Tagged: Denys Cowan

MIKE GOLD: X-Ray Specs

Reading Michael Davis’s last two columns brings to mind a story; a story about glasses.

I can’t tell you the exact year, but it was around 1990. We were in Chicago (go figure) at the late, lamented Chicago Comicon, since subsumed by Wizard World. By “we” I am referring to Messrs Davis, Cowan, Ostrander, Grell, and my former wife Ann DeLarye. Ann had to get back to New York on business and, therefore, I had to drive her to the airport nearby. It was late at night. Very late. The time of night when only Richard Belzer would wear sunglasses.

Since Michael and Denys and I had late night things to do – probably involving Ostrander and Grell because, as you inferred from Michael’s column yesterday, we often hung out together at conventions, certainly at Chicago shows where Ostrander and I, and to a slightly lesser extent Grell, knew the city like the back of our usually typing hands. In the door pocket of my car (yes, whenever possible I drive everywhere east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon Line) was a pair of wraparound shades. Sort of like the type Cyclops would wear if he didn’t mind melting the plastic. I was blessed with great peripheral vision and on long highway drives sometimes it’s helpful for me to wear them to minimize the blinding sun coming across the open fields along the highway. This isn’t as much of a problem today as I’m almost completely blind and I’ll probably run you over no matter which direction the sunlight comes from.

However, at that time there was only one logical reason for me to don wraparound shades at 11:30 at night: I wanted to mindfuck Davis and Cowan. So, on my head they went.


MICHAEL DAVIS: Who To Blame, Part 2

Please take a look at last week’s installment before continuing on…

As I said, I’ve had a very interesting career in comics.

Denys Cowan and I were biding time until the premier of Mike Grell’s Jon Sable series on television. I’d been invited to watch it in Mike Grell’s hotel room and I invited Denys.

We were wandering around the 1987 Mid Ohio Con and I was on Cloud 9 thanks to John Ostrander, who issued the invite. While Denys was looking at comics at a retailer booth I moseyed over to a creator’s booth. As I mentioned before I talk to everyone and the thought of looking at someone’s work while they stand there and watch me look at their work is just crazy to me.

So, being me, I started asking questions about the copies of what looked like a quickly Xeroxed and even more quickly stapled comic book. One of my pet peeves is presentation. I don’t care how good an artist you are if the presentation of your work sucks I simply don’t want to look at it.

Hey, I don’t care how good a chef is in the kitchen or how good the food is, if I see a roach I’m not eating in the restaurant. I mean who the Hell wants a haircut from a barber who’s own hair is a mess?

Not me my friend, not me.

The book I was gazing at looked homemade – but – the two guys behind the table were cool as shit and the comic was the most original thing I had ever seen in comics before.

The artist and writer I was talking too were Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird and the book was Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles.

I know, how freakin’ cool was that?

And that is why I talk to everyone.


MICHAEL DAVIS: Who To Blame… Part 1

I’ve had a very interesting career in comics.

I’ve done some pretty interesting things in my career. Co-founded Milestone Media, created The Action Files, the only line of comics taught as a curriculum in the school system and created another universe, The Guardian Line, for African-American churches and Christian book stores.

When DC comics launched Piranha Press in 1987 I was the artist chosen to illustrate the first series for the line. The Black Panel, a comics and entertainment forum I started over a decade ago, is now in development as a TV show as is The Littlest Bitch (TLB) a book I co-wrote with David Quinn.

David and I first conceived TLB as a graphic novel on the New Jersey turnpike almost 20 years ago. We were driving home from The Kubert School where I was teaching a master illustration class and David was my guest speaker that day.

Speaking of TV, Static Shock, based on the character I co-created, can still be seen on a Disney channel, which cracks me up because Disney turned it down quick, fast and in a hurry when we pitched it there 10 years ago.

I’ve done some other pretty note worthy things (I think) in comics but I’m most proud of my mentor program. Some of the biggest names in comics have come through my program. I won’t bore you with the names but I will say that because of my self-funded mentor program I have four city proclamations and a school auditorium named in my honor.

I’ve also managed to carve out a bad boy type of reputation in the industry. That reputation has many origins, depending on whom you get the story from but that story is for another time. I will tell you this: when it comes to getting that bad boy rep, I have no one to blame but myself.

I don’t tell you some of what I’ve accomplished in comics to impress you but rather to impress upon you that is there is plenty of blame and help to go around and there lies within a tale, which just may help someone who’s trying to break in now. Sooo…

In 1987 I was offered and was right about to accept a position overseeing the art department at a very prestigious prep school. This was a dream job. They were going to pay me a fat salary, give me an on-campus apartment as part of my compensation package and all my meals were free. The only thing I had to pay for was my phone bill as there was also a clothing stipend.

That was a dream job, so why didn’t I take it? Those of you who hate me are thinking ‘Oh why, oh why, did that loud mouth mofo not take that job?’

In fact, I was going to take it. I had started packing my bags when Denys Cowan talked me into going to the Mid-Ohio con with him. As fate would have it I went to the Mid-Ohio Con to attend a very small but very cool comics convention.

It was clear when we got there, Denys knew everyone and everyone knew Denys. I did not know a soul there. Denys would often leave me alone to go and talk to some one, which left me to wander aimlessly around the convention. It was during one of these aimless walks that I met John Ostrander.

Wait a sec-before I go on I should let you know that I was (still am) a comic’s geek. Although I had a very good career going as an illustrator it was my dream to somehow work in comics.

John and I hit it off very well and before I knew it he was inviting me to Mike Grell’s room to watch the Sable pilot. I thought I had died and gone to Comic Book Heaven. I adored Mike Grell’s work. At the time he was my favorite artist on the planet! Later when Denys arrived I causally mention that I was going to Mike Grell’s room to watch the premier of his new TV show.

The look on Denys’ face was priceless. It said “how the hell did you manage that?” We still had some time (I told Denys he could come as my guest; you should have seen that look) so we decided to browse the convention floor.

If you know me, you are well aware I talk to everyone. I mean everyone. I’m just wired that way. Standing at an artist’s table looking at their work without uttering a sound is just freakin crazy to me.

Little did I know the two guys I was now chatting with would go on to change the industry in a huge way!

End of part 1.


MICHAEL DAVIS: My Secret Origin

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I know this is pretty damn sappy.

That’s OK. Sap is the new black.


MICHAEL DAVIS: The Great Pretenders

For over a decade I’ve been hosting The Black Panel at various venues around the country. The panel has its roots in the Milestone Media panels I once hosted at different comic book conventions in the nineties. I created The Black Panel as a forum to discuss African American pop culture from the inside with the aim of helping more people get inside.

The Black Panel is, I’m proud to say, a mainstay at the San Diego Comic Con International. A reviewer recently called it a “Comic Con institution.”

High praise indeed and I was felling pretty good about the panel after yet another standing room only presentation this past year. However, after a recent conversation with Denys Cowan, I’m asking myself some pretty serious questions. Full discloser: Denys is not only one of the greatest and most original artists to ever work in comics, he’s also my best friend. He also worships Satan and has a $ 10,000.00 a day crack habit.

No, no he doesn’t, but Denys never reads my columns so I can pretty much write what I want, like this, Denys beat up a 10 year-old girl who made the mistake of calling him “Michael Davis” at Comic Con last year.

Again, I joke, I kid! She was 7.

Denys and I were talking about the future of the panel. We got on the subject of who appears on the panel. Denys made a remark that made me think, has the panel featured some guests who could care less about the comic medium but have used the panel simply to promote their current projects?

In other word, pretenders.

Here’s a link to the Black Panel’s Alumni. To this list you can add Peter David, Derrick Dingle and Keith Knight and Phil Lamar. You will notice quite a few entertainment superstars on the list. To be fair to me, my mission statement for the panel is black entertainment, which includes but is not limited to comics and animation.

I stared thinking maybe I have had some pretenders on the panel.

I’m nothing if not honest with myself and if I’m wrong I’ll say so. Just today I posted results from a Gallup Poll on my Facebook page that clearly showed that some of my opinions about the Tea Party were wrong.

I took a long look at the guests I’ve had over the years and lo and behold there may be one that the pretender labels fits. No. I’m not going to name him or her. If it’s a black woman, I might get bitch slapped. If it’s a rapper, I might get shot. By all means if you guys want to play “Who’s the pretender,” have at it.

My name is Bennett, I ain’t in it.

The perhaps they are perhaps they are not pretender for my panel is not the focus of this article. Pretenders in the comics industry are.

I’ve met quite a few over the years and usually it’s someone or some company with an high profile and some bucks who thinks that a comic book project from them is just what the world is looking for. More often than not little if any respect has been paid to the way the comic book industry operates and even less respect to the history.

I was approached some years back from a major music mogul to help him create a comic book line that would feature some of his label’s artists. I told him as a promotional item I thought it would work, as a retail item not so much. He did not want to hear that.

Frankly, what mega rich music producer wants to hear that the music business and the comic book business cannot be approached the same way? I mean, the music industry. That’s a real business not like comics, which is more like a hobby until Hollywood decides to take pity and make a movie out of one of those silly characters.

The mogul decided to get a family member to run the line. I was proving to be too much trouble with my depressing and unimportant comments on silly subjects like distribution, marketing, talent and retailers. His choice from the family had been reading comics all his life. That makes him the perfect choice to create and produce a comic book line.

A year, maybe two later I saw an ad somewhere announcing the line. From what I understand the books never saw the inside of a comic book store.

The ad sucked as well.

On a few occasions I’ve had agents of big name Hollywood action stars send me an idea from or about said star. Most of the time the idea features the actor as some sort of hero in the comic. All of the time the idea sucks. When you tell an agent of a big star that their client has little or no juice in the comics industry they feel pity towards you because of your obvious mental illness.

As far as those who think they can make a quick buck in comics, surprisingly that does not bother me. This is America. Where would we be without those who were just in it for the quick buck? Those who get into the business and have the sense to appreciate the expertise of comics I welcome.

What does bother me are those who get into the business and have no respect, not only for what has come before but make no effort to know, learn or enhance the craft. That bugs the shit out of me.

Anyone else?


McDuffie Memento Mori

Dwayne McDuffie Milestone Funeral

We’ve found more things to point to in the wake of the passing of Dwayne McDuffie. First, we have the artwork above by James Mason on Dwayne’s passing. And Michael Davis, Dwayne’s co-founder of Milestone Media, presents what may be the last photo of the Milestone creative founders from the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con. From left to right: Denys Cowan, Dwayne McDuffie, Michael Davis.

Michael also writes about Dwayne:

‘Motherfucker’ was part of the way I used to describe Dwayne. The full description was, Dwayne McDuffie is the smartest motherfucker I’ve ever met.

I’m a smart guy, I’ve been to Ivy League schools and I have a PhD. Dwayne could destroy me without breaking a sweat on any subject.

ANY subject.

How in the world can we go on?

I mean it.

A world without that smartass motherfucker is a world I do not want to think about.  Denys Cowan told me that there is now a giant, GIANT hole in the industry not to mention the hole in our hearts, which we both mentioned because as badass as we act, we are really pussies.

How do we go on?

My best guess is we go on by honoring Dwayne for what he was, a fantastic writer a great friend and one badass motherfucker.

Dwayne McDuffie

Dwayne McDuffie: 1962-2011

Dwayne McDuffieNoted comics and animation writer Dwayne McDuffie died Monday evening, reportedly from complications due to a surgical procedure.

Dwayne joined the comics industry in the 80s working for Marvel Comics editorial and special projects. He quickly made his name as a writer creating series such as Damage Control, helping to redefine Deathlok for the nineties, and having She-Hulk break razors while trying to shave her legs– a throwaway gag which became notorious. He soon left the staff job to become a full-time freelance writer.

This led to Dwayne’s co-founding of Milestone Media in 1992, with creators Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and businessman Derek T. Dingle, which expanded the role of minorities in comics both on the page and off, launching a line of comics in 1993 that included Hardware, Blood Syndicate, Static, Icon, Kobalt, Xombi, and the Shadow Cabinet, all of which McDuffie had a hand in creating or co-creating.

Dwayne moved to animation when Static was turned into Static Shock for KidsWB, which led to becoming story editor for the Justice League Unlimited, Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien animated series and writing a number of DC’s recent direct-to-DVD animated projects– his latest work was the script for the All-Star Superman animated adaptation, which went on sale today.

He wrote damn fine comics, most recently on Justice League of America, Fantastic Four, and Firestorm. He was a giant in just about every aspect you care to mention, including size.

Dwayne was a major talent and will be greatly missed.

UPDATES: Apparently Dwayne’s death was due to a heart issue. More details as we get them.

And Heidi found this great interview with Dwayne, to show you a bit of what he was like:


UPDATE 6:40 EST: AP now has the first obit.

ComicMix Quick Picks – February 10, 2009

ComicMix Quick Picks – February 10, 2009

A collection of news items that have come in over the last few days while we’ve been recovering from NYCC.

  • KC Carlson is also recovering, but from a mini-stroke instead of con crud. Get well soon, big guy.
  • Brett Ratner directing Youngblood, according to Variety. So if you love what he did with X-Men 3… and Rob Liefeld continues one heck of a lucky streak.
  • Denys Cowan alerted me to the existence of a Black Panther trailer for the BET series this summer, but for some reason Marvel didn’t make it embeddable. Because, I presume, they don’t want to let people share and promote it. Way to go, Marvel. Go follow the link.
  • Rich Johnston for the win:
    Daniel Dae Kim, better known as Jin off of “Lost”, also attending the New York Comic Convention this weekend, in his capacity of being in “Lost,” “24,” “Enterprise,” “Angel,” “Hulk,” “Crusade” and all that. But he also wanted to walk around the show, buy comics, meet creators etc, without getting mobbed. So someone found him a “V For Vendetta” mask, letting Daniel walk around untouched for hours.
    As I start looking through all my photos…
  • And finally, Spider-Man cake wrecks. (Hat tip: Lisa Sullivan.)

Anything else we missed? Consider this an open thread.

Smoke Gets In Your Brain, by Dennis O’Neil

Smoke Gets In Your Brain, by Dennis O’Neil


Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette / Puff, puff, puff until you smoke yourself to death. / Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate / That you hate to make him wait, / but you just gotta have another cigarette. – Merle Travis 

I was getting ready to leave the office and walk over to NBC, where I planned to tape a reply to someone who had accused Batman of being in league with the Big Tobacco. It seems that in one panel Batman is standing on a roof, and in the background, on another roof, there was a billboard with a fragment of what might have been a cigarette ad visible. Our accuser said that putting Batman proximate to a cigarette image amounted to Batman – and his creators – endorsing tobacco products and advocating their use to children.

Well, no. Had I kept my rendezvous with the microphones and cameras, I would have probably observed that we agreed that smoking was bad and none of our characters ever actually smoked – Bruce Wayne abandoned his pipe early in his career – and, in fact, we had just done a pro bono anti-smoking ad for the American Heart Association. I might have taken my screed just a bit further and argued that we had always presented Batman’s turf as a realistic American city and – sorry! – urban areas are full of cigarette ads.

I didn’t have to do any of that. At the last moment, cooler heads prevailed and said that if I went on the air, our accuser would answer my answer and prolong the story’s life, whereas if we simply ignored it, the story would not survive into the next news cycle, which is exactly what happened.

One might ask why I allowed the billboard to appear in the first place. For the sake of realism? Or did I just miss it when I edited the artwork? Or did I see it and decide it wasn’t worth the hassle of a change? Humbling answer to all of the above: I don’t remember.

But this pretty inconsequential incident does raise another question: Where do the obligations of good citizenship and moral behavior end and the obligations to storytelling begin? Some kinds of people smoke and drink and take drugs and they’re not all hideous monsters, and some kids are influenced by what they experience through the media. I’ve heard recovering alcoholics say that the movie images of glamorous, witty sophisticates swilling booze prompted them to emulate the swillers and led, eventually, to badly damaged lives. But people do drink, and in a fictional world that mirrors the real one, shouldn’t drinkers – and smokers and druggies – be presented? Or does the potential harm of these behaviors outweigh aesthetic and narrative considerations?

I don’t know.

Sometimes, the coexistence of storytelling and responsible citizenship is painfully troubled, and sometimes I’m glad I no longer sit in an editor’s chair.

RECOMMENDED READING: The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World, By Matthew Stewart. 

Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and The Shadow– among others – as well as many novels, stories and articles. The Question: Epitaph For A Hero, reprinting the third six issues of his classic series with artists Denys Cowan and Rick Magyar, will be on sale any minute now, and his novelization of the movie The Dark Knight is on sale right now. He’ll be taking another shot at the ol’ Bat in an upcoming story-arc, too.  

Artwork by Kim Roberson, from Underworld

Is Hillary Clinton Really The Thing? By Dennis O’Neil

Is Hillary Clinton Really The Thing? By Dennis O’Neil

I never talked to either Jack Kirby or Stan Lee about politics, so I don’t really have any idea where they stood on the subject. My guess would be that following their political spoor wouldn’t take you very far west and that they didn’t have much sympathy for the hippie-rebels of the 60s (and here allow me to blush and hide my face). After all, they and their parents (and my parents) fought for a place in the American mainstream because, finally, acceptance meant an increased chance of survival and for those outside the tribe, who suffered the Great Depression, not surviving seemed to be a real possibility. Then here came the snotty kids with their tie-dye and their girly haircuts and their wiseass slogans saying that a place in the tribe was not worth struggling for – in fact, the tribe itself was stinking of corruption.

Both generations were, in their own way, right; both had a piece of the truth.

Stan and Jack were – are – of the first of the two generations and so they were – are – probably politically a bit to the right of me and maybe you (and my parent and most of my siblings.) But events of the past week make me guess that their greatest creations were liberals. I refer to the Fantastic Four who, along with Spider-Man co-launched Marvel Comics, as one or two of you might have heard. True FF aficionados know, and perhaps relish, the tendency of the members of this supergroup to squabble among themselves. Two of the four, The Human Torch and The Thing, seem particularly apt to indulge in petty argumentation.

Remind you of any particular political group?

Yeah, right. Liberals. Witness the recent news: Ms. Hillary Clinton’s die-hard supporters are threatening to vote for John McCain, the Republican candidate, unless Ms. Clinton’s presidential aspirations are accorded full acknowledgement at the Democratic convention, which will be soaking up media time in about two weeks. This despite the fact that Ms. Clinton has already lost the nomination to Barack Obama, whose crew must be thinking harsh and uncharitable thoughts about the Clintonites.