Tagged: Dan DiDio

Mike Gold: Bourne, On The Fourth Of July

I’m not the world’s biggest Jason Bourne fan. Not by a long shot. I’ve seen and enjoyed the movies but I haven’t read any of the books. But two days ago, as I was sitting in the theater awaiting The Amazing Spider-Man (for the ComicMix Mixed Review), I saw a trailer for the latest chapter, The Bourne Legacy. It’s a continuation of the series… but without Jason. As I was watching the trailer, I was thinking in the terms of my trade.

 “Reboot! Reboot!”

We can argue if this is a genuine reboot or not, but let’s ride with the concept for a bit. My next thought was “why do the teevee and movie people do successful reboots of major properties, while in comics we butcher it every chance we get?” Which, by the way, is way too frequently.

Recent media reboots have included James Bond, Doctor Who, and Sherlock Holmes – the latter, twice. Other reboots have included Superman, Batman and the aforementioned Spider-Man. Only the former lacked enduring success. The Batboot was stellar, and we’ll have to wait and see about Spidey. So, of the five major characters, only one was a bust.

Allow me some jealous feelings here. To paraphrase Paul Simon (the singer, not the dead politician), after reboot upon reboot, the comics biz is more or less the same. Yes, there’s usually a solid sales bump and maybe it lasts long enough to make a difference, but that’s almost always short-lived. Is the Spider-Man marriage thing resolved? Is Jean Gray forever dead? What about Uncle Ben? Are you sure? Go ask Captain America and Bucky.

Over at DC, they’ve pressed the reboot button more often in the past 37 years than a lab monkey on an crystal meth test. How long should a reboot last before it’s deemed successful? I don’t know; we’ve never had one that lasted more than a couple years. Is the New 52 successful? Well, yes, in the sense that Dan DiDio still has his job. But they’ve only got sales figures in for the first year, and over a third of the titles have either been cancelled or have endured new creative teams. That doesn’t make it a failure, but if simply cancelling some titles and changing the crew on others is all it takes to make a character work for a contemporary audience, then we don’t need reboots.

In fact, this is the error message we get over each reboot. There’s no system upgrade here. We could have provided stability and growth by simply cancelling some titles and incubating those characters within their universes, and by changing creative teams on others – creators who will not restart history, but simply put it on an exciting path out of the woods. This may be the real “success” of the New 52. We’ll see in maybe five years or so.

The fact is, the media people haven’t pissed all over the trust of their audience. Despite public perception, most all of the pre-reboot movies and television shows featuring James Bond, Doctor Who, Superman, and Batman made money (I really can’t say about Sherlock Holmes; he seems to have made PBS a lot of money in the form of enhanced underwriting and public support). Maybe not enough to support the highest-ups’ eight figure salaries, maybe not as great a return on investment to make the stockholders happy, but in an industry where they put tens of millions of dollars on the line with each project – more than enough in each case to support a front-of-the-catalog comic book publisher – a five million dollar profit might not be a desired return on investment, but it’s still five million dollars.

Comics executives and, more important, their corporate masters need to give the four-color medium the same degree of patience and, quite frankly, they need to give their consumers the same amount of respect.

We need a comic book industry with an attention span.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

Marc Alan Fishman: Pros and Cons

And with that, the dust settles on another convention… that being C2E2 2012. Unshaven Comics met its stated goal of 10% growth in number of books sold versus last year. Each of the Unshaven Lads met their specific goals as well. Matt completed all of his commissions by end-of-day Sunday (including a brilliant mash-up of Doctor Who and Breaking Bad). Kyle met his sales goals, and nabbed a swanky tee for a special someone.

I myself had a power lunch with an industry vet, a power diner with the same vet, and have since sent out a dozen follow up e-mails to various vendors and associates we met during the con… all to hopefully promote our site and company out on the interwebs. We ultimately sold 254 books to both returning fans and new ones; We officially sold out every copy of Samurnauts: Genesis we brought. Suffice to say, I’m left looking back at C2E2 2012 as a positive step forward for my little operation. Yet, here I sit, with a small knot on the back of my neck. The same knot that urps me after every con.

What is that feeling exactly? Well, it’s a complex one. In its essence, it’s the feeling that we’re only a single interaction (gained through perseverance, dumb luck, or both…) away from being discovered. It’s no surprise for those who know me that I am a people-person. I know when to interject the perfect joke to get a crowd roaring. I know when to shake hands, and follow up. Yet somehow, faced with people I truly want to talk to… I stammer, I mutter, and I plain come across like the dope I secretly think I am under the swagger and phony facade. Whether it’s true or not, I’ve always felt after a con that I’ve taken one step forward, and two steps back.

Case in point? Not 10 seconds after picking up our Artist Alley badges, Matt and Kyle were happily chatting with Scott Snyder. Here’s an author I’ve written more good words about than the bible does Jesus (so I think… I’ve not read the new testament yet, but I hear good things.), and the best I could get out? “I really like your stuff, man.” I mentioned I reviewed several of his books on this site and www.MichaelDavisWorld. He looked back at me, and shyly admitted “Wow, that’s cool. Didn’t see those…” And off he went into the sunset. In my mind? I hit him with a great joke. He laughs. We talk about plotting, and characterization. We swap e-mail addresses and phone numbers. “What are you doing tonight, Marc? I thought maybe we could continue this at dinner or something?” Flash forward, and I’ve made a new friend. Maybe he’ll take home one of our books, and let those big wigs he knows that “these kids know what they’re doing.” And with that, my Scrubs fantasy ends.

How about another instance? Dan DiDio, Bob Wayne, and several DC editor-types at one point or another walked past our table in Artist Alley. Kyle, ever fearless, jumps right into the pitch. Every time, our book is handed to them. A page flip. Then another. Kyle finishes his pitch. We look on, with pupils glassy and wide like kittens. “Thanks. But, uhh… we’ll have to pass.” A knowing smirk is shared between the titans of industry, and seconds later they are at the next table, shaking hands, laughing boisterously. Kyle shrugs it off, and pitches on. With the next fan that joyously says “Hell yes! I’ll take it!” Kyle has already forgotten the previous encounter.

Meanwhile, I sit and stew in my own juices like a pot roast in the slow cooker. For every fan that came back to us ready to buy their next book, or new fan who couldn’t wait to throw down their cash – even before the pitch was finished – I can’t help but feel like we missed the big fish. The book was in their hands. Before them, the blood, sweat, and tears of all our Unshaven nights, and weekends laboring. And it obviously wasn’t good enough.

Today on Facebook I was messaging a friend who writes for another comic site with aspirations of his own on “getting known” and “making it.” I asked him how his weekend went. “I had dinner with Scott Snyder, and then with some Marvel editors the next day…so, pretty good I guess.” All that, and he’s younger than me. Color me green. It’s been that childish chase since the very first con when I clutched all three ashcan copies of my first (terrible) book, waiting to be discovered… to today, from behind my own table where I hope our ever-growing fan base will one day hurtle us forward. And here it feels like everyone else around me is so much further along.

Now, before you start up your comments on what a negative nelly I’m being, let me be clear: I’m elated at the success I’ve enjoyed thus far. Since truly pursuing this industry as I have now… I’m a columnist at a great site, alongside industry veterans and legends alike. Furthermore? I’ve dined with those same legends. Multiple times. My company has seen increased sales in our books every year we’ve been in business (suck it, DiDio.). We successfully launched a kickstarter that bore us a live-action Samurnaut to walk the show floor, which has created real brand awareness. All that, and I’ve maintained friendships with my two brothers from other mothers for 20 years, with no sign of stopping. And our next issue will be done in a handful of weeks.

I know that the future is bright for Unshaven Comics… even if I’m dragging a storm-cloud of doubt over my head.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


MARC ALAN FISHMAN: How an Indie Comic Creator Prepares for a Con

Hello, all! With but a few short days before my little company, Unshaven Comics, takes C2E2 by storm, I figure I might as well abuse what little power I have to hype it up. Then I thought that you can get more flies with honey than poo. Maybe my metaphor sucks, but I think the point is clear: Hype is good, but sharing experiences is better. So, consider this the MTV’s True Life: I’m an Indie Comic Creator of articles. Except there will be 10% less talking head interviews.

The first time we crossed the aisle to become “creators” instead of “fans” the whole world was turned on its ear. Whereas I used to mill about the Artist Alley with careful consideration to not make eye-contact with the would-be pitch men, here I was in their spot muttering “How Rude!” under my breath when passersby floated past our table without so much as a nod of the head. It was a sobering experience, all in ten minutes. Luckily for me, Unshaven Comics has been and will always be a communal effort. Sitting next to my two best friends of nearly twenty years makes the cons only a pleasure, never a chore. But I digress. With every con we’ve attended, big or small, we’ve always learned a new lesson to bring to the next.

Lesson one? You can pitch anything you want, but if you don’t believe in it, it shows. Our first con, Wizard World Chicago 2008, we had only The March: Crossing Bridges in America to sell. Don’t get me wrong, we were (and still are) proud of the work. But it was commissioned work. Educational too. 54 pages of upbeat messages, smiling, walking, and immigrant empowering narrative. Pitch that next to the guy selling the Anime Crime Noir story features boobs and guns and see where it gets you.

Simply put, we learned at con #1 that if we were to be successful, we would have to promote material that made us excited to create. For many artists in the alley, their work sits on the table as a testament to their exploration of the craft, or their desire to turn a quick dollar. But for those people pitching their wares because they truly believe what they created is something to note… those are the folks we gravitate to.

Lesson two. Presentation matters. Our first con? We had some sloppy Café Press tee-shirts, a too-long table skirt, and some books. Over time, we added to the menagerie: Business cards, higher quality tee shirts, an 8 ft. banner to sit behind us, and a black tablecloth made our little slice of Artist Alley a bit more homey. We’ve since decided to drop the massive backdrop. Trust me, carrying three paint buckets full of cement, a pile of painted PVCs, and all your materials doesn’t make for an easy trip from car to table. Still to come? A handy rack to display multiple issues. Maybe a small red carpet for those standing at our table. Heh. Artist alley showcases to the masses where you as a company (be it a one manned structure or a small self-publisher such as ourselves), and if you look like you just rolled in from Kinkos, it’ll show on the table.

Lesson three. The pitch. Simply put, we wouldn’t be a success without Kyle Gnepper. Not only a founding member of the company, lifelong friend, and contributing writer and production assistant… at the cons he becomes something far more powerful. He becomes a visceral selling machine; Fearless, hungry, and completely oblivious to whoever stops in front of his cone of selling. Like Hal Jordan facing down Darkseid, Kyle has pitched to Dan DiDio, Tom Brevoort, Mike Richardson, and numerous creators without any knowing smirk just passion to show off our wares.

Did they buy the book? DiDio did, because I guilted him into it. Now you can’t necessarily count Matt or me out of assisting in sales. We both bring our own flair to the pitching process. Matt’s steady hands produce copious commissioned sketches, delighting many passersby. I stay between Matt and Kyle… part salesman, part artist. Sometimes I’ll doodle on the iPad, other times I’ll help us market and coordinate future events, partnerships, and relationships. Don’t knock it… it’s what landed me here at ComicMix.

The final lesson. Growth. Every con we try to bring something new to the table. For C2E2 we are debuting a live action Samurnaut, as funded by our fantastic Kickstarter backers. We have three books (and one repackaged book) on sale at the table, as well as posters, and commissions. Last year we almost sold 1000 books across all the conventions we visited. This year? We plan to break that barrier, and continue making new material. As we gain new fans and followers, we’ve gain amazing friends. And while we may never grow out of the artist alley, get our shot at the big time, or graduate to ‘featured guests’ at any con… the best lesson we’ve learned puts it all in perspective:

It’s not the prize at the end of the quest you do this for… it’s the thrill of the journey.

This weekend, Marc Alan Fishman and the Unshaven Comics crew will be at Booth K19 in Artists Alley. Don’t be offended if fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Adriane Nash and Mike Gold are hanging around interfering with sales from time to time.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander Leaves Morocco!

DC Announces “Before Watchmen”

watch2-300x4201-9875660It’s official… From the DC Source blog:

This summer, DC Entertainment will publish all-new stories expanding on the acclaimed WATCHMEN universe. As highly anticipated as they are controversial, the seven inter-connected prequel mini-series will build on the foundation of the original WATCHMEN, the bestselling graphic novel of all time. BEFORE WATCHMEN will be the collective banner for all seven titles, from DC Comics.

“It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. “After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original.”

Stepping up to the challenge is a group of the comic book industry’s most iconoclastic writers and artists – including Brian Azzarello (100 BULLETS), Lee Bermejo (JOKER), Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL), Darwyn Cooke (JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER), John Higgins (WATCHMEN), Adam Hughes (CATWOMAN), J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS), Andy Kubert (FLASHPOINT), Joe Kubert (SGT. ROCK), Jae Lee (BATMAN: JEKYLL AND HYDE), J. Michael Straczynski (SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE) and Len Wein (SWAMP THING).


MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Kickstart My Heart

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Kickstart My Heart

Here it is kiddos. My next-to-last article of 2011. I figured I might as well abuse what little power I have here and spend my time shamelessly shilling for a shot at your shekels. You see, my li’l studio, Unshaven Comics, launched a Kickstarter project all for a single goal: we want to turn our drawings into reality. For those not in-the-know about the Kickstarter movement, allow me to Wikipedia it for you:

Kickstarter is a site built to let creative types reach out to the world like a PBS telethon. People pledge money, receive fun rewards for doing so, and if the goal amount is reached by the end of the deadline, the project is funded. Some people raise money to publish their books, music projects, or films… others use monies raised for research and development of prototype products. There’s just a ton of awesome projects out there. And when many people toss in small amounts of cash, these indie projects are given a shot to become reality. In the instance of Unshaven Comics… we’re raising money to fund the creation of a costume for one (or more) of our superheroes… “The Samurnauts.”

Since professional grade costumes require professional grade funds, we figured it was a worthy cause. As of this writing, we’re only $122 away from meeting our goal. If we go over, we could potentially afford more costumes. It’s quite exciting. If nothing else, we’ve produced (with our great partners at Marktime Media) a funny video in which our resident penciler and painter threatens to sleep in your bed and stab you. I swear that wasn’t even scripted. And it was funny enough to make Kevin Smith (yes, that Kevin Smith) back us. For what it’s worth, we’re just as shocked as you are. He’s a stand-up dude. But Marc, you protest, what does making a costume have to do with publishing independent comics? Why friend, I’m glad you asked.

At a convention, when you’re just an artist sitting at a wee six foot table amidst more popular and important creators, you’re forced to do just about anything to stand out. Our writer and latent sales machine, Kyle Gnepper, has developed a keen sense of urgency during these times. He reaches out to any within earshot. “Pardon me sir, can I tell you about my comic book!?” He shouts. When we’re lucky, the fine patrons of the con will come and listen to our pitch. Thus far, it’s paid off.

In 2011, we’re proud to say we’ve sold 820 books face to face. 820 times, people have said “I like the cut of your jib, and I want to monetarily show it.” And so, we look to 2012, to improve upon these numbers, and continue to gain a head of steam within the industry. With a live-action Samurai-Astronaut walking the convention floor? We might just get there.

You see, our model for the Blue Samurnaut, Erik, is an amazing dude. He and his lovely wife Cherise (who just-so-happens to be our Yellow Samurnaut) have taken to travel with us from con to con… walking the floor and praising our name. Cherise has no problem making fast friends. You see, comic fans appreciate a mini skirt and high heels. Erik’s attempt to wear either hasn’t resulted in positive promotion. And rather than watch him continue to stand behind Cherise as she waves, and flirts, and passes out fliers… we want to see him armored up, shaking hands, kissing babies, and fighting evil! With a presence on the floor, we gain more eyes on our product. Marvel and DC already have recognition. We are but a pebble in the ocean of comic books. But we’d love to be a samurai-astronaut shaped pebble in 2012. That, and if funded, Erik said he’d storm the DC booths and fight Dan DiDio to the death.

Of course I’m not asking for just a handout. As you’ll see with our Kickstarter, there are plenty of prizes to be had. And since I’m the sort who likes to make an offer you just can’t refuse, allow me now to Billy Mays up this deal:

If you support the Kickstarter (if you haven’t already), and mention you heard about it from my comic mix article…I’ll gladly throw in an additional poster print of any sketch completed on Unshaven Comics’ website. I’ll also throw in the knife set, an additional cutting board, and trial subscription to Wizard Magazine. Scratch that. Just the poster print, and maybe a big shout out on my podcast. Fair?

Like I said in the beginning, I hate to be so shameless this week, but well, Wednesday is my birthday. I turn 30. And I have a kid on the way. And I love you. Did I mention you should have read this article while listening to Sarah McLachlan’s In the Arms of An Angel?

In all seriousness, I hope you and yours have an amazing Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Don’t worry, I’ll be back on my hater-train next week… ready to spew anger and loathing on something comic related. In the mean time, check out the Kickstarter, and give till you can’t give no more.


CHRISTMAS DAY: John Ostrander

MARTHA THOMASES: Friends With Benefits

Originally I’d thought about putting together a “naughty or nice” list. However, in the spirit of the season (max out your credit cards or we’ll kill this economy!), I thought it would be more appropriate to spread a little cheer in our little corner of the pop-culture community‑ Hence, I’m sending the following:

• To Frank Miller: The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the movie Malcolm X, so he can understand that some people he admires might have a different perspective on the subject of Islam.

• To James Robinson: An extra 25,000 in sales for each issue of his Shade mini-series. This is a gorgeous, elegant comic, and I want it to stay alive long enough so I get to read the whole thing.

• To all the owners of comic book stores: A subscription to the New York Times Book Review. Please notice that there are a lot of books that sell millions of copies that are not limited to one genre or style. If you place orders with this in mind, you might actually be able to grow your audience and stay in business.

• To all the people who work at comic book stores: The thanks of a grateful nation of fans. We probably don’t tell you this enough, but we’d be lost without you. Sorry we’re so surly on Wednesdays.

• To Dan Didio and Axel Alonso: The complete works of Sue Grafton and Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander books so they can see how it’s possible to create exciting stories starring women in the lead roles that sell tens of millions of copies without the heroines having to display their giant breasts at all times – or ever.

• To Mike Richardson: First look at my graphic novel.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

DC Comics Remembers Jerry Robinson

DC Comics Remembers Jerry Robinson

English: Jerry Robinson at Comic Con Internati...“Jerry Robinson illustrated some of the defining images of pop culture’s greatest icons. As an artist myself, it’s impossible not to feel humbled by his body of work. Everyone who loves comics owes Jerry a debt of gratitude for the rich legacy that he leaves behind.”—Jim Lee, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher and artist of BATMAN: HUSH

“Jerry Robinson was one of the greats. He continued to be a vibrant, creative force, with ideas and thoughts that continue to inspire. Jerry was a great advocate for creators. It was my pleasure to meet and work with him. He will be missed.”—Dan DiDio, Co-Publisher, DC Entertainment

“It’s impossible to work at DC Entertainment without feeling the impact of Jerry Robinson’s contributions to the industry. His influence continues to resonate today.”—Bob Harras, DC Entertainment Editor-in-Chief

“Jerry Robinson was an innovator, a pioneer in storytelling. His artwork was always astonishing, but his contributions to the Dark Knight mythology go far beyond art. The streets of Gotham City are a little lonelier today…Jerry will truly be missed.”—Mike Marts, BATMAN editor

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: What I’m Thankful For

Folks, I apologize for missing two weeks ago. I know it caused you to cancel plans, cut ties with loved ones, cease working, and maybe join one of the many #OccupyComicMix rallies across America. Well, as one of the 14.3% here who write a column, I assure you it won’t happen again.

Since it’s that time where we start reflecting on where we’ve been, what we’ve accomplished, and what we enjoyed… it figures I’d take a week off of crazy ranting to spread a little appreciation out there for the things in comics I’ve loved this year. What follows is an unordered, unfiltered, unadulterated list of things that tickled my nethers (comicly speaking). Tally ho, my friends.

FF — Those who follow me fully know I am more or less a DC dude. But I told myself this year I would consider more titles to pull from the House of Ideas. Well, thanks to the “Death” of Johnny Storm at the beginning of the year, it meant it was time for a restart of Marvel’s First Family. And thus FF, or the “Future Foundation” was launched shortly thereafter. Figuring it was as good a time as any to jump on board, I subscribed. Here we are, 11 issues later. I have to say, while the book doesn’t leap to the top of my pile when I’m in the can, every time I pick it up, I’m always happy to have done so. Jonathan Hickman is an intelligent writer who can craft one hell of a story. And art chores by Steve Epting, and currently Barry Kitson? The book is clean, Kirby inspired, sleek and sexy.

What I’m truly thankful for with this series is the way Hickman has given us an entire universe unto itself. FF removed from any crossover tie-ins, has been an in-book epic quest. With time travelers, political wars, cosmic disturbances, a heavy dose of Doom and comic relief by Spider-Man? There’s nothing this book hasn’t given me. With a little lull for an info dump at the mid-way point in the first arc past us, the book has continued to grow carefully. It’s been a beacon of true pulp for me thus far.

Gail Simone and Scott Snyder — All they touch glitters and is gold. In 2011, no two writers dominated my pull list more, nor disappointed less. Secret Six, Detective Comics, and now Batgirl, Firestorm, and Batman have all floated to the top of my must-read-pile week in and week out.

Gail’s writing is brilliant in its subtlety. Her books read quickly, but pack more nuance and depth of character than just about any other book on the shelves today. Where I once stood skeptical of Barbara Gordon returning to her lost mantle, I now live and die to read her exploits. Gail’s ability to let her characters talk about what’s actually going on in their mind instead of barking plot advancing banalities makes each comic of hers flow like a movie on paper. And when she falters, say with a weak and predictable initial villain in Batgirl? She makes up for it by forcing us to pay attention to the detailed character work opposite some of the more forced beats in the story. Her dialogue, a smattering of Kevin Smith without the “every character basically shares one hyper-intelligent voice” is never anything but a joy in print. A Simone book these days is akin to Chinese food. An hour after I’ve consumed it, I want more.

Scott Snyder is the yin to Gail’s yang. Get your mind out of the gutter. While I’ve only been privy to his bat-work, as it were, he’s been nothing if not flawless in delivery. His run on Detective Comics this year was, simply put, the best comic series I read. His characterization of Dick Grayson as Batman was pitch-perfect. The balance of his light hearted banter in the middle of a fight, combined with his police-inspired detective skills was written just the way I’d hoped. He wasn’t trying to be Bruce. He was filling the mantle in his own way. And when Snyder took the lead to Batman proper, he delivered once again, making sure we knew that his Bruce Wayne was assuredly not a gruffer Grayson. His plots bob and weave. Villains hide in plain sight, and get the best of his Batmen in ways we can agree with. And he’s done it all while keeping the majority of Batman’s classic rogues out of focus. His new creations fold into Gotham just as well, and don’t ever come across as knock-offs. Suffice to say? He took the ball Grant Morrison slam dunked with “Batman R.I.P.” and shot back-to-back three pointers.

Let’s Be Friends Again! and The Gutters — I don’t read many web comics, kids. But when I do? I read these. As playful jabs at the comic industry today, you can’t find two funnier takes. And sure, my very own studio did do a strip for The Gutters but we contributed for no better reason than the desire to be amongst greatness. The Gutters have poked and prodded everyone from Dan DiDio to the suits behind Dark Horse with a more than a wink and nod. And thanks in large part to their vast array of artists on file means that three times a week you get a beautiful web comic that delivers that “Friday” quality every strip.

Let’s Be Friends Again! is equally great. A bit more “Penny Arcade” with its core duo than the protagonist-less Gutters, LBFA is hilarity incarnate. Generally taking on just “the big two,” they’ve caused me to chortle out loud more than any strip has otherwise. Don’t just take my word for it. If Racist Galactus doesn’t make you laugh out loud? We can’t be friends.

Unshaven Comics — I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out some love for my brothers from other mothers. Matt Wright and Kyle Gnepper sacrifice their free time to cram into my basement every week to work on our little rags, and website. With them this year, I’ve traveled to Detroit, Kokomo, Fort Wayne, Chicago, Indianapolis and Columbus. With them, this year, I’ve met hundreds of people, and sold nearly 1000 books face to face! When I had the dream of working in comics, they stood along side me, and shared that dream. Although we’re only a blip on the blip riding on the hump of another blip on the radar of the industry… we’re still there, and I couldn’t think of two more talented people to do it with.

And last but not least… ComicMix, and You — For those who have followed me on this site now for three years, I simply can’t express how much I appreciate your continued support. Even when I piss you off with my insane hatred of things you like, or make you roll your eyes with my unending list of snarky retorts to industry news… you come back the next week. You comment. You share my writings with your friends. To have this opportunity every week, to write alongside literal living legends? It’s something I never thought would be possible. And yet, here I am 20 editorials later, forever grateful for the opportunity and the responsibility.

And with that, I bid you adieu. Don’t worry about all this sap this time around. I hear the Phoenix is coming back, and that makes me want to rant. Later days, kiddos. Later days.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Just Kill Kyle Rayner

Typing that title hurt. A lot. It’s been stated here time and again: I am a Kyle Rayner fan. Here I sit, sarcasm sitting in its glass jar next to me, legitimately about to make the argument that my favorite character in comics be given a dirt nap… and I don’t mean the Steve Rogers–Bruce Wayne dirt nap kiddos. I mean the Gwen Stacy sleep of the pulpy gods. But why, you ask, would I suggest such a fate to the character that inspired this bearded bloke to make comics himself? I paraphrase Dr. Denis Leary:

“Elvis Presley should have been shot in the head back in 1957. Somebody should’ve walked up behind Elvis in ‘57 with a 44 magnum, put the barrel of the gun right up to his brainstem and just pulled the trigger, so you can remember Elvis in a nice way. Wouldn’t it be nice to remember Elvis thin, with a big head of hair? Maybe that gold lame suit. Wouldn’t that be nice? Because how do you remember Elvis? You know how you remember Elvis. He was found in the toilet with his pants around his ankles and his big fat hairy sweaty king of rock and roll ass exposed to the world and his final piece of kingly evidence floating in the toilet behind him!”

And as I look on the career of Kyle, since 2005, I see a fat Elvis, crapping on the pot.

Kyle Rayner was brought into the fold of DC Comics in January of 1994. After they wrote off Hal Jordon as a villain-turned-martyr, they introduced new blood into the comic. Kyle represented everything Hal didn’t. He was timid, indecisive, and anything but fearless. All he was, was a kid with an amazing imagination. A kid given the ultimate toy, and a universe to save. For lack of a better M.O., Kyle Rayner was DC’s Spider-Man. An everykid being shown that with great power rings comes great responsibility. It was a bold move. And over ten years he was given free reign to learn, and grow. I grew with him. Kyle joined the Justice League (during the fantastic Morrison run), and became the POV character we could get behind. While Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were the serious heroes, Kyle was the kid who could still yell “cool!” Simply put, with Kyle Rayner, DC had the bold and inventive reboot they’re so desperate to have now.

In 2005, Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns decided that the comic book world had enjoyed too much of this “modern” era and declared the silver age be reborn! Hal Jordan was resurrected, and with it took every last ounce of thunder Kyle had mustered in his 10 year tenure as the torch bearer. This is the moment folks, where, had I the will power, I would politely take Rayner’s ring and hurl it into the sun. Ever since “Rebirth” Rayner has floundered, flopped, and died a slow and pitiful character death. Ask ole’ Geoff or Dan, and I’m sure they’d feed you a brilliant line on how he’s still “relevant and as awesome as ever!”… Let’s go to the tape!

Since 2005, Kyle Rayner has… uh… got chummy with Guy Gardner… and… became Ion until they gave that to another alien we’ve since forgotten about… and … uh… got taken into Parallax for an issue… put on a blue lantern ring for a day… oh! And at some point his mom died, and he lost 17 girlfriends. Some died. Some blew up. Others turned out to have daddy issues. Ain’t it riveting?

Simply put, with Hal as the lead green meanie, Kyle fails to matter in the great scheme of things. As Barry Allen came back put Wally West out of a job, so too, does Kyle remain a waste of ink. The whole concept of legacy is so strong at DC (far more than Marvel…), but with the reboot, and continual Geoff Johning of the multiverse… legacy is fast becoming nothing more than an MMO title.

And so, this September, DC rebooted its entire universe. With Hal continuing to be the star of the flagship series (mainly because he was the star in a wonderful flop of a film this summer…), and John Stewart (affirmative action at it’s best!) and Guy Gardner (because we all love angry Irish guys, right?) over on GL Corpse (pun intended), what was Kyle given to do? Well, with GL: New Guardians… He’s the top banana in an adventure that will undoubtedly:

1. Have him shack up with a random space chick. And then she’ll die.

2. Have him wear a plethora of rings, resulting in him changing costumes 10 more times.

3. Remove any semblance of his character, and have him shout various generically heroic things as he saves the day.

4. At some point, he’ll mention all the good things he’s done as a Green Lantern, reminding us Raynernauts that he mattered there, for a while.

5. He’ll grow a bitchin’ half-beard.

I’ve been through the first two issues of the series. I’ve yet to be impressed. It’s like a cattle call for all the last two years worth of Lantern D-listers, all brought together for yet-another-unforeseen-prophetic-battle. Rayner will end up working with Bleez (the slutty Red Lantern), Arkillo (the tongue-less Kilowog of the Sinestro Corps), the Orange jelly-bean thing from Larfleeze’s lantern, Fatality (the only character in the DCU to have even less to do since Kyle Rayner’s original run on GL), an Indigo Lantern (who we still know nothing about, nor care about at this point) and Saint Walker (all will be well, and have some milk!).

Two issues in and nothing has happened. Seriously. 40 pages of content that has seemingly set up a single final splashpage of him in some kind of White-Lantern getup. As if we haven’t seen that before?

Ultimately, if DC wanted to ‘shake things up’ with their reboot, it was the perfect time to shed some dead weight. Since the love affair with all things Silver Age is still in full swing, the world simply doesn’t need a Kyle Rayner. And as one of his biggest fans, I’d much rather have seen him retire his ring for a desk job… instead of continuing to not-matter in the grand scheme of things. He could take a seat next to Wally, and they could simply wait until the next crisis. Or until someone recalls why he mattered in the first place.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

DENNIS O’NEIL: The End Of Unending Stories?

“You can’t go back home” Thomas Wolfe wrote in a novel and I cry, amen. When I return to visit relatives in Missouri, I find the city I left almost 50 years ago strange and, in places, unrecognizable – alien, even. And last week I visited DC Comics, my employer and sustainer for decades, and found it much changed, beginning with the entrance to the building and the security forces guarding the lobby. I was told that if I wanted to see the floor that once housed Mad Magazine, I’d better hurry because it was being gutted, and the corridors leading to where I had to be were cluttered with cardboard boxes.

Maybe the whole experience was just a little forlorn?

But after a long and pleasant conversation with Dan DiDio, who honchos the company’s editorial department, I thought that perhaps the company is, in a modest, limited, yet quite good way going home again and we funny book aficionados will benefit.

The home that’s DC’s destination? Why, old comics. I mean, really old. Really old. Your grandpa’s comics, published before Marvel made continued stories the norm in the 60s. Stories of six, eight ten, maybe 12 pages, complete in one issue. (And a bunch of them in the – sigh – 52 page total package. Which cost a dime.)

An eight page story? A story even shorter than eight pages? Bizarre, you say?

No, not bizarre, Maybe even beneficial. Indulge me while I quote something I wrote a while back: Every story has to end with a lesson learned, an evil thwarted, a problem solved, a defeat, a triumph – some kind of resolution. The events of the story show how that resolution occurs. And if the writer doesn’t know how his story will end he can’t create a logical progression of scenes leading to that ending…writing an eight-pager forces the writer to know his ending before he submits the manuscript. (Except in rare cases, the beginning and end are in the same sheaf of pages, or email.)

So, knowing what his destination is, the writer can move toward it confidently instead of – brace for metaphors! – stumbling around the narrative thickets hoping to find a path. And limited length forces the writer to write only those scenes that move the plot along and this, in turn, tends to keep the story interesting: no pointless digressions to create ennui and yawns.

So: DC Comics is going to give us a glut of short fiction? No, of course not. But Dan told me that most story arcs would be limited to six issues – not exactly haiku territory, but not a completely open-ended narrative that will meander into the murk until somebody figures out how it might end, either. And writers must tell someone – probably an editor – something about the tale that’s to be told. Again, no making it up as you go along, with no clear plan on how the pieces will fit together.

Usually, I question looking to the past for answers. But every so often, answers might be found there. Don’t try to go home again, not permanently. But a now-and-then visit? To capture a bounty?

Recommended Reading: Pretty obvious, isn’t it? I should be recommending You Can’t Go Home Again, by Thomas Wolfe. But in the interest of keeping myself honest, or at least honestish, I try to read before I recommend, and if I’ve ever read Wolfe’s novel, it was long, long ago and I have no memory of it. So instead of recommending a book, let me recommend the author’s hometown. Last year, Mari and I toured Wolfe’s boyhood home in Asheville, S.C. while visiting Mars Hill College and found the house interesting, the school welcoming, and the city delightful.