Tagged: Emily S. Whitten

Marc Alan Fishman: The Top Five Best and Worst Of 2012

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, my ComicMixers! I hope you all had a merry Christmas, a sassy Chanukah, and grumpy Festivus if you were so inclined. So, with Father Time about to hit the retcon button on our daily calendars… I thought it would be apropos to reflect a bit on those amazing and terrible things that made my year. Please note: this isn’t ALL about comic books; you’ve been warned.

Because I like to start on a dour note… here’s The Worst!

5. Avengers Vs. X-Men Vs. My Sanity: Simply put, this stands up as yet-another-example of what makes me hate the mainstream comics business. No matter how many times they lather us up with “we’ve got the best talent on this”, “this will change everything”, and “you won’t believe what happens!”, they always end up the same. Bloated, predictable, and unending. Every Marvel event since the dawn of Brian Michael Bendis has finished up in deeper doo-doo than when they began. His boner for “shades of grey” is unnerving. We get it; making our favorite characters wail on one another is why we buy comics. But, hey… guess what? It isn’t. I’d much prefer a well thought out story that ends instead of a non-stop soap opera.

4. The 2012 Election: Not the result, mind you, but the unending nature of it all. For what felt like nearly the entire year, we were privy to 24 hours a day coverage of not only our POTUS but everyone vying for his seat. It brought out the worst in the candidates and the politically charged masses along for the ride. In the worst case, certain louder-than-usual politico-creators became so unnerving I was forced to hide them from my feeds. First world problems? You bet. But no less annoying on my life and times this year.

3. Wizard World Conventions: The movie definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So Wizard World changes the guard on high. They attempt to make sweeping changes on the floors of their traveling circus, making D-List celebs the premier attraction. They continue to maintain the second highest per-show cost for visiting artists. In short? They continue to drive away the very thing that started them out so very long ago: comics and the people who make them. While my li’l studio always sells well at these abominations… rarely are we joined in celebration at the end of the cons. Hence, my finger of shame this year.

2. Green Lantern: Another finger of shame… a ring finger! Geoff Johns has taken Grant Morrison’s Five-Year Plan model and Michael Bay’ed it to death. As I’ve been forced to note several times this year, the continual event fatigue on the entire line –which shouldn’t even be a line – is too much to bear. And while the majority of 2012 was spent with Sinestro and his gal Friday Jordan traipsing around the universe righting wrongs… this Rise of the Third Army is the emerald icing on a sheet cake of excess. Too many McGuffins, too many predictable plots, and a brand-new Lantern who thus far is more a caricature of “not-a-terrorist” than a fleshed-out legacy ring-slinger. One I’ll happily predict will last in prominence half as long as the last not-ready-for-prime-time-player, Kyle “Costume Change” Rayner.

1. Comics News Coverage: Well it finally caught up to us too, didn’t it? CNN begat CNN, and from them spawned the 24-hour news cycle that has extended to comics. Between Newsarama, Bleeding Cool, Comic Book Resources, and others (hold your tongue for a second, please) all looking for an audience… We’re left scouring trash-bins and date books in order to report anything about our beloved industry. I waive the white flag. And now to those who think I hold this very site on the fire? Nay. ComicMix is about writers expressing their opinions, and that’s enough for me to remove us from said blaze. Simply put, the news is important, but the environment we’ve built to report and sustain it is sickening. Marvel, DC, and the like can’t sneeze without us finding out about it… and then creating a backlash over it before the press releases have hit an inbox. Enough is ‘nuff said.

And now… The Best:

5. The Dark Knight Rises: Three cheers for Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus. Yeah, I know… The Avengers was more fun. But it wasn’t close to TDKR’s level of sophistication. Neither movie was flawless, but Batman kept me on the edge of my seat pretty much the whole way through. The depiction of Bane was as good as it will ever be – menacing, big picture villainous thinking, and an actual brain amidst the brawn. But Bane wasn’t what made the movie. Bale’s Wayne was nuanced, angsty without being annoying, and above all else… visibly human. Nolan, in spite of Frank Miller and Grant Morrison showed that you don’t have to depict the God-Damned Batman to show the world a fantastic caped-crusader. Add in a brilliant turn for Selina Kyle, and it added up to one of my favorite flicks of the year. I would have put Django Unchained in this spot, but I haven’t seen it yet.

4. Marvel Now: If you read my reviews over at Michael Davis World (and I know you do…), then you’d know just how much I’m loving the House of Mouse these days. Fantastic Four / FF is proving thus far to balance the whimsy the series used to be known for with mature overtones. Iron Man, while nowhere near as good as Fraction’s run, is still entertaining. Superior Spider-Man has me legitimately interested in the wall-crawler again. Mike Gold has tried several times to recommend Captain America to me. My Unshaven Cohort is reading an X-Men book for the first time ever. And Avengers? Epic as I’d ever want it to be. Marvel looked at DC’s retcon-reboot-whatever, and opted instead to play it safe. Frankly, it’s proven to me that it was the right thing to do. Sales spikes or not. By choosing not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, Marvel is stealing me away one book at a time

3. The Baltimore Comic-Con: Unshaven Comics took the 13-hour drive to the East Coast, and boy howdy was it ever worth it. We sold an incredible amount of books. We rubbed elbows with industry giants at the Harvey Awards. We got to hand our book to Phil LaMarr. We had dinner with Mark Wheatley, Marc Hempel, Glenn Hauman, and Emily Whitten. And at that dinner? We had crab cakes as big as softballs. Frankly? It was a weekend of a lifetime. Such that we’ve already registered and purchased our table for 2013. It’s the most comic-book-centered convention we’ve been privy too. Charm City? Color me charmed.

2. Unshaven Comics’ Sales: Hate to get all self-promotional here, but screw it. Unshaven Comics had a simple goal. With no distribution, no investors, and nothing more than our blood-sweat-n-tears… we wanted to sell 1000 books over the course of a year. After attending a dozen shows, and doing our best work ever? We sold 1406. We made amazing connections, saw fans actually seek us out at shows, and gained over 300 Facebook fans without purchasing an ad or doing anything more than hustle. By hook or crook, we’re making the smallest impact known to man on the comic book industry. But I’ll be damned—it may actually be working. All it’s done is fuel our fire for 2013. 1,667 books moved next year will mean we see the shores of San Diego in 2014. Beards on.

1. Bennett Reed Fishman: Simply put, no other moment, comic book or otherwise, is worth a hill of beans in my world. On January 27th, 2012, I became a father. Ever since, every single thing I’ve done has been for the betterment of his life. Having been an ego-centered bearded ne’er-do-well for far too long, suddenly became moot. In his eyes and smile, the world around me means nothing. And when at 5:30 every day he stops whatever he’s doing, and smiles ear to ear when Batman: The Animated Series comes on? It tells me this kid is my kid. And my worldview is 100% different. Sorry, comics. You never stood a chance.

Happy New Year to all of you who read my articles week in and week out. May 2013 prove to be a safe, prosperous, and amazing year for you all.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Emily S. Whitten: The Hobbit – There Again, But Not Back Just Yet…

I’m sure it will shock no one to learn that I went to see the midnight showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last Thursday. And despite being a tad bit (okay a lot bit) tired at work the next day, it was great fun. I don’t do that many midnight showings (seeing as how many of them land on weekdays) but when I do, I definitely experience that extra little thrill of being amongst the first to see something new, and of sitting in a movie theater with a bunch of friends in the wee small hours when by all rights, we should all be in bed.

Along with the general excitement of it all, I’ve been looking forward to seeing The Hobbit movie for seemingly forever now, ever since it was first announced (and even after they announced that it would now be three movies (!!)). I first read the novel in fourth grade English, where it was one of our assigned reading books. Looking back, I’m pretty impressed that our teacher managed to inject it into the curriculum. At the time, I vaguely recall having the feeling, in that childhood my-spider-sense-is-tingling way of feeling adult tension in the air, that this was some sort of tiny act of rebellion on her part against the mostly very sensible curriculum of books we were reading (many of which were also great, although whoever decided to include Dear Mr. Henshaw will not be getting my thanks anytime soon. Yawn). But my English teacher, bless her, decided that reading a fantasy adventure story, and a probably challenging one for that age group, was an important part of our childhood development; and so it was.

Many moons later, the story – in which the hobbit Bilbo Baggins joins the wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves in a quest to reclaim the dwarves’ homeland – is just as fun and full of adventure as it was then; but how does it translate to the big screen? Lucky for us, Peter Jackson has endeavored to find out. Jackson is, if you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, the mastermind behind The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, one of the most amazing and epic motion picture trilogies of all time (as well as the highest grossing worldwide). That trilogy, especially in the extended edition, is both a spectacular adaptation of Tolkien’s story, and a moving and cohesive collection in its own right. It’s also a serious and dark story, and despite the warmth and occasional humor of the character interactions, pretty intense from start to finish. The Hobbit is a slightly different kettle of fish.

Tolkien wrote The Hobbit first, and as more of a children’s story; whereas by the time he penned The Lord of the Rings, he had developed both his world and his style into something more epic and cohesive than his original idea (and, in fact, as he wrote LoTR he went back and added bits to The Hobbit that tied the two together more closely). The story does get darker as it progresses (about when the dwarves arrive in Laketown), but overall, it is still lighter, and smaller in scope, than the trilogy.

(Warning: Possible Movie Spoilers Ahead, although it’s not like most of you don’t know the story already.)

The movie follows the book in that sense. While there is plenty of action and danger, I found myself smiling or laughing a surprising number of times throughout the first act of The Hobbit (i.e. An Unexpected Journey, which is all we shall see of the story until December of next year, when part two of three comes out). In part, that’s thanks to Martin Freeman, who has wonderful comic timing and does an excellent job as the younger Bilbo, who is by times amusingly befuddled or subtly, wryly humorous. There is also a fair bit of humor in some of the dwarf characters and in Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, who is a slightly more whimsical and mischievous wizard than the one we see in Lord of the Rings.

Some of the humor, however, comes from very enjoyable scenes that would not fit snugly in Lord of the Rings but seem perfectly at home here – scenes such as the dwarves “cleaning up” after their party at Bilbo’s house, haphazardly flinging and bouncing Bilbo’s mother’s best china hither and yon throughout the hobbit-hole while Bilbo looks on in distracted despair before walking into the next room and discovering it’s all now neatly stacked away. This scene also gives viewers an important sense of the personality imbued by the dwarves of The Hobbit, which is pretty helpful considering it’s a bit hard to remember which dwarf is which: thirteen is a fair number of small bearded main characters to keep track of.

Another humorous scene I still remember as one of my favorites from my first childhood reading is the one in which Bilbo endeavors to trick a trio of mountain trolls out of eating the whole company; and a fair bit of time and humor is devoted to that scene in the movie, much to my delight. These scenes work wonderfully within the whole. And yet, as my friends and I left the theater, a few of them complained that in places the movie is a bit hokey… and I didn’t disagree. From the best fun scenes, through the more obvious gags that are still funny (such as Bilbo insisting the whole company must go all the way back to Bag End because he forgot his handkerchief, and then one of the dwarves helpfully flinging him a dirty old piece of cloth to use instead), the movie does arrive at a few scenes that are wince-worthy.

The most notable of these is the one with Goblin King. He is fascinatingly grotesque in appearance, and his appearance comes at a dire time for the dwarves, who have been captured and are being held deep underground by what seems like thousands of goblins. The Goblin King is threatening to (and then does) alert the Dwarf King Thorin’s mightiest living enemy, the orc leader Azog, who is on the hunt for Thorin, that the goblins now have him. Logically, it should be a serious moment in the movie. And yet the Goblin King’s demeanor is comical (and not in a good way) and his threats, issued with laughter, are anticlimactically not very menacing at all. (Threats issued with laughter can be super menacing. A good evil laugh can actually make threats more menacing. In the case of the Goblin King, this…is not the case.) Even the bit where he tells another goblin to send word to Azog is off-kilter, with the secretary goblin being a weirdly stunted specimen who apparently gets around the goblin caverns on a zip-line.

This scene and a very few others in the movie are jarring; however, as a whole, the movie is thoroughly enjoyable. Despite the weirdness of the Goblin King, almost without exception the rest of the characters (and actors) are wonderful; and the visuals are just as stunning as those in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And there are some fantastic scenes as well. These include the delightful opening of the movie, which ties The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings by having the elderly Bilbo, in the midst of preparations for his 111th birthday party, writing the narrative and chatting with Frodo (hooray, Elijah Wood cameo!). They also include the scene in which Bilbo and Gollum are having a contest of riddles, all alone in the darkest tunnels of the goblin realm, which was one of the darkest and most ominous scenes, and wouldn’t have been out of place with the tone of The Lord of the Rings.

Overall, despite the dwarves’ very serious quest, this movie feels less serious of purpose than The Lord of the Rings; but that is something I attribute to the original book, rather than the movie’s production. Just as Jackson tried to be faithful to the tone and sense of the trilogy, here he has been faithful to the source material, and I think remembering that as you go in to see the movie (or in thinking of it afterwards) contributes to the enjoyment of it. Going in with the expectation of seeing another Lord of the Rings might leave you feeling surprised, as I was, at the differing tone of this movie; but going in with the mindset that this is an adventure, a romp, and a fun journey will leave you feeling satisfied with the end result. And, of course, it’s important to remember that this is only part one. I suspect that through the second movie and by the end of part three, the tone will shift, as the book’s did, until it arrives in the territory of Lord of the Rings and leaves us with a fairly consistent six movie collection. I personally can’t wait to see what comes next.

Until next time, Servo Lectio!




Mindy Newell: Why?

One of my favorite episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is Season 2’s “Lie to Me” in which a friend of Buffy’s from her old school in Los Angeles comes to Sunnydale with the (secret) intention of giving Buffy to Spike in exchange for having Spike sire him… i.e., turn him in to a vampire.

Buffy escapes the death trap, and, in the coda, she and Giles are in the cemetery, standing before her friend’s grave.

It turned out that Buffy’s friend was dying (as described by the friend, it sounds like some form of cancer) and he was so desperate to live that he was willing to make the “devil’s bargain” with Spike. Buffy is trying to make sense of this, and as her friend rises from the grave.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to say,” says Buffy.

“You don’t need to say anything,” says Giles.

“It would be simpler if I could just hate him. I think he wanted me to. It’d make it easier for him if he was just the villain of the piece. Really I think he was just scared.”

“Yes, I suppose he was,” says Giles.

“Nothing’s ever simple anymore. I’m constantly trying to work it out. Who to love, or hate, who to trust. Seems the more I know the more confused I get.”

“I believe that’s called growing up.”

“I’d like to stop then, okay?” says Buffy.

“I know the feeling.”

“Does it ever get easy?” Buffy asks her Watcher.

As that moment, Buffy’s friend rises from the grave, a vampire. Buffy makes quick work of him, and as his dust settles to the ground, she stops and looks at it, and continues the conversation.

“Does it ever get easy?
“You mean life?”

“Yes. Does it ever get easy?”

“What do you want me to say?”

Buffy looks at him. “Lie to me.”

Giles pauses for a brief moment before answering.

“Yes, it’s terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their horns or their black hats. We always defeat them them and save the day, and no one ever dies, and everyone lives happily ever after.”

“Liar,” Buffy says.

On Friday, December 14, a young man named Adam Lanza killed his mother in their home, and went to the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT, and killed six adults, including the principal and the school psychologist, and 20 children, ranging in age from 6 to 8.


On Friday, December 14, the Michigan State Assembly passed Bill 59, which allows an individual to carry a concealed weapon into what were considered so-called “gun-free” zones: schools, churches, synagogues, mosques (all places of worship), day care centers, sports arenas, bars, hospitals, college and university dorms, and casinos. Governor Snyder said he will sign it.


Lie to me.




Emily S. Whitten: Making Art and Words of Wisdom

It’s Friday night and I’m standing on the crowded floor of a packed concert with friends when suddenly, it hits me: the perfect little plot point to tie together two parts of the first storyline for the new comic I’m working on. Naturally I immediately have to make some notes before I forget the idea. Five minutes later I’m back to the show, but kind of wishing I could be in two places at once so I could enjoy the rest of the show and be working on the new idea at the same time. Too bad reality doesn’t work that way.

Instead, we all have our own little difficulties and stumbling blocks to get over when it comes to creating art – like procrastination, or writer’s block, or fear of failure, or what-have-you – and I’d just been hit by one of mine, which is definitely distraction. Or, to put a more positive spin on it, the way my brain seems to like multitasking all the time. Sometimes it can be a good thing – like when I haven’t worked on a story in a bit and suddenly an idea comes to me out of nowhere. But other times, the distractions come at all the wrong times, like when I’m in the middle of working on the story and something else comes along; or when I have a great idea but no good way to preserve it or to start working on it right away. (Thank goodness for the notepad-type apps on smartphones, at least, which have helped a little with that problem!)

Creating is a funny process. Sure, there are some universal fundamentals to it, but everyone does it differently. Some writers are prolific, while others take years to write one novel. Some comics artists want a detailed script from a writer, while others like a loose framework they can play with. Some people like to get feedback as they go; but others don’t want anyone else’s eyes on their work until they think it’s perfect.

No matter how different each person’s process may be, though, everyone has to face their own hurdles as they create, because, let’s face it – it’s not easy. Sure, sometimes it may feel easy – you’re barreling through a story or a page of art and everything is flowing out like it’s never going to stop; but then it does, or you get stuck on one paragraph or frame of artwork for a ridiculous amount of time; or you look up at your clock at three in the morning and wonder if everything you just made was terrible. Or maybe none of these things happen to you; but I guarantee something in your process feels like a struggle from time to time.

At times like that, I find it helps me to be painfully aware of my shortcomings, so that I can remind myself of ways to overcome them. The reminders may be deceptively simple – e.g. don’t get distracted; that other thing will still be there when you’ve run out of words to write about this idea; you need to stop doing everything else and get back to the story – but just by owning the flaws and actively calling my brain to attention to overcome them, I have a much easier time actually doing so.

I think this same concept can be applied all the way through the process – from the very beginnings of your creation through to the part where you’re hoping to share it with the world (presumably in a profitable way). And since all of us experience the process of creation and sharing that creation in different ways, I thought it would be neat to see what some successful folks in the comics industry might offer as their best advice for successful writing or making art; giving us a window into what these creators find most important to keep in mind throughout the process (or possibly what they’ve learned by overcoming their own challenges), and providing us with some helpful thoughts, reminders, or encouragements as we work on our own art.

Thanks to the handiness of Twitter, through which I solicited advice, these contributions are all coincidentally in the form of handy, bite-sized little mantras that we can memorize, put up on a Post-it somewhere, etc. as needed to help keep us all on track as we make good art amidst the busy whirlwind of life. So without further ado, here they are!

@VictorGischler: Know yourself. Look inward and identify in which direction your enthusiasm lies. Also coffee. Lots of coffee.

@GailSimone: No one looks back and says, “I wish I’d taken fewer chances.”

@Reilly_Brown: Have a clear goal in mind from the start. “Success” is if the audience gets your point.

@MikeSHenderson: Keep challenging your weaknesses, and never stop acting like a professional.

@AletheaKontis: My Best Advice = Shut Up & Write.

@FredVanLente: There can always be one more draft. Have fun. Be a good person before a good artist.

@Janet_K_Lee: Sit your butt in the chair is #1. #2 Be fearless. Always try to learn and try something new.

@PaoloMRivera: I always tell everyone to sculpt. As for writing, just make people care. That may not be advice, but that’s the goal.

@JimMcCann: Allow yourself to fail every once in a while. Then make it better. :)

@kabalounge (Georges Jeanty): Make sure you are telling the story and not just trying to show off your artistic skills.

@MOWheatley (Mark Wheatley): Write. Draw. Do it again. Do it a lot. Keep doing it. Do it some more. Then do it again.

@brubaker (Ed Brubaker): My advice would just be keep doing it. You can’t control success.

@BenMcCool: Work hard, often & with abundant passion. Also, resist urge to drunkenly hassle editors. [ESW note: This is very wise.]

@jpalmiotti (Jimmy Palmiotti): Don’t listen to others’ BS, and stay focused.

@DennisCalero: Write and draw as much as you can and take it seriously.

@SkottieYoung: Do it a lot then do it more after that. Then, you know, keeping doing it.

@jerhaun (Jeremy Haun): Honestly @skottieyoung has it right. It’s all about being the guy that just doesn’t quit.

@GeneHa: @skottieyoung Exactly. Dave Sim said everyone has approximately 10K bad drawings in them. Keep drawing until most are outta your system. Also look for people who draw things differently than you do. Why does it still work, or even work better?

@PatrickZircher: Marry money. [ESW note: Hee!] Also, read any interview in which a mature comic pro talks about the work itself.

@JeffParker: Keep it short, be extremely clear to the extreme. Directness is harder than it looks.

@PaulTobin: Don’t stop. Choose what you love, not what you think will sell.

Also, study what you love. Understand why. Give your voice freedom.

@DavidGallaher: Always keep making stuff.

@PeterDavid_PAD: Buy my book on the subject.

@JoeKellyMOA: Do what you do every day. Intentionally do bad drafts so you get to good ones. Know when to take a nap. Go out for inspiration.

@LForLloyd (David Lloyd): There are really good books recommended by professionals here, but practice makes perfect, too… : )

@JamalIgle: Be yourself. Cliché, I know, but I’ve had more success when I listened to my gut. Your voice is precious; hone it, shape it, no one can take it away from you.

@DeanHaspiel: Live. Love. Make. Don’t hate. Be true. Show up. Commune. Commit. Deliver. Repeat.

@ColleenCoover: Read comics from before you were born. Don’t keep trying to redo stuff if it’s not perfect. Learn from mistakes and move on.

@FrankTieri: Also, get used to hearing “no” a lot. Even after you break in.

Excellent words of advice from great creators, all of whom share their work and wisdom on Twitter (so I’ve provided their usernames in case anyone is wondering where to follow them). I hope you all find them as helpful as I do!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this column, and until next time, Servo Lectio!




Mindy Newell: Karen

I met Karen Berger in 1983.

Thirty years ago.

Thirty years is a long time. A lot can happen. And a funny thing happens as the years pass. You look back and you can see how you ended up where you are today. How the chalk drawings of your life have made a graphic novel starring you. It’s a story made up of page-turners and cliffhangers, of happy endings and endings that leave you nauseous with Vertigo.

Like so many others, I was, frankly, shocked when the news broke that Karen is leaving DC this March. (I believe my words were “Holy shit!”) Is this her decision? Is she being pushed out? I’ll leave that issue to others.

This column is, simply put, a love letter to Karen Berger.

Last week Mike Gold wrote, im-not-so-ho, a brilliant column about Karen and her lasting imprint on the comics field, in which he stated – I’m paraphrasing – that “Karen fostered and molded and taught her staff.” I can attest to that. Though I was never part of her staff per se, if it was not for Karen Berger and her nurturing of whatever talent I may possess as a writer…well, my life would have been very, very different, and I’m sure I would not be here at ComicMix now.

If you want to know the “ins-and-outs” of how Karen taught me the craft of writing comics and nurtured me and helped me expand my professional credits, look up my column dated August 8, 2011, How I Became A Comics Professional, Or, How The Fuck Did That Happen, Part Two. This is about how she helped me find myself.

In 1983 I was a single mom, and apart from the joy Alix gave me, I was a very, very unhappy and lost woman. I was lonely. I was, if not in darkness, in a fog as thick as pea soup. I could not put a finger on what was wrong, I only knew that something was lacking. There was an emptiness in my life. It was as if I was standing in the center of a compass, and I didn’t know in what direction I should walk.

Whatever possessed me to sit down that day and write a brief synopsis of what would become Jenesis, the story that got me into DC’s New Talent Showcase? Was it hope? Was it, as my therapist likes to say, a core of steel somewhere buried deep within me that enables me to always pick myself up no matter what, and to and continue to put one foot in front of the other? Was it the hand of God, or the Goddess, or Fate, or Karma, or whatever higher power is out there? Or was it pure chutzpah, born out of a need to do something to change my life? For me, and for Alix? (I tend to think that it was God giving me that hope and core of steel and the chutzpah, but that’s just me. You can decide for yourselves.)

But nobody, despite what they may boast, does it all alone.

The day I came home from my first meeting with Karen was the beginning of the end for me: the end of feeling chained down, the end of feeling mislaid and misplaced, the end of feeling alone. I had met a woman who saw something in me that I had lost the ability to see – my ability to dream. My ability to accomplish.

Karen was not only my editor. She became my friend. I was there as she and Richard fell in love, broke up, got back together, and got married in an absolutely beautiful wedding in brick townhouse in Greenwich Village. She was the first person that I ever told about my agoraphobia – we were sitting in a restaurant on Columbus Avenue.

“I’m having a panic attack,” I said.

“You are?”

“Yeah, I know it’s stupid, but I’m freaking out.”

“About what?”

“That something is going to happen to me and I’ll end up lying on the floor,” I answered.

“And what, do you think I would ignore you, that people would just walk over you getting to their tables?” she asked?

And we laughed.

And though the anxiety attacks continued – I still get them sometimes – I’ve never again let them hold me back.

Comics…and an editor and friend named Karen Berger helped me to learn to believe in myself again.

May the road always rise up to meet you, Karen.

And thank you.

From the bottom of my heart.




Mindy Newell’s Mind Rumblings

Various and sundry thoughts from the mind of Mindy this week:

The USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the eighth U.S. Navy vessel to bear that name, was decommissioned this week after 50 years of service. The world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier made her maiden voyage on January 12, 1962 and her first mission was tracking and monitoring the first orbital flight of Project Mercury, with Lt. Col. John Glenn aboard the Friendship 7 capsule. In popular culture, the Enterprise was the home base of Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) in Top Gun, with the late director Tony Scott filming and incorporating flight deck operations into the film, and it was the flagship of the U.S. Navy fleet participating in The Hunt For Red October.

Then, of course, there is Star Trek – and did you know that Gene Roddenberry’s original starship name was the USS Yorktown? But the fame and status of the sea-going Enterprise led to starship being rechristened the USS Enterprise NC-1701. (Art Director Matt Jeffries – yes, for whom the Jeffries Tubes are named – used the USS Enterprise CVN-65 for scale when designing the original starship.) Star Trek and her fans – through a massive letter writing campaign and, I’m sure, encouraged by not a few NASA employees – returned the favor when NASA’s first Space Shuttle was named Enterprise. And in Star Trek: First Contact, we see that models of all the ships named Enterprise hanging in a showcase in Jean-Luc’s office. (“You broke your little ships,” says Lily Sloane, played by Alfre Woodward, after Picard goes “Ahab” in his desire vengeance against Borg throwing his phaser rifle through the glass walls of the showcase.)

Staying with Star Trek…I just rewatched J.J. Abram’s remake last night, and the more I see it, the more I love it. I continue to be especially impressed by Karl Urban’s Dr. Leonard McCoy – if I closed my eyes, I’d be hard-pressed not to say it was DeForest Kelley speaking.

Again, speaking of “all things Trek” – although I am generally not a fan of comic adaption of live-action TV shows and movies, I gotta say I’m loving IDW’s Star Trek, written by Mike Johnson with art by Claudia Balboni and Stephen Molnar. Johnson is following the original series story lines, with just the right twists of plot to adhere to the “new” Trek and doing an excellent job of capturing the personalities of Kirk/Pine, Spock/Quinto, Scotty/Pegg, Uhura/Saldana and the rest of the crew with his dialogue. Kudos to the entire team!

On the other hand…Dark Horse’s Spike mini-series sucks. I mean, Spike on the moon? Gimme a fucking break! In fact, generally speaking, their whole Buffy line sucks. Really disappointed. Oh, well, dropping it will save me money.

After almost 30 years, my local comics shop, Vector Books, has closed. Joe and Tina and Frank have been a part of my life for all those 30 years, and I wish them love and health and all the best in the future. But a new comics emporium has opened to take over from Vector (and with Vector’s blessing). It’s Manifest Comics And Cards, and I’ll be interviewing its young owner, Michael, in the future to find out how nuts (and brave) he is to open a shop at a time when so many are closing.

What fucking world do the Republicans live in? Who the fuck cares what Grover Norquist thinks? Attention John Boehmer!!!! Your job is to lead, not to follow the bug-fucked extremists and Tea Party wingnuts or to worry about losing your position as Speaker of the House! Get the deal done, for Christ’s sake! You can’t blame Obama this time! Like we said in the 60s, the whole world is watching!

How many of you had to Google labia majora and labia minora from my column last week? (Thanks to Mike Gold for this.)

Over at The League Of Woman Bloggers on Facebook, there is mucho discussion going on about the attack on girl geeks by boy geeks. Much geekiness is ensuing.

Okay, who here is a Homeland fan? Is Brody now a triple agent, again loyal to Nazir? What didn’t he tell Carrie, Saul, and Quinn in the debriefing? What did he make up? (I’m betting the being tied to a car battery part.) How long did it take before you realized that Virgil and Max were in Quinn’s apartment? (I thought they were in Roya’s.) Who is Dar Adal, the guy that Quinn met on the bus? (Yeah, yeah, I know he’s F. Murray Abraham…) Who is Quinn – FBI? Black-ops CIA? Mole? (I don’t think he is – too obvious.) Was the whole “terrorist attack on returning veterans” a MacGuffin, and the real attack is still coming? Is Estes as incompetent as he seems?  Why did he send Quinn out to kill Brody? Why did Saul go to Philadelphia, knowing that Quinn would find out? And why does Jessica keep calling her husband by his last name?





Mindy Newell: Mirror Images

Throwing my $0.02 in on Martha Thomases’s column last week concerning big boobs, ‘roidal musculature, and body image…

Readers of this column know very well my love of Kara Zor-el, i.e. Supergirl, as she was portrayed during the Silver Age. Debuting in Action Comics #252 (May 1959), Kara’s look was designed by Al Plastino with her continuing adventures drawn by her quintessential artist, Jim Mooney for the next ten years. I was 5-going-on 6 in May of 1959, and Kara, depicted as a healthy young girl just entering adolescence, was athletic and slim, but not overly muscular, and especially not overly endowed in her chest area. It wasn’t just her powers or her ability to be Superman’s secret weapon that captured my imagination – I wanted to be like her when I grew up. Yes, I had dark hair and brown eyes and I was born in Brooklyn and not in Argo City, the last surviving city of the planet Krypton, but she was a role model for me in that I wanted to grow up to be athletic and slim and strong and capable.

In other words, Kara gave me a healthy sense of my body and what it could be.

A few years ago I was riding on the PATH train into New York City when an ad caught my eye, partly because I knew the doctor who was advertising on the placard and partly because of what he was advertising: a labioplasty. This is a plastic surgery procedure for altering shape of the labia majora and labia minora. Yes, as an operating room nurse, I have participated in these procedures, and I do remember one patient whose labia majora was “overly endowed” to the point that it was embarrassing to her when she wore a swimsuit.

I’m not talking about that type of legitimate need. But 99.9% of these women who underwent the procedure did it for purely “cosmetic” reasons. Of course I couldn’t say this out loud, but what I was thinking was “are you fucking kidding me?” (Honestly, girlfriends, have you ever fretted about the anatomy of your labia majora or labia minora?) Apparently these women believed there was something wrong with their natural formation – meaning that it wasn’t “perfect.” I always had a suspicion that these women caught their men looking at the Playmate of the Month or the Penthouse Pet of the Month and felt inadequate. But, although of course I couldn’t ask them, I also wondered if their men had complained. I doubt it. (Guys, do you fret about the shape of your woman’s labia majora or labia minora?) At least I’ve never had a man break up with me – so far as I know – because of that particular part of my anatomy.

But most girls don’t read comics, you’ll say, and if they do, it’s Betty and Veronica or manga comics. Well, first of all, I don’t believe that’s so true anymore. Like football, I think the fastest growing segment of the comics audience are girls and women. I’d like to think that most adult women are grown-up enough to understand that comics are fantasies, and that they are capable of ignoring the bubble breasts, wasp waists, and lengthy legs of female super-heroines (if the writing and story is good, of course) without going into hyperventilation and toxic shock about their own anatomy.

But young girls, even if they don’t read super-heroes, are exposed to it when they visit their local comic book emporium. And exposure is 9/10ths of the law when it comes to thoughts about body image and self-respect and self-actualization.

Martha is right about comics being a small part of the media culture’s obsession with how women should look. But some companies are doing it right – Dove ran a very successful campaign featuring women whose body types ranged from svelte to chunky. And More magazine ran a feature a few years ago on Jamie Leigh Curtis with pictures of Ms. Curtis au natural – no makeup, no Photoshopping, no special lighting, no Spanx or body tape to hide or pull up sagging body parts. And by the way, it was Ms. Curtis’ idea to photo shoot herself as she is in “real life.”

It was part of an issue whose entire focus was accepting yourself.

Accepting yourself. It sounds so easy.

But it’s so hard. After all, we can’t all look like Wonder Woman, unless your name happens to be Lynda Carter.

But it’s worth every minute of sweat and every tear that’s shed.

Damn it, I gained a pound.




Mindy Newell: Frakkin’ Ho-Ho-Ho!

Well, I haven’t heard Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Song yet – the Festival of Lights starts at sunset on Saturday, December 8th – but I did hear a rant about the War on Christmas on the radio the other day.

Yep, it’s that time of year again. Hallmark Channel has preempted Little House On The Prairie for sickly sweet (and cheaply made) movies with a Christmas theme. Wal-Mart and Target are pushing black Friday – great name for a villain, by the way – and have introduced something called pre-black Friday. Christmas catalogs have been smushed into my mailbox, and the department store halls are beginning to be decked with boughs of holly, fa-la-la-la, la-la-la-la I’ve even caught some Christmas commercials on the TV (although the deluge is yet to come.)

So this year ye olde editor Mike Gold and Big Kahuna Glenn Hauman decided to get in on the act of Christmas before Thanksgiving and decreed that this week all of your ComicMix columnists offer their own catalogue of gifts – courtesy of that big Santa’s Workshop in the sky and on the web, Amazon – for the holidays. Which includes Chanukah, and don’t forget Kwanza!

So in no particular order, here we go:

1. Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan. Robin Maxwell. 2012 marks the centennial anniversary of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s greatest creation, and Ms. Maxwell, an award-winning historical fiction novelist, has done him proud. Written with the approbation of the Burroughs estate, this is the book for every woman who ever played at being Jane Porter and for every man who ever wanted to be the Tarzan with whom Jane falls in deep, instinctual, forever-and-a-day love. Maxwell’s Jane is no wallflower Edwardian ingénue. A medical student at Cambridge University and an amateur paleoanthropologist, Jane and her father join an expedition into West Africa, and…well, you’ll just have to read it. The novel has garnered praise from such notaries as Jane Goodall and Margaret George, and was featured in the Washington Post and the Huffington Post. Find it here.

2. Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series (Blu-Ray And DVD). Starring Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Michael Hogan, James Callis, Katie Sackoff, Tricia Helfer, Jamie Bamber, Grace Parks, and more. Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore. This ain’t your father’s Battlestar Galactica! Critically hailed, beloved by fans of science fiction and fans of great drama alike, Moore and his cast (Edward James Olmos as Commander/Admiral William Adama, Mary McDonnell as President Laura Roslin, Michael Hogan as Colonel Saul Tigh, Katie Sackoff as Lt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, Jamie Bamber as Captain Lee “Apollo” Adama, James Callis as Dr. Gaius Baltar, Grace Parks as Lt. Sharon “Boomer” Valerii/Sharon “Athena” Agathorn/Cylon Number 8, Aaron Douglas as Chief Galen Tyrol, Tahmoh Penikett as Lt. Karl “Helo” Agathorn, and Tricia Helfer as the enigmatic Cylon Number Six) weaved a truly epic saga of humanity struggling to survive after devastation. It’s political. It’s sociological. It’s personal and intimate, cosmic and theological. Love, hate, friendship, enmity, jealousy, revenge, forgiveness, life, death. It’s all there. So Say We All! Find it on Amazon.

3. Percy Jackson And The Olympians Hardcover Boxed Set. Rick Riordan. This recommendation comes from Isabel Newell, 12 years old, cellist, equestrienne, singer, and avid reader. Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he’s always getting into trouble…like once there was a snake in his bed and he had strangle it with his own hands! And then he was attacked at school by the Furies! Can he help that he always end up getting expelled from school? (And there have been a lot of schools!) Turns out Percy just happens to be the son of Poseidon, God of the Seas! Which just happens to make Percy not only a demi-god, but a child mentioned in the Great Prophecy! This amazing series gives Harry Potter a run for the money, and is for everybody of all ages who loves mythology and wonder and adventure! Find it on Amazon.

4. Casablanca. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Raines, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, and Dooley Wilson. Produced by Hal B. Wallis, Directed by Michael Curtiz, Screenplay by Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch, with music by Max Steiner. Julie Schwartz once told me that there is only one story: Boy Meets Girl. Boy Loses Girl. Boy Gets Girl. This is the essence of what is probably the greatest movie every made by hook or by crook – did you know that pages were constantly rewritten even as filming went on, and that no one knew how it was going to end? Okay, Rick loses Ilsa, but he does get Louis. See, Julie was right! Find it here. Oh, and check out John Ostrander’s wonderful series of columns on Casablanca, right here at ComicMix.

Okay, time to toot my own horn. Mike asked us to recommend something we had written. Hmmmm….

I want to recommend Wonder Woman #86, Chalk Drawings by the great George Pérez, me, and the wondrous Ms. Jill Thompson. It is the story of the aftermath of Lucy Spear’s suicide; there are no easy answers to suicide and it was my decision to reflect that. I’m immensely proud of it and the work that we three did together, and I’ve always been sorry that it did not get the attention it deserved. Find it here.

Oh, and one more thing. Give a gift that really counts for something and truly reflects what the season is all about: donate to the Red Cross, or the Salvation Army, or any of the great charities helping people to recover from Sandy.

That’ll be your gift to me.




Mindy Newell: Powerless?

We first meet Sandy on the television. She’s down in the Caribbean wreaking havoc on Jamaica and the other islands. We are warned that she might come to the East Coast. Most people shrug. A panicked populace does not yet raid the supermarkets.

By Sunday the East Coast governors are declaring states of emergency. There is a run on staples like water, milk, and bread at stores. Home Depot and Lowe’s do a banner business selling generators and gasoline cans. Batteries are sold out in five minutes. Coastal areas are being evacuated. Alix and Jeff come to stay with me.

The bitch Sandy, a swirling 800 miles-wide apocalyptic force of nature’s vengeance, comes, sees, and conquers the megalopolis of New Jersey and New York, and covers West Virginia with a blizzard. Millions are without power. I lose power on Monday afternoon. It is like Little House On The Prairie, I say. What would Laura Ingalls Wilder do? Alix, Jeff, and I light candles, drink prosecco and play Uno. Alix and Jeff sleep in the hallway, away from the shuddering windows. I bury myself under a quilt and read by flashlight, as if I’m a child again hiding from the boogeyman.

Tuesday we huddle in the living room, listening to the radio. Sandy is still outside, vicious, refusing to leave. Hundreds of thousands are without homes. My apartment building shakes, and it is frightening, but I tell myself I am like the third Little Pig who lives in a house made of brick. Others are not so lucky. Sandy’s winds and surging tides destroy hundreds of thousand of homes. Beaches no longer exist. Boats come to rest on city streets. Raging fires break out in Queens and coastal New Jersey Fire departments cannot reach them because of the raging waters. Lives are thrown into turmoil.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie praises and works with President Barack Obama, who has stopped campaigning to lead the country through this disaster. Both are tireless. President Obama’s opponent, Governor Mitt Romney, who has made millions outsourcing jobs and thus rendering millions jobless, reaches into his pocket and donates $5,000, one-half the amount he offered to bet Governor Rick Perry during the Republican primary. He also tells people to donate a can of soup. Oh, and Governor Christie (finally!) gets the chance to meet and hug Bruce Springsteen.

Still, the Presidential election goes on. I call Mike Gold three times during the evening, freaking out that Obama was going to lose. He tells me that John Ostrander also called him doing the same freaking out. Mike is also incredibly calm – I accuse him of bordering on a Romney smirk – as he keeps assuring me that Obama will win.

I keep switching the channel to Everybody Loves Raymond because I can’t take the suspense. North Carolina goes with Romney. Then – the other battleground states start reporting results. Virginia for Obama. Colorado for Obama. New Hampshire for Obama. Iowa for Obama. Pennyslvania for Obama. Nevada for Obama. Wisconsin for Obama. And around 11:00 P.M. EST, all the networks, including Fox, call Ohio, and the election, for Obama!!

Megan Kelly takes the cameras to the polling room at Fox and demands to know if the statisticians are standing by their call. Karl Rove goes apoplectic and argues with Chris Wallace, who is anchoring. Romney’s campaign is saying they will not concede Ohio. At around 12:00 midnight Romney makes a – yes, it was short, sweet, and gracious – concession speech. Obama has won 304 Electoral College votes, Romney 206. Obama has also won the popular vote. We are still waiting on Florida. Donald Trump tweets, calling for revolution.

Wednesday. Sandy has left, though outside the skies are dark with clouds and there is no feeling that the storm is over. Alix and Jeff have gone home – they are lucky; although they have no power, their house is dry and safe. I get to work about 9:00 a.m. In the staff lounge I watch TV, and see for the first time what Sandy has wrought. It is as if a war has been fought over the last two days. Some houses are not even there; all that is left are grey concrete foundations. The PATH trains are flooded; the New York subway system is at a standstill. The Holland, Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and Midtown Tunnels are impassable, also flooded. The Stock Exchange is dark. The mighty New York City megalopolis, the city that never sleeps, the center of the financial world, is closed to business.

Though President Obama has won re-election, Florida is still undecided. We learn that Mitt Romney never wrote a concession speech. We learn that when he was told he had lost Romney was in a state of shock. We learn that the Secret Service booked immediately upon hearing the result, and his son Tag drove that Mr. Romney home. We learn that Romney’s campaign workers were told to pack their bags and go home, and oh, by the way, here’s the hotel and food bill. Colorado and Washington State vote to legalize marijuana. Maine, Maryland, and Washington State vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

Wednesday night Sandy’s cousin, Nelly Nor’easter hits New Jersey, New York and Connecticut with wind gusts up to 50 mph and up to 12 inches of snow. Also on Wednesday: Karl accuses the Democrats of stealing the election through voter suppression.

Thursday we learn that Obama won Florida. Thursday we learn the final Electoral College tally: Obama 332, Romney 206. The pundits are blaming Chris Christie for working with Barack Obama. The pundits are blaming Sandy. Bill Maher tweets, “Magic underwear, my ass!” Texas Republicans are advising the public to buy guns and are recommending secession. It is an ironic bit of synchronicity that Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, is opening tomorrow.

Thursday afternoon the sun has come out; snow is already melting. Alix and Jeff’s power has come back. The trains are still out but they are both able to work from home, and so don’t have to face the hours of commuting into the city. My usual route to work is blocked by fallen trees and telephone poles; I must drive though unknown winding roads. I am glad I never took off my snow tires.

It will take months, if not years, for the great megalopolis to recover. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York warns that Sandy was just a warning, and that if we do not plan and prepare and stop global warming, the next storm will be worse. It is suggested in the New York Times that “the city and coastal areas build “waterbreaks – like firewalls – to help prevent future massive flooding.” FEMA has come; there is an office here in my city, operating out of the city’s historical museum. Chris Christie continues to work; his stamina is amazing. EMTs and firemen and policemen haven’t been home in days, have risked their lives, and still risking their lives; utility companies from as far away as New Mexico have sent their own to aid their brothers and sisters in rebuilding the broken infrastructure that powers this vast metropolis.

There is a promise in Friday’s sunrise. I look up to the sky as I walk to the car. The crescent moon is ablaze with silvery light, and Venus sits just off its lower horn, shining with the light of tomorrow. Tonight Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Christine Aguilera, Brian Williams, Jon Stewart, and others will hold a benefit concert.

And I know that there are heroes. They may not fly. They may not have super-strength, or X-ray vision. They don’t come from far away planets. They’re not born with mutated genes.

Their power comes from the heart.




Mindy Newell: Fly Girls

Kelly Sue DeConnick rocks!

Women had made their mark as pilots well before World War II. Amelia Earhart, Jacqueline Cochran, Nancy Harkness Love, Bessie Coleman, and Harriet Quimby were some of the women holding records in aviation.

When war broke out in Europe, Cochran, Harkness and other women went to England to volunteer to fly in the Air Transport Auxiliary, which had been using female pilots as ferriers since 1940. These women were the first American women to fly military aircraft – Spitfires, Typhoons, Hudsons, Mitchells, Bienhams, Oxfords, Walruses, and Sea Otters under combat conditions.

In 1942, now in the war, the United States was in desperate straits for combat pilots. After much political maneuvering and bickering, it was decided to train women as ferry pilots, with Jackie Cochran enlisted to direct the program. 25,000 women applied; only 1,830 were accepted; of these, 1,074 passed the training and became Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPS. The WASPS flew over 60 million miles, piloting everything from trainers to fighters like the P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustangs and the heavy bombers: B-17s, B-26s, and B-29s. They ferried new planes long distances from factories to military bases and departure points across the country. They tested newly overhauled planes. And they towed targets to give ground and air gunners training shooting  – with live ammunition.

In 1959, an independent researcher named William Randolph Lovelace, who was part of the team developing the tests for NASA’s first male astronauts (who became known as the Mercury 7 – see or read The Right Stuff) became interested in finding how women would stand up to the same conditions; in 1960, he invited accomplished pilot Geraldlyn “Jerrie” Cobb to submit herself to this challenge.

The tests ranged from general physicals and X-rays to weird things like swallowing a rubber tube to test stomach acids, undergoing electrical shocks to test the ulnar nerve (found in the forearm), having ice water shot into their ears to test vertigo and reaction time, and dozens of other weird oddities. (See or read The Right Stuff to get an idea of the regimen.)

She became the first American woman to undergo and pass all three phases of the testing.

19 more women were invited into Lovelace’s program, which was funded by WASP director Jacqueline Cochran.

13 passed.

They became known as the Mercury 13.

I bring this up because writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is doing something remarkable in the new Captain Marvel series. Without publicity or blowing of trumpets, DeConnick is rewriting the possibilities – no, the actualities – of “women in comics.”  Using the proud history of women in aviation, including the WASPs and the Mercury 13, DeConnick and her team, which includes artist Dexter Soy and editor Stephen Wacker, are presenting women who are just as smart, just as stupid, just as capable, just as frightened, just as full of bravado, just as confused, just as sure-minded, and just as fucked-up as any of their male counterparts.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air….

High Flight

John Gillepsie Magee, Jr.

By the way, Captain Marvel rocks!

Fly, girl, fly!!

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten, Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon

TUESDAY EVENING: Michael Davis In France