“Mindy Newell (veteran of Wonder Woman, Daredevil, and just about everything else) noted that she originally thought ‘SJW’ stood for ‘Single Jewish Woman.’” • Comics for Causes: Planned Parenthood at the New York Comic Con • John Odum • Bleeding Cool, October 7, 2017
At my family’s celebration of Rosh Hashanah – Food! Lotsand lots of food! And much imbibing of the alcohol of your choice! – shortly after 9/11, the conversation that we all had been avoiding finally arrived with the dessert and coffee. A lot of anger, a lot of sadness, a lot of fear, but no historical context until I opened my big mouth:
“This is what happens after nearly 100 years of the West treating the Middle East like pieces on a chessboard.”
Silence. My father is shaking his head.
“Hello,” I said. “The break-up of the Ottoman Empire? The Sykes-Picot agreement? Ignoring, discounting, millions of people with their own history, their own ethnic and religious and tribal identities?”
“You’re not excusing what they did, are you?” someone said in astonishment and horror.
“No fucking way! But, and I’m sorry, guys, we are not innocent in any of this, either.”
A fight was about to start, but someone, I think it was my cousin, quickly changed the subject.
Later on, driving home in the car, everybody else fast asleep in the back seat, my dad said, “When are you going to learn to keep your mouth shut?”
“You don’t think I’m right?”
“You were absolutely right.
“Just don’t say it at work or anywhere else. People don’t want to hear it.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I know.”
I’d like to say that I listened to my dad, who was a very smart man, but *sigh* I guess it’s still a work in progress. I have a very hard time “keeping my mouth shut,” even at work, especially when I get fired up.
And, oh, boy, was I fired up on Saturday at the NYCC, where I was part of the Comics for Causes: Planned Parenthood panel to inform and also celebrate the coming publication of the Mine!: A Celebration of Freedom and Liberty anthology put into production through fellow ComicMixers Joe Corallo and Molly Jackson to benefit the Planned Parenthood organization, which is now being attacked more brutally than I can ever remember, and is in very serious danger of being defunded by “you-know-who” and “you-know-who”’s administration and the Repugnanticans. (Just a week ago today, Tuesday, Oct 3, the Repugnantican-controlled Senate passed this, ignoring the law of the land that Roe vs. Wade has become.
Nobody counted, but my use of F-bombs might have set a record at this NYCC, and quite possibly every other comics convention on record. John Odum of Bleeding Cool even made note of it here. First time I’ve ever made it into Bleeding Cool… as far as I know.
I’m not apologizing. I meant every single one of those F-bombs. I meant every single thing I said.
My dad must be spinning in his grave. But I also know that he’s also proudly thinking:
Writer’s note: Why after almost two years am I bringing this to a head? Because I’ve tried and tried to reach these guys and still nothing.
I’m also sick, and this was consuming me making me sicker. I reached threshold when Rich Johnson of Bleeding Cool asked me to comment on some verifiable information he now had.
And I’ve had enough.
Eighteen months ago my world, already rocked by a series of devastating events, was almost destroyed.
Milestone 2.0, the new company founded by Denys Cowan, Reggie Hudlin, Derek Dingle and myself hit the world. The initial story broke in the Washington Post a newspaper with a global reach underscoring how big deal this was.
The announcement landed on the comic book press like a bomb, with the explosion killing me. Yep. I’m dead.
That morning I was returning from somewhere I can’t remember where when I noticed substantial activity on my cell phone. I get a lot of texts but rarely does anyone leave voice mails as I don’t listen to them. Who does in this age of ridiculous back and forth texting?
I’m guilty as are most people I know of this utter stupidity. One question asked could result in a 20-minute exchange whereas the same inquiry could be answered in a 20-second call.
My excuse is I detest talking on the phone. That morning I realized I’d have no choice, something important was up, and only a maroon would
forgo a voice for type.
Without listening to any of the voicemails, I decided just call everyone back. I started with my former director of all things cool, Tatiana El-Khouri. If the calls were connected, she would have the scoop.
She had the scoop… and then some.
“Hey, are you all right?”
Any concern in Tatiana’s voice is rare. I’ve known her for 10 years and seldom does her Vulcan-like coolness show cracks of sentiment. This time in her voice I could clearly hear her increasing trepidation.
“Why? Who died?”
She told me that in the massive amount of Milestone 2.0 press blowing up all over the industry, nowhere was I mentioned. She seemed to think I knew about the launch.
I had no idea.
Likewise, no idea about the Washington Post interview with Reggie Hudlin. Given no clue of the press release from DC Comics or any of the dozens upon dozens of other news impressions, unmistakably part of a well put together time-consuming plan.
No one at Milestone 2.0 said a word to me. After four years of working towards this moment, they just discarded me. Despite my considerable efforts on behalf of M2.0 that excellent plan did not include me, I was never included. When I’d asked Tatiana “who died” I never dreamt the answer was me.
I was not only dead. To them it seems very much like they want to bury me as well.
After receiving news of my death, I called Reggie in heated anger. I said some horrible things, feeling justified since such a horrible thing had been done to me.
The truth is the vile things I said to Reggie were not just my reaction to my death at Milestone it was my response to years of hooking Reggie up and being treated with no respect.
I’ve supported Reggie in countless ways since we’ve met. I’ve thrown parties for him, arranged speaking engagements, put together panels as well as personally vouched for him with Urban Ministries Inc., who vet anyone and everyone they bring into their church space.
And believe me, when I say their church space I mean their church space. When Viacom and BET thought they had significant juice to allow them last minute booth access at SDCC they found out they didn’t. I did, and I gladly did so for him.
I also really liked Reggie. I knew he didn’t care all that much for me when we first met, but I grow on people. I assumed since I’ve shown him nothing but love I’d grow on him. He’s an Ivy League-educated man smart enough to see where my heart is and understand my swagger may be annoying at times, but I’m a good brother. I’m an Ivy League-educated man smart enough to see he’d come around.
Parents, save your money. Send your kids to a good state school. Neither of us was smart enough to avoid this bullshit.
The thing I think I was lividest about when I let loose my fury filled tirade on his voicemail was the realization I chose the wrong side when a rift developed between a former brief protégé of mine and Reggie.
Aaron, I fucked up, and I’m sorry.
I continue to regret my words and although I was still livid that morning I called back and apologized. I also sent a text and to my utter surprise, he responded with what seemed genuine concern.
I called Derek Dingle next.
Derek didn’t pick up, so I left a message. Not an outraged one, although still angry and horribly so. I had to get it together. I loved Derek and he would fix this.
I had so much respect and love for Derek that when SDCC did not invite him for Milestone’s 20th Anniversary I told them unless Derek was there Denys and I wouldn’t be there either.
I needed to calm down, so I called my mom. She didn’t answer either, and my call went to her voicemail. It takes me a moment to remember my mom had moved, and I didn’t have her new number in Heaven.
I forgot she was dead, and that’s not the first time I did. Nor the last.
Now I’m crying uncontrollably. Lucky for me I’m no longer alone. My friend Dr. Phil had just knocked.
I call her Dr. Phil because she always giving me advice. She had come by to check on me and bring me breakfast before she went to work. Having survived a parallel depression, she pops in from time to time. She saw the Washington Post story and decided this was one of those times to pop in.
She was right.
Derek calls back, and I felt better. The last time I saw him, he stood beside me in front of my mother’s casket.
“Michael, we’re family. We’re going to do great things together.”
I tell Dr. Phil this is all about to be cleared up. I say to Derek “Tell me who’s colossal screw-up was this? What happened? What’s going on?”
“Michael over 20 years ago when you began the lawsuit against us…” Derek said this in slow, measured tones.
I lost it.
“I did what????” That’s all I got out before my friend shouted:
“You don’t talk to me like that!!! I won’t stand for it!!”
Then he hung up.
NEXT WEEK: 20 Years Ago They Did The Same Thing… Only Different
There are two sides to every coin. I usually write the incredible passion fans have for Geek Culture. This week I’m thinking about Nerd Rage.
This term probably started as a way to describe frustrations in video gaming. But it is now generally used to describe the intense anger that arises when fans vehemently disagree with development plans or ongoing creative efforts for a brand, mythology or intellectual property with which they disagree.
You’ve seen many examples of Nerd Rage. During the yuletide release of the new Star Wars movie, it seemed as if the whole country waited with bated breath for the core fans’ judgment. There had been months of speculation prior to the debut. Would fans approve or shake their virtual fists with the fury of Nerd Rage?
Sports radio is, in many ways, founded on the concept of Nerd Rage, although they’d never call it that. “Real fans” offer their own opinions on the activities, plans and choices made by coaches, teams and players. And all too often, the fans are angry. That makes good radio, I guess.
And closer to home, this past month DC Comics announced their mythology would be undergoing a “rebirth.” Fans anxiously gritted their teeth in anticipation of yet another rejiggering of the fictional background and histories of the characters.
“Nerd Rage is not a joke – fans get upset when their favorite mythologies are changed,” said Gerry Gladston, CMO/CLO of Midtown Comics. As a long-time fan and one of the architects of a best-in-class comic retailer, Gerry has a unique perspective on the ramifications of Nerd Rage.
“Midtown Comics’ long term official observation demonstrates that a large percentage of fans tend to cool off after the initial exposure to their Nerd Rage trigger, and often embrace it if they deem the new direction to be of high quality and to add substance to the mythology,” explained Gladston.
Rich Johnston is the founder of BleedingCool.com, a leading geek focused news site. With his knack for uncovering rumors of industry changes, he routinely offers prophetic glimpses that often trigger Nerd Rage. “The things we love, inspire passion. People damaging the things we love, inspire hate,” said Johnston. “There’s only so much nerd rage because there’s so much love in the first place. Just sometimes that love … can be seriously misplaced.”
A little while back, Fast Company ran an article called “Why Being Hated Isn’t the Worst Thing For Your Brand.” Tom Denari explored the idea that brands being noticed, and achieving a level of salience, is more important than being liked. He also noted that it’s natural that brands that are loved by many, like The Yankees or Duke University, are also hated by many.
But when it affects sales of a brand or product, that’s a problem. “In cases where a new direction for a mythology is not found to add substance, nor otherwise make sense, Nerd Rage can cause fans to jump off,” said Gladston. And that’s what happened with DC Comics’ last few rebooting initiatives.
J.C. Vaughn, Vice-President of Publishing for Gemstone Publishing explains that there are no simple answers in these new directions. “It’s easy to come up with the editorial-or management-driven dictates that have chased readers away in comics, but I’d like to concentrate on one that sparked a fair bit of outrage before it came out and then turned out to be one of the greatest runs in comics history. For years, there were two deaths in the Marvel universe that were sacrosanct, Uncle Ben and Bucky. And then Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting brought back Bucky, made him a Soviet-era pawn responsible for deaths across six or seven decades, and Cap’s foe. Tell me that twelve years ago and I would have thought you were insane (even then, though, I wouldn’t have thought you should be killed). And the result was a truly great, long run on the comic and a wonderful film.” That film, of course, was Captain America: Winter Soldier.
Vaughn concludes that story-driven changes often justify creative change-ups. “We’re talking about fiction after all. On the other hand, we’ve seen the fallout of change for the sake of change.”
But there is a problem when Nerd Rage becomes irrational.
“Nerd Rage is sort of a big boat and a lot of things from irritation and justifiable anger are getting lumped in with out-of-control vitriol that truly has no place in civilized discourse,” said Vaughn.
“Make a website because you know Greedo did not shoot first? Rag on George Lucas for such decisions? Sure thing. I’ve got your back. Saying or posting that a reporter should be killed because she doesn’t ‘get’ Star Wars? Are you kidding? Do you have no sense of proportional response? The world is a pretty horrible place. Comics, movies, books, and video games are among our escapes. And you feel comfortable saying someone should be killed for thinking other than the way you think? You are the problem, not the person you’re criticizing,” said Vaughn.
What’s that old Oscar Wilde quote? “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”
Once again, retailer extraordinaire Dennis Barger is involved in some amazing debates and discussions within our industry. The last time his name came up we discussed the over-sexualization of the Powerpuff Girls. This time, it’s a far less provocative topic.
Already well-covered by Bleeding Cool, the recent plight of pencilers revolves around the cost of their signature. The debate: some well known creators charge for their autograph. Others choose not to. In choosing to be free, there are those who say this now devalues the ability for others to pluck a buck from a would-be fan. For some creators, the option to take a tithe of the nerditry is traded part-in-parcel for donations to the Hero Initiative, the CBLDF, or other worthy charities. And if any of this sounds familiar, My ComicMix compatriot Molly Jackson gave her two cents, wonderfully, earlier this week. So, the definitive question that we’re trying to figure out is… Who’s right?
Well, sadly our comic culture lives in a world no longer set in just black and white. Both sides have valid points. For those on “Team Charge!” the notion is simple: When you are able to be compensated for your nom de plume costs of attending the con are better covered. Money in one’s pocket, when the per-page rate isn’t pulling in proper piles of cash, is always preferred. And in the cases where a Sharpied autograph equals a rise in the value of the item it’s adorned on, the signature is merely an investment. Who could argue with having to pay $5, 10, or 30 dollars for a name, when it nets the owner $50, 100, or 200 more in potential payouts? No one should argue. That’s called good business. And let’s be fair: if you’re willing to part with a finsky for the signature of a Hollywood celebrity, why wouldn’t you do the same for the author a favorite comic?
What if the answer to that aforementioned rhetorical question was no? Well, you’d be in the “Team Free!” camp. And you’d be just as right as those crazy capitalists across the lake. Some creators who get their table space at these conventions are compensated to attend by their publishers or the convention promotors themselves – who know that their presence yields higher attendance. Charging a fan for a signature inflates the value of a comic sure, but it also takes money out of their pocket they might spend elsewhere in the convention.
Like at a smaller indie table, where they might give a chance to a new book they’ve never seen before. By not charging, there’s a potential butterfly effect to pay it forward within our comic community. That’s good karma. And if that signature on the book is for a retailer who turns that issue into more profit… the same karma applies. I bet the day Dennis Barger mints a hefty payday for his efforts is another day his comic shop stays open. And that in turn increases the potential for him to sell more comics to more kids. See the bigger picture?
Let’s also not forget: It takes seconds to adorn an issue with a scribble. To charge for that scribble, no matter how important you may or may not be can seen unseemly to some. Say that three times fast. If you do though, I’ll have to charge you.
Obviously it boils down to a personal choice. Some creators are too humble to charge for an autograph. Others embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. There isn’t necessarily a wrong choice here. And for those who posit that having some creators charge while others abstain unnecessarily devalues those creators who do… they aren’t wrong in thinking that. If a fan sees Neal Adams charging $30 for a signature next to Scott Snyder charging nothing but a smile? Well, some fans will scoop up a few more Court of the Owls trades and walk away with a few more shekels in their pocket. But, as with everything here, It’s their choice to do so.
Of course, this is where I should chime in, right?
In my own little swatch of ComicTopia, my name is worth spit. If someone wants it on something I created? Well, I’m damn flattered, and it comes at no increase in cost. And I can’t personally see any future where I’m not willing to sign for the same Free-Ninety-Nine I do now. Because frankly I don’t foresee any future where Marc Alan Fishman is a commodity like Neal Adams. And that’s perfectly OK by me. Subsequently as a fan, I’m not a seeker of autographs at any price. While I might be tempted to see Alex Ross or Mike Mignola scrawl their name on any of the well-kept tomes I own of theirs… I’m honestly too cheap to consider trading hard-earned disposable income over said scrawl. The opportunity cost isn’t greater than the enjoyment I’d sooner have taking the exact same money and buying more of their work at full retail. But then again, that’s just me. And because of that opinion – which many share – it’s not taking money out of another creator’s pocket. Because that money would never reach it that way over the sloppy drag of a felt tip marker. Maybe I’m missing out on some would-be profit. Or maybe I’m just not the target demo. Either way, I’m entitled to think that way.
Part 1 of this series can be read at BleedingCool.com
Hollywood, I’m sorry. I’ve been wrong.
You’re not responsible for the overwhelming opinion the general public has of my industry being just for kids. Yes, SDCC is our house, but our house is all fucked up. We deserve to be viewed as nothing but geeks, nerds, and children. We are not ready to play at your level, not even close.
We’re selfish, shortsighted, and stupid. Not all the time, but so often we’ve become a joke to the French and Japanese comics industries. Comics, one of the few original American art forms, are recognized as such by a country whose ass we had to save and a country whose ass we nuked. Yet we’re the joke.
And we deserve to be.
As an example, in about two weeks it will be a year since I sent an email to Variant Comics. It was my tongue-in-cheek attempt to be funny while addressing an important issue. The fantastic video they produced featured wrong “created by” credits.
The response I received wasn’t exactly what I expected. They said they would correct the issue: “We have already added a correction in our next episode to explain that we missed you and Denys as additional creators.”
But they did not think I was funny:
“I have not responded (quicker) because I do my best to steer clear of rude or aggressive correspondence.”
They thought I was being a heavy-handed bastard. Not my intention, and I immediately apologized with the following:
I bear you no ill will. I was being sarcastic, and if you read my Bleeding Cool piece, you will see I underscored time and time again how much I admire what you are doing. My goal was to show how a great piece with wrong information could do some injustice, but in no way did I ever think you guys would take to heart my FB email. I “liked” your page, I took every chance I got to say just how good your stuff and site is.
Clearly you don’t remember we met some time ago, and as such I thought you would get the joke.
Really. My bad.
On the real, I meant to do nothing but poke fun and draw attention to the credits; it was never my intention to insult (except in jest) you or your people. Please accept my apology. It pains me (really) to think my attempt at satire fell short.
If need be, I will say what I just said to you privately in public.
I have no problem with that.
Again – I’m sorry. Try as I might, sometimes I just don’t see what others do. Truth be told most times I care not. This time I do.
The Bleeding Cool article I was referring to foreshadowed possible future events and the real damage that short film could do. That article was not the only article I wrote about this over the year – there were several. Some here on ComicMix, some on Bleeding Cool, and some on my Facebook page, and yes, they were tagged.
Occasionally, I wrote another lighthearted appeal that ended when the “possible” became reality, and the damage sure as hell followed. Since then, I’ve been that Nigga.
Variant has changed nothing on the Static Shock film, and they have had a year to do it. The credits are still wrong. If they added Denys and I to the “next episode” explaining the oversight, how the fuck would anybody know? Those watching an episode of what may be a totally unrelated “History Of” may not even give a fuck.
Anyone going to the History of Static Shock video will see what I’ve asked to be rectified for over a year: the wrong credits. Nothing has changed there.
In that same year, plenty has changed with Static Shock.
Static’s getting a live action television show; Milestone 2.0 was announced; my mother, Jean Davis, the real life inspiration for Static’s mom Jean Hawkins, died. In death Jean (that’s what I called my mom) joins my sister, Sharon Davis, the real life inspiration for Static’s sister, Sharon Hawkins.
As I predicted, the credits cited for Static Shock when the two major media announcements were made are exactly the credits cited in Variant’s film.
I predicted this. The film was so damn good people assumed it was the official version put out by Milestone. The Static live action show and the Milestone announcements went all over the world.
The death of Static’s real life mom?
Nope. No one knew. Not even some young Static fans, cousins of mine from North Carolina who I met for the first time at my mom’s funeral. I’m not naïve enough to think my mom would have gotten a “Static” mention when she died. She wouldn’t have. But it sure would have been nice if my newfound cousins knew who she was before I met them.
Not caring about getting a creator’s credit right is just one example of the unprofessional, childish antics that are commonplace in comics. Missing deadlines, missing shipping, quitting books, taking advances and not delivering work.
Some publishers paying established talent page rates far below what they are worth while using any excuse they can to justify it. Some creators having no choice but to take pennies on the dollar. Artists and writers blackballed on someone’s personal whim regardless of what work they have produced or what they bring to the industry. Been there, had that done.
Hollywood fires and/or sues people who pull what’s routine in comics. Try pulling that missed deadline dead grandmother bullshit at DreamWorks. You’re gone. Take an advance from Disney and decide not to do the work. Rumor has it Tupac and Biggie did that. Yeah, that’s a joke, but once Disney gets done with you, you may well wish you were dead.
Hollywood does not play our games. Disney wouldn’t wait a week after the initial letter sent to you to fix some something that was wrong. Ignoring them, just like I’ve been ignored, (not a word since my apology almost 12 months ago) would just make them increase the level of legal pain they will inflict on you.
And if they think you fucked with their brand, costing them revenue? Wow. Just wow.
Despite our flaws, I love the comic book industry. I love this business even though some in the industry have not loved me back. On a few occasions some serious power players have tried killing me in the industry.
I roll like a boss; people are always trying to kill a boss. They try. I survive and grow stronger. I don’t go public when these things happen – what good would that do? Give Hollywood another thing to look at, point and say, “Look what these children do to their own kind.”
But sometimes … sometimes, there is no other choice.
I don’t want to hurt or hinder Variant in any way. I don’t want to sue or threaten to sue. They do great work, are good for the industry, and I really do like their site.
However, they have done serious damage to my brand. Repeatedly over the course of a year they have been reminded that they were doing so. I’m not alone in being ignored. Those who posted comments echoing me were treated the same.
I’d very much like them to correct the credits on their Static Shock film. I’d like the same credits that appear in every episode of Static Shock and Milestone comics, with one exception: add Christopher Priest. He was a creator and he deserves credit.
Variant, I’m asking you once again, make this right and at least in this instance prove Hollywood wrong. Static was created by Dwayne McDuffie, Derek Dingle, Denys Cowan, Christopher Priest, and Michael Davis.
Let’s show the world we know how to act in matters like this. I’m sorry to say that if no action is taken, you leave me just one option.
End, Part 2. Part 3 can be read on Bleeding Cool and ComicMix next week.
There has been a debate amongst comics wags that the rumor about Marvel cancelling their flagship title, Fantastic Four, during their 75th anniversary celebration was just that – a rumor. Marvel/Disney couldn’t possibly be that petty. Bleeding Cool.com‘s Rich Johnson, who carried the story, steadfastly stood behind his sources. Good for him.
Evidently, Marvel wasn’t happy with how 20th Century Fox was treating the property in the forthcoming movie reboot, they didn’t want to support it and so were cancelling the comic book. OK, but would they cancel all those X-Men titles if they didn’t like the way Fox handled their latest X-movie? Of course not. Nor did Marvel cancel the Spider-Man titles despite the atrocious way Columbia handled the Spidey flicks of late – and they’ve got release dates for three or four more.
To be fair, compared to the profits of the X-Men comics or even the (fewer in number) Spider-Man comics, the revenues racked in off of The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine are a fart in a blizzard. Even so, it just seemed real petty.
As it turns out, Rich was right. Kudos, pal. But it’s a damn shame anyway. Historical affinity aside, James Robinson was settling in nicely on the series and he’s one of our medium’s best writers.
Prior to this brouhaha, some cast members of this forthcoming FF flick were saying it wasn’t really based on the comics, it was an “expansion” of the concept, it wasn’t comic book shit, it’s goddamned art and they wouldn’t be associated with lesser trash. Yes, I’m wildly paraphrasing, but not out of my long-acknowledged love of the Stan Lee – Jack Kirby creation. No, I’m crabby about this because it’s astupid business decision. Haven’t they seen any of the Marvel Studios movies? The recently concluded Batman trilogy? Any of those Marvel and DC shows on television right now?
All of these shows have one thing in common: they treated their source material with respect; Marvel Studios more than DC/Warner Bros., but at their worst neither ever distanced themselves from the comics.
Heaven forbid 20th Century Fox should have a movie as entertaining and as profitable as Guardians of the Galaxy – and that movie wasn’t based upon a comic book series that has been published since 1961. In fact, few civilians ever heard of the Guardians.
Now we have what, for me, may very well be the final nail in the new Fantastic Four movie coffin. Over at Collider, actor Toby Kebbell gave us the bird’s eye lowdown on the character he portrays in the film, somebody called “Doctor Doom.”
“I’ll tell you this because of our history.” Kebbell confided to Collider. “He’s Victor Domashev, not Victor Von Doom in our story. And I’m sure I’ll be sent to jail for telling you that. The Doom in ours – I’m (Doom) a programmer. Very anti-social programmer. And on blogging sites I’m Doom… The low-fi way he did it, the whole ultra-real, it was just nice to be doing that, it was nice to be feeling we had come to terms with what we had been given.”
Hey, what were you given, Toby, other than characters and a concept that had been around for 53 years and raised three generations of followers in comics and on radio, television and movies?
By the way, as of this writing IMDB is wrong. They still list the character as Victor Von Doom.
So… maybe Marvel/Disney’s reaction was not so petty. Maybe it was more fanboy, and I mean that in the most positive sense of the term.
Fine. One less movie to see and, sadly, one less favored comic book to read.
I cribbed the information contained herein from the piece written by our pal Rich Johnston over at his Bleeding Cool website which, for what it’s worth, I endorse for its honesty and professionalism. But instead of simply posting the link and letting it speak for itself, I shall wax poetic.
It’s easy to blame all sorts of bad, evil things on corporations and, damn, the Supreme Court recently made that a whole lot easier. But in the interest of fairness we should endeavor to embrace the whole enchilada.
No doubt you were one of the 160.1 million dollars worth of humans worldwide (and counting) who have seen the movie Guardians of the Galaxy. If you haven’t, there are no spoilers here: I thought it was great fun, as did the other minions of the Lower Connecticut Comics Mafia that occupied the theater last Thursday. The fact that we all seemed to be in agreement was, in and of itself, the highest praise I can heap upon any movie. But unless you don’t have a television set, a comic book habit, and/or friends, you are probably aware that the movie stars a small sentient rodent-like creature named Rocket Raccoon.
Rocket was created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen. One of the true horrors of comics history is that in 1992 Bill was the victim of a hit-and-run driver while rollerblading, suffering irreparable brain damage and ending his career in both comics and in law as a public defender. After awakening from a coma, he has spent the ensuing 22 years in a health-care center.
When work on GOTG commenced, Marvel (part of Disney, which I might not refer to as “the evil empire” any longer) renegotiated Bill’s deal regarding Rocket Raccoon, providing some ongoing income to help offset his enormous ongoing medical expenses. This alone is, as we say on 47th Street, a mitsve. Last week, Marvel outdid themselves – big time.
As quoted by Rich, Bill’s brother Michael reported “Marvel hooked Bill up with a private viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy, and my wife Liz and my beloved cousin Jean assisted Bill throughout, enabling him to sit back, relax and relish in the awesomeness of what is going to be, in my humble opinion, Marvel’s greatest and most successful film ever! Bill thoroughly enjoyed it, giving it his highest compliment (the big “thumb’s up!”), and when the credits rolled, his face was locked into the hugest smile I have ever seen him wear (along with one or two tears of joy)! This was the greatest day of the last 22 years for me, our family, and most importantly, Bill Mantlo!” Marvel execs David Bogart and David Althoff arranged for the screening and joined Bill at the event.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Marvel did not have to do this. Their only obligation here was moral and, even then, arranging for all of this goes beyond even that high standard. I am impressed, and as a person who has toiled in the four-color fields for almost 40 years, I am proud of how Marvel’s consideration reflects on the creative industry we all enjoy.
As for Bill – who we miss, and whose work we miss – his legacy is now assured.
The rumors that circle through the comics industry span the sublime to the ridiculous. Some, like the death and/or return of major characters turn out to be spot on, but some make the annual spate of April Fools posts seem tame and rational. (How many times has Dan Didio supposed to have been fired by now?)
The latest hot topic, posited by the gang at Bleeding Cool, claims that Marvel Comics has plans to suspend publication of their Fantastic Four titles, both standard and Ultimate, for an indeterminate period of time. Not due to poor sales, or pursuant to a planned relaunch, but because the comics provide too much publicity for 20th Century Fox’s film adaptations, and by shelving the titles, interest in the characters would plummet to the point that the next film would tank, and Fox would finally relinquish the rights to the characters, opening the door to a true Marvel-led reboot.
Two weeks ago was my birthday. What can you give the Master Of The Universe?
Well, Salma Hayek, but lacking that?
Because I have everything I desire. On my birthday I gave ComicMix readers and others was an exclusive-to-ComicMix look at my conversation with Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Mike Peterson, a.k.a. Deathlok.
If by chance you missed part one because you were celebrating my birthday, like the national holiday it should be (and is, in many a lovely ladies’…err…heart) here’s the link to it. Please read part one before this marvelous (get it?) narrative becomes as maddening as a racist realizing Johnny Storm/The Human Torch is a fictional character, but Barack Obama is indeed real.
Or don’t read it. The following non-sequitur is all yours then…
Then my phone, which was sitting on the table, rang. The caller ID said “Denys Cowan.” “That’s Denys Cowan? TheDenys Cowan, Denys Cowan?” he said, clearly forgetting the east coast rule to not to be up in someone else’s business. The last two people to forget that rule were Tupac and Biggie, and stuff like that really vexes me. But I let it go. Then he said something I could not let go.
“I’m planning on doing as many comic book conventions as I can. I’d love to meet Denys and get his take on Deathlok.” He said that just as I picked up the call. So not only is this guy eyeing my phone, he’s clearly looking for me to hook him up with Denys.
When did I become part of his “team”? He went there on me, so I went here: “Charlie Gunn was cool as shit, but he was no Deathlok. What makes you think you are?”
“I see myself as more Hardware than Deathlok.”
This guy was either brilliant or looking to throw down. He was either giving me a compliment or insulting me. I co-created Hardware, and depending on what he meant, it was one or the other. Either way he had given me a great quote.
Great for me, but for him? Not so much.
There was no way in hell, Disney, or Marvel would be happy about that little tidbit. In my mind’s eye I saw Mickey Mouse on the phone to the Punisher the moment that headline was splashed all over TMZ.
Yes, TMZ. They pay better. Regardless of what he meant, I had him.
Or I thought I did. I had nothing because he said nothing.
“I see myself as more Hardware than Deathlok” was actually said by Denys attempting to be funny. I had forgotten just that quickly that I had answered the phone, and the Bluetooth I wore did the rest.
Tonight is the season finale of Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m going to watch it. I went back and watched the entire season so I could be fair with this piece. Despite what many at Bleeding Cool may think, I’m not a dick. I’ll wait until the season ends to finish what he and I started.
As you may have noticed, these series of articles are more conversations and story, not a traditional interview by any means. But I know there are some that want that Q & A format.
Fine, but I’m not going to do that. You will.
Whatever questions you have for J. August Richards, send them to ComicMix or to the comments section here, and Richards himself has agreed to answer them. Yes, that was agreed to before he and I met. I’d say get your questions in no later than Thursday May 15 if you want a chance to see them answered next week.
And finally, Lorenzo Semple Jr., creator of the 60′s Batman TV series and writer of such films as Never Say Never Again, King Kong (1976), Papillion, Three Days of the Condor, and The Parallax View, passed away in his home in Los Angeles Friday of natural causes, a day after turning 91. Without him, Batman may not have even had a 30th anniversary and here we are now at 75 and counting. The New York Times has his obituary. Our condolences to his family and friends.
Anything else? Consider this an open thread. (Poster art by Tom Whalen)