About Me

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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For D [superhero edition]

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock 'n' roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it's the subsequent visits--the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time--that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.


On a trip to New York City in the sweltering hot summer of '72, Dad agreed to take me to 909 Third Avenue for a visit to the office of National Periodical Publications, better known as DC Comics. I was hoping for a tour, but we were informed that there wasn't any such thing. I guess we needed some reason to justify why we were there, so Dad asked how I could buy back issues. The gentleman who greeted us gave me the information for a comics dealer named Bill Thailing, and I ordered Thailing's catalog. The back cover of the catalog featured black and white reproductions of a quartet of Golden Age comics, including Daredevil Battles Hitler # 1. I was fascinated by that book, with its cover image of Der Fuhrer being assailed by Daredevil and his heroic compatriots. A few years later, I was able to buy a black-and-white reprint of Daredevil Battles Hitler, published by an outfit called DynaPubs. I was initially disappointed by the book, but it's become one of my all-time favorite comic books. (Oh, and the Golden Age Daredevil, originally published by Lev Gleason, was no relation whatsoever to the familiar Marvel Comics hero of the same name.  But be honest now: wouldn't ya love to see a Netflix adaptation of Daredevil Battles Hitler?)


Ah, I loved this one!  I bought DC Special # 1 off the supermarket spinner rack in Aurora, Missouri during the summer of 1968. That first issue spotlighted the work of artist (and soon-to-be DC Comics publisher) Carmine Infantino, with choice reprints of Batman, The Flash, Adam Strange, Detective freaking Chimp, and even an episode of Strange Sports Stories. I dug many of the subsequent issues just as much, including a collection of police stories in DC Special # 10 and an epic Plastic Man assortment in DC Special # 15.



1968 again! The Brave And The Bold # 79 was among a short stack of comics my parents bought for me to read while traveling that summer. I had previously seen DC Comics house ads for Deadman's appearances in Strange Adventures, but this issue's team-up of Batman and Deadman was my first direct exposure to the character. It was also the first time artist Neal Adams was allowed to draw a Batman story; that would ultimately have a positively seismic effect on my development as a comics fan. 


The Sub-Mariner, The Hulk, and Dr. Strange had appeared in a couple of previous adventures together, but I caught up with them in Marvel Feature # 1 (December 1971). This was the first time this team-that-wasn't-a-team was billed as The Defenders, and I thought it was so, so cool. I mean, look at that cover! Yeah, penciled by that Neal Adams guy, again. I don't think I quite knew who he was yet, but from those issues of The Brave And The Bold and X-Men in the '60s, through his early '70s work on Batman, The Mighty Avengers, and Green Lantern/Green Arrow (plus some awesome Superman covers), he was sure making an impression. Interior art was by Ross Andru and Sub-Mariner creator Bill Everett, while writer Roy Thomas put our heroes through their paces. The Defenders appeared in Marvel Feature a couple more times I think, and then graduated to their own regular title. Netflix's current Marvel TV universe is building to The Defenders, but the group streaming into your living room will not include any of the original Defenders; the TV group will be Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. It might not be my Defenders as I remember them, but it oughtta be really good, I betcha.  


DETECTIVE COMICS: Batman made his debut appearance in Detective Comics # 27 (May 1939), and I wish I could tell you a mint copy of that issue, lovingly preserved for me by an uncle or grandparent or kindly random bystander, was also my first issue of Detective Comics. But no, I jumped on the 'Tec bandwagon with the relatively unremarkable Detective Comics # 362 (April 1967), which featured the villainy of my then-favorite Bat-foe The Riddler (and a back-up story starring that stretchable sleuth, The Elongated Man). I have, of course, purchased many more issues of Detective Comics since then, including several older than ol' # 362 (but not anywhere near as old as # 27). In the '70s, my all-time favorite Batman story, "Night Of The Stalker!," was published in Detective Comics # 439 (February-March 1974); just a bit later, Detective Comics # 469-476 housed my all-time favorite arc of Batman stories, all written by Steve Englehart (who had also written "Night Of The Stalker!"). I dropped Detective Comics (and all Batman titles) from my pull list at Comix Zone a while back, but reinstated them in the wake of the current DC Comics: Rebirth, and they've been pretty good again.



DOLL MAN: It's easy to dismiss the worth of a tiny superhero with a seemingly-precious name, but Doll Man was originally quite popular. The character made his short-statured debut in Feature Comics # 27 (December 1939), and he remained a Feature feature through its 139th issue in 1949. His solo title, Doll Man Quarterly, racked up 47 issues from 1941 until 1953. Doll Man was one of a number of characters (including Plastic Man and Blackhawk) sold by original publisher Quality Comics to DC Comics in the mid-'50s. DC had no real use for the character (and subsequently developed its own shrinking superhero called The Atom), so Doll Man lay dormant with the rest of yesterday's playthings. Doll Man's DC debut was in Wanted: The World's Most Dangerous Villains! # 5 (January 1973), reprinting a Golden Age Doll Man adventure. As an adolescent devotee of Golden Age superhero reprints, I considered Wanted my favorite comic book at the time, and I never missed an issue. Wanted's perch at the toppermost of my poppermost was toppled by the return of the DC 100-Page Super-Spectaculars in '73, and Doll Man appeared in the first issue of that revived series. In the summer of '73, Doll Man appeared in his first new adventure since 1953, fighting alongside fellow Quality Comics alumna The Ray, The Black Condor, The Human Bomb, Uncle Sam, and--swoon!--The Phantom Lady in that year's Justice League/Justice Society team-up.  


THE DOOM PATROL: A group of misfit superheroes led by a man in a wheelchair. Sounds familiar, but DC's Doom Patrol just barely beat Marvel's X-Men to the newsstands. Neither title was particularly successful in the '60s--The X-Men's big success came later--but both are remembered with fondness by Silver Age comics fans. The Doom Patrol was in some ways the closest DC had to a Marvel book at the time; writer Arnold Drake frequently had his bickering stars--The Chief, Robotman, Negative Man, and Elasti-Girl--at each others' throats. This was a very interesting series, and I aim to read the whole thing from beginning to end one of these days. I didn't catch much of it in the '60s, though. I think I first heard of The Doom Patrol in a DC house ad for The Brave And The Bold # 65, which teamed The Doom Patrol with The Flash. My first (and perhaps only) Doom Patrol adventure during the original run was Doom Patrol # 115 (October-November 1967). This book was weird, maybe too weird for me when I was seven (or maybe not). The Doom Patrol apparently perished in their final original appearance, Doom Patrol # 121 (September-October 1968). Nonetheless, they've been revived periodically in various less-odd and much-odder incarnations ever since.


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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin' pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins' BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.