Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Deja late. Also some nudity.

About fifteen years ago I was the chairman of the Society of Strip Illustration, which was, for a while, the nearest thing that comics in the UK had to a professional organisation. I had to write a monthly "Talk From a Chair" for the SSI newsletter, and in February 1988 I wrote a paragraph regretting the passing of artist Don Lawrence.

Several days later I got a phone call from the late Don Lawrence, pointing out that he strongly suspected that I'd meant the late artist Ron Embleton, who had just passed away. They were friends, and had similar styles, and I'd meant to type one of them, and had written the other one instead. He was very nice about it. So I wrote an apology for killing Don off early, and it gave us something to talk about when we finally met, somewhere in Europe, a decade later. He was funny, gracious, filled with anecdotes...

When I was a boy, Don painted a comic I loved. It was called The Trigan Empire -- two comics pages a week, in the otherwise comicsless and dryasdust children's magazine "Look And Learn", which even schools who banned comics allowed. It was the story of something a lot like an SF Roman Empire on a distant planet, and was gorgeous. (And has, I've just discovered, its own web page at The Trigan Empire was the most popular thing in Look and Learn, and when, after a decade, Don asked if he could have a royalty, he was simply sacked by IPC. So he went on to do "Storm", his own comic.

He died on December 29th. You can see a photograph and a webpage here. And here's a page about Ron Embleton -- which I should warn you contains a smidge of nudity, of the Oh Wicked Wanda persuasion.


An interesting e-mail came in from the very cool Janis Ian...

On January 2, 2004, we'll start a project called "The Making of a CD". Yeah, I know, not that interesting to most. But... for six weeks, we'll follow my new studio album from start to finish. There'll be images of the complete drafts of four songs from my lyric notebooks; audio versions of the songs from their earliest inception (just a bad guitar and vocal) through the finished song, the first studio take, the final take, and the rough and final mixes. A real-time timeline, weekly diaries, scads of photos, glossary of terms, budget items and the thinking behind them. Audio of me talking about each song, the players, and the album. In other words, a real, honest look at what goes into this sort of project. Everything - audio tracks, drafts, photos - will be downloadable to your hard drive.

Week five will feature Dolly Parton, who sings a duet with me on a song I wrote called "My Tennessee Hills". You'll be able to hear audio tracks of us working on it in the studio, going over the arrangement, trying to get it right. Once we hit week six, the album will be available through the website for pre-purchase two weeks before general release.

We're also auctioning items for The Pearl Foundation on Ebay over those weeks; early CD's of all the different song choices (including those that didn't make it), CD's of rough mixes, session charts signed by Dolly and the others, and some high-end jewelry.

So if you know anyone interested in songwriting, or recording, or just being an artist, please pass this along and invite them to tune in!

And that's at, currently with its own very seasonal flavour.


FYI, I just called the Fitzgerald Theater to get tickets for the Talking Volumes talk, and the phone fellow told me that contrary to what your website and the mpr website say, the event is on Feb. 8, and not Feb. 15. Hope that there is not some mixup that would prevent the event from occurring . . .

According to the MPR people it's definitely on the 15th, and they're trying to figure out why people would think otherwise...

Hi Neil,

At the Minnesota Public Radio's Talking Volumes event will there be any kind of reading or signing?

By the way, I reccently picked up the Telling Stories CD before I did a few hours of holiday traveling. I normally dislike holiday traveling due to weather, everybody and their Aunt Judy on the road, all of them trying to stop me from getting to where I'm going, but I was pleasantly suprised to find the time flew by as my wife and I listened to you tell your stories. By the time it was over, I was less than 30 minutes from my destination! You took away the part of the holidays I dislike most. Thank you! The liner notes say you recorded enough material for more CD's. Any word on when we'll get them?

I'm pretty sure there will be both a reading and, afterwards, a signing.

The me-telling-stories CD that comes after Telling Tales is pretty much finished, although I have to write the liner notes and come up with a title for it. Adam Stemple did the music, and Michael Zulli painted a gorgeous cover. I'm sure it'll be out by late spring -- keep an eye on DreamHaven's site for information.


and a helpful clarification on that mysterious article...

> Either that, or it was reporting the news from an
> alternate universe...

The correction notice is actually a sidebar to a larger article about the history of the 1903 report. (There's a link at the bottom of the page: "The scoop of the century".)

The short version is that they got a few key facts by telegram, and just invented the rest of it because they had a deadline to meet and the more detailed report wouldn't arrive in time.

I thought it was something like that, but missed the link...


And today's important art news is in the Daily Telegraph: A US court yesterday upheld an artist's right to take nude photos of Barbie dolls being menaced with kitchen appliances, despite objections from toymaker Mattel.

We also learn that Mattel said that the case should go to a jury, because it had shown the photos to some shopping mall customers who had mixed opinions on whether they were parodies of Barbie. But the court said parody was a legal question that judges must decide.

("Excuse me, ma'am. This photograph..."

"The naked Barbie with messy hair being sexually menaced by a handblender?"

"That's the one. I wonder, do you think this is an official Mattel Barbie photograph, or a parody."

"Uh... isn't that a legal question that a judge should decide?"

"No, dammit. We've spent thousands of dollars buying these prints from some guy in Utah, and we're going to protect the good name of America's most beloved doll if it kills us. Now, here we have four Barbies covered in salsa in an oven. Do you think that sends the right message to America's youth?")

Half the $3,700 profit that Mr Forsythe made from the series of photos came from Mattel's own investigators, who bought up copies for the court case. Mattel originally sued in 1999. The court also ruled that Mattel should pay the $1.6m it cost Mr Forsythe to mount a defence. Good. There weren't any photos at the Telegraph site, but, for the curious...