NASA’s latest Mars lander, InSight, successfully touched down on the surface of the Red Planet this afternoon, surviving an intense plunge through the Martian atmosphere.
What you may not know is that Insight Studios, run by Mark Wheatley and Marc Hempel, got to Mars back in 1983 with First Comics, edited by Mike Gold. The entire series was collected in a trade paperback by IDW in 2005.
Real life imitates comics again! And congratulations to everyone at NASA!
Presenting two real-life stories from my days of yore, although names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.
Story The First:
I knew a girl in high school – I wouldn’t say we were friends, but she was someone who had never participated in the Piggy horrors. Sally was an A+ student, on the track to an Ivy League school. Pretty (but not gorgeous) and popular (but quiet about it), she came to me one day and said that she needed to talk to me privately. I was surprised… and a bit suspicious. What did she want? But because Sally had never been overtly mean to me, even though she was part of the clique that instigated most of the callous cruelties upon me, and because I still hoped to be “accepted,” and I wanted to believe for some reason she was about to warn me of some new devilishness about to be inflicted on me – forewarned was forearmed – I agreed. But it had nothing to do with me at all.
Sally was pregnant.
I was, frankly, shocked. Not just about what she said, but also because I was thinking, why are you telling me?
She seemed to be reading my mind about that last part. “I can’t tell Laura, or Toni, or anybody. It would be all over the school in a second. You know how they are.”
Did I ever. Still –
“But they’re your friends.”
All she said was, “I made an appointment with Planned Parenthood in the city. Will you come with me?”
I know exactly why I said “yes.” Out of kindness, certainly. But to be totally honest, I also thought that this could be a way in. Hey, whaddya want? I was a teenager.
We had to cut school the day of her appointment. I met her at the corner bus stop, about an hour after classes started. Sally was very quiet, she didn’t say anything, but I remember she was very pale. As for me, I was sure I would see my father in his car on the way to work. I wasn’t so worried about my mom – I knew she was already at the hospital, where she worked in the ER. At any rate, both of us were very nervous and impatient, waiting for that bus to the PATH train into the city.
At the time – September 1971 – there was a Planned Parenthood in Manhattan on First Avenue between 21st and 20th Streets. I guess – and I don’t blame her – that Sally made the appointment there rather than the one in Jersey City because Jersey City is too close to Bayonne… too close for comfort. Anyway, I don’t know what either of us was expecting, but it was modern and clean and the staff was professional, kind, and, most importantly, totally non-judgmental.
Sally’s name was called. I sat in the waiting room. It seemed like a long time, but the receptionist at the desk assured me everything was fine when I asked.
Interjection – as an RN in the operating room, I can tell you that the actual procedure takes very little time, especially in the first trimester [as Sally was]. Frequently I’m not even done with my charting before it’s over and I have to assist in transferring the patient to the PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, commonly referred to as the Recovery Room). Most of the intraoperative period is taken up with other things involved in any visit to the OR – anesthesia induction, proper and safe positioning, emergence from anesthesia, transfer to PACU, and monitoring in the PACU, which lasts about an hour or so on average, until discharge.)
Afterwards, as we had planned, we used our pooled resources and took a cab home. This was well before Uber or Lyft. Sally didn’t’ say much except to complain about some cramping – totally normal, btw – but the “worry” was off her face; she was visibly relieved. The cab dropped us off about a block from her house; I walked her home, and before she went inside, she turned and said: “See you in school tomorrow.”
No, we didn’t become best friends after that; things pretty much went back to normal, actually. Hey, we were teenagers, and there were rules of engagement. But I do remember that Sally was never around when it was time to “play Piggy with Mindy.
Sally went on to graduate in the top 25 of a class numbering 750 (I finished 145) and went on to that Ivy League school. I didn’t see her much after high school, a couple of parties and a reunion or two at the Jewish Community Center. I don’t even know what she went on to become as an adult, though I’ve heard she was “successful and happy.”
Story The Second:
Jack and Jill were my high school’s dream team. Every high school has one. Jack was the champion quarterback. Jill was the head cheerleader. Jack was the president of the Student Union. Jill was the editor of the school newspaper. Both had bright futures. Early admission to the colleges of their choice, with Jack receiving a full scholarship based on his football prowess to a Big Ten school, and Jill planning on majoring in journalism at NYU.
They were great people.
And they never treated anybody like Piggy.
Anyway, sometime in the late fall of our senior year, after the Thanksgiving holiday, Jill suddenly disappeared from the school hallways. First, we heard that she was sick with mononucleosis (the “kissing disease,” as it used to be called), but as January became March, rumors began spreading, rumors having to do with pregnancy and forced marriages. Especially after Jack dropped out – two months before graduation.
The truth broke free, as truth is apt to do, sometime in the fall of 1971. During the Christmas break when everybody came home from college, it was the talk of the town, the bars, and the parties.
Jill had become pregnant, and, since back in those stupid days, girls “in the family way” were not allowed to finish high school, she had been forced to leave under the cover of the mononucleosis story, though she refused to go to one of those “homes for fallen women” or whatever they were called. (Do they still exist?) Her parents had gotten her a tutor so she could finish her high school degree, but not only had she disappeared from the school hallways, Jill had also been confined to the house to “hide her shame.”
Worse, when Jill wanted to go to Planned Parenthood for advice – and advice only – her parents would not allow it. They were very observant Catholics and the name Planned Parenthood was as abhorrent as the name Judas Iscariot. Jill’s pregnancy was treated as if it were a monstrous sin.
She had also finally admitted that Jack was the father because her father had beaten it out of her. Her father then called his father, and they decided that Jack and Jill would get married right away.
And in 1971, not only could you not be pregnant in high school, you couldn’t be married, either; which meant that Jack had to drop out, too, meaning, of course, that he lost his football scholarship and any hope for college. And in case you’re wondering – no college for Jill, either.
Of course, there was always the future, but…
After they got married and Jill had the baby, and Jack got some kind of job, nothing much, he started drinking. Drinking hard. And doing drugs. Hard drugs.
And that’s how the story stood that Christmas break, the last week of 1971.
But it didn’t end there. About 10 years later I met one of Jill’s cousins at the mall. We got to talking about high school, and eventually – of course – Jack and Jill came up. I’ll never forget that conversation.
Jack’s downward spiral had continued. He lost one job after another. The drinking continued, and he was “chipping” http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=chipping on some weekends, too.
Then he started abusing Jill, and it hadn’t stopped.
“But Jill was always so smart. Why doesn’t she leave?” I said.
“Jesus,” her cousin said.
“Jill’s become really religious. That’s why she won’t leave. I think she thinks she’s atoning for getting pregnant and fucking up Jack’s football scholarship. “
That was the last time I ever heard about Jack and Jill. I have no idea what happened to them. Or their kids.
And, look, guys, I get it. This has been a summer and early fall of donating funds. I understand it’s a matter of priorities. I get the feeling of being “donated out,” too. And our hearts go out to the many caught up in the current round of hurricanes.
Even if it’s just $5, hell, even if’s just a $1, just think about what Bernie Sanders accomplished with an average of $27 to his campaign.
When people think of Planned Parenthood, they think “abortion.” But I’m telling you, and now I am speaking to you as a member of the professional healthcare community, the organization does so much more: Counseling and cancer screenings and preventative and maintenance health care. For women and for men.
Somehow, I seem to have inserted myself onto the Marvel “Friends and Family” list for preview screenings. A few weeks ago I got an advance look at The Defenders in a small screening room with about 25 people. On Monday, I went to an IMAX showing of The Inhumans with an audience of several hundred.
The environment in which I see a film influences the way I feel about it. I love going to screenings because they make me feel cool and sophisticated. TheDefenders event was in the morning, with a group that included people I’d known for decades, in comfy chairs with excellent sight lines. TheInhumans was in an enormous theater, with an enormous screen, and hundreds of strangers (although there were some people I knew, including a new friend, an old friend and a really old friend.
Even before the movie started (and, to be fair, it’s not really a movie, just the first two episodes of an ABC television series), the mood was festive and celebratory. My date, ComicMix colleague Joe Corallo and I found our assigned seats and gleefully looked around to see whom we might recognize. Lots of people brought children with them, and they were thrillingly well-behaved. Before the movie started, we sang a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” to Jack Kirby, in celebration of his hundredth. The print was crisp, and the creator credits received applause.
If only I could tell you I liked the show.
I knew nothing about the characters beforehand. I did a little browsing online, and Joe told me a few things (including how great the Paul Jenkins run was). I would imagine that most people who will watch on the ABC television network are similarly ignorant, and the show would allow for that.
It is not good. And it’s not good in a way that makes it seem, to me, to be the anti-X-Men. People with mutant powers are exalted here and given high-status government responsibilities. Those with no powers are sent to work in the mines.
The Inhumans live on our moon, in a city at the border between the light side and the dark side. We first see the king and queen, Black Bolt and Medusa, in bed, where she is using her superpowers (magically manipulating her long hair) to excite him as much as network television allows. These two people are attractive and playful, so I was ready to like them. Also, the actress, who plays Medusa, Serinda Swan, looks like a grown-up version of Ann-Margaret in Pocketful of Miracles, one of my favorite movies.
We see them getting on with their royal responsibilities, as they walk up and down and through the massive castle. First up is a ceremony in which two siblings find out if they have super-powers. It is there that we meet Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus, who we know must be a bad guy because it is the same actor, Iwan Rheon who played Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones. Maximus seems to have no powers but is allowed to stay in the royal quarters because his brother is such a softie.
There is lots of back-and-forth travel to Earth, sometimes through a sentient wall and sometimes with a giant bulldog which I think has some kind of fan following (and, hence, anticipation) but which is just a big CGI dog in these first two episodes. There is a royal betrayal, a rebel uprising, and a great escape. Each character gets a chance to use his or her powers, sometimes to great effect, sometimes just because, I assume, Jim Shooter said every character must use powers within the three pages back when he was editor-in-chief at Marvel. Some powers, like being able to come back to life after being killed, seem like a narrative cop-out, a deus ex machina of the gene pool.
A lot more questions were raised for me than were answered. Where does the royal family get all the leather for their outfits? What are they digging for in those mines? Are terrific eyebrows a way to tell which women have super-powers? Where does the food come from? I would have preferred to see more of the city as a whole, and less of the king and queen walking up and down stairs. Also, why are we supposed to think the king and queen are good and Maximus is bad? Wouldn’t it be more interesting from his point of view?
I think that Inhumans wants to be the new Game of Thrones, but without the historical parallels, the multiculturalism, the armies, the enormous cast or the budget. Instead, it seems much more like high school writ large, with the cool kids getting to have a working source of light, and the rabble doomed to the underworld.
Will it get better? Will it be even worse when it’s on a television screen, not in a theater? Will there be dragons or just giant dogs?
• • • • •
Just a reminder: It’s not too late to get in on our Kickstarter campaign for Mine! A Comics Collection to Benefit Planned Parenthood. This book will be full of cool stuff… including a story by Neil Gaiman and Mark Wheatley! You’ll be helping people around the country receive quality health care. We’re on track to hit our initial goal, and if we raise more than that, there will be lots more other goodies. So check it out, and pledge whatever you can afford.
It’s time for me to review this brand new book for the second time.
Before we get into that paradox, the bottom line is that Thomas Yeates’ recently published Tarzan The Beckoning is a gorgeous book. But there’s a little bit more to this column than that simple appraisal.
Back in the early 90s, a new publisher called Malibu Comics was creating innovative and fun comics. Malibu had just published Tarzan The Warrior by Mark Wheatley and Neil Vokes. As you probably know, Tarzan, perhaps more than any other character, has been rendered by some of the industry’s all time greatest artists – Hal Foster, Burne Hogarth, Russ Manning, Neal Adams, Joe Kubert, John Buscema, Joe Jusko…the list goes on and on.
So when Malibu was promoting this new Tarzan The Warrior comic mini-series in the 90s, they signaled that they were going to try something very different. It wouldn’t be a comic where the art tried to compete with the fantastic artists that came before. No, this comic invited the readers to take a little detour with the King of the Jungle to try something new and different.
It worked! It was fun and it was fresh. Tarzan The Warrior had a very loose artwork style, and it wasn’t all about jungles and animals. I told them as much in letter that I dashed off to the publisher.
Malibu’s assistant editor was a wonderful woman named Kara Lamb. She liked what I had to say and invited me to write more. And then she sent me a preview of the next Tarzan miniseries Malibu was publishing and asked me to write a letter about that as well.
This was a pretty common practice back then. Letter writing fans would be asked for their thoughts based on early previews so the editors could then populate the letters page of the first issue with a few real letters.
I certainly wasn’t one of the “big name” letter hacks, so I felt pretty special to be asked. The comic they gave me, on stapled black and white pages, was Tarzan: The Beckoning. It had spectacular art by one of my favorite artists – Thomas Yeates. Yeates and Henning Kure wrote the story.
The Tarzan: The Beckoning mini-series was a thriller with a fair amount of globe hopping. It presented Tarzan and his wife as mature adults. And it dealt with what was then, and what is still, a real issue – the poaching of elephants and the despicable ivory trade.
The art was jaw dropping gorgeous. Yeates’ brilliant page layouts and strong rendering created a fantastic yarn that could stand shoulder to shoulder with Tarzan classics by Hogarth or Manning.
I essentially said that all in the letter that was printed back then, and I’ll say it again.
Dark Horse has now collected the series in a new volume, also called Tarzan: The Beckoning. It’s fascinating to see the early color cover sketches, which are included. A handful of pencil sketches and brush and ink illustrations help remind readers of Yeates classic art skills.
The new collection of Tarzan: the Beckoning also includes a letter from Allan Thornton, the President of the Environmental Investigation Agency. The letter speaks about elephants and the scourge of poaching for ivory. It helps provides us all with a little perspective.
And if you’re interested in learning more, might I also suggest you check out www.99Elephants.org?
There’s also a nice synergy to this graphic novel. Thomas Yeates was one of the early graduates of the Kubert School. So it’s only fitting to see this gorgeous adventure re-released at about the same time Dark Horse released Tarzan: The Complete Joe Kubert Years volume. (Legendary artist Joe Kubert was also the founder of The Kubert School.) Far be it from me to say the student has surpassed the master… but it’s close.
Dark Horse’s Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan: The Beckoning and Tarzan: The Complete Joe Kubert Years are both on sale now. Yeates current work appears on Prince Valiant each week in many Sunday newspapers, and is available online at http://comicskingdom.com.
This weekend, a whole bunch of us ComicMixers will be making our annual trip to the Baltimore Comic-Con. For the record, that’s Martha Thomases, Adriane Nash, Evelyn Krite, G.D. Falksen, and myself. Glenn Hauman and Robert Greenberger will be in New York at a big ol’ Star Trek convention, Emily S. Whitten will be at Dragon Con, and John Ostrander will be at several Michigan theaters watching Suicide Squad again. Glenn, Robert and Emily also are regulars at BCC, but this year the show shares Labor Day weekend with these other two east coast shows.
Yes, life is truly one long and never ending comic book convention. I’ve been going to the “big” ones (big as relevant to its time) since 1968. That’s 48 years, which is longer than most of today’s convention-goers have been alive. That’s about five years longer than KISS has been together, and, like former comics fanzine contributor Gene Simmons, I have long grown incapable of distinguishing between shows.
I’ve done fewer shows this year than I have in decades. That is, in part, a coincidence, but it’s also symptomatic of burn-out. I’m thinking that if I’m still alive in two years, I’ll make it a full half-century by sitting in front of some massive convention center and burn a copy of Superman #1 (the 1938 version) in protest.
And what would I be protesting? Well, to me that rarely matters but in this case I would be publically mourning the lack of comic books at these massive comic book shows. I’m a comic book fan, damnit, and the rest of you should just get off my lawn.
That’s why I go to the Baltimore Comic-Con, and in this I think I speak for my less jaded cohorts. Despite its size and its longevity, the Baltimore show remains focused on comic books. Sure, there are media guests and sure, there’s a lot of cosplay and gaming and such, but the love for comic books and the desire to meet up with others with similar affections permeates every aisle of the show. Kudos to Mark Nathan and his experienced and gifted staff.
As usual, ComicMix will be assaulting the Insight Studios booth – that’s booth #118 – once again proving that Mark Wheatley is the nicest, kindest, and most emotionally tolerant person in the time-space continuum.
Comics as a genre have never done better, but this is entirely because of the flock of movies and television adaptations. The average sales of the traditional comic book sucks and sucks badly, even though such low sales have been balanced somewhat by trade paperbacks, hardcover books, and electronic editions. These days, much of the fun comes from the endless parade of toys and merchandising tie-ins that dominate book stores and convention aisles. If you’re a Harley Quinn completest, your head is going to explode long before you run out of space to store all that stuff.
I still meet lots of people who have never been to a comic book convention and who are anxious to go to one of the bigger shows just to see what the hubbub is about. I envy these folks; that initial sense of wonder is a wonderful feeling.
It can also be overwhelming. We had actor/comedian Margaret Cho set up for an interview at the San Diego Comic Con several years ago. She showed up early (there goes another Hollywood stereotype) and, after scoping out the room, Margaret started to take on the appearance of an agoraphobic. I walked Margaret around the vicinity of our table and made small talk while pointing out the wacky stuff we encountered. That worked: funny appreciates the funny, and there’s lots of that at your average comics show.
I completely understood this feeling. Chester Gould was guest of honor at one of our Chicago Comicons and the turn-out at his booth was intense. Chet declined to returned to the show on Saturday and Sunday. And before he drew a single line for any American publisher, Brian Bolland was convinced nobody would have heard about him. I told him Judge Dredd was bigger here than he thought, and Titan Books had just come out with their first reprint trade – entirely of Brian’s work. As it was with Chet Gould, the turn-out at his booth was intense and Brian opted to stay in his hotel room until he could adjust to the love and enthusiasm of the western hemisphere.
But the best part is watching the faces of the small children who are brought there by their fan parents, usually dressed up as the cutest superhero in the universe. They hadn’t had so much visual stimulation in their lives; clearly, they were having great fun. But I strongly suspect that, like Margaret Cho and Brian Bolland, they get overwhelmed and retreat to their portable hidey-hole: napping in the stroller.
Rarely have I heard a small child continuously bawling at a comic book show.
48 years is a long time to do anything, but of course the opportunity to meet up with my friends and to talk with the fans and sign some books and tell some stories is irresistible. I am reminded that first-generation comics pros such as Jerry Robinson and Irwin Hasen regularly attended comics shows until they stopped walking the Earth.
So, I wasn’t here last week. Some of you may have noticed. So, where was I? At the Baltimore Comic Con (BCC), which was dandy, and I enjoyed it very much. Usually when I’m gone somewhere around the deadline for this column, I’m supposed to get it in earlier and most times I do. This time? Just screwed up the time. What can I say? I’m (mostly) human.
Lots of my fellow columnists here at ComicMix have already done their columns this week on the BCC last week. Mike Gold, Emily Whitten, Martha Thomases, and Molly Jackson all contributed. Marc Allan Fishman wrote about an aspect of the BCC and he wasn’t even there. Makes you wonder what I could add to the (comic)mix. I wondered too, but Mike has already speculated I would probably write about the Con and I wouldn’t want to make a liar out of him.
One of the big pleasures of the Con was getting to see so many of my old friends. I shared a table with my bro, Timothy Truman, and he was considerate enough to bring his wife, Beth, who is a real treat. I hadn’t seen Tim in ages and Beth for even longer; she gave me a great hug and if that isn’t a great way to start a Con, I don’t know what is.
I had dinner with them the first night and we ran into Mike Grell who joined us. In fact, we were going to have a First Comics reunion of sorts over the weekend. In addition to Tim and Mike and Grell and me there was the two Marc/ks, Wheatley and Hempel, and Joe Staton. We even got our picture taken together to commemorate the occasion. The Mighty Gray Panthers of the real First Comics!
In addition, there were all the fine people over at the ComicMix table such as Martha Thomases, Glenn Hauman, Evelyn Kriete and Emily Whitten. I’d never met Emily in person before; she’s delightful and sat to my left at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night. I hatched an idea for a project with her and you’ll hear more about it as we get that act together.
There were lots and lots of other old friends there such as Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor and my old Suicide Squad editor and ComicMix reviewer Robert Greenberger. I want to take this moment to acknowledge how much Squad owed to Bob. He’s the one who suggested the title to me and helped guide it through its debut and onward. Take a bow, Bob.
As I mentioned, I was also at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night, sitting between Emily and Mike Gold. Vivek Tiwary was the host; I’d never met him before (among an amazing list of accomplishments, he wrote the graphic novel [[[The Fifth Beatle]]]). He was very personable, very enthusiastic about comics, and very generous when he introduced me (I was a presenter). I got to follow both Russ Heath and Jules Feiffer as they accepted their inductions into the Harvey Awards Hall of Fame. These men are legends and, if you don’t know them, go Google their names or look them up on Wikipedia.
And I followed them! Ye gawds. Well, at least I didn’t stutter.
As you may have read elsewhere, there was something of a controversy at the BCC. Some of the comic book guests charged for their autographs and some didn’t. Neal Adams charged 30 bucks per autograph; Mike Grell was also charging a much smaller sum and he donated what he made to The Hero Initiative.
I didn’t and I do not charge for autographs; I never have and I doubt I ever will. This is not to suggest any sort of judgment on those who do. Neal is a legend in the industry and an unquestioned leader in the fight for the rights of freelancers. He’s a long standing hero of mine, both as an artist and as a champion of our rights.
My rationale for not charging is pretty simple: the fan bought the book and it had my name on it and that has supported me. If they want me to deface it with my autograph, it’s the least I can do. Yes, I know that some dealers get them signed and then re-sell them on eBay or some such. I don’t think I ran into many of them, if any, while I was at the BCC. I can’t really sort out the dealers from the fans and I don’t bother trying. If others see the matter differently, so be it. This is just how I do it.
I want to say that the fans were wonderful. They were knowledgeable and enthusiastic and warm and friendly. There were all ages, too. Lots of kids, which wasn’t so true a few years ago. That was wonderful to see and hopeful for the industry.
I think it was Mike Gold who defined the BCC for me: it was really comics orientated. Other Cons are very orientated to the media guests. BCC had some but the main thrust was comics. It also seemed very much like family; other cons, such as NYCC, feel more like business. That’s okay, too; it’s New York City and that’s appropriate. In Baltimore, however, it felt like old times in the industry to me, in between the Con, the fans, and my friends. I think maybe that’s why I really enjoyed it.
I didn’t get a chance to see much of the city, which is usual for me at Cons. What I saw was interesting and nice. I ate a lot of crab which I take it is what one is supposed to do in Maryland. I think I’ve had enough Old Bay Seasoning for a while.
In short, it was a great weekend and I’m so glad to have been invited. It had been maybe two decades since I had last been there; I hope not to make it so long again. Of course, if I did, I’d be really old. Geezer City.
Thanks to all who made it a good time/ I hope we can do it again soon.
Getting old isn’t for quitters. I’m just back from Baltimore Comic-Con which is a lovely show in my time zone and I was chauffeured back and forth door to door by the lovely and talented Glenn Hauman and even in these non-stressful circumstances I’m exhausted.
Baltimore Comic-Con is, as I said,a lovely show. For one thing, it is almost entirely about comics. Yes, there are media stars signing autographs. There are dealers selling things that are not comic books (including some great jewelry that I wish I had a chance to eyeball more) but they are on the fringes.
Comics are the heart and soul of the show-floor. Comics are the heart and soul of the show.
Comics are among the few mass media to have a heart and soul. Because they can be produced on (relatively) small budgets compared to movies television and popular music and because the profit potential is (relatively) small they attract creators with more personal passion than greed. Yes, we can alcove up with our own list of exceptions but I’ll stand my my statement as a generality.
ComicMix shared a very large space with Insight Studios and The Sunday Comics. I’ve known Marc Hempel and Mark Wheatley of Insight for more than 25 years, longer than the Sunday Comics crew has been alive. I enjoyed standing around mouthing off to my old friends. I loved loved loved! watching the new kids show off their big beautiful paper comics to new readers.
Speaking of heart and soul I kvelled like the Jewish mother I am watching Vivek Tiwary host the Harvey Awards. Vivek is relatively new to comics as a creator and he reminds me every time I see him of the simple joy I feel when I get a good story in a four-color cover.
This was only the second time I’ve attended the Harvey Awards presentation and I have to say sitting in that banquet room at the Hyatt I felt very much like I was attending a family celebration. It wasn’t a wedding or a bat mitzvah but it had that same combination of vague bitchiness but overwhelming love that (my) family celebrations have. Instead of DNA the comics business shares a love of graphic story-telling as well as a sense of ourselves of outsiders.
It’s a beautiful thing. Even if I didn’t get to see Dean Haspiel without his shirt on.
On a completely different note I enjoyed the first episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t Jon Stewart whom I’ve adored since before he got that gig but I like the new host and I like that he has a different perspective than I do.
It’s fun to watch a show where the host appreciates indoor toilets.
You probably read Emily’s column yesterday. It was all about the Baltimore Comic-Con. You’ll probably read Martha’s column Friday. It is all about the Baltimore Comic-Con. And, damn, I wouldn’t be surprised if John’s Sunday column is all about the Baltimore Comic-Con as well. This is because ComicMix invaded the place.
Emily, Martha, John and I were joined by fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Ed Catto, Bob Ingersoll, Robert Greenberger and Evelyn Kriete, all in a combined effort to make Adriane Nash feel bad that she missed a big one. I believe Nelson Muntz said it best: Ha-ha!
But I’m not here today to talk about the Baltimore Comic-Con. I’m here to talk about something that happened at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Something that Hilarie Staton captured in the photograph that (hopefully) appears above. Something that Baltimore Comic-Con’s official photog, Bruce Guthrie, also captured but, since he took so many photos last weekend even Carl Barks couldn’t come up with the right-sounding number, I don’t have them as of deadline-time. Bruce is quite the artistic guy and I look forward to seeing his… well, his pictures of me and my buddies.
Let’s identify the folks in Hilarie’s picture, from left to right, physically but not politically.
Marc Hempel, Mark Wheatley, Mike Grell, some pudgy asshole, Joe Staton, John Ostrander, and Timothy Truman.
Yep, that’s a reunion. The First Comics class of 1984, sans Howard Chaykin, Lenin del Sol, Hilary Barta, and Rick Obadiah. Rick had a pretty good excuse for missing the party.
It was about 34 years ago when Rick Obadiah and I were, literally, lying on the floor of an office in the mighty Video Action Magazine complex with our sketches and notes, detailing what was soon to become First Comics. The act of creation takes on many forms and an enormous amount of time, and Rick and I further developed the company through a wonderful series of elaborate restaurant meals that would provoke a vegetarian to a massive seizure. I know that it worked – actually, I’ve finally accepted that it worked – because dozens and dozens of people still stop me at comics conventions such as the Baltimore Comic-Con to tell me how much they enjoyed our work.
Yes, and more than a handful of fans whose introductory sentences started with “I discovered my dad’s comic book stash and…” Sigh.
The above-pictured people were responsible for Mars, Jon Sable Freelance, Starslayer, E-Man, and GrimJack. Our work either remains in print in trade paperback form or, as in the case with Starslayer, about to be so memorialized.
That’s really cool and sort of life-affirming.
I am not alone in saying that the Baltimore show is my favorite, and that it is my favorite because it’s by and for comic book fans. There aren’t many faded teevee stars there eking out a living; it’s all four-color, all the time. A celebration of what makes comics and comics fandom great. It’s also the home of the Harvey Awards – John and I were presenters this year – and as Martha will tell you Friday, the Harveys is all about family.
The combined age of all those guys up above is about 400 years old. Please note: all of us are still working, and still turning out great stuff. In many cases, better stuff. And signing all those comic books (sometimes in front of a CGC witness!) and chatting with you-all remains completely… what’s the word you kids say?… oh, yeah. Awesome.
I’ve said before that, despite liking to attend all flavors of fandom and comics conventions, including (clearly) the media guest-focused cons, I really love Baltimore Comic Con because it has stayed so focused on comics and comics creators. I’m happy to report that this has not changed.
I had a great time in Baltimore this year, doing some of the things that make me happiest at comic cons, like walking the exhibit hall and wandering Artist Alley to see what new things old friends are up to, meet folks whose work I know but whom I’ve never chatted with, and flip through the work of creators I haven’t ever encountered before. Amongst the fun things I discovered were this nifty accordion-style comic by Christa Cassano and Dean Haspiel; a gorgeous limited edition coloring book by Charles Vess, whose work I’ve loved for a long time but who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting before; some great art and collaborations by Tony Moy and Nen (I want Tony’s Vitruvian Totoro woodblock print so much!); these excellent interlocking covers for Amazing Spider-Man #17 and Spider-Gwen #3 by Mike McKone, which I hadn’t previously seen; some new pieces from Francesco Francavilla, whose work I never tire of; and this print of Poison Ivy by Tom Raney.
I also enjoyed watching the always-talented Barry Kitson work as he completed a striking She-Hulk commission; getting to know writer Amy Chu; running into longtime friend and artist Kevin Stokes, who I didn’t even know was going to be at the show; and catching up with other great talents like Cully Hamner and Clayton Henry. And of course it’s always great to hang out with my fellow ComicMixers, and this year I was delighted to finally get to chat in person with John Ostrander, whose work and columns I always enjoy. Good times!
I also really enjoyed another staple favorite of my BCC experience, The Harvey Awards, hosted this year by the heartfelt and engaging Vivek Tiwary, creator of The Fifth Beatle (a signed copy of which we received in our swag bags along with many other great selections, yay!). It’s always a pleasure to attend and see the industry honoring its creators (and shout-out to Mark Wheatley for his Harvey’s art and work on the media presentation for the ceremony); and of course the afterparty ain’t bad, either! It was fun to sit next to first-time Harvey winner Chad Lambert and experience his reaction to winning, to chat with BCC Guest of Honor Mark Waid (and covet his awesome Legion ring), and afterwards, to nerd out with Vivek, catch up with the likes of the super-nice Thom Zahler, hear some great industry stories via Dirk Wood and Paul Storrie, chill with fellow comics journalists like Heidi MacDonald; see Charlie Kochman’s historic Jules Feiffer button live and in person; and more. So glad I could make it, and congratulations to all of theaward-winners this year!
Despite enjoying the focus on comics guests, I was still excited to see Baltimore hosting very quality media guests – i.e. Paul Blackthorne, Katie Cassidy, Ming-Na Wen, Edward James Olmos, and Raphael Sbarge. It was cool to see them at the show, and the panels were very entertaining. I hope they had a great time at the con, too, and decide to come back again!
And until then (or next week!), I hope everyone who was at Baltimore Comic Con with me can catch up on some rest (I know I need it); and Servo Lectio!
One of those creators was Mark Wheatley, the Inkpot, Mucker, Gem, Speakeasy, and Eisner award-winning writer-artist perhaps best known for his successful and often cutting-edge collaborations with fellow writer-artist Marc Hempel. Wheatley will see his piece based on Eisner’s sketch featured on the cover of a limited edition of Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace Yearbook 2015-2016. This version will be given to retailers who attend the closing party for the Retailer Summit, which is also the official kick-off of the Eisner exhibit.
“I’m thrilled to have been asked to posthumously collaborate with Will Eisner on this project. Will’s sketch left a lot open to interpretation, but really evoked the tone of The Spirit to me,” Wheatley said.
Wheatley will sign copies of the limited edition cover at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum on Friday, September 25, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Retailers attending the opening will receive one copy each free of charge and will be able to purchase additional copies. The two standard versions of Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace Yearbook 2015-2016 are scheduled to go on sale at shops on October 7, 2015. The 192-page, full-color, trade paperback-size publication carries a $12.95 cover price.