Wednesday, March 05, 2008

If It's Wednesday, It Must Be a Shitstorm

What is this winter weather pattern we're in? Almost every single Tuesday PM/Wednesday AM since January has brought us snow or, like today, worse -- sleet and freezing rain. A shitstorm! I love driving in the snow, but I hate driving in this crap. Nonetheless, we're going ahead with class at the Center for Cartoon Studies today; Marge is all snuzzy in bed, no school for her (200 districts in New Hampshire postponed or canceled for the day). Like most campuses, CCS's students are mostly in walking distance from the school, and however bad the roads, I can make the 15-mile drive from door to door given the time to do so (unlike previous years when I lived 90 minutes away in good weather). So, on with the show!

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned our many Center for Cartoon Studies guest artists, and that my old cartooning pal Howard Cruse (as in, we've been pals for years, not we're old -- just grayer and wiser) had visited CCS last month.

Well, Howard's just posted a writeup of his visit on his blog,
  • Loose Cruse: The Blog; "Return to White River Junction" (gee, sounds like the title to a 1950s western) is up, with pix!

  • The only Bananas cover I could find online this AM, from the Smurf site 'Blue Buddies'

    Howard talks a bit about our history together. I've always loved his comics work, going back to Barefootz. Howard and I were indeed published by Scholastic Magazines around the same time, and at least once together, in the Bananas all-comics issue, which had a knockout color cover piece by Howard as well as stories illustrated by my fellow XQBs Rick Veitch and Tom Yeates. For Howard, this was roughly 'phase three' of his respective career, following his formative years (phase one?) and his underground comix work with Kitchen Sink Press and Denis Kitchen (Barefootz, Gay Comix, etc.). As a reader, I'd also loved seeing Howard's distinctive art and comics popping up in newsstand magazines like Fangoria (Count Fango was Howard's strip), and it was a point of pride to find one of my first pro jobs -- following my cutting-of-pro-teeth sales to Joe Kubert and Sgt. Rock and to art director John Workman at Heavy Metal magazine, both during my Kubert School years -- landing me at Scholastic at the same time Howard was doing comics for Scholastic, too.

    It's on eBay for $2.99 to $74.99; it's the long lost 'monster zine' Weird Worlds!

    While Howard was a regular in Bananas, I wasn't. I'm only in a couple of issues, maybe three or four. I was a regular in a different Scholastic zine, one that didn't last too long. My entry into the Scholastic freelance pool was via a one-shot horror story for Scholastic's new zine Weird Worlds. Joe Kubert brought me into his studio/office in the Baker Mansion (which has long since been the dorm for the Kubert School rather than its headquarters and main building, as it was during its first few years) and asked if I'd be willing to draw a short (three pages, if memory serves) horror story for a magazine intended for schools; I would be doing the whole art job working from a silly but fun script by Bob and Jane Stine, co-editors of the zine, and my name would not go on the job, it would be credited to The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Inc. Fair enough! I was still a student after all, and this was my shot at doing something different.

    I was overjoyed to have the shot, and did my best on it. Part of the appeal, mind you, was drawing a horror comic for schools. During my early '60s childhood, any comics brought to school were verboten and usually confiscated, horror comics above (or beneath, in the minds of my teachers) all. So, drawing a horror story that was intended for distribution to junior high students -- sanctioned horror comics for school! -- was a hoot and a bit of karmic comeuppance I was happy to be part of.

    Joe was delighted with what I did with the script, as was Scholastic. I wanted to do more. One of (many) great acts of generosity Joe extended my way was gifting me with the account with Scholastic when I graduated in the spring of 1978 from the Kubert School, and thus began my happy few years of working with Scholastic -- an account that often paid the rent and kept me working when work in comics was hard to come by.

    Jovial Bob Stine aka R.L. Stine

    Howard and I never met during this period, but we were both freelance cartoonists working for editor Bob Stine and art director Bob Feldgus, both among the most amiable and professional folks I ever worked for or with in my comics career. Scholastic treated me like a prince, paid well and were always a joy to work with. It seems fair to assume the same was the case for Howard; he was implied that was the case, and he did a lot of work for Scholastic, more than I. Like all good things, this passed: Weird Worlds was canceled after a few issues, and after a couple of jobs for Bananas I moved on to other things, including penciling The Saga of Swamp Thing beginning in 1983. But I always loved working with and for Bob and Bob, and I miss 'em both. I eventually collected some of my work for Scholastic for two comicbooks in the late '80s -- I'll post that info here someday, can't recall the titles now -- and did so with Scholastic's permission.

    Alas, both Bananas and Weird Worlds seem to be lost in the limbo of all school zines; no comics sites acknowledge them or offer back issues for sale (none I can find, anyway), and general online searches turned up little.

  • Back in 1995, The New York Times ran this interview/article on Bob Stine when his Goosebumps TV series was about to debut, making mention of Bananas magazine,
  • but I've not found anything else online relevant.

  • There's a number of online sites dedicated to Stine's famous and beloved Goosebumps books series -- here's the one with the most info on Bob himself that I've turned up -- but Bananas and Weird Worlds are less than footnotes in the long shadow of Goosebumps.

  • As I'm able, I'll post covers, contents lists and images from my respective contributions and art to my new website, still under construction.
  • There's a handful of affordable back issues of Weird Worlds available today at (here's the link), for those interested -- I'm in almost every issue.
  • One cautionary note: If you go looking on eBay, though, don't confuse the Scholastic media zine Weird Worlds with the lurid, gore-splattered Eerie Publications 1970s newsstand horror comic magazine Weird Worlds. Those are fun in their way, too, but you won't find me in there -- just my eye-tracks from reading 'em three decades+ ago.

    But enough on that -- more on Howard Cruse and his comics in another post!

    Marge and I both voted yesterday, though I'm sorry to say our town (Windsor) didn't hold it's Town Meeting yesterday (it was Monday night, which I missed, damn it; no local press in The Valley News announced it happening then, so I lost track). I've been going to my home town meetings since I was a pre-teen, and regret missing Windsor's. In any case, we voted, and the turnouts were massive.

    Hilary Clinton won Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island -- to listen to/watch/read the media we (Vermont) don't matter, but:

    Obama, McCain coast to victory in Vermont primary
    By Wilson Ring

    Associated Press Writer / March 4, 2008

    MONTPELIER, Vt.—Barack Obama easily defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton to win the Vermont Democratic primary on Tuesday, tapping into a desire for change among war-weary voters for his 12th consecutive victory in primaries and caucuses.

    Obama led 59 percent to 39 percent with half the state's precincts reporting.

    Exit polls found that the Illinois senator cut into every part of Clinton's traditional base of supporters, including women, older voters and the working-class.

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    Blogger bob said...

    FEARBOOK and DEADTIME STORIES were the books collecting some of your Scholastic stuff.

    Have you seen any of the recent books published by Scholastic adapting some of Stine's Goosebumps books to comics (under the Graphix imprint, which publishes the colour versions of BONE)? Pretty mild stuff, of course, but with some interesting art (Kyle Baker's story was nice).

    Blogger ~ tOkKa said...

    -->> ..primaries drive me "BANANAS" ..

    .. >v<

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I'm pleased though not at all surprised that you found Bob Stine and Bob Feldgus such a pleasure to work with while you were illustrating the former's scripts for Bananas, Steve. For someone so creative Stine was completely ego-free and non-territorial when it came to our collaboration on the Doctor Duck series. Bob provided me with a script for each episode, but reacted with glee rather than annoyance when I would embellish his jokes and throw in gags of my own without asking. As far as Bob was concerned, he wanted a funny strip and that was that.

    I couldn't be more pleased by his subsequent success with Goosebumps. Nobody could have deserved it more.

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I bought one issue of Weird Worlds through my elementary school's Scholastic order form back in the 1970's. It scared me so much that I ripped it up and threw it away. Not sure what exactly bothered me so much, although it would not have taken much back then, I imagine. Sorry to hear that I may have missed a chance to own some early Bissette work, although I don't remember any comics in the issue at all, just prose. Ah, foolish youth!

    Blogger said...

    Hello, I did some drawings for Bananas .Maybe we bumped om each other... was wondering about Bob Feldgus.....
    drop me a line

    Blogger Catherine Siracusa said...

    Bob Feldgus and Bob Stine! I loved working with them. The first issue of BANANAS I illustrated back cover
    "It Never Fails!"...a wack collection of embarrassing moments.
    I had absolute freedom play around with the drawings and the design. I did a lot of "It Never Fails!" I always felt very lucky to be a part of BANANAS. I remember your work Marghuerita! Very lively and funny.,.

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Thank you for that lead, bob. Have wanted to revisit Bissette's early work from Scholastic, and now know of these reprint collections you've cited. Was spellbound and frightened by the Stines/Bissette works in WW, when i was but a lad then, and have oft wanted to revisit them. Now, I can, for found both titles via Amazon at inexpensive prices. My favourite work of Bissette: 'Kultz' in Epic Illustrated - Brilliant. Thanks again!


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