Category: Columns

Dennis O’Neil: Browsing Around

I’m guessing that comics began edging into my toddling into our flat when I was somewhere just north of infancy: five, six, somewhere in there. Paperbacks, though – different story. The first modern paperbacks weren’t published until 1935, just four years before I burst, noisily, into my parents’ existence. So, the publishing venue and I arrived at approximately the same time and we’ve both been around ever since. Mass market comics, the kind that printed original material, joined the party in 1938, a year before I did and lo and behold, there we are, comics, paperbacks and me, all growing old together.

Later, after I’d moved to a metropolis that hosted a relatively large number of bookstores, I would browse: enter the shop and just patrol the aisles, maybe lingering a bit in the science fiction and detective sections. (There were no comics sold in regular book stores – not yet. And the comic shops, the kind we know and love, we as yet unborn.) Sometimes I would even – o thrill! – buy something.

Then: something new, a new place for browsing – video stores. I’d been aware of them, these new browsing sites, pretty early on, I guess. I lived in a hip neighborhood and the nearest video renter gave discounts to writers and artists and if you think that Scrooge O’Neil would ever pass up that kind of sweet deal, well… Then a friend introduced me to some really big video places in Brooklyn – I’m taking seriously bigand there I was again, on the browsing trail.

End of story?

You know better than that!

We weren’t done with browsing, we children of the war, but our technique evolved. We began to do it, some of it anyway, with no wear and tear on our sneakers. Oh, don’t put it past me to half-kneel and check the titles on the lower shelves, but these days I’m more likely to have entered the store in search of the coffee counter than to buy books, which are more likely to arrive via electronics. So, yeah, we shop from the couch, in front of a computer screen like the one you’re looking at.

All done?

Not yet. One more venue should be acknowledged. It does not allow you to own something you want, it allows you to rent movies and television shows and maybe sports. It dwells somewhere in the vast cosmos of television land and I reach it by using something called a Firestick, though you may employ another modern miracle to do the job. And after Mari retires for the night, I sometimes sink into the couch and, yes, browse the hundreds of entertainment and information listings Firestick makes available.

Maybe next week we’ll say something about the content of those listings. No promises, though.

Mike Gold: Mutt & Jeff & Marcia & Me

Do you remember the name of the first comic book you ever experienced? I do. It was a copy of DC Comics’ Mutt and Jeff, one of the very first daily newspaper comic strips and purportedly the first to be anthologized in what we today consider the comic book format. It was made as a subscription inducement giveaway.

This happened to me sometime around late 1953 or early 1954, when I was three years old. Okay, I was precocious (a synonym for “obnoxious”) but hardly anybody was that precocious. No, the comic book was read to me by my sister. Being almost seven years older, and much to her understandable chagrin, she was pressed into service as my babysitter. That certainly pegs her as precocious as well.

Marcia picked up a comic book from her stack, Mutt & Jeff #34, March 1952, and proceeded to read it to me. My sister had taste: that issue sported a cover by the legendary Shelly Mayer. Being only slightly out of toddlerhood, I learned how to recognize the shapes of the word “Mutt” and the word “Jeff.” DC ran the daily strips in two-page spreads, each one carrying the “Mutt and Jeff” logo. Page after page of them.

Proud of my achievement, I pointed to each logo and shouted, “Mutt and Jeff” over and over and over. For some reason, my sister/babysitter did not murder me on the spot.

What Marcia couldn’t have known at the time was that she had opened Pandora’s Box.

That initial experience led me to discover the comics in the newspapers, and over the next two years, those comic strips taught me how to read. This is actually quite bizarre as our paper of choice carried Pogo, Li’l Abner and Abbie ‘n’ Slats, and they didn’t quite speak English, at least not as we spoke it in the Midwest.

The newspaper strips led to my discovering comic books on my own – initially by finding Marcia’s own four-color stash, later by coercing my parents to buy me a comic book or two at the neighborhood drug store.

Of course, my love of comics led to many friendships and, ultimately, to comics fandom. A piece in the paper led me to fanzines, which led me to the conventions and then to advising comic shop retailers and organizing comic book conventions, and then to the first of two tenures at DC Comics, the co-creation of First Comics with Rick Obadiah … and to ComicMix with Glenn Hauman. With a whole lotta other stuff thrown in; allow me some modesty, okay?

Last weekend, I left the Chicago Wizard World show a day early to go to Detroit. Marcia Judith Gold Bashara had died at the age of 73, due to heart problems. I was fortunate enough to see her one last time on my way to the convention, spending a day with Marcia, her husband and my friend of 53 years Salem, and my wonderful nieces Heidi and Cheri.

Yeah, it’s really tough to type these words.

I used to tell people – usually, people writing articles about comics – that we comics people who were born during the baby boom and Fred Wertham’s anti-comics crusade decided to get into the racket as revenge for our parents’ tossing out our comics sometime in the mid-1960s.

And there’s some truth to that, but if not for my sister Marcia’s sharing her enjoyment of the comic book medium, I might not have had any comic books for my parents to toss.

For the record: about 15 years ago, I returned the favor by introducing Marcia to Will Eisner’s graphic novels. She absolutely loved them.

•     •     •     •     •

A tip of the hat to the many, many people who consoled me at Wizard World and to my fellow ComicMixers who helped pick up my load. And, most of all, to Maggie Thompson for consistently being there with her advice, her intelligence, her wit, and her charm. Which actually means “to Maggie Thompson for being Maggie Thompson.”

 

 

 

 

Box Office Democracy: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

From

I have to imagine production of The Hitman’s Bodyguard started with director Patrick Hughes gathering the whole cast together and giving them some kind of speech along the lines of “Look, we all know this script is a piece of garbage but if we pull together we can elevate it way past tolerable” and then there was some big cheer and they ran out to the set like a sports movie.  It’s a laughable script that doesn’t hold together under the smallest bit of scrutiny, but the cast absolutely crushes it.  It’s the best bad movie I’ve seen all year and I don’t mean that as faint praise.  The world is full of people doing average work with average material but seeing fantastic work come from a wretched foundation is something special.  This is a diamond found in a coal mine.

The chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson is basically driving the whole movie.  We’re getting a Deadpool-lite version of Reynolds thick with meta commentary on the events of the movie and sort of action movie in general.  This plays well with the standard action-comedy version of Jackson we’ve been seeing since Die Hard with a Vengeance.  This interplay drives the whole movie dragging a murky nonsensical plot and a seemingly endless numbers of big pauses for jokes that just aren’t that funny.  Everything that’s Reynolds and Jackson bickering is great, every scene that has Selma Hayek in it is good, everything else is pretty bad.

The action in the movie is good enough, but it feels more like a greatest hits compilation than any kind of new composition.  The best sequence in the film is one where Jackson is walking through a Dutch square seemingly oblivious to potential attackers while Reynolds stealthily takes them down.  It’s a good sequence but it feels an awful lot like a knock-off of the Waterloo Station sequence in The Bourne Supremacy and while it’s 10 years later feels a bit slower.  There’s also a reasonably thrilling chase through a canal with Jackson in a boat being chased by bad guys in SUVs while Reynolds on a motorcycle harasses them.  It’s a nice idea salad mixing bits from a number of other movies.  Maybe greatest hits is too reductive, more like a remix of some old favorites, you ought bop your head a few times but odds are you’ll go back to the original.

Most of the story of The Hitman’s Bodyguard is just low-level stupid.  You know, stuff like trial scenes that were written by someone who has only experienced the legal system from their drunk friend describing Law & Order episodes to them.  But then toward the end they try to pretend like there’s some big moral quandary between a life spent protecting terrible people versus a life of killing bad people for money.  For one, I don’t believe that you can make a great living as a contract killer just sitting around and waiting for bad people to need killing that badly.  Also, people who decide to hire assassins to deal with their problems aren’t people who are on the highest of high grounds to start with.  It’s not an interesting moral quandary, and it directly detracts from the stuff that’s actually entertaining in the movie.  Wikipedia says that when this script was named to The Black List it was a drama— maybe this is an artifact from those days, but it has no place in this movie. (I also can’t imagine this was a better movie as a drama.  I’m bored just thinking about it.)

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is good because you get to see Deadpool interact with Nick Fury.  They had to file off all the serial numbers, superpowers, and sci-fi gadgets— but that’s what it is.  We’ll never get the actual pairing because of all the various rights headaches (and honestly, what would need to be happening in the MCU for it to even happen) but we can get it here stitched on to a wretched story about the trial of a dictator who commands an army of mercenaries while imprisoned at The Hague.  Come for the cast, stay for the cast, leave with a smile on your face, pick it on Netflix 18 months from now, never think about it after that.

I Spidey

Before we move on to my regularly scheduled column, I have to plug the Kickstarter going for a ComicMix comics collection running through September 15th. It’s got a lot of great talent like Neil Gaiman, Gabby Rivera and Gerard Way. Check it out!

Now that that’s out of the way, let me get back to my hot takes on the comics biz.

Last month I wrote about Spider-Man: Homecoming and how I wish they had more comics the reflected that interpretation of the character. There isn’t really a comic they put out recently that does, but I heard Spidey is kind of close so I picked up the first trade.

Spidey originally hit the stands back December of 2015 at #25 on the sales charts equating to 65,503 copies sold. The idea was to do an out of continuity Spider-Man that went back to basics; Peter Parker is back in high school, he’s back to crushing on Gwen Stacy, he’s back to taking pictures of Spider-Man for JJ, Aunt May is back to struggling to pay her bills, the bad guys aren’t quite as deadly serious, the book is more light-hearted and the stakes are lowered.

The series is written by Robbie Thompson and the first three issues are illustrated by Nick Bradshaw with Jim Campbell and Rachelle Rosenberg coloring. In the first three issues we have run ins with Doc Ock, Sandman, and Lizard. All three of them are doing what you normally expect them to do; Doc Ock is trying to steal technology, Sandman is trying to rob banks, and Lizard is trying to make more lizard people. While it’s all pretty goofy and at least somewhat self aware, Nick’s art is very sleek and his heavy inks with Jim and Rachelle’s colors really make the pages pop. It feels like Saturday morning cartoon quality work. Some of the characters could look a little more different from each other as I felt his Peter Parker and Harry Osborn look too similar, but I also acknowledge that’s a bit overly critical.

After issue three, the series takes a bit of a turn.

Nick Bradshaw has a very distinct style. Once he leaves after issue three, the rest of this trade is illustrated by Andre Lima Araujo. Andre’s style is drastically different from Nick’s. Gone are the heavy inks and Saturday morning cartoon look. In its place are very thin line inks, and the kind of art you may expect in a Top Shelf or Pantheon type graphic novel. Facial expressions and other little details like sweat are more prominent. The teenage angst and awkwardness spills out of the pages more, but the tone is so different from this art style that it’s jarring. On top of all that, in issue six Iron Man teams up with Spider-Man to stop Vulture from stealing things and it felt like such a push to do something that might tie in somewhat to Spider-Man: Homecoming that it immediately sucked me out of the story.

The most disappointing thing about reading Spidey after seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming is seeing how few liberties they take with a comic that isn’t in continuity. They don’t really change up the characters too much, everyone is still white who was white, all the characters are back doing exactly what you already know they do. What’s the point in taking another shot at retelling the early years of Spider-Man if you’re just going to give me everything we already knew and how we already knew it? This is likely at least part of why the series ends at issue twelve, making it only two volumes on trade paperback.

Overall, Spidey Vol. 1 was fun, had a few exceptional moments, but overall fell a bit flat. If you absolutely need more simple Spider-Man stories, you absolutely should pick this up. Or if you have a child in your life around ages 8-12 this is probably the most appropriate Spider-Man title for them to read. Spidey also gets bonus points for not having parallel universes, time travelling, and clones. Especially for not having clones.

It feels good to write about comics I’m reading again. So good even, I may just do it again next week!

Ed Catto: Happy Birthday, Jack!

Jack Kirby would’a been 100 today! The best part about it all is that the world can take a break to smile and to be astonished at this man’s incredible imagination and talent.

As you probably know, Jack Kirby was a tough, scrappy kid from the tough, scrappy part of New York City that grew up to be a very important comic artist. Kirby was a guy who made countless contributions and created a phenomenal number of characters and even launched a few genres. He was also a veteran of WWII and a family man.

But as a big comics fan, I almost loathed his work! But my entry point to Jack Kirby, where I really first noticed the man’s work, was with an image that was SO hideous and SO disgusting that I was worried I’d have nightmares forever.

Here’s what happened. As a very young boy, my Dad bought me an issue of DC’s The Demon. My (very generous) Dad would let me chose one comic every Sunday after feasting on our Sunday dinner at my grandmother’s house. The Demon was not one of the usual comics I was reading at that time, but the cover must have grabbed me and I selected it that week.

When I read it, I was absolutely horrified by one particular full page image. It depicted a character who’s face was horribly disfigured. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was sort of an homage to a scene in the classic Phantom of the Opera movie.

The character screams, “My face! It took my face! Look!” And as a nine-year old, I had to look. I couldn’t not look. It was the most horrible thing I had ever seen.

I was just starting to read the creator credits on comics at that time. I thought: “This Kirby guy is awful!” I realized – then and there – that I should always avoid Jack Kirby comics.

Not long after that, as Kirby was returning to Marvel Comics after several years working for the publishing competition, I was perplexed by the titles he was creating.  Devil Dinosaur was supposed to be the work of a genius? What was I missing?

It took me a while to understand it all. Sometimes I’m a bit slow on the uptake. But I would eventually figure out that one gruesome page was certainly not what the genius of Jack Kirby was all about.  I’d spend years and years later trying to understand the genius of Kirby. I now realize I can’t fully comprehend everything this great man created, but it’s so much fun to try. Reading his work is always treat. It’s both a thrill and creativity to be celebrated.  

I hope you treat yourself to a little Kirby today too.

I’ve been invited to the Buffalo Comic-Con this year. I’ll be on their Jack Kirby at 100 Panel. The convention is September 31 to October 1st – hope to see you there! For more details, check it out here!

Mindy Newell: Feet Of Clay

I don’t carry a sign over my head announcing my feminism—I do it with a tote bag from Emily’s List, which I use to, uh, tote my lunch and papers and such back and forth from work.  Said bag is inscribed with the following:

feminism noun fem-i-nism ‘fe-ma-,ni-zam

The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities

—Merriam-Webster

I’ve always thought of “equal rights and opportunities” in terms of work and salary, but I suppose it can also be applied to the prerogative of making a total ass of yourself in public, regardless of gender.

I am referring to the “Whedon vs. Cole” controversy that my buddy John Ostrander talked about yesterday, and which has caused mucho uproar all over the web, including over at the Whedonverse fan site, which is supposedly shutting down over it, although I had no trouble opening the site when I tried today.

As I replied to John,

Struggling man succeeds, becomes rich and powerful and famous.  Man cheats on wife while spewing words about feminism and publicly praising wife.  Ex-wife chooses to feel herself empowered by publicly detailing events that happened while married to ex-husband.  Ex-husband, through a spokesman, says that allegations are misrepresented.

Old story.

Yes, I am saying that Ms. Cole made an ass of herself as much as Mr. Whedon (allegedly) did.  And no, I won’t be surprised to be hit with outcry and insults from individual women and attacks from feminist websites.  I get it, I do.  What I think is definitely a very unfeminist thing to think.

But sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away and not look back; there’s a Wiccan belief (yeah, I tend to think of myself as a “Jewiccan”) that whatever harm or ill wish you inflict on another will come back to you three-fold.  So allow the universe to take care of it.  Karma, as they say, is a bitch.

John also mentioned his GrimJack episode in which Gaunt shot someone in the back.  Which made me remember the two-part Magnum, P.I. story that opened Season 3 of that venerable and much-beloved series.

In Part One of  “Did You See The Sun Rise?”, a compatriot from their days in Vietnam visits [Thomas] Magnum (Tom Selleck) and his friend TC (Roger E. Mosley), telling them that all three are being pursued by a man named Ivan, a Russian agent who caught and tortured them during the war.  At first, neither believes Nuzo; they think he is suffering from PTSD.  But it turns out that Nuzo is right; Ivan is somewhere in Hawaii. But the Navy wants to keep Ivan alive (for their own reasons) and assigns Lieutenant “Mac” MacReynolds, another friend of Magnum’s, to make sure that he does—they are afraid that Magnum and TC will kill Ivan; in other words, find Ivan, but make sure Magnum does “nothing stupid.”  So Mac claims that he quit the Navy, and starts hanging around with the private eye, saying that he wants to “learn the biz” from Magnum.  After a night oat a bar, Mac says, “Let’s drive up to the lookout point, and watch the sunrise,” rushing ahead of Magnum to get into the Ferrari.  The car explodes.

In the second part, Magnum discovers that Nuzo is actually Ivan’s operative, and that TC was “brainwashed” while in captivity in Vietnam.  Nuzo triggers the brainwashing, which will cause TC to kill a visiting Japanese prince.   Magnum stops TC in time, but due to political immunity, Ivan is set free.  But Magnum captures him, and while Magnum holds a gun on Ivan, they have this conversation:

Magnum:  It was all planned, back at Duc Hue?

Ivan:  Not specifics, not even target.  Just trigger.

Magnum:  How many others are out there like TC?

Ivan:  You are still a schoolboy, Thomas, using schoolboy tricks.

Magnum:  No tricks.  Who’s next on your hit list?  Begin?  Thatcher?  Reagan?

Ivan:  I have a plane to catch.  If you are going to shoot me, do it now… You won’t.  You can’t.  I know you, Thomas.  I had you for three months at Doc Hue.  I know you better than your mother.  Your sense of… honor and fair play.  Oh, you could shoot me—if I was armed and coming after you.  But like this—Thomas…never.  Goodbye, Thomas. 

Ivan says Do svidaniya, turns, and walks away.  Magnum stops him.

Magnum:  Ivan?

Ivan stops, turns to face Magnum, saying, Yes?

Magnum:  Did you see the sun rise this morning?

Ivan:  Yes.  Why?

Magnum shoots him in cold blood.

One of the reasons this episode was so effective was that up to now, Thomas Magnum, P.I., was played as an extremely likable character.  He’s endearing, he’s comic, he’s vulnerable, and often insecure.  He’s faithful.  He makes mistakes.  He lives from hand-to-mouth.  He can be incredibly lazy.  So much like us, in fact, that we forget that he is a Navy SEAL, that he’s trained to kill, that he’s seen and done things that he would rather forget, that we would find horrific.

This episode is a slap in the face, a bucket of ice water sloshed over our bodies, a lightning bolt“Holy Shit!” we collectively said.  “I forgot that he’s a Navy SEAL, that he’s trained to kill, that he’s fought in and survived a brutal war, that he’s seen and done things that are really, really ugly, and can still do them.” 

Only children’s heroes are perfect.  As adults, we are bored by them.  Think of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s first seasons.  Be honest…it was pretty damn boring, wasn’t it?  (Really, if it hadn’t been Star Trek, I’m convinced it would have quickly been cancelled.)

Gaunt and Magnum are the best kind of heroes.

Those with feet of clay.

And for those who worship Joss Whedon, think about that before sending him to the Hellmouth.  And do the same for Kai Cole, okay?


I want to extend my sincerest condolences to ComicMix’s Mike Gold and Adriane Nash, whose beloved sister and aunt died on Saturday.  May Hashem and the Goddess bring all of you peace. 

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.