James Garner, R.I.P.

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Jul 202014

Damn. I was just about to shut down the computer and head to bed when I read that James Garner has passed away at age 86. It’s a shock: hell, it was only a month ago that I was reading his autobiography. 

Garner has been one of my favorite actors for as long as I can remember. His iconic portrayals of Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford are indelibly imprinted in our pop culture memory, and even if those were his only accomplishments as an actor, he’d be a legend. But he was more than that. A fine, thoughtful actor, a veteran, a charming curmudgeon. 

I miss him already.

Stan Lynde, R.I.P.

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Aug 072013

Most of you probably know what a huge fan I am of writer/artist Stan Lynde and his long-running comic strip RICK O’SHAY. I’m very sorry to report that Stan has passed away from cancer at the age of 81. His obituary in the Washington Post can be found here. I’m glad I got to know him and had a chance to tell him how much his work meant to me. Somewhere Hipshot Percussion is looking up at a snow-capped mountain and telling his ol’ pard so long.

Dennis Farina R.I.P.

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Jul 222013

I am saddened today to hear of the passing of actor Dennis Farina. Farina died Monday morning in a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital after suffering a blood clot in his lung, according to his publicist. He was 69.

Like just about everyone else, I first witnessed his talent and screen presence when he played hardboiled police Lieutenant Mike Torello on Michael Mann’s seminal period police drama, Crime Story series back in 1986. A true-life ex-Chicago cop, Farina brought hard-earned verisimilitude to his mob-busting, tough guy role.

Farina went on to play a wide variety of tough cops and criminals – sometimes comically (as in Get Shorty) – in dozens of television shows and films, including Code Of Silence, Manhunter, Snatch, and Midnight Run. He was well known for his recurring role on Law and Order, but I most fondly remember him as the titular character in Mark Frost’s short-lived 1998 private eye series, Buddy Faro.

I’m definitely going to miss the guy. Rest in peace, sir.

Richard Matheson R.I.P.

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Jun 252013

Sadly, after an anxious day of rumors on Facebook and Twitter, it has been confirmed that the extraordinarily talented fantasist Richard Matheson has departed this plane at age 87 after a long illness.

Matheson has always been one of my greatest literary influences and inspirations, a man whose imagination knew no limits, who could see the fantastic in the mundane world around us, and paint vivid, indelible, unforgettable images with words. He was a master, and his influence on popular culture – from the Twilight Zone to The Incredible Shrinking Man to Roger Corman’s colorful Poe films to Somewhere In Time (the movie theme was played at our wedding) to I Am Legend and beyond – is immeasurable. In fact, I was just watching the 1971 film adaptation of Legend, The Omega Man, last night.

When I was writing my Kolchak The Night Stalker comic book miniseries a few years ago, it was Matheson’s teleplays for the original TV movies that I used as my guide to the character.

Rest in peace, sir.

Ray Harryhausen, R.I.P.

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May 072013

Ray Harryhausen, the undisputed master of stop-motion animation, has passed away at age 92. As others have noted, he didn’t create the special effects technique of animating small models one frame at a time, but he perfected it in a series of imaginative motion pictures that, regardless of their other merits (or lack thereof), will endure forever because Ray somehow managed to breath convincing life into his menagerie of mythological and fantastical creations, working in solitude for months at a time. There have been other talented stop-motion animators (including Harryhausen’s own mentor, Willis O’Brien), but few managed to imbue their characters with quite as much personality and “soul.”

The movies he made will always be remembered, but it is all of the artists and animators, filmmakers and authors that he inspired that will be his true and greatest legacy… and I count myself among them.

R.I.P. Ray. There’s considerably less magic in the world today.

Joe Kubert, R.I.P.

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Aug 132012

I was saddened late Sunday evening to hear of the passing of my old schoolmaster, Joe Kubert. As a child, some of the first non-funny animal comics I remember buying were his Tor and Tarzan comics from DC. A year or two later, when I first thought I wanted to be a comic book artist myself, I wrote to DC Comics and they sent me a Xeroxed “So You Want To Be A Cartoonist” flyer – written and illustrated by Kubert.

In 1983, I applied to his School Of Cartoon And Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey and was – surprisingly – accepted. I attended for two years. I learned a great deal from Joe, and not just in the classroom. More than once during my two years at his school he took time to discuss with me personal problems I was having, and I greatly appreciated his genuine concern and honest, heartfelt advice. 

Of course, the lessons I did learn in his classes were priceless, and even though I eventually gave up on the dream of drawing comics, I have repeatedly found his teachings on storytelling to be invaluable in my own humble efforts as a writer (and in my brief career as a comic book editor) over the years.

Joe Kubert was an astounding artist and storyteller who contributed so much to the medium. He will be greatly missed by the multitudes who appreciated and enjoyed his work, and my most sincere condolences go out to his family and friends.

R.I.P. sir – and much thanks.

R.I.P. Richard Lynch

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Jun 202012

Sad news tonight. I’ve just heard that the great Richard Lynch (or, as my wife called him, “Cat-Man”), the iconic face and velvet voice of villainy in more than a hundred TV shows and movies, has passed away at age 76.

With his unique looks (in part attributable to a bad LSD trip which resulted in the actor setting himself on fire!) and sinisterly silky voice, the Brooklyn-born actor was the go-to bad guy for television and B-movie producers for decades.

He appeared in so many of my favorite television shows and exploitation films: Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, The Sword & The Sorcerer, Invasion USA, Deathsport, Trancers II, Puppet Master III, The A-Team, God Told Me To, Star Trek – The Next Generation, A Man Called Sloane, The Fall Guy, and, perhaps most memorably (at least for me), the terrific 1979 TV movie/pilot film, Vampire, which gave him one of his few leading roles.

They don’t make character actors like Lynch, anymore, and we movie buffs are all the poorer for it. Rest in Peace, sir.

Wednesday Cover: Claw the Unconquered

 Comics, Obituaries, Sword and Sorcery, Wednesday Cover  Comments Off on Wednesday Cover: Claw the Unconquered
May 232012

Yep, another Wednesday, another sword & sorcery comic cover from the Seventies. Crom help me, I love this stuff. This time around it’s the cover to DC Comics’ Claw The Unconquered #2, their attempt to cash-in onrival publisher  Marvel’s runaway hit Conan series. The art is by the great Ernie Chua (a/k/a Ernie Chan), a terrific Filipino artist who passed away just last week.

I first noticed the artist’s work on Batman and Detective Comics, where he drew a damned fine Dark Knight. He was also DC’s go-to cover artist for a couple of years there in the mid-Seventies. Later, he was praised for his work on Marvel’s barbarian, where he often inked John Buscema on both the color Conan comic and the Savage Sword of Conan B&W magazine. I’ll always associate him with the short-lived Claw, though. His Conan work was more polished, and his Batman stuff more widely-seen and appreciated, but Claw was his book. He was the first artist on it, and defined the character’s fantasy world.

I always loved his lush inkline, and thought he was a great storyteller. He’ll be missed.