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The Horrible Plan of Horace Pickle

on Wed, 11/19/2014 - 00:00

Although August Munch can technically be considered a superhero, he’s actually more of a sidekick for the Baron, the true protector of Windsmith City. Horace Pickle, meanwhile, isn’t really a supervillain, he’s just not the most pleasant of people as well as a genius with lots of money. When the Baron extends his stay in South America following a mission, leaving August Munch to oversee the safety of Windsmith, and Horace Pickle decides it’s time to make a name for himself before he turns thirty, these two relative unknowns are forced to match wits and outmaneuver one another in The Horrible Plan of Horace Pickle (Fantastic Journeys Publishing, 2014), the first novel from Pittsburgh author Brian Hagan.

The Horrible Plan of Horace Pickle may sound like an odd name for a superhero narrative but is quite entertaining nonetheless, a novel filled with wit and humor that incorporates all of the tropes of a good superhero story with plenty of unique twists thrown in along the way. August Munch, for instance, initially appears as a mere underling to the Baron and not necessarily a superhero in his own right. Being the son of a now-deceased former protector of the community, August takes an even further backseat in the affairs of Windsmith City. It is well into the novel, meanwhile, before it is revealed that August has any super abilities of his own. “Even though the vast majority of the city knew who he was, most didn’t know what he looked like,” The Horrible Plan of Horace Pickle says of August Munch. “He could probably change that, if he really wanted to. Get a logo and a bright outfit and everybody would recognize the Non-Newtonian Man.”

Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation

on Mon, 11/17/2014 - 00:00

Say the name Pittsburgh and what comes to mind? Steel mills, bridges and rivers perhaps? How about Steelers, Pirates and Penguins? All would be valid responses, but in reality Pittsburgh extends beyond the obvious and has been on the cutting edge of culture and society since its founding in 1758. Maybe there’s something in the water, or maybe it’s because the city’s three rivers has made it one of the centralized locations in the United States, but as the ongoing exhibit at the Senator John Heinz History Center eloquently states, Pittsburgh has a “Tradition of Innovation” that goes back centuries. The region has bared witness to many of the major moments in American history, while likewise being at the forefront of mankind’s most significant and greatest achievements.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, for instance, began their famed Lewis and Clark Expedition in Pittsburgh, making their way along the Ohio River to the Missouri and then literally across the country to the Pacific Coast. In late 1811, Robert Fulton—often considered the “Father of the Steamboat”—built a specially designed version of his craft with his partners Robert Livingston and Nicholas Roosevelt, launching it in Pittsburgh and proving the capability of such vehicles to transverse the Mississippi Rivers, opening a new form of transportation to America’s Heartland. The popularity of steamboats, as well as Pittsburgh’s three connecting rivers, exposed a young Stephen Foster to multiple musical formats, enabling him to combine these various elements into a unique style and becoming the “Father of American Music” in the process. Famed engineer John Roebling, meanwhile, perfected his wire rope cable suspension bridge over the rivers of Pittsburgh years before he built the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Album Art of Mozelle Thompson

on Thu, 11/13/2014 - 00:00

Mozelle Thompson was born on December 13, 1926, and grew up in the Hill District of Pittsburgh before his family relocated to the Garfield area of the Steel City. The urge to be an artist hit Thompson early in life, enrolling in Saturday morning art classes at the Carnegie Museum while also attending Peabody High School. In 1944, Mozelle Thompson won Scholastic Art Awards for both painting and fashion designs, leading to his first published illustration in a national magazine, Mademoiselle, at the age of seventeen. A scholarship to the Parson’s School of Design in New York followed shortly thereafter, with additional artwork gracing the pages of Vogue and Glamour as well as a second scholarship to study abroad in Paris and Rome. Thompson still found time to regularly return to Pittsburgh, however, creating window displays and fashion advertisements for Gimbles Department Store. In 1953, meanwhile, Mozelle Thompson illustrated his initial record album cover, one of the first African Americans ever to do so. He would go on to create an additional one-hundred-twenty before his death in 1969, likewise making him one of the most prolific album cover artists of all time.

The above information cannot be found on Wikipedia or any biographical website dedicated to Mozelle Thompson. Instead, the story of Thompson’s life has slowly been pieced together by Jason Molyneaux, a Pittsburgh-based DJ also known as J. Malls. “I was listening to a Martin Luther King album from 1969,” Molyneaux remembers of his first exposure to Mozelle Thompson. “It’s one of the albums that you don’t see that much. The illustration was cool and there was information about Thompson on the back cover of the album. In addition to liking the cover, I was just kind of intrigued because I’d never heard of him before. As I started researching I kept finding more and more information, as well as more and more albums, and his story progressively became more compelling.”