Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The High Price of Cosplay. Pat Broderick Breaks His Silence.


Pat Broderick is more than disenchanted with the Greenwich Village Halloween parade that comics conventions have become in recent years. He says the skin show costs artists like himself money. So he’s doing something about it.

“A few years ago I returned to a wider comic convention circuit,” Pat told me. “I’ve been doing commissions for many clients and have a backlog. Recently I was also fortunate to receive work from DC Comics, and I have my own properties, which I’ve been working on for the last two years.  So there’s no lack of work now and I find myself in a happy position for an aged artist.”

Aged artist? The proper term is veteran. Take a gander at the Werehawk pin-up Pat recently contributed to Aardwolf Publishing’s forthcoming Dave Cockrum’s FUTURIANS RETURN project. But I digress…

“This last year,” said Pat, “I reviewed the years’ convention appearances and came to a sobering conclusion. Conventions had veered away from the family-friendly events they once were into major media events with large cosplay involvement. At first I thought the mega increase in attendance would also bolster sales with [artists and] dealers. Sadly it has not.”

Pat says promoters are all about maximizing advanced ticket sales, which leads to more people at a show, but the wrong type of people: unqualified guests. People who want to see and be seen aren’t at shows to spend money.

Pat's contribution to Dave Cockrum's FUTURIANS RETURN
“From a promoter’s point of view, it’s a great day,” says Pat. “Sadly it’s not so great for artists and dealers.”

So Pat bailed on an appearance in Ft. Lauderdale. “I'd been working with this promoter for about a year and every time I’d inquire why artists weren’t getting the same promotional efforts channeled towards cosplay events. And I was told that the artists were. Sadly this just did not prove to be the case.”

The next day, when Pat logged onto Facebook, he found numerous “friend” requests from cosplayers. So he requested that cosplayers cease “friending” him. He also asked convention promoters not to invite him if they were building their shows around cosplay events and media guests. “It was a simple request,” he says.

By the following day, Pat’s announcement had gone viral. It even was picked up by The Atlantic. “The amount of hate mail was huge,” says Pat. “The amount of support was even larger.”

Pat believes the inclusion of cosplay as a main convention function adds no value to the shows beyond padding attendance. Not only doesn’t it translate into sales, it does the opposite.

“Cosplayers work their way around convention floors and impede the natural flow of traffic as they stop and pose for photos. They don’t care that they're blocking people from selling their wares. These roaming groups of costumed players shut down a convention floor.”

And what of the notion that cosplayers are creating or participating in a form of art? “They’re not,” says Pat emphatically. “If they had created the designs from scratch and they were truly uniquely theirs, then that argument could be made. But they don’t do anything original.”

You're so busy looking at me that you can't even read this article.
So what are cosplayers good for? Nothing, apparently. “They rarely spend much if any cash except on their costumes,” says Pat. “It’s just gotten out of hand and these show [promoters] are forgetting that it’s their obligation to make it a profitable event for everyone.

Pat is considering creating a different kind of comics convention. “A decision was made about three months ago to produce my own shows and an attorney was contacted. Backers have been approached and are interested. Structure is being put into place. Names are being bounced back and forth. Eventually we’ll host our first show.”

Of course Pat’s position has not come without a cost. “I've been banned for life from attending four Florida shows by one promoter,” he reports. “But that’s okay. I’d rather be dropped ahead of time than attend another bad show.”



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Richard Lenchus: Still Crazy After All These Years

With deepest love and respect, wishing my Sensei Rick Lenchus, the Great Grandmaster, martial arts pioneer and founder of Legend Shotokan, a happy birthday on this, his landmark 75th. For half a century, Sensei Lenchus has given all of his students great dedication while setting us on the path of dignity and budo.

Legend Shotokan of Morristown, NJ
And he taught us how to fight.





Clifford Meth, Rick Lenchus, Avi Meth and Benjy Meth (2010)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Joe Sinnott on Neal Adams. How'd You Like to Own This?


News Release…

For the first time in 44 years, comic book legends Neal Adams and Joe Sinnott have collaborated on a special edition to be auctioned by the non-profit Inkwell Awards (aka “The Inkwells”). The auction will take place in March, 2015. The two artists contributed their talents to a sketch cover of a Batman #0 comic book. The first and last time they collaborated was on two issues of Thor in 1970.

“We are thrilled beyond belief to have these two living legends work together again on our behalf,” said Bob Almond, Inkwell Awards founder and director. “We originally planned to auction the piece off in December of this year but decided we didn't want to compete with holiday shopping. By waiting until March, everyone who wants a shot at this piece of history will have time to save for it.”

The piece came about when Inkwell volunteer Joe Goulart approached Adams at the 2014 Connecticut ComiCONN to contribute a donation sketch for the non-profit. Adams then made his own request: He would do so if Inkwell Special Ambassador Joe Sinnott inked it. Sinnott is also the namesake of the charity's Hall of Fame Award and its annual Inking Challenge event and book collection.

Sinnott's son Mark was contacted and the deal was sealed. Two months later, Joe brought the inked version to the Rhode Island Comic Con for a historic photo with Neal. The comic book has been professionally graded 9.4 and “slabbed” by the Comic Book Certification Service.

Information on the upcoming auction may be found on the organization's web site and Facebook page. The Inkwell Awards is an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization and the world’s sole registered advocacy for the promotion of the comic-book inking art form. In addition to its stated mission, “The Inkwells” annually recognize and award the best ink artists and their work. The organization is overseen by a committee of industry professionals and assisted by various professional ambassadors and contributors. They sponsor the Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Kubert School and host the annual Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rick Buckler Original Art. Cheap. Last Chance.

In 2015, Aardwolf Publishing will release Rich Buckler: Artist, Innovator a perfect-bound book of Rich's art with an introduction by Roy Thomas. This collection of Rich's impressive drawings will be a very limited edition run.

Before we launch our Kickstarter, Aardwolf is offering fans the opportunity to order the book now along with signed/numbered bookplates from Rick (Lettered bookplates are now sold out). These bookplates will contain unique head sketches of Marvel and DC characters that Rich has drawn specially for this project. This is a chance for you to own a piece of original Rich Bucker art as well as the rarest iteration of this new book.

Signed/Numbered editions of Rich Buckler: Artist, Innovator (only 100 will be produced) including the head sketch by Rich are $45 postage paid.

You can also order the book without the original head sketch for only $20.

Orders that need to be shipped outside of the U.S. will require additional postage.

You may request the character of your choice and we will try to accommodate you, but all character head sketches are either Marvel or DC characters, and each one is unique.

We do not have a ship date yet but you can reserve your copy now for just $20 (or by paying in full) by sending your order via PayPal to sales@aardwolfpublishing.com - Please specify whether you are ordering the numbered edition or a book without an original sketch.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rich Buckler: Artist, Innovator

Order now before they're gone:

In 2015, Aardwolf Publishing will release Rich Buckler: Artist, Innovator a perfect-bound book of Rich's art with an introduction by Roy Thomas and some rare insights from other important professionals. This collection of Rich's impressive drawings will be a very limited edition run.

But before we launch our Kickstarter, Aardwolf is offering fans the opportunity to order the book now along with special signed/lettered or signed/numbered bookplates from Rick. These bookplates will contain unique head sketches of Marvel and DC characters that Rich has drawn specially for this project. This is a chance for you to own a piece of original Rich Bucker art as well as the rarest iteration of this new book.

Signed/Numbered editions of Rich Buckler: Artist, Innovator (only 100 will be produced) including the head sketch by Rich are $45 postage paid.

The Lettered Edition of Rich Buckler: Artist, Innovator (only 26 will be produced), including a head sketch by Rich, is $72 postage paid.

You can also order the book without the original head sketch for only $20.

Orders that need to be shipped outside of the U.S. will require additional postage.

You may request the character of your choice and we will try to accommodate you, but all character head sketches are either Marvel or DC characters, and each one is unique.

We do not have a ship date yet but you can reserve your copy now for just $20 (or by paying in full) by sending your order via PayPal to sales@aardwolfpublishing.com - Please specify whether you are ordering the numbered or lettered edition, or a book without an original sketch.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rich Buckler: Artist, Innovator - Signed/Remarqued Edition Pre-Sale

I've been pleased to know artist Rich Buckler for decades and was happy to recently help renegotiate his contract with Marvel Comics for genuine participation in the Deathlok character that he created.

When I was young, Rich drew some of my favorite books including Fantastic Four, where he was handpicked to follow John Buscema, and later The Avengers. Best known for creating as well as writing and illustrating Deathlok (soon to be a major motion picture?), Rich is among a handful of legendary Marvel Bullpen artists who had the opportunity to draw nearly every major Marvel character of the 1970s.

In 2015, Aardwolf Publishing will release Rich Buckler: Artist, Innovator a perfect-bound portfolio of Rich's work with an introduction by Roy Thomas and, I expect, some rare insights from other important professionals. This collection of Rich's impressive drawings will be a limited edition run that's launched with a Kickstarter campaign.

But before we do that, Aardwolf is offering fans the opportunity to order the book now along with special signed/lettered or signed/numbered bookplates from Rich. These bookplates will contain unique head sketches of Marvel and DC characters that Rich has drawn specially for this project. This is a chance for you to own a piece of original Rich Bucker art as well as the rarest iteration of this new book.

  • Signed/numbered editions of Rich Buckler: Artist, Innovator (only 100 will be produced) including the head sketch by Rich are $45 postage-paid.
  • The Lettered Edition of Rich Buckler: Artist, Innovator (only 26 will be produced), including a head sketch by Rich, is $72 postage-paid.
  • You can also order the book without the original head sketch for only $20.
Orders that need to be shipped outside of the U.S. will require additional postage.

You can request the character of your choice and we will try to accommodate you, but all character head sketches are either Marvel or DC characters, and each one is unique.

We do not have a ship date yet but you can reserve your copy now for just $20 (or by paying in full) by sending your order via PayPal to sales@aardwolfpublishing.com - Please specify whether you are ordering the numbered or lettered edition.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Kinder, Gentler Harlan Ellison

"Good afternoon. You are the four-hundred and ninety-third caller today."

"Listen. We're choosing up sides for a tug of war and I wanted to see if you can come out and play."

"Cliffy, I am eager to go home."

As reported earlier, Harlan Ellison hardly comes across as a man who recently suffered a stroke. In just 10 days since his episode, he's recovered a fair amount of mobility in both his right arm, right hand and right leg. His medical team--some of which knew him only from his appearance on "The Simpsons"--is calling his progress miraculous. His friends are calling it Harlan Ellison.

The Oracle of Los Angeles continues to hold court every day in his hospital room, entertaining the baffled staff and myriad guests who have come to visit the eighth wonder of the world, to seek his blessing and ask the tzadik to heal their lame cat. When we speak, I detect a restlessness that tells me my pal really will be home even before Secretary of State Kerry solves all of the problems in the Middle East. Now I'd call that an excuse to celebrate.

Free Lunch at Tavern on the Green

That's right: If this isn't the best Kickstarter video you've ever seen, my friend artist Michael Pascale will treat you to oysters and clam dip at Tavern on the Green.

Click on this already. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Stan Lee: Indefatigable Excelsior

Gil Champion, Stan Lee, Clifford Meth and Gene Colan
I've spoken with Stan Lee twice in the past two days about matters than I can't share at this time (so why mention it, Meth?). Both times I'm left with a growing admiration for my 92-year-old friend who is so much bigger than merely the creator of Spider-Man and everything else he added to the pantheon of temporary culture.

Not much of a blog entry, I know, but I didn't want this moment to go personally unmarked.

Aardwolf Publishing saved Stan's "live" appearance for our forthcoming Kickstarter. But his alter ego Stanley Lieber makes a brief cameo in our current one.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Encountering Ellison


It was my first day in Los Angeles, which was bad enough, and I had a dull headache from the seven-hour flight out of LaGuardia, but  my luggage had made it in one piece so that was something, and the sun was shining and that was something, too. I got my rental car, tossed my bag in the trunk, and pulled out onto open road.

It was a time when only the rich and famous had GPS systems and I was neither. And my mobile phone, like everyone’s mobile phone, was only good for making phone calls. But I had Harlan’s map on my knee and I figured he was better than average at everything else so why should giving directions be any different?

I figured wrong. Of course Harlan would say I just don’t know how to follow directions and maybe that’s true, too, but either way I ended up lost in Sherman Oaks.

If you’ve never been to Sherman Oaks, imagine long, narrow, treacherous ski slopes covered in blacktop that slant at 90-degree angles and turn on a dime at breakneck speeds if you’re doing better than 7 m.p.h.  Stop your near-vertical vehicle on one of those perilous inclines to ask the occasional jogging passerby for directions and you’re just as likely to hear, “No problemo—turn right at Richard Dryfuss’s house” as “Sorry, buddy, I’m just visiting.” So I was frustrated, but it was still sunny out and I did have that good-for-phoning cellular, which was indicating a whole two bars of range. So I dialed the Oracle.

“I’ll guide you in,” said Harlan after I explained my dilemma. And he did just that, turn by turn, over hill and dale, until I found myself riding my breaks down what seemed like an endless drop and fearful that I’d hit a bump and go flying and fall off the face of the earth.

By now I was hungry  and thirsty and the headache had gone from a throb to a thump. I needed a drink and I needed to pee and my ears were beginning to itch. Ahead of me, in the middle of the road, was a site that assured me my eyes, too, were off kilter.

“Are you still there?” I asked the phone.

“Yeah, where are you?”

“I think I might be on your street but it looks like there’s there’s an old lunatic in his underwear standing in the middle of the road, talking on a phone.”

I pulled up to the man and rolled down my window.

“Fuck you,” said Harlan.

Come On. It's Not Such A Bad Title.

Click on my new Kickstarter to watch the video. It's free. As in it won't cost you a nickel.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Harlan Ellison Will Emerge Stronger Than Ever

Now that it's spreading around the net, yes: I'm aware that my dear friend Harlan Ellison suffered a stroke late last week. I spoke with Harlan earlier today and his mind and wit and spirit are stronger than most ten people a third his age.

Anyone acquainted with me knows what Harlan means to me, and on more levels than I can enumerate, so news of his illness hit me very hard. But I believe my brother will fully recover, and that his finest work is still ahead of him.

If you have lived in a bubble and not knowingly encountered Harlan's work yet, do yourself an enormous favor and dig in. But your taste for the mundane will be spoiled forever, and your dislike for any traces of hypocrisy in yourself will grow exponentially.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge and The Inkwell Awards

I'd meant to mention this earlier but life got in the way.

Bob Almond, director of the Inkwell Awards, recently unveiled this lovely art book, Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge and Results, which shows what really happens when an inker gets involved in the comic art process. A superb draftsman like grandmaster Joe Sinnott can lay down the most basic--or most extraordinary--pencils and then it's up to the finisher to determine the mood. That's what you'll see here as inker after inker lays down their blacks over Joe's graphite.

Purchasing a copy will help the important Inkwell Awards, which does all sorts of free important work on behalf of artists who need the advocacy. But it's also a worthy book in its own right.

You can order your copy here.

Michael Netzer at 59

I've enjoyed his friendship for more than a decade, and his art since I was a boy. A very happy birthday  (Oct.  9) to my friend and creative partner Michael Netzer, who is extraordinary in every way.






Saturday, September 13, 2014

Avoid Banfield Pet Hospital


I have had terrible experiences with Banfield Pet Hospital. And clearly, I am not the only one.

Google the name Banfield Pet Hospital and read a page or two of the many complaints before you give them a credit card or are foolish enough to sign up for one of their wellness programs.

Here's a good place to start:

Complaints about Banfield Pet Hospital at the Better Business Bureau

A word to the wise: Avoid Banfield Pet Hospital.






Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Robin Riggs to Ink Dave Cockrum’s Futurians Return

HULK cover inked by Robin Riggs
Aardwolf Publishing has announced that Robin Riggs will be the finisher on Dave Cockrum’s FUTURIANS RETURN, a project that Aardwolf successfully funded viaKickstarter in August. Riggs will be replacing Bob Wiacek due to scheduling conflicts.

“Bob Wiacek’s sensational pin-ups are still a vital part of this book but he had to bow out and we were delighted to find someone as talented and meticulous as Robin to help bring this important book to completion,” said Clifford Meth, the project’s editor. “I am a huge fan of Robin’s work and Dave's widow Paty Cockrum has been delighted with what he’s producing. I’m only sorry that Dave Cockrum isn’t with us to enjoy this book finally coming to life. He would have loved Robin's work.”

Paty Cockrum, the original Futurians’ colorist, is coloring the book, which will be lettered by Tom Orzechowski. FUTURIANS RETURN also features a painted cover by Ray Lago and additional pin-ups by Bill Sienkiewicz.

“I’m happy to be part of this book,” said Riggs. “Dave Cockrum was one of the immortals and working over his pencils is an honor.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Does Anybody Remember Laughter?



I didn’t know Robin Williams any better than you did. A man is his work but he is more than his work.

By every account I’ve read and heard personally, Robin was a generous and kind man. Despite his meteoric rise, he remained approachable and those who had the good fortune of making contact felt richer for the experience. It was more than entertainment.

Yes, I didn’t know Robin. When I was with IDT Entertainment, he was the guest of honor at the Christopher Reeve Foundation’s annual dinner, which we co-sponsored. I had a reserved seat at a table in the front of the room, but I didn’t attend because I’m apt to find any and every excuse to not attend parties, so I missed him and had to settle for stories and selfies-with-Robin from my colleagues the next day.

I knew of Robin’s close friendship with my pal Harlan Ellison, so I considered Robin a fraternal cousin. Harlan is one of the few individuals I imagine whose mind and wit are as quick as Robin’s was. They were like Castor and Pollux, just separated by a generation. Harlan was certainly enchanted by Robin, and a phone call from him comes to me now in evidence of this.

“Hello?”

“Okay. So Robin just got off a plane in Switzerland and he immediately phoned to tell me this joke he wrote on the tarmac. Ready?”

Harlan proceeded to share a joke about Jesus and Judas at the Last Supper and nuanced the ending precisely as I imagined Robin might have. It was a very good joke.

So I didn’t know Robin, but I felt like I did. We all felt that way. That’s what happens when someone that public is so warm and witty and seemingly fearless: we fool ourselves into thinking we know them, or very much want to.

At The Times of Israel, the headline reads “Honorary Jew Robin Williams, 63, Found Dead.” I’m sure the Catholics and Buddhists and everyone else are claiming Robin for their own, too. Everybody loved him, except for the Scientologists, who he compared with Enron employees. “The [Enron] employees being led on at the very end while the executives were selling stock like crazy was like people on the deck of the Titanic saying, ‘We are fine, and we are booking passage for the way back.’ Enron Hubbard, the church of profitology—aliens came to this planet with the idea of selling energy. It's almost like, ‘From the people who brought you the S&L. bailout.’ It's a similar school of investment. How do you make money from a loss? You hide it!” (New York Times Sunday magazine, Feb. 17, 2002).

Yes, Robin Williams had the perfect recipe, that rare blend of ingredients we find impossibly attractive in a fellow human being—humor, wit, warmth, generosity of spirit, endurance... Sadly, his endurance only went down so deep. Those who burn so beautiful and bright have a tendency to snuff out the flame before the rest of us think they ought to have, or had a right to. And that’s selfish on our part, not theirs.

Our job—our only one—is to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is. No need to judge the pain threshold of our fellows.

So goodbye Robin. You were excellent.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Death of the Book Chronicles (and Why I Dig Adam-Troy Castro)

The author Adam-Troy Castro is always worth reading… Even his Facebook posts:
"This is your book? How do you get a book? Did you paint this front cover?"
"No, I wrote the words."
"Why?"
"So people would read them."
"Who painted the front cover?"
"Some artist."
(Flipping through pages) "Wow. These are a lot of words."
"It's an average length book."
"People pay money for this?"
"Yes."
"Why?"
"Because they want to read it."
"They read all these words?"
"Yes."
"Is it a story?"
"Yes."
"Like in a movie?"
"Yes."
(Long pause) "Did you make it up?"
"Yes, I'm not allowed to put my name on a book unless I made it up."
(Excitedly, flailing about for some relevance) "Will it be a movie?"
"There's none planned at the moment, no."
(Lost) "Okay."

Friday, July 4, 2014

ISAAC ASIMOV on THE FOUR STANZAS OF THE NATIONAL ANTHEM

In March of 1991, the writer Isaac Asimov shared the following:

I have a weakness--I am crazy, absolutely nuts, about our national anthem.

The words are difficult and the tune is almost impossible, but frequently when I'm taking a shower I sing it with as much power and emotion as I can. It shakes me up every time. I was once asked to speak at a luncheon. Taking my life in my hands, I announced I was going to sing our national anthem--all four stanzas. This was greeted with loud groans. One man closed the door to the kitchen, where the noise of dishes and cutlery was loud and distracting.

"Thanks, Herb," I said.

"That's all right," he said. "It was at the request of the kitchen staff."

I explained the background of the anthem and then sang all four stanzas. Let me tell you, those people had never heard it before--or had never really listened. I got a standing ovation. But it was not me; it was the anthem.

More recently, while conducting a seminar, I told my students the story of the anthem and sang all four stanzas. Again there was a wild ovation and prolonged applause. And again, it was the anthem and not me. So now let me tell you how it came to be written.

In 1812, the United States went to war with Great Britain, primarily over freedom of the seas. We were in the right. For two years, we held off the British, even though we were still a rather weak country. Great Britain was in a life and death struggle with Napoleon. In fact, just as the United States declared war, Napoleon marched off to invade Russia. If he won, as everyone expected, he would control Europe, and Great Britain would be isolated. It was no time for her to be involved in an American war. 

At first, our seamen proved better than the British. After we won a battle on Lake Erie in 1813, the American commander, Oliver Hazard Perry, sent the message "We have met the enemy and they are ours." However, the weight of the British navy beat down our ships eventually. New England, hard-hit by a tightening blockade, threatened secession. Meanwhile, Napoleon was beaten in Russia and in 1814 was forced to abdicate. Great Britain now turned its attention to the United States, launching a three-pronged attack. The northern prong was to come down Lake Champlain toward New York and seize parts of New England. The southern prong was to go up the Mississippi, take New Orleans and paralyze the west. The central prong was to head for the mid-Atlantic states and then attack Baltimore, the greatest port south of New York. If Baltimore was taken, the nation, which still hugged the Atlantic coast, could be split in two. The fate of the United States, then, rested to a large extent on the success or failure of the central prong.

The British reached the American coast, and on August 24, 1814, took Washington, D. C. Then they moved up the Chesapeake Bay toward Baltimore. On September 12, they arrived and found 1000 men in Fort McHenry, whose guns controlled the harbor. If the British wished to take Baltimore, they would have to take the fort. On one of the British ships was an aged physician, William Beanes, who had been arrested in Maryland and brought along as a prisoner. Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and friend of the physician, had come to the ship to negotiate his release. The British captain was willing, but the two Americans would have to wait.

It was now the night of September 13, and the bombardment of Fort McHenry was about to start. As twilight deepened, Key and Beanes saw the American flag flying over Fort McHenry. Through the night, they heard bombs bursting and saw the red glare of rockets. They knew the fort was resisting and the American flag was still flying. But toward morning the bombardment ceased, and a dread silence fell. Either Fort McHenry had surrendered and the British flag flew above it, or the bombardment had failed and the American flag still flew.

As dawn began to brighten the eastern sky, Key and Beanes stared out at the fort, trying to see which flag flew over it. He and the physician must have asked each other over and over, "Can you see the flag?" After it was all finished, Key wrote a four stanza poem telling the events of the night. Called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," it was published in newspapers and swept the nation. Someone noted that the words fit an old English tune called "To Anacreon in Heaven"--a difficult melody with an uncomfortably large vocal range. For obvious reasons, Key's work became known as "The Star Spangled Banner," and in 1931 Congress declared it the official anthem of the United States.

Now that you know the story, here are the words. Presumably, the old doctor is speaking. This is what he asks Key:

Oh! say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

"Ramparts," in case you don't know, are the protective walls or other elevations that surround a fort. The first stanza asks a question. The second gives an answer:

On the shore, dimly seen
thro' the mist of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host
in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze,
o'er the towering steep.
As it fitfully blows,
half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam
of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected,
now shines on the stream
'Tis the star-spangled banner.
Oh! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free
and the home of the brave!

"The towering steep" is again, the ramparts. The bombardment has failed, and the British can do nothing more but sail away, their mission a failure.

In the third stanza, I feel Key allows himself to gloat over the American triumph. In the aftermath of the bombardment, Key probably was in no mood to act otherwise. During World War II, when the British were our staunchest allies, this third stanza was not sung. However, I know it, so here it is:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The fourth stanza, a pious hope for the future, should be sung more slowly than the other three and with even deeper feeling:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation,
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n - rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,
And this be our motto--"In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I hope you will look at the national anthem with new eyes. Listen to it, the next time you have a chance, with new ears. And don't let them ever take it away.

Isaac Asimov, March 1991