Pulled From My Files #99: A DC check stub from 1977

This and all images © DC Comics.

Something different this time, one of many DC Comics check stubs I saved from my years of freelance work for the company beginning in July, 1977. This one is not the earliest, but it’s the earliest one I could find today. There were two kinds of freelance checks at the time, regular freelance work like lettering and coloring had wider stubs, the width of a check, and those have no date on the stub, so it’s harder to find an “early” example. This short stub that tore off the side of a check was for other kinds of work, generally classified as special projects. It’s for work that didn’t fit into the general income flow of producing monthly comic books.

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And Then I Read: ONCE & FUTURE #1

Written & © by Kieron Gillen, art by Dan Mora,
colors by Tamra Bonvillain, letters by Ed Dukeshire.

As a long-time fan of Arthurian legends, I knew this was a new version of them by the title, derived from the prophecy about King Arthur that he would someday return to rule England. Kieron Gillen’s take is refreshingly different, and the art by Dan Mora is excellent. At the site of an archaeological dig in Cornwall, an ancient scabbard has been unearthed. A woman and three tough guys show up to take it by force. As the story hits the TV news, a tough older woman named Bridgette is troubled by this, and goes off on her own. Her grandson Duncan is on a date when he gets a call from the home, then from his Gran: she needs his help. When Duncan arrives at Gran’s side, he begins to find out about a very different aspect of her that she’s kept well hidden. Weapons are involved, and knowledge about mythical beasts and legends that may be more real than Duncan could ever imagine. One of them is in his face.

This is a fun idea well done. Recommended.

And Then I Read: JIMMY OLSEN #4

Image © DC Comics. Written by Matt Fraction, art by Steve Lieber,
colors by Nathan Fairbairn, letters by Clayton Cowles.

I don’t think Jimmy has ever been funnier than in the opening page of this issue where he’s doing an awful livestream as “Timmy” Olsen that pranks superheroes and politicians. Meanwhile, Lois Lane has joined Jimmy in Gotham City as he tries to explain just what a mess he’s in and why. As in previous issues, this one is broken up into shorter segments, and I’m not even sure they’re in chronological order, but it’s probably funnier if they’re not. This run of JO has very entertaining writing by Matt Fraction that at times reminds me of Deadpool, what little I’ve seen of that, and his Jimmy is really whacko, especially compared to the grounded and serious Lois. Despite that, some of Jimmy’s story is beginning to make more sense to me, crazy as it sounds. Steve Lieber’s art is just as entertaining and creative.

Fun stuff, recommended.

And Then I Read: NOBODY’S FOOL by Bill Griffith

I’ve seen Bill Griffith’s syndicated comic strip “Zippy the Pinhead,” but have never read it regularly. In the strip, Zippy is a strange character whose utterances don’t make a lot of sense, but do somehow have memorable resonance. One of his catch phrases, “Are we having fun yet?” has entered common usage.

This book by Griffith is not about Zippy, it’s about the real person who inspired him. Schlitzie was a microcephalic child, characterized by a very small brain area and a skull that came to a point, a condition cruelly nicknamed “pinhead” at the time of his birth around 1901. His actual origins are not known for sure, Bill Griffith places his birthplace in The Bronx. Schlitzie’s intelligence level never grew beyond that of a four-year-old, and his parents were poor, so his future did not look promising. It was likely he would have eventually been institutionalized. Instead, his parents sold him to a sideshow manager, and he remained a sideshow attraction, working under many different names, for most of his seventy year life. Sideshows were collections of people considered freaks of nature, those with physical handicaps or odd anatomy, or sometimes people with unusual abilities like sword-swallowers or strongmen. They were a popular sideline for circuses at the time, and also existed on their own at places like Coney Island.

Griffith’s biography of Schlitzie is both fascinating and surprising. Though the boy and man went through some difficult times occasionally, mostly he seems to have enjoyed his life and enjoyed performing, and he often found friends and workmates that cared for him, and kept him out of trouble, including one manager that made him part of the family. Schlitzie’s biggest fame came from his appearance in the 1932 horror film “Freaks,” directed by Tod Browning, where much of the cast were actual sideshow freaks, though Schlitzie had only a small role.

Is this book a sort of apology? Possibly. Griffith clearly put a lot of time and effort into it, and does not shy away from his own role in the story, though it’s a minor one. Well worth your time, and recommended.

The Danny Crespi Files Part 20

This and all images © Marvel.

We’ve reached the final part of this series, showing the last three pages that include cover lettering, and one bonus page. About 20 more pages came with the original photocopies from letterer Phil Felix, a friend and workmate of Danny’s, but they contain mostly logos by other people and I won’t be covering them here. (If I knew for sure which of them were by Danny I would cover those, but none are credited, and it’s a lot harder to guess styles with logos than with cover lettering.) This collection was compiled by Phil while he was on staff at Marvel, and it represents a great resource for people like me who are interested in who lettered Marvel covers, something Danny did a lot of from about 1974-1979. Above is page 77 which is all lettered by Danny. Sources follow.

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