Category: Columns

Michael Uslan on who’s the star of Batman movies

Michael Uslan on who’s the star of Batman movies

Michael E. Uslan is, among many other things, an executive producer of the Batman films. This post is reprinted with his permission.

–ComicMix Staff

I’ve always believed that the star of a Batman movie is… Batman. For me, it is not about hiring a big box office draw like making Tom Cruise The Batman for a generation. It is all rather about making Bruce Wayne come to life. Because of that conceptually, the most important aspect of casting is not necessarily the actor, but rather the filmmaker. Does the filmmaker have a love for and understanding of the character? Does he or she have a passion for the character? Does the filmmaker have a vision for the character and do you believe he or she can execute that vision? Ultimately, more than track record, it comes down to trust.

(more…)

Batton Lash: The Best of Us

I have a long running tradition of giving my readers a gift on my birthday. That gift was usually a piece about an amazing person. Yesterday was my birthday— this was to run then, though I wish it would have never run.

It did not post yesterday because I was killed on my birthday and that noise would have cheapened a very rich legacy. 

Batton Lash was among the best the comic book industry had to offer.

As an artist or writer, he could hold his own against anyone and outclassed most. His masterwork Supernatural Law is a rarity in any media, an original concept which maintained its originality from its early beginning as Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre in 1979 until its transition to a web comic in the early 2000s.

In 2019 there are still few ideas as original as Batton’s series about the law practice of Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd, whose focus is defending monsters and other supernatural beings in court.

That was a brilliant idea, and almost 40 years since its creation it’s still just as excellent. Batton’s career featured many unique ideas I won’t go into here just know his body of work would be sufficient enough reason to say Batton Lash was among the best the comic book industry had to offer.

Impressive as his work is it is not the first reason, I think Batton Lash was a shining light in the industry.

That reason is the kind of man Batton Lash was, a brilliant kind and genuine soul.  That’s rare and hard to believe nowadays even rarer to a man who believes less and less about the milk of human kindness.

Batton passed away last January it’s now the last days of April; regrettably, I didn’t notice until a few days ago when I tried to call his wife, Jackie Estrada before I could I had to make another call first.

Long story short: for well over a year a hacker has disrupted most of my organization with a vicious personal assault. Yeah, someone really hates me that much. As Prince said in his song “Let’s Go Crazy”, there’s something else… and the hacker isn’t even a close second of things I worry about. I’d often thought about people who unplug from the world with envy; therefore, I did what some may consider a nuclear option, wiping or replacing all computers cell phones tablets, and no social networking.

I left it up to a tech company to make sure vital files and contacts was purged, that meant I no longer have my contact info readily available; moreover, no one has my new information, not even my management.

A smart BRILLIANT move…for an idiot.

Batton helped me realize just what an idiot I was, and that’s not the first time. The first time was 2 decades ago during a ‘elevate the industry’ discussion at Pro Con.

The audience of creators, publishers, and vendors were debating ways to elevate the comic business to bring in more women readers. To some that meant less superpowered plotlines, women characters drawn and written without the mandatory T&A 15-year-old boys crave. Lastly the curtailing of needless violence.

I agreed with all that.

In fact, I stood and agreed with a short but elegant (so I thought) speech.

That way the entire audience would know what a forward-thinking man about town I was. “We need less superpowered plotlines, women characters drawn and written without the mandatory T&A 15-year-old boys crave and a curtailing of needless violence.”

When I sat down, Batton got up turned towards me (no doubt to co-sign my greatness) and said, something like “Michael, with all due respect your new line of books are filled with superpowered plotlines, women characters drawn and written with T&A 15-year-old boys crave and plenty of needless violence!”

Yeah. I’d forgotten about that tiny bit of truth.

I’d met Batton, but we were far from friends at the time and lightyears from “let me school you in front of everybody” terms. I was pissed and knew I’d stay pissed forever.

Took about 10 minutes for my fury to flutter away.

I caved because Batton came over after the panel with that copyrighted Lash grin, that smile was so sincere I could not stay mad, and I knew when he spoke to me “with all due respect” wasn’t just lip service. Batton defended his point of view without insult while respecting mine which he knew differed in my work at the time. In short, he was a throwback to a time when integrity was commonplace.

Years ago, I received a call from an African American website asking me to comment on a “racist” cartoon on a far-right website featuring our last President and his wife.

I’d take a bullet for the Obama’s faster than the Secret Service could yell “gun”, so I was ready to get my “OH NO THEY DID-ANT” on. After looking at the cartoon, my quote for the website was; “The cartoon was silly satire, not racist” because that’s what it was.

The website didn’t use my quote.

Batton co-created the cartoon. I’m Black and there was a better chance of me becoming Grand Wizard of the KKK than of Batton Lash being racist.

I’ve been in no hurry to reconnect with the world so instead of re-joining my network if I needed a contact, I’d call my manager when I called to get Jackie’s number my rep told me Batton was gone.

To show my appreciation for people who have shown me kindness I often gift them a painting. It’s the greatest show of love and respect I can give a person. I’ve lost all my immediate family learning the hard way to let people know you care as soon as possible. A few years ago, to celebrate Batton’s and Jackie’s anniversary I did a painting for them.

Fed-Ex delivered to the wrong address and took months to find it.  Once found it was sent back to me damaged. I’d just finished reworking it thus the call to Jackie to get the correct address.

Batton’s death and the amount of time passed before I was aware was an agonizing ordeal for me. So determined was my desire to avoid any life occurrences I purposely made it impossible to reach me.

Batton made me realize what a self-centered thing I did.

Batton Lash was significant, he mattered I should have known and paid my respect to his memory and condolences to Jackie long before this.

I really liked and admired Batton for sure as a creator but suffering from depression, my focus was his humanity.

In my opinion, Batton Lash was the best of us.

Jackie, I don’t have the words to convey how sorry I am for your loss. Please know I will honor Batton’s memory and value the friendship of you both for the rest of my life.

THE LAW IS A ASS Installment # 439: Bouncing Ideas Off Superman

In the immortal words of Dorothy Parker… Err, maybe we shouldn’t go there.

Sorry it’s been a while. September until May constitutes a while, cause it’s a bit longer than a little while. Between out of town comic book conventions, trips to Chicago, family vacations, trips to Chicago, holidays, even more trips to Chicago – including a lengthy one to help my daughter when, first, she pulled a rib muscle and couldn’t lift her two-year-old and another lengthy one when she gave birth of my grandson – and various and sundry other sundries that I can’t talk about quite yet; I just haven’t had much time to write a column.

But I’m back with a vengeance. The vengeance being what the fine and patient folks at ComicMix will demand if I go this long between columns again. So, as the Prufrock is in the puttin’ words together; “let us go then, you and I…”

…And then they throw their guns at him.

Seriously, how many times did we see that scene play out in the Adventures of Superman TV show with George Reeves? Superman confronts some two-bit thugs – the show’s budget didn’t allow them to spend more than twenty-five cents for extras – the thugs would shoot at Superman, and the bullets would bounce off him harmlessly. Then, after the bad guys emptied their guns at Superman without effect, they’d throw their guns at him believing guns thrown at maybe 50 mph will do Superman harm when projectiles moving at 1,067 feet per second had already bounced like their last rent check.

An oft-repeated scenario which prompted one Ron Hartley to tweet me with a question: under this fact pattern, would the criminals be guilty of a crime? Not some silly low-grade crime like illegally discharging a firearm or an excessive noise violation, are they guilty of a major crime?

To which I answer, it depends. No, not because lawyers are constitutionally incapable of answering a yes or no question “yes” or “no.” I answer it depends, because the answer actually does depend on a few variables.

First, let’s zero in on of what crime might the criminals be guilty? Not murder. Superman didn’t die. But by firing their guns the criminals did commit an act which, if successful, would have resulted in killing Superman. That’s attempted murder. Then there’s some type of assault. What type? As a bar-be-cue chef who’s fond of Shakespeare might say, “Ah, there’s the rub.”

I turn to the Model Penal Code, a document written by the American Law Institute in an effort to update and unify the penal laws throughout the country. Toward that end, the MPC contains model statutes which define crimes and penalties. Since it’s first publication in 1962, more than half the states have modified their criminal codes to incorporate language of the MPC in their penal codes. So the MPC is about as close to a universal criminal law of the land as we’re likely to get.

The MPC defines aggravated assault as causing, or attempting to cause bodily harm to another with a deadly weapon. Note that attempting to cause part, that means the criminal doesn’t have to cause actual injury, the criminal can merely attempt to cause injury with a deadly weapon. So if a criminal shoots at you and misses, you’re lucky. The criminal, not so much. The criminal attempted to cause physical injury with a deadly weapon, and so is guilty of aggravated assault, even though you’re peachier than a peach cobbler washed down with peach schnapps.

To get back to our question, if criminals shoot at Superman and the bullets bounce off him, the criminals still attempted to cause bodily injury or death. So they would be guilty of aggravated assault and attempted murder. Right?

To which I say, not so fast there, Speedy Gonzalez. Like a man who leapt into a brick wall, you’re jumping to contusions.

There’s one additional matter that must be considered. We must also answer the question did the criminals know the bullets would bounce off of Superman when they shot at him?

In the law, an attempt crime – such as the attempted murders or aggravated assaults we’ve been talking about – is what the law considers a specific intent crime. In order to be guilty of an attempt, the criminal must have specifically intended to commit the crime he or she was attempting. In our Superman question, to be guilty of either attempt crime, the criminals must have either intended to kill Superman or to cause him physical harm when they shot at him.

Now we know that killing Superman with bullets is impossible, they bounce off him like raindrops on roses. (Don’t complicate the matter with hypothetical Kryptonite or magic bullets, we’re not talking about the Kennedy assassination.) So killing Superman with bullets is impossible. The law recognizes the possibility of an impossibility defense to attempt crimes. If a criminal is attempting to commit a crime that is impossible, then the criminal could not have intended a specific result, because that result is impossible.

So there you are, if the criminals were attempting the impossible crime of shooting Superman, then they can’t be guilty of attempted murder or aggravated assault. Right?

Of course, not right. Not only can’t the law can’t answer a yes or no questions “yes” or “no,” it can’t even answer it with a definite maybe. It’s got to throw in a few depends along with a perhaps or two to muddy up the maybe.

Let’s look at a classic example law schools use to explain this conundrum. A man – the criminal – shoots another man – the victim. But what if the victim was dead at the time the criminal shot him? Obviously, it’s impossible to kill a man who’s already dead. So the criminal can’t be guilty of murder. But can the criminal be guilty of attempted murder, or does the impossibility defense come into play?

The answer to that question depends on what the criminal knew at the time he shot the dead man. If the criminal knew the man was dead, then the criminal knew killing the victim was impossible. The criminal couldn’t have specifically intended to kill the victim, so the impossibility defense would apply, because the impossibility negated the defendant’s specific intent.

But what if the defendant didn’t know the victim was already dead? What if the criminal believed the victim was alive when he shot and did intend to kill the victim? Then the impossibility defense doesn’t apply.

The law reasons it out like this, if the criminal attempts an impossible crime but doesn’t know it’s impossible, then the defendant would have been successful in the crime, had the facts been as the defendant believed them to be. So, because the defendant intended to cause a specific result, the defendant is still guilty of the attempt, even though the crime attempted turned out to be impossible. If our hypothetical would-be murdered cum corpse abuser didn’t know his intended victim was already dead, he would be guilty of attempted murder.

Or, to get back to the original question, if the crooks shot at Superman knowing the bullets would bounce off of him, they might be guilty of littering for spreading spent bullets all over the place, but they wouldn’t be guilty of attempted murder or aggravated assault. They knew murder and assault was impossible so didn’t specifically intend either. If, on the other hand, the mugs didn’t know the bullets would bounce off Superman and believed the bullets either kill or injure Superman, then they’re not only stupid, they would also be guilty of attempted murder and aggravated assault.
Is it any wonder that I retired from the law? After almost three decades in that morass of maybes and trying to make sense of laws that have more depends in them than a nursing home, my hair turned whiter than snow on the Night King’s butt.

UPDATE: Michael Davis victim of prank death hoax

UPDATE: Michael was hacked badly, with messages sent out to family and friends. He’s alive and well.

We are incredibly sad to report that Michael Davis, longtime columnist for ComicMix, committed suicide one day before his birthday.

We can list all his accomplishments in the comics field and go through his history and impact in the field, from his mentoring of numerous up and comers in the industry to his co-founding of Milestone Media and Motown Animation & Filmworks AND The Guardian Line AND The Black Panel at San Diego Comic-Con AND… but the best way to hope to understand and know Michael is through his words and his works.

There will be more to say later about him, but right now we’re too shocked to be coherent. Please, if you or someone you care about are considering self-harm or suicide, contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline.

We’re sorry we couldn’t have helped you more, Michael. Rest easy.


Black Lightning Gets It Right

As high-ranking executives at the most famous record company in the world, it was essential for us to project the utmost professionalism at all times. We talked in hushed tones nodding politely at staff whom, when we approached lowered their heads once pass the whispered comments began.

Denys Cowan and I were walking the halls of Motown Records. Denys had just joined me at Motown Animation and Filmworks as Senior Vice President. I was giving him the ten-cent tour of Motown’s brand spanking new offices as we discussed plans to take over the world.

“My god, they nodded at us.”

“We’re so blessed.”

“Long live the saviors of Motown.”

“Nay, saviors of the entertainment industry!”

“NAY NAY THE WORLD!!”

“WHY Y’ALL KEEP SAYING MY NAME?” Said, Nay Nay.

Nay Nay commented that we “Looked like GQ cover models.”  Denys was in Armani, I wore Boss— we both got a bit of a chuckle out of that.

When we were out of earshot, Denys stated; “GQ cover models? Yeah, right.”

“As if we would stoop that low,” I answered. “GQ would bow down before us, “he stated. “Damn Skippy.” was my reply. “Who do we bow down to, my good man?” That I said in my best English accent. Denys responded in kind, “Us? Why no one my good sir.”

A few moments later we were both on our knees before royalty chanting in unison. ” WE’RE NOT WORTHY.”

That is a true story.

Mostly.

All of the above happened except for the bowed heads savior talk whispered comments GQ model reference English accent etc. Denys was in Armani, I did wear Boss. I was giving him a tour of the new Motown offices he was starting work at Motown.

Who among you believe the part about being on our knees before royalty chanting in unison? WE’RE NOT WORTHY?

Really?

Y’all think Denys Cowan perhaps the most underrated yet still influential person to ever grace comics and Michael Davis may be the most undervalued personality in comics would bow down to anyone?

Y’all tripping. 

The rest of this narrative I assure you is all true…

Denys and I settled outside the executive suite studying some Al Hirschfeld originals. Motown has fantastic work from renowned visual as well as recording artists on their walls.

After a moment, we decided to say hello to our bosses— Jherl Busby, then Motown’s President and CEO and Clarence Avant, Motown’s Chairman at the time. Their offices were next to each other, and if we were lucky, we’d be granted an audience.

This is the real world, you don’t just walk into the offices of two of the most powerful men in entertainment no matter what you see on TV. We were met by Charisse Browner and Tomica Woods— guardians of the gate so to speak.

“Clarence isn’t in, and Jherl is with somebody,” Charisse said.  Jherl’s door was open, and we could see the back of someone talking to him but couldn’t make out who.

Tomica chimed in with, “I’ll check back with you later after I put you on their schedules” That was that. Denys and I were leaving when I happen to glance again in Jherl’s office, the man talking to Jherl’s had turned I could see him clearly now.

Royalty.

I tapped Denys on the shoulder and nodded towards the figure. When Denys saw who it was, he both looked at each other and knew what we must do, in doing so we would risk our lives.

Trying to get past one BLACK WOMAN you risk bodily injury we had to get past two. This was over 20 years ago— today Charise runs a serious media business, and Tomica runs Ruthless Records.

Y’all get that? RUTHLESS RECORDS.

The ladies sensed something was up by the stupid way Denys and I were eyeing Jherl’s guest. Before they could act, we bolted from our spot just beating Tomica into the office.

“WE’RE NOT WORTHY.”  “WE’RE NOT WORTHY.”  We shouted kneeling in front of one of the greatest filmmakers who ever yelled “CUT!”

The Duke.

Mr. BILL DUKE.

I did write “Y’all tripping” when I asked who believed Denys and I would do that, I NEVER said we didn’t. Hell yeah, we did. We did because we knew then just how badass Mr. Duke is. 

Most know Mr. Duke as a powerful actor, and he is that.

Starting with Car Wash where he portrayed fierce young Black Muslim revolutionary Abdullah Mohammed Akbar (formerly known as Duane). His acting work has graced American Gigolo, Commando, Predator, followed by Action Jackson, The Limey, Exit Wounds, Menace II Society, Bird on a Wire, Payback, X-Men: The Last Stand, National Security, Get Rich or Die Trying, Bad Country, and Mandy.

Many know the films he’s directed— The Killing Floor, A Rage in Harlem, Deep Cover, Hoodlum, The Cemetery Club, and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Those are just off the top of my head, there’s many more, among them his A&E Network original film, The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery. In 2007 he directed the reenactments in the award-winning, PBS-broadcast documentary Prince Among Slaves produced by Unity Productions Foundation.

Mr. Duke is a serious part of Pop Culture— I’m glad to say even if the general public isn’t aware of that, comic book fans are. Mr. Duke is the only person the Black Panel (TBP) at San Diego Comic-Con International has ever devoted an entire segment too.

That’s a big deal not as big as being nominated for the Palme d’Or France’s film honor, but a big deal nevertheless.

Ask the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/jul/28/comic-con-black-panel-african-american-culture

There was quite a buzz at Comic-Con when Bill, (who couldn’t walk 6 feet before a fan stopped him) appeared on TBP. Comic book and fans of pop culture have great respect for Mr. Duke and know all his work well.

Most can’t name another well-known actor who’s acting work is as well-known as his directing effort. That’s part of why I love comic fans. We know our stuff.

If you want to know the influence of Mr. Duke among comic fans, ask any fan who delivered the line “You done f***d up, you know that don’t you?” They will know who. The general public may not know the man, but they know the line.

In my opinion, Mr. Duke’s pop culture star is brightest when you watch his groundbreaking films Dark Girls and Deep Cover and read his remarkable book Bill Duke: My 40-Year Career on Screen and behind the Camera.

This makes the casting of Mr. Duke as Agent Percy Odell in Black Lightning a genius move by the CW. That shows respect for Tony Isabella’s creation, respect for comic books and most importantly respect for fans of comics.

I’m often critical of how Hollywood treats comic book content, and its creators. Perhaps I should amend that to say Hollywood movie studios treat comics like crap because TV studios seem to do it right. That awareness makes me believe only the sheer stupidly of DC Comics keeps Static (Shock) off the air.

DC Comics: “You done f***d up, you know that don’t you?”

Note: Those of you who follow my writing know I don’t edit swearing, although I face a constant roar of those, who say I should clean up my act. I tried to defend it by pointing to writers who also use profanity and why it’s relevant in their work and mine still, the chants endure. Now I tell those who seek to PC my work to kiss my Simon and Schuster imprint.

No doubt you’ve noticed the *** instead of the word.  Before anyone gets very happy (or sad), I edited my words on the off-chance Mr. Duke will read this. He doesn’t much care for profanity unless the conversation story or narrative clearly calls for it.

I can’t debate that because like I said: when it comes to Mr. Duke, I’m still not worthy.

ComicMix beats Dr. Seuss; federal court has found fair use

Summary judgment at last we’ve received,
And our victory has been finally achieved.
The judge ruled at last that our book is fair use
And so we’re allowed to mash-up Trek and Seuss.
We don’t want to brag. And we will not gloat.
Allow us instead, to gratefully promote—
We thank the lawyer who brought sound defeat
To DLA Piper— we think Dan Booth’s sweet!
Michael Licari helped us out as well,
And Ken White lit his signal, which really was swell.
We thank all our backers who gave us their aid,
Which helped us to battle our legal crusade.
You all gave support as the motions dragged on,
Without you it’s impossible to have boldly gone.

The “Black Panther” Problem

Black Panther has seven Academy Award nominations.

Damn.

I saw Marvel’s game changer the first week it was in theaters.  I stopped going to movies during the first-week decades ago, but I know so many people who directly or indirectly had some input. I wanted to check it out asap.

Black Panther did something few movies accomplish becoming a pop culture “have to.”  Much like E.T., the question was “What did you think of Black Panther?” Not “Did you see Black Panther?” The film is a massive success, and frankly I have witnessed few pull off what this one did— namely, become a national conversation. 

And the original flick wasn’t bad either.

I enjoyed the movie, but my admiration was for the overwhelming effect it had on people, particularly Black people. Never in a million years did I EVER think a Black grandmother and I would be talking superheroes standing in line to buy popcorn.

Most of the older people of color I know regard comics as just for kids. This 80-year young woman first took her grandkids to see it with the intention of seeing another film while they were watching BP. Noticing mostly adults and a few kids, she decided to sit in to make sure it was age appropriate.

I met her at her second screening— this time, no kids. She had come with some from her church group. What she thought she knew about comics wasn’t new to me. 

  • She was amazed at the amount of Black superhero content out there.
  • Marvel Comics was the only comic book company she had heard of.
  • Superman Batman Wonder Woman were all from Marvel she thought.
  • DC was the District Of Colombia.

These beliefs play an essential part in comics diversity and the lack of such there seems to be, but I’ll cover that in “The Ugly Side Of Comics Part 3.”

The major takeaway was how happy she was that Black Panther would pave the way for Black Superheroes (read: Role Models) in the not too distant future. 

There is renewed excitement in the Black Comic community, some who likewise believe THIS is the moment for BLACK SUPERHEROES from Black creators.

What could be a better time with Black Panther nominated for not just an Academy Award but SEVEN, including BEST PICTURE? The expectations are growing that the hunt is on for the next Black superhero and for good measure it should come from a Black creator, so it’s authentic.

White guys can play in the Black pop culture space, but it’s not easy. Authenticity is key. As an example:

  • Eminem: Authentic
  • Vanilla Ice: Nope

Regardless of all this Black Panther buzz, it will never win Best Picture, and frankly, I don’t want it to win. Why? We are not ready as an industry for what would come, and I suspect neither is the Academy.

What would happen?

The planet would explode from the massive number of haters in America who see superheroes like the grandmother did, as kid stuff.

In all the articles on Black Panther nominations, I’ve seen the writers never fail to mention it’s the first superhero film to be nominated. The interesting thing about that is seldom did I see ‘first comic book’ film to be nominated. Another result of a comic book movie winning: producers would look to produce comic book movies that could also be nominated for prestigious awards.

Think Lobo staring Daniel Day-Lewis.

America as a whole still thinks about comics as they do the slinky toy—stupid and useless. Both good only to entertain those not old or smart enough to appreciate what real art is. Americans see reading as something they must do (I have to brush up on…) or want to do (…just want to lay in bed on a beach in front of a fire on a desert island, etc. with a good book). Comics have no place in either of those categories.

The Academy has faced all sorts of drama over diversity, and lo and behold, look at the Best Picture nods this year— three out of eight feature Black story lines.

Black Panther, BlackkKlansman and Green Book and another Black themed film If Beale Street Could Talk received three Oscar nods, including Regina King for the best-supporting actress. That’s not a coincidence by any means. Hollywood wastes no time when it comes to image.

Image, that’s one of the reasons Black Pantherwill not win Best Picture.

I liked Black Panther, but it’s not the best picture out of a field that also features Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Roma, A Star Is Born and Vice.

The odds-on favorite is Roma. I have not seen it and know zero people who have. Why this film isn’t in the Best Foreign Film category is beyond me— that aside, it seems the type of message film Hollywood likes to showcase as a way to cement their ‘fine art’ persona.

Black Panther won’t win because Hollywood wouldn’t knowingly take a cultural hit by defending a ‘comic book’ movie.

I think the film to beat is BlacKKKlansman. That sends a message that the Entertainment industry is diverse, and pimp slaps the Trump Administration as a bonus.

Sadly, I think those in the Black comic space waiting for Hollywood to make their creation the next Black Panther are wasting their time. More on that in “The Ugly Side of Comics 3.”

To recap:

  • Black Panther will not win Best Picture
  • The Industry isn’t ready if it does
  • Hollywood isn’t ready so it won’t

Now the good news.

This is a glorious opportunity to DEMAND from Hollywood the RESPECT comics deserve.

  • Credit on screen with the power players
  • Mention the creators in all press across all media
  • Industry involvement in charitable events
  • Hollywood support for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

There is a comic book property up for SEVEN ACADEMY AWARDS— now is the time we start acting like the creative genius’ we are.  Or we can go on complaining about silly shit. Shit that never leads us any closer to the promised land of respect.

Bill Maher is a prominent voice of common sense to some on the left and a bleeding-heart liberal to some on the right. Regardless of how you feel about him, there is no denying he carries a lot of media weight. You would think a guy as current and hip as Bill would know that comics can be serious literature. He didn’t know or didn’t care— regardless, his influence is vast and he thinks comics are juvenile tripe. He passed that along to his viewers. Since his first comments were met with a bit of anger Bill has doubled down when called on his stance.

Time Magazine thinks comics can be significant works of literature which is why Watchmen is on the Time 100 Greatest Novels list. Just click the smiley face and see for yourselves. Somebody get that info to Bill.

One last thing: last year a Marvel executive said, ‘Diversity does not sell.’ Black Panther features an all-Black cast begins in Africa ends in an African American hood is dotted throughout by Black inside jokes and has hard Right-wing haters.

Can’t get much blacker than that.

The film made a BILLION dollars in less than four weeks and is the biggest grossing superhero movie of all time.

Hey Marvel, diversity does not sell? Oh well, Black Panther may be a fluke.

How’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, working out for you?

Review: Oberon #1

You might already know that Aftershock Comics is on a roll. In just three years, they’ve won Diamond’s Publisher of the Year award (for publishers under a certain market share) and have pushed several properties forward to media deals.  It’s a publisher that seems to attract smart talent and then provides the support and freedom to create strong work.

Aftershock Comics’ tagline is “The Year of Reading Dangerously.”  That has the sense of urgency and the zing that the entire industry needs.  In fact, I’ve been hearing John Siuntres talk about Aftershock on his excellent Word Balloon podcast (Aftershock is a sponsor).  An interview with creator of Moth & Whisper inspired me to pick up a series I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, in fact.

One of Aftershock’s most recent debuts was Oberon #1.   The king of the fairies, Oberon, may be best known for his role in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, but it turns out the character was a part of mythology long before that.  

This story is about the journey of a smart young girl, Molly, who is introduced to the world of fairies and finds an alternative to her humdrum life.  But all isn’t as it seems, as both Molly and the readers struggle to understand the truth and the reasons behind all the character’s seemingly-sinister motivations.

Writer Ryan Parrott weaves an adventure that has the threads of many tales.  But with his urgent pacing and true-to-the-ear dialog, he never lets the reader feel as if it’s simply a rehash of anything we’ve read before.

The art is compelling and fresh.  Serbian artist Milos Slavkovic employs a breezy, engaging style that propels the story along and is gorgeous to view. He’s not much on inky blacks, but his various line weights delight the eye. He offers a varied visual texture for fans who want to either rush through the adventure or just leisurely linger. It’s all evocative of Michael Kaluta, Walter Simonson and J.H. Williams, with a veneer of Terry and Rachel Dodson to give it all a silky smoothness.

Slakovic also provides innovative panel layouts, without being overwhelming. He also offers a lovely pallet of colors, especially leveraging a lot of purples, and oranges to set Oberon apart from the crowd.

Of note: Aftershock provides several pages of their next series, Stronghold, as a preview so it feels as if there’s a back-up story in this comic.   This marketing tool gives the whole thing a little more substance and value to the reader.

All in all – a compelling first issue. I’m a bit worried about Molly and will keep reading to ensure she’s all right. But I’m not entirely sure she will be.

To: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment; Re: “The Grinch™”

To: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Re: “The Grinch”

Dear U.P.H.E., we got your press release...
Afraid we can’t run it, thanks to legalese.
For as much as we might want to promote “The Grinch™”
The Seuss folks won’t budge here, not even an inch.
See, Dr. Seuss™ sent us a cease and desist
An action which, you understand, has us… peeved.
They told us, “Use any Seuss IP? No more!”
Not just Seuss/Star Trek mashups; Grinch™ hype too! Then... war.
They proceeded to sue us, making wild claims
of willful infringement, a charge that defames.

We're not sure that we’d want to, in any case,
assist making money they'll shove in our face
as they continue to file legal motions
and otherwise show very hostile emotions.

Our defense costs us thousands, and now you beseech:
“Please use your platform, extend Seuss's reach!
Help them make more moolah, which they’ll utilize
to stifle your speech so you can’t criticize!
Push their retelling! Please help us to coax!"
Their chutzpah is stunning. The nerve of these folks.

We don’t hold it against you, we know that it’s rough—
pushing “Grinch™” weeks after Christmas is tough.
We’d normally help; after all, ’tis the season
but we obviously can’t and now you know our reason.

If you’ve just heard about this suit, and if you think
that you’d like to contribute, please do! Here’s the link.

We’re now in the summary judgement last stages,
the judge has the filings with which she engages.
Our request for judgment should stand on its own,
the facts are all in, there’s no need to postpone.
Our motion is clear for the trained legal reader
although we admit that it’s not done in meter.
We think our case strong, we trust the judge concurs,
and fervently hope that our win she confers.

And to everyone following our long fair use fight:
Thanks for all your support... and to all a good night.
How I came up with the idea behind “Once Upon A Deadpool.” No, really.

How I came up with the idea behind “Once Upon A Deadpool.” No, really.

“I’ll tell you the truth and its up to you to live with it.”
William Goldman, The Princess Bride

This week, I found myself at the center of an internet storm where every entertainment news site and blog I’ve ever heard of has been debating how I predicted the framing device (and selling point)  of the new ‘Once Upon a Deadpool’ recut of Deadpool 2, several months before the writers even wrote it. Little did anybody know at the time that all of my ideas involve kidnapping Fred Savage.

He might want to look into a restraining order.

Hello, I’m ‘Some Guy’, AKA ‘A Guy’, AKA ‘Some Bloke’ AKA ‘A Fan on Twitter’, A.K.A. Michael Vincent Bramley. I’m a comics writer and an artist from Queens and this is the strange story of how I spent my Thanksgiving vacation.


This all started in 2017 when the buzz on the internet was that if Disney successfully acquired Fox, then the beloved R-Rated Deadpool series may have to adapt for the PG market or possibly die. I personally love that Deadpool is R-Rated, but seeing as how I was raised on Deadpool comics and am acquainted with some of the talented people who have written and drawn for them over the years, I also know that a PG Deadpool definitely can work. It always has worked. There had to be a way to make it work for the movie version without betraying the current fan base.

These are just the kinds of thought experiments I occupy myself with when I’m bored.

The first idea that sprang to mind was to replace all of the swearing with absurd TV stand-ins, like the infamous ‘find a stranger in the alps’ line from Big LeBowski. The second (though not mutually exclusive) idea was to have Deadpool directly address the censorship by kidnapping former child star Fred Savage and forcing him to reenact his role in the classic 1987 movie ‘The Princess Bride’. This seemed much funnier, so I tweeted it at Ryan Reynolds.

I’m not sure what exactly possessed me to send that tweet. It’s not something I’ve ever done before. I don’t usually use Twitter. I barely know how. Most of my tweets are things I share from my instagram or my scarcely used blog, with the occasional retweet peppered in.

You know, a surprising number of strangers have been asking me, if I had the idea first,  why didn’t I make it myself? I really hate to say it, but they’re absolutely right. I really should have made a multi-million dollar PG Deadpool movie co-starring Fred Savage instead of sending a tweet to Ryan Reynolds. That one is on me.

My point is that ideas I can’t do anything with myself aren’t worth a whole lot to me. And for the many, many people who have tweeted at me about how you shouldn’t pitch creative ideas on Twitter, yep, I know. The way I saw it, I wasn’t so much pitching a movie as I was making a joke. When I have good ideas that I can actually use, I make them into weird independent comics for weird people who like comics written by even bigger weirdos.

This was just a thing that I thought was funny and because of how little I’ve bothered to learn about using Twitter over the years, I actually thought that by tweeting it at Ryan Reynolds, then maybe one or two of his followers would get a chuckle. Or that maybe he himself might see it and laugh. Maybe there was a Detective Pikachu’s chance in a Ground Themed Gym that it would go viral and that he or someone influential would see how perfect it was… and, of course, on some level that’s still the movie I hoped they would make, but I never really expected them to actually make it.

Then I took a Christmas shopping trip to a Michigan Mall and while I was hunting for Detective Pikachu merch (that I am now certain doesn’t exist yet), my wife (Alice Meichi Li) told me about a trailer on Youtube and my mind was fucking blown.

Watching it the first time was a truly surreal experience and I’d be lying if I said it was a good one. I got a sinking feeling in my gut as I tried to make sense of the matter. Four possibilities sprang to mind.

  1. Maybe Reynolds saw it and knowingly used it without telling me. Something that the law doesn’t acknowledge as plagiarism, but most of civil society would acknowledge as ‘a dick move’.
  2. Maybe Reynolds forgot he saw it and unknowingly copied it. It’s called cryptomnesia and it’s apparently fairly common among creatives (although that one could have applied as much to me as to him until I found from an article that he pitched the idea in May of ‘18).
  3. Coincidence. As unlikely as it seems, synchronicity actually happens. As an Englishman, I grew up knowing that there were two Dennis the Menaces. They both exist because the UK and US versions were released on the same day by two different creators in two different countries. They’d never met or had any way of knowing what the other was working on. It’s rare, but possible.
  4. Something with time travel. Just trying to cover all the bases here.

It might seem counter-intuitive since it’s exactly what started this mess in the first place, but I started tweeting at Ryan Reynolds again.

I started suggesting several different ways Ryan and I could settle things;

Other suggestions I made elsewhere included things like ‘Hugh Jackman’s phone number’, ‘a staring contest with Fred Savage’ or ‘plain old hand stuff’.

I also retweeted my original tweet and accompanying facebook post, then eventually went to bed.

The next day I woke up to a topsy turvy world where my name was in a SYFY article and then Newsarama and then Screen Rant and so on and so forth until a steady stream of strangers were tweeting support, rage and unsolicited legal advice at me. I watched the comments coming in and this formed a weird echo chamber of sorts where the people who thought that I should sue somebody and the people who thought I shouldn’t sue somebody convinced themselves that I was trying to sue somebody.

If I even had a case (I didn’t), I wouldn’t have the will, the energy, or the money to fight a legal battle against Disney, Fox, or Ryan Reynolds. I half-jokingly/half-seriously asked for things, sure, but I literally never even considered suing as a viable possibility.


That first Syfy article posited that this may all be part of a viral marketing hoax and by the time io9 put their article up it had developed into a full on conspiracy theory citing the timing of when I posted my Domino painting on Instagram as suspicious. By this point, none of this felt unsettling to me any more, it was just really fucking funny.

‘Lucky Me’ © 2018, look closely and you’ll find several clues as to the whereabouts of the holy grail.

On Thanksgiving, shortly after internalizing a metric tonne of Chinese food with my wife and her family and after I tweeted a disclaimer about how little interest I had in suing anybody, Ryan Reynolds slid into my DMs.

Deadpool Spider Man GIF - Deadpool SpiderMan Marvel GIFs

I’m not going to share what he sent me here, but I will say that it was a respectful friendly message where he acknowledge that they had come up with the idea independently seven months after I did and that yep, I’d gotten there first, but that no; he hadn’t and wouldn’t ever use an idea without permission.

I don’t know what the odds are, it seems incalculable, its like winning the weird lottery. But I guess that lotteries are won every week. And remember there were two Dennis the Menaces. These things can happen and it makes sense that if it were to happen to me, it’d happen with the film series that seems to have been tailor made for me in the first place.

We had a brief conversation, maybe I’ll have more to say on the subject down the line. I did ask if he would sign a photo of Fred Savage for me and we’ll see where that goes.

Since the last tweet I made on the subject didn’t inspire a dozen follow up articles and only a handful of Twitter users still want me to know that I’m a dickhead, I can only assume that things are getting back to normal now and that for the time being I can close the big Deadpool/Princess Bride book on the subject.

Besides, I don’t know anybody else who can say that the exact movie they asked for got made or that it profited a deserving charity in the process. And I’ll know that whether directly or indirectly, I really did crack the PG Deadpool code.

For movies. I cracked it for movies.