Tagged: Louise Simonson

Joe Corallo: No More Phoenix

Way back in September, it was announced that Marvel was bringing back Jean Grey for the first time in thirteen years. No, not time displaced Jean Grey. No, not the reanimated Jean Grey from Phoenix – Endsong; the real fictional character. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the announcement. I’ve wanted to say something here, but I just wasn’t sure. I’ve talked privately with people whom all more or less agree with me on this to a point, so I’m finally going to say it here in my column.

I hate that they’re bringing Jean Grey back. It’s genuinely a terrible idea.

I feel terrible talking about this because the writer, Matthew Rosenberg, is a great guy writing incredible comics at publishers like Marvel and Black Mask Studios. He deserves all the success in the world. Leinil Yu is a fantastic artist. This has nothing to do with the creative team on this book; it’s about the editorial direction. It’s just plain and simple a terrible idea.

Most glaringly this transparent stunt shows off how Marvel just doesn’t know what to do with the X franchise so they’re just repacking greatest hits collections. In write ups about the move, Marvel makes statements about how it’s interesting because how will the other X-Men react to her suddenly being back? The real question is why would anyone care when we’ve already seen this done before. More than once. More than twice. That’s not an interesting or unique angle.

This also reminds everyone just how needlessly convoluted the continuity is for the X franchise. In the ads for this book they state that this is the return of the adult Jean Grey. Yes, they have to specify which version of Jean Grey is actually coming back. That is a problem. There is no other way to look at this. If you want new readers coming in, this is not how to do it. If you want lapsed readers coming back in, this is a way to remind them why they stopped reading in the first place. I’m a low hanging fruit X-Men fanboy and I will absolutely not be participating in this event. That should be viewed as a bad sign that have no interest in even humoring this concept.

I’d also like to remind everyone that Jean Grey was literally so boring and played up as a damsel in distress to the point where Chris Claremont came in with incredibly talented collaborators like Dave Cockrum and John Byrne and turned her into a space goddess. She remained so uninteresting they had to make her a villain and kill her off.

The first time she was brought back was for X-Factor in which, again, she was the least interesting team member. As characters like Angel and Iceman were fleshed out by Louise and Walter Simonson (in some of the best and lasting ways either of those characters have been portrayed), but even the Simonsons could not elevate Jean Grey to the kind of character Marvel seems to think she should be. Hell, they just started a solo, time displaced Jean Grey comic earlier this year and in the first issue they already started referencing Phoenix. That is how boring this character is, or at least how creatively bankrupt Marvel is regarding the character.

When Grant Morrison took on the X-Men in New X-Men Jean was actually portrayed with a level of depth she’s rarely been given before. She had a complicated emotional story arc that really elevated her and her death resonated. Despite all of that, Marvel has moved so far away from  the incredible work Grant Morrison did with the X-Men, even though the collected editions are constantly in print and available, still solid sellers thirteen years later. These stories have been reprinted in more formats than most other Marvel comics. It’s baffling why Marvel would move so far away from a direction that was working in favor of an over a decades long emo mutant sadness porn.

We need stakes in our stories. Stakes are what keeps the reader engaged. Why should I read this story if ultimately nothing of consequence will happen? Of course there are some exceptions, but not when we’re dealing with the heavily action based superhero genre. The characters are what keeps people coming back to these stories. Can Peter Parker pay Aunt May’s rent and stop the Lizard this month? Will we find out more of Wolverine’s past? Stuff like that.

It’s safe to say that in most situations the highest stakes for a character is that they could die. When those stakes are completely removed, as they are in the superhero genre, it makes it difficult for readers to want to pick up and read them month to month. Why am I going to care about the issue where X character dies when I know they’ll be back anyway? There is no more shock value in that and the ways characters come back from different dimensions and magic and aliens makes it hard for anyone to get too invested anymore. It makes it hard for me to get invested.

Mainstream comics have a problem, and instead of dealing with it they are actually celebrating it. People are championing (adult) Jean Grey coming back after thirteen years as something that was a long time coming that we should celebrate. Finally, she’s back! It’s about time! When I hear that, it sounds like people celebrating that their friend or loved one that’s been sober for thirteen years is finally drinking again. This is not only not the time to be celebrating, it’s also very depressing and leaves you feeling hopeless.

Look, I love Marvel. Really. I adore the characters, the stories, the movies, and the TV shows; I even had a Jean Grey Phoenix action figure growing up. Some of the best characters and comics ever made or that will ever be made are from Marvel. The reason I’m writing this is because I care and so do a lot of other people. The comics industry needs Marvel to succeed. I want Marvel to succeed and, in particular, the X franchise to succeed. Back in April, I wrote this open letter to Marvel regarding the direction I saw ResurrXion going in. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be getting better, but just getting worse and the sales numbers are reflecting that.

Remember a couple of years ago when rumors started swirling that maybe the X-Men would be put in their own mini-universe separate from the rest of the Marvel Universe? Remember how some people were genuinely excited by that idea, and were kind of sad when Axel said that wouldn’t be the case? Instances like these are maybe worth taking more seriously, because I honestly can’t fathom that approach being worse than what’s happening now and you, the reader, probably can’t either.

I understand that this is a problem that didn’t happen overnight. It took a long time to get here and it will take a long time to get out. Either way, something has to change soon, because this is not sustainable.

Mindy Newell: Days Of Yore

Presenting two real-life stories from my days of yore, although names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

Story The First:

I knew a girl in high school – I wouldn’t say we were friends, but she was someone who had never participated in the Piggy horrors. Sally was an A+ student, on the track to an Ivy League school. Pretty (but not gorgeous) and popular (but quiet about it), she came to me one day and said that she needed to talk to me privately. I was surprised… and a bit suspicious. What did she want? But because Sally had never been overtly mean to me, even though she was part of the clique that instigated most of the callous cruelties upon me, and because I still hoped to be “accepted,” and I wanted to believe for some reason she was about to warn me of some new devilishness about to be inflicted on me – forewarned was forearmed – I agreed. But it had nothing to do with me at all.

Sally was pregnant.

I was, frankly, shocked. Not just about what she said, but also because I was thinking, why are you telling me?

She seemed to be reading my mind about that last part. “I can’t tell Laura, or Toni, or anybody. It would be all over the school in a second. You know how they are.”

Did I ever. Still –

“But they’re your friends.”

All she said was, “I made an appointment with Planned Parenthood in the city. Will you come with me?”

I know exactly why I said “yes.” Out of kindness, certainly. But to be totally honest, I also thought that this could be a way in. Hey, whaddya want? I was a teenager.

We had to cut school the day of her appointment. I met her at the corner bus stop, about an hour after classes started. Sally was very quiet, she didn’t say anything, but I remember she was very pale. As for me, I was sure I would see my father in his car on the way to work. I wasn’t so worried about my mom – I knew she was already at the hospital, where she worked in the ER. At any rate, both of us were very nervous and impatient, waiting for that bus to the PATH train into the city.

At the time – September 1971 – there was a Planned Parenthood in Manhattan on First Avenue between 21st and 20th Streets.  I guess – and I don’t blame her – that Sally made the appointment there rather than the one in Jersey City because Jersey City is too close to Bayonne… too close for comfort. Anyway, I don’t know what either of us was expecting, but it was modern and clean and the staff was professional, kind, and, most importantly, totally non-judgmental.

Sally’s name was called. I sat in the waiting room. It seemed like a long time, but the receptionist at the desk assured me everything was fine when I asked.

Interjection – as an RN in the operating room, I can tell you that the actual procedure takes very little time, especially in the first trimester [as Sally was]. Frequently I’m not even done with my charting before it’s over and I have to assist in transferring the patient to the PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, commonly referred to as the Recovery Room). Most of the intraoperative period is taken up with other things involved in any visit to the OR – anesthesia induction, proper and safe positioning, emergence from anesthesia, transfer to PACU, and monitoring in the PACU, which lasts about an hour or so on average, until discharge.)

Afterwards, as we had planned, we used our pooled resources and took a cab home. This was well before Uber or Lyft. Sally didn’t’ say much except to complain about some cramping – totally normal, btw – but the “worry” was off her face; she was visibly relieved. The cab dropped us off about a block from her house; I walked her home, and before she went inside, she turned and said: “See you in school tomorrow.”

No, we didn’t become best friends after that; things pretty much went back to normal, actually. Hey, we were teenagers, and there were rules of engagement. But I do remember that Sally was never around when it was time to “play Piggy with Mindy.

Sally went on to graduate in the top 25 of a class numbering 750 (I finished 145) and went on to that Ivy League school. I didn’t see her much after high school, a couple of parties and a reunion or two at the Jewish Community Center. I don’t even know what she went on to become as an adult, though I’ve heard she was “successful and happy.”

Story The Second:

Jack and Jill were my high school’s dream team. Every high school has one. Jack was the champion quarterback. Jill was the head cheerleader. Jack was the president of the Student Union. Jill was the editor of the school newspaper. Both had bright futures. Early admission to the colleges of their choice, with Jack receiving a full scholarship based on his football prowess to a Big Ten school, and Jill planning on majoring in journalism at NYU.

They were great people.

And they never treated anybody like Piggy.

Anyway, sometime in the late fall of our senior year, after the Thanksgiving holiday, Jill suddenly disappeared from the school hallways. First, we heard that she was sick with mononucleosis (the “kissing disease,” as it used to be called), but as January became March, rumors began spreading, rumors having to do with pregnancy and forced marriages. Especially after Jack dropped out – two months before graduation.

The truth broke free, as truth is apt to do, sometime in the fall of 1971. During the Christmas break when everybody came home from college, it was the talk of the town, the bars, and the parties.

Jill had become pregnant, and, since back in those stupid days, girls “in the family way” were not allowed to finish high school, she had been forced to leave under the cover of the mononucleosis story, though she refused to go to one of those “homes for fallen women” or whatever they were called. (Do they still exist?)  Her parents had gotten her a tutor so she could finish her high school degree, but not only had she disappeared from the school hallways, Jill had also been confined to the house to “hide her shame.”

Worse, when Jill wanted to go to Planned Parenthood for advice – and advice only – her parents would not allow it. They were very observant Catholics and the name Planned Parenthood was as abhorrent as the name Judas Iscariot. Jill’s pregnancy was treated as if it were a monstrous sin.

She had also finally admitted that Jack was the father because her father had beaten it out of her. Her father then called his father, and they decided that Jack and Jill would get married right away.

And in 1971, not only could you not be pregnant in high school, you couldn’t be married, either; which meant that Jack had to drop out, too, meaning, of course, that he lost his football scholarship and any hope for college. And in case you’re wondering – no college for Jill, either.

Of course, there was always the future, but…

After they got married and Jill had the baby, and Jack got some kind of job, nothing much, he started drinking. Drinking hard. And doing drugs. Hard drugs.

And that’s how the story stood that Christmas break, the last week of 1971.

But it didn’t end there. About 10 years later I met one of Jill’s cousins at the mall. We got to talking about high school, and eventually – of course – Jack and Jill came up. I’ll never forget that conversation.

Jack’s downward spiral had continued. He lost one job after another. The drinking continued, and he was chippinghttp://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=chipping on some weekends, too.

Then he started abusing Jill, and it hadn’t stopped.

“But Jill was always so smart. Why doesn’t she leave?” I said.

“Jesus,” her cousin said.

“Jesus?”

“Jill’s become really religious. That’s why she won’t leave. I think she thinks she’s atoning for getting pregnant and fucking up Jack’s football scholarship. “

“Jesus.”

“Yep.”

That was the last time I ever heard about Jack and Jill. I have no idea what happened to them. Or their kids.

•     •     •     •     •

As if this writing (Sunday, September 10) there are five days to reach the $50,000 goal to produce Mine!: A Celebration of Freedom & Liberty Benefitting Planned Parenthood. We are almost but not quite there.

And, look, guys, I get it. This has been a summer and early fall of donating funds. I understand it’s a matter of priorities. I get the feeling of being “donated out,” too. And our hearts go out to the many caught up in the current round of hurricanes.

Even if it’s just $5, hell, even if’s just a $1, just think about what Bernie Sanders accomplished with an average of $27 to his campaign.

When people think of Planned Parenthood, they think “abortion.” But I’m telling you, and now I am speaking to you as a member of the professional healthcare community, the organization does so much more: Counseling and cancer screenings and preventative and maintenance health care. For women and for men.

The anthology features work by:

 And even more.

Just do it, okay? Because one day, you or yours could be just like Sally or Jack and Jill. Because, just when you or yours need it, Planned Parenthood could be gone.

Don’t let that happen.

Ed Catto: The Power of Walter Simonson

In 1977, the Syracuse Post Standard blazed the headline “Comic Book Confab Listed” to announce the second Ithaca Comic Convention. Actually, I think it would be more appropriate to say they whispered the headline. It was scrunched in the middle of a crowded page. The article listed professional comic guests such as Walter Simonson and Al Milgrom. I’m not one-hundred percent sure if that’s how my family found out about that second Ithaca Comic Con way back then. It may have been from seeing a flyer on the bulletin board at Fay’s Drug Store. That used to be a legitimate marketing venue too. But the big takeaway is that back then, the concept of a comic-con certainly wasn’t understood.

“People meet to buy and sell old funny books?” The very notion sounded absurd.

Today’s comic conventions and “cons” are part of the nation’s everyday lexicon. Any gathering gets a little extra oomph by adding “-con” as a suffix. Every Comic Con held anywhere in the country gets a modicum of respect and “Comic-Con International” (commonly referred to as San Diego Comic-Con, or simply SDCC) is right in the center of pop-culture radar.

At the Confab

It was at that Confab in Ithaca that I first met Walter Simonson. I was already a big fan. His Manhunter in Detective Comics, written by Archie Goodwin, had made every fan sit up and take notice. At the time of the convention, he was illustrating a black and white Hulk magazine story that told lost tales of the character’s early days in the Marvel Universe. It was called a continuity implant back then, but I simply realized it was a fresh, outstanding story. I was elated to meet the guy drawing it at this Ithaca Comic Con.

You know how sometimes we meet our cultural heroes and they are really jerks? We spend all this time worshiping a celebrity’s accomplishments, only to have it all come crashing down when they reveal an unappealing side to their personality in a personal meeting? We all have probably experienced that type debilitating letdown.

Well, meeting Walter Simonson was the polar opposite of that. He was kind and patient with me and to everyone there. He was a big talent wrapped in a smile wrapped in supportive enthusiasm.

It’s no one wonder he’s still often referred to as ‘the nicest guy in comics.”

”You will hear similar stories from many comics professionals,” said J.C. Vaughn of Gemstone and The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. “Walter Simonson was the first comic professional to talk to me one on one as if I were an actual person. Never mind that he’s Walter Freakin’ Simonson, one of the greatest comic artists to walk the planet; he’s also Walter Simonson, a genuinely good guy (we could use more of both). To hire him (twice!) to do covers for the Guide has been a joy, real wish-fulfillment stuff.”

RAGNAROK

More recently, I met with Walter and his wife Louise at his home to discuss his latest project, Ragnarok. It’s a fantastic IDW series that reimagines the Norse legends, including Thor, in a completely different setting than the Marvel version. He used the phrase “Norwegian Zombie” to describe it.

And reinforcing his humble nature, he’s quick to point out two of his collaborators on this project: Laura Martin and John Workman.

During this visit, Walter showed me pages of issue #10. This is a moving issue that explores the distortion of a brand. Basically, Thor finds the symbol of his hammer is being used for something rotten. Where are the trademark and licensing lawyers when you need them?

As with so many Walt Simonson stories, it’s full of power, action, and majesty. But my favorite moment was at the story’s finale when a woman is kneeling and we, as the readers, have a view of the soles of her feet. It’s a usual image for a comic, for whatever reason, but rendered with care and love. “I had to ask Weezie to pose for that,” laughed Walter. He meant that he needed to ask his wife Louise to serve as an artist’s model in order to render the character’s feet correctly.

Let’s talk about Louise Simonson for a moment. She’s quite an impressive creator. Like Walter, she’s humble and soft-spoken. That’s especially impressive as she has every right to be boastful and proud. Her accomplishments are many, but I am always struck by her kind and gentle manner. I’d tend to think that she’s a huge part of the Walt Simonson mystique. Any man married to a woman like Louise Simonson would clearly want to do his best each and every day.

Plus: she made a mean breakfast when I visited. We really must devote another column to this fascinating person at some point down the road.

Walter also revealed a bit of his own personal background and how it influences his latest series. He spoke to me about his family history in North Dakota, and the wheat farms of the 1800s. There seemed to be a sense of adventure about it all and a respect for the “giants of the earth.” His parents even kept an extensive library that contained a few mythology books from the 1890s. The lessons of this all stayed with him well into his years learning design at the Rhode Island School of Design.

He summed up so much of his background and learning in his mantra for storytelling, “Play by the rules, but still surprise.”

SDCC

This week at the San Diego Comic-Con, publisher IDW has a clever marketing promotion centered on Walt Simonson. Lucky fans will be having dinner with Walter, receive two of the enormous and lovingly crafted IDW Simonson books, get them autographed, and receive a sketch or two. Not surprisingly, the unique event quickly sold out.

I asked IDW’s Director of Special Projects, Scott Dunbier, to speak a little about Walter. He offered a clever and genuine response:

“What can I say about Walter Simonson that hasn’t been said before? Blah blah blah legendary creator blah blah blah brilliant run on Thor blah blah blah nicest guy in comics. Sure, all those things are true. But best of all, I get to work with him and talk to him on a regular basis. I’ve got a great job!”

There may be another big night at San Diego Comic-Con for Simonson. The Eisner Award Committee has nominated him for the Hall of Fame. To be fair, there are many other deserving creators on that impressive list. I have no idea how the judging actually works, but I certainly wish him luck.

This week Walter and Weezie will be at the epicenter of pop culture at the San Diego Comic-Con. And I’m sure they’ll continue to inspire many more people.

Ed Catto: Don’t Listen?

We live in a time when each day we are both blessed and cursed by instant feedback and judgment on everything we do. We’re hammered by harsh evaluations of our work and even our future-plans. Professional sports are dissected during postgame broadcasts and call-in shows. Feedback based on casting details or plot rumors now begins long before any creative project is released. In the comic industry, fans render judgments based on teased details long before anyone reads a single page.

Businesses are encouraged to hear and respond to every complaint and critique from customers. Hey, even I have led a seminar at ComicsPRO where the central theme was that retailers should “Grow Big Ears.”

But there are times when you have to ignore the voices. Sometimes you just know what has to be done and have to do it.

Exhibit #A is Joey Gates. Joey is a local Finger Lakes NY area guy who loves comics and has been to numerous comics conventions, as both as a fan and a dealer.

Joey had a dream of starting a new comic convention. Oh, there were about a zillion reasons why he shouldn’t have launched the Finger Lakes Comic-Con in Auburn last month. Seasoned pros would tell him why the timing was off and why it would never work.

But he did it. And now he will have always done it. And yes, there’s plenty of learning for Joey. I’m excited that he’s already incorporating this learning into his 2018 plans. The point is: if he had listened to the naysayers his dream of launching a comic convention would have never happened and he would never have had gotten to the point where he could learn – ostensibly ‘the hard way’ – and improved the next year. A tip of the Captain’s hat to Joey.

Exhibit #B comes right out of Joey’s Finger Lakes Comic-Con. One of the guests was comics artist Bob McLeod. He’s the type of guy who’s created and illustrated so many things I love – the Dark Knight Over Metropolis story and subsequent Superman adventures, the franchise expanding X-Men spinoff, New Mutants, with the wonderful Louise Simonson and Rough Stuff magazine – a fantastic comics magazine for artists and for everyone who loves comic art.

I conspired with my lovely wife Kathe and longtime Action-team member John Cresco to kidnap Bob after the first night of the show. We took him to Auburn’s award-winning craft brewery, Prison City Pub. (C’mon and visit, I’ll take you there too!).

The whole night was a lot of fun, but upon reflection, the best part was when Bob told us his own Secret Origin story.

Bob was one of those kids who always loved art and got really good really quickly. As a MAD Magazine fan, his plan was to follow in the footsteps of Mort Drucker and Jack Davis, but thought that working in traditional comics would be just fine too.

So after art school, Bob sold his car, went to NYC and started to make the rounds at the various comics publishers.

At DC Comics he met Joe Orlando. Now, among the giants in the industry, Joe Orlando was a giant among giants. Not only was a Joe a phenomenal artist, but also he had a strong understanding of the business side and knew how it all worked. If Joe told you something about the industry, you would know it to be true.

He told Bob, “You put a lot of work into these samples, but you need to go back to school and learn how to draw.” Most comic fans would have been devastated with feedback like that

Instead of sinking into a depression, Bob took the time to learn. He was broke and could only afford to buy a couple of comics. He looked to compare what he was doing and what they were doing. He copied and dissected the panels. He took the time to understand Joe’s POV and how he could fulfill the need so he’d be ready the next time he got up to bat.

Neal Adams is a guy I’ll be talking about more soon, but he figures into this story as well. The comics world knows about Neal’s great art skill and about Neal’s efforts on behalf of creator’s rights. Sometimes, however, the small things reveal our character too.

While this was all going on, Bob had met with Neal Adams. The legendary comics artist called John Verpoorten, Marvel’s head of production, and asked if they needed another staffer. Voila – a career was born.

Had Bob McLeod listened to Joe Orlando that day, he wouldn’t have persevered and become a rock-solid comic artist.

There was an inspirational Internet meme floating around that said something to the effect of, “Sometimes a dream is something that only you can hear.” I respect those dreams. I get inspired by people who chase those dreams, and –sometimes – don’t listen.

Joe Corallo: Knowing Your Place

Hellcat Patsy WalkerThe other day at a comic shop I saw a flier for the upcoming Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #1. It was advertised having writer Kate Leth and artist Brittney Williams attached. I think it’s great that the two of them are on this book, as I enjoy the work they’ve put out over at BOOM! Studios. However, it did start getting me thinking about the direction the comic industry is going. A direction that it may not want to go in.

We’ve seen the big two added more books with a woman lead. This has been great. A lot of them have at least one woman creator attached as well. We should absolutely be thrilled by that and support those efforts.

Just off the top of my head I can think of Amy Reeder on Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Kelly Sue Deconnick’s recent Captain Marvel run, G. Willow Wilson and and Sana Amanat’s work on the new Ms. Marvel, Marguerite Bennett on the all woman’s Avengers team titled A-Force, and of course Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! just at Marvel.

Over at DC we have Amanda Conner on Harley Quinn, Amy Chu on Poison Ivy, Ann Nocenti followed up by Genevieve Valentine on Catwoman, Gail Simone followed up by Babs Tarr on Batgirl, Meredith Finch on Wonder Woman, Annie Wu on Black Canary, Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage on DC Bombshells and Emanuela Lupacchino on Starfire.

That’s a pretty hefty list for right off the top of my head, and I could have even missed one or two. We should be proud of the comic industry for having more women being involved in the creative process. However, you’ll also see the problem I was getting at before. All of the women creators are working on comics starring women… and not much else.

Just to be clear, I am not at all speaking on behalf of any of the creators listed, or making any judgments on the work they choose to do. I think they’ve been doing incredible work, and I’ve picked up most of the mentioned titles that are currently available. My concern lies with the pattern of the big two pairing up women on women lead books while not doing that with books that have a man in the lead.

It’s very possible that some of these instances they asked creators the characters they wanted to work with and these are the results we have. I highly doubt that was every single instance. We have had a long history of men, particularly straight cis white men, writing women in comics. Many of which have been great. I thoroughly enjoyed Charles Soule on She-Hulk and Brian Azzarello on Wonder Woman. However, I’m starting to get concerned that we’re moving more towards compartmentalizing creative teams, and that’s not a good thing.

How many women can you name who’ve worked on Batman? Sure, you might have thought Devin Grayson right off the bat. You’ll probably be racking your brain for a while after that though. Becky Cloonan did a fill in issue on Scott Snyder’s run a few years ago. And yes, Genevieve Valentine is currently one of the eight writers on Batman and Robin Eternal, the other seven being men. We haven’t had a woman creator have a lengthy run on either Batman or Detective Comics. Mostly fill-ins.

Okay, how about Superman? Louise Simonson had a huge impact on the character. She was integral to the Death of Superman storyline, and she created Steel. You’re gonna need to think real long and hard to come up with too many more names than that. Sure, Ramona Fradon did many of the Super Friends comics, but that’s most of it. Justice League comics are even more male dominated. As are The Flash, Green Lantern, and so forth. Ramona did work plenty on Aquaman and Plastic Man, but we did already mention her.

How about over at Marvel? Let’s start with Spider-Man. Sara Pichelli did co-create Miles Morales with Bendis, but beyond that there isn’t much else. Louise Simonson did some work on Spider-man as well, but I did already mention her with Superman. And those examples aren’t exactly examples of long runs on Amazing Spider-Man or even Spectacular Spider-man.

And the X-Men? Louise Simonson and Ann Nocenti did a lot of work in the X-Universe, but again, both of them have already been mentioned for other contributions. I can also add Majorie Liu for her work on Astonishing X-Men, but you get the idea.

Again, to clarify, I am not knocking or belittling any of the contributions these creators have made. I admire the work they have all done and continue to do. I’m highlighting all of this to make the point that this is still a very male dominated industry, that women have not had all the same opportunities over the years as men whether it was deliberate or not, and that this should change. I also understand that the comic book industry is small. Smaller than I think we realize sometimes. Even still, this situation could be better.

I’m not asking for Superman to spin the earth backwards in time and fire the DC editorial teams of yesterday and replace them all with women. I’m not asking for Kitty Pryde to project herself back in time to do the same thing at Marvel. The past is the past. It was a different time, and there is very little we can do just dwelling on that. What we do have to do is acknowledge the past and understand it as we move forward.

I think Scott Snyder is doing great things with Batman, but maybe when he’s done with the title Genevieve Valentine or Amy Chu might have some great ideas of where to take him next. After seeing the kind of work that Amy Reeder has done on her title Rocket Girl with Image, maybe she’s got a great run for someone like Iron Man that she could be working on. Maybe the next big Superman creator will be a woman none of us have heard of yet.

I believe the best stories are yet to come. Many of the popular comic characters are decades old and have mostly been handled by male creators. One way to revitalize these decades old characters would be to get creators with different perspectives.

As a queer man have enjoyed a great deal of comics that involve exclusively straight characters. People from all backgrounds enjoy all sorts of stories. Someone with a different background could help flesh out other characters in these stories as well. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and many others have both men and women in their stories, and people from all walks of life.

It’s not only important to have representation in the main character or characters, but characters off to the sides and in the backgrounds as well. More women tackling comics like those I mentioned could be a way to help revitalize these titles, and hope it’s something that’s being considered.

 

 

Mindy Newell: May The Force Be With Us

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

Five days and counting down.

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

Not that I’m complaining.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I really hope it doesn’t let us down.

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

Mindy Newell: Weekend Hoosier?

dc-bombshells“I’ll make it.” •  Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valainis) Hoosiers (1986)

Wow. Two weeks. That’s a long time to wait with bated breath. My apologies to everyone who turned blue while waiting to find out if I had broken my ankles.

To reprise: A little more than two weeks ago, Wednesday July 9 to be exact, I fell down the last flight of stairs of my apartment building. Immediate, serious pain in both feet and ankles – my knees weren’t doing so great either. Afraid to move, I yelled for help, but nobody came – it was 6 in the morning – and as I reached for my cell phone…duh! I had left it upstairs. But somehow, whether it was through the surge of adrenalin rushing through my veins or just pure stubborn idiocy, I got up, gritted my teeth, and shuffled/hobbled to my car.

Just using the gas and brake pedals sent sharp knives up my legs, but I told myself that if any bones were broken I wouldn’t be able to be doing this. I didn’t drive to my local hospital though; I wanted to get to work where my friends were, who happened to be nurses, plus of course there would be doctors. I wasn’t thinking clearly, I just wanted someone to tell me that nothing was broken;

I had some crazy idea that I could stick my feet under the C-arm and have Fantastic Frank, as Stan Lee would say, X-ray technician extraordinaire, also as Stan would say, take a picture and ease my fears – or not. I don’t know why I didn’t just go straight to the ER at the hospital across the street – it’s a Level One trauma center, and I had visions of sitting there all day while other, more seriously ill and wounded people were seen and attended to; and let’s face it, I didn’t want to know that I had broken anything, because I was supposed to fly out to Indianapolis on Friday – the day after tomorrow at the time – for the wedding of my cousin, Delightful Devin to his beautiful Marvelous Maria, as Stan would describe them.

See, I kept remembering a tale my brother had told me about how one autumn morning he and a bunch of his fellow residents were out having a game of touch football, and how one of the guys fell and was moaning and clutching his leg and saying that he had broken it, and how my brother and his band of merry medical men jeered him, saying “don’t be a baby, get up, walk it out,” and how they made this poor guy play out the rest of the game before taking him to the ER, where they all discovered that, yes, indeed, the guy had broken his leg.

So I was a mess, physically and emotionally.

But as I was laying on a stretcher in our Post-Anesthesia Care Unit – PACU, otherwise known as the Recovery Room – and realizing that the ice pack and cold soda cans weren’t do a thing, and that the pain was getting worse, not better, I admitted to myself that I was being really stupid, because the only way I was going to know if I had broken any part of my ankles or feet would be courtesy of an examination in the ER….

…where I discovered, that regardless of whether or not my bones were broken, I wouldn’t be going anywhere. I wouldn’t be getting on any plane in less than 48 hours…

because the second worse thing happened on that fucked-up miserable day:

My driver’s license wasn’t in my wallet!

Where the fuck was it!

Shit! Shit! Shit!

By the time I was admitted and seen (by a fabulous, young, handsome physician) and told that I wouldn’t need X-rays, that I just had majorly “soft tissue damage” to my ankles and feet, i.e, really bad sprains, and was discharged with the usual instructions about ice and heat and elevate and to “try to walk normally so nothing stiffens up,” all I could think about was oh my fucking god how the hell am I gonna get on the airplane for the wedding?

I was desperate. No, I was beyond desperate; I was a madwoman.

That afternoon I tore the house apart looking for my license. Then I called the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles; hell, I even went there – I swallowed three Advils before leaving the house – and, yes, I was trying to “walk normally so nothing stiffens up.” I brought everything I could think of to identify myself, including the driver’s license renewal form I had just received in the mail and my passport – which expired four years ago and of which the DMV informed me that the cut-off date for expired passports as identification is three years – and for my troubles the bitch at the DMV sneered after explaining my situation to her: “Well, I guess you’re just shit of luck.”

I should have reported her. But I was tired, my feet and ankles were really, really hurting me despite the Advils, so I just left.

Aside: Will someone please explain to me why the New Jersey DMV cannot simply look up your credentials via computer, including your picture, especially when you’re 61 and have been a licensed driver since the age of 17? Will someone please explain to my why the New Jersey DMV sends renewal forms – generated by computer – to licensed drivers but still requires six million forms of ID when you go to renew your license?

Aside continued: Especially when, after getting home and calling the Department of Homeland Security and finding out that yes, I should be able get on the plane even though I had lost my driver’s license because they could, by searching the system – looking up on their computers – identify Mindy Newell as a born and bred citizen of the United States with no stains on her record and not on any “No-Fly” list. And by the way, the person I spoke to at the DHS was really nice – she didn’t say, “Well, I guess you’re just shit of luck.”

Still, I was worried about my driver’s license. My writer’s imagination took over. What if someone had stolen it out of my wallet, and what if that someone was a terrorist/jihadist, and what if he or she used my driver’s license for some nefarious and horrible deed? Yeah, I went straight to that – never mind using my license to get into my bank accounts and screwing up my credit and finances.

I finally laid down and elevated my feet and put one of those gel ice packs on my ankles; I also lit a candle, and this nice Jewish girl said a prayer to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things and lost causes. (I asked him to help me even though I’m Jewish, “because your boss was.”) And I threw in some Wiccan blessings, too.

Well, let me tell you, this Jewess’s prayers were answered.

Though not right away.

By Thursday my feet and ankles were black and blue and swollen, but by walking carefully (though “normally”) I could get around okay. Though more than once I stepped the wrong way and OWWWWWW! But still no license. I was very depressed and worried; called ye old editor Mike for some cheering up and a pep talk. It helped…some. (No offense to Mike.)

Thursday night. No license. I had just sent off the column you read two weeks ago. Then I noticed my checkbook, lying on the radiator cover that is next to my computer. What was it doing there? I picked it up. And something – or someone? St. Anthony? – made me open it.

There it was.

My driver’s license.

I don’t know how the hell it ended up inside my checkbook.

“Hey, St. Anthony,” I said. “It’s me again. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

On Friday the only trouble I had at the airport was lagging way behind Alix, Jeff, and my grandson as we walked to the gate. Oh, and security did check my ace bandages for, I guess, any hidden weapons. They didn’t make me unwrap them; just ran a metal detector or something over them. So while so many of you were fulfilling your dream of attending the San Diego Comic-Con two weeks ago, I was in Indianapolis, that fair city, at the wedding of Delightful Devin and Marvelous Maria (as Stan would say), and telling everyone was a great guy good ol’ St. Anthony is.

Or maybe it was the Wiccan blessings?

 

•     •     •     •     •

And to bring this back to comics…I read Ed Catto’s column (She Made Me Do It! Fangirls Lead The Way at San Diego!) with interest and delight. It’s so gratifying to know that women are standing up and proudly proclaiming their fangirl status and being noticed and appreciated.

Back in the dark ages (the ‘80s) when I first became a professional writer at DC, I was so innocent of the “old boys club” in the comics world that I had no idea that it was considered weird for a woman to love comics and/or to write them. Besides, there was my editor, Karen Berger, our own Martha Thomases, and so many other women at DC; and over at Marvel there was Louise Simonson and Jo Duffy and Bobby Chase, just to mention three. So I walked around the halls of DC for a very, very long time before it dawned on me that I was “unusual” in any way – to me it was just about loving the medium, it had nothing to do with gender. And when I went to conventions, I met plenty of professional women creators: Kim Yale, Joyce Brabner, Colleen Doran, Jan Dursema, Trina Robbins, Jill Thompson, Wendy Pini, and so many others.

You want to know how innocent I was? When people – especially younger women–tell me that I was a “glass ceiling” breaker, or that I was an inspiration to them, I used to say “I was?” And not in any make-believe false modesty, either. I just didn’t get it.

Now I do.

But if I was, so then also were all the above and all the women who have worked in comics and newspaper strips and graphic novels and all “sequential storytelling and art” since the industry began.

Brava!

 

Mike Gold: Why I Didn’t Cold-Cock Walter Simonson

There’s been a lot of high-quality books lately that reprint classic stories straight from the original. My friends at IDW do a lot of those, so they’ll be deeply depressed that I’m not going to be talking about one of theirs. And of course there’s no reason to believe a comp list wouldn’t change my attitude.

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear; in this case, about two months ago. We’re at the vaunted Baltimore Comic-Con – in specific, the Harvey Awards dinner. Walter Simonson had an advance copy of Titan Books’ hardcover collection of the Alien movie adaptation, as done by Walter and the late and much, much missed Archie Goodwin. This book was the exception that proved my point that doing an absolutely first-rate adaptation of a movie is a near-impossibility.

The needs and treasures of the comic book medium are different from those of the movie medium: we have total control of time and space and we’ve got a special effects budget that is limited only by the collective minds of the producing talent. Movies, on the other hand, have going for them music, motion and the benefit of the shared-experience. Apples and oranges.

The Goodwin-Simonson Alien was one of those rare exceptions; perhaps the best of those exceptions. Either way, it was and is worthy of this new high-quality format.

So when Walter was showing off his advance copy like a proud papa before an audience of some of the most talented people in the artform (Mark Wheatley snuck me in), I thought about doing what every other red-blooded comic book fan would think of doing: cold-cocking the son of a bitch, stealing his book, jumping into my Ford Focus and driving back to Connecticut, laughing hysterically while leaving my daughter to fend for herself.

I maneuvered into position in the darkened room, avoiding Louise Simonson. While I’d take Walter on, I do not have what it takes to take on any person who could be so gifted and so nice after working for James Warren. Then, and only then, did I have an epiphany.

I’ve known Walter for decades and decades. We lived near each other on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, we played on the same volleyball team. We’ve dined hither and yon – he once drew a massive prehistoric landscape on the linen tablecloth at a Skokie Illinois restaurant in order to “illustrate” a point. I respect and admire Walter as one of the nicest human beings on the planet… with the exception of the volleyball courts.

But that’s not why I didn’t cold-cock Walter Simonson. Clearly I’ve gotten old, an aging lion gumming his dinner in the corner of the cage while the younguns are preening themselves for pussy.

No, I didn’t cold-cock him because I remembered I already ordered the book. So stealing his simply wasn’t worth the energy.

But it was worth the wait. Buy it before it sells out.

Mindy Newell: Ruminations, Ramblings and Rumblings

So what’s in Mindy’s head today?

I haven’t been to a convention in a long, long time, but reading about some of the ComicMix crew’s sojourn to Baltimore (here and here) lit up my temporal lobe – that’s the part of the brain responsible for memory, for you non-biology majors out there. James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery “Captain, the engines canna take it” Scott of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701) in the “green room” at ICON spilling his coffee all over my new outfit and his gentlemanly response as he went to wipe my chest and then blushed, stopping himself just in time. London in 1986 – walking through London with Archie Goodwin, Mark Gruenwald, Louise and Walter Simonson. Meeting Neil Gaiman and John Wagner. Forgetting that I met John Higgins and then marrying him 17 years later. The British Museum. The Tower of London. Breakfast with Mike Grell and Tom DeFalco. Toronto: sitting on a panel with Chris Claremont. Chicago: Meeting Kim Yale and John Ostrander and Joyce Brabner and Harvey Pekar. Michael Davis in the audience lending support and trying to fluster me (“Number Nine. Number Nine.”) during the Women In Comics panel. Hanging out at the pool with a bunch of comics pros and getting such a great tan that my coworkers back home thought I had gone to the Caribbean for the weekend. Sitting next to Julie Schwartz at the DC booth. Being followed into the bathroom by a fan wanting an autograph.

Over at The League Of Women Bloggers on Facebook, I found out about a troll who has been sexually harassing and threatening women pros and their families on the net. As I said there, “I would like to know why it took Ron Marz and Mark Millar (and kudos to them for doing so) to take the asshole on. Having never been subjected to the troll’s attacks, I was ignorant until I read about it here. However, I will say that if I had been attacked like this, I would not have stayed quiet. (Anyone who knows me should not be surprised.) I would have taken him on, language for language, and if it had continued, I would have contacted the authorities. So, girlfriends, I do have to say…why didn’t anyone who was being attacked by this asshole not take him on? My graduate paper for school was ‘Horizontal, Lateral and Vertical Violence in Nursing.’ It’s a worldwide phenomenon in the field. What this trolling ogre has been doing is the same thing (and it occurs on the net in nursing, too.) And every peer review paper I read, every person I interviewed, said the same thing – those who are attacked in this manner must come forward. It’s the only way to stop it.”        

Reading comics as a kid taught me the meaning of “invulnerable” and that the sun is 93,000, 000 miles from Earth. (Thanks for the editor’s notes, Julie!) It opened my mind to the infinite possibilities of “life out there” and the wonders of the universe. It taught me that guns are bad and life is precious. It taught me to love reading. I mentioned this to daughter Alix’s husband, Jeff, who is a professor in the City University of New York system and teaches remedial English, suggesting that he use comics as part of his syllabus. He’s looking into it.  If he can get into his office. The key the administration doesn’t open the door. Ah, CUNY.

Conspiracy moment: It might be my writer’s brain, but can’t help having a suspicion that the release of The Innocence Of Muslims (the video that launched horrific demonstrations against the U.S., Israel, and the Western world all over the Middle East, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and resulted in the deaths of our Libyan ambassador and three others) was an act of Al Quada, especially as it occurred on September 11, and especially as Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over as head of the terrorist organization, released a message on the net calling for an uprising. Laugh if you must, scoff if you will, but I won’t be surprised if the New York Times reports that a link was found by our intelligence agencies.

The Giants lost their opening game. They deserved to lose. They looked horrible. Their offensive line is non-existent. For this I missed Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic Convention?

Martha Thomases’ fashion police column last week made me want to see a spread featuring the very fashion-forward women of comics. Hey! New York Times! How ‘bout it?

La Shonah Tova, everybody! That’s a big Happy New Year to all of you!

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

 

Mike Gold: The Baltimore Fun

I like comic book conventions, although I’ve been pretty hard on them lately. These days most conventions have little to do with comic books. They have a lot to do with pop culture and celebrities and movies and autographs and promotion, but over the past decade or two comic books have become the ugly stepchildren within their own temples.

Except for a handful. Mid-Ohio Con has been consumed by the dreaded Wizard ogre; that one used to be a favorite. HeroesCon in North Carolina is high on my list of the exceptional; I wish I could get there each year. There are plenty of great small shows, usually held in hotels and attracting people from about a 200 mile radius, if the weather is agreeable. And, as I’ve incessantly proselytized to the annoyance of thousands, my absolute favorite: the Baltimore Comic-Con.

First and foremost, the Baltimore Comic-Con is about comic books. The panels are about comic books. The exhibitors are about comic books. The awards ceremony is about comic books. In short, it is a comic book convention.

Second, it’s only two days: Saturday and Sunday. The burnout rate is low and people tend not to leave as early on Sundays. You can get as much done in those two days as you can elsewhere in three… or four. Third, the staff is well-trained, efficient, and so damn polite if you’re from New York your skin just might peel off in strips.

I’m happy to say I’ve got a hell of a lot of friends who go there. It’s one of the few shows Timothy Truman attends. Mark and Carol Wheatley both put me up and put up with me year after year; my daughter and ComicMix comrade Adriane Nash gets to stay in Mark’s breathtaking library and studio. Marc Hempel joins us at the Insight Studios booth. Great folks like Gene Ha, Brian Bolland, Amy Chu, Andrew Pepoy, Denis Kitchen, Jack C. Harris, Walter and Louise Simonson, Joe Rubenstein, Larry Hama, Matt Wagner, John K. Snyder III … we don’t have the bandwidth to name a tenth of the people I hang out with at the show. Even the (fairly) recently liberated Paul Levitz showed up as a freelancer.

Better still, the ambiance of the Baltimore Comic-Con allows me to make new friends, something that’s almost impossible to do at the largest shows like San Diego, New York, and Chicago. This year I was exceptionally lucky, spending memorable time with Phil LaMarr and Ross Richie.

ComicMix was there in full-force: Vinnie Bartilucci, Glenn Hauman, the aforementioned Adriane Nash, Emily S. Whitten, and the non-alphabetical Marc Alan Fishman – who was there with the rest of the Unshaven Comics crew, Matt Wright, and Kyle Gnepper, where they managed to sell out of their excellent indy comic, Samurnauts.

Probably the highlight of the Baltimore show each year is the Harvey Awards dinner, and this year was no exception. Phil LaMarr served as master of ceremonies, keeping the three and one-half hour show moving while keeping the audience in stiches, Ross Richie delivered an inspiring keynote address, and as usual Paul McSpadden did his usual amazing job coordinating the whole event.

The Hero Initiative honored Joe Kubert with its Humanitarian of the Year award – a decision made before Joe’s passing last month – and Dr. Kevin Brogan delivered a moving tribute to the late cartoonist and educator. As it turns out, Joe left us one more graphic novel. Their annual Lifetime Achievement Award went to John Romita Jr., in a presentation made by the team of Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

I particularly enjoyed seeing Marc, Kyle and Matt there for the first time – being sequestered in that room with most of the above-mentioned folks as well as with Stan Lee, John Romita Sr. and Jr., Mark Waid and so many others seemed like a heady experience for our pals, who, I think it’s safe to say, were in fanboy heaven. Pretty damn cool. I’m proud to say our own Glenn Hauman helped in the IT end of things, and ComicMix joined Insight Studios, DC Entertainment, Boom!, Comixology, Richmond Comix and Games, ComicWow!, Painted Visions, Bloop, Captain Blue Hen, Cards Comics and Collectibles, and Geppi’s Entertainment Museum as sponsors.

And I managed to sign up a new columnist for this site. I mentioned the name above somewhere (good hunting), and this person will start out as soon as we iron out scheduling issues and the usual start-up stuff. I’m very excited about this, and you will be too when you read this person’s stuff.

We also went apeshit covering the cosplay scene. Adriane posted about 100,000 pictures on our ComicMix Facebook page, all to the obvious enjoyment of the masses. We’ll be expanding our cosplay coverage considerably, while at the same time polishing our alliteration.

On behalf of the whole ComicMix crew, I want to deeply thank Marc Nathan and Brad Tree for once again putting on the best show in comics, and to thank my dearest of friends Mark and Carol Wheatley for being our personal sponsors. We-all had a great time!

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil