Tuesday, February 24, 2015

She’s Off to See the Wizard (World Convention)

By Barbara Kaalberg

Wizard World Madison (Wisconsin) was a hit! I haven't had a table at a convention for years, but when Wizard came to me and asked if I would be interested in being a guest at the first ever WW Madison, I jumped at the chance to promote Charlton Neo.   

I was in kind of a panic, however, because while I did have a great Neo banner and a couple of thousand Neo flyers to hand out, I hadn't done much of note in the last few years of my own to promote and I had an eight-foot corner table to fill! I scrounged around in my studio and came up with twenty-five years worth of comp copies for books I had worked on, around forty-five interiors of pages I hadn't sold to auction houses through the years, plus bits and bobs of this and that. I threw it all in with the Charlton banner and one of my own (for “The Empress of Inks”)...I even threw in a box of twenty-five years worth of Xerox copies of pencils that I had saved for no apparent reason. I ALWAYS use to make copies of the pencils before I started inking in case I did something stupid, like spill my coffee on the original pencils. Originally, I’d planned to toss the Xeroxes out but decided, instead, to throw them in a box and just put a sign on it that said, "So You Want To Be An Inker? FREE Copies of Pencils (minimum two per person) To Practice, Practice, Practice."

The traffic those free copies generated past my table was amazing! Several people thanked me profusely for the idea of giving the copies away. People paused to dig through my box of freebies and then browsed my table for sale items. It also gave me the chance to give my Charlton sales pitch. 

I did very, very well. The one thing I wish that I had more of was comics for little kids. I had some Barbie comics that I had done for Marvel back in the 90's, some The Mask from NOW Comics, some Godzilla from Dark Horse, Wonder Woman from DC (another big favorite!), and a few odds and ends.  The Barbie comics were gone within two hours on the first day. Little girls and adults both wanted them. People kept coming up to me and saying, "Someone told me you had Barbie comics. Do you have any left?"  The big thing I noticed was whole families turning out for the con, a lot dressed in family friendly cosplay, but the little ones were having a hard time finding stuff for themselves! Children’s comics, girls comics, funny animal comics, and humor comics would have flown off my table had I had them. This gives me great hopes for a future Charltoons book!

I also had a very, very positive response to the news that Charlton has re-booted under the Charlton Neo name. A lot of enthusiasm for non-traditional comics was expressed. I came home with only a handful of unsold comps and two pages of original art left. Very successful con. All it cost me was gas money and my time. I even got to sleep in my own bed that night.

© Barbara Kaalberg

Saturday, February 21, 2015

“Say, Mister, Could You Stake a Fellow American to a Meal?”

By Paul Kupperberg

I wrote this piece in September 2013 (slightly altered in this iteration), a kind of apology/plea for understanding as I kept coming to people with my hand out, asking them to support (i.e. spend money) Crazy 8 Press, the prose publishing endeavor with which I am involved (along with fellow Neo contributors Bob Greenberger and Michael Jan Friedman, and four other authors). Now, on top of Crazy 8 and a currently ongoing Kickstarter campaign for a new anthology, Pangaea, we can add Charlton Neo (in general) and Paul Kupperberg's Secret Romances (specifically), plus the Neo/ComicArt Patreon sustaining supporter campaign, and the Pix-C Weekly Web Comic site, and all of a sudden, I seemed to be in deep "sell" mode!

As has been widely discussed for several years now, the publishing industry has undergone a seismic shift in how it functions. The big publishing houses are all absorbing one another, these behemoths having adopted the Hollywood mentality of relying on blockbuster bestsellers over a wider and more diverse catalog of titles, and brick and mortar retail outlets are getting harder to find...and those that still exist are slowly giving over display space previously used for books for Kindle displays and to sell toys, games, and other specialty items. Mainstream comics, now almost exclusively the domain of superheroes, have never before been more reflective of their corporate roots, while the indie comics publishers take satisfaction in sales of only a few thousand copies.

Guys like me and my friends and colleagues involved in Charlton Neo and Crazy 8 Press never expected we would have to become our own publishers in order to be able to publish the work we wanted to create the way we created it, but circumstances have kind of forced our hands. And, believe me, none of us want to spend as much time as we're forced to badgering you nice people just to take a look at our wares, much less lay out your hard earned cash to buy it! We'd really rather be hunkered down in our little dens, writing and drawing and leaving the marketing to our publishers...except nowadays, we are our publishers...

“Say, Mister, Could You Stake a Fellow American to a Meal?”

That’s the line Humphrey Bogart (as down on his luck gold prospector Fred C. Dobbs) uses on the Man in the White Suit (played by director John Houston) he keeps accosting for a handout in the 1948 film classic, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Down and out in Mexico, Bogie inadvertently hits up the same guy for money, until, on his third trip to that same well, the Man in the White Suit says, “Such impudence never came my way. Early this afternoon I gave you money...while I was having my shoes polished I gave you more money...now you put the bite on me again. Do me a favor, will ya? Go occasionally to somebody else -- it's beginning to get tiresome.”

Bogie is humbly apologetic: “I never knowed it was you. I never looked at your face--I just looked at your hands and the money you gave me. Beg pardon, mister, I promise I'll never put the bite on you again,” and the Man generously lays one last peso on him--“This is the very last you get from me. Just to make sure you don't forget your promise, here's another peso"...the peso Dobbs uses to buy the lottery ticket that provides him and fellow prospectors Howard and Curtin with their grubstake.

These days, I feel a lot like Fred C. Dobbs. I keep coming up to you, over and over again, hat in hand, asking you for a couple of pesos...or, in my case, to buy my books/comic books and the books/comic books of my fellow writers involved in our own humble little attempt at mining gold out of the cold, hard mountains we call Crazy 8 Press and Charlton. But unlike Fred C. Dobbs, I’m trying awfully hard not to take advantage of your good will and generosity...and, also unlike the hapless prospector, if you do decide to drop that peso in my cup, you’re getting something in return beyond the warm glow of a good deed done: I hope you’ll find that you’ve exchanged your hard-earned cash for a damned good read, either by me or by fellow Crazy 8 inmates, Michael Jan Friedman, Aaron Rosenberg, Bob Greenberger, Russ Colchamiro, Glenn Hauman, Peter David, and Howard Weinstein, and fellow Neophytes Roger McKenzie, Mort Todd, and too many great and generous creators to list here.

Charlton Neo creators and Crazy 8 authors don’t take our readers for granted, of that I can assure you. I’ve been a writer in the public eye for almost four decades, during which I’ve attended I don’t know how many scores of conventions and book fairs, probably in the hundreds if I bothered to count, and never once has my reaction to a reader or fan who has approached me with something I’ve written to be signed or a hand to shake been anything but a grateful “thank you!” Just this past weekend, I was a guest at the Baltimore Comic-Con where one hyper-apologetic fan stopped me in my wanderings around the convention floor to tell me how much he’d enjoyed my work over the years, repeating how he hated to bother me, but would I mind signing his book...?

What I said to him was the honest truth: He had nothing to apologize for and not only was it not a bother, but I was happy and honored to do it. I know how I feel when I get to meet someone whose work I admire. I also know how it feels to have an admirer tell me what my work has meant to them. It is, quite simply, a win-win situation: One of us has met someone we admire; the other has had the satisfaction of hearing that what we’ve written has touched that reader.

Because without our readers, we’re just a bunch of weirdos hunched over our word processors and drawing boards in the basement, talking to no one.

So even if you don’t have a peso to spare at the moment but you’ve ever enjoyed anything I (or Mike or Aaron or Bob or Russ or the rest of us) have written, or if one of our stories has touched you or made a difference in your world, you can still do a solid for a fellow American by helping us spread the word about Charlton Neo, Pix-C, and Crazy 8 Press.

Share our blogs and websitex. Follow us on social media. Talk about us on Twitter; re-Tweet our Tweets. Mention us on Facebook, “Like” the our Facebook pages, “Share” the posts of Neo and Crazy 8 creators, or do whatever it is you do on Tumblr or whatever form of social media you kids are on these days. Tell your friends. Hell, tell your enemies!

And if you’re flush and can support us with your dollars to buy our books and comics, print or digital editions, let people know what you’ve read and what you think of it. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or better yet, write a quick review on Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com, or post it on your own blog or website. What’s better than a recommendation of a good read from a friend?

We’d like your money, sure, but we’re just as grateful for your moral support and your efforts at word of mouth to spread the word. Support us with the knowledge that the advantage of your support accrues not to some faceless behemoth of a corporate publisher but directly to the creators themselves!

Fred C. Dobbs may not have looked his benefactor in the face, but know full well that the Charlton and Crazy 8 creators do and appreciate everything you do for us, whether it’s buying our books or posting a link to our website. It takes a lot of time, energy, and sweat to write a book or create a comic book, and just as much to see it through to publication. Which reminds me of one last quote from Sierra Madre, this one spoken by grizzled old prospector Howard (Walter Houston):
A thousand men, say, go searchin' for gold. After six months, one of them's lucky: one out of a thousand. His find represents not only his own labor, but that of nine hundred and ninety-nine others to boot. That's six thousand months, five hundred years, scramblin' over a mountain, goin' hungry and thirsty. An ounce of gold, mister, is worth what it is because of the human labor that went into the findin' and the gettin' of it.” 

So, yeah, even if you’ve already handed over a peso or two (or three or four!) to me, I’ll be back in your face soon enough, asking for a handout...but in return, I’ll try my damnedest to entertain you. As will the rest of the Charlton Neo and Crazy 8 gangs, so I hope you’ll forgive our impudence.
© Paul Kupperberg

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Paul Kupperberg's Secret Romances #1 On Sale Now!

February 3, 2015

 “Happily Ever After” Ain’t What it Used to Be!
Following on the heels of the successful launch of The Charlton Arrow, Charlton Neo Media (under the direction of Editor-In-Chief Mort Todd, Executive Editor Paul Kupperberg, Managing Editor Roger McKenzie, and Assistant Editor Dan Johnson) is proud to present its newest title, Paul Kupperberg’s Secret Romances #1, the first issue of a two-issue miniseries,

With a cover by legendary artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (himself a veteran of the classic Charlton Comics romance comics line), Paul Kupperberg’s Secret Romances #1 is 36-page, full-color comic book featuring four comic and one text tale of love and romance in the 21st century, written by Paul Kupperberg, the Harvey, Eisner, and GLAAD Media Award nominated writer behind the Summer 2014 blockbuster “Death of Archie” story line and the young adult novel Kevin (Grossett & Dunlap), featuring the coming of age story of the first gay character in Archie Comics history:

“You Have the Right to Remain Smitten!”  Two cops, one squad car, and the proof absolute that familiarity breeds contempt. Or does it? Art by Pat and Tim Kennedy and Jeff Austin.
“The Man With A Copy of ‘The Catcher In The Rye’”  Before suitors could exchange photos on the internet, first meetings were fraught with anxiety...especially for a young woman who feels all first meetings are doomed. A text story, illustrated by Rob Kelly

“Cybermatch.com”  You don’t always get who you want, but sometimes you get who you need. An internet dating site provides Carl with a very different girl of his dreams. Art by P.D. Angel Gabriele
“Forget Me Not”  It’s never too late to find love, and the introduction of Rose and Darren leave the senior citizens feeling as though they’ve known one other forever. Art by Dærick Gröss Sr.
“Men Like Henry Bertram”  Judge and Mrs. Crowley are pillars of their 1950s era community who will stand for no deviations...certainly not the sort practiced by men like Henry Bertram. Art by Pat and Tim Kennedy and Bob Smith.

Paul Kupperberg’s Secret Romances #1 is not available in stores, only by mail order through our homepage http://morttodd.com/secrom1.html or from Amazon.com, $6.99 + shipping for the print edition at https://www.createspace.com/5259448, or $2.99 for the digital Kindle edition at http://amzn.to/1vq78Jd.

Be sure to visit the Charlton Neo website for all the latest news and information on Charlton Neo, Or follow us on Facebook (Facebook.com/groups/CharltonNeo/ ) and Twitter (@CharltonNeo).

E-Man: Appreciation and Inspiration

by Darren Goodhart

This all started while I was working on a new drawing featuring the character Liberty Belle. As most Charlton fans know, Liberty Belle made her first appearance in the back pages of E-Man (#5 to be exact) in her one-and-only appearance (so far) by writer Joe Gill and artist Steve Ditko. As I was working on the piece, it got me to thinking about all of the characters that appeared in the pages of E-Man, which led me to thinking about a “dream” project that I think most Charlton fans wouldve loved to see back in the day: an E-Man annual that would feature all of the characters who had appeared in the book.

Before I get too far ahead though, I have to admit, I was sort of a latecomer to Charlton Comics when I was a kid. My brother wasnt and I distinctly remember him getting copies of Charltons Hee-Haw comic, the Partridge Family book, the Bugaloos comic, and George Wildmans incredible work on Charltons run on Popeye. I, of course, was looking over those books and in particular loved Wildmans Popeye (even eventually teaching myself to draw Popeye by copying Wildmans work), but still I always hesitated buying anything from them for a couple of reasons; 1) I was pretty much concentrating on DC and Marvel comics, and 2) my Dad put a limit on how many comics I could buy in a week: two.
One week though, I was in the grocery store where I regularly bought my comics, and there wasnt really anything that was particularly appealing to me from the Big Two and I saw a couple of these E-Man comics from Charlton (#6 and #9). I flipped through the books and though the art was a little more cartoony than what I was used to, I thought “What the heck…” and picked them up.

Well, I absolutely loved them!  E-Man and his girlfriend Nova Kane were really cool and friendly characters and the stories by writer Nicola Cuti were just a lot of fun. I really started to love Joe Statons artwork the more I kept looking at it and I was just absolutely enchanted. On top of all of that, both issues featured back-up stories with this odd robot cab driver called Rog-2000, written by the aforementioned Mr. Cuti and drawn by another artist I had never heard of, John Byrne. Again, I was just enchanted as could be.

Now, I was always drawing when I was a kid and I started off by copying pictures out of comics in pencil on some really cheap paper that my Dad used to bring me. By the time Id picked up these copies of E-Man, I started to use a black Flair pen to ink my drawings and I was going further and coloring them with colored pencils. I started to create my own comics and one of the very first things I ever did was a little 9-page E-Man story with E-Man (flying solo) in a rematch with the Brain/Genius villain (sorry, the characters name escapes me) from E-Man #9. I was in the habit of starting a comics story and never really finishing it, but this one was different. I was just excited drawing this thing and I went on and actually completed it (and I wish like crazy that I still had it; Id certainly show it if I did).

Eventually, I managed to find more issues of E-Man over time, though some of them still escaped me. I didnt discover the back-ups featuring The Knight, Travis, and Liberty Belle until just a few years ago, thanks to the Diversions of the Groovy Kind blog. I look back now at that time in Charlton and comics history and there really wasnt anything like E-Man out there from anyone. Oh sure, you certainly had super-hero comics, but nothing like the tongue-in-cheek adventures of E-Man and Nova, and yet those stories also contained some great thrilling parts and some real poignant moments. The back-up stories were always trying something new and you think of the range of stories--the gritty adventure of super-agent Link Chain, The Knight, the light fantasy of the time-traveler Travis, broad super-heroics with the star-spangled Liberty Belle, the even broader adventures of Steve Ditkos silent crime fighter Killjoy, and the wacky situations faced by Rog-2000 faced...this was fun stuff!

As Ive gotten older, I find more inspiration from that original run of E-Man. There was a real go-for-broke attitude with that title and while it might seem quaint in comparison to the world-shattering, constantly character re-defining moments that we see in comics today, I dont think thats a bad thing at all. In fact, I think its just the thing we need a little more in our comics today.

Consider this a huge salute to Joe Staton, Nicola Cuti, John Byrne, Steve Ditko, Joe Gill, Tom Sutton, and Wayne Howard for the terrific work they provided on that original run. This inspired me at the age of 13 and its still inspiring me today at the age of 52...and Id bet that Im not the only one.
© Darren Goodhart