Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Weekly World News XXV, or Happy New Year

It's been several months since since I posted anything from my days with Weekly World News, the World's Most Reliable Newspaper. Here's a piece that ran in the end-of-2006 issue:

© Weekly World News

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Every year as the clock ticks down to midnight on December 31, a giant, glittering Waterford crystal ball of light descends from a flagpole to the roof of One Times Square. At the stroke of midnight the ball touches bottom and the crowd of almost one million people goes wild in celebration of the New Year!

This uniquely New York tradition dates back to 1906 and has come to symbolize New Year’s Eve to most of the world.

But December 31 isn’t New Year’s Eve for everyone. “Many cultures follow different calendars and observe their own New Years on days other than December 31,” New York’s Deputy Mayor for Cultural Affairs, Frank Daley told Weekly World News.

Since New York is a melting pot of all peoples and cultures, the municipal government has made an effort to include these diverse celebrations in its Times Square tradition. “For instance,” Deputy Mayor Daly said, “on the Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hoshanah, which falls on the first and second days of the Hebrew calendar in the month of Tishri, or around mid- to late-September, people gather at sundown—the traditional start of the new day—in Times Square to watch the dropping of a giant, illuminated matzoh ball.

“Now, the Chinese follow a lunar calendar and celebrate their New Year in January or February, which we commemorate with the dropping of a giant dim sum, while the Chinese New Year, also in February, gets its very own electric dumpling. It’s all quite festive. And delicious.”

Other New Year ornaments include the Korean Ttok-kuk, or rice cake soup bowl, Banh Trang, the Vietnamese rice paper-wrapped delicacy, which is dropped into a giant dish of dipping sauce, the mid-April celebrations of the Southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala with the vada, or deep fried doughnuts made from a batter of lentils, and appam, a pancake made of fermented rice flour, respectively.

“We also celebrate the New Years of the Muslim faith, of Sinhala, Tibet, Iran, the Telugu, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh, Thailand ... you name it, New York drops something to celebrate it,” Deputy Mayor Daley proudly proclaimed.

But a thorough examination of the holiday list showed the March observance of the Assyrian New Year, Rish Nissanu, was missing.

“Whoops, I guess we dropped the ball on that one,” the deputy mayor sheepishly admitted. “Or, in this case, didn’t drop it.”

Thursday, December 24, 2009

He's the Goddamned Batman!

I was recently asked by my buddy Jim Beard to contribute to Gotham City 14 Miles, a book of essays on Batman he is editing for the Sequart Research & Literacy Organization (to be published in July 2010). My subject was the lasting effects of the 1960s Batman TV show on the character and on pop culture. The first section thereof is below:
“Some Days You Just Can't Get Rid of a Bomb”:
The Legacy of Batman

© respective copyright holders

“Oh, my.”
Leonard Goldenson, ABC Television President, in response
to the pitch for the Batman television show

When that first episode of Batman aired on January 12, 1966, I was ten and one-half years old. I was already a hardcore comic book reader and something of an accumulator, if not quite yet a collector, of as many comics as I could lay my hands on.

I was the audience for that show, eager, no dying to see another of my four-color heroes come to life on the TV screen, like The Adventures of Superman, the 104-episodes of which originally aired between 1952 and 1958 and continued on and on in daytime syndication during my childhood on New York’s WPIX-TV, Channel 11.

Pow! Zap ! Bam!

Yes, I recognized they were making fun of Batman, but so what? Grown-ups always made fun of comic books. My father, himself a reader of Doc Savage, the Shadow, Conan, and G-8 and His Battle Aces in the pages of the ten-cent pulp magazines of the 1930s, who brought home the 1960s Ace Books editions of the Tarzan novels with the gorgeous Frank Frazetta covers for his sons to read, who nurtured the creative instinct in the three of us, all of whom went into some sort of creative field, my father, who must have understood the appeal and certainly never discouraged our interest in comic books, nonetheless called the four-color pamphlets my older brother and I separately hoarded by the hundreds “Popeyes,” as in Popeye the Sailor Man, whose name became the noun for all comic books. “You left a pile of your Popeyes in the car,” he would say. “When you’re finished reading your Popeyes, would you take out the garbage?” Most adults just called them “funny books.”

And even in the ghetto of Pop Culture, comic books were the lowest of the kid stuff. Dangerous, even, if the doomsayers of the 1950s witch-hunts against the evils of comic books and their damaging effect on young minds were to be believed. And even if not dangerous, certainly disposable. To modern collectors in their Mylar bags sealed between slabs of plastic, the notion that a comic book was rolled up and stuck in the back pocket of an eleven year-olds jeans before and after being read (repeatedly, and by many kids) is sacrilegious, but that was exactly what we did. That issue of Spider-Man I romped around with in my back pocket in 1964 is worth hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars today, but back then, it was the center of my universe and, until I learned better a couple of years later, I ran around with it, or another one like it, rolled up in my pocket, where I could bring it out any time to read again. A copy of a Flash Annual from around the same period will forever carry the grit of New York’s Reis Park beach sand ground into its square-bound spine from that summer when it was the comic book I could not go anywhere without.

Pow! Zap! Bam!

Comics did not get respect before Batman and, aside from the recognition of comics during the run of the show, was no better off after than before. Respect was too much to ask of a funny book. The comics had been effectively neutered by the 1950s and were unlikely to feature anything capable of offending anybody (although there’s always someone to be offended by anything), but Senator Kefauver’s Congressional hearings into the link between comics, juvenile delinquency, and childhood emotional problems were only a decade in the past. These hearings were inconclusive and came up with no result other than the creation of the industry’s self-policing agency, the Comics Code Authority of America. The bad taste had nonetheless been left behind in everybody’s mouth and, in their memory of the hearings, comics had been officially stamped “garbage” by the U.S. government. What other proof did they need?

When it came to picking from this heap, Hollywood had not always approached it with such trepidation. In the 1940s, superheroes were successful on the radio (Superman on a three-times a week program on the Mutual Network) as well as on the big screen as serialized adventures, 10 or 12 15-minute weekly shorts, each with a cliffhanger ending to draw the kids back to the theater to see how the hero gets out of this one! Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Captain America, Blackhawk, and others from the comics were made into serials, while a series of Superman cartoon shorts produced by the Fleischer Studios (creators of Popeye and Betty Boop before the Man of Steel) for Paramount are still considered classics of animation. The Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves was, despite, the nostalgic chuckles it elicits today, a very faithful and, for the most part, straight adaptation of the Superman then in the comic books, scaled down from his skyscraper-lifting level of four-color power to a syndicated TV program’s budget. But, of course, the program was produced by DC Comics, its stories overseen by comic book editors-turned-producers Whitney Ellsworth and Mort Weisinger. They were company men playing with company toys and they were very careful not to break anything.

The one thing all of the above have in common is that they were created as and always intended to be for kids. Serials were shown on Saturday mornings, along with cartoons and other kid stuff. The Adventures of Superman radio program ran for 11-years in a late afternoon timeslot. The Adventures of Superman TV show, though its first two seasons, in black and white, are darker and more serious than the later color seasons, was always a kids show, right down to its sponsorship by Kellogg’s cereals.

Comics only started getting into on-screen trouble when someone decided to do a TV show for grown-ups without first getting over their embarrassment at what they were doing.

One always has to start from the premise that the people adapting comics to the screen, big or little, do not have any respect for the material, certainly not then and, comics overall public relations progress to the contrary, not still.

The people who make movies and television shows, who stage Broadway shows and publish literature are embarrassed by the source material, whether they will admit to it or not. They voice a love and admiration for this true American art form, but if what has hit the movie and television screens is the result of love, hate me, please. Even the best of them can not help metaphorically winking uncomfortably in acknowledgment of the source. The subtext may be Shakespearean in scope, but the brilliance is clad in primary colored spandex that overwhelms even the strongest message. (These same dramatists forgetting that Shakespeare himself was little more than a TV writer of his time, the legends and tales of the era serving as the source material for his plays, themselves pandering to the lowest common denominator in the cheap seats.)

But no message, as it turned out, would ever be stronger than this:

Pow! Zap! Bam!

It made the show. It was, the first time it hit the screen that January night in 1966, a self-announcing visual punch in the nose. It made mom and dad laugh. It was kitschy, campy, and in tune with the “pop art” movement popularized by such commercial artists as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, both influenced by comic art, Lichtenstein, indeed, lifting, without credit or remuneration, entire panels from romance and war comics to recreate as such paintings as "Drowning Girl" and, more to the point of Pow! Zap! Bam!, "Whaam!" Marvel Comics, which, under the creative direction of Stan Lee and his co-writing artist cohorts like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and others, had bumped up the level of comic book sophistication with continuing stories and heavy doses of soap opera elements inflicted on superheroes whose secret identities lead less-than-perfect lives, even went so far as to change its corner symbol identifying their titles as “Marvel Pop Art Productions” for four or five months during 1965, riding the wave of a trend their existence helped to set rolling.

Pow! Zap! Bam!” was brilliant, an inclusive nod to the source material. Sound effects have long been a vital part of the vocabulary of comics. A picture of a fist in the vicinity of a chin is only half the story. The “WHAM!” of the knock-out punch or the “whoosh!” of the fist sailing past its target tells the rest. Hand-lettered onamonapia was straight out of the newspaper comic strips and comic books the chuckling adults had read as children. It was self-referential and precious and it was exactly the right touch of gentle mockery to catapult Batman into a full-blown, two-year long bona fide fad.

The only problem was, even after Batman was gone from the airwaves, it left “Pow! Zap! Bam!” behind.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sugar, Sugar!

Having recently started writing for the good folks over at Archie Comics, I was invited to the opening of "The Art of Archie Comics" exhibit at New York's Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art this Thursday evening past (curated by, among others, old friends Alex Simmons and Arie Kaplan). It is a great exhibit, full of fascinating art and memorabilia from the 65+ years of Archie and the gang, and the comics industry came out to see it, from Archie execs to DC Comics honchos, including Paul Levitz, to scads of old friends, from Charlie Kochman (Abrams Books) to Heidi (The Beat) MacDonald, to Michael Uslan, writer of the ongoing "Archie Marries Veronica" storyline, and many others. I even got to meet the granddaughter of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson...he was the man who pretty much invented the comic book industry and started that company which would one day become DC Comics.

On hand to help raise much needed funds for the richly deserving Museum were Archie artists Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz. They spent the entire evening behind a table banging out sketches for donations, to which I was happy to contribute, especially as I was rewarded with the following for my generosity:

If you're going to be in the Lower Manhattan area any time between now and the end of February, I hope you'll check it out.

Oh, and while I was in the neighborhood, I chatted with the Archie folks about my participation in what promises to be a major new project for the company from Mamaroneck, NY coming in 2010! Can't wait to be able to share the news and I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be playing a part in the exciting things to come.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Check out, if you will, Scooby Doo #150, hitting shops next week with my story, "The Black Katz."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Yin of Mr. Yang

When one makes a living as a freelance writer, one must often write a wide range of things.

In my case, that includes, among other things, comic books, short stories, novels, articles and the occasional foray into non-fiction for the YA market. I've been writing these since around 2001, doing one or two titles a year ranging in topics from science and history to biography and pop culture. The latest, copies of which I just received, is Asian Americans of Achievement: Jerry Yang (co-founder of Yahoo!) from Chelsea House Publishers, specialized publishers in the school and library market.

Monday, November 9, 2009

...Beware My Power, Green Lantern's Light! Extra

"Eyes of the Beholders!" Continued
© DC Comics

Pal and "Eyes of the Beholders!" penciller Rick Stasi sent me this scan, pulled from eBay, of a page (page 7 to be precise) from our (probably) never-published story, the script for which can be found in the previous three postings. Thanks, Ricky!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Brightest Day, In Darkest Night-Part 1

The following script was written, if memory serves me -- and it seldom does -- in the mid-1980s. DC Comics legendary editor Julie Schwartz was semi-retired from monthly comics, but still working on special projects, like DC's science fiction graphic novel series, and, for a time, on fill-in issues of ongoing titles. Back before continuity was such a harsh mistress, a late-running issue could be substituted with a fill-in prepared well in advance and waiting in a drawer to be slipped into the schedule. Julie was given the job of commissioning and editing a boatload of such fill-in issues for the major DC titles; my friend Rick Stasi was scheduled to pencil this story, but for reasons I forget (if I ever knew 'em), most of these fill-ins never got drawn.

(Update: Pal and artist Rick Stasi dropped me an e-mail to tell me that this story was indeed penciled, lettered and inked and that, possibly, according to what he was told by editor Schwartz, it may have been used in comics albums licensed by German publisher Ehapa, for which I wrote or co-wrote with Bob Rozakis about half a dozen 48-page Superman stories, most unpublished in this country.)

I wrote a Green Lantern fill-in, this 19-page script one of the undrawn issues. Since I got my first computer late in 1986, this story, written on a typewriter (Google it), must pre-date that. The hand-written edits were Julie's you can see, he did not spare the editorial pencil...

"The Eyes of the Beholders"-Part 1
© DC Comics

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This Book Bites!

This just out: Vampires, Dracula and the Undead Legions, a Moonstone Monsters Anthology, featuring ten original vampire tales, including my own "Man Bites Dog," a humorous little prose story that I think you'll be able to sink your teeth into. I share this collection with a distinguished lot, including L.A. Banks, Elaine Bergstrom, P.N. Elrod, C.J. Henderson, Nancy Kilpatrick, Bill Messner-Loebs, Martin Powell, J.C. Vaughn, and Dan Wickline. I'm looking forward to reading 'em all...!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wheet! Wheet! Part 3

HAWKWORLD: "A Matter of Conscience" Part 3

© DC Comics


1 (BACK TO THE PRESENT, with a TIGHT-SHOT of HIRAM, smiling gently.)

Hiram: It wasn’t a lot, but... it was ENOUGH. Those acts helped sustain me, I think. Helped me SURVIVE.

Hiram 2: So I lived. I was liberated from the camps, I came to America...

2 (HIRAM is holding up his left arm, showing KATAR the camp number tattooed there.)

Hiram: ... Married... had children... a career... a LIFE... tried to put the horror BEHIND me. NEVER to forget it.

Hiram 2: But not let it rule my life with bitterness and MORE hatred.

3 (KATAR is looking a tad confused. HIRAM is still smiling gently, shrugging.)

Katar: Seven hells, man-- they BRANDED you like an animal. They tried to KILL you...

Katar 2: ... Their philosophical offspring came back last night to FINISH the job begun 50 years ago. How can you be so FORGIVING?

Hiram: How can I NOT?

4 (CUT TO: an ESTABLISHING SHOT of a synagogue somewhere in SKOKIE, in the dead of night. This is a fairly modern building, but obviously a synagogue, with a large, stylized Star of David over the entrance.)

Cap: “I’m not going to let the hate they’ve bred consume me as it does them...”

5 (WILKS and a horde of his skinhead buddies, in the dark of night, are leaping over the fence behind the synagogue, some carrying bats, others with cans of spray paint.)

6 (INSIDE THE SYNAGOGUE: the skinheads are busting through the back door, illuminating the interior with the beam from a flashlight one of them holds.)


1 (In the light of the flashlight, the skinheads are going about their nasty business, busting up the synagogue, vandalizing the place silly: tearing up prayer books, throwing around prayer shawls, etc. WILKS is in the foreground, working with a can of spraypaint on the wall.)

2 (Looking over WILKS’S shoulder as he spraypaints away like a demon. The message he’s spraying is a couple of swastikas and the words: “DEATH TO JEWS.”)

3 (CUT TO: several days later, with a TELEVISION-SCREEN SHAPED PANEL, showing a video of WILKS’S spray-painted handiwork. The words “WBBM 2 / FILE TAPE / CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL” are super-imposed at the bottom of the screen.)

From TV (elec): ... In the week since the vandalism of the survivor’s monument and the Skokie synagogue, anti-Semitic incidents have been on the RISE in the normally peaceful suburban neighborhood.

4 (TELEVISION-SCREEN SHAPED PANEL: CUT TO, a medium-shot of WILKS standing in front of Skokie City Hall, looking mean and angry as he talks to the microphone being held in his face. Super-imposed at the bottom of the screen are the words: DARYLL WILKS / America First Party Leader.)

Wilks (elec): ... The authorities can say whatever they want, but they have no PROOF we had anything to do with those attacks... no reason to DENY us a PERMIT to march here in Skokie!

5 (TELEVISION-SCREEN SHAPED PANEL: CUT TO a medium shot of a slick looking LAWYER, standing in front of Skokie City Hall, talking into the microphone being held in his face. Super-imposed at the bottom of the screen are the words: WARREN HARRIS / ACLU.)

Lawyer (elec): ... Doesn’t matter WHAT they’re saying, who they might offend, it’s EVERY American’s constitutional right to speak out!

TV (elec): And so the controversy continues...

6 (PULL BACK to see we’re in LT. KLEIN’S office, seeing the above scenes on a small portable TV on top of a filing cabinet. KLEIN is switching off the set as HAWK stands there, looking pissed.)

TV (elec): ... As all Skokie waits for the court’s decision as to whether a group most area residents have labeled as NAZIS will be allowed to... KLIK!

Hawk: Seven devils! WHY is this even an ISSUE...?!


1 (KLEIN is at his desk now, holding up a paper, looking like he’s just sucked a bushel of lemons.)

Klein: Because that’s the AMERICAN way, my friend.

Klein 2: Besides, it’s a DONE DEAL. The court just decided in favor of those slimebuckets.

Hawk: They... WHAT?

2 (KLEIN is tossing the paper on the desk for HAWK to look at.)

Klein: This freedom of speech thing of ours’s a real bitch, ain’t it?

Hawk: I’ve read your constitution. It doesn’t say anything about lowlife hatemongers trampling on the rights of the majority!

3 (KLEIN is putting a cigarette between his lips.)

Klein: You’re wrong, pal. That’s exactly what it DOES say. How’s it go?...

Klein 2: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

4 (CUT TO: the next day, on the streets of SKOKIE, along a neighborhood shopping district. The streets are lined with Skokie residents, most of them there to bitch, moan, and demonstrate against the Nazi/skinhead “march” scheduled to come down this way. There are people with signs and banners denouncing the Nazis. There are others, mostly older folks, in HIRAM’S age group, just observing. There are still others -- younger, members of the JDL, looking to kick some Nazi butts. There are also a good number of cops on hand, as well as TV and print journalists.)

Cap: “... Or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble...”

Cap 2: “Pretty much covers the whole ball of wax where those Nazis are concerned, doesn’t it?”

5 (In the crowd, on the sidewalk, is HIRAM, still bandaged and bruised, but better than when we last saw him. He’s in a wheelchair being pushed by a neighbor of his, old IDA BERKOWITZ. IDA looks concerned. HIRAM’S dog is on a leash which is tied to the arm of the wheelchair.)

Ida: Hiram, I don’t LIKE this. After what happened to you, WHY would you want to be here...?

Hiram: I TOLD you, Ida. I’m NOT going to HIDE from these thugs.

Ida 2: A DAY out of the hospital and you’re...


1 (Angling from behind HIRAM and IDA, looking out towards the street, past the police standing between the crowd and the street.)

Hiram: Ida, darling, I appreciate you watched my dog for me. I’m grateful you’re helping me out now...

2 (CUT TO: a shot, looking head on down the street at the first “line” of Nazis/skinheads marching down the street. They’re carrying a crudely, hand-lettered banner that reads “AMERICA FIRST/ARYIAN AMERICA FOR ARYIANS.”)

Cap: “... But if you want to stick your head in the sand like an ostrich, I wouldn’t tell you no...

3 (CUT TO: On a rooftop overlooking the street where the march is being held. There we see HAWK, standing, watching the proceedings down below with a wary eye, waiting for trouble... hoping for it so he can kick some Nazi butt as well!)

Cap: “... So don’t tell ME I shouldn’t stand up and be SEEN...”

Cap 2: “As soon as Lt. Klein told me the Nazis were to be allowed to march, I KNEW it would happen.

4 (CLOSE-UP of HAWK’S hand, gripping the butt of his weapon in its holster.)

Cap: “I HOPED it would. I WANTED the excuse.

Cap 2: “Constitutional rights are fine, in theory. But you have to draw the line SOMEWHERE.

5 (Looking down to the street, past HAWK, as he looks over the edge of the roof, as the Nazis/skinheads start to pass by below. The anti-Nazi demonstrators, waving their signs, booing, calling out insults, are being held to the sidewalk by the cops.)

Cap: “I’d found MY line.” -- From Katar Hol’s Personal Journal

From below: NAZIS GO HOME!

From below B: DROP DEAD!


6 (On the street, where HIRAM’S wheelchair is at the curb, the old man watching as the Nazis/skinheads parade by with Nazi banners and placards, shouting slogans with fists raised in the air. There are only a couple of dozen of them in the “parade.” IDA is standing behind the wheelchair, upset. The two old people are surrounded by angry, shouting younger people.)


7 (CLOSE-UP of HIRAM, starting in surprise.)

Hiram: Gasp!


1 (CLOSE-UP OF WILKS as he walks along with his skinhead buddies, shouting, waving their fists in the air. WILKS is glancing over to the side, looking startled.)

2 (HIRAM is half-rising from the wheelchair, pointing a shaking finger at the passing WILKS. IDA is upset, her hand on his shoulder, trying to get him to sit back down. One of the angry young JDL-types is next to HIRAM, looking at the old man.)

Hiram: Th- that’s HIM! HE’S the one who did this to me...!

Ida: Hiram... SHUSH! Don’t... don’t make TROUBLE!

JDL-Type: Wait... you saying that man ATTACKED you?

3 (The JDL-TYPE is turning to his loudly protesting companions who are standing around them, working himself -- and them -- into a frenzy. HIRAM is speaking up, trying to keep this situation from exploding into violence.)

Hiram: Ye- yes! But, please, I don’t want any...

JDL-Type: YOU HEAR THAT?! That Nazi BEAT on this old man... and NOW he’s laughing at him-- at ALL of us!

4 (One of the JDL-TYPE’S friends is hurtling something -- a bottle, a brick -- at WILKS and the other Nazis/skinheads, who are reacting to the tossed brickabrack, starting towards the sidewalk. The rest of the protesting JDL BOYS are starting towards the street, to push through the cops and head towards the marchers. All hell is starting to break loose... and HIRAM is in the middle of it, trying to get someone to hear him!)

JDL Boy (burst): GET ‘EM!

Hiram: N- no... DON’T! This ISN’T what I...

Wilks: SON OF A... they wanna PLAY!

5 (From his perch over the street on the roof, HAWK sees the shit hitting the fan below, the two groups starting towards one another at the same time...)

Hawk: NOW!


1 (The JDL BOYS, the Nazi/skinheads, and the COPS are all clashing, everybodying coming together with fists, protest signs, and nightsticks swinging. It’s riot time... and HAWK is diving off the roof to dive down to join the fray.)

2 (We move into the fray, close-in on the violence with everybody swinging at everyone else.)

3 (And HAWK dives into this violence, bashing one of the skinheads who’s about to crack a cop in the head with his placard in the face as he swoops by.)


4 (HAWK is whipping out his nunchaka as he swoops around to go after another skinhead who’s kicking one of the downed JDL BOYS.)

5 (HAWK is swinging the nunchaka, smashing one end into the skinhead’s chest, driving him back away from the downed JDL BOY.)


6 (CLOSE-UP OF HIRAM, looking in wide-eyed horror at what’s happening.)

Hiram (whisper): No...


1 (More violence, right up close, as a cop’s billyclub cracks across the back of a JDL BOY’S head.)


2 (HAWK is using his wings to batter some more skinhead punks.)


3 (HIRAM, with the same look of horror on his face as in the last shot of him, only now in a MEDIUM-SHOT of him, pulling away from out, out into the street so that we start to see some of the violence that’s causing his reaction.)

Hiram: NO...

4 (More hitting, with HAWK dead in the middle of it, beating on one of the skinheads.)

5 (Now we’ve pulled back to another shot of HIRAM, this time in LONG-SHOT, the only still figure in this sea of violence, horrified by what’s going on around him as he gets up from the wheelchair, shaky.)

Hiram (burst): NO!

6 (HIRAM is pushing his way through battling protesters, towards HAWK, who’s comibg down from the sky, straight towards the fleeing WILKS.)

Hiram (burst): YOU CAN’T DO THIS... STOP IT! STOP!

7 (HAWK has grabbed WILKS by the arm, spinning him around, his fist cocked, ready to make a crater where WILKS’S face used to be. HIRAM is hobbling towards them, reaching out with his good hand to stop HAWK. The cops are starting to get the rest of the situation in hand, continuing to make progress throughout the rest of the story.)

Hiram (burst): STOP!


1 (HIRAM is grabbing HAWK, stopping him before he can deck WILKS. HAWK is looking at the upset old man while still holding on to WILKS.)

Hiram: My GOD, Hawkman... WHAT are you doing? Didn’t you hear ANYTHING I said to you?!

Hawk: This is DIFFERENT, Mr. Wyznowski! They STARTED it...

2 (HIRAM is shaking his head, looking older and sadder than ever.)

Hiram: They throw a punch... I retaliate... then they hit me... I hit back...

Hiram 2: WHERE does it end, Hawkman? When does the violence stop?

3 (HIRAM is pointing to the frightened WILKS, who the confused HAWK is still holding on to.)

Hiram: This one... he wants to TAUNT the victims of the HOLOCAUST with his hateful talk? LET him! I don’t have to LIKE what he says--

Hiram 2: -- But if I want to be able to say the things I believe, then I’ve got to acknowledge HIS right to do the same.

4 (HAWK is shaking WILKS in anger.)

Hawk: That doesn’t make SENSE. He can’t preach prejudice and hatred... that kind of talk means he’s given UP his rights!

Hiram: Because YOU don’t agree with him? Who made you... who made ANY of us judge?

5 (A cop is standing nearby, waiting to take WILKS out of HAWK’S hand, although HAWK isn’t quite ready to let him go. HIRAM is patting HAWK’S arm.)

Hawk: How can you STILL believe that after all that’s happened to you?

Hiram: How can I NOT?

Cap: “So many people on Earth remind me of the WORST I’ve seen on Thanagar.

6 (The cop is taking WILKS away. HIRAM is taking HAWK’S arm, so that HAWK can help him hobble back to his wheelchair.)

Cap: “But before I can dispair TOO deeply, I meet someone like Hiram Wyznowski. A victim who can find it in his heart to defend the victimizer.”

Hiram: So, you gonna help me back to my wheelchair or what...?

Cap 2: “Because it’s RIGHT... because it’s what he came to this country to find. It’s almost enough to JUSTIFY a faith in humanity...” -- From Katar Hol’s Personal Journal

the end

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Farewell to White Fang and Black Tooth's Arms

Milton Supman meant a lot to me when I was a kid. He was another crazy Jewish guy, a wacky, manic machine gun of stupid jokes, bad puns, ridiculous pratfalls and old bits that should have been anything but the mesmerizing experience it was for me. Supman was funny. He knew it and he couldn't stop laughing at himself and at the ridiculousness of the world. He was an anarchist and an absurdist. He was a human cartoon aimed directly at the hearts and minds of his audience and he won me over big time.

Soupy Sales, along with White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie, and Hippy the Hippo, appeared in 1961's Lunch With Soupy Sales (syndicated, I believe, on ABC-TV, Channel 7 here in New York) and then made it to town in 1964 on WNEW-TV (Channel 5), and I was a regular viewer. The Soupy Sales Show was primitive, even for the time, held together by the grinning, rubber-faced, do-anything, say-anything Soupy in front of the camera while a crew of unseen stagehands, cameramen and other technical people roared with laughter and interacted with the star, all off-camera. In a day when state-of-the-art childrens programming was the calm, rational of Romper Room and Captain Kangeroo (and don't get me wrong...I loves me my Captain!), Soupy was off the charts. And on the charts, with recorded hits like "Do the Mouse" and "Pafalafa-ga" (they whisper it all over Turkey, you know), not to mention a book, and appearances all over TV. He was, for a while, a very big star, complete with controversary; on New Year's Day morning, he told kids to sneak into mom and dad's room and send him the "funny green pieces of paper" with the pictures of presidents on them from their wallets and he'd send them a postcard from Puerto Rico, at which point he was hit with one of the 25,000 pies he'd taken to his face in his career; a few days later, money started to arrive and Soupy was suspended for two weeks. It was a funny, if ill-advised, bit.

Soupy died today at the age of 83. His model for kids TV gave rise to everything from Chuck McCann to PeeWee Herman and he was, by all accounts, a hell of a nice man as well.

Forty-five years later, I can still sing "The Mouse."

Bye, Soupy. Love you, big kiss!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wheet! Wheet! Part 2

HAWKWORLD: "A Matter of Conscience" Part 2

© DC Comics


1 (SCHINDLER is shaking hands with HAWK, still flustered by his presence, as KLEIN makes the appropriate introductions.)

Schindler: Uhm... yes, well... you’re HAWKMAN, aren’t you?

Klein: Yeah. This’s Mel Schindler, of the B’NAI B’RITH ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE.

Hawk: Nice to meet you. Excuse me, but I’m not from around here... what’s a B’nai B’rith...?

2 (CLOSE-UP OF SCHINDLER, recovering his equalibrium as he speaks to Hawk.)

Schindler: Uh, yes... we’re an American Jewish service organization, involved in relief work and vocational training.

Schindler 2: I represent our Anti-Defamation League.

Hawk: I see. Do many people defame the B’nai B’rith, Mr. Schindler?

3 (SCHINDLER is looking at HAWK like he’s from another planet... which, in fact, he is. KLEIN is rolling his eyes to the heavens.)

Schindler: Not the group ITSELF, Mr.... er, Hawkman. Jews. And, yes, quite a few people do just that.

Schindler 2: Which is what I want to talk to YOU about, Lt. Klein. What are your people DOING about the vandalism of the memorial?

4 (CLOSE-UP of KLEIN as he reaches into his shirt pocket to extract a cigarette from the pack there. He looks tired.)

Klein: What’d you WANT from me, Schindler? Some loon takes a can of spray paint to the statue... no witnesses... no NOTHING.

Klein 2: All I CAN do is put a man on patrol in the park so it doesn’t happen again.

5 (SCHINDLER is angry, pointing a finger at KLEIN as HAWK looks on.)

Schindler: I thought you, of ALL people, would understand what vandalism of this sort MEANS. I suppose I was WRONG...

Klein: SAVE the GUILT okay? I KNOW... a damned sight BETTER than you--

6 (CLOSE-UP OF KLEIN, angrilly clamping his teeth down on the cigarette.)

Klein: -- But what I feel doesn’t mean SQUAT here. This sort of crap turns my stomach...

7 (CUT TO: to an ESTABLISHING SHOT of a small, tidy house on a street of similar houses, somewhere in SKOKIE. This is a heavily residential area of quiet streets lined with homes with their neat little patches of lawn out front. Very quiet, very nice... one of those ideal American communities in which to bring up the kiddies. Or live out your retirement years.)

Cap: “... But I can’t materialize a perp out of thin air with nothing to go on but my OUTRAGE...


1 (AROUND BACK of the house, by the back door to the kitchen: the light is on in the kitchen and, through the window, we can see old HIRAM moving past the window, carrying a dinner plate. On the wall of the house, we can see the shadows of three men moving towards the back door.)

Cap: “... And no matter how loud you HOWL for me to go rounding up the ‘USUAL suspects,’ I don’t PLAY that way--

2 (INSIDE THE HOUSE, in the kitchen, where HIRAM is just about to sit down at the small kitchen table to eat his dinner. His little dog is sitting on the floor beside the table, looking expectantly up at his master. HIRAM’S back is to the door, so he doesn’t see the silhouettes against the curtains on the kitchen door moving up towards the door.)

Cap: “-- So unless you’ve got some USEFUL information for me, you’re just WASTING my time...”

Hiram: STOP begging, Cassie. You have YOUR dinner, I have MINE.

3 (HIRAM is turning to look towards the kitchen door, brow furrowed, surprised. All he can see through the sheer curtains over the door’s window is a vague silhouette.)

Hiram: Eh? Who’s THERE...?


4 (HIRAM is standing before the kitchen door, hesitant, unsure. The dog is sniffing at the bottom of the door.)

Hiram: I said, who’s there? I... I was just about to sit down to my dinner...


5 (Suddenly, a baseball bat is smashing through the door window, sending glass flying at HIRAM who is recoiling, covering his face with his arms in surprise.)


6 (Now the door itself is flying open, kicked in from the outside by a blackbooted foot.)


7 (Standing framed in the doorway are three skinhead Nazi punks, dressed in leather and denim, torn t-shirts, and liberally festooned with a wide variety of Nazi symbols. Mean as can be... and meanest of them is the leader, WILKS, who’s at the fore of the group, tapping his baseball bat on the palm of his hand, a nasty smile on his face, directed at the scared, shocked old man.)

Wilks: I got something for you to CHEW on, pops!

Hiram: M- my... god... what... WHAT do you WANT...?!


1 (WILKS, with his two goons right behind him, is stepping into the kitchen, pointing at old HIRAM with the baseball bat. HIRAM is backing away, frightened. The dog is snarling and growling at the skinheads.)

Wilks: Wanna TALK to you, old man. We HEARD what you said about us on the news. Didn’t like it.

Hiram: You... you get OUT of my house... right NOW, you HEAR me!

2 (FLASHBACK PANEL: HIRAM -- once as a teenager in the late-30s, early-40s -- is shielding his mother and sister from flying splinters as uniformed and heavily armed Nazis kick open the door to their apartment.)

3 (WILKS is poking HIRAM in the chest with the end of the bat, smiling coldly at the old man.)

Wilks: Not yet, Jew boy. Not till we discuss a few things... like your calling us ANIMALS. We think that’s real FUNNY--

Wilks 2: -- Coming outta a LOWER LIFE FORM like a JEW. Know what I mean?

Hiram: I... I KNOW... I know all ABOUT you... and your KIND...

4 (WILKS is looking over his shoulder at his two friends, smiling. He’s got HIRAM pinned against the wall now, holding the old man there with the end of the bat pressed against his chest.)

Wilks: Hear that? He knows us. That makes it EASY, don’t it?

Punk A: Yeah, Wilks. REAL easy.

Hiram: You... you’re a bunch of THUGS, you hear me?! You imitate a MONSTER... but HE couldn’t kill us all... YOU’LL never do it...

5 (WILKS is shouldering the baseball bat as he returns his gaze to old HIRAM, still smiling his cold-as-ice, hateful smile.)

Wilks: You gotta understand something here, Jew boy. Old Adolph-- he was on the RIGHT track, but he was TOO soft on all of you...

6 (Without warning, WILKS is swinging the bat, at old HIRAM, off panel.)

Wilks (burst): ... JUST TOO DAMNED SOFT!

Cap: “I find this whole situation AND your attitude DEPLORABLE...”


7 (CUT TO: back to the police station, where an irate SCHINDLER is storming away from a fed-up KLEIN and a slightly confused HAWK.)

Schindler: ... And you can be sure the mayor and the media’s going to hear about this, Lt. Klein. COUNT on it!

Klein: Yeah, give hizzoner a big WET one for me while you’re at it.

Hawk: What was that all about, Lt.?


1 (KLEIN is dropping his cigarette to the floor in disgust, shaking his head in annoyance.)

Klein: Ahh, just some LOCAL trouble. You know anything about World War II? The Nazis?

Hawk: Some. But that’s history, isn’t it?

2 (CLOSE-UP OF KLEIN, looking down at his feet as he speaks.)

Klein: Not around HERE it isn’t. Anyway, the short of it is, part of the Nazi gameplan was the eradication of the Jewish race...

Klein 2: ... Mostly in CONCENTRATION CAMPS-- extermination centers where they worked European Jews to the brink of death--

3 (TIGHT ON KLEIN’S foot, as he grinds out the cigarette with the toe of his shoe.)

Klein: -- Then gassing or shooting the one’s who didn’t drop from starvation or exhaustion... 6 MILLION Jewish victims... probably the SAME number of other ethnic or racial UNDESIRABLES...

4 (KLEIN, pain and sorrow showing on his face, is looking up at HAWK.)

Klein: But, you know, try as they might, some of their victims SURVIVED the camps... 45 years later, a lot of them live here in Skokie.

Hawk: I appreciate the history lesson, but I don’t understand what that’s got to do with TODAY.

5 (KLEIN is looking over at a uniformed COP, who’s calling to him from across the room.)

Klein: Because you don’t FORGET something like that...

Cop: LT.! We got a call in... ASSAULT-- victim’s that old guy who reported the vandalism at the Memorial.

Klein 2: HELL!

6 (KLEIN, pissed, is reaching inside his office, grabbing up his jacket from inside. HAWK is looking on, clearly not sure what’s going on here.)

Klein: I don’t like the VIBES I’m getting here, Hawkman. I gotta GO... want to tag along?

Hawk: If I won’t be in the way.

Klein 2: You WON’T be--


1 (CUT TO: an ESTABLISHING SHOT of HIRAM’S house. There are several police cars and an ambulance outside the house, cops all over the place, some keeping the curious neighbors back.)

Cap: “-- And you might just LEARN something about us Earth folk...”

From house: ... ASSAULT, my rosy butt! This is as far past assault as you can get--

2 (INSIDE, in HIRAM’S kitchen, which is full of cops and detectives, including KLEIN and HAWKMAN, as well as a DOCTOR and two emergency medical technicians. The DOCTOR is helping the emergency techs load the battered HIRAM on a stretcher. Some detectives are searching the room for evidence, taking pictures. The table is overturned, the kitchen pretty savagely vandalized, everything smashed up... and the walls and other surfaces covered with spray-painted graphetti: swastikas over a Jewish star, anti-Semitic slogans. KLEIN is surveying the damage, seething with suppressed rage.)

Klein: -- This is TERRORISM, plain and simple.

Klein 2: Bastards!

Hawk: This isn’t just ANOTHER case to you, is it?

3 (The ambulance technicians are lifting up the stretcher with HIRAM on it in the foreground. Beyond this we see KLEIN turning to look at HAWK.)

Klein: You think? Maybe it’s got something to do with my being Jewish, huh?

Hawk: Maybe. But ANY decent man’s going to feel outrage at such a crime, regardless of religious affiliation.

4 (CLOSE-UP OF KLEIN, barely restraining his rage as he bites down on the filter of a cigarette he’s putting in his mouth.)

Klein: Maybe... or maybe not ENOUGH people get angry enough.

Klein 2: I don’t know... I suppose it’s better where you come from?

5 (CLOSE-UP OF HAWK, not looking all too happy himself, looking down, avoiding KLEIN’S eyes.)

Hawk: Uhhh... no...

Hawk 2: No. In some ways, Lt. Klein, it’s a whole lot WORSE...

Cap: “I didn’t tell him about the places BELOW on Thanagar--

6 (CUT TO: an ESTABLISHING SHOT of the park and the Survivor’s Memorial statue. It’s dawn and the park is empty... except for the winged figure of HAWK standing before the statue.)

Cap: “-- The places where living, sentient beings are DISPOSED of once they’ve served their purposes.

Cap 2: “Thanagar’s policy of conquest, domination, and enslavement of alien races.


1 (Move in on HAWK, standing before the statue, grimly looking up at it.)

Cap: “Thanagarians accept it.

Cap 2: “It allows them their lives of luxury and ease.

2 (CLOSE-UP of HAWK, his face shadowed, sad.)

Cap: “If they don’t think about it, they don’t have to DO anything about it.

Cap 2: “And if the price of their privilege is the suffering of a few alien inferiors--

3 (HAWK is walking away from the statue, towards a public telephone that’s conveniently located on the edge of the park.)

Cap: “-- So be it. It’s nothing I can understand or accept... MY race JUSTIFIES the destruction of DIFFERENT species...


Cap: “... While Earthmen destroy their OWN. People whose ONLY difference is the shading of their skin or the gods they worship.

Cap 2: “It’s beyond insanity. BOTH our systems... sheer insanity.

5 (HAWK is at the phonebooth, dailing a number.)

Cap: “How... WHY do they erect monuments to the VICTIMS, rather than the victors, or those who SAVED them from their fates?

Cap 2: “I wish to hell someone could EXPLAIN it to me...”

6 (HAWK on the phone.)

Hawk: Let me speak to Lt. Klein, please.... Hello, Lt. Klein... no, I was just wondering if you had heard about Mr. Wyznowski...

Hawk 2: He’s conscious? That’s good news... yes... yes, thank you, lieutenant. Good-bye.

7 (HAWK is hanging up the telephone, looking back over at the statue)

Cap: “I suppose I’ll just have to find someone to ASK.” -- From Katar Hol’s Personal Journal


1 (CUT TO: an ESTABLISHING SHOT of a CHICAGO neighborhood saloon... kind of like Bucket of Suds, in a residential neighborhood, the next day.)

From bar: ... It was WAY cool, man! Should’a seen how that old man went down. Learned him to lip off, eh, Wilks?

2nd from bar: That’s the TRUTH, man...

2 (INSIDE THE BAR: a real redneck joint, specializing in beers and shots and sports events on the TV set over the bar. Majorly working class. Seated in the back around several tables are WILKS, his buddies from before, and a half dozen other skinheads, all gathered around to hear the story of beating up the old man from WILKS’S own mouth. Bottles of beer litter the table tops, cigarette butts overflow ashtrays, and the bartender and couple other customers are keeping away from the boys in the back.)

Wilks: ... Figure every 40, 50 years, you gotta beat some RESPECT into ‘em. Learn ‘em RESPECT for their white, Christian BETTERS!

Thug: Right ON, man!

Thug B: Sheeny bastard knows who’s boss NOW!

Wilks 2: Yeah, the old man got the message--

3 (TIGHT ON WILKS, looking mean and tough as his buddies look on, hanging on his every word.)

Wilks: -- But what about the REST of ‘em? Man, hitting that old man really opened my eyes.

Wilks 2: I mean, we TALK about the problem, but what’d we DO about it?

4 (WILKS is snarling, holding up a fist in front of his face.)

Wilks: We been slackin’ off something FIERCE, guys!

Wilks 2: Well, no more, y’understand? We’re gettin’ ACTIVE, dig? We’re going HUNTING--


Cap: “-- To put the fear of the WHITE MAN’S GOD into Jew town!”

From hospital: ... Mr. Wyznowski? I hope I’m not disturbing you, sir.

6 (INSIDE THE HOSPITAL: KATAR is standing in the doorway of a private hospital room where old HIRAM is laying in the bed. He’s pretty badly beat up, his face a mass of bruises, one eye swollen closed, bandages on his head, his right arm in a cast. A uniformed COP is stationed outside the door in the hallway.)

Hiram: What else do I have to do? No, no, come right in, Mr....?

Katar: HOL, Mr. Wyznowski. Katar Hol.

Hiram 2: You’re with the police, Mr. Hall?

7 (KATAR is standing awkwardly by HIRAM’S bedside.)

Katar: In a manner of speaking. But I’m not investigating your attack... not exactly. You see, I was there with the police at your house last night...


1 (HIRAM is smiling, pointing the finger on his good hand at KATAR.)

Katar: They tried explaining it to me. The REASON for the attack, I mean. I’m not from here, and...

Hiram: SURE... I THOUGHT you looked familiar! You’re that HAWK fella from outer space, no?

2 (KATAR is sitting down on the edge of the bed, where HIRAM is patting the bed.)

Katar: Yes, sir. I suppose that’s why I can’t quite understand WHY things are as they are.

Hiram: Sit down, sit down.

Hiram 2: Oy. To ME you came for those answers?

3 (HIRAM is smiling gently, patting KATAR’S knee.)

Hiram: Let me tell you something, Mr. Hawk-person... I’ve lived with such hatred all my life, and I couldn’t BEGIN to tell you WHY it exists.

4 (CLOSE-UP of HIRAM’S battered, bandaged face.)

Hiram: Don’t look so glum. Look, who can say why somebody hates? In 1938, I was a young man in Poland and I didn’t hate ANYBODY.

Hiram 2: Then Hitler and his Nazis came in and, suddenly, because I was a Jew, I was no good!

5 (FLASHBACK PANEL: It’s the early-40s and we see young HIRAM, gaunt, half-starved, wearing a ragged striped concentration camp uniform, one of many working with picks and shovels on a road or digging a ditch. They are all under the hostile guard of Nazi soldiers. HIRAM is glaring up at the nearest Nazi as he works.)

Cap: “They locked us in ghettos. They starved us. They whittled away our number. They sent us to their hellish camps...

Cap 2: “... And they taught me how to HATE. Sure, who wouldn’t hate them for exterminating my family, friends... my race?

6 (FLASHBACK: Inside the barbed wire of the concentration camp, a sympathetic teenage German boy in a uniform too large for him is passing the only slightly older HIRAM a hunk of bread.)

Cap: “But even then, not everything was so black and white. In the heart of hell, I found the occasional act of KINDNESS.”