Sergio Aragones

Popeye host Tom Hatten taught LA kids the magic of drawing comics

Tom Hatten, circa 1956

After living here for just over ten years, I’m still learning about Los Angeles and its surprisingly rich history. From the 1950s and into the mid-’60s, local station KTLA, then owned by Paramount, ran The Pier Point 5 Club, later renamed The Popeye Show. Both shows aired live segments between episodes of the Popeye cartoon, which had been licensed to Paramount in 1941. To compete with other children’s programming, KTLA needed a host for the live segments, and so they hired Tom Hatten.

Dressed as a skipper to resemble Popeye, what made Tom Hatten unique from the other kids show hosts was his abilities as an artist, in addition to being a classically trained actor. Tom Hatten would draw Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto live on the show. For many LA area kids, this was probably the first time they’d ever seen someone draw seemingly random lines on a page and bring them together to create something familiar. The show was so popular that it was brought back in the ’70s and ’80s.

That magical experience was expanded when Tom Hatten started holding contests on the show where random “squiggle” as he would call them, would be made by a local kid, and then he would turn it into a whale or funny looking character. If he couldn’t turn the squiggle into something, the kid would win a free bike.

This kind of local programming is unheard of these days, so naturally this kind of improvised drawing is almost impossible to find. Fortunately I know of one live performance happening this week that is an absolute joy to watch. At Comic-Con International: San Diego, one my favorite panels is Quick Draw, where master cartoonists Sergio Aragonés (Groo the Wanderer, Mad Magazine) and Scott Shaw! (Captain Carrot & His Amazing Zoo Crew, Simpsons Comics) improvise their way through a flurry of cartoon drawings. This year they’ll be joined by cartoonist Mike Kazaleh (The Adventures of Captain Jack, Futurama). The show is hosted by comics historian/animation director Mark Evanier and there are usually some guest appearances by popular comics creators. It’s a hilarious hour and change, and really shows just how brilliant these people are to be able to create identifiable objects with personality and style using free association and random audience suggestions.

But back to Tom Hatten. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any videos on YouTube of Tom drawing from the original show itself, but I found a bunch of gift ideas for 8 year old boys and this two-part interview from 2004 where he was a guest on the local talk show Marty’s Corner. He demonstrated the squiggles game and his drawing Olive Oyl to get the job, along with other great anecdotes.

New Graphic Novels, Comic Books for You – 10/28/09

Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?

Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of October 28 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.

Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.

Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer – $10.95
By Dustin Higgins & Van Jensen
128 pages; published by Slave Labor Graphics; available at

After seeing Geppetto die at the hands of vampires, Pinocchio swears revenge in this darkly funny graphic novel. As the vampires plot the enslavement of mankind, only a one-puppet army stands in their way. But will a wooden boy and his endless supply of stakes – courtesy of plenty of lies and his elongating nose – be enough to save the day?

Funny concept! Here’s a 5-page preview and a different 7-page preview. And a trailer:

Looks like a pretty funny execution of a funny concept. If you’re into humor/horror, this could be the comic you’ve been waiting to read for your whole entire life.

Casper and the Spectrals #1 – $2.99
By Todd DeZago & Pedro Delgado
published by Ardden Entertainment

Just in time for Casper’s 60th anniversary, Ardden Entertainment proudly debuts Casper And The Supernaturals, an all-new take on the world’s most famous ghost and his two friends, Wendy the Witch and Hot Stuff! There is a city within New York City known as Spooky Town, but most humans are unable to see it.

Within this city live the Supernaturals, the ghosts, goblins, demons and witches of the world. When an ancient entity known only as the Volbragg threatens both New York and Spooky Town, Casper and his friends are forced to band together and defeat an unimaginable evil!

THIS ISN’T YOUR FATHER’S CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST! He’s EXTREME! I kid. Seriously, this looks like a cute revitalization of this classic character. If you don’t know who Casper is, don’t worry about it. This is a totally fresh start. No prior knowledge needed.

Bart Simpson Comics #50 – $2.99
By Sergio Aragonés
Published by Bongo Comics

Bongo Comics welcomes Sergio Aragones as a new regular featured writer and artist in the pages of Bart Simpson Comics!

First, Sergio starts with a story that pits the Simpsons against our national security in ‘The Simpsons Project,’ and then he debuts his regular bi-monthly feature entitled, ‘Maggie’s Crib.’

Get ready when the world’s fastest cartoonist meets the world’s brashest boy! And as if that wasn’t enough, Sergio also provides the cover to Bart’s fabulous 50th issue!

Somebody tell Bongo Comics to get a website. Come on. It’s almost 2010.

That embarrassment aside, Sergio Aragonés is a fantastic cartoonist (and has a website). Every year at San Diego Comic-Con, he does this hilarious must-see panel called Quick Draw where he, super-cartoonist Scott Shaw! and a guest cartoonist try to out-draw each other. It’s tons of fun, very spontaneous and immensely creative. Sergio drew for MAD Magazine for years (heck, he probably still does) and also does his own comic Groo The Wanderer. Seeing him handle The Simpsons will be a big treat.

Che: A Graphic Biography – $22.00
By Sid Jacobson & Ernie Colón
128 pages; published by Hill and Wang; available at

A symbol of counterculture worldwide, Ernesto “Che” Guevara is one of the most, if not the most, recognizable and influential revolutionary figures of the twentieth century. From the pages of history textbooks to silk-screened T-shirts at Urban Outfitters, his mythologized face is positively unavoidable. But what, exactly, does this glorified image stand for?

During his life, and perhaps even more since his death, Che has elicited controversy and wildly divergent opinions as to who he was and what he represented. In Che: A Graphic Biography, Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón—the graphic duo who made the 9/11 Commission Report understandable in their bestselling The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation and who most recently explained the ongoing war on terror in After 9/11—have come together again to give a real portrait of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna. Following Che from his fabled motorcycle journeys with Alberto Granado as a young medical student to his eventual execution at the hands of Bolivian soldiers and CIA operatives, Che: A Graphic Biography not only provides a concrete time line of his life but also gives a broader understanding of his beliefs, his legacy, and Latin American politics during the mid-twentieth century.

I will forever love these two creators for doing The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. I think it was a huge step in comics expanding on their potential. It gives an amazing timeline of events so you can see how things were happening simultaneously, in a way that straight prose never could. It was clear, concise, intelligent. Definitely one of the best comic releases of that year, possibly the decade. I don’t know if this is as significant, but again I applaud what their doing and the skill in which they do it.

Vlad the Impaler: The Man Who Was Dracula – $25.95
By Sid Jacobson & Ernie Colón
114 pages; published by Hudson Street Press; available at

From the bestselling author/illustrator team of The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation comes the truly gory tale of the historical Dracula.

The Dracula myth has sparked a legacy of endlessly entertaining creepy tales. The fictional character, originally penned by Bram Stoker, was inspired by and named after a real-life fiend—Prince Vlad Dracula, the fifteenth-century ruler of Wallachia—a man infamous for massacring and impaling his enemies. In brilliant four-color illustrations, Vlad the Impaler tells the ghastly prince’s life story from his seizure as a boy by the Turkish Sultan, to his love life, to his maniacal attempts to retain power regardless of whose throat he must slit.

From the bestselling writer and illustrator team who brought us The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation—hailed by Stan Lee as “beautifully and compellingly written and illustrated. . . . It will surely set the standard for all future works of contemporary history, graphic or otherwise”—this graphic novel, based on a true story, is replete with gory details of torture tactics. Ideal for readers who made 30 Days of Night and World War Z bestsellers, the combination of riveting legend and blood-and-guts drawings will be an anticipated addition to the graphic novel fan’s library.

Hey, it’s those guys again! Some nicely coordinated release schedules from two separate publishers. Smartly done. This seems a bit darker and more for fun, but should also be an interesting read.

Bob Dylan Revisited – $24.95
By Bob Dylan, et al.
104 pages; published by W.W. Norton & Company; available at

Rendered in striking, explosive graphic form, many of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs—illustrated as they’ve never been before.

Mesmerized by the power of Bob Dylan’s lyrics and intrigued by the possibilities of translating his powerful, enigmatic personality into art, thirteen leading graphic artists banded together to create this unusual testament to the universality and transcendent vision of an American musical genius. With their vibrant, unexpected colors and dynamic, cinematic imagery, this group has assembled in Bob Dylan Revisited one of the most provocative interpretations of Dylan’s music in decades. Whether illustrating “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Hurricane,” or “Lay, Lady, Lay,” these artists capture the tender emotions, the ineffable sadness, and the romantic overtones of Dylan’s classic songs, at the same time reflecting the moral and political urgency of his music. Each artist’s style surprisingly complements Dylan’s lyrics and offers an irresistible window through which to reconsider one of America’s most enigmatic artists. A deeply respectful and brilliant homage to the extraordinary influence of Bob Dylan.

Love the cover. Here’s the list of songs and the artists interpreting them, according to the publisher’s site:

“Blowin in the Wind” interpreted by Thierry Muraty
“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” interpreted by Lorenzo Mattotti
“I Want You” interpreted by Nicolas Nemiri
“Girl of the North Country” interpreted by François Avril
“Lay, Lady, Lay” interpreted by Jean-Claude Götting
“Positively 4th Street” interpreted by Christopher
“Tombstone Blues” interpreted by Bézian
“Desolation Row” interpreted by Dave McKean
“Like a Rolling Stone” interpreted by Alfred (drawings), Raphaëlle Le Rio, Maël Le Maé (scenario) and Henri Meunier (color)
“Hurricane” interpreted by Gradimir Smudja
“Blind Willie McTell” interpreted by Benjamin Flao
“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” interpreted by Jean-Philippe Bramanti
“Not Dark Yet” interpreted by Zep

This looks really cool, very imaginative. Here’s a 12-page preview. Perfect Christmas (or other holiday) gift for that Dylan fan in your life, since they probably will have already either bought or sworn off the confounding Christmas in the Heart.