Tagged: Gerry Gladston

Ed Catto: Nerd Rage – Is It Clobberin’ Time?

Supergirl_v.5_36There are two sides to every coin. I usually write the incredible passion fans have for Geek Culture. This week I’m thinking about Nerd Rage.

This term probably started as a way to describe frustrations in video gaming. But it is now generally used to describe the intense anger that arises when fans vehemently disagree with development plans or ongoing creative efforts for a brand, mythology or intellectual property with which they disagree.

You’ve seen many examples of Nerd Rage. During the yuletide release of the new Star Wars movie, it seemed as if the whole country waited with bated breath for the core fans’ judgment. There had been months of speculation prior to the debut. Would fans approve or shake their virtual fists with the fury of Nerd Rage?

Sports radio is, in many ways, founded on the concept of Nerd Rage, although they’d never call it that. “Real fans” offer their own opinions on the activities, plans and choices made by coaches, teams and players. And all too often, the fans are angry. That makes good radio, I guess.

The-angry-fanboyAnd closer to home, this past month DC Comics announced their mythology would be undergoing a “rebirth.” Fans anxiously gritted their teeth in anticipation of yet another rejiggering of the fictional background and histories of the characters.

“Nerd Rage is not a joke – fans get upset when their favorite mythologies are changed,” said Gerry Gladston, CMO/CLO of Midtown Comics. As a long-time fan and one of the architects of a best-in-class comic retailer, Gerry has a unique perspective on the ramifications of Nerd Rage.

“Midtown Comics’ long term official observation demonstrates that a large percentage of fans tend to cool off after the initial exposure to their Nerd Rage trigger, and often embrace it if they deem the new direction to be of high quality and to add substance to the mythology,” explained Gladston.

angry-girl-wallpaperRich Johnston is the founder of BleedingCool.com, a leading geek focused news site. With his knack for uncovering rumors of industry changes, he routinely offers prophetic glimpses that often trigger Nerd Rage. “The things we love, inspire passion. People damaging the things we love, inspire hate,” said Johnston. “There’s only so much nerd rage because there’s so much love in the first place. Just sometimes that love … can be seriously misplaced.”

A little while back, Fast Company ran an article called “Why Being Hated Isn’t the Worst Thing For Your Brand.” Tom Denari explored the idea that brands being noticed, and achieving a level of salience, is more important than being liked. He also noted that it’s natural that brands that are loved by many, like The Yankees or Duke University, are also hated by many.

But when it affects sales of a brand or product, that’s a problem. “In cases where a new direction for a mythology is not found to add substance, nor otherwise make sense, Nerd Rage can cause fans to jump off,” said Gladston. And that’s what happened with DC Comics’ last few rebooting initiatives.

article-1283295-0395DFA4000005DC-224_233x333J.C. Vaughn, Vice-President of Publishing for Gemstone Publishing explains that there are no simple answers in these new directions. “It’s easy to come up with the editorial-or management-driven dictates that have chased readers away in comics, but I’d like to concentrate on one that sparked a fair bit of outrage before it came out and then turned out to be one of the greatest runs in comics history. For years, there were two deaths in the Marvel universe that were sacrosanct, Uncle Ben and Bucky. And then Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting brought back Bucky, made him a Soviet-era pawn responsible for deaths across six or seven decades, and Cap’s foe. Tell me that twelve years ago and I would have thought you were insane (even then, though, I wouldn’t have thought you should be killed). And the result was a truly great, long run on the comic and a wonderful film.” That film, of course, was Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Vaughn concludes that story-driven changes often justify creative change-ups. “We’re talking about fiction after all. On the other hand, we’ve seen the fallout of change for the sake of change.”

But there is a problem when Nerd Rage becomes irrational.

“Nerd Rage is sort of a big boat and a lot of things from irritation and justifiable anger are getting lumped in with out-of-control vitriol that truly has no place in civilized discourse,” said Vaughn.

“Make a website because you know Greedo did not shoot first? Rag on George Lucas for such decisions? Sure thing. I’ve got your back. Saying or posting that a reporter should be killed because she doesn’t ‘get’ Star Wars? Are you kidding? Do you have no sense of proportional response? The world is a pretty horrible place. Comics, movies, books, and video games are among our escapes. And you feel comfortable saying someone should be killed for thinking other than the way you think? You are the problem, not the person you’re criticizing,” said Vaughn.

What’s that old Oscar Wilde quote? “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

Ed Catto: Murphy Anderson – A Legend and a Gentleman

kryptonite_snack2

The world lost just lost another shining light: a brilliant artist who regularly shared his vision of heroes and adventures as he created countless pages of comics and an upstanding gentleman who shared his vision of living life with courtesy, kindness and class as he led by example.

Jet-Pack Captain-Action MURPHY ANDERSONMurphy Anderson passed away Friday at age 89. He had been struggling in recent years, but it’s still a crushing blow to those who loved the man and his work. Murphy, a prolific comic artist, was in facet one of the first wave of “fanboys” to turn professional. He was a big Lou Fine fan, and you can see wisps of that great artist’s work in Murphy’s figures and rendering. Murphy was also an enormous Buck Rogers fan and would one day professionally illustrate the adventures of this hero. He had a rich career in comics’ Silver and Bronze Ages, but also enjoyed great entrepreneurial success, managing the Army’s PS Magazine and running his own color separation business.

Murphy was an especially important artist in the Sixties, establishing the artistic gold standard of many iconic heroes for a generation of fans. His Justice League covers showed the world exactly how the leading DC heroes should look. His images of heroes like Hawkman and the Atomic Knights provided clear and engaging thrillers with solid storytelling. And his inking over so many great artists, from Gil Kane to Carmine Infantino to Curt Swan, provided something close to a house style that reflected the refined, best-in-class attitude of the DC line of that day.

Murphy was one of those rare artists who could compose fantastic stories with full artwork (pencils and inks), and yet, with his fine and precise inking, partner to make almost any artist to a little bit better. Even usual pairings, like Murphy inking over Neal Adams’ innovative and hyper-realistic pencils, produced memorable artwork, visual singing in perfect harmony.

JLofA-1A Gentleman and His Women

The females that Murphy drew were consistently pretty, but demure. They all combed their hair, had applied their make-up ‘just so’ and had spotless complexions. Any young man would feel confident in bringing a girlfriend who looked like a Murphy Anderson woman home to mother.

For me, that all changed when DC adapted Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars series. In this series, a cavalry solider adventures on Mars amidst exotic landscapes and bizarre aliens. But many of the Martian cultures eschewed excessive clothing. And the strip’s love interest, the beautiful Dejah Thoris, was no exception. She was a raven-haired beauty with whom the hero was madly in love. And when Murphy drew her, it was very easy to understand why any man would be head-over-heels for her.

This series also provided Murphy opportunities for creative and non-traditional panels and page layouts. But these innovations were lost to many of us, as the eye was distracted by the beautiful figures and lush inking.

Years later, during one of my lunches with Murphy, I brought along several John Carter comics issues of Weird Worlds for Murphy to autograph. I hadn’t realized it before, but his son, Murphy, Jr., who often accompanied us, was a dead ringer for John Carter!

gospel-supermanMan And Superman

For me, the quintessential Superman will always be inked by Murphy.

As the Silver Age wound down, Murphy’s inks on Curt Swan’s 70’s Superman helped update the character, making him a little hipper and more relevant. Murphy’s inks rejuvenated the strip, with a more realism, longer sideburns and a vulnerable humanity. For me, the images of Superman casually eating a Kryptonite meatball (the deadly substance was temporarily rendered harmless) helped humanize the character in ways previously never imagined.

Murphy was a one of the most polite gentlemen I’ve ever met, and surely was not comfortable with being asked to “fix” the Superman renderings of Jack Kirby in Jimmy Olsen or Mike Sekowsky in Supergirl. But he was a true professional, and the editorial dictate of the day demanded that Superman look “on point”. And while I hate to see other artists’ work modified in this manner, now one could argue that a Murphy Anderson Superman sure looked like the real Superman.

One time as a child, my family was visiting my dad’s alma mater, Cornell University, for his Homecoming. After the football game, we were shopping at the campus bookstore and I found a curious book. It was called The Gospel According to Superman by John T. Galloway, Jr. The cover showed Superman, rendered by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, flying over a small town church. At that time, the last thing I was interested in was theological philosophy, but I somehow knew this was legitimate and important because it had the ‘”real” Superman on the cover. And although I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, the “real” Superman meant an image rendered by Murphy Anderson. My mom and dad thought I was nuts when I started begging for this strange, hybrid book, but as they were more understanding than even Ma & Pa Kent, in the end they relented. I read the book, but I really loved that cover.

Captainaction1exclusiveAbout this period, there was a life-sized Superman poster offered via mail order in the DC comics. The 6-foot poster, rendered by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, was impressive and overwhelming. Superman was flying up through the clouds complete with a peace sign hand gesture. I’m not sure why, but I brought it to my Second Grade class and it was hung on the blackboard for a day. I might have trying to impress my beautiful teacher, Mrs. Beardsley, but that’s another story for another day. I’m sure my thinking then was “What woman wouldn’t be impressed with Murphy Anderson art?”

The first time I met Murphy was in 1984 at an Ithaca Comic Convention. Now, the year before I had the distinct pleasure of being the inker for a penciled Superman image provided to us by Curt Swan. It was a valiant effort, but I was certainly no Murphy Anderson when it came to inking. As you have gathered by now, my visual“ gold standard” for Superman was the character as inked by Murphy Anderson.

At the convention, I thought maybe this provided me a kinship to Murphy Anderson. While I’m sure he was mentally rolling his eyes at me, I recall his overwhelming politeness. He almost made me feel that he and I were part of an exclusive club, having both inked Curt Swan. That’s preposterous, of course. But somehow Murphy’s most amazing talent, far beyond his art skills, even surpassing his entrepreneurial efforts, was his amazing ability to make a person feel special by just speaking with him.

Ready for Action

Flash Murphy AndersonMurphy was the quintessential artist for one character even though he never drew the character’s comics adventures. In 1966, Murphy Anderson was chosen to be an important contributor to a toy called Captain Action. Much the same way that Barbie could become a teacher or an astronaut, or GI Joe could become an infantryman or a frogman, Captain Action could become other superheroes via costume sets. For many of these toys, the packaging artwork was expertly provided by Murphy.

He created images for the packages featuring heroes like Batman, The Phantom, Flash Gordon, Superman, Aquaman, Superboy, Robin and Aqualad. As the line progressed, Murphy also created impactful representations of Captain Action on in a variety of poses for expansion sets. And when the line was extended to include heroines, Murphy outdid himself with gorgeous packaging illustrations for Batgirl, Supergirl, Wonder Woman and Mera, the Queen of the Seven Seas.

Years later, Joe Ahearn and I would acquire the rights to Captain Action and one of the first things we did was to bring Murphy back onto the project. How thrilled we were when he agreed to pencil and ink a new Captain Action comic cover! He agreed to recreate the classic Batman and Robin rooftop image, which was originally a poster by penciled Carmine Infantino and inked by Murphy. In the updated version, it’s Captain Action and his sidekick, Action Boy, on the rooftop, as Lady Action flies by in the Sliver Streak. Gerry Gladston, the CMO of Midtown Comics, loved the idea and we made the cover an exclusive variant.

We had discussed him doing another cover for Captain Action. The vision for this was to pay homage to Justice League of America #1’s cover, where the Flash and Despero were playing a game of Kalanorian chess – using JLA chess pieces. My vision was to have Captain Action facing off against Dr. Evil with chess pieces of all the Captain Action costume sets, but it wasn’t meant to be. At that point, Murphy just didn’t feel he could pull it off with the standard of excellence he demanded of himself.

* * *

Murphy was a Tarheel, who made good in New Jersey, and was surrounded by a loving family and adoring fans. I had studied his thoughtful inking for most of my life, but when gifted with his friendship, I soon realized that there were so many bigger lessons to be learned from this humble, kind-hearted man. Murphy we’ll miss you and thanks for showing us how it’s done.

Black Canary Murphy Anderson