Tagged: Golden Age of Comics

Joe Corallo: Not Forgotten – The Matthew Harding Interview

Last week I talked with Vito Delsante about his new Kickstarter campaign, and this week I got the chance to talk with Matthew Harding, a comics creator who has a Kickstarter campaign with Einar Masson ending this week for an anthology titled Not Forgotten featuring public domain superheroes from the Golden Age of comics.

JC: For people who may be unfamiliar with your and Einar Masson’s work, can you tell me about your comics experience and what made you decide to work on an anthology with Einar Masson?

MH: Einar and I both went to college together where I had run the comics club for about five years. Since then I’ve been working freelance doing odd jobs from production work at Black Mask Studios to animation at Madefire motion comics. I’ve self-published Popapocalypse through Kickstarter campaigns, colored a couple of Bloodworth issues, and written comics for creator owned projects that are going to be announced soon, as well as for clients like Apple. My latest project was illustrating one of the seven motion comic stories for Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, which was really cool because Stan Lee himself did the voice acting work for the character that I designed and drew, which was pretty much the top of my bucket list! I imagine my career is all downhill from here, after that.

JC: I imagine you both have an interest in the Golden Age of comics. What about that age stands out to you? Why do you feel it’s a time in comics we should be revisiting now?

MH: My love affair with the golden age didn’t actually begin until I started to dig through the archives and realized what it was that we were actually doing with this project, and the relevance it held with today’s industry. The golden age was literally the birth of superheroes and a construction of a brand-new medium that could tell their stories. Comics today are built upon almost a century of foundation, and even though we live in a time where creators are breaking rules and defying expectations, those aspects of the comics industry are still there to break.

In the 1930s there were no preconceptions or expectations. There were no rules or guidelines. All the stories were brand new, and creators were coming up with anything that creativity could discover, leading to stories that had a very sincere and exploratory nature to them. My love for the golden age really developed when I discovered just how important the time was for our industry, and why it needed to be remembered during our time now when things are so quickly evolving and changing in the way we tell stories.

JC: Who are some of your favorite heroes from that era?

MH: My personal favorite is the hero known as “13,” who we have two excellent stories featuring him in our anthology. 13 was a guy who was incredibly unlucky whenever the number 13 showed up. For instance, on the 13th day in a month, his fiancé died, and a month later he was fired. The month after that, his house caught on fire. You see my point. So, rather than just succumb to this horrible fate, he used it to his advantage by making a superhero suit with the number 13 plastered on the front of it and went out to fight crime. The idea was that he would get so unlucky that criminals that just so happened to be in his general vicinity would be affected by this bad luck, and while they were distracted he would punch them in the face. I mean, isn’t that the coolest superhero you ever heard of?

JC: Why public domain superheroes as opposed to new characters? Were you fans of some of these characters before coming up with the idea for this anthology?

MH: After going through the archives, we felt that it’s important work to not only bring these heroes back into the public eye, but their creators as well. With every story that’s in the book, we will have a segment that tells the history of the character and the people we created him/her. One of the main features I really pushed to have happen for the anthology was the inclusion of the curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, Andrew Farago with an essay talking about the golden age of comics and the creators who helped jump start the century long superhero industry. Their work deserves to not be forgotten, and we feel like our book is helping make that happen.

JC: How did you find contributors for this anthology? Were you at all surprised by the passion other creators have for some of these characters?

MH: We started off by just getting a group of friends together and talking about making an anthology at a small scale. We put out word out online about a submission process, and it was the response that we got that surprised me completely. There were over 75 fully composed submissions from people who were new to the industry to veterans who’ve had works put out through IDW, DC comics, and Image. It was amazing the amount of love that creators have for these characters, and I believe that they had found inspiration the same way that I did when they started to search through the archives.

JC: Can you talk a bit about what kind of stories we’ll be seeing in Not Forgotten? Will we see period piece stories as well as stories taking place in our present day and beyond?

MH: Absolutely. You’ll be getting stories that took place in alternate history WW2, so the 80’s to present to the future. We wanted to vary the stories that are in the anthology so that there’s a little bit of something for everybody, and that includes where and when the stories take place.

JC: One problem I’ve noticed with bringing back characters from that long ago is how they are often cishet white men and don’t necessarily reflect the comics readership of today. Were some of these characters updated by the creators involved to make them and/or their supporting casts more diverse?

MH: We noticed the same thing when we went through the old stories, and we decided early on that one of the main purposes for the book was to modernize the characters to reflect our modern day, with more voices and diversity present. We have creators working on this from all over the world, and the stories that are being told are very diverse in subject matter, and we’re very happy with the result.

JC: What about Kickstarter made it the best place to bring this particular project? Have either of you launched or participated in a comic that went through Kickstarter before?

MH: I’ve funded two of my personal projects through Kickstarter and they were both successful, and I think it’s a great place for indie comics to be born for a few different reasons. For one, it’s a great way to get your project in front of people and to test the market to see if they’re interested in what you’re producing. Just like the golden age of comics, it has created a marketplace where there are no rules or expectations, and you can bring any idea you want to the table and see if people want to see it.

JC: There have been a few instances in the past with comics on Kickstarter not seeing the light of day despite being funded, and those few instances have made some people more cautious of who they back. While Kickstarter does protect those that back campaigns now more than ever, can you talk about what you have in place that will make sure this book gets to its backers?

MH: The main thing we have going is that since it’s an anthology that has many creators who are all very eager to get the book out, it’s a team of people making sure this happens instead of just one or two people. Most of the book is already created, so it’s just a matter of getting it to the printer and then gathering all the local people together to mail everything out. Most of us have experience with Kickstarter and distribution, so it will be a quick and painless operation.

JC: The campaign wraps up in about a day, and as of this conversation you’ve very close to crossing that finish line and getting fully funded, so before we wrap this up I’d love to give you the opportunity to tell everyone reading this why they should support Not Forgotten.

MH: Our book is full of interesting and new takes on characters that haven’t seen the light of day for decades, and the artwork is diverse and amazing. We have sci fi stories, horror stories, superhero stories, and comedies. Our creators for this book range from writers that have created Overwatch to artists who revived Toejam and Earl. Not only are the stories amazing, but the history of the superhero genre presented in an entertaining way. Our book is something that I feel is really important and relevant, and I’m absolutely sure that anyone who owns it will cherish it.

JC: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about Not Forgotten. For those of you reading this, the campaign ends this Wednesday, March 8, at Midnight PST. Click here to check it out and please consider supporting and sharing!

Ed Catto: Fiction with Purpose


On the way to RocCon, the Rochester Comic Convention, my cousin John gave me a comics-related clipping that his mom, my Aunt Carolyn, asked him to pass along. It was from the Catholic Courier and it was a positive review of Darwyn Cooke’s graphic novel The New Frontier.

This week’s column was supposed to be about RocCon, but the clipping about The New Frontier sent me in another direction. So instead let’s focus on purpose, Geek Culture and the Catholic Courier clipping.

But first a little background on Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier. This graphic novel was originally released as a six-issue miniseries in 2004. The Catholic News Service review describes it this way:

rochester-catholic-courierSet in the 1950s and early 1960s, the novel…examines issues of racism, immigration, the blacklisting of accused subversives and the morality of the Vietnam War.

More important, in The New Frontier creator Darwyn Cooke firmly established the DC Universe as a place where focused individuals work hard to create positive change that benefit everyone.

Still, it was strange to reed about this graphic novel in a Catholic newspaper. Back in the day, I don’t recall a whole lot of support from the Catholic Church for comics. More recently, I’m always surprised when some organized religions protest against fiction like Harry Potter stories for promoting the devil or other rotten things.

This review was different. It was very positive. In fact, they awarded The New Frontier an A-III rating. I never would have imagined that the Catholic Church would formally approve of the Justice League. But you know what? They should have.

Maybe I should have seen the church’s embrace of heroic fiction coming. My Aunt Carolyn, a devout Catholic, has always been pro-comics. She’s retired now, but she enjoyed a long career as a middle school/high school English teacher.

In the 60s, my Aunt Carolyn famously took the initiative to purchase a stack of comics to share with her class. This was in Auburn, NY, a town that back in 1948 had one of those ridiculous comic book burnings to stamp out juvenile delinquency. Despite the fact that she used her own money to buy the comics, the school administration frowned on classroom distribution of “funny books.” They demanded she get those comics out of the school.

So I’m happy that “we” in general, and the Catholic News Service’s reviewer in particular, value positive stories about individuals who routinely engage in self-sacrifice and contribute to the greater good.

I contrast that with current political discussions. It’s astounding to me that so many conversations about the Presidential race don’t value a lifetime of public service.

I’m proud of the fact that often in Geek Culture, there tends to be a value assigned to characters that do positive things.

And taking it a step further, in Geek Culture the real heroes are the creators who got off the couch and created something positive.

None of our fictional heroes are perfect. Certainly few of Geek Culture’s real-life hero-creators are perfect. In fact, one Golden Age artist I constantly put on a pedestal struggled throughout his life. Consequently he was, at times, mean and cruel and disappointed many people.

But it’s not about perfection. It’s about trying to do something positive and succeeding once in a while.

I’m thrilled that the Catholic News Service embraces the message of hope and optimism in that the brilliant Darywn Cooke story, The New Frontier. It’s a fantastic read. However, at the core of that story and so many stories in Geek Culture, there are a lot of positive, hopeful messages. And even the Catholic Church can get behind that.

Oh, that review from the Catholic News Service is here http://catholicphilly.com/2016/07/us-world-news/culture/darwyn-cookes-final-frontier/ if you’d like to read it.

Mike Gold: Marvel’s 75-Year Marvel

Marvel 75th Anniversary MagazineIf you can find a decent magazine rack near you, or you are lucky enough to live near a bone fide comic book store, you might want to check out Marvel’s 75th Anniversary magazine, conveniently pictured to our left.

Oh, look! Rocket Raccoon and Star Lord and Groot and Nova! And no Sub-Mariner or Human Torch! Man, 75 years go by so fast we forget our roots.

Look, these magazines are rarely more than the team programs they sell us as we walk into sports stadia, and by that measure this one is a lot more attractive than most. It’s good for what it is – an opportunity to get people excited about new talent, new media and new movies. In other words, it’s really more about Marvel’s next 75 years than it is a tribute to its past. Not a lot about Bill Everett, Carl Burgos, Steve Ditko or even Jack Kirby here.

A real Marvel history would run a hell of a lot more than four-dozen pages, and there are plenty of such histories in the bookstores to prove that. The only real “history” is the article about Marvel’s golden age written by ComicMix’s own Robert Greenberger.

Bobby, as we affectionately call him, was once DC Comics’ own Robert Greenberger. And Marvel’s own Robert Greenberger. And Starlog’s own Robert Greenberger. And Star Trek’s own Robert Greenberger. He’s also been my friend long enough to deserve a medal for perseverance. Oh, and his daughter is getting married this month, so he’s The Father-of-the-Bride Kathleen Michelle’s own Robert Greenberger. And, as pictured here, he’s also Deb Greenberger’s Robert Greenberger. Woof.B&DGreenberger

OK. Enough fawning about a talented old buddy. I’m embarrassing him. (OK, I’ve been doing that for three decades. Hey, it’s a living.)

His piece is called “The Timely Birth of Marvel.” Get it? Timely Comics begat Atlas Comics which begat Marvel Comics which is now the Pac Man inside the Disney empire. It’s worth the price of admission. I said it was about the golden age, but to be clear Bobby’s piece is not just about the Golden Age – it’s about the company’s founding right up to the founding of the contemporary Marvel Universe.

There’s a hell of a lot of information in this article. It is the Secret Origin of Marvel Comics, which is vaguely ironic in that Bobby edited DC’s Secret Origins title.

Marvel survived on enthusiasm. Bigger publishers – Fawcett and Dell/Gold Key, to be sure – went blooie in the mid-1950s, as did Quality, EC, Gleason, Gilberton (Classics Illustrated), Charlton, Harvey and a great, great many others. Only DC and Archie join Marvel in its unbroken timeline from the beginnings of the Golden Age, and it survived by respecting the readers’ intelligence while consistently catering to our sense of wonder.

You did ‘em justice, pal.