Tagged: Manhattan

Martha Thomases: Attack of the Con Brain!

People with cancer describe a phenomenon they call “chemo brain,” a side effect of the tumor-killing drugs that also destroys their short-term memory. I would like to coin another term.

Con brain!

Con brain is what happens to an otherwise mature adult after several days spent in the company of a hundred thousand comic and pop culture fans enclosed in a relatively small space for a comic book convention.

My experience started out simply enough. My friend, Vivek Tiwary, was on a panel at Jim Hanley’s Universe on “A Celebration of Pop Music Comics”, and he wanted me there, since I helped him to get the deal for his graphic novel with Dark Horse. The panel included friendly faces like David Gallaher and Jamal Igle. To my surprise, it also included Punk Magazine editor John Holmstrom, whom I’ve known for decades and who, in my opinion, is the most ripped-off person in comics and graphic design (a bold statement, I know, and too long an explanation for this column. Ask me later). Both Vivek and John gave me shout-outs, proving that I am the most important person in the rock’n’roll/comics intersection.

The next day, I went to the Javits Center early for a meeting. As it turned out, the hall was closed to anyone but exhibitors until later in the afternoon, but I know how to stride in with a group like I belong, so that wasn’t an issue. Everything went swimmingly. Alas, I made the mistake of leaving the hall, and had to use my hard-won knowledge of the building’s labyrinthine tunnels and hallways to get back in.

By the time the show actually opened, things quickly got so crowded and noisy that I couldn’t hear any of the people with whom I was walking, nor could I see where I was going. I went home, put a cat on my lap, and chilled.

On Friday, I had the most surrealistic experience of the show. I attend a bereavement support group that meets near 34th Street. When it was over, I walked to the center, going past Herald Square and Macy’s, Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, and large swaths of Manhattan with office buildings. And, interspersed with tourists, people with jobs on their lunch hour, and the normal New York horde, were people in costumes heading west. If anybody but me thought it was odd to see anime characters and guys with capes and masks walking down the street, they kept it to themselves.

From then on, all is a fog. I saw more people I like (including Walter Simonson, whom I might have hugged a little bit too long). I got hit in the face with more backpacks. I ruined more pictures by walking between the photographer and the subjects, because, I’m sorry, but just because you are in costume doesn’t mean you get to take up an entire aisle.

Still, I noticed a few things. It seemed to me that almost half the attendees were female, a huge change since I started going to these things. I don’t know if shows like The Big Bang Theory have reassured girls that they can handle geek culture, or if there are simply more of us out of the closet, but it’s a much better feeling from my first shows, when women would confide in me that they were followed into the bathroom by guys who couldn’t believe they were really girls at such an event.

Perhaps as a result, there were fewer artists in Artists Alley promoting characters with gigantic breasts and other impossible tricks of anatomy. I only remember one, whose super heroine had breasts started just under her clavicle and ended at her armpit. I mean, I like a little uplift, but, you know, ouch.

By the end of the show I sounded like every character in every action movie ever made, muttering “I’m getting too old for this shit.” I’m starting to feel that, as a short older person, I need to be lifted up on a chair and taken around the rooms carried by four shirtless body-builders, like a sultan from a Bob Hope sketch.

Still, I was moved by this story on the Bleeding Cool website, comparing four days at a comics convention to a religious experience. I envy those of you who get to experience this for the first time.

It’s a treasure. Don’t bury it.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Mike Gold: Little Ole New York Comic Con

ComicMix associate editor Adriane Nash and I knew we were in for it when, on Thursday morning last, there were nine other people waiting for the same commuter train who clearly were headed not to work but to the New York Comic Con. Trains run every half-hour, and ours is but one of a great, great many such stations. Do the math.

In total… one hundred thousand people. Some of whom bathed.

Sure, San Diegoans might smirk at a mere 100,000, but there are major differences between the two shows. First, it only took NYCC six years to reach the 100,000 mark. Second, the Javits Center is smaller and much more out of the way than the San Diego Convention Center. Third, the NYCC has a lot more to do with comic books than the SDCC. Actually, the SDCC barely has anything to do with comic books, despite its title and its not-for-profit mission statement. And finally, NYCC has more European artists and writers while SDCC has more Asian. Of course, this is neither better nor worse, but it is an interesting difference.

For me, there’s another important difference: I don’t have to fly from sea to shining sea to get there.

I’ll gleefully admit six years ago NYCC really, truly and totally sucked. I said so right here in this space. It was the worst planned, worst programmed, worst run major show I’d ever been to, and I started going to New York conventions back in 1968 (I cosplayed Swee’pea). It improved, slowly, and achieved adequacy in its third or fourth year.

This time around the show was very well run – although I agree with Emily’s comments about their panel programming decisions being less than knowledgeable. They should endeavor to overcome this problem.

My biggest complaint – they’re called “issues” now, aren’t they? – was rectified mid-way through the show. They had the exits blocked off, forcing the mass of humanity through narrow corridors back to the small entrance way, making it dangerously difficult to leave, particularly for those who were mobility-challenged. This policy was enforced by a part-time minimum wage crew and, while I sympathize with their difficult job, there was no reason for them to lie to us – they weren’t upholding fire laws; quite the contrary – and there was no reason to act like Cartman without his truncheon. On Thursday and Friday some acted as though it was their job to put the oink in “rent-a-pig,” but on Saturday the rules were changed and you could actually exit through some of the doors marked “exit.”

The New York Comic Con was totally and completely sold out well before the show started. While there was some confusion about the changes in registration procedures (particularly for pros, but we’re an easily confused lot), most of us who followed the rules received our badges in the mail several weeks before the show and therefore were saved from the agony of lines long enough to cause a riot at LaGuardia Airport. I don’t know how you legitimately limit the audience size and 100,000 people can barely fix into the venue; there’s some construction going on at the Javits right now so I hope they procure more floor space next year.

Personally, I had a great time. Sure, most of it was work (ComicMix had nine people there, a third focused on cosplay coverage for our Facebook and Twitter feeds) and because of the nature of my work I spent most of my time in and about Artists’ Alley, the only room that routinely had sufficient oxygen. But I saw a lot of friends – a lot – and, when all is said and done, we could take whatever energy we had left and wade into the bowels of Manhattan, which is always an entertaining and unusual experience.

A rough estimate reveals the New York Comic Con contributed over a quarter billion dollars to the local economy. We’re not just legitimate. We’re big business.

 (Our columnist would like to thank Ed Sullivan for the loan of the head.)

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


REVIEW: 30 Beats

The great television series Naked City used to close each episode with the famous tag, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” It’s very compact size and dense population means people are intersecting in new and unusual ways all the time. This has given rise to some wonderful fiction such as Kissing in Manhattan and some less memorable fare such as the recently released film 30 Beats. Using a heat wave as the through-line the heat is also a metaphor for the sexual tension between ten various New Yorkers. Structurally, it owes a great deal to Max Ophuls’s La Ronde but never comes close to its brilliance.

The cast is headed by sexy Paz de la Huerta (Boardwalk Empire) and Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies), and the film was written and directed by Alexis Lloyd. The cast also includes Condola Rashad, Justin Kirk, Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom), and Jennifer Tilly. Its tag line, “New York City, in the heart of summer: a heat wave transforms the city into a tropical zone. Ten characters are drawn, one after the other, into a ring of love and desire, each one caught beyond his or her control in a chain reaction of seduction, impulses and self-discovery” is certainly catchy but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Given the rich possibilities, it’s a shame the film runs a lightweight 88 minutes and doesn’t really bring any of the characters to real light or allow them any depth. As a result, there’s a lot of sweat and plenty of exposed skin, but you’ve seen better on any late night Cinemax production.

Out today from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, it’s billed a comedic romance but the comedy is fairly tame and the romance is of the heaving bosom variety. There’s the older woman (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) seducing the virgin (Ben Levin) at a spa only to learn she was hired by dad to be his first sexual experience. While a cliché situation, Lloyd allows their inner thoughts to come through, making this awkwardness somewhat sweet. It also promises this could be a good little film, but then we’re shown she was only inspired this one time. The rest is a series of clichés without redemption as character A meets up with character B and after sex, character B hooks up with character C and frankly, the characterizations are as flat as this description. That the core cast is between 25-35 also steals chances for some interesting comparisons among the generations.

There’s the tarot reader helping the young man overcome erectile dysfunction with the aid of some crystals and the chiropractor who gets it on with one of his patients. Every encounter between characters culminates in sex, without fail, and each exchange robs the actors of a chance to actually invest any emotion and feeling into their characters. There’s far too much sex (believe it or not) and nowhere near enough depth.

It’s always a shame when a film about sex is just the sex and nothing about those who commit the act. A more adult approach would have taken this concept, heat wave and all, and really made the audience melt.

New Who Review: “The Angels Take Manhattan”

The Fall of the Ponds.  The Last Page.  The Great Weeping.  You knew it was coming, The Grand Moff Steven made it clear.  Who died, who lived, and who will have a LOT of explaining to do to the parents.  Spoilers abound, even more than usual, so here we go…

by Steven Moffat
Directed by Nick Hurran

The episode jumps between 1938 and 2012 Manhattan – in 1938, detective Sam Garner is asked to investigate a mysterious apartment house “where the angels live”, only to meet…himself, years older.  In modern day, The Doctor is visiting Central Park with Amy and Rory, when Rory is sent backwards by a weeping angel, into the arms of his daughter River Song.  How do you fight an enemy that can suddenly make you go decades into the past?  Perhaps the answer in some cases is: you can’t.

The story bears more than a few parallels to the original Angels story, Blink, as it should. In both cases, The Doctor’s actions are linked, even dictated, by a set of notes (here concealed in a book) provided before he begins, but written afterwards by one of the parties involved.


Mike McShane (Grayle), an American actor and comedian, was one of the regulars on the original British version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? He played Friar Tuck in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, the hypnotherapist in Office Space, and (sigh) Professor Keenbean in Richie Rich.  He’s also one of a small numbers of actors who got to play another “Doctor” – he provided the voice for recurring and ubiquitous scientist Cid in Final Fantasy X and its sequel, X-2.

MONSTER REPORT The Weeping Angels made their first appearance only a few years back, in Steven Moffat’s spectacular and Hugo-winning episode Blink.  They’re described by the Doctor as “The only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely”.  Their preferred method of taking their prey is to send them back in time.  They feed on the potential energy of the life the victims were supposed to live in the present.  The victim arrives back in time with no real idea how they got there – some may go mad, some may injure themselves, but many simply adapt and live out the remainder of their days there in the past.  They are functionally indestructible – when they are seen by anyone, they “Quantum-lock”, or transform into stone. They move impossibly fast when they can, hence The Doctor’s advice, “Don’t blink”.  In their second appearance in The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone, the Angels were in a very weakened state, and could not (or chose not to) use their standard attack, sticking to simple acts of violence as they slowly drained power from the crashed spaceship the Byzantium.  Here, they’re at full strength again.  They also have the power to replicate themselves – it’s explained that any image of a Weeping Angel itself becomes a Weeping Angel (likely because of Quantum), in this episode, it’s suggested they can infect or take over other statues, such as ones in a fountain or park, or even big honkin’ ones out in the harbor.

Something I’ve mentioned before: There’s a short story from 1984 called “Bones” by P.C. Hodgell that features a race of creatures called Vhors, skeletal ratlike creatures who, like the Angels, can only move when they’re not being observed. Surely a case of parallel evolution, but a pointed lesson in how there’s only so many truly original ideas, and how it’s all based on how you use the ideas and tropes we’ve been recycling since Og the caveman first set in stone (literally) the tale of a young boy who was destined to bring down a great kingdom run by an evil monarch.

The Statue of Liberty has had more than a few appearances in science fiction.  It was previously animated by Mood Slime and Jackie Wilson in Ghostbusters 2. It was fitted with a honkin’ huge  Neuralyzer in Men In Black 2. And of course it was seen as a twisted broken wreck at the end of Planet of the Apes.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

DARKER AND DARKER – It took me a while to realize the image in the logo this week’s opening credits was the crown of the Statue of Liberty.  Also, note that the color is all but gone from the TARDIS’ trip through the time vortex, and the electrical distortions have increased greatly.  Does it represent the immediate trouble of the trip to 1938, or a continuing change to the vortex?

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION – This episode was filmed in Manhattan, where it was followed around by hundreds of fans who spread the news of filming location via social media, which meant the crowds grew exponentially over the day.  In a recent interview (modesty forbids mentioning the writer), they discussed the excitement of filming in NYC, and the zeal and courtesy of the fans.  And one of the wonderful things about the city is there are plenty of buildings that would not look out of place in 1938, allowing for lots of sites to film.

YOU’RE MUCH TOO NICE TO BE A GRUBBY DETECTIVE ALL YOUR LIFE – There’s a lot of references to detective fiction and film noir in this episode.  Mike McShane plays Mr. Grayle – the Grayle family was featured in Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely, which was adapted twice to film, once as Murder My Sweet, and again under its original title. Detective “Sam Garner” is clearly in the style of classic dicks Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, the latter of which was once played by…James Garner. “Melody Malone”, while also mirroring “Marlowe”, reminds one of Michael J. Malone, hero of Craig Rice’s (a female author – Craig was her middle name, Georgina her first), one adapted to film with the postcard-ready title Having Wonderful Crime.  Mike McShane is clearly playing a character in the Sydney Greenstreet “Fat Man” style.

I READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY – I can write off  “The New York Record” as not being allowed to use the masthead of a more…Timesy…paper.  But “Detroit Lions win Superbowl”?  For one thing, does that mean this episode takes place in February?  Or just that the British have no idea when the Superbowl takes place?  Or what teams are worth a damn?

ROLLS ROYCE? – The plaque The Doctor does a quick recce in seems to be from the engine of a Supermarine Spitfire, last seen (flying in space, yet) in Victory of the Daleks. There’s two explanations for that.  One is by  the implication of its jury-rigged appearance that the TARDIS has had many, many post-showroom upgrades with whatever parts could be found, hence its patchwork appearance.  But a concept that was to be mentioned in Neil Gaiman’s story The Doctor’s Wife is that a TARDIS’ Chameleon Circuit affects the interior of the ship as well as the outside.  The Doctor and Idris look out on a junkyard, and once she reminds him of the fact, he realizes he’s not looking at junk, but the disguised remnants of various TARDISes.  So he isn’t building a console from a hairdryer and coat hangers, but from highly technical components that LOOK like a hairdryer and coat hangers.

“Vortex Manipulator – less bulky than a TARDIS…a motorbike through traffic” River’s had the device since the events of The Pandorica Opens, when she bought it off the corpulent blue-skinned trader Dorium.  The Vortex Manipulator is standard equipment for the time agency, and one is almost always on the wrist of the rakishly charming Captain Jack Harkness.  The Doctor describes using it as “slightly addictive”, but odds are River can handle it.

“Once we know it’s coming, it’s written in stone” – The rules for the immutability of time are…rather mutable. The Doctor rather makes a habit of changing things he knows will happen, though in fairness, they don’t always go well, such as the crushed temporal reality of The Wedding of River Song.

“Are you an archaeologist as well as a detective?” Indeed she is – her Doctorate is is Archaeology, mainly so she can go about searching for events related to The Doctor.

“Oh, I know how they work” / “And it’s Professor Song Now” These two quotes allow us to place where this adventure happens in River’s timeline.  It’s after the events of Angels / Stone, and even a bit later in her life after that, as she’s earned her Professorship. She was surprised to hear she would become a Professor in the Angels adventure, but she’d she gained it in her “first/last” adventure, Silence in the Library. So this is interesting, in that it’s the first of her appearances that have happened “out of order”. To date, each of her appearances have been happening in reverse order – the first time we meet her, she’s known The Doctor for years, and it’s her last adventure, as she “dies”.  Each adventure after that, she’s come from a point further back in her time line.  She knew about “the crash of the Byzantium” in Silence in the Library, but during the crash (in Angels/Stone), she didn’t know she’d be a professor. Similarly, she mentions that she’ll see The Doctor again “When The Pandorica Opens“, another event that had yet to occur to him, and so on.  Basically, we’ve been following a specific story arc for River – now that it’s done and her big secret is revealed, it’s okay to pick and choose her time of appearances again.

“Oh I was pardoned ages ago…turns out the person I killed never existed in the first place” More evidence of The Doctor doing all he can to fade away, continuing the job that Oswin started for him in Asylum of the Daleks.  He didn’t show up in Solomon’s database in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship either.  Of course, there’s a faction who suggests that he’s not the one doing it, and that someone else is assisting him, possibly even without his knowledge…

“He’s been moved in space, but not in time” – This is a change from the stated abilities of the Angels – until now, they’ve been only able to displace in time. If they could do both, why didn’t Rory appear in front of Winter Quay when he first arrived, since that was their intended target?  Perhaps they can only do one or the other, so they get their targets back to when they need them, then worry about the where?  There’s also the possibility of a scene missing where he simply escaped from the basement and went looking for help, which would rather make more sense.

“That was a stupid waste of regeneration energy” It’s only paying back a favor – River, conceived in the TARDIS and possessing Time Lord DNA, could regenerate, and has, at least twice.  She gave up all the rest of her regenerations to restore The Doctor to life and health in Let’s Kill Hitler.  Likely that’s not a trick he could perform with any other person, which deftly explains why he’s never done it before.  Unless you count giving the fuel cells of the TARDIS a jump start by giving it about ten years of his life in Rise of the Cybermen.

“I can’t ever take the TARDIS back there, the timelines are too scrambled” – Lucky all the times he’s already been there have already happened, then.  Christmas of 1938 is when the events of The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe take place.  It’s also when they landed in Hitler’s meeting room in Let’s Kill Hitler.

“I will never be able to see you again” I don’t see why.  They spend many decades in Manhattan (presuming they don’t go traveling), and the time distortion is only centered around 1938, so there’s no reason he can’t pop by a year or two later, or even decades later.  Besides, River is already making plans to go see them, to drop off the book she’s now got to go write.

The seeming finality of the separation may be be partly based on the wishes of Karen Gillan.  In the aforementioned interview, she said,  “I’ve always said that when I go, I want it to be for good. Because I want that final scene to have that same impact, maybe ten years on. I want people to be able to revisit it and still have the same emotion. That’s really important for me, so for that reason, I think I’m going to rule out any returns.” However, when I quietly complimented her on her ability to lie, she replied, “I learned it from the best!”

I expect at the very least we’ll see a rasher of fanfic of Amy and Rory’s life in New York, the evils they fought and the lives they saved.  We already know (based on River’s plan) that Amy will be involved in publishing in the years after her re-arrival in this pre-war period and beyond. So clearly they CAN be contacted. One can only assume they’ll use their foreknowledge of history to make a few successful investments to keep themselves off the streets as well.

Let’s do a bit of math.  Amy was born in 1989, so when she met The Doctor (for the second time) in 2008, she was about 19. Last week, she surmises it’s been ten years of her personal timeline, so she’s now 29. 74 years pass between being popped back to 1938 and seeing their gravestone in 2012, where she’s listed as having died at 87. So unless she REALLY lied about her age, she and Rory are not only dead here, but died at least a couple of years, maybe decades back.  Also, it’s not made clear, but it’s implied that Amy and Rory do not necessarily die at the same time – she’s five years older than him, and her name appears under his.

“This is the story of Amelia Pond, and this is how it ends” Back in her first episode, young Amelia Pond is sitting waiting for The Doctor to return – he doesn’t, not to another fourteen years, but she hears the wheezing engines of the TARDIS in the sky, so at least she know she hadn’t dreamt it.  A nice callback to that first episode, and a good end to the story.


tellmeimwrong-267x450-7430785“You think you’ll just come back to life again?” “When DON’T I?” There’s been two recurring themes to Amy and Rory’s life with The Doctor – death (usually of Rory) and waiting.  Amy waited 14 years for The Doctor to return in The Eleventh Hour.  Rory guarded the Pandorica for millennia between that and The Big Bang.  And in The Girl Who Waited, Amy was lost for decades in a parallel timeline, and her opinion of The Doctor…somewhat soured.  Rory’s made a habit of dying, something that’s become a bit of a running joke with both the show and the fans.  So it’s quite fitting that in this episode, both themes are referenced. The Old Rory of 1938 is clearly overjoyed to see his Amy again, quite the difference between her reaction to him in The Girl Who Waited. In both cases, the timelines vanished, with only the memories remaining.

Similarly, Rory dies.  A lot.  Sometimes winked entirely out of existence, sometimes just long enough for be revived after drowning, but it gets to the point where here, he’s betting on his past performance to guarantee future results.

“Does the bulb on top need changing?” “I just changed it” He did too, in Pond Life. But it’s another appearance of a recurring theme that a few folks have mentioned – flickering and dead lightbulbs.  They flickered whenever a Dalek Puppet activated in Asylum of the Daleks, Brian was trying to help with one in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, they flickered and sparked all over the place in A Town Called Mercy,  power went out a couple times in The Power of Three, and they kept going out all over the place in this episode.  Just a common symptom of teleportation or alien power use, or a further suggestion of something else?

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – Always a fun and tantalizing question to ask when the next episode isn’t for several months; in this case, Christmas.  We know a few things for sure:

Jenna-Louse Coleman will make her premiere as The Doctor’s new Companion. Though after her surprise appearance as Oswin Oswald in Asylum of the Daleks, all expectations are off.  It has been rumored, based on overheard lines during location shoots, that her character’s name is Clara. Steven Moffat has said in interviews that one of the things interesting about her is where The Doctor meets her. Now, that could mean any number of things – it could refer to the fact that they “met” in Asylum, but I had a Clever Theory of my own back when I heard that.  The most surprising place for The Doctor to meet someone would be in the TARDIS itself.

In this interview on the BBC YouTube channel, a young person asks about why/how Jenna (as Oswin) appears in Asylum.  The Moff’s answer is telling and maddening – “All of that will be explained in the future … that’s the question I want you asking”. So clearly he does have something insidious planned.  He also was adamant that her character was “as yet un-named”, blockading the overheard dialogue.

Richard E. Grant and Tom Ward makes guest appearances in the episode.  Richard Grant has played The Doctor TWICE before – once in the oft-referenced Comic Relief special, and once in the animated episode Scream of the Shalka.

Vastra and Jenny (Neve Macintosh and Catrin Stewart) will be back from A Good Man Goes to War, but so will Strax (Dan Starkey), the Sontaran sentenced to serve as a nurse.  One wonders if this adventure will take place before or after the events of Good Man.

We’ll see you again then.  If you’ve got any requests for Doctor Who articles to keep my busy till then, do let me know.


The name’s Malone. Melody Malone.

Coming soon from BBC Books is a new Doctor Who tie-in e-book entitled The Angel’s Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery featuring a very pulp-inspired cover. The cover also appears in The Angels Take Manhattan episode of Doctor Who, airing September 29 on BBC and BBC America.

Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) reads a Melody Malone Mystery in The Angels Take Manhattan.

Press Release:

BBC Books are to release a special book inspired by this weekend’s episode, The Angels Take Manhattan. The Angel’s Kiss is a 112-page novella written by Justin Richards, and is the first book in the range to be published that has been written from the perspective of one of the show’s characters.

Melody Malone not only runs her own agency, she also happens to be the author of a successful series of novels, featuring one Melody Malone.

The book will only be available electronically beginning October 4th, a few days after the episode’s premiere.

Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) recognizes some familiar characters in Angel’s Kiss.

About Angel’s Kiss:

On some days, New York is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

This was one of the other days…

Melody Malone, owner and sole employee of the Angel Detective Agency, has an unexpected caller. It’s movie star Rock Railton, and he thinks someone is out to kill him. When he mentions the ‘kiss of the Angel’, she takes the case. Angels are Melody’s business…

At the press party for Railton’s latest movie, studio owner Max Kliener invites Melody to the film set of their next blockbuster. He’s obviously spotted her potential, and Melody is flattered when Kliener asks her to become a star. But the cost of fame, she’ll soon discover, is greater than anyone could possibly imagine.

Will Melody be able to escape Kliener’s dastardly plan – before the Angels take Manhattan?

The e-book will be released October 4, 2012 via digital stores.

Mike Gold: Cold Ennui

Here’s a sucky way to spend one’s birthday: voiceless with a serious summer head cold. Bitch, bitch; moan, moan. Okay, I had a great day-before-my-birthday in Manhattan lunching with Danny Fingeroth and dinnering with fellow ComicMixer Martha Thomases. Nine hours of fantastic conversation in the best thing in life with your clothes on.

Sadly, as the overly-breaded but otherwise tasty General Tzu’s was being presented to me at our Greenwich Village dungeon of culinary delight, I was starting to sound like a frog in a blender. By the time I was on the subway back to Grand Central Terminal, I was grateful somebody bothered to invent texting. The gifted Miss Adriane picked me up and dragged me home. That was birthday-eve.

On birthday day, we first had to ransom my car back from the shop – I can’t complain; 100,000 miles on one battery is pretty damn good and I guess you really do need functioning breaks. After a quick stop at Walgreens to clean them out of toxic chemicals and chocolate Twizzlers, we returned home. As Miss Adriane procured the prerequisite chicken soup, I retired to celebrate the anniversary of my mother’s major inconvenience in a time-honored way: I picked up my stack of comic books (e-comics; I’m nothing if not hip and trendy in my dotage) and commenced to read.

As luck would have it, there wasn’t a winner in the bunch. Only one or two sucked; the rest were poignantly mediocre. This is not to say that I hadn’t read some worthy stuff while on the train to Manhattan – I consumed all the good stuff as a matter of fate and ill-planning. But you’d think that out of a dozen or so hand-picked titles, there’d be at least one that reaffirmed my fannish enthusiasm. Let us remember: I was under the weather, and my cockles needed to be warmed.

There were three New 52 titles in the electronic pile. All 12th issues. None motivated me to pick up the 13th, two months hence. There are a number of New 52ers I really enjoy: Batgirl, Batwoman, All-Star Western, and everything with the words “written by James Robinson” on the credits page. These weren’t them. The most enjoyable of the DC books was, oddly, the only Before Watchman mini I’m reading: Night Owl, and that’s because I’d read prescription warning labels if Joe Kubert drew them. Reading Kubert, for me, is a lot like drinking chicken soup. You might have to be Ashkenazi to fully grok that.

The Marvel titles were okay; slightly better in that none chased me away. But, damn, why is it that each and every good Marvel “event” series has four times as many issues as necessary? Okay, we know the answer to that one. Still, the Avengers Vs. X-Men series was established to put Marvel on a somewhat different course for a while and it’s doing its job. It’s not a reboot, it’s just your standard dramatic shuffling of the Marvel deck. But it should have been over by now.

The so-called indies were all over the map as they are supposed to be, so my luck of the draw was simply a bad hand. No, not bad. Just mediocre. Too many unnecessary middle-issues in overly long story arcs. I regret the day publishers decided to put six solid pages of story in each 24-page issue, and I look forward to our next GrimJack series to once again prove you can actually put 28 pages of story into a 24-page issue… without being Stan Freberg, and, yes, that was just to see if Mark Evanier’s paying attention.

Okay, all that sucked. On the other side of the scale, I got more than 200 emails and Facebook shout-outs from friends old and new. That’s great anytime, but after a speechless day of aches and not-breathing and a dozen mediocre comics, all that made be feel on top of the world. And not in the Cody Jarrett sense, either. To one and all, my deepest thanks.

Daughter Adriane and I finished the day watching Paul, a genuinely funny and essentially heartwarming movie written by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I’m a sucker for anything with Jane Lynch that doesn’t involve high schoolers spontaneously combusting into song, and Pegg and Frost have never disappointed me.

Moral of the story: when you’re feeling low, reach for something positive and funny. Tomorrow is… another day.

Thursday: Dennis O’Neil… Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing?


Mike Gold: Where’s Our Next Buck Coming From?

There was a time when if you were reading comics as an adult, it was generally assumed you were too stupid to understand real literature. Many of us wouldn’t read comics in public venues for this very reason.

Not me; I couldn’t care less. When it first came out, I even read Hustler Magazine on Chicago’s vaunted “L” trains. But many of my friends felt that way, and that’s why Phil Seuling’s early New York Comicons were so liberating. In the late 1960s there would be less than one thousand of us talking to one another in an elegant Manhattan hotel ballroom, and each and every one of us were awestruck by the fact that there were so many of us.

As we became the first generation since Fredric Wertham torched the medium to get into the business, we used this feeling of isolation from society to promote the level of storytelling. Comics became more character-driven and less Pow! Biff! Bam!. Before long adult fans would be able to point to a more mature level of story and art. We believed our medium was becoming sophisticated.

In retrospect, I take issue with that. We’re telling stories about people with ludicrous abilities who dress up in fantastic, gaudy costumes to either commit or fight crime and/or evil (to borrow from Dick Orkin’s Chickenman). There’s a limit to that “sophisticated” brand that we were too proud to notice.

Popular culture works like a snowball atop a mountain: by the time you hit ground level, that snowball has grown to a boulder the size of Colorado. Grim and gritty – a term I came up with to help sell GrimJack ­­– became dark and disgusting. Heroes became as ugly on the inside as the villains were on the outside. We evolved to excess.

Before long the American comic book medium, still overwhelmed by heroic fantasy, had driven out all the stories that work for the younger audience while limiting the older audience to a steady diet of redundancy. It is possible to create a story that works for 12 year-olds (and their precocious younger siblings) as well as for 24 year-olds, 36 year-olds, and even 61 year-olds. Off the top of bald pate, I can think of a few writers who did just that, and did so brilliantly: Steve Englehart, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Steve Gerber, Louise Simonson, Archie Goodwin, and our own Denny O’Neil… to, indeed, name but a very few.

All too-many comic book store owners became the villains of their own childhood: “Hey, kid, this ain’t a library!” Driven by admonitions from certain of the larger comics distributors in the 1980s, kids were perceived as not having enough money to be worthwhile customers. They took too much time making their purchases. They didn’t know what they wanted. They couldn’t engage in a conversation about who stole what from whom when it came to The X-Men and The Doom Patrol.

Kids were shooed out of comic book shops, and publishers – again, at the insistence of certain comics distributors – pulled away from producing comics that were marketed towards the younger audience. Instead we started cranking out a steady diet of R-rated superhero comics, many of which were quite good and worthy of publication. But they became the snowball that ate the comic book shops.

I always thought this was a mistake, and I thought so for one simple reason: if you chase away today’s 12 year-olds, who’s going to be your customer or reader in five or ten years?

Today, we have a small fraction of the number of brick-and-mortar comic book shops we had just one generation ago. Go figure.

But, today, it appears we’re beginning to see some drift towards retro-expansion. More on this next week.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Archie Comics CEOs end their court fight… for now

English: Archie Comics logo

Have we achieved peace in our time? The Associated Press piece is skeptical…

The two CEOs of the company that publishes Archie Comics on Wednesday ended their court feud over control of the comics kingdom, but now some relatives are accusing both sides of funny business.

A judge on Wednesday signed off on a settlement between Nancy Silberkleit and Jon Goldwater, the co-CEOs of Archie Comic Publications, even as Goldwater’s nieces told the judge in court papers that they think both chief executives’ “hands are dirty.”

Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich said the nieces weren’t in a legal position to weigh in on the settlement, but she noted that they could file a suit of their own. A lawyer for the nieces’ trust, Charles W. Grimes, said it “will be pursuing the requisite steps to protect the interests of the trust and its beneficiaries.”

The settlement ends — at least for now— a bitter and sometimes bizarre fight at the company that produces the congenial, more than 70-year-old comic that follows Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and others through dating and other teenage adventures.

via The Associated Press: Archie comics’ 2 CEOs end their NY court fight.

CONTEST: Win a copy of Blood Work, U.S Marshals, or A Perfect World

In time for Father’s Day, Warner Home Video is releasing Blu-ray editions of three overlooked films by some of our favorite performers – Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee, Jones, and Robert Downey, Jr. To celebrate these films, being released on Tuesday, we have one (1) Blu-ray copy of each of the following movies: Blood Work, U.S Marshals, and A Perfect World to give away.

Here’s how you can enter the contest: tell us what, in 300 words or less, Father’s Day means to you. You can write from any perspective you wish, without profanity please, and post your entry no later than 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, 2012.

Three winners will be selected but you must live in the United States and P.O. Box addresses will not be accepted. The judgment of ComicMix‘s panel of experts will be final.


To refresh your memory, here are synopses of the three movies: (more…)

REVIEW: Felicity Seasons One and Two

felicity1-300x406-6060567Before Star Trek was Fringe and Lost, and Alias and before Alias was Felicity. It may be hard to recall that genre wunderkind Abrams actually broke into television by making a splash in 1998 with the WB series about a college girl. Created with Cabin in the Woods collaborator Matt Reeves, the series is worth a second look given the storytelling, music, and keen eye for casting that first introduced to an armload of performers who have gone on to success, including repeat appearances in later Abrams productions. Or do you think Keri Russell’s cameo in Mission: Impossible 3 was an oddity?

Lionsgate has resurrected the first two seasons in newly packaged DVDs, both out this week. The WB knew that a female-skewing series with a high concept would be a good fit for their struggling network so when Abrams and Reeves turned up with the concept, there was excitement. Susanne Daniels excitedly listened as Abrams outlined a five season arc for Felicity Porter, who would chuck everything she and her parents planned for, to follow a boy from California to New York. The boy barely knew she existed but all it took was for him to sign her yearbook and she was hooked.

So was Daniels who has written, “He brings heart to a pitch and can tell you clearly why anyone would or should care about the world he’s describing. But the single most impressive thing about J.J. is the depth of analysis he lays out in a compelling, almost professorial way. He can tell you everything about every character and their story arcs. And he can tell you how and why his show fits into your network, in the television business, and the world at large, and how the audience will relate to it.” (more…)