Category: Columns

Tweeks: Supernatural Cast Interviews Part 1

The absolute highlight of Comic Con for Maddy was easily interviewing the cast of Supernatural about Season 12. As you’ll see in the video she was barely keeping it together. In part one of her SDCC roundtable interview she chats with Ruth Connell (Rowena), Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester) and Samantha A. Smith (Mary Winchester). They were all incredible, of course.

Be on the look out for Part 2 of the interview with Misha Collins, Jared Padalecki and show runners Andrew Dabb and Robert Singer.

Dennis O’Neil Gestures Hypnotically



Chortle chuckle yukyukyuk. O, boy ain’t we having fun hee-hee-hee here in Nyack ho ho ho ho and how about that last Tuesday wasn’t that darn day a rib-tickler heh heh gargle lipticon smoothie ha ha ha ha ha ha giggle snortle honk.

Enough – hee hee – merriment. Where were we? Oh yeah. I sort of vaguely suggested that I might continue last week’s discussion of Doctor Strange, who has been a Marvel Comics character since 1963 and currently is the eponymous star of a big screen movie, the box office champ for the second week in a row (and for a little extra coin you can see this champ in 3-D! And don’t tell me, mister, that life is not a party.

Here I’m going to mention that ComicMix’s resident film critic had a few reservations about the flick and I hereby bow to his acumen; oh and by-the-way he has become one of my favorite reviewers, which strikes me as a bit wonky considering that he’s considerably younger than my youngest child and I’ve known him all his life and a hefty portion of mine and aren’t authority figures supposed to be aged and wizened just like The Ancient One in the Doc Strange yarns and…

mandrake-gesturesHere we are, having survived another digression, back in Doc Strange turf. Yes, the doctor. A conjurer.

His ilk are sprinkled throughout the history of comic books. Before Superman jump-started the business in 1938, a comic strip featuring Mandrake the Magician appeared daily and Sundays in the paper my parents had tossed onto the lawn every day. Mandrake was created by Lee Falk, a St. Louisan, and first appeared in 1934. I’m pretty sure that when I read or at least looked at the strip as a kid I understood Mandrake’s modus operandi: the captions told me that Mandrake “gestured hypnotically” and illusions appeared to gebollix the bad guys. It was an okay gimmick as long as you knew little or nothing about hypnosis and in 1934, who did?

A couple of years later, Lee Falk created The Phantom. The “ghost who walks” – that Phantom – but since he is not a magician, we’ll ignore him.

And speaking of magicians… As a genre, they were never awfully important in comics, certainly no rival to superheroes. Arguably, the most prominent of them was another doctor, surnamed Fate. He could be mistaken for a superhero; he looks superheroish and he’s invulnerable and strong and he can fly and do other stuff. Mostly, he uses sorcery that doesn’t seem very defined, but it doesn’t have to be at long as it’s used judiciously.

About that (those) costume(s): one of the nifty things about the doctor – Strange, not Fate – is that his clothing is definitely a costume, but one that suggests magic. And there are his powers; in a way, he’s a first cousin to Iron Man as both spend a lot of time shooting energy of some kind from their hands – very visual and so very appropriate for comics and, oh heck, we’ll admit it, also to movies. Whoever Doc Strange’s haberdasher was, hooray!

We’ll end with what you can consider another digression, a couple of lines from Lord Byron:

And if I laugh at any mortal thing

‘Tis that I may not weep.

Chortle chortle?








Mike Gold: Comic Books’ Pot Luck


One of the overlooked outcomes of last week’s election is the growth of the marijuana legalization movement. Buying, possessing and using the stuff is going to be legal for adults in Massachusetts, Nevada, California and Maine – as it is now in Colorado, Alaska, Washington State, Washington D.C., and Oregon. Over 20 percent of Americans reside in states where such use by adults is legal. In over half of these United States, weed is kosher for medicinal use.

reefer-madness-piano-sceneFirst Fun Fact: A few years ago, the Heeb Magazine website informed us that, properly handled, cannabis is indeed kosher. That should popularize the Passover herb plate.

Second Fun Fact: If not for weed, we might not have our direct sales comic book distribution system. Back in the mid-60s, we started seeing retail outlets called “head shops” pop up all over this great nation. These places were sort of like today’s vape stores but they sold snarky buttons, black light posters, incense, underground newspapers (thank you)… but, mostly, they sold supplies for cleaning, rolling and smoking marijuana cigarettes.

In addition to perpetuating the art of speed piano playing, these stores also became the initial outlets for underground comix.

r-crumbPublishers such as Rip-Off Press, Last Gasp, and Kitchen Sink brought us to the worlds of R. Crumb, Skip Williamson, Jack Jackson, Trina Robbins, the unmistakable S. Clay Wilson, and many, many others. They breathed new life into a dormant American medium and influenced a generation of new artists.

These comix were sold directly to head shops on a non-returnable basis. Several years later, Phil Seuling brought this concept of direct sales marketing to the burgeoning mass of comic book stores which, previously, existed largely to sell back issues. Seeing as how comic books were essentially unprofitable in the waning days of newsstand distribution, by providing the model for direct distribution underground comix and the head shops that sold them saved the American comic book industry.

denis-kitchenPersonally, I blame underground comix publisher turned agent, comic book and graphic novel impresario Denis Kitchen. This is because I am a trained political writer and I believe in punching up. My old friend Denis has a great deal of “up.”

So, really, the roots of contemporary comic book publishing were watered by illegally purchased marijuana… which is now increasingly legal in much of this country.

We can only hope that this new trend will have a similar impact upon comics sales. This, and of course damn near anything else.

Third Fun Fact: Next year’s San Diego convention should be real interesting. Damn, I might even go back there!

Box Office Democracy: Arrival

I went in to the theater knowing less about what Arrival was and what it was about than any movie in recent memory. I had skimmed the first few sentences of the Wikipedia page but only knew the absolute broadest strokes. I was beyond pleasantly surprised; I can’t recall being so enthralled by a movie that was so far off my radar since Drive. Arrival is the best kind of science fiction that provides us with some fantastic things and concepts, but what it really tells is a mundane story through a fresh lens fantastically well.

Arrival has the kind of plot that sounds boring in summary— a linguistics professor is called to translate the language of a visiting alien— but ends up working well. The movie got me thinking about linguistics and the intricacies of language more than I have since I decided not to take an introductory level class in the subject back in college. There’s an inherent tension involved in any alien encounter, and something about the way the score does string hits that kind of sound like the way the aliens talk gives even the safest moments a hint of looming doom. There’s this overlay of global tension, that other countries might attack their local aliens and that this will spark a war for some reason, but none of that ever feels terribly compelling. I care about the characters they’re making me care about; I don’t care about vague threats that never make much sense.

There’s a turn in the story— I don’t want to call it a twist; there’s a massive shift in perspective in the third act. I usually don’t care about spoilers but I won’t give this away because I appreciated that I came in to Arrival with very little idea what the movie was about. The third act is brilliant, it’s clever, it’s suitably science-fiction-y, and it puts the whole film in to sharper focus. (This might be getting too close to what it is but I’ll never pass up a chance to give Zack Snyder grief: Arrival makes Watchmen look terrible.)

There aren’t enough good things to say about Amy Adams and the job she does here. She nails the big moments like being afraid of the aliens the first time she meets them and the big moments of grief and sadness, but the bigger moments seem easy. The small moments are what set the whole film apart. There’s a moment where she struggles with her hazmat suit the first time she has it on, the weight and the cumbersome nature seem to be smothering her and it communicates how awkward and massive that moment must have felt in a way that slack-jawed awe never would. There’s this need to lace so many touching moments with a sense of bittersweet inevitability in retrospect and it’s there, and it’s heartbreaking, and it’s beautiful. Forest Whitaker is excellent and Jeremy Renner does some of the best work I’ve ever seen from him, but Amy Adams is special in this film.

Arrival is an incredible science fiction film. Easily the best entry in the genre since Ex Machina although they’re nothing alike so there’s very little basis for comparison. With six weeks of allegedly top notch movies still to come, Arrival is comfortably on top of my list for best film of the year. It’s a haunting film that commands attention when on the screen, but more importantly infests your thoughts for days after.

Joe Corallo: Animals. Mostly Young.


As much as I would like to spend this column and all of my writings for the foreseeable future on what happened this election and its consequences, I’ll be returning to comics this week as this is what I and everyone at ComicMix signed up for. If I feel it’s applicable down the line, you better believe I’ll be writing about it here.

Moving on.

stcg_cv1_fegredo_varI’ve dedicated more than a few of my columns to the new Doom Patrol and to DC’s Young Animal imprint. Everything I had written about prior to today has been speculative regarding Young Animal as a whole. Now that at least one issue of all four series under the Young Animal banner have been released, I’d like to discuss my thoughts on the imprint so far.

For those less familiar, DC’s Young Animal imprint is “curated” by musician and Eisner Award winning writer Gerard Way, those titles being Doom Patrol, Shade The Changing Girl, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye, and Mother Panic. Doom Patrol is the flagship title and what Gerard Way had originally pitched. Shade is an update of Peter Milligan’s Shade The Changing Man at Vertigo, which was an update of Steve Ditko’s original concept in the late 1970s. Cave Carson is an obscure DC side character who’s never had his own series before. Mother Panic is a new character created by Gerard Way, Jody Houser, and Tommy Lee Edwards.

After reading three issues of Doom Patrol, two issues of Shade, and one of both Cave Carson and Mother Panic a few things have become very clear. These comics are all character pieces. They’re very much driven by one character in each series, with Doom Patrol’s focus shifting somewhat while keeping Space Case in primary focus.

Some of this works. In a lot of ways this approach is also necessary. These are characters most comic readers aren’t as keenly aware of. Mother Panic is entirely new, though taking place firmly in Gotham.

doom-patrolMy problem with the stories so far is they lack strong antagonists. There is no singular villain that shakes me to my core. The stakes in a lot of what I’ve read so far haven’t really been fleshed out. Space Case has some vague danger and weirdness following her, but we don’t really know to what extent and what’s at stake. Shade had aliens that seem to kind of be looking for her, but we aren’t really all that sure yet how that’s going. Cave Carson’s eye is causing him problems, but, again, there is no clear antagonist. The closest we get to a clear antagonist is in Mother Panic, and even then little time is spent on her.

Now to be clear, I do really like strong character pieces where other elements of the story become secondary. This is only a problem for me as this is prevalent in all four titles. If I feel like I’m getting more of the same across four titles, it’s easier for me to be willing to drop one as time goes on.

We are also getting more of the same across all these titles in that they are all about straight cis white women – with the exception of Cave Carson, who is a straight cis white man. This by itself isn’t inherently bad. However, DC Comics has been trying to expand its readership and I’m not entirely sure I’m seeing how this will end up doing so in the long run. They’ve been doing a good job in terms of pumping out plenty of comics with straight cis white women or now some bi cis white women with Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn. I don’t see how creating another white hero in Gotham is a step forward or a tool to garner new readers.

I know it may sound like I can’t be enjoying these books if I’m being critical about them. That’s not the case; I have been enjoying these comics overall. If anything, I wish more of the main DC titles took up some elements of these books. They’re often weird and deal with alienation and other feelings that either aren’t tackled in other DC Comics. The art is expressive at best and different at worst. The characters do all stand out and were fleshed out well from their debut issues. I do plan on continuing to read them for the foreseeable future.

That being said, DC Comics and others need to be more considerate about the future. I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about the election and its aftermath, but this does feel applicable. Now more than ever comics are going to need to step up. We have elected a bigot to the highest office in the land who has already appointed a bigger bigot as his top adviser. We need imprints that aren’t as white. Imprints with more diverse characters and more diverse creators. Outside of Tamra Bonvillain, nearly everyone involved with Young Animal is straight cis and white. And while I do commend them on the amount of women working on the imprint and the amount of women that are leads in the comics they’re putting out, we need more than that. We need not just white women, but people of color, queer people, and non-Christians feeling welcome and accepted. Feeling they can be superheroes too.

catalyst-primeThere are plenty of places to start. DC Comics controls the characters and universe from Milestone Media and doesn’t seem to be doing anything with that. Now is the time to do something. Marvel Comics seems to be onto something having Ta-Nehisi Coates help to bring people in to expand their Black Panther universe. Joe Illidge has been working hard over at Lion Forge to start Catalyst Prime, a series of superhero titles with both diverse characters and creators set to debut next year. We can only hope other comic publishers will be able to learn a thing or two from what Catalyst Prime will be and I hope for their success.

I’d be more than happy for more pop up imprints like Young Animal. I do think Gerard Way is doing something good. We just need more and different things as well. We need comics important to other audiences.

Here’s an idea: give Grace Jones a pop up imprint. I don’t know what she’d do, but I can tell you right now I’d read it.

Mindy Newell’s Post-Election Blues


I used to play the guitar. I never had any really talent for it, and soon put it away. But there was one song that I did learn. I did a pretty good job with it, too.

This land is your land, this land is my land

From California to the New York Island,

From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,

This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking that ribbon of highway

And saw above me that endless skyway,

And saw below me the golden valley, I said:

This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps

To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,

And all around me, a voice was sounding:

This land was made for you and me.

Legendary folk artist and social commentator Woody Guthrie wrote This Land Is Your Land in 1940, reacting to Kate Smith’s recording of Irving Berlin’s God Bless America, which was played everywhere and constantly during during the Great Depression; he thought it purposely complacent about the terrible injustices being suffered by most of the American public which he had witnessed first-hand after leaving his native Oklahoma to travel the rails across America, eventually ending up in California, where the Dust Bowl refugees – “Okies” – who had migrated hoping to find a better life, and instead finding only more suffering and cruelty – see John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath, or, even better, read the book by John Steinbeck – while the government did nothing

Why do I bring up this up? Because, when Guthrie recorded it in 1944 for Moe Asch at Folkways Records in New York City, Asch left out one particular lyric:

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me

A sign was painted said: Private Property,

But on the back side it didn’t say nothing –

This land was made for you and me.

Which, of course, made me think of our President-Elect.

And then, while doing a bit of research for this column, I found this from the New York Times, written on January 25 of this year by reporter Thomas Kaplan:

More than a half-century ago, the folk singer Woody Guthrie signed a lease in an apartment complex in Brooklyn. He soon had bitter words for his landlord: Donald J. Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump.

Mr. Guthrie, in writings uncovered by a scholar working on a book, invoked ‘Old Man Trump’ while suggesting that blacks were unwelcome as tenants in the Trump apartment complex, near Coney Island.

 “‘He thought that Fred Trump was one who stirs up racial hate, and implicitly profits from it,’ the scholar, Will Kaufman, a professor of American literature and culture at the University of Central Lancashire in Britain, said in an interview…[who] about his findings … for The Conversation, a news website.

“In December 1950, Mr. Guthrie signed a lease at the Beach Haven apartment complex, Mr. Kaufman wrote in his piece. Soon, Mr. Guthrie was ‘lamenting the bigotry that pervaded his new, lily-white neighborhood,’ [Mr. Kaufman] wrote, with words like these:

‘I suppose / Old Man Trump knows / Just how much / Racial Hate / he stirred up / In the bloodpot of human hearts / When he drawed / That color line / Here at his / Eighteen hundred family project’

“Mr. Guthrie even reworked his song ‘I Ain’t Got No Home’ into a critique of Fred Trump, according to Mr. Kaufman:

‘Beach Haven ain’t my home! / I just can’t pay this rent! / My money’s down the drain! / And my soul is badly bent! / Beach Haven looks like heaven / Where no black ones come to roam! / No, no, no! Old Man Trump! / Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!’

Mr. Guthrie died in 1967, and in the 1970s, the Justice Department sued the Trumps, accusing them of discriminating against blacks. (A settlement was eventually reached; at the time, Trump Management noted the agreement did not constitute an admission of guilt)…

Mr. Kaufman, the author of ‘Woody Guthrie, American Radical,’ said Mr. Guthrie would be repulsed by the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. He pointed to Mr. Trump’s comments about Mexicans and Muslims, and contrasted the candidate’s sentiments to those of Mr. Guthrie in his song ‘Deportee,’ written about a plane crash that killed Mexican farm workers…

“‘Woody was always championing those who didn’t have a voice, who didn’t have any money, who didn’t have any power,’ Mr. Kaufman said. ‘There’s no doubt that he would have had maximum contempt for Donald Trump, even without the issue of race.’”


What now?

As someone posted on Facebook, maybe Superman can start fighting the Klu Klux Klan again.

This land was made for you and me.


Ed Catto: Nerd is the New Normal


Geek culture has come a long way. Half the time, I still don’t think that many of us can quite believe it.

I can’t believe that for Monday night television, I can choose between CW’s Supergirl and a young Batman in Fox’s Gotham. After that choice is made, I can’t believe I can then watch a Vertigo comic, Lucifer come to life the next hour.

And I can’t believe that in the groceries my wife brought home, I just unpacked Avengers cheese sticks.

avengers-hero-twistsGeek Culture is everywhere.

Back In the old days, professing to the world your love of Geek Culture, be it comics, Star Trek, science fiction or any other flavor of nerdom, meant that you’d be subject to ridicule, derision and scorn. The world at large didn’t respect your hobby. Instead they just quietly put you into that “nut” or “weirdo” category and tried hard to forget about you.

I’m one of those comic fans who never took a break from it. Weekly trips for comics have been part of my life as long as I remember. However, that presented some difficulties for me in the late 70s during my high school/college/post college year dating years. In fact, I recall more than a few relationships, usually the third or fourth date, where I’d have skewer my courage and come clean. The conversations would typically go like this:

Me: “I have to tell you something about me that you don’t know.”

Her” What’s the matter, are you a serial killer or something?”

Me: “No, it’s much worse. I read and collect comic books.”

Her: “Oh dear, God….NOOOOOOOO!!!!”

tpautosBut things have changed now.

As I recently related, my family gives out comics for Halloween and that propels us into the “cool house” category. I was recently was invited to be a part of the Marketing Executives Mentoring Program, a conference at Cornell’s School of Business. I was honored to be part of a very impressive assembly of marketing professionals.

Remember that moment in the Star Trek episode when Spock gets married, and Kirk and McCoy remark, in awe, that that the legendary T’Pau is part of the gathering? That’s what this event was like for me – about 40 times over.

With this in mind, you can imagine that I found their reactions to Geek Culture all the more validating. Maybe they were all just being polite, but the executives and the business students were fascinated when I discussed my business and marketing efforts in Geek Culture as co-founder of The Bonfire Agency. They wanted to hear more, not less.

the-caped-crusade-batman-and-the-rise-of-nerd-culture-150x225-6793839And last weekend, it was invigorating to again be the go-to person when the world at large had questions and comments about the newest super hero movie, Doctor Strange.

Like so many Geeks, I enjoy the spotlight and the elevation from outcast to valued expert. It’s a refreshing change.

I just finished an engaging book called The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture by Glen Weldon. He outlines the many changes of the character, and franchise, called Batman. In particular, he chronicles this story alongside the rise of geek culture.

Weldon writes quite a bit about the relationships between nerds and normals. But that dynamic is rapidly changing. Nerds used to occupy a place in society below the “normal” population. But not anymore. Passionate fans of Geek Culture are now perched in a unique spot in the social structure’s hierarchy. Not necessarily above but certainly not below. And so often they are positioned as experts. It’s a long time in coming, but it’s a nice spot to be in.

Now it’s time for to nibble on one of those cheese sticks.

John Ostrander: Progressions


“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

I never took the above quote very seriously. I liked it, it stuck with me, but I had always thought it was just George Lucas pop-pseudo vaguely Buddhisty philosophy.

Now… I’m not so sure.

Now I think I’m seeing it all around me in the wake of Donald Trump’s election this past week. Now it reverberates in me. There’s a lot of fear out there and some of it led to Trump’s winning. That has led to a lot of anger and there is also a lot of hate going around right now, on all sides of the political spectrum.

And I think it will lead to suffering.

The “dark side,” however, is not Lucas’s dark side of the Force. It is a dark side of our country, of us. It’s always there. It’s always been there.

We’re such an odd mixture. We pride ourselves on freedom, freedom for all, but blacks were denied that freedom and it was enshrined in the Constitution where they were defined as only 3/5ths of a person. Women weren’t even mentioned in the document until 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified and even today they don’t have equal rights in many cases.

The attitude towards Native Americans, to paraphrase General Phillip Sheridan, was that the only good Indian was a dead Indian. Our wretched track record on treaties only confirms the attitude behind such a statement. It can still be seen in the protest to the pipeline in North Dakota. And this doesn’t even begin to cover the attitude towards Latinos, Asians and the LGBTQ community among others.

It is fear – fear of the Others, the ones not like Us, the ones from Another Tribe. It is the consequence of the zero-sum mentality; for the Others to have more, I will have less. Equality, parity, means I will lose. Whites, and white males especially, are told they are privileged. I know that the first time I heard that, my response as a white male was that I wasn’t privileged. I had little money, little power, and my existence was precarious. I felt I wasn’t privileged; I was barely surviving.

I did learn better. The privilege that I had was that I had more opportunities, even if they didn’t always come through. I wouldn’t be followed when I went to a store because of my skin color; I didn’t face a glass ceiling or made less money for the same work because of my sex or that I was assumed to be inherently disordered because of my sexual orientation. I wasn’t threatened with deportation because of my nationality or regarded with suspicion because of my religion. All because I was born a Christian white male.

However, many people who are barely making it fear that for someone else to get more they must have less and they are barely existing as it is. Politicians and media exploit that for their own purposes. That fear leads to anger, that anger leads to hate, that hate leads to suffering. That’s the progression, that’s real, that’s going on right now whether you’re liberal or conservative. We all are going to suffer, this country is going to suffer, and I honestly don’t know if we’re going to survive as a people or a country. I really don’t know.

If there is a way to escape this progression? Marvin Gaye hit it with his song What’s Going On.

Mother, mother

There’s too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother

There’s far too many of you dying

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today, eheh

Father, father

We don’t need to escalate

You see, war is not the answer

For only love can conquer hate

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality

Talk to me, so you can see

Oh, what’s going on

What’s going on

Yeah, what’s going on

Ah, what’s going on

On the one side, those of us who voted for Hillary Clinton have to see that not every Donald Trump supporter is a bigot, a xenophobe, a misogynist. They have some valid concerns and some real fears and they feel those concerns were not being heard. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Yes, there is plenty of racism and bigotry and plain out hate in the Trump campaign but we have to sort those out and listen to the real concerns.

Those who voted for Trump have to listen, too, to the very real fears and concerns of our side. From what we’ve seen, from what we’ve heard, we see a despot in the making. That’s not just paranoia; the comparisons are apt and are there to be seen. We fear the loss of so much that is important to us – equal rights, the right of every woman to choose, the right to live in this country. We don’t feel we can wait and see what Trump does; we know what he has said and how he has behaved. There is real and valid fears and that leads to anger and that will lead to hate and that will lead to suffering.

What breaks the progression? Martin Luther King Jr said it better than I can.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.

“So it goes.

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Those great philosophers, Bill and Ted, summed it up quite nicely: Be excellent to one another.

Party on, dudes.



Marc Alan Fishman: The New Old Local Comic Book Store Conundrum

zone-unshaven-comicsFor those of you who follow my life religiously, you’ll recall there was a time where I considered owning my own comics shop. In the end, I’d determined the barriers to entry and risk of the business was too rich for my blood. But I held out hope that soon, someone more willing than I would take the reins.

My prayers were answered, and to my delighted surprise the new proprietor reached out to me via Facebook to e-introduce himself and to welcome Unshaven Comics back to the Zone Comics and Games, 18107 Dixie Highway in Homewood, Illinois. And there was much rejoicing!

Across several conversations that followed the new owner was truly interested in partnering with my studio in as many ways as we could both conceive, beginning with inviting us to the grand re-opening (we’ll be signing tomorrow at noon in case you’re making the trek out!). Discussions of future workshops are on our collected docket. And to seal the deal with commerce, The Zone went ahead and placed the single largest order of books my little studio has ever seen.

zone-comicsNow, don’t get me wrong: to date we’ve only sold to individuals at conventions. We’ve long contemplated branching out to distribute to stores around our great city. But without a full series to sell (and time between books that is… well… sad), it never seemed appropriate for me to chase down retailers to have them shelve books that their customers couldn’t be sure to return for the next chapter of, the next week. It’s bad business for them, and us. But the Zone has the benefit of us being right in town. So, they’ll push our wares, no matter the time gaps between issues.

With all this support, I kvelved at the notion that finally Unshaven Comics would be considered the comic makers of our tiny burg. While a solid set of kids may know of us from our appearances at local and less-local comic-cons, now we’ll be placed on the front counter in a special display, telling kids that “Yes, some cool dudes in this town are making awesome books!”. It’s given me a feeling of pride that I’ve truly never felt before. Combine this with our recent partnership with our local Parks & Recreation department to offer a “Comic Book Making 101” class in the winter, and 2017 is shaping up to be a rather Unshaven Year.

But this leads me to my titular conundrum. You see, I’m not just a maker of comics. I, too, am a consumer. As such, my recent return to buying books monthly lead me to do business with my friends at Past Times Comics and Games in not-so-nearby Niles, Illinois. I shop with them because their manager is a long trusted friend whose original shop was the one where Unshaven first sold a book. I am loyal to a fault, and Past Times has served me wonderfully.

But now, oy, my heart aches. For you see the Zone now has me wondering how to support my comic buying habit as means of supporting their newfound life. After careful consideration? I’ve come up with a plan I think is quite worthy.

I will shop at both stores. From the Zone, I will procure the mainstream brik-a-brak that I’m presently enjoying (The Flash, Green Lanterns, Batman, Captain America, and Titans). From Past Times? I’ve concocted a truly interesting idea. I’ve given them carte blanche to create a package of books for me monthly — totaling no more than $20, and compromised of only non-mainstream books (Image counts. Vertigo, too. Essentially, as I’d told my pal: Just no capes I’d already know.) This way, I win and win again. My local shop will see monthly revenue for my guilty pleasures. My former shop — complete with my trust and blessings — will provide me new windows into the medium which will in turn help me provide new and interesting things to talk about here on ComicMix. As Michael Scott would say, that’s a win-win-win.

Your local comic shop needs the same amount of love. In a world of Lootcrates and the like, local businesses are forces to splinter and bend to the whim of a continually finicky consumer. To be the shop is to be the hub for the non-jocks. In our world where Doctor Strange mints over 90 million dollars domestically, the time to be a nerd has never been better. Our hometown pulp and paper slingers need to be at the center of our nerdy lives.

I’m now doing my part. How about you?

Martha Thomases: Apokolips Now


As I do so often in uncertain times, I turn to comics. Specifically, DC superhero comics.

Because I do, I have some idea what it will be like to live in a world run by an enormous, self-centered creature who considers himself to be a god. This is a world where every aspect of life is devoted to praising a being who expects complete and total adoration, who expects his every utterance to be praised and obeyed. He runs his world based on his whims, turning his attention from one perceived slight to another.

His inner circle schemes to see who can flatter him the most. They do this to empower themselves, but also to stay alive. Those who displease him are banished to an eternity of suffering.

The people on this world toil endlessly in darkness. No matter how much they praise their lord, he pays them no attention. And they’re better off for it, because his attention arrives with his anger.

Everyone works really hard, every single day. Most of this is physical labor, the kind that combines intense exertion with soul-crushing tedium. The best to which they could aspire was a lifetime of this. There were no wages, or rewards, or respites of peace.

Perhaps this set-up satisfied the god for a few millennia. It’s no longer enough. Now he wants to conquer more worlds, more universes, more alternate realities. When he gets them, he is not satisfied, because he will never ever be sated.

When everything is about you, you can never be sated.

I suppose it’s possible that, for some people trapped in this world, there are moments that are better than others. Perhaps, before they fall asleep, they share a moment of camaraderie with a friend, or a moment of tenderness with a lover. In those moments, they might imagine a better world. They might try to find a way to make their own world better.

Because this world is so hellish, these people never get much farther than that. They don’t have the numbers, or they start to squabble with each other. They’re people, and they’re flawed, and too often, they put their own individual passions and opinions ahead of effective action.

In these comic book stories, there is sometimes a superhero to save them. There is a superhero who can defeat the dark lord, and in doing so, debase him in the eyes of his subjects. If they see him as fallible, they might be able to fight against him more effectively.

Here in our reality, where these stories only exist in comic books and folklore, we don’t have any superheroes. No one person is going to come in and save the day.

In fact, that kind of thinking is what gives power to the dark lord. Instead, we have to find common ground with each other. My priorities will be different from yours. The things that hurt me and make me feel helpless will be different from those things that affect you. This should not make us enemies. We should be able to take our individual, unique experiences and find common ground and common cause. There will be plenty of time to split hairs and determine who was most oppressed when we are all free.

If it helps, we can wear capes, too.