Tagged: George Perez

Mindy Newell: Frakkin’ Ho-Ho-Ho!

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

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

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

So in no particular order, here we go:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’ll be your gift to me.




Mindy Newell: See Ya, Hub

“I hate endings!” said the Doctor to Amy (in last night’s episode of Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan”) as he ripped out the last page of the novel he was reading. The Doctor always rips out the final page of a book, he tells Amy, because he doesn’t want the story to end. The Doctor wants the story to go on. He wants to forget his near-immortal life, he wants to forget that in the end his companions always leave him because they never have enough time and he will always have too much. He wants to forget that he is the last of the Time Lords, the end of the line.

But we are not Time Lords. We know endings come. We know our ending is coming, one way or another, sooner or later. (Hopefully much, much later!) And I think that one of the ways we come to grips with our final denouement is by telling and reading stories because stories end.  And our lives are stories, aren’t they? And don’t we always want to know how the story ends?

Endings can be the reasons we keep turning the pages of the book, even if it’s 2 A.M. and we have to get up to go to work in three hours, or why we watch a movie for the hundred-and-first time.

Endings can enlighten. They can surprise, they can awe, they can make us cry. Endings can make us angry, and they can drive us crazy.

Endings can be poignant and bittersweet. Endings can really suck the big one. Or they can be both at the same time.

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite endings:

The Gift (Joss Whedon, Buffy The Vampire Slayer): “She saved the world a lot.”

The Death Of Supergirl (Marv Wolfman And George Perez, Crisis On Infinite Earths #7): Farewell, Kara Zor-el, the avatar of my childhood dreams.

The Nine Billion Names Of God (Arthur C. Clarke): “Overhead, without an fuss, the stars were going out.”

Nightfall (Isaac Asimov): The stars come out.

Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? (Alan Moore, Curt Swan, & George Perez, Superman #423 And Action #583): The end of an era.

The Lottery (Shirley Jackson): “’It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,’ Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.”

An Officer And A Gentleman: Hey, what girl doesn’t want to be swept up in the arms of a gorgeous Naval officer and taken away from her drudgery-filled life?

A Guy Named Joe (Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne): “That’s my girl. And that’s my boy.”

Saving Private Ryan: (Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, with a cameo by Ted Danson): “P-51’s, sir. Tank Busters.”

The Way We Were (Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford): “See ya, Hub.”


We are not Time Lords. We want to know the end of the story. Last night, in “The Angels Take Manhattan,” the adventures of Amelia Pond and Rory Williams as they travelled through time and space with the Gallifreyan came to well, an end.

But their lives went on.

All our lives are stories, aren’t they?

See ya, Hub.


TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis, more or less


Mindy Newell: Success and Failure, Conclusion

 “All you can do is open up the throttle all the way and keep your nose up in the air.”

First Lieutenant Meyer C. Newell

P-51 Mustang Fighter Jock

Separated from his squadron, shot up and leaking hydraulic fluid somewhere in the skies over Burma

What is the measure of success? What is the measure of failure?

In the previous three columns, I’ve told you a little bit – well, quite a bit, actually, about early failures in my life. And for a very long time I let my, uh, lack of success, hold me back, drag me down. That old albatross had a permanent nest on my shoulder. The Fantastic Four may have visited the Negative Zone, but, guys, I lived there.

In my mid-thirties I was divorced and living with my parents. Alix was two or three. She was sleeping in a portable crib, I was sleeping on a cot in the den. And then one day – sometime in my late thirties, I think – I was driving with my father in the car. I don’t remember where we were going; I think he was driving me to an appointment with one of the numerous psychiatrists and therapists I had seen in an attempt to “figure out what was wrong with me.” Oh, that was fun, let me tell you. One doctor put me through a round of physical tests and blood work to see if there was a physiological reason for my “blues.” (Tests came back. I was perfect.) Another doctor gave me his trench coat, telling me to cover up my legs because he was getting sexually excited. I went to a therapy group for newly divorced women; all I remember of that is the woman whose husband regularly beat the crap out of her. “Jesus, honey,” we would all say, “get the hell out of there.” She would just start to cry and go on and on about how much she loved him until the hour was up. We never got to talk about anything else. There was one doctor who talked to me for five minutes and gave me a prescription for Valium, the drug of choice in those days for women on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I took one Valium, fell asleep for 18 hours and dumped out the bottle. A week later I got a bill for $500.00 for “services rendered.” I called him and told him I was sending him $50.00, and just try to take me to court. Never heard from him again.

The best, though, was the shrink who was an Orthodox Jew. He told me that the only thing wrong with me was that I wasn’t married, so “I should stop dating the goyim, marry a nice Yiddisher man, and have lots of babies.”

Anyway, back to that day in the car with my dad. We weren’t talking much, just bits here and there. Suddenly my dad started talking about a mission he had been on during WW II. It had been a bombing and strafing mission somewhere in Burma, the objective being to destroy the latest installment of the railroad the Japanese were building – see The Bridge On The River Kwai for reference. They had met a lot of resistance, and on one strafing run my father’s P-51 got hit up badly. One of the hydraulic lines was hit, and he couldn’t keep up with the rest of the squadron on their flight back to the base. They had to leave him.

“Wow, Daddy, what did you do?” I asked. (The answer is above.) And then he said, “Know what I’m saying?”

And the light bulb suddenly clicked on over my head, just like in the old Looney Tunes cartoons. “Thufferin’ Thuccosthasth!” I said. “I do!” (No, not really. I mean, yeah, the light bulb went on, but I didn’t suddenly start sputtering and slovering like Sylvester the Cat.)

I’m not saying that all of a sudden my life was a bed of roses and that everything was hunky-dory. No. Quite the opposite. It took finding the right therapist. It took swallowing my pride and starting on an anti-depressant. But mostly it took a lot of hard work, a lot of tears, a lot of self-recrimination. Most of all, self-forgiveness.

These days I wonder. All my failures – but were they really failures? Weren’t they just part of the pattern that’s made me who I am today? And any failures, any successes that I continue to experience will just add to that person who I will be tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or in a decade.

These days most people would say that my life is a success. Well, I don’t know about that, but if it is, it didn’t happen without failures, some my own, some caused by outside factors. For instance, two years ago I got laid off. (Yes, Virginia, registered nurses do get laid off these days.) It sucked. I cried. I ranted. I worked at a couple of hospitals I wouldn’t send my worst enemy to. (Well, maybe I would.) But I also went back to school and finished my BSN, opening up new doors for me.

As for my other career, the one in comics? A lot of people in the comics industry have commented and complimented me on my “ear for dialogue,” my ability to get into the heads of the characters I have written. Maybe that wouldn’t be true if I hadn’t lived the life I have lived. I probably would never have submitted a story to DC’s New Talent program. I wouldn’t have written When It Rains, God Is Crying, or Chalk Drawings with a certain mensch who goes by the name of George Pérez. I wouldn’t know Mike Gold or Martha Thomases or Len Wein or Karen Berger or Neil Gaiman. And I wouldn’t be here writing this column.

Black and White.

Stop and Go.

Yin and Yang.

Success and Failure.

The ups and downs of life.

TUESDAY MORNING: Can Michael Davis Possibly Still Be Black?

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Can Emily S. Whitten Possibly Be Talking About Deadpool? 

Marc Alan Fishman: In Defense of the Modern Comic, Part 1

Once again, my Facebook friend Jim Engel tipped me off to another jumping-on point for a rant. I think I owe him a Coke. Seems someone at the Wall Street Journal perked up at the news that the Avengers crossed the bajillion bucks meter, and it stemmed a very obvious question: If the movie is that popular, shouldn’t there be some kind of carry-over to the parent media? And the simple answer is one we comic fans hate to admit: Ain’t no carry-over cash coming through the doors of the local comic shop over this (or any other) movie. So the WSJ writer, one Tim Marchman, decided to take his book review of “Leaping Tall Buildings” and turn it into a tirade on the industry  I want so badly to call home. Now don’t get me wrong, Marchman makes a few solid points. OK, he makes a lot of them. But I know you guys like me when I’m pissy… And one point in particular boils my blood faster than Wally West got eliminated from the New 52:

“If no cultural barrier prevents a public that clearly loves its superheroes from picking up a new Avengers comic, why don’t more people do so? The main reasons are obvious: It is for sale not in a real bookstore but in a specialty shop, and it is clumsily drawn, poorly written and incomprehensible to anyone not steeped in years of arcane mythology.”

First off? On behalf of the industry as a whole? Fuck you. And normally I refrain from the potty mouth, but here is one occasion I feel damned correct in using it. Second, let me clarify where my anger lies. I agree with him about location. The local comic shop is indeed a specialty store. One that carries a stigma of exclusivity that can’t be broken, except on very rare occasion. Most comic shops try hard to throw open their doors to the general public in hopes of enticing them in with their fictiony wares, but the general public doesn’t look to consume their books off the shelf anymore. Ask Borders. But I digress.

I won’t even argue his point about continuity. I could easily argue that, mind you, and if people respond violently enough to this article I may talk about it in a few weeks. Suffice to say, yes, it’s a big barrier to entry. Anyone walking in, fresh out of the theater, would be hard pressed to know where exactly to start reading an Avengers comic. The movie-roster tie-in isn’t well-liked by any reviewer, and the modern Bendis epic-arcs (Disassembled, Civil War, Dark Reign, etc.) are amazingly dense with history. Enough at least to perhaps scare off someone from really taking a leap of literary faith. Again, I digress.

The jab Marchman takes specifically toward the “Clumsily Drawn” aspect of modern comics. Frankly, I don’t get where he’s coming from.

Let’s talk about those clumsy drawings he’s obviously so urped by. Take a look across the racks of your local comic store. Do you see what I see? I see a breadth of styles more diverse than any other period of comic book publishing. Do you think, even for a nano-second, that years ago you’d see Travel Foreman’s sketchy macabre style sharing shelf space with Mobius-inspired types like Frank Quitely and Chris Burnham? Or the crisp and clean lines of the Dodsons bunked-up nice and cosy next to the loose and energetic John Romita, Jr.? No. You’d get 17 Rob Liefeld clones boasting whips, chains, impossible guns, and thigh pouches. Go back to the 80’s? You’d get a sea of house-styled Neal Adams / Dave Gibbons / George Pérez wanna-bees and an occasional Bill Sienkiewicz or Frank Miller thrown in.

I truly believe we are in an amazing time for comic book art. Artists and editors are finding a real balance between new styles, and composition to tell a story. Not every book is perfect mind you (and yes, there is still a house style to both Marvel and DC… but assuredly not as rigid as it once was). On the whole, a comic off the rack today has more chance of being an original artistic statement than a commanded tracing of “something that sells.” While comic sales have plummeted from the false peaks of the 90’s… I truly doubt it is the fault of the art on hand. Well, except for Scott McDaniels’ stuff. Yeesh.

Now, I know that there’s some debate amongst my ComicMix brethren about this point-in-question. I openly beg for some of that debate to happen in the comments below. I’m hard-pressed to believe that on an industry level that the artwork is to blame for comics’ dwindling sales. As I look across the smattering of books I’ve been reading these days – Daredevil, Invincible Iron Man, Batman, The Boys, The Manhattan Projects… and flip through the pages of artists truly giving their all to every panel – I get a little verklempt. I want all of you to go on with out me. I think about this Marchman, and all I can think is “Ver es kon kain pulver nit shmeken, der zol in der malchumeh nit gaien!”

Now go on… discuss!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


MINDY NEWELL: The Enemy Within

I stink at writing battles between the superhero and the bad guy.

Oh, I’ve always managed to struggle through – and through the years I’ve learned how to choreograph them pretty well, thanks to watching great action movies, anything from Bullitt to the Die Hard series to the Matrix Trilogy and Kill Bill, Vols. I and II. But I was always happier to write a fight scene “Marvel style,” especially if I was working with an artist I trusted. Full script, though? Talk about pulling teeth!

So why the hell do I love writing comics?

That’s a good question. And here’s the answer.

What has always interested me about the superhero is the what makes them tick?, the what’s going on in their lives?, the how does having special abilities affect a person? Questions. Of course I wasn’t the first comic writer to address these issues. There’s one or two columnists here at ComicMix who have done so and continue to do so – yeah, I’m talking ‘bout you two, John Ostrander and Denny O’Neil. But John and Denny are also able to write great battle scenes. I can’t.

Way-back-when I sat down to try my luck at writing an entry for DC’s New Talent Showcase program, I thought about what was lacking in the super-hero biz. Hmm, I thought. There are superheroes who are men, and superheroes who are women. There are superheroes who date or are married to ordinary women, and there are superhero married couples. But I couldn’t think of any super-hero women who were married to “ordinary” guys. “That could be really interesting,” I thought to myself.

Then something clicked in my brain. “What if,” I said to myself, “these two people are just regular young marrieds, very much in love with each other, expecting their first child, and believing they’ve got the world on a string? And then everything goes wrong. She gains super-powers, but the trade-off is: she loses the baby. And he just can’t deal.  What happens to them? What happens to the marriage?”

And that’s the way I’ve always tried to approach the superhero. Treating them like real people, with real personalities and all the positive and negative traits that real people have. Facing real problems with paying the bills and trying to lose weight.

Let’s take Wonder Woman. I don’t remember the issue number, but it was one of the last few issues before the book went on hiatus until George Pérez reintroduced the character. One of my favorite scenes was the one in which Diana tried to make breakfast, only she burned the toast and undercooked the eggs. It was only about two or three panels, but it made sense to me that as an individual who grew up on a magical island on which time had stopped in the Hellenic Age, a toaster and a frying pan would be as strange to her as, well, the appearance of an Amazon princess in the middle of New York City would be to us here on Earth-Prime.

And, although I’m a staunch pro-choicer, I’ve always believed Diana should be a staunch pro-lifer. Why? Well, think about it. An island of immortal women called Themyiscyra, where men are forbidden. For 3,000 years, cut off from the outside world by powerful magiks, babies are unknown…yes, pregnancy, the unborn child, would be ultimate, holy, sacrosanct, untouchable, inviolable object of worship of a woman raised in this environment.

(Of course, when I mentioned this to Karen Berger once, I believe she was intrigued, but what with Jenette Khan, then publisher of DC, being a friend of Gloria Steinem, and Steinem being one of the “ultimate, holy, sacrosanct, untouchable, and inviolable” feminists of the day, along with being editor of Ms. Magazine, she basically told me to “forget it.”)

I’d like to explore the loneliness of the last survivor of an alien civilization. (Superman, J’onn J’onzz.)

What does it do to a person to be able to run “faster than a speeding bullet” and get stuck in traffic? (Flash, Quicksilver).

How do you not go insane when you’re trapped in a body of rock? (Thing, Concrete.)

If you can fly, would you resent having to walk?

If you have x-ray vision, can you resist taking a look the boss’s e-mails? Or your co-worker’s paycheck?

If you can read minds, do you really want to know what people are thinking?

If you have telekinesis, would you ever get up off the couch?

One of my favorite science fiction movies, definitely on my top five list, is Forbidden Planet, in which the monster is a creature risen from the jealousies and fears that lurk within the human mind.

“Creatures from the id.”


The enemy within.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Crisis on Infinite Indie Earths

I was going to write an article about The Boys this week. I like The Boys. It’s violent. It’s intriguing. It’s full of rich character moments, surprising plot twists, and gritty and emotionally charged artwork. It’s also very close to finishing. So, I digress. I’ll cover it after it’s over. Spoiler alert. I love the series.

With that off my plate, what to write about? I could rant about why I think it’s a silly idea to bring back the Phoenix Force. I could rant about why I think it’s sillier to bring back Johnny Storm. I could rant about why I think it’s silly that DC rebooted its universe, and it’s already suffering from continuity errors. Nah. How about I just take a big fat crap on The War of the Independents. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

So, there I was, looking over the rack a couple weeks back. See, I was a little light that week on books in hand. I gave myself an excuse to nab one more book before I checked out. And there it was at the tail end of the indie racks… War of the Independents. Why not? The cover boasts a bevy of characters from just about every nameable indie cape book you can think of. Bone. Cerebus. The Tick. Scud: The Disposable Assassin. Cassy Hack. Captain Action. Hell, even the Flaming Carrot and Gumby are on the cover. Based on that, and a name that boasts a potential war with them all? There’s no way that could not be awesome, right? It’s like communism. It works on paper. But this here rag, written and occasionally drawn by Dave Ryan, doesn’t work. In fact, if this comic were a person, it would be the drum-beating hippie downing free pints of Ben and Jerry’s at Occupy: Branson.

Disclaimer: I like the Occupy movement in theory. But standing around demanding change isn’t exactly what I’d do to change the world. But I digress.

War of the Independents should be amazing. Getting the permission to work with scads of semi-known characters in a crisis-like setting just makes my mouth water. Who here amongst you would not want to see The Tick and Scud fight alongside Too-Much-Coffee-Man and Milk and Cheese? And then you open the book. Dave Ryan, utilizing every cliché known to comics, pens a tale we’ve already read a million times over… and fails to do anything original with it.

An age-old evil is going across the multiverse killing things. It’s up to a ragtag group of no-names to assemble and save us all. When Captain Action and Madman are on the same page, it’s not the time for prophecies and posturing. When Toyboy and Pokey share page space, it’s not enough to simply have them say “I’ll fight!” and call it a day.

The issue wastes six or seven pages filling us in on a villain as bland as mayo on white. Then Cerebus shows up with a team of people I’ve never heard or seen to fight a muscular super demon… for seven more pages. That’s a little shy of half the book wasted on the kind of crap we’ve read and reread! The other half of the book is just the putting together of the team. You’ve seen this all before. Ryan just hands the reigns over to various authors to pen a panel or two featuring their own creations. And before you know it, the book is over.

Next issue? It’s the all black-hero spectacular. Michael Davis should fire up the death ray. It’s simply not enough to get permission from this pantheon of partial fame, and just plop their character into a panel or two, and hope showing them will be enough. Any fans of the parent books from whence these people came from are hoping to see more than just a silent panel. Comic characters are more than just pretty drawings. War of the Independents thinks it’s simply enough to have them assembled. It’s not.

What I was truly hoping from this book was what the cover itself promised. Page after page of crazy Pérez-packed panels with wave after wave of indie heroes knocking heads with wave after wave of… something. Anything. Zombies. Other villains. Each other. Kids. Puppies. But we never get that far. 31 pages of content yield nothing more than a single fight scene (starring nary a single recognizable hero) and page after page of singularly unimpressive moments. War of the Independents? My Jewish Ass. I’m a firm believer of under-promising and over-delivering. This book should have been called 1 Great Double Page Splash, and Then Some Nonsense. (And the Tick Yells SPOON!)

It’s not a secret that I’m an indie comic creator. Given permission to assemble even a quarter of these creations, I would do more than simply waste time showing them join together. The fun of this idea is all in the fighting. If you’ve got The Badger, The Opossum, and the Unbelievable Laundry Detergent Man coming together, forget the subtext. And for the love of God, spend some time honing the art. No offense (because I know how hard it is to make a comic), but Dave Ryan’s panels are just terrible looking. Front to back, page after page… this was a waste of paper, talent, resources, and my money. And nothing gets my ire up more than wasting my money. To steal a contrived writers trick Dave Ryan likes to use… here’s a nice quote to make me sound fancy:

It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it.

Robert E. Lee

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MINDY NEWELL: Chest Hair Or No Chest Hair

Walking home from food shopping, thinking about this week’s column. Thinking about all the “news that’s fit to print” (and some not) about the portrayal of women in comics. And I thought, has anyone written about the portrayal of men in comics? I’m talking down and dirty, hot stuff, glistening muscle, chest hair or no chest hair?, blue brown or green eyes, skin-tight costume, hunky super-duper M-E-N.

Distaff geeks unite!

I’ll start. Off the top of my head, and in no particular order:

  • Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine. Chest hair. Goddamn, he’s sexy.
  • Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin in New Teen Titans written by Marv Wolman and drawn by George Pérez. He looked like a guy I had a crush on in high school… and for years afterwards.
  • Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman, drawn by Curt Swan, Jerry Ordway, John Byrne, and many others, up to and including Rags Morales and Jesus Marino.
  • Hal Jordan, a.k.a. Green Lantern. Just read recently that Julie Schwartz wanted him to look like Paul Newman. Explains a lot.
  • Scott Summers, a.k.a. Cyclops. Who’s behind those Foster Grants?
  • Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man. It was Revenge of the Nerds, thanks to J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr!
  • Adam Strange. Why can’t a Zeta-beam land him in my bedroom?

Now for the “live-action”:

  • Christian Bale makes delicious eye candy and engenders dirty thoughts as Bruce Wayne/Batman. But isn’t it odd that the comic version doesn’t make my “off-the-of-my-head” list?
  • Of course the true superhero, Christopher Reeve. “Easy, miss. I’ve got you.”
  • And I have always, always, always had a thing for Robert Downey Jr. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Iron Man. Even sat through Iron Man more than twice just to look at him. Special mention for Sherlock Holmes.
  • Not so much for the blondes, generally. Though there is Chris Hemsworth as Thor. And Robert Redford (“See ya, Hubble”) in The Way We Were. And Jason Lewis as Jared Smith on Sex And The City – the scene where he shaves his signature long, blonde, thick hair in solidarity with Samantha as she loses her hair due to the chemotherapy, well, every man who has ever questioned why his girlfriend or wife left him should be chained to a chair ala Malcom McDowell in A Clockwork Orange and forced to watch that scene over and over and over until he screams Igetitigetitigetitigetit!

uh, sorry ‘bout that. where was i? she said sheepishly.

  • John Wesley Shipp as The Flash on the too-soon cancelled TV series.

No quibbling allowed on the next four. I am the columnist. I am allowed my all things Buffy. Anyway, maybe they started out as live-action characters, but they all appear in comics now. And don’t give me any lip about any of them not technically being superheroes. I don’t see you fighting demons and vampires and saving the world over and over again.

  • David Boreanaz as Angel, first on Buffy and then on the eponymous TV series. Broody, morose, dark and tragic. A vampire Hamlet.
  • Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. I envy Alyson Hannigan.
  • James Marsters as Spike, a.k.a. William the Bloody. Just for the record, I’m one of those who believe in Spike and Buffy 4 Ever. S.W.A.K.
  • J. August Richards as Charles Gunn. He almost didn’t make the list, ‘cause his selfish actions led to the death of Fred, but I can’t deny that bod’!
  • Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles. Loved him ever since the Folger commercials. ‘Sides, I’m a sucker for British accents. Ask John Higgins.

What’cha think of my choices, fellow geek women? Who are yours? Martha, y’ wanna start?

TUESDAY: Michael Davis


Math. Ugh. Hate it. Too real world for me. Unyielding, unforgiving, no sense of humor, and numbers don’t talk to me the way words do. My brain isn’t wired for it. However, numbers are a part of comics and comic book writing.

Certainly there are the important numbers regarding sales, but they also figure into telling a story. Let’s go through some of them. First number: the number of pages. Right now, your monthly comic book is 22 pages long. Let’s say you’ve been asked to do a fill-in story or a complete in one story for a given book. There are certain space limitations you need to take into account.

How many panels are in a page? Well, your first page is usually the splash page which means one big panel. This page also usually has the title of the story and the credits box for the creators. Here’s some rules of thumb for the other pages: when there’s a lot of action, you use fewer panels per page. If it’s a talk scene, you can have more. I generally figure that it will average out to five panels a page. The splash page is one panel so you have 21 pages times five panels. We do the match and the whole thing totals 106 panels in which to tell your story.

There are also limits to how much you can put in a panel. This includes speech balloons, thought balloons, captions, and sound effects, if you have them. You don’t want to crowd the art. I generally figure the limit of all of the above is three per panel.

Nor can you do that every single panel. If you do that, you have a wall of words and the reader usually will just ignore it and go on to the next page that hopefully has less verbiage. The exception to this rule is Brian Michael Bendis and, trust me, unless you are in fact Brian Michael Bendis, you’re not Brian Michael Bendis.

There are also limits to how much you can put into each word balloon, thought balloon, or caption. Again, I use a rule of thumb and it’s based on my font type and size. I tend to use Geneva 14 point (my eyes aren’t great and that’s what I can most easily see). So I figure the maximum is three typed lines per balloon or caption. Again, you can’t do that with every panel or you’ll wind up with the Wall of Words that gets ignored. Again, the Bendis Exception applies.

So, being generous, let’s say you average about 1.5 balloons/captions per panel. Do the math. If you have 106 panels per issue, that comes out to 159 balloons/captions with which to tell your story. That’s it. 21 pages, 106 panels, 159 balloons/captions in all. That’s plot, plot twists, characterization, theme, and snappy banter. Ladies and germs, that’s not a lot of space.

There’s a bit more math with telling a story as well. Each panel should have one clear definable action per panel. Batman leaps but he does not leap, land, spin, and hit the Joker in one panel. Asking your artist to draw that is grounds for justifiable homicide. I’m kidding. Your artist won’t kill you; he/she will simply ignore your instructions and find a way to make it work. But they will hate you… with justification.

You can have a secondary character do something in the panel as well but you can’t do that a lot unless your artist is George Pérez who will add more action if you haven’t. The Pérez Exception is the artist corollary to the Bendis Exception.

And you have to do all this without making it seem crowded or rushed.

That’s the mathematical reality to writing a single issue comic book, kids. If you’re doing an arc, then you multiply by the number of issues. The number of issues you’re allowed will depend on the price point (again, a number) the company figures the public will pay. It’s usually four or five issues. So, for an arc, you can multiply the above totals by those numbers. Still not a lot of space. Finally, there are deadlines, which are another set of numbers, namely the date by which it’s all due. Violate that at your peril.

And that, as our friends in the newspaper trade were wont to say, is -30-.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

DC Comics July Releases – Covers & Solicitation Copy

We’ve received all the covers for DC Comics July solicitations, including the long awaited Games, the New Teen Titans graphic novel from Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. And when I say long awaited, I mean two decades long– which kinda ties in with all the DC Retroactive titles coming out, including our favorite, Green Lantern reuniting the team of ComicMix contributors Dennis O’Neil and Mike Grell.

Take a look.