Tagged: Marc Alan Fishman

Marc Alan Fishman: I Am Hook, LaForge, and Wolverine.

Every so-often, the social media circuit regurgitates little worthless surveys. Perhaps your news feed is clogged with them? While I appreciate Facebook’s hide feature… frankly, I just scroll past then without a thought. Except when I – the ego-driven ne’er-do-well I am – determine that yes, indeed I must know which Disney Villain I am. And a few minutes later, I’m delivered output as thorough, reputable, and savory as a strip-mall psychic’s buy-one get-one reading. I figured as I had nothing to bitch about this week (unlike the feminists, legends, and/or afrofuturists that share column space with me) I might as well take a few of the quizzes for you, my adoring public. Allow me to help you figure out the absolute amazing enigma that is Marc Alan Fishman.


I am Randy Savage. Faced with the notion of Which Old School Pro Wrestling Legend Are You? I was quite pleased to be told I am the Macho Man. Aside from being the single greatest pitch man for salty meat sticks ever, Randy Savage was widely known amongst wrestling fans as the smart-mans Hulk Hogan. I’d like to think that I too am more a technical talent – suited more for the thinking my way out of a situation rather than with brute force – and that my passion seeps out of my pores. That… and I’d look amazing in a rhinestone cowboy hat and matching robe with wings. OH YEAH!


I am Michael Stipe of R.E.M. That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spot. Light. Losing my relig– sorry. When faced with Which 90’s Alt Rock Dude Are You? quiz,  it’s fitting I’d get someone considered tame in comparison to the others I could have been. Stipe is a thinker, not a drinker. He and his band represented a shift toward arty music videos, and lyrics that might make you think. He was angsty, which I can be from time to time. But beyond much else? Michael Stipe is a man of solid convictions. I’d like to think I’m getting there. I should note he also wrote a song about Andy Kaufman, and I loved Andy Kaufman. So, there’s that.


My Disney Best Friend is Pascal from “Tangled”. Well, the Internet can’t be right all the time. Or maybe it is? Frankly, I’ve not seen the Disney flick in question. According to the results though “You’ve got a dream and you just want to explore the world and live a little.” And you know what? That’s actually very true. I do have a dream that The Samurnauts, and my lil’ company, Unshaven Comics, would be successful. And through that success we might just get to see a bit more of the world than we currently do on nights, weekends, and occasional holidays. And if that means a weird spiral tailed lizard is along for the ride? So be it.


I am Ron Weasley. Well, I don’t have a ton of siblings (in fact I have none). But I did wind up with a detail oriented muggle, and our child is adorable. I’d like to think my parents could provide better for me than a busted-ass wand, and rat for a pet. At the end of the semester though, I am a loyal friend, and fierce in defense of them when the going gets tough. Per the quiz I am “the funny one in your group of friends, but sometimes you use humor to hide your insecurities.” And well, what can I say? I am Michael Stipe. So, I’m sure there’s times when I let my insecurities be buried. But hey, Everybody Hurts.

I am Comic Book Guy. Look kiddos, I swear, I didn’t plan this. But in the grand scheme of Springfield? Well, I can’t complain. I am sarcastic when push comes to shove. I covet trinkets, gadgets, and the like. And if I were to have a heart-attack, I imagine I too would envision how to best pose dramatically before kneeling before Zod. Cheeseburgers and loneliness do make for a terrible combo. Lucky for me I married my own Agnes Skinner long ago. I must hope though, that my scion turns out better than Seymour. Best. Outcome. Ever.


I am Leonard Hofstader. Oddly enough, it seems fitting. When I look to Unshaven Comics as my real-life Big Bang Theory gang, it’s clear to me at least that I am leader by default. That being said, that means Kyle is Sheldon, and Matt is Howard. Which is really strange, since Matt isn’t jewish. Kyle, I should also add, may be particular in his nature… but no where near annoying. But I digress. “Straddling the line between sweet and sarcastic, you can transition between social circles with ease.” I couldn’t put it better myself. Growing up, I was a nerd. Hell, I still am. But within any other circle – be they jocks in gym class, my fellow choir-geeks, or the arty-kids… I was never at a loss for words or good humor. I’d like to note though: I can handle dairy products just fine.


I am Kirk. Well, what more would I say to that? Much like Leonard, my Kirk-ness is embolden to my natural leadership qualities. I’d like to think that I tend to surround myself with a talented crew who make me look better. Like here at ComicMix for example. Mike Gold, my Spock – keeping me on the correct path, in his own cryptic ways. Glenn Hauman, my Scotty – always ensuring the ship is operating efficiently (except when he’s stranded somewhere without an internet connection…). And of course, Michael Davis, my Uhura – c’mon, I had to go there.


Suffice to say, I am many things to many people. Clearly, you now know though, who I really am. For the record? I am Marc Alan Fishman, and I am not like any fictional being. I am me, and dag nabbit, I’m happy to just be myself.

Martha Thomases: A Call to Alarms

Thomases Art 140207This is the time of year when the ComicMix crew starts to firm up our attendance at various comic conventions in the year ahead. It’s a frustrating process because there are a lot of shows and we can’t go to all the ones we’d like to attend.

It also makes me really angry.

Last year was the first in a long time that I went to a bunch of cons. It was fascinating and fun most of the time, but annoying at others. Twenty years after we started Friends of Lulu, there are still remarkably few women invited to be guests at the shows.

This is odd, because there are a lot of women working in the industry, and (capitalists take note) even more buying comics and tickets to cons. Wouldn’t show organizers like to demonstrate to this market segment that they are welcome and valued?

I, for one, am sick of complaining about it. I’ve decided to do something.

I want to use my position as a busy body on this website to point out conventions that don’t have many women on their guest list. For example, Emerald City Con, which I’ve always wanted to go to and sounds amazing has, on their website, a list of 235 guests, of which 20, I think, are women (I qualify that because there are some names that could be appropriate for any gender).

Here’s another example. Heroes Con, which is one of my favorites, has 48 announced guests, and only four are women.

The Asbury Park Con has announced 54 guests, and three are women. No women listed on any panels currently scheduled.

A press release I received today from Baltimore Comic-Con said, “This year’s previously confirmed guests for the show include: Marty Baumann (Pixar artist); Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl); Dave Bullock (Batman Black and White); Greg Capullo (Batman); Bernard Chang (Green Lantern Corps); Sean Chen (Amazing Spider-Man); Jimmy Cheung (Infinity); Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman); Frank Cho (X-Men: Battle of the Atom); Richard Clark (House of Gold & Bones); Steve Conley (Bloop); Alan Davis (Wolverine); Tommy Lee Edwards (Suicide Risk); Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys); David Finch (Forever Evil); Bryan JL Glass (Mice Templar); Michael Golden (The Ravagers); Cully Hamner (Animal Man); Dean Haspiel (The Fox); Adam Hughes (Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan); JG Jones (Green Lantern Corps, Batman Black and White); Justin Jordan (Luther Strode, Green Lantern: New Guardians); Barry Kitson (Empire); David Mack (Shadowman); Kevin Maguire (Guardians of the Galaxy); Ron Marz (Witchblade); Bob McLeod (X-Men: Gold); Tradd Moore (Deadpool Annual); Mark Morales (New Avengers); Dan Parent (Archie, Veronica, Kevin Keller); David Peterson (Mouse Guard); Eric Powell (The Goon); Joe Prado (Justice League); Brian Pulido (Lady Death); Ivan Reis (Aquaman and The Others); Budd Root (Cavewoman); Alex Saviuk (Web of Spider-Man); Andy Smith (Superman #23.1: Bizarro); John K. Snyder III (Zorro Rides Again); Allison Sohn (sketch card artist); Charles Soule (Thunderbolts); Ben Templesmith (The Memory Collectors); Peter Tomasi (Batman and Two-Face); Herb Trimpe (GI Joe: A Real American Hero); Billy Tucci (Shi); Rick Veitch (Saga of the Swamp Thing); Matt Wagner (Grendel); Mark Waid (Daredevil); Bill Willingham (Fables); Renee Witterstaetter (Joe Jusko: Maelstrom); and Thom Zahler (My Little Pony).”

As you can see, that is two women.

There can be a lot of reasons for this. Sometimes, publishers promote their “hot” talent for guest spots. Sometimes, the people planning the show want a particular kind of fan to attend, and that kind of fan has testicles.

However, when there are no women on the guest list, not only does it send the false message that women haven’t achieved prominence in our corner of the entertainment industry, it also reduces the number of women on panels, taking part in our public conversations.

So I’d like to keep track of who is being welcoming to women, and who isn’t. I would also be delighted to report on who is being welcome to other groups who are under-represented, such as people of color and LGBTQ folks. It would be my honor to be your ally.

I’m not asking for a quota at shows. I want to see more women, but I don’t have a number in mind. I’m not making any demands. I’m simply reporting facts, gathered from promotional material (including websites) created by the shows’ promoters.

It is my opinion that if there are more women welcomed as guests at these shows, there will be fewer incidents such as this. As I said in a previous column, “It would be easier for women to be taken seriously by convention goers if they were taken seriously by convention planners. I don’t think we should sit back and wait for others to fix the problem. I think we need to fix it ourselves. Every time we see bad behavior, we should say something, loudly. Every time a convention or industry event ignores women, we should ridicule them for their lack of knowledge about our industry and its future.”

So while I’m trying to keep track of how many women are treated as professionals at shows, I’d also like to also offer my mailbox (martha@comicmix.com) as a place where women can share their unpleasant experiences with disrespectful men and boys at the same shows. With their permission, I’d like to ask show promoters to explain how such things can happen under their auspices. If my editor and I think there is a story, we’ll run it.

All e-mails sent to me will be considered to be “on the record” unless there is a compelling reason to keep it confidential. This means that if, instead of keeping to the spirit of this conversation, you hurl gratuitous insults or threat me, I’ll make it public (including taking it to the authorities if I feel threatened).

Let’s stand up for ourselves and let our voices be heard. The people, united, can never be defeated.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

A WEEK FROM THIS AFTERNOON: Oh, that would be telling…


Dennis O’Neil: Cold Weather Fans

O'Neil Art 140206Went into the living room this morning, looked out the big window and… what do you know? Snow! That was four or five hours ago and it’s still coming down: small flakes, but a lot of them. I guess we should be thankful that this weather wasn’t happening Sunday, because Sunday, as some of you may have heard, was the day of the Big Game, which was played at New Jersey’s Meadowlands, which is a quick drive to New York City (unless Governor Christie’s minions are conducting a traffic study) and New York City is a quick trip to where I’m sitting and so I’m guessing that the snow’s falling on the Meadowlands as it is falling here and if that had happened yesterday it might have interfered with the game. And wouldn’t that have been the worst, most horrific, most devastating, civilization-crumbling event in recorded history?

Oh sure, I guess the Meadowlands has guys who tend to the playing field and maybe they could have made it playable, but still… And imagine being a fan huddling in the stands. No matter how big your thermos full of hot coffee might be, you’d be cold! And being cold might have interfered with your enjoyment of the game and that might have wreaked psychological trauma upon you, leaving you a quivering shell of your former self.

The Broncos lost. That was the team I was rooting for, though not rooting very hard, because although I’ve visited both Seattle and Denver within the last year, I was in Denver most recently – ergo, the Broncs are my guys!

(By the way… Colorado recently legalized recreational marijuana and what happens? Their team gets clobbered in the Super Bowl. So the right wingers must be… er – right. Go ahead, quarrel with logic!)

But something’s wrong here…

Oh, wait, yes. Comic books. This column – hell, this entire website – is supposed to be about comic books. Not football, not Governor Chris Christie, not the lovely snowfall – comic books! So, could a canny blathermeister somehow mix football and comics? Well. I do believe that everything is related, but putting those two topics together in the same column might be a challenge. Comics have never been much about sports. There were a few sports-themed comics in the 40s – All Sports and Babe Ruth Sports, to name two – but not many. And later? The pickings are sparse. DC published six issues of Strange Sports Stories in 1973-1974 that, under the editorship of Julius Schwartz, conflated sports and science fiction. Let’s give it a “nice try.”

So why the de facto segregation? Maybe the stereotype is valid; maybe humans who enjoy reading aren’t often the same humans who enjoy violent contact games. Enormous generalization, sure, but maybe one with a grain of truth buried within it. Or maybe the creative folk never sussed out how to do sports in panel art narrative. Maybe the timing was never right. Maybe maybe maybe…

…I’ll write about something entirely different next week.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Martha Thomases: Pete and Me

thomases-art-140131-150x146-2040142Pete Seeger died Monday evening. He was 94 years old.

You can read about his life here in the newspaper of record. A simple Google search will get you a bunch more versions, but these are the facts.

And the facts are so incredibly inadequate at this point.

The first time I saw Pete Seeger perform was on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967. I’d heard him sing on the radio occasionally but had never seen him, nor did I think about it a lot. I was 14, so please cut me some slack. As a big fan of the Smothers Brothers I found out bit about him before the show aired, including the fact that the reason I had never seen him was that he had been blacklisted for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. You can see his performance here. Rather than grovel his way back into the public’s perception, he instead proceeded to piss off those who were upset about him before. Here’s a story from The New York Times about his performance. To me, this is the key quote: “Mr. Seeger’s political views, which sometimes get into his songs, have often aroused controversy. He was convicted in 1961 of ten counts of contempt of Congress for refusing in 1955 to answer questions of the House Un-American Activities Committee. The conviction was reversed in 1962.”

It still took them five years to put him back on the air. Here’s a transcript of his testimony.

You kids today probably don’t understand what it was like to have a popular culture that influenced the political discourse, that made a difference in people’s lives, that was about more than selling cars or phones. Pete Seeger not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk. He celebrated our musical heritage and used it to urge us to live up to our highest ideals. And he made it fun and uplifting to join him.

Was he a Communist? Yeah, for a while. So what?

I want you to watch a few of these clips. There’s this one, an antiwar song from the Johnny Cash show in 1970 . And this one from a British television show in 1964. This is a nice version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.

In 2008, he performed during the weekend celebration of Obama’s first inauguration. Bruce Springsteen had just put out an album inspired by Seeger’s life , so they performed together. You can see them singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”  Is that George Lucas singing along in the crowd? It’s certainly our President singing along… on my favorite verse!

In September 2013, not even six months ago, he performed the same song at a benefit for Farm Aid in upstate New York. According to his son, he was chopping wood last week.

As you watch these performances, let me point out a few things. He plays a banjo that is inscribed, “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” Most important, he always looks like he’s having a great time. Singing songs brings him so much joy, and he wants his audience to sing with him and share the joy. That’s the most radical position of all.

What does this have to do with comics? Everything. When Pete Singer lead his audience in songs, he was never really “in charge.” He’s sneak in each line of the lyrics before he sang them so we could sing, too. He never suggested we might be terrible singers, because that was not the point. We sang because it felt good. When it feels good, it is good.

Comics seem to be learning that lesson. More people make comics for the fun of it than ever before, publishing on line, distributing any way they can. You can see more styles of art and storytelling than I could ever imagine when I first started reading them. Do I like them all? Of course not. But I like the energy and the joy these folks bring to telling their own stories. They don’t need the Big Two (or any corporation) telling them how to go about their art.

When I was working at WIN, an antiwar weekly, in 1974-1975, I would occasionally get a note from him, complimenting me on some piece I wrote, always signed with a little doodle of a banjo. Although we never met, I was tickled that he took the time to encourage me.

When all the other kids his age were listening to Raffi, I played Pete Seeger songs for my son as a kid. Those were our family values.

Thank you, sir.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Dennis O’Neil: S.H.I.E.L.D and the Long Game

O'Neil Art 140130So there it was, that kind of news item. We might once have seen something like it – a second cousin? – in the comics fanzines hobbyists published now. I find stuff like it virtually every day in Yahoo’s news section. This particular item speculated that Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is, as you must know if you access this particular website, a television series broadcast on Tuesday night on ABC stations, is playing a long game. (Where do I collect my tortured syntax award?)

It is maybe also common knowledge among you aficionados that the program is a disappointment in the ratings. Not doing too well, there on Tuesday night. We can speculate, as some already have, that viewers may feel that they have been prey to the old bait-and-switch gaff, promised one thing and presented with another. The TV honchos make a big deal of the show’s comic book origins, even including the word “Marvel” in the title, and prefacing every episode with the same montage of comic book images that precedes Marvel’s movies. So it’s reasonable to expect the kind of entertainment Marvel is most associated with, superhero stories. (If you’re a Marvel fan who cherishes the memory of Millie the Model, well… bless you!) But instead of superheroes, what do they give us?  An action show. No flying, no awesome feats of strength, no grotesque superfoes, not even the odd cape or mask, Just, you know, fights and guns and car chases and stuff.

Not a bad action show, actually. Decent acting and dialogue, and stunts that seems to me to be a bit better than what’s usually found on the tube. And the plots are often flavored with science fiction, which could partially justify the superhero connection.

But, at the end of the hour… no superheroes. Wonder what’s on the Comedy Channel?

So they’re playing the long game? I interpret “long game” to mean that they’ll take their time, and ours, introducing characters and plot elements that will justify membership in the superhero club.

Comics got there first.

Twice, in my years behind editorial desks, the long game question arose, though we didn’t call it that. In one instance, a previous editor had promised the writer a five-year story. Awkward. I didn’t want to disappoint the writer, a good guy, and I may have been reluctant to make my predecessor a liar. But I doubted that any comic continuity of that era could be stretched so far. That’s the kind of decision editors are paid to make and sometimes the job can be a bitch.

We struck a deal. The long storyline could continue as long as sales remained above a certain number. Lagging circulation got the title cancelled and I was off the hook, and I hope the writer bears no ill memories of the incident.

The second long game was not being played on my turf, exactly, but because I was a big honkin’ group editor I had to notice it. If memory serves (and won’t that be the day?) the scripter planned to reveal certain crucial story elements several years into the run. The book didn’t last that long. Not even close.

The lesson we can take away from all this is that the long game won’t work unless you build an audience. Give ‘em solid reasons to keep coming back, episode after episode. Promising something, even implicitly, and then putting it on indefinite hold is not a good strategy.


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases



Martha Thomases: The Nerdification of America

Thomases Art 140124While most of us were going about our days, living our lives, the prevailing culture has become progressively nerdier. I don’t mean that there as been a renewed interest in science and math, because that would imply that we would exert ourselves mentally, and, as Americans, we don’t like to exert ourselves. What I mean is that there is more attention paid to comics, science fiction and fantasy, and that a lot of us know who Steven Moffat is.

In general, I think this is great. As more people celebrate their love of the more nerdy aspects of popular culture, more people might find out about them and find enjoyment as well. I’m all in favor of more pleasure in life. That applies to food and music and gardening as well as entertaining. In these specific case, I’m also pleased because a bigger audience means more job opportunities for me and for people I like.

However, it also means some of the less savory aspects of nerd culture are becoming commonplace. As this woman notes, women who express an opinion online are often insulted in ways that demean them sexually and violently. This is something that has been all too common in comics, where women had traditionally been treated as if we were a different species.

I’ve talked about this before, and yet, somehow, that didn’t seem to fix it. Maybe having stories like these publicized in The New York Times and other media will make a difference. Maybe having more women in all fields talk to each other will make a difference.

Why do some men think it is acceptable, when they disagree with a woman on some subject, to write comments that threaten her physically? Why do they think it’s acceptable to use her appearance to discredit her thoughts? Yes, I know that not all men make these comments, but they are so prevalent that one can only assume the perpetrators consider this to be reasonable discourse.

I mean, there are all kinds of men with whom I disagree, and I have never, not even in the heat of the moment, felt I could say, “You don’t know anything because you have a tiny tiny dick, and I’m coming to cut it off and shove it up your ass so you can see how little it really is.” Until I tried to imagine a parallel threat to those of the commentators, I never even thought of such a thing. And I have really sharp knives in my apartment.

Internet threats are mostly empty, but that doesn’t mean they are harmless. They have an inhibiting effect on discourse, which is a threat to our democracy. In many cases, such as those in which physical violence is threatened, they are actually illegal. I have a bigger problem, though, in that, as nerds and geeks, we should know how painful insults can be. We should be especially resistant to replicating these tactics precisely because we’ve felt it ourselves.

On Monday my pal Jason Scott Jones used his Facebook page to link to an incredible article about what it meant to be black before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He describes a culture in which African Americans lived literally in fear for their lives every time they went out in public – and sometimes when they stayed home. I’m not kidding when I say that this made my head metaphorically explode. I mean, I knew it wasn’t easy, but I had never before thought about how it felt to walk around with that level of threat and dread.

I’m not comparing to being threatened on the Internet to living in constant fear of being lynched. Instead, I’m using my experience to get a feeling for what that felt like. I hope, if I had been in those communities, I would have stood up for those being threatened. I hope I would have rooted for the underdog.

That’s what nerds are supposed to do.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Dennis O’Neil, Mel Gibson, Scientology, and Woody Allen

Dennis O’Neil, Mel Gibson, Scientology, and Woody Allen

So, can we still love the work of Woody Allen? For me, the answer is an uneasy yes. Because, I do. To say Ill stop would just be another lie in a situation already mired in falsehoods and overlooked facts.

So, I think we can still love the work of Woody Allen, but under one condition: This part of his story is told. No more burying the bad beneath the slightly less bad. And, certainly, no illusions that the whiny, hypochondriac charmer onscreen is anything more than a character he created. I believe Alvy Singer is an underdog. I believe Woody Allen is a child-molester.

Maybe one person writing one post on the Internet isnt going to change the tide of cultural consciousness. Still, what is cultural consciousness but a number of individuals creating a story?

If only a few hundred people make it to the end of this post, then its a few hundred people who have their own decision to make. Ill take it.

I wasn’t as conscientious as maybe I should have been in transcribing what I have just extensively quoted, and so I don’t know if Mick Gray wrote the words or was quoting someone else. In any case, I’m grateful to Mr. Gray for putting the piece on Facebook. It deals with the topic of last weeks column and deals with it far more cogently than my blather did.

Mea culpa. By now, I should know that the work should not be judged by the man. And I’m not even sure that I’ll never pay money to see another Woody Allen movie, as I claimed, because I should also know, by now, never to say never.

But I have not patronized Mel Gibson entertainments, at least not yet, ever since his storm of hate talk and his public espousal of what I consider to be a virulent form of Christianity. The logic is: Mr. Gibson’s public pronouncements are pernicious and could conceivably nudge minds and hearts into pernicious places and I don’t want even a nanocent of my money to end up in Mel’s possession, where he might use it to further his agendas.

That’s me, striking a blow for righteousness!

Sure. Truth is, my lack of patronage makes absolutely no difference to Gibson and his cohorts. But it helps me validate my opinions and my self-esteem – looky looky what that virtuous Den is doing for his morals and maybe it offers me the illusion of having some control over my life. I can neither understand nor affect computers, home heating systems, the car parked in the driveway, Congress, the stock market, cable television, global warming, the volcano under Old Faithful that might blow and cause massive extinction, errant asteroids, why execs of chemical and tobacco companies that wreak havoc on the common good don’t have crises of conscience – all things which either bear on me, or might, but I can sure give that Gibson a reckoning! Take that, Mr. Mel.

Final note: I haven’t boycotted the work of Tom Cruse or John Travolta, both of whom are vocal supporters of Scientology which is a… what is scientology, anyway? Cult? Religion? It’s spokespersons use “religion” and that’ll do. Anyway, although I think this religion is, all around, a bad deal, it seems to harm mostly its followers. I don’t know that it’s poisoning the rest of us and everyone to his own lunacy as long as he doesn’t try to convert me to it.

And for all I know, those execs mentioned above do have crises of conscience and are just keeping mum about them.


FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman



Martha Thomases: Turn  On The Fun Home!

Martha Thomases: Turn On The Fun Home!

It seems appropriate that I went to see Fun Home, the theatrical musical based on the brilliant graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, the same weekend that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark closed.

The Spider-Man show goes down in history as one of the most overwrought, over-hyped failures in Broadway history, not to mention the biggest money loser in Broadway history. Meanwhile, Fun Home is one of the surprise hits of the Off-Broadway season.

There haven’t been many theatrical hits inspired by comic books. The Superman musical didn’t make any real money. There was talk of a Batman musical, but it never happened (unless you count this http://www.batmanlive.com/#/. The closest successful adaptation since World War II was Li’l Abner, from a newspaper strip. The movie remains a favorite of mine.

Why did Fun Home succeed when Spider-Man didn’t? I hadn’t seen Spider-Man. Tickets were really expensive, and the Broadway audience is frequently boorish, talking and taking photos throughout a performance. The reviews weren’t good, and it seemed that they took the story in a camp direction. That seemed lazy and predictable to me. Certainly not something I’d pay several hundred dollars to experience.

In contrast, Fun Home makes few references to the medium of its source material. The narrator, a grown-up Alison, will occasionally use the word “Caption” to set up a scene. At the end, a frame from the graphic novel is projected onto the stage.

The play is not the book. I guess that’s obvious, but the ways in which they differ are actually quite striking. The story on stage is much more linear. Lisa Kron and Jeanne Tersori, who wrote the book and music, focus almost entirely on the relationship between Alison and her father. Understandable, but I missed seeing a more fully rounded dramatization of her mother, her siblings, and Joan, her first lover. At one point, I wondered if the show could even pass the Bechdel Test. Then Alison had a conversation with Joan about the gay student union at Oberlin, so they got that out of the way. (And also, I was amused at how well they captured the tone of political groups at the time. God, we were insufferable.)

The most interesting aspect of the show, to me, was the way they used three different actresses to portray Alison as a child, a college student, and an adult. The kid, Sydney Lucas, who plays the young Alison is remarkably good. She conveys the delight of discovering those first hints of her sexuality with a knowing glee.

The music and choreography are terrific. I’m curious to see how this show will travel. The staging at the Public Theater was relatively simple, so that it’s easy to imagine local theater groups able to adapt it to their situations. The cast is only nine people, three of them children (Alison and her two brothers).

Will the success of the show bring a new audience to the graphic novel? I don’t know. Will it make the media consider comics as something other than superheroes? I don’t know that either. In the meantime, I wonder if anyone is working on a show based on Stuck Rubber Baby? Because I would see that in a heartbeat.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Dennis O’Neil: Friendly Fandom Family

O'Neil Art 140109 “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”

Groucho Marx

I didn’t know about organized comics fandom until 1964 when I interviewed Roy Thomas for a Missouri newspaper, and that was only a month or two before, under Roy’s aegis, I became a comics professional. And I wonder: if fandom had existed in, say, the 1950s in the roughly the same way it does now and if I’d had access to it, would I have joined?

I don’t know. I’ve liked comics and science fiction and related stuff since I was a kid, but I’m a margin guy, not a joiner. If you discount a rather dismal stint in the Boy Scouts, a year in Junior Achievement, and several years as a member of my high school speech club, my organizations have either been therapeutic or professional. The Academy of Comic Book Arts burst on the scene in the 1970s and then gradually faded to black to live on only in memory and as a Wikipedia entry. I joined The Writer Guild East, and finally and briefly, The Science Fiction Writers of America – those were the professional clubs and if there’s another, I’m not remembering it.

But being a fan might have been fun, so who knows?

What prompts this stumble down Memory Lane are the items I’ve been reading off my computer screen lately, not only about comics’ splashiest progeny, superheroes, but about comic books themselves – newsy tidbits that once would not have been fodder for the news maw but might not have interested anyone who was not a fan.

So: has fandom infected the masses?

Well, thanks for a lovely woman I once knew who had a connection or two to the world of the fan, I came to realize that this world offered much more than opportunities to immerse oneself in a cherished art form. It provided camaraderie and a private quasi-mythology for the initiates and a context in which to meet people who could become important to you, and that emphatically does not exclude possible mates. Finally, fandom provided an excuse to get out of the house and go places, mingle, party, and have an old-fashioned good time.

In other words, fandom offered some of the same benefits as religions, lodges, amateur sports, alumnae organizations, veterans organizations, yacht clubs… In some respects, fandom belongs among those groups and others of their ilk. It gives us a pleasurable way to heed one of evolution’s commandments: Find your tribe and belong to it.

But when millions share a fairly intense involvement with an art form and it has morphed into Big Business, can those millions be considered to be a tribe? Doesn’t tribal membership require some measure of exclusivity?

Wiser folk than I, please take note and provide an answer. Meanwhile, for those of you who want superhero fixes and don’t want to be part of a megahorde, may I suggest that you limit your involvement with the genre to comic books? There aren’t a tremendous number of comic book readers – heck, of any kind of fiction readers – around these days, so if it’s exclusivity you crave… don’t count on running into me.


FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


MINDY NEWELL: You Say You Want A Resolution…

Newell Art 140106Well, 2014 is six days old, and though I’m not too maudlin about it, I’m glad 2013 is over. It wasn’t my worst year ever – that was pretty much 2006, though 2009 does come close, for reasons that I’m not going into here because some things do have to stay off this page – but 2013 was the year I lost my father. No, he isn’t dead, but he is gone for good, and this is how I know.

We (Glenn, Alix, Jeff, and Meyer Manuel) were visiting my parents on New Year’s Day. I had brought my father up to an apartment from the nursing home division; my parents live in a continuous care adult community. We were having either a late lunch or an early dinner, and one thing about my dad, he hasn’t lost his appetite. He eats everything put in front of him, even eggs, which, in fact, he actively disliked. Anyway, my brother made a joke about how there’s nothing wrong with Daddy’s appetite and how, even when he was in a coma last year, somehow if we put food in his mouth he ate it. We all laughed (a sad, kinda bitter laugh, I think), and then all of a sudden my mom started coughing. She kept coughing. Hard. And all of a sudden I realized she wasn’t just coughing, she was choking.

I went to give her the Heimlich, but Glenn had realized what was going on the same time I did and got to her first. It took a couple of too many abdominal thrusts for comfort, but it worked, thank God. Mom sat down, cried just a little bit because she was really scared there for a moment (of course), drank some water… and I realized that my dad had just sat there during all this and continued to eat – no, wolf down – his french fries. He had been completely unaware of what was happening to his wife of nearly 66 years, of what had nearly happened. All he knew was his french fries. He was just staring at wherever it is that he stares at and eating his french fries. “That is not my father,” I thought. “My father is gone.”

So, so long, 2013. I hope the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

And hello, 2014.

What would I like to do this year?

Like Marc Alan Fishman, my fellow columnist here at ComixMix, I’d like to get back to the comics shop this year. Unlike Marc, I stopped going because of the financial blues I’ve been living with for the last couple of years, and I dream of the day I have real discretionary income in my checkbook register again. I’m making inroads, but sometimes the dream is overtaken by the nightmare, if you know what I mean.

I’d like to get off my procrastinating ass and talk to Editor Mike about a story idea that’s been floating in the back of my head for more than a couple of years. It could encompass all sorts of genres if I’m a good enough writer – a little bit of soap opera, a little bit of fantasy, a little bit of thriller, a little bit of romance, but not a little bit country or a little bit rock n’ roll. It can address a bunch of issues like racism and politics and evolution and love and hate and family and madness and sanity. That is, if I’m a good enough writer, which is the fear that keeps me procrastinating.

I’d like to stop thinking that my dreams are merely the flights of fancy of some crazy woman and act on them. Like, what the hell, why not work into a script the story of my father and his sharing a bottle of Scotch with Lord Mountbatten in Burma during World War II to Dreamworks and Steven Spielberg, whose father was a chief mechanic who was responsible for keeping those P-51 Mustangs flying the Hump in the C-B-I theatre during the war? The worse that could happen is that I hear nothing.

Or write it up as a short story and submit it to, oh, I don’t know, where do you submit a war story these days? The web is my best bet, but exactly what site? I’ll have to buy a current copy of Writer’s Digest.

Or maybe I can do in comic form after all, only then I have to find an artist. God, I wish I could draw and just do my own stuff; the toughest part of being a writer only (only a writer?) in a visual medium is seeing everything in your head so clearly but not being able to translate the whole picture onto the page.

Did I ever tell you that artists amaze me?

I’d like to go to San Diego this year. Yep, I’ve never been to the San Diego Comic-Con. I can hear all the groans now from those who have walked the floors of the convention center, hear all the complaints about how it’s not about comics anymore, that it’s now a marketing tool for Hollywood. But I don’t care. I’d like to experience it at least once. I’d like to go to some panels and I’d like to star gaze just a little bit (but not collect autographs because autographs have never interested me) and I’d like to see people I haven’t seen in too many years and I’d like to go to the beach and watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean instead of rising up out of the Atlantic.

And I’d like to write Wonder Woman again, and do another Lois Lane book. I’d like to sit down over a cup of tea (I don’t drink coffee) or a glass of wine with Gail Simone and meet Kelley Sue DeConnick and hang out with Martha Thomases (I want to pick up knitting again, Martha!). I’d like to be on a panel about women in comics at a convention and talk about the harassment going on and challenge some of these jerks in person – you want me take me on, you’re welcome to try, assholes.

And I’d like to say thanks to everybody who read my column in 2013. Thanks to everybody who wrote in response here on ComicMix and on Facebook and the League of Women Bloggers. Thanks for all the different opinions and the discussions they engendered.

And thanks to Mike Gold and Glenn Hauman and Adriane Nash and everybody at ComicMix who continue to let me open my big mouth right here, every week, every Monday, for better or for worse.

Happy New Year!