Tagged: Manhattan

A Death In Our Family

A Death In Our Family

I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate writing this.

Back in the late 1970s, I was editing a home video consumer magazine called Video Action. Amusingly, I staffed the publication with freelancers from the comic book community – people who excelled in the art of visual communications and popular culture. It wasn’t long before I received a letter from Martha Thomases and John Tebbel inquiring about writing opportunities. They presented their pedigrees and cited a whole bunch of mutual friends as references. They could have stopped at Denny O’Neil and Larry Hama.

John and Martha quickly became good friends. There isn’t enough bandwidth in all of Apple’s clouds for me to detail the nature of that friendship and divine the depth of the love I have for them, so instead I’ll focus on one element. There is nothing I value more than brilliant conversation with good friends. It takes wit, intelligence, experience and personality to pull it off on an ongoing basis, and I would swim upstream in piranha-infested waters to spend a few hours with these two.

A few months ago, the three of us met for a wonderful meal at a midtown Manhattan steakhouse. The three of us arrived separately, and John and I arrived early. We got into a deep conversation about how much the James Bond novels meant to us as kids but, upon later reflection, how Ian Fleming was a genuinely crappy writer and what the hell did JFK see in him anyway? By the time Martha arrived we had moved on to our favorite topic, the genius of Jack Benny and his stylistic influence over the next two generations of comedians (Benny begat Carson, Carson begat Maher). When we were seated, we moved on to an array of topics. This was typical for our dinners, but because we had that time before Martha arrived it was, for me at least, an important bonding event. We left vowing to get together again soon.

Several days later – it might have been longer; right now it seems like moments later – Martha called to tell me John was in the hospital after significant medical trauma at home. In short order, we learned he had lung cancer.

John appreciated the irony of having a particularly nasty form of lung cancer despite his lack of an addiction to tobacco. Martha showed more strength in spirit and in love than one could imagine, but none of us were surprised in the least.

You know this story doesn’t end well. John died yesterday. And that, folks, sucks.

Martha’s birthday is tomorrow. Their friends are gathering this weekend to be with her; we were planning on that anyway when we all knew John was in dire straits. It’s a lousy way to celebrate her birthday, but her essence is beautiful and she’s one of the most grounded people in Manhattan. By and large you do not cope with the death of our closest loved ones, but eventually you accept and understand you are surrounded by the love and support of your friends and family.

The ComicMix community lost a member of our family this week, and we grieve as we celebrate John’s wit, intelligence, experience and personality. Our hearts go out to Martha and to their son Arthur, and I know I speak for the extended ComicMix community, our bloggers, our commenters, our friends, co-workers and associates, in offering our love eternal.

– Mike Gold

REVIEW: Fan Favorites Part Two: The Odd Couple, Cheers, Fraiser

23895_oddcouple_ff_dvd_3d-288x450-7242851While television at first reflected American culture, it then tried to mold it in the 1950s before giving up all pretense towards reality in the 1960s. The seismic cultural shifts in the latter part of the decade could be felt everywhere, including television. A rule of thumb is that the theater reflects society fastest with television and film following years later. That certainly seemed to be the case as the television series of the latter 1960s began to explore the themes people had been debating in classes and on the streets. It also forced producers to mirror the reality of the day, no longer attempting to display the ideal lifestyle.

Neil Simon was one of the brightest playwrights of the decade, having cut his teeth on live television in the 1950s. His play The Odd Couple became a box office smash film and a perfect vehicle for a sitcom. It represented a new breed of comedic television when it arrived on September 24, 1970. Over the course of its five seasons, the show, starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, was never less than funny and often sharp with its humor and display of human foibles. (more…)


February 8, 2012 (Fullerton, CA) –
REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST, the second novel by author Kevin Paul Shaw Broden, charted as high as #70 in the Hardboiled Detective Fiction list for Amazon UK on the day it was released. It remained in the top 100 for several hours.
In the novel, a vigilante stalks the streets of the 1930’s Manhattan, and Margaret Randolph is terrified that he will break into her home. Even though her husband Donald tries to reassure her that it won’t happen, the mystery man known as the Masked Ghost steps in from a stormy night and dies at her feet. What is the secret of the Masked Ghost? Why did he come to the penthouse home of the Randolphs? Do they go to the police, or must they solve his murder on their own? Must this young couple be forced to bring about the… REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST? Written in the style of the pulp novels of the 1930s, REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST is the tale of a man obsessed and what that obsession does to his family. Originally released in serialized blog form, this compiled edition includes new interior black and white illustrations along with a never before published SCARLET SPIRIT backup tale.
Kevin’s first novel CLOCKWORK GENIE – a blend of fantasy, romance, and murder mystery – is still available.
REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST can be found at the following:
Amazon: http://bit.ly/zg3PcN
Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/xhWpgy
Smashwords: http://bit.ly/xDv5pX
REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST is soon to be available at most other online distributors.

REVIEWS: “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan”

20th Century Home Entertainment continues to explore their library, releasing Blu-ray editions of popular and important films. Recently, two of Woody Allen’s best films were released and are worth a second look.

Allen as a comedian was a witty, smart writer and performer, coming from a literate line of humor that was in rapid decline by the 1960s. In some ways, he was the bridge between that era and today when men like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert carry the mantle. His early films were very funny and as a director, he was learning the ropes, figuring out what worked while entertaining the masses.

That culminated in Annie Hall, his 1977 serious comedy featuring his then-paramour Diane Keaton. The movie was a quantum leap in sophistication, partially from the smart script co-written with Marshall Brickman, but a most self-assured hand behind the camera. Allen shows a maturity as a filmmaker that proved to audiences and critics alike he was more than just a funny and funny-looking guy. The movie went on to earn four Academy Awards including Best Picture (besting Star Wars), Best Actress, Best Directing and Best Screenplay. (more…)

How Should Comic Shop Owners Deal With Digital Comics? Start Drinking. (Really.)

How Should Comic Shop Owners Deal With Digital Comics? Start Drinking. (Really.)

A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer.

A lot of pixels have been spilled recently about Dark Horse going day-and-date digital at a cheaper price point than the print edition, with many retailers feeling undercut. Mark Millar has said we shouldn’t be doing day-and-date at all:

I really think day and date release is a disastrous idea and makes no economic sense at all to comics as a business. It’s potentially ruinous for comic stores, and in the long term it’s not going to do publishers any favors either.

Brian Wood has a more nuanced point of view:

No sane creator, or publisher, wants to see comic shops hurt. We all have emotional connections to them, to the idea of them, and we count owners and employees as personal friends. We aren’t looking for digital to steal customers away from shops, but rather to be an additive thing, to be an additional source of income. To simply switch a current print consumer to a digital consumer does not solve any problems! It benefits no one at all. It will not save us.

So what will save us? In the words of Bluto Blutarsky: “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.”

If you’re in comics, you’ve spent time in bars. (Oh, don’t deny it, the photos are all up on Facebook.) But the question is: what kind of bars? Do you spend it in old man bars where the average age of the customers goes up by one each year? Are the places dimly lit and crowded, but it’s still happening– or have you not been in that dive since you graduated? Is it a friendly place where you and your friends can hang out? Is there a decent beer list, or do they only sell stuff from the big players, without a hint of imported beer or microbrews? Does the person behind the bar know how to make a decent Harbor Light?

And really, why are you spending time in bars anyway? You can get booze cheaper if you buy it and drink it at home. Much cheaper.

This is where we are now with comic book stores– compare them to your bar on the corner. Maybe it’s a place you’d rather not be at all. Maybe it’s okay for some people, but it’s not the kind of place you’d take your mom on her birthday. Maybe it’s a family place, maybe it’s sports only. And just as some bars die out for a variety of reasons, so too do comic stores.

There are great comic stores out there– Challengers in Chicago, The Secret Headquarters and Meltdown in LA, and New York City has a bunch like Midtown and Manhattan and St. Mark’s and Jim Hanley’s Universe. Each one has a different vibe and feel, but they all know how to reach their customers and they’re all places you want to spend some time in.

Is your store a place you really enjoy spending time in? Or is it a place that’s survived because it’s the only way to get your weekly fix?

There are comic stores that have taken these lessons to heart and made them places you want to go to and spend money, even though you can get stuff cheaper elesewhere.

DENNIS O’NEIL: Percy’s Inspiration

Our story thus far: Percy the comic book artist has gone to the South Street Seaport seeking influences. There he meets a mime and:

The mime stared directly at Percy and asked, “Looking for an influence, numb nuts?”

Gobsmacked! That’s what Percy was, absolutely gobsmacked! How could this white-faced bozo know what he, Percy, was after? It’s not like he was wearing a sign that said: Will work for influences.

“Pay attention,” the mime said and:

Was transformed into a little boy who is creeping down the stairs and sees a box and eagerly, eagerly unwraps it, flinging aside paper and ribbon and looks inside and is horribly disappointed and…

The mime transformed into himself again and, moving his face to within inches of Percy’s, growled. “You influenced?”

Percy stared at his shoes and mumbled, “You’re not even an artist. You’re just a guy who…I dunno what you do but how can you influence me…”

“Go to a museum,” the mime said and when Percy raised his eyes, the mime was gone.

A museum?

Well, Percy knew that there were a lot of them in Manhattan and he’d always kind of planned to visit one and he’d even got close to the big one on Fifth Avenue once when he was girl watching in Central Park…Okay, he’d go to a museum because, really, he had nothing better to do – in fact, he had nothing at all to do.

He found the right subway and got off at the right stop and went up wide, concrete steps past some columns and then he was inside a museum. Big. Crowded. Intimidating. He wandered into a gallery full of large paintings and scoped them out: saints – the people with halos – and characters from mythology –that’s what the little cards told him– and just people, all engaged in activities that were recognizable and interesting. Pretty cool, some of it, but…? “What does any of this have to do with comics” he said aloud, to no one.

“It’s about storytelling,” said a man standing nearby – a man who looked oddly like the mime if the mime had gotten rid of his whiteface, was sporting a huge, waxed moustache, and was wearing a tuxedo. “What these painter chaps do,” the man continued, “is imagine how their subjects would appear when their faces and bodies are at their most expressive and render that in the purest possible manner. Rather like what those buskers in the park…the silent ones who seem to be forever walking against the wind, poor devils.”

Gobsmacked – really, really, no kidding gobsmacked – Percy shuffled from the museum, took a bus downtown, entered his building, and slept a very deep sleep. The next morning, he skipped breakfast and went straight to his drawing board: the mime, the paintings, and what they did, how they communicated – his task was clear. Percy wasn’t satisfied with his first effort, or his five hundredth, but eventually, he got close to what he wanted. Then, he began winning prizes. But that is a story for another time.

Note: Thanks to Martha Thomases for “gobsmacked.”

FRIDAY: Martha “Gobsmacked” Thomases

Julie Taymor Suing ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark’ Producers

Julie Taymor Suing ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark’ Producers

Julie Taymor at the 2009 premiere of the Metro...

Meanwhile, Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko still doesn’t see a single dime from the show. Or the movies. Or the comics. Or any of a thousand different licenses of the character he co-created. So if we’re going to start talking about copyright infringement, let’s go back a bit, hmmm?

NEW YORK (AP) — Director Julie Taymor sued the producers of “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark” Tuesday, saying they violated her creative rights and haven’t compensated her for the work she put into Broadway’s most expensive musical.

Charles Spada, an attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the Tony Award-winning director, said Tuesday in a statement that “the producers’ actions have left her no choice but to resort to legal recourse to protect her rights.”

Rick Miramontez, the show’s spokesman, was not immediately aware of the copyright infringement lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Taymor was not available to comment.

The lawsuit seeks half of all profits, gains and advantages derived from the sale, license, transfer or lease of any rights in the original Spiderman book along with a permanent ban of the use of Taymor’s name or likeness in connection with a promotional film without her written consent. It also seeks a jury trial to determine her share of profits from the unauthorized use of her book, which the lawsuit said was believed to be in excess of $1 million.

via Julie Taymor sues ‘Spider-Man’ producers – Yahoo! News.

MICHAEL DAVIS: The Art of the Deal

MICHAEL DAVIS: The Art of the Deal

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

That line has nothing to do with this column. I just love starting a piece with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” I mean how cool is that?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

I started to look at comics differently. Up until that moment, comics were just a great vice in my life. Sure, I wanted to work in comics. Sure I loved comics but until that moment, comics to me were a simple, can’t do without, pleasure.

But… One day I was sitting in my study…what? yes, I had a study! That’s where I went to… study. So, one day I was sitting in my study when a bat smashed through my floor to ceiling window. At that moment I knew my path. My path was clear… That freakin’ bat must die!

Have you any idea how much a floor to ceiling window costs? A lot!

The bat was bouncing off my very expensive walls! Hey! When you see this shit in the movies and by this shit I mean people chasing a bat, rat, bird or whatever around their house, it’s all bullshit. In the movies the point is to get rid of the nuisance and provide comedy relief. The reality? It’s about killing the nuisance and avoiding bat blood on the walls of your Manhattan loft. After securing the bat, I started to…

Oh, you want to know what happened to the bat? Look, PeTA would be up my ass if I wrote what happened to that bat. I really don’t need to hear from those people so I’ll just say this, my .38 is missing a bullet and replacing a door is not that hard.

However, none of that is important. What is important is, at the very moment when my bat problem was over I realized that comics were not just a way to spend another lonely night after masturbating.

What? Oh, like you don’t!

At that moment I stuck upon an idea.

That idea?

The Art Of The Deal.

To put it another way, a step-by-step overview of a comic book deal.

So… starting next week I’m going to share with you in detail the inner working of one of my comic book deals. From idea to printed graphic novel.

I’ll use an existing but not yet finished deal from start to finish so if it goes south you will know why.

So fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a realistic ride.


MARTHA THOMASES’ Halloween Fantasy

In my lifetime, Halloween has come out of the closet. When I was a kid, it was just for kids. Now, there are special pop-up shops for costumes for grown-ups. You can buy as many different kinds of home decorations for Halloween as you can for Christmas.

In my neighborhood, Manhattan’s West Village, it’s practically a national holiday.

As someone who lives where I do, and as someone who went to a boarding school where we were required to wear uniforms every day, I understand the appeal of drag. It’s fun to dress as someone you aren’t. It’s fun to dress as someone you are, if only occasionally. It’s fun to dress in a way that confuses people about your role in life, your hopes and fears, your deepest secrets.

Halloween gives everyone in our Puritan culture permission to act out our wildest fantasies – for one day.

I always wanted to go as a superhero.

Back in my day, there weren’t a lot of superhero costumes for girls. There weren’t even that many for boys. My mom graciously made me a Supergirl costume in third grade, but, when I was older, she was less interested in enabling me. I was Peter Pan once, which felt almost like a superhero. And, since then, I’ve been a ninja at least once. It’s an easy costume when you can stroll over to Chinatown for materials.

There are those who like to be frightening on Halloween. And, while I get that (and zombie is an easy costume, if you have access to stage make-up), it isn’t what appeals to me about Halloween. I suspect it’s a generational thing. In my day, girls were supposed to be sweet and supportive, damsels to be rescued, a way to motivate the male hero to act. For Halloween, anyway, I could be the major character in my story.

No wonder my mom had to make my costume.

Nerd culture is peaking these days, so there are lots more super-hero costumes. Unfortunately, these costumes, inspired by the comics, don’t do much for a little girl’s power fantasies. They continue to sexualize – even fetishize – the bodies of the female characters. It’s cruel to see a little girl in a Wonder Woman or Supergirl costume, cut up to the top of her thigh and exposing her not-yet-developed cleavage. The boys’ costumes often include built-in abs and pecs, which contribute to their fantasies of being superhumanly strong. I have yet to see a costume for a little girl with built-in cleavage. I guess I should be thankful for that.

When my mom made my costume, she made it out of corduroy – this being at a time when spandex was not readily available. It was warm, especially with my cape. She made it big enough for me to wear extra layers underneath. You can’t do that with a commercially made superheroine costume. If you go trick-or-treating, you need to wear a coat, and then no one can see who you are. In fact, if you live in a rent-controlled apartment and have crummy heat, you need to wear a coat inside.

It’s insidious, and I doubt it’s really a conspiracy. Rather, I think these ideas are so ingrained in our culture that we don’t notice. The message to little girls is that they can have fantasies, but these fantasies must still be arousing to men. Girls can be princesses and fairies and Amazons and sometimes even witches, but they have to be pretty and they have a to show some skin.

At least they aren’t making Starfire costumes. Yet.

Martha Thomases enjoys Halloween less now that no one gives her candy anymore.

DENNIS O’NEIL: Comic Con Meets Greystache

It’s happening as I sit here typing, on a Thursday, about 30 miles due south of the village where I happily abide, and, barring as always the unforeseen, I’ll be in the midst of it sometime tomorrow, mingling with armies of strangers, gazing at exhibits both exotic and banal, almost certainly meeting folks I have known for decades but seldom see whelmed by noise and flashing lights and color and celebrities and hucksters and the breath of chaos…

I refer, of course, to the New York Comic Con. (You thought I meant Armageddon? Naw… but maybe next week…) This is the younger, but extremely vigorous sibling of the monstrous (in at least two meanings of the word) San Diego Comic Con, but it is no wimpy little brother. Like Athena, springing from the head of Zeus, the NYCC arrived burly and mature, though a bit disorganized, three years ago and has been growing ever since. I’ve heard that 75,000 attendees are expected at the con site over the next four days. (At the San Diego shindig I attended last year, there were 130,000 or 140,000 con goers, depending on who provided the information.) That this event, and its west coast equivalent, could not only exist, but prosper, is yet another sign of how much comic books, that lowly, despised publishing stepchild, have changed and gentrified since I shuffled into the office of Marvel Comics about 45 years ago.

There were conventions then, sure, but they were miniscule compared to the current iterations – a few hundred or later, and at most, a few thousand avid fans who were there, not to ogle celebs or buy cool t-shirts, but to share a love of a certain kind of storytelling. You may have heard me describe (at a convention?) accompanying Flo Steinberg to my first con at the McBurney YMCA in Manhattan: maybe a hundred citizens of various genders and ages wandering around the Y’s gym, a few tables bearing stacks of old comics for sale, and the afternoon’s big deal, a group of comic book professionals on the stage discussing…well, discussing something. I was among them, and that, of course, was to laugh – me, in the business a month or two, sharing an audience with men who had given joy to me on many a summer afternoon and Sunday morning, who shaped the medium in which I labored. I wonder what I said. Probably something. Ah, the arrogance of youth…

The biggest attraction, at the Y that day, was the presence of a genuine movie star: Buster Crabbe, the screen’s Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers, in the flesh. If I hadn’t been a blasé college graduate and Navy veteran who’d actually been to a foreign country, yessir, or if I’d had any sense of what popular culture is, I’d have been impressed.

But hey! I’m no greystache lamenting the good old days when, dang it, things was the way they oughta be, decent and proper. Things now are different, but they’re as decent and proper as the universe allows them to be.

Somebody say amen.

Recommended Reading: Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. Hey, have you ever actually read it? Or read it since you had to do so as schoolwork?

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases