Monday, November 18, 2013

Old Time — by Greg


Flipping through a recent Famous Monsters of Filmland (and, yes, if you’re any kind of decent person of a certain age, just the mention of that magazine will get your heart racing), I was struck by something time and again as I read the tribute stories about Ray Bradbury. Actually, it was something in the accompanying photos that really struck a nerve.
Ray’s smile.
Or should I say, it was the fact that Ray’s smile was always more than a smile. When Ray Bradbury smiled ... he beamed. It wasn’t the non-committal, get-this-photo-over-with kinda smile we’ve seen in a million different pictures.
Ray smiled like he meant it.
And then I noticed the same thing with photos of a couple of Ray’s dearest compadres, Forry Ackerman and Ray Harryhausen (and if I have to tell you who either of these gentlemen are, your life has been ill spent). The great thing about it was that even late in life, at an age when a lot of people have simply lost the spark of life, all three of these men still smiled like goofy school boys.

And, let me tell you, seeing lifelong friends, all of them with grey hair and sagging bodies, still laughing like teenagers, it’s something that really warms the heart. We often hear the adage that as we age we have to put away childish things, but I think these three gentleman prove that growing old doesn’t necessarily mean becoming so self-serious that you can no longer enjoy yourself. Sure, we must all grow up. We have to get a mortgage and pay our taxes and worry about hair growing in our ears and other terrible things that never crossed our minds when we were young.
But why must we lose the spark of what makes life interesting? Why give up so many of the things that bring us joy? Bradbury’s smile is that of a man who loves dinosaurs and spaceships and monsters and dark carnivals and makes absolutely no apologies about it. It’s said that every individual’s Golden Age is when they are 12 or 13. This is when we are so passionate about things we vibrate with the love for them. For me, those interests were very much those of Bradbury’s — I loved comic books and Tarzan and Universal Monsters and, you know what ... I still do.
Ever been to a party where all the adults in attendance want only to talk about the stock market, the condition of their lawns, or the pain they’ve been experiencing lately in their chest? Yea, me too. Holy Hell, get me outta there. No offense, folks, but there’s a big difference between growing up and becoming a stone-cold bore.
Personally, I want to be like Ray. Smiling like a kid who’s just gotten out of a midnight showing of Frankenstein. Grinning like a 12-year-old who’s just spent the afternoon having the ink of Jack Kirby’s artwork rub off on his fingers.
I want that joyful twelve-year-old to live inside me forever, even when I’m looking back at the world through cataracts.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Argo See It For Yourself — by Greg


     It’s really difficult to think of a handsome, famous, millionaire as an underdog, but until recently I think it is safe to have referred to Ben Affleck as just that. Some seriously bad career choices and a tabloid persona that seemed at odds with the seriousness he appeared to possess had turned him into something of a joke. There were many who thought his career was over and done.
     Certainly, if you had said a few years ago that Ben Affleck was your favorite actor, you would have received some cock-eyed stares. And if you had said Affleck was your favorite director, well, that surely would have been tantamount to saying Air Supply was your favorite rock band.
     But, guess what? Ben Affleck is one of my favorite directors. There, I said it. Okay, so maybe not of all time. But at this very moment in time ... there’s no doubt. I can certainly say that his name on any project going forward will have my immediate attention. He’s that good.
     As will come as no surprise, I saw Argo this week. And, yes, it is as spectacular as every critic has already declared. Not perfect. Not my favorite movie of the year. (And Affleck loses a couple of geek cred points for two missed opportunities in the movie — one involving perhaps the greatest comic book artist of all time). But after having just watched The Town a few weeks ago for the first time, there is just no denying that this dude has chops.
     And it makes me happy. Affleck has always struck me as someone with a pretty solid head on his shoulders, smart but also a little self-effacing. The fact that Argo’s second-funniest line comes at his personal expense only goes to further that perception. (Believe me, you’ll know it when you hear it).
     From a creative standpoint, I think an artist can look at Affleck’s recent career turnaround and be heartened by the fact that, even when it seems like your career is knocked cold and the ref is giving you the standing eight-count, it’s still possible to get back on your feet and win the fight (How’s that for a strained metaphor?) I have no idea what kind of reaction Hollywood offered when Affleck first made his directing intentions known. What I can guess is that behind his back there was a lot of snickering. “Oh, great, the pretty boy from Gigli is gonna direct a movie. Bet that’ll be good!”
     And when his first movie did in fact turn out to be pretty damned good, I’m sure many cynical critics and actors and writers and directors called it a fluke. And then when he made another great movie, the protestations dimmed and a creeping anxiety set in that someone they had recently ridiculed might turn out to have more talent than his detractors.
     And now with Argo, a man whom many dismissed as washed up a few years ago as an actor stands a very good chance of winning an Oscar for best director and if nothing else the movie is a shoe-in to be nominated for best picture.
     The point being this: every day artists face this uphill battle. Whether a writer or painter or poet or musician, there is always someone who is more than happy to point out to you — loudly — why the project you are currently working on is doomed to fail. And why you will fail. Sadly, that critic is sometimes no further than the mirror. After all, no one can demoralize an artist faster and more effectively than him or herself.
     How we shut out those internal negative voices is certainly something that could fill volumes (and a lot of psychiatrists’ notebooks) but how we shut out the voices of other people is different. We as artists can simply never, ever, listen to the voices of those who would tear us down. If we are going to fail, fine. No shame in that. But we have to do it on our own terms. Not someone else’s.
     Every great band has been told they were crap, hang it up. Every great book, especially from a first-time writer, was met with agents who thought nothing of it and publishing houses that wouldn’t give it the time of day. Truth is, if you want to create great art (of any kind) you have to run a gauntlet. And that gauntlet is comprised primarily of people who want you to fail for the simple reason that it makes them feel better about themselves.
     As I walked out of Argo, one of my initial reactions was, “well, that oughtta shut some folks up for good.” Of course, that isn’t entirely possible. No matter how great a piece of art, there’s always someone to whisper, “It stinks.” But it remains up to the artist to rise above those dark and corrosive whispers.
     I saw Affleck as part of a panel on a talk show last week and his demeanor had changed a bit since I had seen him last. He was still self-effacing. Still smart without being smug. But there was a different light in his eye. The light of an artist appreciating every second of the accolades now pouring in while his naysayers are sitting at home, cursing gently to an empty room.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Hero's Journey — by Greg


We are shaped by so many things beyond our control — our parents, our environment, our socio-economic status and, certainly, to some degree the times in which we are raised.
In a world that daily seems on the verge of chaos, it sometimes seems peculiar to be optimistic. And, yet, for the most part that is how I would describe myself. Sure, I have my moments of despair (usually after seeing a commercial for Here Comes Honey Boo Boo) but, by and large, I’m a firm believer in a better tomorrow.
And while I can absolutely attribute that feeling of optimism to my parents (loving), environment (stable) and socio-economic status (middle class), no question the historical events of my youth played a significant factor. One, in particular, well above the rest.
Neil Armstrong’s fateful first step on the moon.
Now, let us remember that 1969 was not exactly the happiest of days in the United States. The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the aftermath of the King and Kennedy assassinations ... it was maelstrom of unrest.
But that glorious moment in July, well, it was simply transcendent. A crystalline monument to man’s better impulses. It was, quite literally, out of this world!
With Neil Armstrong’s passing on August 25, there has been an unavoidable void left behind. A gulf as wide and dark as the space between the earth and moon itself.
The Apollo Program (like the Mercury and Gemini programs that came before) was a constant, daily reminder that we could do better. That we could strive for the impossible and will it into being through hard work and sacrifice.
And the whole world gathered to watch.
Try to think. When was the last time you watched the nightly news and felt good afterward? Felt uplifted and optimistic about the future and filled with wonder and excitement. Sadly, for many people (like my children), the answer is never. But for us decrepit old dinosaurs, we remember it well. And we long for it desperately again. Ache for it.
What’s truly amazing to consider when looking back on the extraordinary life of Neil Armstrong, is that it’s entirely possible that walking on the moon was just the beginning of what he had to teach us. His walk through the chalky dust of the moon made him a hero, but the way he behaved after returning from his journey made him a legend.
I earlier referenced Honey Boo Boo not just for an easy joke (although, come on, have you seen these people?) but to illustrate what this generation is constantly assaulted with. The Kardashians and Lohans and Hiltons and, yes, Honey Freakin’ Boo Boos. People who have done nothing, offer nothing and yet we exalt them, follow them, throw money at them. A society where people will do absolutely anything for a shot at fame (or infamy). Where being humble is a punch line. Where intelligent, rationale conversation will get you cancelled in a day in favor of a new show filled with vapid, plastic housewives slapping each other.
For a generation such as this, it’s probably impossible for them to comprehend what Armstrong did, and how he behaved, when he was once again captured in earth’s gravity. Here he was, the most famous man on the planet, and he could have done anything. Endorsements. Television deals. Scandalous, irresponsible behavior for which the adoring public would gladly have forgiven him. The public’s adulation could have lined his pockets forever.
But, the man who showed unshakable nerves when Gemini 8 went into high-speed gyrations (nearly causing the crew to black out) and the man whose veins dripped ice when he landed the lunar module on the moon with only 30 seconds of fuel remaining, was heroic in more ways than one. He was a hero for bravely and calmly helping usher mankind into a new era and he was perhaps even more a hero for insisting we not idolize him for it.
When asked later in life why he shied away from being labeled a hero, his stoic response with this: “We all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work.” In other words, one act of greatness does not necessarily make you great. But living a noble and dignified life in its entirety does.
Armstrong was also acutely aware (and discussed it often) that his trip to the moon was the work of multitudes of other people. He may have been the man to take that soft, slow-motion descent to the moon’s surface but he was very well aware that he was standing on the shoulders of thousands of other people’s efforts and hard work. And he really didn’t think it fair that the spotlight should shine so heavily upon him, just one piece of a glorious machine. Just a guy, he felt, who was doing his job.
We live in a culture filled with athletes who demand we worship them because they can catch a ball, and rappers dripping in almost comical self-importance (and diamonds!) hoping to distract us from the fact that they have no real discernible talent, and reality ‘stars’ who ... well, you get the idea.  All of these fools are paraded in front of us 24/7, and the one person who actually deserves our accolades, is uncomfortable with the attention.
So how best to honor such a man? Simple. By blatantly ignoring his wishes when it comes to celebrity worship. Neal Armstrong was a man who did not want to be considered a hero. And I couldn’t respect him more for that. But — here’s the thing — he was a hero! And we should be shouting his accomplishments from the rooftops. As well as his fellow travelers Aldrin and Collins and the scores of grand thinkers at NASA who made the whole thing possible.
When Armstrong passed away, I awaited in-depth retrospectives on his life, emotional outpourings of what he meant to the world. Instead, his passing was met with ... indifference. Yes, it was reported in the news but certainly not with the breathless immediacy of Whitney Houston’s death or even Lindsay Lohan’s latest traffic accident. Some short mentions on the cable news networks and then on to the next scandal. I scoured the magazine racks the week after his death, and ONE magazine had it on their front cover. It was in the top corner, a small photo, far outstripped by the magazine’s main story — Prince Harry caught naked in Las Vegas.
Sigh.
Now, I’m not nearly naive enough to believe our celebrity culture will ever stop idolizing people who clearly do not deserve adulation, but is it too much to ask that along with the athletes, actors and rock stars, we also save some hero worship for the scientists, educators, explorers and philanthropists who seriously work toward moving us out of the dark ages of ignorance and bigotry and toward a better tomorrow.
So, yes, July 20th should be a national holiday. A day in which young people are encouraged to think about the future. Think about their place in the world. And, most importantly, think about how they are going to make this planet better for us all. It will be a day for dreams — dreams that some day may become reality. Just like the once-crazy notion that man would walk upon our faraway lunar neighbor, smiling down at us from the night sky.
People like Neil Armstrong don’t want recognition for their greatness but it’s up to us to make certain that they get it. For, thanks to him and the dreamers at NASA, my generation was forged in an age of wonder. For us, the skies were not the limit.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The School of Night — by Greg


There are pivotal moments in Louis Bayard’s glorious novel, The School Of Night, that hinge on the archaic, pitch-dark machinations of alchemy. No small wonder, I suppose, as Bayard is himself a bit of an alchemist (perhaps conjurer is a more suitable term), capable of transporting readers to foregone ages with an almost supernatural deftness.
     I first became aware of Bayard’s work with 2003’s Mr. Timothy, an incandescently beautiful (and heart-wrenching) book detailing the later-day exploits of Dickens’ Tiny Tim. Bayard’s next two books, stunning both, are The Pale, Blue Eye (which follows a young Edgar Allen Poe solving an arcane and terrible mystery while attending West Point) and The Black Tower (in which Restoration era Paris is brought vividly to life as the fate of Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI’s long-lost son is relentlessly pursued).
     The School Of Night employs a two-tier narrative: one thread takes place in modern times following a group of Elizabethan collectors and scholars as they try to piece together a mystery involving an invaluable long-lost letter, a hidden treasure and the legacy of a secret cabal of luminaries called the School of Night. The other plot line unspools in 1603 as one of the School’s founding members, Thomas Harriot, a genius whose name has been almost forgotten in the mists of history, dabbles in matters both scientific and of the heart. Bayard does much to resurrect Harriot and his legacy, along the way providing a powerful love story that, through interweaving chapters, crashes headfirst into the story’s modern-day plot lines.
To discuss more of the plot would be a terrible disservice. Best to let readers simply revel in one twist and turn after another. Know that Bayard handles the modern tale masterfully, believably and with a level of humor sadly missing from most thrillers. And what of Bayard’s Elizabethan passages, the ones involving Harriot? They are, simply put, transcendent. Bayard displays not a single weakness as a writer, but if he has one strength that shines above the others (and just about any other modern writer I can think of) it is this: His ability to summon long-lost historical time periods with uncanny immediacy. From the pitch-perfect cadence of the dialogue to every sparkling flourish of sight, sound and smell, Bayard is able to almost corporally transport readers through the veils of time. You are there. You feel it.
Perhaps there is no better example than late in the book (after most of the plot threads have already been woven tightly together) when Bayard, by way of the lovelorn Harriot, leads us on a journey through a plague-choked London that is as harrowing as anything he has ever written. Grim, disturbing, and ultimately poignant, the scene — like all of Bayard’s output — is a virtuosic performance.
The School of Night — thrilling, funny, touching and sometimes heartbreaking — firmly cements Bayard’s status among our finest novelists.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Interminable Wait Is Over



The glorious day has finally arrived. The day for which all peace-loving peoples from around the world have anxiously awaited!!
Yes, the first comic from Kaleidoscope is finally available to order.
You can now be the envy of everyone on your block by being the first of your friends to read our Dark and Stormy Night / Pandemonium Flip Book. This beautiful comic magazine features 6 stories, every one as spine-chilling as the last.
The Dark and Stormy Night side of the flipbook contains four stories sure to raise the hair on the back of your neck.
Red Light Blues” by Rafael Nieves and Andrew Dimitt follows the violent (and very surprising) aftermath of a carjacking gone wrong.
It Has To Be True” by Gary Reed and Aaron Pittman is a sad and disturbing tale of love that turns to obsession.
Pig Money” by Mike Oliveri and Jorge Fornes follows a happy family on an innocent road trip that unravels quickly into something much darker than any of them could have expected.
Starstruck” by Greg Kishbaugh and Dan Dougherty watches as an amoral writer (is there any other kind?) retreats to a lonesome cabin in the woods to escape a deranged pursuer.
The Pandemonium side of the flipbook contains two tales of monstrous terror.
Hell Oh Dolly” by Donna Kishbaugh and Michael Reidy tells the tale of a sweet little old lady who wants to find a home for her antique doll, which just might happen to be possessed.
Hungry Eyes” by Greg Kishbaugh and Josh Gowdy is the story of a family torn apart by murder, mayhem and possibly a tad bit of cannibalism.
Everyone who reads comics has become accustomed to the unbridled hyperbole used to market a publisher’s latest efforts. But make no mistake. This really is a one-of-a-kind collectible. Not only will K-Scope not be producing any more flipbooks like the one you are about to hold in your hot little hands, we also will not be running any additional printings of this title. The flipbook will be sold at a couple more upcoming conventions and we will fulfill the orders we get through the web site and then ... GONE. Off the market forever.
So buy a copy today, won’t you. Heck, why not buy TWO? You can read one and lock the other away in your attic for safekeeping. When your grandkids discover it fifty years from now, still in pristine condition, your small investment just might allow them to buy their own private jet or their very own tropical island. At the very least it’ll buy ’em a cup of coffee and that’s more than they ever did for you, the ungrateful rugrats.



Friday, August 17, 2012

Waiting For A Trade — by Greg


     Let it be known right up front that I love comic book trade shows. Were there a way to freeze them in time and remain forever in their warm glow (provided I had a never-ending wad of cold cash in my pocket), I would gladly do so.
     But, of course, it’s their very transience that is part of their appeal.
     Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of attending live theater can tell you one of its primary allures — something that separates it from all other forms of pop culture — is its impermanence. See a play once, and you can never see it again. Ever. Nor can anyone else. Sure, you can see the same play with the same actors, same director, same sets, on a different night. But it will not be the exact same performance you witnessed the night before. Sometimes in nothing more than very subtle ways, but no two performances of any play are ever the same. And with that impermanence comes an overwhelming power. As you are consumed in watching a play, at the back of your mind, you are constantly reminding yourself … enjoy this while you can. It’s never going to happen again.
     In many ways, the experience of a comic book show echoes those same feelings.
The people you meet, the interactions you experience, the million odd and delightful things you see and do ... they are all fleeting. And even though you can return to the same show year after year, it will never be the same experience. Not exactly. And that’s why I try to cherish each one.
     Sure, they can be stressful at times. And very, very tiring. But there’s also nothing quite so wonderful in the world as being surrounded by people who love comics and pop culture, whose very souls are enlivened by beautifully told stories and gorgeously rendered art. Nor anything as invigorating as talking shop with other (much more talented) writers, nor watching over the shoulder as an artist you admire pencils and inks his/her latest creation right before your spellbound eyes.
     So, did I enjoy the recent Chicago Comic Con, you ask? Let me put it this way. On the drive home, late at night on Sunday after fours days of comic goodness, my family and I had really only one topic of conversation: We simply couldn’t wait to go back next year.
 
No, Brad Pitt and George Clooney did not make a surprise appearance at Chicago Comic Con. It’s Rafael Nieves and Greg Kishbaugh proudly displaying the first-ever comic from Kaleidoscope Entertainment.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ready To Launch


     An exciting week ahead for Kaleidoscope as we officially launch at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, August 9-12! Naturally, you’ve seen the non-stop coverage on the major news networks and across the Web. If it weren’t for the Olympics, the launch of Kaleidoscope would surely be the only thing people were talking about.
     Well, the time is finally here. We are thrilled to be offering an absolutely spectacular Issue Zero flip book, with A Dark and Stormy Night on one side and Pandemonium on the other, with art and stories from Andrew Dimitt, Dan Dougherty, Jorge Fornes, Mike Oliveri, Aaron Pitman, Gary Reed, Josh Gowdy, Donna Kishbaugh, Michael Reidy, and two guys named Rafael Nieves and Greg Kishbaugh riding on the coattails of these other great creators, including the fine lettering work of Joseph Allen Black.


     We will be greeting our adoring fans in booths 4051 and 4053, so if you are at the show we humbly ask, nay, demand that you come by to stroke our fragile egos and tell us what an amazing job we’ve all done.
     Hope to see you there.           

 www.wizardworld.com