Tagged: Bill Sienkiewicz

John Ostrander: Legion

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

• Talking Heads, Once In a Lifetime

Okay, I’ve finally found a TV superhero show I like more than The Flash, which is saying a lot. It’s Legion, Wednesdays at 10 PM (ET) on FX, and it stars Dan Stevens in a role that’s world’s away from his stint on Downton Abbey. He plays David Haller, a man who may be the world’s strongest telepath and, because of his schizophrenia – their diagnosis, not mine – perhaps the most dangerous.

The show is from 20th Century Fox in association with Marvel TV and is the first to link with the X-Men movie franchise which, for contractual and bureaucratic reasons, is separate from the Mighty Marvel Movie Franchise over at Disney. It’s not only unlike any other superhero TV show out there. In fact, it’s different from any other TV show, period.

What makes Legion so different is the use of the concept of the Unreliable Narrator. That concept means the reader/viewer cannot trust the facts of the story as presented. The device is most commonly used in fiction with a first person narrator, but it can be used in film and television and it’s being used very effectively here in two ways.

The show’s creator and showrunner, Noah Hawley (who also wrote and directed the first episode), wants the show to be told from Haller’s perspective. The story is about him, but since he can’t trust his own memories neither can we. His perception of reality around him may be off as well. David is an unreliable narrator.

At the same time, Hawley skews the design elements so that they match Haller’s mindset and are disorientating to us. His way of presenting David’s life cannot be wholly trusted either. Hawley is also an unreliable narrator.

There’s a key moment in the first episode when David’s being held at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital (which itself seems to be a nod to A Clockwork Orange) where he is drugged, tested, questioned, evaluated. There’s a strong suggestion of a sinister governmental organization – as if there is any other kind – called Division 3 who seem ready to kill Haller.

David is eventually rescued by his sort of girlfriend named Sid and people connected with a place called Summerland run by Dr. Melanie Bird. There’s running and people shooting at them but, in the middle of the escape, David stops and begs of Sid, “Is all this really happening? Are you real?” She reassures them that it is happening, she is real, and they must run.

Those questions, for me, are the center of the episode and maybe of the series. Is this real? Is this happening? Can David trust it? Can we?

In the second episode, David – now safely (?) at Summerland, is being helped by Dr. Bird and her associates. Dr. Bird insists that David is not crazy; the voices he hears are part of his telepathic powers manifesting and always have been. One of her associates helps guides David through buried or forgotten memories but, again, we’re not certain how reliable those memories are and neither is he.

As I’ve been thinking about the show, I’m now questioning even what I think I know. What if Summerland is not the beneficial place we’ve been told it is? What if kindly Dr. Bird is not all that kindly and the evil Division 3 folks are really the good guys? What if David Haller himself is not a “hero” but more of an anti-hero or even an outright villain? He’s is the Legion of the title and I’m put in mind of the gospels of Mark and Luke where Jesus meets a man possessed of demons who says “My name is Legion for we are many.” David has a lot of voices inside him.

If you know my work, you can see why I’m fascinated by the show. It may not be for everyone; you may prefer your heroes and villains a little more clearly identified. Me, I’m fascinated by it. I like murky.

The character of Legion was created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz in Marvel’s The New Mutants #25 where he was the son of Charles Xavier, Professor X of the X-Men. The TV show doesn’t precisely follow the comics’ continuity but I think it’s very true to the concept, re-interpreting it for this day and age. I’m fine with that.

The show demands attention and some thought. I hope that it has some answers for the questions it poses, unlike such shows as Twin Peaks and The X-Files). Right now, I’ve settled in for the ride.

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say yourself, “My God! What have I done?”
 

Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

Michael Davis: 20 Minutes “They” Wish SDCC Will Never Hear About

Davis 1Who am I?

Last year I wrote an article called the Middleman. ComicMix and Bleeding Cool ran versions of the piece. Written during a time the news was full of accounts of unarmed black men and women being killed. I was also diagnosed with severe depression during that period. My article was my account of what series of events may end my life. I firmly believe as an African American man my life can be cut short by simply exercising rights that white men take for granted.

White men can say anything they want at any time without giving it a second thought. Once, Denys Cowan and I were told “carry our bags” by two white guys in a Texas airport. They were joking and thought the whole thing hilarious. If we were joking with them Denys and I would have been the first to laugh. We weren’t and we didn’t. What could we do? We were two black men in Texas.

A few weeks ago I saw this white guy get out his car, throw his keys on the ground, and then rip up the ticket a cop had just given him while the cop watched. All the time screaming at the cop like a maniac such gems like, kiss my ass, fuck you, and I’m not paying shit!! Nothing happened to him, the cop just calmly wrote another ticket,

Me? I’m so distrustful of the way black men are treated by the police if I simply utter the words Lower Alabama with someone I was joking with, the cops may be called to arrest me. Yes, I know that’s far fetched, ridiculous, preposterous and simply outrageous.

And that is exactly what happened to me at a Hilton in Orange County California.

I was told I had 20 minutes to leave the hotel or the cops would be called and charges would be pressed because, I said, “To me, L.A. means Lower Alabama.”

Why? Somehow these two words insulted a pretty white lady’s grandfather, that’s why. The grandfather was not there and I was talking (and laughing) with the woman moments before, I don’t believe him but even if true clearly it was a misunderstanding and what of it?

I’ve had great relationship with Hilton Hotels all my life with wonderful memories of my stays there. It was at the New York Hilton I sat with one of my idols the artist Ernie Barnes while still a student at the High School of Art and Design. The New York Hilton was also where Clarence Avant, Chairmen of the board Motown booked a suite for my then wife so she and her friends did not have to travel to New Jersey after the 1993 Janet Jackson concert at Madison Square Garden. It was her birthday but Mr. Avant wanted me in L.A. for an important conference. I thought my wife would feel slighted. Mr. Avant sent her six front row tickets to the concert and I wasn’t missed at all.

Who am I to be summoned by one of the greatest and most powerful man in music? I’m the guy kicked out and threatened with arrest for daring to utter the words Lower Alabama.

When asked what hotel I’d like her in, without a second’s hesitation I said the New York Hilton. There was never really any other choice. My life long BFF Lee Speller and I would often gaze out the window of our job at the Hilton. We were hoping to see some booty and very often we did. Lee and I were Pinkerton guards in collage. One of our few shared posts (assignments) was the J.C. Pennys corporate office building at 1301 6th Ave. right across the street from the Hilton.

The Grand Central Hilton was the spot my brother from another, Bill Sienkiewicz, and I met every so often just to hang. Most times Bill would take a later train to Connecticut so we could talk bit more. That’s where Bill and I fell in love…

I can rarely speak of Bill without inserting some humor and although this gets dark in a moment thinking about those days with my friend, now one of the greatest illustrators of our time makes me happy. Not as happy as a returned call, text and occasional booty call, but happy nevertheless.

A caution, my humor love of friends and a promise made are all that have kept me from falling deeper into a despair where more than once I wondered if my solution was a bullet to my head. A smile and some silliness over cherished memories do in no way lighten this narrative.

My Hilton memories span over 30 years and one of the highlights was sharing the stage with Orlando Jones at the 2015 Eisner Awards at the Hilton San Diego Bay Front. I’m a Gold Hilton Honors member with more than a few stays in Presidential Suites at a Hilton. Some of those stays were complementary upgrades and anyone with access at Hilton can verify what I’m saying.

In fact, everything I say is easily verified.

Who am I to get kicked up to the Presidential suite for free? I’m the guy kicked out and threatened with arrest for daring to utter the words Lower Alabama. I’m the guy just caused unimaginable harm who’s considering which of the resources I have at my disposal to utilize.

What kind of resources do I speak of? The kind I used when UPS made the mistake of dismissing me. They lost a valuable package of art and tried at first to claim it was the sender’s fault. I was told it was impossible to track 26 pages of what they assumed was now scattered over some never to be found land.

Davis 2The art was from Denys Cowan, one of the greatest black comic book artists in America, and was to be showcased at a galley show. That show, Milestones: African Americans In Comics Pop Culture & Beyond has since become the most successful show at the Geppi Entertainment Museum and one of if not the most successful show on African American Comics and Pop Culture.

Who am I to be chosen by a world-class museum to curate such an important show and significant piece of black history? I’m the guy kicked out and threatened with arrest for daring to utter the words Lower Alabama.

UPS found every single impossible to find page. They did so because corporate saw a bigger problem and made their people do the right thing. There was no silly Lower Alabama catch phrase for anyone to rally behind. Nor was there any video that tells the entire story like exists here.

Do not take my words, video, or narrative for gospel. Everything I speak of can be found on-line and as far as what happened at the OC Hilton I’m sure the powers that be at the Hilton will use their own videos and check my account against the front desk managers and I’m counting on that.

I fully support that and cannot wait to see them for I’d wager the film is vastly different than any report done before this article and that will be hard to explain. The tapes going missing will be hard to explain, the lack of a report will be hard to explain any additional narratives added to the front desk managers ‘report’ will be hard to explain. If there is any editing done to ‘cover up’ something (I’m not saying there is), now there is a reason to call the police. That’s would be an attempt to deliberately alter a report with the aim of doing me harm.

Oh, and UPS? Nowadays I can send a thought and UPS will make sure it gets there.

2016 begins my third year of unbelievable suffering. It seems each time a light bulb of hope appears above my head it goes out. The bulb doesn’t dim or fade or even ‘click’ off. It’s stamped out, smashed, the shattered shards of glass cutting my face making sure I remember just how damaged I am.

This all started when I called and asked for a late check out. As a Gold Honors member that’s a guarantee if possible. I was under the impression this would not a problem. It was. They gave me an hour pass the usual checkout time noon. I then asked if they had a short stay rate and what would that rate be until 4 p.m. I was told that rate would be the exact same rate as if I booked another night and get this – I’d still have to vacate the room.

I hate to rush, so I booked the room for another night to avoid the drama of having to deal with this anymore although I planed to leave after my next meeting, still a few hours because I had to get home.

Some time later I get a call from the front desk manager. She said I had to leave the room because they had booked someone else in it. Now, how is this my problem? I’ve already booked and confirmed another night. I’m already in the suite and that should have been that. A guest being asked to leave a room they had booked and confirmed? I’m sure that is not Hilton policy and I’m also sure if pressed the manager would have to concede the point.

I consented to move but told her it makes no sense for me to move into another room for another night when I only needed the room I’m in for another hour or so. That said, I asked what could be done so I’m not being taken advantage of?

I was told to check out, come down and she would take care of me. I told her it would take me a moment because I had to pack up a great deal of computer and camera equipment.

I explained this and she seemed OK until she called back and told me “you must vacate the room!” She sounded angry but had no leave to speak to me in that manner and it was my intention to tell her so. Once everything is out of the suite I’m on the line to see the front desk manager, she’s pointed out, I ask if I can have a moment but although she’s looking right at me she turns her back and leaves. I won’t suggest she did that on purpose, she was leaving for the day and most likely did not register my inquiry. I found this out from the front office manager who took over.

He was very professional and as such I asked if I could talk freely and rather he would be offended if I did. He said he had an open mind and wanted to hear what I had to say. I explained the rude manner the previous manager spoke to me and that its something I simply don’t tolerate. He listened closely so much so I told him I appreciated him taking the time to hear my vent and told him this.

I showed him the contact I had for the CEO of Hilton Worldwide whom I had met and although he and I were not boys (friends) by any means and the chances he remembered me were slim. This was done for no reason than to give an indication I knew of what I spoke. My objective was a simple one: for him to please tell that manager her tone was unacceptable and if I wanted to I certainly could with a bit of an impact, have her called on the carpet.

I then asked my iPhone what my name was to underscore the point was and add some humor. No idea if he thought it funny because after I played it I stepped away to allow someone to speak to him. I did that for anyone who formed a line behind me and there were a few. Two such people waiting on line for the front desk were a white couple who struck up a conversation with me. I found them charming and likable. Unless howling laughter means ‘screw you’ where they are from they found my company just as charming.

We talked for bit and they asked if I was from L.A. I said I was from New York and although I had a residence in Los Angeles to me L.A. means Lower Alabama. I then turned back to the front desk manager who clearly was no longer the calm pleasant human being I kept thanking for his time. His tone was now hard and he seemed angry.

“What is it you want? I’m not comping you a room, so what it is you want?” He asked.

“Where this coming from? A second ago we were fine. What is this?” I said.

“That was before you insulted a guest.” He told me this and I’m thinking, he’s kidding. He was not. I ask what he thought I did. He pointed to the white couple and told me I had insulted the grandfather of the young lady.

“Her grandfather is from Alabama!”

I see things clearly when faced with crazy. There was no grandfather there, the couple didn’t say a word to me about being upset and looked like they were fine. This was crazy. I told him I had done no such thing and I was just going too leave.

My present headspace had no room for this kind of stupidity. The best thing for me to do is distance myself from any and all drama hence I was leaving before crazy got crazier.

Too late, the front desk manager said, “You have 20 minutes to do so.”

What processed him to say that is beyond me. I was already leaving my back was to him. I turned back and asked, “Or what? You call the police?”

Yep.

The front desk manager said he was going to call the police because I insulted a woman’s (I was talking and laughing with) grandfather (who was not there) because I said; L.A. stands for Lower Alabama.

You don’t have to be a genius to know I insulted no one.

insult

verb |inˈsəlt| [ with obj. ]

speak to or treat with disrespect or scornful abuse: you’re insulting the woman I love.

noun |ˈinˌsəlt|

1 a disrespectful or scornfully abusive remark or action: he hurled insults at us | he saw the book as a deliberate insult to the Church.

  • a thing so worthless or contemptible as to be offensive: the present offer is an absolute insult.

2 Medicine an event or occurrence that causes damage to a tissue or organ: the movement of the bone causes a severe tissue insult.

The front desk manager then proceeded to beat me like he had a right to do so.

To be clear, no one touched me. A punch never landed on me for there was none thrown but it felt as if I was beat with a brick. I’d done nothing but that’s not where the pain came from. The pain came from the realization this man thought so little of me he could have the police arrest me over something any reasonable person would find silly.

The pain was because he was most likely right.

The front desk manager came from behind the desk and summoned some big white guy and both came towards me. The white guy had a kind face and clearly his heart was not into the bum rush I was about to endure. I backed out of the hotel repeating (taking care not to sound to blackish) “I did nothing.”

I backed out while at the same time trying to use my cell phone video. I got some but there are others who videotaped the entire thing. In my car I sat for a few moments trying to calm down then with a shock realized the manager had likely called the police. I did nothing, but a for a black man, doing nothing meant nothing if the cops are called.

I was sure I’d be arrested or worse. I had to get out of that parking lot. As soon as I exited a quickening heartbeat and hyperventilation began and I thought I was going to die. I fear the police because an injustice has more than once been the result of my dealings with them. I had done nothing but my heart would not stop pounding and now my tears are starting to flow because I’m livid I have to endure this unjust bullshit.

The Middleman was a suicide note written for every black man. The note taken from what would have been mine. I’m suffering from severe depression and each day is a challenge. I stay home; I stay off of the net stay away from the news stay away from social media. So when I’m told I have 20 minutes to leave a hotel one I have a long wonderful relationship with because I somehow offended a guest with a silly sentence or the cops will be called that is just as real as telling me I may be shot if I don ’t leave in 20 minutes.

How so?

Once the police arrived I would have insisted I had done nothing wrong and demand the manager show cause why I was being treated in such a way. I would not make any move nor issue any threats. That may not have mattered I may have been beaten, or shot.

Think that far-fetched? It is. But it’s a distinct possibility as any black man falsely arrested or black woman who just buried her 12-year old son shot for playing with a toy gun in a playground will tell you.

I’d say less far fetched than having the cops arrest you because you may have insulted someone you just met. Insulted them with two words you had no way of knowing were insulting. Insulting someone who felt her grandfather was somehow wronged in the way you used those two words even though he wasn’t there to hear it in the first place and by had no idea it was insulting.

Far-fetched has a different meaning when you have to fear your lighthearted conversation at the Hilton may get you arrested. Your freedom of speech during such a conversation ignored. It was a private conversation, ignored, I was a guest, and a Hilton Honors member to boot all ignored.

Don’t know if the young lady was an honors member but I do know she was white. I may be wrong but I don’t think she was upset at all, but if she was why was this the business of the Hilton? We were talking having a lighthearted conversation if something said, was off putting why tell the front desk manager? There was no dispute, no intimidation no danger of Lower Alabama hurting more innocent victims or their grand daddy’s.

Let’s flip it. What does the front desk manager do if I made the complaint?

“That woman just insulted my grandfather although she has no idea what she said or who he is or why it should be hurtful!” “She did what? I’m giving her 20 minutes then I call the cops and have here arrested!” Yeah, right. At most I would hear, “I’m sorry sir but there is nothing I can do about that.”

What that front desk manager did was wrong. Who he did it to was unfortunate for him but no one should be subjected to that type of completely bias and in my case potentially dangerous management.

Orange County California has a reputation of being racist. Again, don’t take my word for it, do the research. As a black man I can tell you the climate is not welcoming but I’ll also be the first to tell you that ‘climate’ is nothing tangible and not something to hang a ‘racist’ tag on an entire community. I’ve been to the OC many times with no problem but then again when you’re a black man you tend to ‘watch your step’ places where you know the climate does not favor you.

That doesn’t change the fact that I’ve never had a problem within the OC community. That is until a certain front desk manager decided the police had to be called because I had insulted a pretty white girl’s grandfather when I stated, ‘L.A. stands for Lower Alabama.’ What’s funny is the line is actually positive towards Alabama (where my stepfather was from and where I spent my summers) and the south as a whole.

I was threatened with arrest because I insulted someone with a riff from a James Brown song, a riff celebrating the south.

James Brown. Where’re you from, Albert?

Albert: Georgia.

J.B.: What part, man? Georgia’s got a big—. What?

Albert: Macon, Georgia.

J.B.: Macon. Don’t say it so low, bro. You make me think you don’t want the people to

hear you or something. …

Fred, where’re you from?

Fred Wesley: L.A.!

Band: Uh oh! Uh oh! [Laughter.]

J.B.: What you say?

Fred: L.A.

J.B. L.A.? Oh no man! We may have to make some changes.

Fred: L.A. Lower Alabama. (applause, laughter)

J.B. Lower Alabama? Alright. … Yeah, alright. Alright, alright!

 

You can find that riff in most live recordings of Escapism and/or Make It Funky. The riff may change a bit but the L.A. punch line is always there. The point? To celebrate the South. Any implied ‘insult’ came from the mind of that young woman or more likely from the front desk manager? I said, to me L.A. stands for Lower Alabama. Where’s the insult?”

This one incident does not make the OC racist. Although I doubt if calling the police over such trivial bullshit would be done if the front desk manager was not sure the cops would be supportive. I also doubt the cops would have been called if I were white. In my opinion this type of ridiculous misuse of authority is the reason The San Diego Comic Con International will never and should never move to the OC.

SDCC isn’t a convention, it’s a culture. It’s not just people in silly costumes parading around, it’s people who share a love of something that is hard to understand if you’re not one of us. In San Diego, there is no reason to think walking into a hotel lobby dressed as a character from an obscure comic book will get the police called on you. Even if said character is wearing a replica weapon and is a black man. In 40 plus years no one has been shot by the police nor has the police been called because someone was wearing a gun that looked too real during their show.

The police have talked to fans even cautioned fans about the wearing of certain items. That’s just common sense. I book between 20-50 hotel rooms a year at SDCC and have for 20 plus years. I’ve never been afraid to talk about anything at any hotel I’ve booked, nor has my staff or guests.

I’ve picked a fight with Klingons, screamed “Hey Batman, if I don’t get my money I’m telling everybody who you are!” followed by “Batman is Bruce Wayne!”

I did so knowing the management would get the joke and even if they didn’t I was safe from the police.

But in Orange County California, if I say something that’s positive, funny and no business of the front desk manager at all, I could be put in jail without even a second thought? That’s reason enough for me to think perhaps the OC is a bit racist and to oppose loudly any move of the SDCC to the OC.

I stated earlier I had to get home that day but I couldn’t. I was so shaken up by my humiliating treatment, I couldn’t drive, thoughts of police cruisers pulling me over contributed to my already screwed up head that I missed saying goodbye to Dexter, my dog of 10 years, hours earlier I learned had fallen ill and was suffering.

I had to grant permission to end his suffering to kill him without being able to hold him one last time and say goodbye.

If the front desk manager was looking for an insult, there it is.

Lastly, I was the keynote speaker at an event held in Huntsville Alabama at the University Of Alabama last year. The event

focused attention on the sexual abuse of women on America’s college campuses. The people of Huntsville were warm and welcoming to me. City officials have told me I’m to be made an honorary citizen of Huntsville and given the key to the city soon. That will be kind of achievement my mother would be so proud of if she were still here.

She lived to see her son survive the projects although her other child and mother did not. One of her greatest joys was seeing

Her daughter Sharon live on in the hit animated show Static Shock and when The Gordon Parks Academy named its auditorium The Michael Davis Auditorium.

Who am I to receive such honors? The key to a wonderful city? My name on the auditorium of a school named for one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century?

I’m the guy kicked out and threatened with arrest for daring to utter the words Lower Alabama in 2016 America.

Happy Martin Luther King Day.

John Ostrander: Sequels and Prequels and Remakes, Oh My!

Fox Movies has announced the possibility of re-making the musical West Side Story because Steven Spielberg has evidently expressed an interest in doing so. A part of me, a large part of me, wonders if that’s a good idea. The original won ten Oscars and is considered a movie classic. So – why? Why do a remake? It might be different but will it be better? How likely is that?

It puts me in mind of Gus Van Sant’s shot by shot re-make of Psycho. Why did he bother other than as an artistic exercise? Why did the studio okay it? One of the justifications I heard is the younger generation won’t go to the original because it’s in black and white. Seriously? They can’t be that shallow.

At one point there was talk of doing a re-make of Casablanca as a film. That was fortuitously abandoned. There was a TV prequel to it in 1983 that lasted about a season. There was also a TV remake of Going My Way which starred Gene Kelly in the Bing Crosby role and Leo G. Carroll in the Barry Fitzgerald part. This one actually had a large impact on me; I was in the 8th grade at that point and it made me want to be a priest. My “vocation” lasted only a little longer than the series. But the TV series was my first experience with the material and so the TV series was always my “real” Going My Way.

Famously, there was the Godfather sequel that was better than the first film. Less fortunately, there was another sequel which was lesser than either of the previous two films. Likewise, the sequel to the first Star Wars film was, by most peoples’ account, the best film of the series while the third one was far from that. Then Lucas, in his supreme wisdom, went back and did a prequel to the original trilogy. The technology certainly was superior but the story – not so much. For myself, I wanted to know what happened next – which was the basis for the Star Wars: Legacy comic book series that Jan Duursema and I did. Disney, having bought the franchise, will do a bit of both – they’ll push on to Episode VII, set thirty years after Return of the Jedi, but they’re also developing stand alone films about young Han Solo and young Boba Fett. So they’re looking forward and backwards. That could make you dizzy.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a sequel, prequel or remake. It depends on the reason you’re making it and/or the story you have to tell. Sometimes you look at your earlier work and you see the flaws and think, “Man, I’d love another shot at that.” You feel you’re better at what you do, you’ve deepened as a person, you have more to bring to the material. The danger, of course, is that you could “improve” it to death.

Perhaps the remake is an existing property that you didn’t create. Me, I’d love a shot at The Shadow. Love it or hate it, Howard Chaykin achieved his own vision of the character when he took it on, as did Andy Helfer with artists Bill Sienkiewicz and Kyle Baker. Not traditional and perhaps neither were MY vision of the character but they were interesting and valid and reflected its creators.

I’ve done my own fair share of prequels, sequels, and remakes. Some have worked, some haven’t but in each case I tried to get down the essential concept of the book or character. My run on DC’s Suicide Squad was partly a continuation but mostly it was a re-make. The big question should always be – what story do I have to tell? Is it worth telling? Is it worth the reader’s time and money?

When you get right down to it, those are the same questions for any story you tell – new or remake. The story should always be its own justification.

Photo by nickstone333

Emily S. Whitten, In Conversation with Dean Haspiel

Dean Haspiel strikes me as a creator who’s constantly growing. He’s an artist, he’s a writer, he’s won an Emmy for TV design work, and in the last year he’s started up a new project, Trip City, a “Brooklyn-filtered literary arts salon” with an eclectic mix of comics, stories, realism, sci-fi, and more. Now, don’t get me wrong – I obviously love superhero comics, and the people who create them, but I also love creators who can and do cross genres and try new things. Dean is clearly one of these.

While Dean is perhaps best known for his work with Harvey Pekar (e. g. American Splendor and The Quitter) and for his “last romantic anti-hero” Billy Dogma, his current project that’s caught my attention is Trip City, via the sample booklet Dean shared with me at Baltimore Comic Con. While there’s no denying I am hooked on the Internet and social media, I am admittedly also one of those people who still generally prefers reading a paper book when it comes to fiction and creative works; which means that having a paper selection of Trip City’s offerings to lure me to the content on the web is a smooth (and effective) move.

The booklet is a combination of short stories and comics from a variety of creators, and runs the gamut from tales of relationship heartbreak or zombie science to a whimsical “missed connection” ad. It’s definitely a “something for everyone” kind of collection, and while not every selection may strike every reader’s fancy, they’re all quality work (and I, personally, enjoyed them). The best part, of course, is that if you want to read more, you can easily hop over to the site, which hosts a large and varied collection of content, as well as a regular podcast [http://welcometotripcity.com/category/podcast/]. I’m definitely going to spend some time over there, I can tell.

Another cool thing about Dean is that he’s a natural storyteller and born conversationalist. This made for a fun interview when I chatted with him at Baltimore Comic Con. Read on to hear what he had to say!

Emily: Walt Simonson’s work on Thor was just honored at the Harvey Awards. I know you’ve worked with Walt. Tell me about working with him; and did you have some work in the award-winning collection?

Dean: In 1985, I was a senior in high school, at what was Music and Art, which got married to Art and Design and became LaGuardia High School in Manhattan; so I was in the first graduating class of LaGuardia High School. I had befriended Larry O’Neil, Denny O’Neil’s son, who was in school with me, and he would get wind from his father of when some of the local artists might need assistance. Larry went on to become a filmmaker; but at one point during our initial friendship he wanted to be a cartoonist, and he got a gig working for Howard Chaykin on American Flagg! Howard Chaykin shared a studio called Upstart Studios with Walter Simonson. At one point Frank Miller was in that studio, and Jim Starlin…it was this amazing studio. The studio at the time was Howard, Walter and Jim Sherman.

Down the hall, Bill Sienkiewicz set up a studio with Denys Cowan, and Michael Davis (fellow ComicMix columnist!), who was part of creating Milestone Media. Bill Sienkiewicz was looking for an assistant, and I got that gig. So I would work with Bill, and sometimes he wouldn’t be there but I’d come in anyway; so then I’d work in Upstart with those guys, until eventually I became a second assistant for Howard Chaykin. Larry and I both worked on his monthly book. While there, we got friendly with Walter, who would sometimes use me as an assistant as well, and if you know his run on Thor, at one point, Thor becomes a frog; which was so absurd that Walt was a little worried that it wouldn’t fly – but it totally flew. I remember that distinctly because I remember working on some of those stories. My artwork of that time would be more prevalent in Chaykin’s American Flagg!, because I actually drew the backgrounds with Larry on that book; but I did work with Walter.

The way Walter worked (and this was before Photoshop) was that he would do these amazing thumbnail layouts that he always wanted to try to keep the energy of, because when you initially draw something, that’s almost like the best version of that art; because after that you start to finesse it, and sometimes you can cripple it by overdrawing or over-rendering it, or tightening it up too much. And Walter’s style has a loosey-goosey kind of line and he does a beautiful thing with a crow quill pen and brush; so part of my job as his assistant was to take his thumbnail layouts, and use this machine called an Artograph to blow them up onto boards that he would then fully pencil or ink.

Knowing what he was trying to capture was actually harder to work on because you’re trying to be in his arm and his mind, and take his scribbles, and enlarge them onto the projector-sized paper; and I didn’t have the faculty for that. Not only was I not as good an artist as I hope I am today, but also you’re trying to draw like someone else, which is hard. And then of course he would mostly erase it and go on and do his own version. But it was very good training; and also I would fill in the blacks and erase pages and things like that.

But: yes, I did work on some of those famous Thors, and Walt is like a mentor to me. Because another thing that happens, when you work with guys like this for a year, is that it’s the best kind of school. It’s not like, “here’s how you draw a panel, or a page, or rule it” – you do it by example. You do it because you’re around people and you’re getting that energy, and you learn – that’s the only way really to learn these things. He and Howard Chaykin have been mentors to me since 1985. And he’s pulled pranks on me and stuff like that.

Emily: Oh, give us an example!

Dean: Here’s a famous prank. I kind of made a joke at the Harveys about the fact that some of the stuff I learned in their studio was about Warren Zevon and Van Morrison and the writing of Jim Thompson; and they’re the ones who introduced me to Akira, by Katsuhiro Otomo. Because at the time I was like, “It’s 1985, I’m into hip hop; I’m into Prince, I’m listening to what kids listen to.” And in the studio they had this record player, and they were always playing Van Morrison and Warren Zevon and this kind of rockabilly music, and I was like, “I don’t want to listen to this stuff, whatever.” At the time, okay? Now I’m older, I can appreciate it. So they allowed me and Larry to play one record each, and I was way into Prince, so I brought in a 45 of “Little Red Corvette.” So once in awhile they’d allow us to play our song, to be democratic.

One day while working with Howard and Larry on American Flagg!, Howard encourages me, “Hey Dean, why don’t you play that song you like? Play your Prince song.” So I put it on, and it starts playing, and I go back to my seat and I’m drawing. Suddenly I hear Walter’s chair slam against the floor, and he gets up, and he’s huffing and puffing. He’s really upset; and he’s like, “I fucking hate this song, this is bullshit.” And I’m thinking, “Oh my God, what’s happening?? This was sanctioned, why am I not allowed to play it?” And then he goes over to the record player, and I look up at him, and I see this raging – he looked like a monster; and if you know Walt Simonson, he’s the nicest guy in comics ever. I didn’t know who this was, and I got so scared, I turned away. I hear him yelling again about how he hates the song, and he takes the record needle, and he scratches it across the entire song, and I’m just hearing this ripping sound, and I actually start to get sick, and he takes it in his hands, and crumples the vinyl, and I’m thinking, “I’m dead,” or it’s not happening; like I go into shock.

And Walt says, “Dean, I have something for you.” And I’m thinking, “I don’t want anything!” I don’t know what’s going to happen next. And he brings over his portfolio, and he pulls out a 12-inch version of “Little Red Corvette”! And at one point I’d looked at Larry O’Neil and Howard Chaykin, and their faces were pressed against their art tables, because they were trying to stifle laughter, but I didn’t know that at the time. I thought they were afraid and cowering as well. And then everyone starts laughing; and I’m having heart palpitations – I want to vomit; but the thing that was cool was that it made me feel like I was part of the gang. You pull a prank on someone like that, and it means they’re okay, they’ve been green lit in a way…But the collector in me is a little pissed off that that 45 got destroyed!

Emily: Hah! I bet. Now, you’ve also worked with Harvey Pekar; tell me about that.

Dean: It took me awhile to finally do something with him. I would send him samples, and I think he thought I was probably too mainstream, because he wouldn’t react. I actually wrote and drew a two-page comic about it, called The American Dilemma, which I published. It was basically about me sending him my artwork, and feeling like by the fact that he didn’t respond, I was going through a scenario of paranoia about how he was rejecting me; so I published that, to show I could create an auto-biographical story about me and my feelings. It was with other comics that are auto-bio, which I did with Josh Neufeld. It was called Keyhole, and again: nothing. So now I’m publishing things about him and he’s not responding to that either; and I was kind of getting a little pissed off, to be frank.

Then a couple of years later I get a phone call from a guy who I thought was pretending to be Harvey Pekar and pulling a prank on me (because now I’ve had pranks in my life thanks to Walt Simonson!). So he says, “Hey, do you want to do a one-page comic?” And I’m like, “Is this really Harvey Pekar?” I’m starting to question him and who he is. And he says, “Come on man, don’t you want to make some bread?” And I’m like, “Now he’s lying; this guy is a bad Pekar; talking in his lingo and stuff.” And finally he tells me to fuck off and hangs up the phone. And I’m thinking, “How is that a funny prank, if it ends like that? Where’s the prank part?” So I start realizing, “Holy crap, that was probably Harvey Pekar.” And this was before caller ID. So I called up Josh Neufeld, and first of all I thought he’d been the caller, but he says, “No man, what are you talking about?” and then I tell him what happened, and he’s like, “That was Harvey!” So I said, “…can I please get his phone number, and I’ll call him back?”

I call him back, get him on the phone and apologize, and he says to me, “What can I do to prove to you that I’m really me?” And I say, “Can you give me that job that you’re offering?” And he did, and it started this relationship. At one point, I had only done one- or five-page stories with him, and then I’d been an assistant to a film producer named Ted Hope, and I knew Ted was a comics fan, because I’d see a lot of his comics and I would file his comics at times. Ted had a couple of scripts, and one of them was a defunct American Splendor script. So it occurred to me; I’ve worked with Harvey; it would be great to make an American Splendor movie; and I suggested it to Ted, who said, “I would love to try to do that.” So I said “I’ll talk to Harvey and hook you guys up to have a phone conversation.” They did, and a year-and-a-half later, it won the Best Picture at the Sundance Film Festival.

Because of that, Harvey wanted to thank me by doing something more substantial together, and that’s where The Quitter arrived. I’d pitched it to Vertigo; they wanted to start branching out and doing more indie stuff and autobiographical. So we did The Quitter together; and then I brought American Splendor over, because it had been at Dark Horse for awhile, but it wasn’t doing well, or they couldn’t produce or market it right. It was always a hard comic to sell anyway; it’s a particular kind of franchise. It’s not superheroes, it’s about a grumpy guy writing about the mundane things in life; like how much of a fan base can you have? You can hear about it, but does that mean you went and bought it? It’s a Catch-22. So I got two miniseries’ at Vertigo of American Splendor, that became collections, and we did a couple of other little things, and then unfortunately he passed away. He was a great guy to work with. As much as he had his curmudgeonly persona, he was a sweetheart; a mensch. He always looked out for his artists, and he was just a great guy.

Emily: You’ve done a lot of really cool things. What are you working on now?

Dean: Recently I drew Godzilla Legends #5 for IDW. I just drew a Mars Attacks Christmas story for the Mars Attacks holiday special, coming out in October; I wrote and drew a 12-page story for that, which takes place in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I’m doing a couple of little things right now, and I’m also working on the second season of The Five-Dimensional Adventures of Dirk Davies, a webcomic with Ben McCool over at Shifty Look. Namco Bandai is working with different houses to produce these comics at Shifty Look. We worked with Cryptozoic; they also produced The Lookouts which Ben just did, which is a new comic.

I’ve been doing Trip City, where I’ve been curating and creating content; it’s a Brooklyn-filtered literary arts salon online. We also have these paper curated anthologies just to give people a taste of what is online. It’s prose, some comics, multimedia and a bunch of other stuff. I have other things I want to flex, other things I want to do; not just draw comics. I was recently at Yaddo, which is a writers’/artists’ retreat in Saratoga Springs, NY, where I completed a feature-length screenplay, the first part of a novel, and a new comic book idea in 24 days.

I’ve been itching to do this stuff, and I had it in the back of my mind, so I went into the woods in a cabin, and did this and walked the dog. It’s the best thing – you should try it! I recommend it to anyone who can afford to do a retreat like that. I just did a print version of The Last Romantic Antihero, which is also up at Trip City; but believe it or not, even if you give it away online, some people will only read it if you put it in their hand or create a different kind of delivery system. So I’m testing the waters with that.

Emily: What do you think today are the most effective ways to reach people with new material?

Dean: I think using the DIY tools that have been given to us, like Twitter and Facebook, is good. We’re all still figuring out how to navigate that, and when is it too much, or not enough – how and when to use it. Figure out a destination point where you put your stuff up, where you can link to something that’s all yours. Also, be communal. You can’t just be me-me-me-me; because after awhile, people get bored of that and who cares? So share what you like, show up to the party. Be informed, be aware. Luckily, I like a lot of other things much more than what I do. I love other people’s stuff, and promote that; and I don’t waste my time hating stuff. I hate stuff; but I’m not going to publish and promote that I hate something. That’s a waste of time. I sometimes feel like the Internet is made for hate, and I’m like, no, no, no; use it for good. So that’s what I promote.

Emily: There are always people looking to break in, or for tips on what to do in the industry to get noticed. Things have changed a lot from year-to-year. What would you tell people today?

Dean: Use the Internet. If you’re not Alan Moore… Listen, no one’s standing in line knocking on my door; I’ve got to let people know what I’m doing. What’s great about putting even ten images up with your name and a contact is that it works as a 24-7, 365 resume. It’s working for you while you sleep. You may get someone knocking on your door from that. And as important as it is to have something up that shows off your wares, also show up to the party and be part of the community. Find your people. You’re not going to love everybody, you’re not going to like everybody, and not everybody’s going to like you; but find your people, truck with your gang, and luckily you can do it virtually. You can do it from your basement or home.

Emily: I’ve heard some artists say DeviantArt is a good place to showcase work; if you don’t have your own website, do you think that’s an effective place? What do you think is helpful?

Dean: This will show my age a little bit. I don’t have a DeviantArt and I don’t have a Tumblr; and I hear about Tumblr and DeviantArt all the time. If I’m hearing about it – and I hear some of my favorite artists do get a lot of work through their DeviantArt pages – then it sounds like it’s probably a good idea to have that. You don’t have to have your own website. You’re part of a community when you’re on DeviantArt and Tumblr, as with Facebook and Twitter. You can curate who you know, and keep a public presence so people can stumble upon you. The key, though, is to respond to other people’s work; comment; spark a dialogue. Yes, I understand that it’s another job sometimes; but if you’re trying to engender work and get people to know you, you’ve got to get to know other people. That’s the only way it works.

Emily: A sentiment I totally agree with. Thanks, Dean, for sharing some amazing stories and your outlook with us!

Everyone, go check out Dean’s work and the new content over at Trip City. And until next time, readers: Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis Does Ralph Ellison

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Plays With Icons

 

Review: Aces Weekly – Today’s Newest Future

I like anthology comics. For one thing, that’s how the comic book medium started – single-character comics didn’t really start until about six years down the road. For another, the anthology format reinvented comics with 2000AD back in the mid-1970s. Today, the anthology format is all but gone, with the notable – and highly laudable – exception of Dark Horse Presents, Creator-Owned Comics and a handful of others.

I like electronic publishing in general and electronic comics publishing in specific. I am a well-known advocate of the movement, at least in my own mind. Well before e-comics became real, I had a debate with my pal and oft-time co-conspirator Mark Wheatley, one of the most innovative and hardest-working people in the known universe. Mark advocated the potential of e-comics expanding the medium by incorporating effects that would move the medium past the boundaries imposed by print. Whereas I agreed with that position, I maintained that such additions move comic books into… something else. Not bad, not good – that depends on content. But nonetheless… something else.

Since then we’ve had various and sundry incursions into the multimedia comics world, the best known being “motion comics.” Interesting, but short of scintillating. But this is a nascent form in need of development, innovation and coddling.

Then my pal David Lloyd (Kickback, Night Raven, Doctor Who, V For Vendetta, Espers, Hellblazer, Wasteland … jeez, this guy has done a lot and, yeah, I’ve got a lot of pals who make great comics; what of it?) decided to combine the anthology concept of the past with the computer magic of an hour-and-a-half ago.

And by “an hour-and-a-half ago,” I mean that almost literally. His new title, Aces Weekly, debuted yesterday.

You’ve probably read about it in all sorts of places. I was lucky enough to get a head’s-up during last month’s Baltimore Comic-Con; Mark Wheatley showed me the first hundred pages of “Return Of The Human,” the series he’s doing with may pal (yeah, yeah) J.C. Vaughn. And I was left panting.

In addition to David, Mark and J.C., Aces Weekly offers us the talent of (take a deep breath) Kyle Baker, David Hitchcock, Herb Trimpe, David Leach, Billy Tucci, Bill Sienkiewicz, Marc Hempel, James Hudnall, Steve Bissette, Val Mayerick, Henry Flint, Dan Christensen, Dave Hine, Colleen Doran, and a lot of others of similar high caliber. No, not all are in the first issue: it’s a weekly, and as one story ends another begins, and the talent recovers.

Aces Weekly costs $9.99 per seven-issue subscription – the anthology is published in seven issue “volumes,” which is a clever idea. It’s online-only, all the material is original, and once you buy it you can read it wherever and whenever you have web access. It’s all creator-owned and, evidently, creators aren’t overly burdened by control-freak editors like me.

Check it out at www.acesweekly.co.uk. No matter how cynical you may be, have your credit card ready.

Oh, yeah. It says up there in the headline “review,” so here’s my review:

I’m jealous as hell.

 

Michael Davis: Don’t Mess With Bill

Michael Davis: Don’t Mess With Bill

No, no no, no…. That’s the title of a very famous song by the Marvelettes. You may be too young to know it by just the title, but I’m pretty sure if you heard it you would recognize it. If you or your parents own any greatest hits albums by Motown then this song is bound to be on there.

If you are really young and a geek fan boy (as am I) let me save you some time. Don’t bother goggling the Marvelettes. They were a singing group, not an all girl or gay men superhero group from Marvel. Now that I think of it, that could work…

But (Peter, I swear I’m writing you a check) I digress.

After the great speech Bill Clinton gave at the Democratic National Convention, “Don’t mess with Bill” could easily have been the heading of a piece about Clinton. Alas, as hard as I tried I could not think of any way to weave a comic book narrative from his speech. Well, I could but that would have meant I’d have to be clever and after the week I’ve had clever would be pushing it.

Trust me, you don’t want to know.

The Bill I’m talking about is my dear friend for over 20 years (since I was five, Jean) Bill Sienkiewicz.

I met Bill when he was doing Moon Knight. I was not a fan; I thought he was one of a long line of artists who were doing their best to copy Neal Adams.  We met at Marvel Comics one day when he was bringing in pages. I think it was Denys Cowan who introduced us and Bill showed me some of his work. I remember thinking two things. The first was the comic book reproductions did not do his work justice. His originals were far and away much better to look at. The second thing I remembered is, yes, his work looked a lot like Neal Adams but that look was just surface deep. There was uniqueness to his work that was all Bill.

After that meeting I went and brought all the back issues of Moon Knight I could and, yeah, by “bought” that means I asked one of my contacts from Marvel to hook me up. Yeah, I got them free, but I would have paid if I had too.

The next time I saw Bill at Marvel he was delivering a painting. It was a New Mutant cover all I could think is; “Shit, this motherfucker can paint also!”

Yeah, I was a bitter bastard. Age and good living has mellowed me, and by mellow I mean “tequila.”

Bill and I had a cordial if not friendly relationship… until one day at some industry event we started talking about illustration. That’s when we clicked. Bill was not a comic book artist who wanted to be an illustrator Bill was an illustrator who was doing comics.

That’s common in the industry now. What people seem to forget is that Bill started that trend. I say without hesitation Bill Sienkiewicz’s art changed the way comic art was done and if not for Bill and his pioneering bad ass work the industry may look different today.

For my money Bill is the artist/illustrator who paved the way for comics to have the depth and artistic reach they have today. Yes there have been comic artists that have painted covers or done innovative designs within the story lines but Bill’s cover work and later his graphic novels elevated the art form to another level. Unlike those who may have dabbled in comics as mainstream illustration up to that point what Bill was doing stuck and spread.

Andy Helfer was a big time editor at DC in the 80s. Denys introduced me to Andy and I showed Andy my painting portfolio.

Andy looked at my work and said “You could be our Bill Sienkiewicz.” Andy was not saying that because my worked looked like Bill’s ­– it didn’t – he was saying it because the kind of work Bill was doing over at Marvel was in a class by its self. That was said by one of comics leading editors working at one of the two biggest comic book publishers during the second silver age of comics.

That’s like giving props to John, Paul, George and Ringo before they became the Beatles. Andy saw clearly that Bill was changing the industry.

I look at all the new talent and groundbreaking work being done today and often think, yeah, that’s nice but Sienkiewicz did that shit 20 years ago.

As with anyone, if you are so good for so long some people tend to not really acknowledge you as you should be acknowledged. And when I say some people I mean young stupid artists. Some people even resent your success if you are the best at what you do and have been doing it for a while. Case in point: people don’t just dislike the Yankees, they hate the Yankees.

I’ve have not run into any people who hate Bill but at this year’s Comic Con I did hear this young artist dismiss Bill’s work and even say “He’s no Alex Ross.”  True. But with all due respect to Alex, if there was no Bill Sienkiewicz there may have been no Alex Ross.

I took a moment to look at the artist’s work and told him he was neither Alex Ross nor Bill Sienkiewicz and talk is cheap, like the portfolio his work was in. I was a bit harsh, but in my defense I was out of tequila…

There really should be an admissions policy to get into artist’s alley. I mean…ugh.

Take a moment to reflect on the immortal words of Dr. Dre…

Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say

But nothin comes out when they move their lips Just a buncha gibberish

And muthafuckas act like they forgot about Dre…

People forget that Bill changed the game. And he is still changing it.

Bill is one of the greatest artists who have ever worked in comics. I don’t say that because he’s like family to me. I say that because it’s true.

Bill, if you are reading this (and I know you will be because I’m posting it on your Facebook page) if I told you this every day for a year it still would not be enough. You, my friend are a true living legend and I’m proud to be your friend.

But…the next time I give a party at Comic Con and your ass doesn’t show up I’m posting those photos (you know those photos) on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the Society of Illustrators website.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Gushes Poetown and Teases An Announcement

 

Klaus Janson returns to Daredevil– along with Bendis, Mack, Sienkiewicz, and Maleev

Finally, after being announced almost five years ago, we have a preview.

Marvel is pleased to present your first look at Daredevil: End of Days #1, from the creative tour de force of Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz and Alex Maleev! When Matt Murdock’s greatest secret remains a mystery – there is only one man who can uncover it, investigative reporter Ben Urich! Witness the end of the Man Without Fear this October in Daredevil: End Of Days #1!

DAREDEVIL: END OF DAYS #1 (AUG120637)
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS & DAVID MACK
Art by KLAUS JANSON, DAVID MACK, ALEX MALEEV & BILL SIENKIEWICZ
Cover by ALEX MALEEV
FOC – 9/17/12, ON-SALE 10/10/12

Marc Alan Fishman: In Defense of the Modern Comic, Part 1

Once again, my Facebook friend Jim Engel tipped me off to another jumping-on point for a rant. I think I owe him a Coke. Seems someone at the Wall Street Journal perked up at the news that the Avengers crossed the bajillion bucks meter, and it stemmed a very obvious question: If the movie is that popular, shouldn’t there be some kind of carry-over to the parent media? And the simple answer is one we comic fans hate to admit: Ain’t no carry-over cash coming through the doors of the local comic shop over this (or any other) movie. So the WSJ writer, one Tim Marchman, decided to take his book review of “Leaping Tall Buildings” and turn it into a tirade on the industry  I want so badly to call home. Now don’t get me wrong, Marchman makes a few solid points. OK, he makes a lot of them. But I know you guys like me when I’m pissy… And one point in particular boils my blood faster than Wally West got eliminated from the New 52:

“If no cultural barrier prevents a public that clearly loves its superheroes from picking up a new Avengers comic, why don’t more people do so? The main reasons are obvious: It is for sale not in a real bookstore but in a specialty shop, and it is clumsily drawn, poorly written and incomprehensible to anyone not steeped in years of arcane mythology.”

First off? On behalf of the industry as a whole? Fuck you. And normally I refrain from the potty mouth, but here is one occasion I feel damned correct in using it. Second, let me clarify where my anger lies. I agree with him about location. The local comic shop is indeed a specialty store. One that carries a stigma of exclusivity that can’t be broken, except on very rare occasion. Most comic shops try hard to throw open their doors to the general public in hopes of enticing them in with their fictiony wares, but the general public doesn’t look to consume their books off the shelf anymore. Ask Borders. But I digress.

I won’t even argue his point about continuity. I could easily argue that, mind you, and if people respond violently enough to this article I may talk about it in a few weeks. Suffice to say, yes, it’s a big barrier to entry. Anyone walking in, fresh out of the theater, would be hard pressed to know where exactly to start reading an Avengers comic. The movie-roster tie-in isn’t well-liked by any reviewer, and the modern Bendis epic-arcs (Disassembled, Civil War, Dark Reign, etc.) are amazingly dense with history. Enough at least to perhaps scare off someone from really taking a leap of literary faith. Again, I digress.

The jab Marchman takes specifically toward the “Clumsily Drawn” aspect of modern comics. Frankly, I don’t get where he’s coming from.

Let’s talk about those clumsy drawings he’s obviously so urped by. Take a look across the racks of your local comic store. Do you see what I see? I see a breadth of styles more diverse than any other period of comic book publishing. Do you think, even for a nano-second, that years ago you’d see Travel Foreman’s sketchy macabre style sharing shelf space with Mobius-inspired types like Frank Quitely and Chris Burnham? Or the crisp and clean lines of the Dodsons bunked-up nice and cosy next to the loose and energetic John Romita, Jr.? No. You’d get 17 Rob Liefeld clones boasting whips, chains, impossible guns, and thigh pouches. Go back to the 80’s? You’d get a sea of house-styled Neal Adams / Dave Gibbons / George Pérez wanna-bees and an occasional Bill Sienkiewicz or Frank Miller thrown in.

I truly believe we are in an amazing time for comic book art. Artists and editors are finding a real balance between new styles, and composition to tell a story. Not every book is perfect mind you (and yes, there is still a house style to both Marvel and DC… but assuredly not as rigid as it once was). On the whole, a comic off the rack today has more chance of being an original artistic statement than a commanded tracing of “something that sells.” While comic sales have plummeted from the false peaks of the 90’s… I truly doubt it is the fault of the art on hand. Well, except for Scott McDaniels’ stuff. Yeesh.

Now, I know that there’s some debate amongst my ComicMix brethren about this point-in-question. I openly beg for some of that debate to happen in the comments below. I’m hard-pressed to believe that on an industry level that the artwork is to blame for comics’ dwindling sales. As I look across the smattering of books I’ve been reading these days – Daredevil, Invincible Iron Man, Batman, The Boys, The Manhattan Projects… and flip through the pages of artists truly giving their all to every panel – I get a little verklempt. I want all of you to go on with out me. I think about this Marchman, and all I can think is “Ver es kon kain pulver nit shmeken, der zol in der malchumeh nit gaien!”

Now go on… discuss!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

MICHAEL DAVIS: Game Change

I’ve seen the light.

I’ve seen the future of comics.

I had a meeting yesterday with a company that is going to change the game on the net and can change for comics and creators. I’ve haven’t been this excited since I was 17 and my very first real girlfriend Yvonne Stallworth said, “My parents won’t be home until the morning.”

At 17you know what that means, right fellas?

Poon tang…yeah.

Or in my case spending the night saying; “Please…please…please.”  Before you think I was begging for poon tang; “Please, Please, Please” is the title of a James Brown song I was singing… as I was begging for poon tang.

I can’t talk about the company or what they are doing…no that’s not true, I can talk about it but I’m hedging my bets just in case I’m wrong…which, by the way, I’m not.

That way if they crash and burn I’m protected and if they succeed I’m golden!

All the above said, I’m at a lost as to what was the last game changing moment in comics.

I guess it was the New 52 from DC.

I guess.

I’m not sure because to say something is a game changer is a big deal. Because it’s such a big deal I started thinking, what does it take to be a real game changer?

This is what I came up with. Areal game changer is a person or event that creates a new way of looking at things and years later that way has become the way.

So, with my personal criteria noted what follows are what I consider the most important game change decisions or people who have done so since I’ve been reading comics. You may disagree and if so feel free to amend, add or challenge some or all of my choices.

This list is in NO particular order.

  • Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man
  • Image Comics
  • Jack Kirby
  • Stan Lee
  • Dwayne McDuffie
  • First Comics
  • Mike Gold
  • Milestone Media
  • Death of Captain Marvel
  • Death of Superman
  • The New 52
  • The iPad
  • The Killing Joke
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths
  • Secret Wars
  • Death of Barry Allen
  • Neil Gaiman’s Sandman
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Kirby’s fourth world
  • Death of Gwen Stacy
  • Dave McKean
  • Bill Sienkiewicz
  • San Diego Comic Con International
  • Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles
  • Alan Speiegal
  • Arkham Asylum
  • Paul Levitz
  • Jenette Kahn
  • Axel Alonzo
  • Howard Chaykin
  • Dark Horse
  • Mike Richardson
  • Len Wein
  • Marv Wolfman
  • The A.P.E convention
  • John Jennings

Like I said the above list is in no particular order. Don’t send me comments about McFarlane being before Stan Lee, the list is in no particular order.

Duh.

Now. Have at it!

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold