Tagged: Garth Ennis

Ed Catto: That Other British Invasion

3 covers British JPG

One day in the early 80s, I was with my girlfriend in a shopping mall. Somehow I had been relegated to the role of sidekick while she shopped. I liked to do a lot of things with her, but shopping wasn’t high on that list. I was bored so I decided to buy a comic book to read while she shopped.

Swamp Thing 21 p1 anatomylesson1Back then I was enjoying a lot of comics and purchasing them every week at Kim’s Collectible Comics and Records. But one store in that mall had a spinner rack filled with comics, and I knew I could snag an issue that I had missed.

I evaluated the comics available on that rack and hoped that one would be my salvation from the dreariness of shopping. I reached out for Swamp Thing #21, and was surprised to find an unfamiliar writer wrote it. I decided to give it a try nonetheless.

Those initial low expectations quickly gave way to… my brain exploding! That issue masterfully took a fresh approach to a tired concept, and wrapped it in thoughtful, clever and creepy prose. It was a big deal. I was so excited, and at the same time so frustrated, as I couldn’t really discuss it with that girlfriend. She had no interest in comics.

I didn’t know it then, but comics were about to change.

Alan Moore, that writer, was just one of the creators who ushered in a new era of comics. Sequart’s newest book, The British Invasion – Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and the Invention of the Modern Comic Book Writer discussed the important contributions of these writers. I was able to catch up with author Greg Carpenter and he shared some insights.

Greg CarpenterEd Catto: Can you tell us a little bit about your new book, British Invasion, and what you set out to do with this book?

Greg Carpenter: I’d be happy to Ed, and thanks for having me here. The British Invasion is an in-depth analysis of the intertwined careers of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison – three influential British comics writers who first began writing American comics in the 1980s. The book traces their work from the ‘80s through today (or as close to “today” as you can get in the book-publishing world), and it focuses in particular on how these three writers redefined our understanding of what it means to be a comic book writer.

At least, that’s the dry, academic-y answer. As for what I wanted to accomplish, on the simplest level I think it was to try to answer the question that students always ask me: “Why have comics become so popular lately?” Obviously that’s a loaded question with lots of presuppositions, but the gist of it – that comics culture has moved from the outskirts of society to the mainstream – seems fair. And for me, the answer to that question leads directly back to the work of people like Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison.

BRITISH INVASION coverI remember back in 2004 when I was sitting in a theater watching The Incredibles. Here – in a Pixar movie that didn’t really have to be all that smart or insightful in order to be successful – was a full examination of the wonder and the absurdity of the superhero genre, viewed through a real-world prism with real world consequences. Even though there had already been several superhero movies by that time – some of them quite good – what struck me was that Brad Bird seemed like the first filmmaker who had really “gotten” writers like Moore, Gaiman, Morrison. The thrill for the viewer came, not from the style of the costumes, the nature of the superpowers, or the threat posed by the villain, but rather from the momentary suspension of disbelief that comes when you realize – this is what superheroes would really be like.

That thrill, that feeling, that … sensation is far more rare than you might think, and I knew then that at some point in the future I wanted to try to show everyone why that feeling is so powerful.

EC: What’s your personal fan experience, and did you enjoy these writers when they burst onto the scene?

Miracle Man Eclipse PromoGC: I came of age at the perfect time. As a kid, my comics reading was pretty random – a smattering of superhero books and a lot of commercial tie-ins like Marvel’s Star Wars and GI Joe. By the mid-‘80s I was pretty heavy into DC’s Star Trek, but I kept seeing all these in-house ads about a book called Swamp Thing that was winning all sorts of awards. This was pre-Internet and I lived in the rural American South, so a person wasn’t going to find much comics journalism in the local Wal-Mart. My education came from those in-house ads. And if a house ad said I oughtta pay attention to a particular title, well, that carried a lot of weight with me.

So I wound up buying Swamp Thing #56 – the blue issue. I didn’t really understand it, but I could tell it was different from all the other stuff I was reading. And once I started stepping out of my comfort zone, I found myself swept away with the energy of the times – The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Maus, The Shadow, Byrne’s Superman, The Killing Joke, The Question, Black Orchid, Animal Man, Arkham Asylum, V for VendettaSandman. It was an amazing period. And Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison were the ones shaping my worldview, my own personal mentors – priests, professors, and practical philosophers. They could do no wrong.

So when they drifted away from mainstream DC, I drifted away from comics. It’s hard to remember now, but in those days, in the part of the country where I lived, there wasn’t much access to books like From Hell, Sebastian O, or Signal to Noise. It was like loving music but only being able to listen to Top 40 Radio. So for me, it felt like my three favorite writers had largely left comics – even though they hadn’t. And I really didn’t care much for what had taken their place at DC, Image, and Marvel in the early ‘90s. So I stopped reading.

And then, as fate would have it, I was standing in a Wal-Mart and saw a comic book display. I paused for old times sake and was struck by a new title – JLA #1 – written by Grant Morrison. From then on it was like the Michael Corleone line – “just when I thought I was out, (Grant Morrison) pulled me back in.” And I’ve been reading ever since.

EC: You do such a great job of putting it all into context and telling a “big picture story.” As I’m reading your book, I’m thinking “Yeah, I vividly remember those stories from Supreme or Promethea.” I’m impressed by the way you are able to analyze those stories in the context of each writers’ career and within a particular historical timeframe. How much of a struggle was it to tell the tale that way and how did you go about it?

GC: You’re very kind to say so. I wish I could say that everything just fell together perfectly, but alas. I think the low point for me came when I was staring at dozens of little scraps of paper scattered across the floor, trying to figure out how in the world to make the overall structure for the book come together. I knew I wanted to do rotating chapters, but there were lots of organizational problems. While these three writers have always been active, their creative peaks often come at different times. So I was left with a floor full of jigsaw pieces that all came from different puzzles and all I had was an X-ACTO knife and some touch-up paint to try to make it all go together.

As for the rest, I learned to make a friend of the Grand Comic Book Database, tracing chronologies and sketching out long timelines. If I can’t see something visually, it’s never quite real.

EC: By focusing on these three British writers, are you leaving out other important creators that are important to the big picture?

GC: More than I could even begin to list. The beginning of the so-called British Invasion wasn’t even a writer movement – it was about artists. People like John Bolton, Brian Bolland, and Dave Gibbons had begun working for DC and Marvel and were doing great work before Alan Moore made a splash with Swamp Thing. And, of course, there were so many great writers in those early days – people like Alan Grant, John Wagner, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan … and that doesn’t even begin to include the writers who came after these three – Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, James Robinson, Mark Millar … you could go on and on.

And that’s just the British creators. The book focuses in particular on the impact of the Invasion on the notion of the modern comic book writer. If you want to really look at the development of the writer’s role, there are also plenty of non-British writers who helped pave the way for what these three were able to do. I’m thinking of Denny O’Neil, Chris Claremont, Steve Gerber, as well as writer-artists like Frank Miller and Howard Chaykin.

But ultimately in any book you have to focus. What is the problem you’re trying to solve? What’s the question you’re trying to answer? In my case, I knew I wasn’t writing an encyclopedia. I was looking specifically at the role of the writer, and these three writers’ work seemed so interwoven that it was impossible for me to talk about one without the other. But I still lose sleep over all the creators who frankly deserve their own book.

EC: I love the chapter titles. Can you tell me a little bit about how you chose them?

GC: I love that the titles worked for you. That was one of my earliest ideas for the book. Each chapter gets its title from the name of a song by either the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or the Who. Some of those choices are hopefully pretty obvious – a Sandman-heavy chapter is “Golden Slumbers,” the chapter with Grant Morrison’s vision at Kathmandu is “I Can See for Miles,” and a chapter on Spawn is “Sympathy for the Devil.”

But beyond setting the mood or reinforcing the theme, the choices don’t follow any set pattern. I don’t think Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison correlate directly with the three bands – one of them isn’t the equivalent of the Beatles or the Stones, for instance – so I just drew liberally from all three to find the most appropriate title for each chapter.

EC: It’s a big book, but I’m sure you had to make decisions and choices about what to include. What do you regret leaving on the cutting room floor?

GC: When I started, I naively thought I’d be able to cover all the published work of each writer. It didn’t take long to figure out that was impossible. So there are lots of things I never got to write about. But of those things that I did draft and then take out, the most disappointing was probably a section I wrote on Alan Moore’s Neonomicon.

Any of your readers who’ve read that book know already that it’s a tough book to deal with – powerful, complex, and disturbing for a number of reasons. But when I was drafting the manuscript, I dove into it and wrote what I thought was a really nuanced, insightful analysis.

Well, have you ever had one of those moments of brilliance at 2 AM where you’ve just stumbled upon the plot to a novel that’s probably going to earn you the Nobel Prize for literature? You feverishly scribble the idea down so you don’t lose it, but then, the next day, when you pick it up to read it there’s nothing there besides the most banal idea imaginable. That’s basically the story of my Neonomicon analysis. When I found myself editing the manuscript a few months later and got to that chapter, I just scratched my head. What I thought was enlightening was utterly vapid. It was so nuanced that there wasn’t anything there. I thought about revising it, but the book was already overlong so I just dropped it. Maybe I’ll go back to it someday – just not at 2 in the morning.

EC: We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but your cover is clever and to the point. How did the design come about?

GC: The cover is great, isn’t it? Kevin Colden, who has done some great work on The Crow among other projects, did the cover. In keeping with the theme of the British Invasion, it’s an homage to the album cover, Meet the Beatles.

But it didn’t start that way. Originally, I actually tried to sketch out an idea myself. It was an image of Mount Rushmore with Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison carved into the rocks. Trust me, it was even worse than it sounds. My wife took one look at it and said, “Seriously?”

So I went back to the proverbial drawing board and tried to draw an empty bandstand modeled after the Beatles, with a drum set, microphones, and three guitars. I sent this one to Mike Phillips at Sequart and he said something along the lines of, “Um … yeah. So, anyway … what would you think about something inspired by an album cover?” And with that, for the betterment of all humanity, I retired my drawing pencil.

Mike and I talked about several album covers, but we kept coming back to Meet the Beatles. For legal reasons, you can’t use a real person’s face on a cover, which is understandable, but (and I think this was Mike’s idea) we thought it might still work if we put them in Union Jack masks. And Kevin took it all from there.

EC: If you could go back in time and give any “Dutch Uncle” advice to Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman or Grant Morrison, what would it be?

GC: Oh, I don’t think they need my advice. They’ve each done pretty well on their own, don’t you think? So I dunno … I guess if I had to, I might tell them – especially Moore and Gaiman – to skip some of the work they did for Image Comics in the ‘90s.

But honestly, I don’t believe in second guessing the past like that. Let’s say, for example, you were able to help Alan Moore get a better Watchmen contract with DC, saving him from some of the nastier aspects of the profession. That would seem like a good thing. But would a happier, more content Alan Moore have gone on to write From Hell? I tend to doubt it. I don’t know about you, but given a choice between enjoying three years of Alan Moore writing something like Green Lantern – as enticing as that might be – or getting Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, I’m gonna take the Jack the Ripper story every time.

EC: There’s such a rich landscape of creative comics being produced today. What are you enjoying and what do you feel will be viewed as important in the years to come?

GC: It feels almost like a cliché to mention it, but I really love the March Trilogy. What’s special about it, I think, is that once you get beyond how amazing John Lewis is and how well he and Andrew Aydin have compiled his story, Nate Powell’s art is extraordinary. All too often, comics that are classified as “educational” tend to be stiff and lifeless – like your great-grandmother’s idea of what a “good” comic book might be. But Powell is the real deal. Great cartooning, imaginative layouts. The national media might make it sound like broccoli sometimes, but it’s really great comics storytelling. And because of its subject matter, it’s going to be part of the high school curriculum for a long, long time.

Among mainstream comics, I was a big fan of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye. I always joked that it felt like I was watching some mythical Quentin Tarantino movie shot in the ‘70s and starring Steve McQueen circa 1963. I also think Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman is deceptively good. It’s one of those comic book runs that is easy to take for granted, but ten years from now we’ll still be thinking about it. And Eric Powell’s The Goon always makes me smile.

But the other area that makes comics exciting today is the changing demographics – particularly the infusion of more women creators and readers. Any time you can shake up the industry and change the aesthetics, good things can happen. I once got to interview the artist Janet Lee, best known for Return of the Dapper Men. She showed me some of her work in progress and, to be honest, I was dumbfounded. Instead of something conventional like rough pencil layouts, inks, or even watercolors, she was using a technique akin to decoupage, drawing and coloring images and then cutting them out and painstakingly layering them on a larger page. I can’t even imagine what it must take to do that, but once it’s published, her stuff looks unlike anything else out there. That’s what you get when you have greater diversity in the field – fresh voices, fresh perspectives, and new aesthetics.

In a lot of ways, that was the lesson of the British Invasion too, I think.

EC: What’s next?

GC: Well, my wife and I are both writers – her debut novel, Bohemian Gospel, was published last year by Pegasus Press (heavy-handed plug) – so we tend to alternate between projects around our house. That means that lately I’ve been doing a lot of copy editing and proofreading on her sequel, The Devil’s Bible.

That’s not to say I don’t have a couple of book ideas of my own brewing. I do. But I also remember what Hemingway said – the book you talk about is the one you never write.

EC: Thanks so much, Greg!

Three Alan Moore Comics

 

Marc Alan Fishman: “God, Where Are You Anyway?”

Preacher-TV-Series-Cassidy-Joseph-Gilgun

Prior to it appearing on AMC (home of Meth!), I’d never been indoctrinated into the seminal comic book series Preacher. I long knew of its quality – nary a person within the geek-menagerie of every comic shop I’d lived in was without someone constantly droning on the merits of the Garth Ennis road-trip-opus. But much like many series of my middle-youth (Transmetropolitan, Fables, Sandman, etc.) I was far too much of a commercial whore to appreciate the boundary stretching sequential fiction that didn’t plaster its protagonists in capes and cowls. Luckily, I grew up.

We live in a gilded age of comic-to-mainstream-media. Even just listing the current crop of comic-based bounty choking our airspace right now could be an article unto itself. That Seth Rogan and his production team would tackle a show as complex as Preacher due to their love of the source meant good things. And let’s be honest: AMC rarely puts out less-than-stellar work. With a cast anchored by the formerly young Howard Stark – Dominic Cooper – and a commitment to not barrel into the world of Preacher without care produced a well-paced epic dramedy that soon moved from DVR fodder to appointment TV in my house.

For those not in-the-know, Preacher concerns itself with one Jesse Custer. Jesse is a bad man trying to make good. He’s joined by his long-standing love (and ball-busting, rocket launcher building, frozen vegetable cooking) Tulip, and the Irish vampire Cassidy. In the comic, we’re immediately in media res with the odd trio as they take to road trip to find (and pummel?) the Lord almighty. Instant hook, no? Well then what balls Rogen had with his team to spend the entirety of the recently completed first season to take a step back to do a bit of world building.

Most other critics (and my good friends throughout the social media spheres) felt that this choice – with a Southern-slow-as-molasses plot – was a yawn that lasted for plenty of episodes before the pace quickened. In my mind, this deliberate plodding helped create what many decent-but-not-great TV shows have been lacking as of late: an original tone. Look only to stalwart standbys like Arrow, or Agents of SHIELD for one-note (but still very entertaining) story telling. Here, Preacher professes to build the town of Annville, Texas one sad life story at a time. And we’re better for having to been made to soak it all in before the season finale.

Spoiler Alert. Turn back now, in case you’re shy.

By the time Jessie, Tulip, and Cassidy take off on their mission to find God (insert Blues Brothers reference here), Annville is a crater of ashes – a searing cloud of fart fumes and death. To have started out the series on this explosion would have been a lurid choice. By making us live in the town first, Preacher sets us up for so much more pain in the pending future seasons. That the town itself ignited amidst a miles-wide pandemic of sin merely served as the icing on a deliciously sadistic cake.

And all of this is beset by methodical and memorable characterization and astounding plot beats. Obviously owing the debt to the comics crew for the source material to draw upon, Preacher was a bold experiment in the boundaries of shows directed towards the semi-masses. Unlike the immediately engrossing Breaking Bad, here Preacher introduces the insane concept of Genesis straight away. While it would take us several episodes to get the full explanation, knowing that I can now tell a curious stranger about the show where the spawn of an angel and demon inhabits a criminal man of God, granting him the angelic/demonic power to bend a persons will to his words? Well, you don’t run across that much on TV. Join that to the notion that vampires are real, Heaven’s angels are inept hitmen, and God has gone missing? That all adds up to a striking series that I will egregiously wait for enthusiastically watch when the second season comes a’callin’.

All this and I haven’t even touched on Arseface.

Preacher gives me faith that our beloved comics will continue to permeate the masses in the best ways possible. So long as those responsible are beholden to the original creators? We can all say a little prayer that this golden era never ends.

Martha Thomases: The Preacher Feature

Preacher

A little over twenty years ago, Vertigo began to publish the Preacher series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. It was my job to promote it to mainstream (i.e. non-comic book trade) media. I was already a huge fan of Garth’s run on Hellblazer and almost got a blurb for it from Sting until the corporate types told me that wasn’t allowed.

I loved every issue of Preacher. It was funny and scary and emotional and philosophical and brilliant. It simultaneously evoked John Ford westerns and Harvey Kurtzman slapstick. It had a character named Arseface, for crying out loud. I did some of my best work promoting that book, because I believed I was bringing happiness to millions.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to find out there was going to be a television show based on the comics (or “graphic novels” as it says in the opening credits). Unlike many, I wasn’t worried about the involvement of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg because I loved This Is the End, both because it promised the right tone for Preacher and because it’s so damn funny.

I wanted to refresh my memory of the comics and reread the whole run in my collection of trade paperbacks. Alas, I can’t find them, so I went into the television show only slightly better prepared than a Preacher virgin.

Preacher is about Jesse Custer, a minister with a shady past who is suddenly able to compel people to do whatever he tells them to do. He lives in the small town in Texas where he grew up, perhaps hiding, perhaps trying to find himself. There are people (or beings who look like people) trying to find him and take away his special abilities.

The show begins before the comic book stories do, and seem to take major liberties with the plot. I don’t really care. Comic books are not television series, and can’t be precisely reproduced. And more than twenty years have passed since the comic began. A character like Tulip, who is pretty much just a love interest in the comic, is a fully fleshed out character in the television show, with her own problems and passions and sense of herself. More than a few critics think she’s the most compelling character, at least in the four episodes that have aired as of this writing.

A lot of these critics have compared the television show to a Coen Brothers movie, and I understand that. There are a lot of terrific faces in this series, faces that aren’t symmetrical or conventionally beautiful. The cinematography gives the exterior shots a golden glow that can be warm or bleak, and the interior shots can be exalted or claustrophobic or in-between.

Here’s what I remember most about the series: Steve Dillon would draw page after page of the three main characters (Jesse, the titular preacher, Cassidy, the vampire, and Tulip, the girl), and even though that’s supposed to be the most boring thing one can do in comics, I was mesmerized. A lot of that was Garth’s writing, but it was also the way Steve could convey so much information in a facial expression. There are actors that do this, at least for me (Claire Danes, Denzel Washington, Bette Davis), but very few artists in any medium.

The show doesn’t look exactly like Dillon’s art, but it feels like Dillon’s art, just like the Hughes Brothers’ movie From Hell felt like Eddie Campbell’s art without actually looking like his line work. Similarly, Dominic Cooper and Joe Gilgun feel like Custer and Cassidy without actually looking like them. Ruth Negga isn’t cute and blonde like the Tulip in the comics but, as noted above, she’s way better.

Garth and Steve both have their names on the television series as executive producers, and I hope this means the checks clear. I also hope I keep enjoying the vibe the show shares with the series. In the meantime, I’m having way more fun with this than the last few seasons of The Walking Dead.

Comics Reviews (June 24, 2015)

From worst to best of what I paid for.

E is for Extinction #1

You can’t go home again, and certainly can’t by just hiring some Grant Morrison collaborators and hoping for the best. Perfectly adequate, I guess, if all you want is nostalgia. But you know what’s better? The Grant Morrison run on New X-Men.

Crossed Badlands #79 (aka Homo Tortor #5)

Not a bad comic, to be clear, but one that’s spinning its wheels a bit. There’s no new concepts to introduce, it would seem, but plot to resolve before the end, resulting in an issue that’s functional. I suspect coming out at the same time as the other “Crossed in a different time period” book is not doing Gillen any favors here, not least because the other one is written by Alan Moore. Really, one kind of has to pity Gillen; he must have assumed, starting his career when he did, that “having your book come out alongside an Alan Moore book with which it is inevitably going to be compared” was a fate he’d be spared.

Batgirl #41

Competent, fun, but man, Convergence killed the momentum here. I like the dynamic introduced for Batgirl by Gordon becoming Batman, though. That should be a fun story. And the scene where Gordon reveals his double identity to his daughter is delightful. Basically, a book I look forward to being excited about again.

Daredevil #16

Waid makes a slick turn into his final arc, setting up a suitably epic Daredevil/Kingpin showdown that doesn’t feel like any we’ve seen before. I admit, I’ve not sat down and watched the Netflix series, but I really do hope that Waid’s approach here reinvigorates the character in the long-term and gets him away from the banal and repetitive noir take that he’s been stuck in for decades.

Where Monsters Dwell #2

Garth Ennis at his hilarious best. This is not a complex or subtle comic, just a very funny one with lots of monsters and a ruthlessly mocked protagonist. The final twist caused the sort of intensive laughter that gets you weird looks at Starbucks.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #15

Pleasantly, this is increasingly obviously just ignoring the actual Secret Wars aspects of the plot and just sort of doing a side Norse apocalypse in which they react to Hickman’s. Verity’s life story is delightful in a classic Al Ewing way, and the cliffhanger’s solid. Going to enjoy the final lap here, I think.

The Infinity Gauntlet #2

Very glad I forgot to drop this, as this is absolutely wonderful now that it’s successfully trained the audience in how to read it. Ridiculously inaccurate cover, or, at least, one that ignores what most of the comic is. But family Nova Corps is a brilliant take. Is Zigzag the best new character of 2015? I think she is.

Annihilator #6

This frustrated me through much of its run, and I suspect that Morrison could have made it work better in four issues than six, but no matter; the finale is a triumph. LA noir bleeds into epic science fiction and a meditation on the craft of writing in the way that only Grant Morrison can do it. Funny, touching, exciting, and full of very pretty Frazer Irving art. Delightful, delightful issue.

Originally published on PhilipSandifer.com.

Marc Alan Fishman: A Law Worthy of a Super-Villain

As I trolled my Facebook feed this morning, I was caught off guard by some Indiana-dwelling friends. It would seem what I’d thought was an Onion news item was in fact real news. The Indiana state legislature passed a bill – the re-imagining of the “Religious Freedom and Restoration Act” – and upon reading what it allows… well, it sounds like the plot of a Garth Ennis yarn.

And yes, I know that ComicMix is a site for us to post about comics, pop culture, and the other related minutiae of geekery. This law represents nothing related to popular culture outside the fact that the Indianapolis Star reported GenCon threatened to move their large convention to a state that doesn’t allow businesses to discriminate under the pretense of religious freedom. And while I’d hope that Indiana Governor Pence takes the threat under advisement, let’s be honest. He’s far more interested in thwarting legions of Storm Troopers’ ability to purchase goods and services… because they enjoy sodomy and Satan worship, don’t you know.

Unlucky for us pinko-commie-liberals (those who support Obama, and/or think war is dumb), this law isn’t anything new. Indiana is now amongst 19 states that all passed similar legislation. This was to combat the atrocity of Obamacare forcing businesses to pay for healthcare that allowed for the proliferation of birth control, as well as combat all those laws allowing “the Gays™” to marry.

If I recall my US history lessons, I remember that the United States of America was founded in part because crazy folks began to realize that a government need not control, nor be controlled by a central religion. They dreamed of a land where people would have the right to free speech. To gather as they see fit, and worship whomever they chose to. And after a little genocide, they got a huge chuck of land with which to do it. After some wars, death, taxes, and whatnot, the US even adopted the crazy idea that all men are created equal, and gave equal rights to people of all colors, ethnicities, and (eventually) genders. Insane, I know. And after even more death, wars, taxes, the rise and fall of MTV, and a little bit of space travel (if you believe it was real), this same country even started to realize that all people are created equal, and started allowing identify as gay have those very same rights that straight people had.

Well, obviously this is all too much to handle. Thank Rao for red states. I don’t mean to be partisan about the issue, but it’s rare I hear from someone left of center decrying the wasteland of debochery we obviously live in. I’ve seen nary a single soul with an Obama sticker adorned on their VW Jetta lambasting the heathens who shop openly at Whole Foods. But I digress.

The simple truth is that this law (both in Indiana and in all states who adopted similar laws) is unconstitutional. While I agree that a business can put up a “No shirt, no shoes, no service” sign, and stick to it, putting one up that declares “no gays” infringes on the rights of personal freedom. Not wearing a shirt or shoes could be argued for via sanitary needs. Being gay, a Satanist, or a Cherokee doesn’t introduce potentially harmful bacteria to available merchandise. And if a store is to be open to the public, then the public – with all their beliefs in tact – should have the right to shop in said store. Of course I’d rather know up front if a store I planned to support did not support gay rights, so I could be quick to never shop there again.

This is the world we live in, kiddos. Our federal government can’t find a reason to not allow people of the same sex to marry, so the individual states choose to do it instead. I’d say we’re on the verge of a Civil War, but frankly I know we’re not. We’re amidst a time where the old guard clings to their outdated views, and the next generation removes the idiocy in due time. In this case? I just wish I could fast forward to the time where the bigots and ignorant decide to secede from the Union, and hold shop somewhere I’m not. Because the “Religious Freedom and Restoration Act” is something even Doctor Doom would identify as futile.

Doom / Sanity 2016, folks.

 

Marc Alan Fishman: DC’s Newest – A New Hope or Phantom Menace?

Marc Alan Fishman: DC’s Newest – A New Hope or Phantom Menace?

Section 8Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been snarky. And I use that italicized denotation to declare to you that my right eyebrow is fully engaged and riding high, whilst its partner is floating low. There is a smirk across my mouth that clearly tells you that I’m excited. These are the announcements Internet op-ed folk dream of reading – and then immediately speculate, rant, and blather about.

The New 52 is dead. Long may you rot, New 52.

Following up from the soon-to-pass “Convergence” epic-to-end-all-epics-except-that-last-epic crossover event, DC will be overhauling its monthly title list to include 25 currently running series, and a newly announced (well, like, a week ago announced) set of 24 new titles that may just be rebrands, or retitled series they still are putting out. So, be prepped for yet-another-batch of #1s to flood your racks and drain your wallet. And I say your wallet because in spite of all the good karma DC is attempting to gain by admitting some present-day faults with this stunt, I have yet to be impressed. If anything, this current PR initiative leaves me even more tepid regarding mainstream comic bookery.

Dan DiDio’s press release declared the shifting sands of the line as “allow[ing] us to publish something for everyone, be more expansive and modern in our approach and tell stories that better reflect the society around us.” All in all, that’s a great sentiment. It clearly rides the line between apology and promise for the future. Something for everyone hits right in the bread basket. As the average comic shop goer continues to diversify – both in who goes to the shop as well as what those in the shop are looking for – declaring that a motif of the line was to expand beyond the norm of capes and cowls is a great thing to strive for.

Of course if you then look at the line being offered, tt’s a big fat lie.

The rest of the quote deals with incorporating a modern approach in telling stories that reflect the society around us. This leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. They said the same thing with the New 52 and all we got were angsty superheroes and an abundance of Nehru collars. Oh, and the death of a ton of worthwhile continuity and legacy. But I digress.

Be that is it may, there’s glints of hope peering out in between the predictable. The Bryan Hitch written and drawn Justice League of America gives me the hope from last time I gave a crap about DC’s biggest team – the Morrison years. We Are Robin takes what appears to be a street-level justice bent, likely set in Gotham. It harkens back perhaps to GCPD, a series that I wish there were more of in any incarnation of the DCU. And for those who like to celebrate the odd, well, Bat-Mite or Bizarro might take typical cape-and-cowl crud and give us something unexpected.

Peering further down the list though, we get series that seem to be dusting off concepts the modern reader isn’t going to know. Prez, Omega Men, and Section Eight: I’m looking at you. Seeing these titles amongst the noobs has me scratching my head. Pair those What the-? titles with lame ducks like Black Canary, Martian Manhunter, and Cyborg and I’m no longer scratching… I’m shaking it in sadness.

Not because I don’t want these series to succeed, mind you. But the truth of the matter is none of these books are on the tips of the tongues of those seeking new books or concepts. And while DC may hope some jazzy art, or a modern concept will instantly enamor the geeks at large with the new books… someone somewhere should denote that one simply can’t “Batgirl” their way to victory. It will take heavy lifting by the respective creative teams to lure the initiated into the fold – and then it will take near perfection of execution to keep those books alive. If they want a hint, they should go back to New York and ask Marvel about Hawkeye.

The truth of the matter is that it will take an amazing leap of faith for any of the new series to be more than just another attempt at making buzz. While putting great talent on a book (like Ennis and McCrea on Section Eight – a series tied to their old hit, Hitman) is never a bad thing… putting out this many number one issues in succession makes it infinitely harder to see the kind of success DiDio is hoping for. It’s not enough to hack and slash your way through the catalog and dump a ton of new books on the public under the guise of the shifting tides.

The announcement on the whole reeks to me of boardroom politics and analytic-based commodity profiteering. Simply put, the powers-that-be figured out that #1s spike sales. So, fuck all… flood the market again, wrap it up in some nice PR about diversity, and save the line for another two years.

Mark my words: if half of the newly announced series are still being published at issue #13, feel free to shave my face.

 

In Memoriam: Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks died twenty years ago today, February 26, 1994. Most comic book fans know him from his appearance in Preacher #31, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon:

Here’s the man at work, in a segment that David Letterman removed from his show:

This was his final statement:

February 7, 1994 –

     I was born William Melvin Hicks on December 16, 1961 in Valdosta, Georgia. Ugh. Melvin Hicks from Georgia. Yee Har! I already had gotten off to life on the wrong foot. I was always “awake,” I guess you’d say. Some part of me clamoring for new insights and new ways to make the world a better place.

     All of this came out years down the line, in my multitude of creative interests that are the tools I now bring to the Party. Writing, acting, music, comedy. A deep love of literature and books. Thank God for all the artists who’ve helped me. I’d read these words and off I went – dreaming my own imaginative dreams. Exercising them at will, eventually to form bands, comedy, more bands, movies, anything creative. This is the coin of the realm I use in my words – Vision.

     On June 16, 1993 I was diagnosed with having “liver cancer that had spread from the pancreas.” One of life’s weirdest and worst jokes imaginable. I’d been making such progress recently in my attitude, my career and realizing my dreams that it just stood me on my head for a while. “Why me!?” I would cry out, and “Why now!?”

     Well, I know now there may never be any answers to those particular questions, but maybe in telling a little about myself, we can find some other answers to other questions. That might help our way down our own particular paths, towards realizing my dream of New Hope and New Happiness.

Amen

     I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.

More power to you, buddy. Hope you enjoyed the ride.

Weekend Window Closing Wrap-Up: February 9th, 2014

Closing them on my browser so you can open them on yours, a list of various things that I haven’t had time to write full posts about. Here we go again…

What else is out there? Consider this an open thread.

Mindy Newell: To Tell The Truth

Steven-Colbert-with-Elements-of-Style-Fourth-Edition-William-Strunk-Jr.-Author-E.-B.-White-Author-Roger-Angell-ForewordEmbellishment.

Is it a dirty word, especially when it comes to writing? Well, it depends. Simply put, there must be no embellishment when writing for a professional journal. The truth must be told.

There is a big difference between writing for a professional journal and writing fiction, or even this column. Writing for a professional journal must follow a proscribed style set by peer-reviewed organizations whose rules on grammatical usage, word choice, elimination of bias in language, the proper citation of quotes and references and the inclusion of charts and tables have become the authoritative source for all intellectual writing. This means that for me, as an RN, BSN, CNOR, I must adhere to the styles and standards set by the Publication Manual Of The American Psychologoical Assocociation (APA), which is “consulted not only by psychologists but also by students and researchers in education, social work, nursing, business, and many other behavioral and social sciences” (VanderBros, 2010) if I submit a paper or article to the Journal of the Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN) for publication.

Does this mean that when I write fiction, or this column, I am allowed to freely embellish my stories? Does it mean that I am allowed to not to tell the truth?

Fiction writers do not really have one easily referenced professional publication in which the governance of grammar and punctuation are laid out in indisputable terms, in which the standards of style are set – though this does not mean I can sit down in front of my computer screen and write just one continuous sentence that goes on and on for pages and pages – well, perhaps I could if I was James Joyce. But all writers do need to start somewhere, and for anyone who has ever taken a creative writing course, or even tried to stay awake in their English high school class, the classic Elements Of Style, first written in 1918 by Professor William Strunk, Jr., is a good place to start. Strunk said something in that first edition that, 95 years later, has withstood the test of time and which, I believe, every writer, aspiring or published must integrate into his or her understanding of the art of writing:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

Elements was first revised in 1957 by New Yorker writer E. B. White (the author of the children’s classic Charlotte’s Web), and by 1979s third edition, listed 11 rules for grammar, 11 principles of writing, 11 standards for form, and 21 recommendations for style. (A search on Amazon revealed that Chris Hong updated The Elements Of Style for Kindle readers in 2011.) But there’s a lot more advice out there. A little while ago I entered “standards for fiction writing” on Google, and got 15,400,000 hits in 0.23 seconds.

On my bookshelf I have not only Elements of Style, but also Zen in the Art of Writing – Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury, Write for Yourself – The Book About The Seminar and Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, both by Lawrence Block, Write in Style – Using Your Word Processor and Other Techniques to Improve Your Writing by Bobbie Christmas, How I Write – Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof, Inventing the Truth – the Art and Craft of Memoir edited by William Zinsser and which includes essays by such notables as Russell Baker, Annie Dillard, Toni Morrison, and Frank McCourt, Is Life Like This? – A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months by John Dufresne, The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel by Robert J. Ray, Writing Fiction from the Gotham Writers’ Workshop, and Writers on Comics Scriptwriting which includes interviews with such illustrious authors as Peter David, Kurt Busiek, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Jeph Loeb and Grant Morrison.

I also have Eisner/Miller – Interview Conducted by Charles Brownstein, which is wonderful not only for its historical perspective, but for a peep into two great creative minds, and “Casablanca – Script and Legend” by Howard Koch,” which is incredibly instructive in detailing how magic sometimes happens despite ornery studio heads, battling co-writers, and an inability to decide how the story ends. I also have Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” on my to-buy list.

And to tell the truth, I sometimes think that all this advice is still not enough.

Reference: Vandehaus, Gary R. (2010). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. (6th ed., pp. xiii – xiv). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

To Be Continued…

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis