Tagged: Mad Men

Martha Thomases: The Usual Gang

Are you watching the last season of Mad Men? It’s our last chance to see Jon Hamm in so many crisp suits – at least for a while.

It’s also a weird sort of time travel, at least for me. I figure that I’m about the same age as Sally, the oldest daughter in Don Draper’s (i.e. Hamm’s) family, so I’m watching events I lived through, but from the perspective of my parents, if they were stunningly beautiful, not Jewish, lived in New York, and worked in advertising in the 1960s.

In the ten fictional years since the show started, we’ve watched the turbulent 1960s from the point of view of successful, media-savvy adults, mostly men. We saw Kennedy get elected and assassinated. We saw the Civil Rights movement and Woodstock. We saw Americans land on the moon.

This season, it’s 1970. And it’s remarkable how that time, 45 years ago, is so much like now.

If you click on the link, you’ll read an insightful analysis of Sunday’s episode when both Peggy (the first woman to write copy at our fictional ad agency) and especially Joan (a secretary who became an account executive and partner at the firm) faced subtle (in Peggy’s case) and not-subtle-at-all (in Joan’s case) sexism.

My problem with the episode is that it didn’t play like something from the past. That crap still goes on far too much. Even (maybe especially) in the so-called “liberal” entertainment industry. (See here for an extremely vile assortment of examples).

This is bad news for working women, and it’s bad news for society in general. We miss out on different points of view and we miss out on the great work people with different backgrounds can do. There is no reason to think you have better talent available from a smaller group of applicants.

Comics have the same problem, albeit with less money at stake. When I was at DC in the 1990s, at least one prominent editor said as a statement of fact that women can’t write superhero comics. This is the cousin to the Hollywood attitude that female superheroes can’t star in movies. At least in comics (again, probably because less money is involved), we have writers like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gail Simone, Amanda Connor, and G. Willow Wilson as best-selling examples to the contrary. (Also probably dozens of others. Forgive my laziness at looking up stuff.)

We suffer as an audience when we are only offered the stories of white people. Most recently, a group of Native American actors walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie because the dialogue was so profoundly offensive to them. As this article about the incident suggests, Native Americans get far fewer roles than they should, so it took great courage to give up a paycheck. I hope that the attention they get encourages someone to make a comedy movie from their point of view. It has to be funnier than Jack and Jill .

Nearly 30 years ago, when I saw Spike Lee’s School Daze, I walked out of the movie theater thinking, “That’s how black people talk when there are no white people around.” I’ll never know whether or not that’s true, but I felt I had been offered the chance to eavesdrop on a different world. I still enjoy that opportunity, but Spike Lee did it in a way that had singing and dancing.

Of course, no one actually talks the way people do in the movies. We hem and haw more, we don’t finish our sentences, and we digress from the subject at hand. Movie people talk with precision because they only have two hours to tell the whole story.

Mad Men isn’t a bad show because its point of view is limited. Every piece of art has a limited point of view. The way to enjoy different points of view is to live your life and pay attention. One purpose of entertainment should be to open our eyes to other experiences.

 

The Point Radio: James Wolk – Yeah THAT Guy

We all loved actor James Wolk as the slightly creepy Bob Benson in MADMEN, plus his run with Robin Williams on THE CRAZY ONES. Now he’s part of CBS’ next big summer event,  ZOO,  and the star of a new quirky indy film with the folks from SONS OF ANARCHY. He covers it all with us. Plus the new sitcom, THE McCARTHYS is really a family affair especially for third generation talent Tyler Ritter who explains what finally brought him into show biz.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Glenn Hauman: Peyton Reed Is Directing The Wrong Marvel Movie

Ant-ManYou’ve probably heard that over the weekend, Peyton Reed has taken over directing chores for Marvel’s Ant-Man after Edgar Wright left the project over “creative differences.”

While I’m glad to see that Marvel is stampeding forward to avoid blowing any release dates (because Disney runs on a very tight schedule) I admit that when I think of the Marvel movie Peyton Reed should be making, Ant-Man isn’t what comes to mind.

I think the Marvel movie he should be making is the movie of the making of Marvel.

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REVIEW: Nichols

Nichols ArtLike most humans presently stalking the Earth, I’ve been watching teevee ever since my eyeballs could focus. Being a fanboy collector, I do my share of possessing odd and great stuff. Sadly, there were two teevee shows I absolutely worshipped that I could not find, even from collectors who obtain their DVDs through questionable means.

The first is T.H.E. Cat, Robert Loggia’s jazz-based New Orleans cat burglar private eye show. It only lasted one season, it was in black-and-white, and each episode only ran 30 minutes. So it’s half-life in syndication was roughly the same as Lawrencium. There are some truly awful bootlegs around, 12th generation dubs of a kinescope shot off of teevee set that desperately needed rabbit ears. I haven’t given up, but the challenge is undermining my otherwise natural sense of happy optimism.

The second is Nichols, the post-western western about a pacifist who was shanghaied into becoming the sheriff of a small Arizona town in 1914 that is being overrun by bicycles and its very first automobile. Pretty heady stuff for 1971. It, too, lasted only one season but at least it was an hour long and it was in color. But in those days, local teevee stations wouldn’t touch a show that only ran 24 episodes.

This week I received a package from Warner Archives containing the entire Nichols collection on six DVDs. I ordered it the minute it was announced.

First, a word about Warner Archives. They sell a couple thousand DVDs of hard-to-find stuff from Warner Bros., MGM, Sony (Columbia), Paramount, HBO, Cinemax, and Hanna-Barbara. Lots of obscure movies and teevee shows, lots of comics stuff (for example, the complete runs of both the Superboy and the Shazam series), and they add new titles roughly every minute. These DVDs are made-to-order: they’re professionally packaged and of high quality. Warners discovered something Frank Zappa learned 20 years ago: if you can’t stop people from bootlegging, boot ‘em yourself.

Nichols starred – no surprise here – James Garner and was produced by his Cherokee Productions company with many of the same people who later did The Rockford Files. The show starred Margot Kidder – yes, that Margot Kidder, seven years shy of Lois Lane. Veteran character actor Neva Patterson and Stuart Margolin (later “Angel” on Rockford) also starred. But in my fertile brainpan, the real star of this show was its creator/writer/producer and occasional director Frank R. Pierson.

Pierson had a pedigree to die for. He’d written Cat Ballou, Cool Hand Luke, The Anderson Tapes, Dog Day Afternoon, The Good Wife, and 11 episodes of Have Gun, Will Travel – one of the best written shows in history. Oh, and shortly before his death last year, he wrote an episode of Mad Men and was its consulting producer. And he directed The L Word and Citizen Cohn. This man defied stereotyping.

Nichols was clever, heartwarming, very funny, brilliantly acted, and it had a point. It was very much a product of its time, that time being the enlightened days of peace, love, and sideburns, but it’s so well produced and acted that shouldn’t annoy anybody today. It deserves to be seen, and if you’re a fan of any of the people involved, it needs to be seen.

 

Martha Thomases: History Comes And Goes

7726History happens every day. Every day changes the world.

Not every day gets written down in history books. Not every day is part of that pop quiz second period.

Usually, the battles get written down. We measure time in wars. The more death, the more important.

And yet, that’s not all there is to history. There are births and marriages and medical advances that allow women to give birth without dying from infections. There are music and art and dance. There are comic books and television shows and movies.

When I was a young history major in college (back when there was waaaay less history), some of the more interesting discussions we had were about how one defined history at all. It is a study of the past, of course, but what kind of study?

The field is enormous, of course, and allows all kinds of views. The one that most interests me is the question of how people lived their lives in other times and other places.

I like the stories.

This week, on AMC’s award-winning Mad Men, the story centered around an historical event that I actually remember, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was in high school at the time, my freshman year at boarding school in Connecticut, and mostly what I remember is feeling horrified (MLK inspired my early pacifism) and frustrated, because there was no way to find out what was going on up on that mountain.

The Mad Men cast had lots of reactions. Some were upset, some were scared for themselves, friends and family. Some were annoyed that events upstaged their plans. Some were awkward around the (very) few black people they knew. I believe all the reactions were authentic recreations of what people in that particular demographic niche felt at the time, although I’m not sure the proportions are correct. Still, it is history the way I like to see it, happening to people in real time.

There are lots of parallel stories in comics. The most famous is probably our own Denny O’Neil’s run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, written about the real world, using super-heroes to articulate some of the different points of view in the day’s arguments. Another of my personal favorites is this story, in which Superman trusts President Kennedy with his secret identity. I read that comic when I was ten years old, and President Kennedy had just been shot.

It’s hard to imagine a story like this today, when things are so hyper-partisan. Looking at it now, I have an understanding of how different our national discourse was 50 years ago.

Another little bit of history that happened this week is the return of All My Children, now on the Internet (and also One Life to Live, but I don’t watch that). I don’t know how anyone can keep historical records in Pine Valley, when time doesn’t seem to move in a straight line. Apparently, five years have passed since we last saw our cast, but some characters are the same age, while some are a decade older. Just a few episodes in, and it’s thrilling how much I don’t care.

And the great philosopher, Howard Chaykin said, “Continuity is for geeks.”

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

HARD CASE BRINGS LOST NOIR NOVEL TO READERS!


REPOSTED FROM CNN
(CNN) — Would you recognize a roscoe if you see one? Ever run into a gumshoe? Do you take your heroes hard-boiled and your dames dangerous?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then dear reader, you will welcome the arrival of a lost novel from a prince of pulp fiction. The book is “The Cocktail Waitress.”
The author is James M. Cain, best known for two noir masterpieces, “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Double Indemnity.” Both books sold millions of copies and inspired classic movies. When Cain died in 1977, his fans thought it was the end of the story.
Now, 35 years later, Cain’s last novel is finally reaching readers. So how did this book go from buried treasure to publication?
Credit crime fiction connoisseur Charles Ardai with discovering “The Cocktail Waitress.” Ardai is a longtime Cain fan, an author, editor and the publisher behind the Hard Case Crime series. Ardai helped revive the pulp fiction genre in recent years with a series of popular paperbacks packed with sex, sin and recognized for their tawdry covers.
Years ago, Ardai heard rumors of a lost Cain novel, written at the end of his life but never published. With nearly a decade of detective work, Ardai uncovered “The Cocktail Waitress,” polished the manuscript and this week brings it to bookstores. To fans of old school crime fiction, this book is akin to finding an unheard symphony or a missing oil masterpiece. It has all the hallmarks of classic Cain: lust, greed, betrayal and deception.
It’s the story of beautiful young widow, Joan Medford. After her husband dies under suspicious circumstances, she’s forced to work as a waitress in a cocktail lounge where she meets a handsome young hustler and an aging millionaire. To reveal more would spoil the fun for readers, but suffice to say Joan is not your typical femme fatale. CNN recently spoke to Ardai about the hunt for Cain’s long-lost novel.
The following transcript has been edited for style and brevity:
CNN: Tell me about the hunt for “The Cocktail Waitress.” How did you discover the book?
Ardai: A decade ago, before we ever put out our first book, I was talking with “Road to Perdition” author Max Allan Collins about what sorts of books we might want Hard Case Crime to publish, and he mentioned that he’d heard that there was a last unpublished James M. Cain novel called “The Cocktail Waitress,” written at the very end of Cain’s life, but Max had never seen the book and no one he knew had. Maybe I could find it?
Well, I’d been a huge Cain fan since my freshman year in college, when I’d found a battered copy of “Double Indemnity” on a used book table, and I couldn’t resist this challenge. So I began searching.
The search took nine years. No one I asked seemed to have seen a copy of the manuscript. The Cain estate didn’t have one. None of the collectors or historians I reached out to did. For a while, the more inquiries I put out the less progress I seemed to be making. But I finally thought to ask Joel Gotler, the Hollywood agent who’d inherited the files of H. N. Swanson, Cain’s agent back in the day, and sure enough, there was a copy of the manuscript lurking in Swanson’s files.
But even that wasn’t the end of the search, since it turned out there were several incomplete drafts hiding in the rare manuscript collection of the Library of Congress. …
CNN: This sounds like quite a literary find?
Ardai: Very much so. Cain is considered one of the “big three” in hard-boiled crime fiction, the other two being Dashiell Hammett (“The Maltese Falcon”) and Raymond Chandler (“The Big Sleep”). Chandler and Hammett defined the hard-boiled detective story, but when you take the detective away and just focus on the criminals — the story of a femme fatale out to kill her husband for the insurance money and the lust-blinded sap she seduces into doing the deed — then you’re on Cain’s turf.
He completely owned that type of sordid, desperate crime story. And finding an unpublished manuscript by Cain — it’s like finding a lost Steinbeck novel, or a lost Hemingway, or if you’re a music lover a lost score by George Gershwin. A last chance to hear a great voice from the past, taking you on one last wild ride.
CNN: Once you found the novel, your work was not over. There was quite a bit of revision and editing before the novel’s release.
Ardai: Cain worked and reworked this novel several times at the end of his life, which was presumably why it never got published — he was still working on it when he died. But just to be clear, this doesn’t mean the book was incomplete; on the contrary, he completed at least two full drafts, and then also had various partial drafts that petered out after anywhere from 1 to 100 pages. Which left me with an editing challenge: How to put together a single, complete final draft out of all the material Cain left behind?
In some cases, it was clear that Cain had made a choice he wanted to stick with — for instance, after writing his first draft in the third person, all subsequent drafts were penned in the first person. So first person clearly was his preference.
But in other places, it was less clear what he’d have preferred, so we had to just go with the version we felt was stronger. But in the end, this is what an editor always does — work with an author’s draft to make it the strongest book you possibly can.
It’s easier when the author is alive and can answer questions, but this is hardly the first posthumous book we’ve published. We’ve had similar situations with Donald E. Westlake and Roger Zelazny and David Dodge, among others. So I could draw on that experience when working on this book.
CNN: How does the novel hold up for today’s audience?
Ardai: Oh, it’s great. Part of the reason is that it’s set smack in the heart of the “Mad Men” era, which is certainly not a turnoff for today’s audience. But a bigger reason is that Cain’s themes are timeless.
The dialogue and clothing and hairstyles might remind you you’re reading about the past, but men still kill each other over the love of a beautiful woman today; women still hunger for men who aren’t their husbands; people still find themselves in dire situations, desperate for money and forced to take a degrading job to provide for their children.
The danger in the book, the threats, the pain, the horror of losing a loved one — these are things that never go away.
CNN: “The Cocktail Waitress” is written from the point of view of Joan Medford. How would you describe her?
Ardai: The thing that makes Joan unusual is that she’s the narrator of the book. Usually in Cain’s novels, it’s a man who’s narrating and you see the femme fatale through his eyes — beautiful, sultry, ice cold one minute and burning hot the next, more than a little mysterious. But here Cain makes the brave choice to put us inside the head of the femme fatale herself, which makes her a much richer and more complex character.
No femme fatale thinks she is one or will admit it if she does. From her point of view, she’s just a woman who’s acting reasonably while the world goes mad around her. Do the men in her life drop like flies? Perhaps — but it’s not her fault! This chance to see a classic femme fatale from the inside out is part of what makes “The Cocktail Waitress” so fascinating, and so daring.
CNN: As an award-winning writer, editor and publisher of crime fiction, Cain must have had a great influence on you.
Ardai: No question. The pair of novels I wrote as Richard Aleas — “Little Girl Lost” and “Songs of Innocence” — were directly inspired by Cain. They’re the story of a young man blinded by his love for two beautiful women, who finds himself doing terrible things as a result.
Before I wrote them, I read every book Cain had ever published. He was my muse. As you can imagine, it was an honor and a privilege to get to work on Cain’s final novel, to have a hand in bringing this last lost dollop of darkness to light.

David Selby Relocates from Collinsport to Gotham City

Having made his mark as a villain for many of his 45 years in the entertainment industry, David Selby is only too happy to provide the heroic voice of Commissioner James Gordon for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1.

Selby is best known for his long-running roles as Quentin Collins, the werewolf brother to vampire Barnabus Collins on the original series Dark Shadows, and as the ruthless, vengeful Richard Channing on the 1980s primetime soap opera Falcon Crest. Between those two series alone, Selby logged more than 500 episodes as an antagonist.

Finally, Selby gets a beloved protagonist turn as the everyman hero James Gordon, a straight-shooting, intelligent lawman bent on doing what’s right … with the help of his old pal, Bruce Wayne (and his alter ego, Batman).

Selby will be in attendance on both coasts for the World and West Coast Premieres of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1. Selby is the lone actor on the September 20 post-screening panel at the Paley Center in New York, and he’ll be joined by co-stars Peter Weller and Ariel Winter for the panel discussion on Monday, September 24, at the Paley Center in Los Angeles.

After making his professional acting debut on Dark Shadows in 1968, Selby found fame on the large and small screens as well as Broadway. His film career runs the gamut from early starring roles opposite Barbara Streisand in Up The Sandbox and alongside Ron Liebman in The Super Cops to a memorable role as one of the key lawyers in The Social Network. On television, surrounding his 209 episodes of Falcon Crest, Selby has been seen on everything from The Waltons, Police Woman and Kojak to Ally McBeal, Cold Case, Mad Men, and HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me.

Selby is also one of the more learned actors around the industry, having earned a Master’s Degree from West Virginia University, and a Ph.D. in Theatre from Southern Illinois University. Beyond the stage and screen, Selby has written two volumes of poetry.

The affable Selby was happy to discuss his role as James Gordon following his initial recording session for the two halves of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Here’s what he had to say …

QUESTION: Having spent several hours in his mind, how do you see Police Commissioner James Gordon in this film?

DAVID SELBY: Because Bruce Wayne is Batman, and even though we all want to be heroes, Gordon is willing to take a quieter, more backseat role. I think he’s persistent, he’s calm. He’s a very practical man, like certain presidents. Lincoln was a very pragmatic guy, and I think Gordon is a very pragmatic commissioner.

Gordon is the type of guy that would think, “If I’ve gotta do it, and it’s going to make it right, and I look out and I know that my wife is going to be fine, and the children are going to be fine, then if a certain kind of justice is required to do this, I can live with it.” That’s my kind of Gordon. A very strong, practical guy.

QUESTION: In this film, James Gordon is 70 years old and about to retire. David Selby is now 70 years old. Usually it doesn’t matter in voice acting, but does that age similarity help increase the bond between actor and character?

SELBY: What are you saying? (laughs) That I’ve been playing this game for 50 years? (laughs harder) Well, I guess that’s true. You know the frustrations, the thinking of “Okay, I’ve got a few years to go, and there’s still one thing I want to do.” Maybe I want to play Macbeth. I don’t know. There’s definitely some parallels. Really, though, it’s the whole life experience – that’s the thing that ties me to Gordon. Having been around and seen what we’ve seen. I understand his frustrations. My God, all you have to do is pick up a bloody newspaper. It’s hard to not get frustrated. Sometimes the best thing to do is to avoid the paper in the morning.

QUESTION: Was there a centering emotion you used in James Gordon to help you focus on his motivations?

SELBY: For Gordon, what he wants to do more than anything in the world is that he wants to leave the world a little better place than when he came into it. And he thinks of how awful it would be to live your life and not be able to do that.

I like Gordon. Sometimes you have to draw the line in the sand, the morality line, and each of us has to decide how far you’re willing to go for success. Now if you’re battling the Mutants, you can go a long way. You can step over that line, as long as you know why you’re doing it. That’s my little take on that.

QUESTION: You had more than 300 episodes to get to know Quentin Collins for Dark Shadows. You spent 209 episodes creating Richard Channing for Falcon Crest. Today you had about four hours to become James Gordon. How do you develop a character that quickly?

SELBY: You don’t. You just sort of depend upon Andrea (Romano) and Bruce (Timm), because they know this territory far better than you. I did do a little research, though. I asked my son, who is a great aficionado of Frank Miller and all of these things. That was my first call. He gave me a great rundown, so there was a little preparation. So mostly you put yourself in the hands of those that know the character, and learn from their experience.

QUESTION: So your son is a Frank Miller fan. Do you have newfound street cred in the family?

SELBY: You can’t imagine. My son-in-law is a big fan, too. I’m in like flint now. I couldn’t have done better than to be able to make that call. “Do you know Dark Knight?” “What do you mean, do I know Dark Knight? Who do you think you’re talking to?” “Well, I’m playing the Commissioner.” “You’re playing James Gordon? You’re playing Gordon?!? Commissioner Gordon?!?!?” I never mentioned the Gordon’s name. (laughs) I just said the Commissioner. Oh my God. How special is that? I like that.

QUESTION: Did you read comics when you were a kid?

SELBY: We lived in a little community called Woodburn, where I grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia. There was a store down the street from where I grew up – a confectionary, you know, “beer on tap” – and they had a comic rack. Tom and Ann Torch owned the place – Tom would sit in the corner by the Coke machine and play checkers. And then guys would come in and order … Dewey would order egg in his beer, and all the regulars who lived in the neighborhood would be around. We could look in the comics, and they never once said “Put the comics down.” Now, once we graduated from comic books and went on to Sexology and Golden Nugget girls, then Ann and her sister Hortense got concerned. But as long as we stuck to the comics, it was okay, so I read all the comics. I’d also go two houses down to my friend Wally’s house – he had a lot of comics. But at the Richwood Confectionary, that was terrific place to grow up. Sit in there, drink a Nehi Orange for a nickel, and read your comics.

QUESTION: What was going on in 1966 that made it right for both Dark Shadows and Batman to premiere and explode in popularity?

SELBY: That was a special time in the 60s, and for whatever reasons these shows captivated the public’s imagination. Maybe we just needed it in the 60s. They were shows that allowed you to escape … shows that made life a little easier to cope. I think about New York City at that time and all the things that were going on. The corruption, the racial conflicts, the unrest at Columbia University. There were protests everywhere. Then there was Chicago, and the election in 1968. The assassination of Martin Luther King, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Vietnam was raging. And then you had these shows. I’m sure some sociologist is examining all of this and working it out. But I think those two shows, Batman and Dark Shadows, they fit that expression, “Whatever gets you through the night.” It is interesting that they both came out of that period. But maybe not. Maybe the times were right.

QUESTION: You’ve obviously had the experience. But do you like playing the villain?

SELBY: I’m not complaining – a lot of times the villain is the most interesting character. But I’ve played some awful people. I played a character who got rid of his own sister. In doing these characters, I like them, and you have to get your audience on your side somehow. They have to understand where you’ve come from. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll hang in there with you.

MARTHA THOMASES: Of Soap and Comic Books

The big news in pop culture this week is not comics (although I’m excited about seeing Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman), but on television. Specifically, today is the last episode of the long-running soap opera, All My Children.

How long-running is it? The show started in January of 1970. Since then, it’s run for an hour a day, five days a week, except for holidays. Soap operas don’t do re-runs in the summer. They need new stories and they need them now.

I had always sneered at soaps before I watched AMC. I’d tried to watch General Hospital when Elizabeth Taylor was on, just to see what all the fuss was about, and I couldn’t get into it. A friend of mine got a few days’ work on AMC, though, and out of loyalty, I tuned in.

It was hilarious. My friend, a fashion model in real life, was cast as a nemesis of Erica Kane, a fictional fashion model. My friend was six feet tall. Lucci might be more than five, but that’s in heels. They had their skirmishes on staircases so Lucci could look her in the eye.

Still, the absurdities didn’t prevent me from developing an attachment to the characters. I liked Tad the Cad and his lovely sister, Jenny. Their mom, Opal, was a hoot. It didn’t bother me when characters would marry the same person two or three times. Even with a 15-year gap, I could still catch up with the show when I started to watch it again in the late 1990s.

Soap operas are a form of mass-market entertainment aimed primarily at women. They get their name because, traditionally, they’re packed with ads for soap – laundry soap, dishwater detergent, shampoo and bath products. To attract this audience, they tell women-centric stories, where love and family are fought for, and there are very few fist-fights, on staircases or otherwise. On soap operas, before they have sex, men light dozens of candles and scatter rose petals on the bubble bath they just drew.

Soaps started to lose their audience when middle-class American women entered the workforce in large numbers. Today, the networks can’t justify the expense to cater hire large casts for scripted dramas that run in the daytime.

However, while soaps lost audiences in the afternoons, they gained influence on prime-time television. Not just shows like Dynasty and Dallas, but most dramas have developed the kind of intricate, long-form serial stories you find on soaps. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Homicide: Life on the Street and Mad Men are just a few critically acclaimed and award-winning shows that show their foamy influence.

What does this have to do with comics? Mainstream comics also show soap influence. When I started to read comics, every issue was self-contained, and most stories were about the fights and the powers. Now the characters have more developed emotional lives, and readers are as caught up with the personalities as they are with determining who would win in a fight.

The audience for pamphlet comics is shrinking more quickly than the audience for daytime soaps, and it was never as large to begin with. At the same time, comics’ influence is everywhere. Not only are comics optioned for the movies and television, but the kind of story-telling techniques developed for comics has been as influential to the current generation of filmmakers as the French New Wave was to my generation.

So maybe there aren’t that many people who want to go to a direct market store, but there are a lot of people who might want to read graphic stories. The growth in bookstore sales of graphic novels proves this, and we’ll see if digital delivery grows the audience as much as we’d hope.

When DC was preparing to launch the line of science fiction comics that eventually became Helix, I remember having a conversation with editor Stuart Moore. It seemed to me that he had an interesting line that would appeal to fans of the genre, but I wasn’t sure how they would find the books if they didn’t already go to comic book stores. There were critics who might consider reviewing the Moorcock series, but they’d want to see the entire storyline. Why can’t we publish graphic novels first? I wondered.

The answer, unfortunately, was a combination of inertia (this is the way we’ve always done it) and a market model that wasn’t about to change for the chance of success with a few titles. The only hit to survive the line was Transmetropolitan, and I’m willing to bet it has sold more copies in collected form than it did as a monthly title.

It’s been bittersweet watching the last few episodes of AMC. The writers are taking ridiculous chances (returning characters from the dead) and giving most of the long-running characters some happiness. I felt the same kind of affectionate sadness at the last month of the DCU titles. Maybe it was sentimental, but I liked it when Bruce Wayne got a note from his long-dead father (then alive in an alternate universe), in which Thomas told his son how proud he was of him.

That was the kind of thing that could happen in the Valley.

Dominoed Daredoll Martha Thomases will have to find something else to watch as her treat for getting work done.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

MINDY NEWELL: Comics Are For Kids?

There’s a great interview with Grant Morrison on the website of Rolling Stone magazine.  The reason I bring it up is that I’ve been thinking about last week’s column.  The more I thought about Action Comics #1, written by Morrison, the more I really liked it.

But I’m an adult.

I’ve been a fan of Grant’s since his debut on this side of the pond as the writer of Animal Man back in the 80s. It was a book that I adored. But Animal Man was under the Vertigo imprint, whose aim was to bring a sophisticated, i.e. adult, audience and slant into the comics industry – at which it incredibly succeeded, of course. In fact, if I remember right, the “hook” for the entire line of Vertigo books was sophisticated horror.

But I’m an adult.

And the Vertigo books aren’t for kids.

I grew up during the Silver Age of comics. When Lois was constantly getting into jams thanks to her penchant of trying to discover Superman’s secret identity. When Jimmy was constantly being exposed to some weird amulet that turned him into Elasti-Lad or a giant turtle or a bearded man. When Perry smoked cigars and yelled “Great Caesar’s Ghost” all the time. When Supergirl was alive and acted as her cousin’s secret weapon. When Superboy was a teenage Clark Kent living in Smallville and had a secret passageway and robots to cover his “tuchas” when he was away on a mission and his parents were alive and Lana Lang was his sweetheart. When Kandor was in a bottle.  When the Legion of Super-Heroes travelled through time in a bubble. When the “editor’s note” would inform me that the sun was 93,000,000 miles away from Earth.

Okay, it was a more innocent age. Well, not really. There was the Cold War and the U-2 incident and the Korean War and the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis and Barry Goldwater and the John Birch Society and “advisory troops” in a country named Vietnam. The Suez Canal crisis.

It was the Mad Men age.

And then we all grew up to be Mad Men.

The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The assassination of Martin Luthor King. The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Women’s rights. The Black Panthers. Newark, New Jersey in flames. The Weatherman. The Vietnam War. Tricky Dick. The Chicago Democratic Convention. Dan Rather being manhandled and dragged off the floor of the convention center. Cops in riot gear beating up college students. The Pentagon Papers. Pot. Hash. Timothy Leary. Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Tune in. Turn on. Drop out.

The thing is, I think all those people marching and rioting and fighting and reacting to what was wrong in the world, what they did, what we did, was because we were raised on the ideals of what America was supposed to be about, what we really did believe, growing up, America was about.

I look around now, and I wonder, why aren’t people out on the street marching in the hundreds of thousands protesting? Angry people march. Angry people riot. Angry people force change.

Six out of 10 children are living in poverty in this country. In fucking America, man! Why aren’t their parents out there marching? We were lied into Iraq more blatantly than we were ever lied to about Vietnam. Why the fuck aren’t we out there marching? We’re building infrastructures and schools in Afghanistan while our own bridges and roads are collapsing and our school buildings are rotting. Why the fuck are we not out there marching? Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, the Koch brothers and about 10 other Wall Street operators are speculating in oil prices. Why the fuck aren’t we out there marching? The President lets the Republicans walk all over him and the Republicans can’t stand that the black guy in the White House isn’t the valet. Why the fuck are we not out there marching?

What has changed?

I don’t know. I honestly don’t.

But I’m sad, and I’m scared. Really scared.

Superman used to be written for kids. As was Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, and Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, and Supergirl, and Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Grant is a great writer. Grant is a brilliant writer.

Grant is not a writer for kids.

And Action Comics #1 isn’t for kids.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis