Category: Columns

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.

Dennis O’Neil: 1939-2020

Dennis O’Neil: 1939-2020

Dennis Joseph “Denny” O’Neil, the writer and editor who redefined the Batman, the Joker, Green Arrow, the Shadow, and the Question for the modern era; created or co-created R’as al Ghul, OPtimus Prime, Azrael, Leslie Tompkins, Madame Web, Richard Dragon, and Lady Shiva; and was a beloved contributor to ComicMix, has passed away at the age of 81.

He started his career in comics almost by accident, when Roy Thomas suggested that O’Neil take the Marvel writer’s test, which involved adding dialogue to a wordless four-page excerpt of a Fantastic Four comic. O’Neil’s entry resulted in Lee offering O’Neil a job. O’Neil had never considered writing for comics, and later said he’d done the test “kind of as a joke. I had a couple of hours on a Tuesday afternoon, so instead of doing crossword puzzles, I did the writer’s test.” He started with Millie The Model and Patsy Walker, but soon found himself writing Doctor Strange and Daredevil. He also started freelancing for Charlton Comics under the name Sergius O’Shaughnessy, and when editor Dick Giordano went over to DC Comics he brought Denny along, where he wrote the Creeper, Wonder Woman, Justice League of America, Green Lantern and Green Arrow, Batman, Superman, and the revivals of the Shadow, the Avenger, and Captain Marvel, now retitled to Shazam!

In the 80’s, he returned to Marvel for a spell, where he wrote Iron Man and put Jim Rhodes into the suit of armor, contributed to the creation of the Transformers, and edited Frank Miller on his two runs of Daredevil as well as writing the issues in between them, among many other things.

He returned to DC in 1986 to become the group editor of the Batman titles, as well as write The Question.

He didn’t limit his writing to comics, also writing at various times for Coronet, Show, Gentleman’s Quarterly, Ono, the Village Voice, News Front, Amazing Stories, High Times, Viva, Penthouse, Publisher’s Weekly, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Fantastic, Generation One, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock, and Haunt of Horror; as well as television, both live-action (Superboy, Logan’s Run) and animated (Batman: The Animated Series); and various novels, including the exemplary Helltown.

He was widely honored by fans and pros alike, including Shazam Awards for Best Continuing Feature for Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Best Individual Story for “No Evil Shall Escape My Sight” in Green Lantern #76 (with Neal Adams), for Best Writer (Dramatic Division) in 1970 for Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, and other titles, and Best Individual Story for “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” in Green Lantern #85 (with Neal Adams) in 1971. He also won the Comics Buyer’s Guide Award for Favorite Editor in 1986, 1988, 1989, and 1996; a Goethe Award in 1971 for “Favorite Pro Writer” and was a nominee for the same award in 1973, received an Inkpot Award in 1981, and won a Haxtur Award in 1998.

He gave of his time to help teach the next generation of comics creators, teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, writing The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, and writing for ComicMix. He also sat on the board of directors of the charity The Hero Initiative, an organization devoted to helping comic creators in need, and served on its Disbursement Committee.

He was married to the lovely former Marifran McFarland, who passed away in 2017. He is survived by his son, Lawrence, and the industry which he forever changed.

Taking our cue from him, our Recommended Reading List for today is Denny’s columns. We’ll miss him.

Buddy Saunders: DC COMICS HAS LEFT COMIC STORES OUT

Buddy Saunders: DC Comics Has Left Comic Stores Out

Buddy Saunders is a giant among retailers. I’m honored to give him the first-ever guest spot at my column.

Michael Davis

DC’s planned limited release of titles beginning April 28th leaves too many comic stores out in the cold

by Buddy Saunders

I’ll tell you this up front. In mid-to-late May, a time more in line with when most stores can reopen, Diamond Comics, our longtime distributor, will resume shipping comics from all publishers based on fair-to-all release dates. Were Diamond to begin shipping earlier, many of our fellow comic retailers would be left out in the cold. We very much respect Diamond for making the good-for-everyone decision they’ve made. We are all in this together, fans, creators, publishers, retailers and Diamond.

I want two things. I want to stand with and support my longtime distributor. And I don’t want to receive and sell comics that many, maybe most, of my fellow retailers can’t get because their stores are shuttered through no fault of their own.

Diamond Comics has been our distributor for decades. I know Diamond’s owner, Steve Geppi, well. We first met many years ago, ironically at a DC brain-storming retreat at a Montauk resort on the tip of Long Island. Steve and I were there to help DC editors and creators figure out how to deal with the growing market threat posed by Marvel. Steve was then just another comic store owner like me with no thought of becoming a distributor. But some years later, when my then Texas distributor proved unreliable, Steve, along with Carol Kalish of Marvel, made my transition to Diamond silk smooth. There’s a neat story in that, but now’s not the time to tell it. Bigger fish to fry at the moment.

DC’s decision to begin releasing comics through two newly-minted “distributors” beginning April 28th is ill-conceived.

First, there is the matter of timing. Too many comic stores will still be prohibited from being open on April 28th, the first DC release date.

Second, DC’s new distributors, Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors, are in reality two of the nation’s largest new comic discounters, Discount Comics and Midtown Comics. No comic retailer should be involved in comic distribution due to obvious conflicts of interest. The only exception to that rule would be a stopgap measure undertaken if the current distributor were failing. That is NOT the case with Diamond. Diamond is solid and as reliable as ever.

Third, these two new comic online discounters have no experience as distributors. Even a vastly experienced distributor like Diamond isn’t perfect, but they are very good at correcting errors. Will the new guys do as well? The answer will come the first time retailers try to get support services such as damage replacements.

Fourth, why are these two new distributors necessary? Creating new distributors for a short-term fix doesn’t make sense. It makes more sense as part of a larger long-term plan. But were Diamond eventually taken out by this process, mid-to-small publishers would be up a creek, a circumstance that would very much benefit DC. Marvel tried something similar—becoming their own distributor—years ago. It didn’t work out for Marvel. Nor will it work for DC if that indeed is their thought.

Any such move, for whatever motive, is unnecessary given that very soon Diamond Comics will return to full distribution mode when the majority of comic stores can resume sales—most likely mid-to-late May.

Every comic store owner has to decide what is best for their store regarding distribution and release times, but greater consideration should be given to long term health rather than to short term gain.

Lone Star Comics and MyComicShop will wait for Diamond, a distributor that has earned our loyalty many times over. And we will wait until as may stores as possible can join us in resuming weekly comic sales. And when that time comes, we’ll have plenty of stock from every publisher, including all DC releases.

This from Brian Hibbs, owner of Comix Experience in San Francisco:

DC is asking us to ABANDON Diamond. Diamond and Steve Geppi specifically have acted as the “bank” of the Direct Market, saving and protecting the great mass of retailers again and again and again. Do I have some problems with DCD’s operation? Sure: I’d be an idiot not to—but on the balance they’ve done more to preserve DM retailers than ANYONE EVER, so “walking away” from them in this time of challenge is completely entirely a non-starter for me.

Brian Hibbs, Comix Experience

Last word from Buddy. Thus far I’ve spoken to only a few comic retailers, but those retailers are well established and significant. They favor staying the course with Diamond. I know a lot of retailers read my weekly Lone Star Comics email. Guys, gals, email me at buddy@mycomicshop.com and share your thoughts on this issue. Let me know if you are going to go with the DC plan or stay with Diamond. I’ll print some of your feedback, but omit names and addresses to ensure your ability to speak freely.

Oh, and you the comic fan, this affects you as much as any comics retailer, publisher or creator. Your two cents’ worth is equally welcome. Just understand, my plate is mighty full already, so it may be impossible for me to reply to every comment received—our weekly email goes out to many thousands of people!

—Buddy Saunders

THE INFLUENCE FACTOR: Part 2: Dan Didio & My Studio 54 Philosophy

THE INFLUENCE FACTOR: Part 2: Dan Didio & My Studio 54 Philosophy

Writer’s notes: All DC Comics references imply past events. They do not indicate any criticism or suggest answerability from current management.

I’ve built my career around what I call my Studio 54 philosophy. It’s that philosophy that I’ll use to explain how those dancing on Dan Didio’s grave do so at considerable risk.

If you have not read last week’s article, please do so. If you don’t, this is gonna read strangely.

There’s no way to say this without sounding a bit full of myself, so here goes… I’m the Master Of The Universe. Yep, call me Motu if you like, but I am indeed the Master, etc. etc.

To be the Master of anything requires intelligence, the ability to reason, and self-confidence. Believe it or not, reason and self-esteem are more critical than being smart. If I had to pick one overall, it would be confidence.

Another way to put it is a force of will.

Studio 54 was a fantasy, a wish, a dream to me. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be able to roll in there at will.

Well, rejection is a great motivator.

I was NEVER rejected from 54. My most painful rejection was from the most excellent high school known to mankind the universe (of which I am Master) and all of creation (that’s not me) the High School of Art & Design.

WHAT? But we’ve read dozens of articles where you tell of the love for that high school because you went there. The fans of Michael Davis (both of them) are saying.

I did go there— but was rejected my first try. I tried in the ninth grade for admittance to the tenth grade. DENIED! I’ve wanted to go to that school since I found out it existed in the fourth grade. At that age, waiting six minutes is agony— imagine waiting six years.

I could try again, but there was a catch.

The odds of getting into A&D for admittance to the 9th and 10th grade were four people admitted out of every ten that applied. The 9th and 10th were foundation years where you learn the principals of art. Anyone hoping to get into the 11th grade, the odds were 1 out of 25.

The odds were that low because you’re skipping the foundation years. You major immediately. I was told this by my guidance counselor, no doubt hoping to spare me the pain of rejection for the second time.

“An artist is wishful thinking for one in your position Michael.” Translation: “Nigger*, PLEASE. There’s always work at the Post Office.”

I got in.

That was the moment I realized what my boy Lee calls; THE POWER OF DAVIS.

It wasn’t too long after that I was getting into 54. Because I began to look at things differently.

It wasn’t a Black and White world; there are plenty of shades; this underaged Black kid was now made aware of. My friend Earl and later Lee would hop (not pay) the train from Far Rockaway to Manhattan just to stare at what we thought we would never take part in, life like white people lived.

We would stand outside of Broadway plays, hoping to see whatever TV stars we heard were appearing in the play come out. Stand outside movie theaters showing blockbuster movies. One night we noticed the usher tearing ticket stubs dropping his half. One of us would pretend to trip while walking by, grab the discarded stubs go to the back of the line, and MOVIE NIGHT was born. The highlight of our Manhattan nights was always Studio 54. The street was packed with people all trying to get in; we stood there for hours just happy to be near a place we saw on television.

No such ‘stub’ opportunity at Studio 54, but watching the news one night gave me an idea. There was a story about this woman who gifted Steve Rubell a Studio 54 sculpture. I did a drawing and went down to 54 during the day.

I knocked on the door, a lady answered, said with a smile, “No.” When I asked for Mr. Rubell. That ‘no’ caused me to refine my plan. I knew I’d get in eventually Why? One out of twenty-five is why.

There were photos of all the top doorman from the top clubs in a magazine story that for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of. I did caricatures of all of them. Then I talked to an editor of a pennysaver circular. I’d met her at my cousin’s house, she gave me her number. I was studying illustration at the world’s most fabulous high school, and she told me to come to see her when I graduated.

She ran the art.

The “magazine” came out, my intention; give the originals to the doormen.

I set about dropping the artwork off at the clubs. The first club I got into was Xenon, the only real competition 54 ever had. Funny thing the doorman, Charles, had not seen the drawing just undid the velvet rope for me and my girlfriend Renee. An hour or so later, I caught him by the bar and told him about the drawings.

Valerie Perrine dances with Disco stars The Village People at Xenon.

He sent someone to the office to look for them. Turns out Roger, the other head door guy at Xenon, was recruited by 54 and took all the art with him. Charles was so moved by the gesture he told me to come down anytime then introduced me to Brian, Roger’s replacement. From that moment on, I was VIP at the 2nd biggest nightclub in NYC.

This was the night that started to shape my Studio 54 philosophy.

My Studio 54 philosophy:

Get to the decision-maker.

One night I showed up at Xenon, and neither Brian or Charles were at the door. The guy there was someone I’d seen before from his swagger I knew he was the boss. I rolled up to the rope and dropped a “Charles always lets me in” all I got was a look and a view of his back when he turned around on me. I was heartbroken, so I started to leave when I hear—

“WHERE ARE YOU GOING?” The voice belonged to a stunning Black woman who was always at the club.

She was standing next to the guy who turned his back on me. Now I was being waved in by the same guy. Turns out, I was right; the guy was the owner Howard Stein and the woman was his girlfriend Tawn Christian. I’d happen upon some guys crowding her once and told them to step off (white folk, that means “leave her alone” ). I’d forgotten all about that. She hadn’t.

Now not only was I getting into Xenon, but I was also getting in free.

It’s not easy getting to the guy on top, but once you do that makes it much more manageable. Put another way, if you know Jay-Z you now have access to his infrastructure. Work your relationship with Jay first. If you’re interested in just milking connections for whatever you can get, you will quickly be found out.

Once that happens, you’re DEAD. Jay makes a call telling people you’re a dick, you are done done done.

Safeguard your relationships.

I learned the hard way to guard your relationships like its water, and you’re in the desert. At one point, I’m riding high thinking my shit don’t stink (white folk y’all got that I assume), so I bring my boy Lee who invites his boy Lenny who invites his girl Ghetto to Studio 54. I don’t remember her name, but Ghetto fits. While working through the crowded dance floor, Ghetto steps on the foot of a Princess. A real honest to Jesus Allah Jehovah Buddha Kirby Princess.

That was bad enough, but Ghetto acted her name. I’m still surprised the Princess’ bodyguards didn’t shoot Ms. G. That’s kinda what saved me. I quickly owned up to bringing the group that almost caused an international incident. What else could I do? It’s a fair bet we were the only Black people from the hood there. Ghetto’s “YEAH, WHAT? That’s what you get for BE IN IN MY WAY!” Made it more visible.

When wrong, apologize.

If possible, bring up the wrong and take responsibility before you’re summoned to explain yourself. Trust me, seldom will that not get you points.

My apology featured:

  • A promise never to bring thugs with me again.
  • A plea to continue coming to Studio 54, the highlight of my life.
  • A plan: “If you want to bust a cap in the back of her head, I’m ok with it.”

That I said to the bodyguards a laugh from those guys and a hug from the Princess saved my Studio 54 privileges. Roger slapped me on the back, then whispered, “Michael, well done, but if it happens again, you’re gone.”

Consider who brought you in.

No one can control how someone you don’ t know will act. If the Princess wasn’t even-tempered if Roger was in a bad mood, if any of those were in play—I’m dead at 54. Roger then makes a call, I’m gone at Xenon, I’m gone everywhere.

Never again would I make the mistake of hooking someone up with people I don’t know. Roger may have been fired if the incident had turned into a critical issue why? Because of his relationship with me. He was the reason I was there, and in business, if you bring someone in, they are your responsibility at the start of their involvement.

Remember, most likely, YOUR contact has a boss.

Don’t sever a relationship when someone is fired.

This may be the most crucial part of my Studio 54 philosophy.

Roger going to 54 worked out great for me. He was truly touched when he was gifted with the original artwork.

Xenon was my favorite club; however, this was Studio 54.

I was getting into the most famous nightclub in the world and for free.

Talented People always end up somewhere else.

ALWAYS.

Charles went to a new club ‘X’ Roger went back to Xenon, and Mark from 54 ended up in LA, where he was on the door at a few clubs.

Wherever those guys went, I had carte blanche.


A lot of people are dancing a gig on Dan Didio’s grave. Dan isn’t dead. Far from it.

He’s got almost two decades of insider information from one of the two top comic book publishers on Earth. Dan possesses relationships with world-class talent, and there is no-one except idiots who won’t take his call.

Dan did great things at DC that non-competes he no doubt signed don’t mean shit in reality. All it does is buy DC time to change some internal workings. It also stops Dan from writing DC COMICS: THE UNBELIEVABLE STORY OF SUPERMAN’S METH HABIT.

That’s a joke title, everyone knows Superman does not do meth. The hardest thing he does is drink coke he tried snorting it but sneezed and blew his dealer’s head off.

Yeah, that was uncalled for. I’m going to remove it. But if I do that, you won’t see I did such a noble thing. That means its YOUR fault that silliness is here.

Wow. GROW UP, will ya?

If Dan’s non-compete is one or even two years, during that time, he’ll be working on what his next act is anyway. When my year-long non-compete with Motown expired, my next project with Simon and Schuster was announced a day after it ended. By the end of the month, the project was in the market place.

Dan will not have any problem maintaining his boss’s status because he’s a smart, talented, capable executive.

The dumbest— I mean DUMBEST— thing a creator without the influence of a significant playa could do is go online and bath in a glowing victory they had nothing to do with.

Figure out what real power is.

Roger, Charles, Brian, and Mark, actual power wasn’t because they were the doormen at elite clubs. Their power is WHY they were the doormen.

The doormen at clubs like 54 and Xenon were not just some lucky guy who filled out an application. Anyone could recognize Mick Jagger or Andy Warhol.

Doormen at 5-star clubs were put in that position to spot CEO’s, Senators, royalty, and the like.

Could you spot those people?

Many doormen from the Studio 54 era came from an Ivy League school, an influential, wealthy family, or both.

Don’t take it personally.

Dan was once a friend. I did a giant solid for him, and he never returned the gesture. How could he? His boss tried to destroy me, and Dan would have been an idiot to cross that line.

I’m gonna do exactly what I did when Disney canned him. I’m going to call and offer him a hand. If he needs anything and I can be of some help, I will.

It’s never a good thing to rejoice when someone is suffering a setback.

Once Frank Sinatra was the biggest star in the world. He fell hard from that and was back playing very small singing gigs. Also, an actor his acting career was all but dead. He had to beg to audition for a part in the movie; From Here To Eternity.

He won the Academy Award for his role.

Just like that, he was a headliner again. Within a year, he was the biggest star on the planet again.

Remember if a person screwed you once they may do it again. They may not, but why chance it?

Sinatra never forgot those who were there when he was on top but deserted him when he hit bottom.

Keep the true nature of all your relationships on the down-low.

What many young people don’t understand about influence is this; let’s say you said nothing about Dan’s dismissal. If buddies with someone who did that puts you at risk.

It works another way also.

DC Comics has relationships with many of my Bad Boy Studio Mentor program alumni. Although DC wants nothing to do with me.

Almost to a person I’ve heard this from my former students; “Michael, would you mind if I did x for DC? “Or “Say the word Mike and I’m done with them.”

The ability to remove a revenue source from a company is real power. Why haven’t I done that?

I did.

Twice I killed a project that directly affected my house. It wasn’t revenge; it was business.

When I was a kid, I read The Fountainhead. I loved that book. Then I grew up. Now the book and its writer, in my opinion, are jokes.

I will admit the characters in the book are excellent as examples. Everyone wants to be Howard Roark, the novel’s hero, a brilliant architect of absolute integrity.

Not me.

I’m Ellsworth Toohey. Like Toohey, I’ve built an influential brand command a large part of (Black) content talent and distribution.

UPS Hilton Hotels and DC learned I’m a dangerous opponent AKA the wrong nigga* too fuck with.

As is Dan Didio.


*Writer’s notes yet again: The use of ‘nigga’ in this narrative means imposing dangerous and formidable. It’s a hip-hop term used in this manner, not a racial one.

THE INFLUENCE FACTOR:  Dan DiDio, Andrew Rev, & Studio 54 Philosophy

THE INFLUENCE FACTOR: Dan DiDio, Andrew Rev, & Studio 54 Philosophy

“NO Bridge or Tunnel people.”

Steve Rubell, owner, Studio 54

That meant if you were not from Manhattan, you had little chance of ever getting into what is now known as the world’s most famous nightclub.

Studio 54.

Back then and even now, only the very rich or very poor live on the isle of Manhattan. I’m neither, although I’ve been poor and have had a bit of wealth.

Wealth, in this case, being able to afford a Manhattan residence. That by no means is a declaration of endless Benjamin’s. The thing about being from no money when you get some, you either blow it (done that) lose it (done that) or finally learn to make it work for you.

If you’re wondering what the difference between losing it and blowing it is, you’re blowing it.

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