Category: Columns

The Law Is A Ass #541: I Don’t Care How Many Times You Repeat the Adjective, The West Wasn’t That Wild
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The Law Is A Ass #541: I Don’t Care How Many Times You Repeat the Adjective, The West Wasn’t That Wild

The Law Is A Ass #541: I Don’t Care How Many Times You Repeat the Adjective, The West Wasn’t That Wild

I watched an old episode of The Wild Wild West the other day; well duh, there haven’t been any new episodes in decades. It was “The Night of the Skulls”, in which James West, intrepid Secret Service agent during the U.S. Grant administration and our hero, shot and killed his intrepid Secret Service partner, Artemus Gordon. And that was just in the teaser.

Now don’t worry (not that I was worried about any of you being worried; I wasn’t, because I knew you weren’t), we learned at the beginning of the episode’s first act that Artie was still alive. We learned this, because Artemus Gordon, master of disguise, was posing as the minister at his own funeral and Jim went to it to confer with Artie. It seems Jim had pretended to kill Artie to attract the attention of The Skulls, a secret league of assassins, so that he could infiltrate them and learn what they were up to. (To what they were up? Up to what they were? What say we just ignore that silly rule?) (There, I’ve always wanted to end a sentence with a proposition.)

Jim accomplished his goal. By the end of that funeral scene, the Skulls had spirited Jim away from the funeral in their personal and modified hearse. How the Skulls knew Jim was going to be present while they were planting Artie in the dirt I don’t know. I thought criminals returned to the scene of the crime, not the scene of the grime.

But spirit Jim away, they did. Soon he was standing before the Skulls. Including its leader who wore a mask to conceal his identity. I don’t know why he bothered. As soon as that earlier funeral scene went out of its way to introduce Stephen Fenlow, a United States Senator described as being fairly new to Washington, the identity of the Skulls’ mysterious leader was more obvious than the murderer in a Columbo episode.

Senator Fenlow had assembled a league of assassins with eight members. He then set them against each other in a kill-or-be-killed contest until only three assassins were left. Fenlow presumed the survivors would be the best assassins of the group so the best people to participate in the next part of Fenlow’s plan, a coordinated strike that would kill the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State. Then Senator Fenlow would offer himself up to a country that was suddenly without a leader as a replacement President and be accepted as leader by acclamation.

Other than the fact that it would have meant that the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State all had to die, I almost wish that Jim and Artie had let Fenlow get away with his plot. If only so that we could have seen his face when he learned that he had wasted his and our time with a scheme that was so far from best-laid that it had ganged agley before it even started. Fenlow, you see, would have needed to kill a lot more people in order to become President.

It may surprise you to know that the United States Constitution has a provision for what happens if the President and Vice President both die. It shouldn’t surprise you, but it may. So in case it does, let me state that Article II, § 1, Clause 6 of the United States Constitution authorizes Congress to declare who should act as President should the President and Vice President both be unable to serve in the office. Under the aegis of this provision, Congress has passed three Presidential Succession Acts: the Presidential Succession act of 1792, the Presidential Succession Act of 1886, and the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.

The Wild Wild West took place during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant served as President from March 4, 1869 until March 4, 1877. So the Presidential Succession Act of 1792 would have been the one in force during his terms in office. Under the Presidential Succession Act of 1792, the line of succession was Vice President, President pro tempore of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, then the members of the Cabinet in the order that the departments over which they presided were created. (This would be Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, and downward until you reached the lower levels of successor that ABC plumbed for Designated Survivor.)

Did you see the thing that made Senator Fenlow’s plan even more stupid that it seemed at first blush? (And that first blush was the type you’d get when you realized your dream that you were addressing an auditorium full of people while nude wasn’t a dream.) Under his plan, Fenlow would have killed the wrong people.

After killing the President and Vice President, he needed to kill the President pro tem of the Senate, not the Secretary of State, because the President pro tem was next in the succession line. Even if Fenlow had successfully killed the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State, no one would have acclaimed him President, because the next successor, the President pro tem, was still alive and kicking and would have kicked Fenlow out of contention.

Moreover, even if Fenlow killed the right three people, he would have had to kill a lot more people (the Speaker of the House and then the entire Cabinet) before the country could, or would, have turned itself over to some silly junior senator. Especially a silly junior senator who didn’t even understand the workings of the government he wanted to preside over well enough to know the presidential line of succession.

Maybe Fenlow shouldn’t have had all his candidates kill each other. Then he would have had a few more assassins to kill more of the successors who stood between him and the presidency. Of course. Not all of them, but some. Fenlow never had enough assassins to kill everyone that stood between him and his becoming President. It seems that when it comes to the question of who should replace the President, the United States believes that nothing exceeds like successors.

The Law Is A Ass #450: One Can Only Marvel At All The Ms. Takes
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The Law Is A Ass #450: One Can Only Marvel At All The Ms. Takes

The Law Is A Ass #450: One Can Only Marvel At All The Ms. Takes

I don’t care what you say, 2020 could have been worse. Want proof? Marvel’s Civil War II didn’t come out in 2020, now did it?

Ah, Civil War II, the gift that kept on giving, even after we had taken it to the return window. It continued to haunt us in Ms. Marvel Vol 4 #20, after we thought we had put it out of our misery. Bear with me, to explain how, requires more back story than the Illustrated Man’s dorsal region.

Kamala Khan wasn’t always Ms. Marvel. Her latent Inhuman gene activated after she was exposed to the Terrigen Mist during Terrigenesis. That’s when she got powers and became protector of Jersey City. I realize that if you’re not up on Marvel continuity, the preceding sentences make no sense. I am up on Marvel continuity, after a fashion, and they don’t make complete sense to me. But explaining it further would make this column longer than Stephen King’s The Stand; abridged and unabridged versions. Combined. So, like a Lee fake fingernail, we press on.

Some months later, Kamala’s brother, Aamir Khan, was exposed to something. It wasn’t Terrigen, but it still gave Aamir powers. How it gave Aamir powers isn’t important, not unless we want to add Stephen King’s Under the Dome to this column’s word count. What is important is that Aamir got his powers when he was an adult.

During the events of Civil War II, Aamir openly displayed his super powers. Then, after Charles Worthy, a front man for Hydra, became Mayor of Jersey City, he started a policy of taking the city back from the “activist super heroes” who have disrupted Jersey City. To accomplish this, Worthy issued an executive order requiring all super heroes in Jersey City to register.

Aamir didn’t register. He was arrested pursuant to the executive order and held in a detention center, where a police officer reminded Aamir that he was an emigree who became a naturalized citizen when he was eight. The officer advised Aamir that “Under the new law, failing to disclose super-powers could potentially count as immigration fraud. If you obtained your citizenship under false pretenses, this could be grounds for revocation.” Meaning, Jersey City would revoke Aamir’s citizenship and deport him.

Jersey City may believe it’s like some little train engine going up a big hill, but it isn’t. Not only do I not think it can do this; I know it can’t.

Let’s deal with the ridiculous assumption, that if Aamir didn’t disclose powers he didn’t have at the time he became a naturalized citizen, he obtained his citizenship under false pretenses. Aamir didn’t have his powers when he was naturalized, he got them years later. To say he concealed something he didn’t have is like saying I – all 5 feet 7 inches of me – concealed my two-handed, behind-the-back slam dunk. Go ahead, try to conceal something you don’t have. That’s a trick that would fool Penn & Teller.

Aamir obtained nothing under false pretenses. The only false thing in the story is Mayor Worthy’s knowledge of the law. Especially if Worthy thought he could unconstitutionally apply an executive order which he issued after Aamir was naturalized to revoke Aamir’s citizenship. Don’t believe me? Look up the Ex Post Facto clause. Tell you what, I’ll save you a little research. You’ll find it in Article I §§ 9 and 10 of the United States Constitution. Next I’ll save you some time and tell you ex post facto is not a discontinued breakfast cereal but Latin for after the fact.

The Ex Post Facto clause says that neither the federal government (§ 9) nor a state (§ 10) can pass a law that punishes behavior that occurred before the law was passed. So Jersey City can’t revoke someone’s citizenship for not following an executive order that didn’t exist at the time that person became a citizen.

I know the Constitution doesn’t mention executive orders in the Ex Post Facto clause. But in ex post facto analysis there’s no real difference between an executive order and a law, so I don’t think that even the strictest textualist would deny relief on that pretext.

But let’s say that Jersey City could get past the arguments that Mayor Worthy’s executive order violated the Ex Post Facto clause– it can’t, but I have a few more words to go before I hit my word count quota, so I’ll use them up with another hypothetical – it still couldn’t use the executive order to argue that Aamir obtained his citizenship through fraud.

Remember how we proved Aamir didn’t conceal his super powers when he became a citizen, because he didn’t have any super powers when he became a citizen? (Yes, you do. Time may seem to pass more slowly during a pandemic lock down, but five paragraphs wasn’t that long ago.) That argument also negatives Jersey City’s fraud claim.

Fraud requires a specific intent to deceive to gain a benefit. That’s the culpable mental state of the crime. When Aamir was naturalized, he lacked an intent to deceive by concealing his super powers, because he lacked super powers.

Finally, does Mayor Worthy think he’s going to be able to use that fraud argument to expatriate Aamir and then deport him? If so, he’s dumber than a bag of door knobs. And not the good kind, we’re talking the kind that come out in your hand so you can’t open the door.

I refer you back to the Constitution. Specifically Article 1, § 8, clause 4 which gives the United States Congress the power to establish the rules of naturalization. Congress. You know, five hundred thirty-five men and women in Washington D.C. Not one mayor in central New Jersey. Give the mayor of Jersey City immigration authority? Hell, Congress wouldn’t even do that for Snooki.

So what does this mean? It means Jersey City wronged Mr. Khan bigly. We’re talking serious constitutional violations here, not Aamir inconvenience.

Michael Davis: Of Dreams & Relations
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Michael Davis: Of Dreams & Relations

Michael Davis: Of Dreams & Relations

John Paul Leon. Photo by Luigi Novi.

John Paul Leon was part of an elite group, the Bad Boy Studio Mentor program. That program’s goal is to help people of color gain entry into comic books and related businesses.

It does not stop there—the main goal is to pay it forward.

Each member of Bad Boy Studios is charged with advancing the next generation and living up to the program motto: EACH ONE TEACHES ONE.

When John came into the program, it was evident he was a star in the making. He began at Bad Boy during the period I was at Milestone Media.

Milestone’s business structure was just as innovative as Denys Cowan’s idea to create the company. The creative partners at Milestone took no salary; we were to be paid for our comic book work.

As an example, I wore many hats at Milestone, owner, founder, head of publicity, talent, and conventions. Nevertheless, I was only paid for writing and drawing Static known to the world as Static Shock.

I created the Static Shock Universe; the model for that creation was my Family. The real focus of that universe wasn’t Static; his sister Sharon Hawkins was.

The book Icon, Milestone’s Black Superman, was really about his sidekick, Rocket. That’s a genius idea from Dwayne McDuffie, so I followed suit.

The driving force behind the Static Universe was my mother, Jean. She was a remarkable woman, but her life was anything but easy. She was a victim of abuse from many sources but never complained.

Her mother, Lenore, my grandmother, and her daughter, Sharon, my sister, both died horrible deaths. That pain weighed on her, although she sought to conceal it.

I wanted to ease some of her pain, even if just a little. To that end, our family became the Hawkins family.

Jean, Robert, and Sharon were the names of my mom, dad, and sister. Hawkins was my cousin’s last name. Initially, Alan Hawkins was Static’s alter ego’s name. Dwayne changed it to Vigil after the civil rights pioneer.

My mother told me, seeing her daughter live on in Static was the greatest gift she ever received from me. The day after saying that, she passed away.

When John Paul Leon came into my Mentor Program, it wasn’t long before I decided his style was better suited for Static than my frequent photo referenced technique.

I mentioned I was only to be paid for writing and drawing Static. I was, except DC Comics never paid me for the entire time I was at Milestone. They refused to honor my contract.  (This was twenty-plus years ago and is in no way a reflection of the current DC Comics.)

My wife overheard a conversation where I was told that if I was so hard up for money, take the book back from John, I refused. She started screaming in Spanish.

A few days before this, she found out; we were broke—two years of no income erasing my significant savings. I, like a fool, honored my exclusive contract and looked for no other work. She was livid when I finally told her what I’d been dealing with and insisted we leave the loft where we lived.

My wife was the first generation of her family born in America.  Her Family risked death to come here from Cuba. They are hard-working, good people who value family above all.

Josephine was a wonderful woman with a smile that could light up a street. Nothing fazed her except bills. Like her mother, Jo saw bills priority number ONE.

The bill had to be paid the moment she opened the envelope. It did not matter if the bill was due in a week, month or decade. She paid bills immediately.

She never felt we could afford our place, and now, hearing her anger, I knew any chance I had of talking her into staying disappeared with my bank account.

I told her we were only a couple of months behind, the way she shouted you would have thought I spent the mortgage money on crack and the sheriff was at the door.

But I understood why it upset her so, what I couldn’t understand was Spanish.

“CÓMO TE ATREVES, CÓMO ATREVERTE, A QUITARTE EL SUEÑO DE ALGUIEN!”

I had no idea how I would tell this woman that I wouldn’t take the book back. It turns out I didn’t have to.  I found out later; she was furious but at the person on the phone.

“How dare you take away someone’s dream” she wasn’t talking about my dream but about John Paul’s dream to draw comics.

Josephine had a bond with John. They were both Cuban Americans, both kind and respectful, and both about Family.

I gave John my Family to take care of when I gave him Static to draw. Because of him and Robert Washington, Static is loved by millions all over the world. Yeah, the TV show was the medium— but no John Paul Leon, no Robert Washington, no TV Show.

In truth, Static may have been just another comic among thousands if not for them. John did a better job with my family than I would have each time I look at his work on the book reinforces that. Because of John if I ever do a Static project, his work will be first among the inspirations I’d pull from.

Each one teaches one is the John Paul Leon story in a nutshell; John’s work is so influential he will be teaching long after he is laid to rest.

Bernard, stay strong; your friend is still within your heart. 

Bad Boy Alumni, you’re all very much part of why John became one of the greatest ever put pencil to paper.

To Jo, Tenías razón el chico se hizo famoso, y se quedó como un buen tipo. Espero que tú y los tuyos estén bien.  (Yeah, my Spanish still sucks.)

Lastly, to the family, it was an honor and privilege to know your son; the world will remember him as one of the greatest to ever work in an industry full of great creators.

His light will shine for as long as comics exist perhaps even longer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LAW IS A ASS #449: I SIC A POINT OF LAW ON ISAAC
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THE LAW IS A ASS #449: I SIC A POINT OF LAW ON ISAAC

THE LAW IS A ASS #449: I SIC A POINT OF LAW ON ISAAC

You’d think that during a global pandemic and months-long, not-going-anywhere, national lock down, I’d have found time to write a column or ten. Who knew planning every trip, be it to the store or to the mail box, with the precision of the Normandy invasion could be so time consuming?

But now I’m trying to stretch those muscles again and hope I don’t pull something I haven’t used since the Big Bang was still a theory, not a TV show. So I think I’ll start with something easy until muscle memory sets in.

“A Loint of Paw” is a short short written by Isaac Asimov in 1957. By short short I don’t mean a costume from a 1987 Nair commercial featuring a fashion trend that keeps coming back every time it goes out of style. Some might say it’s passé aggressive. (And if you think I’m going to apologize for that, look down five more paragraphs.) No, this short short happens to be an exceedingly short short story.

“A Loint of Paw”, all four hundred fifty-nine words of it, is a science fiction story about a man named Montgomery Harlow Stein who stole more than $100,000 through fraud, then hopped into a time machine and emerged seven years and one day after the robbery. When he was tried for his crime, he argued that the seven-year statute of limitations on his crime had lapsed, so the state could not prosecute him.

After back-and-forth arguments between the prosecution and the defense and a week’s worth of deliberations by Judge Neville Preston, Montie Stein won. The judge held that the statute of limitations had expired which did, indeed, preclude his prosecution.

End of story.

Of course there’s more to the story. Not much more. Just the final sentence. But what a final sentence!

The whole story was a four hundred fifty-three word set up to a six-word pun. A wonderful pun. No, I’m not going to tell you what that pun was. You’ll have to read, and enjoy, it for yourself. But I will share with you Dr. Asimov’s footnote to the story, “If you expect me to apologize for this, you little know your man. I consider a play on words the noblest form of wit, so there!”

I knew there was a reason I liked his stories.

So yes, inveterate punster that I am, I can appreciate the story for the shaggy dog story that it was. Unfortunately, I can’t appreciate it for what it wasn’t, namely an accurate portrayal of the law on the statute of limitations. The story suggests that Judge Preston may “have been swayed in his way of thinking by the irresistible impulse to phrase his decision as he did.” Maybe, but I hope not. That would make Judge Preston a particularly bad judge for ignoring the law just to make a pun. I pepper my prose with more puns than is prudent, but I don’t misstate the law, just so I can make a pun.

Statutes of limitations are statutes (you probably guessed that from the name) which prevent the government from charging a person with a crime, if the prosecution is not started within a certain time period. Basically from the time the crime is committed or discovered, a statute of limitation clock starts ticking. Say the statute of limitations for the crime is seven years (as it was in “Loint of Paw”), then if the state does not bring the criminal to trial within seven years, it cannot bring the criminal to trial at all.

The reason behind the statute of limitations is that over time, witness memories fade. If that period of time happens to be a number of years, said memories tend to fade a lot. Moreover during those passing years, important evidence could be lost or necessary witnesses become unavailable because they moved or died or lost their minds binging Tiger King. So bringing a defendant to trial beyond the statute could well subject said defendant to an unfair trial in which the defendant could not defend him or herself.

“A Loint of Paw” was set in New York state, where, according to New York Criminal Procedure Law § 30.10(2)(b), the statute of limitations is five years. The story indicates that the statute of limitations is seven years, not five. But the story is set in the years 3004 and 3011. I’m assuming that in the 983 years between now and Mr. Stein’s crime, New York amended the law to expand the limitation period to 7 years. (A safe assumption; when has a legislative body ever left anything well enough alone?)

Anyway, if New York didn’t commence its prosecution of Montie Stein within the seven years set out in the statute of limitations, it couldn’t prosecute him at all. As Montie was traveling through, as the story put it, the Fourth Dimension, for seven years and one day – one day beyond the NY statute of limitations – it is obvious that New York didn’t bring Montie to trial within those seven years.

So Judge Preston was correct in ruling that New York couldn’t prosecute Montie, right?

You probably know me well enough by now to realize that was a trick question and the answer is no. But why is the answer no? Ah— there’s the stuff that columns are made on.

According to the story, some people believed Judge Preston came to the decision he reached, because he wanted to phrase his decision in the form of a pun. But whatever the reason, when Judge Preston made his ruling, he only applied the first part of the statute of limitations statute and completely ignored the whole second part of the statute.

Was that part of the statute important? Does a bear get fit in the woods?

CPL § 30.10(4)(a), the all-important second part of the statute – well, all important to everyone other than Judge Preston – reads, “Any period following the commission of the offense during which (I) the defendant was continuously outside this state or (ii) the whereabouts of the defendant were continuously unknown and continuously unascertainable by the exercise of reasonable diligence, is not included in the statutory limitation time period (emphasis added).” What does this mean? Basically, it means that if the defendant goes on the lam or hides, the statute of limitations is tolled and all of the time the defendant spends lamming or hiding doesn’t count against the government.

Tolling the statute of limitations is something smart states write into their statute of limitations laws. It’s something that even dumb states write into their statutes. It prevents criminals from fleeing the jurisdiction and hiding in a country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the United States, like Nogivebacistan, then claim the statutory time had run out while they were literally unavailable to the court.

In the same way, the seven years and one day in which Montie Stein was, by his lawyer’s own admission, “hiding in time” – hiding in the Fourth Dimension – would constitute time in which Stein was “continuously outside” New York and in which his “whereabouts… were continuously unknown and… unascertainable.”

By going into the Fourth Dimension, Montie Stein tolled the running of the statute of limitations. Tolled it for all seven years and one day during which he was in the Fourth Dimension. The ticking clock had stopped ticking and didn’t start ticking again until Montie came out of the Fourth Dimension.

Not only had the statutory period not expired, the state actually had all seven years of it left to it. The state could have let Montie rot in jail for six years just to get back at him for being a dick and then brought him to trial without implicating the statute of limitations.

Let this be a lesson to you. Don’t commit a crime then go hide for several years and think that when you come out of hiding, you can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has run out. That plan won’t work and I don’t want to have to be an I tolled you so.

Michael Davis: A Black History Milestone And Then Some

Michael Davis: A Black History Milestone And Then Some

For Black History Month, DC Comics has the hottest ticket in the comic book world… The Return of Milestone Media.

That happens today.

The in-store books will launch in April, but new and veteran fans can head over to DC’s website and find some digital gold. I’m not a part of the new Milestone, but who knows, perhaps one day I will return if they buy me something pretty. Denys Cowan’s brilliant idea is about to make history all over again, with Reggie Hudlin and Derek Dingle.

Thursday was Clarence Avant’s birthday. Clarence is known as the Black Godfather; he’s also hands down the most powerful man in music. He turned 90 yesterday and is just as compelling as when he was 30.

Fun Fact: Clarence had the winning bid when the original art for Hardware #1 was auctioned off.

Not So Fun Fact: A fraudulent letter was sent to Clarence to prevent me from accepting an offer at Motown, where he was Chairman. That was perhaps the dumbest move ever made in corporate crime.

Clarence knew the letter was bullshit and was not surprised it was sent. He asked what I wanted to do about it.

Clarence is about Black empowerment and needs no “teachable moment” because every moment spent with him is a teachable one if you’re smart enough to listen.

Sometimes I was smart enough; that time, in 1993, I’m not so sure. My answer was to let it go and protect some folk who may have suffered if Clarence made a call about the letter. Clarence told me the person would continue to be a problem if I did not check him.

I didn’t; he still is.

The funny part of this is I don’t want to ruin this person’s legacy. But he had no problem trying to destroy mine. One thing is for sure, I’m not going another year with no resolution.

I have Clarence to thank for that resolve. I will always be grateful for his guidance and friendship.

Jason Medley is a triple threat, a world-class designer, a hellofa writer, and an outstanding human being. His Sheriff Wright series has assembled a great team and is one original bad-ass idea. I will be talking more about that in detail in another column, but he gets a shout-out here.

I gotta give a shout-out to a gifted writer and chef who has beaten the odds and raised 3 super talented children who will each do great things, I am sure of it. More on them later; for now, hats off to Sheila Walls-Haynes.

Lastly, there’s Sidney Clifton, who I will also be giving a lot more ink; in the meantime, here’s a long-overdue congratulations to a no-joke pioneer.

These individuals are doing things that deserve recognition by a lot more people than I can reach. I’m blessed to have crossed paths with each.

SHUT UP, SIT DOWN, GET OUT

SHUT UP, SIT DOWN, GET OUT

I Am A Man - Ray Fisher

Ray Fisher is out at Warner Bros.

From what I take from his writings, he loved playing Cyborg, and it showed. But Ray called attention to what he claimed was at times discriminatory treatment on the Justice League sets.

From the start, this was no-win for Ray. He knew the risk and still went on. He’s taken a lot of, ” let it go, don’t rock the boat, shut up, sit down.” The comments about how he’s going to lose millions because of his big mouth are partially harsh. Those remarks come with attacks on his intelligence and race.

The “dumb darkie” stereotype is always a reason when a Black person draws attention to an injustice that may stop all that money coming in.

Orlando Jones knew the risk when he shined a light on an American Gods director. He was “rocking the boat, and better stop” was a typical post across all social networks.

Ray Fisher knew the risk, and yeah, it may be a dumb move to put at risk your seven-figure income for a purpose for some— but what Ray and Orlando did wasn’t stupid, dumb, or crazy.

Yeah, the “crazy” tag is likewise standard when Black people put their bank on the line. The perfect example is Dave Chappelle. When he walked away from $50 million, he was called crazy and stupid.

Dave, Ray, and Orlando are only doing what the great men and women who died to give us what freedoms Black people have today did.

They are calling attention to the discriminatory behavior of those in power. They did so at significant risk to their careers and bank accounts.

The entertainment industry produces thousands of underdog stories annually. The business is built on good beating evil. Reading some of the negative comments, perhaps there is a market we are missing:

CYBORG: BATMAN!! SUPERMAN CALLED ME A NIG….!

BATMAN: SHUT UP & SIT DOWN! 

CYBORG: He called you a Democrat. 

BATMAN: OH, HELL, NO! WHERE’S MY KRYPTONITE!?


I believe Ray; I know a guy in a similar albeit lesser-known situation with a comic company.

Let’s do some conjecture.

Assume there is no claim of wrongdoing by Ray; he hasn’t said anything to anyone. But two WB employees claimed Ray was loud and rowdy and called the company racist during the Emmy Awards. So bad was the outburst, the two WB representatives signed affidavits swearing to this explosion of racist hate from the actor.

If that happened, he SHOULD lose the Cyborg gig. WB would have every right to let him go. Having that kind of energy around is toxic and will most certainly lead to a bigger disaster.

Let’s change it up a bit.

Suppose Ray created Cyborg and wasn’t a relatively new actor but a well-established actor and producer. Oh heck, let us say Ray also founded the Actors Studio and the WB made millions off his students who honed their skills under Ray.

Hey, let’s go ALL OUT, shall we?

For shits and giggles, let’s imagine Ray created Cyborg, was a well-established actor and producer who founded the Actors Studio and the WB made millions off his students.

Let’s pretend he’s so accomplished his independent productions are in markets not even the WB or any other major studio is in, leading to an honor no one else in Hollywood has ever achieved.

A Nobel Peace Prize, plus his name on a school, and he rescues kittens!

Should Ray be still be fired if he accomplished all of the above?

Yes.  

Hating a giant corporation is the right of every American. It is not a “do what you want” card. Being loud at one of the industry’s quintessential events, calling prominent studio racist— yes, he should be terminated and banned from working with said company and their related companies and subsidiaries. Whatever he achieved in life, no matter how much money he may have, offensive conduct has consequences.

Now, let’s say Ray had IRON CLAD proof he was 2000 miles away. To save themselves from a PR nightmare, WB would move quickly to issue an apology, hire him to be Cyborg again, and the two liars would be fired, perhaps even arrested.

Now imagine if WB knew the truth but BANNED HIM ANYWAY.

That’s what happened to Ray.

He raised an issue that everyone is aware of now. Joss Whedon was fired after an investigation, and people will now tread lightly.

But why punish Ray?

There’s no way Whedon, who made Hollywood MILLIONS, was let go unless something dreadful happened. Why was Ray punished for bringing light to dark deeds?

It doesn’t matter if Ray was an entry-level actor (he’s not) or had won the Nobel Peace Prize, founded the Actors Studio, etc.— he was wronged, and at significant risk to himself, he fought to do the right thing.

The right thing cost him millions, as it did Joss Whedon.


Some think both careers are over. I hope both can return to their craft, but I’m certain Joss will make a comeback, absolutely.  Not so sure Ray will, and you know why.

Hollywood takes their power to treat people like shit seriously. As evidenced by the following true story:

A major studio is aware of a director who intentionally set out to destroy a actor’s career. A career that mimics the fictional one created above, no Nobel Peace Prize but a similar resume.

Would you care that someone with power decided your fate as if you were Eddie Murphy in Trading Places?

Is there a statute of limitations on evil? Would your advice be to let the devil have his due? Would your opinion be ‘move on?’

The director let criminal treatment go, and for years he took the hit. His peers offer no help because they still have a relationship with the studio—their advice; move on, shut up, sit down. He tries, then the studio calls, they want to make his dream project!

They make it without him after giving him false hope.

He’s got a damning paper trail proving that’s his work, but they ignore him.

How DARE he call them out on their theft!

What should he do?

What would you do?

 

Ed Catto’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide, Part 1

Ed Catto’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide, Part 1

It’s been a rough year for most of us, but in Geek Culture there have been plenty of bright spots. In the spirit of trumpeting some of the good stuff, here’s my Annual Holiday Gift Guide:

HOLLY JOLLY: CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS PAST IN POP CULTURE

Written by Mark Voger • TwoMorrows • 192 pp. • Hardcover, Full Color  • ISBN-13: 978-1-60549-097-7 • $43.95

Every yuletide season I trot out my copy of The Battle For Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum. For my money, that’s the best book out there to analyze and explain the many traditions that have shaped the way we celebrate  Christmas.  It’s clear to me that it’s time to make room on my coffee table this December for another impressive book.  TwoMorrows newest, Holly Jolly is kind of the pop-culture counterpart to the Nissenbaum’s authoritative tome. I really enjoy Mark Voger’s writing.  For example,  I grooved on his Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture (also published by TwoMorrows) not too long ago.

“I can’t think of a single topic that has generated more art and culture,” says author Mark Voger of why he decided to do a Christmas book. “From music to movies, TV, cartoons, food and decor, everybody seems to have a favorite Christmas ‘something’ — a delicacy or a song or an animated special. I tried to cram everything in Holly Jolly.”

Available everywhere books are sold, and from the publisher.

BRINA THE CAT: THE GANG OF THE FELINE SUN

By Giorgio Salati & Christian Cornia • Papercutz • 88 pp. • Paperback  • ISBN-10 : 1545804265 • $9.99

I tend to like just about everything imported from Italy, and this book, the first in the Brina the Cat series, is no exception.  This graphic novel is for everyone who’s ever had the slightest twinge of conflict in letting their cat out of the house. (Full disclosure: I’ve recently joined those ranks).  Lots of fun and you can’t go wrong with gifting this book to an 8 to 12 year old, but the audience is for all ages (and all cat lovers).

Available at books stores. comic shops and directly from the publisher, Papercutz.

THE ONLY LIVING GIRL #1 : THE ISLAND AT THE EDGE OF INFINITY

by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis • Papercutz • 72 pp. • Paperback  • ISBN-10 : 1545802033 • $8.99

You really have to fasten your figurative seatbelt before jumping into The Only Living Girl adventures. These books are a delightful showcase for two talented creators, writer David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis. They won DC’s ZUDA contest years ago with High Moon, but like fine wine, they get better with age.

This new series, The Only Living Girl, picks up right after their brilliant The Only Living Boy stories.  Please note: reading all the prior books isn’t a must, and this fantastic book is the perfect jumping-on point for all age readers. In fact, there’s a page that gets everyone up to speed. And then… it’s off to the races!

Available at books stores, comic shops and directly from the publisher, Papercutz.

EDISON BEAKER, CREATURE SEEKER: THE LOST CITY

by Frank Cammuso • Viking, an imprint of Random House • 176 pp. • Hardcover  • ISBN-10: 0425291960 • $17.99

Frank Cammuso is an amazing creator: he teaches at Syracuse University, he makes comics as part of the AHOY team, and he creates fantastic all ages graphic novels. I just love his Edison Beaker, Creature Seeker series for its wild and crazy, breakneck action. Cammuso is the real deal with story and art – he has both a clever sense of humor and a wonderful line.

I also love these books for the smiles that inevitably grow bigger with every page you turn!

Available at books stores, comic shops and online here.

CULLEN BUNN OMNIBUS ALL MY LITTLE DEMONS: An AfterShock Library of Tales

by Cullen Bunn and assorted artists  • AfterShock Comics • 496 pp. • Hardcover  • ISBN-10: 1949028569 • $79.99

Prolific writer Cullen Bunn has created so many stories for Aftershock Comics. Now fan favorites like Knights Temporal, Brothers Dracul and Dark Ark are collected in this impressive hardcover.  This also includes many short stories previously seen only in the Aftershock Anthologies.

Available at bookstores, comic shops, and at ComicsCity.

ASH & THORN VOLUME ONE: RECIPE FOR DISASTER

by Mariah McCourt, Soo Lee, Pippa Bowland and Jill Thompson • AHOY Comics • 120 pp. • Paperback • ISBN-10: 1952090008 • $16.99

Believe it or not, my mom (she’s in her late 70s) was flipping through some of my comics recently. (I had left some on her coffee table during a recent visit.) When she saw an ad for AHOY’s Ash & Thorn comic, she paused and really examined it. I think she was intrigued to see two protagonists who looked like her in a comic ad.

And yes, that’s the conceit of this series. To save the world this time, instead of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or young King Arthur, a retired art teacher is recruited.  It’s wry fun served up in what is becoming that AHOY signature style. And that’s not all that’s served up; the heroine’s baking recipes are also included in this trade paperback collecting all five issues of the series.

Available at comic shops and fine bookstores and Midtown Comics’ online site.

THE FANTASTIC PAINTINGS OF FRAZETTA

by J. David Spurlock • Vanguard Publishing • 120 pp. • paperback • ISBN-10: 1934331813 • $39.95

Despite the calamitous nature of 2020, my wife and I were able to visit the Frank Frazetta Museum this summer. It was a wonderful trip, and I am still in awe of all of the amazing paintings we saw there.  Reading this oversized coffee table book is like a V.I.P. guided tour in that museum.  Spurlock provides just enough background and reference so that anyone can appreciate Frazetta’s talent and creativity. In fact, I wrote about this book earlier this year, and you can read that here.

My Highest Recommendation

Available at bookstores, comic shops, the Frazetta Museum and directly from Vanguard, the publisher.

FLASH GORDON: THE OFFICIAL STORY OF THE FILM

by John Walsh • Titan Books • 120 pp. • Hardcover • ISBN: 978-1789095067 • $42.51

Way back in college, I had a great pal with a fantastic vinyl collection. Squeeze was one of his favorite bands and became one of my favorites too.  When he learned that I liked comics, he pulled out this Flash Gordon soundtrack. He worshipped this album.   And in those pre-DVD/streaming days, we kind of thought that listening to that album would be the closest I got to seeing the movie again.

Fast forward (a VHS term) to the 40th anniversary of the film, and UK publisher Titan delivers a wonderful new Flash Gordon book.

Film historian John Walsh discovered and presents many untold stories of this Flash Gordon film, including visions of the proposed sequels, that are bound to raise eyebrows  – on both Earth and Mongo. And the author managed to engage in deep conversations with almost all of the original cast or surviving family members.

Flash Gordon isn’t only about Alex Raymond, you know.

This book just burst onto the scene at UK and US bookstores. Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film is also available directly from Titan Books.

ZLONK! ZOK! ZOWIE! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 Season One

Edited by Jim Beard • Crazy 8 Press • 206 pp. • Paperback • ISBN-13: 979-8621575373 • $12.99

Batman stuff and gifting have been going together like Christmas cookies and milk for as long as I can remember.  Writer Jim Beard has gathered together a “rogue’s gallery” of writers and artists (and I was proud to be included) to celebrate the first season of the old Batman ’66 show. This collection of clever essays and illustrations have been so well received, in fact, that there’s a sequel in the works.

Available at comic shops, fine bookstores and online.


Have a wonderful Yuletide, gang!

Review: The Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta

Review: The Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta

The Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta
By J. David Spurlock
Vanguard Press

Trade HC ISBN13: 9781934331811 Retail $39.95 • 120 pgs
DX LE ISBN13: 9781934331828 Retail $69.95 • 138 pgs plus slipcase

When we were kids in the 70s, my pals and I hung around a great comic shop, Kim’s Collectible Comics & Records.  Owner Kim Draheim loved comics, but he helped expand the horizons of our small worlds – letting us discover wonders beyond the standard Marvel and DC comics that defined our comfort zones. In his shop, we stumbled upon older comics, vinyl records and comic-adjacent artists…like Frank Frazetta. It was all pretty mind-blowing.

We quickly realized there was a time and place for each creator’s talents and gifts.  When one of my gang was searching for a Fantastic Four issue illustrated by Frank Frazetta, we all chuckled. Even back then we knew that Frazetta was beyond all that.

When I took a college-level painting class while still in high school, there came that point to choose one artist for the term paper.  I chose Frank Frazetta. My professor kind of frowned and suggested I instead research and write about Salvador Dali.  I told my professor that Dali was a fine artist…but in my mind, Dali was no Frazetta.

If Spurlock was in my class, maybe he would have said the same thing.

Even back then I would have been excited by the new book, The Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta. This is another gem from J. David Spurlock’s Vanguard Publishing. It’s a thoughtful, loving celebration of a genre master that is both a first-class introduction to Frazetta and a long-awaited treat to every reader/fan/collector that has already has an appreciation for Frazetta.

From the first page, Spurlock takes the reader on a journey that includes “greatest hits” and “lost treasures”.

Well-loved paintings fill the pages – but often with a twist. Either there’s additional materials or alternate versions included. Spurlock includes great stories that pull back the curtain for us, illuminating the process behind Frazetta’s artistry.

I really enjoyed the many surprises. There’s Frazetta barbarian art from before Conan. There is a 60s spy movie poster.  I was especially surprised to learn that in one case, when Frazetta got an original painting back, he made some changes.  And although I’d seen the Luana piece many times, but I didn’t realize that there was more to it.It’s no secret that Frazetta inspired so many other creators. But I didn’t realize the extent of the George Lucas connections until reading this book.  When I watch Star Wars movies,  I’ll never look at Chewbacca or the Death Star the same way again.

Many of the paintings reproduced here are larger than they’ve been printed before. This allows us to really see the nuances – brush strokes, paint etc. on these beauties.

Here’s the official description:

Discover, or return to, the world’s greatest heroic fantasy artist, Frank Frazetta, in this landmark art collection entitled, Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta. The New York Times said, “Frazetta helped define fantasy heroes like Conan, Tarzan and John Carter of Mars with signature images of strikingly fierce, hard-bodied heroes and bosomy, callipygian damsels” Frazetta took the sex and violence of the pulp fiction of his youth and added even more action, fantasy and potency, but rendered with a panache seldom seen outside of major works of Fine Art. Despite his fantastic subject matter, the quality of Frazetta’s work has not only drawn comparisons to the most brilliant of illustrators, Maxfield Parrish, Frederic Remington, Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth but, even to the most brilliant of fine artists including Rembrandt and Michelangelo and, major Frazetta works sell for millions of dollars, breaking numerous records.

 

And Spurlock has pulled out all the stops with this one. This book has definitely crossed the line to be a full-fledged celebration. Here’s the bells & whistles:

  • PAPER: Thicker, quality art-book paper than ever used in any prior Frazetta collection. This firmer paper helps achieve the highest quality of reproduction.
  • PROTECTIVE LAMINATION: Lavish combination of both matte & gloss cover laminations to dazzle the senses. While many top publishers scrimp by not providing ANY lamination, the new Frazetta collection doubles down to protect every cover smartly and with panache.
  • SIZE: 10.5 x 14.6 with spreads as wide as 21 inches: Larger pages and images than any previous Frazetta art book.
  • INDIVIDUALLY SIGNED: Even deluxe books rarely come signed but, this has not one, but TWO signatures; author J. David Spurlock and Frank Frazetta Jr, Director of The Frazetta Art Museum in East Stroudsburg PA.
  • VELUM PAGE “TIPPED-IN” BY HAND: When Vanguard does produce signed books, it is regularly on the front endpapers which is mounted to the inside front cover. But for Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta, the signature page was printed separately on a translucent velum parchment and bound, one at a time, into each book, by hand.
  • NEW LIGHTWEIGHT SLIPCASE: Vanguard’s new lighter-weight laminated slipcase keeps the deluxe book protected in style while conserving shelf space and minimizing shipping costs to retailers and Frazetta aficionados.
  • BONUS FOLIO: Sixteen extra pages of art including some very rare images, a newly discovered previously unknown and unpublished 1960s Frazetta movie poster run at a whopping 21 inches wide and, rare mid-1960s Creepy magazine art as never seen before, perfectly reproduced at full, Original Art Size!

Every year at San Diego Comic-Con, I tend to buy at least one book from the Vanguard booth. The at-the-booth conversations with J. David Spurlock are part of the fun.  And if I miss him, I always get my pal Steve Rotterdam to do his Spurlock imitation.  This year, of course, none of us will be stopping by San Diego Comic-Con. But there’s plenty of ways to buy this – and I always suggest going through your local comic shop or local indy book store.  I was surprised to see that a book of this quality doesn’t have a $100+ price tag, and is reasonably priced at $39.95 The deluxe version, with extra pages and a slipcase, is $69.95.

The Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta would make any coffee table proud. And if your coffee table is too full, maybe it’s time to get another coffee table.

Aftershock Comics sends out an S.O.S.: Support Our Shops!

There’s a lot of change in the air, and in so many cases, it’s nice to see how the COVID crisis is bringing out our better angels – especially when it comes to publishers and retailers.

Inc. Magazine recently called Independent Bookstores “the baby seals of commerce–at once universally beloved and endangered.” The same could be said for comic shops, except for the universally loved part. Here’s an innovative ideas from forward-thinking entrepreneurs designed to create something positive for both these retailer channels.

Aftershock Comics has a program designed to help comic shops. It’s called S.O.S. which stands for “Support Our Shops”.  This is a cool program that’s elegant in its simplicity. Aftershock created & printed a one-shot anthology comic, S.O.S., and is giving copies of it to comic shops that have been supporting their line, no strings attached!  Comic shops can sell their copies at whatever price they set (it feels like at least a $5.99 comic to me), offer it as buy-one-get-one with other Aftershock comics, or just give it away to reward customers.

The comic itself is gorgeous! Painter David Mack delivers yet another hauntingly beautiful cover, full of hope and brightness, just like the comic itself.  The issue is packed full of short stories from top creators wistfully celebrating fans’ interactions with and appreciation of comic shops.

Editor Joe Pruett has pulled together an impressive list of talents for this funny-book version of a charity concert. Contributors include Cullen Bunn, Steve Orlando, Leila Leiz, Stephanie Phillips, Marshall Dillon and more.  In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find Jerry Ordway’s story here, as I don’t associate him with Aftershock.  But wow – he delivered in spades.

Look for S.O.S. at your local comic shop, ask them to get it for you if they don’t have it, and if they give it to you for free, give them a generous tip.  It’s a fantastic book and worth every penny you can spare.  And we want to encourage innovative thinking like this, as well as help comic shops and bookstores, don’t we?

If retailers don’t already have a relationship with Aftershock, they can go to the site where all the staff is listed. https://aftershockcomics.com
Review: The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #1 Facsimile Edition

Review: Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #1 Facsimile Edition

Finally, a time machine for me!

Most folks visiting this site know about Dr. Doom’s Time Machine, the Guardian of Forever from Star Trek or that little book written by Herbert George Wells called The Time Machine.  Or at least they know about that fantastic DeLorean that Marty McFly drove.

Well, there’s one more Time Machine to add to the list – Gemstone Publishing’s The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #1 Facsimile Edition, a reproduction of the very first Overstreet’s Price Guide published in the fall of 1970. What a treat it is! This book is, at the core of it all, a snapshot of old comic book prices.  But faster than you can say “Why, oh, why didn’t I buy multiple copies of Fantastic Four #1 for $30.00 back in 70?”, you realize it’s so much more.

This is also a celebration of fan-focused entrepreneurs (Fantropreneurs?) grabbing the reins of their industry. This was the time when fans, and especially one fan named Robert M. Overstreet, rolled up their sleeves, researched meticulously and published an industry bible that would become both a tradition and the foundation upon which a million collections were built.

There’s an important thing to remember. Back in the “old days”, when you finished with something, it was discarded. As a society, we didn’t collect or save magazines or comics.  My Italian relatives would save bottles and paper bags, but comics didn’t quite fit into that category. There were collectors, but they were either breathing rarefied air (e.g. Art Collectors) or they were weirdos… who’s maturity was obviously stunted.

But the Guide, in assigning values to comics in such an authoritative way, publicly established economic value for comics. The outside world could respect that. Society back in the sixties or seventies might not have cared if Captain Marvel debuted in Whiz Comics #1 but they did care if an old funny book, with a newsstand value of 10 cents, was suddenly worth $235.00.

“Oh, if only my mother hadn’t thrown them out!” laments every non-collector.

(Note to my mom -thanks for never throwing out my comics. But I am still bummed you sold my Major Matt Mason Space Station at a garage sale.)

Beyond the prices, this facsimile edition also showcases ads that, once ubiquitous, have now morphed into curiosities. Passaic Book & Comic Center has the first ad in the book. And it’s fun to recall when Big Little Books were an adjacent collectible. (There don’t seem to be too many collectors any more, but I hope I am wrong.) And surely mail order legend Robert Bell deserves his time in the historical spotlight.

I’m so glad Gemstone’s VP of Publishing J.C. Vaughn and his team pushed for this delightful reproduction. Flipping through it sends me back in time, back when the world was shiny and new and full of potential. Or at least comic collecting was.