Tagged: Harvey Awards

Martha Thomases’ School Daze


The week after Labor Day is the traditional beginning of the school year. Yes, #NotAllSchools, but enough.

When I was in elementary school, the first day was a big deal. My mom and I had spent a lot of time over the summer selecting my new clothes, usually an activity that included lots of arguments. (I hated wearing uniforms at boarding school, but it did reduce the fighting at home.) On that first day I wanted to show off my favorite selections, so I usually spent all of my class time sweating through my lovely winter jumper with coordinating turtleneck sweater.

Naturally, I wondered how superheroes would fare. I don’t mean those lucky enough to have classes that catered to their specific mutations or skills, but regular school, with tiny milk cartons in the cafeteria and bullies at recess.

I remember Superboy and Supergirl stories from my youth where they would be stuck in class while their super-hearing picked up some disaster that needed their attention. They had robots available for such occasions, although I do not remember any stories in which those robots had to take tests or get punched in the face. Today, we can read about Moon Girl and her issues with being smarter than her classmates (as well as trying to keep a dinosaur secret). Her powers are the least of her problems.

As usual, I wonder about superheroes with more esoteric powers. Mind-readers like Saturn Girl could cheat on tests simply by barging into the thoughts of the teacher. She could also get completely icked-out simply by walking past the boys locker room… but that also happens to girls who aren’t telepathic.

Matt Murdock could avoid bullies by sensing when they were planning to punch him out. He could probably also tell when the lunch lady lost a hair (or worse) in his food. Matter-Eater Lad could avoid cafeteria problems altogether. He’d have no reason to fear  mystery meat when the tray would be a satisfying substitute lunch.

Truly, there are few situations in which it is not amusing to imagine Matter-Eater Lad.

Individual problems and opportunities for individual students might present story opportunities, but the conditions of our schools, physically and structurally, are the real outrage. Public schools are constantly forced to do more with less. No matter how much money any particular municipality might budget towards them, an insufficient percentage trickles down to individual teachers in individual classrooms.

Even worse, there is increasing pressure on students to pass specific kinds of tests that purport to measure their learning but are more likely to measure their ability to take tests. Some groups want to eliminate arts education to focus on science, math and technology, as if math and science don’t benefit from people with artistic imaginations.

Children, even those without super-powers, are each unique. I know there are those who don’t like it when someone points out that everyone is special, but they are wrong. I learn at a different pace and in a different way than you do. Schools should take this into account. No, we shouldn’t lower standards and pass kids from one grade to the next purely for social reasons. Diplomas should indicate a level of accomplishment, and we should have a nondiscriminatory way to measure this… although I don’t know what this would be.

I was always good at taking standardized tests, usually placing in the 99th percentile. This helped my parents with their bragging rights but did nothing to indicate that, for example, I was terrible at memorizing, especially foreign language vocabulary words. If there had been a way to catch that earlier, I might be able to spend more time in Paris.

My point (and I do have one) is that schools don’t have to be places of boredom and terror. We could treat our kids with more love and respect, appreciating their differences in a way that celebrates their victories and nurtures them when they fail.

I thought of this while listening to Dean Haspiel give the keynote address at the Harvey Awards last weekend. Dean talked about the challenges of being a freelance artist in a culture that values neither art nor freelancers. After a lifetime in New York working with colleagues in a studio in a building with loads of other artists, Dean admitted that he is considering leaving.

New York City drew me here because it was a place where one could meet artists and writers and rock stars and poets and radical activists. It was a great place to raise my kid, who went to public school with kids who spoke Spanish, Russian, Chinese and lots of other languages at home, and who might live in shelters or brownstones, projects or penthouses.

That doesn’t happen anymore.

Those of us who value each other’s special abilities should consider finding a town in decline and moving in en masse. We could work together to provide the services we want, and we could live close enough to each other so we could ease the trauma of moving. We could volunteer at libraries and schools and summer camps so all the kids who feel like mutants would know we think that’s a good thing.

And we could install air-conditioning in the schools so that, if I show up on the first day, I can wear my best new outfit.

Ed Catto: It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World

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At the recent Baltimore Comic-Con, I presented “It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World” which was both a nostalgic look back at how brands connected with pop culture fans and how brands connect today.

Sea MonkeysAnd I’ve got to say, it was invigorating to be part of such an exciting convention. The convention center is in the heart of their downtown, and the entire, upbeat weekend was an encouraging contrast to the agonizing images of Baltimore from last April. I’m not saying problems don’t still exist, but the Baltimore Comic-Con presented us all with an optimistic and hopeful weekend for this city.

For “It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World,” I tried hard to balance my presentation between nostalgic, backward glances of ads in old comics and the brilliant innovative ways that brands now connect with Geek Culture. But to be fair, a lot of the old ads were so surprisingly goofy, especially through the lens of 2015, that it was hard to resist taking the audience on an extended, smirking “field trip” through the marketing of yesteryear.

batman_model_comic_book_adWe talked about the classic ads, like Sea Monkeys, but also about some of the clever and absurd ads, like those for muscle-building programs and part time jobs selling shoes.

During the presentation, I also took a closer look at two classic brands that engaged in long running campaigns specific to comics: Tootsie Roll’s Captain Tootsie series and Hostess Twinkies (and Fruit Pies) long running single page adventure strip ads. In fact, Hostess’ ads are so memorable that they’ve inspired a plethora of satire ads over the years.

PastedGraphic-4And for today, we talked about KFC’s clever onsite marketing at San Diego Comic-Con last summer. As part of a media partnership, Kentucky Fried Chickens place Col. Sanders statues in cosplay outfits, in various parts of San Diego’s downtown and Gaslamp districts. (And I’m sure you all know by now that cosplay refers to the practice of dressing up as pop culture character for a convention.) Fans were rewarded when they found these statues, and amplified KFC’s marketing messages via social media. And closer to home, we explored how my agency, Bonfire, helped Guinness connect with passionate pop culture fans as a sponsor of the Harvey Awards. These awards, honoring creativity and craftsmanship, are held annually at the Baltimore Comic-Con.

So, the title of this presentation was, in retrospect, misleading. It’s not really an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World anymore. Not traditional ads, anyways. But it is a world that eager for creativity and accepting of marketing messages – as long as they are authentic, entertaining and appropriate.  So keep your eyes peeled, and don’t be surprised if you see the next corporate mascot having fun with cosplay –just like everyone else.

Martha Thomases: A Family Affair

Sunday Comics

Getting old isn’t for quitters. I’m just back from Baltimore Comic-Con which is a lovely show in my time zone and I was chauffeured back and forth door to door by the lovely and talented Glenn Hauman and even in these non-stressful circumstances I’m exhausted.

Baltimore Comic-Con is, as I said, a lovely show. For one thing, it is almost entirely about comics. Yes, there are media stars signing autographs. There are dealers selling things that are not comic books (including some great jewelry that I wish I had a chance to eyeball more) but they are on the fringes.

Comics are the heart and soul of the show-floor. Comics are the heart and soul of the show.

Comics are among the few mass media to have a heart and soul. Because they can be produced on (relatively) small budgets compared to movies television and popular music and because the profit potential is (relatively) small they attract creators with more personal passion than greed. Yes, we can alcove up with our own list of exceptions but I’ll stand my my statement as a generality.

ComicMix shared a very large space with Insight Studios and The Sunday Comics. I’ve known Marc Hempel and Mark Wheatley of Insight for more than 25 years, longer than the Sunday Comics crew has been alive. I enjoyed standing around mouthing off to my old friends. I loved loved loved! watching the new kids show off their big beautiful paper comics to new readers.

Speaking of heart and soul I kvelled like the Jewish mother I am watching Vivek Tiwary host the Harvey Awards. Vivek is relatively new to comics as a creator and he reminds me every time I see him of the simple joy I feel when I get a good story in a four-color cover.

This was only the second time I’ve attended the Harvey Awards presentation and I have to say sitting in that banquet room at the Hyatt I felt very much like I was attending a family celebration. It wasn’t a wedding or a bat mitzvah but it had that same combination of vague bitchiness but overwhelming love that (my) family celebrations have. Instead of DNA the comics business shares a love of graphic story-telling as well as a sense of ourselves of outsiders.

It’s a beautiful thing. Even if I didn’t get to see Dean Haspiel without his shirt on.

On a completely different note I enjoyed the first episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t Jon Stewart whom I’ve adored since before he got that gig but I like the new host and I like that he has a different perspective than I do.

It’s fun to watch a show where the host appreciates indoor toilets.

Mike Gold: Re-Union

First Comics Reunion Baltimore 2015

You probably read Emily’s column yesterday. It was all about the Baltimore Comic-Con. You’ll probably read Martha’s column Friday. It is all about the Baltimore Comic-Con. And, damn, I wouldn’t be surprised if John’s Sunday column is all about the Baltimore Comic-Con as well. This is because ComicMix invaded the place.

Emily, Martha, John and I were joined by fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Ed Catto, Bob Ingersoll, Robert Greenberger and Evelyn Kriete, all in a combined effort to make Adriane Nash feel bad that she missed a big one. I believe Nelson Muntz said it best: Ha-ha!

But I’m not here today to talk about the Baltimore Comic-Con. I’m here to talk about something that happened at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Something that Hilarie Staton captured in the photograph that (hopefully) appears above. Something that Baltimore Comic-Con’s official photog, Bruce Guthrie, also captured but, since he took so many photos last weekend even Carl Barks couldn’t come up with the right-sounding number, I don’t have them as of deadline-time. Bruce is quite the artistic guy and I look forward to seeing his… well, his pictures of me and my buddies.

Let’s identify the folks in Hilarie’s picture, from left to right, physically but not politically.

Marc Hempel, Mark Wheatley, Mike Grell, some pudgy asshole, Joe Staton, John Ostrander, and Timothy Truman.

Yep, that’s a reunion. The First Comics class of 1984, sans Howard Chaykin, Lenin del Sol, Hilary Barta, and Rick Obadiah. Rick had a pretty good excuse for missing the party.

It was about 34 years ago when Rick Obadiah and I were, literally, lying on the floor of an office in the mighty Video Action Magazine complex with our sketches and notes, detailing what was soon to become First Comics. The act of creation takes on many forms and an enormous amount of time, and Rick and I further developed the company through a wonderful series of elaborate restaurant meals that would provoke a vegetarian to a massive seizure. I know that it worked – actually, I’ve finally accepted that it worked – because dozens and dozens of people still stop me at comics conventions such as the Baltimore Comic-Con to tell me how much they enjoyed our work.

Yes, and more than a handful of fans whose introductory sentences started with “I discovered my dad’s comic book stash and…” Sigh.

The above-pictured people were responsible for Mars, Jon Sable Freelance, Starslayer, E-Man, and GrimJack. Our work either remains in print in trade paperback form or, as in the case with Starslayer, about to be so memorialized.

That’s really cool and sort of life-affirming.

I am not alone in saying that the Baltimore show is my favorite, and that it is my favorite because it’s by and for comic book fans. There aren’t many faded teevee stars there eking out a living; it’s all four-color, all the time. A celebration of what makes comics and comics fandom great. It’s also the home of the Harvey Awards – John and I were presenters this year – and as Martha will tell you Friday, the Harveys is all about family.

The combined age of all those guys up above is about 400 years old. Please note: all of us are still working, and still turning out great stuff. In many cases, better stuff. And signing all those comic books (sometimes in front of a CGC witness!) and chatting with you-all remains completely… what’s the word you kids say?… oh, yeah. Awesome.

For that, I thank you.

Emily S. Whitten: Baltimore Comic Con – Another Great Year!

HaspielI’ve said before that, despite liking to attend all flavors of fandom and comics conventions, including (clearly) the media guest-focused cons, I really love Baltimore Comic Con because it has stayed so focused on comics and comics creators. I’m happy to report that this has not changed.

I had a great time in Baltimore this year, doing some of the things that make me happiest at comic cons, like walking the exhibit hall and wandering Artist Alley to see what new things old friends are up to, meet folks whose work I know but whom I’ve never chatted with, and flip through the work of creators I haven’t ever encountered before. Amongst the fun things I discovered were this nifty accordion-style comic by Christa Cassano and Dean Haspiel; a gorgeous limited edition coloring book by Charles Vess, whose work I’ve loved for a long time but who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting before; some great art and collaborations by Tony Moy and Nen (I want Tony’s Vitruvian Totoro woodblock print so much!); these excellent interlocking covers for Amazing Spider-Man #17 and Spider-Gwen #3 by Mike McKone, which I hadn’t previously seen; some new pieces from Francesco Francavilla, whose work I never tire of; and this print of Poison Ivy by Tom Raney.

I also enjoyed watching the always-talented Barry Kitson work as he completed a striking She-Hulk commission; getting to know writer Amy Chu; running into longtime friend and artist Kevin Stokes, who I didn’t even know was going to be at the show; and catching up with other great talents like Cully Hamner and Clayton Henry. And of course it’s always great to hang out with my fellow ComicMixers, and this year I was delighted to finally get to chat in person with John Ostrander, whose work and columns I always enjoy. Good times!

An event unique to this year that I was able to attend and had a blast at was the opening of the exhibit “75 Spirited Years – Will Eisner and the Spirit” at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. I hadn’t been to the museum before, and it was really fun to walk around through all of the exhibits; and especially fun to be told stories about certain Eisner pieces by Denis Kitchen, cartoonist, publisher (of Eisner and many others), and founder of the CBLDF; and by Diamond Comic Distributors founder Steve Geppi himself. It was also great to see the covers current artists such as Mark Wheatley and John K. Snyder III had done as interpretations of a concept sketch that had been created by Eisner but never before finished, which were on display; and they were also on hand to sign their work.

I also really enjoyed another staple favorite of my BCC experience, The Harvey Awards, hosted this year by the heartfelt and engaging Vivek Tiwary, creator of The Fifth Beatle (a signed copy of which we received in our swag bags along with many other great selections, yay!). It’s always a pleasure to attend and see the industry honoring its creators (and shout-out to Mark Wheatley for his Harvey’s art and work on the media presentation for the ceremony); and of course the afterparty ain’t bad, either! It was fun to sit next to first-time Harvey winner Chad Lambert and experience his reaction to winning, to chat with BCC Guest of Honor Mark Waid (and covet his awesome Legion ring), and afterwards, to nerd out with Vivek, catch up with the likes of the super-nice Thom Zahler, hear some great industry stories via Dirk Wood and Paul Storrie, chill with fellow comics journalists like Heidi MacDonald; see Charlie Kochman’s historic Jules Feiffer button live and in person; and more. So glad I could make it, and congratulations to all of the award-winners this year!

Despite enjoying the focus on comics guests, I was still excited to see Baltimore hosting very quality media guests  – i.e. Paul Blackthorne, Katie Cassidy, Ming-Na Wen, Edward James Olmos, and Raphael Sbarge. It was cool to see them at the show, and the panels were very entertaining. I hope they had a great time at the con, too, and decide to come back again!

And until then (or next week!), I hope everyone who was at Baltimore Comic Con with me can catch up on some rest (I know I need it); and Servo Lectio!

Dennis O’Neil: Losing Our Chains?

Academy_of_Comic_Book_Arts_(1975_sketchbook_-_cover)Time was when I was young and had not yet outgrown the need for hair that in the dead of winter, a lady friend and I rambled west and found ourselves in the San Francisco area. We crossed that big bridge and called on my Aunt Ethel, whom I had seen maybe once in my life when I was a little kid and who had no idea that we were coming. Knock knock, I’m your great nephew from Missouri you wouldn’t be able to pick from a lineup and this is my friend Anne and by the way, we have no place to stay and almost no money…

She was a nice lady, Ethel was, and she gave us room and board for a few days until we were ready to rehit the road. She was also a radical whose recently departed husband had been a pioneer union organizer in an era when, according to one story, union members went to meetings in groups armed with rifles. Anne and I were lefties in our early 20s and we were not big fans of unions. My father had gotten unwelcome attention from the Teamsters and in general we believed that unions were corrupt havens for the thug class.

Ethel, on the other hand, was one with Woody Guthrie and the other populists and believed the union movement to be a shining hope for the exploited and mistreated working man. So we disagreed, but we did it politely, and we were in a friendly mood when we left Ethel’s house in Corte Madera. I don’t know how or when Ethel died and I’m sorry about that. I should have stayed in touch.

Then I went to live in New York and pretty much forgot about organized labor until I became a member of the Academy of Comic Book Arts. ACBA’s mission was never very clear to me, but in broad, blurry strokes it was intended to be the voice of all us scruffy comics freelancers. What ACBA really did accomplish was to hold an annual awards banquet and hand out certificates (and later statuettes) to people who had done exemplary work before there were Eisners and/or Harveys. But there were no negotiations with management and when ACBA sort of faded away in 1977, the day to workaday situation of the comics creators hadn’t changed.

It’s gotten way better. We’re now guaranteed royalties, back end money, foreign use payments, various ancillary payments when other media get involved. We sign contracts and the bucks arrive and I’m okay with that. I hate bookkeeping – tax time is a trip to an unexplored corner of hell – and I’m willing to trust the folks out in Burbank.

But pensions? Medical benefits? Vacation pay? Maternity pay or its equivalent? Those are still not available to many of the gallant mavericks who slap ink onto paper and provide you with entertainment. Are we advocating unions? Shrug.

It may be that unions are remnants of a past century and there are other kinds of negotiating bodies possible to us now. Or it may be that the need for unionization is evolving into something else. But one service unions can still provide is fundraising. They can allow politicians unbeholden to billionaires to accumulate enough capital to mount a decent campaign. And at the moment, there are very few organizations able to do that.

And, you know, fossil that I am, I kind of like the two party system.

2015 Harvey Awards Final Ballot Announced


The 2015 Harvey Awards Nominees have been announced with the release of the final ballot, presented by the Executive Committees of the Harvey Awards and the Baltimore Comic-Con. Named in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman, one of the industry’s most innovative talents, the Harvey Awards recognize outstanding work in comics and sequential art. They will be presented September 26, 2015 in Baltimore, MD, in conjunction with the annual Baltimore Comic-Con.

Nominations for the Harvey Awards are selected exclusively by creators – those who write, draw, ink, letter, color, design, edit, or are otherwise involved in a creative capacity in the comics field. They are the only industry awards both nominated and selected by the full body of comic book professionals. Thank you to all that have already participated by submitting a nomination ballot.

Final ballots are due to the Harvey Awards by Monday, August 31, 2015. Full submission instructions can be found on the final ballot.  Voting is open to anyone professionally involved in a creative capacity within the comics field.  Final ballots are available at http://www.harveyawards.org/2015-final-ballot/. Those who prefer paper ballots may e-mail harveys@baltimorecomiccon.com.

This year’s Baltimore Comic-Con will be held September 25-27, 2015.  The ceremony and banquet for the 2015 Harvey Awards will be held Saturday night, September 26th. This will be the tenth year for the Harvey Awards in Baltimore, MD.  Look for more details soon as to how you can attend the Harvey Awards dinner.

Congratulations to all of the nominees!  If you know a nominee, please pass on the good news using email,  Facebook, and Twitter.


Harvey Awards Nomination Ballot for 2015 now online

Harvey Awards Nomination Ballot for 2015 now online

new-harvey-logo-web-2012-2The Executive Committees of the Harvey Awards and the Baltimore Comic-Con are proud to present the official Nomination Ballot for this year’s Harvey Awards, honoring work published in the 2014 calendar year. Named in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman, one of the industry’s most innovative talents, the Harvey Awards recognize outstanding work in comics and sequential art. The 28th Annual Harvey Awards will be presented Saturday, September 26th, 2015 as part of the Baltimore Comic-Con.

Harvey Awards nomination ballots may be submitted using an online form.  If you are a comics professional, you can vote online at harveyawards.org/2015-nomination-ballot/.  This will enable easier and faster methods for the professional community to submit their nominees. Ballots are due for submission by Monday, May 11th, 2014.

Nominations for the Harvey Awards are selected exclusively by creators: those who write, draw, ink, letter, color, design, edit or are otherwise involved in a creative capacity in the comics field. The Harvey Awards are the only industry awards both nominated and selected by the full body of comic book professionals.

This year’s Baltimore Comic-Con will be held September 25-27, 2015. The ceremony and banquet for the Harvey Awards will be held Saturday night, September 26th. Additional details about the Harvey Awards and the awards ceremony will be released over the next few months.

With a history of over 28 years, the last eight in conjunction with the Baltimore Comic-Con, the Harveys recognize outstanding achievements in 22 categories. They are the only industry awards nominated and selected by the full body of comic book professionals. For more information, please visit www.harveyawards.org.

The Baltimore Comic-Con is celebrating its 16th year of bringing the comic book industry to the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area. With a guest list unequaled in the industry, the Baltimore Comic-Con will be held September 25-27, 2015. For more information, please visit www.baltimorecomiccon.com.

Martha Thomases: Subversive Family Reading

Over the weekend, while all the cool kids were in Baltimore for the Harvey Awards and the convention, I was at a family wedding. As such occasions are wont to do, I ruminated over my life and times.

On Friday night, at the rehearsal dinner, I was talking with a cousin who remembered that visiting our house as a child was fun because we had comic books, which her mother didn’t allow. At that time (late 1950s to early 1960s), comic books were still accused of causing juvenile delinquency, disrespect for authority and Communism.

Certainly, they did that to me.

My cousin’s life is about as different from mine as I can imagine, given our demographic similarities (over 60, female, college educated, Jewish). I live in an apartment in Manhattan; she lives in a rural part of western New York State. Until recently she worked as a carpenter; I expect it to be front-page news when I successfully change a light bulb. I know more about the Democratic candidate for Congress in her district than she does.

We both have fond memories of sitting on the porch, a pile of comics between us.

Another guest, who was not a relative, had never seen a graphic novel. He didn’t know what the term meant, thinking perhaps it was a more polite way to say pornography. We talked about the kinds of books and movies he liked, and I recommended some titles that I thought would fit with his tastes.

Why does this still happen? It’s been more than forty years since Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams were written up in the New York Times Magazine for bringing a grown-up sensibility to comics with story lines “ripped from the headlines” (and much more nuanced than your average episode of Law & Order). Major bookstores at the mall have graphic novel sections. It’s one of the few growth sectors of the publishing business.

But random people still only know comics from their childhood, if at all.

They know about “comic book movies” as a genre, but think it means Batman, Iron Man, The Avengers and, maybe, Guardians of the Galaxy. They don’t know that it includes films as diverse as Scott Pilgrim and Road to Perdition and A History of Violence and Two Guns.

Why should we fix this?

Self-interest, at the least. We enjoy the medium. Some of us support our families by working in it. Because it increases the amount of interaction between the two hemispheres of our brains.

The world is better when there are lots of different kinds of comics, appealing to lots of different kinds of readers. We shouldn’t have to raise money for the people who made the medium more diverse and appealing. We shouldn’t need a movie to justify our enjoyment of the source material. We shouldn’t need to have to keep explaining that comics aren’t just for kids anymore.

How do we fix this?

I think most of the responsibility falls to us, the people who love comics, who write about comics, who create comics. We need to show that we are as varied as the people who love any other popular entertainments. We are old and young, conservative and progressive, queer, straight male, female and other. Some of us like to wear costumes for occasions other than Halloween, and some of us don’t even like to wear them then.

There is no more a typical comic book reader than there is a typical movie-goer.

(Note: I’m aware that there exist statistics that show younger people are more likely to go to the movies, but first, those statistics vary widely, and second, my point still stands. Nyaah nyaah nyaah.)

It’s a big task, and we won’t accomplish it overnight. However, it’s the kind of challenge that is most successful when a lot of people do simple, easy things, rather than a few people dedicating their every waking moment to the cause. For example, I often refer to a graphic novel I’ve read in conversation, as if reading graphic novels is something that educated people do (because it is). When I give out candy and money for UNICEF at Halloween, I include comic books as one of the treats.

Not difficult. Not earth-shattering. Way more effective if we all do it.

The wedding was lovely, by the way. The party afterwards was big fun, too. I only had to sneak away a few times to see if my pal was winning any Harvey Awards.