Dirty Cop Movies by Mike Baron

DIRTY COPS

While there are dirty cops in many movies, the dirty cop movie is a genre unto itself. James Ellroy is something of a dirty cop factory, having written L.A. Confidential and the screenplay to Dark Blue, starring Kurt Russell and Ving Rhames, and Rampart, starring Woody Harrelson. In both Confidential and Dark Blue, dirty cops are laws unto themselves, using their authority to punish the wicked regardless of the law, and to enrich themselves. In Ellroy’s world, the dirty cop is the norm. Even his good cops take corruption as a given. As always, it’s a matter of degree.

Both Bad Lieutenants, the former starring Harvey Kietel, and the latter Nicolas Cage, are withering trips through hell that end in cracked redemption.

Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day is among the finest dirty cop movies, featuring a swaggering Denzel Washington that is beyond corrupt. Fuqua and Washington teamed again on the excellent The Equalizer, which could not exist without dirty cops.

Among the lesser known dirty cop movies is Boaz Yakin’s Safe, Jason Statham’s best film, which features Statham as a cashiered, corrupt cop on his last legs who finds meaning in saving the life a Chinese girl savant whom Chinese gangsters use as a numbers cruncher. Safe is also notable for James Hong’s sleaziest performance. The climax involves Statham teaming up with his dirty cop buddies to take down both the Chinese and Russian mobs.

James Mangold’s Cop Land posits a Jersey town consisting almost exclusively of corrupt cops whose efforts to hide their crimes brings local sheriff Sly Stallone in conflict with lifetime corrupt cop player Harvey Keitel.

These are just off the top of my head. You may have others.

Fight Scenes by Mike Baron

FIGHT SCENES

Fight scenes are important. They are the raison d’etre of the martial arts film. Prior to the kung fu invasion, the John Wayne-style slugfest was a Western staple. A John Wayne fight involves the leisurely cocking of Wayne’s humongous fist followed by an enormous round house punch that sends the recipient ass-over-teakettle, knocking down chairs and smashing tables.

Real fight scenes are messy, incoherent affairs that usually end with the protagonists rolling on the ground. John Huston understood this. The barroom brawl in Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of the most realistic fight scenes ever filmed. When Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt confront crooked jobber Barton MacLane, MacLane lulls them into a false sense of security before sucker-clobbering Holt with a liquor bottle. It’s a knock-down, drag-out fight with the protagonists rolling on the floor.

Audiences crave action, not necessarily verisimilitude. Thus, when the kung fu invasion began with Five Fingers of Death, the American audience was gobsmacked by the elegant fight choreography. It may not have been realistic but it was certainly entertaining. When Bruce Lee hit a few years later, the audience instinctively sensed that this was the real deal and a thousand dojos bloomed. Bruce Lee’s fighting technique looked brutally realistic and elegant. Of course Bruce tailored his fights for the camera and would not have used such showy techniques in real life, but people have used them, to good effect.

Steven Seagal has also developed a unique cinematic style based on aikido. A Seagal fight looks brutal, elegant, and realistic. Before Seagal became a star, he served as fight choreographer on John Frankenheimer’s overlooked masterpiece, The Challenge, starring Scott Glenn and Toshiro Mifune. The Challenge has finally been issued on DVD.

There have always been martial arts films, including a long tradition of Japanese samurai movies going back to the twenties. James Cagney was a black belt in judo which he showcases in Blood on the Sun, perhaps the first American martial arts film. But film being film, fights appeared that are impossible in real life. Look at the Matrix. Kung fu films split between the realistic fighting of Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, and fanciful “wire fu,” in which the actors hang from wires to give the illusion of flight. Nothing wrong with it. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an excellent example.

Jackie Chan developed his own style using found objects and slapstick humor. His fights are the result of hours of preparation and endless rehearsal. Don’t try this at home, folks! Of course you can always pick up a chair and brain your opponent.

Robert Clouse, who directed Enter the Dragon, got the job largely because of his work on Darker Than Amber, based on John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novel. When  Terry (William Smith) attacks Travis (Rod Taylor,) the fight is spontaneous. Clouse told the actors to make it brutal, and he filmed it. It is among the most realistic fights on film.

The audience does not want to see extreme close-ups of a hand hitting a jaw. Not in movies, not in comics. The audience wants to see the action unfold in a dynamic and realistic manner. The story-teller must hold his camera steady and let the figures move

The Films of William Peter Blatty by Mike Baron

THE FILMS OF WILLIAM PETER BLATTY

Blatty wrote The Exorcist, which remains the greatest horror film of all time. The Exorcist lays its chilly finger on our spines by successfully conjuring belief in supernatural evil. All good supernatural horror films do this, including The Haunting, The Orphanage, and Sinister. There are hundreds of failures such as The Gate or Drag Me To Hell.

The Exorcist was such a hit, Warner Brothers sought to cash in with the vomitous Exorcist II, about which less said the better. Blatty insisted on writing and directing Exorcist III, based on his novel Legion. Exorcist III  finds DC Detective Kinderman (George C. Scott replacing Lee J. Cobb) investigating a series of grisly murders that bear the hallmark of the Gemini Killer, who died fifteen years ago (when The Exorcist took place.)

This is a genuinely creepy film with a few hair-raising minutes, that successfully recreates the atmosphere of the original. Blatty knows how to raise a hackle, and his team of players is superb. Brad Dourif executes a monologue in his padded cell that is both funny and terrifying. Dourif should have got an Oscar nod. Jason Miller returns as the tormented Father Karras, but you have to see the film to understand.

Years later, Warner’s went rooting about in their midden heap and produced two sequels, Renny Harlin’s ridiculous Exorcist: The Beginning, and Paul Schrader’s Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Eh! Who needs them?

The Ninth Configuration is based on Blatty’s “Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane,” and concerns a group of disturbed veterans sequestered in a Gothic castle deep in the Oregon woods. “In an experimental government center for troubled Vietnam veterans, the inmates run the asylum. One works on an adaptation of Shakespeare…for dogs. Another fancies himself a caped superhero. Still others masquerade as frogmen, nurses, nuns, pirates, doctors. Yet the psychiatrist in charge eyes all with a stoic reserve. Maybe too stoic: there’s a mystery here. And its final resolution is like a thunderclap”

One of the reasons I like it is because it most closely resembles a Badger movie (about which more anon.) Blatty’s stock group, including Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Scott Wilson, Moses Gunn and Robert Loggia, are mesmerizing. Stacey Keach plays the new CO who threatens to explode. My friends, although I hesitate to shove my secret love into the spotlight, there it is.

Existential Thrillers by Mike Baron

EXISTENTIAL THRILLERS

An existential thriller is a story in which the protagonist is doomed from the git-go, but struggles to survive with ingenuity and an indomitable spirit. The two greatest examples are Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear, and William Friedkin’s remake, Sorcerer.

The Wages of Fear is a 1953 French-Italian drama film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Yves Montand, and based on the 1950 French novel “The Salary of Fear” by Georges Arnaud. When a Mexican oil well owned by an American company catches fire, the company hires four European men, down on their luck, to drive two trucks over mountain dirt roads, loaded with niotroglycerine needed to extinguish the flames.

Sorcerer is the same story, bookended by Roy Scheider’s criminal mastermind stealing mob money, which sends him into exile in an unnamed South American hellhole where he rots for years, until the oil company makes its desperate offer. Wanted: four brave men to pilot two dilapidated trucks across hundreds of miles of impassable terrain, carrying loads of nitroglycerin. After The Exorcist, Friedkin could do anything. He chose to do this. It is mesmerizing, but because of the subject matter it was not a hit.

Sam Peckinpah directed two of the greatest existential thrillers, The Wild Bunch and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. The Wild Bunch needs no introduction, but alas, many young film goers have never heard of it. A gang of aging outlaws, led by William Holden and Ernest Borgnine, hold one last heist in hopes of retiring to Mexico. The heist goes wrong and they flee, an army of Pinkertons on their trail. The Pinkertons L.Q. Jones and Strother Martin at their most scrofulous. “Gutter trash!” in the words of Robert Ryan, who leads them. The Wild Bunch itself includes Lyle and Tector Gorch, played by Warren Oates and Ben Johnson.

The gang ends up hijacking a load of weapons for a Mexican warlord, but the warlord, played by Emilio Fernandez, cruelly executes one of the Bunch’s own. The Bunch has already collected their money and realized their dream. But in an explosion of nihilistic rage, they choose to go down shooting, killing half the warlord’s army. The Wild Bunch redefined cinematic violence with its slo-mo shoot-outs and the incredible body count. It is one of the greatest Westerns ever made.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is sui generis, a thriller unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Warren Oates is Benny, a down-at-his-heels lounge pianist scraping by in some Mexican hell-hole, when he gets words that El Jefe (Emilio Fernandez again,) will pay one million dollars for the head of Alfredo Garcia, who impregnated his teen-age daughter. The scum of the earth, including Gig Young and Robert Wenner, crawl out of their holes to claim the prize.

Benny sets out with girlfriend Elita (Isele Vega.) A couple of low-lifes bushwhack them. The biker (Kris Kristofferson!) rapes Elita while the other covers Benny. Benny brains the guy with a cast-iron skillet and shoots the biker. Benny delivers Garcia’s head to El Jefe, gets his money, and is free to go. But once again, overcome with grief and an existential madness, he chooses to go down blazing, taking half El Jefe’s army with him.

Among modern existential thrillers, there are none better than The Grey, starring Liam Neeson as an oil-company roughneck whose plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, leaving six men alive. Their struggle to survive a pack of hungry wolves is as grim and absorbing as The Revenant.

In Runaway Train, conceived by Akira Kurosawa, two cons escape from a maximum-security Alaskan prison and inadvertently stow away on a train with no conductor. Jon Voight, coming off Midnight Cowboy, went in the opposite direction. His Oscar Manheim is a terrifying lifer who has been welded in his cell for three years. He takes along irritating sycophant Buck (Eric Roberts,) dispensing hard-won con wisdom. Director Andre Konchalovsky ratchets tension to the max, and the final scene will chill you to the bone.

Cornel Wilde’s The Naked Prey deviates from the template in that his nameless white hunter lives, but not after one of the most harrowing and brutal chases in cinema history. You will not believe Wilde’s depiction of Africans in the opening sequence. He would never be able to get away with this today.

Digital Smigital by Mike Baron

DIGITAL SMIGITAL

It took me years to get a CD player. I had an enormous collection of vinyl culled from twenty years writing about music. I finally got the CD player because so many musicians weren’t issuing vinyl anymore. The first CD I got was a three-disc Duke Ellington collection, The Webster/Blanton Band. And then the horse was out of the barn and I got everything in CD, selling my vinyl collection for the ridiculous price of twenty-five cents a disc. The CDs were a poor excuse for albums because the reduced size had a huge effect on the art. I love album art. Look at the many books of just album art.

A lot of bands urge me to listen to their new tunes on download. Many bands are forgoing physical product altogether in favor of digital. This works for a lot of people, but not for me, and not for a lot of people I know. We’re collectors. We like to have an artifact we can hold in our hands, read the personnel and album notes, if any. Album notes provide astonishing information and if you don’t believe me, read the album notes for Tower of Power’s Dinosaur Tracks.

Most of these bands perform live. A lot of people would like to buy their albums, but are surprised when there are no albums. Directing your fans to a download, free or not, is not the same as selling records and CDs right at the venue, when they’re all keyed up. At the very least, bands must have CDs to sell at performances. Here in Fort Collins we have Bohemian Nights in August, hundreds of local bands performing for free. I pick up a lot of CDs at these things. Not only is it a good way to support the band, it’s a good way to remember what you heard.

Sure you can have an iPod with several thousand songs on it. But are they arranged like an album? There’s a reason for the song sequencing in albums like Sgt. Pepper, Jellyfish: Spilt Milk, Marco Joachim’s Hidden Symphonyies. The music industry has changed, and albums aren’t as important as they used to be, but my friends and I still listen to albums. Like the Who’s Tommy. You’re supposed to start at the beginning and follow the sequence.

Vinyl is back. Analog grooves simply produce a warmer sound than CDs, which are digitally mastered and digitally translated. Everything old is new again.

When that giant Chinese electro-magnetic pulse hits, a lot of you are gonna be SOL.

Self Inflicted Wounds by Mike Baron

SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS

I have known and worked with many amazing artists, but there are a handful with whom I’ve never worked. I have wanted to work with them, and I have offered work to them. Although they say they want to succeed, I wonder if that’s true. When I moved to Colorado I met Jerry. Jerry lived in the Boulder area and had published two copies of his own comic, Obelisks. Jerry’s work was highly stylized in the manner of Mike Ploog, and fantastic. For the next several years I presented Jerry with proposal after proposal which we would co-create and co-own and while he continuously professed his desire to get back into comics, he never drew anything.

An artist friend of mine lives in small town Wisconsin. He has always been a fantastic artist with an ability to blend Drew Friedman-accurate portraits with bizarre graphics. Self-taught, his sketch technique resembles that of Ivan Albright and he has done several stunning album covers for local blues artists. Sherman has often expressed interest in collaborating with me but has never followed up on a single proposal. He doesn’t return phone calls or e-mail. He works hard at his art, but doesn’t push it beyond his web and Facebook pages. This guy has huge crossover potential. He’s just not interested enough to work at it.

I have talked about Neil Spyder/Bannen Hanson here before. Neil made a conscious decision to stop drawing and concentrate on his writing. It’s not the same as saying you want to be an artist but you can’t get breaks. The breaks are out there. Some people make their own breaks. But if you don’t push your art and produce, nothing’s going to happen.

The single best way to attract industry attention is to produce your own comic. Editors will read them.

Sons of Bitches by Mike Baron

Biker current

WHAT THE HELL

I submitted this novel to my regular publisher who laughed and said, “No way!” for obvious reasons. I have signed a contract with Liberty Island Press to publish all the Josh Pratt novels beginning with Biker, originally published by Airship 27. My friends, do you find this risible?

SONS OF BITCHES

By Mike Baron

CHAPTER ONE  “Polly”

The title Muhammad burst from the cover in three-dimensional letters like a Cecil B. DeMille production. A lean, mean fighting machine in a white suit, wrap-around shades, beard and turban with a scantily-clad houri clinging to one leg, cigarette dangling from his lip, side-kicking a Hassidic Jew with skullcap and phylacteries two feet off the ground.

“It’s meant to be satiric,” Polly Furst said. “I’m Jewish myself.”

“Do you go to temple?” Josh Pratt asked. They sat outside at a round metal table adjacent to the sidewalk at the Laurel Tavern, a family-friendly pub on Monroe Street in Madison, WI. It was late June and the temperature was in the mid-seventies. Josh’s dog Fig sat at his feet. He flipped through the comic book.

“No. I come from a long line of secular Jews.”

“Man, I love comics. Used to read them in prison. This is good art.”

“Thank you.”

“Where do people pick this up?”

“From my website or at conventions. Capital City and Westfield have it. I asked Diamond and never heard back. I think it was too hot for them.”

“Have you received any death threats?”

“Too many to count. I told the police and they said there was nothing they could do. FBI, same thing. It’s like they have no interest in protecting me. I had to shut down my Twitter account and block about a hundred people on Facebook.”

“Did you report them to the administrator?”

“No. I guess I should have, huh.”

“Cops don’t protect people,” Josh said. “They come along after you’ve been stabbed and try to figure out who did it.”

“I have a bunch of shows coming up. I’m not going to be intimidated into hiding! I contacted Executive Security and they suggested you.”

“Huh,” Josh said. He’d graduated from their seminar last December and hadn’t taken any security jobs, although he’d been involved in the Cretaceous murders. “Anything local?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, has anyone phoned you or approached you in person?”

“No. I keep my phone number private but now I’m beginning to worry.”

“Where do you live?”

“I rent an apartment at Alhambra on the South Beltline.”

“I get two-fifty a day plus expenses.”

Polly goggled. She was a skinny thing with pale skin, a poof of curly red hair and a Roman nose. She wore a Tank Girl T-shirt over her flat chest and wire-rimmed glasses. She looked like a goonie bird. She snuffled, pulled a used tissue from her backpack and ran it under her nose.

“Allergies. My cash flow isn’t so great as you can imagine, but I have a terrific collection of original art I’ve collected over the years. My grandfather bunked with Charles Addams and Bill Mauldin in World War II. I suppose I could put some of my pieces up for auction.”

“I’m sympathetic to your case, Polly, but I don’t work for free.”

“I know that. People think that because I’m a starving comic book artist that I should do jobs for the publicity.”

“You make a living at this?” Josh said.

“Sort of. I got lucky last year when Vertigo tapped me to do a three issue run of Fables. Then I did a fill-in issue of Wonder Woman so I have a little money in the bank. I may have to sell my Mauldins and Addams drawings.”

She looked him up and down. “You are festooned with dog hair.”

The waitress came with three hamburgers. Josh set one on the ground for Fig. By the time Josh straightened up it was gone. Polly wolfed hers down looking around furtively as if some green was about to make a citizen’s arrest. She brought out two amber plastic bottles from her backpack, opened them and downed two pills.

“Do you have a concealed carry permit?” Josh said.

Polly stared at him like he was a bug. “Don’t be absurd! No one should have a gun except the police.”

“I’d like to take a look at your place and if you don’t mind, I’d like to see your original art.”

“Do you know anything about comics?” Polly said.

“I like The Badger. I think I have a few floating around.”

“Everybody loves The Badger,” Polly said. “I never wanted to do superheroes.”

Josh hefted Muhammad. “What’s this?”

“It’s a satire.”

“I don’t think Muslims do satire. Tell me something. With everything that’s happening in the world, with terrorists flowing over the southern border like a land rush, what made you think this was a good idea?”

“I’m an artist. I can’t think about what’s politically correct and I can’t let prejudice affect what I consider art or it’s the death of art. Every day we hear another ukase from some idiot that this or that should be off-limits.” Polly spoke in a faux low voice. “’There are many proper subjects for humor. Islam is not among them.’ Fuck that! Even Schindler’s List has a few laughs.”

Josh liked her. He’d always hated bullies.

“Now they say you can’t write Luke Cage unless you’re a black man. And you can’t play a movie Indian unless you’re Indian. There’s a reason they’re called actors. Edgar Rice Burroughs would have been forbidden to write Tarzan because he never went to Africa. Alexander Dumas could not have written The Three Musketeers because he was a black man. They’re calling for the death of the imagination.”   

“I hear you.”

“Did you ever see The Year of Living Dangerously? Linda Hunt, this little midget woman won an Oscar for portraying an Indonesian man. What do we do now? Take away her Oscar ‘cause she’s not Indonesian?”

“Never saw it.” Josh hadn’t seen many movies and most of those that he had seen he saw in prison. Inmates voted on what they wanted to see so Josh had intimate knowledge of Hell Up In Harlem, Superfly, Buck Town, Easy Rider, Hell’s Angels On Wheels, and Wild Angels. The tiny gay contingent never could summon the votes for The Bird Cage.

“Sorry for the rant. Seems like I gotta justify everything I do these days.”

“Not to me.”

“So what do you think?” she said, fixing her green eyes on him.

“About what?”

“About protecting me!”

“Let’s take a look at that original art. I might do it for the art.”

“Great!” Polly said. When the check came she snatched it. “I’ve got this.”

Minutes later the waitress returned perplexed. “Ma’am, your credit card didn’t go

through.”

“What?”

“We got notice from your bank that it’s been canceled.”

“That’s impossible,” Polly said.

It’s started Josh thought as he reached for his wallet.

Elvis and Me by Mike Baron

ELVIS AND ME

 

My second wife and I were married at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Vegas. Elvis

sang at the ceremony. My third wife and I were married in Sonia Immasch’s house. Elvis sang at the ceremony. This second Elvis was George Gray, one of the most accomplished Elvis impersonators in the country. George usually appears with a ten piece band including five back­up singers. He sounds a lot like Elvis.

 

Last week I visited my old pal Russ in Boynton Beach. “Guess what, Mikey! We’re going to see an Elvis impersonator!” He and his lovely wife Andy took me to the Lemon Cafe where one David Morin, born in France, was holding forth. Boynton Beach is retirement country and the café was packed to gridlock with senior citizens. I myself am a senior citizen. There was barely enough room to maneuver between tables. This Elvis appears with a pre­recorded soundtrack and his wife adding harmony. Amid the clamor and clatter of hard­of­hearing seniors, we were hard­pressed to understand David clearly, but the songs were utterly recognizable from “The Peppermint Twist” to “My Way.” After a brief intermission, David returned in spangled white jumpsuit splendor to sing “All Shook Up,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’” (written by Elvis’ cousin Jerry Lee,) and “Blue Suede Shoes.” He was okay but he was no George Gray.

 

When Elvis played Madison, he broke up a street fight.

 

June 23­24, 1977 – Madison, WI

 

Elvis arrived at the old Four Lakes Aviation around midnight. He was in town to do what would be his last show in Madison (He died less then two months later), at the Dane County Coliseum. He got into the waiting limousine and the headed south on highway 51. When they reached the traffic lights at East Washington Avenue Elvis saw Keith Lowry Jr. on the ground being beaten up by two teens at the Skyland Service Station. Wearing his trademark aviator sunglasses and “DEA Agent” navy blue jumpsuit over his sparkling stage outfit Elvis went flying out the door of the limo. When he reached the scene of the fight he said “I’ll take you on”. The two boys looked up at him and just stopped, Lowry ran into the gas station. Elvis got back into the limo and headed for his hotel room at the Sheraton.

 

(http://www.surroundedbyreality.com/misc/Famous/Elvis.asp)Rudelvis

 

The New Dog by Mike Baron

THE NEW DOG

So we got a new dog. His name is Bob, in honor of the previous Bob, who passed away a year ago. I hate to put a dog down. But if you love dogs and have them, it’s inevitable. The old Bob was a wonderful, obedient pet. After my late wife died of an overdose, Bob was my only companion for several months, until I decided to get him a playmate. I turned to karate pal Veterinarian Robin Van Metre who has a line on every stray dog in northern Colorado. She took me to a no-kill shelter in Loveland where I arbitrarily chose the little furball who looked somewhat like a collie/German shepherd mix. Freddie is a delightful dog.

Then I married Ann. Several years ago Robin asked if anyone would be willing to take her dog “Cali,” whom some brainless college student had dropped off an a shelter after deciding she didn’t really want the responsibility, and I volunteered. “Cali” is a Boston terrier/pug mix with a ferocious personality. We renamed her Mack due to her resemblance to the hood ornament on a Mack truck. When it time to return Mack, Ann clutched her and said, “We’re keeping this dog!”

Robin was delighted. “You saved our marriage!”

Mack bit a chunk out of Freddie’s face a week after we got her. No reason. She just wanted to establish who was top dog. She left old Bob alone. We have had Mack for about four years now and we love her deeply. She is a great dog.

Old Bob wasn’t doing so well. His rear legs began to give out and in the dead of winter he could hardly make it up the stairs to the deck. I laid carpet down on every step, and covered the kitchen floor with carpets so his rear legs wouldn’t go out from under him. But the handwriting was on the wall. Last February I took him to the park and we played catch for awhile. Bob loved playing catch. Then I took him to the vet and had him put down, in my arms. I tear up at the thought of Bob. Not so much for my late wife.

So Ann said, “When are we going to get another dog?” It’s always best to get them in the summer when they’re easier to house train. We went to All Aboard Animal Rescue at a pet store and Ann came back holding this goofy looking noodle dog with the big ears. Meet the new Bob.

Bob is part German shepherd, collie, and perhaps a touch of doberman due to the ears and coloring. Like all my dogs, he chews whatever’s at hand including valuable books and furniture. I have already lost two valuable books to him. But whatcha gonna do? That’s how puppies are. They have to chew and we have to provide them with quality chewables. Which brings me to the Tibetan dog chews at Poudre Valley Feed. Made from petrified yak milk, they are forty dollars a pound. The cheapest all natural animal part are buffalo ears at a buck an ear. At Poudre Valley, pet food is more expensive than human food.

Bob got house trained real quick by the other dogs. Now we are working on preserving what’s left of our infrastructure and trying to get him to stop barking. The house is awash in dog hair. Most of it from Freddie. Forget conventional vacuums. I use a shop vac and plan to get a new one shortly. It’s the only way.

Bob & Mack puppyBob puppyFreddie Mike

Paul Martin Smith by Mike Baron

Mike & Smitty

SMITTY AND ME

I first saw Paul Smith’s artwork on X-Men and was gob-smacked. Back in the day I wanted to work with every artist whom I admired. And there were a lot! Paul Smith is one of nature’s gentlemen. I was surprised to learn he was a fellow biker, and visited him several times at his garret in Santa Barbara, and later at his brother’s house. Paul had gone through several bikes before settling on BMW’s “Flying Brick,” and loaned me his Honda V45 for a memorable ride.

Of all the replacement artists who worked on Nexus, Smitty was the best ,(37, 38, 43, 44, 49, 51-55,) and “Kreed’s Arm” is his masterpiece. He also drew The Spirit, Starman, Sun Runners, and Leave It To Chance. His last comic book work was Kitty Pryde: Shadow and Flame, in 2006. Then he pulled a disappearing act.

I tried locating him for years. Several months ago, while visiting my partner Steve Rude, the Dude mentioned that Smitty had phoned him from his new home in Colorado. A little sleuthing tracked him to Colorado Springs, 120 miles south of my home in Fort Collins.

It has become a tradition to spend New Year’s Eve at my publisher’s house in Monument, five miles north of Colorado Springs. I asked my publisher if I could invite Smitty. Cool. My publisher’s house is impossible to find. Nevertheless, Smitty found it and there he was–older, grayer, but the same. Paul used to have bright ginger hair. It is now all white. We talked for hours and I reminded him of the time he loaned me a motorcycle and promised to return the favor. Paul is without a motorcycle for the first time in decades. I hope to see him on one of my projects soon.

His website is www.paulmartinsmith.com.