Archives for posts with tag: comics

Top hat of Mandrake
by Sunil Sharma

It was a top hat coveted
by us, the kids, the comic-book addicts,
roaming enchanted regions through the strips

in the house of maternal grandpa that we visited
in the long summers, we dreamed of wearing one
and turning into the opposite of real-time selves

I insisted on wearing the dark one suspended on a hook
in the dark attic, a mystery object, antecedents unknown to us,
it beckoned, whenever I was there, in the gloomy space crowded with
artifacts and bric-a-brac

one hot afternoon, while everybody slept in the big household,
and an angry wind roared
I picked it up and placed it, crown-like, on my head, looking into
an old hand-mirror.
I was my opposite!
A shy, pale-faced child,
turning into Mandrake, the Magician,
much before the global mania called Harry Potter
I strode on the dusty floor of the attic, holding a stick
as my wand, and, making the ugly adult world disappear
some hats
they can do the miracles!

IMAGE: Cover of Mandrake the Magician: The Complete King Years (Volume One).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Childhood, comic books, toons and alluring appeal of magic combined with a plastic imagination of a child can create powerful and real realms so far away from the dull and prosaic realities of living a middle-class existence in a grim world minus that transforming magic. Mandrake could do so much. Wearing a top hat in a dusty north Indian household on a summer afternoon did that to the young wearer —  transformation of the ugly world into a livable and just place, in a magical moment. Deep down, we all search for that top-hatted magician and wish to become one.


Mumbai-based, Sunil Sharma writes prose and poetry, apart from doing literary journalism and freelancing. A senior academic, he has been published in some of the leading international journals and anthologies. Sunil has got three collections of poetry, one collection of short fiction, one novel and co-edited five books of poetry, short fiction and literary criticism.Recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012.  Another notable achievement is his select poems were published in the prestigious UN project  Happiness: The Delight-Tree-2015. He edits English section of the monthly Setu, a bilingual journal from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

by Mark Redford

on the coach down to Folkestone: the pages of

from a time and world before my day whole cities and
lives lived in shadow and yellow light in recede and smirk

in caption and still in number and date –
later we walked down into town from the campsite

from the streets we stepped into the general store
the smell of tins and packed food rose from the

faded lino floor with lime highlights, the comic rack
revolving: seceding titles, successing numbers,

companies of generation, branches discovered,
a distant family, a close ancestry; now traceable

PHOTOGRAPH: Walking the long way down into Folkestone, the author (with his younger brother) with landscapes coming out of his head in more ways than one (don’t worry, he paid the price later when he had it permed and most of it fell out; — eh?; the 1970s: can’t live with them, and yet they’re still here!).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We didn’t have much money after Dad left so we had a few holidays in a caravan of an aunt in Folkestone; the escape from London to the Kent coast added fresh smells and landscape to a 13-year old possibility but also depthened (sic) what I read at the same time (proving the proverb: the more you travel, the deeper you stay where you are). I still read comics, but I mostly smell them now.

mark redford

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Redford was born in Bethnal Green, London (within the sound of Bow Bells, ‘wish mayksim a troo cocknee’ although he only speaks like that when ‘ease avvin’ a bubble’). He has been teaching for 28 years and was passionate about the cognitive development of learning until he finally realised that nobody ‘got it’.  While he is recovering from that, he has resumed writing and continues teaching with a wan and slightly ironic smile. He has published slightly too (The Blue Hour magazine, The Haiku Quarterley; and is soon to self-publish MLR Poemics Presents #1; Uncannily green Poems) but mostly transmits, in a tiny voice, from some dark cupboard [that’ll have him] in the posts of mlewisredford.wordpress.

by Alan Passman

When face-to-face, eye-to-eye
with myself in the mirror,
I see my parents.

My father’s broad isosceles
of a nose, hooked and unforgiving;
his roundness and lack of a virile
jawline that is instead a pendulous
and sagging second chin.

My mother’s dulled, foggy emerald
green eyes pierce back at me as they
trace up my forehead to her father’s
vampiric widow’s peak: a hairline
that recedes with every year
like said grandfather from my life.

I spy the heritage I really know nothing
about: family that fled from pogroms,
that lived and died in Tolstoy’s time,
that crossed the ocean with hope
brimming in their hearts for US
streets paved with gold.

I see what have become my sartorial
trademarks: red glasses and a beard.
The latter’s a point of pride and envy
with friends, foes, and strangers alike.
Former’s just a distracting affectation,
something to keep from homogenously
blending in with the crowd.

I see the cleft in my nose that I loathe
and I see my eyebrows that most
women would achieve by enduring
the pain of plucking and threading.

I see my lips, the feature that most
of the women I’ve been with have said
is my best feature. They’ve been
described as “thin yet plump.”

Whatever . . .

IMAGE: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Marvel illustrated edition, 2007), cover art by Gerald Parel.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Some people subscribe to the idea that you should free-write everyday until something sticks. Others are all about waiting for the muse to whisper in their ears. I find myself somewhere in-between. Sometimes a line or an image will pop into my head, and I’ll try to capture it. Then there are the moments were I doodle pictures, mostly of The Simpsons or the Ninja Turtles, and scribble lines out of boredom during professional enrichment meetings that we educators have to endure a couple times a semester — but with a poem like this that has a prompt and a project attached to it, the strictures and limitations actually aid you in that they force you to have a clear idea of what you’re trying to craft with each line, each stanza until you have something to write home about.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Passman is a man who strives for impossibility. His aesthetic is one that blends blatant pop cultural nerdery with red-hot, American male deviancy. He’s been published in Crack the Spine, Carnival, Bank Heavy Press, and, coming this fall, he will be featured in Multiverse: An Anthology of Superhero Poetry of Superhuman Proportions from Write Bloody Publishing. He received his BA and MFA from California State University, Long Beach, for Creative Writing and Poetry respectively. Currently, he teaches English at Long Beach City College.

by Alan Birkelbach

The eyes, surrounded by lines, of course, are by Kubert,
as is the day-old beard. It is always a day-old beard.
Even after I shave. Sgt. Rock always had a shadow.
I always have a shadow.

You might think I have no input at all from Gil Kane
but if the light is just right
you’ll see the vertical tendon
that goes from my cheekbone to the top of my jaw,
there for no apparent reason.

There’s a hint, I’d like to think, from Carmine Infantino
in the little half smile I’m casting, kind of like when
Barry Allen was first starting to date Iris and couldn’t let her know
he was actually The Flash.

There, at the base of my neck, you might notice the
lax skin, wrinkled, kind of turtle-like, freckled.
Why do I look so stretched out right there, you might say
and then you will realize that
Berni Wrightson was given the shoulders and neck
and he really likes to add a touch of pending macabre,
full of sinew and age.

My bushy eyebrows are obviously Barry Smith
in his finest Zukala-Conan period. It is a shame
that I cannot conjure demons.

My head is long. Jim Aparo did that.
He’s always liked long heads. That–and he drew
the little silver in my hair around my temples
like on The Phantom Stranger.

You notice how I am facing the mirror squarely,
emphasizing the shoulders. You can even see the
lines of my breastbone through the t-shirt.
That’s because Jack Kirby drew that part of me that way
(although there are times I think someone else
might have done the inking.)

Sadly, there is no part of me that is Steranko,
No false perspectives, no layering of muscles.
And neither is there any part of me that you can see
that is penciled, and penciled only, by Neal Adams.
I stay within the frame. I am not cinematic.

And lastly,
if the mirror was only a little wider
then you would see just off to the side
my concubine, obviously designed by Wally Wood,
her massive bosom perfectly round,
and impossibly full.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My creative process…It’s not seasonal, driven by exhaustion, coffee, or other writers. Sometimes deadlines make it happen faster. It’s as much a part of the spent hours of my life as eating tacos and drinking beer and watching old movies. It doesn’t depend on the Muses. My creative process is a river. I don’t know the headwaters. I don’t need to know.

IMAGE: Showcase #4 (October 1956), generally considered the start of the Silver Age of Comic Books (1956-1970). Cover art by Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert.

Alan Birkelbach 2 copyright cavern media

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Birkelbach’s work has appeared in journals and anthologies such as Grasslands Review, Borderlands, The Langdon Review, and Concho River Review.   He is member of The Texas Institute of Letters and The Academy of American Poets. He has nine collections of poetry.

Author photo by Cavern Media, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

CAPTION: And no one ever heard from the Anderson brothers again.

Credit: The Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

CREDIT: New Yorker cartoon by Leo Cullum, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Prints available at


“I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.” STEVE MARTIN, actor, writer, comedian, musician

Illustration: Homer Simpson dollar bill by Jeremy Hara, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Visit artist Jeremy Hara at his blog



Contribution by Elmore Leonard

Snoopy has come up with an especially clever name with “Good Authority,” one that makes the story work.

I once named a character Frank Matisse, but he acted older than his age; and for some reason he wouldn’t talk as much as I wanted him to. I changed his name to Jack Delany and couldn’t shut him up.

Because I use a lot of dialogue in my stories, the characters must be able to talk in interesting ways. So I audition them in opening scenes to see which ones will have important roles in the plot. If a character doesn’t speak the way I want him to, and changing his name doesn’t work, he could be demoted to a less important role.

The best kind of character is one who starts out in a minor role – sometimes without even having a name – and talks his way into the plot. He says a few words, and I see this guy has an interesting personality and I look for more ways to use him in the story.

I write my stories in scenes and always from a particular character’s point of view. Then I may rewrite the same scene from a different character’s point of view and find that it works better. After I finish a book, I continue to think about my characters and wonder what they’re up to.

The most important advice I would suggest to beginning writers: Try to leave out the parts that readers skip.

ELMORE LEONARD is the bestselling author of nearly forty books, including Get Shorty, La Brava, Cuba Libre, and Stick, many of which have been made into films.

SNOOPY’S GUIDE TO THE WRITING LIFE is available at books is out of print, but used copies are available for around $7.50 plus shipping.)

Illustration: Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schultz


New Yorker cartoon by J.B. Handelsman