Tagged: iPad

JOHN OSTRANDER: Life and Death and Comics

As you all know, Steve Jobs died this last week. You also know, or should from everything that has been said about him since he died, that he co-founded Apple and was the visionary that brought us the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod and the computer on which I’m writing all this. Some have compared him to Einstein or Edison and, considering the influence he’s had or will continue to have, I think the comparison is apt.

Here’s some of what Steve Jobs said about death from his commencement address to Stamford University in 2005. He’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, had surgery, and hoped he had escaped it. Jobs was a reflective person, however, and talked about what the experience had taught him.

Death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new… Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

“And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

That’s profound advice for anyone who wants to be a writer, who wants to be any kind of artist. Jobs was an artist, in my opinion, and his medium was Apple.

This has had a special reverberation for me as well. I’ve been spending the week dealing with an irregular heartbeat. My heart sometimes goes ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump. . . .ba-DUMP. We’ve all heard the phrase of how something or someone made your heart skip a beat. Well, mine has and I can tell you it’s not romantic; it’s a little scary.

Yes, I’ve been to the doctor(s) and there’s been a bunch of tests and there will be more to come. I’m told it’s not a heart attack. The initial diagnosis is palpitations. I’m one attack of the vapors from becoming a Southern Belle.

While this is something to pay attention to (and I am), it doesn’t appear to be dangerous at the moment. At the same time, it’s made me reflective of the fact that I am mortal and I will die. I’ve had a relationship with death all my life and I think it’s shaped me for the better. As a boy, any number of my relatives died by the time I was ten. I spent a lot of time at wakes and funerals. I saw dead people – ones I had known as living folks.

I lived across the street from our church and one bright summer morning I was on my bike in front of my house when a funeral cortege passed by heading to the front of the church. As I watched the hearse go by, I got the sense that someday the positions would be different. I would be in a hearse and some ten-year old kid would watch me pass by. As Jobs said, the old replaced by the new and that everything new eventually becomes old.

All those deaths – ones close to me like my father or my late wife, Kim, or of heroes like the Kennedys or John Lennon – have become part of me. It’s like the way artists use negative space to define objects. Death helps define life. Death has helped me define life for myself, it has entered into my writing and given it resonance.

Too often in comics we treat death as a plot device; the hero dies, the hero comes back. The grave has a revolving door. It’s a stunt to sell more books. I’ve done it myself. Some times it’s valid but it happens too often so that the death of a character really doesn’t mean anything anymore. Does that keep comics juvenile? Does it keep them from having any real resonance?

The medium itself is having death pangs in so many ways. Comic books shops are dying; print as a medium may be dying. Denny O’Neil once remarked to me that comics as a medium doesn’t have to exist; it can also be mortal. It can die.

Or it can change. The old parts die out and then get reborn. As Steve Jobs noted, death clears out the old to make way for the new. Maybe comics can benefit from a little death. It’s good to remember: nothing and no one lasts forever. That what gives life its poignancy and its value. Enjoy what you have while you have it. Love those you love while they’re here. Celebrate life; value death.

Life’s too short to read bad comics.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

Steven Paul Jobs, co-founder, chairman and former chief executive of Apple Inc., former owner and CEO of Pixar, and the single largest shareholder of The Walt Disney Company (now owner of Marvel), passed away Wednesday at the age of 56.

It would be almost impossible to overstate Steve Jobs’ impact on the world at large, and many other obituaries will do so. We’ll merely touch upon his impact on comics and popular culture: from the creation of the Macintosh, the computer of choice for most comics creators, to his stewardship of Pixar, which revolutionized the animation industry, to the iTunes store, the largest digital sales platform on the planet, to the creation of the iPad and iPhone, widely agreed to be the platform of the future of comics.

He will be sorely missed. Our condolences to his family, friends, and fans.

The Lion King

The second age of Disney greatness made raising children in the 1990s a real treat. Taking youngsters to an animated film recreated some of the magic the parents experience when they were first brought to the theater. To its credit, Disney continued to carefully curate its collection of classic films, filling in the gaps left by the far more mediocre fare that marked the 1970s and 1980s. Interestingly, one of those final films was where one of the current age’s greatest was born.

I still remember sitting in the theater with the kids and saw the trailer for The Lion King, which consisted of the opening song, a gutsy move but a brilliant one. Everything you needed to know was present; the sheer majesty of the animal kingdom, the quality of the animation and color palette, and the amazing score.

The fourth film from the Jeffrey Katzenberg/Michael Eisner regime, The Lion King felt special from the outset and has remained that way despite repeated viewings. Now finally out on Blu-ray today, the movie looks and sounds better than ever.

One of the reasons, the movie works is that it deals with universal themes, notably those of coming of age and the relationship between father and son. While the notion of the “Circle of Life” may have been beaten to death since it was reinforced here, respecting the life cycle is a good lesson for audiences young and old alike.

In the best of the Disney tradition, the film also nicely blends action, drama, and humor so it has a rhythm of its own. The littlest viewers can giggle at Timon and Pumba’s antics while others can feel the adrenaline pump during the battles, but there is certainly something for everyone, done with style and panache.

What’s interesting is that once the film’s concept was put into active development, it had to compete for animators with Pocahontas, which most saw as the next slam dunk film. Freed from the same level of scrutiny, the younger animators who signed on rose to the challenge and then some. It was inspired to blend Tim Rice and Elton John for the songs while Hans Zimmer delivered one of his finest scores.

The usual array of extras for a Diamond Edition film are all on display, and actually had me ready for more. The package contains Blu-ray and a standard DVD discs and comes with a fine user interface. New to this collection is a 39 minute “Pride of the Lion King” featurette that reunites former Chairman Katzenberg, Zimmer, producer Don Hahn, and co-directors Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff. This is followed with an additional 21 minutes of memories, “The Lion King: A Memoir”, hosted by Han. The co-directors introduce five previously unseen Deleted Scenes, explaining how these did not make the final cut. Also represented is the missing song, “Morning Report”, which was restored for the Broadway adaptation. The affection for the movie is demonstrated with the freshly animated Gag Reel with outtakes produced specifically for the disc.

The extras from the previously released Platinum edition return here so you get the audio commentary, Art Gallery, and the Sing-Along Mode.

If you have an iPad, the film comes with the new Disney Second Screen app stuffed with production art and interactive games. For those who use the BD-Live function, this one comes with  the “Virtual Vault” access which will show you “The Making of ‘The Morning Report'”, three additional Deleted Scenes, “Stage, Film, Story and Musical Journey” featurettes, Elton John’s “Circle of Life” music video, a Film-to-Storyboard Comparison, two short Demo Sequences and an Unfinished Scene.

One thing I wish they addressed head on was an acknowledgement in some way that the film owed a debt to Osama Tezuka’s Kimba the White Lion. The parallels are too striking for it to have been sheer coincidence.

As we enter the holiday season, this goes on your Must Have list.

MARTHA THOMASES: Confessions of an iPad Comics Virgin

Is that all there is?

I finally downloaded a few comics onto my iPad using the updated Comixology app. I mean, I’m on record as being a lover of comics on paper, as well as the comic book shops that sell them. However, I’m also a big fan of prose on paper, as well as the bookstores that sell them, and I love my Kindle, so I thought I should give the new delivery system a try.

Previously, I’d noticed a flaw in the iPad design as far as visual entertainment goes. The screen is too shiny. Reading a book on the iBook app is more difficult for me than reading a book on the Kindle because of the glare (the Kindle has a matte finish). It’s even more distracting when watching a movie. However, I enjoy having a movie downloaded if I’m flying somewhere, and I might also enjoy having a virtual stack of comics.

I started by scouting out the free comics, because what if I didn’t like it? And I wanted something I hadn’t read already, so my previous opinion wouldn’t influence me. My son loves Robert Kirkman, and I was a fan of the TV show, so I downloaded the first issue of The Walking Dead.

It was a good choice. The app was easy to use, even for an old fart like myself, and I enjoyed my experience.

So last week, when there was a shipment glitch at New York comic shops, and I couldn’t get two of the books I wanted at any of my local stores by Saturday, I went online and paid for content. Reading Detective Comics and Stormwatch was, oddly, more difficult than reading the indie comic with lower production values. The lettering was hard to read, too small, and when I made the image bigger, I lost the flow of the page.

Did I lose some strength in my optic nerves? I went back to read Walking Dead again (and why can’t you go back to the beginning with one touch?), and that still worked well for me.

Still the color of the DC books was brilliant, and there were no ads. There were also no letters pages or other DC editorial material. For my $2.99, I got my story, and that’s it.

As it happens those two books have a reasonable amount of story. If I’d read Justice League #1 in that format, I would have been irked.

Will I buy more? Maybe back issues, because I’d rather have the stuff on my computer than in storage. Or if I’m away on a long trip, where I’m unfamiliar with the local comic book shops. Or if it’s the middle of the night and I don’t want to get dressed and go walking the streets, looking for Superman (or, I suppose, Mr. Goodbar).

But otherwise? I’m sticking with paper, at least for the near term. I like my comics with some social interaction. I like folding back the cover – and watching the true collectors freak out.

There aren’t that many occasions when I can feel eight years old again, and reading comics lets me do it once a week. So I’ll stay with the format from last century for as long as I can.

Martha Thomases, Dominoed Daredoll, really really really liked the new Animal Man.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

JOHN OSTRANDER: Comic Books, Peanut Butter and Anchovies

For twenty-five years, Mike Malve down in Arizona ran a successful line of comic book stores called Atomic Comics. I knew him from his weekly e-mail messages that he sent out. Nice chatty e-pistles about what sold last week, what was coming out this week, assorted thoughts about the industry, various promotions he was running, different guests he had visiting and so on.

I’d never been to his stores but Mike and I exchanged several e-mails. He always struck me as a good solid sort of retailer, one who knew and loved the industry, worked hard, promoted the work and those who made it. The sort of guy you wanted to see make it.

Two weeks ago, he closed down all his shops. There were lots of factors contributing to the closings, as he detailed in his last report. When the times were good, he expanded into high profile locations but, as he said, “when the economy went sour, low sales could not support the higher rent at these high visibility locations. The leases at these particular stores which had originally provided the consumers with greater visibility and more foot traffic to our wonderful world of comic books, the higher overhead proved to be too much for Atomic as we faced declining sales.”

He traces the decline back to an incident in 2006 when a 16-year old uninsured driver crashed her car through the front window of his biggest store and best revenue producer. The accident tore up a water main and the flood caused a million dollars worth of lost revenue and the store closed down for over five months. This was just as the recession started.

Mike secured the leases on the stores with his house so he’s going to be losing that as well as going into bankruptcy. Throughout it all, he’s maintained as cheerful and upbeat an attitude as he can manage – better than I could in his circumstances. He hopes to find some way to remain in the industry he loves.

Just two weeks later, this last week, DC launched its latest version of its titles in a sweeping revamp that includes same-day digital sales. At the same time, we see Borders closing its doors and various and sundry people have announced the death knell of the brick and mortar bookstores of all stripes.


THE REMIX: The Strange Case Of Michael Davis

I get it.

Mike Gold is the boss.

I entitled my return to ComicMix; “The Remix” thinking it was a devilishly clever way to return. Since I’ve been back I have not once seen that title grace this column.

So I get it, Mike Gold is the boss.

Wait a sec. Mike has a weekly blog on my website, michaeldavisworld.com (MDW). I wonder how he would feel if his next piece for MDW was under the title “Gold’s Balls” or “The Golden Balls’ or “The Golden Balls Forum?”

Don’t ask me why I feel the need to add “balls” to every title I come up with. It could be because I’m stir crazy! As of this writing, Saturday, evening August 27, I’m stuck in my electricity dead hotel room in Connecticut (CT) and I have no idea when I’ll be able to get back to L.A. because of hurricane Irene.

I once dated a girl named Irene. She was a bitch also.

So since it’s dark and there is no power in the hotel my choices are to read a book by flashlight, go to sleep or play or read with my iPad.

Or, I can just be alone with my thoughts.


I do not like being along with my thoughts. Never have. I tend to go to real dark places when I’m alone with my thoughts. I am absolutely positive one of the reasons I’m a workaholic is because it gives me something to do so I am never alone with my thoughts.

I’m in CT for my cousin’s Nila’s wedding.  I love Nila from the bottom of my heart. She is the only reason I would have gotten on a plane (I H A T E T O F L Y ) and came to CT with the knowledge that Irene was on the way.  At the wedding, I gave a speech in which I spoke directly to Nila recounting our journey together as family and reminded her of some of our adventures together. She’s more like a little sister than a cousin and my trip down memory lane made us both cry.

When I said I cried what I meant is I…I…shit. You got me.

When I got back to my room after the reception I became a bit misty eyed again as I continued to recall the days when Nila was a little girl and I was still her cool cousin Michael. I decided that I would be alone with my thoughts this evening because my thoughts were filled with such happiness. Then I remembered I had a ComicMix piece do.

So here I sit typing my Remix…no, my Michael Davis ComicMix article at 2 in the morning wondering just what comic related memory could I write about that would continue my happy trip down memory lane.

Like a shot to the head it came to me.

DC Comics.

It’s no secret that I’m had a love and hate relationship with DC Comics. It’s also no secret that no matter the relationship I’ve been an unweaving fan of the DC comic book universe.

Given how things have been between DC and me you would think that I would have sworn off DC like Antony Weiner swore off tweeting.

It’s even more baffling when you consider that my very first comic book was Avengers # 43.  My second comic was Fantastic Four #73. I loved those books! They were great and I was a die-hard Marvel fan until my mother brought me home a Flash comic book. I don’t remember what issue it was but I was hooked like an addict on all things Flash. THEN I saw Superman #199 in which he raced The Flash!

Since then I’d been a solid. no joke. DC Comics fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love Marvel Comics. I still get goose bumps when I think of Silver Surfer #4 when he pimp slapped Thor or when the Hulk beat down of Sub-Mariner as drawn by Herb Trimpe.

I stopped reading comics for a long time. It was Frank Miller’s Daredevil that pulled me back in.

This is really strange. Marvel brought me in and Marvel brought me back when I left but DC remains my number one comic book universe.

I have no idea why it’s DC but I know that memory has something to do with it.

I could go on but my iPad is down to 50% and I don’t know when I’ll be able to charge it again and I simply cannot fall asleep without reading so I’m going to use some of that 50% to read some old silver age comics. I’ll read a few DC and a few Marvels.


Because that way I can be alone with my thoughts and memories and the hotel room will be the only dark place I visit tonight.


MARTHA THOMASES: The DC (And NY And LA) Implosion

There used to be ten comic book stores within a mile of my apartment. Now, there are two.

To be fair, this is two more than most people have. And when I expand the radius to two miles, there are more than a dozen. Which, again, is more than most people have. There used to be a lot more bookstores, too, even before the Borders bankruptcy. Some of this is the ebb and flow of commerce, and some of it is specific to publishing.

Most of the comic book stores near me closed in the early 1990s, when the direct market imploded. Speculators stopped buying, and there simply weren’t enough reading fans to support so many stores. With bookstores, the same kind of competition had an effect. Instead of speculators, bookstores suffered from Internet offering lower prices and free delivery. More recently, the success of Kindles and other e-readers means that fewer readers are buying physical books.

Comic fans have been reading comics online for years. You, yourself, can read comics – for free – on this very site. It’s possible to illegally download comics you’d otherwise have to pay for, through a process I’ve always thought was too complicated to bother with. Also, I don’t mind artists and writers getting paid.

Starting next month, DC Comics will offer readers the chance to buy comics digitally at the same time (and at the same price) they are available in stores. Naturally, comic book stores are less than thrilled about this.

This is a long and winding way to get to my rant.


Star Wars Early Access App is now Available

We know you’ve been saving up all summer to buy Star Wars: The Complete Saga  so we wanted to make you aware that the Early Access App is now available for iPad, Iphone and iTouch.  An earlier version of this was unveiled in time for Comic-Con International, but this updated free download will tide you over until the actual DVD release.

Before Star Wars: The Complete Saga hits shelves on September 16, fans can get a sneak peek at the 40+ hours of bonus footage on the Blu-ray collection through the Star Wars Blu-ray: Early Access App. The App, available for all iDevices including the iPad and iPhone highlights a sampling of bonus materials featured in the Blu-ray collection, including never-before-seen content sourced from the Lucasfilm Archives such as matte paintings and concept art; prop, maquette and costume turnarounds; supplementary interviews with cast and crew; and more.

Star Wars App Previews Blu-ray Extra Features

Before STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA hits shelves on September 16, fans can get a sneak peak at the 40+ hours of bonus footage on the Blu-ray collection through the Star Wars Blu-ray: Early Access App.  The App, available for all iDevices including the iPad and iPhone will highlight a sampling of bonus materials featured in the Blu-ray collection, including never-before-seen content sourced from the Lucasfilm Archives such as matte paintings and concept art; prop, maquette and costume turnarounds; supplementary interviews with cast and crew; and more.

For fans lucky enough to score a ticket to Comic-Con, stop by booth #3528 to check out the App and get an even bigger sneak peek at the Blu-ray Disc  and experience one of the Saga’s most iconic moments from a unique, in-universe vantage point!

ComicMix Quick Picks: June 4, 2011

Today’s artwork is from Miss Matzenbatzen, Steffi Schütze. Closing windows before I head off for a day of wackiness:

Anything else? Consider this an open thread.