Category: Columns

Dennis O’Neil: Channels

57_channels_and_nothin_onWe switched ’round and ’round ’til half-past dawn

There was fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on

  • Bruce Springsteen, 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)

Only 57? Well, we were all younger when Bruce Springsteen wrote those lines. Now? I actually don’t know how many television channels I can summon to the flat screen that dominates our living room and no, I’m not going to count them. Leave it at this: a lot.

An upside to tv’s heterogeneity is that we have spread before our eager eyes a veritable smorgasbord of entertainment and some of it is good and some of it is very good – and yes, I’m aware that you and I might define “good” differently. There’s no way I know of to verify my hunch that there is more good stuff on the home screen than at the multiplex where it sometimes seems that film makers sacrifice drama in their rush to serve up yet another explosion. Does what I believe is the widespread devaluation of dramatic verities that date back at least to the fifth century BCE harm the audience? Hey, I’m not gonna touch that one.

Once, the absence of a household tv set or five might have indicated a family with very high standards – it’s Mozart and Shakespeare or nothing! Now, though, ‘t’aint necessarily so. If you abstain from tv watching, you deny yourself some of the best that current culture has to offer, even if you can make frequent trips to the theater and concert hall.

But there is a downside to video’s largesse and to find a precedent we have to go to nineteenth century Vienna. The late and wonderful Hans Fantel, musicologist, critic and writer, once argued that the waltz served as social glue in Vienna and was largely responsible for the city’s relative tranquility at the close of the nineteenth century

Because everyone, from the peasantry to the elite, could share in an esteem for this music. I think that the television of the mid-twentieth century did something similar.

There were no 57 channels, no sir. When I left Missouri in the early 60s, St. Louis had maybe five channels, and three of those belonged to the networks. So if a show was popular – I Love Lucy, Ed Sullivan, The Beverly Hillbillies – people often talked about it the next day. (The cute schoolteacher I share quarters with said she sometimes watched shows because she knew her colleagues would be discussing them and she didn’t want to be left out of the dialogue.

The Viennese had the waltz. We had Dragnet.

And now, the deluge. Only 57? Piff!

The United States is, arguably, more divided than at any time since the Civil War and if you think that I’m about to blame television for that… sorry to disappoint. Television did not cause the problem. But television may not be helping it, either.


Box Office Democracy: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

It’s hard to tell either Warner Bros. or J.K. Rowling that they should refuse to make any more money off the Harry Potter franchise. If they can pack people in to theme parks and sell out a theater in London for over a year in advance, why shouldn’t they put out more movies? They didn’t stop making James Bond or Star Trek movies just because they ran out of books or the original cast members didn’t want to do it anymore. That said, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a good movie where I can sort of feel its hand in my pocket. This isn’t a labor of love and while I could lie to myself about that being true with other Harry Potter movies, I can’t convince myself quite as much this time.

The story in Fantastic Beasts is more or less Harry Potter with a twist. There’s a magical calamity, in this case Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) loses a bunch of magical creatures in New York City, and while a good-hearted but misguided authority figure, disgraced Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) tries to punish our hero for this misunderstanding they discover a much larger plot involving an immensely powerful evil wizard, this time German pseudo-Nazi Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). This outline vaguely describes the first five Harry Potter films if you substitute the names and add in a few scenes set in classrooms. I’m not knocking it, it’s an established formula because it works, but it never quite feels like we’re reinventing the wheel. The fun of the movie comes from Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger) the Muggle (No-Maj in America apparently) baker who happens to switch briefcases with Newt early in the film and is drawn into the whole adventure. His point of view on the events of the film as a true outsider is what feels fresh and exciting and that it brings a bunch of good physical comedy along with it is a fun bonus. Similarly, Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) is a sheltered functionary in the magical bureaucracy starting to realize a lot of what she’s been told is lies— a character I don’t remember seeing in the first seven Harry Potter films. Seeing prejudice against non-wizards confronted directly instead of through philosophical discussions is more affecting.

I found myself struggling to care about Newt or Tina. They aren’t particularly likeable or interesting beyond being the lead characters of a movie. Newt felt like a blank slate; unless he was in a scene with Jacob he just reflected the tone of the scene or gave some exposition about some beast or another. It doesn’t help that I find Eddie Redmayne sort of boring as a human being, he’s like the personification of bland England. Tina is a character who deeply cares about one thing (saving the children from the New Salem Society) that is pushed to the periphery of the movie until very late and the rest of the time she’s just the character who wants the main characters to have less fun. She’s like if they replaced Hermoine with Molly Weasley in the main Harry Potter films. By contrast, the supporting characters, Jacob and Queenie, are infinitely more interesting. Jacob has this ambition to escape his mundane life and then he’s offered this glimpse in to an immeasurably more interesting world. Queenie is a telepath who is falling for the first non-wizard she’s ever spent any time with. Their stories are so much more compelling, I would watch a TV show about the two of them running Jacob’s bakery every week.

Fantastic Beasts is supposed to be the first in a five movie series, and that fills me with apprehension. The second movie is supposed to take place in Paris and if the story is that Newt’s case full of magic animals gets broken open unleashing calamity there I’m going to be pretty bored with it. There seems to be less potential with Newt and Tina than there was with Harry, Ron, and Hermoine for continued adventures because instead of a lifelong vendetta and the turmoil of maturity, we have a box with a greedy platypus. I loved that platypus but it isn’t enough. I intend to give Rowling a chance because she hasn’t let me down yet, but I’m nervous about it. Fantastic Beasts is a load of fun but I hope it doesn’t get, please forgive this pun, too long of a leash.

Mike Gold: Polishing Icons

lone-rangergreen-hornet-1There was a time when it was generally perceived that iconic heroic fantasy characters such as The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, The Shadow and Buck Rogers were so popular for so long that they would be around forever. I think of that whenever somebody alleges Superman and Spider-Man will be around forever. Times change, as do our cultural predilections and venues.

Nonetheless, those heroes have become part of our cultural fabric. Most Americans (at least) who have neither read, seen, nor heard the adventures of these characters have heard their names and have some vague idea of their modus operandi. Just as DC Entertainment has kept Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman “alive” through their comic books while merchandisers and movie producers such as Michael Uslan could enhance their visibility through their more profitable endeavors.

Right now all of the retired heroic fantasy characters I mentioned above are being kept alive by our friends at Dynamite Entertainment, along with such other icons as John Carter, Vampirella, Flash Gordon, and Zorro. I can’t say I’ve read all of these comics as, sadly, I must take time out for eating, sleeping, and the time-consuming effort of trying to catch up with my TiVo. But I have a thing for iconic characters so I’ve read a whole lot of them, most recently the just-completed five-part Lone Ranger / Green Hornet crossover.

This series takes the opportunity to flesh in one of the most interesting concepts in American heroic fantasy. The Lone Ranger was created in 1933 at Detroit radio station WXYZ (Detroit) radio station by station owner George W. Trendle and/or staff writer Fran Striker, accounts differ. A half-dozen Texas Rangers were ambushed by the Butch Cavendish gang, who slaughtered five of the group and were under the impression they killed all six. The Ranger-in-charge, Captain Daniel Reid, was killed but his brother John (a retconned first name) survived and he took upon himself the name and identity of The Lone Ranger.

lone-rangergreen-hornet-2The radio show was so successful that Trendle launched a contemporary themed character named The Green Hornet. It was a modern-time version of The Lone Ranger in all respects: John’s horse Silver was replaced by a car called the Black Beauty, sidekick Tonto was replaced by sidekick Kato, and masked man John Reid was replaced by masked man Britt Reid.

You might have noticed a similarity there. Britt Reid was the grandson of Captain Dan Reid, which means he was John Reid’s grandnephew. Explained in a trio of radio programs after World War II, this was a truly rare and exciting continuity event for its time.

If you do the math and you keep the Green Hornet in his original milieu, it is possible that a rather healthy John Reid could have met his grandnephew and, within a stretch of reason, could have teamed up with his younger relative.

Or so thought comics writer Michael Uslan, who I already noted is a movie producer. He happens to a producer of all the Batman films made over the several decades. But Michael started out (so to speak) as a comic book writer, and has repeatedly proven himself to be one of the best. Our loss has been the movie industry’s gain, and somebody at Marvel Studios owes him one hell of a nice meal.

Michael remains a geek culture expert and a historian, so taking on the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet allows him the opportunity to dive deep into the waters of comics continuity as well as American history. As he has in past projects, Michael explains the historical links in the back of each issue. I’ve been trying to catch him in a mistake for a long, long time. It’s futile, but I can’t help it. I share his love of American cultural history, and I admire his work.

It’s fun to read this ultimate “What If” story. Artist Giovanni Timpano is certainly worthy of the effort; drawing them horses in the big city landscape ain’t easy. The five-part Lone Ranger / Green Hornet crossover is a good solid comic book story, even for those who could care less about the iconic status of its stars.

But if you do care, it’s even better.

Joe Corallo: Babes In Trumpland


babesintrumpland1As many of you may know, this week is Thanksgiving. That magical time of year where you slave away on a big meal for family and friends or bum around watching The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Toyland on TV while everyone else works. At least those used to be on TV. Or you’re in retail and I apologize.

By now you may have started getting your place ready for guests, packing for a trip, or maybe you’ve already reached your destination. You may be really excited for the holiday. You may also be really stressed out.

After a grueling year-and-one-half the 2016 Presidential election has come and gone, and the outcome was shocking to many. Now many of us, particularly white people and those with white relatives, have to face conservative or Trump supporting relatives face to face for the first time at the dinner table since he won the election.

babesintrumpland2This will be the first time since 2004 that they’ll have Presidential election bragging rights. Let’s face it, twelve years is a long time and you’re probably out of practice. Maybe you laughed at them last Thanksgiving when you said Trump might surprise us all. Maybe you chimed in on Facebook to rain on their parade. You might have even gleefully gave them a call after the debates to let them know how woefully unprepared Trump was. Now you’re having to get ready to eat some bird on Thursday, and this year it’s crow.

babesintrumpland4What can be done to make this experience even slightly less miserable, you ask? Well, maybe steering away from politics would be a good call this year for your own well being. Plenty of fun and interesting things have been going on in comics and nerd culture, so let’s talk about that instead.

Doctor Strange is still in theaters. Myself and fellow ComicMix columnist Molly Jackson saw it back when the world was still young and innocent. You still have time to go see it before Thanksgiving and make conversation out of it. Personally, I thought it was middle of the road for Marvel movies. Not the best, and far from the worst. You could also talk about the dated and problematic nature of white man turns to the east to find enlightenment and be a better Asian than actual Asians story if you’re up for it. You could also mention how they couldn’t have the Ancient One be from Tibet because it could have affected the revenue in the Chinese market. Maybe you and your Trump friends and relatives at Thanksgiving can agree that’s nonsense.

babesintrumpland3Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them came out as well, but I’m not really a Harry Potter guy so you’re on your own there. I’ve seen the first three movies (yes, I know they’re books), and I only saw them because of a guy I was interested in back in college who I imagine probably doesn’t read these. If he does though, sorry John, but I wasn’t that into Harry Potter.

When it comes to comics, you may have to reiterate that yes you’re still into comics and no they aren’t just for kids. You could talk about some of the great moves in comics over the last year. Maybe talk about Tom King, the man with comic writing aspirations who put them all aside for over a decade when joining the CIA after the 9/11 attacks, who’s been knocking it out of the park lately on series like The Vision and Batman.

See? You like patriots too.

You could talk about rising star Mags Visaggio and how she’s gone from little known comic writer to creator of Black Mask Studios’ Kim and Kim and getting to write a backup for DC Young Animal’s Shade The Changing Girl #4. To my knowledge she will be the first trans writer to work on a DC comic since Caitlin R. Kiernan’s last issue of The Dreaming back in May of 2001. This is a positive step not only for diversity in the writers freelancing at DC, but also a victory for anyone that wants to see good writers being given a chance. It could also be an opportunity to discuss with relatives how the LGBTQ community and in particular the trans community are more than what conservative outlets might lead one to believe. They’re actually people, just like them.

We’re at a point now where openly queer writers, Steve Orlando and James Tynion IV, are tackling Supergirl in her new ongoing series and Batman in Detective Comics, respectively. And despite all that happening this year, hell has not opened up and engulfed the world.

Actually… scratch that last sentence.

Also talk to your family about Ta-Nehisi Coates, the national correspondent for The Atlantic and well respected social and political commentator turned comic book writer whose debut issue of Black Panther this year was one of the highest selling comics in over a decade. He perfectly blends politics into a superhero story. Maybe you can impress some of your relatives talking about the intricate, intelligent political thriller Ta-Nehisi Coates is telling in his comics. Maybe some of them, even the Trump supporters, will appreciate Coates’ musings on how corporations take advantage of people and how leaders need to put the needs of their citizens over their own needs. If those Trump supporters do agree with you on that, try to restrain yourself.

You could also talk about Demolition Man coming out as gay in Marvel Comics, but why would you? I can only care so much about retconning obscure characters as queer for some backdoor representation.

And we can all come together to complain about how Star Trek: Discovery got pushed back.

It might be stressful and it might be tough, but we can get through this. Try to open up some of their minds with what’s going on in comics and nerd culture. Try to humanize the world around them. It’s too late to change their votes, but it might not be too late to put their values in perspective.

Mindy Newell: Post-Election Blues Redux


First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

• Pastor Martin Niemoller, 1892 – 1984

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”

• Attributed to Edmund Burke, 1729 – 1797

I am sorry if I am boring you, but simply talking about what series I am binging on now (Luke Cage) and how much I am digging it has been expunged by John Ostrander’s column yesterday.

I didn’t know that Humberto Ramos and George Pérez have decided not to attend any conventions held in any state that went “red” and voted for Trump until I read John’s piece, and I immediately clinked on the links to both men’s statements.

I am immensely impressed by their willingness to speak out and not to be one of those good men who do nothing.

I am immensely pissed off about the horrible vitriol flung against Mr. Ramos, whom I don’t know, and George, whom of course I certainly do. It’s really disgusting, especially the barbs slung at George – go ahead, read them, just scroll down to the comments section on the Newsarama page – and I can’t help wondering just what the comments would be if either man’s last name was “Smith” or “Jones” instead of Hispanic origin. Of course, as John said, it is the Internet, after all…

…But I also must point out that we now have a President-Elect who uses Twitter to insult and rant and threaten litigation against anyone he conceives to be against him; an about-to-be White House Chief Strategist (Steve Bannon) whose Breitbart News website is a haven for white supremacists and whose divorce filing included this statement from his wife about their kids’ education: “…the biggest problem he had…is the number of Jews that attend. He said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews;” an about-to-be National Security Advisor (retired Lt. General Michael Flynn) who joined the crowds at Trump campaigns in shouting “Lock her up” about Mrs. Clinton and who tweeted “Fear of Muslims is rational;” and a nominated Attorney General (Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama) who has called the Voting Rights Act of 1965 “an intrusive piece of legislature,” who endorses a ban on Muslim immigration, and, oh, by the way, was rejected by a Republican-controlled Senate for a federal judge seat after being nominated by President Reagan in 1986 because of his racism.

Bottom line: I am proud of Mr. Ramos and of George. They not only speak truth to power, but they have acted upon it.

As for me, I will do what I have always done – speak up when and where it is necessary, post on Facebook, and write this column. I will try not to bore you by turning this into a weekly anti-Trump diatribe, but please don’t expect me to apologize, either, if my thoughts about the pop culture world are interrupted by a frightening shadow that is about to become a reality on Friday, January 20, 2017.


Ed Catto: A Brief Respite


isparana-buscema-and-nebresIt’s been a grueling election season and everyone seems unhappy – either they are unhappy with the results or they are unhappy with the way some are responding to the results.

I respect everyone who’s energized, outraged or just ready to make things happen. On the other hand, I need a break from it all. Enough of the real world for me, even if it’s just for a little while.

So this week I’m retreating into the Hyborian Age – the fictional historical past of barbarians and wizards – by way of the early 80s. It’s was easy to get there – I just cracked open and read a few yellowed, musty, and totally wonderful issues of Savage Sword of Conan.

To paraphrase Karina Longworth and her excellent podcast, You Must Remember This, “Join me, won’t you?”

nebres-buscema-splash-pageThe Hyborian Age is really all about Conan. I’ll admit it: I was never a super-fan of Conan per se. I enjoyed the prose and comics off-and-on over the years. And like so many young men, I liked Frank Thorne’s Red Sonja adventures. If anything, I counted myself as a fan of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser adventures, as I always felt that they there the “thinking man’s barbarians”.

And you should ask for a copy of Dark Horse’s new collection called Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser: Cloud of Hate and Other Stories (written by ComicMix’s own Denny O’Neil) to fill your stocking this Yuletide season.

Fortunately, making the switch from political news to barbarian adventures was pretty easy for me. While traveling through Pennsylvania recently, I stopped at Scranton’s Comics on the Green comic shop. It’s a fantastic store full of new comics, old comics and an infectious enthusiasm.

There was a box of old Marvel Magazines, including a bunch of Savage Sword of Conan issues on sale for just $2 each (unless otherwise marked) and I couldn’t resist buying two issues of Savage Sword of Conan.

Savage Sword of Conan #53 somehow seemed older than the 1980 publication date. The painted cover didn’t really grab me, but the first story’s luscious Rudy Nebres’ inks over John Buscema’s solid pencils certainly did.

roy-thomas-conan-cosplayNebres’ stylized inking seemed to create a unique universe that fascinates and beckons the eye. As many of you know, Rudy Nebres was part of a wave of Filipino artists who migrated to American comics in the 70s. Like many of his compatriots, he could pencil, paint and ink. But somehow, his inking over a top draftsman like Buscema brings out the best in each artist.

And like a comfortable coat that you haven’t worn since forever, re-experiencing a Buscema-Nebres adventure was both cozily familiar and understatedly spectacular.

Beyond the art, there’s a lot of charm in this magazine that helped me briefly forget modern world problems.

tcj-ad-conan-1980In the first story in the issue, we find a young Conan flirting with a girl in a bar. Her boyfriend happens across them, and as he’s also the Captain of the City Guards, that introduction doesn’t go well. Conan refuses to take his hand off the woman’s bare thigh, so naturally, a wild bar fight ensues. Prince Valiant never did that!

There’s also a sense of community in these old Marvel Magazines. For example, in the letter column one reader challenges Roy Thomas, the writer and guiding force, on Conan’s treatment of woman. Roy suggests that Conan was a product of his time, and that it’s difficult to impose 20th century values on a historical character. It’s a fascinating conversation to watch from the sidelines, especially 30+ years removed.

Another reader also tells Roy Thomas about a prototype Conan character called Crom who appeared in Out of This World and Strange World, two 1950s comics published by Avon. It seems there were prior letter column discussions about this character, written by Gardner Fox, and they were adding to their collective knowledge. They were all piecing together a geek puzzle for hard core Conan fans.

Oh, how far we’ve come. I found these stories via on my cell phone in less than three minutes after learning about them in this old Conan magazine.

There’s even 70s cosplay! Roy Thomas shared a photo on page 48 in which he and his wife were engaging in some serious Conan and Red Sonja cosplay at a west coast party.

Even the advertisements were fun. An ad for The Comics Journal challenges readers with the question “Are You A Comics Fan…? Do you read more than 10 comics a month? Have you ever wanted to know more about comics? Especially more than you can read in the letters page or the Bullpen Bulletins? Well, now you can…” The ad, like the whole magazine, is charming and simple and evocative of simpler times.

It was a brief, but glorious, respite.

John Ostrander’s Positions


Following Donald Trump’s election, comic artists Humberto Ramos and George Pérez have announced that henceforth they will not attend conventions in states that voted for Donald Trump. (You can read Humberto’s statement and George’s statement. Not to be wondered at, this has excited comments both pro and con on the Internet, much of it angry. Sadly, it has excited death threats on some of those who have sided with Humberto and George. Perhaps that is also not to be wondered at; it is the Internet, after all.

I’ve been considering my own response. I have one, of course, but I debated with myself as to whether or not I needed to make it public. I think both George and Humberto are perfectly capable or fighting their own battles without my help. However, given the times we live in and virulence of some of the reactions, how does one remain silent?

If I believe (and I do) that one needs to speak up in these cases, then I must as well… even though my position is somewhat mixed.

To begin with, I absolutely support Humberto and George in their decisions. It’s not petulance on their part. Both men are Hispanic; they feel that Trump’s words in his speeches and his actions since getting elected are threatening to them, to their families, to their friends, and to their communities. Both George and Humberto have taken pains to make it clear that their position is not directed at the United States or its citizens. As Humberto simply put it, “I know when I’m not welcome and I won’t expose myself to be offended or mistreated, there is no need.” I wouldn’t do that, either. Both men are men of honor and courage as well as great talent and skill. I admire them, I respect their decision, I support them.

All that said, I’m not joining the boycott. In every so-called “red state” there were plenty of people who also voted for Hillary Clinton – just as in the so-called “blue states” there were those who voted for Trump. In many cases, those states are more purple than red or blue. The fans I meet and greet may have been Clinton supporters or Trump supporters but at a Con they are my supporters, my fans. I can’t do a litmus test to see which side of the electoral spectrum they fit. For myself, I don’t want to punish possible Clinton supporters because the majority of voters in their state went all Trump-y.

So that’s why I hesitated to say anything. I don’t want to seem not to support Humberto and George but I don’t feel I can join in. To be fair, neither artist has asked anyone else to follow their lead. I can and should, support their position. I do.

Nor would I want anyone to misconstrue my words or my position as supporting Donald Trump’s election in any way. Based on what he has said heretofore and what he is currently doing as he looks to staff his Administration, I think he will be a disaster for this country. I am capable of not voting for a candidate but accepting their victory; no candidate has ever filled me with loathing and dread as Trump does. I fear for my country.

If we meet at a Con, let’s not talk politics. Let’s stay friends, if we can.

Marc Alan Fishman: Kooky Kickstarter Plugging Parade!


This week I’m going to keep my preamble short. I’d like to call out some friends whose hard work has been poured into their Kickstarter campaign. Without being asked, bribed, or otherwise cajoled, I’d like to use my little corner of the interwebs this week to highlight them — and give you the skinny on why I’m compelled to gush all over their wares. Before that though… a quick digression:

Yes. Last year around this time, my studio successfully funded our own Kickstarter campaign to launch our very first graphic novel. And yes, we’re still working on it. And boy howdy are we a bunch of heels for thinking we could finish a book barely started in half the time the other books had taken us. Lesson to be learned: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. To be fair, the DNC told us the polls were in our favor. Suffice it to say the campaign I plug for you now are for a project that will be in your hands when the respective authors promise they’ll be. Unlike me, they are honest and trustworthy. Digression over.

Pencil Ink Presents: Neutron City Comix #1

I love all-ages comics. Period. Akin to Jerry Seinfeld, I believe that going blue is often less challenging (the cheap pop, if you will), and a quicker means to an end. In comics, this is a more grey-area, I admit. But here, Neutron City Comix is an unabashed equal-opportunity riot for everyone under 97 (but certainly anyone over 99 would love it too). In a nutshell, the book combines meta-humor, slapstick, wordplay, visual gags, and a tongue so firmly in cheek I’d fear biting off the tip if I giggle too much.

Neutron City is what happens when a web comic is literally forced off the web onto a conventional page for no better reason than the meta-reason of because the editor said so. The fact that the book refers to this, wraps pseudo-science jargon around it, and devolves (as too many things in pop culture) into yet-another-Star-Wars pastiche is equally hilarious as it is snarky.

The book follows a gaggle of nerds being nerdy, revolving around a comic shop. Haven’t seen that before? You’re a liar. Luckily, Neutron City knows it, and proceeds without wavering. Your normal collection of archetypes (the socially awkward genius, manic pixie snarky girl, slightly dimwitted every-kid, and a handful of adult-ish hangers-on) wax poetic in media res. If Deadpool had a G rating, no predilection for violence, and was totally not like Deadpool, you’d absolutely get Neutron City Comix. Natch.

Under many circumstances, the amount of wit required to be so rote would cause my eyeroll to be audible from space. Danny Limor (artist & writer du jour) is up to the task. When I’d read an advance copy (again, Danny and his brother / partner-in-crime Yoni, did not under any circumstances bribe me to do this), I was admittedly skeptical. To have a book know it’s a book, and continuously hang lampshade after lampshade on that fact requires a depth of comedic talents that Limor excels at. It helps that he’s a standup comedian. Combined with his simplified (but polished) cartooning skills, what makes it to page is a bright and inviting romp that made my four-year old giggle — even if I was the one getting 102% more of the jokes. Balancing act, indeed!

The book itself is 48 pages and is ready to bash your inner snark into submission. Which is helpful, as it was written (and drawn) a long time ago in a galaxy far away. Or… it was written like a year ago, and drawn around the same time. In… like… Nashville. I forget.

See. This is what they do. You get famous for writing on ComicMix, and they just give it to you. I like to grab ‘em by the newsprint. OK, Danny. Can I get my check now? Crap is this still on!?

The Law Is A Ass

BOB INGERSOLL: The Law Is A Ass #396


Either the Punisher’s even crazier than I thought he was – and he once gunned down some litterbugs because “littering is a crime against society,” so I don’t just think he’s as crazy as a bedbug; I think he’s what bedbugs point to when they talk about crazy – or Matt Murdock is the worst lawyer of all time. Or both; they’re not mutually exclusive.

I wrote last time about the first issue of Daredevil/Punisher: Seventh Circle #1 . In that story Matt Murdock, assistant Manhattan district attorney and secret identity of super hero Daredevil, was trying to get the trial for a hated gangster, Sergey Antonov, changed to a new venue, because Antonov couldn’t get a fair trial in New York City. Fair enough, that happens. The venue Matt wanted was Texas. Not fair. Not even constitutional and it couldn’t happen. Like I said before, the Constitution commands that a criminal trial must take place in the state where the crime occurred.

What I didn’t tell you was that crazed ex-marine Frank Castle, who was so traumatized when he saw his family gunned down by mobsters that he adopted the name The Punisher and started a one-man war against crime, didn’t want Antonov moved to Texas. It wasn’t that Punisher wanted to keep Antonov in New York, because he didn’t want Antonov to have a fair trial; he didn’t want Antonov to have any trial. He wanted to kill Antonov before there was a trial.

Look, Frank, I realize your name implies that you’re not exactly a spare the rod – or gat or roscoe, or heater – kind of guy. But don’t you think killing a gangster who’s been arrested and is facing trial is a little excessive? If you wait for the trial to be over, he’ll get punished just fine. Meantime you can get on with your important work; like shooting jaywalkers.

So for the next four issues of this mini-series – or eight issues of it’s on-line presentation in Marvel’s Infinite Comics – Daredevil tried to keep Punisher from killing Antonov. Then, in issue #4 somewhere toward the end of their battle, Punisher told Daredevil that the only reason Matt wanted Antonov’s trial moved to Texas is because Texas is a death penalty state. Murdock wanted Antonov tried in Texas, because he wanted Antonov to be executed; something which couldn’t happen in New York because it hasn’t had the death penalty since 2004. And Daredevil, who is Matt Murdock under that horned masked and supposed to know the law, doesn’t deny Punisher’s claim.

So I guess it’s up to me.

Unless Matt knows less about the law than a drama major who scored a big fat 0 on the LSAT, he wouldn’t have been sending Antonov down to Texas to be executed. Because he’d know Antonov couldn’t be executed in Texas anymore than he could in New York.

Yes, I know Texas has the death penalty. Yes I know they use it in Texas. I even know they use it a lot. Doesn’t matter. They couldn’t use it against Antonov.

Let’s ignore what I wrote last time about how Matt couldn’t get the venue of Antonov’s trial changed from New York to Texas and pretend that Matt did get the trial transferred to Texas (try saying that ten times fast), what then? Well, you’d have the trial and, assuming Antonov was found guilty, the sentence. But you’re trying a man in Texas for a crime committed in New York, so whose laws would apply Texas’s or New York’s?

During that trial, the laws and procedures of the state where the crime was committed would apply, not the laws and procedures of the state where the trial was being held. So in Antonov’s trial, the laws of New York would apply, not the laws of Texas. Any defense that was available in the original venue – here New York – would be available in the new venue state – Texas – even if that defense didn’t exist in the new venue.

And what do the laws of New York say about the death penalty? You can probably guess, but seeing as how I’m a stickler for details in this column, I’ll stick to the details. In the 2004 case People v. LaValle, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York, ruled that the state’s death penalty violated the New York Constitution. That case abolished the death penalty in New York. Since then New York’s death penalty statute hasn’t been amended so the death penalty has never been reinstated. In fact in 2008, then Governor David Patterson issued an executive order that the state’s prisons should remove all their capital punishment equipment.

All of which means, as you probably guessed, New York doesn’t have the death penalty. In his trial, Antonov would argue that as New York, whose laws and defenses apply in the trial, doesn’t permit the death penalty, Texas would not be able to use it against him. Not only could he argue it, he would win the argument. Texas wouldn’t be able to fry him, hang him, inject him, or even chainsaw massacre him.

Unless Matt Murdock was the Dr. Nick Riviera of lawyers, he’d know that Texas couldn’t execute Antonov. Which means he wasn’t sending Antonov to Texas so that Texas could execute him. He was sending Antonov there for some other reason. Maybe Matt wanted to take a side trip to LBJ’s spittoon or the Yogi Bear statue or the Dr. Seuss park  or visit the house where they filmed the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which has been turned into a restaurant – and that certainly isn’t in bad taste.

I don’t know what the reason is, but I do know one thing: It wasn’t so that Antonov could be executed. Or Texecuted. Or even wrapped up in a tortilla and – Hey, someone’s got to say it – Tex-Mexecuted.

Martha Thomases: Geek Humanity


As a child, I loved the Legion of Super-Heroes. Teenagers from all over the galaxy formed a club together and saved the universe, sometimes several times an issue.

The rules for joining the Legion were a bit odd and really didn’t stand up to scrutiny. No one could have the same powers as another member, unless they were Superboy, Supergirl or Mon-El. Abilities that were not super on a hero’s planet could qualify that hero for membership, like telepathy and chameleons and magnetism. I suppose if we, as a people, were blind, someone with sight could be a member, but we wouldn’t know because there wouldn’t be comic books because, really, they are better when we can see the pictures.

Anyway, I didn’t really care about the Legion by-laws, since I would be a teenager if, by some chance, I lived 1000 years and could apply for membership. I cared about all these people, so different from one another, who still teamed up and made things better.

So that’s the lesson I’m urging us, the emissaries of Geek Culture, to learn from Where We Are Now.

Since the election results were announced last week, there have been a tremendous number of hate-crimes committed. This is in addition to the uptick in hate-crimes the year before.

These are actual crimes — vandalism, stalking, assault — not just threats and hurt feelings. This is not to say that threats and hurt feelings aren’t real things.

ComicMix pal Heidi MacDonald recently reported on the latest bout of on-line harassment directed her way. If you click on the link and read the comments (which, normally, I would urge you not to do, but this time it’s educational), you’ll see a weird combination of solidarity, rage and condescension.

What struck me most forcefully was the anger some commenters held against superhero comics with female leads, especially if those characters riffed off earlier versions. While I don’t think Donald Trump won the Electoral College because RiRi Williams is Iron Man, he did capitalize on the same rage we see in those fans.

And I don’t get it.

I mean, I understand that it’s annoying when a creative team takes one of my favorite characters in a direction I don’t like. I couldn’t stand what David and Meredith Finch did to Wonder Woman. That said, it was easy enough to skip their run on the title and re-read some of the thousands of other Wonder Woman stories that I had liked previously. I have reason to believe there are a similar number of Tony Stark Iron Man stories out there.

Also, there are lots and lots of other comics written and drawn by people who might have written or drawn a Tony Stark Iron Man story, and they might have stories about other characters that would appeal to this reader.

I have no problem when readers who don’t like RiRi Williams or the Finch version of Wonder Woman complain about the stories they don’t like. I do it all the time. However, I do have a problem when readers who don’t like the direction a series is taking make physical threats against the creators or those critics who do like the series.

Marvel, and DC, and Disney, and other corporations do not owe their customers a steady diet of the same stuff. That would be a business model that is doomed to failure. There has to be constant attempts to broaden the market or in five or six decades, all the existing customers will be dead.

As a fandom, we can’t sit around and gripe when our favorite media (comics, film, TV, music, yada yada yada) don’t spew out a steady stream of the same stuff we loved as children. We cannot expect the entertainment industry to love us as much as our parents did.

Read what you like! Explore a little and, maybe, find more to like! Liking more different things is fun! And teaming up with people different from yourself lets you discover what your own super-powers might be.