Category: Columns

Marc Alan Fishman: My Five Best Comic Book Meals!

Life is about balance. After last week’s screed on my personal health journey, it’s only fair I balance things out with a very gluttonous listing of my most favorite meals whilst being an indie creator. You see, a life in comics — part time, at least — find folks assembled around a table to break bread more often than you’d think. When logging in considerable hours at a convention, creators often will nibble here and there, and then run out of the expo hall in a mad dash for food when the con floor closes. Great minds have met over bowls of pasta and pizzas, whilst inking deals on Batman or the X-Men. Here are, in no particular order, five meals that remain stuck in between my teeth:

Miller’s Pub with Mike Gold

The first time ComicMix honcho Mike Gold asked Unshaven Comics to meet him for a meal, he chose Miller’s Pub in downtown Chicago. Prior to the lunch we shared, Mr. Gold was a fleeting presence at the Wizard World Chicago where we made our debut. The lovely late Linda Gold had stumbled across we Unshaven Lads, dying a slow and panicked death in Artist Alley. She listened to our pitch and promised to bring Mike by. After briefly meeting us, Mike and I exchanged e-mails post-show. When the opportunity arose to find Mr. Gold back in the Chicagoland area, he proposed a meeting of the minds. Over hot sandwiches and the first round of name-dropping stories we would succumb to hear on a yearly basis, Mike looked us in the eyes (as we demanded Unshaven Comics pick up the check) and said the kindest thing we’d ever hear in our careers: “Boys, I will do whatever I can to see you doing well in this business.” And let me tell you, nothing has ever tasted sweeter.

Breakfast Buffet with John Ostrander

A few years back, John asked us to pick him up at his house and drive him down to the Detroit Fanfare comic convention. We were more than happy to oblige. The next morning, he asked us to join him for breakfast. Amidst pans of bacon, lukewarm pancakes, and runny scrambled eggs, John waxed poetic about all sorts of things. Star Wars, the Suicide Squad, playwriting in Chicago, and even the secret origin of Wasteland all came tumbling out from John’s timid timbre. Matt, Kyle, and I sat in awe of an industry legend as he treated us as friends… not the drooling fanboys we were. And not to be undone by Mike Gold, John heaped a bit of praise on us (as we picked up the check): “Seriously, I don’t know how you guys do it. You have everything planned out to the nines. I’m in awe of you.” Not bad for the cost of a few plates of breakfast meat.

The CowFish with The Samurnauts

Unshaven Comics got greedy in 2013. Figuring we could sell tons of books by splitting up and covering more ground, we sent Unshaven Salesman 2000 (Kyle Gnepper) off to a show in Cincinnati whilst Unshaven Matt and I covered the HeroesCon in North Carolina. Knowing that sans-Kyle we’d be without our real power, our blue and yellow Samurnauts (Cherise and Erik) joined our menagerie to bolster our abilities. While we learned that four of us couldn’t match a single Gnepper, we did find something redeeming about the lackluster show. Unshackled from Kyle’s more predictable palette, the Samurnauts, Matt and I found a burger/sushi restaurant in a neighboring town. I could spend literally an entire article simply remarking about what all we ordered… or I could simply say we loved the place so much, the manager gave us coupons if we’d consider coming back the next night. And we very much did.

Brandy Hauman’s Homecooking

When Unshaven Comics makes the 14-hour trek from Chicago to New York (or, in fact, Homewood to Weehawken), ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman is always the most gracious of hosts — opening his home to us for the price of a few bottles of hooch. As the New York Comic Con sits on the single piece of New York real estate devoid of decent food, we often wind up at la Casa del Hauman for some real New Jersey takeout. But last year, Glenn’s amazing (talented, beautiful, funny, and charming) wife demanded she make us a home-cooked meal. A nice roasted chicken and some sides — but it was served over a table filled with laughter, embarrassing stories, and friendship. With this past NYCC our fourth journey to the city that never sleeps, this single meal stands out as a testament to the best part of the tri-state area: the people who you make friends.

Some BBQ joint in Stamford, CT

I’ll end here on the most sincere memory I have in regards to comics and food. As mentioned above with the meal at Miller’s Pub, with this meal Mike Gold quickly morphed from a coveted mentor to both a mentor and a mensch. When my wife and I got married in November of 2009, we’d invited all of the ComicMixers we knew — knowing that the gesture was largely symbolic given the distance any of them would have had to travel just to see a then super-fat Marc stomp on a glass and yell L’chaim. As it would turn out, the newly minted Mrs. Fishman and I would take our honeymoon out along the East Coast (we didn’t quite google that Cape Cod is really a summer town). Mike was quick to demand that on our way home, we move our route to swing down his way. There, not far from the WWE headquarters, Kathy and I would be greeted by Glenn, Mike, Linda, and a smattering of other ComicMix friends for a BBQ lunch. As with much of this list: I don’t remember the food as much as the feeling that I’d made friends I’ve held on to ever since. That these oddballs would welcome me and mine into their family has cemented that my life in comics has been filled with some of the finest meals a man could dine on.

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #413

MATT MURDOCK HAS SOME INTERESTING CONFLICTS

Has this ever happened to you? You’re sitting there, minding your own business, reading your comic books, when something in the story makes you go, “Now, that’s not right!” Of course you have. You can probably count on the fingers of one hand, the number of times you’ve read recent comic books and haven’t found something that made you say that. And probably still have enough fingers left over for an obscene gesture.

I have a confession to make, I’ve done it, too. The difference being, when you do it you can complain on a message board or something. When I do it, then I get to do this…

So there I was minding my own business reading Jessica Jones #9. I had just gotten to the part where Sharon Carter, acting head of S.H.I.E.L.D., arrested Jessica Jones, the super heroine turned private investigator, and threw her into jail for being uncooperative. Oh, yeah, and for insulting Sharon’s hairdo. No, seriously, that’s why Sharon tossed Jessica in jail.

No, that’s not the part that made me say, “Hey, that’s not right.” I mean arresting Jessica for bad hair day in the first and throwing her into a cell on Ryker’s Island is not right, but this sort of thing has happened so often in recent comic books that I’m rather inured to it. What is it about being head of S.H.I.E.L.D.? First it turned first Maria Hill  and then Sharon Carter into ill-tempered, officious, untrustworthy tenants in Apartment 23  who think a Bill of Rights is what you pay when you buy from the remainder table of the Leftorium.

No, the thing in the story that gave me pause was when Jessica’s attorney showed up and got her released with a writ of habeas corpus. At least, I assume it was a habeas corpus. The story didn’t say, but I kind of doubt Jessica’s attorney used a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Those things were only honored by Warden Crichton on the old Batman TV series; and, judging how many repeat offenders that show had, with alarming frequency.

It also didn’t bother me that Jessica’s lawyer got her sprung from her bogus arrest by using the great writ; springing people from bogus arrests is exactly what habeas was writ for. No what bothered me was that Jessica’s lawyer was Matt Murdock.

Remember, the Purple Children made the world forget that Matt Murdock was Daredevil, meaning the New York State Bar Association forgot why it had disbarred Matt  and reinstated his license to practice law in New York, Matt has been an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. Matt doesn’t get people out of jail anymore, he puts them in jail. So for Matt to show up with a habeas corpus for Jessica would be a dubious course oops.

Could Matt have been representing Jessica through a private practice he maintained on the side to earn extra money? Probably not. Some jurisdictions do allow their assistant district attorneys to run a private practice on the side. I don’t know whether New York is one of those jurisdictions, but it really doesn’t matter. Even those jurisdictions that allow their prosecutors to have private practices on the side, don’t allow them to accept cases which would present a conflict of interests.

And that means district attorneys can’t usually handle criminal cases in their side practices. Courts tend to find conflicts when the same lawyer is actively trying to put criminals behind bars in the job while trying to keep them out of jail on the side. Even if there are no actual conflicts, lawyers are supposed to avoid the appearance of impropriety and earning money on both sides of the criminal justice system doesn’t do that.

Matt could write wills, do civil litigation, negotiate contracts, and that sort of thing. In The Unstoppable Wasp #6, Matt showed up as Nadia Pym’s immigration lawyer. Even that could be permissible. Criminal law and immigration law sometimes intersect, but not so often that being a prosecutor and an immigration attorney automatically cause conflicts of interest.

If Matt were representing an immigrant who was being deported because he or she was being prosecuted for a crime in New York, that would probably be a conflict of interests. But the conflict of interests decision would be made on a case-by-case basis and not require an automatic withdrawal. But Matt representing criminal defendants while also serving as a district attorney in New York? That’s as iffy as a Bread song.

Beside which, Matt is already in enough hot water with his boss at the District Attorney’s office. So, even if it weren’t a conflict of interests for Matt to represent criminal defendants in his side practice, I doubt he’d want to risk incurring his boss’s wrath even further by eating prosecute-to ham with a side of defense work.

And why did the story have to use Matt Murdock anyway? Jennifer Walters is a practicing attorney in New York City, she could have been Jessica’s attorney without the whole conflict of interest problems. Or maybe Jeryn Hogarth could have represented Jessica. Why, there’s even a Manhattan-based attorney in the Marvel Universe named Robert Ingersol. He could have represented Jessica. I happen to have personal knowledge that he could use the money.

Martha Thomases: Friends, Americans, Countrymen…

There comes a time, Constant Reader, usually on a Sunday afternoon, when I start to look at a few news sites to see what might interest you this week. Not just interest you, but provoke a reaction from me that might interest you. That’s because I love you, Constant Reader, and I want you to be amused… nay, more than that, I want you to live life to the fullest.

Especially as that life relates to comic books.

Some weeks, there are lots of stories from which to choose. Some weeks, there are very few. And some weeks, like this one, there are interesting stories that don’t seem to have any comic book relevance at all.

In fact, the only story that interests me at this moment, in terms of popular culture and the joys and stresses it can bring to us is this one about the Public Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that is part of its free Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater http://www.centralpark.com/guide/attractions/delacorte-theatre.html in New York’s Central Park. As so often happens with productions by the Public Theater, and productions of Shakespeare plays throughout the centuries, Julius Caesar has contemporary political overtones. In this case, the play is staged to suggest certain similarities between Caesar and our current president. As you may know, if you passed your high school English literature classes, Caesar is assassinated.

Right-wing commentators were appalled and denounced the production, accusing it of promoting violence against the President. As a result, Delta Airlines and Bank of America pulled their support for Shakespeare in the Park.

And then, as if to answer my prayers, comic book writer Nick Spencer chimed in with his opinion. The story has a comic book hook! It’s appropriate for this column!

I don’t know Nick Spencer, nor am I particularly a fan of his work. I think it’s kind of adorable that he thinks readers who don’t want to buy his work is somehow parallel to corporate sponsors reneging on commitments they made, citing political reasons for an excuse, but, sure, if that makes him feel better, I’m happy for him. That he thinks his work is comparable to Shakespeare makes me think he may have been over-praised as a child.

Let me be clear: Delta Airlines and Bank of America are entirely within their rights to refuse to fund work with which they have problems. This is not censorship, just as advertisers pulling their sponsorship from Bill O’Reilly’s show was not censorship. Depending on the specific terms of these specific contracts (about which I know nothing), they should be able to do with their money as they wish.

In this case, however, I think they are being stupid. And I’m not the only one. That links to an editorial in the New York Daily News, which, for the record, endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.

Julius Caesar is a play about an assassination. It is about a leader who overreaches in his quest for power, and the reaction (and over-reaction) to his actions. It has been performed for centuries, and, frequently, audiences have remarked about its relevance to their particular political moment.

In my high school English literature class, we read the play, discussed it, and I don’t remember anyone interpreting it as advocating assassination as a solution to problems. I was at an Episcopal boarding school, where I would guess that most of my classmates and many of my teachers were Republicans, yet we did not disagree on this point.

This has also not been the interpretation of other productions of this play, including a recent one that imagined Caesar as an Obama-like figure . I don’t recall any calls for a boycott of that version.

Some people compared the Public’s Caesar to Kathy Griffin’s recent posting of a photo of her holding a prop of a bloody Trump head. I guess they are alike in that they upset a particular demographic, but I don’t think there are similarities beyond that. Griffin’s photo was, in my opinion, a stupid and graceless bid for attention. It did not engage in any discussion of any issue. It made no statement other than that Kathy Griffin sees herself as a fighter against Trump. I believe she had a right to post that photo, but I also think it added nothing to our national conversation about this administration.

That’s not the case with Shakespeare. The plays have lasted for centuries because they continue to reveal new things about human nature and human society. And, in this case, they bring a little more Corey Still into our lives, which is always a good thing.

Box Office Democracy: The Mummy

You would think Universal would be happy with the money they’re making.

The last two Fast & Furious movies made over a billion dollars each.  They were the top grossing studio in 2015 and this year are on track for a second place finish.  No one is worried about the studio going broke or the lot being shut down or even serious cutbacks at their amusement parks.  Things are good.  I have no idea why they feel the need to invest so much in this Dark Universe nonsense that gave us this version of The Mummy.

They take what could be a perfectly good story about a scary, driven, magical lady mummy and fill it with exposition for movies that won’t be out for years and a “shared universe” with nothing anyone has any real attachment to.  There’s no one out there dying for a Creature From the Black Lagoon reboot, but here we are with pregnant pauses on a jar with a flipper in it in hopes it becomes the next Avengers or some such nonsense.  The Mummy is overloaded with ideas and starved for coherent storytelling, and it’s not a good combination.

The Mummy opens, like all good movies about an ancient Egyptian monster, in 12th century England.  I’m not entirely sure why we need the movie to start with a bit about crusaders except to start laying pipe for the insane shared universe they start building to later, but whatever.  We quickly move to ancient Egypt and the story of Prnicess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), the titular Mummy, and her thwarted inheritance and the horrible revenge she took that led to her being turned in to the kind of being that lives more than 3000 years and throws curses every which way.  It’s an interesting story and her character is more immediately gripping than any of the other characters.  You have Tom Cruise in this movie playing an army officer who loots antiquities and the movie spends the whole time falling over itself to praise him for the smallest bit of human decency.  Then you have Annabelle Wallis as an archaeologist who spends so much time keeping and revealing secrets that we never get to an actual character.  We spend 70% of the movies with those boring nothings of characters, while a much more electric villain languishes on the sidelines causing wordless havoc.

I get that this is trying to build to some bigger set of movies and that you would much rather have Tom Cruise as your linchpin than Sofia Boutella, but it isn’t just star power that makes Robert Downey Jr. the best part of The Avengers, it’s that they give him things to say or do that feel like they matter.  As someone who sees a lot of movies and plans to continue to do so I’m interested in the story hooks they leave at the end of The Mummy, but I’m not excited to spend any more time in this world or with this thieving soldier turned supernatural figure if his defining character trait is going to be “mostly a prick but not to this one woman he slept with” for an indefinite number of films.  That said, he’s got some A+ costuming in the last scene and Cruise is the biggest movie star of a generation, so there’s reason to hope there.

Otherwise you’ve got a horror action movie that isn’t particularly scary and has few memorable action beats.  The sequence with the crashing airplane is wonderful and something I haven’t seen before.  Or, rather, it would be something I haven’t seen before if it hadn’t been in all the trailers.  Other than that, it has a bunch of zombie-esque chase beats, and a fight scene that was a redux version of Black Widow and the Hulk.  There were better action beats in the 1999 Brendan Fraser version and that movie wasn’t very good either.  We don’t even get a good Tom Cruise running sequence and why even hire the guy at that point.

The Mummy is a frustrating movie not because it’s objectively bad or anything but because it’s so very boring.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so boring if they hadn’t been compelled to cram so much material in to build to more Dark Universe films.  If the story they’re actually telling in this film had gotten more room, instead of being dedicated to stuff that might be in movies we never see after the poor box office reception this weekend, it could have been saved.  We could have gotten more time with the supporting characters that were more interesting than the mains.  We could have focused on the mythology we were interacting with here, instead of needing to tie all evil in to one amorphous blob we could draw on later or being force-fed quite so much Dr. Jekyll.  Rather than get a nearly two-hour commercial for a product I’m not sure I want, The Mummy should have tried harder to be something worthwhile in its own right.

Mike Gold: Adam West Saved More Than Just The Universe

ComicMix’s crack legal columnist Bob Ingersoll is more than just a lawyer with a great wit, although that would be enough. For decades, Bob has been my go-to guy on the subject of television minutiae. So, it came as no surprise when he was the first to tell me and a group of our friends that Adam West died.

Yep, that sucks. Last week at this time, it would have been difficult to find a nicer guy in show business. Most of us are well aware of West’s résumé and I won’t bore you with it at this late date. Here’s the IMDB link – be sure to come back now, y’hear? But there’s one fun fact we tend to overlook.

Adam West saved the American comic book industry.

It was not a great time for the comic book racket. The founding families still owned most of the big players – DC, Marvel, Harvey, Archie – and unless you were Dell Comics, you were pretty much entirely dependent upon newsstand sales. The problem was, the newsstands were disappearing faster than a speeding bullet. The mom ‘n’ pop candy, grocery and magazine stores were dying off like the last reel of a Michael Crichton movie. The neighborhood newsstand, a product of our larger cities, were being urban-renewed into oblivion. Local drug stores were vaporizing before our very eyes.

What replaced all this stuff were big chain stores and huge shopping malls. The problem with these places was profitability. These stores measure profit in “turns” or how fast the product sells, and in “per-square-foot” increments. In response, the Comics Magazine Association of America developed large spinner racks that could hold maybe 500 comic books in a few square feet. The problem here is that policing comic book racks is expensive and takes a lot of time, and there’s not much profit in a 10-cent item.

In response, in 1961 the publishers raised the cover price 20%. Too little, way too late. It turns out there’s not much profit in a 12-cent item, either.

Publishers had been going out of business since the market started to turn south in the late 1940s. By the mid-50s some of the big guys – Quality, Fawcett, Fiction House, EC Comics – no longer survived. You’d think Fredrick Wertham had written another book. Despite Marvel’s slowly growing success, things looked bleak indeed.

And then, in January 1966, ABC-TV started broadcasting a twice-weekly series titled Batman, starring Adam West. The show went through the roof… and virtually all of the surviving comics publishers started adding more superhero product to their line. And these books sold. Some outlets that didn’t carry comics started doing so. For the first time, paperback reprints from a wide variety of publishers became widespread. Tower Comics (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, et al) burst onto the scene in the fall of 1965, just as the Batman hype was gathering steam. As such, they were a bit ahead of the curve.

Tower was joined by King Comics, Archie’s superhero imprint Mighty Comics, Lightning Comics (Fatman the Human Flying Saucer, Super Green Beret), and Myron Fass’s M.F. Enterprises (Captain Marvel, Eerie Publications – which was a horror imprint).

Television fads suffer from the laws of gravity, and the Batman craze only lasted a couple years. The other shows produced by Batman’s William Dozier either died after one year (Green Hornet) or never got off the ground (Wonder Woman, Dick Tracy). None of the aforementioned new publishers lasted very long, with the exception of Fass’s Eerie Publications.

However, in their wake, they left a much stronger DC Comics and an even stronger still Marvel Comics, particularly after Marvel got out from under their distribution deal with DC Comics’ Independent News Distributors – later known as Warner Publishing Services – in 1969.

I place the success of the Batman show and its dramatic impact on the American comic book publishing field at Adam West’s feet. Of course, if West had not been cast the program might have been as big a success. That’s something that we cannot divine. But Adam West did pull it off and he did so masterfully. West had the perfect approach for the material, simultaneously being heroic, “unknowingly” ironic, paternal, and strong of ability, spirit, and character. No easy feat.

More important, West had a great attitude about his work. After a brief period of trying to break out of the stereotype, he embraced the cape and cowl and renewed his work as Batman in television specials, in animated cartoons, and in public appearances. In fact, his last such effort – Batman vs Two-Face, starring West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar and William Shatner as the titled bad guy – will be released later this year.

His death last week made the top of the CBS radio news. It received break-ins on all media and the headline zippers on cable news shows. It set the Internet ablaze. Adam West was, and remains, a part of our American culture.

Adam West was, and remains, a major part of comic book history.

Joe Corallo: A Superhero Mockumentary


Before I jump into this week’s column, I wanted to touch on Iceman #1 since I’ve mentioned it so many times prior to its release last Wednesday. It was a solid first issue and I really love how Sina Grace handled the dynamic between Bobby Drake and his parents. Give it a shot if you haven’t already!

Moving on… There is currently a Kickstarter up for a superhero mockumentary, Zero Issue. It’s being run by the New York Picture Company – Matt Cullinan, Zach Bubolo, and Jim Fagan. They have a little over a week left and have nearly reached their goal.

I got the chance to chat with Matt, Zach and Jim about Zero Issue, what inspires them, and where they got the tuxedos they wear in their Kickstarter video!

Joe: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about your short film project, Zero Issue, Matt, Zach, and Jim! To start things off, can each of you give me a one-sentence pitch for Zero Issue?

Matt: Sure! Zero Issue is a superhero mockumentary about a loser hero trying to make a name for himself, and when his plans fail he has to figure out what lengths he’ll go to achieve fame.

Jim: I think mine would be “take every crippling fear of failure you have, mix it with your love of comic books and comedy, and watch them make a beautiful baby.”

Zach: I like that. Mine is “imagine if The Office, Chronicle, Avengers, and Best in Show were mashed into one movie, and you’ve got Zero Issue”.

Joe: You all list a lot of inspirations for this story in the Kickstarter which are great. How did this idea come to be though? Did one of you share the begins of an idea with the others, did you all have a eureka moment watching a movie together, or was it something else entirely?

Matt: Development was actually a long process.

Jim: Yeah, we were doing a lot of pitch creation for other people and we felt “hey, we need to go back to doing our own thing again…” we all knew we wanted to make a short film, share our voice with new people, connect to new parts of the industry… we just had to figure out what we wanted to say.

Zach: To generate ideas we actually use this collaborative process called “Design Thinking” and after rounds of brainstorming, cutting up magazines, writing ideas on post-it notes, we had a eureka moment in this coffee shop in Queens.

Jim: We were talking about genres we loved (and maybe it helped we were in Spider-Man’s home neighborhood of Forest Hills and next to a comic book shop) and we said: “what would our version of a superhero movie be?”

Joe: This is a superhero mockumentary. How did you decide that this was the best way to approach this particularly story?

Jim: I love the genre – it’s the reason I work in film and TV – that kind of story is the kind I’ve always wanted to tell: unfiltered, raw access to your characters. It takes any subject matter and makes it feel real and insanely funny. As far as the three of us go, it helps we have a shared obsession with the IFC show “Documentary Now” – once we knew Dale’s story and the story of this Superhero Festival we started thinking about an episode of Doc Now that shows you a whole world of an Al Capone Festival in Iceland in 22 minutes. It’s a perfect fit.

Zach: We also loved Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows (about vampire roommates in Wellington, New Zealand). That proved you could make a hilarious and compelling sci-fi story as a mockumentary.

Matt: Plus, early in our careers, Jim and I cut our teeth making reality and non-fiction television so as a genre we had a lot of experience executing it for networks.

Joe: The main character, Dale Dinkle, has super powers and wants to be famous. Can you tell us a bit more about Dale? What kind of things can we expect from Dale over the course of the story?

Zach: Dale is a bit of all three of us – he has a little bit of talent, he was told he’s special his whole life, and now he’s a 30-something and decidedly not special. He is desperate, confused, and disappointed that he hasn’t made it to the big time.

Matt: His power is that he can move objects with his mind – which is cool – but he’s not super powerful. He can’t float the Golden Gate Bridge like Magneto.

Jim: His mind-moving power is probably like Yoda in Empire. He could move an X-wing, but it would take a lot of effort… and he doesn’t tap into that until he gets a little dark side in him.

Matt: Ohh, is that a tease?

Jim: Maybe.

Matt: Over the course of the story expect of lot of him scrambling in desperation to prove how special and important he is.

Joe: What other kinds of characters and super powers can we expect to see in Zero Issue?

Jim: Another hero we’re excited for is Sarah Smith. If Dale represents the 90’s era superhero movies with ill-fitting nylon suits, she’s the Netflix-Snapchat era hero. No costume, just a cool attitude, and deadly powers.

Zach: She’s like Jessica Jones, but with the power of Phoenix.

Matt: But she gives no fucks. Which is awesome. Another aspiring hero is Hoover, a teen with a lot of social-anxiety. We thought that kind of character would be an original addition to the superhero genre.

Zach: He can literally suck the life out of a room, like Rogue, but he doesn’t absorb any powers. And like Sarah, he’s scared to fully use his powers.

Jim: The Zero Issue Universe is how our brains feel when we think about all the characters from all the decades of comic books we love. It’s like when you’re a kid and you take out your action figures from 12 different sets – X-Men, HeMan, Batman – they don’t care they’re from different “worlds” they just wanna kick some ass. Only in our movie, they attend symposiums on getting a superhero talent agent.

Zach: There’s the leather clad, machine gun wielding Miss Mayhem and Sir Chaos from the 80s, there’s Lady Marvelous, who is an aging Golden-Age hero from the 50s, and Hercules, the original superhero, who is literally from 200 BC.

Joe: Switching gears for a minute, there are a lot of Kickstarters out there lately and people like knowing that they’re pledging to accomplished professionals, which you all are. Could you each name one or two professional projects you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of?

Jim: Yeah, and we think that’s something special we bring to the project. This isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve made shows for networks and brands – I’m particularly proud of my work running a show for ABC called People’s List and my work on PBS’ Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton.

Matt: A lot of my work is in the documentary television space. I probably peaked when my childhood dreams came true and I worked with Mark Hamill on a piece called Raiders, Raptors, and Rebels: Behind the Magic of ILM. I also recently wrote and produced When We Rise: The People Behind the Story for ABC.

Zach: As an actor I loved working on the video game Grand Theft Auto V, and as a producer, I’m actually going to say that I loved our work on NYPC for Cooking for One with the Crying Chef.

Matt: Plug!

Joe: Whenever comic book fans hear about someone doing a project about superheroes, they like to hear about the comic books that inspired them. What comics have you read over the years that gave you an appreciation for the superhero genre?

Zach: My dad was a comic book collector in the 80s, and he loved showing me the milestone issues of the comics he collected: like Silver Surfer #1 or when Spider-Man got the symbiote suit, or the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Eastman and Laird, or The Phantom. Recently, I’ve been really into Faith and the Ta-Nehisi Coates Black Panther series “A Nation Under Our Feet”.

Jim: I think my introduction was through Saturday morning cartoons. The X-Men show was pretty influential to me. Everyone hum the theme song to yourself, I’ll wait… good. And when the New 52 came out I was obsessed with the new spin on Aquaman. And in the past year or so, I’ve really liked the Star Wars comics, specifically the Darth Vader run.

Matt: Honestly, I feel like early on in life a lot of my exposure to the world of comics came through the world of video games. So X-Men was huge for me. I spent a lot of time playing those games on the Sega Genesis (shoutout to Nightcrawler). Even more than video games, movies have always been my gateway to comics: the Burton/Keaton Batman films, TMNT, and later Hellboy, Blade, and Spawn. And graphic novels. Oh, and Y: The Last Man. I’ll stop now.

Zach: Other non-comics, but books we love and that give us a deep appreciation of comic lore are Soon I Will Be Invincible and Grant Morrison’s Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human.

Joe: In the Kickstarter video you’re all wearing tuxedos. Did you rent them or do you own them?

Jim: Mine is my dad’s! It’s ill-fitting!

Matt: Yeah, I bought mine when I was a best man for a wedding. I give a helluva toast.

Zach: I ordered mine from Amazon. Only ninety dollars!

Jim: Less if you return it after!

Joe: Though the initial goal is to raise $30,000 you have a stretch goal of $100,000 to produce a full-length feature film instead and the script is already written. Can you tell us more about what we can expect in a feature film and why it’s so important that you make it to $100,000?

Matt: Yes, the dream is to make a feature. But to make a movie with lots of special effects and lots of locations, characters, and cool costumes you need a whole lot of cash.

Jim: The feature would focus not just on Dale but other aspiring heroes. In this short, we introduce you to Sarah and Hoover but in the feature, they take over a bit more. The short is Dale’s story, our story… the feature is a bit larger in terms of story. You would also see a lot more of the “normal,” the townsfolk, and how the divide between the two groups would become irreconcilable. Christopher Guest is a master of creating a movie with several leads that you’re all cheering for.

Matt: The short would be the first third of a larger story. We’d move past the point where our movie ends and follow these three characters as they develop beyond the competition and intersect when their powers have all matured.

Zach: We think the short is incredibly strong – we tell a compact story, with one lead and a huge supporting cast, in twenty-two minutes. It’s going to have everything you could want from a superhero story: powers, humor, characters you care about, and a climactic battle.

Joe: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me about Zero Issue! Before we wrap this up, anything else you’d like to say about Zero Issue and where can people go to follow you on social media and follow Zero Issue and your future projects?

Zach: The best place for people to go right now is the Kickstarter page – no matter how much you give, whether it’s one dollar or one thousand, you’ll get on our mailing list and get all of our updates. Last week we released some insanely cool concept art early to our backers.
Matt: Plus you’ll be supporting the creation of a brand new superhero movie!

Jim: After the Kickstarter, the best place for all our news and updates is our Facebook page.

Mindy Newell: Wonder Woman? Okay, I’ll Chime In!

Well, everybody else here is talking about Wonder Woman, so I guess it’s my turn. Caution: there may be S-P-O-I-L-E-R-S ahead! (Especially my sixth bullet, below.)

  • It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again. Gal Gadot is to WW as Christopher Reeve was to Superman. Her portrayal of the Amazon leaves an indelible print upon the character; it’s as if Zeus did indeed exhale, not upon a figure of clay, but upon a two-dimensional comic book form drawn of pen and ink, allowing her to step off the flat page and into the three-dimensional world, granting her life and all the depth and breadth of humanity.
  • Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is not some ineffectual weenie who somehow got through basic training, nor is he some steroid-enhanced muscle-bound moose. Nor is he the male version of a 1950s Lois Lane, mooning after love. Nor is he the callous male hunk in love with his own reflection. And though he opens Diana’s eyes to what is going on “out in the world,” his piercing blue eyes are not the reason she leaves Paradise Island.
  • Etta Candy got short shrift, but it’s clear that she’s not some Woo-Wooing sidekick. Yes, she’s a secretary, but she’s no slave; secretaries do get paid, y’know. To even be a working woman in 1918 was pretty daring, and to work in military intelligence means that she’s no slouch when it comes ability. World War I was the start of a new social order in England, as those of you who watched Downton Abbey know, and I’m pretty sure Etta votes Labor and has marched for woman’s suffrage.
  • I loved the portrayal of Themiscrya. Of course I immediately thought of George (Pérez) as I looked upon the architecture and facades of the city; and I also thought of my own work and remembered how, as I wrote, I would picture Diana’s home in my head. (I also thought of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, another book that also features a mystical island of women.) But it wasn’t just George or my own work or Bradley’s; it was also a callback to my childhood, when I would look at the clouds piling up on the horizon as the sun set, and see castles and waterfalls and NeverNever Land and magic.
  • The battle against Ares: eh. Not so much. Almost anti-climatic in my book. The battle of the Amazons against the Germans invading Themiscrya? Yes! Yes! Yes!
  • Diana’s realization that killing Ares did not stop the war, did not stop the violence and destruction was like watching a child who is told numerous times to stay away from the oven because it’s hot, but still reaches out when Mommy’s not looking to touch it, and…wow, it hurts! I guess, sometimes, you just have to let the kid learn for herself.
  • What was with the woman in The Phantom of the Opera mask? No back story, nothing. Who was she? We understand why the Queen gives the poison apple to Snow White; we get why Maleficent put the curse on Sleeping Beauty. I thought that perhaps she was an Amazon who had left Themiscrya because she was “bored now,” or something; but nope. Nada. Unless she shows up in some future sequel – maybe she’s Circe?
  • Referencing Mike Gold’s column of July 7: Are you fucking kidding me? Fox News will do and say anything these days as their ratings sink and their Orange Führer sinks even lower.
  • Gal Gadot is Israeli and Jewish. (There are Israeli Christians and Muslims, y’know.) Apparently this bothers some people:

Washington Post: How the Jewish Identity of ‘Wonder Woman’s’ Star is Causing a Stir

Comicbook.com: There IS a Person of Color in the Lead Role

The (Jewish) Forward: ‘Wonder Woman’ Sparks Debate About Jewish Identity

Slate.com: Why So Many People Care Wonder Woman Is Israeli

Do these people know that Jesus Christ was Jewish? Do they realize that the odds of a Middle Eastern man born approximately 2,017 years ago on being blonde and blue-eyed and white are considerably less than the odds of winning the Powerball lottery?

And, sure, Cleopatra looked like Elizabeth Taylor – who converted to Judaism, by the way. Liz, I mean.

Fucking assholes… Welcome to the Age of Trump, people.

 

Ed Catto: Fight Like a Girl

It’s a good time to fight like a girl. The new Wonder Woman movie is a big hit. Everyone from Billy Tucci to my mom seems to like it. Fox News managed to complain about the level of patriotism in the movie, but whatever; every party needs a pooper.

I thought it was great fun, and yesterday’s Biographic strip in sundry newspapers taught me something I didn’t remember. It turns out Wonder Woman’s first animated appearance was on an episode of The Brady Kids. It predated Superfriends by one year! This show was a spin-off of the Brady Bunch series. Even as a young fan, I remember watching this cartoon was pretty painful. At that time, I preferred Marcia Brady to Wonder Woman… but, hey, it’s still cool that it actually happened.

Wonder Woman is very busy in comics right now. Beyond her regular “Rebirthed” series and her DC Super Girls adventures, the Wonder Woman ’77 version of the character has been on a tear with Batman and Bionic Woman team-ups. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed the Batman ’66 crossover in particular. Jeff Parker is adding onto the TV mythology in clever and unexpected ways. Batfans shouldn’t miss these.

Beyond the Amazonian Princess, currently there’s quite a few top-notch comics where the protagonist is fighting like a girl… because she is one… including:

  • Mother Panic – This wonky DC/Young Animal series about features an unlikely, and unlikable, female protagonist. But I really enjoy it and art by Tommy Lee Edwards and Jon Paul Leon has been gorgeous and inspiring.
  • Velvet – Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s excellent 007esque series just ended, but Batwoman is a consolation as Epting has continued onto this series. His art is just superlative there too.
  • Lazarus – Greg Rucka and Michael Lark deliver a world-building drama that continues to ratchet up the tension in each issue. It’s been quite a ride and show’s no sign of stopping.
  • Invisible Republic – Produced by the super-talented, and super-likable, team of Gabriel and Corinna Bechko, this Image series is literally a world-building story. It tells the tale of Maia McBride and her involvement with and efforts on behalf of a revolutionary establishing a society. It’s great creepy fun. A mystery wrapped in an adventure wrapped in an enigma wrapped in social commentary.

While The New York Daily News carries Biographic (I really buy this paper each Sunday for the full page Prince Valiant), The New York Times offered readers a surprise this weekend too. What a treat their all-comics version of the Sunday magazine was! Hope you were able to snag a copy of that, but if not, check it out here.

Their New York Times Book Review section also reviewed The Spectacular Sisterhood Of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History by Hope Nicholson.  This looks to be a fun book by a passionate author with an impressive pedigree. Published by Quirk, this is another one of those books in the mold of Craig Yoe’s Super Weird Heroes or Jon Morris’s The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History.

In fact, if vintage super heroines are your thing, I really must be sure you are aware of Mike Madrid’s The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and The History of Comic Book Heroines, Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics. He even gave the “bad guy women” their due in Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics.

And this all leads me to another Fangirls Lead the Way Panel. I’ll be moderating this one at Syracuse’s Salt City Comic Con on the first day of the show, June 24th. This is looking to be an engaging convention with wonderful guests. I’m expecting some cool discussions and insights at this panel, mainly because this one always brings out the best in the panelists and the audience.

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering – we can’t announce any panels for San Diego Comic-Con quite yet… so stay tuned.)

My panelists in Syracuse include Sally Heaven of Fangirl Shirts. This entrepreneurial apparel company will be exhibiting on the show floor, and I’m excited to have her on the panel. Sally’s a spitfire and comes to every comic-con with passion, energy…and really cool T-shirts! Connie Gibbs, of Black Girl Nerds always has good insights to share and brings so much to the party. it will be great to see her again. And we’ve got a few surprises too.

This one will be at 2:00 in the “Hall of Justice” on the Saturday of Salt City Comic-Con. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

•     •     •     •     •

For more info on all the panels at the Syracuse show check out their schedule!

John Ostrander: Crossed Lines

So, Bill Maher crossed the line and got himself into hot water. Given the nature of his HBO show, Real Time, and his own proclivities as a satirist, maybe he should just have a hot tub on stage instead of a desk. It would suit him in many ways.

Recently, as part of an interview, Maher jokingly referred to himself as a “house ‘N’ word.” No, I’m not repeating the actual word here for a few reasons. A) I don’t want to pull a Maher; B) I don’t like the word. I won’t pretend I’ve never used it; I threw it around a bit as a kid in 1950s Chicago along with the “c” word, the “f” word, the “mf” and others of that ilk because I knew they were bad words, naughty words, and I was trying at those moments to pass myself off to my self and my friends as a naughty boy, as a bad boy. Didn’t use those words around my family, my parents, or the nuns; I would have been a dead boy if I had. I haven’t used the “n” word as an adult; not since I learned the history of the word, the harm in it.

I know that the “n” word is used by African-Americans and I know that’s different; there’s a cultural aspect to the use that doesn’t work with someone who is white. There’s a menace when that happens; a whole history of racism and bigotry packed into it.

However, I do have a question. Can I, as a white male writer, ever use it in the context of a story? When I was writing The Kents (my historical Western featuring the ancestors of Clark Kent’s adoptive family), I had characters who could have and perhaps should have used that word. I couldn’t bring myself to do it so I adopted a similar word as a replacement only to learn later that this word was perhaps more offensive.

I ran up against the same problem with Kros: Hallowed Ground. It’s set during the Civil War and the word would have been used. At first, I was inclined to use it but I had long talks with my partners, Tom Mandrake and Jan Duursema. They made the point that the word was jarring when you came across it and that it might well offend some of our backers, black and white. In the end, I agreed we shouldn’t use that word and didn’t.

The question still remains for me; can I as a white male writer justifiably use such a loaded word?

There’s the Mark Twain example who made prolific use of the “n” word; one of his great characters in Huck Finn is “N” Jim. I know there are versions of the book in which all the “N” words have been removed. I’m not nuts about that. There is a term “Bowdlerize” which denotes going through a text, especially a classic, and removing words and/or terms deemed offensive or not suitable for children and people easily offended. That raises my writerly hackles.

Still, the question persists – can a white male writer legitimately use the “n” word or the “c” word or any other words of that ilk? I don’t know. I’m still searching for that answer and I suspect I won’t find a definitive one.

Maher, for his part, realizes he went too far and did apologize for it. He devoted a considerable part of his show this week in a discussion of the term, repeating his apology. Ice Cube, among others, explained why the word is objectionable in ways that might expand our understanding of the situation.

However, there have been those who have called for him to be fired. I understand that Sen. Al Franken canceled a scheduled appearance on Real Time this week. Franken was formerly a comic, sometimes an edgy one, but he’s cutting no slack here.

Both Maher and Kathy Griffin (who got herself in trouble with a photo holding up a severed head of Trump) make edginess part of their routines. The edge, however, is not well marked and at times the only way you know where it is is when you’ve gone over it. And, at times, you’ll go past it at 100 mph.

To say the “N,” if you’re white, is never right. As a writer, as a white male writer, can I ever write it? I don’t know and until I have a clearer answer, I won’t. I may never get that.

Life would be simpler if it just came with a clearer book of instructions. Something simple and easy, in clear black and white.