Before I go into this week’s column, I wanted to acknowledge the passing of Carrie Fisher. Mere hours after my column went up last week it was reported that she had passed. It was truly tragic for her family, friends and legions of fans whom include myself. Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher.
Last week I picked Love Is Love, the joint DC Comics and IDW publication to raise money for Equality Florida benefiting the victims of the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting. I had written about this book’s announcement back in September and how it filled me with pride that this was happening, but that comics still has more to do towards creating stronger queer inclusion. Now that the trade is out and I got the chance to read it, I have more to say.
This charity project organized by Marc Andreyko was originally a joint project with DC Comics and IDW. As of last month, Archie Comics added itself to the mix and included two separate Kevin Keller stories for the anthology, one by Kevin Keller’s creator Dan Parent. We get a short comic featuring Chalice from AfterShock’s Alters. The Will Eisner estate even gave permission to use The Spirit for a comic in the anthology as well. All of that combined with an introduction by director Patty Jenkins and you have an anthology with more star power and support for a cause than I, at least, have ever seen before in comics.
Love Is Love opens with an “In Memoriam” page with the names and ages of all 49 victims from the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting. It’s then clarified that this is an IDW publication with editorial and related services provided by DC Entertainment. Following that is Patty Jenkins introduction then nonstop one or two page comics and illustrations, followed by Marc Andreyko’s afterward and a plug for Equality Florida.
While I was aware of quite a few of the people who were working on the project, there were plenty in the book I had no idea were in it up until I read their contributions. Stories from people like Dan Didio and Brian Michael Bendis. Dan Didio is someone whom members of the queer community were upset with after his mandate that characters including Batwoman could not get married. While I personally wasn’t as upset by this decision as some people were, I did understand it.
Brian Michael Bendis is someone who I’ve met, admire, and is at least somewhat responsible for getting me back into comics with the launch of Ultimate Spider-Man back when I was in high school. One area I’ve been critical with him on is his handling of Iceman being retconned as gay. While this was out of ignorance and not malice, it still made it hard for me and others to get interested in Iceman again. Now with Sina Grace on board, a queer man and another contributor to Love Is Love who contributed a great personal two page comic, I’m more than happy to give Iceman a shot again.
Two other contributors I were aware of who have had mixed responses from the queer community as of late are Paul Jenkins and James Robinson. Paul Jenkins is the creator and writer of the AfterShock comic Alters with Leila Leiz and Tamra Bonvillain. For his contribution to this anthology, Paul did a two-page story about the trans character Chalice with Tamra Bonvillain and Robert Hack illustrating instead of Leila Leiz. It’s a two-pager about how irrelevant those oppressing the queer community are becoming and it’s a positive message. The series at AfterShock has received some criticism from people in the comics community, including myself, concerned with trans representation in comics and how the character could potentially have a negative impact.
While I had qualms with the first issue in particular, Paul Jenkins has since been using the back of each issue to have a conversation with a trans person and to stress how important using proper pronouns are and other topics people in the cis community need to be more educated on.
James Robinson is a writer whose previously been nominated for a GLAAD award for his thoughtful portrayals of queer characters in comics and has been writing queer characters in his comics since the 90s. Back in the summer of 2015, James had gotten backlash over his treatment of trans people in his pseudo-autobiographical comic Airboy with Image comics. After a couple of days of online onslaught, James Robinson released a thoughtful apology. Further reprints of Airboy #2 have been edited to make it less offensive.
What do Dan Didio, Brian Michael Bendis, Paul Jenkins, and James Robinson all have in common? That despite the fact that in their long careers they’ve had at least one instance where readers questioned their portrayals and handling of queer characters, they showed up to volunteer and dedicate their time and talent to help the queer community during what’s easily one of the communities darkest times in modern American history. Allies are important, and actions do speak louder than words. And although they may have had missteps, they showed up when it counted the most and that needs to be recognized and celebrated.
While it is important to highlight allies, I would feel horrible if I discussed this anthology without highlighting more of the queer contributors. Mainstream queer talent like Phil Jimenez, Sina Grace, and James Tynion IV offer us autobiographical looks at their life and how being queer impacts it. Although Howard Cruse isn’t a contributor, he’s the subject of Justin Hall’s comic along with Howard’s beloved husband Eddie Sedarbaum. Steve Orlando gives us a touching one page comic about a queer family. Trans comics creator and journalist Emma Houxbois, an important voice whom I admire, has a touching one page comic about how important places like Pulse are to the queer community.
There are far more queer contributors in this book and I wish I could spend time talking about all of them. Two other allies I’d like to mention, Jeffrey Burandt and Sean Von Gorman, created a one page comic with public domain superhero Rainbow Boy where they save Rockbar from a bunch of Spider-Haters. Rockbar is a bar here in the West Village that I frequent fairly regularly and it’s great to see them being represented.
Love Is Love is not just an important milestone in comics history and a loving tribute to the queer community that will help benefit them, it’s also just good comics and a fun read. It took a great deal of time and a saint’s patience for Marc Andreyko to get this book from a desire to see the comics community come together after the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting and the over six months that followed for it to hit the stands. We should all be grateful for Marc’s kindness and generosity as well as the dozens and dozens of contributors that made this book possible.
At $9.99, there really is no reason not to pick up this full-length trade paperback. If you didn’t pick it up last week, please pick this up when you grab your comics this week.
One day in the early 80s, I was with my girlfriend in a shopping mall. Somehow I had been relegated to the role of sidekick while she shopped. I liked to do a lot of things with her, but shopping wasn’t high on that list. I was bored so I decided to buy a comic book to read while she shopped.
Back then I was enjoying a lot of comics and purchasing them every week at Kim’s Collectible Comics and Records. But one store in that mall had a spinner rack filled with comics, and I knew I could snag an issue that I had missed.
I evaluated the comics available on that rack and hoped that one would be my salvation from the dreariness of shopping. I reached out for Swamp Thing #21, and was surprised to find an unfamiliar writer wrote it. I decided to give it a try nonetheless.
Those initial low expectations quickly gave way to… my brain exploding! That issue masterfully took a fresh approach to a tired concept, and wrapped it in thoughtful, clever and creepy prose. It was a big deal. I was so excited, and at the same time so frustrated, as I couldn’t really discuss it with that girlfriend. She had no interest in comics.
I didn’t know it then, but comics were about to change.
Alan Moore, that writer, was just one of the creators who ushered in a new era of comics. Sequart’s newest book, The British Invasion – Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and the Invention of the Modern Comic Book Writer discussed the important contributions of these writers. I was able to catch up with author Greg Carpenter and he shared some insights.
Ed Catto: Can you tell us a little bit about your new book, British Invasion, and what you set out to do with this book?
Greg Carpenter: I’d be happy to Ed, and thanks for having me here. The British Invasion is an in-depth analysis of the intertwined careers of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison – three influential British comics writers who first began writing American comics in the 1980s. The book traces their work from the ‘80s through today (or as close to “today” as you can get in the book-publishing world), and it focuses in particular on how these three writers redefined our understanding of what it means to be a comic book writer.
At least, that’s the dry, academic-y answer. As for what I wanted to accomplish, on the simplest level I think it was to try to answer the question that students always ask me: “Why have comics become so popular lately?” Obviously that’s a loaded question with lots of presuppositions, but the gist of it – that comics culture has moved from the outskirts of society to the mainstream – seems fair. And for me, the answer to that question leads directly back to the work of people like Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison.
I remember back in 2004 when I was sitting in a theater watching The Incredibles. Here – in a Pixar movie that didn’t really have to be all that smart or insightful in order to be successful – was a full examination of the wonder and the absurdity of the superhero genre, viewed through a real-world prism with real world consequences. Even though there had already been several superhero movies by that time – some of them quite good – what struck me was that Brad Bird seemed like the first filmmaker who had really “gotten” writers like Moore, Gaiman, Morrison. The thrill for the viewer came, not from the style of the costumes, the nature of the superpowers, or the threat posed by the villain, but rather from the momentary suspension of disbelief that comes when you realize – this is what superheroes would really be like.
That thrill, that feeling, that … sensation is far more rare than you might think, and I knew then that at some point in the future I wanted to try to show everyone why that feeling is so powerful.
EC: What’s your personal fan experience, and did you enjoy these writers when they burst onto the scene?
GC: I came of age at the perfect time. As a kid, my comics reading was pretty random – a smattering of superhero books and a lot of commercial tie-ins like Marvel’s Star Wars and GI Joe. By the mid-‘80s I was pretty heavy into DC’s Star Trek, but I kept seeing all these in-house ads about a book called Swamp Thing that was winning all sorts of awards. This was pre-Internet and I lived in the rural American South, so a person wasn’t going to find much comics journalism in the local Wal-Mart. My education came from those in-house ads. And if a house ad said I oughtta pay attention to a particular title, well, that carried a lot of weight with me.
So I wound up buying Swamp Thing #56 – the blue issue. I didn’t really understand it, but I could tell it was different from all the other stuff I was reading. And once I started stepping out of my comfort zone, I found myself swept away with the energy of the times – The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Maus, The Shadow, Byrne’s Superman, The Killing Joke, The Question, Black Orchid, Animal Man, Arkham Asylum, V for Vendetta … Sandman. It was an amazing period. And Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison were the ones shaping my worldview, my own personal mentors – priests, professors, and practical philosophers. They could do no wrong.
So when they drifted away from mainstream DC, I drifted away from comics. It’s hard to remember now, but in those days, in the part of the country where I lived, there wasn’t much access to books like From Hell, Sebastian O, or Signal to Noise. It was like loving music but only being able to listen to Top 40 Radio. So for me, it felt like my three favorite writers had largely left comics – even though they hadn’t. And I really didn’t care much for what had taken their place at DC, Image, and Marvel in the early ‘90s. So I stopped reading.
And then, as fate would have it, I was standing in a Wal-Mart and saw a comic book display. I paused for old times sake and was struck by a new title – JLA #1 – written by Grant Morrison. From then on it was like the Michael Corleone line – “just when I thought I was out, (Grant Morrison) pulled me back in.” And I’ve been reading ever since.
EC: You do such a great job of putting it all into context and telling a “big picture story.” As I’m reading your book, I’m thinking “Yeah, I vividly remember those stories from Supreme or Promethea.” I’m impressed by the way you are able to analyze those stories in the context of each writers’ career and within a particular historical timeframe. How much of a struggle was it to tell the tale that way and how did you go about it?
GC: You’re very kind to say so. I wish I could say that everything just fell together perfectly, but alas. I think the low point for me came when I was staring at dozens of little scraps of paper scattered across the floor, trying to figure out how in the world to make the overall structure for the book come together. I knew I wanted to do rotating chapters, but there were lots of organizational problems. While these three writers have always been active, their creative peaks often come at different times. So I was left with a floor full of jigsaw pieces that all came from different puzzles and all I had was an X-ACTO knife and some touch-up paint to try to make it all go together.
As for the rest, I learned to make a friend of the Grand Comic Book Database, tracing chronologies and sketching out long timelines. If I can’t see something visually, it’s never quite real.
EC: By focusing on these three British writers, are you leaving out other important creators that are important to the big picture?
GC: More than I could even begin to list. The beginning of the so-called British Invasion wasn’t even a writer movement – it was about artists. People like John Bolton, Brian Bolland, and Dave Gibbons had begun working for DC and Marvel and were doing great work before Alan Moore made a splash with Swamp Thing. And, of course, there were so many great writers in those early days – people like Alan Grant, John Wagner, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan … and that doesn’t even begin to include the writers who came after these three – Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, James Robinson, Mark Millar … you could go on and on.
And that’s just the British creators. The book focuses in particular on the impact of the Invasion on the notion of the modern comic book writer. If you want to really look at the development of the writer’s role, there are also plenty of non-British writers who helped pave the way for what these three were able to do. I’m thinking of Denny O’Neil, Chris Claremont, Steve Gerber, as well as writer-artists like Frank Miller and Howard Chaykin.
But ultimately in any book you have to focus. What is the problem you’re trying to solve? What’s the question you’re trying to answer? In my case, I knew I wasn’t writing an encyclopedia. I was looking specifically at the role of the writer, and these three writers’ work seemed so interwoven that it was impossible for me to talk about one without the other. But I still lose sleep over all the creators who frankly deserve their own book.
EC: I love the chapter titles. Can you tell me a little bit about how you chose them?
GC: I love that the titles worked for you. That was one of my earliest ideas for the book. Each chapter gets its title from the name of a song by either the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or the Who. Some of those choices are hopefully pretty obvious – a Sandman-heavy chapter is “Golden Slumbers,” the chapter with Grant Morrison’s vision at Kathmandu is “I Can See for Miles,” and a chapter on Spawn is “Sympathy for the Devil.”
But beyond setting the mood or reinforcing the theme, the choices don’t follow any set pattern. I don’t think Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison correlate directly with the three bands – one of them isn’t the equivalent of the Beatles or the Stones, for instance – so I just drew liberally from all three to find the most appropriate title for each chapter.
EC: It’s a big book, but I’m sure you had to make decisions and choices about what to include. What do you regret leaving on the cutting room floor?
GC: When I started, I naively thought I’d be able to cover all the published work of each writer. It didn’t take long to figure out that was impossible. So there are lots of things I never got to write about. But of those things that I did draft and then take out, the most disappointing was probably a section I wrote on Alan Moore’s Neonomicon.
Any of your readers who’ve read that book know already that it’s a tough book to deal with – powerful, complex, and disturbing for a number of reasons. But when I was drafting the manuscript, I dove into it and wrote what I thought was a really nuanced, insightful analysis.
Well, have you ever had one of those moments of brilliance at 2 AM where you’ve just stumbled upon the plot to a novel that’s probably going to earn you the Nobel Prize for literature? You feverishly scribble the idea down so you don’t lose it, but then, the next day, when you pick it up to read it there’s nothing there besides the most banal idea imaginable. That’s basically the story of my Neonomicon analysis. When I found myself editing the manuscript a few months later and got to that chapter, I just scratched my head. What I thought was enlightening was utterly vapid. It was so nuanced that there wasn’t anything there. I thought about revising it, but the book was already overlong so I just dropped it. Maybe I’ll go back to it someday – just not at 2 in the morning.
EC: We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but your cover is clever and to the point. How did the design come about?
GC: The cover is great, isn’t it? Kevin Colden, who has done some great work on The Crow among other projects, did the cover. In keeping with the theme of the British Invasion, it’s an homage to the album cover, Meet the Beatles.
But it didn’t start that way. Originally, I actually tried to sketch out an idea myself. It was an image of Mount Rushmore with Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison carved into the rocks. Trust me, it was even worse than it sounds. My wife took one look at it and said, “Seriously?”
So I went back to the proverbial drawing board and tried to draw an empty bandstand modeled after the Beatles, with a drum set, microphones, and three guitars. I sent this one to Mike Phillips at Sequart and he said something along the lines of, “Um … yeah. So, anyway … what would you think about something inspired by an album cover?” And with that, for the betterment of all humanity, I retired my drawing pencil.
Mike and I talked about several album covers, but we kept coming back to Meet the Beatles. For legal reasons, you can’t use a real person’s face on a cover, which is understandable, but (and I think this was Mike’s idea) we thought it might still work if we put them in Union Jack masks. And Kevin took it all from there.
EC: If you could go back in time and give any “Dutch Uncle” advice to Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman or Grant Morrison, what would it be?
GC: Oh, I don’t think they need my advice. They’ve each done pretty well on their own, don’t you think? So I dunno … I guess if I had to, I might tell them – especially Moore and Gaiman – to skip some of the work they did for Image Comics in the ‘90s.
But honestly, I don’t believe in second guessing the past like that. Let’s say, for example, you were able to help Alan Moore get a better Watchmen contract with DC, saving him from some of the nastier aspects of the profession. That would seem like a good thing. But would a happier, more content Alan Moore have gone on to write From Hell? I tend to doubt it. I don’t know about you, but given a choice between enjoying three years of Alan Moore writing something like Green Lantern – as enticing as that might be – or getting Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, I’m gonna take the Jack the Ripper story every time.
EC: There’s such a rich landscape of creative comics being produced today. What are you enjoying and what do you feel will be viewed as important in the years to come?
GC: It feels almost like a cliché to mention it, but I really love the March Trilogy. What’s special about it, I think, is that once you get beyond how amazing John Lewis is and how well he and Andrew Aydin have compiled his story, Nate Powell’s art is extraordinary. All too often, comics that are classified as “educational” tend to be stiff and lifeless – like your great-grandmother’s idea of what a “good” comic book might be. But Powell is the real deal. Great cartooning, imaginative layouts. The national media might make it sound like broccoli sometimes, but it’s really great comics storytelling. And because of its subject matter, it’s going to be part of the high school curriculum for a long, long time.
Among mainstream comics, I was a big fan of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye. I always joked that it felt like I was watching some mythical Quentin Tarantino movie shot in the ‘70s and starring Steve McQueen circa 1963. I also think Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman is deceptively good. It’s one of those comic book runs that is easy to take for granted, but ten years from now we’ll still be thinking about it. And Eric Powell’s The Goon always makes me smile.
But the other area that makes comics exciting today is the changing demographics – particularly the infusion of more women creators and readers. Any time you can shake up the industry and change the aesthetics, good things can happen. I once got to interview the artist Janet Lee, best known for Return of the Dapper Men. She showed me some of her work in progress and, to be honest, I was dumbfounded. Instead of something conventional like rough pencil layouts, inks, or even watercolors, she was using a technique akin to decoupage, drawing and coloring images and then cutting them out and painstakingly layering them on a larger page. I can’t even imagine what it must take to do that, but once it’s published, her stuff looks unlike anything else out there. That’s what you get when you have greater diversity in the field – fresh voices, fresh perspectives, and new aesthetics.
In a lot of ways, that was the lesson of the British Invasion too, I think.
EC: What’s next?
GC: Well, my wife and I are both writers – her debut novel, Bohemian Gospel, was published last year by Pegasus Press (heavy-handed plug) – so we tend to alternate between projects around our house. That means that lately I’ve been doing a lot of copy editing and proofreading on her sequel, The Devil’s Bible.
That’s not to say I don’t have a couple of book ideas of my own brewing. I do. But I also remember what Hemingway said – the book you talk about is the one you never write.
About 20 years ago, I asked Batman editor Denny O’Neil if I could attend DC’s annual editorial retreat. I was their Publicity Manager at the time and I thought that if I could sit down and watch how the creative teams worked I could better promote the various Batman titles.
Denny was cool with it, and my boss was cool with it, so I went up to Tarrytown NY with them. It was a really interesting experience… for about a day. Then, for some reason, the big boss found out I was there and demanded I return.
His fears, as I understand them, were that, as part of the marketing department, I might interfere with the creative and editorial decisions. That was certainly not my intention. And it was also pretty insulting to Denny, to Alan Grant and Jo Duffy and Chuck Dixon and the others who were there who were more than willing to tell me to shut up if I overstepped my bounds.
Things have certainly changed since then.
Earlier this week, the New York Daily News ran a story by Ethan Sacks about the Marvel editorial summit. In attendance were Joe Quesada, Axel Alonso, James Robinson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Michael Bendis, Emily Shaw, Sana Amanat, Nick Spencer, Sam Humphries, G. Willow Wilson, Dan Slott, Tom Brevoort, Dan Buckley, and probably a whole bunch more.
This is amazing. I can’t think of any other kinds of story meetings that involve the press. Did Matthew Weiner let reporters into the Mad Men writers’ room? Did Jann Wenner send someone to sit in with Lennon and McCartney?
The article did not say if any marketing people were there while they planned the next storylines which will, apparently, involve the death of a major character. According to the piece, this is something that Marvel plans to happen every quarter. Dan Buckley is quoted as saying “The death is a marketing hook,” although he goes on to say that the story has to pay off. Still, it seems pretty damning to me, and indicative of a thought process that seeks out the lowest common denominator.
To my mind, they did this backwards. They decide that some character has to die, and then try to figure out who it should be, and from there, what the story is. I think they should first have a story, see which characters make sense to be part of that story, then see if one of them dies in the course of events. I’m on record saying that I think death is over-used as a plot device. We know the character isn’t really dead. By going to that story-well four times a year, Marvel runs the risk of cheapening the death of heroes. It’s not special. It does not inspire awe for a hero’s self-sacrifice, or tears for the tragedy.
We know the character will come back to life in a few months or years. Hell, if there must be destruction, blow up an entire planet.
A wedding would be more engaging. A birth.
It’s encouraging to see that there were more kinds of people in the room than the usual white men. Some were even women. It is my hope that this is a trend that will continue and grow. That’s how you get new perspectives on the stories, and new ideas. Perhaps if Marvel invites a reporter to the next summit, they’ll permit the women to speak to the press, just like the boys do.
It’s not a secret that I’m a huge fan of James Robinson. I’ve loved his work since I saw preview pages of The Golden Age more than twenty years ago. Those first few pages gave me goosebumps. When I met James, I thought he was cute and funny and completely charming. I’m a sucker for an accent.
So you can imagine how upset I am that I seem to be on the wrong side of the most recent kerfuffle in comics, the depiction of transgendered characters in the second issue of Airboy. I read that issue, and I didn’t notice.
That’s on me.
I’m writing this because I think the reaction is overblown, and I think I might be wrong about that. I want to untangle my thoughts, and ask for advice on how to see this differently. Is this a failing of empathy on my part? Do I have a blind spot brought on by thoughtlessness or privilege or something else or all of the above?
(Note: I don’t want anyone to turn this around into some kind of “It’s their fault because they’re too sensitive” screed. I’m not blaming the victim. People read something and they have emotions about it. That’s what fiction is for.)
I read the first issue and thought it was hilarious. The depiction of James and artist/co-conspirator Greg Hinkle was so over the top and filled with self-loathing that I related immediately. With the drugs and the drinking and the indiscriminate sex, the story seemed to show a couple of middle-aged guys behaving in a way that I (and most of my friends) got out of our systems in our twenties.
And then (SPOILER ALERT!) Airboy showed up.
In the second issue, the one that upset some people, James and Greg try to figure out if Airboy is really there or if they’re hallucinating. Airboy is just as confused. They go to a bar. A gay bar that attracts drag queens (their usage) and transgendered women. James doesn’t let Greg explain that part to Airboy.
Hence, Airboy is upset when he discovers that the person who blew him in the bathroom has a penis.
In between, there is a two-page scene in which Robinson complains that he can’t get what he wants from writing comics for DC and Marvel. He says he’s pigeon-holed as the “Golden Age” guy. Rather than wondering where Airboy was at this time, I was too busy feeling guilty that perhaps I was part of the audience that contributed to James’ professional problems.
And when the story revealed where Airboy had been, I was more surprised that a comic book hero, already depicted as rigidly proper and straight, had participated in a sex act in a public restroom. At that point, his partner and her genitals seemed like the least startling element.
When I read about the controversy later, I felt terrible. Some people said they felt threatened. Others complained that the transgendered characters weren’t even characters. A few called for a boycott. A few demanded the scene be expunged from the trade paperback.
I went and re-read the story. I still didn’t get it. The transgendered characters aren’t developed, but neither is any other person in the story but our three leads. The bartender is there to serve drinks. The drug dealers are there to deal drugs. James’ then-wife, Jann, is there to show what James is pissing away. The point of view of the story is deliberately myopic.
To his credit, Robinson apologized. It’s a nice apology, heartfelt and contrite and gracious. He explains what he was trying to do, but he doesn’t try to weasel out of the hurt that he caused.
So, help me out here, members and allies of the LGBTQ community. What am I not seeing? I get that it’s thoughtless, but hurtful?
It seems to me that the solution is not to (only) bitch about this particular story (which every reader should do when so moved), but to enable more people to tell more different stories. A comic book medium with more transgendered writers and artists telling the stories they want to tell would lessen the impact of this particular comic book.
In the meantime, I’m grateful that my crush on James never came to anything. Clearly, I would have disappointed him.
This may be hard to believe, but every once in a while the good folks at ComicMix L.L.C. act as though we really are a corporation. Yeah, it’s hard for me to believe that, too.
Last Sunday, our “senior” staff (a phrase that has nothing to do with age, until August 4th) met at Martha Thomases’ plush Greenwich Village condo. Adriane Nash and I were there right on time, but Glenn Hauman was caught in traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel, an all-too-common experience for those trying to escape the land of Christie. Not a problem; Martha’s kittycat Selina (yep; Selina – fangirls, go know) was making a rare public appearance. The conversation turned to this week’s comic books. I started out bitching about Bizarro #1 and Martha defended it nicely. No, I did not complain about internal consistency. I stopped doing that around Adventure Comics #285. Then Martha asked:
“What did you think of Airboy #1?”
“I haven’t read it yet, but it’s at the top of my pile” I lied. Everybody knows I read my comics on my iPad. “I love the character, but I’m annoyed Chuck Dixon didn’t write it.”
Martha was about to say something like “Yes, but James Robinson did” but it is even better known that my opinion of James’ work is so high that if he were writing the back panels of milk cartons I’d sell my cow. So, instead, Martha said “Chuck Dixon could not have written this book.” Then she smiled that smile that would make the Cheshire Cat jealous.
Chuck Dixon has been writing Airboy off-and-on for 30 years for at least three different publishers. IDW has been Omnibusing it lately. Obviously, I like it. Indeed, I like the original Golden Age character. It was Dick Giordano’s favorite as a kid and we used to talk about it on the commuter train after leaving DC for the day, much to the chagrin of our fellow travelers who really didn’t care to eavesdrop on a couple of extreme fanboys.
I told Martha I was really looking forward to it, and she repeated “Chuck Dixon could not have written this book,” this time with a sort of Lauren Bacall delivery.
“Fine,” I replied. “You don’t have to ask me twice to read a James Robinson comic book.” Or a James Robinson milk carton. “I’ll give you a call when I’m done, probably around one in the morning.” Martha goes to sleep when the sun goes down, and she knew I was kidding. She knew I’d email her at one in the morning.
And I did. I sent her a screen dump of just one panel of the issue. I sent her this one.
The naked guy is James Robinson. The clothed guy is Airboy artist Greg Hinkle. That was my review.
Martha was absolutely right. Chuck could not have written it.
I mean, he still could write Airboy and James even explains why in that very issue. But this one is something else. It reminds me of the script and layouts to the unpublished Sonic Disruptors #11, but only about three people would know that and one of them is dead.
There has been a debate amongst comics wags that the rumor about Marvel cancelling their flagship title, Fantastic Four, during their 75th anniversary celebration was just that – a rumor. Marvel/Disney couldn’t possibly be that petty. Bleeding Cool.com‘s Rich Johnson, who carried the story, steadfastly stood behind his sources. Good for him.
Evidently, Marvel wasn’t happy with how 20th Century Fox was treating the property in the forthcoming movie reboot, they didn’t want to support it and so were cancelling the comic book. OK, but would they cancel all those X-Men titles if they didn’t like the way Fox handled their latest X-movie? Of course not. Nor did Marvel cancel the Spider-Man titles despite the atrocious way Columbia handled the Spidey flicks of late – and they’ve got release dates for three or four more.
To be fair, compared to the profits of the X-Men comics or even the (fewer in number) Spider-Man comics, the revenues racked in off of The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine are a fart in a blizzard. Even so, it just seemed real petty.
As it turns out, Rich was right. Kudos, pal. But it’s a damn shame anyway. Historical affinity aside, James Robinson was settling in nicely on the series and he’s one of our medium’s best writers.
Prior to this brouhaha, some cast members of this forthcoming FF flick were saying it wasn’t really based on the comics, it was an “expansion” of the concept, it wasn’t comic book shit, it’s goddamned art and they wouldn’t be associated with lesser trash. Yes, I’m wildly paraphrasing, but not out of my long-acknowledged love of the Stan Lee – Jack Kirby creation. No, I’m crabby about this because it’s astupid business decision. Haven’t they seen any of the Marvel Studios movies? The recently concluded Batman trilogy? Any of those Marvel and DC shows on television right now?
All of these shows have one thing in common: they treated their source material with respect; Marvel Studios more than DC/Warner Bros., but at their worst neither ever distanced themselves from the comics.
Heaven forbid 20th Century Fox should have a movie as entertaining and as profitable as Guardians of the Galaxy – and that movie wasn’t based upon a comic book series that has been published since 1961. In fact, few civilians ever heard of the Guardians.
Now we have what, for me, may very well be the final nail in the new Fantastic Four movie coffin. Over at Collider, actor Toby Kebbell gave us the bird’s eye lowdown on the character he portrays in the film, somebody called “Doctor Doom.”
“I’ll tell you this because of our history.” Kebbell confided to Collider. “He’s Victor Domashev, not Victor Von Doom in our story. And I’m sure I’ll be sent to jail for telling you that. The Doom in ours – I’m (Doom) a programmer. Very anti-social programmer. And on blogging sites I’m Doom… The low-fi way he did it, the whole ultra-real, it was just nice to be doing that, it was nice to be feeling we had come to terms with what we had been given.”
Hey, what were you given, Toby, other than characters and a concept that had been around for 53 years and raised three generations of followers in comics and on radio, television and movies?
By the way, as of this writing IMDB is wrong. They still list the character as Victor Von Doom.
So… maybe Marvel/Disney’s reaction was not so petty. Maybe it was more fanboy, and I mean that in the most positive sense of the term.
Fine. One less movie to see and, sadly, one less favored comic book to read.