Tagged: Bill Sienkiewicz

MINDY NEWELL: Happy Christmas! Merry Chanukah! And Festivus For The Rest Of Us!

As a nice Jewish girl, I’ve always loved Christmas and Chanukah and Festivus for the rest of us.

We lived on a “not quite” cul-de-sac that had an island in the middle of the street. On that island was a huge old fir tree, and every holiday season all the “cul-de-sac’ers” would decorate it for Christmas. Yep, it was “National Brotherhood Week” on Hodges Place – I always wondered if the street was named for Gil Hodges of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I doubt it – this was on Staten Island, not Brooklyn – but it would make a nice story, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, my brother and I didn’t feel cheated in mid-December – like every snotty, young, selfish Jewish kid, Chanukah meant eight days of presents. And latkes ; potato pancakes for the uninitiated. But truth to tell, we also thought the story of the oil in the Temple miraculously burning for eight days was pretty cool, and the candlelight was so pretty. My brother and I didn’t lose on Christmas either.

Christmas Eve was when my mom took me, my brother, an done friend each into Manhattan for our annual visit to Rockefeller Center and the Christmas Tree, then to skate on the Rockefeller Center ice rink, then to Radio City Music Hall to see the movie and the Christmas show, then to walk down Fifth Avenue to see the fantabulously animated window, and finally to then meet up with our Dad at Macy’s, where we would all bundle into the car for a trip through the tunnel and home.  And once at home, bathed and tucked into bed – with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads – dad and mom would hang Lord & Taylor’s, or Saks Fifth Avenue, or Bloomindales or B. Altman ‘s (yeah, I’m that old) shopping bags for Santa to fill – I guess jolly ol’ St. Nick was kosher, but real stockings were trafe.

So here’re some suggestions for your shopping bags and/or stockings, trafe or not. Some political – hey, it wouldn’t be my column with at least one political comment, would it? – and some not.

  • The full collection of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, beautifully drawn by various artists such as P. Craig Russell, Mike Dringenberg, Glenn Fabry, Frank Quitely, and Bill Sienkiewicz.
  • 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, by Tony Isabella. A wondrous collection that takes you through 70 years of comics, and if you don’t find something in this chock-full-of-‘mazing stuff that wets your whistle, you ain’t a comic fan!
  • Loading up your stocking with everything you need to enable you to enact your basic right as a citizen of the United States – to vote for the candidate of your choice. Republican governors are attempting to disenfranchise the vote to those they consider “undesirable,” i.e., those they fear will vote for President Obama and/or the Democrats. 34 states have already loaded the registration process with so much debris it makes it nearly impossible for many to do what nearly 40,000 American deaths and casualties gave to the Iraqis and Afghans – please, don’t let those deaths be in total vain. Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, a Libertarian, a Communist, or something altogether different: VOTE, goddamn it!
  • If you’re a fan of the original Law & Order, and you have roughly $700 dollars to spend, consider the boxed Complete Law & Order DVD Collection. (Hmm, I just checked on Amazon, and it’s selling there for the bargain price of $450.99, a 36% savings.) Check out Michael Moriarty, George Dzunda, Chris Noth before he was Mr. Big and Mr. Julianne Margulies, Dan Florek as Captain Donald Cragen before he moved to the Special Victims precinct and S. Epatha Merkeson as the luminously jaded Lt. Abigail Van Buren. See the fascinatingly different styles of D.A. Steven Hill, Fred Thompson, and Dianne West. Watch Sam Waterson’s hair turn grey. And mourn the premature passing of the one and only Lenny Brisko – Jerry Orbach.
  • And speaking of L & O, for you video-gamers out there, I just read, it was either in Entertainment Weekly, or, believe it or not, TV Guide, keep your eyes out for Law & Order: Legacies, in which you’ll have the choice of being either part of the Law or part of the Order as you hunt down the criminal and aim for justice.
  • Fly to the second star to the right and then straight on to morning. Get tickets to see Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan. You’ll be in Neverland.
  • A donation to your favorite charity, be it a couple of dollars in the Salvation Army red bucket or $1000 to Oxfam.

With our troops “officially” coming home from Iraq – my girlfriend is in the Army and she knows soldiers who have gotten marching orders to Baghdad to help protect the nearly 20,000 “diplomats” who will remain in the Emerald City Otherwise Known As The United States Embassy, it’s time for you to really understand how the fuck we got involved there in the first place.

  • Want to know what made Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda tick? Buy The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. The best book I’ve read on the rise of the terrorist organization and its megalomaniacal leader.
  • Next read about the fucked-up U.S. politics that led to 9/11 in Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001.
  • Or check out Bob Woodward’s trilogy, Plan of Attack: The Definitive Account of the Decision to Invade Iraq; State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III; and The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006 – 2008. It’s amazing how freely people spoke to Woodward, including President Bush. And you’ll wonder how these people slept at night.

As for me? What do I want for Christmas, Chanukah, and Festivus for the rest of us? Oh, say, it’d be nice to part of the 1%, wouldn’t it? C’mon, you know you’d like it, too. I’m joking. (Or am I?) A guarantee that President Obama will have a second term, this time with a Congress that’ll work with him instead of demonizing everything about one of the smartest men to ever hold the office. Barring that, a Presidency for Hillary – and yes, I know she said she’s done with politics after winding up her term as Secretary of State. To write Wonder Woman again.

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.

Yeah. I like that one.

Ho, Ho, Ho!

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

MARTHA THOMASES: Ennis, O’Neil, and Family

Twice in two days this weekend, I ran into Garth Ennis on the street. Other than industry events, I haven’t seen him in nearly a decade (and then, on the street). Apparently, he lives about half a mile away from me, and has for eight years.

Usually, if I see someone I know in a place where I don’t expect to see him, I don’t recognize him. When it’s family, it’s different.

I’m not claiming to have a particularly close relationship with Mr. Ennis. As the publicist at DC in the 1990s, I monitored to the line for his signings at a few conventions and hung out at bars in the evenings with other comics folks.

I have cousins with whom I’ve spent less time.

There aren’t a lot of businesses with the same kind of family feelings as comics. I think it’s because, until recently, we got no respect. Biff, bam, pow, comics were for kids, and any adult who liked them – or worse, made a living working on them – must be developmentally stunted or a pedophile.

The first person I met in comics was Denny O’Neil. I was completely gobsmacked because he was, at the time, my favorite writer (since then, I have added favorites, depending on my mood. Still, day in and day out, he’s frequently the best). It turned out he lived down the street, and I managed to insinuate myself into his life by watering his plants when he was out of town, and borrowing his Ed McBain books. Besides comics, we shared an interest in anti-war politics, the great 1960s culture wars, and schlocky science fiction movies.

Through Denny, I met the crowd that was then at Marvel: Larry Hama, Archie Goodwin, Mike Carlin, Christopher Priest and the gang. I met a great group of freelancers, too: Frank Miller, Walter Simonson, Howard Chaykin, Kyle Baker, Bobby London, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mary Wilshire, Tony Salmons. I met Mike Gold through Denny, even though we know so many of the same people that I can’t believe we hadn’t met before.

And so on, and so on.

When I got the job at DC (thanks to Denny’s referral), I met a whole bunch more. And even though I’d been shy as a teenager, I found I was able to talk easily to people I’d just met. Maybe because we had business to talk about, or Superman, or Jim Shooter, but conversation was easy, and I felt comfortable around these people.

Just like family.

Comics used to be much more of a New York business. Then Fed-Ex, fax machines and the Internet made it possible for people to live in other states, even other countries. And that’s cool. I have family in Australia, and we’re still tight.

Since Denny retired, I don’t get to run into him every day. He moved out of town and I’m using the phone much less. Even so, I know that, the next time I see him, which will probably be at our Chanukah party, we’ll have a bunch to talk about, and we’ll laugh at our respective wrinkles and gray hairs. We’ll talk about the kids, and their crazy music and hairstyles.

Maybe, if I invite him, Garth will come, too.

Martha Thomases suspects that her teen-age self would not believe how little she uses the telephone anymore.

SATURDAY: John Ostrander

MICHAEL DAVIS: My Secret Origin

Editor’s Note: This originally appeared at www.michaeldavisworld.com on January 28, 2011. It is being reprinted here without permission. It’s been reformatted to meet ComicMix’s high editorial standards.

A long time ago in a galaxy, blah, blah, blah…

…Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz and I shared a studio next to some creators who are all legends now. It was the second silver age of comics and we were in the thick of it.

Howard Chaykin was doing American Flagg!, Walt Simonson was on Thor, Al Milgrom was doing Spider-Man. Jim Sherman was in the studio but I forgot what he was working on, I do remember it was bad ass.

The studio where all those superstar upstarts were was called Upstart Studio.


Also at Upstart was Frank Miller who was doing Daredevil and about to do Ronin. I seldom saw Frank but when I did more often than not he would ask what I was working on and was just a great guy. I remember being a bit jealous when Bill and Frank started working on Elektra and for the life of me I can’t remember why.

All that said, how’s that for a line up?

Those guys (Denys included) sounds like a comic fan’s dream team even now. Speaking of my best friend Denys a few years forward in time from our studios days would see him nominated for an Eisner for best penciler… twice. People forget just how badass Denys Cowan is.

Our studio never got an official name although Bill liked to call it Bill and his little helpers… the bastard.

As far as what we were doing at Bill and his little helpers Studio, Bill was working on Elektra and The New Mutants; Denys was doing The Black Panther for Marvel, V (the comic adaption of the original TV series) and Vigilante for DC.

What was I doing? Nothing great in comics, that’s for sure.

I was working on children books, movie posters, etc. I had one comic book assignment for the Marvel magazine Epic. The assignment was given to me by the late great Archie Goodwin. I made an appointment with Archie hoping for a cover assignment I never dreamt he would give me an interior job.

I loved comics but I was trained as an editorial and mainstream illustrator. I never learned to do comics like, say, a Denys Cowan who can imagine and draw anything from his head. I need reference, I need to look at stuff, and I need dozens of layouts before I start a finished piece. Comics that are fully painted and tell a non-liner story at that time were rare. I was always jealous (still am) of guys that can do that make it up from nothing jazz.

Dwayne McDuffie recently commented on multitalented guys that can write and draw. Truth be told Dwayne, just as a writer, is light years away from where I will ever be as a visual storyteller. That, to me, is multitalented. When Christopher Priest was the editor on the Spider-Man book he once dissected a cover painting I did for him like he was a high school science teacher and I was the frog. He’s also a hell of a writer and just as good a musician. Reggie Hudlin glides between producing and directing movies and TV shows to writing some of the best comics I’ve ever read. Those guys are multitalented.

20 or so years ago, except for Heavy Metal and a few other outlets, painted comics were few and far between. The graphic novel as a fully painted editorial piece of art and content was not quite there yet. It was about to come into its own lead by people like my brother from another mother Bill Sienkiewicz. The work of Kent Williams, George Pratt and Dave McKean was just around the corner as well but not there yet.

Howard Chaykin saw over 20 years ago where comics were going and produced a few painted books before just about anyone did.

Like an asshole, I tried to do comics the way Denys, Walt, Howard and Frank did. I was too stupid to listen to Howard Chaykin when he told me, “Do what you do, the industry is changing and you can bring something new to it.’

Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. It’s right up there with, put your hands on the wheel and answer in a civil tone of voice, “Yes officer, whatever you say officer.”

I wish I was joking about the cop advice, but I assure you I’m not.

I did not listen to Howard. Years later Mike Gold told me the same thing after I delivered a Wasteland story, which was not my finest hour. I didn’t think he would but Mike gave me another Wasteland story and said, “Do this like any other illustration assignment.” The story was about South Africa and I nailed that mother.

Of all the high profile regular illustrations gigs I was doing (Newsweek, NBC, etc.) the assignment I was the most excited about was Epic. It was a six-page story I was writing and drawing and taking forever to do because I wanted to do it like “regular” comics artists did. Could not do it then, can’t do it now.

Long story short, I will never forget those late night talks with Howard, Bill, Frank, Jim, Al and Denys. It was indeed the second silver age but for me it will always be my golden age.

Bill and his little helpers. Somehow that does not brother me anymore.

Yeah, I know this is pretty damn sappy.

That’s OK. Sap is the new black.