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Martha Thomases: #YesAllMen

I really really, really wanted to write about something funny this week. I mean, I read comics for fun and I presume that you do, too. A little escapist fantasy, a few minutes of relaxation, it’s all good, right?

And then this happened.

Now, I’m on record as saying that this is not an event with an easy explanation, nor a quick fix. And I’m not going to offer either one here.

However, I would like to talk about the little sliver of this issue that has been my obsession all year. And that is the way our society, and particularly our little corner of it in the nerd-pop culture, treats misogyny like something that boys get to do.

Apparently, the shooter in Santa Barbara was upset because he couldn’t get laid. It’s unclear how much he actually tried (as in, getting to know women, talking to them, etc.), but he was angry. Thanks to the Internet, he found an online community with which to share his frustrationsSpoiler Alert: Don’t read that link if you have a sensitive stomach.

Yes, they share the same sense of entitlement (and the same violent rape fantasies) as the men I’ve written about here, and here, just as the two most recent examples. Violent rape fantasies are ridiculously common.

I’m not the only one to notice. A recent post by Jeopardy champion Arthur Chu got a lot of links over the past week.

At this point, a lot of my male readers might be getting a tad defensive. “We’re not like that,” they say, and I hope it’s true. “It’s not our fault. And anyway, Rodgers killed a bunch of men, too.”

The murder of those men is every bit as tragic and senseless as the murder of the women. However, if you read what Rodgers (and his pals) actually say, it’s clear that women are the objects of their rage.

Not even women, not really. Just vaginas (and mouths) (and assholes) (and whatever other body parts fascinate any random guy). The rest of the woman is just the delivery system. Some dress up their hatred of women with religious or philosophical justifications, but the fact remains that they see women as a different — and lesser — species than men.

“Still,” my straw men mutter. “I’m not like that. It’s not all men.”

Some men beg to differ. You see, it’s not enough simply to avoid doing something horrible. You should also do everything you can to prevent other people from doing something horrible. You shouldn’t sit still while the man next to you makes a rude comment to a woman, nor let threats on the comments thread you’re reading go unanswered.

As Andrew O’Hehir said on Salon, “What troubles me is the extent to which many men seek to ignore or deflect all conversation about the specific nature of Elliot Rodger’s pathology, along with the evident fact that many women see that pathology as a ubiquitous social and cultural problem.”

Look, I’m not a perfect person, far from it, so I’m not holding myself up as an ideal. I want to have sex with people who have no interest in having sex with me, if they even know I exist. That’s really frustrating. Sometimes, I imagine revenge fantasies where these men learn how much they’ve missed. However, my fantasies don’t involve death and destruction. My fantasies are more likely to involve the look on George Clooney’s face when he sees me with Benedict Cumberbatch.

I’d like to see the comics community take a stand against bad behavior. I’d like to see an end to situations like this, which remain far too common. I’d like to see comic conventions feature panels for all genders about the cause and effect of these hatreds, and how we can combat them. Or at least some required etiquette classes.

And less whining. Oh, please, less whining.


Dennis O’Neil: Drama and Spectacle

Journey back into history far enough, and look in the right place, and maybe you’ll come across the common ancestor of drama and spectacle. Something religious, maybe. And as recently as 2,000 years ago, give or take, if you were taking a break from whatever ancient Romans took breaks from and filling a seat at the Circus Maximus, you’d see the chariot races and athletics and you’d also see staged battles.

And, ancient Roman that you are, if you could slip into a time warp and fast forward to what we could jokingly refer to as modern civilization, you might enjoy the movies of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton and the Olympic gymnastics and boxing matches and their surly offspring, mixed martial arts and…

Maybe you’d see the three movies I’ve seen recently and two of these might remind you of the good old days, sitting in the sweltering Italian sun and being entertained by mock combat. You might also enjoy the third movie I’ve seen of late, but not in quite the same way.

Chinese Zodiac stars the beloved and amazing Jackie Chan and, judging by a voiceover he delivers as the end credits roll, it might be his valedictory – not to cinema as a whole, for he will surely act in future movies, but to the kind of comedic action flick he’s been delighting us with for decades, featuring just enough plot to carry Jackie’s awesome stunts/acrobatics/clowning, usually with his face in the shot so you know that it’s really him up there and not a stunt double.

If Jackie needs an heir apparent, I nominate the Thai performer, Tony Jaa, who was inspired by watching the movies of Jackie, Bruce Lee and Jet Li as a youngster. I caught Jaa’s most recent American release, The Protector 2, and am glad I did. Jaa does not display Jackie’s comedic gifts, but his fight scenes, which, like Jackie’s, combine acrobatics and martial arts, are terrific. Doubt me? Maybe you can catch The Protector 2 at your television’s movies-on-demand option, as I did, and decide for yourself.

Which brings us to Batman Begins. We didn’t intend to watch it, but we were channel surfing and there it was and we had time to kill, and what the hey – why not? Of course, we’d seen it five years ago, but surely merited a revisit. Now, let me say it again: Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is excellent. But the fight scenes are among the few problems I had with it. A lot of them are rendered in blurs, closeups and quick cuts, highly kinetic but, for me, of limited entertainment value. Not like Chan and Jaa and Keaton and, no, not even like those sword-slingers in the old – really old – days.

The stuff those guys did has been proving its worth for centuries.

In the final third of the trilogy, Mr. Nolan proved that he can deliver a well-choreographed fracas. I just wish he’d chosen to do so earlier. Imagine what Jackie Chan could have done with that cape!

But the movies are excellent.

Mike Gold: Nerd Alert – Here’s What Happens Next!

While reading reports covering Monday’s keynote speech at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, the one where they took the wraps off their new operating systems, a small light bulb went off over my head. I figured out the next big change in our lifestyles… and, since these days nerd culture and pop culture are one and the same, I figured I’d use the ComicMix slice of the ethersphere to prognosticate.

Besides, it beats talking about the Fantastic Four bullshit.

It turns out that Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS8, will have the capability of allowing for phone calls and such to go over Wi-Fi as well as cellular… provided, of course, that your service provider agrees. Mobile-T and Rogers in Canada have already announced they’re joining in, so I think it will be difficult for others to be assholes about this one. Not that that hasn’t happened before.

Why is this important? You’ll be able to connect to and make calls from Wi-Fi networks for free, you’ll have more choice, a more reliable connection, better audio quality, longer battery performance and fewer bandwidth issues. Apple barely mentioned it; I suspect there will be a big deal made after AT&T and Verizon opt in.

Then my mind started wandering. I’m used to that, as my attention span is roughly equal to the life of a Lawrencium atom. I noted Apple is porting its fingerprint button over to the iPad and is finally allowing other companies to play with it. Personally, I’ve found the device to be almost ready for prime time but not quite. Given their history I think Apple will have it as glitzy as need be very soon. What could this mean for you?

Security. The biggest problem facing the entire computer industry is the theft of personal data. Just as the manager of your local Target or talk to Heartland Payment Systems. Hackers are stealing credit card information, social security numbers, passwords, and the fillings in your teeth. OK, that last one is a metaphor… thus far.

It affects other important operations as well, but this isn’t the place to go into NSA’s issues. That would be a digression.

But… if you had to use a fingerprint as your password, or as part of the password process, and you can choose which finger(s) to use on your own (which you can do already under iOS7), if somebody wants to rip off your bank account they’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way and point a gun to your head.

So it’ll be easier and safer to buy stuff. It’ll also be easier to renew your driver’s license, do high-end banking (as if), notarize documents, buy a house, rent an apartment… and, if the politicians ever grow up (as if), vote. Maybe our voter turnout will actually get as high as 60%.

How does this affect comics readers? Well, besides the nerd thing, it is clear that electronic comics are making substantial inroads and are also bringing in an audience that doesn’t have access to comics shops. The younger you are (unless you’re me, and you wouldn’t want that), the more likely you are to be reading comics on a tablet, computer, or teevee screen. Safe and reliable e-commerce will be an integral part of the future of the comics medium, no matter how it evolves.

And evolve it shall. This is a great time to have a short attention span.


Mindy Newell: The Comics Community

“Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

Oprah Winfrey

Today, as I write this, is June 1, 2014. Here in Bayonne New Jersey there’s not a cloud in the robin’s egg blue sky, and from this window I can see the waters of New York City’s harbor sparkling like diamonds. It’s so clear that I can see the glint of car roofs speeding along Brooklyn’s Belt Parkway. The eastern tower of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge rises over the lush rolling hill of green… that is Staten Island.

It’s a day for being outside, not stuck here in the house writing this column. Perhaps that is why nothing is coming to me. My mind wanders to other memories of days like this, and I have to figuratively slap it to bring it back to attention. But still nothing comes.

So rather than writing about Iron Man 3 (which I watched again last night on cable and decided that it’s a pretty good movie after all), or writing about some bullshit which isn’t really where my head’s right now, I’ll just come out with it, tell you why I’m having trouble focusing…

Don’t worry; the end of the story is a good one.

I’m in what athletes call a slump. Only it’s not my batting average or my RBI’s or my pitching stats I’m talking about, it’s a financial slump. The kind that makes my stomach hurt and my muscles tense and my head ache. The kind of slump that makes it difficult to sleep. The kind that makes it impossible to think about anything else. The kind of slump that has me spilling out the jar of coins I keep on my dresser top and counting out the quarters and dimes and nickels and pennies.

Have you ever been there?

Scary, isn’t it?

I work hard and I bring home a pretty good paycheck. I don’t think I spend money frivolously; I can’t remember the last time I went shopping for new clothes or new shoes. I continuously wonder how I got here, even though I know it’s just an accident of circumstances, a – what’s it called in astrology? Oh, yeah – a conjunction of events.

Yes, in astrological speak, my planets are afflicted. I just have to wait for the next progression.

But, hell, I wish they would progress already! I mean, talk about the planets being in bad positions – Jeesh, yesterday I was supposed to be in a class for my CPR renewal, without with I can’t work, but instead of counting out chest compressions on a dummy I was stuck in traffic for three hours and never got there. Which means that I’m going to be in class on Tuesday so I’m going to be not at work and not earning the money I so desperately need right now.

I wish I had a super power that could fix this. Yeah, that’s it. A super power to coin money. I could call myself Mint Maid. Nah, that sounds like I pass out Tic-Tacs or Altoids or something. Well, at least I’m not thinking of being a super villain and robbing Donald Trump or Warren Buffet. That should count for something in my karma, shouldn’t it?

But there’s this thing about comics.

It’s a small world.

A small world with big people.

Big people with even bigger hearts.

I’m not going to say who it was who, upon hearing that I was – face it, Mindy – broke, without a moment of hesitation asked me how much I needed to get through this slump. S/he tsked-tsked at my embarrassment and my shame and opened up the wallet.

“We’ve all been there,” s/he said.

Yeah, there are lots of people working in comics today who are riding in limos, and maybe there aren’t many who would ditch the limo to ride on the bus with you.

But I know one.


John Ostrander: Why Did I Do That #3 – Suicide Squad

I don’t know about you guys but I’m having fun going back through some of the characters I’ve written in the past and explaining why I chose to do what I did. I’m not particularly critiquing modern versions (well, maybe a little) but I’m explaining why I took the approach I did. Today, let‘s look at some of the Suicide Squad members other than Amanda Waller.

Captain Boomerang. Initial Squad editor Bob Greenberger suggested Digger Harkness, aka Captain Boomerang, as a member. Flash at that time wasn’t using the Rogue and Boomerang was available. I wasn’t into the character at first and I considered him sort of lame, but I started thinking of what I could do with him.

One of the series I was reading at the time was the Flashman series by George MacDonald Fraser. Fraser took the secondary character from the classic Tom Brown’s Schooldays (an 1857 novel by Thomas Hughes). The character of Flashman, as created by Hughes, was a bully and a coward and got expelled early on from the school. Fraser picked him up in a series of historical novels, let him remain a rogue, a womanizer, a bully and a coward who becomes acclaimed (wrongly) as a hero in his day. At one point when I was reading the first novel I became so pissed with him, I threw the novel across the room. I grew to love him and the series, however; they’re very worth reading today. Historically accurate and funny as hell.

So – a rogue, Flashman, Flash – brain synapses fired. Why not do something like that with Captain Boomerang? He doesn’t change. He always looks for an angle. He knows who he is and he’s perfectly happy with it. He keeps finding new depths to which to sink. He’s a jerk, he’s an asshole, he’s a villain – but he’s fun to read.

According to his backstory, Harkness is from Australia but he never sounded like it. I decided to get some books on Australian slang and pepper his dialogue with them. It was a fun way to sneak some naughty words past the censors but the joke, ultimately, was on me. My buddy, the writer Dave de Vries, is from Down Under and he told me that he and his mates would get together to read issues of the Squad and just laugh at Boomerbutt’s lines. It seems my grasp of the slang was, shall we say, a tad antiquated.

“But I got them from books, “ I protested.

“I know, mate,” responded Dave, “but nobody actually talks like that anymore.”

I toned it down a bit. Still Digger remained one of my absolute faves on the Squad. Totally fun to write.

Deadshot. Also know as Floyd Lawton. Lawton was a little used Batman villain. In his first appearance, he wore a tuxedo with a top hat, a domino mask, and twin Western gunbelts strapped across his waist. Not a very cool look. His story was that he ran in the same set as Bruce Wayne so he was wealthy. He pretended to be a hero in Gotham and a challenge to Batman but actually was a thief and masterminded other robberies until Bats uncovered him and sent him to jail.

Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers brought Deadshot back and gave him a really cool new look. I drafted him into the Squad.

Lawton was somewhat of a blank slate. I have a technique where I use induction and deduction to figure out a character based on what we knew. Deadshot’s rep is that he never misses and yet he can never kill Batman. Is Batman just that good or is there another reason? Does Deadshot pull his shots around Batman and, if so, why? I liked that last concept. Yes, Batman is that good but he’s also aware that Deadshot unconsciously pulls his shots. We later developed that Lawton had this complex relationship with his older brother. He really loved the guy but accidentally wound up killing him – Lawton’s first kill.

Lawton killed without emotion. I had to wrap my head around that if I was going to write it. How do you reach that point?

I had seen a special on TV talking with a mob hit man. Coldest dead eyes I’ve ever seen. Killing was nothing to him; he talked about shooting and killing a man in a car at a stop sign just to test a new gun. How could I write something so foreign to me?

I had also heard someone once say “If my own life doesn’t matter to me, why should yours?” On some level, I could understand that. Life has no meaning to someone like that. Yes, there was a moment – just a moment – when I felt like that at one time.

It’s been said Lawton had a death wish; I saw it – and see it – more that he didn’t care. He didn’t care if he died; he didn’t care if you died. The job mattered; was it interesting? Was there a challenge?

The two were tied together – having killed the person who mattered most to him, no other life mattered, including his own. That was a character I found compelling and so did quite a few others.

Different writers have different takes on both Captain Boomerang and Deadshot and that’s fine. They should have the freedom to develop the characters according to their own understanding as I did. Harkness and Lawton were among the most popular and central characters back when I was writing Suicide Squad; they were among my faves as well.


Marc Alan Fishman: Babyface, Heel, or Tweener?

In the pro-wrestling world, you are either a babyface, a heel, or a tweener. If you’re not down with the lingo and you’re suck at contextual clues: babyfaces are the heroes, heels are the villains, and tweeners straddle the line between the two. It’s always clearcut amongst the older generations that the lines between good and evil should be black and white.

In the golden era of comic books (and wrestling, while we’re at it), good guys were lantern-jawed and stood for the righteous. Villains sported crooked smiles, and completed acts of tyranny for no more purpose than the love of chaos. But with the modern era came the shades of grey. Personally, I live for those shades.

My favorite wrestler is CM Punk, a tumultuous canvas of ashen tones, made into a grappler. In his infamous pipe bomb promo (feel free to watch the entire brilliant tirade if you have an hour to kill here) Punk crossed the line between his then heel persona by breaking the fourth wall harder then it’d ever been broken before in the WWE. Through a scathing set of brutally honest speeches, the WWE Universe (the fans) soon learned that the straight edge superstar was more than a set of catchphrases and lack-of-merchandise. Amidst a hot crowd of vicious booing, Punk made his point: he wasn’t an out-and-out heel, he was a human being capable of good and bad. Eventually Punk got everything he wanted, including becoming a bonafide tweener where even if he completed acts of depravity, it was accepted as being a part of a bigger whole. It’s a theme that occurs elsewhere outside the squared circle.

The Punisher, Wolverine, Venom, dare I even say GrimJack, et al… the venerable anti-heroes. Good guys that do bad things, and we love them for it. They cross the line where Batman, Superman, or Professor X grit their teeth and shake their heads. As an audience, we respect, and even love that those heroes are forced to make the hard choices. But the devils that sit on our shoulders whisper sweet nothings to us – we want to see the villains pay the ultimate price. We want to see that the means justify the ends. We need to see that villains can’t always get away with murder, rape, and the like. And yes, we love it when those good men do bad things, because wish fulfillment is a vice we can all enjoy. Ask every Tarantino character immortalized in celluloid.

Most recently I’ve found a love for NBC’s Hannibal, which seeks heavily to relish in the subtle pathways between the light and dark sides of man. Dr. Lecter is a monster – a veritable Satan if ever there was one – but in his defense, he tends to only eat the rude. Humorous perhaps, but we as the audience are made to feel a wisp of compassion every now and again for the man-monster that Hannibal is. Much like Bret Easton Ellis makes us root for sociopathic serial killer in American Psycho. Never before had I read a novel where I’m rooting for a man to feed an ATM a kitten before. But there, Ellis shaped the world as such to make me see that beyond the pure chaos that Patrick Bateman represented, was a man living as a metaphor for the facade that existed in the go-go eighties. Can’t get that reservation at Dorsia? Well, that’d drive you to murder too, when you know that missing that squid-ink carpaccio is akin to you just being a failure in everything at life! Get my meaning?

And let’s get a little spoilery, if we can, eh? Seen Days of Future Past yet? If not, skip down a paragraph. For the rest of you, what did you think? I thought “Wow! They really played up the notion that these were actual human beings capable of an array of emotions!” Now I know that’s a bit of a complicated thought coming from a movie that was mostly made as an apology for The Last Stand, but I digress. Of all the things that made the movie enjoyable to me, was the fact that characters like Professor Xavier, Raven, and Eric Lehnsherr were allowed to respond from a place of emotion and thought, rather than because of a plot dictating them to do what’s right or wrong. In one of the best set pieces of the film (barring the whole Quicksilver sequence which was just fun as all get-out) came when Magneto decided that he was done being a pawn in a greater plan. With Bolivar Trask not murdered, the future was in flux, and Magneto, freed of his concrete and plastic prison stole a baseball stadium, rewired the Sentinels, and attempted to stage a bit of a coup. And when he lost? His best friend didn’t do the right thing; he let him go because he still cared for his troubled friend.

Therein lay the heart of my love for the tweening of fiction. When authors (me included) allow characters to be more than the sum of the plot and story beats, the audience is better for it. While there is a time and a place for white and black, I implore you to look beyond the simple. Complexity breeds intelligence. Intelligence allows for a deeper enjoyment of a piece of art. It’s sure fun when Al, Kung Fu Monkey Master of the Samurnauts clocks the evil pirate Blackstar with his bo-staff because it’s clear he’s the good guy… it’s a nice beat. But the true fans will enjoy the moment further because they know that when Al makes the critical strike, it’s make because of the torturous acts Blackstar used on former Samurnauts in the name of chaos. The blow is beyond justified – it is struck with anger, hatred, and desire for pain. Those shades of grey elevate what would be good defeating evil, into a personal vendetta.

At the end of the day, aren’t we all better people when the world is depicted in three dimensions?


Martha Thomases: Yeah, Baby!

My son is 30 years old today. And while this is a wonderful thing and I’m thrilled to have the experience, it also demonstrates one of the great failures of my lifetime. He stopped reading comics before I did. When I was a kid, before the direct market, before cable television, before the discovery of fire, kids might read comics for a few years but usually stopped around the time they started high school. There were a lot of reasons for this (puberty, team sports, rock’n’roll) but I’ve always thought a big reason was the spotty distribution. It was more difficult to be a dedicated fan when you couldn’t be sure that the magazine racks would have the same titles every month. Still, I was an unusual child. I kept reading comics, despite the hardships, despite my gender. I’ve always enjoyed a quest – especially when said quest involves shopping. Of course, I wanted to pass on these values to my child. We spent many happy hours in his youth, walking to the comic book store on Comic Book Day, reading comics, discussing comics. He met Stan Lee before he started school. When I applied for a job at DC, I remember telling Paul Levitz that my five year old kid could explain Crisis on Infinite Earths and the multiverse, and Paul wanted to arrange for him to come in and explain it to the editorial staff. After I got the job, my kid could sit in the DC library and read the bound volumes of back issues because the librarian knew he would take care of the books. My son learned important lessons from his father, too. By the age of three, he could tell a Tex Avery cartoon from a Bob Clampett. Family values were important to us. And now, this. He’ll explain that it’s not his fault. The monthly comics that he read all of his life left him. The Flash that he knew (Wally West) is gone. So is the Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner). I could have said the same thing at his age, when The Powers That Be took away my Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). The difference is that TPTB made new characters who had new stories. I might like them or not, but they were new. My son’s heroes were replaced by the characters his parents liked. That’s a problem. The market for superhero comics (and I love superhero comics) isn’t adapting to a new audience. It’s adapting to the old one. My boy still enjoys a good graphic novel. He likes a lot of independent, creator owned series (which he buys as trade paperbacks). He can still speak with great wit and insight and humanity about the socio-economic and political implications of Superman and Batman. If we’re in the same city at the same time, I’m sure we’ll go see Guardians of the Galaxy together. He’s turned me on to some great books. I’m loving Saga based entirely on his recommendation. But I wait for the trades. Maybe I’m not as old as I look

Mindy Newell: War Is Not Healthy…But It Makes For Great Movies

“There is a savage beast in every man, and when you hand that man a sword or spear and send him forth to war, the beast stirs.”

George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

So today is Memorial Day, which is the wind-up of Memorial Day weekend, which is the unofficial start of summer. Which means that if, like me, you’re from the part of New Jersey that’s north of Exit 11 on the Garden State Parkway, you “go down the shore.” For those of you not from the Garden State, the translation of “down the shore” is “to the beach.”

This also means spending most of the weekend stuck in traffic on the aforementioned Parkway before you get to Belmar or Seaside Heights or Long Beach Island or Wildwood and places in-between, but The Boss’s Born To Run will be rocking out through your car’s speakers, so it’s cool and anyway it’s all just part of the Weekend. Capiche?

Memorial Day is also the day we as a country are supposed to remember and honor the men and women who have died while serving their country in wartime. It was started as a way to honor Union soldiers who died during the Civil War – the North “borrowed” the South’s custom of decorating the graves of dead soldiers with flowers, ribbons, and flags, and so was called Decoration Day. It was held on May 30th, regardless of which day of the week it fell. It wasn’t until after World War II that Decoration Day became Memorial Day, and it wasn’t until the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed in 1968 that it became attached to the Monday of the last weekend in May as part of the government’s desire to create three-day federal holiday weekends. However, it took another three years (1971) for all the states to universally recognize it.

War movies are a conundrum – War is hell, as General William Tecumseh Sherman said, but in telling stories of war the writers, the actors, the directors and the producers can portray great tragedy, great comedy, great conflict, and great drama. Some war movies are outright jingoistic, others are totally anti-war, but all say something about armed conflict.

Here’s a short list of some of my favorites, with dialogue and/or quotes that have stuck with me through the years:

Stalag 17 (1953): Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring William Holden, Otto Preminger, Peter Graves, Don Taylor, Harvey Lembeck, Robert Strauss, and Neville Brand. Based on the Broadway play, it is the story of American POWs in World War II Germany who start to realize that there is an informant planted within their bunk.

Memorable dialogue:

Duke: (referring to Sefton’s safe escape with Dunbar) Whadda ya know? The crud

did it.

Shapiro: I’d like to know what made him do it.

Animal: Maybe he just wanted to steal our wire cutters. You ever think of that?

The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957): Directed by David Lean. Starring William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, and Sessue Hayakawa. From the book by Pierre Boulle, it is loosely based on historical fact. British prisoners of war in a Japanese prison camp in 1943 Burma are sent to work building a bridge for the Burma-Siam railroad. The British Colonel is horrified to discover that his men are sabotaging the construction, and persuades them that bridge should be built properly as a testament to British honor, morale, and dignity under the most brutal of circumstances. Meanwhile a team of Allied commandos is planning the destruction of the bridge.

Memorable quote:

Colonel Saito: Be happy in your work.

Major Clipton: Madness! Ma, madness!

Apocalypse Now (1979): Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Starring Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, and Robert Duvall with a young Laurence Fishburne and a cameo by Harrison Ford. During the Vietnam War a special operations officer is sent on a mission to find and terminate, without prejudice, another special operations officer who has gone renegade.

Memorable quote:

Willard (voice-over): “Never get out of the boat.” Absolutely goddamn right! Unless you were goin’ all the way… Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole fuckin’ program.

The Great Escape (1963): Directed by John Sturges. Starring Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, James Garner, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson, Angus Lennie, and others. Based on the true story of the mass escape of Allied POW’s from Stalag Luft III in Germany, and adapted from Paul Brickhill’s first-hand account. All the characters are either real or composites of several POWs.

Memorable quote:

Hilts: How many you taking out?

Bartlett: Two hundred and fifty.

Hilts: Two hundred and fifty?

Bartlett: Yeh.

Hilts: You’re crazy. You oughta be locked up. You, too. Two hundred and fifty guys just walkin’ down the road, just like that?

Sands Of Iwo Jima (1949): Directed by Alan Dwan. Starring John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, and Adele Mara. The film follows a group of Marines from basic training to the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Memorable quote:

Sergeant Stryker: Saddle up.

Coming Home (1978): Directed by Hal Ashby. Starring Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, and Bruce Dern. The story of three people affected by the Vietnam War – a wife, her Marine career officer husband who is serving in Vietnam, and a paralyzed veteran of that war whom she meets while volunteering in a VA hospital.

Memorable quote:

Captain Bob Hyde: (Yelling at Sally after discovering her infidelity) What I’m saying is! I don’t belong in this house, and they say I don’t belong over there!

Catch-22 (1970): Directed by Mike Nichols. Starring Alan Arkin, Jon Voight, Martin Balsam, Bob Newhart, Charles Grodin, Art Garfunkel, Anthony Perkins, Paul Prentiss, Martin Sheen, and Orson Welles. Based on the book by Joseph Heller, Catch-22 is the satirical anti-war story of Captain John Yossarian, a B-25 bombardier stationed in the Mediterranean during World War II who is expecting to be sent home after completing his required number of missions until he discovers that the commanding officer is continually raising that number. Desperate to go home, Yossarian tries to get out by claiming to have gone nuts, but there’s a catch was sane and had to.”

Memorable dialogue:

Yossarian: Is Orr crazy?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: Of course he is. He has to be crazy to keep flying after all the close calls he’s had.

Yossarian: Why can’t you ground him?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: I can, but first he has to ask me.

Yossarian: That’s all he’s gotta do to be grounded?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: That’s all.

Yossarian: Then you can ground him?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: No. Then I cannot ground him.

Yossarian: Aah!

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: There’s a catch.

Yossarian: A catch?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: Sure. Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat isn’t really crazy, so I can’t ground him.

Yossarian: OK, let me see if I’ve got this straight. In order to be grounded, I’ve got to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I’m not crazy anymore, and I have to keep flying.

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: You got it, that’s Catch-22.

Yossarian: Whoo… That’s some catch, that Catch-22.

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: It’s the best there is.

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970): The story of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Directed by Richard Fleisher. Featuring an ensemble cast including Martin Balsam, James Whitmore, So Yamamura, Joseph Cotton, E. G. Marshall, Takahiro Tamura, Tatsuya Mihashi, Jason Robards, Richard Anderson, and others.

Memorable quote:

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto: I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

Saving Private Ryan (1998): Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Jeremy Davies, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns, and Giovanni Ribisi, with a cameo by Ted Dansen. After landing in Normandy on D-Day in 1944, an army squad is ordered to find and bring back the last survivor of four brothers.

Memorable dialogue:

Old James Ryan: (addressing Capt. Miller’s grave) My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.

Ryan’s Wife: James?…

(looking at headstone]

Ryan’s Wife (looking at headstone): Captain John H Miller.

Old James Ryan: Tell me I have led a good life.

Ryan’s Wife: What?

Old James Ryan: Tell me I’m a good man.

Ryan’s Wife: You are.

(walks away)

Old James Ryan: (stands back and salutes)

So while you’re lazing on the beach this weekend, or in the park or in your backyard grilling up some dogs and burgers, or at a ball game or just hanging around the house, try to remember, if even for a moment, those who never returned home from those bloody fields of glory.

For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

Elie Wiesel

John Ostrander: Why Did I Do That – Martian Manhunter

Well, David S. Goyer was busy making friends this week.

If you don’t know the name, Goyer is a big time heavy hitter writer. He’s done some comic books but mostly is known for screenplays, including Man of Steel and the upcoming Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and the subsequent Justice League film as well as a score of others. This suggests he knows what he’s doing.

His comments this week might suggest differently. On the Scriptnotes podcast (which has now disappeared), he said the She-Hulk “… is the chick that you could f–k if you were Hulk… She-Hulk was the extension of the male power fantasy. So it’s like if I’m going to be this geek who becomes the Hulk then let’s create a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could f–k.”

Stan Lee, who created the She-Hulk, replied: “Only a nut would even think of that.” ‘Nuff said.

Goyer also had some choice words for J’Onn J’onzz, a.k.a. the Martian Manhunter/Manhunter from Mars. Let’s use his words, shaaaaall we?

“How many people in the audience have heard of Martian Manhunter?” Following a healthy smattering of applause, Goyer joked, “How many people that raised their hands have ever been laid?”

Goyer continued: “Well, he can’t be fucking called ‘The Martian Manhunter’ because that’s goofy. He could be called “Manhunter.” … The whole deal with Martian Manhunter is he’s an alien living amongst us, that’s the deal. He came out in the ‘50s, and he had basically all the powers of Superman, except he didn’t like fire, and he could read your mind. So here’s the best part: So he comes down to Earth and decides, unlike Superman who already exists in the world now, that he’s just going to be a homicide detective, and pretend to be a human homicide guy. … So instead of using superpowers and mind-reading and like, “Oh, I could figure out if the President’s lying or whatever,” he just decides to disguise himself as a human homicide detective. Dare to dream.

“I would set it up like The Day After Tomorrow. We discover one of those Earth-like planets… So maybe like… we get the DNA code from that planet and then grow him in a petri dish here… He’s like in Area 51 or something and we’re just basically… doing biopsies on him.”

I have some passing knowledge of the Martian Manhunter, having done (with Tom Mandrake) a series starting back in 1998 so I have a thought or two on this subject. Last week I explained some of my thinking in creating Amanda Waller so this seems a good point to explain some of my thinking on working with J’Onn J’Onzz.

Goyer and I are in small agreement: I also felt that in many ways the Martian Manhunter was a green clone of Superman. He had most of the same powers and, instead of Kryptonite, his weakness was fire. When Tom and I did our series, we wanted to focus on what made him and Superman different. The principal one was that, while born an alien, Kal-El came to earth as an infant and was raised as a human. His values are Midwestern values. J’Onn came to earth as an adult; he was raised in a Martian culture. He’s not American; he is fundamentally alien – a Martian.

Tom and I decided we would investigate and explore Martian culture in our version. He was telepathic; his race was telepathic. What did that mean? What were the societal rules? Rape, for example, would not only be physical; it could be emotional and mental. On the flip side of the coin, sex would involve a melding of minds as well as a melding of bodies. With his race dead, J’Onn would be forever denied that. He could never again experience physical love on so deep a level.

Martians could fly, levitate, and pass through walls; their houses would have no doors or windows or stairs.

J’Onn can turn invisible; we had it that, on arriving on Earth, he saw and experienced how violent and paranoid humans can be. He chose a persona that allowed him to act like a human in order to better understand who and what we were. We had him having several other human identities as well (credit where credit is due: Grant Morrison first brought up that concept).

The idea that he would be grown from a Petri dish is not an uninteresting idea for a character; it’s just not J’Onn J’Onzz. I talked last week about being true to the fundamental aspects of a character and, to my mind, Goyer’s take on the Manhunter from Mars isn’t it. (Sidenote: why is he the Martian Manhunter? Because there are already plenty of other Manhunters in the DCU.)

This might not matter but Goyer is right now the go-to writer for DC cinematic stories. If he has this little fundamental understanding of a mainstay DC character, how much will he have for other DC characters? It’s not that hard to check on what has been done; the Martian Manhunter entry on Wikipedia takes only a few minutes to read and its pretty accurate.

I also don’t understand the underlying contempt not only for J’Onn and the She-Hulk but for readers and fans of the characters. “How many who raised their hands have ever been laid?” Why did Goyer feel the need to get all William Shatner on folks? Why the snark… and sexist snark at that?

Maybe he just doesn’t like the color green. Let’s not ask him what he thinks about Kermit the Frog. I’m not sure I need his observations about Kermit and Miss Piggy.


Marc Alan Fishman: Don’t Let Your Dreams Crush Reality

Yeah, you read that right. You see, while spending a rushed weekend at the super-fantastic MCBA Spring Con (Hi Russ!) in Minneapolis, me and my Unshaven cohorts had nearly 14 hours of drive time round trip to gab about literally everything on our minds. And, boy, did we exhaust our brains. We discussed every TV show we’d seen in the last season. We reviewed every comic we’d read in the last month. We reminisced about junior high school, high school, and our college years. After that hour was done, we resorted to actual work.

Ever wanted to know how Unshaven Comics writes and conceptualizes issues of The Samurnauts? Well, even if you don’t, you’re gonna find out, kiddo! It’s during great long drives to conventions that we crack open the laptop and plot out 36 pages of Samurai-Astronaut action at a time. We start literally at page 1 panel 1, and begin to plan. We argue about pacing. We dissect character moments. We plod through action sequences. We get distracted and take an hour to discuss the look of a giant robot. We try hard to remove child-like grins from our bearded maws to no avail. And by the time we need to stop for gas, munchies, and snacks, we’ve built up the finale to Curse of the Dreadnuts.

The second half of our trip allowed us to daydream a bit. Between sips of Mountain Dew, and drags off of various candy bars, we imagined a world where all our hard work would have paid off. You see, no surprise, we plan on launching a major crowd-funded campaign when the final issue of Curse is rounding the bend. We’re going to be seeking funding to get us to the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, in 2015. There, we intend on doing what we do best – pitch fearlessly – in hopes of snagging a deal to take the Samurnauts property to the next level.

No doubt you see how hard we must have been dreaming. For you see, shortly after that jaunt into the surreal, we envision someone optioning our licensable property for a TV show. And shortly after that, we were buying office space in Downtown Homewood Illinois and running our lives on the small fortune we’d amass.

And there we sat, in the still of the night… the engine hum and highway hypnosis setting in. Wisconsin is a boring state to drive though when it’s pitch black out. After a few beats passed, I’d snapped out of our collective haze of profiteering. “But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, boys. We haven’t even finished the colors on issue 3.” A wave of cold, honest truth passed through us. With it came the most wondrous moment of clarity after our long weekend.

Whether we crowdfund our way to Vegas, or not… whether we ever turn Samurnauts into the global phenomenon we know it could be… whether we ever realize any reality beyond our current station – traveling by car, anchored by day jobs, and still floored that we have legitimate fans – truly it’s been the journey that has been the prize all along.

For the last half a decade, I’ve had the opportunity to see my two best friends grow into consummate professionals. Matt Wright produces insanely detailed, beautifully nuanced, forever under-appreciated commission work at every convention that the greats don’t take time to complete. Whereas others I’ve seen in the Alley whip through markered slap-dashery in order to profit, Matt always feels compelled to turn the hard-earned dollars of the fans into frame-able art. And Kyle Gnepper? Beyond his abilities in plotting, writing, and word-smithery, he’s the backbone of Unshaven Comics. Any success we’ve ever enjoyed comes squared solely on his silver-tongue and fearless nature. Kyle has forced himself to stand hours on end, literally hawking wares to every passerby. We’ve equated him to the Predator. Heat signatures walk by, and they are politely pounced on with true passion.

To wreck our reality with needless navel-gazing is truly absurd. Certainly when we launched ourselves as a company, the intent was to break-in to comics at breakneck speed. After five years, we realize that’s a dream no longer worth having. We know the reality – there’s no barrier to entry in the industry. We’ve been faking it until we made it, and no one has been the wiser. DC and Marvel will likely never call, but the fans who pick up our book and declare that it looks like nothing they’ve ever seen (and they love that) prove to us that we need not ever be a part of the big two.

Nor do we feel compelled to land at Boom!, Avatar, Image, or Dark Horse. Much like the Mouse and the Warners… there’s little reason to serve in heaven while we rule in Hell. And as such? We’ve toured the Midwest, shook hands with the East Coast, and are now looking West. We’ve put literally thousands of Samurnauts into the hands of the unsuspecting public. We’ve done it on our own, and now enjoy having a reputation (small as it may be) with a growing fan base. To destroy that reality with pipe-dreams of piles of unknown riches is akin to losing sight of what we’ve been after all along.

The reality is we’re living the dream now, and no amount of money should get in the way of that continuing.*

*But don’t get us wrong. If you want to license the Samurnauts, call me, e-mail me, or wink loudly. We’ll sell out in miliseconds.