Category: Columns

John Ostrander: Should This Man Be Considered A Role Model?

“I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me.”

—Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1

Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is credited with writing strong female roles and espousing feminist ideals – but not by his ex-wife, Kai Cole, who on the blog The Wrap accused him of being a serial cheater during their marriage and was a “hypocrite preaching feminist ideals.” This has led to a number of (now ex) fans venting their anger and feelings of betrayal.

Is it true? I dunno. I don’t know Whedon and Cole personally. Could she be lying? Possibly. Could he be an asshole? Possibly. It’s not the point of this column, however. The question I want to consider is – should Whedon, or any artist or celebrity, be considered a role model?

A role model is someone who is held up as an example to be emulated. They can come from any walk of life; indeed, they don’t have to be living or real. Isn’t Superman a role model? Sherlock Holmes? Wonder Woman?

Barack Obama is a role model to many, although probably not to those who think of Donald Trump as a role model (shudder).

Charles Barkley once famously said, “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” He caught a lot of flak for that at the time but I tend to agree. The work can and must exist apart from its creator. Edgar Allan Poe was a drug addict. Picasso had multiple mistresses. Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, lived with both his wife and a lover in the same house. Bill Cosby was a role model and look at how that turned out.

Who should be role models? Parents, siblings, family, teachers – anyone who has a direct and actual effect on the child’s life.

I once had my character GrimJack shoot a character in the back, an act that offended some fans including some that were my friends. My defense was that I never said Gaunt was a role model. He wasn’t; he was an anti-hero from the get-go.

Who the creator is goes into the work but, if it has substance, the work can and must stand apart from the creator. The two ultimately must be judged separately.

As Barkley’s quote above suggests, many who are called role models never sought that job. Perhaps it just comes with the territory. Barkley, like others, made his name into a “brand”; he made the Nike commercial where he gave that quote because it was perceived that he had influence with the buying public. Perhaps being a role model is part of the price for the individual.

Maybe the complaint with Whedon is that he sought to be seen as a feminist. He gave a speech to a women’s rights group, Equality Now, on receiving an award from them, and in it he noted that reporters would ask him why he insisted on writing “strong female characters”. He would reply, “Why aren’t you asking a hundred other guys why they don’t write strong women characters? I believe that what I’m doing should not be remarked upon, let alone honored.”

Given how he treated his wife, does that make him a hypocrite? Or could he be sincere in his feelings even while he is cheating? Isn’t what he said still true? Does it have to be all one thing or the other? In characters that I write, I look for opposites because that’s where I find true character lies.

As I said, I don’t know Whedon or Ms. Cole personally. Based on what she has said, will I stop going to see his films or enjoy Buffy or Firefly? No. The work is the work and stands on its own.

Even if the creator is a SOB.

Marc Alan Fishman: “When Are You Going To Stop This?”

As I placed the final piece of the puzzle into the floppy copy of The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #4 (ironically it was an ad for ComicMix, what synergy!) a fleeting thought tripped me up. Throughout the production process of creating Curse, Unshaven Comics has faced one teeny-tiny nagging question from a few people very close to our hearts. This single question – phrased and rephrased in both passive-aggressive and totally-aggro ways has come to represent a choke point for me and my l’il studio.

“When are you going to stop this?”

For the sake of clarity? The question was posed to us by close family members – none of whom share room and board with us. All three Unshaven Lads are beyond lucky to have wives (and children) who are always fully in-support of our indie comic dreams; so long as we work hard to be good husbands and dads… which we are.

This gentle nag comes out of place of love mind you, and it bears some defense. Making comics, attending comic conventions, and running a small business takes time, energy, and money. Three things none of the Unshavenauts have a plethora of. And as girlfriends became wives became mothers of our children, all three resources continued to become even more important. Imagine leaving a frazzled new mother with a screaming infant while her pie-in-the-sky-publishing-father-of-the-doomspawn traipses across the country to go sell comics for just enough money to afford going to the next show. When you phrase it that way? Well, me and my brothers-from-other-mothers are downright villainous, aren’t we?

But we’re not villains.

The nagging question comes fully loaded with the bigger picture in mind; to what end did we envision all this comic bookery doing for us?

When we began… perhaps it was hubris and optimism that made me think it’d land us on the doorstep of a great publisher like Boom!, Avatar, Image, or Dark Horse. As issue 2 and 3 dropped, that dream shifted a bit towards even larger goals like licensing and multi-media expansion. When we launched our Kickstarter, the promise of a graphic novel brought with it this feeling of making a statement – that we had arrived, and soon Samurnauts would morph into a vehicle to break us away from our normal day jobs, and allow us to live the life we’d spitballed about during those lengthy drives across the country.

And those dreams, shared with our friends, family, and fans eventually came full circle. Here we are on the verge of actually collecting together the graphic novel (and finally fulfilling our promises to our now-rightfully-mad-as-hell backers), no longer hell-bent on stardom or fame. The journey has been the reward staring us back in the face all along. Money would be great; but a big break comes much like love does. Always be open to it and ready for it… but never demand it or expect it.

So…“When are you going to stop this?”

It’d be so easy to quit. While our nemesis enjoys the ending of his biographical comic by way of a now-viral-sensation and we see plenty of our compatriots releasing more material than we ever could in the same amount of time, I can’t lie – the not-so-secret jealousy of their good fortune (well-deserved as it is) makes it feel like perhaps we missed the boat on that next level we aspire to be at.

Like I said, it’d be easy to turn the lights off and walk away. A single graphic novel that represents the very best of what we built together, ultimately delivered to the fans we made along the way. It sounds great on paper, right?

As it stands, the Unshaven Lads have all taken on extra work to keep our home-lives comfortable. One of us moved a state away (yeah, it’s like two hours away from us, but that can feel like half a country some days). And our kids aren’t getting easier to keep a handle on. To spit in the wind triumphantly and declare “This is just the beginning!” Would feel like the prattling optimistic idiocy we blurted out to Mike Gold the very first time we met him. We’re older now. Wiser. Exhausted.

Forgive me now, as I ascend my last remaining soapbox. And I know I’m being a bit long-winded about all of this. But fuck all, I don’t care.

The Samurnauts to date has seen the toil, sweat, and tears of over a thousand hours to produce from stem to stern. We have sold over ten thousand copies of them from Chicago to New York… and this is before we release the final issue of the first series at the upcoming Dragon Con in Atlanta. Beyond delivering what we promised to our 125 backers, we owe thousands of people the conclusion to this first story. And damn it all, they will get it. And after the dust settles on the graphic novel production to come here in the forthcoming month (collecting 4 comics and bonus materials doesn’t just happen overnight), guess what?

We’re starting three more Samurnauts series. This doesn’t end. This will never end. The drive to create… the bond built over 20 years with my best friends who I would take a bullet for each… the bonds made with all our fellow creators sharing in the same experiences on the road… the smiles on the faces of random kids and adults who hear our pitch and buy our book. That’s a drug I refuse to ween myself off of.

“When are you going to stop this?”

Never. Samurnauts. Are. GO!

The Law Is A Ass #418: HELLCAT IS NOT HEDY’S PATSY

The Law Is A Ass #418: HELLCAT IS NOT HEDY’S PATSY

Childhood friends turned bitter enemies. Sounds like the stuff of soap operas, not to mention more than a few recent comic books. And so we have former childhood frenimies and comic book characters Patsy Walker and Hedy – not Hedley – Wolfe. Nowadays, when they think about their shared past it’s angst for the memories.

All because of Patsy’s mother. When Patsy was a teen, her mother, Dorothy Walker, exploited Patsy by writing a series of teen humor comic books starring Patsy and Hedy. Patsy was embarrassed by them, but her mother wouldn’t stop writing them. That caused a rift between Patsy and her mother. Of course, the fact that when Patsy’s mother was dying she tried to sell Patsy to the Devil so that Patsy would die instead of her probably didn’t help their mother-daughter relationship. It makes Joan Crawford’s hanger management issues look like Mother-of-the-Year stuff.

Dorothy and Patsy didn’t get along. Hedy, on the other hand visited Dorothy frequently and paid Dorothy’s hospital bills. So Dorothy asked Hedy to write up a contract granting Hedy all the rights to the Patsy and Hedy comic books, which Hedy did. Now Hedy is reprinting all those comics, much to the rekindled embarrassment of Patsy. And her re-Nooked embarrassment, too.

Patsy, who is also the super heroine Hellcat, hired Jennifer Walters, attorney-at-law when she’s not being the super heroine She-Hulk, to represent her against Hedy and recover the rights to the comic books. Jennifer, in turn, hired former super heroine and now owner/operator of the Alias Detective Agency, Jessica Jones to investigate the case. (Hellcat? She-Hulk? Jessica Jones? I think this book has a heroine addiction.)

Jessica’s investigations led her to believe that a dresser Hedy had in her living room deserved to be checked out. So in Patsy Walker, A.K.A. HELLCAT! # 7, Jessica and Hellcat broke into Hedy’s apartment and found Dorothy’s medical records in the dresser.

Jessica took a picture of the records and texted it to Jennifer. From those records Jennifer learned that when Dorothy signed the contract with Hedy, Dorothy was on a heavy morphine drip and mentally incapacitated. How incapacitated? Well, let’s just say she tried to sell her own daughter to a demon so she was like a mint tablet that couldn’t be turned into fertilizer; non-compost Mentos.

Because Dorothy’s morphine drip prevented her from having the mental capacity to form a contract, her contract with Hedy was null and void. A contract is a meeting of the minds and you can’t have a meeting of the minds when one of the minds isn’t there because it isn’t all there.

That was Jennifer’s legal argument, anyway. Hedy’s counter argument was that the evidence was obtained illegally so wasn’t admissible. As this is Patsy’s comic book, guess which argument won. If you guessed Patsy, then you won.

Evidence that’s obtained illegally is perfectly admissible in court. Iago famously said, “He who steals my purse steals trash,” but if they were prosecuting Othello for stealing said purse, do you think they’d introduce trash as evidence or the purse? Evidence that was illegally obtained by theft is admissible in theft prosecutions. So, yes, evidence that is obtained illegally is admissible.

Okay, our case isn’t a theft case, it’s a civil suit over contract and copyright issues. And my stolen property argument is a more of a straw man than Ray Bolger. The question is, if someone in a civil trial obtains evidence illegally and gives it to one of the lawyers, can that lawyer use the evidence in the case?

The general rule is that if the lawyer wasn’t involved in obtaining the evidence and didn’t know how it was obtained, the lawyer can introduce it. The story clearly established that Jennifer had no idea what Patsy and Jessica were doing. So in most cases, Jennifer would have been able to introduce the evidence against Hedy even though it was obtained illegally.

There is, however, a wrinkle to the general rule that would have some bearing on admissibility in this case. Jennifer hired the Alias Detective Agency to obtain evidence in the case, so there are agency problems.

No, not problems with the Alias Detective Agency, problems with the fact that Jessica was Jennifer’s agent. When Jessica and Patsy broke into Hedy’s home, they were acting on the behalf of Jennifer. The fact that Jennifer didn’t order them to do this doesn’t matter, they were still acting as Jennifer’s agents because she had hired Jessica to obtain evidence in the case.

Under agency law Jessica’s illegal act can be imputed back to Jennifer and make it as if Jennifer, herself, broken into Hedy’s apartment. If Jessica’s illegal act were to be imputed back to Jennifer, then Jennifer wouldn’t be able to admit the evidence.

Don’t think that settles the matter, though. We need to break out the starch, because there is a wrinkle to this wrinkle. Jessica and Patsy didn’t actually take the hospital bills, they just photographed them. So they didn’t obtain any evidence illegally, they only found evidence illegally. The evidence was obtainable through perfectly legal avenues. All Jennifer had to do was have Patsy, Dorothy’s next-of-kin, request Dorothy’s records from the hospital. After the hospital supplied the records, Jennifer would have obtained the evidence legally and it would probably have been admissible. When Jessica pointed this out, Hedy made like the Carlsbad Caverns and caved.

The fact that Jennifer needed Jessica to find this evidence in the first place makes me wonder how good of a lawyer Jennifer is. If I had a client who wanted to void a contract signed by a mother who was in the hospital and dying, the second thing I would have done was have the client request the mother’s medical records to see whether the mother was on any mentally-incapacitating drugs. The first thing I would have done is make sure the client’s check cleared.

Still, all’s well that ends well. One page and three days (according to a caption) later, Hedy settled out of court and surrendered all the rights to the comics back to Patsy and the Patsy-Hedy childhood rivalry story finally ended. And it was about time, if you want my fr-angst opinion.

Martha Thomases: “If You Have A Message…”

Martha Thomases: “If You Have A Message…”

The events of the last several weeks, while horrible, raise several issues that affect us not only as citizens, but as creative people and fans of the popular arts.

How do we respond to racism and other forms of bigotry in our government. Do we cooperate and try to change the minds of the people in power? Do we quit and make a statement? Do we resist? Do we perform non-violent acts of civil disobedience and fill the jails?

In my life, I’ve advocated (and disagreed with) all of these things. Different times in my life, different circumstances, different perspectives. Therefore, I hesitate to call out people who make different choices than I do, as long as we share the goals of a fair and just, egalitarian, non-hateful non-violent society.

When the artists who were chosen for the Kennedy Center honors refused to attend a White House celebration hosted by a president they considered immoral, I was pleased. I was even more pleased to see the result of their resistance.

And I was also delighted by the clever way in which the Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned, with a hidden message for people who love puzzles.

Should people in the arts resist? Should we try to change people’s minds with art? Should we use art to share our points of view in the hopes of understanding each other?

Absolutely.

My mom’s favorite author as a child was E. Nesbit, and she turned me on to those books as soon as my reading level allowed. I loved the fantasy, but I also loved the insight into the lives of children like myself, but also not like myself. Nesbit was a Fabian Socialist, but none of her characters or their struggles pit the proletariat against the capitalists.

Later on, a librarian gave me A Wrinkle in Time, with a heroine as committed to social justice and compassion for all people as I wanted to be.

Neither of those authors was marketed as political propagandists. Both heavily influenced my political development.

(Also, decades later, reading a dedication to Nesbit in the front of The Books of Magic started my friendship with Neil Gaiman.)

We watched a fair amount of television in my house, all gathering around our only set on Sunday nights to watch Ed Sullivan. Even before the Beatles, I loved the show because of the stand-up comics. Often New York Jews, they sounded like my relatives, only smarter. And then there were guys like Dick Gregory, who didn’t start out political (at least to my child’s ears at the time) and then became radicalized and inspired me for the rest of my life. I will miss him and his Twitter feed.

In comics, I was knocked out by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’s brilliant Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories, which, unfortunately, are still much too relevant.

Not everyone reading this will share my passion for these stories and story-tellers. Some of them will quote Moss Hart and say, “If you have a message, call Western Union.” That’s an easy way to dismiss work you don’t like, or that makes you uncomfortable.

ComicMix is sending a message this fall, with Mine! A Comics Collection to Benefit Planned Parenthood. I’m really excited about this project. Not only do I have a story in it, illustrated by the brilliant Bob Camp, but the book shows how committed our community is to making healthcare available to all.

Looking around the Internet, I notice some people complaining about our book and Planned Parenthood, with the usual lies and distortions about the services it provides. I don’t know where they get their information, but I know this much is true: Planned Parenthood is often the only place where people of all ages and genders can get cancer screenings, STD tests and treatments. Especially in rural communities, there might be no place else to get a PAP test or a mammogram. It might be the only place to get pre-natal care.

If you haven’t pledged already, please consider donating whatever you can afford. We have some really cool stuff for perks, and the book looks to be awesome. I’m sure a first edition is a terrific investment.

Dennis O’Neil: Team-Ups!

So it’s a ball boiler inside the Manhattan office building because although I’m pretty sure air conditioning existed it did not become ubiquitous until after the war that the good ol’ US of A was sliding into. What we’re looking at is an open window on an upper floor and somehow (are we pigeons?) we get inside and behold! Three middle-aged men, suit jackets draped over chairs, ties loosened, discussing the comic books they edit. They have had solid successes with characters a couple of young guys named Bill Everett and Carl Burgos brought in. The topic under discussion: more! More of Burgos’s Human Torch, of Everett’s Sub-Mariner: and yes, of course, more profits, and maybe this year’s Christmas bonus will be worth more than a subway token. Then one of the three (wise men?) has The Idea: Combine ‘em! Put them in the same issue…no, put ‘em in the same story.

And so they did, and a few months later your grandpa (great grandpa?) was sitting on a porch swing with his best gal reading about the meeting of Subby and The Torch, and being scolded by Best Gal for wasting time and money on those stupid funny books! (Okay, skeptics, can you prove that this stuff didn’t happen? Go ahead, Mr. Philosophy Dude, let’s see you prove a negative.)

Whatever the particulars, regardless of what did or did not actually occur, the Torch-Sub-Mariner stories went on sale and the few readable copies left are very early examples of what would later be a comic book staple, the team-up.

And then, the passing of years and The Justice Society of America, the Marvel Family, and a plethora of other costumed teams, until the arrival of the X-Men just abut the time when comics as a whole were getting a mighty, second wind and emerging from a decade-long obscurity, victims of the Eisenhower era witch hunts.

Comics were back!

And movies were following the trail they blazed. After a few single-hero flicks, the movies found the X-Men and a billion dollar franchise was born. Hold it! – not exactly born: rather, evolved from earlier existence as comic book characters. Fortunes were, and are, being made. More of them to come.

And the fossil who goes by my name can kick back and realize that the Netflix video enterprise, a first cousin to the movies mentioned above, is a super-group comprised entirely of character I’ve worked on. Yep, The Defenders, starring Iron Fist and Power Man, who were partners in their comic book home, and Daredevil and Patsy Walker.

Who?

Patsy made the giant leap from comics about post-teens to grim superheroic private eye Jessica Jones. Patsy’s light and bright escapades were closely related to other Marvel stuff like Millie the Model and if you didn’t know that, well, now you do.

As of this writing, I’ve only seen two of the Defenders programs and so have not earned the right to have an opinion about the whole series.

Catch me next week. Maybe by then I’ll have earned the aforementioned figured out the subject of the preceding 517 words.

Mike Gold: Jack Kirby’s Moxie

Next Monday marks the 100th anniversary of Jack Kirby’s birth. For one horrible moment, let us consider the following question: what if that birth never happened?

No Captain America. No Fourth World. Probably no romance comics. No Challengers of the Unknown. No Kamandi. No “Marvel Age of Comics.”

Think about that last one for a moment. The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Hulk, Nick Fury, Thor, Silver Surfer, Black Panther… most likely, they would not have existed; certainly not as the astonishing successes they were.

I will avoid suggesting the American comic book medium would have disappeared decades ago if not for Jack Kirby, although a case could be made for that argument. If Marvel Comics didn’t happen the way it happened, it’s possible that direct sales to comic book stores would not have happened, and that little phenomenon certainly has kept this racket alive.

Nobody put more power, more energy, more excitement onto a single page. Even when he dialogued his own work when he created the Fourth World for DC Comics – and, to be fair, his dialogue was damn close to self-parody – his story, his concepts and his ability to deliver sheer entertainment were so strong the reader would forgive his few shortcomings. In fact, after a couple panels, we usually didn’t notice.

From time to time, artists of subsequent generations would be accused of being too “Kirby-esque.” Well, all artists (including writers, musicians, filmmakers, etc.) tend to reveal their influences, particularly in their early stuff. In comics, there always has been a fine line between influence and imitation. And that applies to Jack himself: the visage of Etrigan the Demon, first published in 1972, bears very close resemblance to a mask worn by Prince Valiant on Christmas Day 1937, drawn by the great Hal Foster. And Jack always was upfront about the source material.

I look at this “influence” thing a bit differently. Instead of accusing an artist of being Kirby-esque, I wonder why some of the others are not. In the early days of their careers, a little Jack Kirby moxie would have helped guide them to their own distinctive abilities.

Sometimes I wonder if some later generation of comics talent will not know of Jack Kirby’s work. I have met many a young’un who was sadly unfamiliar with the work of Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Wally Wood, Jack Cole… to name but a few.

I need not worry. If there is one person who has an indelible legacy in the comic art medium, it is Jack Kirby.

•     •     •     •     •

Plug number one: I will be at Wizard World Chicago starting tomorrow, and I will be on two panels: one discussing the bombastic Doctor Who convention of 1982, the first major big-time Who show in the States. For three hot, sweaty days Chicago’s Congress Hotel looked like the San Diego Convention Center on steroids. The other panel will be a tribute to legendary artist Jerry Robinson, on occasion of the publishing of Jerry’s last memoir, Jerry and The Joker. Both panels are on Saturday.

 •     •     •     •     • 

Plug number two: Martha Thomases said it best last Friday, and since I’m about to drive off to the above-mentioned convention I shall re-appropriate her words:

Just a reminder: If you haven’t already, get thee to this Kickstarter page and pledge some money for Mine! the anthology book ComicMix is producing to benefit Planned Parenthood. You might not know it from the Fake News Media, but Planned Parenthood provides necessary health care to millions of people of all ages and genders. In some communities, it is the only place where women can receive pre-natal and post-natal care. In some communities, it is the only place where poor women can get vital cancer screenings. In some communities, it is the only health clinic available, for women and men.

You might also want to pledge so you can get a cool book, with stories by Neil Gaiman, Trina Robbins, Rachel Pollack, Becky Cloonan, Stuart Moore, Mark Said, Amber Benson, Louise Simonson, Jody Houser… and Mike Gold… and Martha Thomases!

Joe Corallo: Still Mine!ing


This column going up marks the first full week of our Kickstarter campaign for Mine!, our comics anthology to benefit Planned Parenthood. As of this typing, we’re 44% funded. Not bad for one week.

And a busy week at that. It’s been all hands on deck over at ComicMix and Molly Jackson and I have spent time together than we’d care to discuss. It’s a wild ride, and we still have a few weeks to go.

One of our stops on said wild ride was Flame Con. I’ve been going since the first one in 2015 and have tabled at the past two. This year Molly printed out a lot of fliers, brought recording equipment, signs, and coffee. That last part may have been the most important.

Pat and Amy Shand

We had quite a few of our Mine! contributors at the con including Sina Grace, Justin Hall, Marc Andreyko, Pat Shand, Amy Shand, Mags Visaggio, Aria Baci, Alexa Cassaro, Stevie Wilson, Robby Barrett, Rosalarian, Tee Franklin and Fabian Lelay. Molly took some great pictures with everyone, got fliers to their tables, talked us up at panels, and more. We were also approached by people about potential venues for book release parties and signings. One of the people that approached us about that was our contributor Andrea Shockling, who is illustrating ComicMix own Mindy Newell’s story. It was wonderful to get to see so many friends and meet contributors that I hadn’t previously gotten the honor of doing so.

Flame Con, as always, is a positive experience for me. I’ve tabled both years with Robby Barrett and he always does well with his prints. Steven Universe and Pokémon are both still real popular at this convention.

I realized that one of the things about Flame Con I like so much is they don’t have a lot in terms of people looking to flip comics, or those guys with the short boxes on a cart that try to get creators to sign entire long runs or comics they’ve done. Part of that is because they don’t have a lot of people selling back issues and another part is because they don’t have too many legacy creators you could do that with, but it’s still nice. I hope it stays that way as long as it can.

Okay, I know this is short and I didn’t really get into much, but working on this Kickstarter is time-consuming and I have to get right back to that. Thank you so much to everyone that’s pledged and spread the word so far. Keep spreading the word about the Mine! Kickstarter and I’ll be back next week to complain more about how tired I am.

Mindy Newell: The Fox Is In The White House

“Use of the term ‘alt-left’ gained ground quickly online (according to Google Trends charts) when conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity used the term in debate with BuzzFeed writer Rosie Gray over media coverage of the so-called alt-right’. Searches for the term spiked again directly after Trump used it in his 14 August 2017 press conference. It is unclear if Hannity himself coined the term, but we could not find widespread use of the term on Reddit or 4chan, a web form popular with the

‘alt-right,’ prior to his 22 November 2016 use of it.” – Alex Kasprak & Kim LaCapria,

Snopes.com, August 17, 2017

Alt-left?

Is that a keyboard command?

What it is, is a load of horse manure. Crap. Same as anything else that comes out of the mouthpiece of Il Tweetci The Mad known as Sean Hannity. He is the modern-day version of Joseph Goebbels, head of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, the modern-day version of which is Fox News.

I sometimes wonder how many of those who work at the “fair and balanced” network – the bile rises in my throat as I type that – really believe what they spew, or are they just in it for the paycheck? I mean, why did it take so long for Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, Greta Van Susteren, Julie Roginsky, Michelle Fields, Andrea Tantaros and others to come forward about Fox being the personal harems of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly?

Even Chris Wallace – of whom Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post said, after the third and final Presidential debate in October 2016, which Wallace moderated: “No one could watch the final debate and deny that Chris Wallace is among the best in the business.” – said, “it’s not my job” to fact-check candidates, but that it was the job of the opposing candidate. Really, Mr. Wallace? Given up journalism, have you? For a nice, fat paycheck and a steady gig on Fox on Sunday mornings?

Is there anyone at Fox with even an iota of integrity and self-respect?

After Charlottesville and on Saturday after Boston, I was switching between MSNBC, CNN, and Fox – because I was curious as to how the last was reporting it – which left me to wonder if those who work at Fox are given a manual of essays and quotes by Goebbels as part of their orientation packet:

  • If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.
  • Arguments must, therefore, be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect. Truth was [sic] unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology.
  • Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.
  • This is the secret of propaganda: Those who are to be persuaded by it should be completely immersed in the ideas of the propaganda, without ever noticing that they are being immersed in it.
  • The rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitive. In the long run, basic results in influencing public opinion will be achieved only by the man who is able to reduce problems to the simplest terms and who has the courage to keep forever repeating them in this simplified form, despite the objections of the intellectuals.
  • What you want in a media system is ostensible diversity that conceals an actual uniformity.
  • Not every item of news should be published. Rather must those who control news policies endeavor to make every item of news serve a certain purpose.

It’s not just Russia or Steve Bannon and his crew, folks.

The Fox is in the henhouse White House.

 

Ed Catto: It’s A Bat, Bat, Bat, Bat, Bat World

I’m a big fan of Batman. Always have been. Just this past weekend my wonderful Great Aunt Margaret reminded me that I proudly wore a bat-cape as a young boy. Don’t worry, I think I outgrew that by the time I was 22. These days, I let my Batman fan-ness show through with things like my Bat-article in this year’s Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, which focuses on the top Legend of the Dark Knight Batman stories. Jim Steranko provided a gorgeous Batman cover, so it’s a great honor.

But as my interest in comics has broadened, the focus on Batman, per se, has been pushed aside. There are plenty of fans to take my place. Batman attracts a lot of fans. It’s fine by me if it’s time for other fans to step up to the forefront. And it’s just as well. So many of today’s Batman stories, like the Christian Bale Batman movies or Playstation’s Arkham Asylum mythology, just aren’t my cup of tea.

And I know that at some point, there will be a special comic debuting or a reprint published that appeals to my vision of Batman. Recently I was surprised. I ended up having real Batman day.

This particular day started with catching a bit of HBO’s documentary, Starring Adam West. It showcases the actor, as you probably guessed. I only saw 20 minutes in the middle (I’d like to see more later) but there seems to be a healthy focus on Adam West’s role as Batman. The part I saw showed how he was invited to a Texas town and was honored as TV’s Batman.

There was a bit where someone announces him as the first Batman. Adam interrupts to correct him. The announcer adjusts and then refers to him as “the second Batman.” Many longtime fans, like those who read this column, know that two other actors starred as Batman in movie serials and three others voiced Batman in the long-running The Adventures of Superman radio show. It’s obvious that Adam knew that too. Instead of delivering a history lesson, Adam just offers the phrase “the Classic Batman” to the interviewer as a compromise. He’s clever and gracious, as he was throughout the documentary.

Later that very same day, the newest direct-to-DVD animated feature from Warner Bros. was scheduled for a special showing in movie theaters across America. It was one of those Fathom Events where they show something special in a movie theater on a slow movie night – usually a Monday or a Tuesday. My talented friends in the New York Metropolitan Opera, Gloria and Dana Watson, tell me that these Fathom showings have greatly expanded the Met’s audiences.

This animated adventure, Batman and Harley Quinn, heralds the return of creator Bruce Timm. It revisits the Bat-version of Batman: The Animated Series. This Emmy-award winning series has been celebrating its 25 anniversary this year. The recent San Diego Comic-Con found many opportunities to celebrate this ground-breathing series, with panels the famous souvenir book, and even debuting this animated feature.

While my Batman ’66 memories are firmly rooted in my childhood, Batman: The Animated Series reminds me of a totally different time in my life. For me, it’s more of a “young dad” thing. I clearly remember watching the debut episode one Saturday morning with my daughter Cassie. She was always a good sport, putting up with her crazy dad’s interests. I tried to tell her how the female characters from that first episode (Catwoman and Red Claw) were just like Disney heroines, but she was smart enough –even then – not to buy it. But she’d sit with me and we enjoyed so many episodes together.

I’m not sure if I am really a Harley Quinn fan. I’ve been pruning my comic collection and it was pretty easy to part with many Harley comics. But Batman and Harley Quinn offers a nuanced view of the character. Sure, she’s a nut, but this “episode” takes time to show many sides of the character. She can be sympathetic, clever, manipulative, annoying, frustrated and a showboat. And somehow, all these various aspects mix together to create a believable character.

The vocal talents shine in this feature. Kevin Conroy, for many the ‘real’ voice of Batman, is familiar but offers a few surprises along the way. Notable is Paget Brewster. You know her from her many TV appearances, and she brings something new to the villainous Poison Ivy.

It was kick to watch Batman in a theater with a bunch of fans. Batman & Harley Quinn offers plenty of insider jokes to long time Batman and DC fans, and we all laughed together.

Usually, I dive into select comics for my Batman fix. But It was a surprisingly enjoyable day to spend a little time with an old buddy: starting with the HBO documentary and then watching a cartoon… on a big screen. What a year for Geek Culture and Batman fans.

 

John Ostrander Loses It

Twenty years ago this month saw the publication of the first issue of my twelve issue historical western, The Kents (which has since been gathered into a TPB and is on sale at Amazon, among other places; end of plug). The book chronicles how the ancestors of Clark Kent’s adoptive family came to live in Kansas and was set before, during, and after the Civil War.

Of all my work, this is one thing of which I’m exceptionally proud. I did a great deal of research for the project and while by no means a history per se, it has a great deal of history in it.

One of the goals I set for myself was to try to convey to the reader how the characters, the people, of that time felt about the events that engulfed them. We, of course, know how that conflict resolved itself but they did not. Was the nation going to tear itself apart? How many more would die? If I was a soldier, would I die or be wounded or maimed? Would my loved one live or die?

The same uncertainties apply to other conflicts, such as WWI and II, Korea and Vietnam. I recently saw the movie Dunkirk (which I found to be harrowing and brilliant) and, if you know anything about that story, you know how it winds up. However, what the movie makes so plain is that no one actually involved at the time had any real idea of how it would be resolved. If anything, they expected the British and French troops gathered at Dunkirk would be annihilated or captured.

Nobody today knows how our story will end. Over the past days / weeks / months of the Trump presidency, we’ve seen the country roil like a broken thing. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m 68 years old and I’ve never seen anything like it. I doubt not only the competence of the most powerful man in the world but his sanity. He lashes out not only at perceived enemies but at the very institutions that power our democracy.

All of us are in the middle of this story and we do not know how it will end. Do we all understand that it does not have to end well? Our country, our way of governing, is an experiment that could still fail. There is no reason that it has to survive. Every great country or civilization has fallen. Every single one. Some aspect of what they were may continue but the main substance collapses. There are those both within and without our borders who would see us ripped apart. And we appear to be doing it. Our survival is not a given and no one should assume it is.

How will our story be written, a hundred years from now? Will it be a story of triumph and, if so, whose triumph? Or will it be a story of tragedy and a fall from grace? Who will write that story?

Abraham Lincoln, in his famed Gettysburg Address, said, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated {to liberty}, can long endure.” That’s as true today as it was then.

Any bets?