Tagged: Kyle Baker

MARTHA THOMASES: George Lucas, Black History, and African-American Comics

In the hopes of beating the Black History Month rush, I went to see Red Tails last weekend. George Lucas had been making the interview rounds and he discussed how difficult it was for him to get this film made. He ended up paying for it himself, but then couldn’t find a studio to distribute or market it. Apparently, they felt there was no profitable market for a film with no white actors in the leads.

That is so offensive that I had to prove them wrong. However, I missed opening weekend, and therefore probably contributed to the studio’s bigotry. And, if the truth be known, I don’t particularly like going to movies that draw crowds because I find most audiences unspeakably rude. However, in this case, I would suck it up. And also, I went at one o’clock in the afternoon on a Sunday.

There weren’t a lot of people there, with maybe half the seats filled. The audience seemed to be mostly white and mostly male. The trailer that got the best response was for the Farrelly Brothers Three Stooges. Yes, that surprised me, too.

Lucas said he wanted Red Tails to feel like a movie made in 1944 that was just released this year. That’s a good description. To me, it felt like a Blackhawk comic or a Sgt. Rock comic brought to life. It was Shrapnel as a movie. Awesome fight scenes, clear enemies (Nazis! Racists!), noble sacrifice and really entertaining characters. Screenwriters John Ridley and Aaron McGruder wrote an effective and economical (in terms of words, not budget) script. Yes, that’s Aaron McGruder of Boondocks fame.

On what planet would this movie be ghettoized? Oh, right. This one.

Which brings me to the comics portion of this column. I was lucky enough to get a review copy of African-American Classics from Eureka Productions. This anthology, edited by Tom Pomplum and Lance Tooks, takes the works of amazing writers like Langston Hughes, W. E. B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston and others and turns them into graphic story with artists that include Kyle Baker, Trevor von Eeden, Lance Tooks and more.

Like most anthologies, this one has stories I like and stories I don’t. In general, the ones I don’t like don’t have much story. They are instead mood pieces. My bias is against the genre, not the specifics here. In fact, if I’m going to read an illustrated mood piece, I’d prefer to read one with the unusual (to me) use of language here, and the vivid artwork.

I suspect this book will stay in print forever, a way to entice reluctant readers to seek out other works by these authors. It’s a great book to have on your shelves all year round, not just February.

SATURDAY: Big Daddy Marc Alan Fishman

MARTHA THOMASES: Copyrights … and Copywrongs

MARTHA THOMASES: Copyrights … and Copywrongs

Last week, ComicMix, along with most of the Internet, protested against SOPA and PIPA, two bills that would have seriously compromised our ability to use the web to share information … and gossip … and pictures of cats.

The protests were so widespread that Congress backed down and sent the bills back to committee. It was a victory for those of us who spend all day enthralled by our computer screens, and, more important, it was a victory for the free exchange of ideas.

Still, I can understand the motivation behind the bill, despite how crudely and ham-handedly it was written. The purpose was to protect intellectual property. As a writer, I enjoy getting paid for my work. It would make me grumpy if someone else made money from my efforts and didn’t include me in the payday.

If anything, this hubbub shines a light on our wonky and unfair copyright laws. The purpose of copyright is not only to protect the rights of creators, but also to encourage creativity in a capitalist system. If my writing can make me money, I’ll be encouraged to write more. The same is true for songwriters, artists, choreographers, filmmakers, and comic book crews.

Unfortunately, our particular version of the capitalist system doesn’t work that way.

Songwriters, for example, collect royalties from those who record (and then sell) their songs. In many, many cases, they are not able to get their work published without giving away a large percentage (usually as a co-writing credit) to the publisher. As a result, a lot of musicians don’t care if their work gets downloaded illegally, because it increases their audience and they can make more money – which they don’t have to share – on tour.

On a larger scale, this is true in movies and television. We’ve all heard the stories about actors, directors or screenwriters who supposedly have profit participation in their films, but the studios claim there are no profits.

In comics, at least in so-called mainstream comics, the price for a chance to work for a company that would distribute your creation was your copyright. The most famous example is Siegel and Shuster’s Superman. Things have improved, and if you work for Marvel or DC as a creator, you can now get health insurance and a contract (so you can get a mortgage), but you will still most likely have to agree to work for hire.

The major media corporations try to defend their anti-piracy efforts by saying they are protecting creative people. If only. As Kyle Baker  recently explained, the entertainment conglomerates treat creative people as interchangeable widgets. If one artist wants a living wage, ship the job overseas.

The Internet should make it easier for artists to communicate directly with their audiences, without paying the toll of working for a Disney or a Murdoch. It should level the playing field for all entrants.

It should also reduce the price of an admission ticket. Just ask Louis CK.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

MARTHA THOMASES: More For The Gift-Giving Challenged

I don’t know about you guys, but I could use a laugh. One would think comics would be a great place to look for laughs, since, you know, they’re called “comics.”

And yet…

But I don’t want to bitch and moan about stuff that’s not funny. I’d rather celebrate what is. Different people find different things amusing, but I suspect that at least one thing on this list will do it for you.

Here, for your entertainment pleasure and in no particular order, are some really funny books, done in the graphic novel format.

Kyle Baker is one of my favorite humans. There isn’t a book he’s done that doesn’t thrill me. The Cowboy Wally Show made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe. And if you want to know how he does it, you could do worse than track down How to Draw Stupid and Other Essentials of Cartooning, which is more hilarious than any educational book needs to be.

Another funny guy who works in the comic book business is Evan Dorkin. And luckily, Dark Horse has published a collection of his flagship series, Milk and Cheese.

Howard Chaykin is a known more for his elegant drawing style, his brilliant use of page design, and his sharp insight into the dark side of human society. I, however, love his sense of humor, which I first discovered in American Flagg. I mean, the man made up a character named Pete Zarustica. I’m in love.

Another comics genius known primarily for brilliant use of the medium and his expansive and cosmic intelligence is Alan Moore. He’s funny, too! One of his first series, D. R. and Quinch, is available in a collected edition. It’s like, totally amazing.

Am I stuck on English language humor? Maybe. It is the language I speak and the language in which I form thoughts. That said, I am no cultural imperialist. For example, the Japanese series, What’s Michael, is my idea of brilliant. There are more than a dozen collections, but this Dark Horse edition is a good place to start. Warning: It probably helps to live with a cat.

Believe it or not, there was a time when there was no Internet and people got their news from newspapers, and, when they wanted other points of view, from alternative weekly newspapers. These papers were great places to find brilliant comics, starting with Jules Feiffer in the Village Voice (also syndicated to “normal” newspapers). After a few decades, there were syndicates for these cartoonists, and, today, it’s possible to buy collections of two of my favorites. You don’t have to be queer to laugh at Dykes to Watch Out For, but you do have to be able to recognize that “political correctness” started out as a left-wing joke. If you followed my advice and bought The Complete Wendel you’re familiar with this meme. Ripped from the same pages, and long before The Simpsons, Matt Groening was giving us a guided tour of hell. The nuclear family and all its intermeshed relationships were never so radioactive.

The comics page in daily newspapers is still alive, if not always well. If you miss your laugh a day, you can catch up with excellent compilations. I’m always happy to read Get Fuzzy and would enjoy a whole bunch of them together. And one of the great, and most hilarious, strips of all time is now in one big book. It’s enough to make a person love alligators.

Some jokes are universal, and then there are inside jokes. They not only make us laugh but they also make us feel understood. For us comic fans, I recommend Fred Hembeck who was a regular feature in The Comics Buyers Guide. His work is really dense, and really funny. I also adore Keith Giffen, for his Justice League, his Legion of Substitute Heroes, especially when he’s working on Ambush Bug with Robert Loren Fleming.

I’m sure I’ve left out some brilliant work, but you could do worse than start here when the holiday cheer gets you down.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

MARTHA THOMASES: Ennis, O’Neil, and Family

Twice in two days this weekend, I ran into Garth Ennis on the street. Other than industry events, I haven’t seen him in nearly a decade (and then, on the street). Apparently, he lives about half a mile away from me, and has for eight years.

Usually, if I see someone I know in a place where I don’t expect to see him, I don’t recognize him. When it’s family, it’s different.

I’m not claiming to have a particularly close relationship with Mr. Ennis. As the publicist at DC in the 1990s, I monitored to the line for his signings at a few conventions and hung out at bars in the evenings with other comics folks.

I have cousins with whom I’ve spent less time.

There aren’t a lot of businesses with the same kind of family feelings as comics. I think it’s because, until recently, we got no respect. Biff, bam, pow, comics were for kids, and any adult who liked them – or worse, made a living working on them – must be developmentally stunted or a pedophile.

The first person I met in comics was Denny O’Neil. I was completely gobsmacked because he was, at the time, my favorite writer (since then, I have added favorites, depending on my mood. Still, day in and day out, he’s frequently the best). It turned out he lived down the street, and I managed to insinuate myself into his life by watering his plants when he was out of town, and borrowing his Ed McBain books. Besides comics, we shared an interest in anti-war politics, the great 1960s culture wars, and schlocky science fiction movies.

Through Denny, I met the crowd that was then at Marvel: Larry Hama, Archie Goodwin, Mike Carlin, Christopher Priest and the gang. I met a great group of freelancers, too: Frank Miller, Walter Simonson, Howard Chaykin, Kyle Baker, Bobby London, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mary Wilshire, Tony Salmons. I met Mike Gold through Denny, even though we know so many of the same people that I can’t believe we hadn’t met before.

And so on, and so on.

When I got the job at DC (thanks to Denny’s referral), I met a whole bunch more. And even though I’d been shy as a teenager, I found I was able to talk easily to people I’d just met. Maybe because we had business to talk about, or Superman, or Jim Shooter, but conversation was easy, and I felt comfortable around these people.

Just like family.

Comics used to be much more of a New York business. Then Fed-Ex, fax machines and the Internet made it possible for people to live in other states, even other countries. And that’s cool. I have family in Australia, and we’re still tight.

Since Denny retired, I don’t get to run into him every day. He moved out of town and I’m using the phone much less. Even so, I know that, the next time I see him, which will probably be at our Chanukah party, we’ll have a bunch to talk about, and we’ll laugh at our respective wrinkles and gray hairs. We’ll talk about the kids, and their crazy music and hairstyles.

Maybe, if I invite him, Garth will come, too.

Martha Thomases suspects that her teen-age self would not believe how little she uses the telephone anymore.

SATURDAY: John Ostrander

The Point Radio Kyle Baker Kills DEXTER

The Point Radio Kyle Baker Kills DEXTER

Showtime is preparing a new DEXTER animated series for the web with some familiar names attached including Kyle Baker, we’ve got the details plus when BRIAN COX was offered a role in TRICK ‘R TREAT, took it blind – literally!

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ComicMix QuickPicks – January 6, 2009

ComicMix QuickPicks – January 6, 2009

Today’s installment of comic-related news items that wouldn’t generate a post of their own, but may be of interest…

* Producers Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy and Pixar’s John Lasseter are working to guarantee a huge success for this summer’s release of Hayao Miyazaki’s new animated movie, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, according to Variety.  Their aim is to increase the number of movie screens where Ponyo will open here, and thus the box office receipts, from Studio Ghibli’s previous US record for Spirited Away, which earned $10.1 million on 714 screens according to Box Office Mojo.  The English voiceover cast for Ponyo will feature Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Betty White, Lily Tomlin and Cloris Leachman.  Ponyo was Japan’s biggest movie of 2008, grossing $165 million.

* Kyle Baker reviews The Spirit.

* Dan Goldman is telling the story of the 2008 election, and has a twenty page preview available as a PDF. I won’t spoil the ending for you.

* Happy Public Domain Day for the rest of the world. We won’t have any new entries here for a few years.

* I nominate this as the top anime fansub of 2008. Do I have a second to the motion?

Anything else? Consider this an open thread.

Review: ‘Scrambled Ink’

Review: ‘Scrambled Ink’

Scrambled Ink
Edited by Anonymous
Dark Horse, July 2008, $19.99

[[[Scrambled Ink]]] is the latest in the recent flurry of comics anthologies by animators, following the high-profile and very successful Flight series (which recently hit its fifth volume) and the slightly newer but still popular [[[Out of Picture]]] (which had a second volume earlier this year). It was published quietly a few months back, and doesn’t seem to have made much of a stir.

And that’s a real shame, since Scrambled Ink is more inventive and ambitious than the most recent [[[Flight]]] and Out of Picture books put together. (And that despite Scrambled Ink being a physically smaller book with only six stories in it.) I’m not sure why that would be – Scrambled Ink comes from animators who worked on [[[Bee Movie]]], not what one thinks of as an excitingly transgressive piece of cinema – but these DreamWorks animators are definitely doing something different from their Blue Sky compatriots from Out of Picture.

Two of the tales in Scrambled Ink – “[[[Kadogo: The Next Big Thing]]]” by David G. Derrick, Jr. and Ken Morrissey & Keith Baxter’s “[[[Greedy Grizzly]]]” – would have been right at home in one of the other anthologies: they’re morality tales, with animal casts, that could easily have been afterschool specials or “heartwarming” animated shorts. Both also have excellent art – Derrick with an earth-toned watercolor palette very appropriate to his African story and Baxter with an appealingly loose version of a cute-animal children’s’ book style. These stories could have fit in perfectly well in [[[Flight 12]]] or Out of Picture 9, but here in Scrambled Ink, they’re notable for seeming a little less refined and a little more obvious than the other four stories.


Girls Talk: Wall-E, by Lillian Baker and Martha Thomases

Girls Talk: Wall-E, by Lillian Baker and Martha Thomases

Even though the newest Pixar feature has been in wide release since the spring, we just got around to seeing it together. Here’s what we thought. The film is about a deserted Earth, abandoned by humans when it got too polluted. Robots were left to clean it up, and only one is still working, the title character, Wall-E.

MT: My husband says that one way to tell an animated movie is good is to see how much it relies upon dialogue for exposition. A really good cartoon doesn’t need words to tell a story. Wall-E, for the first chunk, used hardly any dialogue, just some television news to explain the set-up.

LB: Wall-E has a cockroach friend in this movie. Lots of movies seem to have cockroaches these days, like the movie we reviewed last, Enchanted.

MT: Do you think that’s realistic?

LB: Yeah, I think it could happen. Not the robots trying to take over the spaceship or anything. I don’t think robots can malfunction that badly.

MT: Wall-E is the only robot still working on Earth, and he gets swept away to a spaceship that has people on it when he falls for a robot, Eva, sent to see if there is any plant life on Earth.


ComicMix Radio: Kicking Off An Award-Winning Summer

ComicMix Radio: Kicking Off An Award-Winning Summer

School is out, the weather is warm and the Harvey Award nominations brought us great news! Congratulations to Robert Tinnell and Marc Wheatley of EZ Street for their well-deserved recognition. Now sit back and meet the lady who is putting "boobage" into comics this summer, plus

— Kyle Baker tells us what is it like to host The Harveys

Three Delivery Comes to Nicktoons

— And yes, Garfield is back

We admit it , two out of three aren’t bad – just press the button!



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