The Asshole Express Card, by Michael Davis

Michael Davis

Master Of The Universe, Lord Of All Media, Most Interesting Black Man In the World, Sexiest Man on Earth, Mentor, Writer, Artist, Producer & Uppity.

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34 Responses

  1. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    I look forward to hearing Amex' response when you cancel your card. Feel free to print the letter here."In a strange but very real way these rappers are showing what is possible with love of your craft. Not what is denied to you because you don’t belong to an uppity club."Yet ironically, right now one of the biggest status symbols in the "money money yeah yeah" sub-group of hip-hop performers is Black Plastic. The legendary Black American Express card that they never used to have, but there were so many urban legends about them and impossibly rich people demanding one, they finally decided to make one.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Hard to imagine Amex responding personally.The card is a symbol of something; success or decadence is in the eye of the beholder. 22 years ago, Dick Giordano — then EIC of DC — took Dave Sim out to lunch to discuss the possibility of bringing Cerebus over to the corporation. At the end of the meal, Dick whipped out his Platinum card and Dave found that to be sort of morally offensive. Now, Dick was perfectly capable of justifying that card's value — to him. For him, it made economic sense. It is a symbol just as Amex says. It's also a symbol just as Dave Sim says. You take your chances when you whip it out.Dave said at the time the Platinum Card helped kill negotiations with DC, but he also freely admitted the unbelievably shitty deal being offered by the corporation also had some influence on his decision.

    • Michael Davis says:

      Vinnie,That 'Black' card should not be confused with The African American Express card. In Los Angeles I'm sure the voice over in the commercial would go like this:'The African American Express card, never leave home without I.D.'

  2. sween says:

    That's funny that they would have an ad like that, considering they had that whole series of ads with Seinfeld and Superman a couple of years ago.

    • Michael Davis says:

      Sween,Cool name BTW. Amex did those spots because Seinfeld is a HUGE Superman fan, not because of the comic biz.

  3. Russ Rogers says:

    Michael, I couldn't find Time's 50 Greatest Novels, listing two graphic novels. I did find a list of the ALL-TIME 100 Novels, which included Alan Moore's "Watchmen."Time also has a list of 10 ALL-TIME Graphic Novels. You can argue with what they have listed or not listed. You can argue that the list needs to be longer. But it's clear that the editors of Time respect comics.I remember arguing on-air with some national radio talk show windbag who had taken the opinion that "Smokin' Joe Camel" was targeting children to smoke and should be banned. Just because polls had shown that children could recognize "Smokin' Joe." I said that was censorship of the worst kind. I said that the reason Camel Ciggarettes used "Smokin' Joe Camel" was that it was a clean, easy to recognize logo. SO easy to recognize that even a child could see, "This is a Smoking Camel." And so if you present a child with a line-up of characters and say, "Which one is the Smokin' Camel?" Only the most ignorant child wouldn't be able to recognize it. I said, that if Camel was putting "Smokin' Joe" on billboards on top of Elementary School buildings or trying to sell "Smokin' Joe" Onezies to infants, then you would have argument about judgment and poor taste. But the reason Children find cartoon characters appealing is because they are appealing to EVERYBODY, across age, gender and ethnic lines. They are perfect for advertising and brand labeling. I was shouted down with, "Are you advocating promoting children smoking?" I said, "No. I don't advocate that anybody smoke, but Camel has the right to use whatever brand symbol it chooses. And unless they are creating adds that specifically target children, they shouldn't be blamed for having a logo that can also be recognized by children."I'm far more tolerant of Anti-Smoking Hysteria than I am of Anti-Cartoon or Anti-Comic Book Hysteria. It was the notion that ALL comics are meant for kids and so ALL comics MUST be "kid-friendly" that lead to the censorship of the Comics Code. Remember the watered down plot lines of "The Super-Friends" TV show? There was very little CRIME on Super-Friends, only misguided scientists who were trying to combat pollution with a ray that made all cars turn into pumpkins or who wanted to combat over-population by shrinking all the people in the world to Barbie Doll size. Every criminal was willing to see the error of their ways and reform at the end of every episode. These were the "Wendy and Marvin" days, before the (only slightly better shows with) Wonder Twins and the Legion of Doom. What misguided legislation (or editorial policy) gave us THAT crap?Not every cartoon and comic book is aimed at seven year olds. I don't think every cartoon or comic should be written to appeal to seven year olds or edited to protect the sensibilities of seven year olds. I do think that the direct marketing of comics, through specialty stores, has created a a dwindling market focused on adult fanboys. I think there is a dearth of comics that appeal to and are appropriate for young readers. There are fewer and fewer outlets that sell comics where young readers have a chance to shop. The local drugstore probably doesn't have a comics rack anymore. It's harder and harder to find comics within biking range.That is why I've been encouraging the folk here at ComicMix to create a Kid-Friendly Sister Site. A site where Heroes don't say "fuck," repeatedly blow people's brains out or strip naked on the first page. There is nothing WRONG with saying "fuck" or getting naked, but GrimJack, Jon Sable and The White Viper aren't written to appeal to the sensibilities of young readers, and they aren't "kid-friendly."Asking that kid-friendly comics be created and readily available isn't the same as INSISTING that all comics be kid-friendly or that comics with "Mature Content" be hidden from children.This Anit-Comics American Express commercial is a direct response to the Capital One ads that say you can create you own credit card with your own picture. ("War Kittens?") Capital One is saying that your card doesn't have to make you look like a corporate drone. American Express Gold is just taking the counterpoint that being a corporate drone gives you a better business image. But their ad does show an anti-comics bias. You are right to be offended. Personally, I like the American Express Martin Scorsese and Ellen Degeneres ads better. Before you shred your American Express cards over their anti-comics bias, they also produced a series of pro-comics ads, a whole campaign around Superman and Jerry Seinfeld. To be fair, not everything American Express does sucks ass.I say, shred the Gold Card (the snooty, anti-comics one), keep the Green Card (the funny, socially conscious, Superman one).And whatever happened to "Smokin' Joe Camel"? I think the cartoon hysteria people killed him. Is he buried beside Spuds MacKenzie?

    • Michael Davis says:

      You are right about the names those lists Russ. The other book on the list was Maus I believe.

    • Michael Davis says:

      Russ, You are right about everything American Express does not sucking ass.(wow, there's an image) But if they wanted to REALLY respond to Capital One they would have produced ads which were light hearted not mean spirited like the comics ad. No one thinks that's funny. Those Seinfeld were NOT pro-comics ads, those were Jerry Seinfeld ads that featured HIS favorite superhero. Superman is such an icon that you don't necessarily think comics when you see him.

  4. John Tebbel says:

    "Kid friendly" sites should be set up by people who have kids at the top of their agenda, not people who are interested in, say, comics, some of which may or may not be of interest to any particular individual under the age of, well, let's leave that number for another day's debate, and decide to put a kid-bag on the side of their enterprise and put some hot babes from the seven sisters in charge of it.Leave this site to do comics for every free citizen of the world, entitled to use any words, ideas and points of view. After decades in the "kids only" shithouse, comics is still in need of self-parenting, q.v. the subject of this column.Parents, of course, know that when they hear the words "kid friendly" they should once again make sure their wallets are secure. They also know that there are about a million things more important to their child's upbringing than whether or not they hear or read "fuck."And be sure to read Kyle Baker's subversive critique of today's comics, disguised as an instructional book called How to Draw Stupid. I kid you not.

    • Russ Rogers says:

      As Mike Gold has pointed out, comics sales are down. How can we build the comics market? Well, I'm of the opinion that the comics market is down is because not enough new young readers are coming into the market to replace the older readers who drop out of the habit of buying comics or die. The market is gentrifying.There is a market for comics aimed at younger readers. There is a market for WEB comics aimed at younger readers. Look at "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"! This on line comic continues to be available on Fun Brain for FREE. And yet, it has sold over 250,000 copies. At $10 a copy. And with Volumes 2 and 3 and other related merchandise being sold, we're talking about HUGE bucks. This is for STICK figure drawings. Matt Feazel is drooling!Oh yeah, this work from a "kids only" shithouse has been nominated for a Harvey Award for Best On-Line Comic … same as "EZ Street" here on ComicMix. It's also nominated for Best Writer, Best Cartoonist, Special Award for Humor, Special Award for Excellence in Presentation, Best Inker, Best New Series and Best New Talent. Huh? The MOST HEAVILY nominated comic of the Harvey Awards this year originates from a "kids only shithouse." Go figure. Could it be that producing comics for kids can not only be profitable, but you can actually make quality work that can be engaging and entertaining for ALL ages?My suggestion was to, "Leave this site to do comics for every free citizen of the world, entitled to use any words, ideas and points of view." I agree with John Tebbel entirely. ComicMix has a winning formula that is producing HIGH QUALITY work. Imaginative and creative stuff. I don't want to mess with that formula. But I doubt that ComicMix could get listed by KidZui or Yahooligans or any other site that surveys and recommends web sites for kids. There is too much "Mature Content" here. And that's GREAT!But, you already have a winning formula here. You already have the best comics reader on the web. You already have a clean, easily navigated architecture that could be copied for another site. You already have a great team of editors, reporters and creators. It would not be that difficult to create a spin-off site, a sister site, that would exclusively feature ALL ages material. More than half the work is done … now comes the really hard part. Where do you find QUALITY all ages material without falling back on "shithouse" formulaic writing?Why ignore a market that is HIGHLY profitable, can produce quality material that is engaging to all ages, and in the LONG run build the comics fan base by bringing in a new generation of readers.To ignore children's entertainment just because of the prejudice that "kid-friendly" must be synonymous with "rip off" or "shithouse" is just short sighted. You cut off your nose to spite your face.

  5. Adriane Nash says:

    Firstly, good column Michael.I have not seen the ad in question, but I have seen a companion ad. Featuring a guy in an airport using a card with Kittens on it after telling the woman at the desk he's going to a big business meeting, she waves over security asking "You said this was a business trip?" The next guy uses his Amex Business card and is told to have a good trip or meeting or whatever. The message being if you mean business, look it. Which has always been my stumbling block when dealing with corporate America. If I'm qualified to do the job why do I have to look like a drone to get to do it? Why does one have to sacrifice your selfexpression to 'get ahead'Its also a dig at CapitalOne who tout their customizable cards.

    • Michael Davis says:

      Capital One allow YOU to be YOU. I love those 'What's in your wallet' spots.

  6. Alan Kistler says:

    Sing it, brother. Comics made me one of the smartest kids in class when I was in elementary school and formed my strong beliefs on not giving other people shit or judging them unless they somehow interefered with your life or hurt others. I learned morals and the like from two sets of people: my grandparents and super-heroes. And apparently, it turned me into an okay guy.Love the MOTU card, btw. ;-)

    • Michael Davis says:

      Thanks Alan,I love handing that card to people. I never tell them what MOTU means and always wait for them to ask. Gets them every time.

    • Adriane Nash says:

      One of my good friends told me recently that they taught her godson to read with comicbooks, it was the only way to get him excited about reading. I, oddly enough, had to teach her how to read comicbooks so she could read to/with him.

  7. Delmo Walters Jr. says:

    That commercial bugs the hell out of me, too. If I could get a credit card with Superman on it I'd gladly switch companies.

    • Vinnie Bartilucci says:

      Now that would be a fun commercial. Guy at a business dinner with Japanese businessmen, desperate to make a connection. Time to pay, he plops his card down, with a picture of Ultraman on it. The businessmen's eyes light up, and soon everybody's signing contracts and singing the theme to Ultraseven at the local karaoke bar.

    • Mike Gold says:

      I want a GrimJack debit card. Grimmer, a big gun held straight out at you, with the balloon "TAKE IT!!!"But don't buy airplane tickets with it.

  8. Brian K. Morris says:

    Amen about the reading lessons that comics provided! When I entered 1st grade, back when the Earth was cooling, I was the only student in my class who was reading at a 4th grade level. Not only that, but I could spell the word "invulnerable" and could tell the teacher what it meant. In your face, AmEx!

  9. Jeremiah Avery says:

    Great column, Michael! I don't carry a business card but I did have a brief incident where I conveyed that my reading comics doesn't make me less of a person than those who don't. When I was visiting some family, I bumped into someone I knew in high school. I was (and still am, in some regards) a total geek in high school. The chump must have been locked in his high school mentality because he asked me, "So what do you do nowadays? Still reading those lame comic books?" I was annoyed, to say the least, but I kept calm and pointed out how those "lame comic books" piqued my interests in science and technology, which led me to pursue my degree in Computer Science, which enabled me to have a career that pays me double what he's making! May sound petty, but another thing comics instilled in me is to stand up for yourself.

    • Michael Davis says:

      Does not sound petty to be at all Jeremiah. As Yogi Berra once said "It aint bragging if you can do it." FYI- Denys Cowan and I have a project we are developing that has a main character named 'Jeremiah.' Cool ass name dude.

  10. Jeremiah Avery says:

    Thanks, Michael. I was teased mercilessly about it growing up, but it seems the older I get, the less that happens. That and perhaps because I moved to a somewhat better area. Who knows!I look forward to checking out your and Mr. Cowan's project.One thing that sort of gets to me is how some people will watch a movie based on a comic, but look down on those that actually read them! I guess those of us that are literate and don't need the pictures to actually move and have the sound added to them are "lower" than those that need it spoon-fed.

  11. Reg Gabriel says:

    >>>>>> pointing to Michael in my Tweety Bird voice >>>> "He's funny."BTW….glad to see that 'you done bounced back; :-) ….and hope you enjoy ComicCon!p.s. I'm one of those 'young….at heart' creators chasing (and will ultimately slay) the rassen frassen windmill. What's the best door for you? UMI?Peace and thanks.

    • Michael Davis says:

      Nah-I'm having an 'reach me' email set up in a day or two that you can get me at Reg. I meant to do this a while ago but I've been crazy busy. I think it will be set up by Monday.

  12. Kenny says:

    Thank you very much!That has been building up in me for years and this newest commercial really got me going.Yeah I can't do business without the asshole express card. Give me break…The few people I've known with one have had more problems with it than anything else lolAnd how they think these commercials will help god only knows. Someone in marketing needs to be fired. Why don't they just print a middle finger on the card it's cheaper lol

  13. pgspat says:

    I too hate the American Express commercial where the guy offers to pay for lunch with his SuperHero credit card and then is laughed at in German by these creepy foreign elitists (I am sure they attended Obama's world tour rally so they could snear at America). These American Express commercials are very full of themselves and stuck up. The one where the lady at the airport won't take the guy's card with the cats on it and instead calls security….. just do your job lady and how about some customer service….. the worst commercials of the year…

  14. Vasilica says:

    I have just seen the infamous commercial (on History TV) minutes ago. This time, I have watched it with more attention, and I do not believe my ABD, non-comics-reading, foreign (although living in the US since 1999) self got any different meaning of it than before. After all, it seems to me that it does not even matter that the said commercial is about American Express attacking Capital One (my second Capital One card has Van Gogh's "Starry Night" on and I have received many positive comments on it); as most contemporary American issues, it is, above all, about IMAGE. This is what the voice-over tells the audience (approximately): "If you are in business (and want to be considered a serious businessman), then look and show the part." It clearly addresses those who DO want to show and play the part–otherwise, Wall Street (and not only) would be quite different. The fact that the serious business credit card should be an American Express one does not even matter that much here; for the sake of the argument, it could just as well be a Citibank, Bank of America, or WaMu one.One may wonder why the foreigners (I take offense! though I am not German) look so snotty and behave similarly. Well, Germans are known to be highty and mighty. Their comments in German (after everyone sees them speak acceptable English), besides being condescending, emphasize two things: first, the American's ignorance in terms of foreign languages; if he hopes to do business with Germans, he should at least possess some basic German, such as the word "kindergarten" which they use and which is identical in English. Secondly, the business world is a dog-eat-dog world, and only the fit survive. I happen to know that most Europe, both Western and Eastern, considers the BDs or comics "young children's literature," and this childish stage is logically followed by adulthood which moves to books (without pictures, and with text only). Consequently, by possesssing a non-professional-looking credit card, the American in the commercial looks like he is not fully equipped for life in the adult world–and again IMAGE plays a huge role in qualifying him as unfit. I shall not even delve into the entire "are comics real literature/do they really belong in the academic curriculum" issue. As a child, I learned to read on picture books, then I read books with stories and some pictures, then just stories. I was almost 30 when I laid my hands on some "Asterix et Obelix" French BDs (sorry, no accents) and enjoyed them thoroughly, especially since I had seen a couple of cartoons with the funny characters before. [The fact that I read French definitely helped.] I also agree that the US produces some cartoons that are clealrly for adults and not children, such as "South Park," "Family Guy," and the kind, and I enjoy them myself. As for American Express… I have no Gold or Platinum card because I shall not pay fees for such membership–I am NOT a business person and I do not care for that kind of image. I do care, though, for king Solomon's timeless wisdom: "He who raises the sword, shall perish by the sword."

  15. Brett D says:

    Wow! Well written, and from a point of view I hadn't even anticipated!I'm not a big fan of comics. I don't dislike them, I just never got into them. Still, as an artist, I absolutely agree with you that there is huge creative capital in comic illustration, and I'm frankly a little jealous of those who excel at it. You're absolutely right to be pissed off at a douchebag consumer gimmick that mocks it.The fact is, I'm sitting here watching MSNBC, and that ad just aired, and I got to thinking, I wonder if anyone else out there has pointed out how insulting and arrogant this company is. I hopped on Google, and viola! Here you are!Seriously, am I supposed to relate to the calm, confident businesswoman savvy enough to have a Amex Gold card at the ready? Are you friggin' kidding me? Amex's message is pretty clear in this ad: use our card or you won't be taken seriously in business. The only people who give a rat's ass about such things are name-dropping assholes.On a similar note, I've seen about enough of Visa's musical/whimsical choreography ads, where everyday commercial life is presented as a smooth-running, fast-paced ballet of transactions that all comes crashing to an awkward stand-still when some miscreant dares to throw a wrench into the machinery by whipping out his checkbook, or -GOD FORBID- pulling some actual CASH out of his wallet. Naturally, everyone around glares disapprovingly at the poor schmuck until he realizes the error of his ways and sheepishly produces his Visa Check Card instead.Like the Amex ad, it may be a silly thing to get upset about, but these are the people shaping the message and the narrative of consumer capitalism. Does anyone else think there's something wrong with being so flip about encouraging people to run up debt on their plastic? That's all we need -another sterile, abstract way to part with our money, cynically wrapped in the language of convenience. And if you're not on board, you're a nuissance.

    • Michael Davis says:

      Brett-nice post dude and thanks for the kinds words. If you are so inclined come on over to: where the funs never stops with this kind of stuff. Hope to see you there!

  16. john says:

    Yeah I'm late to jump on but I just saw this commercial the x+1 time where x was enough, and it really bothers me, the idea of a guy trying, extending his goodwill and getting shat on so. To hell with a company that propagates the blessing of such behavior.