Cartoonist’s Spinal Arthritis Battle

I’ve been struggling with my health and am undergoing a two part surgery to cauterize nerves in my neck to hopefully buy me up to a year of pain relief. The pain makes it difficult to sleep and at times, difficult to function in a variety of ways that I used to take for granted. This is also creating enormous stress for both myself and Leanne.

Coupled with the furlough’s effects on our income (we won’t get it back as Leanne is a government contractor, not a federal employee), our side projects like the Star Wars parody webcomic Blue Milk Special will not be a priority for the foreseeable future. If you’d like to help us out your words of support always mean so much to us. If you would like to purchase a Blue Milk Special logo T-shirt, or simply make a direct contribution to our GoFundMe it would be of huge benefit to us right now. Writer and cartoonist fights back GoFundMe campaign.

A special thank you to New England 501st Legion members Adam Joyce (Darth Vader) and Tony Paravano (the Emperor) for life imitating art. In this case, our classic BMS strip featuring Vader’s Sith Training with the Emperor on his back.

Sith Training - Blue Milk Special

Sith Training live action

Lou Scheimer, a visionary!

Lou Scheimer has passed away. Scheimer is an unsung hero of American entertainment and animation. So often, people like Walt Disney steal that limelight, but Scheimer helped keep American animation alive through the 70s and 80s while other production companies turned to cheaper overseas studios. Scheimer had an imagination, a talent with voices, and the ability to lead and feed a team of dreamers and artists. Five years ago, I interviewed Lou over the phone several times for a book I was working on. Lou was warm, gracious and full of stories. I know he had been struggling with his health for some time. By strange coincidence, I have been re-watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and realizing that the man behind one of the most prominent voices in that show is now gone, a man so kind to me, is hard to take. He will be remembered by all fans of American animation as a visionary!

Enemy of the World is one of Troughton’s Best!

Doctor Who Enemy of the World art

On October 11, 2013, the BBC announced that 11 episodes of Doctor Who, 9 of those missing from the archives for over 45 years, had been returned, restored and made available over iTunes. Discoveries of missing episodes are rare, and there are still 97 missing from the Black & White era of the classic sci-fi show. However, I’d like to say that contrary to popular opinion, I think the better of the two stories returned is Enemy of the World and not Web of Fear. While both stories give us an ascendant 2nd Doctor at the height of his powers, it’s Enemy that is worse for wear. Enemy showcases Patrick Troughton’s range, gives an entertaining adventure / suspense story, with quality acting and plenty of twists and turns.

Doctor Who Web of Fear cover

The story also gives us VERY strong female roles, in the form of Mary Peach as the female James Bond of the piece Astrid Ferrier. Astrid is easily a sex symbol, not only for her fashionable beehive and leather / PVC outfit, but the way in which she is never treated like a powerless victim. Instead, she is an emancipated heroine who retains her feminine qualities. She is a great model for future companions and would have made a great replacement for the terrified and out-of-her-league screamer, Victoria. Unusually for the period, a black actress is given a prominent role in the form of Carmen Munroe as the jaded and vengeful food taster, Fariah. She is one of the stars of the story, with her dialogue and performance hinting at her exploitation at Salamander’s hands. Both characters are delightfully interesting and real, but thankfully are not alone among this serial’s selling points.

Web of Fear follows on directly from this story, and while Troughton is excellent, along with Colonel Lethbridge Stewart and the action packed battle in episode 4, Web flops about a bit with padding, irritating cultural stereotypes and hammy possession acting toward the end. Nevertheless, later in the series, Troughton began playing the role more for humor and became a little predictable and less inspiring, so I’m therefore very pleased to have two of his best stories available again to the masses!

Enemy of the World is the underrated gem here, and I hope now that it’s fully available, more people will revise their opinion of the serial and place it among this era’s very best. Leanne and I were both surprised how much more we enjoyed it and how well it held up to our previous viewing.

Doctor Who Web of Fear cover

We have watched the entire classic series together, from start to finish — including fan made recons. Over the years, several of the stories perceived to be classics have lost some of their shine after viewing them more objectively. Fury from the Deep for example, is a solid story, with plenty of little moments, but it is not as exciting as some of the others. Frequently I see Web of Fear top the charts ahead of Evil of the Daleks on people’s lists, yet in recent years I’ve come to appreciate Evil of the Daleks far more. Here we see Jamie and the Doctor’s relationship at its most engaging, and Victoria is where she belongs — a guest character. And for the record, Web of Fear episode 4 was at the top of my list of episodes I wanted to see returned because of the action segment involving Lethbridge-Stewart and the Yeti in London. Having been a fan for going on 30 years of my life now, I am still blown away by the fact we have just received a windfall of missing episodes to enjoy like fresh new stories. I got chills watching them live once again. But on our previous viewing we also noted how good Enemy of the World appeared to be, and the recovery of the episodes has confirmed and reinforced that. In my opinion, Web, the story most revered, while riveting, can never sit comfortably on the pedestal upon which many fans have placed it. Power, Evil and Enemy are just too good for it be there alone.

The BBC Shop will be releasing two commemorative t-shirts in November with original artwork for both stories. These are available to pre-order now. The more money the BBC makes out of these recovered episodes, the better treatment for possible future releases. I know I’ll be getting one.

Here’s hoping my personal favorite, Marco Polo is in the works…

America’s Cup thoughts: New Zealand’s Youngest Sibling Syndrome

America's Cup 2013

Other than the unspoiled, dramatic landscapes, there are two things New Zealand is known globally for. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and the All Blacks international rugby team. They put NZ on the map. Made people aware that, metaphorically, there’s a quite handsome kid standing in the shadow of Australia. But a good deal of NZers seem to think there is a third: the America’s Cup. And they are wrong.

Most people over here in the USA don’t know what the America’s Cup is. In the last month, it seems practically the whole of New Zealand have suddenly become huge sailing fans again, so long as it looked like we would win the America’s Cup yacht race over the last couple of weeks. The fact is that when Emirates New Zealand lost to Oracle Team USA the other day, it was the first time it even got any air time on the radio over here, and that is simply because of the amazing comeback which is impressive from a historical sporting point of view. Outside of San Francisco, the America’s Cup is almost completely unknown.

My mother called me from NZ last weekend. She told me that while she was shopping at a department store, the music was interrupted by an in-store announcement that Team New Zealand had won the latest race. A cheer went up throughout the store. New Zealand is obsessed. But why?

It’s a sport for yuppy yachting circles. The NZ government had to pitch in to just compete with the American sponsors of Team USA. Although Emirates played a financial part too. It’s not a particularly noble or heroic stage to gush with national pride over. The perception that NZers seem to have of this being a prestigious event that shines a global spotlight on NZ is really misplaced. Perhaps, my being outside of NZ for so long has helped me see that. But what pisses me off is the attention this fair weather fandom takes away from other, more deserving things. It sucks the air out of the room.

Our boys, the All Blacks, are over in Argentina for this weekend’s clash, and South Africa a week later. In Argentina we build NZ and rugby as a brand, and continue to build on worldwide audiences who tune in to watch the cream of the rugby crop. These guys represent NZ on a global scale and carry the brand of NZ on their backs, and have been doing so since 1903. Rugby is a global sport and the All Blacks are NZ’s ambassadors. Working men, whose blood, sweat and sacrifice both on the field of play and the field of battle in World War I, should command more respect and admiration than a yuppie yacht race ever can.

I get that yachting is another area of expertise to be proud of, but the America’s Cup is elitist, no matter how much you try to play up the “little man” aspect of Team New Zealand. Money was spent on both sides. Lots of money.

NZ crew members were counted among both Team USA and NZ, so perhaps the patriotic nod is in name only. NZ’s maritime engineering, essential to the design of both yachts, has won big, and that’s all that really matters. Part of me is glad NZ lost so that all this hype and expectation can get a reality check back home. I think this groundswell of bandwagoneering is really shortsighted. NZ needs to stop craving attention like the kid waving his hand at the back of the crowd and realize that some battles don’t earn the accolades they believe.

Baltimore Sun Darkroom interview

baltimore-sun-rod-and-leanne-hannah

Baltimore Comic Con 2013 was our most successful show to date. Although we weren’t pushing Once Upon a Caper, when I did get talking to attendees about the comic almost all that I spoke to were very interested and asked to buy a copy. Almost a sell out with no real promotion! The encouragement that experiences like this bring is heartening and lets both Leanne and myself leave the show inspired and eager to get back to work.

I was interviewed by the Baltimore Sun’s Darkroom contributor, Carrie Wood. You can read the interview and see a couple of photos of ourselves, the table and our fellow creators in the Baltimore region.