An open letter to DC Comics and the comic book industry:
The Black Panel has been a leading voice for creators of color for over 20 years. The Bad Boy Studio Mentor Program has outstanding alumni, some world-famous. Millions of Black people purchased the Guardian comic books. Milestone Comics was a groundbreaking achievement.
The link that ties them together is Michael Davis.
But for Milestone Comics, all are the creation of Michael Davis alone.
DC Comics is embracing Black Lives Matters as are many Black creators. They are leading with The Other History of DC Comics. From what I’ve read, Michael Davis created that and is not involved although he wants to be. This is just another in a long line of injustices DC Comics has done to Mr. Davis, who has written that a former DC Comics editor accused him of causing a “loud scene” at a meeting, and because of that, he was removed from a six-figure project.
When it was proven to be a lie, the company refused to reinstate the project. That’s just plain evil. Presenting him with an agreement that prevents him from ever working at DC Comics was much more corrupt.
The comics industry ignores this- it seems Black comic creators do as well. His partners used him then excluded him. He still supports them. I can find no support for this man even from people he has helped. That is truly shameful. Outside of the comic book world, it is quite a different story.
For goodness sake, there is a Michael Davis Auditorium at the Gordon Parks Academy in Kansas City. I have left out a great many things from his resume. His name next to one of the most celebrated thinkers of our time says it all.
WE CAN’T BREATHE, a film produced by Mr. Davis and Wayne Brady, the comedian about the killings of unarmed Black men and women, is a powerful message.
Mr. Davis and Mr. Brady did the short video as a promotion for LevelNext comic books. I saw the video at The Black Panel and was moved to tears as were others. This was three years ago when no comic book company was thinking about these topics. I hear he is disliked because he’s loud and demanding. I believe it’s because he won’t play anyone’s game.
It is nothing short of despicable that those who have claimed to be friends and allies stand by and do nothing to support this man. Some ridicule his depression and claim he faked his own death. God, I have no words for that kind of malice. No one stepped up to defend him, but he’s always there defending those who need it, even those who have betrayed him.
Shame on DC Comics, shame on Milestone Media, and shame on all he has helped who remain silent.
Buddy Saunders is a giant among retailers. I’m honored to give him the first-ever guest spot at my column.
DC’s planned limited release of titles beginning April 28th leaves too many comic stores out in the cold
by Buddy Saunders
I’ll tell you this up front. In mid-to-late May, a time more in line with when most stores can reopen, Diamond Comics, our longtime distributor, will resume shipping comics from all publishers based on fair-to-all release dates. Were Diamond to begin shipping earlier, many of our fellow comic retailers would be left out in the cold. We very much respect Diamond for making the good-for-everyone decision they’ve made. We are all in this together, fans, creators, publishers, retailers and Diamond.
I want two things. I want to stand with and support my longtime distributor. And I don’t want to receive and sell comics that many, maybe most, of my fellow retailers can’t get because their stores are shuttered through no fault of their own.
Diamond Comics has been our distributor for decades. I know Diamond’s owner, Steve Geppi, well. We first met many years ago, ironically at a DC brain-storming retreat at a Montauk resort on the tip of Long Island. Steve and I were there to help DC editors and creators figure out how to deal with the growing market threat posed by Marvel. Steve was then just another comic store owner like me with no thought of becoming a distributor. But some years later, when my then Texas distributor proved unreliable, Steve, along with Carol Kalish of Marvel, made my transition to Diamond silk smooth. There’s a neat story in that, but now’s not the time to tell it. Bigger fish to fry at the moment.
DC’s decision to begin releasing comics through two newly-minted “distributors” beginning April 28th is ill-conceived.
First, there is the matter of timing. Too many comic stores will still be prohibited from being open on April 28th, the first DC release date.
Second, DC’s new distributors, Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors, are in reality two of the nation’s largest new comic discounters, Discount Comics and Midtown Comics. No comic retailer should be involved in comic distribution due to obvious conflicts of interest. The only exception to that rule would be a stopgap measure undertaken if the current distributor were failing. That is NOT the case with Diamond. Diamond is solid and as reliable as ever.
Third, these two new comic online discounters have no experience as distributors. Even a vastly experienced distributor like Diamond isn’t perfect, but they are very good at correcting errors. Will the new guys do as well? The answer will come the first time retailers try to get support services such as damage replacements.
Fourth, why are these two new distributors necessary? Creating new distributors for a short-term fix doesn’t make sense. It makes more sense as part of a larger long-term plan. But were Diamond eventually taken out by this process, mid-to-small publishers would be up a creek, a circumstance that would very much benefit DC. Marvel tried something similar—becoming their own distributor—years ago. It didn’t work out for Marvel. Nor will it work for DC if that indeed is their thought.
Any such move, for whatever motive, is unnecessary given that very soon Diamond Comics will return to full distribution mode when the majority of comic stores can resume sales—most likely mid-to-late May.
Every comic store owner has to decide what is best for their store regarding distribution and release times, but greater consideration should be given to long term health rather than to short term gain.
Lone Star Comics and MyComicShop will wait for Diamond, a distributor that has earned our loyalty many times over. And we will wait until as may stores as possible can join us in resuming weekly comic sales. And when that time comes, we’ll have plenty of stock from every publisher, including all DC releases.
DC is asking us to ABANDON Diamond. Diamond and Steve Geppi specifically have acted as the “bank” of the Direct Market, saving and protecting the great mass of retailers again and again and again. Do I have some problems with DCD’s operation? Sure: I’d be an idiot not to—but on the balance they’ve done more to preserve DM retailers than ANYONE EVER, so “walking away” from them in this time of challenge is completely entirely a non-starter for me.
Brian Hibbs, Comix Experience
Last word from Buddy. Thus far I’ve spoken to only a few comic retailers, but those retailers are well established and significant. They favor staying the course with Diamond. I know a lot of retailers read my weekly Lone Star Comics email. Guys, gals, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts on this issue. Let me know if you are going to go with the DC plan or stay with Diamond. I’ll print some of your feedback, but omit names and addresses to ensure your ability to speak freely.
Oh, and you the comic fan, this affects you as much as any comics retailer, publisher or creator. Your two cents’ worth is equally welcome. Just understand, my plate is mighty full already, so it may be impossible for me to reply to every comment received—our weekly email goes out to many thousands of people!
There’s a return of an old pestilence upon the comics landscape. Brian Hibbs of Comix Experience is sounding the warning alarms. Reprinted with permission. —CM
Once again there is a speculator-driven comic coming out this week that forces us to limit sales or change our natural way of doing business.
This week it is YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN #3.
Here’s the thing: unlike last week’s BATMAN, where there were a good number of potential people-who-bought-earlier-issues-from-the-rack, my point-of-sale system shows me that virtually none of you bought copies of #1 or #2 from the shelf — this comic was a massive flop. And so, really, the only reason for most of the phone calls and such we’re getting is because we’ve got a bunch of greedy people trying to buy it from us for $4, and flip it for $40+.
I can’t countenance this as a retailer (seriously folks, we’re not suckers), and so I have to try to deflect you all. This week our plan is this: if you’re not already subbed for YOTV:HA (and you aren’t), THEN IN ORDER TO BUY #3, YOU HAVE TO BUY #1 & 2 ALONG WITH IT. We’re only interested in facilitating the reading of a story.
Let me go one step further: I’ve owned a comic book store since 1989, and I’ve worked comics retail since like ’85. I’ve heard this same record many many times before: In point of fact I’ve personally watched the comic book industry ALMOST BE DESTROYED MULTIPLE TIMES by speculators and greed — through the B&W boom, through the 90s spec crisis, and it’s happening again right now. People trying to “flip” comics are making it so PEOPLE WHO ONLY WANT TO READ THEM CAN’T DO SO.
It’s not right; and it’s certainly nothing I’m willing to participate in.
Please listen: if you are buying comics with the goal of flipping them for a greater price you are HURTING the comics medium, you are HURTING small businesses, you are HURTING creators and publishers….. and, more importantly, I DON’T WANT YOUR MONEY TO DO SO.
Seriously: Fuck the fuck off. Go shop somewhere else. You don’t like comics, you’re not good for comics, and your money is worthless to me because what I, and every other, comic book retailer needs are ONGOING READERS. Your spending $4 today is dwarfed by a regular stable purchaser spending that every single month. On the non-returnable comics that form the backbone of the Direct Market your ONE TIME purchase is genuinely HURTING comics and comics stores who then have a harder time figuring out how to serve their regulars. Your purchases are WEAKENING the market, and so you are not welcome in our doors.
When I opened in 1989, there were 24 comic book stores in San Francisco, and now there are (barely) 8 — that two-thirds went out of business largely because of these bullshit speculator games that hollowed out the actual readers market, despite the local economy BOOMING beyond all rationality in that time.
You suck. You destroy the thing you claim that you value. And Comix Experience simply won’t stand for it (nor have we, consistently, for the last thirty years!)
And more than that…. honestly? You’re an idiot. I sell comics for a living, and I watch these variant flash-in-the-pans and they NEVER (ever) hold their value. There are a small cartel of folks who are using public-facing apps, and trading back and forth between puppet accounts to MAKE IT LOOK like there’s demand for these comics featuring “Punchline”, but as a guy who has been selling this stuff for decades: this moment is 100% false and manufactured. We’ve yet to have a SINGLE reader show the slightest amount of non-fiduciary interest in the character, and any comic that “every knows is going to be worth money” never ever is a month or three after it drops.
Maybe “Punchline” will be an interesting character, with an involving storyline that leads to dynamic story-telling and tales for the ages. I sincerely hope so. But speculeechs driving up the price before anyone has ever read a single page of content is a massive red flag that “Punchline” will end up no better than “The Joker’s Daughter” (which was also white hot for about 45 days in 2013, and now no one would give you a dime for her eponymous comic)
Don’t be a sucker. Don’t help destroy what is left of the periodical comics market (idiot!) And don’t think you’re welcome in our stores. We’ve been there, we’ve done that, and we’ve had it proven again and again and again that you are the stone cold enemy of the Medium of comics.
Right now, you have a LOT of people trying to sucker and shake you down and get you to buy their comics because so many of them see a Hollywood Play, and are willing to use speculators and the worst excesses of the “Collector’s Market” to try and leverage that play. They too, are the enemy. Don’t fall for it! Don’t support them!
If you have any issue with any of this, take it up directly with me. I can always be reached at email@example.com. Leave my staff out of it, please — this is a top-down statement.
By now, you’ve probably heard that Dan DiDio is out as the co-publisher of DC Comics. Heidi covers a lot of it:
The departure of Dan DiDio as DC Co-Publisher on Friday was both long expected and shocking. His exit was rumored many many times over the years, and every contract renewal was a will he or won’t he suspense movie.
Rob Salkowitz over at ICV2 notes that this could be the first clear sign of some major changes in direction since DC’s parent company, Time Warner (now WarnerMedia), was acquired by AT&T last summer.
DiDio was something of a polarizing figure because of the direction of DC’s publishing strategy over the past few years. That has led to a lot of speculation about what was behind the sudden move, and whether it’s related to specific issues like DC’s impending “5G” initiative or some pent-up dissatisfaction within the company over his leadership.
But what is/was 5G? Rather than that new wireless spectrum that’s being talked about for phones and wifi, DiDio had something else in mind:
The basic idea has been floating around since the middle of last year, and is seemingly yet another response to flagging sales. The idea was sort of to Ultimatize DC: all of the main heroes would be replaced by new younger versions, a tried and true comic book procedure which ends up giving you a great wave of cheers when the originals return AND new refreshing characters with youthful appeal.
Rob goes into detail about some of the financial issues behind this, focusing on AT&T’s purchase of WarnerMedia for $85 billion, doubling their debt to $170-odd billion, making them the most indebted publicly-traded company in the world by a factor of at least two, and about $70 billion in BBB-rated debt is coming due in the next 4-5 years, which must be repaid on schedule to maintain investment-grade status for its bonds.
But Rob missed the giant concrete block suspended over the wizard’s head…and the thread breaks in 13 years.
Because in 2033, unless there’s a big change in legislation… Superman enters the public domain.
Followed by Batman, Sandman, and the original Captain Marvel in 2034; Robin, the Flash, Green Lantern, Dr. Fate, Hourman, the Spectre, and Johnny Thunder in 2035; and Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, and Aquaman in 2036.
What percentage of the overall value of DC Comics is made up of those characters? 50%? 75%? 90%??? Whatever it is, it’s a lot. And it’s going to start going away very soon.
Now, DC won’t lose all of that value immediately. But there’s not going to be a lot preventing anyone from reprinting those stories, or making new stories from them. Or new movies and TV shows. Heck, there won’t be anything preventing Marvel from publishing Superman stories.
My take on 5G is that Dan was trying to get out from under by creating new characters that could still be held under copyright, holding on to value for the company going forward. And now that Dan’s gone… what are they going to do?
As we continue to add to the chaos at the top of DC Comics…
Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara has been ousted after an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations….
Tsuijhara, 54, had been with Warner Bros. for more than 24 years. He became CEO in early 2013 and became chairman position later that year. Tsuijhara, the first executive of Asian decent to head a major Hollywood studio, led Warner Bros. to have its most profitable year ever in 2017.
However, also under Tsuijhara’s tenure, Warner Bros. struggled to produce DC superhero films at the same caliber of its counterparts at Disney and Marvel Studios. It wasn’t until 2017’s “Wonder Woman” that the studio found true success, taking in $821 million in ticket sales worldwide. A year later, “Aquaman” became the first DC film to cross the $1 billion mark.
The DC 100-Page Giants have turned out to be very popular, and DC will be expanding the program, adding new titles and ending their exclusivity at WalMart. Dan DiDio says:
For those fans of the DC Giants at Walmart, have to clear up some misinformation making the rounds. Just want to let you know these books are doing well, so well that we are looking to expand the number of original pages in each book and include distribution to the direct market. Look for these and new titles later this year. The promise is to keep it one of the best values and reading experiences in the market.
Each 100-Page Giant to date has included 12-pages of original material alongside reprints of three full-length issues of recent comic book issues, with creators involved including some of DC’s biggest names including Tom King and Brian Michael Bendis.
Adam West, an actor defined and also constrained by his role in the 1960s series “Batman”, died Friday night in Los Angeles at the age of 88 after a short battle with leukemia.
For many people in the comics community and the world beyond, West’s portrayal of the Caped Crusader was the first version of Batman they ever knew, and while the role chafed on him after a while, he eventually became reconciled to his unique situation:
Some years ago I made an agreement with Batman. There was a time when Batman really kept me from getting some pretty good roles, and I was asked to do what I figured were important features. However, Batman was there, and very few people would take a chance on me walking on to the screen. And they’d be taking people away from the story. So I decided that since so many people love Batman, I might as well love it too. Why not? So I began to reengage myself with Batman. And I saw the comedy. I saw the love people had for it, and I just embraced it.
In recent years, West was introduced to a new generation of fans through his recurring voice role as Mayor Adam West on Fox’s “Family Guy.” The self-parodying West was a regular on the show from 2000 through its most recent season. Seth MacFarlane posted this tribute:
DC in the 80s is a Webzine for the DC Comics Fans with an affinity for 80s comics. It’s fun, upbeat and engaging. Justin Francoeur and Mark Belkin keep the fan fires burning with wit and a great degree of nostalgic professionalism. I’m fascinated by the their endeavor, so I reached out to discuss it with them.
Ed Catto: Can you tell me a little bit about the site and how it came about?
Justin Francoeur: My formative years of comic book reading were during the early 80s to the early-to-mid 90s. Roughly six years ago, there wasn’t much on the Internet about DC Comics from the 80s (or it was scattered all over the place and not easy to find) so I decided to make a tumblr blog specifically spotlighting the house ads of that era. There were a lot of ‘buried gems’ in that time period and my goal was to identify them and discuss the interesting history behind them. It just started as a review site, really.
You can thank our executive editor, Mark Belkin, for the evolution of this site. It was his suggestion that DC in the 80s could be something more. With his help, it went from a tumblr blog to a website with reviews, articles and interviews. We chose a ‘zine interface to emulate the DIY aesthetic of the 1980s ‘zine culture – where anyone with a typewriter, a passion for something, and access to a Xerox machine could distribute an 8-page booklet to anyone willing to read it. Despite our commitment to journalistic integrity, this is still just a fun project for us – and we hope the DIY aesthetic of our site reminds people of that.
Mark Belkin: Justin invented it and ran it for a long time before I came along. I joined in about 2014, and Justin asked if I would post a few things. I did for a bit, but I did not get involved until later – 2015. Justin started to kick around the idea of me interviewing people and being more involved, and I felt inspired to do more. Now I feel I am a great #2 to Justin, and am really happy being a “full time” contributor. We click when it comes to making the site grow, and seem to do well working off each other.
EC: Why do you think there is so much interest in DC Comics from the 80s?
JF: To be candid with you, I think it had a lot to do with the New 52 DC relaunch of 2011. I think the radical reboot of a lot of DC characters had readers – mainly millennials – who still wanted to read about their favorite DC characters, re-visit their favorite comics they read growing up and it brought back a renewed interest in the 80s (and by extension, the early 90s) material. DC fans don’t disappear, if they’re not happy with what’s currently being published, they just re-read their favorite comics from their back-issue bin.
Additionally, there’s a bit of a retro 80s craze run-off that has drawn people to our site. Prime examples include VH1‘s I Love The ’80s, National Geographic‘s The 80s: The Decade That Made Us, as well as numerous radio stations and websites that are fixated on 80s nostalgia. Enough time has elapsed that it’s cool to look back and celebrate the 80s in an un-ironic way. Part of the original goal of this ‘zine is to tie-in what was happening in then-current 80s culture with what was happening in DC Comics of the 80s and create some links between the two. I always like it when a reader leaves the site learning something new. I also like it when a reader leaves a comment along the lines of “I totally remember that comic series! I’m going to go out and hunt it down again! Thanks!”
MB: DC Comics in the 1980s was a revolution in creativity. Because of the late 70s implosion and the almost sale of DC to Marvel in the early 80s, I believe that they were willing to take more chances. Paul Levitz, Karen Berger, Jenette Kahn, Dick Giordano, they took so many risks creatively and brought in amazing creators. They gave people chances to experiment, to kill off tested characters, to change everything around. I would have killed to be in those Len Wein/Marv Wolfman editorial meetings when they were planning Crisis and Who’s Who. From everything I read, it evolved organically and grew from them just doing it… and later bringing in British talent like Brian Bolland, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison. These are the most creative comic books creators of all time. What they did was change the world.
They also gave other talent a chance to take some pretty incredible changes. Sure, putting Frank Miller on a Dark Knight series makes sense – he had such buzz coming off his Daredevil and Ronin work – but it’s still ballsey. Robin being dead? Old man Batman? Letting Frank turn their number one property, Superman, into a tool for the Government, and openly mocking him? These stories are still some of the best of all time, and editorial deserves respect for letting it happen.
They let Keith Giffen go nuts on Legion of Super Heroes art and nuts on the comedy with Ambush Bug, and then let Keith and JM Dematteis experiment with Justice League. They brought in John Byrne to do what he wanted with Superman, pushed George Pérez onto Teen Titans, Mike Grell on Green Arrow, Timothy Truman on Hawkman. These are some of the best comics ever made, and these stories stand until this day.
My dream has always been to be an editor for DC Comics, and everything about what happened in the 1980s is what I would be absolutely honored and privileged to be a part of. Sorry, that turned into a thesis and/or cover letter. But long story short, the comics were dope, and they remain dope today.
EC: Back in the 70s, I remember the nostalgia craze for the 50s. Is something similar going on here?
JF: I honestly believe it’s a ‘generational’ thing. Growing up in the 80s I was still in elementary school and thus didn’t have much money to my name – thankfully, I had a huge long-box of then-current comic books my dad had been collecting for me, so I had a pretty healthy knowledge of what was going on. I always swore that someday I’d go back and revisit all of those issues I wanted to read. I’m thirty years older and now I have disposable income to spend, so this is a great time to catch up. We’d like to think that we’re here to help you find the hidden gems of that era.
MB: I feel that everything goes in 20-year cycles. The 70s had the 50s craze, which ran into the early 80s. The 80s had a 60’s thing that ran into the early 90s. The 70s into the 90s. Especially in music, fashion, and in art. If you think about the Silver Age, it was the Golden Age but updated. 60s updating the 40s. The 80’s Bronze Age updated the 60’s Silver Age. In the 2000’s, you saw the emergence of Identity, Infinite, and Final Crisis. Its 20 year cycles. Right now we are into the 90s, which I can’t speak to because I didn’t collect comics in the 90s. But even though we are nostalgic for the 80s, DC in the 1980s transcended the decade. Everything they did affected the 90s. Crisis, bwa hahaEra Justice League, Watchmen, Dark Knight. All those affected the 90s and are still affecting comic books today.
Also, I think, we live in an age where the Library of Alexandria is at our fingertips, and people know which stories to scout out and buy. This makes it where people are always discovering the work, and people have such fond memories of it.
EC: How does the DC fan of the 80s differ from the DC fans of today? Or are they the same?
JF: The DC fan of today is multi-faceted; there’s lots of different ways to become a DC Comics fan. Of course there’s still the “physical” comic book, but now there’s also console/computer games [i.e. DC Universe Online, Batman: Arkham Knight], the films [i.e. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad], the live-action TV shows [i.e. Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Gotham] and the cartoons [i.e. Batman: Brave and the Bold, Vixen, Young Justice]. It’s actually a really great time to be into DC Comics – there are lots of options available.
However, someone cosplaying as Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow will swear to you that they’re a major Green Arrow fan – and they’ll be absolutely correct – but will have never heard of Mike Grell’s The Longbow Hunters. This is one demographic of fans we’re trying to reach. They may never actually end up touching a comic book (being satisfied with the CW universe of the character), but if we can convert a few of them over to DC comic book fandom, that’s great.
On the other side, I’m finding that fans of the 80s material are generally not too keen on adapting to the more current media. They are less likely to be standing in line on opening night for Suicide Squad because “it’s not the Suicide Squad they grew up reading, but they’ll watch it when it inevitably comes to Netflix”. Coincidentally, these are also the really interesting fans to talk to – you can tell that DC Comics from that era really had a profound effect on them and they will happily tell you all about what it was like collecting the comics, playing the RPGs, watching the Superman films for the first time and their initial reactions to major DC comic moments like Crisis On Infinite Earths, John Byrne’s Superman relaunch, or Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One.
MB: I remember going to comic book shops from ‘85 until the summer of ‘89, when I stopped collected. I think the Marvel movie success has brought back the kids to shops and conventions. For a while, you never saw kids going into comic book stories. When I was a kid, I saw a lot of adults, but they were considered “childish” or immature for liking comic books. I could feel their stigma. Nowadays there is still a stigma, but it’s different.
Another difference is there are a lot more ‘in the know’ fans then back then. I remember there was the guy who would read Amazing Heroes and/or The Comics Journal and knew so much more than we did. In fact, knowing too much is what killed comic book collecting for me in 1989. Someone told me about an interview with Rick Veitch, and how he was not allowed to do the Swamp Thing #88 the way he wanted, and was off the book. It killed everything for me. If I had never known that, and all I simply knew was that he was no longer doing the book for whatever reason, I may have stayed collecting. And maybe that’s something today? Too many people know too much about how the sausage is made and it translates into people dropping the hobby. Could be the price too. Comics seem to be doing ok now, so maybe people are coming back.
We review a lot of new material, because we want the fans of the 80s to know there’s a lot of great new stuff that DC is doing. I love the Rebirth stuff, and I’m excited for the new Doom Patrol. We try to break through the stereotype of “everything new sucks,” because I don’t believe that. There is always good new music, art, movies, and there are definitely good new comics. I just read All Star Batman #1, and was really excited to see where Snyder and Romita Jr would be taking the story. In my opinion, Tom King, Gail Simone, Jeff Lemire recently, and some others, have done some of my favorite comics books in decades.
EC: It seems like there’s a lot of 80s cosplayers and customizers out there. Why do you think that is?
JF: Mark is typically on the front lines at the comic conventions interviewing creators and taking photos of cosplayers. I tend to be more of the ‘Oracle’ to his ‘Batman’ (filling out the paperwork, researching for interviews, managing the e-mails and social media accounts), so I don’t get much opportunity to talk to cosplayers. The ones I have chatted with are doing it for the pure love of the character. I feel that anybody who’s willing to parade around wearing silver body-paint for the afternoon to look like Captain Atom is worthy of being called a DC fan.
I think the customizers (I’m assuming you’re referring to ‘action figure customizers’) are really just trying to fill a void – a lot of cult-favorite 80s DC characters were never immortalized as action figures [i.e. Infinity Inc., All-Star Squadron, L.E.G.I.O.N.] and this is their chance to rectify that. The Kenner Super Powers Collection were some of my favorite 80s toys growing up (I suspect that’s the case with a lot of our readers) and I could only imagine what would’ve opened up for me had the toy line lasted more than 3 waves.
MB: People like dressing up and making things their own. Not in a bad way, but we live in a very “Look at me” generation, where people are constantly one-upping themselves on social media. Not a bad thing at all. I also think it goes back to people knowing about more characters, and being able to get resources (‘How-to’ videos on YouTube, any materials you may need on Amazon) to make great costumes and action figures. I actually really enjoy collecting DC action figures, and would like to customize a few I’ve never found.
EC: Have you had any surprises from your fans? I’m curious how predictable or unpredictable 80’s DC fans are.
MB: Justin is much better to speak on this. He answers the emails and tweets. I’m too busy caring about myself.
JF: The fans I’ve encountered have always been polite, knowledgeable and eager to share memories with us. Something that always seems to catch me off guard, however, and I’m not sure if this is just limited to fans of comics from the 80s or all comic book fandom in general, is how much venom and vitriol is directed towards the whole “Marvel comics films vs. DC Comics films” debate. It’s not like you need to choose sides; this isn’t the Spanish Civil War. You can appreciate both companies for what they are. Calling ourselves “DC in the 80s” is a bit of a misnomer, since we’re not “DC or nothing” fanboys. A lot of great work came out of Marvel, DC, Eclipse, First, Pacific, Renegade Press, Fantagraphics, Kitchen Sink Press and Dark Horse during the 80s and we recognize and acknowledge that.
MB: I loved DC, but I also loved Grendel and Elementals in the 80s. Almost as much as anything. But DC is my favorite. I might be categorized under the “Make Mine DC” crowd, even if I own 200 issues of X-Men.
EC: What’s your favorite series from the 80s? What are your favorite series now?
JF: At the risk of sounding cliché, I’m still discovering new 80s favorites on a monthly basis as I’m re-reading older DC material for what seems like the first time. If I had to narrow it down to just one, I’d go with Grant Morrison’s run on 1988’s Animal Man ongoing series. Those 26 issues really changed the way I looked at comics. I actually discovered it a bit later in life – during my early college years. I remember reading the TPB off the rack at my local Chapters and I was so impressed by it that I returned the next day to purchase it (and the following two volumes). It’s been sitting on my bookshelf ever since.
Currently, the DC material I am most excited for is Gerard Way’s Young Animal imprint. I’ve flipped through the ashcan and am thoroughly impressed. I’m really hoping that a new batch of talent can re-spark that ol’ Vertigo magic that really made DC stand out over everything else on the market in the late 80s/early 90s. The first few issues have been released yesterday and as of this writing I’m actively trying to avoid comic book review sites (and spoilers) until I can pick up the issues myself and read them with a blank slate.
MB: Other than everything Alan Moore did, I have three special series:
The Rick Veitch run on Swamp Thing. So criminally underrated and I want nothing more than convince Dan Didio and Jim Lee to publish #88. It was so twisted, so dark yet funny, so smart. I loved Veitch, and I will have an interview with him that I got in Baltimore, probably in the next few weeks.
Doom Patrol with Grant Morrison, Richard Case, with lettering by John Workman. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Case and Mr. Workman recently, and am working on a story based on that run. I think there is such an amazing artistic spiritual undertone to that run. Especially the Painting That Ate Paris with the Brotherhood of Dada. I feel I could teach a course on that run, and still not be able to convey how groundbreaking it was. As Justin said, that Animal Man run is up there, but Morrison’s Doom Patrol run was magical for me.
The Question by Dennis O Neil and Denys Cowan. Everything about this made Question my favorite all time character. It was surreal, intelligent, real and violent. It spoke to me as someone growing up in Brooklyn and discovering philosophy, and violence in the streets.