Tagged: Larry Hama

Mike Gold: Iron Fist – Your Mileage May Vary!

I must admit, I agree with Roy Thomas and Larry Hama.

Unfortunately, this puts me in opposition to at least three of my ComicMix fellow travelers – Martha Thomases, Joe Corallo and Adriane Nash. And, probably, many others who occupy these premises. That should make our next staff meeting amusing.

Iron Fist – I’m talking about the Marvel/Netflix series – most certainly is not The Prisoner of 21st Century. It’s not even as good as Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. But from reading the reactions of the aforementioned critics and many others, I do not find it to be the You’re In The Picture of the 21st Century, a show so obscure and godawfullousy that only Bob Ingersoll remembers it.

To be fair, I’ve only seen the first four episodes. Then again, Martha’s only seen the first four as well. But those critics who have been vocal in their distaste for the show seem to take umbrage at a number of the show’s elements:

  • It moves too slowly.

Yeah, well, there’s some truth to that but, damn, BFD. Epileptics deserve the opportunity to watch heroic fantasy without going into a seizure.

  • The lead, Finn Jones, sucks.

Maybe, maybe not. Stephen Amell was pretty lame when Arrow got its start, and he got a lot better. While Jones hasn’t quite reached the level of, say, Peter Capaldi, I’m willing to give him some time. How old is he, anyway? About 11, I think.

  • The plot is a rip-off of Arrow, isn’t it?

This particularly bothered my pal Joe. I respond: “Nope, it’s the other way around. In Arrow, Oliver Queen got himself lost in a purportedly fatal accident and came back five years later as a world-travelling, murderous superpowered member of the Russian mob who was cut off from the family fortune. Danny Rand got himself lost in a purportedly fatal accident and he came back some 13 years later a fully-powered superhero who was cut off from the family fortune. The difference is, the storyline in Arrow was mostly original to the teevee show – yes, Oliver did disappear for a while only to come back as a costumed non-superpowered, non-murdering hero­. But Danny Rand did it first: when Roy Thomas and Gil Kane created the character, at that time Oliver Queen was nothing more than an occasional back-up feature in Action Comics. So there.

  • Shouldn’t Iron Fist be Asian-American? After all, it’s 2017, damnit.

Yeah, well, here I agree with Roy. You want an Asian-American character, go create an Asian-American character. In fact, you should. Somebody should. And, get this, Joe – ComicMix’s diversity columnist – made this same point a year ago. Iron Fist was created in (arguably) less-enlightened times. You can’t change the past but – and here’s where I differ greatly from some of my revisionist brethren – you can learn from it. They call this a teaching opportunity.

There are many positive elements in the Iron Fist teevee series. First and foremost: there’s the character of Colleen Wing, as performed by Jessica Henwick. She is not a side-kick. She is her own person, a fully capable young woman struggling to make it in the Big City. Yes, I’d love to see her spin-off into her own series, but let’s face it: a Daughters of the Dragon series with Colleen Wing and Misty Knight (Simone Missick) would kick-ass. Quite literally. Besides, Tony Isabella could use the check.

The bad-guy, Harold Meachum, is wonderful. Sure, we figured out he’s a finger in The Hand roughly well before the first commercial, but his motivations and his truly bizarre technique in handling Rand are fascinating. Better still, actor David Wenham is wonderful in the part.

The Netflix crew, under the direction of Marvel’s own Jeff Loeb, understands the need for and the approach to Mighty Marvel Continuity. We’ve got Madame Gao as the big baddie. We last saw her in Daredevil. Jeri Hogarth appears in three episodes; she was the lawyer who didn’t get along with Jessica Jones in the series of the same name.

Rosario Dawson is in this show. Of course, Rosario has been in just about every superhero show or movie since Kirk Alyn hit puberty, and the world is a much better place for that. Her Claire Temple is the glue of Marvel’s Netflix miniverse and I enjoy seeing her move about the continuity.

I appreciate that Rotten Tomatoes has an 81% audience score but only an 18% critics score. This has nothing to do with your opinion. I mention this only to point out that the critics are sick and tired of being forced to watch all these superhero programs and movies, but they do not pay for the privilege. The audience does. It is their money that shows up on the balance sheets, and thus far, the audience seems to enjoy the genre greatly.

I have done little but give Iron Fist faint praise – Larry Hama, who knows something about martial arts heroes, liked it more than I did. Maybe my opinion will change when I finish watching the first series. Yes, there will be a second – it’s already been picked up.

But, as Dennis Miller used to say (and might still, but hardly anybody cares), “your mileage may vary,” and that’s totally cool.

Martha Thomases: The Importance of Fleeting Contact

steve-dillon

The casual serendipity of random intimacy is one of the wonders of adulthood. I don’t mean the kind of groping that hides in crowds so that its perpetrators can perform a criminal act. I mean the temporary companionship we discover with people we don’t know when circumstances cause us to spend a few hours together.

When I first moved to New York I’d talk to strangers on the bus, surprised at how easy and pleasant it was. I made friends for life (whom I haven’t seen in 30 years) when my son was born prematurely, and I spent a few weeks in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit with parents of other premies. At the playground, I enjoyed getting tips from other parents and caregivers.

So it is with comic book conventions.

It tends to be my role at these events to staff the booth and make sure the talent is comfortable and free to interact with the fans who have paid to be there. I fetch water and snacks, if possible. I stand a lot because fans are more comfortable when they can talk with me eye-to-eye. I keep a smile on my face even though I’ve been asked the same question a couple hundred times, because it’s the first time for the person who is asking.

Just as at the playground, the conversation is both deep and fleeting, subject to easy distractions and the call of duty. We’ll talk about good places to eat, the future of the industry, and which bathrooms have the shortest lines. We’ll get judge-y about cosplayers. We’ll gossip. We’ll speculate with no basis in fact.

For the six to eight hours each day, my booth mates are my best friends ever. It doesn’t matter where they come from, what kind of work they do, or what political views they hold. We have a lived through the fires of hell together, and we all deserve to go the a bar for a drink.

This is why I am so sad about the loss of Steve Dillon. I don’t claim that I knew him well. I never met his family, or even saw a picture of his home. I only spoke with him a few times away from a convention, and one of those times, I interrupted him with a phone call at a pub when there was an important football game happening.

There were hours and hours when I stood behind him at the DC booth as he signed one autograph after another. Sometimes, he’d doodle a little profile of Jesse Custer of Preacher, the book most fans wanted him to sign. I must have watched him draw that image hundreds of times. He could do it with just a few lines, and each sketch had the emotional intensity he brought to so much of his work.

My first comics editor, Larry Hama, would tell me that one of the advantages of working in the graphic story medium was that we had an unlimited special effects budget. It cost just as much to create a page with an intergalactic battle as a page of two people talking in a coffee shop. His point was that I should consider taking advantage of this freedom to write stories that would be incredibly expensive to film. He wasn’t saying that scenes with people talking were bad, but rather that I should have really good reasons for writing them that way.

Steve Dillon could make scenes of people talking in a diner the most intense, emotionally involving possible story-telling choice. When I read his work, I projected deep and volatile emotions into the faces of the characters. Maybe it was his pacing. Maybe it was the way he laid out the panels. Maybe I just had an affinity for his work.

I hadn’t seen Steve in more than 15 years when I heard that he died. My first thought was to wonder what Garth Ennis would do, which is more than a little bit ridiculous. Both of them had other collaborators, and both of them did magnificent work on those projects.

To me, though, they will always be sitting side by side, signing work, making snarky remarks, and otherwise making their fans feel special.

Martha Thomases: Free Comics, Convergence And More!

This is going to be a slap-dash column, full of random thoughts (and, I hope, insights) because I’m having a slap-dash episode. The plumber is supposed to be here fixing my kitchen sink at some time in a four-hour period. I don’t know when he will arrive, but I’m pretty sure it will be when I’m in the middle of something really complicated.

The super in my building is supposed to come by to hang a picture for me that is too heavy for me to hang by myself. Again, that time thing makes it difficult to plan properly, or to think and act in an orderly manner.

My son and his girlfriend are coming to visit (hence the increased urgency for a working kitchen sink) and I have to make up the guest room, make sure there are snacks in the fridge, and explain to Salina the cat that she can’t sleep there at night.

So yes, I’m not thinking a lot about comic books, nor their spin-offs into other media. Except that super-speed and super-strength would be especially useful right now. Together, they would put my plumber and super out of business. Working people will have enough problems from Congress over the next two years without me wishing for extra abilities that make their lives more difficult.

Anyway, here are my random thoughts.

  • Convergence, the DC event that lets the corporate staff move to Burbank and get settled, sounds great to geek me. No, it won’t draw in new readers. No, I won’t like everything. But I’m psyched for Tom Peyer on The Atom, Larry Hama on Wonder Woman, Gail Simone on Nightwing/Oracle, Alisa Kwitney on Batgirl and Greg Rucka on Question.
  • That said, it seems that event-driven comics are not the guaranteed sales they once were and this is only good for comics. I mean, I’m fine with Spider-Man showing up in the third issue of every new Marvel series (god, I’m old), or a new DC character finding herself in Gotham, because that’s a way to introduce new readers to the book. Universe-spanning crossovers are the antithesis of this. Instead of using something familiar to make a new reader comfortable with taking a chance on a new title, crossovers tend to be so complicated (especially if one reads only a few titles consistently, not all of them) that it’s easier to skip the whole thing.
  • You know what would bring in new readers? Free comics. And, yes, Free Comic Book Day is a wonderful thing. So wonderful that I think we can take its success and use it to try to reach more targeted audiences. For example, if I, as a single woman living in Manhattan, could get a Groupon for a free first issue (or trade paperback) of Saga, redeemable at my local comic book shop, I might try it.

Yeah, it’s not cheap. Image would have to support the plan with co-op dollars. Still, I think it would draw in a bunch of people that comic book marketing doesn’t normally reach.

  • I’m liking Matt Ryan as the title character on Constantine. He seems to enjoy the hell out of all the snark he’s supposed to convey. The scripts aren’t terrible – a bit heavy on the exposition, but that’s what happens when there is a new universe to introduce to viewers. I like the way they use comic book art as Easter eggs.

However…

His tie is always askew in exactly the same way. I just know there is someone on set whose job it is to wrangle the tie. It doesn’t look casual. It doesn’t look reckless. It doesn’t look like John Constantine, man of mystery, is caught in a world beyond his control.

It looks affected. More than anything, it reminds me of Miami Vice.

It’s a tie, John Constantine. If you don’t want to wear it, don’t wear it. If you put it on in a half-assed way, day after day, every day, I will think (and I’ll try to use words you’ll understand) you are a wanker.

  • Like a good geek, I get my comic books on Wednesday, usually in the morning because that’s how it fits into my round of errands. Often, I don’t actually sit down to read them until the weekend.

For the last few weeks, I have left-overs on Tuesday.

Are comics worse? Am I outgrowing them, finally, fifty years after all my childhood friends? Is it just a fluke of chance, that storylines aren’t appealing to me?

I take my own advice and try to pick up something new, from an independent publisher, on a regular basis. Lots of these comics (see Saga, above) become part of my regular list. So I don’t think it’s happening because I’m a slave to super-heroes. I still like them.

Any suggestions?

  • There is a new Stephen King book out this week. It’s titled Revival and I know almost nothing about it. I love Stephen King books. Reading one feels like getting into a warm bath, because I know that he can tell a story, and create characters I’ll care about. He cares about them, too.

And I’m probably not going to have the time to read it until the kids go home. And I like having them here and don’t look forward to their leaving.

Maybe I can stay up all night reading. When I finish reading my comics.

 

Larry Hama Makes It Up

Larry HamaThe new documentary short, Making It Up As I Go Along, profiles Larry Hama.  You may know him best as the writer of Marvel’s GI Joe comics and the character profiles on the back of the GI Joe toy packaging, but he’s ever so much more.  Novelist, screenwriter, artist, editor, rock star, movie actor. Broadway actor —  if you’ve taken a breath over the last 50 years, Larry Hama has influenced your life.

Check it out.  It’s free, and you’ll learn something.

Travis Miller: Costuming Our Suspension of Belief

If there is one thing that sets the superhero genre apart from its cousins – science fiction, detective/mystery, fantasy and mythology – it is the garish costumes our heroes and villains wear. The practice dates back to the inception of superheroes, even in western comics like The Lone Ranger, to bring in young readers with heroes (typically in primary colors) and the bad guys who started off as mobsters then became such foes and fiends as the Joker and Doc Ock in secondary and tertiary colors… grab a color wheel guys I’m getting deep here… to help the young heads full of mush differentiate and keep their attention throughout the book…

Now, Let’s fast forward to today, and leave the past, which is always prologue behind.

Why are some of our beloved “superheroes” still wearing primary colored laden tights when it goes against the very fiber of the well established character that we have come to know over the past 50 years? Superman, I get that. Captain America? Yeah. Not a costume but a way of wearing Old Glory mixed with some armor. The Punisher wearing a big white skull on his chest, perfectly reasonable way to draw enemy fire towards the body armor he’s wearing. I can buy that. The Batman, as it has been explained over and over and over again is also wearing body armor mixed with a “flair for the dramatic” to “instill fear” into a “superstitious and cowardly lot.” It’s a stretch, but I’m still on board. The many Green Lanterns are wearing the Crops uniform.

Where my suspension of belief stops is Wolverine. Logan. James Howlett.

I can believe in all the fake science. As Denny O’Neil famously said, it’s fake, but it’s ours. I can believe Logan’s two hundred years old. I can go along with almost every nuance and minutia over the character. Until we get to that costume. It does not compute.

I understand that Wolverine was created, in the comics, to lead Canada’s superhero team. Fine. However, that was many years ago, both in real life and in comics continuity. So, are we going to continue with the idea that a guy that has killed more people that can be counted, used to smoke cigars (until someone took charge at The House of Ideas put a moratorium on smoking) and drinks like a fish, has been trained as a samurai, has fought in every major war since (well it varies, but we will go with) the American Civil War is going to put on skin tight yellow and blue spandex suit because Professor X told him to?

Really?

Can we look at the character again? This dude would look Professor X or General Patton himself in the face and laugh, light a cigar and go on his merry day to the nearest non-smoking bar. And, maybe stab a ninja or two on the way just for kicks.

Grant Morrison changed this dramatically, and generally fanboys (I’m a fanboy, too) booed and hissed and bemoaned the change. Larry Hama and Adam Kubert did a great run with Wolvie outside of the costume after the Fatal Attractions storyline. The point being, there are plenty of heroes that don’t wear costumes, that stick to their character and it works for them. Shouldn’t we look at our heroes and villains and see which ones work in “costumes” and more specifically which ones don’t? Don’t we owe it to a guy that we love like Wolverine to let him stop dressing like a clown and let him just be who he is?

That hair is bad enough, right?

Mike Gold and His Invisible Donuts

(For reasons that will become obvious, this, my first column in about a month, is to be run both on www.MichaelDavisWorld.com and on www.ComicMix.com. Go nuts; read it twice and offer contradictory comments!)

I have a friend named Larry Schlam, a noted child’s rights advocate and a former Bronx street-corner singer. Back around 1973 he and I were cutting through the Montgomery Ward store in downtown Chicago and I wanted to stop at their donut shop, which was excellent. Larry, who is prone to eating frog’s legs and sushi (not necessarily together), explained the concept of “empty calories.” This past month, I learned the concept of invisible donuts.

This winter, the convention has been to slip on the massive ice floe that has engulfed most of this nation east of the Rocky Mountains. That’s not for me. I don’t roll that way. A month ago I took a fall about thirty feet below the ice, at the Times Square subway station. Had this not been an accident, I would have had the foresight to bring along a coffee can to collect contributions. Intention aside, I managed to pulverize my left shoulder – and, of course, I’m left-handed. I’m damn near left-everything.

But I say “pulverize” instead of “break” because that’s exactly what happened. Several X-Ray technicians, emergency room personnel, and my surgeon-to-be all wondered why I wasn’t on a morphine drip. Nonetheless, my shoulder replacement surgery was scheduled for about two weeks later, doubtlessly so I had time to reflect upon my behavior. However, I was given Oxycodone and Vicodin to battle the pain. They said I was stoic. I said it hurt.

Both are opiates and are taken recreationally by some. Contrary to common wisdom medicine is an art form and not a science – what works for you could be no more effective than a Skittle for me. The meds helped with the pain, but the concurrent high was insufficient for me to break out my Jimi Hendrix albums. So it goes.

When it finally came time to go under the knife, I was told I’d be in hospital for one night, maybe two. Surgery was scheduled for the last Monday in February. But I woke up on Thursday with a bit of grogginess and that whole unmentionable catheter thing (yes, guys, you too can squirm). Being in compos mentis, I figured I was wrong and the surgery must have happened on Wednesday.

Well, I was wrong. The new shoulder went in on Monday, and Tuesday evening I had a severe reaction to the anesthesia. My blood oxygen was down to a near-lethal level and I was acting like – in the words of my gifted daughter Adriane – a 220 pound drunken three year old. Evidently I was funny and charming, but I scared the hell out of the assembled medical practitioners. As I do not drink alcohol and do not have a street drug problem (they called around to confirm this), they were dumbfounded.

Meanwhile, I was having a blast. Prior to my blood oxygen train wreck I announced to the assembled masses that two boxes of invisible donuts had just materialized on my chest. Given the circumstances, I believe there was some attempt to quantify the humor of my revelation. A short time later, Adriane saw me pantomiming eating those donuts. She asked “Are you, ah, eating those donuts?” I responded mouth-closed (even in my condo in Wackyland, I endeavor to remain polite) by opening my eyes brightly and nodding happily.

I’m told I spent Wednesday in the ICU until my numbers recovered, and I was discharged the following Friday. My new shoulder has more chrome in it than a ’57 Buick and I still can’t use my left arm for more than a few minutes – this piece will have taken me about six times as long to write. After a few more doctors, I’ll be starting physical therapy in a couple weeks. Larry Hama, who’s been through this type of thing and just had a hip replacement, advised me “Whatever the therapist tells you to do, do it.” That’s good enough for me.

So I haven’t quite disappeared from the planet as of yet. I’m blessed with good friends, comrades who cover for me without squawking, a wonderful slew of professionals at Norwalk and Stamford Hospitals, and a daughter so awesome and self-sacrificing I wonder what I did in a prior life to deserve her.

Invisible donuts are just as satisfying as the real thing – but getting them is a bitch.

Mike Gold will get back to performing his weekly two-hour Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, www.getthepointradio.com and on iNetRadio, www.iNetRadio.com as part of “Hit Oldies” every Sunday at 7:00 PM Eastern, rebroadcast three times during the week – check www.getthepointradio.com above for times and on-demand streaming information. He thinks this will happen on Sunday, March 16th. Gold also joins MDW’s Marc Alan Fishman, Martha Thomases and Michael Davis as a weekly columnist at www.comicmix.com where he pontificates on matters of four-color. Gold also joins ComicMix’s Marc Alan Fishman, Martha Thomases and Michael Davis as a weekly columnist at www.michaeldavisworld.com, and chances are you’re presently reading these words at one of those two venues.

Dennis O’Neil’s Tales From Texas

O'Neil Art 131205One of those, you know, jangly weeks: we arrived in Austin wearing the winter garb appropriate for Newark, where we began the journey, and stepped from the airline terminal into 70 degrees and regretted our bag full of long sleeves. Looked like it was going to be a sweaty few days, maybe, but not to worry: the temperature dropped thirty degrees overnight and by daylight, my cold weather jacket was appropriate and when we again moved into the outdoors we got our first bite of winter. No big problem: our destination, the Austin convention center, was just across a narrow street.

The convention was what conventions are, these days, with maybe more television actors than comics folk. We did manage to raise a few bucks for The Hero Initiative, always a good reason to go someplace, but the chill kept us close to the hotel and so we didn’t see much of Austin which, I’m told and still believe, is a righteous city. Maybe next time.

I didn’t speak to any of the celebs, either, though some of them have done work I enjoy. Never do chat with the thespians, even though I’ve been sharing con programs with their ilk for decades. Probably never will. (Maybe not next time.)

I’m the anti-fan I won’t approach VIPs, even when I could jury rig a reason to. Mari and I were sitting in a bakery during our first visit to what is now our home town and, I’ll be darned, who walks in but Alec Baldwin and his then-wife, Kim Basinger, and another woman, a nanny, I’d guess, holding a baby whose last name undoubtedly was Baldwin. They sat nearby. Now – small world – our son had recently spoken with Alec during a visit to Hollywood about a project they might have shared, though they didn’t, and so we had a great conversational opener, and Mari looked like she’d use it. But not grumpy me. I shook my head no and pretty soon we left.

Another instance: Larry Hama and I were playing video games in a California hotel and in comes TV’s Kojak, Telly Savalas. He stands between us, kibitzing for about five minutes, being ignored by the comic book guys from New York.. He leaves. Who could blame him? (Who the hell did we think we were?)

Why does my nose rise into the air when I encounter the renowned? The answer does me no particular credit. What it comes down to is, I’m afraid that they’ll be jerks and I won’t like them, or, worse, it will be obvious that they don’t like me, and this emotional frisson will get between me and the venerable person’s work. I won’t be able to enjoy it and that could be regrettable.

The weather in Austin continued to be iffy and for a while, there seemed to be a possibility that we’d be snowed in. The flight was late taking off and we were cramped for hours – were the new airline seats designed by Torquemada? – and I was thinking Oh just, please, let me get to my cozy home. We got here and found the house cold. The heating system had failed and we were a pair of icy oldsters. But a savior drove in from Orangeburg past midnight and got the heating machine working and I later thought What a great job this guy has…driving alone through the night making people warm…

Well, between the jangly week’s beginning and a major holiday a few days later, and some mild sore-throat/cough/sniffle action, we didn’t see the new Hunger Games movie. If I were into idolatry, I might adore the film’s star, the splendid Jennifer Lawrence. As long as I didn’t have to meet her.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Yep, More From The Tweaks!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

Dennis O’Neil: Stealing Jesus

O'Neil Art 131017Well, celebrities have certainly been in the news lately, haven’t they?

You might be expecting a reference to Miley Cyrus here, the pathetic child who cries for attention by participating in grotesque displays of herself. You might even expect a grumpy septuagenarian to wonder if the guardians of a child raised in the humid heart of show-biz, as poor Ms. Cyrus was, could not be accused of a form of child abuse. Don’t look at me. This is one of the many things that I’m not sure about.

I can’t be sure about the dealings of Bill O’Reilly and Michele Bachmann with the Almighty, either. Both these celebrities claim to have received direct communication from on high – on very high. Mr. O’Reilly, an opinion-offering stalwart who gets paid by Fox News, apparently believes that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write his latest book, Killing Jesus. (Earlier books include Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. If you find something that works…)

As for Ms. Bachmann, the Republican congressperson from Minnesota, she thinks that same Holy Spirit wants her to ditch politics for a career in the private sector, wherein serious money can be made. But if Ms. Bachman is right about another matter, she’d better get started on that next career because the clock is ticking. Representative B has recently revealed that we’re living in the End Times – the big rock candy mountain is gnoing to crumble any nanosecond now and you and I can watch Michele and her posse ascend to eternal glory while we…gee, I don’t know. What are we sinners going to do? Miss our bus? Catch a really bad cold? Anyway, something.

Jesus got disrespected from another source last week. The Vatican misspelled his name on an issuance of a special medal commemorating Pope Francis’ taking over the big job. Ooops! Doesn’t say much for Catholic Education, but maybe we should blame, not the good sisters and brothers, but the devil, who still exists, but has gotten wilier, which explains why we don’t run into him much. This is the opinion of Supreme Court Justice Scalia, an eminent jurist who says that he gets most of his news from Bill Bennett, a conservative talk show host.

Note, please, that I’m not questioning the beliefs, just those who reap power and/or profit from them, or who may employ them inappropriately.

And all this snarkiness has what, exactly, to do with pop culture, our presumed subject?

Last week, in a Facebook posting, Larry Hama asked why we still call them comics conventions when they aren’t. Larry’s right, of course. These monster affairs aren’t about comics and haven’t been for a while now. They’re about selling stuff and the creatures mentioned way back in our first paragraph, celebrities. The celebs are rewarded for showing up while some of the comics folk must pay to get in and even those who get comped often get stuck with parking fees which, in someplace like Manhattan, aren’t exactly small items. In the end, most cons are mostly about money instead of promoting a quirky hobby.

The above is not a complaint, just an observation. Things are what they are. I might lament just a bit, but complain? No.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweeks

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

Emily S. Whitten: Awesome Con DC!

Whitten Art 140416This Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21, a new comics and pop culture convention will debut in Washington, DC: Awesome Con! I’m super-excited about this, given that there hasn’t been a comic con in DC proper in lo, these many years since I have lived here. Okay, okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit. As it happens, there was a comic con here as recently as 2005. But it’s still been quite awhile. There are comic cons in the general area, yes, like the excellent Baltimore Comic Con, as well as cons in Richmond, and Annapolis; but for those of us who are Metro-dependent, those cons are not so easy to get to.

Now, finally, we’re getting a con right in the city, at the Washington Convention Center, a three minute walk from the Mt. Vernon Square metro station (or 11 minutes from McPherson Square or Metro Center stations, for orange/blue line folks). Yay! The con will run from 10 AM to 7 PM Saturday, and 10 AM to 5 PM Sunday, and tickets are very reasonably priced at $15 for one day, or $25 for both (unless you opt for the $75 VIP package, which includes exclusive items).

Not only is the con convenient and affordable, but it looks set to be every bit as good a draw as other, already established area cons might be. Created by the guys behind Annapolis Comic Con, the guest list to date includes celebrity guests like Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon, Futurama’s Billy West and Phil LaMarr, Ghostbusters’ Ernie Hudson, and The Walking Dead’s Theodus Crane, along with over eighty artists and comic creators, including Larry Hama, Herb Trimpe, Justin Jordan, Ben Templesmith, Noelle Stevenson, Nick Galifianakis, and many more. The con is advertising “a wide assortment of comic books, collectibles, toys, games, original art, cosplay, and more,” and special events to include “discussion panels, costume contests, trivia contests, gaming tournaments, and a whole lot of activities for kids.” There’s even going to be a Mind of the Geek comedy show starring comedian Arnie Ellis. Sounds…awesome!

Given that this is a newly minted con, and that I’m a convention co-founder myself and am always interested in that aspect of things, I thought I’d check in with comics dealer Ben Penrod, co-founder of Awesome Con, and ask him a question or two. Here’s what he said:

What spurred the creation of this new Washington, DC comics convention?

As long as I’ve been doing cons, there hasn’t been one in DC. Awesome Con is something we (Steve Anderson, owner of Third Eye Comics, and I) had been kicking around for a while; we knew a lot of people wanted a con in the District.

What’s your previous involvement with comics and convention-running, and how did you get involved in organizing this con?

I’ve been selling comics on eBay since 1999. In 2008 I started selling comics full-time, and Steve and I ran the first Annapolis Comic-Con in 2011. The Annapolis Comic-Con was something we had discussed since 2009 or 2010, probably.

What’s the planning experience been like? Any roadblocks, or smooth sailing?

I don’t know that I’d call it smooth sailing, but things are good. It’s definitely a lot of work. I have met a lot of great people, and I’m so excited about Awesome Con; it’s a really fun job. But it’s a lot of work.

What are some highlights of the upcoming con, and what are you most looking forward to?

If I didn’t have responsibilities and could just attend the con as a fan, I’d probably try to get to as many of the guest Q&As as I could, and probably early Saturday before it gets too busy I’d find some artist I’d never seen before and commission some artwork.

What have you got on the schedule for kids?

We have a lot of stuff for kids. The Kids Are Awesome room will be fantastic. Any time during the show, kids can find art supplies in the room and get to work drawing or coloring. We’ll also have a kids’ costume contest and an art show both days. On Saturday there will be a children’s book reading and an art workshop. On Sunday we’ll have a game show with kids and pro artists paired up!

Is this planned to be a yearly event? What are your goals for the show?

This will be an annual event. The goal is for this show to be a fun event that the people of the DC area can look forward to every year. For too long, DC was the only major city without a con, and now we have one.

And I hope it’s here to stay!

As the website says, “Awesome Con DC is a comic-con that embraces all aspects of geekdom and pop culture.” Sounds good to me! So if you’re in the area April 20 and 21 and looking for something fun to do, come to Awesome Con! I’ll be there both days, so if you see me, feel free to say hi.

And until then, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

 

Martha Thomases: War! What Is It Good For? Comics!

Having watched all three presidential debates and the vice-presidential debate, I’m in the kind of stupor that is recognizable to other political junkies. With about ten days to go, I am chewing on my fingernails, tensely watching the polls as if it is only my focused attention that will allow things to go my way.

The last debate, about foreign policy, made me think about war, and entertainment inspired by war, and my response to it.

There are brilliant war comics, written by people like Archie Goodwin, Larry Hama, Garth Ennis and, especially, Harvey Kurtzman. I admire them. And yet, I don’t particularly enjoy them.

I think the problem is that I am so repulsed by the reality of battle. I don’t find it dramatic nor exciting. It may reveal character, but I don’t want to see it. I don’t entirely believe that war reveals nobility, and even if it does, I think there are better ways to get to the same place.

And yet. And yet. I do like action movies, and I like cartoonish action movies that include war. I love The Dirty Dozen. I can get a good laugh out of 300.

I can admire more realistic war movies, like The Hurt Locker, but I don’t enjoy them. I don’t want to go see them. I avoid them as carefully as I avoid actual battle. I go only when it is necessary to be part of the cultural conversation. Oh, and Apocalypse Now.

It’s possible that I don’t like war movies because they are so stereotypically masculine. Even modern war movies, the ones that acknowledge that women serve and sacrifice, are models of machismo. A movie like Since You Went Away, which shows life on the home front, is just as much inspired by war as my other examples, but is considered a “women’s picture,” or a soap opera because it is about women.

I can think of two exceptions in comics where I actually enjoyed a war comic I was reading. The first is Blackhawk when Howard Chaykin was doing it. I think this had less to do with the military aspects, and more to do with Chaykin’s sense of humor, which is very close to my own.

The other is George Pratt’s Enemy Ace: War Idyll, which is, sadly, out of print. It’s beautiful and moving, as all entertainment should be.

When you vote, don’t just consider the impact of this election on the economy. Think about the wars that can happen as a result of your vote. And then think about the schlock comics those wars will inspire. Personally, I don’t want to see Dan Didio get his hands on Iran.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman