Category: Columns

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Unshaven Comics finished our first graphic novel.

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

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

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

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

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

  1. This space.

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

  1. Gummy Bears.

They’re still awesome.

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

Take my Rao-Damned money.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Law Is A Ass # 423: Cyborg Clunks The Parole Evidence Rule

I have a mutant power. (One mutant power; don’t believe any lies Tony Isabella tells about a different power and the silly codename Shattertoy.) I have one power; I get things right for the wrong reason.

And, it seems, my power is catching. Because in Cyborg vol. 2, number 1, the book’s eponymous hero showed the same power. (Sure, the guy’s a half-human/half-robot super hero with gadgets and gizmos aplenty, and you’ve got to go and give him my power, too?)

In the comic in question, Cyborg was stopping an armored car hijacking. The hijackers were speeding their wannabe tank through downtown Detroit with a full cadre of police cars in hot pursuit. That’s when Cyborg used his robotic strength to stop the armored car with a force so masterfully applied that it crumpled the car’s front end without even registering a sound effect in the panel. Now that’s skill! As part of his Spider-Man-approved catch-the-crooks banter, Cyborg explained that the hijackers were likely to hurt someone with their reckless driving and he couldn’t allow that.

Cyborg shook the armored car like he was in a low-budget Mariachi band that could only afford one maraca. The two criminals came tumbling out of the car and immediately started shooting AR-15s. Uh, Cyborg, if you’re really interested in not letting the bad guys hurt anyone, you might try disarming them before you dump them out of the nice car with nice armored sides that bullets can’t get through.

Cyborg used his on-board internet connection to scan the hijackers’ cell phones and learned one was a parolee named Dante Morris. So he continued his banter with, “Dante, Dante, Dante… You do realize that each one of these shots is a violation of your parole, don’t you? You’re probably looking at a year behind bars for each bullet.”

Then Cyborg disarmed and subdued the hijackers, which ended his involvement in the matter. And started mine. Cause now I get to explain that while Cyborg’s ultimate conclusion might have been correct, his reasoning was dead wrong. Er, considering how much lead was flying around, I guess we should be glad Cyborg wasn’t dead wrong. But he was wrong nonetheless.

Not about the part that hijacking an armored car would violate Dante’s parole. Cyborg was wrong in saying that each separate bullet that Dante and his co-conspirator fired was a separate parole violation that would add a year to Dante’s sentence. That’s not how parole violations work.

Parole is an early release from prison. When inmates are granted parole, they are released before serving their entire sentence. Parole comes with conditions attached. Some of these conditions vary, but the ones that are almost always imposed include: a stable place to live, steady employment, reporting to the parole officer, and not consorting with other criminals. Oh yeah, and the biggie; while you’re on parole, don’t break the law.

If a parolee violates parole, the parolee’s parole officer files a notice listing all of the reasons why the officer believes the parolee has violated parole. Then someone, either the parole authority or a judge, holds a hearing which will determine whether the parolee has violated parole. If the person presiding over the hearing rules that the parolee did violate parole, the parolee’s parole can be revoked and the parolee sent back to prison to serve the remainder the original sentence. If a parolee commits armed robbery, not to mention armored car robbery, I can pretty much guarantee the parolee will be going back to prison.

But parole violations don’t involve multiple sentences. Even if the parolee did several different things and each separate act constituted a different parole violation, each act does not add additional time to the parolee’s sentence. Parole violators serve out the remainder of the original sentence. They don’t get additional time for violating their parole.

Dante violated his parole by obtaining a firearm, hijacking an armored car, consorting with another criminal, participating in a high-speed chase with the police, and shooting at Cyborg and the police. Each act was a separate parole violation, but, despite what Cyborg said, each bullet will not add more years to Dante’s time in prison.

However, a parole violation does not end the story of Dante’s problems with the law. You see, by buying the guns, hijacking the armored car, participating in the high-speed chase, and shooting at the police and Cyborg, Dante wasn’t just violating his parole; he was also committing new crimes. Crimes for which he could – no, would – be put on trial. And after he was convicted of those crimes he would be sentenced to new prison terms for his new crimes.

Many jurisdictions have laws requiring that if a parolee violates parole by committing new crimes, not only will the parolee be required to finish the original sentence, but any sentence the parolee receives for the new crimes must be imposed consecutively to the parolee’s original sentence. In addition, if the judge was in a particularly “tough on crime” mood, the judge can order the sentence on each new count to be served consecutively.

If that happened to Dante, he would serve out the remainder of his original sentence, then start serving the sentences for his new crimes. And if the judge ran everything consecutively, Dante would serve out the original sentence followed by his sentence for having a weapon while under the disability of being a convicted felon on parole, followed by his sentence for hijacking the armored car, followed by his sentence for fleeing and eluding while in the high-speed chase, followed by his convictions for attempted murder for shooting at Cyborg and the police officers.

Note I said attempted murder convictions. While each individual shot would not constitute a separate count of attempted murder, each person that Dante was shooting at would be a separate victim. And each victim would be the subject of a different attempted murder count. There were three police cars in the chase, each probably had two officers. That’s six police officers and one Cyborg, or seven attempted murder victims. That’s seven counts of attempted murder and seven more consecutive sentences that would be stacked on top of all the other sentences.

Dante will get a long sentence. Maybe not as long as some of Charles Dickens’s more-famous run-on constructions, but a long sentence. So Cyborg was right in thinking Dante would get a long sentence, but wrong in thinking it would be for multiple parole violations. It will be for his multiple new crimes.

And that leaves us with just one more question: how long a sentence will Dante receive? I don’t know. But I am pretty sure that to Mr. Morris it will look like Dante’s eternal.

Martha Thomases: What Comes Around.

This is my last column before Thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It doesn’t require presents or cards or anything but food and gratitude.

I am, of course, grateful to be alive, to have my son (the genius) and my brilliant new daughter-in-law, a doctor! But you, Constant Reader, don’t come here to read about my life. You come here to read about my opinions.

This year, I am especially grateful that when women speak, they are now believed.

As my ComicMix colleagues so eloquently described, the days of dismissing charges of sexual harassment as something women make up because we are overly sensitive are, for the moment at least, over. No, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of these stories, nor do I think firing Eddie Berganza makes everything better.

(It does not.)

That said, we are definitely in a better place than we were before this round of charges of sexual abuse began, way, way back with Harvey Weinstein. Women are speaking up and making change, rather than waiting for men to rescue them. My favorite superheroines do this prominently.

A new generation of superhero supports these strong women.

As I mentioned last week, women in comics have always talked among ourselves, sharing warnings and tips about which men to avoid. We looked out for each other. More recently, some of us have risked our livelihoods to tell our stories. And now, in an ironic twist worthy of an E. Nelson Bridwell story, the Superman office seems to be run by women editors.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m gloating about Eddie losing his job. There are hardly an instance when that’s an unequivocally good thing. A man his age, and with his now-damaged reputation is going to find it difficult to find another gig.

However, the women who were denied work because they wouldn’t have sex with him, the women who left comics because he was so unpleasant to them, the women who never even got in the door because DC would rather protect their boy than tempt him, also had their livelihoods threatened. Actions have consequences, and Eddie and DC management were the ones who was able to choose how they wanted to act.

It’s my theory that the reason women are coming forward in large numbers now can be traced back to the Women’s March last January. There have been large demonstrations held simultaneously around the world before, but this time, for whatever reason, we spoke to each other. We listened to each other. Women, people of color, immigrants, queer people and other outsiders realized that we didn’t need insiders. Together, the outsiders could do what needed to get done.

The stereotype suggests that feminism is something that is just for white women. The experiences of women in comics demonstrates over and over again that this is untrue. Yes, white feminists get a disproportionate amount of media attention but then, white people of all kinds get a disproportionate amount of media attention.

True feminists insist on celebrating all kinds of women, and there are so many of us that it is unprofitable to ignore us. In fact, we are a desirable and affluent market for would-be feminist toys.

And it’s not exclusively feminists who are speaking up against Business As Usual in the entertainment industry. There’s a new documentary about stereotyping South Asians, and it’s getting a lot of good word-of-mouth. Things are shifting (too) slowly in behind-the-camera job in television.

There is still a lot of work to be done in the years ahead. There will, inevitably, be setbacks as well as progress. Still, this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to the women and men who got us this far.

Glenn Hauman: The Store Eater

I have a theory. See if this sounds plausible to you.

It’s the early 80s, and you’re a comic fan. You grew up with the medium, and now that you’re in your twenties or even early thirties, you seen the medium grow up with you. Stuff that was once considered just kiddie fare is now being treated with respect, even if the newspaper headlines read “Pow! Bam! Whap! Comic books aren’t just for kids anymore!” The industry has never seemed healthier with new comic book companies starting all over the place and some of them even healthy like First, Eclipse, Fantagraphics, Comico, Pacific, Aircel… and you’re looking for a career. And you decide, “Hey! I love comics! I know what comics are good! I even have a lot of back issues in my collection! I should open up a store!“

And so you do.

And you survive a lot of ups and downs in the industry. You made it through the black-and-white bust, you had to switch distributors when the great consolidation happened in the 90s, you’ve dealt with all the wacky cover enhancements. Hell, you even survived pogs.

But you’re in your sixties now, and lugging around long boxes to conventions isn’t as much fun as it used to be, if it ever was. Your back issues aren’t selling like they once did, and their overall value has dropped, taking out a large hunk of what you thought was going to be retirement nest egg. And even though comic book movies are bigger than you could’ve ever hoped for as a kid, the stuff that’s coming out today doesn’t thrill you like it once did, and the sales seem to be a bit weaker than in the past… which really sucks because you’re gonna have to keep working in your store selling this stuff, and why can’t they make books like they used to?

Well, it can’t be because of you; you’ve done the work, put in the hours, driven a lot of miles. And it can’t be just be bad luck — things don’t just happen, things happen for a reason.

Then you go home and look at news that’s targeted to your 60+ white male demographic (oh, don’t give me that look— if you opened up a comic store in the 80s, you were almost certainly a white male) and you see stories about PC culture run amok and then maybe, just maybe, a small voice pipes up in the back of your mind and says:

Hey, maybe the SJW‘s really are to blame for this.

And that’s when you’re in trouble.

You’ve diagnosed that you’re in pain, but you misdiagnosed what’s causing that pain. I promise you, SJWs are not causing all the problems in retail right now— and if Sears and K-Mart couldn’t figure out what was coming at them, you shouldn’t feel bad that you couldn’t either. But it’s entirely possible that your problem is this: your store clientele is too much like you.

They’re older. They’re probably male, probably white. And just like you, their priorities have changed with age. The habit of driving to the store on Wednesdays stopped when they changed jobs. If they’ve got kids, they’re older now and (if the parents are lucky) they’ve moved away. They’ve moved on a bit themselves, and the old stuff just isn’t doing it anymore.

Meanwhile, that other store? The one in the location that’s gotten hip? Ask yourself: is it that the store owner is trying to get hip people to show up there by pandering to them, or are the hip people going there because it’s cool on it’s own? And what are they doing to get people who aren’t like you into their store?

There are stores (I’m not going to embarrass them by name, but I’ll bet you know people who are visiting them) who are doing well by continuing to do what they always do: they find cool things and show them to appreciative customers. Sometimes, that means asking people who aren’t your customers yet what they would appreciate. And if you have other things that are cool to other people, great! Their money is as green, and they’ve got more to spend if you can show them something neat.

If you were opening your store for the first time today, what would you want to do? Would you try to reach the audience of today, or the audience of thirty-five years ago?

Choose with great care.

Mike Gold: Coping With The Horror

After Martha, and Joe, and Mindy all wrote about the sexual harassment and rape scandals that have been getting so much attention, and doing so elegantly and with well-considered reasoning, you’d think I’d move on to some topic that is more focused on pop culture.

Well, if you thought that, then you don’t know me very well, do you? I’ve got 52 years of political activism under my belt (covering 67 years of Italian beef, Jay’s potato chips and sundry forms of barbecue) and, seeing as how this is my next-to my next-to last column for ComicMix, I’m going to follow both my heart and my head.

These are very sensitive times, and understandably so. Therefore, I’m going to define my worldview up front. I am not talking about women. Or men. Or straight. Or queer. Or trans. Or of any specific race, ethnicity or religion. I’m talking about Earth and every single person who resides on it. I also make a distinction between sexual harassment and rape. This is not to trivialize either; both are ugly, dangerous, and violent acts, and both are terrible acts of Power upon the Powerless.

Actually, that last part is borderline ironic: if it were about sex, people in power acting reasonably and following our more noble instincts would get laid. Power, for some, is quite seductive. So, when these clowns impose their power upon their victims, they reveal themselves as cowards.

The one response I’ve heard over and over again is “It’s about time.” Yup, this is so. As I told a dear friend of mine – and I love quoting me – sexual harassment is as old as time. Cavemen bashing cavewomen with clubs. We’re actually several millennia past the time this shit should have stopped. Sexual harassment has been seen in every industry, every society, and every neighborhood. For example, look at all the teachers who’ve been busted the past few years for sleeping with their students. In the past that was treated with laughter. Well, maybe now, not so much.

Of course, everybody who has been near any media outlet over the past decade is familiar with the travails of children in the Catholic church and the Hide-The-Priest game Rome has been running for centuries. That’s sexual harassment, and, often, rape as well. Or, to put a point on it, these are violent acts of power upon the powerless.

The hash-tag on all this is #MeToo. In that spirit, I would like to mention that I was raped when I was 14 years-old. At the time, and that time was in 1964, I first found the situation confusing. I liked this person, I trusted this person, and I didn’t really understand what was going on. It wasn’t until I started working with rape crisis programs five years later that I really began to come to grips with what happened.

Please note that I said began. I never ratted out the creep – not because I was afraid of that person or I was afraid I wouldn’t be believed, but because the thought simply hadn’t occurred to me. If it had, it would have been way down on the list of things I had to do to deal with the experience.

The solution to all this is simple to say but very difficult to do. You have to stand up. You have to tell people what happened to you and who did it. You have to remember every detail you can, as horrible as it is, because the greater the detail the stronger the likelihood you will be believed. You’ve got to stop the predator from doing it to others and, possibly, again to you. You are a victim, but you have to rise above pathos. You have a job to do.

There’s something else that needs to be done, and it’s a lot harder to pull off. For cases such as these, we have to work out a non-adversarial judicial system where the victim is not the one who is put on trial. The defense lawyer is ethically obligated to do everything possible to free the defendant, and overall that’s a good thing. But we need to work out a somewhat different system that is equitable for both sides.

Given my youth social service work, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in family courts and children’s courts and similar places – they tend to have different names in different states. Here, children often are used as pawns if, indeed, they are not complainants. They are treated differently and, often, with more consideration than the folks in the post-adolescent courts. So, there is a starting point.

Like I said, it’s all really hard to do. But it will get easier.

Thanks to the courage of those we’ve been hearing from these past weeks, it is already getting easier.

Be strong. Be human.

Stand up.

Joe Corallo: Terrified

As of my typing up this column, DC Comics employee of over twenty years and Superman Group Editor Eddie Berganza has been fired from the company in relation to the sexual harassment and assault allegations raised against him for nearly a decade. This is in large part due to the Buzzfeed article that hit this past Friday, the amazing journalism of Jessica Testa, Tyler Kingkade, and Jay Edidin, former DC editorial staffers Janelle Asselin and Liz Gehrlein Marsham for speaking to Buzzfeed on the record, and all of the other victims who spoke anonymously out of fear of the very real fear of retribution. Since the release of that article, Molly McIsaac has also come forward about her encounter with Eddie Berganza’s sexual harassment.

Many people are rightfully asking why did it take so long remove Berganza when his sexually abusive behavior has been an open secret for nearly a decade? For better or worse, the answer is that in a post Weinstein world we are taking these accusations more seriously. This happened because Buzzfeed reported on it. When people tried to put pressure on DC Comics to act in April of 2016 in the aftermath of Shelly Bond’s dismissal – including myself – it wasn’t taken seriously outside of comics press and the story died in the wake of Dan Didio deleting his Twitter account and DC Entertainment honcho  Diane Nelson sending out a memo assuring us that DC Entertainment cares about the safety of their employees. The memo didn’t even mention Berganza’s name. It was a heavy slap in the face to comics journalist, pros and fans all over that helped to reassert the notion that victims are the problem and abusers will always be protected until it is absolutely impossible to continue protecting them.

Make no mistake; DC Comics did what it did because there was absolutely no way to continue protecting Eddie Berganza.

As of my writing this, DC Comics has not addressed Bob Harras’ role in seemingly and allegedly ignoring filed complaints with HR and assisting in Berganza’s rise in the company at the expense of many women within DC and countless more that were denied opportunities as a result of his continued employment or didn’t even attempt to throw their hat in the ring because of Berganza’s presence. Nothing will salvage the comics careers of all of those women, some we know and some we don’t, who fell in love with these adored characters as kids and grew up to learn that you would need to be willing to endure sexual harassment, propositions, and compromising your ethics to work in – of all places – the Superman office.

And Eddie Berganza isn’t the only person to make that statement true.

An open letter to Dan Didio has been circulating for over a week that not only brings up Berganza, but Mike Carlin, as a known harasser that inappropriately touched a female staffer. Like Eddie, Mike has been both a Superman Group Editor and an Executive Editor at DC Comics with his greatest achievement being The Death of Superman. Mike Carlin’s name is printed in literally millions upon millions of comics. He’s had lines wrapped around stores waiting for his signature. Unlike Eddie, Mike was able to allegedly harass his way to further promotions. He was promoted out of the comics division and currently works as the Creative Director of Animation for DC Entertainment. As of this writing this there has been no indication that Bob Harras covering for Eddie Berganza or Mike Carlin’s alleged harassment are being looked into.

Comics professionals including Rafael Albuquerque, Gail Simone, Cliff Chiang, Tee Franklin, Lilah Sturges, Sophie Campbell, Tony Isabella, Kurt Busiek, Tini Howard, Sina Grace, Kate Leth, Amy Chu, Tamra Bonvillain, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Christopher Sebela, Matthew Rosenberg, Kwanza Osajyefo, Tess Fowler, Mark Waid, and so many more stepped up to make their voices heard in the aftermath of the Buzzfeed article dropping on Friday. This is important not only because we should be standing up for victims of abuse, but because comics professionals are terrified of retaliation against them by DC Comics.

Terrified.

I want to make this crystal clear to people reading, as fans and casual readers may not be aware of or understand the reality of all of this. Speaking out against the brass is more than looked down upon; it’s disqualifying. Rafael Albuquerque mentions this in his statement on Berganza. Other professionals including Kwanza made it crystal clear on Twitter that speaking out could mean getting blacklisted, but it would be hard if we all ban together. Maybe in a post Weinstein world speaking out to defend victims won’t get you blacklisted like it has in the past to rising stars like Nancy Collins, but I talked to many comics professionals off the record during all of this with Berganza and many freelancers are still terrified. That should be alarming, but also sobering to everyone reading this that standing up against serial sexual assaulters can lose you work, but turning a blind eye to victims can get you a gig on a Superman book.

We might have the power now to change the dynamics at DC Comics and much of the rest of the entertainment industry if not all industries. We may be at a tipping point where we will no longer be a society that protects abusers, but rather one that stands up for victims. We need to be that society, and we may not be there just yet but we might be close. The only way we can do it is if we stand together. They can’t blacklist us if we all protect each other.

To quote Sinead O’Connor, “Fight the real enemy!”

Mindy Newell: What Goes Around…

DC Comics Editor Suspended After Forcible Reports Of Forcible Kissing, Groping

by Nicole Hensley, New York Daily News, Sunday, November 12, 2017

A high-ranking editor at DC Comics has been suspended after three women publicly accused him of forcible kissing and groping in allegations dating back more than a decade.

DC Entertainment on Saturday announced the company is investigating group editor Eddie Berganza after Buzzfeed reported on his alleged history of predatory behavior.

“There will be a prompt and yet careful review into the next steps as it relates to the allegations against him, and the concerns our talent, employees and fans have shared, DC said in a statement, the news site reported.

Former writer Liz Marsham said Berganza kissed her during a party and groped her at a company gathering at a bar in 2006.

Another DC Comics employee reported a similar encounter. Joan Hilty, who is openly gay, said Berganza tried grabbing her at the same bar during a separate incident, according to Buzzfeed.

At least five women confronted DC Comics’ HR with their objections after learning Berganza was being considered for an executive editor promotion. He was promoted anyway, the site said.

Berganza was demoted to group editor in 2012 after a similar allegation that he forcibly kissed a married freelance writer during the WonderCon convention.

Despite the demotion, Berganza went on to oversee projects related to Superman and Wonder Woman.

•     •     •     •     •

I just posted this bit of news on my Facebook page.  My friend Neil Cohen replied:

“I know it was a different time a whole few years ago when this first broke, but how was nothing done then?”

And I replied: “Because this happened yesterday, Saturday, November 11, 2017…”

And my next post: “…and they can’t hide it anymore.”

•     •     •     •     •

Ever since October 5, when the New York Times published the Harvey Weinstein bombshell (reported by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey), the bombs have just kept on exploding.  Here’s a list, released by the Times yesterday, working backwards from Friday, November 10:

Andrew Kreisberg, Executive Producer of Supergirl, Arrow, and The Flash

Louis C. K., comedian and producer

Benjamin Genocchio, Executive director of the Armory Show art fair

David Guillod, Co-Chief Executive of Primary Wave Entertainment agency

Jeff Hoover, Kentucky Speaker of the House

Brett Ratner, Producer and director

Kirt Webster, Music publicist

Andy Dick, Actor

Michael Oreskes, Head of news at NPR and former New York Times editor

Hamilton Fish, President and Publisher of The New Republic

Kevin Spacey, Actor/Director

Ken Baker, E! News correspondent

Mark Halperin, NBC News and MSNBC contributor, author of “Game Change”

Rick Najera, Director of CBS’s Diversity Showcase

Knight Landesman, Publisher of ArtForum

Leon Wieseltier, former editor at The New Republic

Terry Richardson, Fashion photographer

John Besh, Chief Executive of the Besh Restaurant Group

Lockhart Steele, Editorial Director of Vox Media

Robert Scoble, Tech blogger and co-founder of the Transformation Group

Chris Savino, Creator and showrunner of “The Loud House”

I’ve only listed the names, but you can go here to see the allegations and fallout.

I’ve also heard Dustin Hoffman’s name bandied about while driving to work and listening to the radio, though that was the only time I heard it.

And speaking of work, well, sometimes the talk can get pretty risqué but lately any jibe or joke has been preceded by is this sexual harassment? or assurances that I am just joking, I’m not harassing you, am I? This is mostly a good thing, I suppose, as awareness is heightened that someone listening might be offended, but at the same time, I can’t help thinking that the “sensitivity-meter” can be working overtime. Meaning, any joke or acerbic comment or ironic observation is capable of offending somebody at any given hour or on any given day—are comedy clubs and HBO specials on the road to extinction?

And then there’s this:

Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.

Unknown: Whoa.

Trump:  I did try and fuck her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

Trump: No, no, Nancy. No, this was [unintelligible] –  and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture – I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.

Trump: Whoa! Whoa!

Bush: Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!

Trump: Look at you, you are a pussy.

Trump: All right, you and I will walk out.

Trump: Maybe it’s a different one.

Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s, it’s her, it’s –

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

Hey, Donald, remember this…

What goes around comes around.

Mueller’s got you by the balls…

And he’s squeezing.

•     •     •     •     •

And on another topic…

Hey, Maddy (Maddy Ernst, ½ of the Tweeks). Regarding Stranger Things 2 and your review:

Yep, it totally rocked!
I gotta give Noah Schnapp major kudos here, especially as it seems to me that everyone else gets so much praise and attention from the media and fans. He had an incredibly difficult path as an actor this season, and the kid totally pulled it off!!!
Also, David Harbour and Millie Bobby Brown as Jim Hopper and Jane Ives/Eleven? Loved their pairing!!!!

Totally agree with you regarding Sean Astin.
SPOILER ALERT: The Mind-Flayer/Shadow Monster hovering over the Snow Ball at the middle school–okay, girlfriends, who is infected with the “virus?” Mike? Chief Hopper? Maybe too obvious, hmm? How about Dustin? (My vote.)

One more thing…
I stretched out the binge to two sittings, but even so, nine episodes went by way too quickly. And now it’s gonna be, what, another year until the third season?
That sucks, doesn’t it?

 

Ed Catto: Sky Masters, Part 2

When it comes to music, we all get it right away. We understand what duets are, and how the combination of two favorite performers can result in something new and special. In 2006, the album Duets teamed Tony Bennett with a myriad of music’s A-listers. It was an instant hit. Part of the fun was the surprising range of match-ups. While a song featuring Bennett collaborating with Barbara Streisand was expected, duets with musicians like k.d.lang or the Dixie Chicks were wonderful surprises.

Sometimes a collaboration exceeds the original. For example, I’d argue that the version of Gloria by John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison is much more fun than the original version Morrison recorded with his old band, Them. Likewise, Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, two geniuses from different generations, collaborated in the late 90s and produced wonderful songs enthralling fans of both artists.

Comic art collaborations are different. When enjoying traditional comic art, it’s harder for most folks to understand what the penciler and the inker each bring to the party. But both types of artists have a role to play and opportunities to seize. Sometimes fans will like a certain artist paired with a certain inker. Other times, the combination might not gel, resulting in an unsatisfying experience for readers. Some inkers support a penciller’s vision, other times they might dominate it.

Wallace (Wally) Wood was one the great very artists, but he often played the role of inker. I reached out to Walter Simonson (an incredible artist in his own right) to find out just what it was like to have Wally Wood ink your artwork. Walter kindly shared his thoughts with me:

“Back in 1976, Denny O’Neil asked me if I would be willing to draw layouts for an ongoing DC comic, Hercules Unbound. Wallace Wood had been doing the finished inks over layouts. I jumped at the chance. I knew Woody personally just a little from the time I spent hanging out at Continuity Associates, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano’s studio in New York. But I knew Woody’s work extensively, from his EC stories to his work on the early MAD magazines, to Witzend, and his later work on Daredevil and other mainstream comic books. I was thrilled.

“As the layout artist, I expected that the finished work would look like Woody’s stuff. And by and large, it did. But it was such a learning experience. For layouts, I wasn’t spotting blacks in my drawings, and it was a revelation to see what Woody did with them. Beautiful to observe. My real regret was that Woody left the book after he had done only two issues over my layouts. But he told me before departing that he really liked what I had given him to work with. It was the structure he needed to create his finished work without difficulty. I was thrilled. Thanks, Woody. Nobody called it a bucket list back then, but that’s exactly what it was, a big check mark off the bucket list!”

The best collaborators actually collaborate. And that’s what happened when Jack Kirby worked with Wally Wood to produce the newspaper comic strip Sky Masters. Last week we talked about the new reprint edition from Amigo Comics. This week we’ll take another bite out of the apple. I’ve persuaded my friend, J. David Spurlock, an expert on Wallace Wood and a guy with a lot of great stories, to contribute a few more thoughts about this unique collaboration.

So join me for J. David Spurlock’s Sky Masters: The Jack Kirby-Wally Wood Masterpiece —the greatest teaming of America’s two most iconic mid-century comic book talents!

McCarthy-era political witch-hunts fed even vice-presidential hopeful Estes Kefauver’s investigations into juvenile delinquency. The fallout came very close to killing the American comic book industry in the second half of the 1950s. Comic books were demonized and workers in the industry humiliated. Most publishers went out of business. The few that stumbled on, slashed titles to the quick and experimented with new/alternative genres. As Carmine Infantino told me, even the industry’s top company, National/DC, were not only laying-off talent but also cutting pay rates for those who stayed. Joe Orlando confirmed he was so humiliated he started telling non-industry people that he “illustrated children’s books” in lieu of confessing he was a comic book artist. Stan Lee likewise confirmed that in that period, he skirted telling people he worked making comic books. Every artist aspired to doing a newspaper strip. Newspaper strip work — as opposed to the then-shamed comic books— was not only respectable, it was celebrated and could generate great income based on circulation. 

In 1958, inspired by Sputnik and the emerging US and Russian space programs, Harry Elmlark of the George Matthew Adams Service newspaper syndicate asked National/DC Comics writer-editor Jack Schiff to help him put together a team for a space program-related strip. Schiff was too committed at National/DC to take on writing a daily strip and reached out to Dave Wood about writing. Dave Wood and acclaimed 1940s Captain America co-creator Jack Kirby had been working under Schiff as editor on the Kirby-created DC-published comic book, Challengers of the Unknown. Dave Wood and Kirby had previously worked on another proposed space strip which had not been picked up. Both Kirby and Dave Wood confirmed they were interested in creating the proposed new strip.

Kirby, Schiff and Dave Wood assumed Kirby’s associate, Marvin Stein, would be inking Kirby’s pencil work but, Stein had had enough of the cockamamie comics business and left for better, steadier work in advertising, as so many did during the mid-to-late ’50s comics implosion. With Stein out, Jack knew he needed a top quality, polished inker to help his work compete with such illustrative adventure strip artists like Alex Raymond, Hal Foster and Milton Caniff. Jack realized the absolutely best man for the job was Wallace Wood (no relation to Dave) who had quickly risen to be America’s foremost sci-fi comic book artist a few years earlier via his groundbreaking work at EC Comics on such titles as Weird Science and Weird Fantasy.

Wallace Wood had nothing to do with negotiations with Schiff and/or the syndicate. His relationship was solely with Jack Kirby. As my research for the Eisner-Award recognized Wood biography, Wally’s World revealed, it was Kirby who phoned Wood’s studio and the call was answered by Wood’s wife/assistant/colorist Tatjana: “Who’s calling?” “Jack Kirby” the response came. “Wallace, Jack Kirby is on the phone.” Kirby invited Woody to work on the still untitled newspaper strip. They followed up with Jack coming to Wood’s studio where they started brainstorming including on what to name the strip. Jack liked the name Sky as the lead character’s fist name but wasn’t sure what to use for a surname. Wood had been playing with the name Cannon since childhood. Jack and Wally considered Sky Cannon and Wood drew that option up as a rough logo design, along with other ideas. Jack Kirby and Wallace (a.k.a. “Wally” or “Woody”) Wood ultimately settled on Sky Masters with Wally drawing the final logo art. 

Wally Wood at the time was not working in comic books. He had grown to be so successful, he was doing far better paying humor, men’s, and sci-fi magazine illustrations, as well as paperback and hardcover book covers, and advertising. It was because Wood considered Kirby a “genius” (Woody was likely the first big name pro to use the word “genius” to describe Jack) and that, like everyone else, he dreamt of a hit newspaper strip, that Wood agreed to collaborate with Jack.

As soon as Kirby told Schiff that Wally Wood had agreed to ink and letter the strip, Schiff got excited and inquired whether Wood might be willing to return to comic books as well, to likewise work with Jack on Challengers of the Unknown. Out of respect to Jack, Wood agreed. Kirby and Wood hit it off and work started on the Sky Masters, Challengers, and an underwater strip idea, Surf Hunter.

Newspaper strip deadlines never stop. There is no break. It is important to gear-up and have plenty done prior to the launch, as that is the only buffer a strip artist will ever have. Work on Challengers started during the Sky Masters gear-up period. Because of the release date of Wallace Wood’s first issue of Challengers, there has long been confusion about the timeline — which came first, Wood’s joining Challengers or Sky Masters? Through my Wally’s World research, I was finally able to clear it all up via my interviews with a few of the first-person witnesses to these matters, Tatjana Wood, who took the initial call from Kirby and was in the studio when Jack came over for meetings and with my dear friend, Al Williamson who occasionally helped out inking some backgrounds. The Kirby-Wood collaborative period started with Sky Masters. Their work together is ultimate Americana. Imagine John Wayne doing a film with Elvis or Marilyn Monroe doing a film with James Dean. Kirby and Wood are like that except in their case, it actually did happen for a bright, fleeting moment.

A short digression re: the Kirby-Wood signatures that appear on the art. For many years, general readers didn’t know Dave Wood was involved with the strip. It was understood that the Kirby-Wood signature was for Kirby and Wallace Wood who put as much work into that strip as he did anything else that he signed in his career. After many years, it started getting out that the writer’s name was also Wood and he had a brother/helper named Dick Wood. Jack Kirby said, for a while he thought everyone in the business was named Wood. Some would say the Wood in the signature is for the writer, Dave Wood — and that is reasonable if not traditional. I would like to propose that this case might not be so traditional: When the artist Wallace Wood — one of the most accomplished comics artists of all time — who signed the signature signed them, that he was not signing for the writer who was nowhere near as notable of a talent as the artist was but, happened to have the same name. Woody signed his own name to his own work. It has nothing to do with who made the original agreement to produce a space strip or when, in the pre-launch process Woody came on board. It had to do with one of the top talents of all time putting blood, sweat and tears into his labor of love and being proud of his work. How many National/DC strips listed Dave Wood’s signature? But, even when DC did not publish credits, if the great comics master Wallace Wood signed, no one at DC dared white it out (see first-person account from Jim Shooter). Unless we find a contract saying that Dave Wood’s name was required to be credited and lettered into every strip, we have no way of knowing what the signature would have been had Wallace Wood not helped launch it and signed it with his own hand. 

Wallace only stayed for about half of the strip’s tenure. It was a huge loss when Woody left the strip. But he understandably did not want to get dragged into a growing legal dispute between Jack Schiff and Jack Kirby which he had nothing to do with. Plus, the strip was not picked up by enough papers to make big money. To minimize the public knowing Wallace had left.. to minimize change… and as the writer’s name was also Wood, they kept the signature going after Woody left. Likewise, Kirby himself attempted to ink in Wood’s style. When Kirby hired Dick Ayers to take over inking, he requested Ayers to likewise mimic Wood’s style. I got that fact directly from my dear friend Dick, who went on to say, he would have loved to have done work more like Wood’s but, it took too much time and there wasn’t enough money in comics (or Sky Masters) to work that way — because, Wood did far more than just ink. 

To add confusion, in a late interview, Jack oddly minimized Woody’s well known and obvious contributions and indicated what they had wanted the public to think of the signature after Woody left—that it was for the writer. It must be understood that in the period that Jack gave that interview, Jack was so fed up with the fact that most of his career, he had been credited in second place to Simon and Lee, who Jack felt did less of the creative work than Jack did. At that time, Jack was on a mission to balance the scales and set the record straight that he/Jack had been the primary creative force — and unfortunately, when Sky Masters unexpectedly came up, Woody got caught in the crossfire. Again, unless we find a contract saying that Dave Wood’s name was to be credited and lettered into every strip, we have no way of knowing what the signature would have been had Wallace Wood not helped launch the strip and signed it.

Sky Masters is the greatest teaming of America’s two most iconic mid-century comic book creators, Jack Kirby and Wally Wood. What makes it better, more important, than their other works (even Challengers) is that particularly on Sky, they worked as equals. It is not Wood inking Kirby, it is a different animal. Something new, something more unique than their other works… not Kirby, not Wood, but the totally unique hybrid that can only be called, Kirby-Wood! Jack once said, in Wally, on Sky Masters, “I was [only] looking for an inker but got a [true] collaborator.

Jack Kirby and Dave Wood never created a masterpiece.

Jack Kirby and Wally Wood created a masterpiece!

One of the titles I have so aptly bestowed upon Woody is “The Great Collaborator.” Whomever he worked with made history: Kirby-Wood, Eisner-Wood, Ditko-Wood, Kurtzman-Wood, etc.

If Kirby had not brought in Wallace Wood, Sky Masters would have been just one more in Kirby’s long history of minor, attempted and/or short-lived newspaper strips and we would not be discussing it now and no one would be investing years of work to put together a glorious edition of it. Instead, it is one of Jack’s greatest artistic accomplishments — something he proudly hung for decades by his drawing board — despite the later business problems. It may well be the first work he was so proud of he fought to get the originals back on, after publication. It is the ultimate Kirby-Wood masterpiece specifically because, thanks to Kirby recognizing, inviting, and wisely granting Wally Wood the creative freedom to be so much more than a technician who traces with ink; it is a true, equal, artistic collaborative creation.

David Spurlock is a prolific, award-winning author-historian and serves as Director of The Wallace Wood Estate, and was a personal friend of Jack Kirby. For more info on Wood, visit the Wallace Wood Estate Facebook page. This piece is © J David Spurlock 2017, ARR and gratefully used with his permission.

John Ostrander: Suicide Squad Redux – The Dragon’s Hoard

It feels a little silly to be issuing a spoiler warning for a story that’s more than twenty years old but it’s entirely possible that there are folks out there who have never read the story described below. I’ll need to discuss some plot points and twists so if you don’t want to know ‘em, avoid this week’s column. Spoiler warning issued.

December 22 will see the publication of the seventh volume in the reprint series of my Suicide Squad, just in time for last minute holiday giving. See? Sometimes it does pay to wait until the last minute to shop.

This will probably be the penultimate volume in this reprint series as there are only a few more issues to gather. Kim Yale was once again my co-writer. I’m taking this opportunity to re-read these stories myself and over the next few columns I’ll comment on them, as I’ve done with some previous volumes.

The title tale is the biggest one in the volume but, as not unusual, is not the only story. The first one reprints issue 50 which was extra-sized. I’m of two minds about anniversary issues. Certainly, you want to celebrate the longevity of the given title but sometimes setting it up can throw off the whole pacing of the series. That happened with GrimJack and maybe the Spectre; you can wind up treading narrative water trying to get to an anniversary issue.

However, the Squad 50th issue worked.

Kim’s and my goal was to take as many story points that we had in the early days, especially issue 1, and re-work them into a new narrative. That can be difficult when you’ve spent as much time killing off your characters as Kim and I did. Basic background on the Squad; the series was created by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru and ran for five issues of the Brave and the Bold. The first Squad was a team of four: leader Captain Rick Flag, medic Karin Grace, and scientists Jess Bright and Hugh Evans. Rick and Karin had fallen in love but felt compelled to keep it a secret since the two scientists were also in love with Karin. It could’ve gotten kind of kinky but this was 1959.

The element that I took for the new Squad was that the old one fell apart on a disastrous mission to Tibet. Bright and Evans found out about Rick and Karin and were pissed at being played for chumps. They died falling into a chasm during an attack by a Yeti. Karin had a breakdown and wouldn’t see Rick anymore.

Rick and Karin were both part of the new series but by issue 49 both had died. Rick would get better and return but for issue 50’s purposes, he was still dead. However, we revealed that they had a son; Rick was never aware of it and Karin blocked the boy’s birth from her memory during her breakdown.

The incident triggering the plot is that the boy has been kidnapped by a zombie like character named Koschei the Deathless. During the story, it’s revealed that Koschei is actually Jess Bright who had survived the fall into the chasm but loss his nose, lips, toes and fingers to frostbite before being rescued by the Chinese. He later winds up with the Russians where he becomes Koschei.

Unaware that both are dead, Jess wants revenge on Rick and Karin and, having run afoul of the new Squad since becoming Koschei he also wants them dead. To this end he has resurrected members of the Squad who were killed on missions by using mechanical implants at the base of their skulls. Oh, and I should mention that Koschei has also died but, using the same technology, walks and talks and plans terrible revenge.

So we have the Suicide Squad up against the Zombie Squad which makes for some fun visuals and match ups. The climax takes place in a fake Quraci airport that figured into the first story.

Yeah, it all does sound convoluted, but I think it all works in context of the actual story.

One of the flaws in issue 50 is that it concludes rather quickly without a lot of space for visuals but that’s a flaw I sometimes have as a writer; I don’t always pace everything as well as I might. All things considered, however, I think it is a good story and covers the anniversary tropes pretty well. It even ends with a surprisingly tender moment for Amanda Waller. It also gets this reprint off to a good start, I think, although you folks are the ones who have the real say.

We’ll continue this next week as we look at the next story or two. Ciao for now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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