Category: Columns

Box Office Democracy: Doctor Strange

I assume at some point in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe we’re going to come across a threat that unites every character in one movie to fight against it in some budget-busting assembly of talent. I am starting to dread this moment because between Tony Stark, Peter Quill, Scott Lang, and now Stephen Strange, I can’t imagine anything could ever get done between giving all four of them chances to show how little they care about anything that happens in favor of getting in some quip or another. Ironic detachment has become the house style in the MCU, and I’m not sure why Doctor Strange was my breaking point but it was. I’m sick of people saving the world by not caring about it.

It’s not that Benedict Cumberbatch is the problem with Doctor Strange. I found him surprisingly acceptable playing a native New Yorker. He isn’t bad at doing pithy dialogue and this might be projection on my part because he’s English but he’s masterful at appearing above it all. He does a good job climbing over the mountain of unlikability the script puts in his path. Honestly, I’m not sure at what part of “arrogant doctor crashes his supercar while rejecting pleas from sick people to get help” is supposed to make us think he’s a good guy, but his subsequent petulant rejection of all of the advice of his doctors so he can regain the use of his hands so he can go back to being a jerk of a surgeon doesn’t do it either. Stephen Strange is an unlikable crater in the middle of Doctor Strange, but Benedict Cumberbatch is just reading the words off the page.

I don’t like Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. I don’t like that she’s playing an Asian man and even though they go out of the way to say she’s Celtic, there’s nothing she does in the entire film that isn’t out of the mystical Asian man playbook. I think it’s cowardly that Marvel changed the character from Tibetan so that they could have an easier time accessing the Chinese film market. All the talk of censorship I’ve seen in media these past few years— we get actual government intervention in a movie, and so few people seem to notice.

The rest of the cast is great. Chiwitel Ejiofor is too good an actor for the small part this movie asks of him. He wrestles with his morality over the course of this film and you can see the conflict on his face and in his posture in a way you just don’t see in genre films. He’s deserving of more, and I trust if we get a sequel we’ll get more of him. Benedict Wong is also excellent in a small part. He has a great physicality in a movie dominated by bodies skinnier than a life dedicated to martial arts would suggest. He is the focus for much of the humor in the second act and he carries it well. Mads Mikkelsen wouldn’t have been my first choice for a magical martial arts bad guy but I’m thrilled to have been proven wrong. Because of the magic roots (and the liberal use of stunt doubles) it’s not like he has to carry any of the difficult work himself, and it gives us a gifted actor skilled at playing menaces to carry the heavy weight a villain must shoulder in a superhero film. The best part of the entire film is a quick comedic exchange between Cumberbatch and Mikkelsen, and I’m not sure anyone but Mikkelsen could have made it work.

The story is as predictably lifeless as one would expect from a superhero origin story these days. Bad thing happens, person gets extraordinary power, some sort of betrayal requires that power to be directed against evil, and then there’s a new status quo. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times now and there’s nothing new or exciting about the way it’s written up here. The been-there-done-that feeling also extends to the special effects. I’ve read rave reviews of the visual effects and while they’re nice, there’s nothing here I haven’t seen in Inception or The Matrix franchise. While they’ve turned those visual concepts up to 11 this time out it didn’t particularly impress me; I’m not looking for more and bigger with effects as much as I am smarter and more effective. Doctor Strange looks like someone put a kaleidoscope in front of the projector after it had already been shot rather than having a coherent design.

It must seem like I didn’t like Doctor Strange and that honestly isn’t true. Marvel Studios has gotten very good at making these films and it’s almost impossible to sit through one and not be entertained. I’m just starting to see the strings a little more, the same old things, and the clichés that dominate these movies particularly the origin stories. I had a good time watching the movie but it’s not fresh like Iron Man was; it feels more like watching a movie where a police officer has only one day until retirement. Perhaps as we get in to a round of sequels we’ll see a lot less of this, but until then I’m going to be writing a lot more reviews complaining about a movie that’s honestly above average.

Dennis O’Neil: Strange Tidings


Doctor Strange and I go way back. He was the first superhero Stan Lee asked me to write when I was a fuzzy newbie, just beginning a long stretch of years in the comic book business, working as an editorial assistant at Marvel. Maybe there’s some synchronicity here: I’d fooled around with magic as a kid and here I was writing about a magician. And more: this conjurer lived in Greenwich village, notorious hotbed of art and creativity and nonconformity, all of which were of powerful interest to me.

And now, more than 50 years later, along comes the Doctor Strange movie, and a satisfying afternoon in the multiplex it is, not least because one of my favorite actors hits all his marks. It is also, no surprise here, a box office success, the fourteenth in a row for the Mighty Marvel Movie Manufacturers.

But, for the moment, let’s not laud the Master of the Mystic Arts. Maybe later. Maybe as early as next week.

Why not now?

Do you know what day it is? Look outside: it’s a beautiful autumn Tuesday. Bright sunshine, crisp air, glorious foliage. The kind of day that gives me reason to live where I do. 140The date, when I exist, a bit earlier than when you exist, unless you’ve traveled into the past and have taken up residence in my computer, is November 8. Ring any bells? Yeah, voting day.

One of those turning points that jolts America every so often, I think, the end of the longest and nastiest political campaign in our history. Listen, I’m no flag waving naif. I know that the past was not glorious and our founding fathers were not noble. (After all, the venerated Thomas Jefferson paid contemporary journalists to write bad stuff about his rival for the presidency, John Adams.) But mostly they got the job done. After the ugly ordeal that ends today, regardless of who was pronounced the winner, it will no longer be possible to believe that politics is, in any way, about good governance. It is about money and power and ego and the squirmy satisfaction of vanquishing the enemy – that is, the guy who sits across the aisle and attends a different caucus.

Abraham Lincoln made his rivals members of his cabinet. Probably couldn’t happen today.

I don’t think that all politicians are Uncle Scrooges. I’ve had a pleasant conversation with one senator and worked on a charitable project with another and I can think of several more who seem to be genuine altruists. But because of how the system has evolved, it seems that even the best politicos spend more energy on fund raising and getting reelected than on dealing with the intricacies of an increasingly complicated civilization.

The current congress is, by virtually every standard, the worst in history.

So let’s let Doc Strange rest, wrapped in his cloak of levitation, while I go upstairs and eventually turn on the television and, I don’t know…try to decide if I’m depressed?

Molly Jackson: Wonder Women Unite!


This is probably one of the most stressful columns I’ve ever had to write. It will be published on November 9th but was written prior to the election results being released. Very rarely do I normally stress about the future; I just take it in stride. Writing this is a different story. I yearn to get past the election, to know the results that you already know. You are so lucky.

Since last week I wrote about my ways to avoid the election strains. This week I am going to write about a woman breaking barriers throughout the world. That’s right, I’m talking about the new Wonder Woman trailer. It looks fantastic… and that terrifies me.

So when they announced Wonder Woman was finally coming to the big screen, it was a mix of hope and fear that filled my core. Both trailers captured the excitement, action, and female empowerment that I wanted to see in the first live action Wonder Woman film.

This film was literally decades in the making. Every time someone wanted to make a female-led superhero flick, they pointed to a few flops (including other DC films) and said nope to the risk. It didn’t matter that women-driven films started to become more common. It didn’t seem to matter that superhero films developed in quality drastically. And for a very long time, fans’ wishes for female-led films were ignored.

DC’s movie universe hasn’t been stellar. Or great. Or particularly good. And at times, not even coherent. So I’m scared. If this film isn’t good, will studios be able to stop female superhero films again?

With everything happening in the world, this step for women is important. We have a woman as a serious candidate for one of the highest offices in the country. We need geeks to have that equal representation on the big screen.

So people of today’s future, there you have it. I can only hope that when I catch up with you, we have a strong leader ready to enter the White House and not a tire fire. Until then, I’m going to keep my hope alive for. It’s Wonder Women – Hillary and Diana.

Addendum. After Election, Wednesday Morning

I am flabbergasted and distraught at the results of yesterday’s election. A significant portion of the country’s population has spoken and in doing so, validated the wave of hate that is sweeping throughout the country. In short, a rebellion occurred and it feels like we had no warning. The polls failed to convey anything like this.  I attended the official Hillary rally in NYC and I felt the mood change from exuberant to despondent and confused. I don’t know what happened last night but I know what we need to do now.

I may have been a little lighthearted about Wonder Woman when I wrote this, but the truth is we all need to be superheroes now. We need to stand up together against hate and inequality.  Wonder Women and SuperMen need to unite right now. We need to protect and take care of each other, not because of our race or gender or religion or sexual identity.  We need to protect and take care of each other because we are members of the human race. We are all equal and deserve basic human rights and respect.
Time to stop living through superheroes on the pages of comic or on the silver screen.  Now it’s time to embody those unshakable morals and ethics ourselves.

Mike Gold: A Negro and A Jew Walk Into A Bar…


Michael Davis wrote this election day column for ComicMix, which we published on election day, which was yesterday. It’s a very powerful piece, one of the more important we’ve run in the past 10 years. After I read it, I put aside my plans to wax poetic about the Doctor Strange movie. There’s always time to do that. If you have yet to read Michael’s column, I urge you to do so.

m-l-king-mississippi-burningI will say this: I’ve known Michael for the better part of 30 years. We have talked a lot. He had never shared that story with me.

And some people say nothing good came out of Donald Trump’s campaign.

What he was talking about, if I might be allowed to define it, is the strategic concept of “divide and conquer.” Often attributed to Philip II of Macedon, it means exactly what it says. Instead of a long-winded explanation of the time-honored concept, I’ll offer an example that is in keeping with Michael’s column.

Back in the early days of America’s ongoing civil rights movement, a lot of Jewish American students from the north went to the southeastern states to stand and march side-by-side with Black Americans in that critical struggle. Many stuck around to help organize. Some got killed. Check out U. S. vs Cecil Price et al., or watch the movie Mississippi Burning.

This could not be tolerated by some. Blacks could not be tolerated, Jews could not be tolerated and together they constituted a genuine Justice League of America that had to be stopped in order to protect state’s rights and, therefore, the American Way. And it was very successful: by rumor, by innuendo, by subterfuge, blacks were frightened by stories about Jews and Jews were frightened by blacks. Jewish doctors injected black children with the HIV virus. Black thugs burnt down Jewish stores. Jewish bankers kept black citizens poor. Blacks singled out Jews for violent attacks. Blah blah blah blah blah.

mississippi-burningSince hatred of Black Americans is as American as hatred of Jewish Americans and vice versa, it wasn’t hard to sell these concepts. After all, we are all Americans.

As the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan (et al) took major positions in support of Donald Trump’s campaign, blacks and Jews felt our collective Spidey-Sense tingling. The polite analysis was “Oh, shit, not again.” And then “Oh, shit, this isn’t good at all.”

It’s ironic that Trump campaigned on the anti-PC platform. It is the concept of political correctness that has prevented a generation of discriminated Americans from seeing the snipers in the trees. I’d much rather a hater called me a kike to my face than be surprised that the same person was a closet hater. I’d rather see them coming.

Divide and conquer works best from the shadows. Or, to be more specific, from under a rock. Remove that rock and expose the haters to the light of truth. While stumping for office, Donald Trump and his supporters never used words like nigger or kike, at least not in public. But Donald Trump ran the most discriminatory race in the past half century.

Let’s light the light of truth.

As Michael’s editor, I say “great column, Michael.”

As Michael’s friend, I say “thank you.”

Michael Davis: Did Jew Eat Yet?


Did Jew Eat Yet?

That’s not my line above; it’s from Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall. Allen told his friend he heard a television exec ask him that in a meeting. His friend said he was paranoid.

August 1991

In the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, a Jewish man accidentally killed one black child and injured another when he lost control of his car. Black residents surrounded and beat the driver. The news reported everywhere. What was not reported is the act of an unidentified black man who led a Jewish passenger to safety.

A privately run Jewish ambulance responded and those paramedics began attending to the surviving child stilled pinned under the car. When an NYC-operated ambulance arrived, the scene coordinator instructed the Jewish team to evacuate the Jewish driver from the accident for his safety.

There was a police car already on the scene. Why didn’t the cops take the driver away? My opinion: A decision based on fear and a stupid coordinator. Rumors quickly flooded the black crowd; tales of the Jew being taken away in an ambulance thus abandoning the injured black child were rampant.

One of the horrible outcomes of this event was a mob of black youths fatally stabbed a young Orthodox Holocaust researcher just hours after the accident. No doubt rumors and young men’s bravado played a part in the killing.

Crown Heights endured three days of rioting and in New York City battle lines were drawn between blacks and Jews.

Most of the rioting was based on rumors; I know because I lived in Queens and passed through Crown Heights every day.

At that time any rumor was more than enough fuel in New York City at that point to light a racial fire.

New York’s mayor at the time did little to calm the racial embers, in fact, he flamed them.

That’s Rudy Giuliani even today. The Giuliani era was so close to Jim Crow some of us wondered when the cops would start wearing sheets.

The Crown Heights incident is among many that had contributed to the breakdown of Black and Jewish relations. It started way before Crown Heights. Black people and Jewish people have a joined history that is almost as old as this country.

In 1915 a Jewish man named Leo Frank was lynched in Georgia. He was found guilty of killing a 13-year-old girl. The fact he could not have done the murder because he had numerous witnesses placing him somewhere else did not matter. He was Jewish, and the next best thing to lynching a nigger was a Jew.

That event caused a lot of Jews to find a kinship with blacks. The same event caused a severe fracture between some blacks and Jews because at one point during the trial Frank’s defense attorney tried to pin the crime on a black janitor, calling the janitor, “…a lying nigger…” amongst other things.

Both African Americans and Jewish leaders have said some pretty damning stuff over the years about race. I’m well aware of the rhetoric on both sides, but it seems (at least to me) that the two above examples may illustrate at least part of why blacks and Jews have a somewhat intoxicating relationship like an alcoholic who wants to quit, but something always tips he or she off the wagon.

Horrible events both to be sure, nevertheless notable actions by blacks and Jews towards each other occurred. But command one of the media is not the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. It’s if it bleeds it leads. A positive does not sell as many papers.

Blacks and Jews, it’s one step forward and 12 steps back.

The black-and-Jew subject is the basis for my one and only conspiracy theory. That theory is that somehow The Man deliberately causes a rift between Black Americans and Jewish Americans. For more on The Man, read my upcoming book Uppity: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Black People But Were Afraid to Ask. You’ll find all you want to know about the Man in the chapter “The Man and other convenient ways white people think we blame somebody else when choked to death for selling loose cigarettes.”

American blacks and Jews are two groups of people who overcame slavery, continue to fight bigotry, and who have a rich cultural history. The fact that both groups of individuals continue to defy the odds should bond them. If that’s not enough, then we should at least come together because there is no better ethnic joke than a black or Jewish one.

What’s the object of a Jewish football game?

To get the quarterback.

Why did the police shoot the black man?

Because when they shouted “Get down” he started dancing.

I don’t think anybody laughs harder at jokes aimed at themselves than blacks or Jews. That may be because we see the bigger picture. We have to laugh, or all we would ever do is cry.

Those who make light of our history and exploit stereotypes to divide us fear what our two groups could accomplish if we were united.

Given the similar history and related roadblocks that blacks and Jews share, why is there this tension? What makes it more perplexing to me is in the not-so-distant past, blacks and Jews were a united front. If you watch those early civil rights marches of the Sixties on film, you will see scores of Jews arm-in-arm with black marchers.

What happened? Where and when did the road fork and we decide that our paths were better traveled separately? Not only separate but shooting affronts at each other while doing so.

In some African-American communities, there is a hatred of Jews that is almost palpable and the same hate for us in some Jewish neighborhoods.

I am not an expert on race… far from it. All of what I write is from my bittersweet experiences in life. These are my opinions to be sure. But somewhere buried in myself absorbed rants, there may be a glimmer of an answer to the bigger picture of the black and Jewish issue.

Surely some will think I’m just talking shit and have no business commenting on the black and Jewish issue. You may think I’m ill-equipped to deal with such a complexed issue. But just like those who thought Mrs. Trump wrote her speech you’d be wrong as in incorrect because I was raised half Jewish!

My mother would be surprised to hear that since she raised me alone.

I’ll explain with a tale of my youth…

I was a latchkey kid. For those among you too rich or too obtuse to know what that means, I’ll school ya: every day after school; I came home to an empty apartment in the projects. My mother was working three jobs most days.

Where was my father?

The chapter in my book you want is “Where’s Daddy?” After reading that chapter, for further clarity, read the chapter “Who’s My Daddy?” After that, turn your attention to the chapter “Are You My Daddy? Somewhere in there, you may find the answer to that question. Oh, if you do, please tell me.

As a latchkey kid, I would let myself into the apartment after school, remove the dinner from the refrigerator my mother left for me, park myself in front of the TV and stuff my face. Sometimes my sister Sharon would be home, and we would do what all loving siblings did with mom not home: Try and kill each other.

My sister was four years older than me and would always find ever more innovative ways to hurt me. Once when I was six, Sharon picked me up, held me by my feet and proceeded to bang my head on the floor…hard.

Another time she decided she would be a good girl and be nice to me.

She asked if I wanted some tea. I said yes surprised at the bizarre niceness of my mortal enemy. She got out the tea set she received for Christmas, poured in some tap water and placed it on the stove. After lighting the stove, we both sat down and waited for that magical moment when the teakettle would whistle.

That was a huge deal with us. We were at that age where those kinds of things were full of wonder. After a very few moment, we noticed that instead of hearing something we smelled something. We then noticed that the Teakettle was moving.

This took a second to register. My mother’s teakettle whistled, but, Sharon’s had, it seems magic!! It moved! I was smiling like a crack addict who just made friends with the CIA distributor to the hood! When I looked over at Sharon, her face looked like it did when we snuck in to see The Exorcist.

I soon joined her horror when I realized plastic teakettles melt… all down the stove. Wow, who knew plastic was not fireproof? Her teakettle looked just like the kettle my mother used except that it was pink and had pictures of Barbie all over it. Except for that, it looked the same.

Sharon turned off the stove and with the help of a dishtowel she removed what she could of the teakettle from the stove. What she managed to remove was microscopic. The plastic had melted all over the stove dripped down onto the floor, and the apartment smelled terrible.

Then in walked my mother. She stared at the stove and screamed, “What happened?!?” I remember thinking that this was a good thing. I had not put the kettle on the stove. I had not messed up the stove, and, it was not me that made the apartment smell bad. Then I remembered all the times Sharon had beat me up when my mom was not around. It seemed that the devil was finally about to get her due. My mother repeated what she had screamed before, but this time directed it right at my sister.

“What happened?” Sharon looked right into my mother’s eyes, and with a look so sincere I almost believed her when she said, “Michael did it.”

What happened next is so ingrained in my memory, it’s like it happened yesterday. But to properly share that moment with you I must explain a bit about who I was at six years old. You may find it hard to believe from some of the things I write, but, I was a very cute adorable and well-behaved child. I never talked back; I never cried, and I never used a bad word in my life.

Now? I cry at the very mention of some things. The other day someone mentioned my all time favorite film My Best Friend’s Wedding. Immediately my mind’s eye saw Julia Roberts yielding the man she loved while giving a speech at his wedding!

What about bad words? Give me a fucking moment, will you?

Back in the day, my mother made it crystal clear that those ‘naughty’ words were not for her son. Nope, not her baby. I was a good boy. My mother looked at me after Sharon spoke her nasty lie. Before she could say anything, I focused my big brown puppy eyes and promptly descended to the dark side.


After my mother had got over that outburst she, decided that both my sister and I were at fault. She made us both promise to be more careful and to underscore that point she shot us both in the chest. (For more on this, see the chapter “Angry Black Women”) but somehow Sharon and I survived.

OK, that did not happen. My mother did not shoot my sister or me in the chest. What kind of mother would that make her?

She shot us in the leg.

You got me, that did not happen either but, we did get punished and never pulled a stunt like that again. I often think what may have happened if my sister and I had not sat down to wait for the whistle of the kettle. What most likely would have happened is a horrible tenement fire in the least. I shared the above story because it’s relevant to the very real dangers facing latchkey kids and underscores the importance of the angel about to enter my life.

Because we were poor, even a mishap like that could not stop my mother from working all the jobs she had to work to support my sister and me. So a few years later, I was still a kid living in the Edgemere projects in Rockaway Queens. 434 Beach 58 Street Far Rockaway Queens Apt. 8B, to be exact. Back when we moved into Edgemere, they were lower income projects and the families living there were mostly Jewish older people. One fateful day, I was sitting in the hallway outside my apartment waiting for my mother to get home.

I had forgotten my key. So there I sat reading comics and starving. Man, was I was hungry. My hunger made worse by the knowledge I had no idea when Sharon would be home, and it was hours before my mother would.

Every time I would hear the ding of the elevator I would whip my head around hoping to see my sister. Instead, I would see neighbors enter their apartments paying me no never mind, or worse giving me the ‘You must be up to no good’ look. This sad ritual continued for a long while.

After a time I did not even look up when I heard the sound of the elevator. I dozed off and awoke to see a pair of feet. I lifted my head; this white lady was staring down at me.

I stared up at her in silent wonder. “What are you doing?” she asked. “I’m waiting for my mother. I forgot my key.” I answered. She looked down at me and thought about my reply. “Come with me,” she said as she started to walk towards her apartment door. I stayed where I was. I had seen this woman before, but I did not know her, so I stayed put. Many times I had been told to stay away from strangers, and, I was staying put.

She turned back to me while she put her key in the lock and asked me, “You coming?” I said, “My mother told me never to go with strangers.” “That’s good advice, but I’m not a stranger. I live down the hall from you.” That made a lot of sense to me, but, I was staying put.

Nope, I was not going anywhere with this lady. I was not going to end up killed and stuffed in a hamper in her bathroom. “You want something to ea…?”

I was in her apartment faster than a speeding Rodney King.

Her name was Mrs. Tannebaum and looked around 60. She sat me down at her dining table and went into the kitchen no doubt for a knife to kill me. I just hoped she fed me first. Her apartment walls filled with photos and what I would later learn lots of Jewish works of art and other artifacts.

Mrs. Tannebaum came back into the dining room with a bowl of soup, or so she said. To me, it looked like a giant white ball floating in some strange looking liquid. “What’s this?” I asked. Mrs. Tannebaum said,

“Matzo ball soup. It’s good. Eat it.”

At that moment, every single thing that my mother ever said could happen to me flooded my mind. I knew the soup was poison. It had to be. Look at it! There was a giant ball in the middle of it. What crazy person puts a ball in food? Mrs. Tannebaum must have realized the reason for my hesitation because she picked up a spoon, scooped some soup from my bowl, ate it turned around and walked out of the room.

I continued to stare at the soup. OK, it was not poison but, there was still a giant ball in the middle of the soup. Mrs. Tannebaum returned with a plate full of…. cookies! Now we are talking! She placed the cookies on the table I reached for one, but in a lighting swift move she slapped my hand and withdrew the cookies from my grasp.

“Eat your soup; then you can have a cookie.” I was starving. I wanted those cookies. I slowly placed my spoon in the soup, then my mouth. My imagination kicked in this surely would taste like dirt dipped in doo-doo.

The reality? Oh, My God!!! It was great! I could not believe this! This was the best thing I had ever eaten except for candy. I devoured that soup like Fox News would an Obama sex tape. When done, I asked for more. She filled my bowl, and I sucked it down just as fast. Mrs. Tannebaum asked for my phone number called my mother who happened to be home now… darn it.

My mom came over and got me. She spent a few moments talking and thanking Mrs. Tannebaum, and homeward we went. The next day, there I sat waiting for my new best friend. No, I had not forgotten my key again… but she did not know that. Mrs. Tannebaum once again opened her home to me. This was now my daily ritual, and after a while, my mom would just pick me up from there. I realized when I got older that Mrs. Tannebaum was happy to have my company and I was glad to be there.

At first, I was just going over for the eats, but after a while, it occurred to me that I would rather be over at Mrs. Tannebaum house talking to her than anywhere else. She spent lots of time telling me about the Jewish people, and I found it absorbing. I remember when she said about the eight days of Hanukkah. That night I told my mother I wanted to be Jewish. “Jewish kids get presents every day for eight days! All we get is a lousy one day for Christmas!” I told my mother who just looked at me with a smile. “What do you want for dinner?” she asked me still smiling. I answered without missing a beat; “Bagels and lox!” My mother’s smile turned into a laugh, and eventually, my reply turned into one of her favorite stories, much to my annoyance. Most of the times spent at Mrs. Tannebaum were very cool. She had a quick wit and a winning smile and color TV! Batman was blue?

I noticed she would always have on a sweater no matter how cold or hot. One day as she was walking into the living room, I saw a faded tattoo on her forearm as she was putting on one of her sweaters. ‘Cool tattoo,” I commented. Mrs. Tietelbaum stopped in her tracks and looked straight at me. She then sat down beside me.

This move freaked me out. She would never sit down when I was over. She would always be up doing something: Cooking, cleaning, always something.

So when she sat down beside and held my hand, I knew this was serious. Even today, decades later I can see the pained look on her face. She told me how she and her family were at Auschwitz and what that meant. As she spoke, she started to cry because she was crying, I began to cry. Most of what she told me I will never forget.

“My mother, father, and brother were in the camp. It was a terrible place, run by terrible people. They killed many there just because we were Jewish. My family survived, but many I knew murdered because they were Jewish.” I recall being a little confused because of the word “camp.” Mrs. Tannebaum explained to me that this was an entirely different kind of camp and indeed it was.

This was a dangerous place with evil people the counselors. That day I left her apartment determined not go back there the next day.

My mother must have been surprised to find me home. A few days afterward, Mrs. Tannebaum left some soup for me, and my mom told me to go over and thank her. I did not want to go over there. That talk about the camp freaked me out and made me feel strange. However, when my mom told me to do something, I did it. I knocked on Mrs. Tannebaum door and was met with a big smile. “There’s my friend!” She said with glee.

This floored me. I had never had a grown-up call me friend before. “Where you been?” I gave her some story about something and then proceeded to thank her for the soup. It was my intention to say ‘thank you’ then get out of dodge, but I sat down when she asked me to, and we had quite a nice visit…(there were cookies!) Mrs. Tannebaum did not bring up the camp and we settled down into our routine again.

Some years later during a social studies class, I amazed my teacher when I was able to name one of the Nazi concentration camps. Later that day, I knocked on Mrs. Tietelbaum’s door and told her about my star moment in class. Over the years, I stayed close to her, running errands hanging out at her house, exchanging Hanukah gifts. She was delighted that I was doing well in school and we talked in more detail about her stay in the camp. Years later during a screening of the movie Schindlers’ List, I thought about Mrs. Tietelbaum for the first time in years.

As I watched the film, I started to cry as I am now, I had to leave the theater for a few minutes. Yes, I told you I cry at movies. I’m a 6 foot 2, 200-pound black man, and I cry at movies. Trust me no one should see that and when I watch My Best Friend’s Wedding… oy vey!

Mrs. Tannebaum attended my grade school, junior high, high school, and undergrad graduation. She was a loving woman despite a life peppered with nightmares. The horror she endured never more than a few nights sleep away. She would delight in pointing out the similarities between our two races. What she instilled in me was a high regard for Jews pride in my blackness and respect for all people.

“Even Germans?” I asked her one day. “Yes.” She said. “German people are not bad. They had a bad leader.”

I’m not an expert on race relations by any means, but I don’t have to be to know my relationship with that wonderful Jewish lady is the America we are supposed to be. When I was sitting on her couch, I was just a child she was an aging woman, and we were happy not just in each other’s company, but in each other’s life.

Four years ago I created the Hidden Beach Universe. I wrote about it here. It’s about a man who became president from a lie. Once in power, he lived up to his promises which meant American citizens who were not his idea of America had to go.

One way or the other.

Women punished for their choices.

African Americans stripped of hard fought liberties.

Gays told to return to the closet in and out of the military.

Americans divided by race, the government fueling the discord.

It’s so goddamn close it feels like I wrote Trump’s story four years ago, and although it forecast with pinpoint accuracy the coming of the Donald so to speak, I thought it might have been a little over the top with its Hitler-like view of what America would become under such a rule.

It makes for an excellent graphic novel, but in real life it’s a horrible idea.

Today is election day. The three women – my mother, sister and my dear friend are all gone, as are their votes. Good riddance some of Trump’s supporters would say. No, not all not by a long shot but many and you can spin that shit any fashion you want, they exist. Any number more than zero is too many of that kind of support.

To that type of folk, they were three votes from two niggers and a kike.

Wrong again. That’s three Americans who lived their life helping not hurting others. Removing walls not building them. Freedom and liberty as one people not hate and intolerance was how they saw life in the USA because that’s what America says it is.


If you don’t believe in that stop quoting anything the founding fathers and Lincoln wrote because that’s pretty much all they say.

Trump’s America is not the America that would have liberated Auschwitz or freed the slaves. Trump’s not the American that should be President of the United States. He should note be trusted with our children future.

 “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

  1. Robert Oppenheimer the father of the Atomic Bomb.

“Why would we make them if we’re not going to use them?”

Donald Trump the father of the pussy grab.

Really, people?

Joe Corallo: Vote!


hillary-1-600x981Over the course of the past week I’ve done some things that would make for easy column fodder. I went to Comics Art Brooklyn with my friend and collaborator Robby Barrett, I went to see Doctor Strange with fellow ComicMix columnist Molly Jackson, and I read some new comics and graphic novels I enjoy like Nobrow’s Sp4rx by Wren McDonald. Under normal circumstances I would be writing about one or all of those things today. Today is different though.

It’s election day.

Here in the United States we are voting for our next President, a third of our Senators, our entire House of Representatives, twelve Governors, 1,212 State Senators, 4,711 State House seats, many judges, municipal positions, and ballot initiatives. It’s a lot to keep track of, I know. It’s in all our best interests that we do keep track.

Better yet, vote!

I know that we get bogged down by the Presidential race to the point where it’s hard to imagine we have to vote on anything else, but it’s true. Let’s focus just on the presidential race for the moment though. While the President doesn’t necessarily directly impact your day-to-day life, they do serve as Commander in Chief of our armed forces, the face of our country at home and abroad, and appoint many important unelected positions including Supreme Court Justices who get lifetime appointments.

modok1-640x480When considering between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, please keep in mind that Hillary Clinton was the only one of them that spoke at Superman’s funeral. Where was Donald Trump? Perhaps he was too busy being M.O.D.O.K. I hear that’s what people are saying.

All joking aside, this really is an important election for multiple reasons. For the first time in our 240-year history a woman is the nominee of a major party and could realistically become president. If elected, she would also be the first Democrat to be elected after a Democrat completed more than one term in office since Harry Truman won the election in 1948 (sorry, Dewey). She’s arguably one of the most qualified non-incumbent candidates.

There is also an outstanding Supreme Court Justice seat that won’t be filled until the new President gets a chance to nominate someone, though Republicans may trip over themselves to nominate Merrick Garland if Hillary wins. When the Supreme Court doesn’t have a majority opinion on a case, the lower court ruling holds as if they never heard the case in the first place. And there are important cases coming up like the trans bathroom bill case. Our founding fathers weren’t always that good at predicting life 240 years in the future, but there is a good reason we have an odd number of Supreme Court Justices.

And as I was saying earlier, there are many other elected officials up for reelection. The Senate could flip. Though it’s not as likely, the House could flip. State Legislatures could flip. Governors could get the boot like Republican Pat McCrory. He deserves it.

Voting is incredibly important, and if you’re an American citizen and you’re reading this please vote. There is no such thing as a “safe state.” Maybe a state that’s more reliable voting for one party or the other for President, but as I stated before we vote for a lot more offices than that. Many of those other offices affect your day to day lives more directly than the President. Believe it or not that stop light they added on that long winding road that saved lives was not a White House decision, or your property taxes, or how much cigarettes cost and where you can smoke them, and a whole lot more.

This is why we all have to vote every single chance we get for every position and ballot initiative we can. It’s our right, and we need to exercise that right or we very well could lose it. Even if you’re not excited by your candidates. You’re not voting for best friend, drinking buddy or most charismatic. Hell, I voted for John Kerry.

I know it sounds crazy that we could lose the right to vote, but it’s happened in democracies before. We’ve already lost our right to privacy so what’s a little less voting gonna hurt you?

Vote. If you haven’t voted early, vote today. Vote in two years from now in the midterms. Vote in off year municipal elections. Vote for water commissioner, school board, and dog catcher.


Mindy Newell: Doctor Who, Queen Elizabeth, and Donald Trump

FFN_IMAGE_51880447|FFN_SET_60099314Before I get to the heart of my column today, I just wanted to mention that if you’re jonesing for Matt Smith, may I suggest The Crown, the new Netflix original series, about Queen Elizabeth. No, not the red-headed daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry Tudor (a.k.a. Henry VIII) whose story has been told numerous times on both small and big screens, but Queen Elizabeth II, the current English monarch whose reign is at 62 years and counting.

The erstwhile titular star of Doctor Who plays Prince Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, who married Elizabeth in 1947 after officially giving up his royal relationship to the Greek and Danish royal families and becoming a naturalized British citizen. I have never been a fan of Prince Philip – he has always seemed to me to be the epitome of the “ruling class,” cold, distant, and without empathy or sympathy for us working slobs. In fact, I’ve often wondered just what the hell Elizabeth Windsor ever saw in him. However, as played by Matt – at least so far, I’ve only seen the first two episodes (before King George’s death from cancer, though he is already terminally ill) and concentrating on the young royal couple’s carefree life – the young Philip is sexy, athletic, incredibly handsome, loving, and an all-around great guy. He even takes over the renovating of Clarence House.

And attention Matt Smith fans! He has an adorable butt, as seen in a bedroom scene… and according to the RadioTimes website, more are coming! Quoting from the article:

The British actor – who stars alongside [Claire] Foy in Peter Morgan’s lavish tale of Queen Elizabeth II’s early years – bares his backside in the occasional bedroom scene, but not for the reasons one might expect.

“’A crucial thing is that Philip sleeps naked. That’s a fact. That was something that we found out… They weren’t put in – it’s just the fact that there are bed scenes. And what do you do, put Philip in a pair of [sic] pyjamas? That’s not right for the character.’ Smith joked that the scenes were ‘actually the best bit of acting I did in the whole series. No word of a lie. It was my most truthful moment.’”

As I said, I’ve only seen the first two episodes – the only reason I stopped was that it was getting really late and my eyelids were growing heavy – but so far, so good. (By the way, an added bonus is watching John Lithgow as the once and re-elected Prime Minister Winston Churchill.) So if you needing your Matt Smith fix, or just really missing Downton Abbey – I’ve been rebinging on the Crawley family, and now that I think of it, my guess is that they would all be still alive in 1947. Well, maybe except for the Dowager Countess Violet, but I wouldn’t really be surprised if that redoubtable woman spit in the face of death – go stream The Crown.

•     •     •     •     •

doctor-doom-this-land-is-mineTomorrow is Election Day. As I posted to Mary Mitchell, John Ostrander’s talented and lovely wife <snikt>

We interrupt this column for your columnist to watch the last 1:43 seconds of the Giants-Eagles game. Score is Giants 28, Eagles 23. Both teams are 4-3. Eagles just intercepted, in easy field goal range, but the Eagles are going for it. (They are now on the Giants’ 17-yard line.) Third down and ten. Now fourth and ten. Timeout – clock reset 10 seconds, now 1:28 left. Fourth down conversions for Eagles today is 1 for 3. Eagles quarterback Wentz throw a pass into the end zone to Eagles wide receiver Matthews. No good!!!!!!!! The Giants hang on to win!!!!!! <snikt>

As I was saying…

Tomorrow is Election Day. As I posted to Mary Mitchell, John Ostrander’s talented and lovely wife – I am absolutely terrified that he will win. And I have never been scared of the “other” candidate winning. Sad? Yes. Concerned? Yes. But never terrified.

For the record, while I am a registered Democrat – I became one back in 2008 so I could vote for Obama in the primary here in New Jersey – and while I do believe that the Republican Party has, since the election of Bill Clinton, completed its morphication into the Repugnantican Party, as those who follow me and/or on Facebook know – it might interest you to know that I have voted the Republican ticket before: for Tom Kean and Christie Whitman as New Jersey governors in their respective races, and, most notably, you will all drop dead with surprise now, for George H. W. “Pappy” Bush as President in his (first) 1988 campaign. (Unlike waaaaay too many Americans, I also consider foreign policy when choosing my Presidents, and as Director of the CIA, “Pappy” had the inside track; there’s a reason we didn’t go all the way into Baghdad in the Gulf War, and George H. W. Bush knew it and got it, i.e., the balance of power sometimes makes ugly bedfellows. See Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin in WW II for reference. Or if it’s too much work for you to do a little historical research, just look what’s happened in the Middle East since Bush, Jr. took out Saddam.) Besides, Barbara Bush is pro-choice, and I have always suspected that her husband is, too, even if it has not been politically expedient for him to say so.

So why am I so terrified of a President Trump? Let me put into comic book terms:

I would rather have Lex Luthor as President than Donald Trump. Why? Because Lex Luthor, archenemy of Superman, is smart. Trump is not.

I would vote for Wilson Fisk before I could ever vote for Donald Trump. Why? Because Wilson Fisk, archenemy of Daredevil, loves his woman beyond himself. Trump is a man whose women are only reflections of his own narcissism.

I would vote for Doctor Doom before I could ever vote for Donald Trump. Why? Because Doctor Doom, archenemy of the Fantastic Four, loves his country, Latveria. Trump does not love the United States; he loves Amerika.


Do you want a taste of Trump’s Amerika?

Here is the transcript of what President Obama said to the crowds attending his rally for Hillary Clinton on Friday night in Fayetteville, North Carolina as he was interrupted by a Trump supporter; the crowd was loudly booing and getting riled up:

Hey! Listen up! I told you to be focused, and you’re not focused right now. Listen to what I’m saying. Hold up. Hold up! Hold up! Hold up! Everybody sit down, and be quiet for a second… First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like maybe he might’ve served in our military and we got to respect that. Third of all, he was elderly and we got to respect our elders. And fourth of all, don’t boo, vote.”

And here is what Trump told his supporters about the incident at his campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania:

There was a protester and a protester that likes us. And what happened is they wouldn’t put the cameras on him. They kept the cameras on Obama… He was talking to a protester, screaming at him, really screaming at him. By the way, if I spoke the way Obama spoke to that protester, they would say he became unhinged.”

‘Nuff said.

Ed Catto: On the Fringe


In the old days of comics, and for me that was the 70s, the general nerd mindset was that you’d have to identify yourself as either a Marvel or a DC fan. And then read as many comics as possible from that publisher. You’d jump right in, find your favorite series and start reading the new issues while at the same time, working to complete your collection of the old back issues. In this way, the thinking went, you’d immerse yourself in the shared universe of each publisher.

robert-bell-001I was reminded of this as I recently came across a 1976 price guide from Robert Bell. He was one of the big back issue dealers back then – you’ve probably seen his ads in old comics. This pamphlet gave the prices for all the current (what we’d today call Silver Age and Bronze Age) Marvel comics. The unstated, overarching goal was to collect them all – and to keep your mother from throwing them out.

Oh, there was the realization of the futility of that quest. Collecting certain titles would be hard to complete. After all, if you were collecting Spider-Man in 1976, you knew that acquiring the first issue was just a pipe dream. After all – who had $110 to spend on one comic book?

Regardless, comic fans could keep up with the current issues and collect the old stuff. And if you loved Marvel or DC, you were definitely buying the best-selling “important” titles.

For example, no true Marvel fan wanted to be out of touch with the important adventures unfolding in the current issues of The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man or Thor.

Curiously, Iron Man was kind of a B-lister then, and it was totally acceptable to take pass on buying his comic on a regular basis.

robert-bell-002Since the 70s, so many strong publishers with fantastic comics have elbowed their way to center stage so that today there’s no longer that binary choice for fans of Marvel or DC.

Realistically, the “Big Two” still dominate the market in many comic shops and in the cinema. But that’s rapidly changing on both the comics shelves and onscreen. One needs only to point to the incredible success of The Walking Dead to acknowledge that increasingly there are more options and opportunities for other comic publishers.

Which brings me to the curious realization that I’ve become a fringe reader of Marvel Comics. Part of the change is attributable to age, of course, but there’s something bigger going on.

Today I find myself eschewing the popular titles and the crossovers, and I like to stay on the edge of the Marvel Universe. I skip the IMPORTANT comics and instead enjoy comics like

  • Spider-Woman
  • Black Widow (with that fun Chris Samnee art)
  • Silver Surfer (I’ve touched on that here
  • That “other Cap, Sam Wilson: Captain America
  • Moon Knight – I’m so impressed with Greg Smallwood’s art.
  • The weird part is that Marvel seems to offer up more and more “fringe” titles, but doesn’t seem to support them. New books with trivia answer characters like Solo and The Prowler keep popping up.

spider-woman-5-2014And series like Mockingbird debut, get their chance, but if they fail to click the plug is unceremoniously pulled. The Beat detailed this sad fate with the Mockingbird’s cancellation last week. Of course, there’s more to that story and the cyber bullying that ensued is a serious problem that really demands further exploration.

And while I’m losing track of my old friends in the Avengers and the X-Men, I’m perfectly content with the fine storytelling in these so-called fringe books.

Spider-Woman is a particularly guilty pleasure. Back in the 70s, we all were excited when the series debuted and I dutifully collected it. Even my brother did! Marv Wolfman, and then Mark Gruenwald and Chris Claremont, wrote some off-kilter classics. Since that series concluded, there have been many Spider-Woman reboots and relaunches. One would speculate this was due to Marvel’s focus on keeping a tight hold on the character’s trademark.

When Spider-Woman restarted again in 2014, I gave I gave this delightful series a try.

I think the covers’ unconventional logo placement and the vibrant interior color pallete by Javier Rodriquez caught my eye, but the fun stories by Dennis Hopeless and the intricate Eisnerish panel layouts keep me coming back for more. (There’s usually one or two very clever pages each month. I’m sure this drives the Guided View developers at ComiXology crazy.)

The latest issue focuses on the heroine trying to enjoy a day at the beach, while encouraging her protégé to deal with the day’s work issues. And for a Marvel superhero, work issues means capturing an escaped super-villain. It was such a great read.

My inner 8-year-old keeps asking, “What are the important characters of the Marvel universe up to?” Shouldn’t I be keeping track of Dr. Doom and Kang? I guess so – but my comic book stack is filled with outstanding indy titles (like The Black Monday Murders, Lazarus or Black) and thoroughly enjoying my time hanging around the fringe of the Marvel Universe.

I never thought it would happen to me, but it feels pretty ok.

Oh, and I’m not your mother, but I’ll still remind you to go vote tomorrow.

John Ostrander: Political Extrapolation


I have a technique I use when I’m plotting my stories. I take the idea, an event, and then I extrapolate. I figure out what might reasonably follow given this event. Lots of things are possible; few are probable. I try to stick to what’s reasonably possible. I also use inference; I figure backwards from the given event to see what could lead up to it. In many ways, I’m playing detective.

When I was writing Suicide Squad, I would look at various political situations around the world and then extrapolate from that as to what might happen. There was a time when I got almost scarily accurate. A friend of mine, Cheryl Harris, contacted me and wanted to know where I was sending the Squad that following summer; she was trying to plan her vacation and wherever I was sending the Squad, she wanted to avoid.

So, as we come up to Election Day 2016, I thought it might be interesting to do some extrapolating as if it were the plot of one of my stories. This is my extrapolation and will reflect my views and biases. If you don’t share the same ones, feel free to ignore mine.

To start with, the event I see happening is Trump loses bigly. Yes, the polls show a narrowing between Trump and Clinton but it won’t be enough to matter. Hillary will win.

Trump won’t concede. He’ll continue to insist that it was all rigged (without any proof); I read Trump as a narcissist and to concede the election would make him a loser. Since he’s always a winner in his own mind, the only explanation that will make sense to him is that the election was rigged and he was robbed. He’s not a loser; he’s a victim.

He’ll also continue to maintain that that the media was stacked against him. He’s been stressing that for the past few weeks.

More than a few people have been suggesting this is all a precursor to his creating Trump TV – his own network. It’s also been suggested he’ll start his own political party and that’s also a possibility but I think the TV station is more likely. He’s been a reality TV star and Roger Ailes, one of his big political advisors, ran Fox News.

The campaign CEO is Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, a right wing news organization. It seems to me they’ll urge creating a new network or buying out an existing one and putting the Trump name on it and it will be to the right of Fox News, which is a scary concept. Facts won’t matter to them any more than they matter to Trump; vitriol will be more important as will blocking Hillary and the Democrats at every turn if they can.

Given the Donald’s attention span, I doubt that he himself will be involved with it much after the first year. Within five years, it may be in bankruptcy. That, however, will not be Trump’s lasting legacy and impact on the American political scene.

It will be his supporters, what Hillary called his “basket of deplorables.” Trump’s tapped into an anger and a lot of hate that is out there and it has congealed now into its own mass. If Trump is not its leader, it will find another. What it won’t do, I think, is go away. It has given a validity to some very nasty elements in our society; it has made the “alt right” viable. And that will be with us for a long time.

That’s the story as I see it; we’ll find out how accurate it is in a few days. No doubt your story will be different, especially if you’re a Trump supporter.

Interesting days. Interesting days.