Twenty minutes after I first met Harlan Ellison he handed me a signed blank check.
I’ll get back to that.
I found out what kind of friend Harlan was, and it’s essential to me people know the type of sway his friendship carries with it.
When I was very young, in the summertime my sister and I were sent to Alabama to stay with my stepfather’s parents. My stepfather would drive us from New York, and I looked forward to that two-day trip until one night I will never forget made me never want to go south again.
In thirty years of baring my soul as a writer, I have never written about that experience. I do so now to underscore the importance of Harlan’s influence in my life.
My stepfather Robert Lawrence was an alcoholic well before it was designated an illness. At six years old I would not have cared if it was an illness or a ring given to him from The Guardians of the Universe. Robert (yes I called him Robert, it’s a Black thing) could do no wrong— he was my idol. It’s astonishing we were not killed during those sometimes 100 mph trips to Dalton, Alabama. Robert was always drinking, and driving two kids cross country was just another thing to do for him.
We had just entered North Carolina sometime after midnight. Robert had stopped to take a nap. My sister and I were in and out of sleep, and for years the following seemed like a bad dream. The taps on the windshields were loud but the voices— “WAKE UP NIGGER!” were more emphatic.
Surrounding the car were six huge white men. Robert woke up.
“GET ON OUT HERE.”
Robert opened the door and stepped out.
Although he wasn’t hit, he was none the less beaten badly. Those men said the kind of things that put Robert on his knees. The one thing I’ll repeat was this: “Boy, we the Klan.” They had no robes or hood, but we all knew it was true. My hero was reduced to what I thought then was a coward. As I got older, I realized he wasn’t. He did what he had to do to save my sister and I. It was years before I understand this event wasn’t a bad dream.
I didn’t know what a vow was, but I made up my mind never to go south again. However against my better judgment and fears, I went back to the south twice the second time I wrote about in the 2014 article linked above.
Both times, something terrible happened to me— both times, Harlan made it OK.
I was asked to be the auctioneer at a function to benefit battered women at Dragon Con in 1995. Giving myself the “oh I was a child it couldn’t have bad” talk, I arrived in Atlanta early so I could go to the Civil War Museum. I am a big fan of American history, and I’m sure the Civil War Museum in Atlanta is all I heard it was.
I may never know.
My then girlfriend at the time and I got as far as the parking lot when it was made clear we should keep on getting on. I’ll spare you the details, but note to Black men who love history, here’s a tip: if you’re planning a trip to the museum leave your white girlfriend home.
To be fair, that was 1995, things may be different now that Trump is Presiden…shit. Just don’t go.
After the events in the parking lot, both my girlfriend and I were severely shaken. I was determined to just go back to New York, but I owed the benefit organizers an in-person explanation at least.
Nothing was going to stop me from getting on a plane, or so I thought.
He heard I was bowing out found me and did the second kindest thing ever done for me. He co-auctioned the event and in doing so showed me the people of Atlanta were terrific kind folk unlike those who tore into me with such hatred earlier that day.
The two hours Harlan and I spent going at each other trying to get bidders to go higher and higher is why Dragon Con is my single favorite convention experience.
I love San Diego Comic-Con and would take a bullet for any staff member, but the single best time I’ve ever had at a convention was Dragon Con, and I’ve only been there once.
A lot has been written about Harlan’s brash in your face attitude. Many think that as a famous writer he was playing a role. His antics more ‘character’ than real.
Some even going so far as to say he believed little of what he preached.
I wish some people were smart enough to realize how stupid they are.
Sinatra was the most powerful man in Hollywood at the time; Harlan was a writer and didn’t care. Give that a long hard thought. That as they say in the hood is ‘gangsta.’ Read the article “Frank Sinatra has a cold” and you’ll learn something about being true to yourself. It’s all talk for most, not Harlan.
I mentioned what Harlan did for me at Dragon Con was the second kindest thing ever done for me, here’s the first: when I met Harlan he was leaving a party at Len Wein’s house; I had just gotten there.
We hit it off immediately.
“Give me a call, let’s grab a bite,” Harlan said. “That would be great!” I responded and gave him my card. Harlan looked at the card then gave it back. “You’re calling me, remember?” For a moment I thought he was pissed, but I managed to utter, “Card?”
“Man, I don’t do cards.” He half yelled while digging around in his briefcase.
He produced a checkbook ripped out a check and gave it to me. “Whoa!” I stammered while looking at his name address and phone number printed on the front. “Don’t you want to write void or something on this?”
He grabbed the check from me making a show of writing something on it. “Man, you’re like a little girl.” He tosses the check back to me and says in a much lower voice; “I’m sure I can trust you, but just in case you ever need help with anything…”
I didn’t get that at all, I folded the check and put it in my wallet. Something stopped me from returning my billfold to my back pocket. Instead, I unfolded the check and looked at what Harlan had written.
He signed the check.
I’d known the man for twenty minutes, and he had given me a signed blank check.
I ran after him with the intent of giving back the check. I reached him in about 30 seconds deciding at that moment to keep it realizing the message behind the gesture, this man wanted me in his life and wanted me to know he’s not fucking around. “I could be homeless and hungry; I’ll never cash it.” Harlan made a look like he had no idea who I was but before the front door closed, he hit me with a smile.
I had the check framed the day I heard Harlan passed.
The truth about Harlan is he was exactly who he said he always told the truth— except for this massive lie. He once wrote, “For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”
Bullshit, nope, nada, bullshit again.
Harlan Ellison will always matter.
Note number 2: To my loyal fans (both of you) I’ll try and stick around this time, but the thing about depression is it’s depressing so there. Harlan’s article I hope will be the last shared by all the outlets that carries my bi-line.
One of the joys of having returned to the comics convention scene this fall was seeing old friends and industry comrades again after too many goddamn years – Walter and Louise Simonson, Marv Wolfman, Fabian Nicieza, Timothy Truman, Jim Salicrup, Dave Gibbons, Cat Staggs, and Jill Thompson, to name just a few – and to have a chance, at last, to meet, face-to-face for the very first time, a woman whom I’ve wanted to meet for a very long time, a woman of immense talent and of immense class…
The first time Gail and I communicated it was through Facebook, by which she reached out to me to apologize for all the press she was getting about her assignment to write Wonder Woman, i.e., “Wonder Woman Gets First Female Writer” and so forth, and that she wanted me to know that she kept trying to correct the press.
I said something like this: “But, Gail, if they print that, if they call you the second ongoing Wonder Woman writer, there’s no story.”
Of course, Gail went on to write one of the best ever run of the Amazon’s adventures.
Anyway, that led to Gail asking me to participate in her “Five Questions with…” site. Check it out. I just reread it – it’s one hell of an interview!
Gail and I continued to communicate via social media, but we still remained only “Facebook friends” until…
At this year’s NYCC, knowing Gail was there, I walked up and down the aisles until I finally found her booth. She was off at a panel, but I was determined to make time to at last meet one-on-one. So at timely intervals I kept walking over to her table – it was about the fourth time that I knew that she was back because the crowd and line around it snaked up and down the aisle. I stood off a little bit watching her talk to fans and sign her work until there was a (very) momentary break – I slid in, with apologies to the fans at the front of the line (“Justwant to say hello for a quick second”) – and felt like a complete idiot. I finally had a chance to meet Gail, and I was tongue-tied.
It felt like an eternity; but it was probably a maximum of three seconds, until I said, “Hi, Gail, it’s Mindy Newell.” (Like I was on the phone or something.) I think I stuck out my hand for a shake and said, “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”
She just stared at me. I thought I had done something wrong, so I think I said, “Well, I don’t want to hold anybody up,” and left.
Then, yesterday, I found this on my Facebook page:
It was lovely to meet the legendaryMindy Newellbriefly at my table at NYCC.
She’s the REAL first acknowledged writer of the Wonder Woman ongoing title
(something I get routinely, but incorrectly, credited as being).
She’s a huge inspiration and a lovely person, and when she came to meet me at my table I was too overwhelmed to do much more than just gasp out a hello.
But she’s a legend and I adore her!
Honestly, guys, the last thing I think of myself as is “legendary.” Legends in the comic books industry, to me, are people like Stan Lee, or Jack Kirby, or Steve Ditko. Or Neil Gaiman, or Marv Wolfman. Or George Pérez, or Alan Moore, or Karen Berger. (And yes, you, too, Mike Gold, as I kiss up to my editor here at ComicMix *smile*.) To me, it is absolutely incredible that I even know these people. Or worked with some of them. Or can call so many of them, and others, friends. Or that I knew and worked with Julie Schwartz, whom my daughter still remembers giving her pink sucking candies from the jar on his file cabinet in his office. Or Len Wein, who actually invited me to a poker game where sat around the table people who had only been names on a splash page before. Or Mark Gruenwald, who always made me laugh and actually hired me to work at Marvel.
I’ll tell you a secret.
Sometimes I feel like a fake. A fool. An illusionist.
Someone who didn’t try hard enough. Someone who gave up too easily.
Yeah, it’s easy to say, “I suffered, and still do, from chronic depression syndrome.” It’s easy to say, “I had a daughter to raise.” It’s easy to say, “I needed a job with benefits and a regular paycheck.” It’s easy to say, “I didn’t have any support.”
I’ve said many times no one was more Milestone than Dwayne McDuffie. Denys Cowan’s larger than life idea created the company. Dwayne showed up with the details for that idea.
Milestone has made an impact on the comics world to be sure. Most would say comics have had an impact on the world and I would agree.
Just as no one was more Milestone than Dwayne, there was no one more ‘comics’ than Len Wein. That may be my opinion, but I defy anyone who knew Len to prove me wrong. Comics at their best induce moments where you’re living within the world you’re reading about. As an adult, if you’re lucky that feeling will last a few minutes if you achieve it at all.
As a child, those moments lasted hours maybe even longer depending on your level of interest and in my case your level of pain. Some of my childhood memories are as vivid now as when I was eight years old. Some thankfully are faded one memory so horrid I repressed it only to have it surface in a series of dreams (nightmares) later confirmed by my mother as a memory.
Don’t get me wrong I had a wonderful childhood except for the times it wasn’t. Then it was bad, hence the repressed memory. But remembering any occasions reading comics was, as we say in the hood, All Good.
Len’s presence always made me think back to when I was a kid. For most kids in grade school, there was nothing more important than Saturday, Sunday and summer any time away from school.
Kids who loved comics were a wee bit different.
Yeah, we loved summer but where I grew up no two days were as important than Tuesday and Thursday. Those were the days the new comics came in. I lived on Beach 58st, Far Rockaway Queens. The store that sold comics was on Beach 67th street. I could walk there in about twelve minutes or bike there in about three.
Since it was in my ‘hood’ odds were I’d still have my bike and comics when I exited the store. That may not be the case with the comic store located at Beach 40th street-not my hood. We called it the 40. The 40 had a much better selection and a spinner rack! Until then I’d never seen one before, and yeah it was a big deal.
My grade school best friend Julian Butler and I were distraught one comic book Tuesday because Silver Surfer #1 was not in the new comics. We prayed for what must have been the longest two days of our young lives it would come on Thursday.
“I’m not going to the 40,” Julian told me. “You’re stupid if you do.”
Julian had been beaten up his bike stolen at the 40. My friend Earl and I were chased from there my mother told me never to go back.
Julian was so right.
Going there would be stupid, and I almost never disobeyed my mother.
I was stupid I went there and I did say ‘almost.’
What else could I do? Comics were magic and my first love. When in love people do stupid things. Yeah, it was stupid, but it felt like magic.
Each moment I spent with Len Wein I was blessed with the magic of time travel because it felt like I traveled back to that time when I’d risk a beat down for a comic book.
At his graveside service, Len wanted a joyful sendoff, and his family and friends didn’t disappoint he got one. Fantastic Len stories genuinely funny were plentiful. I’m a hilarious guy, but I couldn’t speak let alone tell a humorous tale I was so heartbroken over his passing.
Others were just as heartbroken they were stronger than I and I’m glad they were. Still I think Len would have liked me to tell an amusing tale or two.
I’ll try and do that now.
Len’s life force was pure love. If you were fortunate enough to know him, you felt that. Always positive upbeat joyful and there for you. Len never brought you problems, but few were better with solutions. His cool calm and enlightened manner made his advice damn near spiritual.
That manner also cost me a Hugo Boss jacket.
“I know who you are,” I said with deadpan seriousness.
We were having lunch at an Oakland restaurant during Wonder Con. Len stopped looking for a waiter to look at me… like I was crazy. “Brilliant, changing one word of your teachings and who would ever think Buddha was a Jew?” I said as I looked attentively into his eyes.
He laughed so quick and hard whatever diet soda he was drinking ended up all over my Hugo Boss. He got the joke before I finished telling it. During the con whenever I would see Len talking to fans I would greet him by bowing my head and asking him to honor me with an autograph on; Len and the art of motorcycle maintenance, the way of Len, etc., etc.
You get the idea, but it took you a second. Len was quicker on the upbeat than anyone I knew. Len insisted he pay for the dry cleaning of my jacket and I should have let him. I left Oakland forgetting my blazer was in the cleaners.
Any time spent with Len was memorable. Some so outrageous if others were not involved no one would believe me. There was the time I drove some of the biggest names in comics to a party along the way we encountered both police then a car full of gangbangers.
Both confrontations featured loud blasting music from my truck. Not the Hip Hop you’ll expect from an early 30ish Black man but show tunes.
Yeah, I like a good musical, surprised?
“Maria” from, the West Side Story soundtrack greeted the cops when I slammed to a stop alongside them. I was speeding and did not see the patrol car until last minute.
Len was riding shotgun he shot me a ‘be calm’ look. I calmly asked the cops for directions which they gladly gave no doubt Len’s broad smile putting them at ease.
The cops drove on, and the music resumed with ‘America.’ My car was full of white people who all started singing at the top of their lungs.
I like the island Manhattan.
Smoke on your pipe and put that in!
I stopped at a red light glanced to my right, and my heart stopped.
Right next to us was a car full of gangbangers.
I like to be in America!
O.K. by me in America!
All at once I turned off the music, and everyone stopped singing. I’m praying these guys were not fans of musical theater. Len rolled down his window smiled and said. “Know it?” The banger behind the wheel nodded slightly then said. “Everything free in America.”
There was a beat of utter disbelief before both vehicles broke into laughter. I threw up some look like gang signs and shouted “West Sideeeeeeeee!” Without missing a beat Len added; “Story.”
Yeah, that happened.
When I was around Len beautiful things like that happened all the time. His presence made me time travel to my younger self. I became the kid who couldn’t wait to buy new comics every month couldn’t wait to see what happened to Spiderman when he grew six arms. No way I could stay calm after Oliver Queen walked in on Speedy with a needle in his arm.
How could anyone be patient after seeing the ad for Swamp Thing # 7?
I felt I was in the fourth grade back to PS 105 when around Len.
That was always a good thing even if I’m too stubborn to see at times. The odds of a fourth grader no longer hating but becoming friends with a reformed bully are the stuff of After School Specials. That’s what happened after I almost killed Ronnie Williams. I hit him in the back of the head with a chair when he took my Fantastic Four #73.
I forgave Ronnie but kids forgive like they eat candy, they could care less how sick it makes them.
The odds of a now successful middle-aged black man from the hood with the chips stacked against him (on his shoulder) disregarding a history of conflict with the former (gone to his) head of a major comic book company?
The odds of A middle-aged successful black man with a chip on his shoulder from the hood crying like a little girl after reading the former’s gone to his head accounts of Len?
Trump becoming President of Mexico in a landslide win was a better bet.
Finishing each installment of Paul Levitz’s ‘week of Len’ on Facebook stabbed me with a razor blade of sadness. The narrative was written wonderfully, and for the briefest of moments, Len was alive. I almost made an “I never knew that…” call to him. After my mom passed, I dialed her number and began to leave a message on her answering service on three separate occasions.
To me in every way but blood Len was family and each tick of the clock believing he was still here was a gift. What Paul’s Facebook post gave me the comments took away by bringing me back to this damn reality.
He meant so much more to the world than what the press focused on. Yes, he was a fabulous writer, but he was an even better man. Len was the kind of person who cared about things that need to be cared about.
Sounds simple, but try naming five people you can truly say that about. Len didn’t need a hurricane to do the right thing.
This inadequately written offering has taken me weeks to write as I’m hurt and not seeing things clearly. I’ve been here many times. The Seven Stages of Grief are more like a ‘quick start’ guide to me these days.
I’ve lost many in the last few years just look at the tributes I’ve written then add eight.
Len’s death is different; it’s harder because Len while fighting his battle looked out for me while I was fighting mine. I tried to look out for him; I failed repeatedly.
When at rock bottom battling depression Len and his wife Christine insisted, I come to dinner with them one night. That was a night left alone I fear my inner demons may have won out.
The restaurant was six minutes away it took a Herculean effort and almost two hours to get there. They waited, called, waited, called and may have saved my life.
Whenever Len was in the hospital, I’d attempt to see him. The closest I’ve gotten was sitting in the hospital parking lot willing myself to move. I don’t see people in the hospital it’s something I just can’t do.
I spoke to Len about that he understood.
A week before Len died he called and asked me to come by his home. I called Christine to see when would be a good time.
I didn’t go.
I had every intention of going set a date took out the third row of seats in my SUV to fit Len’s wheelchair so that I could take him to lunch and then I moved our meeting date.
Len died the day before the new date.
Something in me died the moment I heard.
Len set the standard of integrity kindness fair play and honesty. He loved his fans like friends, loved his friends like family and loved his family above all. Knowing he would have understood not seeing him before he died gives me little relief.
I’ll try to be a good friend to Christine and Michael their support kept me from completely losing it when It should have been the other way around.
I loved that man; we, all of comics loved that man if you knew him or not you loved Len Wein.
I fear this is a pain I may never get over and fear my time traveling days are over.
So be it.
The time I spent with Len is well worth me staying put and trying to be a better man.
If you’re a regular reader of my work, you will notice there is no profanity in this piece out of my love and respect for Christine Michael and their family who may want to read this account.
Those new to my work who may seek out other articles by me be warned I swear and use hood slang often and I’m about to so again because Len loved this line:
Heaven, you smell that? That’s Len Wein; he’s the shit.
Last week I wrote an open letter to Marvel about what the X-Men mean to me, primarily as a reaction to X-Men Gold #1. If you missed it, you can read it here. Since then, X-Men Blue #1 has come out. I read it, so now you get to read me talking about it.
Although I’ll be avoiding the biggest spoilers, if you are looking to avoid any and all spoilers for this comic I suggest you go give it a read before you continue.
Oh, you already read it and can keep going? That’s great!
X-Men Blue #1 is written by Cullen Bunn, drawn by Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni, colored by Matt Milla and lettered by Joe Caramagna. Cullen Bunn is someone I’ve been a fan of for a while now; it’s really hard not to enjoy Bunn’s writing. I’m really looking forward to reading his, Danny Luckert and Marie Enger’s Regression over at Image Comics. You can read an interview with them on this new series here. It was Cullen Bunn’s involvement in this series that made me excited about this particular X title.
After reading it I have to say that Cullen Bunn did not disappoint. He took what could have easily been a rough start to a series and crafted a tight, fun story that didn’t take itself too seriously throughout. That way, when the reveal at the end of the issue is made, it hits you harder. Tone is important and Cullen Bunn knows how to make you feel every panel of every page without feeling pandered to.
The art of Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni creates exciting page layouts the move the story along at breakneck speed when it needs to and is aided by the primary use of wide across panels and tall thin panels. My only complaints are that everyone looks too young and pretty –especially Black Tom Cassidy – and I don’t care for the new Juggernaut design. It’s too Bane.
Matt Milla’s colors are bright and really pop. It only gets dark mostly when dealing with Juggernaut and on the last couple of pages, which helps the mood greatly and in particular moves the reader on the second to last page of the main story to start feeling the sense of dread before they even get to the reveal. Excellent coloring.
There are two problems that jump out to me from this book that are no fault of the creative team. First, that the book doesn’t necessarily fit with the 90s nostalgia that these X books represent. This isn’t the old Blue team, but rather the original team of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby years minus Professor X. While it made sense in the 80s to bring the original team back in X-Factor as the Lee and Kirby run was on only two decades old, it makes less sense when it’s five decades old. Anyway, after a few years they completely changed the X-Factor team back. You have so many great, compelling X characters to have a team limited like this seems entirely unnecessary. Now maybe the team will change in the next few issues or do, but the issue #1 is where you wanna grab people and it’d be a shame if people skip out on this because of this particular team, with the team on X-Men Gold being far more interesting character wise.
The second problem spins out of the first. We end up with a team that’s all cis white characters. A major problem with some of these older comics is that they are straighter, more cis, more male and more white than what people today would often expect. Even straight cis white male readers who are against diversity in comics at least expect their to be diversity, or else what are they going to yell about on Twitter?
That’s the danger with nostalgia. You can often go the route of nostalgia or go the route of diversity, but it becomes difficult to wed the two – particularly when the property in question is over fifty years old. There is a reason people like Len Wein, Chris Claremont, and Dave Cockrum made the team more diverse, and it seems silly to be taking steps back like this.
Despite how some people have reported on the Marvel Retailer Summit, Marvel has not come out and said they are anti-diversity. This particular team doesn’t ring true to what many X books have stood for the past few decades. You can’t point to Jean Grey being the leader as being terribly progressive when she’s the only woman on a team of five, and it’s hard to point to Iceman as being particularly progressive here when his orientation isn’t really discussed. That won’t be the case in Sina Grace’s Iceman, which I’m really looking forward to reading.
Look, nostalgia can be complicated, and can often be very, very white. That doesn’t make it bad reading. Like I said, I enjoyed reading this book. These problems with nostalgia still need to be looked at, and maybe a few issues or so down we will have a shake up with this team to have it feel more like a book in the spirit of the X-Men. And with Cullen Bunn at the helm and the reveal at the end of this issue, I feel like that’s a very real possibility.
In the 1960s, the Black Panthers were the number one target of the FBI. They were viewed as terrorists and J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime leader of the most powerful police force in the world, was hell bent on getting rid of them by hook or by crook.
Yep, hook or crook.
It’s no secret the United States Government from time to time will ignore the law. It’s fair to say it goes on often and as far as we know it goes on all the time. When caught, those who swore to uphold the constitution offer apologies for actions that dismissed the law like Trump denies any negative press.
But it’s all bullshit.
If not caught these people may have stopped breaking the law, but it’s doubtful they would have been sorry. I gather few are sorry for wrongdoing that benefits them. How many people have you seen come forward to admit how sorry they are for gaming the system when they have no incentive to do so?
The FBI broke all sorts of laws to accomplish their Black Panther agenda. As always, don’t take my word for it. Google that bitch. Unless you’re blind to the truth backed up with a few court rulings the war on the Panthers was a one-sided American tragedy fueled by a lie and driven home by a liar by the name of J. Edgar do I look fat in this dress Hoover.
Yeah, I can talk a lot of shit from my cozy little home in suburban Los Angeles. I can talk smack because I’m secure in the knowledge I’m protected by:
First Amendment Right Freedom of Speech
What I wrote about the F.B.I is true.
I’m just not that important, and neither is ComicMix nor Bleeding Cool to anyone in power that may object to my point of view.
I’m not as naïve as the above list would suggest. I’m fully aware my rights are subject to the will of the arresting officer and temperament of the D.A. regardless of my innocence if arrested for a crime I didn’t commit.
Been there had that done to me. Twice.
My circumstances notwithstanding in 2017 there exists a reasonable chance that someone may be believed if they claim police brutally or unjust treatment.
In 1966 the odds of a black person being believed were slim. I would wager a Jewish person would face the same type of incredulity and, given what happened to the three Civil Rights workers in Mississippi June 1964, the same dangers.
In June 1964 in Neshoba County, Mississippi, three civil rights workers were abducted and murdered in an act of racial violence. The victims were Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner from New York City, and James Chaney from Meridian, Mississippi.
All three were associated with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) and its member organization the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). They had been working with the “Freedom Summer” campaign by attempting to register African-Americans in the southern states to vote.
This registration effort was a part of contesting over 70 years of laws and practices that supported a systematic policy of disenfranchisement of potential black voters by several Southern states that began in 1890.
The three men had been arrested following a traffic stop in Meridian for speeding, escorted to the local jail and held for a number of hours. As the three left town in their car, they were followed by law enforcement and others. Before leaving Neshoba County their car was pulled over and all three were abducted, driven to another location, and shot at close range. The three men’s bodies were then transported to an earthen dam where they were buried.
Two of the three men killed for trying to do the right thing were Jewish.
In the 50s and 60s, certain parts of the deep south were deadly. Those who sided with black people were treated as if they were black people often that meant death. It’s one thing to risk your life for your rights; it’s another thing indeed to do so for somebody else’s.
In my mind, that’s the textbook definition of noble. That takes a whole other level of balls. It’s gangsta with a capital G.
In 1966 the F.B.I was on a mission to destroy the Black Panther Party and woe be on to those who got in their way.
Marvel Comics was all the rage on college campuses in the 60s. Stan The Man Lee was the captain of one of the hottest pop culture ships to set sail in the ever changing 60s sea. His first mate Jack King Kirby navigated just as much of the Marvel boat as Stan and together they ruled comics, campuses and cool.
Stan wasn’t content to just cruise. He continuously looked to change the comic book landscape he had already transformed. DC wasn’t without some cool stuff, Wein and Wrightson’s Swamp Thing, Adams and O’Neil’s Green Lantern / Green Arrow those books along with others were DC’s stellar addition to the cool that Stan ushered in. Alas, those came in the late 60s early 70s.
DC held its own in sales, but in the ‘cool’ department they were outclassed at just about every port. Seen by most as still just for kids DC may have sold as much or more, but Marvel was – to use 60s slang – where it’s at.
The age of sex, drugs and rock and roll embraced Marvel. although they featured none of the above. Neither did DC.
The difference was a bit like the shower scene in Psycho. People swore they saw the knife plunge into Janet Leigh. There was no sex drugs or rock and roll in Marvel books, but fans thought there was.
Over at DC you didn’t have to be in collage to know Lois Lane may have had the title “Superman’s girlfriend” but everyone knew Clark wasn’t hitting that.
Put another way… DC was the Good Ship Lollipop and Marvel was the ever lovin’ Starship Enterprise.
Like another ship, the Titanic, once people heard about Marvel they couldn’t wait to jump on board. Likewise, the Titanic, Stan and Jack faced an Iceberg.
Unlike the doomed ship they looked for that potential death dealer on purpose. Those two Jewish guys were about to take a stand and strike a blow for civil rights. Not for themselves – for African Americans and doing so, whether they knew it or not, chuck a serious fuck you to Hoover and his crew.
A Black Panther with a serious attitude showed up in New York and preceded to win over the masses with his message. If J. Edgar won’t wear white after Labor Day, Hoover wanted to do something he couldn’t just bum rush the place he knew the Panther would be.
That’s because this Black Panther wasn’t real. Stan and Jack made him up out of thin air. Or did they? In 2017 it’s hard to imagine meeting someone who had not heard of Donald Trump’s:
Take your pick.
The Black Panther Party was a regular item in print and broadcast news. The year was 1966 what you read in the newspaper or watched on TV was damn near (for many it was) gospel.
Ya think Lee and Kirby just happened to create a character with the same name as the most wanted radical group this side of the Weather Underground with no knowledge that group existed?
That’s as likely as a character called The Birther showing up out of thin air.
Name: The Birther!
Tag Line: He Came Out of Thin Not American Air!
Mission: Kill Grandma!
Stan was as tuned in to what American college kids were doing as anyone over 30 could be. He spoke at many universities, and Marvel’s mail was an endless stream of hip American youth feedback.
The question is, did Stan, and Jack create the Black Panther to make a buck or a difference? Did they risk aliening some fans becoming an FBI file and possible violence?
I’m sure a lot of you think you know the answers but I most certainly do. Mine came straight from the man himself.
Some of you may have heard of the Mockingbird controversy and harassment of Chelsea Cain. Less of you probably heard about Tokyo Comic Con banning men from cosplaying as female characters. While the two events are unrelated, they both involve intolerance in the comics industry… and they both have a happy ending. Well, happier than it could have been, I guess.
Back in March, the character of Mockingbird was given her first solo series at Marvel Comics. The character of Bobbi Morse, Mockingbird’s alter ego, debuted at Marvel back in 1971 with her becoming Mockingbird in 1980. Though she was created by Len Wein and Neal Adams, her first published story was written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith. Mockingbird has appeared on and off in Marvel Comics as part of S.H.I.E.L.D. and different Avengers teams ever since with varying success. Once Mockingbird appeared on network TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on October 21st, 2014 it made sense that Marvel Comics would want to try a solo series for the character.
Enter Chelsea Cain, successful novelist, columnist and outside-of-the-realm-of-comics recruit. Comics taking in people from the outside is hardly new and has been seen as having at least some potential to tap into a different audience. Despite solid reviews the series has been cancelled at only eight issues in. After brutal backlash on Twitter towards Chelsea Cain’s pro-feminist take on the character, she quit the social media outlet. Heidi MacDonald’s piece at The Beat goes into more of the details, which I linked to back up at the top.
While her future in the realm of comics is currently up in the air (as far as we know) there are some important takeaways here that may not be quite as obvious – the biggest of which for me is how well the first volume is selling. It’s reached number one on Amazon’s graphic novels list. Some of this may be due to the controversy, but that’s still an incredible feat for a comic cancelled for lack of sales… although that is hardly new.
I remember I, Vampire getting cancelled for lack of monthly floppy sales even after its first volume made it to #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. That was over four years ago. More recently we had Tom King’s Omega Men cancelled by DC Comics, briefly uncancelled, then ended for good with trade paperback sales also hitting #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. Mockingbird may end up enjoying that same fate.
Since then, the big two have seemingly made no real attempts to try and adapt to the changing markets. Sure, they’ve upped the output of straight to graphic novel stories such as DC Comics’ Earth One, but they can’t seem to solve this particular problem.
Though Axel Alonso tweeted out his support of Chelsea Cain, for which I applaud him –it’s something he didn’t have to do – the real support may need to be the comics industry putting more faith in their talent and their product similar to how Vertigo used to years ago. If Neil Gaiman’s Sandman came out today with the sales it had at first, we’d likely never have gotten past a dozen issues. I don’t have the answers to that. Maybe moving print comics to digital-only if they’re selling that well as trade paperbacks, I’m not sure. Either way we need the big two doing more for creators and to cultivate worthwhile stories so that maybe Mockingbird getting cancelled can have a happier ending.
We already got a happy ending with Tokyo Comic Con, a large convention featuring guests like Jeremy Renner and Stan Lee. Well, sort of. After a large public outcry through social media, the organizers decided to end the ban on men cosplaying as female characters. It was very bizarre, and seeing how quickly they were able to change their minds on this decision it lends itself to the idea that it was entirely unnecessary.
What’s still a bit troubling is that Tokyo Comic Con is issuing gender specific registration cards that will be checked to make sure that only people of the corresponding gender will have access to changing areas and restrooms. I haven’t found anything specific on their policies regarding transgender and non-binary attendees, so these gender specific registrations do raise some red flags for me.
While I do hope there won’t be any issues because of this, we’ll have to wait and see. I’m thrilled that they reversed their needless cosplaying restrictions, but it does seem to me that if they were trying to keep men out of women’s changing areas by implementing such a ban that their attitudes towards transgender and non-binary attendees may be troubling.
That wraps up last week’s examples of intolerance in comics. I’m sure there were more, but I only have so much time to research. Come back next week to see if people have become more tolerant by then.
I’m rarely impressed, but you wrote an impressive article. The attention to detail, footnotes, research and overall thoughtfulness you put into making your case was indeed extraordinary.
I’m a bit taken aback by your use of my article as the motivation to write yours. My article why are we still complaining about Dan Didio had little written about Mr. Didio. It certainly wasn’t a defense of his work nor a damning of it. He and others mentioned were only used to illustrate my outlook.
Much of what you wrote regarding my views and work can do with a bit of clarity. I fear what you’ve constructed in your narrative is somewhat unbalanced and frankly unfair.
For example, placing quotes around a word when no one is speaking gives the distinct impression you don’t believe, care or respect my resume. You choose to describe mentor as “mentor.” For the life of me sir I have no idea why you would cast such an adverse slight at me.
My Bad Boy Studio Mentor program has achieved a fair amount of success. By all means feel free to ask Bernard Chang, John Paul Leon, Shawn Martinborough, Aaron McGruder and Brett Lewis, who mentored them.
There are more whom you are welcome to request confirmation from; I’ve been very fortunate to have had a small hand helping numerous young men and women join our beloved profession.
You could also speak to Chris Claremont or director Bill Duke. Both called me looking for a talented young person to work with them.
That girl I referred to Chris was Ali Morales. Ali went on to become DC Comics and perhaps the industry’s first Latino woman editor. Tatiana El-Khouri started as Bill’s assistant and finished running his company; now she’s running her own.
Thinking of my Bad Boys (and girls) swells my heart and moistens my eyes. I dare say those who came from my Bad Boy program are some of the best of the best. It matters little what else I’ve achieved in life nothing compares with the love and pride I feel for them.
I’m sure you can now appreciate why “mentor” cut me to the quick.
Hopefully, speaking to any of the above will result in a bit of lucidity into my background If you ever see fit to write about my mentorship program again.
You sir, forgive me for saying so, were a bit heavy handed in your use of conjecture. Nonetheless, it’s not surprising you would write about me in such a manner.
Sadly, that’s the industry model these days. I wrote about such in the very article you referenced so often. The venom and hate displayed in comics today and my hope for a reversal of that trend was the point of my column.
Sir, when you have a moment I’d like for you to clear something up for me. I just can’t fathom why you would use my article to go and do the very thing I wrote may damn us and please spell your name phonetically so if we meet I pronounce it correctly.
And it’s all anyone is talking about.
I mentioned I consider you a wee bit unfair in your analysis of my words.
Please consider the following from my article: The movies making the most money are from our house. But we’d rather bitch about Dan Didio still running DC than applaud Eric Stephenson, publisher at Image Comics. Eric gave the greatest comic book speech since Uncle Ben told Peter Parker; with great power, comes great responsibility.
“I’d like to talk about the future, but first, we’re going to do some time travel, back to a time when there was no Internet, no Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram. A time when there were no comic book stores.”
That was Eric’s spectacular opening and it got better from there.
We should still be talking about it. The industry coverage of that speech?
Almost none. Perhaps if Eric had started his speech with the following, we would still be talking about it.
“I’d like to talk about the future, but first, we’re going to do some time travel, back to a time Dan Didio wasn’t screwing up DC, Marvel didn’t suck, and there was no Dark Horse because there shouldn’t be any damn Dark Horse.”
Yep, we’d still be talking about that.
I dare say with your musings put in the manner you put them, we are.
Mr. Khosla, I don’t know you but from your writings, it does appear you are an educated man. You certainly have a passion concerning comic books and I do believe you have comics’ best interest at heart.
I’m very much at my wits end pondering why you transformed what I wrote into something I did not write with your explanations.
I wrote: I once loved the comics industry with a passion almost incomprehensible even to myself but the industry I loved so is gone. What remains is a fat out of shape ghost of its former self. A snake oil salesman selling a yearly new everything hoping fans will consider it a glorious new tune.
You wrote: This is how we’re starting a defense of Dan DiDio – by having to acknowledge that comic industry under his supervision has become an “out of shape ghost of its former self.”
Uhm. Okay. Great argument.
And the victim of comic fans, according to Mr. Davis?
Mr. Davis, eh? If you insist of addressing me so formally, please afford me the courtesy of doing it correctly. I feel it’s only fair after your “mentor” slights you address me as Dr. Davis as I have a Ph.D., please forgive me for my rudeness if this offends you, it is not my intention.
The following is another example of the slanting of my words.
You wrote Mr. Davis continues by trying to identify the culprit – not Mr. DiDio, but of course, comic fans.
I wrote What slays me and I fear will destroy us all is how we see, speak and represent ourselves. Character assassination over a creative decision. Damning a company, creator or content because someone wrote or drew something someone took issue with, rumors perceived as news, news handled like press releases were all once virtually repudiated as just being silly.
The problem with comics is the fans are not nice enough to the people who make them.
That is patently unjust my friend and even more so given life for me these days have been incredibly unfair. I won’t burden you with my many tales of woe. However, I do think the following incident is somewhat appropriate to share with you.
Within the last year, I’ve lost three dogs. I cannot express to you the pain that caused me. No, you have not caused me any pain sir. That’s not the reason I’m sharing that with you.
After some time, I intend to get another dog. To that end it just so happens your article appeared on the day I was wondering when the next time I’d have to teach another little bitch not to shit in my house.
It seems that day is today and the time is now.
We interrupt this professional rebuttal for a word from the wrong nigga to fuck with:
Motherfucker, where the fuck did you see Dan’s name anywhere near the quote you used? Where did you read I blamed the fans?
Nowhere. It’s not there. You made that up.
I’m simply amazed how you pulled that “response” to my article off. No one points out the level of bullshit that you shovel down their throats. Sure, I’ve seen people disagree with you, but I have yet to see anyone take you to task for the little fact that nothing you contribute to me exists anywhere in the article.
Nowhere. Like the emperor, the little bitch has no clothes.
The industry is eating up what is the comic book equivalent of weapons of mass destruction. Just like Bush, you picked a target to attack because it was convenient and you made a convincing case by writing smoke and mirrored attack on me.
Just like Bush, there was nothing there. It didn’t exist it was all bullshit.
I didn’t defend Dan’s leadership at DC anywhere in my article.
I also didn’t dismiss Dan’s leadership at DC anywhere in my article.
I don’t write in riddles my friend; don’t write leaving room for interpretation and I don’t write in some vague style, so later I can wiggle out of what I said.
Within my writings there is no need for deliberation, you don’t have to ponder shit nor is there any reason to think there is a hidden meaning. I write what I mean; say what I mean. You used me and my work to advance your agenda.
That was a bad idea.
I could give you a list of people and companies who tried that and but for one they all wrote me a check. The one that hasn’t got a pass up to now.
Relax dude; I’m not going to sue you. You’re a hell of a writer. That’s not a backward dig I mean that. Where you need help is in reading comprehension
Help is here, Bitch. Get out a pencil and paper because you’re about to get schooled.
How many words were there between “I once loved the comic industry with a passion almost incomprehensible even to myself but the industry I loved so is gone. What remains is a fat out of shape ghost of its former self. A snake oil salesman selling a yearly new everything hoping fans will consider it a glorious new tune.”
And Dan Didio may be the most hated man in comics and for what?
The answer A. 325.
How the hell did you tie the two together? Oh wait, you used the weapons of mass destruction technique. Attack somebody who had nothing to do with the attack you wanted to make. Like Bush, you thought you could get away with it.
If I may paraphrase the immortal words of Bill Duke, bitch, you know you done fucked up, don’t you?
How many words are there in the entire article?
The answer is A. 2564
You gave every impression I’d devoted all my article to Dan. Apparently the people who backed you did not read what I wrote, or they are drinking the stupid flavored Kool-Aid.
Of the 2564 words how many words were written about Dan?
The answer is C. 190
I’ve heard about it but never tried it. How is the stupid Kool-Aid?
Using the following paragraph below show where Dan first appears.
“I once loved the comic industry with a passion almost incomprehensible even to myself but the industry I loved so is gone. What remains is a fat out of shape ghost of its former self. A snake oil salesman selling a yearly new everything hoping fans will consider it a glorious new tune.”
Where is Dan first located?
325 words before
325 words after
In the same paragraph
The answer is B – 325 words after the quote.
Can you get addicted to Kool-Aid?
When did Michael Davis stop working with DC?
He never stopped working with DC
The day DC realized he was black
The day he told a DC executive to suck his dick
The day he refused to shut up about how fucked up DC was treating him while at Milestone.
The day a VP at DC tried to prevent him from becoming President & CEO of Motown Animation and Filmworks
The day the Earth stood still
The day Abhay Khosla realized Doctor Davis has no goddamn reason to kiss DC’s ass, never has, never will.
The answer is late 1993. That’s 23 years.
Fun fact: E, F, G, and H are all true. You think perhaps there was no love lost between DC and me?
Rich Johnson changed my original title, which was “What’s Love Got To Do With it?” Why are we still complaining about Dan Didio is all Rich and being the Johnson that he is he knew full well someone would take his bait.
I like Richard. He’s an important part of our industry. He’s got his critics, but a man without critics is a man with no success. I let what he does slide because he knows his audience.
But, like anyone else if I have an issue with him I voice it, and I have two. Editing my work, so you get F**K instead of what I wrote and that so-called comics power list.
But I digress. Peter David! Hey! As always I look forward to seeing you at my annual Comic-Con party!
Your article paints me as defending Dan with a passion; I didn’t. In fact, I gave an example of how I stood by him when he was at ABC and he, for whatever reason, has not shown me the same courtesy since being at DC.
That to me is a dick move but if that’s how he wants to be let him be that. I got other shit to do, and I certainly don’t need DC Comics to pay my mortgage. Yeah, I’d like to work with them again and on paper, I should be.
I have a long albeit novel relationship with Dan. I met Diane Nelson when she was still at Warner Consumer products, and we still exchange the occasional email. Lastly, Jim Lee and I have been in business together it was Image who published my Machineworks imprint.
I think fondly of the 3 am meeting I had with Image at the Hyatt during Comic Con way back when. I bare no one at DC any malice, and I’m glad to see each of those people whenever our paths cross.
Fun Fact: DC Comics is still my universe of choice, and I’ve said that regardless of the state my relationship is with them.
But, like I said I got other shit to do.
Why’d you do it? Nothing in my article was interpreted correctly so again, why’d you do it?
The first step is to admit you have a problem. It’s the Kool-Aid isn’t it?
My clearly made point was this; all this negative energy spent on Dan would be best spent trying to create a forward movement for the industry. People have been trying to get Dan fired for well over a decade.
How the fuck is that working out for you?
I’m always amazed when someone’s goal in life is to fuck up someone else’s.
You’re like a guy who desperately wants to date a girl. When she repeatedly says no you set out to impress her even more. Flowers and candy don’t work so you post something sweet on her Facebook page a poem. Danielle is her name and your name for your little limerick.
She blocks you.
You then embark on a campaign to make her pay. Your poem becomes a book-length attack designed to shame, sadden and hurt her.
You post, The case against Dan Didio, I mean Danielle secure in the knowledge this will destroy her.
She laughs it off. She laughs you off.
Soon you realize a cruel irony. Like Baum’s Dorothy who wanted nothing but to find a way home, she realized the way was her.
She became her way home.
The thing most wanted from “Danielle” is what you’ve become.
A little pussy.
The truth that you damn well knew unless you’re a fucking idiot was Dan made a minor part of an extensive article.
Nothing you attribute to me concerning Dan, fans and my point of view is accurate. The article’s use of my work is not just inaccurate Zero is written remotely slightly, somewhat or vaguely like you describe.
I’m a simple guy I don’t write in riddles I don’t write with conjecture as my primary source. I never blamed the fans for anything.
Bottom line. If you want to pick apart something I’ve done, criticize something I wrote, have at it just don’t rewrite it to suit your personal bullshit.
I wrote While many in the industry continue to turn on each other, some even creating another tempest of hatred once the last storm has lost the wind that propelled it Len Wein just writes another story creates another character all done without a hateful word towards his fellow creators.
Did you skip over that?
You’ve just being a dick?
Pick a side, pussy? Dick? Which one are you? You can’t be both, unless you pronounce your last name Kardashian.
Oh, and one more thing about being a “mentor” you might want to check with Walt Simonson as well. Walt came to my studio to see how I ran my mentorship program after accepting a teaching position at the School Of Visual Arts.
Fun fact: Rosamond Bernier did the same when she decided to add a young adult series to her career. I never assume anything, but I have a feeling you’ve never heard of her.
Google her; that may give you a small window into who you’re dealing with and at what level I operate.
You’re passionate about the industry I get that. I’ll be the first to tell you I’ve made many mistakes, and I own up to them.
Many years ago I labeled Bob Chapman a racist. I was young and hotheaded and saw things through a lens of bigoted pain. Bob isn’t a racist he and his family are the salt of the Earth.
I wrote and published Bob an apology the very next week when I was proved wrong. When next I saw him I did so in person then I found his wife and then so again. I was young and hotheaded, but I was not stupid. I was wrong, and I owned up to it.
You are wrong. Do the right thing.
You may think I’m writing this in anger. I’m not, this is far from reaching my level of rage.
I’m saddened by the amount of work you put into this was used to fuel yet another fruitless attack on for better or worse one of the leaders of our industry. You’ve added another reason comics get no respect. Hollywood should be our partners, but instead, we are their bitch.
Lastly, if you want to get black boys into your van, it’s easy. Simply tell them you’re a little pussy.
I’m back, ladies and gents, with more SDCC coverage! If you missed Part I(the con floor) or Part II (the Her Universe Fashion Show), don’t forget to check ‘em out. And now, on to Part III – party tiiiiiime!
So it’s no secret that I love a good party. And SDCC isn’t a bad place to find one. If you look (and there are some handy party guides put out ahead of each con by more enterprising souls than me to get you started, like this one from Variety and this one from The Hollywood Reporter), you can find events ranging from casual to fancy to star studded galas, and from free events to paid ticketed events.
Your party mileage may vary depending on what you’re looking for; but if you’re like me and like to have a couple of events per night on your radar (nothing worse than ending up at a lame party and not knowing where else to go for a good time when you’re all ready for a fun night), then it’s a good idea to have at least two to three places in mind per night (although it could actually be a good thing if you don’t get to them all – it might mean you were having so much fun at the first one that you didn’t want to leave; and that’s way better than making it to All The Parties).
As a side note before I move on: of course, a lot of the parties listed that feature A-list celebrities or whatever are going to be invite or RSVP-only; but honestly, in my experience of having been to everything from those parties to the come-on-in, it’s-free-for-everyone parties, it’s not celebs that make the fun. Those parties can be awesome; or they can end up being badly organized, long-wait-outside kind of things; and who wants that when you’re looking to get your dance or drink on? So if you end up invited or on the list for those parties, by all means give it a whirl; but if you don’t land an invite to something like that, don’t stress or feel like you’re missing out on life. There’s plenty to do at night for any con-goer.
And as a tip to organizers doing the celebrity-style parties – the most fun I’ve had at those are the ones where you don’t have to wait forever to get in, and where you can actually chat with the other guests, no matter who they are, or where it’s more about everyone dancing and having a good time than whether you’re standing next to so-and-so. The least fun are the ones where if you aren’t an A-list celebrity, you feel like you’re kind of just there, even if you were invited and on the list and everything. Totally lame; so try to strike a balance where everyone feels like they’re welcome and it’s their party. I’ve seen it done right many times, so I know it’s possible! Oh, and for heaven’s sake, don’t tell a press person (or any person) they’re on the list for a party you invited them to and then forget to add them. Trust me – it happened to me; and after wasting precious party time standing in line for a party we won’t see when we could be elsewhere, reporting and/or having a blast, reporters do not forget that shit. Ever.
Anyway; this year, I started poking around the party lists and invites fairly well ahead of time and by the time the Con rolled around, I had my party schedule together. I aimed for a balance of drinks-and-chats vs. club-like, casual vs. fancy, and free vs. ticketed or RSVP events; because hey – I like variety! Some of the potentials dropped off the schedule because I never made it to them, mostly because there’s only so much time in a night (and I heard that the aforementioned list-SNAFU party I also missed turned out to be pretty lame, so no loss there!), but here’s the round-up of the ones I hit, which were hella fun.
The Event: J!NX PRESENTS: Gabe Eltaeb’s Second Annual Comic Kickoff Fundraiser
Where I Found It: I knew about this one in advance because my friend and I stumbled on it last year in the course of meeting up to get dinner. It had a fun casual vibe, so I checked with the J!NX folks to see if they were hosting it again this year, and lo-and-behold they were! But if you don’t know the folks at J!NX, no worries, because this event was also listed on Facebook.
Open To: Anyone! I RSVP’d on Facebook.
The Experience: Like last year, this was held at BASIC Urban Kitchen & Bar. The pizza there is good, and there’s a bar area as well as a more restaurant-like area with tables. The get-together is actually a benefit for The Hero Initiative, which helps comics creators in need, so it’s for a good cause. This year it was sponsored by Razer, Dark Horse Comics, and Loot Crate, and had raffle prizes that included hand-drawn sketches donated by guest artists, Razer Gaming Accessories donated by Razer, and Loot Crates and free subscriptions donated by Loot Crate. The guest artists on hand were Gabe Eltaeb (Star Wars, Green Lantern Corps), Jim Calafiore (Exiles, Aquaman), Carlos D’Anda (Star Wars, Deathblow), Todd Nauck (Young Justice, Nightcrawler), Eddie Nunez (Fanboys vs. Zombies, Ben 10), and Doug Wheatley (Star Wars, Blade: The Vampire Hunter).
As with last year, the vibe was again casual and cool. It was, again, a good place to have dinner with a friend, and more. Although I didn’t opt to participate in the raffle, there were some great pieces available, as well as the merchandise prizes. It was awesome to be able to be in amongst the party while still able to sit down and grab a bite to eat after the hecticness of Preview Night. All-in-all, it was a perfect, relaxed way to do something fun while still easing into the Comic-Con mood on the first night.
But of course, it wasn’t all I did that night. I soon headed over to my next event of the evening…
The Event:Wooden Wisdom (Elijah Wood & Zach Cowie DJ Set) at Bang Bang
Where I Found It: Twitter. I came across this purely by accident on my Twitter feed. Not knowing (as I do now) that Elijah Wood has been into DJing for a long time, my main thought was, “this is the weirdest evening event I’ve encountered at Comic-Con. I must go.” Given that tickets were only $15 when I looked it up, and after learning the venue had a bathroom devoted to Ryan Gosling, I was totally sold. I had to see this.
Open To: Anyone who wants to pay between $5-25 to go to a club and dance the night away with a hobbit co-helming the turntables!
The Experience: The website said the club closed at midnight on Wednesdays, and listed Wooden Wisdom as going on at 10, so I headed over around 10:30 to see what it was all about. As it turned out, for Comic-Con week the club was open until 2, and Wooden Wisdom was starting at midnight (that’s more like it!). That was perfect since I’d wanted to see a few friends for drinks first – so I got my stamp and headed to the Marriott for a drink, heading back to the club a little after midnight for the main event. I was prepared for anything – crowds, no crowds, terrible music, awesome music – and was pleasantly surprised to discover that (other than a sticky floor) this was a rockin’ experience.
Wooden Wisdom is good, you guys! Like, I-wish-they-hadn’t-had-to-go-in-two-hours, I-could-have-danced-a-lot-more good. Both Elijah Wood and Zach Cowrie were awesome up there. Plus, the weird bathroom didn’t disappoint (if you don’t mind a life-sized Ryan Gosling staring at you while you use the facilities); the bartender was extra-nice; I met a couple of new friends on the dance floor; and the giant disco ball and lighting was also pretty darned cool. And, I mean, there was the whole Elijah Wood is DJing (and havin’ a drink) a few feet away thing going on. That was fun. And a kick-ass way to start off the con weekend! I didn’t leave until they pushed us out the door.
Where I Found It: Long story short, I know a guy. Sometimes it does help to have those connections, and this year, I checked in with a friend who had, last year, hosted several Comic-Con panels and an associated rockin’ Robot Rendezvous Party, complete with technological demonstrations and special guest Brent Spiner, to see what he was up to this year. As it turned out, this year he was all about virtual reality, and was planning three panels, including a “Building the Holodeck” panel and an associated “VR Lounge” party. After last year? I was so there!
Open To: Everyone, with a ticket purchase via EventBrite. Even though I know a guy, you don’t have to in order to attend his parties.
The Experience: Like last year, it was geeky-cool, and a place to play as well as eat or drink. Held at the Stone Brewing Tap Room, the party featured complimentary appetizers and three different VR demonstrations. I got to try out two of the three before having to run off (I wanted to stay the whole time, but I couldn’t miss the Her Universe Fashion Show!) and they were super cool. For one, from the Emblematic Group, you put on some tech gear (a bag, headphones, and a viewing thing) and could walk around a room in the pub, while experiencing the room as a replica of the Star Trek: Next Generation bridge. It was pretty cool; and you could even sit down in chairs that now looked like holodeck chairs. (Or you could walk around looking like a badass Red Son Super(wo)man in a cape, like my friend Amy.)
The next, from Qualcomm, was Vuforia, which is essentially a modern-day, VR View-Master (man, I loved my View-Master), and is super-cool. The way it works is that by looking at a reel while using the viewer, you can enter the “experience” on that reel, and look around a VR version of different scenes. I looked at a space one, and it was super cool (and if you look down, it will say on the “floor” what experience you are in). You can also look around and see different reels within the reel you are in; and if you click on one of those, can jump into another experience. Let me tell you…it is neeeeeaat. I definitely want one; at the very least for my little nephew and nieces, if not also for myself! The third experience, which I didn’t have time to try but also looked rad, was NASA’sPhobos Hopper project. If only I’d had a little more time to play! But even though I had to dash, it was a super-cool party.
Where I Found It: On the website, word-of-mouth, and in the party round-ups. Even though this was my third year attending Nerd HQ (which, if you haven’t encountered it, is an amazing all-weekend event started by actor Zac Levi to benefit the important charity Operation Smile, and which I will cover in much more detail in another column), and I’d heard of the parties before, I hadn’t managed to make it to one in the other years. This year, I bookmarked the Nerd HQ party as the next place I’d hit on Thursday if there was time. As it turned out, dinner didn’t wrap until midnight, and I was already super tired after a busy day at the con; but I did swing by Nerd HQ with someone else from the dinner to see what the party was all about in this year’s new setting, The New Children’s Museum.
Open To: Anyone who has registered for Nerd HQ (which is free)
The Experience: This party is funnnnn, y’all. Remember how I was talking about celebrity parties that strike a balance and make everyone feel like it’s their party? Nerd HQ does it right! Even though it’s a draw to know that Zac Levi (and possibly famous friends) are going to be there, hosting the party, interacting with the crowd, etc., the party is still, first and foremost, a party with a bunch of nerrrrds. Albeit a party with Zac Levi and a Wookie on stage. On Thursday around midnight, there was no wait to get in – they just scanned our RFID bracelets, and in we went. The setting this year was pretty good, with a dance floor area set in front of a raised platform where the DJ and Zac and friends could hang out, and they had a really fun mix of music, and great lighting, to set the mood. Zac was totally into the party, singing, dancing, and saying hello to people in the crowd. There was a good crowd, clearly having a great time dancing and chilling, and there were also two bars (indoor and out on the patio) for drinks, although I didn’t get a drink Thursday, since I was just swinging by to scope the scene before dropping like a dead thing into my bed, to prepare for…
The Event: The Fashionably Nerdy Cocktail Hour
Where I Found It: Facebook, and friends mentioning it.
Open To: Everyone! I RSVP’d on Facebook.
The Experience: This was Fashionably Nerdy’s first year hosting this event; but from the minute I saw it, I was excited to attend. As you can probably tell from my coverage of the Her Universe Fashion Show and more, I am all about nerd and geek fashion for women; and the ladies hosting this party are, too! So it was a total match. The event was hosted at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Grand Lobby Bar, and advertised as a way to meet the Fashionably Nerdy team and some great geek chic designers. Swag bags were promised for the first attendees, along with a raffle, and prizes for the best-dressed. Press commitments elsewhere kept me from arriving when it started, so I didn’t land a swag bag, but their list of designers and prizes was very impressive!
Given that this was a fashion party, I dressed in my geek best with the Loki dress from the Her Universe Hot Topic line, designed by the winners of last year’s SDCC Her Universe Fashion Show. I swung by after the party had been going for an hour, and the place was pretty packed! I somehow immediately honed in on and met the Fashionably Nerdy gals (it’s like a geek fashionista sixth sense!) and chatted with them, as well as with some of their friends, one of whom is a designer who had made one of the great geek dresses being worn, and had actually been one of the Fashion Show models as well. We all bonded over our shared love of geek fashion, and kept running into each other for the rest of the weekend after that, which was fun. Yay, new friends!
Speaking of the Fashion Show, the Loki dress a good choice of attire, because I got many compliments! Despite the fact that the line was on my radar from the get-go, several people at the party had never seen the dress and wanted to know where I got it. I was happy to be able to tell them Ashley Eckstein had just announced that the sold-out line is coming back; and this was clearly the right crowd to be interested in news like that. After I met a few folks, I settled in for some food and drink, because whoo, I was starving! Over shrimp tacos I made friends with other like-minded geeks, chatting about, e.g., some of the difficulties and discrimination we’d encountered as women who are into video gaming; and the fun we have in sneaking geek couture into our daily work wardrobes. As the event wound down, I was happy to unexpectedly get one of the cute prizes they were handing out to some attendees – a great glittery Flash hairclip from Accessories by Nerd Girl Britt that I’ll surely wear somewhere. All-in-all, it was a really fun event! I hope to go again next year, and have been assured that planning is already in the works! As this year’s event wrapped up, I headed over to…
Where I Found It: Ah, I have been a Sherlockian for yea, these many years, and had many friends (particularly from the yearly NYC BSI Weekend, and from my personal scion group, The Red Circle of DC) who were going to this party! So I heard about it from several folks.
Open To: Everyone who buys a ticket! Although this one always seems to sell out pretty fast.
The Experience: This was an all-around great party in a great setting, put together by The Baker Street Babes, Being Geek Chic, The Nerdy Girlie, SherlockDC, and more. Held on the 9th floor of the San Diego Public Library, the room had a glassed-in view of PETCO Park and downtown San Diego (which was especially cool when we unexpectedly partook second-hand in the Star Wars Celebration fireworks!), as well as a patio outside. There was a great spread of food (both hot food and a fruit and cheese table), and a cash bar. Everyone who went got a cool swag bag with Sherlockian-themed items like exclusive prints and Sherlock-themed tea. There was also an impressive raffle with lots of themed prizes, as well as a selection of merchandise to browse.
One of my favorite bits was a photo booth where you could get a set of four pictures done in quick succession, with silly props supplied for you. My friend Lacy and I had a total blast with that. It was also cool to run into great friends from the BSI, like Les Klinger of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes and Curtis Armstrong of Supernatural and King of the Nerds. And, of course, any party where you walk in and Steven Moffat is hanging out doing a Q&A is pretty darned cool. Really, this party wasn’t missing any ingredients of success; and a good time was had by all. Which brings me to the final party night…
The Event: The Nerd HQ Nerd Army Party
Where I Found It: See above. I was determined to actually have time to hang out at this party Saturday night, after being too tired to stay long on Thursday.
Open To: All registered Nerd HQ attendees
The Experience: The vibe and setting was similar to Thursday, although there was a line to get in. Still, it moved fairly quickly (unlike most party lines) and soon I was nerding out inside with the rest of the Nerd Army. At first, I’ll admit I was a little cranky, because I really, really wanted a water and could not figure out how to efficiently obtain one. After waiting in a long bar line, realizing near the front that I had to buy tickets in a separate line for drinks, and then buying those and getting back in the bar line, I was a bit frustrated – and I definitely think that process needs to be streamlined (why did there need to be drink tickets at all?) and clarified for next year (at the very least a complimentary water station, or a separate line for just water, would probably work wonders).
But once I got some water in me, I was more than happy to party like the rest of the crowd. And also, to take a couple of pictures with their free photo set-ups, which were still available during the night-time fun. (Fun side note: I pinned one copy of my party picture to the photo clotheslines just for fun; and the next day, a friend who I didn’t actually get to see in person the whole contweeted it at me, all, “found you!” Haha! Friends seeing friends via Nerd HQ.) The dance floor was a good time; I got into the crowd for a time, and actually ran into and said hi to Zac as he was making his way back to the raised area after he’d been dancing in the middle of the crowd for a long while; and when I took a break from dancing, I ended up meeting and hardcore nerding out with a new friend in conversation on the sidelines of the dance floor. And although I personally didn’t run into any of the other celebs who might have been there, I know that, e.g., Yvonne Strahovski was there at least one of the nights; so you never know who you might see at Nerd HQ! And either way, it’s a hoppin’ party!
But eventually, I needed to slow it down a little; so I headed over to my last party of the weekend…
The Event: SlamCon
Where I Found It: Twitter. You have to follow @Slam_Con on Twitter to find out the location of this party each year. On the day of, they tweet the location a few hours before (they tweeted it at 5, and the party started at 8, this year).
Open To: Everyone! And you never know who you might see there, from friends to celebs to who-all-knows. Last year half the cast of Supernatural apparently showed up.
The Experience: SlamCon is another example of a good way to mix some celebrities or con guests with con-goers without it feeling weird. Although the venue and feel might change a little from year to year, this party, organized by Todd Stashwick, Dennis Calero, Brea Grant, and Deric Hughes, is a great way to hang out, have some drinks, and wrap up a con weekend. This year, the event was at the Hilton Bayfront Pool Club; but then moved to the Odysea because the crowd got so big.
Although, alas, I headed over pretty late and missed a fair bit of it, as well as Deric, who I would have loved to catch up with, even just walking in I ran into the awesome Brandon Auman, writer for the current fantastic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show on Nickelodeon (and funnily enough, earlier had run into the just-as-awesome Greg Cipes, voice of Michelangelo, out on the street – Turtle Power and Turtle friends!) and was introduced to another writer for the show. And I also got to say hi and thanks for organizing to Todd Stashwick, who is a delightful human being (and a great actor!). And I ran into one of the great Fashionably Nerdy gals again, too! So even though I didn’t get to stay too long, it was nice to go and see some old friends or meet new ones! And next year…well, I’m definitely going to try to get there sooner!
Last weekend, while my column was here, I was not. I was an invited guest at WonderCon out in Anaheim, CA, and I had a great time. It reminded me of San Diego Comic Con (who owns WonderCon) back before SDCC got so huge and overwhelmed with media stuff. WonderCon was mostly about comics and that felt very cool.
My duties were pretty light – two panels and two hour-long autograph sessions and one video interview. I didn’t have a table (my own fault) so I had a chance to walk around unfettered and unsupervised and see what I wanted. I didn’t realize fellow ComicMix columnists Jen Ernst and the Tweeks were also in attendance or I would’ve made an effort to get together with them and say hello and exchange stories about Mike Gold.
One of the big impressions I had was the sheer amount and quality of cosplayers in attendance. Every corner of fandom was there – comics, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, every sf movie or TV show you could think of. Some were mash-ups of different groups, such as Princess Merida (Brave) as a Jedi. I was dazzled.
What I initially thought was an interesting cosplayer turned out not to be a cosplayer at all. A guy with a bullhorn outside the security gates was haranguing everyone; turns out he was a Westboro Baptist-type preacher going on about sin and Jesus and the devil; I wasn’t listening very closely. Side observation: why do so many of these preacher types go on about the devil so much? They talk more about him than Jesus, it seems to me.
Anyway, his church also had some placards up with red letters against a yellow background with variations of “Jesus is Lord.” My second day there I saw one such sign inside the security barrier and wondered how they got past the guards. Then I realized it was being held by a Stormtrooper, probably from the 501st, and in red letters against a yellow background it said, “Vader is Lord.” Well played, 501st; well played.
I got to see some of my fellow professionals during the Con; my fellow Legends scribe Len Wein was there and we exchanged heart surgery notes. I had a triple bypass last October but Len had a quadruple bypass only six weeks before. (He’s so competitive.) I would not have been at the Con in his shoes and I hope all the fans really appreciated his being there. Len is one of the nicest guys in the biz and goes that extra mile for the fans.
Dan Jurgens stopped by while I was having breakfast on Friday ,which was nice. I later stopped by his table and we shot the shit about some of the old days at DC.
I also met up with Barbara Randal/Kesel/Kesel Randal/Randal Kesel/whatever. We ran into each other outside the Convention Hall and that is a very difficult trick to pull off. The odds against meeting anyone you know at one of these things is astronomical.
Barbara, I and my late wife Kim Yale were good friends back at DC when Kim worked there and it was still headquartered in NYC. Barbara has hardly changed at all and that should be illegal. I myself am old and weathered and show my years as any decent person should.
I went to a panel that Barbara was moderating called “What Does an Editor Do” which was fun, quick paced, and informative. A really good panel. During Q&A I asked her and her panelists who was an example of a good editor in the past. Barbara nailed it with her answer: “Archie Goodwin.” Boom! There it is. Great writer, great editor.
I also met some other professionals for the first time – Marc Andreyko and Tom King. Marc you may know from his version of Manhunter, which starred Kate Spencer. Kim and I had worked on a Mark Shaw Manhunter series so that gives us a bit in common.
We were both hanging around the Con booth for different reasons and I was trying to think of some way of introducing myself without sounding like a dweeb. Evidently, he was doing the same and we finally broke the ice and had a great conversation.
You may know Tom King from his current work on Grayson as well as his novels. He came up to say hello and introduce himself during one of my autograph sessions. A really nice guy and I enjoyed meeting him; he confessed he was a little nervous about meeting me. (I can give him names of people who can tell him how and why I am not so impressive.) I told him stories about how I dweebed out in meeting some of those pros I revered (Jack Kirby, John Broome, and Will Eisner). Tom and I got along fine after that.
Both Tom and Marc mentioned how my work on Suicide Squad really impacted them. That always surprises me when I hear that. These guys are hot, young and very good writers. All false modesty aside, I’m sometimes surprised that people remember what I did; I was just trying to do my best at the time. Like I always do.
The two autograph sessions went very well. Both lasted an hour each and I was busy right through each hour. I got to chat with some of the fans and see some of my old work which was sort of like seeing old friends. A couple of the fans had my very first work which was an eight page story in the back of the first issue of Warp, the first comic from First Comics.
The two panels were fun. One was my solo panel – all about me, a subject I know fairly well and can talk endlessly about. It was a relatively small crowd so I had them all move down to the front of the room and I sat on a chair in front of them and we just chatted. I told stories, held forth about writing, and everyone seemed to have a good time.
The other panel was about working on Star Wars and the room was packed. I shared the podium with several of my fellow workers and we fielded answers from the crowd. Towards the end, I asked the audience a question, one that I felt went to the very heart of Star Wars.
Did Han shoot first?
The answer was a deafening “Yes!”
A good Con, all in all. I want to thank everyone connected with it and thank them for inviting me and taking really good care of me. I had such a good time I’m hoping to go back. If I have the money, I would pay my way.
And for those who know me, you know that’s a high compliment.
“Must a name mean something?” Alice asked doubtfully.
“Of course it must,” Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh; “my name means the shape I am – and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.”
Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
There was a time in my life when it was my silent, constant partner. I didn’t know then what it was; this thing had no name, and no one had yet advised me to challenge it, to call it out from the shadows into the sunlight. It hid in the cold dark crevices of my psyche, curled around my thoughts and dreams like a boa constrictor, never letting go, an anonymous thing. I knew there was something wrong, but without a name to call it, I could not voice it. Without a name to call it, I could not control it. Without a name to call it, I could not reclaim my self.
Yesterday I went to a comic book store for the first time in a very, very long time.
What the hell does that have to do with my struggles with it? A good question. A legitimate question.
The first time I discovered a store dedicated to comics was way back in the early 80s, during the time when this anonymous thing lived with me day after day, week after week, month after month. I don’t remember purposely sniffing it out – IIRC I just happened to be stopped at a red light on Broadway in downtown Bayonne, New Jersey. The storefront caught my eye; the windows were full of comics and some other stuff, but then the light turned green and I continued along my way.
But for the few moments while I was waiting for the red to turn to green, the thing had let go of me, or, at least, had lessened its grip. It wasn’t an “uh-huh” moment…
But very soon afterwards I was in the store and I wasn’t feeling weird, or odd, or frightened or any of that remote, sad, heaviness of the thing-with-no name which I carried with me – well, not so much, anyhow…
Yeah, not to put it through too fine a sieve – and, yes, it’s 28 years later – I think what I was feeling was comfort.
I looked at all the covers of the comics and the colors and the artwork and all the heroes – Superman, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, The Legion Of Super-Heroes, and all the rest – and I felt better. Okay, not kick-up-your-heels-and-do-a-dance better, but yeah, definitely better. Probably, as my therapist would say, it had to do with being suddenly face-to-face with the little-girl-who-was-me; she who was excited, who was curious, who read comics by flashlight after Taps underneath the covers of my bunk at camp.
I remembered her.
I was her.
I don’t remember what else I bought that day, but I do remember buying Camelot 3000, the groundbreaking maxi-series by Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland, which imagines the prophesized return of King Arthur and his Round Table when the Earth is threatened by an alien invasion in the year 3000 A.D. I have always loved the story of the once and future king; it is the classic hero’s journey, told over and over again in many myths and in many cultures, the tale of the individual who is challenged to walk through the gauntlet, to vanquish the enemy, to achieve peace and knowledge even if cost is dear.
I read that first issue of Camelot 3000, and while I was reading it I escaped the hell of my life. And I kept going back to the comic book store and I kept reading C3000, and I bought and read other comics. I even wrote a “Letter to the Editor” that appeared in an issue of Green Lantern.
It was finally, and properly, diagnosed and named in 1990 as clinical depression.
And yes, naming the monster gave me power.
But I still hate it. Because it never really goes away, y’know? Even with medication and therapy, it’s always there, teasing me. “I’m still here. I had you once. I can have you again.” And sometimes it does, for a little while. The past month, for instance. But I have named it, and so its power is not what it was. And then, too, sometimes I think…
If the monster had not taken hold of me, if I had not had to struggle and walk through the gauntlet, I would have never walked into that comic book store in 1982 and started reading comics again. I would have never sat down on a rainy Sunday and written Jenesis, the story that led me to Karen Berger and New Talent Showcase and all the wonderful things that followed it. I would have never written Lois Lane: When It Rains, God Is Crying, and never would have been able to understand the pain of Chalk Drawings (Wonder Woman #46), which I co-wrote with George Pérez. I would have never gone to conventions and met so many wonderful people – this means you, Mike, John, Kim, and Mary. And you, Martha. And you, Bob Greenberger. And Karen and Len and Marv and Mike Grell and Tom Brevoort and Trina Robbins and Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner and Marie Javins. And so many others, some of who are no longer with us – Dick Giordano and Gray Morrow and Don Heck and Mark Gruenwald…
I hate you, depression.
I hate you with a passion that frightens me. You have fucked up my life in too many goddamn ways.
I would not be here now without you.
I said once before, in a previous column, that nothing is wasted.