Saturday, July 23, 2022

The Late Great Alan Grant

Comic book writer Alan Grant, who worked on such features as Judge Dredd and Batman, died on July 20 2022 at the age of 73. He had been ill for some time.

Alan Grant was born on February 9 1949 in Bristol, England. He was only one year old when his family moved to Newtongrange, Midlothian, Scotland. He attended Newtongrange Primary School and Dalkeith High School. He worked at a bank for a short time before answering an ad for trainee journalists in the local newspaper.

Alan Grant became an editor at DC Thompson, the company that publishes The Beano, The Dandy, Commando, and other comic magazines. He later returned to college and worked a number of odd jobs before encountering fellow comics writer and DC Thompson veteran John Wagner. John Wagner was working for IPC on the launch of a new science fiction comics magazine 2000 AD. John Wagner asked Alan Grant to help him with a Tarzan comic.

John Wagner later asked Alan Grant to contribute work to IPC's short-lived science fiction comics magazine Starlord (not to be confused with the Marvel Comics character). This eventually led to Alan Grant obtaining an editorial position on 2000 AD. Alan Grant would later work with John Wagner on such features for 2000 AD  as Ace Trucking Co., Robo-Hunter, Strontium Dog, and Judge Dredd. In addition to 2000 AD, Alan Grant also wrote IPC's revival of Eagle. There he worked on such features as Doomlord, Joe Soap, The House of Daemon, and so on.

It was in the late Eighties that Alan Grant did his first work for DC Comics in the United States. With John Wagner he wrote the limited series Outcasts, published from October 1987 to September 1988. The two of them then began writing for the character Batman beginning with Detective Comics no. 583 (February 1988). They introduced such characters as The Ventriloquist and The Ratcatcher. It was after about twelve issues that the partnership between Alan Grant and John Wagner dissolved, after which Alan Grant wrote the character of Batman on his own. It was in 1989 that he introduced the character of Anarky in Detective Comics no. 608 (November 1989). In the Nineties Alan Grant continued to work on various Batman titles, as well as on such titles at DC Comics as Lobo, L.E.G.I.O.N., The Demon, and Catwoman, among others. It was in the pages of Batman: Shadow of the Bat that he introduced the villain Victor Szsasz and the character of Jeremiah Arkham.

While writing for DC Comics, Alan Grant continued to write for other companies. With John Wagner he wrote the four issue adventures series The Last American. Reportedly it was The Last American, along with the "Chopper" storyline in Judge Dredd, that led to the dissolution of the partnership between John Wagner and Alan Grant. The two divided the strips upon which they worked between them. John Wagner kept Judge Dredd and Alan grant kept Judge Anderson and Strontium Dog. They would later work together on some special projects, such as Judgement on Gotham, a Batman/Judge Dredd crossover. One of these projects was The Bogie Man, which was published independently after DC Comics refused it. He also worked on the British comic Toxic! and served as a consultant on Judge Dredd Magazine. For Toxic! he wrote such features as Makabre, Garbage Man,

Among Alan Grant's work beyond 2000 AD  and DC Comics were "Doctor Who: Invaders From Gantac" in Doctor Who Magazine issues no. 148 to 150; The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad for the British Marvel magazine Strip; The Bogie Man; Psychonauts (for Epic Comics); Jeremiah Harm(for Boom! Studios); LEGO Rock Raiders: High Adventure, Deep Underground; The Dead (Kingdom of Flies) for Berserker Comics; and Church of Hell for Berserker Comics.

Alan Grant and his wife Sue organized the annual Moniaive Comics Festival. In 2020 he helped his fellow residents of Moniaive, Dumfries and Galloway, produce a comic, Moniaive Fights Back, about life during the COVID-19 pandemic. All proceeds went to a financial recovery fund for the village, called Revitalise Moniaive.

Alan Grant was one of my favourite comic books writers of all time. He had a gift for staying loyal to well-established characters, such as Batman, while at the same time writing about them in ways that were starkly novel. His characters, whether they were ones he had created (such as Anarky or long-running characters like Batman or the Legion of Superheroes, were always four-dimensional with personalities all their own. Mr. Grant had a particular talent for often cynical satire, which was often on  display in his work on Judge Dredd.  He was well known for nurturing young talent and has even been credited with discovering Alan Moore. Alan Grant has had a lasting influence on both British and American comic books that will be continued to be felt for years to come. He was certainly a great talent.

Friday, July 22, 2022

"(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" by Elvis Costello

In some ways this July has felt more like January to me. Okay, the temperatures are hardly like January. It has been overly hot even for Missouri in July. Even so, having eulogized individuals on this blog for the past 18 years, it seems to me that January is the month when more people (at least celebrities) die than any other. This year might be the exception. I swear more people have died this July than usual. Most of my posts this month have been eulogies and I still have at leat two more to write. Today, I have decided to take a break and post something different.

It was 45 years ago today that Elvis Costello's debut album, My Aim is True, was released in the United Kingdom. The album would prove to be successful, going to no. 14 on the UK albums chart. It was also critically acclaimed and has since been come considered a classic. The Third single from My Aim is True is "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes." The song didn't chart in the United Kingdom or the United States, but it remains one of my favourite Elvis Costello songs. I love its Byrds-inspired sound and its subject matter is unusual

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Gregory Itzin Passes On

Gregory Itzin, who had regular or recurring roles on such TV shows as Murder One, 24, The Mentalist, and Covert Affairs, died on July 8 2022 at the age of 74. The cause was complications during an emergency surgery.

Gregory Itzin was born on April 20 1948 in Washington, DC. When he was in sixth grade his family moved to Burlington, Washington. He studied acting at he American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.

Gregory Itzlin made his television debut in an uncredited role as a White House Tour Guide in the miniseries Backstairs at the White House in 1979. That same year he guest starred on the TV shows Mork & Mindy and Charlie's Angels. He made his film debut in 1980 in Airplane!

In the Eighties Gregory Itzlin was a regular on the short-lived sitcom The Nutt House. He guest starred on the shows Fame, Lou Grant, American Playhouse, Voyagers!, Street Hawk, Falcon Crest, Santa Barbara, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Dallas, Tales from the Darkside, Hunter, Hill Street Blues, Hotel, The A-Team, Easy Street, MacGyver, St. Elsewhere, Outlaws, Max Headroom, Frank's Place, 21 Jump Street, A Year in the Life, Something is Out There, Knot's Landing, Jesse Hawkes, Murphy Brown, Anything But Love, Head of the Class, Coach, and Over My Dead Body. In the Eighties he appeared in the movies The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), Hard to Hold (1984), Teen Wolf (1985), The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), and Dad (1989).

In the Nineties Gregory Itzin had recurring and regular roles on the shows Eerie, Indiana; Something Wilder; Murder One; and Strip Mall. He guest starred on the shows Gabriel's Fire; Jake and the Fireman; Dark Justice; DEA; Night Court; FBI: The Untold Stories; Homefront; Davis Rules; Bodies of Evidence; Empty Nest; Civil Wars; Beverly Hills, 90120; Matlock; Major Dad; Shaky Ground; Quantum Leap; L.A. Law; Dave's World; Picket Fences; The Client; Strange Luck; Murder, She Wrote; ER; Chicago Hope; Arli$$; Diagnosis Murder; The Pretender; Millennium; JAG; Players; Suddenly Susan; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; The Closer; C-16: FBI; Any Day Now; Brother's Keeper; Caroline in the City; V.I.P.; Party of Five; Wasteland; Early Edition; It's Like You Know...; Family Law; Beggars and Choosers; Profiler; Bull; Star Trek: Voyager; and The Michael Richards Show.He appeared in the movies Young Goodman Brow(1993), Born to Be Wild (1995), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Fly Boy (1999), Making Contact (1999), What's Cooking? (1999), and Boy's Life 3 (2000).

In the Naughts Gregory Itzin starred as President Charles Logan on 24. He guest starred on the shows Wolf Lake, Philly, The West Wing, For the People, Firefly, NYPD Blue, NCIS, Without a Trace, The Lyon's Den, The Practice, Friends, Medical Investigation, The O.C., Crossing Jordan, Judging Amy, Star Trek: Enterprise, Boston Legal, Robot Chicken, Medium, and Hannah Montana. He appeared in the movies Evolution (2001), Original Sin (2001), Life or Something Like It (2002), Igby Goes Down (2002), Adaptation. (2002), I Know Who Killed Me (2007), Float (2008), Law Abiding Citizen (2009), The Job (2009), and Autopilot (2010).

In the Teens Gregory Itzin continued to appear on 24. He also had recurring or regular roles on the shows Big Love, The Mentalist, Covert Affairs, and Mob City. He guest starred on the TV shows Desperate Housewives, Once Upon a Time, Hawaii Five-0, Code Black, The Resident, and NCIS. He appeared in the mini-series Stay Filthy, Cali, and America 2.0. He appeared in the movies L.A., I Hate You (2011), The Change-Up (2011), The Ides of March (2011), Lincoln (2012), Small Time (2014), Sensitivity Training (2016), Ice: The Movie (2018), and Dark, Deadly & Dreadful (2018).

Gregory Itzin was a versatile actor who played everything from regular roles on TV show to guest roles that lasted only a few minutes. He played a variety of authority figures. In addition to President Logan on 24 and Senator Dwyer on Big Love, he was Mayor Winston Chisel on Eerie, Indiana; Magistrate Higgins in the Firefly episode "Jaynestown;" and District Attorney Garfield on Murder One. Whether the authority figures were corrupt (as President Logan on 24 was) or honest, he played all of them well. Of course, Gregory Itzin played a wide variety of other sorts of roles. In the Quantum Leap episode, "Memphis Melody: July 3, 1954," he played Sam Phillips, the founder and owner of Sun Records. In the Night Court episode "Where There's a Will, There's a Tony: Part 2," he was a mugger. He was a burn doctor in the ER episode "The Healers." Over the years Gregory Itzin played many roles. What is more he played them well.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Godspeeed Manny Charlton, Formerly of Nazareth

Manny Charlton, the former lead guitarist of Nazareth, died on July 5 2022 at the age of 80.

Manny Charlton was born on July 25 1941 in La Línea, Andalusia, Spain. He was only two when his family migrated to Dunfermline, Scotland. When he was young he played in such bands as The Mark 5 and The Red Hawks. In 1968 Manny Charlton joined the Dunfermline band The Shadettes. After the departure of various members reduced the band to a quartet, The Shadettes renamed themselves "Nazareth." The name was taken from the first line of "The Weight" by The Band, "I pulled into Nazareth, feelin’ ’bout half past dead."

Nazareth moved from Scotland to London in 1970. They signed to Pegasus Records and their eponymous debut album was released in 1971. Nazareth's first two albums failed to chart, but their third album, Razamanaz, peaked at no. 11 on the UK album chart and no. 157 on the Billboard album chart. Nazareth would have success with singles in the United Kingdom early in their career. Their single "Bad Bad Boy," from the album  album Razamanaz, went to no. 10 o the UK singles chart. Their cover of Joni Mitchell's "This Flight Tonight" peaked at no. 11

It was with their sixth album, Hair of the Dog, that Nazareth would have their biggest hit in the United States. The album went to no. 17 on the Billboard album chart. A single from the album, a cover of The Everly Brothers' "Love Hurts," went to no. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single performed even better elsewhere, going to no. 1 in Canada, South Africa, and the Netherlands.

Nazareth would never repeat the success of Hair of the Dog in the United States, but the band continued to be popular, releasing several more albums and continuing to tour. Manny Charlton remained with the band, both as its lead guitarist and as a producer on their albums starting with their fifth album Rampant.  He also served as a producer for several other artists, including fellow Nazareth member Dan McCafferty's solo work, Steelheart, Marseille, Vic Vergeat, and Guns 'n' Roses' debut album, Appetite for Destruction, among others.

Manny Charlton left Nazareth in 1990. In 1991 he moved to Texas where he formed The Manny Charlton Band. The band released two albums Stonkin and Klone This and disbanded in 2003. A new incarnation of The Manny Charlton Band released the album Hellacious in 2012. Manny Charlton released his first solo album, Drool, in 1999. He would release eight more solo albums. He also recorded albums  with From Behind (Game Over in 2006) and  The Fluffy Jackets (Fighting Demons in 2014 and Something for Nothing in 2019).

There can be no doubt that Manny Charlton was responsible for much of the success of Nazareth, both as a producer and as their lead guitarist. His lead guitar had the sound of the blues and certainly set Nazareth apart from other hard rock bands. Manny Charlton could make a guitar create any emotion he wanted. Indeed, despair is evident in Manny Charlton's guitar solo on "Love Hurts." Few guitarists had the skill that Manny Charlton displayed throughout his career.