Tagged: George Perez

Marc Alan Fishman: The New Breed of Con Goer

This past week, you’ve likely seen it: Denise Dorman, wife of “Famed Comic Book/Sci-Fi/Fantasy illustrator Dave Dorman,” decided to write an op-ed concerning the decline of sales she and her husband have been privy to over the last years. She has since posted a second response to make her points more clear.

Denise’s original piece began: “Privately, famed comic book industry personalities everywhere are discussing with each other whether to stop exhibiting at comic book conventions. There’s a fine line between being accessible to and pleasing the fans vs. losing money at these conventions.”

Unshaven Comics has been independently producing comic books and attending comic conventions regularly for only seven years or so. In no way, shape, or form do we come close to the level of fame and success her husband has enjoyed. But in the time that we have been active, I have never heard a single peep (and we in the Artist Alley tend to be a gossipy bunch to begin with) about this discussion. In fact, at the Cincinnati Comic Expo I attended this past weekend, with Mark Bagely, Marv Wolfman, George Pérez, Neal Adams, and Bob Layton I saw only smiling faces – even when lines weren’t incredibly overcrowded. And while I did hear from some folks around us that the show wasn’t bringing them tons of business, only our neighbors decided to cut ties early. And for those playing at home, Unshaven Comics beat our desired sales goal by over 25%.

At first, Bleeding Cool would have you believe that she blamed the Cosplayers. This is not true. In her second blog on the matter, Denise points blame to the “new breed of attendees who are there because someone said its cool to be there.”

To that point: Comic Conventions weren’t founded with the expressed concern of making creators money, they were ways to bring a community of fans together for the opportunity to commiserate, a way to trade and purchase issues to build budding collections, and meet those would-be creators who were the reason the conventions were created. These conventions were small – starting out in gymnasiums, VFW halls, and hotel ballrooms. This new breed (and those who specifically come to the new larger shows), per Denise, are hangers-on to the fad; those who come because they think it’s en vogue. Those who show up not being card-carrying comic book fans.

Her column went on to note as sales were simply non-existent at ole’ Wally World:

“…You know, you start to get paranoid. You start to think, ‘Is it only us? Is Dave no longer relevant?’ So I began covertly asking around. Asking artists equally in demand, equally famous. No one I interviewed made money at that show.” Ultimately Denise falls back on her assertion that it’s these quasi-fans that are most likely the culprit to her husband’s decline in sales specifically at conventions. Mrs. Dorman continued “I have slowly come to realize that in this selfie-obsessed, Instagram Era, cosplay is the new focus of these conventions – seeing and being seen, like some giant masquerade party. Conventions are no longer shows about commerce, product launches, and celebrating the people who created this genre in the first place.” She’s absolutely right. And may Rao bless that fact from here to the next Crisis.

Comic book conventions have become less and less about comic books. On this, I don’t disagree. In addition to comic books, they now encapsulate science fiction (like Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Star Trek), fantasy (like Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter), and gaming (like Magic: the Gathering, and Warhammer). A cursory glance back at Mr. Dorman’s Wikipedia page celebrates that he has created artwork for Batman, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Star Wars… and Magic: the Gathering. Curious then that he’s not connecting to the larger audiences coming to these shows. But I digress.

The point made was that the flux of cosplayers and their subsequent fans are now taking away from the open commerce, Marvel and DC press release parties, and the creator-gushing of yesteryear. You might say that the conventions are becoming more about a gathering of a like-minded community coming together to celebrate their loves and less about dropping ducats on merchandise from people who now can be accessed via a personal website, or any number of social medias.

What troubles me is this: My table of artists (including me) who aren’t in demand or famous saw an increase in book sales upwards of 10% at the show (over last year) Mrs. Dorman most recently attended. This included a day where we set a single day record for total books sold – 225 of them to be exact. How would it be then, that a table of peons would somehow out-earn those who are known in the industry? Did our nefarious plan of installing a toll booth actually work? Someone better go back and get a shit load of dimes!

Denise went on to ask: “At what point do you start to wonder if – other than your faithful, loyal regulars who are like family and who find you every time – the general fandom population even gives a shit about the creators more than they care about their Instagram profiles?”

Allow me to answer in kind. The general population – those Instagram-obsessed fans – gives more than just a shit for those creators who take the time to reach out and communicate. I say this admitting freely I’ve never seen Dave Dorman. And we’ve exhibited at the same shows more than once. I don’t know how specifically Dave exhibits. But if he is like others I’ve seen over the last seven years… he may sit, smiling, awaiting those loyal regulars to come with cash in hand. In short, it’s not enough anymore. It hasn’t been that way in a long time.

For those new fans Dave needs to continue to be the celebrated creator he is, I ask how he chooses to engage them? Having not been a specific fan of his work (and yes, he is actually an astounding talent), if I were to walk past him, would he attempt to stop me and chat? I’m not selfie-obsessed, but I’m also not apt to make it a chore to check with every exhibitor at a convention. Especially if there’s a cool cosplay I need to post a picture of. It’s no longer enough to rest on the laurels of a resume, or even the strength of a displayed portfolio. The market has evened out. All who exhibit are slowly becoming equals amongst the growing legions of fans flocking to the shows. And it’s clear to me, as it should be to all creators: If you’re not making money… it’s not the fault of the fans, or the rising ticket prices, or food costs. The blame doesn’t get to be shuffled anywhere else but on those who make no effort to change with the rolling tide.

The fact is that the newest generation of fans that frequent comic conventions are coming first and foremost to celebrate their love of the media. That love need not be via purchases in the digital era. A comic on my table is considerably less than a commission a known artist offers at their table. When one faces a sea of new faces (heh), the easy money is on the short sale – be that a celebrated or loathed fact. Never once in my time behind the table have I heard from legit fans (including those in every conceivable generation) that the cost of a ticket, a hot dog, or an autograph prevented them from purchasing a comic or print from my table. Cons are costly, I’m not denying that. But at the end of the day, the fans are coming on their own terms, not by the financial needs of those of us behind the table.

Mrs. Dorman’s original post ended “…at what point would YOU cut bait and stop attending these shows? How do we satisfy the fans in a way that makes sound financial $ense ? ? ?”

To be blunt, here are my answers: I won’t cut bait, ever. We earn our fans one at a time. I assess the marketplace. I exhibit within my means. I analyze my sales data. I adapt to a changing market. I work my ass off. And I don’t wait for fans to come discover me. I make them discover me. I don’t want to be an instigator, or one to throw a punch at an undeserving target. The truth of the matter is that the conventions of old are dwindling, if not dead. If Wizard and their ilk don’t offer comped tables to creators who are there to turn profit, then those creators must accept that the shows are now not there the fans’ need to connect to creators. For good or bad… They’re there to connect with each other. If you want that to change… It’s not about cutting ties or holding conventioneers responsible. It’s about getting your hands dirty and figuring out how to make the change yourself.


Mike Gold: What Goes Around Inevitably Comes Around

DC Entertainment Co-Publisher and Editorial Big Kahuna Dan DiDio let the cat out of the bag on Facebook last week. In referring to Countdown To Infinite Crisis, he said “Definitely one of the highlights of my time at DC, but it gets me thinking, has it really been almost ten years since then, and maybe its time to do it one better.”

Dan, I’m sorry to say this, but your average seven year old could do it one better; two if you gave him a bigger box of Crayolas.

Look, we haven’t even finished Future’s End, a.k.a. Crisis on Infinite Angst. That means we haven’t even seen its trans-universe gangbang follow-up (pictured above, WordPress willing), Blood Moon. And now you’re “teasing” us with still another Crisis?

No, you are not. I know the difference between a tease and threat. A tease involves taking off almost all of your clothes. A threat is Vladimir Putin taking on Darkseid.

I really liked the original Crisis On Infinite Earths. It was a great series in and of itself. But immediately thereafter DC relaunched Superman and Wonder Woman, which sort of pulled the rug out from under the linear reboot. Then DC launched into a whole mess of predictable game-changers: The Death of Superman, followed by The Death or Disappearance of Almost Everybody Else One At A Time. It wasn’t too long before all the cool stuff in Crisis On Infinite Earths was invalidated or contradicted or ret-conned into oblivion. I can’t count the number of Crisis sequels that followed the one that set the DC Universe straight for the first and still-only time.

Indeed, over the past 30 years the DC fans have learned one and only one thing: we cannot trust DC to sustain a thought.

Like most of your readers and ostensibly many of your staff (hard to tell with the big move to Los Angeles), we all love and revere the DC characters. I know you share these feelings because you’ve said so yourself many times. Some of us were inspired to read because of DC’s output. Some of us got a nice slice of our morality from the doings of these characters. They may be entertainment, but entertainment can be enlightening and DC has spent the best part of 79 years doing just that.

Dan, I am not picking on you, nor am I picking on the talented writers and artists you employ, many of whom I count among my friends. If you want to do a sequel of something, base it upon one of the most innovative, daring and worthy projects in American comic book history. Maybe you can call it Thursday Comics.

You wanna do another Crisis? Do another Crisis. I can’t stop you. But, please do one thing: do not call it “Crisis.” Show some originality.

Besides, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez deserve better.


Mike Gold: The Wonder Woman Sensation

Back in the 1970s during my first tenure as a DC Comics employee, I rhetorically asked the question “who was relaunched more often – Wonder Woman or Captain America?” For you young’uns, in today’s lingo “relaunched” means “rebooted.” Even as a rhetorical question, people’s heads exploded. This, of course, did not stop us fanboys from counting.

It turns out in order to get a fair count we needed to summon the spirit of Milton Sirotta. Oh, okay, check it out here. Yes, I’m asking you to Google Googol.

My advice, offered at the time and I continue to offer today, was to treat Wonder Woman as though she were a genuine superhero and have her do all the other stuff the other superheroes, almost exclusively male, could do. It’s amazing how often she was just… lame. I’m not saying the mythological approach, as best presented by George Pérez although the present team of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang is absolutely first-rate, is in any way wrong. Not at all. They-all use mythology in a manner similar to Jack Kirby’s Thor, and that’s about the highest praise I’ve got.

Wonder Woman did not get her start in the All-American Comics’ anthology title, Sensation Comics. She got her start a month earlier, in the DC/All-American hybrid, All-Star Comics #8. But it was Sensation Comics that was her launchpad to superstardom.

Wonder Woman quickly earned her own title, as well as a regular slot in Comic Cavalcade and the job of – wait for it – secretary in the Justice Society. As time wounded all deals, only the eponymous title survived the “Golden Age,” one of only three superhero comics to do so. And that’s about all of WW’s really, really strange creation history that I’m going to share right now.

Last week, DC returned Sensation Comics to the world as part of its much celebrated (well, celebrated by me, often, in this chunk of the Ethersphere) Digital First line. That means it’ll be reprinted, I think today, in traditional comic book form and then ignored by too many retailers who think “digital” is a four-letter word. Woe onto them: Sensation Comics is a pure superhero title. It is Wonder Woman the Superhero. Which is what she was created to be.

You couldn’t put this first story in better hands. Gail Simone is no stranger to the character and no slouch as a writer – in fact, she’s one of the best practicing the craft today. Artist Ethan Van Sciver is a fan-fave as well, and for good reason: he is great at handling superhero stories. He should be cloned.

Together, Gail and Ethan give us … well, a Batman story, except Batman isn’t in it, Wonder Woman is. Instead of the ever-expanding Batman family, we’ve got WW’s sisters-in-arms. We’ve got The Joker, The Penguin, Two-Face, The Riddler et al, and Wonder Woman is taking them all on, as any great superhero would.

This is one of the best superhero comics I’ve read in quite a while. More important, it’s the superhero comic Wonder Woman deserves.

Check it out.



Mike Gold: 52 Original Future Crises Of Sin

Original SinNow that the Big Two are deep into their mandatory summer crossovers – as opposed to their mandatory winter crossovers, their mandatory spring crossovers, and their mandatory fall crossovers – I can’t tell the players without a scorecard.

At the core of both series is the same plot: all or most of the sundry parallel universes are going to collide into one, if, indeed, that many. This does not envelop either series in an aura of originality, particularly when Marv Wolfman and George Pérez did this 29 years ago. You may not think they did it better way back in the early days of the Gilded Age of Comics (and you’d be wrong about that), but at the very least you could understand that story. Original Sin and Future’s End… not so much.

At least Marvel’s Original Sin is built around a clever plot point: somebody offed The Watcher and stole one or both of his eyes… and then, one eye exploded implanting various deep dark secrets held by various characters into the brainpans of those who were within the blast radius of the eyeball.

No, I don’t know how big the blast radius of a Watcher eyeball is. And I’m a bit pissed off at offing the big bald guy anyway, but it’s comic books, where death has no meaning whatsoever. If they ever kill Aunt May off, she’ll be back in a few months with a bionic bustle.

DC’s Future’s End simply makes no sense. Batman Beyond is sent back in time to prevent the end of the world as we know it, but he misses his mark and arrives later than he was supposed to. Well, fine. That’s it. The hero blew it and it’s over, right?

No such luck. All the characters wander around slapping their foreheads and mumbling woe is me a lot. It doesn’t help that this series features the New 52 version of the DC Universe, which really hasn’t been very well-defined or thought out, but has been compromised after-the-fact by bureaucrats who wouldn’t know a good comics story if they bothered to read one.

It was time to retire the mega-event crossover before we started worrying about Y2K. But these puppies make money, so the Big Two are going to keep on hitting the event button like a crack whore with new kneepads.

It’s easy to understand why comics fans like the Marvel movies. They exist in a comparatively small universe with clear roadmaps. DC doesn’t have that goodwill going for them, and Man Of Steel offered little hope.

But we continue to hope. These are great characters. We love them, and we hope that someday the powers at Warners and Disney start to trust those characters as much as we do, before the core audience is all on catheters and people start to view Superman and Wolverine the way we view The Lone Ranger and Buck Rogers.

Before time runs out. 

Mindy Newell: The Name Of The Monster

“Must a name mean something?” Alice asked doubtfully. 

“Of course it must,” Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh; “my name means the shape I am – and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.”

Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

There was a time in my life when it was my silent, constant partner. I didn’t know then what it was; this thing had no name, and no one had yet advised me to challenge it, to call it out from the shadows into the sunlight. It hid in the cold dark crevices of my psyche, curled around my thoughts and dreams like a boa constrictor, never letting go, an anonymous thing. I knew there was something wrong, but without a name to call it, I could not voice it. Without a name to call it, I could not control it. Without a name to call it, I could not reclaim my self.

Yesterday I went to a comic book store for the first time in a very, very long time.

What the hell does that have to do with my struggles with it? A good question. A legitimate question.

The first time I discovered a store dedicated to comics was way back in the early 80s, during the time when this anonymous thing lived with me day after day, week after week, month after month. I don’t remember purposely sniffing it out – IIRC I just happened to be stopped at a red light on Broadway in downtown Bayonne, New Jersey. The storefront caught my eye; the windows were full of comics and some other stuff, but then the light turned green and I continued along my way.

But for the few moments while I was waiting for the red to turn to green, the thing had let go of me, or, at least, had lessened its grip. It wasn’t an “uh-huh” moment…

But very soon afterwards I was in the store and I wasn’t feeling weird, or odd, or frightened or any of that remote, sad, heaviness of the thing-with-no name which I carried with me – well, not so much, anyhow…

Yeah, not to put it through too fine a sieve – and, yes, it’s 28 years later – I think what I was feeling was comfort.

I looked at all the covers of the comics and the colors and the artwork and all the heroes – Superman, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, The Legion Of Super-Heroes, and all the rest – and I felt better. Okay, not kick-up-your-heels-and-do-a-dance better, but yeah, definitely better. Probably, as my therapist would say, it had to do with being suddenly face-to-face with the little-girl-who-was-me; she who was excited, who was curious, who read comics by flashlight after Taps underneath the covers of my bunk at camp.

I remembered her.

I was her.

I don’t remember what else I bought that day, but I do remember buying Camelot 3000, the groundbreaking maxi-series by Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland, which imagines the prophesized return of King Arthur and his Round Table when the Earth is threatened by an alien invasion in the year 3000 A.D. I have always loved the story of the once and future king; it is the classic hero’s journey, told over and over again in many myths and in many cultures, the tale of the individual who is challenged to walk through the gauntlet, to vanquish the enemy, to achieve peace and knowledge even if cost is dear.

I read that first issue of Camelot 3000, and while I was reading it I escaped the hell of my life. And I kept going back to the comic book store and I kept reading C3000, and I bought and read other comics. I even wrote a “Letter to the Editor” that appeared in an issue of Green Lantern.

It was finally, and properly, diagnosed and named in 1990 as clinical depression.

And yes, naming the monster gave me power.

But I still hate it. Because it never really goes away, y’know? Even with medication and therapy, it’s always there, teasing me. “I’m still here. I had you once. I can have you again.” And sometimes it does, for a little while. The past month, for instance. But I have named it, and so its power is not what it was. And then, too, sometimes I think…

If the monster had not taken hold of me, if I had not had to struggle and walk through the gauntlet, I would have never walked into that comic book store in 1982 and started reading comics again. I would have never sat down on a rainy Sunday and written Jenesis, the story that led me to Karen Berger and New Talent Showcase and all the wonderful things that followed it. I would have never written Lois Lane: When It Rains, God Is Crying, and never would have been able to understand the pain of Chalk Drawings (Wonder Woman #46), which I co-wrote with George Pérez. I would have never gone to conventions and met so many wonderful people – this means you, Mike, John, Kim, and Mary. And you, Martha. And you, Bob Greenberger. And Karen and Len and Marv and Mike Grell and Tom Brevoort and Trina Robbins and Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner and Marie Javins. And so many others, some of who are no longer with us – Dick Giordano and Gray Morrow and Don Heck and Mark Gruenwald…

I hate you, depression.

I hate you with a passion that frightens me. You have fucked up my life in too many goddamn ways.

And yet…

I would not be here now without you.

I said once before, in a previous column, that nothing is wasted.

Even, and I hate to say it, clinical depression.


Mindy Newell: Columnist Columnizing

Newell Art 140421“Don’t you wish you had a job like mine? All you have to do is think up a certain number of words! Plus, you can repeat words! And they don’t even have to be true!” – Dave Barry

Some thoughts this week reflecting upon my fellow ComicMix columnists’ opinions…

Last week Martha Thomases felt compelled to once again write about the bullshit practice of attacking women who “o-pine” (as Bill O’Reilly says) and dare to speak “truthiness,” as Stephen Colbert puts it, in her column, Criticizing Criticism. Toward the end of the piece Martha wrote about a panel at Washington, D.C.’s Awesome Con (held just this past weekend) that she was planning on attending. The name of the panel was “Part-Time Writer, Full Time World.” All the panelists were women, and apparently they were going to “O-pine” and “speak truthiness” about balancing the demands of a full time job, of being a parent, of having a part-time job – with these women, the “part-time” job is writing – with having time for your personal life, all while keeping a sane thought in your head. She made an excellent point when she pointed out that there were no men on the panel.


To (mostly) quote myself in the “comments” section of Martha’s column:

“As far as the full-time job/parenting/writing/hobby balance thing, it’s not a question of whether or not men don’t do any parenting. I think a lot of men are extremely involved in their kids’ lives these days.

“But what I think what Martha is pointing out is the assumption by the con runners, or at least those who set up this particular panel, that it’s only women who are dealing with this conundrum. Or, to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they just wanted to do a “Women in Comics” panel and thought this would be an interesting twist on the subject. Either way, it does seem somewhat sexist–against both sexes for a change!

“The answer, btw – and I feel that I am qualified to answer this conundrum because I was a single parent, and also because I’m now watching Alix and Jeff juggle parenthood, work, and school – is, paraphrasing a certain global sports apparel company:

“‘You just do it’…

“While seeking plenty of help from family, friends, babysitters – and sometimes, if you’re really lucky, an understanding boss or editor.

“And then, when the kids are all grown up and have families of their own, you have the luxury of being a grandmother, and you can just love and spoil the kid and then hand him back when you’re tired or he get’s cranky or it’s just time for you to have some

“And be proud of yourself, because you just ‘did’ it.”

Denny’s and Marc’s columns made me think once again of how Marvel is doing everything right, and how DC is doing everything wrong. As I indicated in last week’s column, Marvel’s creation of a “telefilmverse” has been just brilliant in its adaptation of its comic universe’s history, in its invigoration of old concepts and old heroes, and in the excitement and joy its inventiveness is creating in both old and new fans.

I grew up a total DC geek in its Silver Age. I loved The Legion Of Super-Heroes, Superboy, Green Lantern, Supergirl, and the “Imaginary Stories” of Julie Schwartz’s Superman. In the 80s and early 90s I was hooked on all things Vertigo (Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, to name just a few), Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans, George’s Wonder Woman (even before I co-wrote it), Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s Legion Of Super-Heroes (before I was involved), Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and Ernie Colon’s Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld (ditto), Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland’s Camelot 3000 (ditto) and many more. Back then DC was a groundbreaker, an innovator, “Bold” and “Brave.”

Today when I think of DC I think of words like moribund, and mired, and morose.

Today, like Marc Alan Fishman, I say, “Make Mine Marvel!”

Paul Kupperberg’s review of  The King Of Comedy http://www.comicmix.com//reviews/2014/04/17/review-king-comedy/ is dead-on. If you haven’t seen this movie, see it.

John Ostrander: Happy, happy, happiest of birthdays! I left you a comment, but I don’t know where it went, because it’s not there now. Just know that I wish you everything you talk about in the column – to live even longer than your paternal grandfather and his continue to bang out comic series and a new novel on a regular basis. I can’t wait to read the new GrimJack series, and that brilliant novel that resides on the New York Times Bestseller list for longer than Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games ever did. I want to see Peter David green with envy (just teasing, Peter!) with your success. Hell, I want to see me turn green with envy and choleric with bitterness about your success! And I want you to remember, bro, in the words of that old poet-hipster, James Taylor…

You’ve got a friend.


Mindy Newell: The Problem With Diana – Part Three

So this is the story told in the Florida courtroom.

George Zimmerman looks out his window. He sees Treyvon Martin walking down the block. Zimmerman picks up his gun, goes outside, gets in his car, and hunts Martin down. Zimmerman finds Martin and confronts him. Martin is carrying a dangerous bag of Skittles. The two men get into an altercation. Zimmerman shoots Martin dead. Zimmerman tells the police that Treyvon Martin started the altercation and that he, Zimmerman, was “standing his ground.”

Can you pick out what is wrong in the story?*

•     •     •     •     •

Newell Art 130722As I was saying…

I started to regret ever taking on the whole assignment. I felt I was turning out crap. I was embarrassed. I was sad. I worried about my future as a comics writer. And finally…

I got fed up.

I will never forget the day it happened. I was arguing with Alan. And something in me simply exploded…

Mt. St. Mindy blew.

“Fuck you!!!! I don’t need this shit! I quit!!!!”

I slammed the door as I left. I walked out to the elevator. I pushed the button. I was fuming. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I was done. But Marv (Wolfman) had followed me out to the lobby and there he talked me down, convincing me to keep going, not to quit. He walked me back to the office, and I apologized to editor Alan Gold, and he apologized to me. (And by the way, Alan is a terrific guy, and he and I got along beautifully when we weren’t discussing Wonder Woman.)

So I finished the run. If you can’t remember that far back, the series was ending to prepare the way for George Pérez’s relaunch, and I was responsible for only the last three or four issues. But to be honest, I don’t think I would have stayed on with Alan as the editor, despite our personal friendship, even if the series had continued. I think I would have been fired. Lesson here, boys and girls: never curse out your editor in a loud voice that can be heard everywhere and starts the office talking. Or simply, never curse out your boss. These days I would still want to yell and curse and scream, but I’m a little bit wiser and a whole lot older (not just chronologically) – meaning more mature (?) – and I would try to find a solution that worked for both my editor and myself. Or, if that didn’t work, take myself off the book.

So I was done with Diana.

Until November 1989, and Wonder Woman volume 2, number 36.

Wonder Woman had been rebooted in 1987. Not many people remember that Greg Potter was the original writer/scripter, by the way, with George co-plotting and penciling. But Greg dropped out after the release of Wonder Woman #2, and George became the plotter, with Len Wein writing the scripts until issue #18, when George took over the whole shebang.

This post-Crisis reboot was the one that did it for me. As I’ve stated previously, I have always loved Greek mythology, and my favorite stories about Diana were those involving the Amazons and their gods. Apparently, George and Greg appreciated the rich background, too. The inclusion of the Hellenic mythos and theology of gods and goddesses with supernatural powers but all too human personalities and foibles finally imbued Diana with her own raison d’être that brimmed with a new truthfulness for the character.

Responding to the heartache and prayers of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, who had led her followers to an island shielded in the mists from the patriarchal and brutal world in which they lived, (as the Isle of Avalon is in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists Of Avalon), the goddesses instructed Hippolyta to shape a baby girl out of the earth, and breathed the “gift of life” into the clay. (Hmm…in Jewish lore this makes Diana a golem. A golem is a figure made of clay upon whose forehead the Hebrew letters aleph, mem, and tav are written out to spell emet, which means “truth,” and doesn’t Diana have a golden lariat that forces those bound by it to speak truth? Boy, could I run with that one!)

The child was given the gift of beauty and compassion by Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love; the gift of wisdom from Athena; the power and strength of the earth from Demeter; the creativity, passion, authority, and energy of fire from Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth; and from Artemis, the Huntress, respect for all life and a mastery of weapons. Only Hermes, of all the male gods, bestowed a gift upon Diana – that of speed and the power of flight.

This Diana, though once grown a great warrior and unafraid to use force when necessary, was also a “stranger in a strange land” – not only an innocent in the ways of the world, but unable even to speak English when she first arrived here as an ambassador (or emissary) from Themiscrya.

Even the supporting characters made sense. Steve Trevor was still in the Air Force, but he was older and involved with Etta Candy, who was also more mature and with a realistic physique for her age. And Diana’s mentor in Patriarch’s World, a.k.a. Man’s World, was one Julia Kapatelis, an archaeologist and scholar of the ancient Greek world, who recognized Diana’s speech as a variant of early Greek, and who had a daughter, Vanessa, just about to enter her crazy ‘teens.

Working on this Wonder Woman with George and Karen was absolutely sublime. He was doing the plots, but it was definitely a partnership; and all the characters were so real, so defined – they were easy to write because I knew just what each one would say in whatever situation they found themselves.

The highlight of our work together, im-no-so-ho, was Wonder Woman #46, “Chalk Drawings.” It was ostensibly about Lucy’s suicide, but George and I decided to not focus on Lucy herself; instead, it was about the aftermath of Lucy’s final action. No one knew why Lucy had killed herself; everyone searched for an answer; everyone blamed him or herself. Even Diana, who went home to seek solace from her mother, only to learn from Hippolyta that even an Amazon is capable of committing suicide; even an Amazon cannot always find the answer or the way to help. And with the beautiful artwork of Jill Thompson and Romeo Tanghal, I believe it deserves to be a classic.

On a personal level, having had to deal with clinical depression throughout almost my entire adult life – it wasn’t properly diagnosed until my mid-30’s, btw, and don’t ever try to tell me antidepressants, especially the SSRI class, is more dangerous than the disease, because I will bite your face off – that issue was very special to me, and really emphasized what Wonder Woman, the hero made of clay, the golem, stands for…



* The truth about George Zimmerman is that he deliberately went out and hunted down and provoked, Treyvon Martin. The truth about Treyvon Martin is that he was the one who “stood his ground.”


TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis, if he’s recovered from SDCC


Mindy Newell: The Problem With Diana

Newell Art 130708Over at www.geekmom.com, Corinna Lawson’s June 21st Cliffs of Insanity column once again wondered why Wonder Woman doesn’t get any respect; this was instigated by the news that DC is producing a new comic, Superman’s Girlfriend Wonder Woman – the title is mine – which will “focus on the relationship between the characters.” (Apparently a DC editor considers Lois Lane nothing but a “trophy wife.”) This is occurring, as Corinna rightly points out, “in an environment where women are still fighting for some basic rights, even to the point of having to listen to politicians talk about ‘legitimate rape.’” And, may I add, in which Texas, North Carolina, and ten other states, along with the House of Representatives, have ignored Roe vs. Wade and declared abortion illegal past 20 weeks and making the procedure not only incredibly difficult to obtain, but incredibly denigrating to the individual woman who seeks it.

On June 28th, Shoshana Kessock of www.Tor.com focused on “The Problem with Wonder Woman” in Hollywood, while noting that the Themiscrya Tigress “has recently been dubbed the 20th greatest comic book character by Empire Magazine, and ranked fifth in IGN’s 2011 Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time…[standing] as one of the icons of the comic book world, and has been featured in dozens of comic titles since her debut in 1941. The character has also found success in other media, appearing in a popular live-action television series in the 70s, as well as several animated series (including Super Friends and Justice League).”

Why does Diana not getting her due bother me so much? I guess it’s because I have a personal history with her. Not only was Wonder Woman my first assignment as sole writer, but also I had no clue at the time that I was the first woman to be asked to write her – the only female cornerstone hero of the DC universe.

As I told Gail Simone when she interviewed me for her Five Questions webpage:

“I first worked on Wonder Woman in 1984 or thereabouts – back in the day, I was one of Karen Berger’s ‘fillies’ in her stable of writers in the New Talent Program. I honestly don’t know who suggested it – it sure wasn’t me. I think it was Karen, or perhaps it was Paul Levitz. Maybe it was Marv Wolfman or Len Wein. Anyway, it was about this time when plans were hatching for the [superb, imho] relaunch of Wonder Woman by the absolutely wonderful, nobody-can-touch-his-talent, charming and amazing George Pérez. So the then-current Wonder Woman series was running down – I think there were only about three or four issues le”ft – and I got a call from the editor, Alan Gold, asking me to come in and talk about finishing up the book.

Wonder Woman? Me? Frankly, I was amazed. Also very excited. And flattered.

I didn’t know it was going to turn into such a downer. You see, I didn’t really get a chance to write what I wanted to write. Alan told me – no, decided – what I was to write. He was big into Mayan civilization, theology and myths, and that’s the story he wanted to tell. I think he liked the idea of two great “pagan” civilizations clashing, as Wonder Woman represented the Hellenic Period. But I had no interest in Mayan culture at the time – or was it Aztec? (I still don’t have much of an interest in either of them, except that I know about the Mayan calendar, which ended in November 2012, so we’re all dead – or didn’t you know that?)

But this was my first chance at writing a regular series, plus I was a “nice Jewish girl” who hadn’t grown up yet, so I tried to go along with him – after all, he was the editor, right? But it was a disaster. I was trying, but my heart wasn’t in it, and when a writer’s heart isn’t in, then craft is supposed to take over. Only I was still learning my craft. And I couldn’t spell the goddamn name of the god who was the antagonist, and back then I wrote on a manual typewriter which meant a lot of erasing and White-Out and a lot of putting a fresh piece of paper into the typewriter when the original became too smudgy and too thick with the White-Out stuff.

It got to the point where I not only didn’t give a fuck about spelling the name of the god who was the antagonist of the story, but where I didn’t give a god damn about the whole story. I hated writing Steve Trevor because he lacked the right stuff: he was a nebbish, the perfect pisher, a humiliation in uniform, and a disgrace to the Air Force. I hated writing Etta Candy because she was a stupid fat girl who let men push her around and drowned her inner strength in chocolate.

And as for Diana…

I hated her.




Scholarships Are NOT Entitlements!

As a student at Rutgers, FDU and Wroxton College in the U.K., I often competed for writing scholarships. The awards proved invaluable on numerous levels:
1) As an amateur/student, I was forced to bring my writing to the highest possible level, at that juncture in my development, without any assistance.
2) I learned to meet a deadlines and follow word-count parameters.
3) Winning awards for my writing increased my confidence and allowed me to envision life as a professional.
4) Awards are solid resume material for as-yet unemployed wannabes.
5) Any monies I won were enormously helpful to my father, who earned a meager living but was otherwise happily burdened with my tuition and upkeep.
Needs-based awards have some value but, let’s face it, everyone has needs.
Merit-based awards are far more valuable. And character building.
After Dave Cockrum’s passing, Paty Cockrum and I launched the Dave and Paty Cockrum Scholarship at the Joe Kubert School where we annually award a second-year student with some tuition assistance based on their ability to create seductive, sequential art. We designed the award for someone who has demonstrated a stick-to-itiveness by hanging in for that second term. The scholarship now enters its 6th year and is funded, in part, by sales of Dave Cockrum’s personal comics collection.
After Gene Colan’s passing, I began funding a second scholarship to a promising penciller at the school, also in his or her second year. I was pleased to be informed that these scholarships inspired the creation and private funding of other named scholarships, including one in Dave Stevens’ memory.
With Joe & Adam Kubert at 2012 Scholarship Ceremony

This year’s award ceremony will take place next month and I plan to be on-hand once again to meet and congratulate winning students. This will be the first year my friend Joe Kubert is not there to emcee the event. But in contemplating that loss, I’ve decided to add a third scholarship (as yet unamed), which will be funded by selling signed comics. Today’s collectors like their comics signed and, fortunately, I am able to pick up the phone and ask some old friends for signatures. Stan Lee, Walter Simonson and George Perez were among the first to offer help.

I invite your participation in this new scholarship, too. If you have any signed comics that you are willing to part with (even one), please send them to: Clifford Meth (attn: Kubert Scholarship), 179-9 Rt. 46 West, Rockaway, NJ 07866. Or email me at cliffmeth@aol.com  Donated items will be auctioned on Ebay under the account DaveCockrumEstate (which is currently in use to fund the Cockrum and Colan Awards).

Scholarships helped me and kept me going forward. I am delighted by the opportunity to maintain the circle of life.

Thank you in advance for your kind support.

Read the original at The Clifford Method.

Marc Alan Fishman: Look! It’s a Bland… It’s a Plain… It’s Supermeh!

Fishman Art 130126At the onset of the New52 there was a buzz and excitement over the flagship character of DC Entertainment. Known as (perhaps) the most recognizable comic book character of all time, Superman was all set to be relaunched for a new age… towing the company behind his Nehru collar and underpantsless new uniform. Well, here we are now 16 months after the super-retcon, and I ask you… are things as we’d all hoped?

In a word? No. In more than a word? Not a chance. In a timely metaphor? Not even by a Joe Flacco longshot. The Superman property is, just as it was prior to the New52: convoluted, marred by an already high barrier to entry, and choked on it’s own backwash of continuity errors and creator squabbles. The real question emerges: Why did it all go wrong?

Well, one finger of shame lay with a writer I admire quite a bit. Grant Morrison, for all his amazing contributions of the craft of comic bookery, just over-promised and under-delivered his new Big Blue Boy Scout. The pitch for Action Comics in the New52 was perhaps the boldest of its brethren to see the light of the comic rack. Ditching years of backstory to start us “five years before the present” in a new origin for the character. One that would return him to the roots of his golden age; where he was a more human Superman… fallible, nuanced in his personal politics, and more “of the people.” And for what it was worth the book had a strong start that left unto itself, was quite enjoyable. And then Morrison got itchy.

Action Comics crammed updated concepts and plot threads with reckless abandon. By the time the first arc was over, eight months in, we’d be treated to literary cacophony. I quote myself from my review of Action Comics #8:

“In eight issues we get a shiny new take on Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olson, Brainiac, Metallo, Steel, the Legion of Super Heroes, the Phantom Zone, the bottle city of Kandor, the history of Krypton, a horde of Kryptonian villains-to-be (that frankly I don’t feel like scouring Wikipedia for names), and of course… Superman himself.”

Suffice to say, I could spend the remainder of this article going over my thoughts on the super Scottsman, but I digress. Morrison was but a single rusty cog in a faulty machine. That is to say he didn’t really have much of a chance to succeed.

As we all know, comic books are first and foremost a business. And as such, a business exists to turn profit. That means that even though continuity would be better understood and appreciated if a single Superman saw the shelves every month… DC and the powers that be would never let such a large property draw on the fan base just once every thirty days. The last(ish) son of Krypton was also being seen in the pages of Superman, another monthly… run by the always-popular, always-festive George Pérez.

Superman was placed in the present of the DCnU, which of course led most readers tackling both books trying to connect the dots of Morrison’s tee-shirt work-boot Supes versus Pérez’s Lee-designed line-riddled version. And where as Action dealt with legacy villains and plot threads… the modern take had new unmemorable villains, awkward call backs to Action comic plot threads, and more focus on “action” than its sister title. This led to an early exiting Pérez, citing editorial discrepancy and a lack of freedom on the book.

In less nice words? Morrison (whether he knew it or not) was driving the character, and Pérez wasn’t along for the ride. Shortly thereafter, new teams were swapped in, and Superman got to fight run-off villains from Wildstorm. And even now Superman, Girl, and Boy are all sharing a (terrible) crossover book… whilst Action slowly ties up its loose ends for Morrison’s announced departure. DC put its editorial eggs in Action Comics, and has let the “family” just mess up the living room while Daddy works downstairs.

This isn’t how to keep a fan base. The whole notion of the New52 was to eliminate confusing backstory, and hook in new readers. It takes time to do this. And hurling two books in two timelines, with conflicting information, new and old villains, all while placing the same character in a team book that takes place at some point between the two main books…. does not make it easy for a new reader to come aboard. Hell, I’m exhausted even typing that.

A short while back I lamented about my guarded optimism (or maybe it was pessimism) over the Man of Steel movie set to debut this year. Recently, super scribe Scott Snyder was announced to have a new ongoing at DC alongside the never-late-on-a-book-except-when-he’s-late-which-is-often-because-he-has-a-very-busy-schedule Jim Lee lending his artistic arm for however long it takes for him to be late again. And while Scott Snyder has done no wrong by me since I’ve picked up his previous titles (all being Bat books), I’m nothing if not entirely skeptical. I gave Action a shot until issue nine, and then fell off. H’El on Earth looked atrocious (and reports from my Unshaven Cohort Matt, who is reading it, confirms this fact). Does anyone else feel the winds of change gathering up under our feet? Could a decent turn at the box office and a shiny new book just make us forgive and forget 48+ books featuring a Superman marred by every convoluted problem he faced long before we knew what the New 52 was?

I’m certain we’ll forget. Superman Red and Blue anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? But forgiveness is another story. And empty promises have always been the kryptonite of the comic book reading public. Your move, DC.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander