Today at TCJ, we're turning over the keys to Steve Ringgenberg and his obituary of Gary Friedrich, who passed away last week.
Our review of the day is Upgrade Soul, Ezra Claytan Daniels much anticipated graphic novel from Lion Forge. Leonard Pierce thinks the hype is real:
The Iowa native kicked off his career with the successful and unexpected series The Changers while living in Portland; he moved to Chicago following its success and has been a figure of great interest in the city’s arts community, focusing his attention from one medium to another – animation, music, film, music, and video, among others, always with intriguing results – before setting to work on Upgrade Soul, a project over a decade in the making that has finally made it into traditional graphic novel form after a long stretch as an immersive digital app. In some ways, the decision to release the book in a standard publishing format is a step back to more pedestrian means of production than we’re used to from Daniels, but the end result is a work of such profound impact and originality that it can’t be argued with.
Yesterday, we published a diamond from the archive: Ken Jones' 1987 interview with Russ Heath, at a time when Heath was preparing to leave the field of animation to return to comic books.
JONES: What made you decide to re-enter the comic book field?
HEATH: Number one, the money is a lot better than it used to be. That’s if the book sells well. Since I’ve been working almost exclusively in animation since 1978 a lot of new comic readers do not know my work. Going back to the ’70s, when I was doing war books, a lot of readers who read comics would not read them, the Vietnam conflict being so unpopular at the time. When the Shadow book comes out the readers who don’t know my work will say — “Who is this guy, Russ Heath?” And the ones who knew of my stuff will say, “My god, Russ Heath, is he still alive?” I hope working on a book this popular will lead to new recognition in a short time.
Steve Leiber shared an excellent anecdote about Heath alongside some very striking examples of Heath's incredible skill. I won't spoil it.
The past months have hit multiple comics professionals hard, as anyone with access to social media is well aware. But this extended reminiscence from Roy Thomas on his friendship with Gary Friedrich is in a class all its own. Bleeding Cool has the scoop.
In late 1965, ensconced at Marvel, I convinced Gary to come to New York to join me, partly to get him away from his drinking buddies in Missouri. It didn’t work, of course. Gary continued drinking more than was good for him for some years, but he was never a sullen or nasty drunk… it just wouldn’t do him any good, that’s all. I told him that we could work together on some comics, and convinced Dick Giordano at Charlton to give him a shot… but Gary took to comics writing like Donald Duck to water, and I never had to help him in that department. Matter of fact, when he went on his (2nd) honeymoon for a week and I tried writing a Charlton romance story to help him out, I froze up and couldn’t finish it. Gary had to complete it when he came back. Soon, though, when there was a vacancy at Marvel (probably after the very brief employment of a young playwright named Ron Whyte who thought a lot more of himself than I ever thought of him–or him of me), I had Gary take a Marvel writing test and he was soon employed on staff as well as doing freelance writing.
Anytime you can link to a nice meaty chunk of an obsessively organized dive, you link to that shit immediately: here's Claire Napier making the case that you should read the Valiant Comics. (All of the Valiant Comics, in fact).
Then, in 1997, came the real term two: the real Valiant at Acclaim Comics. Fabian Nicieza, coming off a brief stint at DC and some long years at Marvel, joined Valiant at Acclaim in 1996 as Editor in Chief and Senior Vice-President, and from 1997 oversaw absolute reboots of all remaining Valiant titles. Premises changed, and characters and character designs changed. They called it “VH2,” which retroactively termed the Shooter-defined Valiant history “VH1,” which is a stupid thing to do as that’s already a whole other thing. They did it anyway, which was “very Acclaim,” honestly.