in Santa Monica, CA.

Mindy Kaling, producer, writer, actor on "The Office"
(Dec. 29): Lobby of the Bridge Cinema Theatre in Culver City, CA.

Tim Robbins
(Aug. 23): At a free outdoor performance of the Actor's Gang Theatre production of "King Lear," in Culver City. (Robbins is the founder and current artistic director of the theatre group. Robbins attended UCLA when I was a student there as well and founded the group immediately after college.) As noted below, this was the second time this year I've encountered Robbins.

Lee Arenberg, charactor actor, "Seinfeld" and Pirates of the Caribbean
(Aug. 23): In the audience for "King Lear." (I saw him in numerous student productions at UCLA when I was a student there.)

Simon Pegg (July): Walked past him on floor of the
San Diego Comics Convention.

Tim Robbins (July 14): Lobby of the Actor's Gang Theatre at the historic Ivy Substation in Culver City during the intermission of the group's production of "Gulliver's Travels."
Kate Hudson (June 22): Having lunch with a friend at the table next to me and my wife at Ford’s Filling Station Restaurant, Culver City. Taller than I expected in person!

Rosario Dawson (July): Working at a booth at the San Diego Comics Convention (see photo at the top of this post). Dawson spotted my daughter in her Batgirl outfit, and Dawson tried to get her to strike a pose for her! Of course my daughter suddenly developed a case of stage fright as a crowd of people looked on.

Parry Shen, actor (July): Stopped by my booth at the San Diego Comics Convention (see photo below).

B.J. Novak, actor/producer on "The Office" (July): Walked past my booth at the San Diego Comics Convention.
Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed (June 16): Along with their son, buying ice cream at the Century City Mall food court. All three are amazons in real life!

Daniel Baldwin
(Jan. 27): Having breakfast with a companion at the booth across from me and my family at Carrows Restaurant in Santa Monica. Remarked how beautiful our kids were, and talked with our daughter! (I blogged about it here.)
Colin Hanks, actor, son of Tom Hanks
(Aug. 18): Introduced to him on location while he was filming The Amazing Buck Howard.

Seth Green (July): Walked past my booth at the San Diego Comics Convention.
Bob Saget: Sitting with his daughters in the lobby of the Brentwood medical building of my dentist's office.

Larry David: At the Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles with his daughters.
Andy Richter: Stood next to us with his family one Sunday morning waiting for the pet store to open at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. I briefly said to him, "Love the show," referring to "Andy Richter Controls the Universe," which he thanked me for.

John O'Hurley
, "Seinfeld," "Dancing with the Stars" (Feb. 26): He and his wife were on my flight for a business trip to Florida; he was on my return flight as well.
Richard Simmons (Feb. 26): During the above-mentioned trip, Simmons was both in the check in area of my airline and in the same boarding gate area, though he was on a different flight. Simmons was dressed in his trademark short shorts and caused quite a stir!
Stan Lee, Publisher Emeritus, Marvel Comics
(Jan. 14): Sat next to me as a guest at the monthly meeting of the professional cartoonists' association I belong to (see photo below).

Spotted separately at a Starbuck's Coffee House in the San Fernando Valley in the space of an hour (spring 2003):
  • Robert Mandan, actor, played "Chester" in the '70s sitcom, "Soap")
  • Christine Ebersol, actor
  • Corbin Bernson
Tea Leoni (July): While my wife and I were vacationing in New York City, Leoni stepped out of an ice cream parlor in front of us on the sidewalk and hopped into a taxi (with, I presume, her daughter and parents).
John Waters (July): In front the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas (I was in town for my bachelor party).
Jamie Lee Curtis (Oct. 18): Walked past her on the street while visiting my dentist in Brentwood.

Jada Pinkett Smith
(July 22): With a girlfriend and their children at the Long Beach Aquarium.

Tanya Roberts
(July 25): The Beverly Center, Los Angeles.

Jane Krakowski
(July): At the UCLA Sculpture Garden during the intermission of a performance we were both attending of Bertolt Brecht's "Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui," at the UCLA Theatre, Los Angeles.

Lynn Redgrave
(July): Same as above, UCLA Theatre, Los Angeles.
Gillian Anderson
(Aug.): Sat behind her during a showing of the film The Imposters at the Laemmle Sunset 5 movie theatre on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood .

David Schwimmer
(March): Walked in then walked out like he was looking for someone at Le Petit Bistro Restaurant in Los Angeles. A lot taller than I expected!
John Tesch and Connie Selleca
(March): Cloverfield Park in Santa Monica at a family picnic.
Leonard Nimoy
(March): Attended the same movie showing as me of Kenneth Branagh’s film Hamlet at the Laemmle Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles.
James Remar, actor (Dec.): Oomasa Restaurant in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.

Ethan Hawke
(Dec.): Panda Inn Restaurant, West Los Angeles. 

Playwright Neil Simon (June): New York Stage Deli, Century City.

Updates and more to come in a future post!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mort Walker Interview

The current issue of the Comics Journal (#297) has a wonderful in-depth interview with cartoonist Mort Walker, creator of Beetle Bailey, as well as a stable of other strips including Hi and Lois, Sam and Silo, and Boner's Ark that's a fun read.

This is quite a treat because most current mainstream comics news publications focus primarily on the direct-sales comic-book market. Which is a bit ironic because until comics-themed and influenced movies began dominating popular culture in the past decade or so, the syndicated comic-strip field used to be considered the pinnacle of the cartooning profession. (No doubt the near-collapse of the present-day newspaper industry also has played a role in the seemingly shrinking relevance of the daily comic strip.)

Over the years, however, the Comics Journal—as well as its parent publishing company, Fantagraphics—has found a niche providing coverage to the broader field of cartooning, including syndicated newspaper comics, small press zines, and non-English language comics and cartoons from overseas. This has been part of a larger historical effort on Fanagraphics' part to expand the horizons of the field and the tastes and knowledge of readers. The Walker interview nicely dovetails with Fantagraphics' comprehensive reprint projects of strips like Prince Valiant, Krazy Kat, Popeye, and, more recently, Peanuts (I'm sure it's also not accidental that the interview with Walker coincides with Fantagraphics release of Walker's short-lived cult syndicated comic-strip, Sam's Strip).

Nevertheless, as someone who grew up becoming familiar with the history of the syndicated newspaper strips and their creators, the interview with Walker took me back to my youthful fascination with comic strips.

Famously gregarious and outgoing, Walker by disposition—as well as by longevity—is well suited to his role as the current presiding "dean of cartoonists." Walker is one of the last surviving links to an earlier generation of cartoonists when it was a smaller community. In its heyday, the cartooning profession was very much a "boys club," primarily centered around Connecticut where many cartoonists lived; New York City where the main syndicate and gag markets existed; and the annual meetings of the National Cartoonists Society. Many of the cartoonists in this golden era worked hard, but they also played hard. Social gatherings were very alpha-male oriented, usually centered around golf and heavy drinking. These guys were real hell-raisers!

The interview is conducted by well known cartooning historian R.C. Harvey. Harvey authored a definitive biography on Milton Caniff called Meanwhile... (reviewed here), and having read that book myself, though the two men differed much in personality, I found the similarities between the two cartoonists striking; like Caniff, Walker was a man in a hurry and an over-achiever from a very young age: Walker was professionally cartooning by age 13 and through high school and college was involved in a myriad of activities including student government, editor of his campus newspapers and humor magazines, performing comedy skits, and producing events and parties, which was only partly put on hold during his service during World War II, which is a fascinating and funny story in itself, as Walker tells it. (indeed, if he's to be believed, Walker was elected president of nearly every club and fraternity he joined!)

This drive and work ethic continued well into his professional career—at his busiest, Walker was working on six simultaneous comic strips that he had either created or co-created, which earned his studio the nickname of "King Features West." In addition, demonstrating his commitment to the form, he also founded the International Museum of Cartoon Art (which, after having gone through several sites and false starts, is now housed at Ohio State University's Cartoon Research Library). His work with the museum underscores his love of the form and his respect for the history of the medium. Indeed, he wrote one of the first books in the field that provided a candid (and, typical for Walker, funny) glimpse into the everyday life of a cartoonist, called Back Stage at the Comics. (It is a book I pored over in bookstores and coveted when I was an adolescent, and finally purchased a used copy many many years later when I came across it earlier this decade.)

As a link to the first generation of cartoonists, Walker in the interview provides wonderful insights and anecdotes about the cartooning community of the '50s, '60s and into the modern day, as well as a glimpse into the colorful personalities of these cartoonists.

Of particular surprise to me was the fact that Beetle Bailey is incredibly popular in Sweden, where it supports its own comic-book, andwhich has allowed Walker to produce a few graphic novel albums exclusively for that market! Walker talks about a book signing done in the country once, where people waited nearly 4 hours on line for an autograph.

Walker also provides some interesting insight on the well oiled machine that produces Beetle Bailey. Now well in his '80s, Walker remains fully engaged in the production of the strip, with a stable of assistants (which now includes all three of his sons) to help with the series and other strips, as well as with licensing and overseas demand. Throughout his life, Walker was a gag machine, which has enabled him to be so prolific, as well as build up quite a backlog of gags that will enable Beetle Bailey and his other properties to thrive well after he passes!

As I mentioned in my recent review of Fantagraphics' reprint collection of Peanuts, I don't read newspaper strips much these days, though Beetle Bailey was definitely one of my favorites as a youth. But like the recent biography of Peanuts creator Charles Shulz I read, this interview gave me new appreciation for Walker's achievements. Though Walker focused on having as broad an audience as possible, and avoiding politics and other controversies in his strip, it's clear from the interview that Walker nonetheless had strong principles and opinions, and knew when to fight his battles; he also had the smarts and foresight to make changes in the strip as the zeitgist changed. But through it all, the essence of Beetle Bailey has stayed remarkably the same, truly a great achievement and a wonderful comment of the genius and hard work of Mort Walker.

Note: Beetle Bailey is (c) King Features Syndicate