Category: Columns

DENNIS O’NEIL: Green Is The Color Of My Lantern

Now let’s see – where were we? Last time we decided that parallel evolution caused a duplicate David Niven… well, almost duplicate; there is the matter of that magenta complexion… a duplicate David Niven to evolve on the planet Korugar, because parallel evolution will have its way and Sinestro’s mom was so smitten with the magenta Dave’s moustache that she insisted her son grow a similar one. Or something like that. (And from here, Freudians can have their field day.)

Let’s call the moustache question settled, even if it isn’t.

Just two more items on the Green Lantern movie agenda and we can tuck it into our memory banks, at least until the sequel appears.

First, the Guardians. I dimly remember that when I was writing the Green Lantern comic book, I had the tiniest bit of a niggle over the Guardians. I mean, these aren’t just any lower case-g guardians…these are the big, honkin’ Guardians Of The Universe. The wisest, smartest, most advanced beings in the…well – in the Universe! And yet – look at them! Little blue fellas in red night shirts. Stately? Majestic? Not a bit of it. They look like first cousins to Smurfs.

Okay, I know, I know…maybe the most powerful being in the universe, if such exists, is the size of a microbe and looks like Elmer Fudd. I’m a fan of Mr. Mind, the criminal genius who bedeviled Captain Marvel and who, when his identity was finally revealed, proved to be a worm. But aren’t we allowed a bit of imagination here? Can’t our Guardians resemble something we can relate to when we’re thinking ageless galactic savants?

Here, we must offer kudos to the Green Lantern film makers. Without changing the basic design of the Guardians – still little blue guys in red gowns – they art-directed a certain gloominess and gravitas into the fellas and, if my aging eyes did their job properly, at least one gal, and these worked for the characters and the narrative. Watching the film Guardians, I had one of those uncomfortable why didn’t we think of this moments.


MIKE GOLD: “Fly” – A Whole Different Type of Super

When it comes to reviewing individual comics, I’d rather shed attention on stuff produced by smaller publishers; Marvel and DC get enough ink. Besides, it’s more fun to mock their trends than it is to analyze their product. I’d rather focus attention on really good stuff from smaller publishers you might not have heard of than really bad stuff of which you might not have heard.

Many comics shops do not have the resources to really back these titles. They’ve already bet the rent (literally) on the latest megacrossover stunts from the big lugs. Fine – so you may have to poke around a bit to find my recommendations. Hey, I grew up with the thrill of the comics hunt; welcome to my past.

So when am I going to get around to the damn review? Glad you asked.

There’s an operation out in Pennsylvania called Zenescope Entertainment. They’re best known for their sundry Grimm Fairy Tales comics and other horror-oriented stuff like Charmed, but today I’m going to wax on about a different type of horror – the horror of drug addition.

Zenescope reveals the high-concept of their new series, Fly, a mere two issues old: “What if there was a drug that gave you the power to fly? How far would you go to possess it and who would you hurt to get your next fix?” Okay, that sounds interesting.

There’s a real story here, and that’s something we don’t see very often these days. Writer Raven Gregory (The Gift, The Waking) establishes believable characters with whom the reader can identify. The premise is simple, but the execution is deep. The good kid gets in over his head. He loves to fly even though he’s having his issues adjusting. He just begins to realize the stuff that gives him this ability is fast acting and fast addicting. And he doesn’t know what to do about that.



I came home from the San Diego Comic-Com last Sunday night around 9:30. I went to bed around 9:32. I slept all day Monday and most of the day Tuesday.

Why do I need so much sleep after Comic-Con? Because I had maybe 20 hours sleep total the two weeks before Comic-Con and five hours sleep during Comic-Con.

Here’s my Comic-Con recap.

Friday morning my annual Black Panel did a tribute to my fallen partner Dwayne McDuffie and I do think we did him justice. It was supposed to be a joyous celebration and for the most part it was, but there were a few times when the tears did flow. All and all it was great being around fans, friends and pros that all loved Dwayne. The highlight for me was the video taped message from Wayne Brady. In it Wayne told the audience what a big fan of Dwayne he was. that was cool!

Also at the Black Panel, I announced the “Search For The Next Great Graphic Novelist” contest! FAN, Final Draft and my imprint Level Next are sponsoring the contest. More details to come right here at ComicMix!

Friday afternoon saw me as a panelist on the cool ass upstart panel, “The Nappy Hour.”  I make it a point not to do any panels except The Black Panel while at Comic-Con. The Black Panel is so much work that doing another panel is simply out of the question and I’m asked to be on at least four panels every year. Keith Knight, the founder of the Nappy Panel, had a bit of a run in last year on the net. Years ago the run in would have turned into a war but now the kinder, gentler Michael Davis look for other options than to smite those who dare to speak ill of me. FYI: Keith did not speak ill of me and in fact it was me that took something he wrote the wrong way. If you know anything about me you know that when I’m wrong I own up to it.

Keith and I decided to do what black men don’t do. We decided to talk! Then we decided to do each other…each other’s panel. Get your mind out of the gutter! The Nappy Panel was so much fun that I’m thinking he and I should create a panel that would showcase the best of The Nappy and the Black panels. What do you think, Keith?

A few hours after the Nappy Panel I met with co-publisher of DC Comics Dan Didio to talk about a possible project. It was the first official meeting I’ve had with DC in over a decade. What happened?  Well…


GLENN HAUMAN: The Thirty Year War

GLENN HAUMAN: The Thirty Year War

“Ladies and gentlemen… rock and roll.”


With those words thirty years ago today, a revolution came to an industry. The old ways of consuming pop culture weren’t dead, per se, but they were being badly eclipsed by what was coming down the coaxial cable into the home. And although it didn’t happen overnight, the old ways of doing business were gone forever. No longer would marketing to individual distributors scattered across the country in fragmented markets work, you had to change to a larger brand identity that relied on visual punch and integration with new media.

The new medium was subversive. Innovators could create for the new communications channel and gain a tremendous first mover advantage, which could then be maintained by fresh content on a constant basis.

In time, a new crop of stars came to the foreground. Some of them were pros from the old guard who learned to adapt. Others were people who couldn’t break in under the old regimes, but found a way in the new uncharted territories. And some of the most interesting work came from people who were immersed in the new ways, who didn’t have any reference for “the way things were supposed to be done” and came in and broke the rules precisely because they didn’t have any idea what the rules were.

This was incredibly disruptive, as you can well imagine. Some people simply couldn’t make the leap– their stuff just didn’t look all that hot. Some were too entrenched in the old system. But the ones who probably got it worst were the stores. First, the mom and pops and the hobbyists got pushed out, or amped up their game and got big. Then the formats changed, and while purists claimed the new digital format leached out all the fire and passion and humanity, most people either couldn’t tell the difference or—heresy!— preferred the shiny new format without scratches or imperfections, copies that were as crisp and sharp the thousandth time as they were the first. Soon, the old format was completely gone from the stores, and for that matter, a lot of the stores were gone too. The stores that carried the new digital format did okay… for a while. But then after a few years, most of them disappeared too, even some of the biggest.

In time, even the new channel lost focus. They started making movies, and dabbled in animation. But after a while, they seemed to stop being as relevant as they used to be, branching off with new storylines and products that seemed to have no connection to what they were once known for– even their name was divorced from their identity. It didn’t seem to be a problem, they were still reaching the demographic they were shooting for, or so it seemed, and they were still making money, although not as much as they were, because times change, y’know? Besides, they’d say, you just aren’t getting it because you’re old, and this is what the kids want now. They ignored the cries of people who said they’d completely gotten away from their original focus, but maybe they had a point– after all, you couldn’t cater to the fans of the old stuff forever. We can still make things for the nostalgia market, but we have to pay attention to the new audience too. And really, have you looked at some of the old stuff recently? It’s downright primitive. These were met with the predictable cries of “Sellout!” Meanwhile, new artists still break through to new audiences any way they can.

Mike Gold’s edict is that these columns should have something to do with comics.


I saw the latest reboot with new 52
We thought it was another crisis to go through
We didn’t know that printer invoices were due
ohh, ohh…
They took the blame for all collector dormancy
Forced to adapt their ways to new technology
and now I understand the problem at DC
ohh, ohh…
What did they tell you?
ohh, ohh…
There was no sell-through…

JOHN OSTRANDER: How Piracy Made Me A Comic Book Writer

One of the questions I’ve been asked most frequently over the years has been “How do you break in to comics?” – usually by someone looking to break into comics themselves. My standard answer is, “Through the roof with crowbar in the dead of night.” The true answer is – I don’t know. I got into comics because Mike Gold, who was then starting up First Comics, was my friend and liked my work as a playwright and knew I really loved comics and wanted to see what I would do given a chance. So I guess my answer is, “Make friends with someone who will someday become an editor and give you a shot. And then don’t screw up.” Not the easiest advice to follow.

The main reason Mike gave me a shot was one particular play – Bloody Bess – that was co-written by myself and my long time friend, William J. Norris, with Stuart Gordon on plotting assist. The play was performed first by the legendary Chicago theater company, The Organic Theater, and you may know some of the people involved back then. Stuart was founder and director and, if you know him for nothing else, you must know him as the director of the film, [[[Re-Animator]]]. You may know some of the actors who were involved such as Meschach Taylor (Designing Women), Dennis Franz (NYPD Blue), and Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds, Fat Tony on The Simpsons).

The play was begotten because Stuart wanted to stage a Jacobean revenge tragedy but he couldn’t find an actual one that he liked. It was the height of Watergate and Stuart claimed you could smell the desire for revenge in the air. So he decided to commission a new one. It was about pirates because we were also aware of two actual female pirates – Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Mike liked the play a lot and came more than once to see the show. All of which brings us to the real reason to write this particular column – to re-tell one of Mike’s favorite stories from my theater days.


MARC ALAN FISHMAN: X-Men – Built By The McMansion of Ideas

Wikipedia (truly the only place to learn stuff these days) defines McMansion as “a pejorative term for a large new house which is judged as pretentious, tasteless, or badly designed for its neighborhood.” When I read that term, one comic franchise comes to mind. Color me snarky this morning, kiddos, but I feel the need to rant about those kooky carnival clowns known as the X-Men. Let me go tape up my fists and put in my mouth guard. This one’s gonna get ooogly.

I’ve little doubt when Stan and Jack (I’ve no right to call them that, but screw it…) created the titular teens with wonky talents, it was done for a reason. More than DC, Marvel’s characters come pre-baked with personal turmoil. Peter Parker, the every-nerd… Bruce Banner, the mild-mannered man who can’t get mad… and who would not list Hank Pym, the small-then-big-then-small-then-big wife-beating man-of-science? The X-Men were no different. Here we had basically innocent kids being picked on and ostracized for being not normal. Make any parable of that you want. Black? Gay? Bi-sexual? Transgendered? Jewish? OK, probably not Jewish. More to the point though… in the beginning, the X-Men were a fantastic concept, anchored by amazing art. Of course they were a direct rip-off of the Doom Patrol, but let’s not get into that argument. Since their humble start in the funnies, the X-Men have since become a continuity-hampered, impossible to follow nightmare.


MARTHA THOMASES: I’m Dreaming of… Paul Levitz?

Androids may or may not dream of electric sheep. Lately, however, I dream of Paul Levitz.

No, not like that. Get your mind out of the gutter. Yeesh.

Having said that, it’s still a disturbing experience.

I’ve known Paul since the late 1970s. He was my boss’s boss for the ten years I worked at DC Comics in the 1990s. His daughter is around the same age as my son, and sometimes we would both bring our kids to a convention and watch them work the booth together. I don’t see him very much these days, but our relationship has never been worse than cordial.

That’s not why he’s prowling through my sub-conscious.

In my dreams, I’m back at DC. The only problem is, no one else knows it. No one has actually hired me. I’m sneaking into an empty office, unpacking my Rolodex, and booting up the archaic IBM computer.

I’ve secured a space, and now I need to start doing my job, so I can justify my position. When I had the job, I’d go and talk to editors to find out what we were publishing, whether it was a newsworthy storyline or an interesting creative team. This technique worked pretty well for me. I got stories into gossip columns (e.g. the Lois and Clark engagement, the Death of Superman), and I got writers and artists interviewed by mainstream magazines (e.g. Neil Gaiman in Details).

Now I have to sneak around, crawling into offices to snatch photocopies of upcoming books. And then, I find out that Warner Bros. is going to make a Justice League movie. This fills me with fear.

Why? What does this mean?

I was one of the last people to actually get my own computer at DC, so clearly, my sub-conscious wants me to assert territorial rights. The crawling means my self-esteem is low, hardly a news-flash.

But a Justice League movie?

During my tenure, it was policy that any time there was a story involving a character scheduled for television or the movies, my work had to be approved by Warner Bros.’ publicists in Burbank before I could contact any media. This was cumbersome but doable when the only character involved was Batman. For the most part, corporate was reasonable.

The most frustrating exception, from my point of view, was when Chris O’Donnell was promoting a Batman movie on the Letterman show, right across the street. I wanted to send over a copy of a Robin comic, maybe get a picture. I was told I couldn’t, because Chris didn’t like to promote “licensed” products. My attempt to say that the movie was licensed from us was not successful.

A Justice League movie would mean that no character could be promoted without corporate approval from Burbank.

And everything would have to go through Paul. I have to keep myself a secret, but still be spectacularly successful to keep my nonexistent job. In my dream, Paul is the logjam. I must simultaneously perform a miracle and get the credit I deserve, while acting like I’m not really there, just visiting.

At least I kept my clothes on.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

DENNIS O’NEIL: Not Dennis O’Neil

When is a Denny O’Neil column not a Denny O’Neil column? When it’s being written by Man-Child editor Gold. Denny is under the weather – hopefully no longer in pain, as the only thing worse than being sick is being in agony. I know, because that was my situation for half of June and July.

All this means Denny and I are old and, obviously, decrepit. Let me tell you something, kiddies: that sucks. I’ll tell you two other things: it beats the alternative, and therefore if you live long enough for it to happen to you, you’re lucky.

But since we have this space that’s Denny’s, I’m going to say a few words about the old geezer. I can do this because he’s even older than I am, and I was a teenager when I started reading his stuff. I loved his work (and continue to do so) since before there was a Dennis O’Neil byline in comics. His phenomenal work for Charlton, Children of Doom (Charlton Premiere #2 November 1967, drawn by the late-great Pat Boyette and edited by the similarly late-great Dick Giordano), was published under the pen name Sergius O’Shaugnessy.

Jeez, Denny. Can you get any more Irish?

Anyway, if you can beg, borrow or steal a copy, do so. Go to your local schoolyard or crawl under the covers with a flashlight and read the thing. You will be amazed, entertained, edified, and overwhelmed by the succulent smell of deteriorating newsprint. And as I recall, Charlton used pre-deteriorating newsprint on their presses.

Denny and I became wall-mates during our respective tenures at DC Comics in the mid-70s. When we both returned to those hallowed halls (well, they had moved but DC is always doing that) we became office-mates for several years. And here’s a shock: I was totally honored to be sharing space with the man.

In fact, when I became his editor on [[[The Question]]] (yes, I’m bragging), I was totally intimidated. How the hell could I edit this man? Now, this is a fanboy response and not a professional one: I edited Will Eisner and even Peter O’Donnell, and those were not self-intimidating experiences. Then again, I didn’t live with them eight hours a day.

I had a great time on The Question. At a few points, it was an almost volatile experience – DC is known for its office politics and fighting with the bureaucracy and particularly with our crack marketing department was an ongoing thrill. Some are convinced I enjoyed that.


I don’t get to see Denny enough, but when I do I feel a strong connection to a kindred experience – one who, on his worst days (we both have a background in “journalism”), can write rings around me. So when his wife Marifran told me he would miss this week’s column – as saintly as Denny is, his being married to Marifran is an act of astonishing luck – all this dribble immediately popped up in my brainpan.

Thanks for letting me share. And Denny, get well soon or I’ll have to write that Dark Denny piece!

Recommended Reading: Charlton Premiere #2 November 1967, “Children of Doom,” written by Sergius O’Shaugnessy, drawn by Pat Boyette and edited by the similarly Dick Giordano.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

MIKE GOLD: Fantastic Fifty

Let me tell you a timely story.

Almost fifty years ago, my parents piled my sister and me into the car for a drive to DeKalb, Illinois. Since my sister was about to start college only three of us would be coming back. Always concerned about his children’s cultural upbringing, Dad stopped by a phenomenal bagel joint called Kaufman’s in what was Chicago’s Jewish neighborhood at the time. While he was stocking up on carbs, I was ordered to go across the street to an ancient drug store, the type that had a genuine soda fountain, three huge magazine racks and a separate and equally gigantic rack for comic books. My father disliked feeding my habit, but he wanted the drive to college to be as peaceful as possible and the best way to insure that was to buy me some comics. The stunt still works to this very day.

Sadly, as much as I scoured the racks I had read everything that was likely to catch my eye, and even some of the fringe titles such as The Adventures of The Fly, Our Army At War, and Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane. But I would be damned if I let such an opportunity pass. I discovered a sort of superheroish first issue from an unnamed company that I associated with monster titles that I generally passed over.

My dad came into the store to pick me up and pay for the damages. I gave him one solitary little pamphlet. One. He was amazed. “Only one?” I shrugged. “Well, we’ve gotta go, we’re late.” He literally flipped a dime across the room to the ancient man behind the counter and we began our hot, tedious trip with warnings to my young just-turned-11-years-old ass that I better shut up and behave.

I proceeded to read my one and only comic book. Within a couple pages, I was hooked. It was a monster comic, but it was also a superhero comic. It was drawn by a guy whose work I recognized and appreciated from his brief time with Green Arrow, Private Strong, and The Fly. By the time I finished the book-length story, which was rare in those days, I had already decided to reread it.

Several times, as it turned out. Dad and I both got lucky.


MINDY NEWELL: How I Became A Comics Professional…

…or how the fuck did that happen? Part One

So how did I get into comics?

I wasn’t going to write about this because the last column was all about me, and I don’t want you all thinking that “it’s all about her,” because it’s not, really, but I just reread my first column, and I did promise you, so…

I wish I could tell you that I always knew I wanted to be a comics writer, and that I was encouraged by my high school teachers and then went to university and majored in English with a minor in writing, or that I was a “convention-ho” and showed sample after sample after sample of my writing to every editor who didn’t make a beeline for the bathroom when they saw me coming. Or that I’m related to someone in the comics world, and hey, a little bit of nepotism doesn’t hurt. (Let’s get real, here, right?)


Once upon a time –1983 – I was working in the OR at a “great metropolitan hospital of a major American city.” It was an ordinary day, with no hint of things to come. Lunchtime came, and, not having anything to read while I ate, I went down to the hospitality shop, thinking I would pick up a magazine or maybe a paperback. None of the magazines or books was really catching my interest, when out of the corner of my left eye I noticed a rack.

A rack of comic books! (more…)