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Good News, Bad News

Bad news first:
My friend Pat DiNizio has passed away at age 62. Pat was the lead singer and writer for the New Jersey band The Smithereens.

Pat called me out of the blue one day to offer me a job — but more importantly to chat about all of the things we both loved. Pat and I connected on so many levels; our love of classic monsters, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, EC comics, pop music of the mid to late 1960s and the general popular culture of that time period — which is kinda funny, since Pat was six years younger than me. A lot of what we said to each other could be considered a kind of shorthand, as we had shared so many interests we didn’t have to explain the context of what we were talking about.

Like me, Pat loved his fans. He came up with what I consider one of the coolest ideas for tightening that fan connection. When The Smithereens toured, Pat would contact key fans with this offer: While The Smithereens were in town, for a small fee fans could hire Pat (and often other members of The Smithereens) to come to their homes to give a very personal acoustic concert in their living rooms. Fans pooled resources to make this happen in each city. What a brilliant idea!

Pat hired me to create two Smithereens CD covers. My first was for an entire CD of songs from The Who’s Tommy (the band had previously — and quite successfully — recorded their version of the entire Meet The Beatles LP). I created both the front and back covers of this CD:

The second was a take-off on the movie poster for 12 Angry Men (I think it was going to be titled 4 Angry Smithereens).
The original image:

My take-off:

That’s Pat, far left.

To Pat’s enormous disappointment, the rest of the band rejected this cover. Always the gentleman, Pat personally paid me out of his own pocket for the work I had done.

Now there’s a hole in my heart, and its name is Pat. Rest in peace, my kindred soul brother….and rock on.

I would ordinarily save the good news for another day, but my L. A. friends, fans and family might be pissed if they missed a chance to pick up today’s Sunday Los Angeles Times.

The lead Section One front page story today is “Bones to Pick – Archaeology as blood sport: How the discovery of an ancient mastodon near San Diego ignited a debate over humans’ arrival in North America”.

I’ve known about this discovery for years but had been sworn to secrecy until the public announcement. The gist of the story is this: During a road-widening project in San Diego County, parts of a mastodon skeleton was uncovered. This is rare but not truly unusual. What was special about this find was that indications of early humans were discovered in the site, pushing back the appearance of humans in North America by over 130,000 years! I was sworn to secrecy because this discovery was so extraordinary that it was certain to ignite a huge debate among the archaeological and early man scientists. The scientists studying this find wanted to make sure they were on solid ground, as they knew they would be savagely attacked if every “i” and “t” had not been dotted and crossed. They were brutally attacked anyway, of course…there’s a lot of scientific turf and reputations at stake here.

So, I was pleased to read this thoroughly engaging article. I was totally blown away, however, when I turned from page A1 to page A8 (the second page of the three-page story) to find a huge full color reproduction of one of the Pleistocene murals I had painted for the San Diego Natural History Museum! And fully credited (Thanks, SDNHM!).

Merry Christmas, indeed!

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I’m looking forward to seeing all of my friends and fans out at the Bakersfield Comic Con this Saturday (10:00 AM – 6:00 PM) and Sunday (10:00 AM – 5:00 PM). I’ll be there all day Saturday and for the first half of Sunday.

It’s at the Kern County Fair and Events Center, Buildings 3 and 4. It will be my last 2017 public appearance.

Let’s get together and have a great time!

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Hugh Hefner 1926-2017

I worked briefly for Playboy in 1972 (on Little Annie Fanny with Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder) and occasionally visited the Playboy Mansion with Harvey in the ensuing years. I met Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion.

The supposedly sexist Hef (he insisted everyone call him “Hef”) primarily staffed his magazine with bright women, giving them opportunities and responsibilities in the publishing business that were very difficult for women to achieve back then. I saw Hef donate generously, often and early to feminist charities. Hef may have been sexist. If so, he was the most complex sexist I ever met.

Despite what his critics have said, Hefner never denied that females can be sexual their entire lives. One (but just one) of the the key focuses of Playboy in regards to women was on beauty, an ephemeral quality that greatly adds to its very preciousness. I personally find women beautiful at all ages (my beautiful wife is 70) but there is no denying the special attractive qualities of youth, both female and male. They have been celebrated by artists almost since the creation of art began. The cosmetics industry thrives on this quest for youthful beauty.

I was never fond of Hef (I only met him once) but I admired aspects of him from a distance. I had strong issues with the way he manipulated Harvey. I was fascinated, though, by what he had achieved and how he had achieved it and, especially, I admired his honesty and frankness in regards to himself. In service of the truth, he often publicly painted (or allowed to be painted) a seriously honest, unflattering picture of himself (see the Hefner chapter in Gay Talese’s book Thy Neighbor’s Wife; he comes across as pretty pathetic).

Kurtzman told me he loved to bring my wife and I to the Playboy Mansion because he found it boring on his own. What was the Playboy Mansion like? To me, the Mansion was kind of theme parky. I found it fun to swim naked with Harvey and my wife in the infamous Grotto. I was very surprised by the quality of the paintings hanging on the Mansion’s walls. I was expecting Leroy Neiman — not Salvador Dali. The aquarium/zoo was fascinating to me, as I love observing exotic creatures. I realized that this zoo was just a Hefner purchase, though, when I asked him some specifics and discovered he knew almost nothing about the creatures he owned. Did I see movie stars? Yup. I was pretty immune to the charms of celebrity by then, having worked in the film business. I did get an early glimpse of what we now know as the real Bill Cosby back then. Harvey was well aware of Cosby’s sexual proclivities and despised Cosby for his acts, attitudes and hypocrisy. I made a disappointing mental note, then forgot about it until the recent scandals surfaced.

Hef and I shared a deep passion for music. I love the blues; he loved jazz. There are lot of cross-overs between the two musical genres. I sent him a copy of my book Legends of the Blues and received a nice hand-written note of appreciative thanks from Hef in return.

Many reporters have written snarky Hefner post-death columns with extreme tunnel vision, skewing it solely to paint Hefner with one brush using a single color: He was a sexist. Now that Hefner has passed, apparently they feel it is safe to denigrate his memory which, to me, seems a bit cowardly. A little more research on their part would have revealed sides of him that many who never knew or met Hef might have admired.

In the future, I hope that journalists will look a little harder for the truth and all of its facets. That is what the public needs (now more than ever) from journalism today.

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Contdown to Comic Con #4

Here’s a Barsoomian princess and her pet banth that I whipped up the other day.

BTW, nice opening reception last night at Copro Nason Gallery‘s Tribute to Heavy Metal show in Santa Monica. A lot of good stuff on display and for sale. I’ve got two pieces in the show. One is the splash page for my Arzak collaboration with Moebius, which ran in the 20th anniversary Heavy Metal special issue. The other is an Arzak illustration I drew and finished from a quick sketch drawn by Jean during our last time together — our final collaboration. I thought you might like to see them both:

The exhibition is up for about three weeks. The pieces are available to view and purchase online.

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Countdown to Comic Con

I’ve been working like a little beaver in preparing for Comic Con. Let me know what you think of these; I’ll be posting one a day.

This one features Bud Abbott and Lou Costello with the monsters they met in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man and Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff. That’s the castle from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein looming in the background. “Oh, Chick!”


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Stoutzilla For Sale

Here’s a new piece that I intend to bring to Comic Con International. I know, though, that a lot of my fans can’t make it, so I’m offering this piece (titled “Rising Sun” — or “Rising Son”) in advance to them (or you).

The board size is 15″ x 17″; the image size is 10″ x 13.5″. It’s pen & ink on extra heavy cold press illustration board.

The price is $1250, unframed. There’s sales tax if you’re in California. I’ll pay domestic shipping; international purchases pay for the shipping to their country. I can personalize it if you like (unique birthday gift?).

If interested, contact me at