Author: Matthew Weinberger

Review: “Comic Book Babylon”

Comic Book Babylon

Comic book writer, editor, and raconteur Clifford Meth took to Kickstarter to fund the publication of Comic Book Babylon, a collection of essays, stories, and interviews drawn from the almost ten years worth of columns he had written for various comic book news sites across the Internet, including ComicMix itself. Promising an introduction by Stan Lee and illustrations by noted comic artist/political crackpot Michael Netzer, Comic Book Babylon almost quintupled its original funding goal with $11,219 in pledges. Last week, Meth delivered with the release of Comic Book Babylon, published in print by Meth’s own Aardwolf Publishing or digitally through the Amazon Kindle store. (more…)

Review: “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story” by Sean Howe

Marvel Comics: The Untold StoryDespite the massive mainstream success of comic-to-screen adaptations like Marvel’s The Avengers and DC’s The Dark Knight Rises, there hasn’t been much serious scholarship or long-form journalism around the superhero comic book industry in the last few decades. Any time a newspaper or magazine takes a crack at it, the stories tend to be ego-inflating looks at how a chosen few grizzled visionaries (usually Stan Lee and only Stan Lee) created an entire industry out of whole cloth and had the time of their life doing it, while publisher-sponsored histories tend to focus on the characters, rather than the creators.

And it’s the creators who are key to the new book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, wherein author Sean Howe mercifully forgoes the breathless “Excelsiors” and “Face Fronts” of the officially-sanctioned or poorly-conceived histories of years past for an extremely thorough and immensely accessible look at the comic publishing titan’s history, from the early days of Timely and Atlas all the way through the company’s purchase by Disney in 2009.

What Howe demonstrates, knowingly or otherwise, is that much of the dialogue around superhero comics today is nothing we haven’t gone through before. Marvel Comics: The Untold Story characterizes the House of Ideas as being stuck in something of a loop: Creators wrest creative control from editorial one way or another, until Marvel’s skittish owner (from Martin Goodman to New World Pictures to Ike Perlmutter and others, depending on the year) pressures editorial to exert more control in an effort to protect the licensing viability of the company’s stable of intellectual property.

To that end, while Howe rightfully devotes plenty of the story to Jack Kirby, his chronic mistreatment and marginalization by Marvel editorial and corporate, his legal struggles against Marvel, and his increasingly strained relationship with Stan Lee and odd reconciliation later in life, he also spends plenty of time on Howard the Duck creator Steve Gerber and his disillusioned self-imposed exile to independent comics. Howe’s reporting and narrative paints Gerber as the poster child for the creator’s rights movement, abused by a callous corporate comics publisher and denied the copyright to his own creation.

But to Howe’s credit, he did a staggering amount of research for this history, and the book reflects it: For every controversial event or personality, Howe presents the other side the story. While the legendary Todd McFarlane-led uprising of superstar Marvel artists against editorial that would lead to the formation of Image Comics is well-represented, Howe’s interviews with Fabian Nicieza and Tom DeFalco tend to paint the Image founders as spoiled, self-entitled children. It’s a fine line to walk between presenting these views and endorsing either of them, but Howe walks it admirably. The sole exception here may be Howe’s representation of creators like Jim Shooter and Steve Ditko, but neither of them sat down with Howe for this book, and if Howe couldn’t find anybody at Marvel past or present willing to say much in the way of kind words about them, that’s hardly the author’s fault – but the sections devoted to the two legends tend to come off as extremely uncharitable as a result.

And while on the subject of Howe’s research, it’s clear that he didn’t take half-measures, and it’s a testament to his skill as a biographer that his frequent digressions into anecdotes about former editor-in-chief Marc Gruenwald’s office pranks, the secret revealed after John Verpoorten’s untimely death, Morrie Kuramoto’s friendly rivalry with fellow proofreader Danny Crespi, and other Marvel staffers don’t break up the narrative.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Stan Lee much, and that’s for a very simple reason. Possibly one of the more subtle, but daring, choices Howe makes is to downplay Marvel’s founding editor, painting him as an often-absentee boss who gave up on comics early in the company’s history and tried to parlay his status as the public face of a medium into a career in Hollywood and beyond. He’s a constant presence in Howe’s telling of the Marvel story, but often only in the background, making more of an impact as a showman and mascot than he ever did as an editor or writer. He’s not unkind to Lee, exactly, but he comes off as almost dismissive, choosing instead to focus on the struggles between the Marvel creators and editors actually publishing the books, and the company’s ownership – a struggle Lee hardly figures in to after leaving Fantastic Four, the odd lawsuit aside.

Howe’s documentarian writing style can sometimes come off as a little dry, and he only discusses specific characters and storylines in the context of Marvel’s business at that point in time and what it meant for the company. The infamous “Heroes Reborn” event, for example, is cross-examined in terms of Marvel’s relationship with Image and its demoralizing force in the Marvel bullpen, rather than the issues themselves.

In short, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is thought-provoking stuff that has a lot to teach comic book fans new and old. But it’s definitely more Ken Burns than Morgan Spurlock.

Captain Action Offers NYCC Purchasers Free Comics

New York, N.Y. (September 25, 2012) –Captain Action Enterprises is proud to announce a New York Comic Con convention-only offer: fans and collectors receive free comics with every Captain Action toy purchase.  These comics include comics showcasing characters featured in the toy sets, including Spider-Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, Thor, Loki, and Captain Action.

And the first 66 customers will receive special autographed comics.  These comics are signed by top creators including Walt Simonson, Roger Stern, Beau Smith, Sean Chen, Mark Wheatley and more.

“New York Comic Con and ReedPop have been very good to us, and this is one small way of giving back,” said Ed Catto, Retropreneur and co-founder of Captain Action Enterprises.

Additionally, the Captain Action booth will be giving away stress ball “brains” to celebrate the return of Captain Action’s arch-foe, Dr. Evil. As an insidious alien, Dr. Evil’s striking countenance is topped off by his creepy exposed brain.  Available while supplies last, these Brains will be given away to all fans and no purchase is necessary.

“This will be a busy year for us at NYCC”, said Joe Ahearn, co-founder of Captain Action Enterprises.  “We’ll be debuting our second wave of Toys featuring Dr. Evil, Thor and Loki and our new merchandise from Titan. We’ll also have the legendary Walt Simonson and pulp author Jim Beard on hand to autograph copies.  Oh, and we have a panel and a big announcement too!”

Captain Action is based on the action figure created in 1966 by Stan Weston for Ideal Toys and sold internationally. The hero came equipped with a wardrobe of costumes allowing him to become many different heroes such as Batman, The Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet and many more. In 1967, Captain Action proved so popular that the line was expanded to include a sidekick, Action Boy and a blue skinned alien foe with bug eyes, the nefarious Dr. Evil.  The following year, DC Comics licensed the character from Ideal and published five issues of Captain Action featuring industry luminaries such as Jim Shooter, Wally Wood and Gil Kane.

The line has experienced as strong resurgence, complete with an all-new toy line that debuted earlier this year.

“For our gift-with-purchase, we’re offering the best recent comics as well as vintage treasures.  Some gems include vintage Kirby Thors and a Romita Captain America, guest-starring Spider-Man.  We even have a few Wally Wood issues in there.  It’s our hope that we’ll reward collectors and provide a unique gift to younger fans, “ said Catto.

Captain Action is at booth #3136. The New York Comic Con is held at the Javits Center in New York City, from October 11 – 14, 2012.

DC Comics July 2012 Solicitations

It’s that time again… okay, it’s a little past that normal time, thanks to the Mix March Madness wrapup, but here are the preview materials for DC Comics releases for July 2012.

What’s on tap this month? More of the Before Watchmen books, with the debut of Ozymandias from Len Wein and Jae Lee, the conclusion of the Court of Owls storyline and crossover in all the Bat-books, and the debut of the done-in-one book, National Comics, featuring the New 52 Debut (coming right at you) of Eternity.

And in the white elephant of desire category, there’s the $300 statue showing the climactic scene from The Dark Knight Returns.

Once more, into the breach? Banzai!

 

As always, spoilers may lurk beyond this point. (more…)

NYCC PULP PANEL TAKES CENTER STAGE!
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NYCC PULP PANEL TAKES CENTER STAGE!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Pulp Panel at New York Comic Con
Leading voices of Pulp Fiction Gather

New York, NY (October 4, 2011) The leading voices of Pulp Fiction will gather at New York Comic Con for an examination of a unique American genre; Pulp Fiction. This Panel will explore the roots of pulp and look forward to the exciting efforts of today and tomorrow in comics, prose, e-books, audiobooks and recorded drama.

Panelists include: Nick Barrucci, Publisher of Dynamite Comics (The Shadow, The Spider), Greg Goldstein, COO of IDW (The Rocketeer), author and historian Will Murray (Doc Savage’s Wild Adventures), historian Anthony Tollin (Reprinting classics via Nostalgia Ventures), Mark Tepper (CEO Radio Spirits), Wade Hosth (Pulp Historian) Mark Halegua (Pulp1st), author Jim Beard (Fourteen Miles to Gotham City) and author Adam Garcia (Green Lama).

Bonfire Agency’s Ed Catto will moderate the panel.

“We’re expecting a robust discussion celebrating everything new and fresh about this unique genre. And we’re also planning on giving away a plethora of free prizes to panel attendees,” said Ed Catto.

The Panel is scheduled for Sunday, October 16, 2011 from 1:30 to 2:30 in Room 1A02 of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center at 655 West 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan.

The event is open to all registered attendees of the New York Comic Con, space permitting, and has been made possible by special arrangement with Ghost Light Films, Inc., Reed POP and Bonfire Agency, LLC.

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About Bonfire Agency LLC
Bonfire Agency LLC is the marketing community’s first advertising and promotional agency specializing in helping brands reach and deepen connections with highly influential, but difficult to engage, pop culture consumers. This demo, labeled by some as geek or comic culture, is comprised of incredibly passionate, tribe-wired fans of everything from comic books, video games and action films to underground music, sci-fi inspired television and cutting edge adult comedy. Bonfire’s mission is to find ways to build relevant bridges between brands and a diverse audience of consumers that just might become their most effective advocates. The agency was founded in January 2011 by marketing veterans and pop culture specialists Steve Rotterdam (former Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at TimeWarner’s DC Comics) and Ed Catto (former Senior Vice President at Ogilvy and Reed Exhibitions). For more information, visit www.BonfireAgency.com.

About ReedPop
ReedPOP is a boutique group within Reed Exhibitions that is exclusively devoted to organizing events, launching and acquiring new shows, and partnering with premium brands in the pop culture arena. ReedPOP is dedicated to producing celebrations of popular culture throughout the world that transcend ordinary events by providing unique access and dynamic personal experiences for consumers and fans. The ReedPOP portfolio includes: New York Comic Con (NYCC), Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) East & West, Star Wars Celebration V, New York Anime Festival (NYAF), and UFC Fan Expo. The staff at ReedPOP is a fan based group of professionals producing shows for other fans, thus making them uniquely qualified to service those with whom they share a common passion. ReedPOP is focused on bringing its expertise and knowledge to world communities in North America, South America, Asia and Europe.

‘A NEVER ENDING BATTLE’! DOCUMENTARY SET FOR NYCC SCREENING!
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‘A NEVER ENDING BATTLE’! DOCUMENTARY SET FOR NYCC SCREENING!

NEWS RELEASE 

Contact: Ed Catto

O: 917.595.4107

Ed.catto@bonfireagency.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 New PBS Documentary to Preview at New York Comic Con


“A Never-Ending Battle” Celebrates Comics’ Superheroes
and their Creators


New York, NY  (October 3, 2011)   “A Never-Ending Battle,” the first episode of a new film from the creative team responsible for the award-winning PBS documentaries “Broadway: The American Musical” and “Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America,” will be screened in front of an audience for the first time at the New York Comic Con, the East Coast’s largest and most exciting pop culture convention.


Featuring rare footage along with new interviews with legends such as Joe Simon, Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, Neal Adams, Michael Chabon and Jules Feiffer, segments of the first episode – “A Never-Ending Battle: 1938-1954” – will be previewed on Friday, October 14, 2011 at 4PM in Room 1B01 of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center at 655 West 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan.  An on-stage interview and Q&A with filmmakers and cultural historians Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon will take place immediately following the screening.


“We’re really excited to preview our film to fans at New York Comic Con,” said Emmy Award winning filmmaker Michael Kantor. “Because so many incredible talents have given us interviews, I think of this screening as kind of like attending six all-star panel sessions at once.  We are also very eager to get fan reactions and feedback.”


“As a comics fan from back in the days of Second Sundays at the McAlpin Hotel, it was a privilege for me to sit down and hear so many legendary creators spin new tales I had never heard before,” added Maslon, the film’s co-writer, as well as an associate professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. “This documentary series will mark the first time that we’re able to tell the grand epic of the American comic book heroes on a scale that they deserve.”


The event is open to all registered attendees of the New York Comic Con, space permitting, and has been made possible by special arrangement with Ghost Light Films, Inc., Reed POP and Bonfire Agency, LLC.




About “A Never-Ending Battle”


With principal production funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, “A Never-Ending Battle” is slated to air as the first episode of a three-part series on PBS stations early in 2013.  The series will explore the American art form of the comic book superhero and its complex interrelation with American culture over the last 75 years.  Throughout this period, comic books artists, writers and publishers have unleashed thousands of exotic, bizarre, heroic and seductive adventurers upon the American public; some have become instantly recognizable all over the globe, many have crashed miserably under the weight of their own lack of inspiration—all were created in the hopes that they connect with some aspect of the American consumer.  In this regard, the film explores how the evolution of the costumed crusader reflects our social, political and cultural history.  Fervent fans, casual viewers, and everyone in between will discover much to marvel over in this informed overview of the adventures of America’s most popular genre of historic fiction.


About Ghost Light Films, Inc.

Founded in 1996 by Michael Kantor, Ghost Light Films has produced a range of award-winning documentary films for PBS and cable television that explore the history of the arts in America. Most recently, Kantor served as Executive Producer on “Give Me the Banjo” which was narrated by Steve Martin and will air on PBS on November 4, 2011.  In 2009, Ghost Light created the six-part PBS series, “Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America,” which was produced with Thirteen/WNET, New York in association with BBC-TV.  The series, hosted by Billy Crystal and narrated by Amy Sedaris, garnered both critical acclaim and outstanding ratings, earning Mr. Kantor and his co-writer Laurence Maslon, an Emmy nomination. In 2005, Ghost Light Films produced three hours of documentary material to accompany the 40th anniversary release of “The Sound Of Music,” including a documentary hosted by Julie Andrews.  That same year, Ghost Light garnered the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction series by co-producing “Broadway: The American Musical” with Thirteen/WNET New York, NHK Japan and BBC in association with Carlton International.  In association with Metropolitan Entertainment, Ghost Light produced “The Lullabye of Broadway: Opening Night on 42nd Street” for PBS, and has produced segments on artists such as Quincy Jones, David Mamet and Arthur Miller for the Bravo cable network and for Thirteen/WNET’s “EGG: the arts show.”  “A Never-Ending Battle” is a co-production with Oregon Public Broadcasting.


About Bonfire Agency LLC

Bonfire Agency LLC is the marketing community’s first advertising and promotional agency specializing in helping brands reach and deepen connections with highly influential, but difficult to engage, pop culture consumers. This demo, labeled by some as geek or comic culture, is comprised of incredibly passionate, tribe-wired fans of everything from comic books, video games and action films to underground music, sci-fi inspired television and cutting edge adult comedy. Bonfire’s mission is to find ways to build relevant bridges between brands and a diverse audience of consumers that just might become their most effective advocates.  The agency was founded in January 2011 by marketing veterans and pop culture specialists Steve Rotterdam (former Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at TimeWarner’s DC Comics) and Ed Catto (former Senior Vice President at Ogilvy and Reed Exhibitions). For more information, visit www.BonfireAgency.com.


About ReedPop

ReedPOP is a boutique group within Reed Exhibitions that is exclusively devoted to organizing events, launching and acquiring new shows, and partnering with premium brands in the pop culture arena. ReedPOP is dedicated to producing celebrations of popular culture throughout the world that transcend ordinary events by providing unique access and dynamic personal experiences for consumers and fans. The ReedPOP portfolio includes: New York Comic Con (NYCC), Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) East & West, Star Wars Celebration V, New York Anime Festival (NYAF), and UFC Fan Expo. The staff at ReedPOP is a fan based group of professionals producing shows for other fans, thus making them uniquely qualified to service those with whom they share a common passion. ReedPOP is focused on bringing its expertise and knowledge to world communities in North America, South America, Asia and Europe.



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ComicMix Six: Ends of the World

Good news, everyone: If you’re reading this, it’s just passed midnight in American Samoa, so it’s no longer May 21st anywhere on the planet– which means that the Rapture didn’t happen (yet), society hasn’t crumbled (yet), and there’s still a readership for comic books (for now).

That said, as far as ends of the world go, the Rapture lacks a certain panache. Comic book readers have been used to the idea of worlds ending in cataclysm for a long time. Over a near-infinite number of crises, comic books have always made sure it ends with all bang, no whimper – even if, sometimes, that bang is more figurative than literal. Here’s a look at six of the best ends-of-the-world that comics has yet come up with.

Krypton

The birth of superhero comics started with the death of a planet. We’re willing to wager it’s the best-known origin story in all of comics: desperate scientist Jor-El and wife Lara shoot their only son Kal-El away from the doomed planet Krypton towards Earth, where he’s adopted by the kindly Kent family. And in most versions of the Superman story, what took out Krypton? A nuclear chain reaction triggered by a loss of stability Krypton’s radioactive core, which also creates the only element that can kill the most powerful man on Earth.

Krypton: 1, Rapture: 0.

Review: ‘The Birth of the Dread Remora’

Possibly the very best thing for science fiction fans about the so-called digital publishing revolution is the tremendously lowered bar to entry. Concepts and approaches that traditional publishers might deem too risky to fly in the fickle retail market are finding new life on platforms like Amazon Kindle and Smashwords. Take, for example, The Scattered Earth project: three writers (friends of ComicMix Aaron Rosenberg, Steven Savile, and David Niall Wilson), three novels, three worlds in a shared universe that will only later make the links between stories apparent.

I had the chance to read Rosenberg’s <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B004LP2GXE/associatizer-20/ Birth of the Dread Remora</a>, the first book in The Scattered Earth cycle, and I have to say – thank goodness for the rise of the ebook, because otherwise this might never have seen the light of day. It’s a rollicking space opera about the adventures of the Remora, the first-ever space vessel designed by a presumably post-apocalyptic Earth-based race of amphibious humans that resembles the Nautilus more than it does the Enterprise.

(more…)

Review: Adam WarRock – ‘The War for Infinity’

Review: Adam WarRock – ‘The War for Infinity’

This may be the shortest review ComicMix has ever run: take everything I said about Kirby Krackle and their method of applying lyrics that reference comics and video games to catchy tunes (rather than vice versa) earlier this year, replace “rock” with “hip-hop,” keep the intelligence, sense of humor, and sheer fun, and call it a day. But that would be doing Adam WarRock‘s new album “The War For Infinity” a grave disservice.

As you might guess from his naming scheme, Adam WarRock (real name: Eugene Ahn) takes a lot of inspiration for “The War For Infinity” from the Jim Starlin cosmic Marvel epic The Infinity Gauntlet, with Adam WarRock and Demonos (played by guest artist Tribe One) standing in for Warlock and Thanos, respectively. In the universe of “The War For Infinity,” Demonos is a evil, arrogant self-described “legend” who’s given the Infinity Gauntlet and a second chance by the dark powers of the universe after Adam WarRock takes him down a peg in a rap battle. 

The highlights of the story for me are the three Battle tracks (Introductions, Reprise, and Finale), which see Adam WarRock and Demonos taking turns on the mic and viciously tearing into each other. Sample verse: “You may have made it to the bonus round but you’re still going down/Only now, your foolery amuses me/There are six million ways to die/choose three.” That’s not to say the rest of the tracks are any slouch: Adam WarRock writes catchy and memorable lyrics, and producer Ruckus Roboticus puts everything together into a package that’s easy on the ears.

But my favorite song on the album, bar none, is The Silver Age, again featuring Tribe One. It’s not part of the WarRock/Demonos story, but it serves as sort of thesis statement for the whole album: they’re the Silver Age MCs, and they’re here to “bring back what Stan and Jack made” with innovative music and rhymes. It has a catchy beat, an incredibly memorable hook, and – best of all – Tribe One describes himself as a “Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing This Mic,” which is essentially the most perfect comic book reference I’ve ever heard. 

I’m trying not to gush, but in case you couldn’t tell, I think the world of Adam WarRock and “The War For Infinity.” And for $10 ($12 for the recommended Deluxe version with remixes and a digital download), you get a ton of rock-solid, memorable hip-hop content that just happens to be about comic books. Better yet, it includes the bonus track “Ira Glass,” a really fun tribute to the “This American Life” host of the same name.

I didn’t mention Kirby Krackle at the start for nothing: the two are performing on stage together at the Rock Comic Con event this weekend. It’s an auspicious meeting, because while they work within different genres, they have one thing in common: awesome music with a slant towards the fandom.

#SDCC: ‘Avengers’ cast together for the first time

#SDCC: ‘Avengers’ cast together for the first time

Newly-installed Avengers director Joss Whedon took the stage at San Diego Comic-Con to make the much-applauded formal announcement of who will be playing Marvel’s mightiest heroes. 

Returning Iron Man 2 stars Robert Downey, Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Clark Gregg, will be reprising their roles as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Nick Fury, Black Widow, and Agent Phil Coulson respectively, alongside Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America (in The Avengers and Captain America: The First Avenger both), Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and the newly cast Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk.

It’s certainly an accomplished cast, despite the apparent lack of the Wasp, and the star power coming off Bleeding Cool‘s photo is almost tangible. 

“I’ve had a dream all my life, and it was not this good,” Whedon said at the panel. “This cast is more than I could ever dream of working with, and I am going to blow it.”

(Not pictured: Nathan Fillion as Ant-Man. It’s not happening. Get over it.)