Tagged: John Ostrander

Mindy Newell’s Shortest Column Ever?

wonder woman rebirth

Some of you who read my Facebook posts might have already seen this, but I think that it’s important enough to repeat the story. It’s from the “See Something, Say Something” school.

Yesterday I was walking down the block to the store and I passed a parked car with two dogs in it and all the windows closed, including the sunroof. It was 95 degrees here in Bayonne, which meant that inside the car it must have been at least 10 degrees hotter. I went into the restaurant on the corner and asked if anyone owned this car. No. So, what to do? I waited about five minutes to see if the owner came back – nope. So I called the police. I’m happy to say they showed up immediately. They went from door-to-door up and down the street, and to the storefronts to see if they could find the owner. I asked them if I should wait by the car, but they said no, they could track down the bitch or bastard who had left the dogs with the license plate if need be, and, if worse came to worse, they would open the car. So I went home, but I am still wondering – no, really hoping – that they gave the unfeeling owner a summons.

I have a bunch of comics sitting on my kitchen table that I just haven’t had time to read. They include the “rebirthed” Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka (writer), Liam Sharp (artist), Laura Martin (colors) and Jodi Wynne (letters); Liam and Laura’s work on the covers alone is just amazingly beautiful. Tomorrow I am bring this comic plus the others (Superman: American Alien by Max Landis and Francis Manapul; Betty & Veronica by Adam Hughes; Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, and VC’s Joe Caramagna; The Amazing Spider-Man by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Guiseppe li, Cam Smith, Marte Gracia, and VC’s Joe Caramagna; and the “rebirthed” Superman by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, John Kalisz, and Rob Leigh) to work to read at break and at lunch…if I get a break and lunch.

I have discovered a new tactic when defending Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, thanks to the New York Times. (Again, some of you may have already seen this on my Facebook page.) It is a video from the Times’ website, and it’s called “Voices From Donald Trump’s Rallies, Uncensored.” And boy, is it! It’s more than uncensored, people, it’s downright sickening. After the various people who are against Hillary watch this, I say, “Do you really want to be associated with people like this?” And then I add, “This time it’s not about politics, it’s about love of our country.” I have gotten various reactions, from nervous laughter to “Oh, shit,” to shrugs.

Seriously, folks…check it out.

Like I said, if you see something, say something.

And before I sign off for the week, I want to give a ginormous hug to my fellow columnist and beloved friend, Mr. John (Johnny-O) Ostrander. Last week John and his bromance-for-ever main man Mike Gold attended the World Premiere of Suicide Squad in the Big Apple, where Mr. Ostrander received accolade and so-long-deserved R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha sang it. I am so happy for you, John! I am kicking up my heels! I am dancing in the streets….

Simply put, this Jewess is plotzing!!!!!!

Love you, John!!!!

 

 

Suicide Squad – The Big Reveal (Not A Review, Seriously!)

Suicide Squad Beacon Premiere

This is not a review of Suicide Squad, the latest movie that pisses off the critics. John deserves first crack at that, and you’ll see it in his regular space here at ComicMix this Sunday. And Arthur does his weekly review thing, and I wouldn’t usurp his turf. And I’ll bet our pal Robert gets a few comments in well before the home video release. Yeah, I’ll offer a few opinions here, but after reading the inner-most thoughts of so many of those professional movie reviewers I feel a strong desire to pull the bedsheet off of the painting.

Here’s the bird’s eye lowdown: the professional movie critics are sick and tired of superhero movies. Be warned – no matter what’s up there on the screen, the critics have wandered out of the theater in search of Elvis. Capes and cowls are crap. Enough is enough. Screw you, Robert Downey Junior.

Suicide Squad is not the Gone With The Wind of superhero flicks, and after Batman v Superman and The Killing Joke, it probably seems better to me than it should. Yeah, there’s too many people in it: without them, you can’t establish a squad. There’s one completely unnecessary supervillain plotline, which seems to be the hallmark of recent DC-based adaptations. Big deal. Suicide Squad belongs to three of the most compelling characters in contemporary comics: Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, and The Joker. And The Joker is only there to establish why Harley is Harley – and Harley is… complicated.

Here’s my big review: if you pull the stick out of your ass before it, and you, plump down into your popcorn-littered seat, you just might have fun.

Suicide Squad the movie is fun. It’s not Deadpool type fun, although the first DC/Marvel movie crossover should be Harley Quinn Meets Deadpool. Yeah, I don’t think that will happen either.

If you’re a movie critic or a professional Internet crank, “fun” doesn’t pay the rent. Critics’ vitriol should be measured the way most guys measure their penis, confusing inches with millimeters. The genre is not done. The genre has been with us since Douglas Fairbanks Senior first donned Zorro’s mask. Costumed heroes are a movie staple. If the earth didn’t open up and swallow those theaters playing Batman v Superman, the genre is safe.

Pick up a newspaper. Read about Donald Trump. The zika virus. ISIS. Killer cops. Hurricanes and tornados. Mongo crashing into Earth. After all that, trust me, Suicide Squad is a fun movie worthy of your time and your need to relax after all that heavy lifting.

Superhero movies have been with us for 100 years and, whereas the current fad will lessen eventually, they will be with us for the next 100 years.

Critics: deal with it.

Love, Mike Gold, professional crank

Mike Gold: Suicide Squad, John Ostrander, and My Damn Good Luck

Johnny O Squad LogoAre you tired of all the comics-related movies this summer? I didn’t think so, but I do understand why some of the movie critics are. These poor bastards see a couple hundred movies each year, they have little choice over which ones they must review and after a couple years, the daily smell of hot popcorn must become cloying.

Still, a couple of these writers have become complete assholes about it. Fine, fine. It is a great tradition among the professional critic set to cast their noses so high in the air you’d think they’d drown in a drizzle.

Having just seen The Killing Joke in a real movie theater – that part was cool – I’m only a couple days away from seeing Suicide Squad­ at the New York City screening. I’ll be joining my friend, frequent-collaborator and fellow ComicMix columnist John Ostrander, creator of Amanda Waller and the concept of The Suicide Squad.

This will be a highly personal experience for me. John and I have been friends for 45 years now, which speaks highly of his astonishing tolerance. Amanda Waller and Company first got on their feet in my apartment in Evanston Illinois before I returned to DC Comics in 1986. John and I were plotting the Legends miniseries and, since Bob Greenberger was my assistant way back then and he and John had been kicking some ideas around we decided Legends would provide a great launchpad for the Squad.

We really weren’t sneaking John in through DC’s back door, although that image pleases me. When Dick Giordano offered me the job of senior editor, he was hoping that I would bring John and some of my other First Comics collaborators to the company, or, in many cases, back to the company. This was no surprise: it was exactly the same deal, with the same hopes, that DC’s then-executive vice president Irwin Donenfeld made with Dick when he was editor-in-chief at Charlton nearly 20 years previous.

John and I met because we were comic book geeks. We both were at a party dominated by people in Chicago’s burgeoning theater scene, which gave us the likes of John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf, David Mamet, Dennis Franz and Joe Mantegna. In fact, John co-wrote the play Bloody Bess that starred Franz and Mantegna. When I arrived, the party’s host recognized me and semi-snarlingly said “Oh, we have a couple of other comic book fans here” and I was escorted to a lonely couch where us fanboys couldn’t infect the others. John was sitting on said couch, and we hit it off immediately.

Friendships come and go; the really good ones can exist forever and endure long periods of limited co-existence. I am lucky to have John in my life as a constant – our friendship never lacked personal contact despite my moving from Chicago to New York, back to Chicago, and then back to New York (well, Connecticut, really). John has also moved around, calling Chicago, Connecticut, New Jersey and now Michigan his home. We share emails almost daily, phone calls frequently, and in-person visits whenever possible (in the comic book racket, that can be with alarming frequency given the now-12 month convention season), often over amazingly great barbecue. John and I have shared our good times and our bad, the worst of which for each of us being the death of our respective wives thirteen years apart.

John Ostrander has always been there for me, and that is why I am looking forward to the Suicide Squad premiere.

Even if the film breaks.

Marc Alan Fishman: Shameless Promotion

Marc Alan Fishman: Shameless Promotion

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For those playing at home, DC Comics is looking for new talent to join their team. Artists had their shot last month, and now writers are able to apply until the end of this month. One of the requirements asks of the would-be employee: “[Provide] a short composition no longer than the space provided, which is equivalent to about a page, double-spaced and in size 12 font, or 2000 characters (with spaces). It should tell us why you want to be a DC comic book writer and how your background will add a unique perspective to our publishing portfolio.” Over the last week or so, I’ve noted a handful of my indie comic compatriots seeking advice on how to complete that request.

My advice? Feh! They wanted a quick and shameful ego boost. I’m not kidding, kiddos… I saw over a half dozen posts all resembling the following:

“DC wants to know why I want to write for them… and why I’d be good at it. Wah! Wah! I’ve never been good at promoting myself. So, please, tell me why you think I would be good at it.”

Underneath their cry for help came the long comment threads that promote stomach churning. Oh you’ve always been amazeballs dude! one cousin would chime in with. I love your stuff. Just tell them about your thousands of fans! a probable co-worker retorts. They should be so lucky to have you sweetie! would prattle from the keyboard of their parents in Arizona. And then, across those threads the original poster – people who I consider at least professional friends – replies to all: Oh, thank you everyone! I’ve always hated this kind of stuff!

Gag me with a spoon.

I read over DC’s submission guidelines like every other would-be hopeful. To be clear: I don’t mock anyone for applying. Lest we forget Mark Bagley broke into comics via a submission contest not much different than this one. But I certainly cry foul – a flagrant foul – against any writer who coyly dismisses their ability to self-assess. Same as I would for any visual artist, musician, filmmaker, photographer, or graphic designer. Because like any job offer we eventually compete for, self-promotion is an absolute requisite skill. And seeking peer review never includes panhandling for praise amongst those who can’t offer constructive feedback.

Shameless self-promotion is one of the first and most potent tools in the bag of a budding writer. In my own life, long before I walked the walk, it took a bit of talking the talk to act as means to an end. Had I not convinced the first publisher to take a chance on Unshaven Comics’ abilities, we may still be sitting around wondering when someone would give us a chance (and in that alternate reality, we don’t come to the realization we should be doing it on our own anyways). We never lied about what we could do. But we certainly took no shame in being able to #humblebrag our way through the first interview.

But more to the point, I reread what DC is asking for. Not unlike those silly first questions on a job interview, the powers that be want to know what their prospects consider to be their best quality. And they only want 2000 characters worth of said self-aggrandizing.

For those who need a reference as to how much actual content that is, re-read this very article to the middle of my paragraph citing Mark Bagley. Yeah. That’s a heap of personal praise, is it not? Thank god for our Facebook fans, lest we ever figure out what makes us tick!

I can’t shake the simple truth of it all. I think on literally any writer worth their salt, and I know there exists a bit of inner id that allows them to be the cock of the walk. I’m not saying writers need to outwardly exist as blurting blowhards. Heck, being in the presence of a living legend here on ComicMix, John Ostrander, belies a man who would be barely audible if he was plugged into a Marshall stack. But you better bet your left nut or ovary that John knows his worth, and as long as I’ve known him I’ve never seen a single appeal for acclaim from his admirers. But I digress.

Admittedly, like my bashful blatherskites, I did take a step back when it came time to fill out that particular question. To distill my personal brand in the eye of a major publisher, is to place my neck as far out as possible… and be willing to defend my position with my professional life.

And after brief consideration, I closed the form and went back to writing The Samurnauts. Ironic as it may be for some to read it, I freely admit I am not ready to write for DC. Or Marvel. Or Boom!, IDW, Avatar, Image, or Dark Horse. Because the truth of the matter is not resting on my talent, no. It’s just that I have far more to capture on the page on my own, then under the thumb of corporate masters.

And I came to that conclusion without having to ask a single person on Facebook.

Mike Gold: Imitation Is The Sincerest Form of Thievery

Brave and Bold 109 S&SThe 1950s were a time of great experimentation for comic book publishers. Retail outlets were disappearing and post-war military scale-backs undermined PX sales. Superman was kept alive by its massive television exposure, but virtually all other superhero comics were either gone or in deep trouble.

Necessity being the mother of invention, comics publishers back then had no choice but to try new ideas and concepts. Western comics were hit-or-miss; those that featured top-line movie stars or characters were doing okay, the others were sort of meh. Romance comics, teevee tie-ins and some funny animal books were selling. The horror and crime comics that had been keeping publishers such as EC, Harvey and Gleason in the money were being condemned by the media, camera-hungry politicians and sanctimonious self-appointed “experts.”

So until DC and Marvel finally succeeded in rejuvenating the superhero genre, experimentation was the watchword of that decade. And that brings me to the subject of Robert Kanigher.

Brtave and Bold 314 S&SThis man was a legend. A writer and editor, Bob was best known for creating or co-creating Sgt. Rock, the Metal Men (over a weekend, no less), the silver age versions of The Flash and Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, Rose and Thorn, Ragman, the Viking Prince, Sea Devils, and Enemy Ace. On the other hand, Kanigher was also… well… according to Wikipedia: “Kanigher was as well known for his unstable personality and violent temper as he was for his brilliance as a writer.”

I can attest to this personally, even though we got along quite well. When he died in 2002, I phoned a major comics writer/artist, a decent, considerate and polite man with a fine sense of humor who was a student of Bob’s at the Joe Kubert School. He immediately let out a joyous rebel yell that could halt a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.

Kanigher also had a fantastic memory.

When DC Comics was searching for new ideas and formats, he came up with quite a few – and most of them were quite good. Some were brilliant. He started up a title called The Brave and the Bold which initially featured legendary white knight types such as The Silent Knight, the Golden Gladiator and the Viking Prince. In issue #25, he dumped the swordplay in favor of a new series, Task Force X – The Suicide Squad.

Ace G-ManThis Suicide Squad ran six issues before being retired to the Old Comic Book Characters’ Home. The name was resurrected by John Ostrander in the mid-1980s in the Legends mini-series, and that’s the concept that was in the Arrow teevee series and will be in the movie theaters in August.

But The Brave and the Bold was not where the Suicide Squad first met the public. In fact, The Brave and the Bold was not where the The Brave and the Bold first met the public.

Shortly after the turn of the last century, Street and Smith started up a weekly prose magazine on pulpwood paper featuring rip-roaring adventures. It was called Brave and Bold, and it ran for 429 issues. Not a bad run at all. Publisher of Nick Carter Weekly, Street and Smith went on to create The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger and many others.

The Suicide Squad is another matter. There was no such magazine under that name before Kanigher’s creation. However, The Suicide Squad was the very popular lead feature in Ace G-Man Stories. The G-Men (government men; the movies’ version of a highly idealized FBI) genre was very popular in our media and as far as the pulp era was concerned, The Suicide Squad was the leader of the pack. Created by Emile C. Tepperman (Operator 5, The Spider, Secret Agent X) the series ran from 1939 to 1943, when the host title was cancelled due to wartime paper shortages. All or almost all of these stories remain in print in anthologies and in electronic books.

Sky Devils PulpSo… did Bob Kanigher “borrow” these names? Let’s be fair: they were not under trademark, and publishers recycled titles all the time. If you don’t believe me, riddle me this: if Fawcett sold its characters to DC Comics, why does Marvel publish Captain Marvel? Hint: it’s not because of the word “marvel.”

One more thing. In 1960 Bob Kanigher and artist Russ Heath created a series for DC called “Sea Devils,” debuting in Showcase #27. Some think that, perhaps, Bob was inspired by the 1953 movie of the same name, starring Yvonne De Carlo and Rock Hudson. Or, perhaps, Bob was inspired by the 1937 movie of the same name, starring Victor McLaglen and Ida Lupino. Or the 1931 movie of the same name, starring Molly O’Day and Edmund Burns.

Or maybe, just maybe, Bob’s encyclopedic memory stored the details of Sky Devils, a pulp series that ran from 1938 to 1940. That one was published by Martin Goodman, the man who, at that very time, was preparing to launch something called “Marvel Comics.”

Of course, that Sun Devils is not to be confused with DC’s Sun Devils, created by Gerry Conway and Dan Jurgens.

What goes around…

Dennis O’Neil: Time Out Time

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Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Please?

The weather oracles out here say that we can expect some sleet mixed with tonight’s rain and if that happens, if we’re blessed with the “wintry mix,” we should cherish it because we may not see it again, not this year. Mighty hot winter. I would like to snort a little fire and and decry global warming, but I’m no meteorologist (and neither is your friendly neighborhood politician) and so I can’t say with any authority that global warming is the sole cause of the soaring temperatures we here in the northeast have been liking/hating. But surely the climate change is in the mix somewhere.

After tonight’s sleet, if it comes to pass, nothing more of its kind is in the forecast.

A month or two ago, we bought me some heated gloves. They’re still in the wrapping.

Meanwhile… what we have here is a bardo week – an interval. All our favorite television superheroes are having winter rests and the new entries are yet to debut. There isn’t much I can add to the dialogue. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with Supergirl; the maid of might seems to have found a comfortable niche between fantasy/melodrama and old fashioned charm and every week she gives us a pleasant hour. The other costumed heroes are holding their own and that’s righteous enough for me.

And on the cinematic front, the big movie, the one we have been anticipating as though it is the Second Coming, set box office records from the get-go and is still setting them. Looks certain to earn more than a billion dollars very early in its run. Yay, I guess. I almost wish I didn’t know that and I could look at the movie, when I get around to it, as just a movie. As disclosed in last week’s column – and admit it, you were thrilled – I saw the first Star Wars before it opened, knowing almost nothing about it, and that’s a good way to experience entertainment. Though its true that for most of mankind’s involvement with storytelling, the listeners knew the ending of the story being told before they heard it, so novelty isn’t a requirement, just something that’s occasionally nice.

Next up, and at last: Superman v Batman. That probably won’t shake the Earth, but who knows?

Later: lots and lots and lots of superhero flicks, including Suicide Squad, based on comics by our own John Ostrander.

And about those comics: Yahoo’s news column recently listed all the comics that would be available in the coming week which, once again, demonstrates that our oft-maligned medium has gained full parity with all the other media. It’s also given me a venue in which to be damn lucky and that’s no bad thing to be grateful for as one year folds into another.

Mindy Newell: May The Force Be With Us

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Hans Solo: C’mon, baby, don’t let me down. • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Five days and counting down.

Unless you live in France, where all new movies must open on Wednesdays. Or unless you live in the United Kingdom, where it premieres on Thursday, December 17. Or unless you live in Bayonne, NJ, where my local theater, Franks Cinema, is starting showings also on Thursday at 7 P.M. Which is weird because I haven’t seen anything, either on television or on the web, about the U.S. release date being moved up by one day.

Not that I’m complaining.

Of course I’m talking about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams’ newest baby, which he “adopted” from George Lucas when Disney bought Lucasfilm. To tell you the truth, I’m very nervous about the film, the saga having been tainted by the prequel trilogyalthough Return of the Sith was somewhat saved by the final light saber duel between Obi-Wan and Annakin. Still, Lawrence Kasdan is part of the writing team, and he is responsible, along with the late Leigh Brackett, for what I consider the best of the Star Wars saga, The Empire Strikes Back.

Aside: Once upon a time I sent Marvel editor Louise Simonson a story treatment for What If? – it was an alternate version of Empire’s ending, in which the twist was that Darth Vader got to Luke, hanging on that weather vane or radar apparatus or whatever it was, before the Millennium Falcon. She called me and told me that she loved it, but since Marvel’s Star Wars was a licensed property, I couldn’t do anything that reworked the canon. That was my first experience dealing with licensed properties. And by the way, I think it is a major sin that ComicMix’s own John Ostrander and his work on Star Wars for Dark Horse, who inherited the license from Marvel, was cut out of the “new, official” history.

Anyway, like many of us I have been bemused by what it seems to me to be an overdosed marketing campaign launched by Disney, although in an online story dated December 8 by Robert Hackett for Fortune magazine, he quotes Disney CEO Bob Eiger calling the publicity machine “extremely deliberate” and “carefully constructed” and specifically saying “We are managing this with great care.” The article goes on to say that Disney has spent only $17 million on public relations, against the usual $50 million that movie studios typically spend on “blockbuster” movies.

Of course that $17 million doesn’t count the seven marketing partners that are flooding the airwaves, including Fiat Chrysler. To be honest, I do find some of these ads very clever and amusing. I just saw an ad for Dodge, which the company titled “The Force Gathers.” With “The Imperial March” ominously playing, a black Dodge Viper – a stand-in for Darth Vader – leads an army of white Dodge Chargers, Challengers, and Durangos, i.e., “Stormtroopers,” down a major metropolitan street, passing scared pedestrians and heading towards two very nervous parking valets standing in front of a theatre playing The Force Awakens. The fun twist is the homage to another major film that changed movies forever, as one valet paraphrases to the other, “We’re gonna need more valets.”

Still, part of me is sad and misses those halcyon days when a sci-fi fantasy space opera made on the cheap exploded onto the world through simple word-of-mouth. Those days, I think, are pretty much gone forever.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens carries a huge monkey on its back.

I really hope it doesn’t let us down.

Thanks and a tip of the Dark Helmut to Nerdist.com for the awesome hunk of art atop this column.

Mike Gold: Re-Union

First Comics Reunion Baltimore 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For that, I thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marc Alan Fishman: Marvel – Make Em’ Laugh. Make Em’ Laugh!

Ant-Man

Howdy ya’ll. I’m back from Nashville. And you know what they say about Music City: What happens in Music City, stays in Music Ci… wait, no, they don’t say that. Feh!

It was a day-job convention. It was exhausting. It was very much not about comics, pop culture, or anything fun. But since ya’ll wanted to know, I saw Barbara Mandrell’s mansion and it was everything I expected it to be. Isn’t this cool, kiddos? I’m not even one paragraph in, and I already need to utter ComicMix’s favorite catchphrase, stolen directly from Peter David… But I digress.

So this past weekend I was able to enjoy Marvel’s latest movie, Ant-Man. And I emphasize how much I enjoyed it. Amidst a well-balanced story that juggled the motifs of loss, fathers and daughters, mentorship, and morality, there was an underlying current of pure joy that rooted the near-two hour run time with positivity. This spat in the face of the pre-movie trailer roll, which included Fantastic Four, as well as both the teaser and full trailer Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: Brow Furrowing: I Hope You Bleed: Don’t You See How Much I Care? It leaves me dumbfounded and baffled to ask this – have Warner Bros and Fox simply not paid any attention to Marvel Studios for the past seven years?

Ant-Man, much akin to nearly every other movie in the Marvel Movieverse, ensured that laughter permeated the periphery of nearly every scene. When wonderful things happened, a quip wasn’t far behind. When things got awkward, Paul Rudd’s Paul-Ruddyness broke the tension. And when the world needed to be saved, grimaces were grimaced, long enough to solve the problem. And then, on with the yuck-yucks. This is as it was in Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers (1 more than 2). By the time Thomas the Tank Engine was ramrodding YellowJacket in the mush, I’d realized I’d not frowned once. My usual resting bitch face ached from the corners of an upturned mouth – a feat only last realized when Captain America: Winter Soldier was on free cable while I was in Nashville.

It begs me to ask: who here caught themselves smiling during Man of Steel? Who caught those sneak peaks of Batman v. Superman or Suicide Squad, and rocked back and forth in their chair with glee (save perhaps for our own John Ostrander, who is given a pass while The Wall is given quality screen time and played by a wonderful actress)? The only time we may have had the slightest guffaw might have been when Lex “Not the Facebook Guy” Luthor cackled that “the red capes are coming.” Suicide Squad‘s trailer did elicit a chuckle from me – but only when I was snarkily grimmacing at Will Smith’s Men In Wild Wild West Robot Independence Day impression of himself. And the less I say about the dark nightmare that Fantastic Four is to be the better.

In all of these cases I simply can’t understand the logic, or the lack there of. Marvel has been killing the box office with each outing. Paired with a ton of licensing deals for merch, streaming contracts, and cable air-play, it’s literally the cash cow they can’t stop milking. Every new movie could spin-off a trilogy. And with Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter making dub-smash videos showcasing that even on TV Marvel can’t stop having fun… it’s starting to become ludicrous to me that the others in the same space seem to think that the polar opposite must be the key to hidden treasure.

Forgive me if I get a bit philosophical before I wrap this up. More often than not, we turned to the funny books with the capes and cowls because they were fun. And while the industry at large grew darker over time – at the core, the fun remained.

And now, even amidst massive hits like the Walking Dead or Crossed (which is about as bleak as they can get), you can’t shake a stick without hitting brilliant explorations of innocence and joy. Beneath any layers of dread, angst, or fear, our pulp roots cling hard to the light in the world. Superman is, was, and will always be a symbol of hope. To yoke that with the sadness and pain of reality – and then double down with a dour and fighty Batman – is to celebrate those things that simply get in the way of how we want to feel when our heroes are given the opportunity to become that much more real.

If DC (and Fox) can’t see the forest for the trees… all they have to do is lighten up. Forgive me: Someone get those Pepsi-drinkers a god-damned Coke, and let them really taste the difference. There’s a reason why 7-Up ain’t even in third place, kiddos.