Category: Columns

Love: A Comic Book Story

Love: A Comic Book Story

Ask 20 people to define “Love”, you’ll get 20 definitions.

Here’s mine.

I feel love is measured in how you’re treated when things go wrong, not when everything is okay. It’s one thing to say something in a joyous ceremony yet another when faced with real life. People tend to balk the moment it gets real. “It’s you and me forever” converts to, “It’s not you; it’s me.”

People leave.

Some can stick it out for years. Some go the first time things get stormy. Whatever vows spoken to whatever God is forgotten when one person has reached their limit.

Movies books and music make love seem like ‘happily ever after’ is assured. Pop Culture emphasizes the easily overcome struggle to stay with someone who has fallen on hard times or is stricken with a debilitating or fatal illness.

People do it, but it is far from easy. Trust me, I know.

I wrote about such a love affair in IF & HOPE.

The love affair of Roz Alexander-Kasparik and David Rector was the stuff of movies and books, but as we all know, ‘happily ever after’ isn’t as easy as Hollywood makes it look like.

David suffered an aortic dissection a tear in a major blood vessel and various complications left him unable to speak or walk.

Roz stayed.

Long years of struggle is an common complaint.

The years couldn’t have been long enough for Roz. She was in love in the truest sense of the word. She vowed to stay until the end. What end?

The end of days, the end of the world, the end of time. Whatever end would take her away from David. She just knew it would not be her that would end the relationship.

The end came for David earlier this month. His death leaving a hole in Roz’s world she thinks may be impossible to fill.

Roz called David her “heart.” You cannot live without your heart. So it’s good that David’s presence will endure his legacy one of strength and persistence, giving Roz hope.

Hope isn’t something one wants to hear about when faced with the kind of pain Roz is feeling now. I know that and the following isn’t about hope its about truth.

Roz, there are no words I can write that can convey the impact both David and yourself had on me. I will miss David’s unique “melody” at the Black Panel and the intense look he gave me communicating with his eyes what he couldn’t with voice. I will miss talking with you by phone and feeling like David was part of the discussion when you translated his sounds.

Few things impress me, fewer I envy. Your relationship with David did both.

You’re one of the strongest people I know. I hope your pain is tempered, knowing the impression David made on many. With David by your side you  fought for the rights of those burdened with disadvantages. Without David it will be hard but I know that will continue.

I don’t need to hope there is no if-this I know.

Just like I know the comic you created with David, Recall & Given will become a reality.

It’s also a given.

Ed Catto’s Black Friday Gift Guide!

Ed Catto’s Black Friday Gift Guide!

Beyond the toys, eggnog and family time, a nostalgic part the Yuletide season for me are books about comics.  When I was growing up, there were just a few : Batman from the 30s to the 70s, Les Daniels’ Comix, Stan Lee’s Origins of Marvel Comics.  But boy, did they make an impression on me.  Today there’s a plethora of spectacular books available. Here’s a few of the best ones for your gift list consideration:

KIRBY & LEE: STUF’ SAID! : THE COMPLEX GENESIS of the MARVEL UNIVERSE 

by John Morrow and Jon B. Cooke, Twomorrows

I really enjoyed A MARVELOUS LIFE: THE AMAZING STORY OF STAN LEE by Danny Fingeroth. Somehow, Fingeroth seemed to thread the needle to deliver a fascinating book and thoroughly explores the myth versus the man.

But there’s two sides to every story, and that’s the approach that John Morrow took in this brilliant book, STUF’ SAID.  This book serves up a detailed step-by-step, quote-by-quote walk through the early days (and beyond) of the Marvel Universe. Morrow analyzes the roles of not only Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but so many of the creators involved with the birth of Marvel.

For longtime fans, there’s a lot of nostalgia and new information. For new fans, it’s a balanced look at the real-life characters behind the fictional characters they love.

STAR TREK SHIPYARDS STARFLEET STARSHIPS: The Encyclopedia of Starfleet Ships Plus NCC1701 Enterprise

by Ben Robinson and Marcus Reilly, Eaglemoss

Books are great, but when you throw in a toy or two they are even better. Eaglemoss’ thorough book, STAR TREK SHIPYARDS  is a chronological history (even though it’s all about the future) of the Starfleet starshipsThis edition includes a specially packaged with a die-cast collectible, the iconic U.S.S. Enterprise.

This book has it all – from the most obscure ships to the recent additions to the mythology from the STAR TREK: DISCOVERY series.

HASHTAG: DANGER: PANIC ON DINOSAUR MOUNTAIN!

Written by Tom Peyer, Art by Chris Giarrusso and Richard Case.  Cover by Richard Williams, AHOY! Comics

As Tom Peyer says, this collected edition is “Twice the colons! Half the Thrills”. HASHTAG: DANGER is a wickedly funny take on adventurer comics, like Fantastic Four or Challengers of the Unknown. Peyer, always acerbic and witty, starts at “11” and turns up the dial from there.  At the same time, he is somehow able to let his authentic love of the source material shine though. The humor never seems mean-spirited.

Richard Williams, the celebrated MAD artist, brings an element of pseudo realism liberally mixed with kooky absurdity to the covers.

This trade paperback collects all the irreverent HASHTAG: DANGER stories from issues #1-5 of the AHOY! Comics series, plus the back-features from other AHOY! titles like HIGH HEAVEN and CAPTAIN GINGER.

ROD SERLING: HIS LIFE, WORK AND IMAGINATION

by Nick Parisi, University of Mississippi Press

Nick Parisi’s Rod Serling biography isn’t only for fans of The Twilight Zone. It’s also for fans of early television,  scriptwriting and Planet of the Apes. And somehow, Parisi finds a way to celebrate Serling as a persistent entrepreneur – both winning and losing creative and economic battles.  A great read!

STRONGHOLD Vol. 1

Written by Phil Hester Art by Ryan Kelly, Aftershock

Phil Hester’s written a lot of great comics over the years, and Stronghold is another great one. It’s a quirky, creepy take on the Superman legend. This thriller reveals a clandestine organization that monitors the world’s most powerful man. This series blends a conspiracy feel mixed with an us-against-the-world vibe to create a compelling series.

FRESH HELL IN FITS

by Steve Cerio, Psychofon Records

Steve Cerio, a creative innovator and gallery artist who blossomed as part of the old NYC Comix scene, is back with another trippy book.  His newest  is subtitled “A False History of The Residents”, but the imaginative illustrations appeal to art lovers beyond that band’s fan base.  Fresh Hell in Fits is also  available as a special signed collector’s edition (only 33 copies) complete with extra goodies.

This book is best found at the Psychofon Records site: https://www.psychofonrecords.com

BATMAN: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF THE DARK KNIGHT IN COMICS, FILM AND BEYOND

by Andrew Farago and Gina McIntyre, Insight Editions

This is the type of the book that you start in the morning, and when you look up again it’s getting close to bedtime.  This lovingly thorough history of Batman touches all the bases, provides new information and is loaded with goodies.  I must admit it’s a thrill to be reading about the Batman mobile from 1950s comics, and then to fold-out a set of blueprints.

$75.00 various levels 400 pp. • hardcover  • ISBN-10: 1683834372


Have a fantastic Yuletide season, everyone!

Wayne D. Chang: Judging “Joker” on Its Merits

Wayne D. Chang: Judging “Joker” on Its Merits

There are several ways to look at Todd Phillips’ 2019 movie Joker. It is obviously grounded in DC Comics’ vast history, however it is not what most comic book aficionados would consider a “comic book” movie. Yes, it is set in Gotham City. Yes, there are references to Arkham Asylum as well as characters like Thomas Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, and even a young Bruce Wayne. However it would be grossly unfair to judge this movie as a Batman movie or even consider it in the same frame of mind as the introduction of the Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman or Christopher Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight (and hinted at the end of Christopher Nolan’s 2005 Batman Begins). Both movies featured The Joker as the villain, and there was a clear relationship between him and Batman, but as I suggested, this does not appear to be a typical comic book movie.

For the record, I have not actually seen “Joker” yet. I am basing this op-ed piece on what news is currently available, video clips, trailers, etc. This piece may be flawed, but it is my opinion, and you are welcome to take exception with it if you choose to do so.

We see Arthur Fleck as someone akin to Arthur Miller’s “Willy Loman” in Death of a Salesman – a man of little perceived significance and yet to come to terms with who he is. Arthur Fleck is the kind of guy who gets the crap beat out of him in viral videos. He is a stand-up comedian who has had more bombs than Dresden. From what we see of him, there is a slow progression into madness or at the very least, we see him come to terms with his madness and rebirth as the Joker, something more than a stage persona. Arthur Fleck has accepted this as who he is as he becomes visible to a wider audience thanks to an appearance on “Live with Murray Franklin.” The fact that “Murray Franklin” is played by no less than Robert De Niro lends a gravity to what could have been a simple comic book movie, but even saying that is doing a gross disservice to Joker. The movie is a love note to Martin Scorsese’s 1982 masterpiece The King of Comedy.

Joker is as Warner Bros Publicity has stated, “a cautionary tale.”

So far Joker has enjoyed unprecedented critical acclaim and response from international film festivals, however it has also endured pre-judgment from comic book fans who are quick to dismiss it as NOT a comic book movie. A friend of mine was excited to see this when the teaser first hit social media, however recently he said he wouldn’t bother seeing it as it was not in his estimation a legitimate telling of the origins of the Joker as generations of comic books, TV shows, cartoons, and movies have portrayed it. There was Alan Moore & Brian Bolland’s timeless Batman: The Killing Joke (from which Joker seems to draw inspiration). There is also the older story element of Batman chasing a man in a red hood who falls in a vat of chemicals. Being immersed in chemicals apparently rendered this man’s hair green, his face white, and his lips red giving Gotham City the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker. While the red hood was not integral to the Joker’s origin in some cases, Batman was, and in the case of  The Dark Knight, the Joker existed as a response to Batman establishing a symbiotic relationship.

A lot of dissatisfaction from comic book aficionados seems to come from the basic question of “Where’s Batman?” It is bad enough that adaptations of stories sometimes play fast and loose with established mythology, and some fans seem quick to voice that they’re not going to see Joker. I confess that I was one of these fans, however after deeper consideration, dismissing Joker as not a Batman movie would be just the same as what happens to Arthur Fleck in the movie – dismissing him as insignificant. Joker appears to be a frighteningly intimate portrayal of a man’s descent into madness and embracing it as others have not accepted him or his true nature. As such, I could easily see how this could and should receive massive amounts of critical success, however it is not what I would consider or accept as a comic book movie or a Batman story. Perhaps this version of the Joker would appear in an adaptation of DC Comics’ Crisis on Infinite Earths, and that certainly would be interesting, but I have reservations about that. It would be better to judge this as a character study.

Review: Graham Nolan’s “Monster Island” 20th Anniversary Edition

Review: Graham Nolan’s “Monster Island” 20th Anniversary Edition

I’ve recently spent some time in the Syracuse University Archives researching old comic strips. It turns out they have an incredible collection of original artwork by top tier comic artists – everyone from Hal Foster to Frank Robbins.  It’s quite a thrill and every time I view these originals I feel like a kid who’s successfully raided the cookie jar – and got away with it.

That’s how the new Monster Island book made me feel.  You might remember Graham Nolan’s independent comic from about 20 years ago.  It was a kick to follow along as two military folks fight their way across an island full of monsters.  And it’s not Frankenstein or the Wolfman – these are monsters in the classic Kirby-Atlas Comics or Godzilla-TOHO studios mold. Big and scary and nutty and goofy and fun. My kinda monsters.

You’ve seen this format before. Scott Dunbier and IDW have essentially created the category we all call Artist’s Editions. These books are shot from the original pages complete with production notes, blemishes, corrections and handwritten scrawls. Reading one of these is the closest most of us will ever come to holding the original art in our hands for one sitting.

Graham Nolan is a strong artist, and he’s also a strong storyteller. He’s got a vibrant visual sense (I’ve been a fan since the old Hawkword series) and here, as the writer, he’s able to introduce big concepts and keep the story moving, all the while helping readers get to know the cute couple at the center of the story.

This volume is even more fun as it includes extras. Some as you’d expect, like the character sketches, are wonderful and whimsical. Of note are the comic strip versions of Monster Island. Years ago, Graham Nolan had repackaged the strip to sell to a newspaper syndication. His efforts never went anywhere (it’s a shame, as this thriller lends itself to this format), but it did lead to him getting the gig penciling the Phantom for several years.

The story is fun, but beyond that, I find Nolan’s efforts inspirational. He comes across as the kind of guy who has a vision and puts in the hours to see if he can make it a reality.

Kudos to him -and I am sure he has inspired up and coming creatives over the years.

Glenn Hauman: On Kickstarter, their current situation, and what we’re doing

Glenn Hauman: On Kickstarter, their current situation, and what we’re doing

You may have heard that Kickstarter has had some internal strife recently, which has included some recent firings of various people who have been involved in efforts to unionize the workforce there. Those workers, and the union they have been working with, filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the crowdfunding company of wrongfully terminating them.

As a company, Kickstarter has been helpful to the comics and publishing ecosystem, helping thousands of projects find both funding and an audience, raising over $15 million for comics last year alone. We here at ComicMix have raised over $150,000 on Kickstarter for various projects, contributed to other campaigns both personally and corporately, and helped others raise more for their projects. And right now, I’m writing a short story for a campaign that ends in less than three days, Pangaea:

Clearly, they’re an important platform for comics. But, as Slate reported, there have been in-house problems— and it started with a comic.

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Thor swearing on a Bible

The Law Is A Ass #448: The (Dare)Devil’s In De Tales

Yes, him, again.

Matt Murdock. Daredevil. The subject of our last six get togethers.

But not to worry, we shan’t be talking about him again. Ever. Daredevil #612 was the last part of a four-part story called “The Death of Daredevil.” So that’s it, isn’t it? Daredevil is dead.

I mean, it’s not like Marvel would kill off a character and then bring him or her back to life, is it?

In Daredevil #609, the start of the four-part story, Matt was hit by a truck while saving a kid. I don’t know if it was a Mack truck or a semi with a hemi or even a hemi-demi-semi-quaver, but it was big. Big enough to send Matt to the hospital and to reevaluate his lot in life. Lots.

And Matt decided what he was going to do, if it was the last thing he did, was to prove that Wilson (The Kingpin of Crime) Fisk rigged the election and wasn’t legally the mayor of New York City. So Matt gathered together a team who could help him assemble the proof he needed to take down Fisk.

For three issues assistant Manhattan district attorney Matt Murdock and his team did just that. Assembled. They assembled more than Bob the Builder on speed. Until finally, Matt had a strong enough case to take to his boss, Manhattan district attorney Ben Hochberg.

Hochberg didn’t agree. Fisk was, after all, the Mayor. He was Hochberg’s boss and set the budget for Hochberg’s office. Hochberg didn’t want to risk rocking the boat by accusing Fisk of rooking the vote. But Matt prevailed on Hochberg with all the powers of persuasion that he could muster in all of five panels and Hochberg relented. He prosecuted Fisk for election fraud.

First Hochberg called Daredevil. Then he called the rest of Daredevil’s team; Cypher, Frank McGee, and Reader, supporting characters in the story that were so unimportant that I almost didn’t even mention them here. Then Hochberg called every character in the Marvel Universe from A-Bomb to Zzzax.

Okay, not really. But he did call Captain America, Thor, She-Hulk, and Spider-Man.

Oh yeah, and then, as the main event, Hochberg called as his final witness, Wilson Fisk.

Now I wish I could say, “not really,” again, but I can’t. Hochberg called the defendant as a prosecution witness.

But I’m not going to write about that; I already have. Several times. In earlier columns, I’ve covered the fact that the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against self-incrimination means the prosecution can’t call the defendant as a prosecution witness about as many times as Vin Scully’s covered the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Beside which, it’s not like the trial actually happened. Because at the end of the story we learned that…

This is the place where I’d usually issue a SPOILER WARNING, but I’m not going to. If you’re like me and speak fluent cliché then there’s no way anyone can spoil…

…it was all a dream.

Matt was actually still in the ER after being hit by the truck. The whole four parts of “The Death of Daredevil,” including the trial and conviction of Wilson Fisk and his recall as mayor, was a dream Matt was having while the ER doctors were operating on him.

As endings go that one was a Ken Berry; a big F Trope.

So no, I’m not talking about calling the defendant as a witness.

Thor swearing on a Bible

On the other hand, I am going to talk about calling Thor as a witness, because that feat would have required almost as much legal legerdemain as calling the defendant.

Before witnesses can testify, they generally have to take the oath and swear “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help [them] God.” Generally, if a witness isn’t willing to take that oath, the witness is not permitted to testify.

Notice, I said, “generally.” Sometimes a witness doesn’t have to swear an oath before testifying. After all, how could Thor swear so help him God? Thor is a god. Okay, not the Judeo-Christian god name-dropped in the standard court oath, but he is the Norse god of thunder. An oath before the Judeo-Christian God would be meaningless to Thor as he doesn’t believe in that god.

In the same way, Thor couldn’t swear so help him some god in which he believed; say himself or Odin. The Anglo-American system of justice doesn’t recognize any of the gods in which Thor might believe as gods, so it wouldn’t allow a witness to swear so help him one of them.

Now, the Anglo-American system of justice does have a back-up. Witnesses who don’t happen to believe in the Judeo-Christian God, like Muslims; Buddhists; Hindus; or atheists who don’t happen to be in a foxhole, have an alternative. They can affirm under penalty of perjury that they will tell the truth, the whole truth, and yadda, yadda, yadda. But for Thor, even such an affirmation might be a whole yadda nothing.

Thor is, after all, the prince of Asgard. As such he might well have diplomatic immunity from prosecution for crimes committed in America. Even perjury. If that is the case, the affirmation would have no meaning to him and wouldn’t be sufficient to guarantee that he would tell the truth.

Sure Thor could spout off some pseudo-Shakespearean speech and assure the court that, “the word of the Son of Odin is ever my bond” and that he would no more tell defy the laws of man by lying in court than he would defy the laws of gravity by throwing a hammer then flying behind it as it dragged him through the sky.

And maybe the court would believe him and let Thor testify. Or maybe it wouldn’t.

It’s a puzzlement which, fortunately, I don’t have to puzzle over right now. Because I’m not really writing this column right now. It’s all a…

ZZZZZZZ

The Law Is A Ass #447: Daredevil’s An Entrapment Keeper

The Law Is A Ass #447: Daredevil’s An Entrapment Keeper

So, I guess Daredevil is a lot smarter than I thought he was. Which, considering some of the bonehead plays he’s made in the past – Mike Murdock, anyone? – wasn’t all that high. However, in Daredevil #595, Matt (Daredevil) Murdock actually showed some smarts.

No, it wasn’t in acquiescing to the orders of the newly-elected mayor of New York City, Wilson (the Kingpin of Crime) Fisk, that Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, of which Matt was an employee to, “build cases against the vigilantes” to fulfill Kingpin’s campaign promise to “clampdown on non-governmental exercise of authority.”

A smart Matt Murdock would have pointed out to his boss the DA that the office didn’t really have any grounds on which to build a case. Stopping super-powered criminals isn’t a crime. One might even say it’s a public service. If an average citizens sees a crime being committed do we want a public policy that says they should do nothing? And if not, then why do we want one for our above-average citizens?

Moreover, I know of no anti-vigilante law in place in New York City or New York State that the heroes would be violating with their actions. I’m not saying in a world of super-powered people such a law wouldn’t be enacted. I’m just saying I don’t think that has happened yet.

Even the Superhuman Registration Act which prompted the first Civil War in the Marvel Universe seems to have been junked. In Daredevil vol 2 #25, the Supreme Court ruled that masked super heroes can testify in court while still masked. If that was even a question, it would imply that the SHRA had been shelved. If all hero were required to reveal their identities by Congressional law, the whole case about whether they could testify while masked would have been unnecessary. And believe me, the Supreme Court doesn’t like to take cases that are unnecessary. Hell, it only takes a small number of the cases that are necessary.

Even New York’s anti-mask law wouldn’t help justify a crackdown on vigilantes. New York Penal Law 240.35(4), specifically forbids two or more people to congregate in public while wearing masks to conceal their identities. That law wouldn’t generally apply to people like Spider-Man or Daredevil or Ms. Marvel, as they usually work alone and not in congregations. Of course, they’re not in congregations. Crime doesn’t take Sundays off, so neither can they.

It also wouldn’t apply to people like Luke Cage or the Punisher; they don’t wear masks and their civilian identities are known to all. I’m not even sure it would apply to the Avengers, as I think the civilian identities of most of their members are either known to the general public or, in the case of Captain America, to the government. Either way, if they’re wearing masks, it’s not to conceal their identities. So, why are they wearing masks? Maybe they like extreme hat hair.

So the anti-mask law would only apply in some limited instances like the Champions or Marvel Team-Up, which feature two or more masked heroes. But only if they’re acting in New York. And probably only if the villain they were fighting was lame. I think the authorities might look the other way about costumed hero activity, if Dr. Doom were attacking again.

So, yeah, a smart Matt Murdock might have asked his boss on what grounds they build cases against vigilantes. Matt might even have pointed out that hamstringing the costumed heroes would, in the long run, be a bad thing for the city. Costumed villains either wouldn’t be similarly limited or wouldn’t care if they were. Either way, they would continue to commit crimes without adequate resistance if only the non-powered police and not, say, Thor could have at them.
Matt could even have told his boss they should ignore the directive. I seem to recall a few other direct orders from another Chief Executive, which his underlings either ignored or refused to put into operation. So Matt’s actions wouldn’t have been without President— err, precedent.

Matt did show some smarts. He told his assistant that “it can take a long time to build a case… years, sometimes.” Recent events have certainly shown that to be true. Meanwhile, the heroes could be free to act, while the cases against them were being built. Slowly.

But Matt showed his real intelligence later in the issue, when he was on patrol as Daredevil and stopped what appeared to be a simple mugging in Hell’s Kitchen. Turns out it wasn’t so simple. It was a police sting operation designed to find and arrest Daredevil.

No, it wasn’t intelligent for Daredevil to fall for the trap. With his hyper senses he should have detected the presence of the other police officers laying in wait and not fallen for the trap. No, Daredevil showed his intelligence when he told the cops, “This is entrapment. It’ll never stick.”

Because it wasn’t entrapment. That’s what made Daredevil’s statement so brilliant.

Entrapment is a legal defense that argues, “Government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute.”  The key to this defense is that the government implants the criminal design into the mind of a person who was not otherwise predisposed to commit the crime. Daredevil was already in costume and looking for crimes he could stop. He was pretty much predisposed to being a vigilante. The fact that he found a government sting operation that gave him the opportunity to do what he already wanted to do wasn’t entrapment.

And that’s why Daredevil saying the sting operation was entrapment was so brilliant. Not too many weeks earlier, in Daredevil vol 5 #20, the Purple Children combined the mind control powers they inherited from their father Killgrave, the Purple Man, with Killgrave’s own mind control powers to make the world at large forget that Matt Murdock and Daredevil were the same person. After Matt had his secret identity purpura ex machinaed back into place, he didn’t want to risk losing it again.

That’s why he told the police that what they did was entrapment when he was a good enough attorney to know it wasn’t. It was to fool the police into thinking that in his secret identity Daredevil wasn’t a lawyer who would know the definition of entrapment.

It was brilliant!

Unless, of course, Daredevil wasn’t trying to con the police after all and he really didn’t know the definition of entrapment. Please tell me that wasn’t the case and that Matt/Daredevil did know the definition of entrapment. Please tell me Matt/Daredevil wasn’t as clueless about the law as usual.

Please?

The Law Is A Ass #446: The Kingpin Becomes A Night-Mayor

The Law Is A Ass #446: The Kingpin Becomes A Night-Mayor

The Law Is A Ass #446: The Kingpin Becomes A Night-Mayor

Well, you didn’t think he was going to take it lying down, did you? He’s the Kingpin of Crime, for crying out loud; Mister Passive-Aggressive, without the whole passive part. After Matt (Daredevil) Murdock got a trial court to agree that super heroes could testify anonymously and while masked – you did read the last four columns, right? – Wilson (the aforementioned Kingpin of Crime) Fisk appealed that decision. And when the Supreme Court upheld Matt’s victory, the Kingpin turned to Plan C.

He got elected mayor of New York City.

What is it with New Yorkers in the Marvel Universe and their elected mayors? First it was J. Jonah Jameson, who had to up his game significantly just to reach incompetent. Now the Kingpin of Crime?

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Dear AT&T: Static on the line is a GOOD thing

Dear AT&T: Static on the line is a GOOD thing

TO: Randall L. Stephenson, Chief Executive Officer, AT&T
CC: John Stankey, Chief Executive Officer, Warner Media

Dear Mr. Stephenson,

My name is Michael Davis. I’m sure you know me as I have been a loyal AT&T phone customer for many years.

I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m a bit off my rocker. How ON EARTH could you know me just because I’m an AT&T phone customer?

That’s just silly.

You know me because I have my home, cell phone as well as my Internet and cable with AT&T.

I’m told you have a sense of humor and I hope my opening gave you a chuckle. What the remainder of this letter holds is far from funny.

I’m sure you’re aware when AT&T purchased Time Warner, it became the owner of DC Comics. DC Comics holds some media rights to Static a.k.a. Static Shock through an arrangement with the copyright owner and content creator Milestone Media a company I co-founded.

Full disclosure: DC Comics and I have history. Once I was a welcomed creator; however, the last two decades have seen me banned, literally blacklisted. Long story short; I said the right thing to the wrong person. Please don’t take my word for any of this— the paperwork is readily available at DC. However, this narrative isn’t about me. This article is about property now under your control— the aforementioned Static Shock.

I am no longer a part of Milestone, and they have nothing to do with this letter. I am representing myself and the millions of fans of Static Shock waiting for his return.

Simply Googling Static Shock will enlighten you to the sheer power and reach of the much-beloved character. There are thousands of fan clubs and fan films. Static is a favorite choice of new and seasoned cosplayers from child to adult.

Here’s the kicker—the vast majority of the fans of Static were born after the series had run its course both on television and the comics.  In other words, its sheer word of mouth behind the enormous appeal of Virgil Hawkins, aka Static.

AT&T is the nation’s second-largest advertiser— imagine spending no advertising dollars but seeing the demand for your product grow year after year.

That, in a nutshell, is the essence of Static Shock.

“AT&T gives you more for your thing, More entertainment, Internet, and unlimited plans. More for your thing. Yeah, that’s our thing.”

The Your Thing national campaign from AT&T and BBDO focused on the uniqueness of its customers’ request for things that mattered not just words spoken in support of a product.  How significant AT&T’s support of the Black community is evident to me by your doings with Believe Chicago.

I don’t point out AT&T’s investment in the African American community, both financial and social, to suck up. I’m not that guy— if I was, I believe I’d still have a home at DC. No, I point out your involvement because I feel there’s a chance, albeit a slim one my plea and the pleas of millions of fans will not be lost in the abundance of requests received by a corporation the size and scope of yours.

Put bluntly, Static is a national treasure among millions of fans, both black and white. However, among black kids, he’s more much much more. As a black man who grew up with so little black representation in media and almost none in the superhero space, so few I had to create my own— it saddens me beyond measure that today is just as bleak as yesterday.

Ignoring the impact of Static makes little sense financially. However, ignoring Static‘s prominence in the black community is corporate callousness at its highest level, in my opinion.

History aside, I nevertheless consider DC’s universe the best in the industry, and the vast majority of those employed there are among the elite in comics.

Dan Didio and Jim Lee are remarkable people who are real fans of the medium. Before they joined DC, I was in business with Dan at ABC-TV and Jim at Image Comics. Nothing but good came from those creative arrangements.

There are companies on the net as I write this selling Static Shock merchandise as if they had licensed them legally from DC and Milestone and they have not. They do so openly with no worry of being caught, let alone punished by one of the world’s most powerful corporations.

If that doesn’t underscore the banking power of Static, then nothing will. 

Static Shock generates millions of bootleg dollars while black kids continue to make their own Static Shock content because Warner Bros. and DC Comics will not.

Sir, I’m thoroughly and painfully aware of legal agreements that supposedly make impossible resolutions to what seems a simple fix.

My response is— so what?

Static‘s impact can do wonders with boys and girls of color who see little to strengthen identity put much to weaken it. A president who often speaks of the first black president as unintelligent and lazy. A country returning to a time when if black merely waiting for a friend at Starbucks can get you arrested.

An America where a black man simply saying ‘lower Alabama’ can get you thrown out of a Hilton Hotel and threatened with arrest. Protesting to the police the Hilton’s prejudicial actions can get you killed. So, the thing to do was leave the hotel humiliated rather than face that possibility.

That happened to a guy I know.

Static is more important than a contract, and more significant than any agreement meant for commerce and revenue. A beloved black character not just kept alive by word of mouth but flourishing alone is a goldmine for AT&T if it makes a billion dollars or not a dime.

Agreements are vital; I’m just saying exceptions made for the greater good I would argue keep us dare I say civilized. I’m currently breaking an agreement preventing me from discussing the very matters this article covers, doing so for the greater good.

That “agreement” is a damning smoking gun evidence of a decision made with malice. What did I do to justify a sustained policy of exclusion?

My contributions to the company were never in question; they are stellar. So stellar are my doings at DC it begs the question: is Static Shock being held back because of a personal dislike of Michael Davis?

I’ve been labeled troublemaker, among other things. That’s true—I’m trouble when approached like I’m a child talked to like I’m stupid.

I’m far from stupid. Can’t say the same for the person who sent a fraudulent letter with false information in a bid to stop me from becoming President & CEO of Motown Animation & Filmworks.

That’s stupid.

Having two employees lie to try and frame you?

That’s criminal.

I said Milestone is capable of exploiting Static with or without DC’s involvement, but I hope it is with DC that the next stage of Static happens. DC does the best books in the industry, and the power of AT&T and Time Warner’s reach is awe-inspiring.

The knock, on black content, is diversity doesn’t sell. That usually comes from those who don’t sell diversity because they can’t. 

Milestone’s Reggie Hudlin Derek Dingle and Milestone’s inventor Denys Cowan can sell diversity. They have done so all their professional lives.

Static has a worldwide following ignored by DC and Warner Bros. With help from AT&T Warner Bros. and DC Comics I believe Static will do the kind of numbers as a movie to rival or even surpass Black Panther.

Lastly, I leave you with this.

I have history with AT&T also. Your company are sponsors of my forum the Black Panel. I’ve also been invited to participate in various AT&T art shows at AT&T corporate in New Jersey.

Speaking of art, AT&T has one of the most celebrated art collections in the world.

Among the acquisitions are paintings by William T. Williams, underscoring AT&T’s dedication to Black America. Mr. Williams was the first Black artist inducted into Janson’s History of Art.

When that moment happened, he refused. He refused because he felt Janson should acknowledge other black artists that came before him.

Janson did just that; they included other notable African American artists.

The Janson History of Art did that regardless of the time and money it took to accomplish this. Janson is the world leader in art history publications, and to do so was a massive undertaking.

However, it was the right thing to do.

There’s a DC Comics connection to Mr. Williams. The painting used to represent his work is called Batman. Just so happens, Batman is my favorite superhero, I was obsessed with the 60’s TV show.

So much so it drove me to love drawing Batman, which kept me inside and helped keep me alive. My sister and grandmother both died violent deaths that could have easily been me and almost was.

My love of drawing Batman turned into loving art that led to working at Mr. Williams studio. I was working in the studio of a world-renowned artist at a very young age.

I was ten.

He had me ‘work’ in his studio to keep me safe.

William T. Williams is my mentor, my hero, and my cousin. Batman was named with me in mind. So, a DC Comics character is featured in the most influential art history book in the world because of me.

I needed heroes to help me stay alive and when real ones were not available, I found them in comics. I’d like to work with DC again but if it will help get Static to the next level, I’ll sign an agreement stating I won’t use the letters D or C for the rest of my life.

That’s ridiculous, I know.

Not as ridiculous as ignoring the almost 800,000 views David Kirkman’s Static Fan Film has in only weeks on YouTube fueled by just word of mouth. Now think about that number with the power of AT&T Warner Bros. DC Comics and Milestone all operating in concert.

Please consider taking a moment and examine what may be possible.

“AT&T gives you more for your thing, More entertainment, Internet, and unlimited plans. More for your thing. Yeah, that’s our thing.”

All the millions of Static Shock fans ask is for you to do your thing.

—Michael Davis, PhD
Los Angeles, CA
July 2019