Monday, December 29, 2008

AS LAST CONVERSATIONS GO...

As I've noted in other posts, my dad, Jim Vaughn, passed away on December 6, 2008.

The day before that, Friday, December 5, Billy Tucci's Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion was profiled by the Air Force Times and the other military newspapers in a feature article by Chris Lawson, Staff Writer. The article provided me the subject of the last lengthy conversation I would have with my dad, and it was a fun one.

My father was never much of a comic book guy. For the most part, he never really gave me any grief about collecting them, but he didn't really get why I was so into them either. He could much more readily relate to my brother Scott's military career (he was a former USAF guy himself), but this didn't really have any impact on our relationship that I ever detected. He was more interested in my brother and I as people than what we did for a living anyway.

Dad had been in the travel industry for most of his post Air Force working days, and I had an upbringing steeped in it. We traveled like people with money and saw the world. The travel was amazing, but he really wanted to make sure we understood the nuts and bolts of the business, too. He took a great deal of his identity from his work and wanted to share that with us.

That said, it wasn't that he never read comics. As a kid, in the days before antibiotics, Dad had Scarlet Fever. It kept him out of school and mostly in bed for a year when was about 10 or 11 (this is one of those moments when I'd love to just pick up the phone and ask him for some clarification...). During that time he read comics. Marvel Comics #1, Human Torch #1, some others that are now worth some serious money.

He remembered throwing them away.

Long before I witnessed the transaction in which the Pay Copy of Marvel #1 sold for $350,000 or wrote about many other record prices, he was busy helping create those record prices by shrinking the supply. Thinking about him tossing away those prizes made my head spin the first time I found out about it. Of course, that's why the things are so pricey these days to start with. So few copies survived.

That was about the limit of Dad's comic book exposure until I picked up the bug while I was sick with my first real go-around with heavy duty allergies at age 11. As I progressed as a collector, he would good naturedly listen to me, but none of it took. That's just how it was.

As I became a professional, first writing about comics and then writing them, he really only seemed to care about two things: Did I love what I was doing, and was I any good at it?

Even in his late 70s, my father never lost his curiosity. He read voraciously, including the online editions of many newspapers, particularly those from the UK. If he came across the obituary of someone from the entertainment world, I could count on a telephone quiz about them. If it was someone from the comic book world specifically, I would be expected to know even more (he was generally pleased with the results, I should point out).

After a week in which I talked to him just about every day and had enjoyable chats, that Friday morning I called him and told him to check his email. I had sent him the link to the Air Force Times story about Billy's Sgt. Rock. By this point he knew that I didn't have anything to do with the series other than really enjoying the tremendous effort Billy was putting forth for it, so he might have just skimmed the article. Instead, I told him to make sure he read all of it.

In the feature, Billy talked about his interaction with the real life members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the American-born Japanse who weren't allowed to serve in the Pacific Theater during World War II and ended up as the most decorated unit in Army history. It was something Dad had told me about many times growing up. He had been pleased when, through Billy, I met several of the gentlemen-heroes at the San Diego convention this past summer.

“It was the honor of my life to have lived, followed and been awed by these great men who dream not of conquest but of getting back home alive,” Billy was quoted as writing in Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion #1. “Master Sergeant Frank Rock, 300 Moore Ave., Pittsburgh, PA, is one such man. And within every ‘GI’ the world over, there is a Sergeant Rock.”

That was it! That was what I wanted my father to read. I knew he wouldn't read the comic, but here it was in an article...

Back when Billy was traveling all over Europe and researching the real-life elements of his story, he had asked during one of our regular phone calls where Sgt. Rock would be from.

After first suggesting "1060 West Addison, Chicago, Illinois," (Wriggley Field, a Blues Brothers movie reference), I suggested Pittsburgh, my home town. Billy asked what kind of address I could get there. I gave him 300 Moore Avenue.

That was my grandparents' house, the home my dad grew up in. It wasn't any big deal, but Dad knew that I never stopped trying to connect him to what I did for a living. We talked about it briefly as I filled in some more of the context for him. He didn't have to say a lot to let me know that he both genuinely appreciated the sentiment and the weird comic book enshrinement.

We talked a bit longer and then that conversation ended. I spoke with him again very briefly that night, but I had called to talk to my mom, so that was it.

As last conversations, it wasn't anything profound, but it was honest, real and heartfelt.

Then then next day he was gone.

There are so many things I could say about my father, his deep faith, his kindness, his stupid temper, his awful sense of humor (which he left me, by the way), his love of travel, his intense dislike of those who misused the language, his patriotic spirit, his love of aviation and disdain for most of the management and unions in the airline business today, and his tremendous capacity for laughter... but in this one single instance, for that one moment, he was a comic book guy.

And that remains a pretty sweet moment for me. Thanks, Pop.






Sunday, December 28, 2008

ZOMBE-PROOF: ZOMBIE ZOO

Zombie-Proof: Zombie Zoo is back in production. After a delay during which ace artist Vincent "Vinvent" Spencer provided the storyboards and more for the upcoming PBS series The Electric Company, we're already starting to crank up this one-shot follow-up to our three-issue mini-series Zombie-Proof. The one-shot will be published by Moonstone Books, the same great folks who released the original. We expect to offer a great litho, too.

We also have the short story "Zombie-Proof: Escape From Big D" almost completed, too.

Zombie-Proof: Zombie Zoo features guest art by Brendon and Brian Fraim, who are my partners on Antiques: The Comic Strip and on a new, soon-to-be-announced vampire project.

Stay tuned for more news!

REVIEW: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Rosina and I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tonight and thoroughly enjoyed it. Given what I think of Brad Pitt as a "star" (which isn't much), it might surprise some of my friends that I think he is, at times, a superb actor.

This is one of those times.

The film is brilliant, insightful, spiritual, and hits pretty hard at the human condition. It is intellectually provacative and leaves some hard questions for the audience.

It was beautifully photographed, excellently cast, well-written, very nicely directed and superbly acted. See it!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CHRISTMAS OBSERVATIONS

When folks talk about it being particularly sad to lose a loved one during the holidays, I've always understood it on an intellectual level. Now, of course, I understand it on a visceral level, but even if my dad hadn't passed away a couple weeks ago -- say it had been a few months back -- it would still be hard. It's my first Christmas without him, and regardless, Christmas was his birthday.

And plain and simple, it was going to be hard for me no matter when it happened.

That said, you can't believe what I believe about where he is and be downcast all of the time. It just doesn't work. My sadness is reserved for those of us missing him, not actually for him. He no longer needs a walker, and he's walking in truly superb company.

Again, thanks to all of my friends for listening to me during this time.

Photo: My dad, Jim Vaughn, in his USAF days.

GOOD REACTIONS TO BLUE BEETLE STORY

I've had some really nice reactions thus far to my story,
"Christmas With The Beetles," which is in the DC Universe Holiday Special 2008.

"'Christmas with the Beetles' tells a comparatively clever tale spanning the careers of all three Blue Beetles, as they come up against three generations of a family that has trouble walking the straight and narrow. It captures the heroes' different personalities and style, and offers hope that even the most pathetic can change their lives."
http://everything2.com

One of the posts in the Blue Beetle section of DC Comics' boards said, "The Blue Beetle story was good. They should have done something like this every 10 issues or so of Jaimes book. Kinda like the 'Times Past' stories of the Starman book." (Okay, that's pretty high praise in my book. I loved those issues of Starman.)

There have been some other nice posts, too, and even a few that took some digs at the book seemed to like the story. I normally don't worry about such things (I've ever done my work correctly or failed long before anyone sees it), but since it's my first DC work, I actually read some reviews. Never again, but at least they were enjoyable the one time I did read reviews!

BEAU SMITH IN THE NEWS. AGAIN.


My pal Beau Smith was profiled in his local newspaper in West Virginia. While the notion of West Virginia having newspapers may in and of itself be shocking to many of you, the idea that a newspaper would find Beau interesting enough to cover should come as absolutely no surprise at all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DC UNIVERSE HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2008

Okay, it’s here: my first DC Comics work!

My story, “Christmas With The Beetles” is featured in the DC Universe Holiday Special 2008 one-shot on sale Wednesday, December 17, 2008. The story is penciled by Lee Garbet (who did an awesome job), inked by Trevor Scott, colored by Pete Pantanzis and lettered by Travis Lanham (all of whom also rock, in my opinion).

It features all three Blue Beetles in their respective eras and was a blast to work on.

The rest of the issue has a lot of other Christmas- and holiday-themed tales written by Alan Burnett, Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar, Dan DiDio and others, with art by Rodolfo Migliari, Kevin Maguire, Ian Churchill, Tim Levins, Yishan Li and others. The cover is by Frank Quitely.

It was cool to work with Eddie Berganza and Adam Schlagman on this project, too, I should add. Good experience.

DC Comics, 80 pages
Color, $5.99 US

MY DAD

My dad, James F. Vaughn, passed away suddenly on Saturday, December 6, 2008.

He was a tremendous guy. How much better would this existence be if every kid got to grow up thinking that their father was the greatest guy in the world, and then, at the end, people came by and told them, “Yeah, you were right. He was pretty awesome.” That’s the experience my brother and I had.

We last got to be together in person a few months ago for my brother’s retirement ceremony after 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, but we talked on the phone nearly every day. Despite being slowed by injuries and ailments in the last few years, he never lost his sense of humor, his compassion, or his faith.

I’ll write more in a few days about this, I’m sure, but I want to thank my extended group of friends who been so kind during this time.

In the photo, from the right: Major Scott Vaughn, USAF (Ret.), my dad, my cousin Richard Earl Vaughn III, and me.

Friday, December 05, 2008

SUPERMAN in TCM's December '08 issue.... FREE!

The December 2008 issue of Toy Collector Magazine is, as always, simply packed with fun, insightful and timely information for collectors. This issue I had the honor of contributing the cover feature on Superman at 70. Can we really have had seven decades of the Man of Steel? Yep! Check it out!

Also on tap this time are still banks, plenty of auction results, Breygent’s Saucer Men (based on the 1957 science fiction epic Invasion of the Saucer-Men), a review of Hopalong Cassidy: An American Legend, Zig-Zag Trains, pre-World War I Tootsie Toy aircraft, and more.

Each issue of TCM is available free of charge. It can either be read online or downloaded as a print quality PDF.

SGT. ROCK: THE LOST BATTALION #2 Now On Sale
























Billy Tucci's second issue of Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion came out yesterday. He had a brief signing at Best Comics International in New Hyde Park, New York before heading right back to the the proverbial drawing board.

What's really cool is that the Army Times (and its sister publications for the other services) ran a short feature about the project. Great news.

Additionally, The Oklahoman's website, NewsOK.com, ran a nice feature on it, too.

For those pieces and a bit more, check out the article from today's Scoop.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

ARCHER & ARMSTRONG: FIRST IMPRESSIONS

While some of the original Valiant’s first hits were updated versions Gold Key characters such as Magnus, Turok, and Solar, others such as Harbinger were original creations. Out of their core eight titles, Archer & Armstrong was the seventh released and it was one of the most original. It was conceived as a buddy action-comedy that would confront some of the more common clich├ęs of the genre.

The first three issues (Archer & Armstrong #0-2) tied into the Unity event and were written by Jim Shooter.

After his tenure, artist Barry Windsor-Smith took over the scripting duties as well. The result, at least for the stories collected in this volume, is a really enjoyable romp with two distinctly different characters who are getting to know each other amid non-stop calamity.

Perhaps because of Windsor-Smith’s art style or perhaps simply because they did a better job, this is the best of hardcover collections from the new Valiant in terms of production. The colors are vibrant and consistent, and of course the stories stand up just fine.

In addition to an interview with him, the collection includes a new short story featuring the origin of The Sect (the group that was seemingly destined to plague Archer and Armstrong during the series’ original run) written by Shooter and illustrated by Sal Velluto. A highly enjoyable read and a must for anyone who wonders what all the fuss was about back in the day.

Archer & Armstrong: First Impressions
Valiant Entertainment
HC, $24.95

This article appeared in slightly different form in Scoop. Both reviews were written by yours truly.