Author: Marc Alan Fishman

Marc Alan Fishman is a graphic designer, digital artist, writer, and most importantly a native born Chicagoan. When he's not making websites, drawing and writing for his indie company Unshaven Comics, or rooting for the Bears... he's a dedicated husband and father. When you're not enjoying his column here on ComicMix, feel free to catch his comic book reviews weekly at MichaelDavisWorld, and check out his books and cartoons at Unshaven Comics.

So Long and Thanks for the Fish(man)

A few weeks ago, I started laying out hints. The times they are a changin I’d said. And then I got all mushy about my readership and spot here at ComicMix. And perhaps you’ve noted a theme with the recent bows by Michael Davis and EIC Mike Gold. Well, who am I to buck the trend?

My friends, this will be my last column at ComicMix.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I truly have loved writing in this space (and ComicMix at large) now for 7+ years. Being able to declare that I shared a blog with comic book legends is something I never took lightly. And that some of these legends have sat across from me to break bread and talk shop – all the while my inner fan boy was screaming himself hoarse – is something I still barely fathom. Let me take you all back…

In 2008, Unshaven Comics had just published our first book, The March: Crossing Bridges In America. While we were proud as hell that we’d completed it, we were terrified that presenting it on the same convention floor as cape-and-cowl comics would bury us alive in mediocrity. Enter Linda Gold. She listened to our meager pitch, and her eyes lit up. She grabbed a copy, and our business card, and vowed to return. Enter Mike Gold. He dropped his card (and plenty of names of folks he worked with), and said to “stay in touch”.

Soon thereafter, I posted in the comment section of ComicMix for the better part of two months. I tried my damndest to be witty, intelligent, relevant, and engaging. Near the holiday season of 2008, Mike sent me an email. He wanted to do lunch. The rest, they say, is history.

But it’s way more than that. It’s my history. Over the course of my columns here I have gotten married, become a home owner, and a father – twice. But I, perhaps for the last time here… digress.

Perhaps you may be asking through choked sobs “b-b-b-bu-but w-wu-why…?” My reasons are many, and cryptic. If I learned anything from my tenure here from Mike and Glenn, is to always leave people with more questions than answers. Nervous yet? I’d sure be.

I’m lying, kiddos.

As it stands, I’ve not purchased a weekly comic book in over 2 years. And I’ve literally no inclination to start again. Through TV shows, movies, and graphic novels picked up at the conventions Unshaven Comics and I frequent… I get my fix of sequential fiction just fine. But my specific loves now has grown to a much wider scope. It’s time to broaden my horizons. As Mike mentioned in his denouement, Adriane Nash’s Pop Culture Squad will soon become my weekly home for my snarky scribbles. I’ll look forward to seeing y’all there. And beyond my written words, you’ll soon be able to hear my dulcet tones on two monthly podcasts – covering Unshaven Comics’ comings and goings, and my unabashed love of professional wrestling.

So, to you all here within the sound of my keyboard, I leave you with some parting thoughts:

If I ever angered you with an opinion? I’m still right, and you’re still wrong.

If I ever made you laugh? Damn straight I did. I’m funny as hell.

If I ever made you think? Good. Do it more often.

If I ever inspired you? Even better. The world needs more creativity in it.

I’ll see each and every one of you soon. Be it here, there, or everywhere. Just keep your eyes open, ears perked, and fingers clicking when you see my name. And far be it from me to deny myself a bit of an indulgence. I take my bow citing lyrics I deem apropos. So long my friends… and thanks for all the Fish, man.

At the end of the tour

When the road disappears

If there’s any more people around

When the tour runs aground

And if you’re still around

Then we’ll meet at the end of the tour

The engagements are booked through the end of the world

So we’ll meet at the end of the tour

And we’re never gonna tour again

No, we’re never gonna tour again

Marc Alan Fishman: Just A League of Their Own

Somewhere around the mid-point of one of the chaotic action sequences in Justice League, a thought echoed in my head. “Avengers was better. I know it was. But why?” Put a pin in that.

And while we’re at it, consider this the blanket SPOILER ALERT. I’m not going to be holding back on plot points and such.

Justice League was a solid effort to continue DC’s course correction. Full stop. The flick tries hard to shake itself of its sullen feeder-films – save for Wonder Woman, which wasn’t downtrodden at all – and ultimately sticks the landing by final credit roll. Over the course of two hours (and change), Zach Snyder, Joss Whedon, and Chris Terrio assemble their (kinda) Lanternless league efficiently. The threat is worthy of the big bangers of the DC(E)U. The quips and sardonic looks feel well-worn and dare I say earned.

So why did the entire movie leave me feeling an uneasy mélange of contentedness balanced equally with ennui? I mean, Rao-be-damned, the movie just made me use the word ennui!

When I noted the efficient assemblage of the titular superteam, it comes couched with a cacophony of caveats. Our introduction to Barry Allen / The Flash seems to speed through his origin in a manner sans-irony given his power set. While he’d been on the fringes of Batman v Superman, we’ve been granted no real anchor to his character by the time he’s donning his car-wreck of a costume. It’s all flashes of awkward Big Bang Theory Sheldonisms smashed on top of tearful angst over the incarceration of Henry Allen. Late in the film, he shares a moment (one of the better exchanges, I should add) with Victor Stone / Cyborg, declaring they are the accidents. But because it comes so late – during the predictable recuperation of the nearly-defeated team scene (that all superhero team movies need, I guess) – it just feels like a tacked-on bon mot, instead of a necessary moment of respite.

And what of the aforementioned Mr. Stone? He’s Deus Ex Machina – ironically, figuratively, and literally. He’s given what might best be described as the affirmative action gift of the longest origin of the group, but never are we invited in the mind of the part-man-part-machine. Stone is stone-faced essentially for the length of Justice League, removing every ounce of characterization Khary Payton has been investing into Cyborg since 2003. When Cyborg of Justice League mutters a soft-spoken Booyah, it comes with the tenacity of a wet fart – meant only as lip-service, not fan-service.

And then we have Aquaman by way of the Abercrombie shirtless collection. WWE’s Roman Reigns, err, Jason Momoa exists as multiverse variant of Arthur Curry so devoid of the traits I’d long associated with the character, I all but abandoned any known factoids of the comic book original minutes into his first scene opposite Bruce Wayne – who himself was enjoying his take on the Fall Hugo Boss collection. Their shared scene, the one you no doubt saw in the trailers and commercials, sets us up for the League’s water-based warrior. He’s a hard-drinking, hard-fighting, surfer-lone-wolf with a pitchfork and a chip on his shoulder. His origin isn’t really told so much as it is scribbled, child-like, on a bar wall, and then half-dialogue-vomited in an appropriately confusing underwater scene. Verily.

Reading through my last few paragraphs may make you believe I utterly loathed Justice League. But you’d be wrong. For every dour note I left the theater with, came an equal smirk of joy overseeing the goodness that Snyder actually captured. Superman, after two incredibly dark films finally is presented the way we want him to be. Full of hope, love, and swagger. Wonder Woman continues to be the best female protagonist in comic book films by several levels of magnitude. And Batman? He’s rich. He’s funny when he wants to be. Believably human. And hilariously voice-modulated. All that, and we didn’t get any meaningless self-sacrifices, or fighting a giant blue sky-beam. Heck, the stinger at the end of the film even got me to clap.

So, why then, did I inevitably wind up in an Avengers conundrum? It stands to note that there’s no way to ignore that Marvel assembled their uber-team successfully a full five-years ago. And by the time it made its way to the movieplex, had given the general teeming masses of newly minted fanboys (and girls) time to live with the main members of their cast (Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor primarily). Because the feeder films (Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor) had all been well-received, there was a feeling of earned glee when the Avengers coalesced to punch mindless CGI aliens for forty minutes. In contrast, Justice League carries with it the weight of mismanaged and darkly derided prequels (minus Wonder Woman), and oozes desperation from its pores. It’s cut-to-shreds-by-committee, and feels as such. Avengers was lived in. Justice League came across like a wrongly-coined #MeToo.

But perhaps, there exists a silver lining amidst my kvetching. Justice League did leave me excited for what was to come. And it’s that feeling above any others that leaves my eyes on the horizon for the pantheon of DC superheroes… rather than the floor in collective shame.

Marc Alan Fishman: What I’m Thankful For – the 2017 Edition

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping … into the future.

In a few short days, we’ll be breaking bread with our loved ones and indulge in a day where we give thanks by cooking and consuming more food than we need. Some sanctimonious scads will also donate time, money, and food to charities to actually be good people. And then, for some, comes the relatively new tradition of lining up at brick and mortar stores to purchase items at rock-bottom prices in the name of some long-lost holiday spirit.

I am thankful that I don’t partake in that particular assholery. But I digress.

This has been an awful year for an awful lot of reasons. Our President is a blowhard buffoon who has only succeeded in raising the collective blood pressure of the people he swore an oath to protect. Hollywood blew up, and it turns out it’s full of absolute monsters. That Donald Trump dick is an idiot and attained the highest job in the country, and that some of the most powerful men of media used their position to pray on unsuspecting women and men does not come. It’s just that it all piled up at the same time. So much so that I’m having a hard time finding the silver lining amongst the low-hanging clouds.

But I’m not a sex-predator. And despite all his idiocy, President Trump has not personally affected my day-to-day life significantly enough that I’m in any worse station. So, I venture forward. These are the things I am most thankful for here in 2017:

  1. Unshaven Comics finished our first graphic novel.

After over five years of work, me and my studio mates have put to bed our very first trade paperback. Collecting issues one through four of The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts, and packing it full of bonus materials has produced a 192 page tome that represents literally the very best thing we have done in our lives – specifically speaking of our creative output. As of this writing, the final details are being laid into the file that will be gleefully sent to our printer. The only thing left to do with it this year is toss the necessary shekels to pay for it. This will allow us in 2018 to pursue bigger and better things. More Samurnauts. A refreshed brand. A commitment to sell harder than we’ve ever sold before. 2017 was the year we limped across the finish line.

  1. I’ve held a steady and stable day job at the same place now two years running.

Understand that for most of my career, I’ve worked for some ahem challenging people. After paying whatever dues to the universe that might have existed – I think – I’ve finally found a position that is just right. As an Interactive Media Project Manager, I’ve found a place that challenges me without overworking me. That offers me day to work from home. Actual vacation time. And most important… Support for my personal endeavors like making comics, without ever questioning my commitment to the company.

  1. The indescribable joy of fatherhood (but yeah, I’ll try to describe it)

In 2017, I’ve watched my older boy, Bennett, learn to read and write. Seeing him figure out words and have passion to hold a pen and write his name fills me with emotion that frankly my younger self would declare as trite to be enamored with. But younger me is an ass and an idiot. To see the world through my children’s eyes, is to remember joy that has long been stolen by a weary world. To both Bennett and Colton Fishman, there is no debt, fear of heart disease, crippling insecurity, or the ever-present feeling that we’re nigh on to nuclear Armageddon. In its place is unadulterated glee over video games, comic books, TV shows, and the high fives and hugs of supportive parents. And trust me, until you see my younger, the hilarious CM Fish himself, boisterously vibrate with pure delight over being handed a spoon to eat his yogurt? You don’t know joy.

  1. This space.

Yes, you read that right. In 2011, I submitted my very first column to ComicMix. And ever since, I have tried to carve out a tiny little spot on the big world wide web where my specific brand of snark could plant a flag. In 2017, I’ve been able to touch on all my favorite nits to pick. From yelling at DC’s Dan Didio for declaring comics are dead, eulogizing a lost friend, to ranking my favorite meals as a comic book creator, I’ve enjoyed being able to spout off whatever tickles my fancy, all while you – my adoring public – have afforded me the luxury of doing so without posting inside a vacuum. Every week, my Facebook feed teems with well-wishers, cage-rattlers, and crafty cohorts alike… all instigated by the words dribbled out of my mighty(ish) pen. Having this space is a boon to my psyche. Knowing that I can commiserate with all of you over every bit of pop culture bric-a-brac that floats past my cerebellum is something I can’t ever take for granted.

  1. Gummy Bears.

They’re still awesome.

  1. Injustice 2 announcing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be playable.

Take my Rao-Damned money.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Marc Alan Fishman: The Times, They Are A Changin’

Can you feel it in the air, kiddos? Whether it’s our President’s RussiaGate investigation picking off staff members and placing others under house arrest, or the massive movement of that other three-named comic book creator being snagged by their rival comic company. The times? They are a’changin.’

And while I’m apt to discuss my continuing thoughts on our super-villain-in-chief slowly devolving our country into the antithesis of what it was founded upon, I think it’s more apropos I dive in instead to the recent(ish) announcement that Brian Michael Bendis is headed towards DC Comics.

In 2000, which I’ll be double-damned was seventeen friggin’ years ago, BMB was brought in on a little experimental book Ultimate Spider-Man. The proto-millennial Peter Parker of Bendis’s pen was what a generation needed from their comics. He was young, unencumbered by decades of backstory, and full of delicious teen angst. Paired with the artwork of stalwart journeyman Mark Bagley, the book skyrocketed Bendis’s name-value into the upper echelons of the modern comic book fandom. And over the course of his career at the house funded by the Mouse, Bendis had amazing runs on Daredevil, The Avengers, Alias, and the X-Men. But you have access to Wikipedia too, so, let’s just call it a day with the basics, shall we?

While some would be quick to point out that BMB’s clout may not be at the same levels it once was, anyone with a Facebook feed like mine when the announcement dropped surely could argue otherwise. Every comic book fan and creator I know had something to say on the matter. Most all of it was purely positive – save literally for that one friend who literally can’t say they like anything, ever. But, pardon my French, fuck that guy.

With Bendis headed to DC, the potential energy here outmatches the kinetic force of his Marvel departure. With decades (plus) full of ideas for DC’s pantheon of super-powered beings, there’s a change in the air of mainstream comics – if only for the time being until his name is actually attached to specific projects with specific deadlines.

Simply take a look at the modern comic landscape, and you’ll see how BMB moved the needle of mainstream comics like a nuclear-powered sharknado. He made a generation believe that Spider-Man could become a legacy character through Miles Morales. He took the idea of a Wonder Woman, removed all heroic chakras, and gave us Jessica Jones. He whispered through Scarlet Witch “no more mutants.” He disassembled and reassembled the Avengers. And even recently, he created RiRi Williams – giving us the female Rhodey we never knew we wanted. Like I said: needle-moving creation.

Now, take that mind, and give it the keys to a new kingdom. This move allows us to build on the potent world-building of Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, etc., and grant carte blanche to introduce the humanity that Bendis has built a career off of… ultimately (natch) allowing DC to have its cake and eat it too.


If we think big picture, it’s easy to see how the street-level vision of BMB could breathe new life into staple DC champions like Batman, or Green Lantern. Or, Bendis could lend his pro-woman-writing wares to Wonder Woman or Supergirl. Hell, they could just let ole’ BMB nab someone like Jamie Reyes or Kyle Rayner (please oh please) and let him steer their ships towards brighter shores. Again: the possibilities are endless, and exciting. Oh wait! Could Bendis be allowed to work with the Endless?! I digress, I digress.

Yes kiddos, the times they are a’changin’. Amidst all the hellfire and panic that exists in the real world? I’m happy to know that the fake ones that exist on paper now have a new voice and energy to distract me from the impending doom. And that is a change worth subscribing to.

Marc Alan Fishman: “Previously on X-Men…”

While comic books will always hold an important spot in my pop-culture heart… I admit freely that cartoons hold higher rank. Long before I was inundated to the secret society of pulp and paper, animation dictated my fandom. Voltron, He-Man, and The Real Ghostbusters held sway over my early childhood something fierce. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles followed shortly thereafter. And on the precipice of my eleventh birthday, X-Men arrived.

Unlike the aforementioned Turtles, Ghostbusters, or legendary paladins of mighty lions, the ­X-Men came served with a heaping helping of unknown (to me) backstory. And while all those previous toons had their moments of melodrama… X-Men was a dramatic cartoon show that merely carried lighter moments to offset the continual load of cell-shaded gravitas. It ushered in a new era of what animated kids shows could be – considering that this isn’t being compared to The Simpsons, as that’s an apples-to-oranges if ever there were.

No, X-Men represented action-adventure stories that were built to decidedly not talk down to their intended audience. To deal with prejudice, hatred, and violence (but not outright gore or sex) and not shy away from inter-character conflict. And it did so in media res, assembling a team of heroes, and dropping them immediately into confrontations with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Senator Kelly and his army of Sentinels, Mr. Sinister, and more villains cribbed from the pages of X-lore. That this was done without a single wink or nod to we kids – to let us know that yes this was a cartoon, and we should just be having fun – is what communicated to me (and many of my compatriots at school) a way for us to come of age by way of a cartoon. No winks. No nods. Just adamantium claws, force blasts, and conflict.

Truth be told… Batman: The Animated Series had debuted not long prior to X-Men, and much of my praise above could very easily be copied and pasted. But Batman was given a five-day-a-week run, versus the X-toon’s Saturday morning slot. In terms of playground pastiche, one must always regard that needing to wait a week for another installment brings with it a certain prestige. Batman was always awaiting us when we got home from school. Professor X and his band of mighty mutants were appointment TV for burgeoning Generation X (or whatever the hell my generation is technically classified as).

Clout aside, X-Men dealt its series in more of a serial nature. Batman was long built in two-part acts or one-offs. Because of this X-Men more often felt meatier; taking classic stories from the pages of the comics and adapting them to 22 minute installments was a feat I would later be in awe of. Consider perhaps the apex of the show – the Phoenix Saga.  Here, ten months worth of story were tightly adapted into five episodes, an otherwise unheard of berth of shows for a kid to mull through. And while X-Men’s sister series Spider-Man was also heavily serialized (my friends and I would often joke about “the Neogenic Nightmare, part 314”), show-runner Eric Lewald and his team found the right balance between long arcs and one-offs. Case-in-point, the lone episode dedicated to Colossus would be the spark that spawned my actual first comic book purchase. Natch.

(I was gifted an opportunity to sit down with the aforementioned Mr. Lewald and his lovely wife (slash writer) Julia to kibitz over the series itself, as well as their forthcoming coffee-table-worthy tome titled Previously on X-Men. Keep your eyes peeled later this coming week for that conversation.)

X-Men represented to me a high point of story, animation, and gravitas. It was a bridge to a world not yet explored, and it was the perfect tool for a kid who previously giggled over Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends seeking the true potency of Marvel’s back catalog. X-Men begat The Sensational Spider-Man, and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – both amazing  Marvel ‘toons worthy of praise alongside the best of the DC offerings (all of the Timm-verse, Young Justice, etc.). Suffice it to say: without Lewald and his team’s contributions? We may not have the age of comics we’re presently living through. Stay tuned kiddos. Leave me your favorite X-men moment below, and we’ll see ya’ll back here next week for the multi-part interview! (Seriously, it’s like The Phoenix Saga of interviews!)

Marc Alan Fishman: Shabbat Shalom, Mother Trumper!

In 2003, the baddest Heeb this side of Tel Aviv took on Christmas. The Hebrew Hammer, a send-up of Shaft by way of Manischewitz, hit Comedy Central. It was, as it still is, a hilarious holiday romp that made star Adam Goldberg pull off cool, even while in complete Jewish regalia.

As someone who stayed Jewish mostly for the jokes myself, I was drawn to the flick at the mere mention of it at the first teaser, most likely saddled between an episode of The Daily Show and a rerun of Strangers With Candy. But as with many a holiday special, The Hebrew Hammer made its way to the DVD rack (purchased by yours truly essentially the day it hit said rack), and for many a gentile… faded from memory. Now that I’ve successfully spared you looking it up on Wikipedia, we soldier on.

The Hebrew Hammer is set to return, just in the nick of these tumultuous times. For anyone not paying attention to the current meteoric rise of Tiki Torch sales, the time is nigh for a plucky Hassid to don his wool hat and Blue Blockers to do what needs to be done here in Trump’s Amerikkka. What’s that? Oh, you know. Go back in time and kill Hitler. Suck on those kosher nuts, Tarantino.

Launching a campaign via MicroVentures, Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler is crowdfunding its way to punching the anti-Semites right where it hurts. I had the privilege of speaking to Adam Goldberg (the He-Man Hebrew himself) and Jonathan Kesselman (the nebbishy Jew behind the camera) to learn more.

Before we start, should we… you know… show people the actual video for the campaign?

Adam Goldberg: I think… maybe… well—

Jonathan Kesselman: Yes. Do that.

Adam Goldberg: (some barely audible kvetching about being interrupted) You should go here and watch the thing.

OK, simple enough. Now, what do people need to know about Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler that isn’t in the video?

Adam Goldberg: I don’t know… Well, over the years, after the first film, people had been asking me about doing another Hammer and I was always one foot in, one foot out, you know? And it was also couched in those feelings you can get of being too-overly-identified by a single character. But then, of course, maybe a year or so ago, with the ascent of Trump, my Twitter mentions begin to include calls for the resurrection of the Hammer – when it didn’t include grotesque anti-Semitic propaganda from these pussies hiding behind cartoon frog avatars. So Jon and I began talking about recontextualizing the sequel script we had worked on years ago—not changing it dramatically, just giving it a little symbolic contemporary context. We had come up with some serialized shorts to sort of bridge the gap between the two movies that we thought we might put online, but in the end we decided to focus our efforts on getting the sequel made. We sort of bastardized the “pilot” of the series to use as our campaign video.

And from there… how did you decide on this campaign specifically?

Adam Goldberg: Indiegogo had been courting us for a while. They had recently teamed up with Microventures to form a new entity which finances projects using equity crowdsourcing. Jon and I felt the cultish nature of the film always lent itself to a crowdsourcing campaign but we dug the idea that you weren’t merely donating, or just getting a mug or a hat or whatever, but that you were actually investing in the film— and invested in the financial success of the film.

I would dare say… how Jewish of your guys!

Adam Goldberg: (laughs) Uh, yeah. I mean, it depends. The Nazis would say it would be more Jewish of us to just take the money. In this case, we’re investing it. It’s more accounting-based… but I feel like maybe we’re going down the wrong road here, Marc. (laughs)

But, you know. Look, I have no problem with straight-up crowdsourcing.  I’ve lent support to many campaigns – completely not movie related at all.  And I’m even considering doing it for an album I’d release next (as in music, as Adam has three albums out already). But the campaigns I like the best are the ones where in essence you’re pre-ordering the product. And in this case you get to watch the film and maybe you see a financial benefit. It just feels like a more collaborative effort.

And we can’t ignore that Hitler has been offed semi-recently in film. Can you promise us Hammer kills Hitler better than Inglorious Basterds?

Adam Goldberg: I have no idea! Never seen it, if for no other reason to never be accused of borrowing from it. But we wrote Hammer vs. Hitler in 2005. So…

•     •     •     •     •

So, what are you waiting for, bubbala? I hope you had a chance to watch the video and see their campaign. Suffice it to say, I was moved by it enough to back it. Then again, I am Jewish and as such felt the pangs of guilt to help my fellow tribe-members out. And who am I to say no? I mean, sure, I’m a father of two growing boys, and I have my own ventures I sink my money into, but how could I let these fine young men stay poor and broke out in the street?

And to my goyem friends, how could you pass up this deal? I mean South Park already let loose the secret of our Jew Gold. And now you have this rare chance to become an investor in a big Jewish Hollywood film? I mean, what kind of madness is this? It’d be like Adam Sandler letting you invest in his next 19 crappy Netflix shows… except this will actually be funny, won’t be phoned in, and has 1000% more killing of Hitler.

Marc Alan Fishman: CyclopsGate

For those following along at home, this has been a contentious week. For reasons I’m too bored to research, writer extraordinaire Gail Simone has started a blood feud with Fabian Nicieza over the specific pseudo-science of an X-Man’s mutant ability.

Before we explore the depth of the debate, let’s just catch up those few of you who truly don’t know your X-Men from your West Coast Teen Titanvengers.

Cyclops, the almost-often leader of Charles Xavier’s mutant strike-force, has the mutant ability to (according to Wikipedia which cites the Marvel Handbook as a source) shoot Optic Blasts — the product of his body metabolizing sunlight and other ambient energy. This is similar to his brother Alex (alias Havok) who metabolizes cosmic radiation. This metabolized energy is then released in the form of the beam from his eyes. (Thank you, Wikipedia)

Ms. Simone posits that these beams are, in fact hot, and as such said blasts are akin to Superman’s heat vision. Mr. Nicieza dutifully leans on his Marvel Handbook definition wherein the blasts are merely concussive – hence not containing any heat. Hilarity has since ensued as each creator has taken to social media to defend their point of view.

Conflicting reports have buoyed from the argument being tongue-in-cheek to absolutely-sincere. The fanboys have taken to arms over it. One might even posit that Simone’s initial declaration was more a way to oust angry fan-boy-man-children into a stupor to question her authority – not as a creator, but as a female creator. But subsequent meme’ing across the Facebook-Twitter-verse has perhaps grown what might be a funny little distraction to an all-out who-gives-a-flying-fuck (pardon me) for folks now declaring themselves #TeamGail and #TeamFabian – with equal membership aligned on the aforementioned spectrum of sincerity.

In the same week where #MeToo has spurned significant debate and discussion, it’s hard to figure out if the snowballing of the argument itself has been the barely concealed point this whole time, or offered as scapegoat distraction against some heavy and tumultuous postings.

Furthermore, why I bring this all to you this week, comes seated in my own idiotic apprehension to voice my (unnecessary) opinion on who specifically is right.

Whilst a litany of women whom I love have bared their souls across my feeds, I was personally compelled to do something, anything, to show my love and support. I cribbed a posting from a good (guy) friend who did his best to respond. In short, he wrote a blanket apology to all women whom he might have inadvertently scorned or hurt through his jovial nature; making it clear while he had never committed any heinous physical action to any women, he was unsure if in his own brand of humor had not ever accidentally offended any women in his life, or made them feel harassed. His sentiment was pure, and in seeing it, I was compelled to share it myself.

The reaction was positive – as many of my female friends ‘liked’ and commented in support of my desire to ensure my stance as someone who never intends to harm any living soul with my actions or words – keeping in mind that no matter how mindful I may be, my own brand of humor may have pushed limits unintentionally. Within the post came a desire for any women who I’d ever committed an inadvertent sin to let me know (privately or otherwise) so that I may sincerely apologize, and (of course) recognize where I might have previously been an idiot.

But in taking even that action, I was reprimanded a day later. A very intelligent, thoughtful, respected friend of mine took my posting to task. She let me know that in my desire to right a wrong, my intentions may have been pure, but the desire to do so was couched in the very thing the #MeToo movement is in essence fighting to change. To tell a woman (or anyone who has been harassed) to speak up to correct me may be unduly forcing them to relive erroneous feelings I caused. In short: If I can’t recognize what I’ve done wrong? I’m still part of the problem.

And with that, we return to CyclopsGate. You see, I side with Fabian. To the best of my recollection, Cyclops’ beams carry no heat. While they may have the ability to melt objects and such as shown in many comic books throughout X-history, I’ve long held the belief in those instances the concussive blasts caused friction across the target, which in turn caused combustion. Or, at very most, when specifically stressed Cyclops can add heat to his optic blasts inadvertently (like, say, he’s mad. Mad beams hot. Being tactical? Beam stays cool.).

The thing is, I love Gail Simone. I am thoroughly #TeamGail. But to declare her right when I believe her to be wrong? Well, I got #MeToo’d into silence.

My fear of missing the joke (or non-joke) of this feud (or faux-feud) has me fretting over my opinion. Gail is clearly a lot closer to mainstream comics than I am. Perhaps she is right! But if I voice my opinion (one bolstered only by the internet research I could complete via sources that vacillate between hearsay and Wikipedia), do I accidentally side with tiki-torch-wielding man-children?

I don’t know, so, I’ll just declare myself #TeamWolverine (X-23 though, not that misogynist Logan, damnit).

Marc Alan Fishman: A Tale of Two Cities, Part 1

As you, my gentle readers, peruse this article, my Unshaven cohort Matt Wright and I will be on the road for the last time in 2017. We’ll be showcasing our wares at the annual Kokomo Comic Con in Kokomo, Indiana. We’re pleased as punch that this year we lured ComicMixers Mike Gold and John Ostrander down with us. Denny did it a few years ago, and it appears he didn’t have anything but nice things to say – hence Mike and John agreeing to make the trek out. I’ll cover how that show goes next week. For now, I want to jump into the way back machine to last week when my full Unshaven Comics crew and I descended once again on New York City for the ReedPop colossus known as New York Comic Con.

New York Comic Con is an undulating mass of humanity crammed into the Javits Center for four full days of geekery. This year, rumor has it over 200,000 attendees amassed amidst hundreds (if not an actual thousand as one fan postulated) of exhibitors and artists. Unlike previous years, the Artist Alley was nearly one third its original size – as the Javits renovates the pavilion wherein said Alley assembled in previous iterations of the con. Unshaven Comics specifically popped up our booth in the small press area on the main floor. We were luckyish to have landed in the same spot as 2016.

Let’s start with the cons so that we may build to up to the pros. This is especially easy as we had a very good show, mind you. But nits should always be picked, my friends.

The biggest concern for Unshaven Comics remains our classification with ReedPop. While yes, Unshaven Comics is a small independent publisher of original comic books, graphic novels, and art, we don’t necessarily consider ourselves to be Small Press. There is a stigma that the label of Small Press carries with it an odd “chip on the shoulder” mentality. To be Small Press, as some fans see it, is to be defiantly not-one-of-the-big-boys. Unshaven Comics certainly isn’t Marvel, DC, or anything even reasonably close to it. We are three best friends putting out a single series of comics. We are, in our own minds, merely an Artist Alley table that couldn’t fit down in the Alley. But I digress. This classification simply led to times throughout the convention when the waves of fans washed past our booth as they made way from one exhibition hall to the next. We were displaced barnacles willfully ignored by schools of fish traveling to deeper waters. Nothing hurts more than being ignored.

But our fans – and yes, this year proved to us that we did in fact have them – made way to find us. Over the course of 4 days, we bearded brothers-from-other-mothers pitched The Samurnauts to 699 people. 321 of them purchased 540 books. In addition, Matt and I both took several commissions, and Kyle was able to sell plenty of copies of his book Toolbox. In terms of the raw numbers? Unshaven Comics is plenty happy. With our friendly neighbors – Unstoppable Comics (look them up!) and Publisher’s Weekly – when fans took the chance to stop and hear us out? Well, it worked out just fine for the lot of us.

The biggest takeaway for me personally came in the projections for our Unshaven future. As we’ll collect The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts into our first graphic novel here at the tail end of this year, our numbers tell me that next year’s New York Comic Con will potentially see us move 75-100 of said graphic novels. And knowing the difference in profit between floppy copies and a trade (an article to come, I assure you)? Well, that makes me smile from ear to ear.

Beyond raw sales though, what will leave a lasting impression on me this year will be the subtle shifting of my l’il studio in the indie space. This year saw Unshaven Comics rubbing elbows with ComicMixers Joe Corallo and Molly Jackson. Our wonderful host Glenn Hauman whispered a few cryptic thoughts in our ears of future projects to consider. We broke bread once again with Mike Gold, Martha Thomases, and several other friends of the ‘Mix.  More than any year prior, 2017’s New York Comic Con felt lived in for Unshaven Comics, in the best way possible. Gone were the nerves and that quivering question are we just faking it until we make it? Replaced; hardened by New Jersey Transit Tickets, Street Cart Chicken Kebobs, and Brooklyn Hipsters slapping our stickers to their poster tubes. All of it coalesced into a gestalt of limited-but-contented success.

While we didn’t beat any previous sales records (not being literally across from Marvel’s booth will do that to you…), we did prove that we’ve the mettle and drive to define our success in the comic industry. Tune in next week, when I contrast the sea-of-humanity to the most human show we table-up for. ‘Nuff said.

Marc Alan Fishman: Can I Love the Art But Not the Artist?

I’ve been perplexed. As I’m sure so many of you have been paying at least a modicum of attention to the comings and goings of our President, no doubt you’ve seen a rise of discourse throughout your social feeds and TV screens concerning the separation of art and the artist.

OK, it’s really an argument about whether using the national anthem as the background for non-violent protest is offensive. Okay. Follow me here, kiddos.

Among the master debaters I’ve followed, one argument floated to the top of my gaze. It was the notion that professional athletes are in fact paid to entertain and therefore should be reprimanded and subjugated to dismissal from their jobs if their actions fail to entertain the fanbase of said sports team from which they hail. In short, I think that argument is hilariously off-base. Professional athletes are in fact paid to play a game. Yes, they are company men who must project the professional je ne sais quoi of their team out in the real world. But they are American and are actually free to act as they see fit. Taking a knee during a song is not a fire-able offense. Period.

If you disagree, I know no amount of my chortling will change your mind. I welcome you to leave my column. Door is over there to the left, marked “Ignorance is bliss.” You find that offensive? Too bad. This is America and I can label my door anyway I want. Especially when the door isn’t real.

This whole kerfuffle led me down a path though – taking to heart the idea that certain artists (musicians, writers, fine artists, etc.) whose work I am fond of may hold different political, religious, or personal opinions than my own. And upon learning these things… could I in fact still enjoy their art separate from themselves?

Let’s start with comic books. Bill Willingham, Frank Miller, Ethan Van Sciver, and Chuck Dixon have each let slip their leanings towards a more conservative mindset. I’d even go as far as to say that I once followed one those men on Facebook before learning of said leaning. A few ranty posts later, I delightfully unfollowed them and skipped on down the road. I’ve read (and loved) a ton of Fables. Green Lantern: Rebirth remains one of my favorite series of all time. The Dark Knight Rises and Sin City are masterpieces worthy of college class theses.  And Chuck Dixon penned nearly a baker’s dozen of books I absorbed in my adolescence. Knowing what I know about who each of these men may have voted for hasn’t stopped me from loving any of their work since.

That being said, I felt no need to read Holy Terror.

While I personally never liked Kid Rock or Ted Nugent, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never bobbed my head to Bawitdaba or Cat Scratch Fever.

Remove the political leanings of any of the known conservative actors – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Vince Vaughn, Chuck Norris, Angie Harmon, or even that Jew-loving Mel Gibson to name but a few – and I could easily rattle off any number of their works that I’ve willingly forked over cash to enjoy. All the while knowing about their personal viewpoints being dissonant from my own.

It we cannot separate the art from the artist, we push ourselves down a slippery slope. While I wish the matter was black and white (pun intended, I suppose), shades of grey still permeate my periphery. The other day I happened upon a marathon of The Cosby Show and was tempted to revel in what I largely consider one of the best sitcoms of all time. But Bill Cosby himself feels tainted to me. And while I know deep down Hulk Hogan is likely amicable to everyone in his personal life, or those men he danced with in the squared circle. But I’d be lying if I said that when I hear I am a real American play during some nostalgic top ten on WhatCulture: that I don’t immediately recall Terry Bollea’s racist gaffe. And it causes me to just go ahead and skip to the next video. So is life.

Where to fall now, though? For me, the litmus test lies in the totality of the person, and the quality of the art. There’s an algorithm to determine where my personal line of demarcation exists, but I’d like to think that if a person is civil in their ability to voice their opinion, if they consider the time and place when to share it and their ability to listen to the opposition with an open mind, then let them do and be free.

Let their art stand on its own, should it be art that is separate from their personal opinions. Because without that open mind, I know I’m only shuttering myself to worlds not yet explored. And that would be wholly un-American of me.

Marc Alan Fishman is Looking for Inspiration

Thanks in part to a very mystical social media maven, Unshaven Comics has recently enjoyed a bit of a renaissance on our Facebook page. With an increase of likes and, more important, engagement, I’ve been able to hold some really great conversations with our glut of fans. Most recently (as of my writing this), I brought up the question of our favorite artists. I did so because, to me, nothing immediately draws us all into the world of comic books before the art… pun wholly intended.

It’s the depiction – be it overtly bright and heroic or gothic and moody – of worlds impossible to live in that ultimately usher us into the pulp. The writing may, in turn, drive us further into our individual fandoms, but I’ll always believe that the visuals of comic bookery are inherently tied to our collective appreciation. Individual artists will hold our attention more than others. As such, I wanted to share with all of you a collection of these illuminated illustrators of whom I have felt a deeper connection to, that ultimately led me on my own long and winding path to being a creator myself.

Alex Ross

When tracking my love of comics, no artist comes to mind for me personally before Alex Ross. While I may have seen plenty of amazing illustrators in my youth prior, it was Ross and his affinity for the photorealistic that stopped me cold and forced me to enter into my now life-long love affair with sequential fiction. To see Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern per his brush, I was able to bridge the gap that had long stood between what felt like toy-box fodder and an art form. Not to dismiss the pantheon of amazing artists before him mind you. It was merely seeing heroes and villains in a new medium that opened my eyes to the potent pulp of Kirby, Ditko, and the like. Alex Ross makes the impossible seem possible, and because of it, his work on Marvels and Kingdom Come still remain my go-to examples when asked how best to break one’s self into the medium as a fan.

It was Alex Ross’s use of photo reference that calmed my own shaky nerves when it came time for me to dive into interior art. Knowing that I could use the tools of my fine art upbringing to help me build the worlds of the Samurnauts, I was able to overcome my lack of a skillset in creating something from nothing. It had long prevented me from ever trying to make comics. Seeing how Ross walked the line from a photo to a finished panel helped me, in my own meager way, do the same.

Mike Mignola

And let’s just go ahead and leap to the antithesis. Mike Mignola is one of those artists that captivated me the second I saw his angular and moody artwork. The way he balanced his awkward forms with garish shadows and minimal detail helped me see how an artist could make a world alien to our own even more alien. And because his work is most often simply colored, he helped me find an affinity for a less-is-more approach to a comic. While I myself can’t say that I see any of his influence in my own work… I oftentimes find myself with a comic or two of his on my side-table when I am in the very beginning of planning a page. And while someday I may trust myself to push my own style into a Mignola-esque direction, until then, I can simply enjoy the work he produces.

Mike Allred

Like many of my specific generation, my honest-to-Rao first look of Allred’s work was the animated intro to Kevin Smith’s Mallrats. Mike Allred’s simple-retro-hipper-than-thou art leaped off the movie screen far better than the dialogue deluge of Smith’s Generation X stoner flick ever could. Subsequent deep dives into the X-Statix, Madman, X-Force, and others only deepened my considerable admiration. And above Ross or Mignola, Allred’s work is presently on the tip of my own tongue – artistically speaking.

Mike Allred’s clean lines, kinetic figures, and throw-back style is 1000% what is pushing me towards my newest endeavors in the medium. With my forthcoming submission in Mine! to the subsequent spiritual sequel in the Samurnauts series, I am working hard to push my style into a similar vein. At present, my odd mashing of photo-realistic figures with overly fussy coloring served its purpose; continuing to revisit Allred’s work is forcing me to do what the best artists do… reinvent myself to become more myself such as it were.

Next week, I’ll be focusing on the yang to the artist’s ying. Excelsior!