For your late-night comics related watching: “The Pro” by Garth Ennis, Amanda Conner, and Jimmy Palmiotti— now animated! (Dear lord, NSFW.)
Or read the book.
This past weekend, Unshaven Kyle Gnepper and I braved a 10-hour car ride from Chicago to Atlanta to present our wares at the annual Dragon Con. While I could spend my article telling all of you the harrowing tale of how our booth was stolen and then how it turned out to be a simple clerical error, I figure it’s easier to spare you the banal details. Long story short, it always pays off to be flexible, kind, and eager to make the best out of any situation.
Since our table-saga is off the table, I could discuss how for the first time in now our tenth year of presenting at cons I finally bit the bullet to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Kyle and remain in pitch mode the entire duration of the con in order to see our goals be met. I could wax poetic about how it felt to step outside my comfort zone and really connect with complete strangers without fear. Long story short, we met our goals. I was tired every night, but feel like Kyle and I found our brotherly bond again after too-long a time. It will remain something I’ll fondly talk about for cons to come.
No table woes. No astonishing sales lecture. What’s left? The most important part of the con: The people.
As I’ve said before, Dragon Con is the con I would personally go to as a fan. The sheer amount of programming they offer in addition to a fantastic vendor floor and artist alley adds up to an experience that truly celebrates pop culture in nearly every form and facet. From our vantage point in the alley – thanks in part to Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s sad cancellation (which in turn landed us their spot) Kyle and I were privy to just about every single con goer who made their way onto the show floor. To be clear: we heard rumor of tens of thousands of people attending the con, of which, I’d feign a guess that a solid half made their way into our portion of the America Mart in downtown Atlanta.
Beyond the amazing cosplay, happy families, and great geeks on-the-hunt-for-wares, something caught my eye. As wave after wave of people passed by, I noted gay couples, Lesbian couples, transgendered folks, asexual folks. Literally every race, creed, and color. And nary a one of them without a smile plastered across their maws. It was, above all else: inspiring.
And it hit me right in the cockles, I tells ya. Here, amidst the aisles of the Artist Alley, a procession of positivity parlayed publications and posters devoid of anything but an untethered celebration of pop-culture. It reminded me that while there’s plenty of nerd-rage between specific sects of fans – be it western comics versus manga, Trek versus Wars, or steampunk versus whatever group fears gears – there is a commonality that binds all folks who clip a comic con badge to their person. An acceptance of everyone’s right to be themselves. Because, where else but a Comic Con can we unabashedly declare not only our love for some specific nerdy-milieu, and meet nothing but acceptance to it by all who surround us. Because we too are different, and we too want this place to remain a sacred space where all are allowed to let our freak flags fly.
After four solid days of seeing every gender, sexual orientation, and science fiction fandom stroll past our twelve-foot storefront, Kyle and I left Atlanta tired but accomplished. Between the two of us, over 500 books crossed the border from our racks to the hands of happy fans. We sold every single poster we brought. And I personally sold out of every pre-made Pokémon card I packed. As Kyle and traversed the interstate from Georgia through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana, our minds darted through the memories logged. But none stick out more for me (save perhaps that one customer who demanded one of every book we had on the table) then the cavalcade of comradery I saw at the show. A reaffirmation that the ties that bind me to comic books help me ground myself surrounded by like-minded people who celebrate our world in every way it presents itself. Amidst all the insanity our current overlords spew from on high… it was worth it to have four days devoid of hate; all hail Dragon Con, as it truly is for love.
So – where was I last weekend? I was in Metropolis, that’s where, down in the Southern tip of Illinois attending the 39th Annual Superman Celebration. Way back in 1972 the city got DC’s permission to call itself Superman’s home and later that year the Illinois legislature passed a resolution confirming it. By the late 70s, the city decided to capitalize on all this by staging an annual Superman Celebration on the second weekend in June, a festival for the Man of Steel. Damn good idea, I sez.
The Celebration includes media guests connected with Supes. This year it was Margot Kidder, Dean Cain, James Marsters, and Sarah Douglas… as well as a few of us comic book types. I was the featured writer about six years ago and it seems I didn’t burn too many bridges because they had me back again this year along with Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Jim Hall and others.
The Celebration is a hoot and a truly unique Con. It’s one part convention and one part neighborhood block party/street fair. It has carnival rides, scavenger hunts, vintage cars and plenty of food trucks selling every carnival treat you can think of and maybe a few you can’t. Need something fried? Oh, they got that. My mouth waters and my arteries clog at the memory of it.
The town notably has a thirty-foot tall painted bronze statue of Supes in front of the courthouse as well as a smaller bronze statue of Noel Neill who played Lois Lane on The Adventures of Superman. Ms. Neill was a fixture at the Celebration for many years before dying last year but the last time I was there I did get to meet her and, according to reliable witnesses, just geeked out. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Long before I was a pro, I was a fan.
Speaking of fans, they were great. They were warm and eager and so happy to see us. One of the great things about a Con of this size is that you have time to chat with the fans. While there’s plenty of stuff to do, there’s no rush. And some of them geeked out to see me (I’m not sure why) so I told them the stories of my geeking out. We geek bonded.
I also had lots of good conversations with Amanda and Jimmy. I’ve known both of them for a long time but we don’t usually get much chance for long chats. We bumped into each at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport when we gathered for the plane to Paducah which was the closest airport to Metropolis. Amanda is a sweetheart and Jimmy is a character. Real Brooklyn in his speech and attitude and that’s a compliment. Better companions you couldn’t hope to find.
The trip to the Celebration also gave me the chance to renew some old friendships such as Tim and Tracy Brown. We first met some years ago at a Con in Memphis along with a whole bunch of others. Elvis had his Memphis Mafia; they’re part of mine. Tim and I crack each other up with our impressions – I do Elmer Fudd and Ethel Merman and he does Carol Channing. I can make him laugh so hard he squeezes his eyes shut; once I did while Tim was driving the car over the bridge crossing the Ohio River. People were yelling at me to stop but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Despite my best efforts, we got across the bridge safely. If Tim’s wife Traci didn’t gag me I think My Mary did.
The big wind-up to the celebration was the costume contest on Sunday. I know that cosplay has become a big thing in recent years but the Superman Celebration was doing it long before it was fashionable. I was a judge at this year’s contest and I have a few thoughts for people competing. At Metropolis, there were three areas to consider – how well did the contestant know the character they were portraying, how was the costume, and how well did they sell it, i.e. how well did they interact with the crowd?
There were some great costumes in the competition (Doctor Octopus was stunning) but the winner was a Wonder Woman and not just because this is her hour. Other people might have had better costumes but she sold it best. If you’re going to be in a costume competition, folks, you gotta walk the walk and talk the talk.
When I was there last, there was a riverboat casino in Metropolis because it wasn’t legal to have one on dry land. Now it is and Harrah’s has a hotel and casino on terra firma. I find that odd but interesting; a city of maybe 7,000 doesn’t have its own airport but has a gambling den. I wandered through it one night on my way to the buffet for dinner and found it completely disorientating. Not my thing but I can see how it might be for someone else.
Next year, Metropolis will celebrate its 40th Celebration and I suspect the hotels are already getting booked up. I understand people come from a long way to be there. It’s unique, a small city in which, for at least one weekend, their major industry is Superman. That’s pretty cool. Thanks to the Celebration’s staff, especially Karla Ogle, for inviting me down and treating us all so well. I’m ready to do it again sometime.
Up, up… and away!
Last week I gave a review of the Suicide Squad movie. This week, I’m talking about my trip to NYC for the premiere.
I got in to the East Coast on 7/31 and stayed with my friends Tam and Kev English over in New Jersey, near to where I used to live. Tom Mandrake and Jan Duursema, who also live in the area, were going to be in town Sunday night before going on a trip so we all got together for a nice meal. Hilarity ensued.
I took the train into Manhattan on Monday to join my old bud and oft-time editor and my date for the evening, the lovely and effervescent Mike Gold. We were meeting for a pre-festivities lunch. Among many other projects, Mike edited Legends, which is where my version of the Suicide Squad first appeared. True to form, I screwed up both the time and the location but eventually wound up where I was supposed to be, a little hot, a lot sweaty, but there.
It was a nice meal at Virgil’s BBQ (when with Mike, you’re quite likely to wind up eating barbecue) and then it was time to head out to the pre-premiere party being hosted by Dan Didio and DC Entertainment. On our way to a taxi (Mike suggested the subway but I was already overheated), we went to the heart of Times Square and there – lo and behold – was a huge frickin’ ad for the movie up on a building. It was at least four stories tall and wrapped around the building on either side. I was staggered.
On to the DC pre-party up at Pappardella on the upper west side. We were met outside by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor; seeing Jimmy always guarantees a good time and Amanda graces the company of wherever she is.
All sorts of DC stalwarts were inside including some old friends like Paul Levitz, Mike Barr, and Keith Giffen. Was also joined by Adam Glass and his wife at our table in the corner. Adam had written the initial issues of the New 52 edition of the Squad and we were able to chat Squad shop. Great guy, good writer, and a fun table companion.
I also got to meet Geoff Johns face-to-face for the first time. We’ve traded more than a few emails but have never been able to be in the same place at the same time. Geoff has recently been promoted to President as well as Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment and I had a chance to congratulate him. He sat down and we had just a really good chat. In addition to being a really good writer, Geoff is a hell of as nice guy.
They got some group photos of all of us at Pappardella and then it was time to walk over to the nearby Beacon Theater for the premiere. We got off the buses and it was amazing: there was major security, both private and city, and barriers and people behind barriers looking for stars and celebrities. I was dazzled and dazed. I started to follow the herd towards the theater until I heard someone calling my name. It was Dan Didio as well as my date gesturing me over to a large air conditioned tent right there on Amsterdam Avenue. I mean, the air conditioning units were huge. I was supposed to go in that way. I wasn’t sure why but I went there.
Inside there was a backdrop and lots of press and photographers. I was in a spotlight and, swear to God, they were calling “John, look over here.” “John. Over this way.” “John, look straight ahead.” Flashes flashed and I had on my best deer caught in the headlights look. It was weird.
My baptism by strobes completed, I was escorted out of the tent and to the theater and given my assigned seat. The Beacon is no small theater (albeit a beautiful one) and every seat was assigned. I sat in the middle of the DC row and settled in. Geoff Johns was two seats to my right but the one right next to me was vacant. I decided that seat belonged to my late wife and frequent Squad co-writer, Kim Yale. Knowing Kim, she was having a blast.
Pete Tomasi, my one-time editor on a lot of The Spectre, Martian Manhunter, and The Kents, came over for a chat. It was great to see him; it’s been far too long. Pete‘s also a freelance writer these days and a good one.
I’ll admit to being dazzled. A lot of fuss was being made over me and more than a few people came up and said that this was my night as well; that none of this would have been happening without me. I guess that’s technically true but it’s a little hard for me to wrap my brain around.
Anyway, it comes time for the movie and the director, David Ayer, comes out to say a few words and he brings out the entire cast of the movie. Loud cheers all around. The cast walks off and the movie begins.
I reviewed the movie last week and I’ll double down on it. I’ve seen it again since then, with My Mary (who couldn’t make it to the premiere) at IMAX and in 3-D and I liked it even more. I understand that there’s people who don’t agree with me and that’s fine; different tastes for different folks. For example, Mary likes broccoli and I can’t stand it, referring to it as “tiny trees”. But I loved the Squad movie and I’ll see it still again.
One note about it and it’s a very minor spoiler. I knew ahead of time that they had named a building used in the movie the John F. Ostrander Federal Building. I knew it was there, I knew it was coming up and yet, somehow, I missed seeing it. The DC row cheered but I didn’t see it until we went to the IMAX. Go figure.
There were cheers when the movie was over and then it was time to get onto the buses and go to the after-party. It was held in a huge hall with parts of it made up to look like Belle Reve (I’m told it was on display at SDCC and then moved east). There was food, there was drink, there was a DJ and loud music; DC had a private area off to one side. I understood the stars of the movie were in attendance and had their own area as well.
This may surprise some folks but not, I think, those who know me well. I sometimes get a case of the shys; I feel awkward where I feel somewhat out of place. I saw Kevin Smith there and wanted to go up and talk with him but he was talking to someone else so I wandered off. I didn’t want to bother him.
The one person I did want to meet was Viola Davis who played Amanda Waller. Amanda is special to me and Ms. Davis did a superb job, IMO, and I just wanted to tell her so. First, I had to deal with security. I walked up to a guy guarding the artist’s area; the Hulk is smaller than this guy. Real tall, shoulders the size of a football field – nobody was getting past him. Nobody.
I went straight to him, explained who I was and why I wanted to see Ms. Davis. He was polite, got a hold of someone who had to go check on me. While I waited, he deflected two or three others. The guy was good at his job.
Finally, someone came up to take me back the handful of steps to –. I introduced myself and then told her how much I enjoyed her performance. She was very gracious and lovely. I think, although I’m not certain, that I did not babble unduly.
And then I was done.
I might have liked to say hello to some of the other actors and especially the director but, plain and simple, I’d run out of nerve. My date had already left to catch a train and it was time for me to do the same. Penn Station was only a block or two away and that’s where I need to go to get back to Tam and Kev.
I’m reasonably certain in my heart that Kim was there at the party. She would have been in her element. She was an extrovert and she would have been dancing and drinking and chatting with the stars and flashing that megawatt smile. I’m also reasonably certain she’s still there; at many a Con, Kim would still be partying while I went to bed. I couldn’t keep up with her.
I said goodbye to Geoff Johns, got to Penn Station and went back to my friends in Jersey.
It was an experience totally unlike anything I’ve ever had. I don’t know if I’ll ever have another one like it. Even if I went to another movie premiere, this was my first one. As they say, you never forget your first.
I was a temporary celebrity. I’ve done lots of interviews connected with the event and I’ll probably do a few more, told the same stories or given the same answers a lot of times. I’ve been dipped in the waters of fame. There were faces on the other side of the barriers in front of the theater or the after party, looking at me, wondering who I was. I must have been Somebody. For the moment, maybe I was.
I’m home now. The dishes need washing, this column has to be finished, and one of the cats wants attention. That’s who I am and I’m happy with that. The rest will fade as it should. I’ll tell you this, though – it sure as hell was fun while it lasted! For that night, I was John Fucking Ostrander with my name of the side of a building in a big ass movie..
Yeah. That was cool.
So, I wasn’t here last week. Some of you may have noticed. So, where was I? At the Baltimore Comic Con (BCC), which was dandy, and I enjoyed it very much. Usually when I’m gone somewhere around the deadline for this column, I’m supposed to get it in earlier and most times I do. This time? Just screwed up the time. What can I say? I’m (mostly) human.
Lots of my fellow columnists here at ComicMix have already done their columns this week on the BCC last week. Mike Gold, Emily Whitten, Martha Thomases, and Molly Jackson all contributed. Marc Allan Fishman wrote about an aspect of the BCC and he wasn’t even there. Makes you wonder what I could add to the (comic)mix. I wondered too, but Mike has already speculated I would probably write about the Con and I wouldn’t want to make a liar out of him.
One of the big pleasures of the Con was getting to see so many of my old friends. I shared a table with my bro, Timothy Truman, and he was considerate enough to bring his wife, Beth, who is a real treat. I hadn’t seen Tim in ages and Beth for even longer; she gave me a great hug and if that isn’t a great way to start a Con, I don’t know what is.
I had dinner with them the first night and we ran into Mike Grell who joined us. In fact, we were going to have a First Comics reunion of sorts over the weekend. In addition to Tim and Mike and Grell and me there was the two Marc/ks, Wheatley and Hempel, and Joe Staton. We even got our picture taken together to commemorate the occasion. The Mighty Gray Panthers of the real First Comics!
In addition, there were all the fine people over at the ComicMix table such as Martha Thomases, Glenn Hauman, Evelyn Kriete and Emily Whitten. I’d never met Emily in person before; she’s delightful and sat to my left at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night. I hatched an idea for a project with her and you’ll hear more about it as we get that act together.
There were lots and lots of other old friends there such as Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor and my old Suicide Squad editor and ComicMix reviewer Robert Greenberger. I want to take this moment to acknowledge how much Squad owed to Bob. He’s the one who suggested the title to me and helped guide it through its debut and onward. Take a bow, Bob.
As I mentioned, I was also at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night, sitting between Emily and Mike Gold. Vivek Tiwary was the host; I’d never met him before (among an amazing list of accomplishments, he wrote the graphic novel [[[The Fifth Beatle]]]). He was very personable, very enthusiastic about comics, and very generous when he introduced me (I was a presenter). I got to follow both Russ Heath and Jules Feiffer as they accepted their inductions into the Harvey Awards Hall of Fame. These men are legends and, if you don’t know them, go Google their names or look them up on Wikipedia.
And I followed them! Ye gawds. Well, at least I didn’t stutter.
As you may have read elsewhere, there was something of a controversy at the BCC. Some of the comic book guests charged for their autographs and some didn’t. Neal Adams charged 30 bucks per autograph; Mike Grell was also charging a much smaller sum and he donated what he made to The Hero Initiative.
I didn’t and I do not charge for autographs; I never have and I doubt I ever will. This is not to suggest any sort of judgment on those who do. Neal is a legend in the industry and an unquestioned leader in the fight for the rights of freelancers. He’s a long standing hero of mine, both as an artist and as a champion of our rights.
My rationale for not charging is pretty simple: the fan bought the book and it had my name on it and that has supported me. If they want me to deface it with my autograph, it’s the least I can do. Yes, I know that some dealers get them signed and then re-sell them on eBay or some such. I don’t think I ran into many of them, if any, while I was at the BCC. I can’t really sort out the dealers from the fans and I don’t bother trying. If others see the matter differently, so be it. This is just how I do it.
I want to say that the fans were wonderful. They were knowledgeable and enthusiastic and warm and friendly. There were all ages, too. Lots of kids, which wasn’t so true a few years ago. That was wonderful to see and hopeful for the industry.
I think it was Mike Gold who defined the BCC for me: it was really comics orientated. Other Cons are very orientated to the media guests. BCC had some but the main thrust was comics. It also seemed very much like family; other cons, such as NYCC, feel more like business. That’s okay, too; it’s New York City and that’s appropriate. In Baltimore, however, it felt like old times in the industry to me, in between the Con, the fans, and my friends. I think maybe that’s why I really enjoyed it.
I didn’t get a chance to see much of the city, which is usual for me at Cons. What I saw was interesting and nice. I ate a lot of crab which I take it is what one is supposed to do in Maryland. I think I’ve had enough Old Bay Seasoning for a while.
In short, it was a great weekend and I’m so glad to have been invited. It had been maybe two decades since I had last been there; I hope not to make it so long again. Of course, if I did, I’d be really old. Geezer City.
Thanks to all who made it a good time/ I hope we can do it again soon.
I believe a person has the right to commit suicide. No matter who says what, suicide might very well be our only inalienable right. Sixteen religious leaders, your entire family, all of your friends and all of your enemies can get together, kidnap you and hold an “intervention” (that’s sort of a pop-psych séance), and when all is said and done, you can still jump off a cliff.
But even I would admit that holding a suicide-themed contest is gauche. And, hey, I’m a punk rock fan.
Our friends over at DC Comics (who are now looking up “friend” in their online dictionaries) decided to run a new talent contest. According to their own web page “Harley Quinn is no stranger to a little breaking and entering for a good time and now, she’s going to help one talented artist break into comics with DC Entertainment’s Open Talent Search. That’s right, we’re looking for someone to draw one page of Harley Quinn #0 alongside some of comic’s most amazing talents, including Amanda Conner, Paul Pope, Bruce Timm, and a few other surprises, maybe even you!… If you think you’ve got what it takes to be published in this special issue, then put on your working hat and start drawing now, because an opportunity like this doesn’t come along very often.”
And, from that same page, here’s part of what they want you to draw: Page 15, Panel 4 – “Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of “oh well, guess that’s it for me” and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.”
Actually, being familiar with both the character and the issue’s creators, I get the gag. Maybe that’s because the concepts of suicide and death doesn’t horrify me. Or maybe I’ve just got the same perverted sense of humor as writer Jimmy Palmiotti, artist Amanda Conner, and Co-Publisher Dan DiDio. But if you don’t frequent the Comic Book Donut Shop, it’s possible you just might not get it.
Here’s a couple thousand people who don’t get it: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness released a joint statement saying this whole thing sucks. To wit: “We believe that instead of making light of suicide, DC Comics could have used this opportunity to host a contest looking for artists to depict a hopeful message that there is help for those in crisis. This would have been a positive message to send, especially to young readers.”
Young readers? Really? Drop by a comic book shop sometimes, you cloistered shrinks.
The fact that the contest was announced a few days before the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week probably didn’t help one bit. The story achieved national attention. You’d think Harley Quinn had just covered Ice-T’s “Cop Killer.”
DC Comics issued the typical mealy-mouthed apology “to anyone who was offended” (I hate that phrase; it sounds like being offended was the object’s fault and not the culprit’s), and Jimmy offered a much more sincere and explanatory apology, which was the right thing to do.
There are a lot of things one can’t rationally discuss in the commercial world without provoking kneejerk overreaction. After a lifetime in youth crisis intervention work, I can safely express the informed opinion that just about everybody who would have read Harley Quinn and then offed themselves already was a basket case waiting to take the pipe. You cannot bring down our mass media to the lowest common denominator.
However, given the fact that we live in a world where parents of a teenage suicide would sue a rock band for being responsible for their kid’s death despite the fact that literally tens of millions of others routinely and safely listened to that same song, DC’s move was unwise.
This column first appeared Monday at www.MichaelDavisWorld, a wonderful place where people speak their minds and everybody but Martha Thomases swears a lot.
Mike Gold performs the weekly two-hour Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, www.getthepointradio.com, every Sunday at 7:00 PM Eastern, rebroadcast three times during the week – check the website above for times and on-demand streaming information. Mike Gold is cool. No, wait. That’s fezes. Fezes are cool. Until the end of the year.
THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil
THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Martin Pasko
The High School Of Art & Design (A&D) was where I studied illustration and where countless great comic book, animation and illustration artists learned their craft, including Carmine Infantino, John Romita Sr., Dick Giordano, Ralph Bakshi, Neal Adams, Larry Hama, Denys Cowan, Mark Texeira, Malcolm Jones III, Frank Brunner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Jusko, Mike Carlin and Ralph Reese.
That list goes on but A&D also produced many others of note in various areas such as fashion and music: Calvin Klein and Tony Bennett are A&D alumni along with a myriad of badass mofos. I’ve written about A&D before as it certainly has played an important part in the comics industry and has for many decades.
A&D is the backdrop for this piece, but that’s pretty much the extent of the industry tie in. This piece is about a love story and A&D is the only way I can justify it appearing here. I beg your indulgence, but I think this is a love story that deserves to be told to as many romantics as possible and the comic book and pop culture world is nothing if not a group of romantics.
We are a group of romantics. Consider the following from my comic book journey… I shed a tear over Gwen Stacy’s death. I felt a real sense of tragedy when Jean Gray killed millions as Dark Phoenix. I felt horrible for Matt Murdock when he found out the love of his life was a drug addict and a whore. Comics are full of stories that bring out the romantic in all our little geek hearts.
This story happens to be true. This is the story of A&D students Frank & Debbie.
I know I’m pushing it but I humbly beg your forgiveness as I compose this as if I’ve written it for Frank and Debbie alone.
I’ll understand if you skipped this article and instead went back to playing Injustice. If I were you I’d skip it… but I’m an asshole.
“Fine Tall Guy With The Kissable Lips and that Mack smile?” Debbie you said that was your first impression of Frank when you saw him on the A&D escalators?
That fine tall guy with the kissable lips was I Debbie. Frank was the guy behind me asking for a breath mint, a pick (white people ask somebody) and a clue when he saw you.
You just think you met him on the escalator as I wiped your mind clean of the first meeting with my powers. Hello!! Master Of The Universe here! Your first meeting actually happened when Frank was coming out of the 7th floor bathroom.
Remember the 7th floor bathroom and the assemblage that used it?
Yes, yes you do.
I was covering for him (long story he was drunk) when he lost his mind and saw you.
It’s well known that ever since A&D I’ve been the crazy one of our tight knit group but I will digress for a rare moment and speak from the heart.
I remember ALL my A&D girlfriends. Pretty Jackie Brown (way before the movie) Carol Rivera (oh my god she was fine) Lynn Jacobs (she was in the 9th grade I was in the 11th…yeahhhh jail bait) and for about 3 days Althea Hill (she was a stone cold fox but a bit eccentric. How so? I found out we were no longer an item when she decided to get mad at me for dating Jackie…the year before.)
Jackie broke up with me.
Carole broke up with me.
Althea broke up with me
Tony Tutt pointed out to me that dating a 9th grader was just stupid. I should have noticed that when I’d call Lynn at home and her mother would pick up the extension and tell Lynn it was bedtime. I decided to take Tutt’s advice and break up with Lynn but before I could…
Lynn broke up with me.
BTW, Lynn lead me to believe she was in the 11th grade when I first met her… lying little bitch.
Frank not only did you keep Debbie as your girlfriend from the moment you two were an item in high school but you married her after high school and she is still your wife and the love of your life. Debbie, those ‘break ups’ you were refer too?
Frank, I remember you telling Tony & I (who was my best fucking friend in A&D and beyond until we lost touch) that you guys had broken up. He and I just gave you a “yeah right” look.
The only people who thought you guys ever broke up were you two. Those ‘break ups’ were always about a day. If the break up went a week it was because school was closed for Christmas break. If it went 2 days it was a weekend, etc. You get the drift.
But I digress; Frank you were able to keep Debbie and every single girl I dated in High School woke up one day and said, “Michael Davis?? What the fuck and I thinking?”
I was a bit envious of that. But I also loved you guys like family so I was happy for you. Although I will never ever forgive Frank for bragging about having his girlfriend with him on the senior weekend trip to the dude ranch. All the other guys in our group spent two days trying to get a girlfriend…for the weekend.
Anyway-you guys are the real deal. A real love story. To this day I can’t think of you guys as individuals I have to think of you as Frank and Debbie.
I would not be surprised if you looked up soul mate in the dictionary there would be a picture of Frank & Debbie.
Happy birthday Frank. I love you man and you as well Debbie. Oh and Debbie if (when) you find Frank’s secret Asian porn collection I’m here if you want to talk…
Lastly, to the girls who dumped me in high school.
I’ve done all right for myself, all right as in I have a Ph.D., homes on both coasts, I’ve written books, created TV shows, I lecture all over the world, have a motherfucking school auditorium named after me and none of that is even the most impressive things I’ve accomplished.
How you like me now?
OK, OK, I can’t hide my feelings by bragging about things that in a moment I’d give up for any one of you. Carole, take me back. Jackie I still love you, Althea forgive me.
Lynn…bitch you lied to me you get no love!!!!
But I can be reached at email@example.com if you want to chat.
WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold
THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil
It’s the end of the year, so it’s time for still another mindless list of favorites – maintaining a cloying, egotistical annual tradition throughout the media. Once again, here are my self-imposed rules: I’m only listing series that either were ongoing or ran more than six issues, I’m not listing graphic novels or reprints as both compete under different criteria, I’m not covering Internet-only projects as I’d be yanking the rug out from under my pal Glenn Hauman, and I’m listing only nine because tied for tenth place would be about two dozen other titles and I’ve only got so much bandwidth. Besides, “nine” is snarky and when it comes to reality, I am one snarky sumbytch – but only for a living. On Earth-Prime, I’m really a sweet, kind, understanding guy.
Having said all that, let’s open that hermetically sealed jar on the porch of Funk and Wagnalls and start.
1. Manhattan Projects. If I had to write a Top 9 of the Third Millennium list, I’d be hard pressed not to include this title. It’s compelling, it’s different, it’s unpredictable and it’s brilliantly executed by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra. It turns out the scientists and the military leaders behind the creation and the execution of the Atomic Bomb had a lot more in mind than just nuking Japan… a lot more. And their plans run decades longer than World War II. Based largely upon real-life individuals who are too dead to litigate, each person seems to have his own motivations, his own ideas for execution, and his own long-range plan for how to develop the future. Yet the story never gets bogged down in political posturing or self-amusing cuteness – the latter being a real temptation for many creators. Each issue gives us the impression there’s more than meets the eye; each successive issue proves there most certainly was. If the History Channel spun off a Paranoia Network, Manhattan Projects would be its raison d’être.
2. Hawkeye. If you’ll pardon the pun, Hawkeye has never been more than a second-string character. An interesting guy with an involving backstory and enough sexual relationships to almost fill a Howard Chaykin mini-series, this series tells us what Clint Barton does when he’s not being an Avenger or a S.H.I.E.L.D. camp follower. It turns out Clint leads a normal-looking life that gets interfered with by people who think Avengers should be Avengers 24/7. He’s also got a thing going with the Young Avenger who was briefly Hawkeye. Matt Fraction and David Aja bring forth perhaps the most human interpretation of a Marvel character in a long, long while. Hawkeye might be second-string, but Clint Barton most certainly is not.
3. Captain Marvel. Another second-string character. Despite some absolutely first-rate stories (I’m quite partial to Jim Starlin’s stuff, as well as anything Gene Colan or Gil Kane ever put pencil to paper), the guy/doll never came close to the heritage of its namesake. This may have changed. A true role model for younger female readers and a very military character who uniquely humanizes the armed forces, Carol Danvers finally soars under writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Dexter Soy – both as a superhero and as a human being. DeConnick doesn’t qualify as “new” talent, but this certainly is a breakthrough series that establishes her as a truly major player… as it does Marvel’s Captain Marvel.
4. Creator-Owned Heroes. Anthology comics are a drag upon the direct sales racket. They almost never succeed. I don’t know why; there’s usually as much story in each individual chapter as there is in a standard full-length comic. I admire anybody who choses to give it a whirl (hi, there, honorary mention Mike Richardson and company for Dark Horse Presents!), and I really liked Creator-Owned Comics. Yep, liked. It’s gone with next month’s eighth issue. But this one was a lot more than an anthology comic: it had feature articles, how-to pieces, and swell interviews. The work of Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Steve Niles, Steve Bunche and a cast of dozens (including swell folks like Phil Noto and Darwin Cooke), there wasn’t a clinker in the bunch. I wouldn’t mind seeing follow-ups on any of the series featured in this title, although I must give a particular nod to Jimmy and Justin’s Killswitch, a take on modern contract killers, and on Steve’s work in general. This is no light praise: I’m not a big fan of horror stories because most of them have been done before and redone a thousand times after that. Niles is quite the exception.
5. Batman Beyond Unlimited. Okay, this is a printed collection of three weekly online titles: Batman Beyond, Justice League Beyond, and Superman Beyond. But it comes out every month in a sweet monthly double-length printed comic, so it meets my capricious criteria. Based upon the animated DC Universe (as in, the weekly series Batman Beyond and Justice League, and to a lesser extent others), these stories are solid, fun, and relatively free of the angst that has overwhelmed the so-called real DCU stories. Yeah, kids can enjoy them. So can the rest of the established comics audience. Pull the stick out of your ass; there’s more to superhero comics than OCD heroes and death and predictable resurrection. These folks have just about the best take on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters than anybody since Jack Kirby. That’s because Jack remembered comics are supposed to be entertaining. Honorable mention: Ame-Comi Girls. It’s based on a stupid (but successful) merchandising idea but it’s just as much fun as anything being published today.
6. Batgirl. O.K. The real story here is that DC Comics mindlessly offed writer Gail Simone from this series only to restore her within a week or so after serious (and occasionally, ah, overly dramatic) protest from both the readership and the creative community. But there was good reason: Gail took a character who was in an impossible situation and, against all tradition, put her back in the costume without resorting to ret-con or reboot, which have been the handmaidens of the New 52. She brought Barbara Gordon back to action with all the doubts, insecurities and vulnerabilities one would expect a person in her position to have, and she does so in a compelling way exercising all of her very considerable talent. This title thrives despite being engulfed in two back-to-back mega-non-events that overwhelmed and undermined all of the Batman titles.
7. Orchid. I praised this one last year; it comes to an end with issue 12 next month. That’s because writer/creator/musician/activist Nightwatchman Tom Morello has a day job and the young Wobblie still has a lot of rabble to rouse. Orchid is a true revolutionary comic book wherein a growing gaggle of the downtrodden stand up for themselves against all odds and unite to defeat the omnipresent oppressor. Tom manages to do this without resorting to obvious parallels to real-life oppressors, although the environment he creates will be recognizable to anybody who thinks there just might be something wrong with Fox “News.” But this is a comic book site and not the place for (most of) my social/political rants (cough cough). Orchid succeeds and thrives as a story with identifiable, compelling characters and situations and a story that kicks ass with the energy and verve one would expect from a rock’n’roller like Morello.
8. Revival. A somewhat apocalyptic tale about people who come back from the dead in the fairly isolated city of Wausau Wisconsin (I’ve been there several times; it is a city and it is indeed fairly isolated). But they aren’t zombies. Most are quite affable. It’s the rest of the population that’s got a problem. The latest output from Tim Seeley and my landsman Mike Norton, two enormously gifted talents. Somewhere above I noted how Steve Niles is able to raise well above the predictable crap and that is equally true here: the story and formula is typical, but the execution is compelling. That I’ve been a big fan of Norton’s is no surprise to my friends in Chicago.
9. Nowhere Men. I’ve got to thank my ComicMix brother Marc Alan Fishman for this one. Admittedly, it’s only two issues old and it has its flaws – long prose insertions almost always bring the pace of visual storytelling to a grinding halt – but the concept and execution of this series far exceeds this drawback. Written by Eric Stephenson and drawn by Nate Bellegarde and Jordie Bellaire, the catch phrase here is “Science Is The New Rock ‘N’ Roll.” Four guys start up a science-for-the-people company and that’s cool, but twenty years later some have taken it too seriously, others not seriously enough, and things got a little out of hand. Sadly, I’m not certain who understands that, other than the reader and one of the major characters. Science is the new rock’n’roll, and exploring that as a cultural phenomenon makes for a great story – and a solid companion to Manhattan Projects.
Non-Self-Publisher of the Year: For some reason, I’m surprised to say it’s Image Comics. They’ve been publishing many of the most innovative titles around – four of the above nine – all creator-owned, without going after licensed properties like a crack-whore at a kneepad sale.
No offense meant to either publishers or crack-whores; I said I’m really a sweet, kind, understanding guy.
THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil
It’s Friday night and I’m standing on the crowded floor of a packed concert with friends when suddenly, it hits me: the perfect little plot point to tie together two parts of the first storyline for the new comic I’m working on. Naturally I immediately have to make some notes before I forget the idea. Five minutes later I’m back to the show, but kind of wishing I could be in two places at once so I could enjoy the rest of the show and be working on the new idea at the same time. Too bad reality doesn’t work that way.
Instead, we all have our own little difficulties and stumbling blocks to get over when it comes to creating art – like procrastination, or writer’s block, or fear of failure, or what-have-you – and I’d just been hit by one of mine, which is definitely distraction. Or, to put a more positive spin on it, the way my brain seems to like multitasking all the time. Sometimes it can be a good thing – like when I haven’t worked on a story in a bit and suddenly an idea comes to me out of nowhere. But other times, the distractions come at all the wrong times, like when I’m in the middle of working on the story and something else comes along; or when I have a great idea but no good way to preserve it or to start working on it right away. (Thank goodness for the notepad-type apps on smartphones, at least, which have helped a little with that problem!)
Creating is a funny process. Sure, there are some universal fundamentals to it, but everyone does it differently. Some writers are prolific, while others take years to write one novel. Some comics artists want a detailed script from a writer, while others like a loose framework they can play with. Some people like to get feedback as they go; but others don’t want anyone else’s eyes on their work until they think it’s perfect.
No matter how different each person’s process may be, though, everyone has to face their own hurdles as they create, because, let’s face it – it’s not easy. Sure, sometimes it may feel easy – you’re barreling through a story or a page of art and everything is flowing out like it’s never going to stop; but then it does, or you get stuck on one paragraph or frame of artwork for a ridiculous amount of time; or you look up at your clock at three in the morning and wonder if everything you just made was terrible. Or maybe none of these things happen to you; but I guarantee something in your process feels like a struggle from time to time.
At times like that, I find it helps me to be painfully aware of my shortcomings, so that I can remind myself of ways to overcome them. The reminders may be deceptively simple – e.g. don’t get distracted; that other thing will still be there when you’ve run out of words to write about this idea; you need to stop doing everything else and get back to the story – but just by owning the flaws and actively calling my brain to attention to overcome them, I have a much easier time actually doing so.
I think this same concept can be applied all the way through the process – from the very beginnings of your creation through to the part where you’re hoping to share it with the world (presumably in a profitable way). And since all of us experience the process of creation and sharing that creation in different ways, I thought it would be neat to see what some successful folks in the comics industry might offer as their best advice for successful writing or making art; giving us a window into what these creators find most important to keep in mind throughout the process (or possibly what they’ve learned by overcoming their own challenges), and providing us with some helpful thoughts, reminders, or encouragements as we work on our own art.
Thanks to the handiness of Twitter, through which I solicited advice, these contributions are all coincidentally in the form of handy, bite-sized little mantras that we can memorize, put up on a Post-it somewhere, etc. as needed to help keep us all on track as we make good art amidst the busy whirlwind of life. So without further ado, here they are!
@VictorGischler: Know yourself. Look inward and identify in which direction your enthusiasm lies. Also coffee. Lots of coffee.
@GailSimone: No one looks back and says, “I wish I’d taken fewer chances.”
@Reilly_Brown: Have a clear goal in mind from the start. “Success” is if the audience gets your point.
@MikeSHenderson: Keep challenging your weaknesses, and never stop acting like a professional.
@AletheaKontis: My Best Advice = Shut Up & Write.
@FredVanLente: There can always be one more draft. Have fun. Be a good person before a good artist.
@Janet_K_Lee: Sit your butt in the chair is #1. #2 Be fearless. Always try to learn and try something new.
@PaoloMRivera: I always tell everyone to sculpt. As for writing, just make people care. That may not be advice, but that’s the goal.
@JimMcCann: Allow yourself to fail every once in a while. Then make it better. :)
@kabalounge (Georges Jeanty): Make sure you are telling the story and not just trying to show off your artistic skills.
@MOWheatley (Mark Wheatley): Write. Draw. Do it again. Do it a lot. Keep doing it. Do it some more. Then do it again.
@brubaker (Ed Brubaker): My advice would just be keep doing it. You can’t control success.
@BenMcCool: Work hard, often & with abundant passion. Also, resist urge to drunkenly hassle editors. [ESW note: This is very wise.]
@jpalmiotti (Jimmy Palmiotti): Don’t listen to others’ BS, and stay focused.
@DennisCalero: Write and draw as much as you can and take it seriously.
@SkottieYoung: Do it a lot then do it more after that. Then, you know, keeping doing it.
@jerhaun (Jeremy Haun): Honestly @skottieyoung has it right. It’s all about being the guy that just doesn’t quit.
@GeneHa: @skottieyoung Exactly. Dave Sim said everyone has approximately 10K bad drawings in them. Keep drawing until most are outta your system. Also look for people who draw things differently than you do. Why does it still work, or even work better?
@PatrickZircher: Marry money. [ESW note: Hee!] Also, read any interview in which a mature comic pro talks about the work itself.
@JeffParker: Keep it short, be extremely clear to the extreme. Directness is harder than it looks.
@PaulTobin: Don’t stop. Choose what you love, not what you think will sell.
Also, study what you love. Understand why. Give your voice freedom.
@DavidGallaher: Always keep making stuff.
@PeterDavid_PAD: Buy my book on the subject.
@JoeKellyMOA: Do what you do every day. Intentionally do bad drafts so you get to good ones. Know when to take a nap. Go out for inspiration.
@LForLloyd (David Lloyd): There are really good books recommended by professionals here, but practice makes perfect, too… : )
@JamalIgle: Be yourself. Cliché, I know, but I’ve had more success when I listened to my gut. Your voice is precious; hone it, shape it, no one can take it away from you.
@DeanHaspiel: Live. Love. Make. Don’t hate. Be true. Show up. Commune. Commit. Deliver. Repeat.
@ColleenCoover: Read comics from before you were born. Don’t keep trying to redo stuff if it’s not perfect. Learn from mistakes and move on.
@FrankTieri: Also, get used to hearing “no” a lot. Even after you break in.
Excellent words of advice from great creators, all of whom share their work and wisdom on Twitter (so I’ve provided their usernames in case anyone is wondering where to follow them). I hope you all find them as helpful as I do!
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this column, and until next time, Servo Lectio!
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis
WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold
Due to Comic-Con and, frankly, the economy, “Crazy Sexy Geeks: The Series” has been on hiatus for a short while. But thanks to a few fan donations, the show is coming back with new episodes.
These episodes will cover such topics as “gays in mainstream comics”, more on “women superheroes”, a look at “what you should be reading” featuring author Victoria Laurie and comic writer Jimmy Palmiotti, and chats with celebrities such as Paul Wesley of “The Vampire Diaries” and Emma Caulfield of the recent movie Timer and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Tim Gunn has also promised to come back for further fashion discussions on superheroes, due to the high positive response of his last visit to the show that got rave reviews from many, including NPR. If you didn’t catch that special two-part discussion on the fashion of Superman, Robin, the Hulk, Power Girl, Black Canary, Catwoman and others, then check them out!
For those of you who missed the last couple of episodes of Crazy Sexy Geeks, we’ve got them for you right here.