Author: John Ostrander

John Ostrander: The Scar-Faced Cupid of Comics

Writing this on Valentine’s Day, I’m drawn back to consider comics and my love life. Not my love of comics, although there is that, but as an active part of my love life.  There are two great loves in my life, my late wife Kim Yale and my current partner, Mary Mitchell. Oddly enough, I met both of them at comic book conventions.

When I first met Kim, she was married and I didn’t mess with married women. Eventually, that marriage didn’t work out but Kim and I didn’t get together right away. Truth to tell, before Kim and I did start going out, I hadn’t been on a date in over two years. For me, the whole dating/mating scene had become too painful. Getting my hopes up, excited by a possibility, only to have each relationship bottom out – it was too much.

Kim and I had worked on my Doctor Who play project together (that also crashed and burned) so we were friendly and at that point she lived about 16 blocks from me on the north side of Chicago. One day, I got a letter from her; she had read a GrimJack issue, “My Sins Remembered”, and it had really affected her, bringing up memories of her brother. I was touched but also confused and called her on the phone; I wondered why she had written, why didn’t she just call me to talk about it. She said that sometimes these things were better written. As a writer, I could only agree. Still, I asked her if she wanted to go out and have a cup of coffee or something and talk about it some more; I sensed there was more she needed to discuss. She said yes, we met, and that night was the start of us together.

We later referred to John Gaunt (GrimJack) as our “scar faced Cupid”. He brought us together and was part of our life thereafter. Eventually, Kim and I would write together about his early life in the “Young Blood” series that ran in the back of GrimJack for the final 12 issues. She was the only person I’ve ever allowed to co-write GrimJack with me.

Kim became very involved in the comic scene as well. We co-wrote other books together – Suicide Squad and Manhunter. She became an assistant editor at DC Comics working for my buddy Mike Gold, something that took us out of the Midwest and to the East Coast. Kim loved comic book conventions and for years hosted the Women In Comics panel at the Chicago Comic Con which was consistently well attended and was both entertaining and intelligent. She also loved the parties at conventions and could dance the socks off just about anybody; I know I couldn’t keep up and usually went to bed early.

Mary I also met at a Chicago Con; actually, I discovered her when she showed me her portfolio. I was floored by her talent and skill; I still am. She was also a Midwest girl, living on the family farm, and Kim and I urged her to move to the East Coast to try and get more work.

She did but she had a hard time of it for a while so Kim and I suggested that she move in with us in the house we were buying. She agreed. Any favor we did for her was more than paid back when Kim contracted breast cancer. All through the illness, the surgeries, the chemo, and Kim’s decline and death, Mary stood by us, by Kim, and helped.

When Kim died, my world ended. It’s a cliché, I know, but true. My future had always included Kim; we had discussed which one of us was the most likely to pass first and we both thought it would be me. Instead it was Kim who died first and my whole idea of what my future would be was gone. There was no longer a future.

Mary stayed on and we co-habited the house strictly as friends until, two years or so later, we became a couple. It caught us by surprise although, evidently, most of our friends saw it coming. Nobody said anything to ME, of course. I guess they thought I’d eventually figure it out although, in my past, I never could tell if a woman was interested with me. Generally they had to use a baseball bat. Mary just sat me down and told me. Once I was told, it seemed like a great idea. It was and is. And I had a future again.

The point of this – I hope you all had a lovely Valentine’s Day but some of you maybe didn’t. Maybe you were alone and lonely. I’ve been there; I know the feeling. Kim didn’t happen until I was well into my Thirties. Although I’m a big romantic, I was romantically inept.

And yet I found Kim. When she died, I thought that part of my life was over. I had someone and she was gone. And then my best friend became the woman I love. If it happened to me – twice – it can happen to you.

Just find your own scar-faced Cupid.

John Ostrander: “Sherlock” Season Three: Is The Game Off?

Several years ago, when I first heard that the BBC was doing a version of the Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories re-set in the modern day, I was skeptical. I’ve long loved the Holmes stories. I believe I finished reading the Canon for the first time by the age of ten. For me, part of the charm was the fog/smog filled Victorian streets of London, with the hansom cabs, the gaslights, et al. For me, the era and setting were as much characters in the stories as Holmes and Watson. I might have given the series a pass except that the co-creator and frequent writer for the series was going to be Steven Moffat.

I knew Moffat from some remarkable work he had done on Doctor Who. He has penned what I felt were some of the best episodes I’d ever watched on the series, full of surprises but also deep feeling, moments that truly touched me. So I gave his new series, co-created with writer/actor Mark Gatiss, a look and was generally delighted. The modern setting worked surprisingly well and, while not faithful to the letter of the stories, kept to the spirit of Conan Doyle’s canon. The series benefited as well from a very strong Holmes and Watson in the persons of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman respectively.

Each season consists of just three ninety minute episodes and each has ended on something of a cliffhanger or at least we are left with questions to be answered. We’re introduced to their version of Holmes’s arch nemesis, James Moriarty, at the end of the first season as he puts Holmes and Watson into a death trap with no seeming escape. At the end of the second season, Moffat and Gatiss do their version of the last meeting of the two. In their version, it results with Moriarty blowing his own brains out and Holmes forced to jump to his apparent death. We know Holmes is not dead by the end of the episode but we don’t know how he managed it. That would have to wait for Season Three. In theory.

Spoiler Alert. Lots of spoilers below. (more…)

John Ostrander: Upsides & Downsides of Writing

Ostrander Art 140102There are some days that I love being a writer. When the everything is cooking, when the words are flowing, when the characters are speaking to you, when you’re on the top of your game, it’s all magic. That’s not every day. Not by a long shot.

There are the days when you’re staring at the screen and it stares back – and the screen does not blink. You pray and the gods/patron saints (depending on your belief system) do not smile, do not answer, do not share their favor with you. There are days when I have considered offering blood sacrifices to these gods/saints. On those days, the cats hide.

I make my living off of my writing. There are upsides and downsides to that. On the upside, I’m my own boss. On the downside, I frequently hate my boss. He always knows when I’m goofing off and I can hear his voice in the back of my head saying, “Are you making money doing that?” It’s hard to get a day off; there’s no paid holidays, there’s no paid sick days, no paid vacation.

On the upside, I work out of my home. The commute’s a breeze. The only traffic jam is when one or more of the cats gets in front of me as I head towards the office and decides to stroll or flat out lie down right in my path. A semi jack-knifing in front of you is not as likely to stymie your passage as completely as a downed cat. Swearing sometimes clears the path; sometimes it just gets me a blank look.

On the downside, it’s hard to get away from the office. It’s always there and that damned boss keeps on asking “When are you getting back to work?” Yes, I have my own separate office in my home and, yes, I could close the door. I’ve done that. I think there’s a small gravity well at my desk and it keeps sucking me back.

There’s the Freelancer’s Disease. If you’re offered work you tend to say “yes” even if you’re overbooked because you fear if you say “no” the aforementioned gods/patron saints won’t send you any more work. And there’s the corresponding Freelancer’s Nightmare when the work does stop flowing. Will the work ever come again; how will you pay bills, how will you eat if the work doesn’t come back? It’s not a rational fear but it’s a very real one and you can wake up in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning with an attack of it. Been there; felt that.

There’s a corresponding hope that lightning will strike. I was on a plane once and the guy next to me began talking. We were both in our forties. I told him what I did and he told me he was a corporate lawyer. I expressed some envy at him; he had a steady paycheck. He agreed and he said that was the problem: he knew how much he would make this year, and the next year, and pretty much ten years down the line. “You,” he said, “on the other hand, could be hit by lightning.” I could write something, come up with an idea or a concept that could make me millions. It could happen at any time. It hasn’t yet… but it still might.

That’s one of the things that keeps me at it, that and the joy I get when the writing works. I’m also too damn old to work in an office. I can’t see anyone hiring me. I really don’t have any marketable business skills and no résumé.

Nope, for better or worse, for all the upsides and downsides, writing is what I do. I’d better get back to it before the boss yells at me. Again.

The bastard.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell




John Ostrander: A Fair-to-Middling Earth

ostrander-art-140126-150x113-4909151Different media have different demands, and adapting work done in one medium for another can be problematic. Comics, especially super-hero comics, used to be very difficult to make into films. We did not believe a man could fly; we believed he was lying belly down on a table with a fan blowing over him. However, CGI and other technology caught up with films and, today, some might say the superhero film is more faithful to the feel and spirit of the lead character than the comics are.

I think that’s the key, especially when adapting novels into films. Novels are too long to be strictly adapted into movies; Game of Thrones works fairly well, as does The Walking Dead, because they are TV series. The episodic nature allows for the kind of development that mirrors the length and structure of the source material.

It comes down to what do you keep in, what do you cut; what do you omit and what do you add; what plot elements are the most important, what are less important; what’s necessary to tell the story? What choices do you make? These are basic questions for any story but are even more vital when you’re adapting another person’s creation. How true must you be to the source material – to the letter or to the spirit? Who is the primary storyteller?

When it was first announced that The Lord of the Rings was going to be made into movies, I was hesitant, dubious, and worried. I love LotR and I just didn’t see how it could be done. However, director Peter Jackson made a believer out of me. His adaptation is not perfect, no, but the fact that it exists is damn near a miracle.

When The Hobbit was announced, initially I was very psyched. Originally, Peter Jackson was only going to produce, not direct, but due to delays he eventually wound up taking over the director’s reins again. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit initially as a children’s book and, while in the same setting of Middle-Earth as LotR, Tolkien only later amended the book to tie into the later work. Some characters appear in both works.

The Hobbit is a shorter book than LotR so I was only mildly concerned when it was announced it would be made into two films. It’s when Jackson announced it would become three films that I started to become apprehensive once again. Still, Jackson had earned my trust with LotR. I adopted a wait and see attitude.

Well, I’ve seen the first two parts of Jackson’s The Hobbit and I am somewhat less than thrilled. They’re not bad films per se but it’s been made very much into a prequel for Jackson’s LotR and not to the source material’s benefit.

Warning: spoilers of both the movies and the books follow.

The basic story is the same: the titular Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is dragooned into a motley crew of dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, to reclaim their kingdom. Coming along is the wizard Gandalf the Gray. Woven into the story is how Bilbo won/stole the One Ring from Gollum. This, combined with an appendix Tolkien wrote, is the story of how the Great Enemy, Sauron, regrouped at Dol Guldur as the Necromancer until he was driven out by the White Council, including Gandalf (who disappears from The Hobbit’s storyline for a while to do this).

Adding this to the film makes sense and fleshing out that part of the story is fine. I also don’t have a problem with adding Legolas to the story or a new character, Tauriel, or even her possible romance with one of the dwarves. What bothers me is padding and bloating in the storyline. There’s a protracted running, jumping, yelling, fighting scene in the underground kingdom of the Goblins that could have been right out of the Mines of Moria sequence in LotR. It goes on way too long. Richard Armitage, as dwarf leader Thorin, is simply too good looking and something of a stand-in for Aragon in LotR. There’s a battle between the dwarves and the dragon, Smaug, within the mountain kingdom that simply never happened in the book and, again, goes on way too long.

For me, this is now less J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and more Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. It’s less about picking the elements to best tell the original story than what Jackson feels like doing. Some things he gets absolutely right, such as the aforementioned scene between Bilbo and Gollum. In that he keeps very close to the scene as written by Tolkien and it works wonderfully. A later scene, between Bilbo and Smaug, does not stick as closely to Tolkien and it suffers for it.

I will undoubtedly go to the third film when it comes out and I will have all three in DVD or Blu-Ray format as they become available, including the inevitable Director’s Cut versions which may be even more bloated. I understand this is Jackson’s vision of The Hobbit but it’s a lot darker than the book was. I’m very glad these films exist at all; I just would have liked it if they had been a little more Tolkien and a little less Jackson.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell




John Ostrander: Bad Boys, Bad Boys

Ostrander Art 140119I was watching perhaps my favorite new TV show of the season, The Blacklist, last Monday. James Spader’s Raymond “Red” Reddington exacts a fierce revenge on those who wronged him. Reddington has done terrible things throughout the series and yet I find myself drawn to him, even rooting for him. I doubt that I’m the only one.

It’s not the first time for me. There was James Gandolfini in The Sopranos and, to an even greater extent, Michael Chiklis in The Shield. Who is the real center of The Dark Knight – Christian Bales’ Batman or Heath Ledger’s Joker? It’s a tradition that goes back a long way – the most interesting character in Shakespeare’s Othello isn’t the title character but Iago, the great and cunning villain of the play.

I really enjoy writing the bad guys as well. My favorite Star Wars creation? Probably the rogue and con man Vilmahr “Villie” Grahrk. Over at DC, I had a whole series centering on the villains – Suicide Squad. My faves among them – probably Amanda Waller, Captain Boomerang, and Deadshot. It’s not hard to spot. Hell, even John Gaunt, GrimJack, is not a hero except maybe by default.

So… what is the attraction? I am, by most accounts, a nice guy. So where does all this come from? The bad guys have to come from somewhere inside of me. Why are all of us attracted by the Joker, or Hannibal Lecter, or Raymond Reddington and the others?

Going back to my acting days, it was always fun to play a villain. First of all, they usually had the best lines. More important, I think the villains do things that you and I have atavistic urges to do, but our own conditioning, our own morality, keep us from acting on those urges. By identifying with the bad guys, by emotionally investing myself with them and their acts, I do the crime without having to worry about paying the price. I get the thrill without having to worry about the consequences.

I especially enjoy writing characters like Captain Boomerang. Boomerbutt (as others called him) was remarkably well-adjusted in a rather reprehensible way. He knew exactly who he was and he was happy with it. No angst, no desire to make himself better. Nobody liked Captain Boomerang more than Boomerang himself; it might be safe to say that he was the only one who liked Boomerang at all. He was fine with that as well.

Another secret of villains is that they don’t think of themselves, for the most part, as bad. They may think that the rules don’t apply to them but they feel they have the perfect right to do what they’re doing.

I don’t like every villain. Simple thugs and bullies – not very interesting. Same goes for the megalomaniac who wants to rule the world. Usually they’re pretty one note. No, give me the guy or gal with intelligence or at least a low cunning, a sense of humor, a worldview of some kind, a touch of theatricality and who has no compunction about doing what they do. Ah, that’s a villain I can sink my literary teeth into!

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY: Jen Krueger



John Ostrander: Wibbly-Wobbly Storytelling

Ostrander Art 140112As River Song is want to warn: Spoilers! There’s going to be a lot of talk in this column about what happened on this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special, ”The Time of the Doctor.” There’s no way around critiquing the show without talking about what happened in it. If you haven’t seen it but intend to, you may want to avoid this column.There are plenty of other fine columns here at ComicMix so you can read them instead if you like.

The Doctor is dead; long live the Doctor. Matt Smith’s tenure as Doctor Who has given way to Peter Capaldi’s. It all happened in this year’s Christmas Special, The Time of the Doctor. I wish I could tell you it was wonderful but, in truth, I was underwhelmed.

Steven Moffat, the showrunner and the author of the episode, is a very clever writer. Sometimes he’s too clever and sometimes he’s not as clever as he thinks. For the Fiftieth Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, he was wonderfully clever with deeply felt emotional moments, a thrilling climax, and a special appearance at the end which just knocked my socks off and dangled them from my ears. In this episode, Moffat was very clever and very good as he so often is. All of which made my dissatisfaction with the Christmas Special so much the greater.

The Time of the Doctor had two important issues to settle. It was to mark the regeneration, the transition, of the Doctor from Matt Smith to the new Doctor, now played by Peter Capaldi. Having now established that Matt Smith’s Doctor was the final one in the Doctor’s regeneration cycle, it had to establish how Capaldi’s Doctor was possible. Moffat decided also to bring together dangling threads from previous episodes. That makes it a very busy episode and one of its narrative problems.

One of the problems is a prophecy that occurs in an earlier episode, The Wedding of River Song, it says that on “the fields of Trenzalore, at the Fall of the Eleventh, when no creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never ever be answered: Doctor who?” Problem: Matt Smith’s Doctor is no longer the Eleventh Doctor.  “The Day of the Doctor” introduced John Hurt as the War Doctor, who was now the Ninth incarnation and that made Matt Smith the Twelfth Doctor. If he isn’t the Twelfth Doctor, then all the hoohah of this being his final incarnation is just blather. The plot hinges on it.

There are a lot of problems with this story. Early on, it has his companion, Clara, frantically asking the Doctor to come to her apartment and pretend to be her boyfriend for a Christmas dinner she’s cooking for her parents and grandmother. This makes no sense to me. Clara is gorgeous and she can’t get a local guy to do the part?

When the Doctor and Clara get to Trenzalore, there is a small farming community of humans and the town is named Christmas. I guess we’re in the future. Beaming down, they find some Weeping Angels buried in the snow. The Weeping Angels were really creepy the first time I saw them; now they’re just annoying. Their powers change to whatever Moffat wants them to be. One touch and you’re dead. Or tossed back in time for some reason. One grabs Clara’s boot so she should be dead or tossed back in time or something but she’s not. The Weeping Angels then do not figure into the rest of the story.

All of the Doctor’s foes are gathered around the planet (been there, seen that in The Pandorica Opens) and we have the Daleks who were made to forget all about the Doctor except now they don’t anymore.

There is a crack in the wall that is a crack in space and time and the Doctor supposedly closed all that off in The Big Bang but, no, there’s one conveniently left. On the other side are the Time Lords who were frozen into a single point of time in a pocket universe in order to save them in The Day of the Doctor, except they’re broadcasting a message to the Doctor to see if its safe for his home planet, Gallifrey, to come back. This would evidently re-ignite the Time War and destroy the Universe. Not to mention Trenzalore and the human colony. The last time Gallifrey appeared out of its usual spot, it was going to destroy and replace the Earth (The End of Time). What’s a little consistency among friends?

The Doctor spends 300 years on Trenzalore (Clara is sent home but comes back in what, for her, is the same day.). The Daleks want to kill him before he dies of old age. Defiant, the old boy goes out to meet them. Clara convinces the Time Lords on the other side of the time/space crack that they need to save him so the they send him a new batch of regeneration energy, enough for a whole new cycle of lives. Never mind that, the last time we saw them, the High Council of Time Lords were trying to kill the Doctor. The Doctor focuses the excess regeneration energy to wipe out the Daleks and regenerates, after a soulful monologue and a nice cameo from a much loved companion, into his new self. Yay.

I could go on at even greater length than I have but the episode was simply too busy by half. New characters and concepts are tossed in and there’s a lot of explaining away of what we previously thought and, along the way, invalidates an episode that occurred at the end of the previous season. Things are shoehorned in and continuity is changed or disregarded where it’s not convenient. That’s bad writing and that’s disappointing when it’s from someone as gifted as Moffat and who told such a wonderful story just one episode earlier. This Doctor Who Christmas Special was coal in the stocking and it’s a damn shame it came on the 800th episode and such an important moment in the history of Doctor Who.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell



John Ostrander: Star Wars – Moving On

Ostrander Art 140105The news came down publicly on Friday that, in 2015, the Star Wars comics license will move from Dark Horse, who has had it for more than two decades, to Marvel, which had it at the franchise’s inception. It’s not a big surprise; since creator George Lucas sold it all to Disney, and Disney owns Marvel, many saw the move as inevitable.

I have had the pleasure of playing in George Lucas’s sandbox for more than ten years, most often with my artistic partner in crime, Jan Duursema. At first it was only going to be a four issue story arc. My buddy and Brother by a Different Mother, Timothy Truman, was the regular writer on the book at the time and he was taking some time off to work on a special project. He recommended me for the fill-in, one of the many favors I owe Tim.

When I got the first assignment, I knew this might be the only chance I ever got to write Star Wars. I decided we should create our own characters; that way, we were less likely to trip over established continuity. I wanted an amnesiac Jedi – a Jedi who had sustained a head injury and didn’t know he was a Jedi.

Jan was brought on board as well and, I have to say, she was and is a larger SW geek than I was. What I didn’t know about that galaxy far far away, Jan did. She decided she wanted to create a look based on a character from the films, the current one at that time being Episode One: The Phantom Menace. She found a figure who was in the background of a cantina scene. Let me point out that the character appears for maybe three seconds and there was no DVD of the film yet; the only place to see it was on the screen. Jan not only spotted the character but memorized him in those three seconds. Yeah, she’s that good.

And so was born Quinlan Vos, our first Star Wars character. He was joined by Vilmahr “Villie” Grahrk, a devilish-looking Devaronian who spoke like a Russian and was a complete rogue. Man, I loved writing that character! Rounding it all out was Quinlan’s missing apprentice, a female Twi’lek named Aayla Secura. George Lucas would later like the look of her so much he put her in both Episode II and Episode III. I think that was perhaps the only time a character started in the comic and went to the movie instead of the other way around. She and Quin also wound up in the animated version of The Clone Wars.

When Tim decided not to return to the ongoing, I was invited back. At the time, the book would switch artists and writers with almost every arc. I suggested to DH that, whether it was me and Jan or not, there should be a regular team and the book should have its own cast of characters. My argument was that it was hard to build a reliable fan base for the book if it constantly changed identities. Having their own characters that could (mostly) only be found in the book would also be a selling point for readers. DH bought the idea and Jan and I wound up as the regular team.

When Episode III came out (they killed Aayla!), that era was essentially done and Jan and I had to look for another. One of my problems with the Prequel Trilogy is that it went backwards in time; when I like a story, I want to find out what happened next. So I suggested to Jan and Dark Horse that we dropkick the franchise down the timeline, past the movies, past the books, and tell that part of the story. Our protagonist, Cade Skywalker, would be a descendent of Luke but Cade was very different. He was a junkie, a rogue, and he wanted nothing to do with the Jedi. My pitch for the character was – what if Han Solo had a lightsaber?

We named the book Legacy and it was, perhaps, the most successful book Jan and I did in Star Wars. We had new Sith, a resurgent Empire, and Imperial Knights – Jedi-like Force users working for a more benign Empire. The cast was huge and we had a chance to tell all kinds of stories for more than five years.

After Legacy ended, we cast about what to do next. I suggested that, having gone forward in time, we now go back. How did the Jedi become the Jedi? I figured that was a story fans would find interesting. As a fan, I wanted to know. Out of all that came Dawn of the Jedi, the series that Jan and I are currently working on and which will be our last Star Wars story for Dark Horse. In addition, I’ve had the chance to do various Specials and one-shots, as well as Agent of the Empire, which was one part Star Wars and one part James Bond. I had a lot of fun on that one.

So – is that it? Have I written my last Star Wars comic? That’s up to Marvel now but I have hopes. Both Jan and I bring a lot to the table. First off, we know how to write Star Wars so that it feels like Star Wars, even when not dealing with the usual characters. Every story we do has to be approved by Lucas Film Publishing and Jan and I have never gotten a story rejected. We get notes, yes, but not rejections. That’s not easy to do, let me tell you. Jan and I are good at what we do. How do I know? Because we sold well and we have our own fans (and I deeply appreciate them).

Will all that be enough? I don’t know; I’ll certainly contact Marvel and pitch to do more stories. I love Star Wars and I think it shows. Marvel may not yet know what they want to do with the franchise. They don’t get control of it until 2015 which is when Episode VII comes out and that will probably help decide more than few things.

Whatever happens, I’ve had a good run and got a chance to tell some fun stories set in a galaxy I love a lot. I also have some other projects I’m developing and some of them are also SF so I won’t stray too far.

I want to thank Dark Horse, the editors – especially Randy Stradley – and all the very talented people I’ve worked with.

Live long and prosper.

Whoops. Wrong franchise.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell




John Ostrander: First Times

ostrander-art-131229-150x157-1351643The trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is out and you’ve no doubt seen it here on ComicMix and elsewhere. It looks pretty spiffy, I think, and I’m ready to shell out my shekels to see it.

I came into the living room the other day as My Mary was watching the end the previous Amazing Spider-Man on the tube. She mentioned how her friend Sherry preferred Toby McGuire’s Spider-Man to Andrew Garfield’s and made an interesting observation: McGuire’s Spider-Man was more Todd MacFarland while Garfield’s was more Steve Ditko. I found that pretty astute.

McGuire was also Sherry’s first Spider-Man and I think that also plays into it. Who your favorite artist (or even writer) on a given character or property may depend on who was on the book when you first read it. For me, my Spider-Man artist was John Romita – and that’s Senior, not Junior (who is a fine artist in his own right). I would only encounter Ditko later, in reprints (this was long before the Internet or even comic book stores with longboxes). I’ll be honest; I was not keen on Ditko at first. My guy was Romita Sr. My Spider-Man was the one he drew.

I don’t know who was drawing Batman when I first read the book; the first one I remember was Neal Adams (and scripted by our own Denny O’Neil). I think my first Doctor Strange artist was Marie Severin, inked by her brother John, a mighty duo.

The idea (I wouldn’t call it a rule) also extends to Doctor Who. The definitive Doctor for an individual is often the one you first saw in the role. For me, it was Jon Pertwee, with the capes and the bouffant hair. The episodes were aired sporadically in my area and one day I came across one with a horse faced actor in a big multi-colored scarf swanning around and being called the Doctor. I was resistant to Tom Baker for a good while; my Doctor was Pertwee. I came around and Baker became one of my faves along with most of the rest of Who fandom.

I found it interesting in a special mini-episode where David Tennant’s Doctor comes in contact with Peter Davidson’s Doctor and said, “You were my Doctor!” I think that was true for Tennant; he would have been the right age.

The concept doesn’t always hold. My definitive Avengers artist would have been John Buscema, definitely not the first artist I saw on the book. OTOH, my definitive Conan artist would have been Barry Windsor Smith and not John Buscema. BWS was the first. Gene Colan was the first artist I saw on both Daredevil and Iron Man and remained the definitive artist for me, over both Wally Wood and Frank Miller on Daredevil and Bob Layton on Iron Man.

These are all artists whose work I have enjoyed on the various books but they don’t hold the special place in my heart that the first artists did. They marked the first time I encountered the characters and fell in love with them and there isn’t anything quite like your first love, is there?




John Ostrander: Shooting Off Your Mouth

ostrander-art-131222-150x129-2692628This past week Phil Robertson, the patriarch on A&E’s Duck Dynasty (a show I will admit I’ve never watched) had an interview published in GQ (which I don’t read) in which he compared homosexuality to bestiality, among other things. And when he was growing up in the “pre-civil rights era,” he never saw an unhappy black person. Not one. “They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

All this got him into a spot of trouble. A&E suspended him indefinitely from the show. The Robertson family has said they won’t film more episodes without the pater familias. The show is the most successful “reality” show on television – or so I’m told; remember, I don’t watch it.

There’s pushback now from the show’s supporters and right-wingnuts like Sarah Palin. La Palin said “Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.”

Predictably all the Fox And Friends folks, never ones to pass up the opportunity to be victims or martyrs, are also pretty darned upset. Jim Pinkerton on Happening Now (which definitely should not be confused with the old black sitcom What’s Happenin’) said we’re seeing “A Purge Of Southern White Christian Patriotic Culture Out Of TV.” Geraldo Rivera said it was political correctness gone malignant. On his radio show, Sean Hannity opined that Robertson was just expressing “old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values.” And there are various people saying Robertson was being censored for speaking his mind and whatever happened to “Free Speech” and aren’t liberals a bunch of hypocrites and so on.

Okay, as has been pointed out by others, this isn’t a censorship matter. Censorship involves the government prohibiting speech. This is a TV cable network, not the government. I don’t think it’s a “Free Speech” matter, either. Robertson spoke his mind and there was a consequence. The cable company acted to protect its own perceived interests. That’s their right.

Was it Hate Speech? No, I don’t think so. It was boneheaded. He had other thoughts including saying that up until the time of the Great Flood, everyone was a vegetarian. (The nuns back at St. Jerome’s Elementary School never mentioned that when I was growing up. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention; that’s possible.) It all comes from a very literal reading of the Bible and interpreting it within your own prejudices.

Did Robertson have a right to say what he did? Sure. Just as GLAAD and the NAACP had a right to respond. Just as Palin et al have a right to their responses. “Free Speech” doesn’t protect you from hearing things that you don’t like. I remember when the American Nazi party marched in Skokie, Illinois; it was allowed under Free Speech – as was a counter-demonstration by those who opposed them. Both came under protected speech.

This is mostly a tempest in a duck pond. All the episodes for the new season of Duck Dynasty have been filmed save one. What will happen is that A&E’s “indefinite suspension” will be that episode. If they’re smart, that episode will be the last episode and will cover the “furor,” it will be a “cliffhanger” and then Robertson will be back for the following season and that premiere will score even larger ratings for the show than usual. A&E will claim they made their point, The Fauxes et al will claim victory, Phil Robertson will have had his soapbox and all involved with the show will make a ton of money. That’s America.

To tell the truth, Robertson’s view on gays (or anything else) doesn’t really bother me. They’re not going to have much affect on anyone that doesn’t already agree with him. He’s preaching to the choir. Vladimir Putin’s views on homosexuality do bother me; he’s the head of state over in Russia and his views get made into policy and laws.

Just a little proportion on the matter.