Tagged: Jerry Siegel

REVIEW: Man of Steel

1000296769BRDFLTOAt 75, Superman remains the archetypal superhero and still relevant to comic books and the American people. When created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, he was an amalgam of the myths and pulps both boys devoured, a bit of wish fulfillment given how crappy their lives in Cleveland were. Little did they suspect their hero would become an icon for generations and become one of the most recognized figures around the world.

Zack Snyder attempted to bring that sense of gravitas to the is interpretation of Superman in this summer’s Man of Steel. The problem is, he made such a somber film that he totally drained it of the gosh wow feeling he was always intended to convey. He and screenwriter David Goyer made an interesting decision to make this a first contact story but both men should have remembered the sense of exhalation we got from the four-color comics, the George Reeves television series and seeing Christopher Reeve first appear in the red and blue.

The movie divided critics, fans, and casual viewers most faulting it for its lack of humor and overdone fight sequences. Still, at $662 million worldwide, one can’t ignore its commercial fortunes. We have a chance to revisit the production with the release this week of the film on Blu-ray, courtesy of Warner Home Video.

Superman has always been reflective of the times we live in. These days, we’re more fearful and suspicious of strangers thanks to 9/11 and a constant global threat to our way of life. This film somewhat addresses those fears with a galactic component but then doesn’t really explore it in depth. In fact, the film is entertaining but avoids delving deep when it would be a better film. Instead, things get to blow up with excessiveness bordering on pornographic which someone decided audiences crave. Really, we don’t. We have Michael Bay films and Pacific Rim for that.

man-of-steel-croweThe origin story, to me thoroughly unnecessary this time around but no one asked, has been endlessly told and retold, modified through the interests of the creators at work. This time around, we have a fresh looking Krypton and Science Council, dealing with the death throes of the planet and a coup from General Zod. I can buy that. I can even appreciate the efforts to link Zod and Jor-El more closely because modern drama seems to demand that. On the other hand, this is the first of two occasions where the man bred for war gets his ass kicked by a member of the House of El and that makes no sense.

I disliked Jor-El dying before Krypton because the notion of father and mother holding one another as their son rockets to freedom is indelible.

When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the character and began telling stories, they were bringing over a decade’s worth of pulp reading experience with them and wrote from the perspective of poor Jews living in Cleveland. As a result, some of the characterizations and dynamics from the 1930s no longer work in 2013 so I am largely fine with the major alterations.

man-of-steel-amy-adams-henry-cavillKent’s fears for his growing son work because in today’s world, someone with those powers would be whisked away in a heartbeat. The trailer makes him out to be a bastard when it seems he is willing to let others die to protect his son’s secret but the full scene plays far better than I feared. He’s thoroughly devoted to the boy and his sacrifice is an act of love (from a writing standpoint, it’s silly since Clark could have gotten the dog and been back before anyone noticed, but it sure beats poor Glenn Ford’s one and done scene).

When the film lets the characters talk to one another, there is a heart and warmth that I wish was allowed to infuse the remainder of the film. The Clark and Martha scenes are the film’s best and credit to Henry Cavil and Diane Lane for making those work so well.

Similarly, critics have taken the filmmakers to task for letting Lois learn Clark’s secret at the outset of their relationship. Frankly, I think this worked just fine. She is the only one to connect the dots, to find the mystery hero and establishes a bedrock of trust between them before the romance kicks in. I miss the steel Phyllis Coates and Margot Kidder brought to the character and at 38, Amy Adams is a little old for the role, but I bought it.

On the other hand, Clark wandering until he is 33 seems farfetched. Let’s say he began wandering after high school, that’s at 18. It takes him 15 years to get his shit together and do something with his powers? This sequence, lifted from Waid’s wonderful Birthright graphic novel is nicely handled but this symbol of hope is saddled with too much Christian symbolism for my taste. (speaking of Waid, I totally agree with much of his assessment over at Thrillbent.)

michael-shannon-zodSimilarly, when he finally inserts the key into the ancient spacecraft, Jor-El arrives to tutor him. For a film trying to distance itself from Richard Donner’s faithful adaptation of the source material, lifting this bit doesn’t work. We get way too much Russell Crowe from here on out, making him the literal deus ex machina.

The filmmakers talk about this being handled as a first contact story which is a fresh angle and I wish they did more with it. Instead, they give us a few lines here and there and little else when this could have been a far richer segment of the story. Instead, the army and Emil Hamilton are there to serve expository purposes and not dramatic ones.

Zod arrives and informs us that out of thousands of colonizing ships not a single one has endured. That stretches the law of averages and can be easily proven wrong in a sequel, robbing Kal-El of his Last Son of Krypton designation. He then announces that whereas Jor-El saw his son as the bridge between races, Zod would rather be the sole sentient race on Earth. To accomplish that goal, he is ready to annihilate human life. He grows one-dimensional and monomaniacal with each passing scene, reducing him to a standard film villain instead of a complex man.

Which leads me to the action sequences which are really too overly long scenes designed to trash everything Superman holds dear, starting with Smallville Why Metropolis is targeted since he’s not yet connected with the city is a mystery, except it gives us a chance to see Perry White, given little to do other than doubt Lois. Steve Trevor is named way too late and Jenny is never properly introduced for us to care about her predicament during the overblown and thoroughly unneeded trashing of the city.

Before I get to the climax, I do want to note that for two devices battering the planet with some gravimetric hoohah, there is remarkably little mentioned about how this was affecting the rest of the world. I would imagine the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean would be devastating while the seismic waves radiating throughout North America would cripple the power gird among other issues. These are more interesting dilemmas than watching two Kryptonians batter one another with rebar.

Antje-Traue-in-Man-of-SteelSuperman is a symbol of hope. We were all raised to believe that and the film mentions it repeatedly. And yet, when he has Zod in a chokehold and hears the general’s threats that he will never stop, Superman feels he has one choice. Actually, as staged, I sat there considering several other options. If I could do it, so could the Man of Steel. He did not need to kill. But he did and then got over it way too fast, way too easily. We were cheated of a big emotional payoff.

This is a world that now knows there is life beyond the stars and how that colors their perception of these forthcoming heroes will be fascinating, if done right. But first, we need Superman to be what has always been, a symbol of truth and justice, a righter of wrongs and a beacon we want to aspire to be. Henry Cavil makes me want to believe in him and I hope he gets a chance to really shine in what is beginning to look like an overstuffed sequel.

The movie looks and sounds as spectacular as one would expect from the mammoth production. To celebrate its importance, the package comes with two Blu-ray discs, a DVD, and Ultraviolet digital copy. On the first disc comes the film plus several features: Strong Characters, Legendary Roles (25:59) which has the cast eloquently discuss the mythic proportions of Superman but really needed more historic context, tracing his development through the years; All Out Action (26:02), which showcases how hard the performers had to train; Krypton Decoded (6:42), hosted by Dylan Sprayberry (teen Clark) and looks at how they blew Krypton up; Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short (2:03), brilliantly executed by Bruce Timm and making me longer for that sense of wonder to be in the film itself; New Zealand: Home to Middle Earth (6:35), which seems arbitrarily included to promote The Hobbit series.

Disc Two includes the lengthy Journey of Discovery: Creating Man of Steel (2:54:05), essentially replaying the entire film but with actors, producers, and others popping up on screen to discuss elements of the production. At times you get four screens – the film, the speaker, the effects or design, and something else. Highlights include Snyder talking about the importance of Hans Zimmer’s score, and lets a climactic scene play with just the music to demonstrate his point; Antje Traue (Faora) talking about how challenging it was to act in her heavy costume, while Michael Shannon noted his motion capture suit posed entirely different challenges. Richard Schiff’s commentary was lighthearted but mostly superfluous but Russell Crowe’s stories are far more interesting including recounting his first meeting with Cavill. The disc also includes a mocukmentary, Planet Krypton (17:18), which seems to be someone’s vanity project and is easily skipped.

Mike Gold: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

gold-art-131002-150x150-2036334From time to time, I find myself in a sort of comfy-awe of our neighbors to the north. Of course, that’s pretty easy this week – Canada’s government is still in business and while it provides its share of amusement, at least it’s not littered with a handful of bratty children who decide to bring everything to a halt because they can’t get their way.

But, as we often say here at ComicMix, I digress. And another respectful shout-out to Peter David, who wishes he could have trademarked that phrase.

The good folks in Canada decided to honor one of its greatest innovators, Toronto-born Joe Shuster. My J-School training obligates me to point out he’s the guy who co-created Superman, but if you didn’t know that you wouldn’t be reading ComicMix.

To commemorate Joe’s existence and his contributions to our global culture, Canada released a limited edition set of silver and gold coins incorporating Superman art (not just Joe’s) and logos. There’s even some Kryptonian lettering on the coins; roughly translated, it says “Bite my Twinkie, Americans!”

The gold coin, which you see above, has an irrelevant face value of $75 (so it’s a real coin) and was put on sale for $750. 58.33% gold (14k), 41.67% silver, proof finish, about a half-inch across and weighing in at a little less than a half ounce. They made 2,000 of these puppies.

And… they sold out faster than a speeding bullet. A quick check at eBay shows them offered for between $1500 and $3700 dollars. That’s in U.S. currency. But, as a comics fan since the age of four (back when all the continents were just one huge land mass), I’m hardly one to bitch about collector’s pricing. Perhaps you’ll make the comparison between the price of these coins and the price Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster got for creating The Man of Steel, but, to be fair, we must do so in constant dollars. That means Jerry and Joe got paid approximately $2500 in 2013 dollars. So they could have taken that payment and purchased one coin. To share. Between them.

The United States doesn’t honor the creators of our culture in this manner. Oh, sure, a few get commemorative stamps, but thus far Jerry and Joe haven’t received their props. The rule of thumb is 10 years after death; Jerry Siegel died 17 years ago, and Joe Shuster went to his Phantom Zone five years before that. But a set of silver and gold coins – that reeks of permanence. It’s really cool.

It would be nice if the United States chose to honor its top comics creators in this manner. I don’t see the Treasury Department aping Canada, but I think a Jack Kirby coin would be in order. Maybe even a Batman gold coin, noting Bob Kane.

I’d buy that… but only if Jerry Robinson’s face was on the coin instead of Kane’s.




REVIEW: Arrow The Complete First Season

Arrow Season OneWhen originally conceived by editor Mort Weisinger, Green Arrow was merely a pale imitation of Batman, a stigma that wasn’t lifted until Bob Haney and Neal Adams revamped him more than twenty years later. As a result, his background and origins were largely static until the Green Arrow Year One miniseries where writer Andy Diggle posited that Oliver Queen wasn’t entirely alone on the island where he washed ashore after a boating accident. It was this fairly late revisionist history that appears to have become the new template as it continues to be used in the New 52 era and became the foundation for the CW smash hit Arrow.

Oddly, Green Arrow arrived on prime time first in Smallville (a tangential nod to Weisinger, who also guided the Teen of Steel’s adventures for the first few decades) and where Justin Hartley was a nice fit for that show, he was a little too pretty for this new take on the vigilante. The new show, returning for its second season in a few weeks, totally ignored all the mythology established in the other series and is forging a new path that is also designed to create a television universe as witnessed by the backdoor pilot for a Flash spinoff coming in November. And whereas Smallville started with the basic concepts introduced by Jerry Siegel back in the 1940s, it rapidly veered onto an original path to accommodate modern day audiences and an aging cast. By the end, the show barely resembled the source material.

Over the course of 23 episodes, Arrow started vaguely near the source material and continued to chart its own course further and further away. As a result, you can’t really compare the two as the new series now has no resemblance to the comic. That said, it makes for compelling television watching thanks to a strong writing staff anchored by Marc Guggenheim who has one foot in each world. He was aided by Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, no slouches at television production although Kriesberg’s run as GA writer didn’t quite work.

Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) was a shallow, stereotypical rich boy, playing fast and loose with women, living the highlife and refusing to accept the coming responsibilities of adulthood. Then came the disastrous boat accident where he watched his father take his own life to save Oliver’s and in so doing, passed on a book containing the names of sinners in Starling City. After a series of escapades that forged him from callow youth to super-hero, Queen has returned to his hometown to mete out justice.  His mother Moira (Susanna Thompson and sister Thea (Willa Holland), nicknamed Speedy; are delighted to see him but aren’t sure what to make of the man they barely recognize. Similarly, his lover, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy);, has to forgive him for cheating on her with her own sister, who also perished on the boat. Then there’s his best friend Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), who has taken up his place in Laurel’s heart and has daddy issues of his own.

Arrow CastAn appealing cast with dark undertones makes this the quintessential CW show and a fun look at super-heroics. Queen’s journey is twice-told, first as the returning survivor turned vigilante and also through flashbacks as we watch him learn how to fight, think, and accept responsibility for one’s actions.

Dogging his heels is Laurel’s father, the nearly alcoholic Quentin (Paul Blackthorne), who also hates Oliver for the past and then there’s Tommy’s father (John Barrowman), who is a darker image of the green hooded hero and just as fast but deadlier.

Add in Queen’s bodyguard John Diggle (David Ramsey; yes, named after the writer), Felicity Smoak (the hot Emily Bett Rickards; lifted from Fury of Firestorm of all places), and Roy Harper (Colton Haynes), you have numerous touches of the DC Universe present, elements to keep the pot stirring. The season also saw the mobster daughter turned vigilante Helena Bertinelli (Jessica De Gouw) and in a nod to the Mike Grell era, Shado (Celinas Jade) plus Deathstroke/Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett).

Week by week, we saw the soap opera antics of the civilian cast although, as the season passed, the civilian and costumed worlds grew closer until they formed a Venn diagram of where the trouble in Starling City truly lay. Names were crossed off and the law collected their share of criminals. But something was festering deeper, underneath the city and Queen had to piece the clues together before the Glades, a dangerous and poor section of the city was about to be destroyed. Friendships were formed or betrayed, alliances formed and perceptions altered. By the final episode, it was clear that the city needed a champion and Queen was the man fate had selected. Thankfully, he knew the loner approach wouldn’t work and has been forming a team that may be all that stands between a brighter future or a bleak outcome.

arrow-olicityThe box set comes with four Blu-ray discs and five DVDs along with codes for the Ultraviolet edition of the first season. The high def transfers are clean, crisp, and reproduce the darker tones of the series quite nicely. An episode guide is a handy touch.

As for extra, there are a handful that are more middle-of-the-road than anything special. You begin with a bunch of Unaired Scenes; the behind-the-scenes Arrow Comes Alive! (29:35) with cast and crew gushing over the creation process; Arrow: Fight School/Stunt School (18:53), shows how important the action and stunts sequences are plus how several were accomplished.

DC’s chief creative officer Geoff Johns hosts the 2013 Paleyfest (27:26) event where the Arrow: Cast and Creative Team talk about how they lifted elements from the source material and greater DCU along with how they adapted to fan buzz and turned Felicity from one-shot into a welcome regular; and, finally, there’s a brief Gag Reel (2:26).

Dennis O’Neil: Wolverine and The Real Life

O'Neil Art 130801I wasn’t wearing a tie last Friday when Mari and I hied ourselves up the road to the monsterplex to watch the movie du jour, The Wolverine. Nothing unusual there; to the best of my recollection, I’ve worn ties exactly twice in the last quarter century. The first such occasion was at my wedding, a bow to the mores of the tribe that spawned me. The second was when I accompanied Jenette Kahn, at the time my boss, to meet some guy from the United Nations at one of those hoity-toity Manhattan restaurants that don’t permit entry to gentlemen un-tied, and while they’re at it, the gents had best be wearing suits too – or at least jackets. These are classy joints. They don’t let just anyone in. To chow down at one of them, you have to be of the elite, or at least prosperous enough to buy a strip of cloth to hang down the front of your shirt.

They’re signifiers of distinction, of class, neckties are, and as such they’re akin to a clergyman’s vestments, a soldier’s uniform, a detective’s badge, the rented tuxedo I once wore to a prom…feel free to add your own examples. I’ll add one more of my own: superhero costumes.

Odd clothing has been a defining feature of superhero stories ever since that warm Cleveland morning when a teenaged artist named Joe Shuster made the first Superman sketch. This was almost certainly done at the behest of Superman’s co-creator, another Cleveland teen, Jerry Siegel. Why the funny suit? Well, Jerry and Joe were big science fiction fans and were probably influenced by the futuristic garments worn by the characters in the illustrations that were prominent in the pulp magazines – at the time, sci fi’s main venue. Circus costumes may have been another influence.

Whatever Jerry and Joe’s reasons for costuming their brainchild, it was a good idea. It was attention-getting, it marked Supes as something special, it was ideally suited to the iconic quality of the medium that eventually gave him a home, comic books. Consider it an unwritten rule: you want a superhero, bring on the costume.

But Wolverine is most surely a superhero and there he was on the big screen, embodied by Hugh Jackman who was wearing, not a costume, but duds you might buy at a sporting goods store. In so doing, he was nudging superherodom a tiny bit closer to what we will jocularly refer to as real life, and not the fantasyland versions of Mother Earth that have been superheroes’ usual domains. This is an aspect of the genre’s evolution and we’ll have to see if it becomes permanent. If it does stay, writing jobs may be get a bit simpler; storytellers won’t have to give their superdoers a pause to change clothes before dealing with the latest humungous crisis. (Lois, could you fall a little slower?…can’t get the cape to hang right…) But some quirky charm may be lost.

Time will tell. It always does.


THURSDAY LATER AFTERNOON: The Surprising Return of Emily S. Whitten!

NOTE: All allusions to “morning” and “afternoon” are EDT USA.


Dennis O’Neil: Flying High

61Y3TyHFBiL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX285_SY380_CR,0,0,285,380_SH20_OU01_Larry Tye’s book was on the living room shelf for a month or more before I got around to reading it last week, and I’m not exactly sure why. I‘ve spent time with Larry and never doubted that he’d do good work, and he was kind enough to mention me in his biography, Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero.  But whatever the reason for my tardiness, I’ll mark it “happy” because when I did finally delve into the book, it happened to be during Superman’s 75th birthday week. (Note to casual fans: the Man of Steel’s debut was on April 18th, 1938.)

And here it was, the whole story: the early lives of Superman’s creators, a couple of Jewish kids from Cleveland named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; their attempts to sell their brainchild as a comic strip before they finally placed it at a comic book publisher that later became, and remains, DC Comics; the instant success, and then the deluge – radio shows, movies, novels, early television, recent television, trading cards, cereal boxes, animation, lunch boxes, Halloween costumes and everything I’m forgetting to mention. Larry Tye covers it all with a skillful combination of contemporary reporting and historicity.

The story isn’t always pretty. It has its share of sleaze. The most familiar scandal concerns the death of television’s first Man of Steel, George Reeves, found shot to death in his Hollywood bedroom with a gun at his feet. Suicide? Maybe. But there are doubts. That was the ugliness that made the papers, was the subject of other books, and was even the basis for a movie starring Ben Affleck.

The rest of the dubious behavior wasn’t as sensational – no slain actors – and mostly happened behind doors and walls.

I was around for some of it – that is, I was working for DC and even wrote the flagship Superman title for a year. Being close to the hub of big-time comics (though not very close) I must have heard rumors, and I did have a rough notion of the tribulations of Superman’s creators, and hey, I’m not immune to gossip, but I guess I wasn’t more than casually interested. I walked past those doors and walls, but I was never invited inside, and might not have cared to be. I mean, wouldn’t they have wanted me to wear a tie?

Good or bad, my ignorance? I don’t know. I can’t see how getting the inside dirt would have enhanced my scripts.

Would it have lessened them – maybe provide a distraction from the tasks at hand? Again, I don’t know. Never will, and don’t have to. But the information itself? That I’m glad to have, and I’m grateful to Larry Tye for providing it.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman




Happy Diamond Anniverary, Superman!

Seventy-five years ago on this day in 1938, the Golden Age of Comics began with the release of Action Comics #1, where Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introducing us to a strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men– Superman! Who can change the course of mighty rivers– bend steel in his bare hands– and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!

And now, here are some scenes from the adventures of Superman*:


  • Sorry about that– reflex.


Martha Thomases: Breaking The Four-Color Wall — Comics About Cartoonists

Thomases Art 130118-aComics About Cartoonists • Edited by Craig Yoe • 192 pages • $39.99 retail in hardcover • IDW Publishing, on sale January 22nd

The creative life has its own circle of hell. The blank page, the blank canvas, the empty stage, all exist to remind us of our failure. When one is a professional with a deadline, the taunting is even more painful.

For those of us in the audience, it can also be excruciating. I don’t like songs about how difficult it is to be a rock star. I don’t like novels about how misunderstood teaching assistants can’t get laid.

But then it can also be fun. The Stunt Man is a wonderful movie about making movies. My Favorite Year is a laff riot about writing television shows, and it’s one of my favorites. All That Jazz? It’s show time!

Thomases Art 130118-bAnd now, Craig Yoe has put together an anthology of comics about creating comics, Comics About Cartoonists. It collects sketches and finished stories, newspaper strips and comic book covers from some of the most celebrated creators of the last century.

The book has comedy, horror, and romance. It has work by Jack Kirby, Winsor McKay, Steve Ditko, Ernie Bushmiller, Jack Cole, Al Capp, Milton Caniff, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Charles Schulz and lots, lots more. It has deep personal insight into the real lives of working stiffs, and also what happens to cartoonists when aliens attack.

To meet this deadline, I read the whole thing in one sitting, and that’s not something I would recommend to you, Constant Reader. There are only a few plots. Cartoonist has no idea, so he fells asleep and his characters have an adventure. Cartoonist isn’t appreciated by his editor. Cartoonist stumbles on plans for an alien invasion. Beautiful girl doesn’t realize that the dumpy guy who looks like the cartoonist is beautiful on the inside. I’m sure I would have enjoyed these stories more if I read them one at a time, instead of in a lump.

And then, it has Basil Wolverton, with a story that not only exhibits his energetic wit and exuberance, but dialogue that is so much fun it should be read out loud. I would pay for Childish Gambino to record it.

My favorite comic stories about comics were the ones Cary Bates and Elliott S. Maggin wrote themselves into with the Justice League. Yoe also doesn’t include Grant Morrison’s appearances in Animal Man. The rights were most likely not available, and all of these are too self-consciously meta for the book’s shaggy-dog aesthetic.

On the other hand, the book’s endpapers are old ads promising to teach you — yes, you! — how to make big money and attract beautiful women as a cartoonist. “Cartoon Your Way to Popularity and Profit” says one ad that goes on to promise you a “Laugh Finder.” That ad alone is darker and more meta than anything on the market today.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Mike Gold: Passion and Wonder

Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s death last week at 82 brings to mind… well, an awful lot of stuff. If I were to put it all in one folder, I would name that folder “Passion and Wonder.”

Passion is the binding force of our lives. Wonder is what keeps us moving forward, what propels us into the future. Passion and wonder combine to create the most vital force in nature.

Passion plus wonder is a formula. Passion plus wonder equals H.G. Wells. Passion plus wonder equals Alice Guy-Blaché. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Nicola Tesla. Bessie Coleman. George Washington Carver. Ray Bradbury. Jack Kirby. Terry Gilliam. Michael Jordan. Sinead O’Conner. Alan Moore. Passion plus wonder equals Harlan Ellison. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Passion plus wonder equals Neil Armstrong.

If not for passion and wonder, our 21st Century would look exactly like Galileo’s father’s 16th Century. Most of us would be living in small villages, never venturing more than 25 miles from the place of our birth. Not that it would be boring; avoiding boredom requires a sense of wonder.

Our culture tends to encourage and, upon occasion, even honor creativity. We are very lucky – previous generations received less support… if any. If you have the passion and the sense of wonder to go out there and create, you have the obligation to do so – both to yourself and to society.

Pursue your passion and create.

It does not take courage. Courage is a retroactive designation for the act of putting one foot in front of the other and finishing something. It’s not up to you to determine its ultimate value. Your job is to pursue your passion, employing your sense of wonder. Posterity is in the eye of the next generation.

Neil Armstrong already stepped on the Moon. You must step into the future.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil – You Don’t Exist

Mindy Newell: Butterflies Are Timey-Wimey

Before I get started – or let’s pretend that I have just stopped time – just want to say regarding Martha Thomases’ column of last week:

Shit, Martha, why the fuck didn’t I think of writing that?

•     •     •     •     •

See, about two months ago I hurt my middle finger at work. It got caught between a stretcher and a door. The noted and very adorable Dr. Christopher Doumas used the C-arm to check it out. Nothing was broken – be thankful for small miracles, right? – but there was plenty of soft tissue damage, meaning I bruised the fascia, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Plus broken capillaries and such. Which caused my ahem middle finger to swell up and turn several shades of purple.

But you know how they say that soft tissue damage hurts worse than a broken bone? – well, maybe you don’t, but trust me, they do say that – so believe me when I tell you:

Goddamn, it hurt!

Anyway, I had to write an incident report, which meant I had to go to the boss’s office. The boss is from the Midwest, and, imho, the outfit that owns my ambulatory surgery center reflects that what’s the matter with Kansas? mentality. So I’m sitting there trying to write, which was extremely difficult because said middle finger was on my right hand, and I’m a “righty” – the only thing about me that is.

Just trying to use the keyboard was a pain in the ass – or finger – and I muttered “Fuck, that hurts.”

My what’s the matter with Kansas? boss looked very disturbed. Did she say, “I’m so sorry, Mindy.” Did she say, “Do you want an Advil?” Did she cluck and coo and offer other bromides?


She said, “Don’t use that language. It’s not professional.”

I looked at her. I thought are you kidding me?

And I said:

“I’m from New York.”


•     •     •     •     •

I will now allow time to resume its normal linear course.

I have always, always loved time-travel stories.

Last night I was watching The Timey-Wimey Of Doctor Who on BBC America when, all of a sudden during a commercial break, I remembered a Silver Age Superboy story in which the Boy of Steel discovers the origin of Cinderella’s glass slipper – all of which inspired me to write about time travel today. Anyway, I was sure the Cinderella story was featured on the cover. But guess what I discovered when doing my due diligence?

The Cinderella thingy was only a “side-trip” in a very famous and critical-to-DC-mythology story written by Robert Bernstein and penciled and inked by George Pepp. The story was “Superboy’s Big Brother” (Superboy #89, June 1961), featuring the introduction of Mon-El – whom I’ve also always loved, but that’s a topic for another day and another column. Leaving Mon-El to hang out at the Kent home with his parents, Clark goes to school ‘cause he has a test he can’t skip. I guess it was an English class, or maybe history, or maybe even creative writing because one of the questions on the test is about the origin of fairy tales and uses the Cinderella story as an example.  Clark remembers meeting the real Cinderella in the past. I guess to jog his memory – although since Superboy has super-memory I don’t know why it needs jogging – he decides to revisit the past to make sure he’s got the details right.

Clark asks permission to get a drink of water. (The teacher says okay, which means allowing him to leave the room during a test. Try doing that these days, kids!) Changing into Superboy, he flies through the time barrier to Egypt, circa 4,000 B.C. He takes a drink of water from the Nile – ‘cause, you know Superboy never tells a lie, and this way he can honestly tell the teacher that he got his drink of water. While getting his allotment of H2O, he sees an eagle steal a sandal from a girl putting a bassinet made from reeds into the Nile. There’s a baby inside. It floats down the Nile to where the Pharaoh’s daughter is bathing. The Pharaoh’s daughter finds the baby in the bassinette, and names him Moses….

Strike that.

Superboy is about to go after the eagle when that super-memory of his is jogged once again, so he does nothing. Instead he watches as the bird drops the sandal in the Pharaoh’s palace. The Pharaoh searches for the woman whose foot fits the sandal. He finds her and makes her his queen. Aha! thinks Superboy. This is the Cinderella story he came back in time to see. Now it’s time to go back to school and finish that test.

So Clark writes up the story, but the teacher says he has no proof, so only gives him an 89. (Guess it wasn’t a creative writing class after all.) And Clark isn’t unhappy, because if he had aced it, the teacher might suspect he’s Superboy because Clark is so smart. (Huh?)

Meanwhile, suspecting that Mon-El is lying about being his brother – um, excuse me, but aren’t you the one who assumed that he was, Clark? – Superboy exposes Mon-El to a meteorite that looks like Kryptonite but is really made of lead.

Oops. Your bad, Superboy.

Mon-El is really Lar Gand, a native of the planet Daxam. And Daxamites can’t handle lead. In fact, it kills them. Like the Roach Motel: once they check in, they don’t check out. Swearing that one day he will find a cure to the fatal lead poisoning, Superboy has no choice but to send Mon-El to the Phantom Zone in order to save his life.

Leading in a timey-winey, butterfly effect way to the other time travel story that added-to-the-DC-mythology big time, the introduction of the Legion of Super-Heroes (Adventure Comics #247, April 1958, by writer Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino). And if I have to recount that story, you shouldn’t call yourself a comics fan! J The Legion traveled through the time barrier by means of a “time bubble,” which maybe was inspired by the bubble in which Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, travels to Oz. Only they don’t ask Superboy if he is a witch. They also don’t think Krypto is a witch.

It was Brainiac 5 of the Legion of Super-Heroes who, in “The Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire” revealed that he had discovered a permanent cure for Mon-El. This happened in Adventure Comics #330, March 1962, by Jerry Siegel and John Forte. This is only a year for us poor Earth-Prime Homo sapiens who are cursed to experience time in a this-way-forward linear manner, but it was about twenty centuries as a phantom for poor Lar Gand.

No wonder he went nuts.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten, Esq



Gerry Giovinco: Corporate Comics, the Exodus…Again

There has been a lot of buzz lately about creators walking away from cushy contracts at Marvel and DC to strike out on their own, the most recent being Paolo Rivera whose eloquent blog post on the subject offers wonderful insight to his personal motivation.

The reaction from fans and comic related news media would make you think that these creators are venturing to the dark side of the moon on the first experimental space vessel not built and commandeered by NASA. This reaction mystifies me because it shows a disregard of the history of comics and the vibrant atmosphere of the current comics marketplace.

People that are surprised that top rated talent are leaving the Big Two should rather be asking, “why has it taken so long?”

The pros and cons of working for corporate comic companies have been established for decades.

Sure, you get to work on characters you know and love, there’s a steady check so long as you are a hot commodity, maybe some benefits, maybe some royalties, oh and the exposure to Marvel and DC‘s huge fan base can elevate you to star status. But in the end you own nothing, you had to be careful to create only within the parameters of the existing universes or run the risk of watching a character you created make beaucoup bucks for the corporation while you get nothing in return and, when you are no longer hot or are out of favor with the editing staff, there is no work and you live as a pariah.

There was a time when working in comics was the most loathsome career path for a writer or artist. Lousy page rates, no royalties, rights or recognition. You worked in comics merely as a stepping stone into advertising, television or film. This was true until the sixties when Marvel, or more accurately Stan Lee, made working in comics seem almost glamorous. The money got a bit better and creators began imagining actual careers in the field. By the late seventies creators began to realize that even though their names were plastered all over the books, they were still not getting much in return for their efforts and especially their unique creations which were now wholly owned by the corporation they worked for.

Creator’s eyes were fully opened in 1978 when the first Superman movie was released and they watched Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster battle for morsels of the enormous profit generated by the character they had created and sold for $130 nearly forty years earlier.

It became clear that there was a deficiency in the business model of the comics industry. Why was it necessary for the comics publishers to fully own the copyrights and trademarks of all the intellectual property they published? Other book publishers do not operate this way and neither do other forms of entertainment where royalties and residuals support creators long after their work is created. Don’t get me wrong, there are good and bad contracts  everywhere necessitating the need for lawyers and agents but it sure is nice to have the opportunity to negotiate your terms.

The success of the Underground Market in the sixties and the rise of the Direct Market in the late seventies created opportunities for comic creators to work outside of the traditional corporate confines of the comic industry. Creators, disgruntled by the usual terms with which they worked at corporate comic companies, turned to the successes in these markets and began to strike out on their own. Many targeted the Direct Market that had established a secure venue for such properties as Jack Katz’ s First Kingdom, Dave Sim’s Cerebus the Aardvark, and Richard and Wendy Pini’s Elfquest. This defined a new model where creator’s could find success owning their own characters and marketing direct to the distributers with the benefit of minimal risk provided by guaranteed pre-orders and a no-return policy.

Alternative publishers took note and began contracting creators defecting from the corporate comic companies, offering creator owned contracts that included fair page rates, and royalties. The eighties opened the door for true creators rights and as the alternative competition gained a foothold in the industry, the corporations  began offering publications that were vehicles for creator owned properties and they structured some type royalty arrangements.

Since the inception of the Direct Market there has always been an opportunity for creators to have alternative options. Marvel and DC, however, have maintained  a strangle hold on the Direct Market which they control by sporadically flooding the market with superfluous content in an effort to successfully drive out or contain alternative publishers. There have, however, been a few exceptions where talent has been able to break free with enormous success and plenty of other instances where independent creators have had comfortable, rewarding careers by most standards.

The Direct Market is no longer the panacea it once was for comic creators who now realize how easily the market can be manipulated by the Big Two and the near monopoly of its primary distributor.

Fortunately the internet has provided a wide open space for creators to play and have direct access to the customers themselves. Print on Demand providers and affordable, minimum-quantity print runs has eliminated most of the upfront risk of comic production and crowd funding has created an avenue for advance orders establishing revenue streams.

Competition is brisk and there are more comic creators than ever before, presenting a huge variety of unique creations that go well beyond the constrictions of the superhero genre. The distribution of digital content for mobile devices is giving comic creators the opportunity to reach new markets that just a year or two ago may have seemed impossible.

This is possibly the best and most challenging time to be a comic creator ever.  Working for a corporate comic company is now a choice, not the only viable option if you intend to have a career in comics. Corporate creators have a better understanding of their role as  cog in the corporate wheel and are more careful as they juggle being creative without abandoning rights to personal creations.

Corporate comics are once again a stepping stone to a respected career but creators no longer need to leave the comics industry. They just need to declare their independence and take control of their destiny as comic creators.

The revolution to establish these freedoms for comic creators has spanned decades. There have been many victories and many casualties. Alternative companies have come and gone, creators have basked in the limelight then vanished from the radar. Some have celebrated success while others have anguished over failure. Through it all it has been the audience that has benefited the most, paying witness to a variety of comics that would never exist if they were limited only to the corporately owned IP of two publishers.Next week, as a nation, we celebrate the independence of the United States of America, a country that established freedoms and inalienable rights that did not exist prior to the signing of the Constitution. Those same rights grant us the opportunity as comic creators to freely express ourselves through our work and to pursue a free and open market. As a comic creator, take a stand  and be independent. As a comics fan, support independent, creators and publishers.

As a comic community declare every Independence Day as Independent’s Day and applaud a bright future for the art of creating comics.

Thirty years ago as two of the co-founders of the alternative comics publisher Comico the Comic Company, Bill Cucinotta and I were focused on these same ideals. Through Comico we had many triumphs yet succumbed to tragic failures.

We never lost the dream.

This Fourth of July weekend we will celebrate our third year in our new publishing incarnation as CO2 Comics. We will be rejoicing our continued freedoms as Independent Publishers, armed with technology that did not exist thirty years ago, experience, and a continued love for comics. Our Declaration of Independence will be the announcement of three new print publications that will be immediately available to our readers.

We know how exciting it is to publish comics beyond the walls of the corporate comic companies!

So next time you hear about a comic creator’s exodus from the corporate comic world just remember, “it ain’t anything new.” It is an opportunity created by the efforts of many over many years.  Show your support, buy their comics and celebrate their independence!