Mike: And I'm like, whatever, while you're dead.
Jessika: To me now, right? You had your chance.
Mike: Hello. Welcome to Ten Cent Takes, the Pod podcast, where we celebrate Spooky season whenever we damn well feel like it. Thank you very much. One issue at a time. My name is Mike Thompson, and as always, I am joined by my co host, the Nefarious Night Flyer herself, jessica Frazier Koka.
Mike: That wasn't nearly nefarious enough. Oh, uh, man. How are you surviving the heat wave that we're going through right now?
Jessika: Just going to say we're in the middle of a heat wave. I am currently looking at my AC unit with Forlornly. It's just such for Lauren. Yeah. Um, I would love for it to be on, but alas, the listeners, I'm doing this for you.
Mike: Yeah. For those who are not aware, california is currently in the midst of a record breaking heat wave, where apparently it was, I think, up to 120 degrees somewhere over in the East Bay today, I think. I don't know. It was 109 at my house today.
Jessika: I went to the city yesterday, which that's historically very cool, but it was still really hot. Just gross.
Mike: Yeah, I was out at Chrissy Field on Sunday and it was m terrible. It was this crush of people without masks, and, I mean, it wasn't even that bad. It was like, around 80 degrees, but I was like, done. I was just like, this is hot.
Mike: I used to live in Arizona, in Sacramento, and now I have become a soft boy. I'm so soft. I tried to take Iggy for a walk at 08:00 A.m. This morning, and it was 80 degrees, and I was like, this is gross. I hate it.
Jessika: My dog can go in the yard. If he wants to go in the yard. He's not getting a walk.
Mike: Well, if you are new to the show, the purpose of this podcast is to look at comic books in ways that are both fun and informative. We like to check out their coolest and weirdest and silliest moments, as well as take a look at how they are woven into the larger fabric of pop culture and history. And if you are enjoying the show so far and you want to help us grow, it's always appreciated if you rate or review us on Apple podcasts, pod Chaser, or Good Pods. That always really helps with Discoverability. You can always tell your friends, too, or folks at your local comic shop about us. That can't hurt either. And then, friendly reminder, we have pulled our content off of Spotify, given how the platform continues to actively promote voices spreading vaccine disinformation, which, as we have noted, is one of the worst kinds of disinformation.
Jessika: It's also gross. Don't do it.
Mike: Yeah, please don't. It's kind of funny that we're assuming that we have any fans who are anywhere on that end of the spectrum, but who knows? Maybe you found us by accident. And we're just telling you that this is not the podcast.
Jessika: Rio, maybe you found us by severe accident.
Mike: I don't know. Every now and then we get a bunch of downloads from Texas and it makes me real nervous.
Jessika: I know. I'm like, you know we're queer and feminist, right?
Mike: The one that always made me really nervous was right after we did our Chuck Norris episode and there was this huge spike from Texas of people downloading that episode. And I was real nervous about getting review bombed.
Jessika: Yeah. What's this going to look like?
Mike: I was like, sorry, I shit all over sent by there. But anyway, today we are looking at bats, Cats and Cadillacs, a short lived dark fantasy comedy series from the early 1990s. But before we do that, Jessica, what is one cool thing that you have read or watched lately?
Jessika: Well, I started watching the Sandman series.
Mike: Nice. We still haven't watched it.
Jessika: Uh, well, I'm seven episodes in and um, I'm really enjoying it so far. I like the casting choices they made, including mhm. They did some gender swapping. They did some increased diversity kind of situations, which I was happy with all of the choices that they made with the casting so far.
Mike: Yeah, I mean, it looks great. It's just the problem is that when we've had free time to ourselves to watch TV, a lot of times we're working on other stuff and we're like, that's a show we want to pay attention to. And so we just haven't really turned it on yet. We've been kind of going through all the bingeworthy stuff that we can have and have on and sort of just half pay attention to. Yeah, enough people have been asking us about it and saying how much they want to talk with us about it that I think we're going to have to actually suck it up and um, binge another TV show on Netflix. Oh, no. Uh, out of curiosity, how do you feel it compares to the comics?
Jessika: I think it's following the story pretty closely. Actually. That was one of the points that I was most interested to see. But I feel like it's following the stream of the actual comics really, really closely.
Mike: Okay. M, does it get to any of the problematic stuff that we found when we were reading the books?
Jessika: Oh, yeah.
Mike: Like, so does it make it better? Does it kind of mitigate it a little bit?
Jessika: There's some mitigating so far.
Jessika: There have been some little changes. Honestly, I will be going back and doing a second watch because I do like to kind of absorb things and then go through a second time if I'm really trying to get a lot out of them. So I'll probably do a second watch. But uh, so far it's good. Again, um, I'm not quite through all the way. So I think some of the more problematic stuff is more on the back end.
Jessika: All right. But what about you?
Mike: So I just read Bucket, which is a collected volume of the series from, um, Boombox, which is one of the imprints under Boom Entertainment. I always really enjoy stuff from Boom. They're the publisher that's been doing things like Something is Killing the Children and The House of Slaughter, and Once In Future, which Lance from comic Bookkeepers has been on and he has talked about how much he loves it. And I love it, too. It's great. But Boom Box is their kind of sub imprint that was designed for comics that they labeled as experimental or Gleeful. And a lot of the stuff that comes out of there is marketed towards kids as well as adults. So Buckhead's first volume just came out a couple of weeks ago from where this episode is airing on September 7. And it's written by Showbo Koker. Illustrated by George Cambadece and lettered by Jim Campbell. And the comic is this Afro futurist series about an African immigrant family that's relocated to the small town in America called Buckhead. And basically, the main character is this kid named Toba who starts noticing all these weird, mysterious things around the town. Like, there's this spooky house on the way to his school that other people can't see. And a lot of the town's inhabitants have these weird circuitry patterns on their necks, but then they have this bizarre explanation like they're birthmarks, but they're clearly not. And all of these mysteries seem to keep coming back to Toba's family, particularly the work that his dad was doing before he recently vanished without a trace. So I don't want to spoil this comic too much, but I will say it's really good and it's really fun. Something that I've noticed a lot of the time is that when any type of media features a younger character, those younger characters are not especially well written. But that's not the case in this book. And, uh, coker's writing does a really nice job of spinning out the world and the conspiracies it contains. And then the Afro futurist spin makes the overall story feel, like, really fresh and interesting. It's an element that we don't get to see a lot, but, I mean, it's an element that I really enjoy seeing when it's used. And likewise, Cambidias work is really good. I kept on comparing it to Machine teen and thinking about how much more dynamic this comic feels based on the choices, the colors, the camera angles, and the overall character design. So if you're looking for something that's kind of got a lot of appeal for both kids and adults, I think you would do pretty well to pick this up.
Jessika: That sounds really cool.
Mike: Yeah, it's something that I really enjoyed. And, uh, I'm really glad that Boom sent us a review copy to check out.
Jessika: Totally. Yeah. That's awesome.
Mike: All right, so shall we move on to the main topic of our episode, meow. Okay. Bats, Cats, and Cadillacs is a two issue series that was published in late 1990 by Now Comics. And you have to understand that it's now in all caps. So I just had to make sure I got that across. But I emphasize the all caps. So now was started in 1985 by this guy named Tony C. Caputo. And it sounds like the kind of American Dream story that our generation was raised with. Basically started out as a one man company, and then four years later, it had almost 100 people working for it. Wikipedia notes that this is both full time and freelance, so I'm not sure how many full time employees they actually had, but that's a substantial workforce. They also published almost 1000 comics during the imprint's lifetime. So Now Comics primarily produced licensed books, but, uh, they were pretty big brands for the era. They published the first comics based on properties like Terminator, Ghostbusters, specifically the Real Ghostbusters Cartoon, and what looks like the first ongoing Green Hornet series. There were a couple of other comics with the Green Hornet, but this looks like it was the first, like, dedicated series that had more than three or four issues. They, uh, also did stuff like The Twilight Zone, speed Racer, Married with Children, Frightened, and Mr. T and the T Four, which I know you want to COVID at some point on the show.
Mike: After you saw the gem that I picked up.
Jessika: Oh, I'm uh, so excited.
Mike: Yeah. So if you don't know what we're talking about, I came across a special variant cover of Mr. T and the T Force that comes in its own vinyl folder. And it's got a 24 carat gold embossed trading card along with a gold edition of the comic book that is signed by Mr. T. It's amazing.
Jessika: Shaking my head. It's the funniest thing. Mr. T, if you want to get involved in this, uh, episode, just go ahead and, uh, hit us up.
Mike: Oh man, what a home run that would be, right? That might be one of the situations where I'd be like, I think we need to fly out and do this interview in person.
Jessika: That'd be right. Where are we renting a studio?
Mike: Right. Uh, m we'll fly. Mr. Tia, you can come hang out on my back patio. We can all do a group recording, hang out with the dogs. It'd be great.
Jessika: Uh, that sounds even better.
Mike: Right? Okay. So Caputo eventually rebranded the company as Caputo Publishing, Inc. And it looks like CPI was kind of the corporate umbrella with various subsidiaries underneath it that managed different media types. So there was now comics and then there was also now video, which apparently put out Speed Racer VHS tapes. I'm not sure if they did anything else because it wasn't really mentioned in any of the stuff that I checked out.
Jessika: Okay. Random.
Mike: Yeah, I mean, it sounds like they were really good with their licensing agreements, too, because now Comics was doing well enough that it took the number three market share in the comics market, according to Wikipedia. Again. So Granite, Salt and then also CPI also created cross promotional ventures like the Real Ghostbuster cereal, which they did with Ralston Purina and then Slimer's Ecto cooler high sea drink with Coca Cola. Thanks, Toddy Caputo, for this cornerstone of my childhood.
Jessika: I remember that, though. I do.
Mike: Yeah, I remember both of those things. Honestly, it feels like this was kind of a more successful version of Aero Comics, the publisher that did The Realm, which is the comic we talked about in our first Dungeons and Dragons episode a few months ago. Because this was a case of a company that managed to have that flash in the pants success and then kind of harness it for a while, at least. And they were a legit organization as opposed to this kind of fly by the seat of our pants company by a couple of friends. And now that we got that out of the way, let's talk about bats, cats and Cadillacs. This was a comic that I found the first issue of in a Dollar Bid. And I snagged it because the COVID art was just really interesting. So the first issues cover was drawn by this guy named John K. Snyder the Third, who at the time that he did this cover, he had just been nominated for an Eisner Award in 1989. But the COVID itself has this very dynamic style. It looks almost like it was done with pastels. Yeah, I don't know quite how to describe it, but it doesn't look like anything that I've seen on a comic cover before.
Jessika: Yeah, um, it's really smooth.
Mike: It feels very kind of like illustrative graphic design. And I'm extremely here for it. It's a lot of fun. And then when you read the comic, you can see everything, like all the different elements of the characters that they put into it. It's really cool. And then the second issue is cover art is also really cool. And that was done by Lennondel soul. And the series itself was written by Diana Pyrene. It was penciled by Hannibal King. It was inked by Mike Gustovich, colored by Holly San Felipo, kelly Kinsey and Suzanne Detchnick. It was also lettered by Patrick Williams and Joseph Allen, and then it was edited by Catherine the Wallet. So now that we have all that out of the way, how would you summarize this series?
Jessika: Yeah, so the series starts out with just a regular dude, this bloke named Don Wiederman, who ends up witnessing chaotic and unbelievable changes that his neighbors across the way are making. From his vantage point in a window across the way from his in a high rise apartment complex, don witnesses his neighbors transform from, uh, two other seemingly regular dudes into a cat and a rat, respectively, and start chasing each other around the apartment. We learned that untidy rich can turn into a giant rat, and Ian turns into a man sized black panther. Cat panther.
Mike: It's not quite defined, but also they've got a real odd couple vibe where Rich is kind of slovenly and really enjoys getting under Ian's skin. And Ian, I think when we see him, he's like in a smoking jacket.
Jessika: It's the other guy's smoking jacket, though. It's Rich. You see Rich in a smoking jacket, but Ian's smoking jacket that he's stolen again.
Mike: Yeah, that's what it was.
Jessika: It felt very much like they really were in a relationship. And the only thing that told us that they quote unquote, weren't, although even this can still be disputed, is that Rich has his own room, apparently. But I tend to go under the premise of I'm shipping them.
Mike: It's one of those things where the dynamic between them, it feels like it could be queer coded if you're reading it through today's lens.
Mike: Ian is very fastidious and kind of gives off that very successful, mildly bitchy gay guy vibe.
Mike: Um, rich? I don't know Rich. M, I don't know the kind of vibe that Rich gives off other than kind of crusty. He does give off crusty, but also it turns out he's sort of this brilliant inventor and very good at kind of duct taping solutions together. They're pretty defined characters, even though we only got them for two issues, which I doug.
Jessika: Yeah, exactly. They can both seemingly become small, like normal cats and rats, respectively. So that's fun too. Uh, so when the duo decides to leave to confuse and terrorize some unsuspecting bar patrons, boyer don quickly heads out to follow. And when they get to the bar, the, uh, two immediately start in with the Shannonigans. They're changing into their large animal forms to the wait staff and ordering drinks and then changing back again when the manager comes out and their table is visited by another patron named Teresa, who had been witnessing all of this and who mentions that she is a vampire and is currently drinking A positive blood. M. So Rich, in his infinite wisdom, starts laughingly, yelling about her being a vampire. And to her chagrin, they are soon joined by a group of other individuals who have been looking for Teresa, who up until now, she had been doing a great job of evading.
Mike: Yeah. And they're presented as very kind of like old school, like, M, New York Mafioso kind of that's the vibe I.
Jessika: Got from, um, them bud vampires.
Mike: Bud vampires. Budpires.
Jessika: They were like the old schools, like the family. The family vampires.
Jessika: So the bar descends into chaos. Dawn gets wrapped into the mix because he found his way there to the bar finally, and they end up needing to fight the other two vampires. In the end, the other bad guys couldn't hold up in the melee combat with giant rotten panther but the cops did come by and the three guys and Theresa ended up in jail.
Jessika: So Don reluctantly posted bail for all of them and he takes a taxi home to get the fuck out of there and he declines a lift, quote unquote, from Theresa, which Ian and Rich are like, yeah, let's do this thing. So they latch onto Theresa, who flies them back to the same apartment complex, of course, that Don had just directed the cab driver to take him.
Jessika: So the next night, Don can't sleep again. He's trying real hard to resist the urge to watch his neighbors through the window, but in the end, he just cannot manage. And he ends up at their doorstep stating that he couldn't sleep and letting him know that he was their cross the way neighbor and had seen everything the night before. Yeah, it was actually pretty fun.
Mike: Yeah, it felt like a pilot episode for like a TV show where it was kind of introducing the characters and then giving them all a little bit of action to kind of do stuff with. And then they all come together at the end.
Jessika: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So the second one we didn't need as much lead up because we already had all the character introductions. This one involves a group of rowdy leprechauns intent on causing chaos and destruction, which seems to be the name of the game in this series. Don is there on the date at this bar that the leprechauns decide to come into and his date is not really going all that well.
Mike: It seems, uh, it's so painful to watch.
Jessika: Don himself seems like a bit of a glory day's himbo. And he's not really making a huge impact on his date from what we can see.
Mike: Yeah, he's literally trying to tell her his football glory day stories and, uh, she has no interest. And also, I really enjoy how apparently Don just spends a lot of time at bars based on those two comics.
Jessika: Yeah, exactly. He seems like your basic dude. So Don gets a sense of what's happening and he flees the scene with the rest of the bar patrons, leaving only the group of raucous leprechauns. And he goes and he tells his paranormal neighbors about their ordeal. And Teresa also seems to be staying at the apartment at this point, or at least visiting. So they all go down to the bar to clean it up, I guess, after slinging the Mslr M. And if you're not following what the Mslr is, it starts with an M M and it rhymes with gidget. And I refuse to give that word any airtime, but, uh, it's all over. It's in the entire thing. Many times. Many times.
Mike: Yeah, the were a different time.
Jessika: It was not great. It was not great, folks. Yeah, that was a good time. The leprechauns get the Mslr slung at them a bunch of times and then they set out to try to teach the group a lesson because obviously they were very offended by that, honestly. Yeah, absolutely. I understand.
Mike: I kind of don't blame them. M, I do.
Jessika: Don't blame them. They were causing trouble. That's also not the way to defuse the situation, to try to start throwing slurs at them. No, that's not the way.
Mike: Right. Well, I mean, de escalation was not something they really taught back then.
Jessika: Uh, it's not taught now. The leprechauns try to teach the group a lesson. A drink off is suggested by Rich and they somehow win the drinking game. I'm not really sure how they do that.
Mike: They don't really show us. It just says sometime later and it shows. The Leprechauns basically all passed out.
Jessika: Yeah. So I don't know if it was. I'm not entirely sure. Was it because the leprechauns had, like a, uh, head start? Unclear. I'm glad you didn't know either, because I could not figure it out.
Mike: Yeah, no, I'm like also I don't know, I feel like the leprechauns would be able to just mop the floor with you, but all right, whatever.
Jessika: That was kind of my thought as well. Yeah. I don't know. The only one I was like, okay, maybe the vampire. Like, maybe the vampire. Right?
Mike: Yeah, maybe.
Jessika: Anyway, the leprechauns fix all the damages and then they go home.
Mike: Yeah. And I mean, that's it. That's basically where it ends, um, up. But how did you feel about this comic overall?
Jessika: It was fun. It had this very light hearted quality to it. You didn't feel like you could take it too seriously, which just kind of made it easier to just jive with characters doing all of these wacky things in public with very little consequence.
Jessika: If we were actually in a big city where there were people who could transform into animals and be seen from at least one window if you could see from one window, you can see from a bunch of windows. That's how windows work. There would be way more of a thing made out of it, especially because it seems like their regular thing is going out and scaring people in this way.
Mike: Yeah. It's a world that they were starting to expose us to. And so I was curious how they would sit there and explain a lot of this stuff away, but we never got that explanation.
Jessika: Yeah, but I did really like the mix of lores. It felt very much like anything goes in the realm of supernatural creatures. But it was funny with the first two. Like, I was all starting off strong with a rat and, uh, a cat duo, and I was like a vampire again. I didn't really dig a lot of the aspects of the second issue. Like, we kind of got into the use of the Emsler and the whole drunk Irish trope. Those are pretty gross. But I think it all worked really well together, though. And it was quirky and just an overall good time. Yeah.
Mike: And I mean, I'm kind of on the same page with you. When I look at stuff through a lens from an era that's, 32 years later, I find myself having to sometimes stop and consider the overall intent that was behind stuff. Especially when there are problematic elements, like the drunk Irish trope, like the M um word getting thrown around.
Mike: I don't think it was trying to be mean spirited at the time, but it's something that you just kind of have to acknowledge is problematic and then consume it how you will. Yeah, it's kind of like how in the first two Bill and Ted movies, they hug each other and then they kind of separate very quickly, and then they throw the F bomb around. And it's one of those moments where it's like, all right, that's not great, but at the same time, am I going to let that ruin what is otherwise one of my favorite movies? And it's like, okay, so for me, it's like acknowledging, yeah, that's a problem, but I'm aware of that problem. And if, say, I was watching it with one of my kids, I would sit there and acknowledge that and be like, that's not cool. And we have to note that, but then go from there.
Jessika: Yeah, that makes sense.
Mike: But, yeah, like I said, these two issues, they feel like a TV show. And I don't mean that in a disparaging way. Each one of them do a nice job at building out this weird kind of dark fantasy world and introducing us to it through Don's interactions with his new neighbors. And I like how they use Don as sort of an audience surrogate. It generally feels pretty funny. There are all these cute little moments in the first issue when everyone's in the holding cell and Teresa is hanging upside down like a bat would while everyone else is just kind of lounging in the cell.
Mike: Or there's that moment in the second issue where Teresa has moved in with Ian and Rich and she yells at them for fighting because they're interrupting her meal, and she's, like, holding this dude who's just groaning incoherently. Or the little asides about how they just get rid of bodies now by having a modified garbage disposal so it dumps directly into the sewer via special shoot after they, I guess, trash compact a body. I was like, all right, that's kind.
Jessika: Of crazy ridiculous, right?
Mike: Yeah. Like the overall vibe is that it's this silly, charming series that relies on the trope of a supernatural world lurking behind the one that we know, but it actually feels kind of ahead of its time, too, because a lot of the urban fantasy that we know from television that used the same narrative device didn't really start airing until the late 1990s.
Mike: So we only got two issues, but would you have kept reading this book. Like, if there were more.
Jessika: Definitely. Yeah. I, uh, really think there were a lot more supernatural beings that they could have run across in the city that were either friend or foe. And it would have been interesting to see where they went with other monsters hiding in plain sight.
Mike: Yeah, I'm absolutely on the same page. I was just strangely charmed by that first issue, and I feel really fond of the series overall. Now it feels like it could have been something really special, something really unique, and something really fun during this era, uh, that was leaning really hard into, like, gritty extreme with the capital X narratives.
Mike: Yeah. Ah. What did you think about the art?
Jessika: I enjoyed it. I liked how late 80s, early 90s it was with everybody in fun colored suits and motorcycle jackets and the pattern ties, and it felt very like Nightlife in the City kind of playfully dark without taking itself too seriously. I like that Rich was drawn to look very rat like, even in his human form, which is a fun aspect of the art.
Mike: Yeah. He had those, like, lean features.
Jessika: Yeah. And he was drawn so many times where he would be, like, open mouth laughing or something. And it's like the way that he would be angled, his mouth would just look longer and his teeth would look longer and his nose would look really small and very rat like features, just in general when he was being drawn as a human. And I thought that was just such a fun spit on it.
Mike: Yeah. I really liked it, too. I thought it felt very dark and moody. And King had this nice way of depicting action, even though most of it wasn't actually violent in the kind of way that we normally would see in superhero comics from that era. But King's art really kind of walked this fine line of showing this noir setting and then balancing it with little bits of humor. Yeah. Now, out of this quartet, who was your favorite character in the comic? Like, who would you want to hang out with?
Jessika: Hanging out would be the, uh, respective term here because I would like, uh, to hang out with Theresa.
Mike: I loved her, too.
Jessika: I really liked her, especially in the second issue when she charmed the guys to leave her alone, like you said, while she was eating the guy she.
Mike: Had over so good.
Jessika: I also liked that in the first issue, she saw Ian and Rich causing trouble at the bar, and she was like, awesome. The night just got better and sidled up to them and was like, what's up?
Mike: Yeah, it was good. It was interesting because for a comic from 1990, and she's the only female character really given any depth in this comic, she was not sexualized at all.
Jessika: Yeah, I really liked that, too. Even the way she was drawn. She wasn't drawn in an overtly. Like, look at my body kind of way. A lot of the time she was covered or she had kind of cloak kind of situation and yeah, I agree.
Mike: In the second issue, the COVID for that feels like a poster for an 80s sitcom. It reminded me a lot of Family Ties where it's like that family gathered together and Teresa has like a full button up blouse on with like a cape and it's really charming. And like, the first issues cover is very visually arresting and then this one is also arresting for different reasons where it just it feels kind of like a feelgood comic. Yeah, and that was one of the things that kind of stuck out to me, was I was like, oh, okay, so this is not a comic that caters to the male gaze, which for that era is pretty wild.
Jessika: Yeah, agreed. Uh, yeah.
Mike: So as I noted, this only got two issues, but if it had continued on, what story would you have liked to see?
Jessika: Well, I mentioned earlier that there's a ton of room for playing with all kinds of supernatural entities and I would love to see them interacting with the gargoyles that animate on some of the buildings in their city. Maybe about having to save an old building that is proposed to be demoed, but finding a way to save it at the request of the gargoyles who make that building their home. Or have them leave the city for the weekend and run into Bigfoot. There are just so many things that they could have done with it.
Mike: Uh, yeah, I think I would have liked to see them interact with water based mythological creatures. Hear me up. Imagine Rich is going through the sewers like he does, and then he comes across like an underwater reservoir that is home to Merfolk or something similar. Or they go on a cruise and Don falls overboard, but he's rescued by a mermaid, like something like that. I think it could be a fun way to take them out of the typical urban setting that we were getting and then provide them with a situation where none of them quite know how to deal with.
Jessika: Totally. Yeah, that might be interesting. I like it.
Mike: Yeah. But I mean that's the thing is I really feel like this setting was very ripe for exploration and it bums me out, honestly, that we only got two issues because I wanted to see where they would have gone with it. But as I said, the series ended after two issues and I think I know why. Caputo Publishing, according to multiple sources, was apparently in the midst of some pretty serious financial problems. And Wikipedia put this in a way that I want to quote a little bit because it's kind of a great description. They said that it was because of, quote, a lack of focus and internal dissension, whatever that means. But I'm really curious now, but yeah. Regardless, the company had to file for chapter seven bankruptcy, which is the kind that results in a company having to liquidate nonexempt assets in 1990. And then they got purchased by this group called General Learning Corporation, who happened to be one of the main creditors. So that explains why a silly and offensive comic that was brand new suddenly ended. But I noticed that at the end of the second issue, there's an ad for another comic called Neon Knight, and it looks like that comic never actually got published. I found an entry talking about how that character only appears in advertising material in the back of various now comics.
Jessika: Oh, that's sad. Neon Knight, man.
Mike: The art's so cool too, and so dumb. And I wanted to check it out, but whatever. But seeing as how the bankruptcy appears to have hit in late 1990, the timing for the series cancellation kind of lines up with that. And then this is where the details get really murky, because there's a lot of entries I found across various wiki sites, as well as Wikipedia, where there were notes about citations being needed. But here's the narrative that I was able to piece together. So General Learning Corporation rebranded Caputo Publishing as Now Entertainment, and it sounds like they kept publishing stuff until late 1994, which was about six months after Caputo himself left. But this was right at the time that there's a lot of craziness going on in the industry. You want to explain what was going on in the mid, early ninety S?
Jessika: Uh, the ninety s. The comic speculation boom and ultimate bust. Yeah, a lot of top talent from the big two really ultimately weren't happy with the way they were being treated. They ended up leaving for a lot of smaller independent publications due to the fact they were being treated poorly. So that was around the time that Ron Perlman got his MITS on Marvel and ran it into the ground, and whose decisions caused, in good part, the eventual bankruptcy of the company as well.
Mike: Yes, we talk a lot about this on, um, I think episode 20, which was Deathmate, where we had comic book couples canceling on.
Jessika: We've brought it up a, uh, few times now.
Mike: Yeah, we went in depth about Marvel's. Kind of weirdness that was going on at the time in in the 90s, in the episode where we talked about the Marvel holiday specials as well.
Mike: So if you want to learn more about that, feel free to go check those episodes out. But yeah, eventually Caputo came back in 2003 and he tried to start up the company is now Comics 3.0, and he was trying to do some pretty bold stuff like giving creators partnerships in the business. And they did something where they, like, published an animated 3D graphic novel, like with 3D graphics, kind of like Toy Story esque. And then, uh, it came with a CDROM disk I don't quite know what was on it, but something that was noted. But anyway, it didn't work out. The company was officially gone by 2006. I will say. The Internet Archive has a copy of Now Comics website from that era, and it's this beautiful time capsule. You should totally check it out if you want to see some sweet late 90s early auts web design in action. And, uh, yeah, Caputo himself has gone on to be a pretty big name in the technology sector, and it sounds like he specializes in smart city technologies these days. I was checking out his LinkedIn and I work in tech, but I am not a programmer, and so a lot of the stuff was right over my head, but it sounded cool. Um, and then as for the main contributors to Bats, Cats, and Cadillacs, hiring worked on a number of titles for Now Comics and then has since gone on to be what sounds like a fairly successful mystery writer in Chicago, Hannibal King, who I'm guessing took the name because he was a fan of Tomb of Dracula. And there's that Marvel character who was also named Hannibal King. Ah.
Jessika: Ah, yes.
Mike: Yeah. He's continued working as an artist, and it looks like he worked on comics sporadically throughout the 90s. He has contributed to various tabletop RPG books and then has also done a number of cards for various Magic the Gathering sets. I had a tough time tracking down much info on them, though, because, as I said, he appears to have taken the name of a major Marvel Comics character, which really kind of borks your Internet searches. But he's got a dedicated fan base and it looks like he's still working the expo circuit where he sells his art and does commissions based on a bunch of recent photos and art scans that I found. But yeah, uh, that's bats cats and Cadillacs. Do you have any final thoughts?
Jessika: Overall, I liked it. It was quirky, fun, and silly. I did like the idea of a big city being the perfect place to both be anonymous and so outwardly supernaturally different.
Mike: Yeah, it was one of the most pleasant surprises that I've come across on the Dollar Bins recently, and it felt like something that was more deserving of a full deep dive rather than one of our Dollar Bin Discovery episodes. So thank you for coming on this journey with me.
Jessika: Fun. Yeah, I'm glad we found a good one. Sometimes you just never know. You never know what you're going to get.
Mike: Oh, I found some doozies lately. All right, so what do you say, uh, we get out of here? Write me out.
Jessika: Oh, let's go.
Mike: All right. We are now at, uh, the point of the episode called Brain Wrinkles, which is where we talk about that one thing that is comics or comics adjacent that has been stuck in our pretty little noggins for the past few days. All right. Jessica, you want to kick off the conversation?
Jessika: Uh, yes, certainly. Wizards of the coast.
Mike: And we're back.
Jessika: You and I discussed a while back that I was very excited about Wizards of the coast coming out with a new, updated version of a spell jammer. And I know that a lot of folks in the TTRPG community were also super stoked. However, you know how we can't just have nice things ever.
Mike: Yeah, I know what you're going to talk about. Uh, yes.
Jessika: No, we can't have nice things because in fact, Wizards of the coast decided in their infinite wisdom, that they wanted to create a new race for the game. Okay, sure. But wait, that race, named the Hadozi, comes from monkeys that were enslaved by a wizard made intelligent, but also enjoy servitude. Yeah. Uh, uh. Do we see where we're going with this?
Mike: Everyone tell me something that's problematic without telling me.
Jessika: Oh, God, there's a lot to unpack. And there was pretty significant outcry from the community, and so much so that Wizards of the coast has pulled the race from the update and has issued an apology, which I do appreciate that they responded, but I also really wonder if they have any people of color on their staff at all. And if so, do they actually feel comfortable bringing up aspects of updates or the game in general that may be problematic or insensitive to certain groups?
Mike: I'm sure that they have people of color on their staff. I don't know what the percentage is, though. It seems like something where it's like even without a consultation or checking this with people of color, you would have a gut reaction of I don't know, this seems problematic.
Mike: I don't know. But they don't pay me the big bucks.
Jessika: Mhm same.
Mike: Yes. They've pulled it from the digital release. Right? I think they pulled it from the digital release, but it's still in existence in the physical books.
Mike: And for the most part, people seem to be pretty cool with that, with the steps to the taking to correct it and with their apology. I don't know. At least they did the right thing after the fact. I don't know.
Jessika: Right, exactly.
Jessika: So anyhoodle, what about you?
Mike: Uh, I have been thinking about NFTs because apparently I hate myself. I don't know.
Mike: Uh, NFTs and video games are a topic that I'm pretty familiar with, seeing as how I spent the better part of 20 years working in games in various ways and still pay attention to the industry. There have been a lot of stories coming out about NFTs in the game space, like getting canceled after furious backlash from fans, or crazy huge robberies taking place on various platforms, or NFP game developers just shutting down. But there have been a couple of cases that have kind of slammed the topic into my head and made me think about how they are affecting comics and fandoms at large. So one of those is valiant comics and the other is Funko. In the case of Valiant, they got acquired by this sort of, sort of shady sounding entertainment company called DMG. And since the acquisition in 2018, Valiant's been putting out comics at a reduced rate. And then they pivoted hardened NFTs at the beginning of this year, I think, and some people bought into the NFT program, which okay, I don't quite understand how NFTs work. And I've been reading about them for the better part of two years now. Sorry if I get this wrong, crypto Bros. Just don't judge me too harshly. It was something about how you had to buy a pass and then you get limited edition NFPs of Valiant characters. Anyway, apparently it was all a scam and the people on the Valiant NFP discord were claiming that valiant and DMG committed what's called a rug pole, which is apparently like a pretty serious NFP fraud. Basically a developer lures in investors and then never even tries to deliver on the promised goods. So there's that. Since then, there have been a number of layoffs at Valiant, and they're not even sure if the series that were announced that they had actually enlisted some pretty top tier talent for are going to make it to market. I don't know, we'll see. Yeah, it kind of bums me up because Liam Sharp, who's one of my favorite artists, is going to be doing XO Manawar. I was legit stoked about that, like ready to add a Valiant book to my poll list for the first time in 30 years. So there's been that, and then Funko has been doing NFTs that you have to buy a digital card pack of and then hope you get cards of the figures that you want and then redeem them somehow. Again, this is all convoluted and it's really expensive and it's playing into that FOMO mechanic that I really don't like, and then you have to redeem them somehow in order to get the corresponding limited edition pop figures that you want. Which I'm not just going to go out and buy all these digital card packs just so I can get a 90s Azrael Batman figure, which I would love to have. I love that figure. I love that costume. I think it's great. It's 90s trash in the most extreme form. I don't really have much of a point to this thought other than it kind of reminds me of that speculation boom from the early ninety s and the subsequent implosion. Now that we're in the midst of this kind of slow moving, ongoing crypto crash, and I don't know, I'm curious to see how much more fallout there is in the comics industry.
Jessika: My opinion on NFTs is I don't think we're supposed to understand them. They're nonfungible. Damn it.
Mike: There is a really great YouTube documentary by folding ideas called line goes up, and it made NFTs much more parcel for me. At the same time, there's still this very obtuse topic that I have sort of a vague understanding of, and I can understand certain parts of the appeal for it. I don't know. At the end of the day, I want physical objects that I can pull out and appreciate and not have to worry about my digital wallet going away because the technology is suddenly outdated, or that the platform that it was being hosted on no longer works with my web browsers, or the app doesn't work with my phone anymore. And I'm sure that some crypto bro will reach out to me and tell me how I've got it all wrong. But it's too many things. I'm a simple guy. I just want my comics. I want my comics and my action figures that I can enjoy without having to jump through any extra hoops on.
Mike: But yeah. So with that, we are going to leave you. We will be back next week with one of our Dollar Bin Discovery episodes, which I don't even know what we're talking about next week. I think we haven't actually recorded that episode yet.
Jessika: I don't think we have it's on the to do list.
Mike: And then our next full episode is going to be something that we are both really excited about and we will probably announce that later on. But it's going to be really cool, guys. I'm really excited about it.
Jessika: Very stoked.
Mike: Yeah. So until then, we will see you in the stacks.
Jessika: Thanks for listening to Tencent Takes. Accessibility is important to us, so text transcriptions of each of our published episodes can be found on our website.
Mike: This episode was hosted by Jessica Fraser and Mike Thompson, written by Mike Thompson, and edited by Jessica Fraser. Our intro theme was written and performed by Jared Emerson Johnson of Bay Area Sound. Our credits and transition music is Pursuit of Life by Evan McDonald and was purchased with a standard license from Premium Beat. Our banner graphics were designed by Sarah Frank, who you can firstname.lastname@example.org.
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