Tagged: Harlan Ellison

Michael Davis: The Truth About Harlan Ellison And The Lie He Told Us All

Note number 1: I wrote this first part in 2014. What’s below took me two weeks as I’ve been battling depression blah blah blah blah poor me etc.

Twenty minutes after I first met Harlan Ellison he handed me a signed blank check.

I’ll get back to that.

I found out what kind of friend Harlan was, and it’s essential to me people know the type of sway his friendship carries with it.

When I was very young, in the summertime my sister and I were sent to Alabama to stay with my stepfather’s parents. My stepfather would drive us from New York, and I looked forward to that two-day trip until one night I will never forget made me never want to go south again.

In thirty years of baring my soul as a writer, I have never written about that experience. I do so now to underscore the importance of Harlan’s influence in my life.

My stepfather Robert Lawrence was an alcoholic well before it was designated an illness. At six years old I would not have cared if it was an illness or a ring given to him from The Guardians of the Universe. Robert (yes I called him Robert, it’s a Black thing) could do no wrong— he was my idol. It’s astonishing we were not killed during those sometimes 100 mph trips to Dalton, Alabama.  Robert was always drinking, and driving two kids cross country was just another thing to do for him.

We had just entered North Carolina sometime after midnight. Robert had stopped to take a nap. My sister and I were in and out of sleep, and for years the following seemed like a bad dream. The taps on the windshields were loud but the voices— “WAKE UP NIGGER!” were more emphatic.

Surrounding the car were six huge white men. Robert woke up.


Robert opened the door and stepped out.

Although he wasn’t hit, he was none the less beaten badly. Those men said the kind of things that put Robert on his knees. The one thing I’ll repeat was this: “Boy, we the Klan.”  They had no robes or hood, but we all knew it was true. My hero was reduced to what I thought then was a coward. As I got older, I realized he wasn’t.  He did what he had to do to save my sister and I. It was years before I understand this event wasn’t a bad dream.

I didn’t know what a vow was, but I made up my mind never to go south again. However against my better judgment and fears, I went back to the south twice the second time I wrote about in the 2014 article linked above.

Both times, something terrible happened to me— both times, Harlan made it OK.

I was asked to be the auctioneer at a function to benefit battered women at Dragon Con in 1995.  Giving myself the “oh I was a child it couldn’t have bad” talk, I arrived in Atlanta early so I could go to the Civil War Museum. I am a big fan of American history, and I’m sure the Civil War Museum in Atlanta is all I heard it was.

I may never know.

My then girlfriend at the time and I got as far as the parking lot when it was made clear we should keep on getting on. I’ll spare you the details, but note to Black men who love history, here’s a tip: if you’re planning a trip to the museum leave your white girlfriend home.

To be fair, that was 1995, things may be different now that Trump is Presiden…shit. Just don’t go.

After the events in the parking lot, both my girlfriend and I were severely shaken.  I was determined to just go back to New York, but I owed the benefit organizers an in-person explanation at least.

Nothing was going to stop me from getting on a plane, or so I thought.

Harlan did.

He heard I was bowing out found me and did the second kindest thing ever done for me. He co-auctioned the event and in doing so showed me the people of Atlanta were terrific kind folk unlike those who tore into me with such hatred earlier that day.

The two hours Harlan and I spent going at each other trying to get bidders to go higher and higher is why Dragon Con is my single favorite convention experience.


I love San Diego Comic-Con and would take a bullet for any staff member, but the single best time I’ve ever had at a convention was Dragon Con, and I’ve only been there once.

A lot has been written about Harlan’s brash in your face attitude. Many think that as a famous writer he was playing a role. His antics more ‘character’ than real.

Some even going so far as to say he believed little of what he preached.

I wish some people were smart enough to realize how stupid they are.

Harlan Ellison was a 20-year-old brand new writer in Hollywood when the biggest star in the world got in his face. Nobody and I mean nobody fucked with Frank Sinatra.  Frank got in Harlan’s face, Harlan  got right back into his.

Sinatra was the most powerful man in Hollywood at the time; Harlan was a writer and didn’t care. Give that a long hard thought. That as they say in the hood is ‘gangsta.’ Read the article “Frank Sinatra has a cold” and you’ll learn something about being true to yourself.  It’s all talk for most, not Harlan.

I mentioned what Harlan did for me at Dragon Con was the second kindest thing ever done for me, here’s the first: when I met Harlan he was leaving a party at Len Wein’s house; I had just gotten there.

We hit it off immediately.

“Give me a call, let’s grab a bite,” Harlan  said. “That would be great!” I responded and gave him my card. Harlan  looked at the card then gave it back. “You’re calling me, remember?”  For a moment I thought he was pissed, but I managed to utter, “Card?”

“Man, I don’t do cards.” He half yelled while digging around in his briefcase.

He produced a checkbook ripped out a check and gave it to me. “Whoa!” I stammered while looking at his name address and phone number printed on the front.  “Don’t you want to write void or something on this?”

He grabbed the check from me making a show of writing something on it. “Man, you’re like a little girl.” He tosses the check back to me and says in a much lower voice; “I’m sure I can trust you, but just in case you ever need help with anything…”

I didn’t get that at all, I folded the check and put it in my wallet. Something stopped me from returning my billfold to my back pocket. Instead, I unfolded the check and looked at what Harlan had written.

He signed the check.

I’d known the man for twenty minutes, and he had given me a signed blank check.

I ran after him with the intent of giving back the check. I reached him in about 30 seconds deciding at that moment to keep it realizing the message behind the gesture, this man wanted me in his life and wanted me to know he’s not fucking around. “I could be homeless and hungry; I’ll never cash it.”  Harlan  made a look like he had no idea who I was but before the front door closed, he hit me with a smile.

I had the check framed the day I heard Harlan passed.

The truth about Harlan is he was exactly who he said he always told the truth— except for this massive lie. He once wrote, “For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”

Bullshit, nope, nada, bullshit again.

Harlan Ellison will always matter.

Note number 2: To my loyal fans (both of you) I’ll try and stick around this time, but the thing about depression is it’s depressing so there. Harlan’s article I hope will be the last shared by all the outlets that carries my bi-line.


That last one was for you, Harlan.

Harlan Ellison: 1934-2018

“For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”

A legend has passed. Harlan Ellison, Grandmaster of the Science Fiction Writers of America and member of the SF Hall of Fame, died in his sleep overnight. He was 84 years old. His published works include over 1,700 short stories, novellas, screenplays, comic book scripts, teleplays, essays, and a wide range of journalism and criticism covering literature, film, television, print, and the life and times we live in.

In the next few days, you will hear many stories about Harlan. Listen carefully. Many of them are true. A proper retrospective is coming from us. We’re big fans of his work, and have interviewed Harlan in the past.

For me, he was one of two people to whom I dedicated my first published story: “To Harlan, who taught me that anyone who can write, should write.”

To get a sense of the man, here’s the trailer to the documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth:

To get a sense of his writing, read his writing, dammit.

Our condolences to his wife, Susan, and his many friends and fans.


Ed Catto: These are the Voyages…

Eaglemoss, a UK based fan-facing company, is best known for creating detailed replicas of Batmobiles, miniature starships from various incarnations of Star Trek and figurines from the mythologies of Marvel, DC Comics and the Walking Dead. They are all of high quality and lovingly rendered.

Each figure or vehicle they sell comes with a booklet developed by experts in each fan-focused field. So when you buy the miniature replica of the Flying Batcave (if you don’t know what this is you really need to find out fast!) you’ll also get a thorough, yet concise, history of the Flying Batcave.

Given the premium quality of these booklets, it makes sense that Eaglemoss would also be a mindful and creative publisher.
Their new Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection is premium quality in spades. Produced with IDW, this is the type of project (I almost typed the word ‘enterprise’ instead of ‘project’) that both long-time fans and casual collectors will respect and enjoy. Its a regularly published collection of hardcover Star Trek comics. But there’s an interesting wrinkle to it all.

Eaglemoss encourages fans to order the first volume at a discounted price: $4.95. Then fans can sign up for an ongoing program, as each month two more volumes are sent to their home. It costs about twenty bucks each month. (The monthly fee is $14.95 and shipping is $2.45 for each book.) If fans continue in the program, they will receive special gifts. But they make it easy so that fans can cancel at anytime.

It’s nice to get our reading delivered on a monthly schedule. Longtime comic fans understand the gleeful attraction of episodic storytelling. Modern fans might prefer reading trade paperback collections and binge watching entire seasons of TV shows. They may be less inclined to enjoy twice-a-month reading engagements. But It is interesting to note that there is a whole new type of fan who’s enjoying regular, episodic fiction. In fact, The New York Times ran a story on this very topic last week.

These are the voyages…

Each Eagelmoss hardcover showcases one long story from assembles several issues of various Star Trek comic incarnations. The first volumes seem to hop and skip amongst the many different Star Trek series; a little original series here, a little TNG there.

Of course, the success of each volume hinges on the stories chosen. IDW and Eaglemoss seem to be choosing wisely, selecting innovative stories by strong creators with good tales to tell.

For a fussy fan like me, it’s really important that the art is up to snuff. I have high standards for comic art. On a licensed property like Star Trek where the likenesses must be spot-on, it’s especially important.

Each volume is a hardcover book with glossy pages and meaty introductions. There’s a heft and an importance to it all.

Star Trek has been published by many comic publishers over the years. For this graphic novel reprint series, Eaglemoss is launching the series by showcasing IDW comics. In the near future, I’m really looking forward enjoying some early DC stories in this slick format. I’m also looking forward like to those Captain Pike adventures from Marvel’s “Paramount Comics” imprint. I missed them the first time around.

Comic on the Edge of Forever

The second Eaglemoss volume reprints IDW’s recent City on The Edge of Forever mini-series. It was a fantastic story that could only be told in Star Trek comics.

As you may know, one of the best-loved episodes of the original Star Trek series was Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever. But the televised version differed significantly from the teleplay that Ellison originally wrote. For almost 50 years, fans wondered “What if the television episode had been filmed as Ellison originally conceived it?”

The IDW team decided to do just that. They created a Star Trek series based on the original screenplay. The painted artwork by JK Woodward captured the actors’ 1960s likenesses with an urgent dynamism.

“Doing Harlan’s original City on the Edge of Forever teleplay as a comic will forever be a highlight of anything I do in comics,” said IDW’s Chris Ryall, CCO and Editor-in-Chief. “Seeing Harlan get choked up, finally seeing his story come to visual life as he intended only made it sweeter, but this was one of those special projects, where all the talent involved, from Harlan on down to Scott and David Tipton adapting it and JK Woodward doing the best work of his career on those painted pages… all of that just made this something far beyond a typical licensed comic. I’m thrilled with the events that led up to this finally being able to happen after a half-century of it not even being a remote possibility and I’m even more happy with the finished book.”

The Just Dessert

At the end of each volume is a reprint from sixties Gold Key comics. They are essentially a back-up story, and each one brings so much to the party. It is kind of like when you’re in a restaurant devouring a dessert that you didn’t plan on ordering, but are so glad you did.

Starting in 1967, Gold Key was the first comics publisher to create Star Trek comics. It was so early on in the process, that it’s clear that they didn’t do their homework. They really weren’t familiar with the Star Trek TV show. Legend has it that when it all started, the writer and artist had not even watched a single episode. They based the comics on reference sheets supplied by the network.

But you know what? Each story is a joy to behold.

Dick Wood was the writer. He worked on so many comics over the years, from the Plastic Man to the golden age Daredevil to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Today, he is often remembered for his “unique” interjections, and he doesn’t disappoint in these Star Trek stories. In these adventures, you’ll find the Enterprise crew exclaiming:

Howling Asteroids!

Suffering Solar Showers!

Great Novas! (which is often stuttered as “Gr-Great Novas!”)

Was he purposefully trying to make list of “Things Star Trek characters would never really say”? We may never know the truth.

The vintage reprints also reinforce one important idea: Star Trek was very different from anything else on TV at that time. One can presume that Gold Key management said, “Oh, another one of those rocket ship shows. All we need is few laser guns, a space monster and we’re off the races.” It’s fascinating to see how these stories presume what they thought Star Trek would be in contrast to what it became.

These daft tales offer no continuity or consistency. On the other hand, each story can be enjoyed all on its own. For hardcore Star Trek fans, it’s a rare glimpse backward to understand what the general public thought of science fiction adventures before the innovative conventions of Star Trek become standard conventions.

And because they are so wacky, it’s nice that each volume of this Eaglemoss/IDW series reprints just one Gold Key story. I worry that reading more than one of these Gold Key stories at one time would cause fans brains to melt.

Coming Distractions

Way back when, coming attractions for TV shows were a thing. “Next week on…” was marketing hype that we’d eagerly gobble up. Star Trek’s original series routinely ended with just such a teaser, so it’s fitting that each volume in this graphic novel collection has a coming attractions page. These pages are fun, appropriate and gets readers to anticipating exactly which version of Trek will be featured in the new volume.

•     •     •     •     •

For more information on this, you can check it out here. And if you also get that Flying Batcave, let me know how you like it.

Glenn Hauman: Six Words

Got a note from Mike Gold: “Denny remains sick. Would you like to fill for Thursday 8 AM? Got anything to get off your… chest?”

Sent a note back: “Sorry to hear he’s under the weather. I hope he’s going to be okay for his appearance at the Garner Arts Center this Saturday, where Dennis O’Neil is going to receive their first Lifetime Achievement Award for his tremendous creations.”

“I certainly hope so. So, got anything?”

“Well, I’ve got an idea for a piece, but it’s probably going to be a bit short.”

“How short?”

“Six words.”

“Six words short?”

“No, six words total.”

“SIX words?”

“What can I say, Mike? I’m laconic.”

“Are you using big words so that you can avoid describing yourself as short? Or are you just being pompous?”

“I’m not pompous; I’m pedantic. There’s a difference. Let me explain it to you…”

“Never mind. You’ve got to write something longer than that.”

“But why? The entire point of what I’m doing is that by making something so short and punchy it sticks in the mind, goes viral, and becomes a meme that spreads across the nation, even if they don’t know the original reference.”

“And you can do all that in six words?”

“Okay, six words and a picture. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then it’s long enough.”

“Your topic?”

“How geek culture and social media is beginning to invade and influence politics in this election year, the 21st century iteration of editorial cartoons. Heck, people were talking about Chris Christie’s trapped appearance on Super Tuesday using references to the Matrix and Harlan Ellison.”

“Six words, a picture, and you swear this bit of geek culture is going to get shared all over the Internet and possibly influence the Presidential election. Whaddya got?”


Michael Davis: Another Paige

paigeart1 peg copyDraft number one of this narrative was written not 24 hours after I met yet another amazing young lady named Paige. This draft is number 15, and at almost six months this is the longest it’s ever taken me to finish a single article.

More than two years ago, I wrote about a talented young artist whose name was also Paige.

It seems like yesterday when I met that Paige. A 14-year-old artist who so captivated me with her talent and self-possession at that young age, I wrote an entire article about her. The only other artists I’ve devoted entire articles to were Bill Sienkiewicz and Denys Cowan.

My editorial was a plea for Paige to consider comics and its related businesses as part of what will certainly be a fantastic career in art. She’s a woman, she’s black, and she’s an artist.

A Compton office for the Klan would not be as rare a combination in this industry.

What are the odds I’d meet two black girls named Paige? What are the odds that both Paige’s would be artists, beautiful, and brilliant young ladies? They even look a bit alike – although the Paige I recently met is much darker, they could fool a person or two into thinking they were related.

They have so much in common, share so much, and couldn’t be more different if one was born in outer space.

The original Paige’s story was one of a bright young artist without a care in the world. Her smile as bright as the sun, her story and future a happy one. This Paige’s story is not a happy one, her future is anyone’s guess and her smile is dim and sad.

I talk a lot of smack – some think my smack is spun hype. It’s not. Unfortunately, it’s my life. Those ‘boys in the hood’ survival stories are all true. I’ve survived some shit that people I’ve known for 30 years thought was smoke-and-mirror bluster to underscore my badass image.

Nope – all true. Where I grew up, threats to one’s life weren’t uncommon. Twice someone tried to kill me. I survived mostly by luck and a bit of street smarts.

Compared to Paige’s ordeal, my brushes with death now seem comical.

Paige was raped repeatedly for a week, brutally and without mercy, when she was eight years old. I’m sorry, there was no easy way for me to say that, lord knows I tried 14 times. The attacks were at her school and came from older kids Paige had to see every day.

I survived my brushes with death mostly by blind luck, a well-connected sister, and an incredible mother. I was helped and still just barely endured. Paige not only survived her hell, she beat the shit out of the devil in the process, and up until very recently did so on her own.

Paige, like her namesake, is a remarkable young lady. To be so young and so well put together is rare. Unfortunately, what happened to Paige is not nearly as rare. Most black women (yes, most) I know have had some type of sexual assault committed on their person. Paige fell hard into that category. A horrible and all too-common classification.

Paige’s horror, at the time, did have an uncommon distinction: kids raped her. Eight years later it’s not so uncommon. I can’t fathom in the least the nightmare her 8-year-old self lived. I’ve written about violence against women I’ve known much too often, and always at some point I rant about how I’d like to see the rapists suffer.

I’d like to hope and pray for a time machine, confront those miserable little bastards before they reached the bathroom where the attacks took place, and erase them.

Fuck the space-time continuum.

But are the kids to blame? Yeah, they sure as hell are. I don’t give a damn how liberal I am, kids past a certain age know full well what’s right and what’s wrong. I will concede they most likely lacked the care other kids were afforded, having the misfortune of being born to worthless parents.

How I came to know Paige’s story is both humbling and empowering. Paige’s mom is producing a documentary film looking at the alarming amount of sexual assaults there are on America’s college campuses. For women of color, three out of five will be subject to the violence of rape.

For more than 20 years I’ve been involved in efforts to bring attention and ultimately end widespread violence against women. I prefer smaller venues like high schools and community centers. There’s an intimacy in a smaller setting that never fails to unite the audience. It also emboldens those to seek help or counsel in the midst of a supportive group.

On occasion, I’m lucky enough to do a large event that manages to produce the same kind of closeness. Such was the auction benefiting battered women that my dear friend and idol Harlan Ellison and I co-hosted at DragonCon in 1995. It was with that in mind I accepted a speaking engagement at a large event targeting a vast, ill-informed, and unsuspecting audience.

Think about this for a second – three out of five women of color confronted with violence on a college campus where they should expect to be safe. That’s unacceptable at any level for any woman, black, Asian, white, or fucking green. That should shock every parent of a young lady bound for college.

Before the event, I got to know Paige and we became close very quickly. I’m pretty sure Paige read some of my articles on women in my life. This year I’ve written reams about my mom Jean and my sister Sharon, the real life models for Jean and Sharon Hawkins, Static’s mom and sister. Late last year I wrote a series of articles about my beloved high school art teacher, Mrs. Darwin.

All of the articles deal with loss and pain. All of those incredible women met with untimely deaths – in the case of my sister and grandmother, violent ones. I’m convinced Paige was somehow moved by what I wrote and decided to share with me what she had not shared with anyone else.

“I’m not sure how to ease into this so I guess I will just go for it. It’s taking me a long time to be able to write let alone say these words. Nine years to be exact. Its affected me physically and most of all emotionally. I am not proud of how I used to handle what happened but this is the truth.” 

“When I was eight years old, I was raped by boys at my school. It went on everyday for an entire week.”

That’s how my young friend began her letter to me. The rest of the letter is a heart-wrenching description of her torment, which succeeds in doing what I thought impossible. Paige’s account succeeds in making me cry the moment I think of it.

I thought I was cried out from my year of death and betrayal. I thought wrong.

As of this writing, Paige has told her mom she was raped. Nonetheless, she has not shared with her mom what she shared with me and I’m not sharing it here. Trust me, you don’t want to know. I’m panicking some people with my constant balling and that includes myself.

This incredible young woman lived with this gargantuan nightmare by herself for 9 years. Not just any nine years, her childhood years. It’s hard to imagine what kind of strength that takes if you’re an adult, let alone a child.

I couldn’t do it. That kind of pain? Alone? No way. I’m nowhere near that strong. I’m nowhere near that magnanimous. At eight, Paige was afraid of what to do, ashamed of what happened and confused. As she got older, her choice became clear to her: to protect her mom from the realization that would (did) knock her off her feet as hard as a Mike Tyson right hook.

Why am I telling Paige’s story here?


This from a guy who does not (did not) believe in fate, destiny, providence or any ‘outside force’ that dictates my life on a pre-ordained path.

I have no other way to describe the ‘why’ of this and yeah, I tried – 14 times before this, I tried. Thousands and thousands of words later, fate is as accurate a word to describe the chain of events as wet is to describe water. It’s my belief fate intervened and you, dear reader, are just the latest stop on its path.

Paige’s mom starts working on a film about women of color and the epidemic of sexual abuse on college campuses. She had no idea that Paige, at 17 about to enter college, was abused. Paige and her mom were godsends during my dark days dealing with my mom’s death. Paige confides in me, when I had no strength. None.

Yet somehow her trust in me gives me strength, not just for her, but also for me.

What are the odds?

After almost 10 years Paige is moved to unburden herself and thought her mom strong enough to handle it. She wasn’t, she was floored, understandably so. But as hard as her daughter’s revelation hit her, Paige’s decision to go public with her story uplifted her.

Yeah, Paige is going public with her story. Like I said, compared to Paige, I’m a little bitch.

I sent this article to my first Paige before it was published. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t exploiting her uplifting story to try and tell the heartrending story of her namesake. She would have to be okay with it or I would not mention her. The parallels and dissimilarities between the two Paige’s are remarkable and my take on the story would suffer for sure. I know, more than a few drafts taught me that.

She said yes, as I knew she would. She’s cool like that.

She was easy – my job was hard: write, then convince myself what I wrote was worthy of a young lady’s incredible act of selflessness and generosity. Fourteen drafts later, I felt I wasn’t even close. On top of that, I imagine many of you are wondering what the hell this story is doing on a pop culture site where the primary objective is to regale you with news of superheroes. that I’ve got covered: this story is of a superhero, or more accurately, it’s the continuing story of a superhero.

The two Paige’s are as different as night is from day and as similar as Clark Kent and Superman, because the two are the same person. Like Superman, Paige hid her secret identity from her friends and family to protect them. Deciding to fight the almost decade-long battle by herself.

Until now.

I first wrote about an incredible 14-year-old girl. Then I wrote about a scared 8-year-old child and the 17-year-old teenager. I’m sure I’ll be writing about Paige again – how could I not? She’s my superhero.

All that’s missing is her Invisible Jet.

Or… is it?


Mindy Newell: EW Does SDCC

Nick Fury

My geek overdrive continues to overwhelm me. But I’m not the only one.

Less than a week away from this year’s San Diego ComicCon (which opens its doors this Thursday, July 24th, and closes them on Sunday, July 27th) Entertainment Weekly joins the national geek fest that is summertime with a bang-up double-size issue featuring a cover shot of Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man and Chris Evans as Captain America with Ultron looming behind them. The issue is a stuffed-to-the-gills San Diego Comic Con preview…

And I read every single page. Including the adverts.

Now I know how those fans at the 1976 SDCC felt when Charles Lippincott (then head of Lucasfilm’s marketing, advertising and publicity department) showed some of the first production slides of Star Wars, and (writer) Roy Thomas and (artist) Howard Chaykin previewed their Marvel Comics adaptation of the film, because the cover story,an “exclusive first look” at Avengers: Age Of Ulton, does an admirable job of leaking just enough info to make me want to go out and see the move right now – only, goddamn!, it’s not due to hit the theatres for a frakking ten months! (May 1, 2015, which makes it nine months and 12 days, to be exact, and if I counted right.)

That’s incredibly unfair, EW!

By the way, that Star Wars teaser was the beginning of SDCC becoming the first exit ramp on the expressway to marketing love and box office bonanzas, for better or for worse. Most comics fans believing it was for worse, as SDCC has increasingly become more and more about film and television and less and less about the four-color world.

Along with articles on upcoming films, small and large (The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies; Air; Mad Max; Fury Road; Horns) and television shows – which Mike Gold did a wonderful job of discussing here. Although you missed Outlander, Mike, an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s eight-volume (so far, according to EW) saga which successfully – based on its millions plus fan base and its mega-profitability for the author and her publisher – blends the genres of romance and science fiction, and which Battlestar: Galactica rebooter Ronald D. Moore is exec-producing for cable channel Starz. It premieres this summer on Saturday, August 9th, although you can stream the first episode on the channel’s website, starting on August 2nd

Excuse me. I got diverted… to paraphrase Peter David.

A nice surprise in the issue is a piece about Jim Steranko. Now a lot of you may be to young to remember Mr. Steranko, but many, many professionals and fans say that it was his work on Nick Fury: Agent Of Shield in the ‘60s (that decade of the Beatles, Andy Warhol, “tuning in, dropping out, and turning on,” the pill, Vietnam, burning bras, the Chicago Democratic Convention… that decade of social revolution) which bumped up comics from pulp rags to line the birdcage with to a new American literary and artistic medium.

Me, I was too young to understand just how revolutionary Mr. Steranko’s work was, but it definitely sunk into the deeper reaches of my pre-adolescent psyche, influencing my (much) later work in the field, i.e., Mr. Steranko was – and is – an individual in the very best (and maybe sometimes the very worse) sense of the word, “travelling to the beat of a different drum,” as Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys sang in 1967. (Here’s a question for you music trivia buffs out there. Who wrote “Different Drum?”*)

There’s also an oral history of The Terminator, which is interesting, but a little sycophantic, IMHO, although in fairness these types of interviews usually are, and also because I’m not really a fan of Mr. Cameron’s, who has become a Hollywood financial powerhouse and player despite the constant charges of plagiarism leveled against him. Notably Avatar, but also Titanic and the above-mentioned Terminator.

Don’t get me wrong. I love his Titanic. It’s compelling and historically pretty damn accurate. But many film aficionados, including director and writer Peter Bogdanovich, noted the *ahem* similarity between Cameron’s 1997 film and History Is Made At Night, a 1937 film by Walter Wanger, directed by Frank Borzage, which tells the story of a love triangle between a financial magnate (Colin Clive), his beautiful (and unhappy) wife (Jean Arthur) and a French headwaiter (Charles Boyer). Just where do Jean and Charles meet? On an ocean liner. On her maiden voyage. And guess what? The ship hits an iceberg.

And I love Terminator. But have you ever sat through the credits and seen the acknowledgement to Harlan Ellison? Do you know why? Mr. Ellison filed a suit that complained that elements of the film were sourced from two episodes of The Outer Limits that Mr. Ellison wrote, “Soldier,” and “Demon with a Glass Hand.” Hemdale, Terminator’s production company, and Orion Pictures, its distributor, settled out of court with Mr. Ellison. Part of the settlement included that film credit.

You’d have to ask Bob Ingersoll, who writes The Law Is An Ass column here at ComicMix, about this, but it’s always indicated some degree of guilt to me. Meaning that it’s not worth the hassle and the mucho dinero and time to the defendant to fight a charge that contains enough truth in it that the defendant could conceivably lose.

I wouldn’t do it.

I’d give the money and run.

Wouldn’t you?

*Mike Nesmith of The Monkees wrote “Different Drum.”

•     •     •     •     •

As I filed this week’s column, I heard about the passing of James Garner, 86, on Saturday, July 19, 2014. Though perhaps best known as gambler Brett Maverick and cantankerous private detective Jim Rockford on the eponymous television shows, my favorite Garner roles were U.S. Army Major Jeff Pike in 36 Hours, Lt. Bob “The Scrounger” Hendley in The Great Escape, and King Marchand in Victor Victoria. He will be missed.

James Garner


Happy 80th Birthday, Harlan Ellison!

harlan_typewriterThere are those of you who doubted he’d make it. Hah! Hah, we say!

Harlan Ellison, writer, raconteur, gadfly, screenwriter, actor, power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, and a character in The Dark Knight Returns, Freakazoid, Concrete, The Simpsons, and Scooby Doo, celebrates his 80th birthday today. Yes, he’s been striking terror into the hearts of mere mortals for eight decades.

We don’t even know where to start with his list of accomplishments. If you’ve never read anything from him, go read his [[[Dream Corridor]]] comic collections, or [[[Phoenix Without Ashes]]], or watch some of his videos from his days on the Sci-Fi Channel here.

He even thanks you for your birthday wishes:

And here’s the cover to his Incredible Hulk #140, drawn by Herb Trimpe, who celebrated his 75th birthday yesterday! Congrats to both of you!

Review: “Comic Book Babylon”

Comic Book Babylon

Comic book writer, editor, and raconteur Clifford Meth took to Kickstarter to fund the publication of Comic Book Babylon, a collection of essays, stories, and interviews drawn from the almost ten years worth of columns he had written for various comic book news sites across the Internet, including ComicMix itself. Promising an introduction by Stan Lee and illustrations by noted comic artist/political crackpot Michael Netzer, Comic Book Babylon almost quintupled its original funding goal with $11,219 in pledges. Last week, Meth delivered with the release of Comic Book Babylon, published in print by Meth’s own Aardwolf Publishing or digitally through the Amazon Kindle store. (more…)

Michael Davis: An Open Letter To Paul Levitz

davis-art-131008-150x187-1732919Dear Paul,

Paul, Paul, PaulPaulPaul, Paul.

I hope this letters finds you well.

You and I have had our differences over the years but I still remember when I used to hang out in your office and just talk to you and all the swag you bestowed upon me.

Clearly our styles have clashed and the differences we’ve had have been huge.

Like it or not Paul, you and I have a shared history that history includes your absolute undeniable contribution to Milestone Media. Without Paul Levitz Milestone would not have ever existed. I recently said just that at the Milestone 20th anniversary panel at the San Diego Comic Con. You have taught me a lot Paul and like I said rather you like it or not you’ve been instrumental in a lot of my career.

When I first became President and CEO of Motown Animation & Filmworks you and I were talking at a San Diego Comic Con event when a drunk colorist I trained and arranged his first professional job, rolled up to me in front of you and started talking shit about how horrible a human being I was because I fired a friend of his off a project. I was right about to do something very un-CEO like and put my fist in his throat when you lightly touched my arm and said softly “Michael you’re a CEO now, you will always have a target on your back, let it go.”

I did.

I know I’m a bit of a pill Paul, but no more than Todd McFarland, Frank Miller, Harlan Ellison or scores of other artists who have over-the-top take-no-shit-personalities.

Love me or hate me, I’ve earned respect. How many people do you know have a magnet school auditorium named them, were named Mentor Of The Year by Mentor magazine, has 12 count them, 12 Michael Davis day proclamations from 12 different cities because of my work with kids and education, a PhD… and on top of all that I’m cute as a button.

Paul, I am who I am.

You are who you are, one of the most influential people in comic book history if I hated your guts (which I don’t) I would still respect that. I don’t hate you, Paul. I miss you. I miss those Levitz talks, especially the ones that ended with me carrying out a huge Batman or Superman or Lobo statue.  All of which you’ve given me (when you liked me).

I’m super glad to see you are writing again. The Darkness Saga is on my top five ever-favorite story lines, the others being Watchmen, Dark Knight, Camelot 3000 and The Killing Joke. Paul, I’d like to invite you to my annual Comic Con party. We can sit down and swap Bob Wayne stories. I’ll tell you all about the time Bob took me dinner in Texas and how he continuously reminded me there were no black people within a-hundred miles. I wasn’t scared (much) it was all in good fun.

Again, I hope you and yours are well, call me, let’s do lunch, and bring some money so you can eat too. :-)




Mindy Newell: The Grandfather Paradox Gives Me A Headache

Newell Art 130826Is time travel possible? Can history be changed?

Imagine you had a time machine and went back into the past. While there you meet and accidentally kill your grandfather before he got married and had kids, one of them your own parent. Then you automatically wipe out your own existence, right? But if you have never existed, then how do you go back in time and kill Grandpa?

This is called The Grandfather Paradox, and it is probably the most famous example of what is termed a temporal paradox. This scenario was first described by science fiction writer Rene Barjavel in his 1943 book, Le Voyager Imprudent – translated, The Imprudent Traveler. (I didn’t know that, either. I looked it up.)

The Grandfather Paradox is not exclusive to killing Gramps. The entire plotline of Back To Future depends on Marty, um, “pre”-uniting his parents after he inadvertently interfered with his father, George McFly, being the one nursed by his mom (thus kindling their romance) after dad fell out of the tree into the path of a passing car. Because George did not marry Lorraine Baines, Marty cannot exist, and we see this principle at work as his first-born brother and then second-born sister disappear from a family photograph, until, at the prom (and the penultimate scene), Marty starts to fade away as he plays guitar. But just in time, George (who has saved Lorraine from being mauled – raped? – by Biff Tannen, the town bully) dances with her – they kiss, and suddenly Marty springs back to life and his brother and sister reappear in the photograph.

Marty inadvertently changes history in other ways, because in his efforts to bring George and Lorraine together, he has given his father new confidence in himself. When Marty returns to 1985, he discovers that his sad sack family are now examples of the American success story. George is no longer a stumbling failure, but a successful science fiction writer. Lorraine is no longer a slovenly, overweight, complaining, straight-laced mom, and they are a happy, openly loving couple. His brother and sister are happy, too, and Marty discovers his parents have bought him his long-dreamed of truck.

Is time travel possible? Can history be changed?

Another example of the Grandfather Paradox is Star Trek’s “The City On The Edge Of Forever.” Written by Harlan Ellison, and winner of the 1968 Hugo award for Best Dramatic Presentation, City is the story of Jim Kirk and Edith Keeler, a social worker in Depression-era New York City.

It begins with the Enterprise investigating “disturbances in time” emanating from an unknown planet. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, sick and paranoid from an accidental overdose of cordrazine, transports down to the planet, and a landing party follows him, led by Kirk and Spock. While searching for Bones, the team discovers the Guardian of Forever, a self-aware portal into the time stream. Still delusional, Bones jumps into the portal. Uhura tells Kirk that she was talking to the Enterprise, and now, suddenly, there is nothing, not even static. The Guardian tells them that the past has changed and the Enterprise, indeed the entire Federation, no longer exists. The landing party is stranded and alone in a universe that is no longer theirs.

Kirk and Spock determine that McCoy somehow changed history, and they realize they must follow Bones and stop him from doing whatever it is he did that changed history.

The portal lands them, as I said, in a New York City circa 1933. Kirk and Spock meet Edith Keeler, who runs a soup kitchen for the down-and-out. While Spock puts together a rudimentary tricorder (“I am endeavoring, ma’am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bear skins.”), Jim and Edith fall in love. And meanwhile, unknown to both men, Bones is being nursed back to health in Edith’s soup kitchen.

Spock discovers that Edith is a focal point in time. His machine shows two possible futures for her. Either Edith, a determined pacifist, leads a movement that delays America’s entry into World War II, which allows the Nazis time to perfect the atom bomb and win the war, or she dies in 1933 in a car accident. Kirk realizes that Edith Keeler, the woman he loves, must die.

Jim and Edith are on their way to a movie – “A Clark Gable movie. Don’t you know? You know, Dr. McCoy said…” – Jim tells Edith to “stay right there” and runs back across the street to the mission, calling for Spock. Spock comes out, and so does Bones. Edith, curious and watching this reunion, starts to cross the street; her eyes on the three men, she doesn’t see the truck. Kirk instinctively moves, but Spock stops him, and instead of saving Edith, Kirk restrains McCoy from acting as well. Edith is killed. “Do you know what you just did?” Bones says in disbelief. Spock answers for Kirk. “He knows, Doctor. He knows.

With Edith’s death, history is back on track, and the three men are returned to the Guardian’s planet. Uhura tells them that the Enterprise is there and awaiting instructions.

“Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Is time travel possible? Can history be changed?

The Novikov Self-Consistency Principle, theorized by Russian physicist Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov and American theoretical physicist Kip S. Thorne’s work on wormholes and other astronomical data – can the laws of physics actually permit space and time to be “multiply connected,” as Thorne put it, so that time travel through machines or via wormholes is actually possible? – both rely on the same hypothesis, i.e.,

there is no danger of temporal paradoxes because anything that a time traveler does in the past is (was?) an established and predetermined part of history.

In “Assignment: Earth,” a second season episode of Star Trek: TOS, Kirk and Spock discover that the Enterprise and its crew were actually part of the events of 1968 which led to the failed launch of a nuclear warhead platform into orbit by the United States. If they hadn’t travelled back in time, if they hadn’t interfered, then history (from the 23rd century perspective) would have been changed. But history couldn’t be changed, according to the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle and Thorne’s hypothesis; the Enterprise’s presence was an established and predetermined historical fact.

Can history be changed? Is time travel possible?

In 1937, physicist Willen Jacob Van Strickum proposed an idea he called the “Closed Timelike Curve.” He theorized that if time is linear, you should be able to fold it in on itself, making time travel possible between any points touching each other.

This was the basis of Quantum Leap, although Dr. Sam Beckett, the time traveler in the series, used the term “string theory.”

From the episode “Future Boy”:

Moe: Time is like a piece of string. One end of the string is birth, the other is death. If you can put them together, then your life is a loop.

Al: Hey! Sam, that’s your theory!

Moe: If I can travel fast enough along the loop, I will eventually end up back at the beginning of my life.

Al: He – He’s got it!

Sam: Well, let me ask you what would happen if you would ball the string, right? And then each day of your life would touch another day. And then, you could travel from one place on the string to another, thus enabling you to move back and forth within your own lifetime. Maybe.

Moe: That’s it! That’s it! Then I could actually…

Sam: Quantum leap.

So, according to Quantum Leap, you can time travel, at least within your own lifetime.

But can history be changed?

In Quantum Leap, the only way that Sam Beckett could move on and try to find his way home was to “put right what once went wrong.” Which of course he did. So Sam was changing history.

Or was he simply creating alternate histories?

Alternate histories that led to whole new universes.

Parallel universes.

Parallel universes within the multiverse.

To Be Continued…