Tagged: Dark Horse

Mike Gold: Scott Allie and the Temple of Doom

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This may come as a surprise to some of you who know me, but I honestly believe that people can redeem themselves. I believe in second chances, and I try to reserve my interpersonal cynicism for, oh, say, Republican presidential candidates. More important, I also believe that every man, woman and child on the planet engages in great acts of assholedom from time to time. Ain’t nobody walking on water, and all our houses have their glass wings.

I also understand why most people who have been subjected to great acts of assholedom might not feel so charitable at that time. We’re hurt, angry and abused and we feel in our guts that we’re entitled to some relief – even if such relief is merely howling with the wolves. Such is human nature. Dogs and cats generally handle it better, and we’d all do well to remember that.

You may be familiar with the incident involving Dark Horse executive editor Scott Allie. Full disclosure: whereas it’s been a while since I’ve seen him, I’ve always liked Scott and I admire his work. As far as I’m concerned, he’s an okay guy.

But, then again… I do not drink alcohol and therefore I do not hang out at convention bars. I used to debate politics and the Cubs at various Chicago taverns back in the day, but all of those joints have been consumed by ferns. Now that I’m a bona fide alter cocker, I tend to slither around back alleys with a joint and a friend. But I do know that bars are great places to get drunk, and some people who drink too much in these environs tend to temporarily join the aforementioned forces of assholedom.

According to published reports, Scott groped writer Joe Harris at a San Diego party, and Joe, understandably, took umbrage. That seems like an appropriate response. Joe didn’t take out a gun and blow Scott’s hands off. Graphic Policy’s Janelle Asselin wrote a piece discussing Scott’s behavior, detailing how this was not a one-off event and this behavior has been common knowledge in Dark Horse circles for a long time. Okay, we’re still cool: this is what happens when you act like an asshole in public.

Then Janelle wrote “the truth is that Allie is a symptom of the problems in our industry,” and I’m not certain that’s fair. I’ve been in this industry for 40 years now, and, yes, I could come up with a list of people I believe have had serious substance abuse problems. However, I’ve been laboring in media and in social services for even longer and I was media and education director for a major substance abuse prevention program in Chicago, and I can say this: If you think the industry has a substance abuse problem, get out in the real world for a bit. Our substance abuse problem in the comics donut shop is overwhelmingly dwarfed by what is routine and, quite often, accepted in the rest of the world.

This observation neither forgives nor diminishes anybody’s behavior. Being drunk or high or tired does not forgive the violating events. Absolutely not. But most perpetrators under these circumstances can redeem themselves by no longer getting drunk or high or tired to the point where they act out in public, or in private for that matter.

Yes, it takes a lot of effort and it usually takes a lot of help. Sometimes, it takes a great deal of help. But people who want to can improve. That doesn’t mitigate their actions in the past, but we live in the future so let’s fix what we can.

Scott said in a statement to CBR “I’m deeply sorry about my behavior at San Diego Comic Con 2015 and I apologize to everyone I’ve hurt. I’m completely embarrassed by my actions and how my behavior reflects on Dark Horse Comics, my friends and family. My personal approach and decisions for managing stress were bad. Dark Horse and I have taken the matter very seriously and since this incident, we have taken steps to correct and to avoid any behavior like this in the future. Although apologies can’t undo what has happened, I’ve tried to apologize to everyone impacted by my behavior. To my family, friends, co-workers, and to the industry – please know that I am truly, truly sorry.” I’m not sure what more we can ask for here; the guy screwed up, probably a bunch of times, but he gets it and he’s trying to redeem himself.

Let’s see if that works, and let’s see if we need to come up with some sort of industry-wide program to help both those with such issues and those victimized by such behavior.

Until then, remember, you’re paying property taxes on a glass house.

Marta Thomases: What Being An Ally Looks Like

EltingvilleClub-2-e0674This is what being an ally looks like.  And it’s funny, too!

There are far too few comics that make me giggle like the little girl I am inside this old body.

Ambush Bug.  Anything by Kyle Baker.  Alan Moore’s D. R. and Quinch.

And just about anything written and drawn by Evan Dorkin.

I met Evan at a comics convention, probably about 25 years ago, and I know him just well enough to stop by and chat for five minutes when I see him, which is almost always at a comics convention.  Five minutes is enough for me to establish that we know each other, that I’m not a stalker, and that his work makes me happy.

The first of his work that I liked was, I think, Milk & Cheese.  From there, I followed all sorts of weird little strips he did — strips that were literally little, in that there would be about eight on a page, with teeny-tiny lettering fit only for someone as young as I was at the time.

Also, Eltingville,  series of stories about the Eltingville Comic Book, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror & Role-Playing Club, four Staten Island teenaged fan-boys who make me cringe as much as laugh.  There is enough useless pop culture trivia occupying braincells that I could be using to learn a foreign language, but no, I have to know that Matter-Eating Lad’s real name is Tenzil Kem and he comes from the Planet Bismoll.

(I should also explain that I was way too old when I realized what a pun that last bit is.  Because I’m too geeky to think that way normally.)

The very last Eltingville story is out now at your friendly neighborhood comic book shop or Internet site.  I’m pleased to report that it’s brilliant.

And cringe-inducing.

The four former friends meet at San Diego Comic-Con.  One has a girlfriend.  This drives one to scream:

“See, this is why girls weren’t allowed in the club … Listen up, bitch.  Because I’m onto you. I watched you sittin’ there, laughin’ at us, mockin’ us, shovin’ your tits in our faces to work us all up!  You can’t stand seein’ us get along so you gotta stick your twat where it doesn’t belong to try to cunt everything up!!  Well, it won’t work!  You may have ruined fandom — you and all the other cultural immigrants who invaded our territory — but you won’t ruin us.!”

I can’t remember ever seeing such a painful expression of misogyny, revealed as the cowardly, selfish, expression of every man’s inner three-year-old.  (And, yes, women have a version of that about men, sometimes. It’s just that since women don’t run the world — despite what men who don’t have regular sex partners might think — our expressions of these feelings are less likely to have a similarly intimidating effects.)

These four guys are not powerful.  They lead lives on the dull, frustrated side of normal.  They are at an age when they start to realize that they aren’t going to achieve the ambitions they had as kids, and they are looking for someone to blame.

Maybe you think I’m reaching too far, ascribing a political motive to Evan’s story.  According to this, I’m not.  In the interview, Evan says, “Every day, there’s somebody doing something awful in fandom. And a lot of the times, it’s somebody from one of the companies or it’s a creator saying some dumb shit about women or transgender people. This is the audience, and the bizarre opinions that some people have… This attitude that comics or movies or gaming is just for them-it’s so myopic. It’s tunnel vision. The idea that you can’t even put yourself in another person’s place and understand the rampant misogyny of the world. Not just this. And how angry and hateful so many people are. People getting doxxed, people getting death threats.”

This is what an ally sounds like.  He’s not telling women and people of color and transgender people how to run their movement.  He’s telling men not to be awful.

More, please.

Michael Davis: Milestone Raising 2.1

static_cv2-291x450A couple of weeks ago Paul Smith asked rather or not Milestone would be better off away from DC.

Last week I addressed his question—but must now admit I did so in a drugged out haze. The drugs (some legal) affected my thought process and I’m afraid what I wrote was a result of such.

Or, it was an April Fool’s gag.

Either way here’s the non-drugged (much) and/or non-gag answer.

Paul, every partner in any partnership be it personal or professional will at some time or from time to time ask if they would be better off with someone else. Its human nature at it’s most pure.

I’ve asked that question, many times.

Regardless if business or personal relationship after I ask that, I ask the following, what’s my goal?

What would the goal be in leaving DC?

(more…)

Michael Davis: The Black Age Of Comics

Davis Art 140121Last year Marvel made big news with the Black Avengers book they are doing or have done or will be doing.

Truth is I don’t know if it’s been done or not because these days I rarely read comics that get massive press. Unless I know the creator I’d rather pass on hype – especially if that hype has to with new black characters.

I’m sick to death of some making a big deal out of the black character they are bringing to comics.

Why?

Two reasons. The first is because two seconds (if that long) after the story appears in the press or the book goes on sale I’m asked to comment.

“DC is doing a book where two black people are in a street scene. What are your thoughts?”

“Well I think that anytime a major publisher puts two black people in a scene it’s another step towards Dr. King’s dream.”

That’s what I’d say. Sure I would.

If ever some asswipe asked me such an asinine question I’d be doing hard time for putting my foot up their ass. Not the 300 bullshit hours of community service I’m doing now. I don’t think anyone’s stupid enough to be that stupid but trust me some have come close.

Because of my so-called status as an African American creator I’m subject to many a question about Negro progress in the industry, so the easiest way for me to avoid going to jail is to tell the truth which is “I have not seen it so I can’t comment but I hope it’s good and if so it succeeds.”

Or, maybe my status has nothing to do with it maybe they know I’m good for a rant or two because I’m either fearless, careless or always high thus I will tell the bare truth no matter what. I’m not fearless, I’ve been careless won’t comment on being high but stupid I am not

Imagine the co-creator of Static saying, “What the fuck is Static doing fighting a fucking giant fucking fish? Fuck fuck fuckidy-fuck!!!!!

Not good.

I waited to comment on the recent new 52 Static book from the DC well after they killed the book, which, by the way, should have been killed. I’ve heard all the “DC should have given it a chance” bullshit on the net, but let’s get real. The book had issues and was not getting the support from the fans so what is DC to do? Continue to take a loss?

Wake the fuck up world. This is reality this is not some chat room where some pussy deprived little fan boy thinks he knows better than Diane Nelson, Jim Lee or Dan Dildio.

News flash: they don’t.

Truth is I don’t comment on any black book unless I love it. I refuse to say anything negative about black comic book content, not because it’s all-great because let’s face it a lot of is horrible. I won’t comment because I’m not that guy. Never in my life have I publicly stated any bad, adverse or harmful remarks against any black comic, creator or publisher…

Unless said creator or publisher invites a response by putting out straight up imaginary bullshit about Milestone. Then it’s on.

I won’t even comment publicly when a black creator says there are simply no black women characters created by black creators that have reached a mainstream audience.

Really?

Milestone’s teenage girl superhero Rocket reached and was an overwhelming success in the mainstream market – before she got pregnant. Then she was mainstream news. You can’t get more mainstream than the Washington Post and CNN, to name but two.

I did send the guy who was saying that in interviews an email saying “really?”

Dark Horse has a new book coming out called Skyman. Everything I’ve read about Skyman mentions he’s black.

Everything I’ve read except for the official Dark Horse press release.

I like that.

The Black Age Of Comics Convention (yep, I stole the name of this article from them) promotes black creators, publishers, comics and black pop culture in general. The goal of the convention is to reach black people and black kids in particular because there are so few black heroes for young kids of color to relate too.

That’s a wonderful thing and they do great work.

99.9% of everything I’ve ever done in comics, television, radio and mainstream publishing the main characters are black because that’s what I do. I’ve always tried to reach a mainstream audience and I’m well aware that black anything is a difficult sell in the first place.

So the second reason (this is so long you forgot I said two reasons eh?) is that I am sick of media news that spotlights the African American aspect of some projects because never, and I mean never, do any of these news stories even attempt to acknowledge what has gone before and most publishers co-sign that bullshit.

So that young black mother or father who sees that TV news report on Marvel’s Black Avengers will think this is the first time ever for a black character in comics and run out to get it for their kid.

To put it another way, it’s like saying Elvis never listened to or was influenced by black music. Eminem is a great rapper and I’m sure if FOX News had a music channel they would have you believe he started Rap and discovered Dre.

Milestone is the most successful African American line of comics in history. We were not the first to publish black superheroes. Not even close. And we said as much and still say as much in public.

You can bet when black kids attend the Black Age Of Comics Convention they are told repeatedly about the vast history of black characters in comics and all media.

My dear friend (to me more like family) Lana Walker is one of the very few people I won’t question if she wants me to meet someone. If she called and said “Michael, I want you to meet with this axe murderer who will try to kill you” I’d take that meeting. No question.

I hate Hollywood parties. Hate them. Lana asked me to come to a Hollywood party and meet some people. That’s like asking Superman to come to a party at Kryptonite mountain – it kills me. I went to the party, no questions asked.

I’m pretty damn sure Lana did not tell those people, “You should meet Michael Davis, he’s black. When I showed up it was pretty damn obvious I’m black. When a new black character shows up and the media covers it, the publisher promotes it as if it’s the first black character ever it is not only, in my opinion, fucked up lazy journalism. it feels to those who know it’s bullshit like yet another total disregard of African American history.

I’d just like publishers to at least give a nod to what has come before when promoting black content.

Or do like Dark Horse and make it about the character.

If you feel the as a journalist the black angle is a good one, do some fucking research and at least write something about what has come before even if it’s something like this:

Black Dick, the story of an African American private eye is a new comic from Poon Tang Publishing. It’s the very first black comic ever… I think.

If people like the character and the idea behind it color will matter not. Blade and Spawn are perfect examples. Yeah, Spawn is black. If you can’t tell because of his mask ask yourself what’s up with that third leg.

BTW, “Black Dick” is trademark & copyright Michael Davis 2014 All Rights Reserved and is not the first black character.

I think.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Tweaks!

 

John Ostrander: Star Wars – Moving On

Ostrander Art 140105The news came down publicly on Friday that, in 2015, the Star Wars comics license will move from Dark Horse, who has had it for more than two decades, to Marvel, which had it at the franchise’s inception. It’s not a big surprise; since creator George Lucas sold it all to Disney, and Disney owns Marvel, many saw the move as inevitable.

I have had the pleasure of playing in George Lucas’s sandbox for more than ten years, most often with my artistic partner in crime, Jan Duursema. At first it was only going to be a four issue story arc. My buddy and Brother by a Different Mother, Timothy Truman, was the regular writer on the book at the time and he was taking some time off to work on a special project. He recommended me for the fill-in, one of the many favors I owe Tim.

When I got the first assignment, I knew this might be the only chance I ever got to write Star Wars. I decided we should create our own characters; that way, we were less likely to trip over established continuity. I wanted an amnesiac Jedi – a Jedi who had sustained a head injury and didn’t know he was a Jedi.

Jan was brought on board as well and, I have to say, she was and is a larger SW geek than I was. What I didn’t know about that galaxy far far away, Jan did. She decided she wanted to create a look based on a character from the films, the current one at that time being Episode One: The Phantom Menace. She found a figure who was in the background of a cantina scene. Let me point out that the character appears for maybe three seconds and there was no DVD of the film yet; the only place to see it was on the screen. Jan not only spotted the character but memorized him in those three seconds. Yeah, she’s that good.

And so was born Quinlan Vos, our first Star Wars character. He was joined by Vilmahr “Villie” Grahrk, a devilish-looking Devaronian who spoke like a Russian and was a complete rogue. Man, I loved writing that character! Rounding it all out was Quinlan’s missing apprentice, a female Twi’lek named Aayla Secura. George Lucas would later like the look of her so much he put her in both Episode II and Episode III. I think that was perhaps the only time a character started in the comic and went to the movie instead of the other way around. She and Quin also wound up in the animated version of The Clone Wars.

When Tim decided not to return to the ongoing, I was invited back. At the time, the book would switch artists and writers with almost every arc. I suggested to DH that, whether it was me and Jan or not, there should be a regular team and the book should have its own cast of characters. My argument was that it was hard to build a reliable fan base for the book if it constantly changed identities. Having their own characters that could (mostly) only be found in the book would also be a selling point for readers. DH bought the idea and Jan and I wound up as the regular team.

When Episode III came out (they killed Aayla!), that era was essentially done and Jan and I had to look for another. One of my problems with the Prequel Trilogy is that it went backwards in time; when I like a story, I want to find out what happened next. So I suggested to Jan and Dark Horse that we dropkick the franchise down the timeline, past the movies, past the books, and tell that part of the story. Our protagonist, Cade Skywalker, would be a descendent of Luke but Cade was very different. He was a junkie, a rogue, and he wanted nothing to do with the Jedi. My pitch for the character was – what if Han Solo had a lightsaber?

We named the book Legacy and it was, perhaps, the most successful book Jan and I did in Star Wars. We had new Sith, a resurgent Empire, and Imperial Knights – Jedi-like Force users working for a more benign Empire. The cast was huge and we had a chance to tell all kinds of stories for more than five years.

After Legacy ended, we cast about what to do next. I suggested that, having gone forward in time, we now go back. How did the Jedi become the Jedi? I figured that was a story fans would find interesting. As a fan, I wanted to know. Out of all that came Dawn of the Jedi, the series that Jan and I are currently working on and which will be our last Star Wars story for Dark Horse. In addition, I’ve had the chance to do various Specials and one-shots, as well as Agent of the Empire, which was one part Star Wars and one part James Bond. I had a lot of fun on that one.

So – is that it? Have I written my last Star Wars comic? That’s up to Marvel now but I have hopes. Both Jan and I bring a lot to the table. First off, we know how to write Star Wars so that it feels like Star Wars, even when not dealing with the usual characters. Every story we do has to be approved by Lucas Film Publishing and Jan and I have never gotten a story rejected. We get notes, yes, but not rejections. That’s not easy to do, let me tell you. Jan and I are good at what we do. How do I know? Because we sold well and we have our own fans (and I deeply appreciate them).

Will all that be enough? I don’t know; I’ll certainly contact Marvel and pitch to do more stories. I love Star Wars and I think it shows. Marvel may not yet know what they want to do with the franchise. They don’t get control of it until 2015 which is when Episode VII comes out and that will probably help decide more than few things.

Whatever happens, I’ve had a good run and got a chance to tell some fun stories set in a galaxy I love a lot. I also have some other projects I’m developing and some of them are also SF so I won’t stray too far.

I want to thank Dark Horse, the editors – especially Randy Stradley – and all the very talented people I’ve worked with.

Live long and prosper.

Whoops. Wrong franchise.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

Mike Gold: Comic Books Take A Hike!

Gold Art 140101It was a small notice in one of the media newsletters, a pick-up from Publisher’s Weekly: Marvel Halts Sales of Periodical Comics in Bookstores.

According to Media Bistro, “Marvel has ended sales of print single-issue periodical comics through trade bookstore channels. This will not affect the sales of book format graphic novels through those retailers. Several earlier accounts reported that Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble were dropping single-issue comics. According to Barnes & Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating, the removal of single-issue comics from B&N and other book stores is Marvel’s decision.”

This is not the end of an era. It’s the final death throes of an ancient era, a time of candy stores, corner drug stores, newsstands and newspaper wuxtras.

And that’s okay by me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love print. I love those 32-page pamphlets. I enjoy going to the magazine racks at Barnes and Noble. But let’s note that the decision to pull the pamphlets from the two largest American bookstore chains was Marvel’s, not the retailers’. And Marvel is simply being realistic.

Newsstand sales, as opposed to direct sales to comics shops, sell only about one-quarter of the number of copies sent to the newsstands, on average. Or, to put this in more political terms (I am what I am), for every four trees chopped down for newsstand comics, only one gets turned into stuff people actually pay to read. And the publisher has to ship these books and may have to accept returns (that’s a long story; trust me). That’s a hell of a lot of oil being wasted.

And for what? Clearly, the publisher isn’t making much (if anything) off of newsstand sales. The news dealer isn’t making very much, and policing comics racks is work-intensive. Better that such material is sold as e-comics, which carry a carbon footprint of a baby oompa loompa, and in anthologies.

Yes, there’s a loss-leader argument, but it’s very dated. The argument goes “New readers and people who don’t live near comic book stores can discover the thrill of comics by stumbling across them at Barnes and Nobles.” Fine, except that most newsstand comics are from Marvel and DC, and both companies are completely obsessed with “event” (read: stunt) marketing that require a reader to buy dozens of comics in order to understand the epic story… and some of those issues often are sold only via direct sales. So there is no jumping-on point for newbies.

Mind you, I could be wrong but I don’t see Archie, Dark Horse, and other publishers that are not OCD-compliant exiting the market as fast. They have high visibility books, often with impressive pedigrees such as Star Wars. But the economics of comics publishing are such that I can’t see them holding on to returnable sales to general newsstands.

I see Marvel pulling out of traditional bookstores as the logical thing to do. It’s probably the harbinger of things to come.

Of course, the way these guys have been doing the past couple of years, it’s pretty easy to see Barnes and Nobles and Books-A-Million going the way of Borders, Dalton’s, and Brentano’s. That’s a major shame, but it’s a shame of a different color.

So if you’re dependent upon one of these outlets for your comics fix, go buy an iPad. It’ll be around a lot longer, and you won’t strain your back lifting long-boxes.

Oh, yeah. And Happy, Brave New Year.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweeks

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

Mindy Newell: Monsters Of The Id

Newell Art 131209I may be behind the eight-ball here, but last month much blogging, Facebook and Tumblr posts and Twitter accounts were ablaze with comics artist Tess Fowler’s account of sexual harassment at the 2007 San Diego Comic Convention – a comics pro used the age-old pretense of being interested in her work to try and get her to come up to his room, and when Tess declined, he then went about insulting her work, her cosplay and talking bullshit about her to other male comics professionals and anybody else who would listen on the convention floor, i.e., in public.

Yeah, I know I’ve written about this subject before, and so has Heidi MacDonald over at The Beat, Colleen Doran on her own blog, former Dark Horse editor Rachel Edidin on her Tumblr site Postcards From Space, Jill Pantozzi at The Mary Sue, and Corrina Lawson on her site, Geek Mom.

What I’m wondering now is…

Is sexual harassment towards women in the industry more prevalent now than when I was actively writing and editing in the 80s and 90s?

Was I really that oblivious?

No, I wasn’t. But I had confidence in myself and didn’t think too much about it, and I honestly really never felt harassed or put upon or insulted. In fact, I enjoyed my professional and personal friendships with Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Mike Gold, Joey Cavalieri, Bob Greenberger, Fabien Nicieza, Dick Giordano, Tom Brevoort, Mark Gruenwald, Jerry Ordway, Tom DeFalco, Ernie Colon, Richard Bruning, Keith Giffen, and so many other men in the biz, just to name a few. In fact, I was honored to be able to call these guys my friends and co-workers.

But there was one particularly nasty incident concerning an editor and a letter and my toilet bowl. Yes, I was so disgusted by the contents of that letter that I flushed it down the toilet in a fit of rage – thus “burning the evidence,” which was a ridiculous thing to do, I know, but I also stopped working on my assignment long enough to have the big boss of this company call me and invite me to lunch with him at the Top of the Sixes, a very swanky restaurant. During the phone call I told Mr. Big (with apologies to Candace Bushnell) about the letter, and he asked me to bring it to the lunch. “I can’t,” I said. “I flushed it down the toilet.”

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

“I couldn’t keep that disgusting piece of filth around this house.”

But the lunch went off as planned. Mr. Big was a wonderful man, a true mensch, and he made me realize that, as a comics professional, hell, as an adult woman, I had to finish my commitments. Which I did. Even if my heart was no longer in it.

But this was the only time that I experienced any kind of direct sexual harassment in the comics industry. Perhaps it’s because the men I met were, for the most part, of an age – all high school and college students in the 60s, shutting down universities and marching in the street to protest the Vietnam War, “tuning in, turning on, dropping out” during those summers of love. Women were burning their bras, men were burning their draft cards, and the police were beating up protestors at political conventions while inside the buildings journalists were being manhandled off the floor. The men who were older – Julie Schwartz, Joe Kubert, and others – had lived through their own hells of the Depression and World War II.

They were mature.

They were adults.

They were men.

Now I’m not part of the current scene in comics; well, I am, but only peripherally. So I can’t speak directly of the XY set in comics today. But from what I read, from what I hear, it seems that there are more boys in the field than ever.

Boys who seem to be the very essence of the cliché of the male child who lives on TV shows like The Big Bang Theory and in movies like Knocked Up. Only, unlike Leonard and Sheldon and Howard and Rajesh, unlike Ben and Pete, these guys don’t grow up; they won’t grow up. They are Peter Pan children eternally stuck in a Never-Never Land of narcissistic masturbation of their own (unfulfilled) “who’s the man?” fantasies.

And as children, they have no idea of the repercussions their behavior is causing. Repercussions that could result in the destruction of an industry.

And all because they can’t keep their ids zipped up.

TUESDAY MORNING: The Debut of Jen Krueger!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: The Return of Michael Davis?

 

Marc Alan Fishman: The Shoot Promo on Comics

Fishman Art 131123The professional wrestler C.M. Punk truly made his mark and broke free of the shackles of mid-card obscurity by way of his infamous pipe bomb shoot promo. For those not in-the-know, a shoot in wrestling is an interview (or soliloquy some of the time) wherein said grappler breaks the fourth wall. As relived in this week’s WTF podcast, Punk was vivid in saying that this promo was done because he was at the end of his rope.

With the WWE wanting him to resign for three more years and Punk decidedly against continuing to not be the guy on the roster, Vince McMahon allowed him to air his grievances live on their Monday night broadcast. If Punk captured the zeitgeist, he’d be a made-man forever in wrestling (which, by my count, is a little over two years). If he failed, he’d be gone, buried back in VA halls wrestling for gas money, and be nothing more than a footnote in WWE’s now 50-year history.

The shoot worked. Punk resigned, and ruled the company with an iron fist until he literally could give no more. The glass ceiling was shattered on the “norm” of the product, and wrestling now is forever changed. Well, maybe not, but I’ll circle back round that idea in a bit.

Why do I bring this up? Well, for one, because it’s topical to me. I was just listening to the podcast on my way home from work tonight. Beyond that, it dawned on me that with all the coverage and snark that exists in the world of comics… there is no C.M. Punk. There is no shoot promo to cut, on any live broadcast. There’s only guys like me; indie creators and op-ed columnists chasing windmills and yelling into the wind. But this here is my stage. This here is my time. So, allow me to speak ill of the industry I wish every damned day I was a part of, but know full well I’ll never actually see.

The WWE’s CEO lives a double life as an on-screen performer. He enjoys his product not only for the money it makes but for the crafted product it actually is. Warner Bros and Disney are just faceless boardrooms ruled not by the glee in little kids’ faces, but cold hard cash. Their publishing branches exist for one reason, and one reason only: to keep the movie and TV machines churning. Don’t think for a second that your issues of Batman mean any more to the execs in Burbank than a roll of teepee. It doesn’t. That rag in your hands? The one that has the blood, sweat, and tears of a dozen hard working men and women broiled into its pulp? It’s an incubator of ideas for a movie or cartoon show. It’s a crockpot keeping the license warm. It’s a mosquito light that keeps the most vocal fans distracted. Go ahead, post your death threats if we make Afflec Batman… but hey! Look over there! It’s Zero Year!

We all desire the notion that those behind the rich mahogany desks (being packed up in Midtown Manhattan in 18 months) lie overgrown fanboys and girls that just want to knock the socks off us, the ever-enduring fans of a dying medium. But it too is just a pipedream. The suits that run your comic book publishing companies are shackled to boulders far too big to drag up the mountain. Beyond the goodwill garnered by our little niche market, and the fervent fans that exist at comic cons lie those aforementioned suits in bigger boardrooms that still demand that at the end of the day everything be profitable. Profits occur when sales increase. Sales increase when gimmicks, #1s, and creators that draw a crowd are given the top spots. When a book stops earning what meager profits it can when it’s hot, it’s tossed out with the bathwater and things start again. The era of continuity is long dead. All hail the retcon.

The closest thing we had to C.M. Punk in comics was Robert Kirkman. He took his indie prowess and love of the craft and turned out The Walking Dead. Now, Kirkman is a suit. Behind a desk. Of a multi-media empire. He won the championship belt, and didn’t even have to work for the man to do it. Now, he is the man, and no longer a voice of the voiceless. Like so many though, atop his mountain of money many years ago he gave birth to his manifesto wherein he challenged the industry to veer towards creator-owned projects. Hey Robbie! Trickle-down economics don’t work in real life or in comics. If every known talent jumped off their pedestals at Marvel and DC to come make indie books at Dark Horse, Image, and Boom! the line to replace them would still be wrapped around the vacant Midtown offices and land somewhere in the opposite ocean. Everyone is replaceable when the end goal is product. Not good product. Just product.

The fact is this: After he changed the world and held the WWE title for longer than any wrestler in the last two decades or so, Punk took a much-needed break. When he returned, he was just as our resurrected Jean Greys, Steve Rogers, or Hal Jordans… a hero to be celebrated for what he was, not who he is now. A long and listless program against his on-screen mentor, and Punk is now booked right back in the mid-card where he started. The comic book industry has no panacea to cure itself of the ills we rally against. Just as the WWE fans buy their John Cena Fruity Pebbles Lunchboxes… so too do we comic fans flock to every worthless gimmick they shove on the racks. We make our excuses, we plunk down our money, and we bitch about it on the Internet later.

The only way to make change, is to make it. There is no utopia. There’s only revolution.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

Martha Thomases: All You Need is Love

Thomases Art 131122The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek Tiwary and Andrew C Robinson, with Kyle Baker. 144 pages. Dark Horse. Available in both hardcover and electronic editions.

This week, I’m kvelling all the time. The Fifth Beatle is finally in the stores.

Let me explain. About a dozen years ago, I met Vivek Tiwary and we quickly became friends, even though it’s only recently I’ve pronounced his name properly. We met because we had friends in common, friends who inspired us to do some good, in Vivek’s case quite amazingly. (Really, watch the video at the link. It’s wonderful.)

Community service is all well and good, but what really bonded us was comics. We are totally geeks together. We would walk around various conventions (both Book Expo and the San Diego Comic-Con), sharing the kind of fangasms such events inspire. I even helped him take his young son around.

During these walks, and on other occasions, we would often talk about his various projects, He was working on turning Green Day’s American Idiot album into a theatrical musical, and he was working on a screenplay about Brian Epstein. Vivek is quite passionate on the subject of Epstein, the Beatles’ first manager. He first looked tried to find out about him 21 years ago, when he was in business school. There was hardly any information. Over the decades, he pulled the story together. Vivek had a lot of experience as a theatrical producer, but film was a new medium for him. He had written a screenplay, but getting it made was an arduous process.

Why not make it into a graphic novel while you wait, I suggested.

And so he did. He found Andrew Robinson to collaborate on the art (and I introduced him to Kyle Baker, who drew the hilarious scene in the Philipines), and off they went. Thanks to my ComicMix co-columnist Michael Davis, we got the book to Dark Horse.

Vivek didn’t fall into the trap that catches too many writers from other media, including me. He doesn’t cram the page with words. He knows how to let the pictures tell the story. He trusts his artist to convey the pace, the emotions, the energy of the story. Andrew doesn’t let him down. The likenesses are evocative without being overbearing. People who knew some of the characters in real life tell me he nailed the body language as well as the bodies. The use of Beatle lyrics is lovely.

There is a rhythm to the story that is like a great rock’n’roll song. You get caught up in the energy when you read it the first time, and then you can’t get it out of your head.

And now, you have the book in your hands. You’re welcome.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Emily S. Whitten: News and Fun from NYCC!

Whitten Art 131015I love visiting New York City, and New York Comic Con is one of my favorite shows. I always have a great time, and this year was no exception. One other thing that remains consistent every year I go is that it all goes by in a total whirlwind blur, and I can barely remember all the things I saw and did, or when they occurred.

But for you, my faithful readers who may not have been able to attend, I’ll try to remember some of the best parts of the weekend, and, as Inigo Montoya would say, “sum up.” So here we go! In no particular order, some of the coolest experiences I had in NYC:

I saw First Date, the Broadway musical starring Zachary Levi, and it was fantastic. I also interviewed Zac at The Nerd Machine booth during the con – so stay tuned for my review of the show and my interview, coming soon! While at the booth, I saw some cool celebrities come by to donate their time for charity pictures with fans, with all money going to benefit the excellent cause of Operation Smile. I think that whole concept is pretty awesome; and it was fun to see Seth Green (who liked my Harley Quinn dress (thanks, Seth!) and showed us his new S.H.I.E.L.D. badge), Greg Grunberg, and David Duchovny all stopping by at various times to donate their time for a good cause.

I went through Artists Alley, which remains one of my favorite parts of NYCC. There I visited with some of the fantastic creators on hand, like Greg Pak, who has a new project called Code Monkey Save World which features characters from Jonathan Coulton songs; Jeremy Dale, whose creator-owned all-ages series Skyward has really hit the stratosphere; and Reilly Brown, who’s working on a new Marvel Infinite (digital only) Deadpool series with series regular writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, to launch in January 2014. I also chatted with Mark Brooks and learned he’s the new Deadpool cover artist starting this month; and with Georges Jeanty, who will be doing the art for the upcoming Serenity: Leaves on the Wind miniseries that Zack Whedon is writing for Dark Horse (yay!).

Because I hadn’t walked enough already (eep!) I then walked the con floor, which literally took an entire day, and was, as usual, chock-full of cool merchandise I coveted. I tried to exercise restraint, but did come away with a couple of must-have Marvel exclusives (like the Skottie Young Deadpool glass and the Asgardian Periodic Table shirt) and other little collectibles (like the Littlest Lego Star Wars Rebel Pilot Ever, at 2 cm tall!). I also got some fun freebies from the Marvel booth (like Thor #1, Ultimate Spider-Man #1, an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. poster, and Guardians of the Galaxy trading cards); snagged a couple of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire posters of Katniss and Peeta; picked up the preview issue of Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid’s new project, The Fox; swung by the Dark Horse booth and finally met long-time Twitter-friend @VictorGischler and picked up the first issue of his new series, Kiss Me, Satan, which I’ve been wanting to read; met Richard Clark and picked up the first issue of his new miniseries with Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour, House of Gold and Bones; stopped by the Unshaven Comics booth and picked up their Samurnauts Genesis issue; and caught up with awesome Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard.

Along with all of the cool comics stuff and people to see, some of the most stellar voice actors working today were at various booths doing signings for fans; so of course I said hello to some of the great voice actors I’ve interviewed for ComicMix, like John DiMaggio (who signed a cool Fry and Bender pic a fellow fan gave me); Billy West; and Rob Paulsen, who was at the ShiftyLook booth talking about Bravoman. Stopping by ShiftyLook was cool, because I also got to meet Shiftylook creator Dax Gordine and editor Ash Paulsen (yes, he’s Rob’s son) and chat with them about the upcoming Bravoman shows, which will also feature Jennifer Hale as new character Bravowoman, who has cool superpowers and is not being brought into the show as a love interest for Bravoman (thank goodness, because that trope is so tired).

Speaking of voice actors, pretty much all the panels I made it to this year were voice actor-related, since they’re always so much fun. I started with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel (and FYI, also interviewed TMNT executive producer Ciro Nieli and Michelangelo voice actor Greg Cipes, so stay tuned for that). The panel featured Nieli, Cipes, story editor Brandon Auman, Rob Paulsen (Donatello), and Hoon Lee (Master Splinter), and I was super excited when they decided to screen the entire first episode of Season 2, since of course I wasn’t near a TV to watch it on Saturday. The first episode was great, and shows a shift towards a slightly darker tone, as the Turtles accidentally loose a bunch of mutagen canisters on the city, mutate a friend, and realize their responsibility for the mess they’ve created and for fixing it. I can’t wait to see how all of that plays out. At the panel they also showed some great unfinished clips that highlighted both a few upcoming story details (like Michelangelo’s, erm, interesting cooking skills, and Master Splinter answering a cheese-wheel phone!) and the cool process involved in taking a show like TMNT from concept to full animation. And of course all of the voice actors graced us with bits of dialogue in their character voices – including Hoon Lee, who at the request of one of the other panelists, read a menu description as it has never been read before; and Greg Cipes, who sang a hilarious little song that accompanies Michelangelo’s cooking, and then a little booyakasha ditty with Rob Paulsen.

The next voice actor panel I went to was the I Know That Voice panel, about the voice acting documentary that John DiMaggio is executive producing, which comes out this December and premieres in Hollywood on November 6. I went even though I’ve already seen and reviewed the documentary, because I knew it would be a good time. The panel was fantastic, and packed to the gills. We only barely got in and had to stand in the back for the first half. NYCC definitely should have put it in a bigger room (especially considering the SDCC panel, which was packed with about 2500+ fans!). The panel featured John, Rob Paulsen, Billy West, and casting and voice director Andrea Romano, and John actually screened the first fifteen minutes of the documentary; after which he opened the floor to questions, and the usual voice actor hilarity ensued (one of my favorite moments was when John called on a Batman cosplayer standing with a Harley Quinn and commented on the pairing. The Batman quipped, “Don’t tell the Joker!” To which John responded, smooth as anything, “You just did!” Classic). John shared the moment when he first realized he wanted to be an actor, which was cool; and John and Rob shared jobs they’d like to get that they haven’t been called for yet (Rico in the upcoming Penguins of Madagascar movie; and Donnie in the new TMNT movie. Call them, movie folks!! I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t!). In the same breath John and Billy also hinted at Matt Groening’s future plans for either the continuance of Futurama, or perhaps a new Groening show on which Billy and John might work. (OMG!)

The last voice actor panel I went to was the Adventure Time panel, which was also a blast (and I have never seen so many Finns and Jakes in one place, I tell you what. The little kid Finns were the cutest). They showed some great show clips, featuring Lumpy Space Princess giving romance advice, Jake getting stuck in quicksand, and a truly harrowing fight with The Lich; and of course answered questions. John DiMaggio shared a cool story about creator Pendleton Ward’s childhood aspirations, and Ward shared some great insights about his creative process. Ward also talked about how much he identifies with Lumpy Space Princess. And then, because the panel wasn’t already awesome enough, DiMaggio sang the bacon pancakes song and had the audience sing it too; and Jeremy Shada sang the Baby Finn song. And then we all left a voicemail for Brian Posehn, because that’s how John DiMaggio rolls at panels.

Whew! So I think that about sums up my experiences at NYCC this year; and what great experiences they were. I hope you all enjoyed the recap, and if you feel like you still need more, then just check out all the cool pictures I took.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold