Bedminster School Reunion, 2014

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About fifty years ago, in the 1960s, my brothers and I attended the Bedminster Township School in Bedminster, New Jersey, seen above in the 1950s. Recently I wrote a series of articles about the school on my blog, which begin HERE. During the research and writing process, my long-time friend and Bedminster schoolmate Tim and I were able to contact a few members of our grade-school class, and at some point the idea of a reunion was suggested. Among the group of us that were corresponding regularly now by email or on Facebook, many either still lived in the central New Jersey area, or had family who did. A plan was made, and last Saturday, July 12th, some of us got together.

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We gathered at the Clarence Dillon Library’s Local History Room in Bedminster, where Tim and I had done some of our research. Attending were myself, Brent Franklin, Catherine (Cathy) Downey, Pru (Hobbie) Cuper, Tim W, and Curtis Vreeland. Several others had planned to attend but were unable to because of last-minute situations: Roxie Blazure, Bruce DeBacco and Robert (Bob) Schork. But, with my wife Ellen and Brent’s wife Sharon, we made a group of eight, and we had a fine time. We spent an hour and more in the library first, getting to know each other again, looking at old photos, and reviving old school memories. Tim and I have stayed in touch, and the two of us had dinner with Curtis a few months ago, but the rest of the group had not seen each other in decades. I was happy to learn that we all have some good memories of our grade school days and each other. From the library we continued on through an eventful day that had been planned largely by Curtis and myself, with help from the rest. Continue reading

And Then I Read: JUSTICE LEAGUE 31

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Image © DC Comics, Inc.

I was nine years old when the first issue of the original JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA came out in 1960. For a few years it was my favorite comic. I’d already been reading about Superman, Batman, Flash and Green Lantern, and there they were in one story, with even more heroes (and heroines) and the coolest villains ever. There are moments when the new series by writer Geoff Johns gets close to that for me, as in the extensive scene this issue where we see Lex Luthor having coffee in Bruce Wayne’s living room as Lex confidently explains how he KNOWS Bruce is Batman, and why they should work together. Chilling and thrilling, a merger that could really rock the worlds of both! It’s great comics with nary a punch exchanged. Other elements of the issue involve a very evil Green Lantern ring, and hijinks on the new Justice League satellite. The art by Mahnke and Champagne is excellent.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: SUPERMAN #32

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Image © DC Comics, Inc.

There’s been lots of publicity for this new creative team of writer Geoff Johns and artists John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson, so I gave it a try. I haven’t read a SUPERMAN issue in years, so I can’t compare it to what came before, but I enjoyed this one. Yes, Romita’s characters don’t look much like other recent versions, but that’s okay with me if the story works, and I think it does. Johns takes the opportunity to introduce a character named Ulysses of equal power and a similar background to Superman. The name and story have resonance: a wanderer returned home to find things much changed. Meanwhile, John’s handling of the Superman supporting cast seems great so far. I liked it, and will read more.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE COMPLETE PEANUTS 1991-92

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Images © Peanuts Worldwide LLC.

By the time of this collection, Charles Schulz had been doing the Peanuts strip for 40 years. Hard to imagine how he kept going, and unlike many of his contemporaries, he did the entire strip himself: writing, drawing, lettering and inking. Yes, the strips are simple, but grinding them out incessantly for that long would seem to be impossible without losing the charm and humor you began with. Somehow, Schulz defied the odds. The lines in these strips are a little shakier, a slightly lower percentage made me smile or chuckle, but on the whole, they’re still terrific, full of the dry wit and slapstick humor, the characters we all recognize in ourselves, the whimsy of a dog who can be anything, and much more. Yes, there are some subjects that don’t work for me, like Snoopy’s brother Spike trying to deny his loneliness in the desert with fake friends, but plenty more are familiar and still funny.

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I don’t think any new characters show up in this volume, and some are only in it very briefly, like Rerun and Pigpen, as well as the annoying girl sitting behind Linus in school. The tit-for-tat humor of these Snoopy and Linus strips had me laughing out loud. As Schulz headed into his fifth decade, he was still warmly entertaining, and this volume is well worth your time.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE ART OF NEIL GAIMAN by Hayley Campbell

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Images © Hayley Campbell and Neil Gaiman.

The newest hardcover about Neil is a coffee-table book of modest proportions for the genre: about 8 by 10 inches. At 320 pages with about half text and half photos, illustrations and documents, it’s full of information about Neil and his writing. After being given free rein in Neil’s archives, author Hayley Campbell does a fine job with the text, getting lots across in an entertaining way, not getting bogged down in detail, but not missing much of Mr. Gaiman’s large volume of work. And I bet looking through it all must make him tired, it would me! I think I learned the most about Neil’s early work before he got into comics, and about his movie work, some of which I hadn’t been aware of at all.

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I hope this won’t come across as snarky, but I found it amusing that there are lots of examples of Neil’s own handwriting, which I find hard to read. It made me glad we’ve nearly always worked together with him on keyboards. I imagine there are plenty of Neil fans who will have no trouble deciphering it.

Neil’s SANDMAN has been by far the most written about in other books, so the somewhat light coverage here is perfectly understandable. Hayley Campbell does consider Neil’s other comics work in more detail, and of course his novels, stories, poems, children’s books, audio recordings, TV and movie scripts, and more. Inevitably there will be a few things missed, or not discussed well enough for each reader’s satisfaction, and I had a few of those moments myself, but in all it’s a fine book, a great read, and an excellent record in both the visual and written sections. Well done.

Highly recommended.