Tagged: Martha Thomases

Mindy Newell: The Spider-Woman Scandal – A Different View

Sexy Sue StormThe rabbis of the Talmudic period debated two contradictory versions of Creation related in the Book of Genesis (Bereisheet in Hebrew). The first version of Creation actually referred to Adam’s first wife, Lilith, who was made at the same time as Adam from the dust of the Earth. But Lilith believed herself to be equal to Adam because God had shaped her from the dust of the Earth and had blown the Holy Spirit – the soul – into her form at the same He made Adam. This displeased Adam, so God replaced her with Eve, who was made from one of Adam’s ribs while he slept, so that she would always be dependent and subservient to him.

I have a confession to make.

I’m not as disturbed by that butt shot of Spider-Woman as are many of my good friends and various pros in the comics industry, including my pal and fellow columnist Martha Thomases here at ComicMix.

As my good friend and fellow columnist here at ComcMix pretty much summed up my feelings about that variant cover of Spider-Woman #1 by erotic artist Milo Manara, sex sells in corporate America; the biggest example I can think of right now is the increasingly pornographic pictures of the women in Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue, which is always their biggest issue. Way back when – 1977 – Cheryl Tiegs modeled a crocheted swimsuit that – gasp! – showed her nipples, it raised eyebrows… and more than that for some, if you know what I mean. Today, that picture is considered tame. There is even a video on YouTube in which the photographer, Walter Ioosso, and Tiegs talk about how that now iconic photo was considered “nothing, a “throw-away” shot at the end of the day.

Buzzfeed posted a video on its site back in March 2014 in which sexualized men in three commercials shot by Doritos, GoDaddy.com, and Hardee’s replace sexualized women. I suggest checking it out and forming your own opinion – but, especially in the Doritos ad, the overall effect for me is of humor, not sexiness.

Why is that? Why doesn’t that cover disturb me as much as it does other women in this field? Why do I mostly feel envious of the models in Sports Illustrated? (And also, it must be said, a little sad that the days in which I looked incredibly hot in a bikini are pretty much behind me, no pun intended, even though I still look pretty damn good for a woman coming up on her 61st birthday.)

It has been said that the female body is inherently more attractive to the human eye, i.e, our brains. This has something to do with the fact that, anatomically – and as more than one artist has explained to me – it is made up of curves and arcs and circles rather than the hard lines of rectangles and triangles and squares. So maybe that’s part of the answer, because I, like most women, heterosexual or not, do appreciate a beautiful woman’s body – though I don’t know if all straight women are comfortable openly expressing that appreciation. Obviously, I am.

It may also be that at some level I’m reacting to all those commercials that I watched in the late 50s and early 60s in which a housewife, girdled and brassiered up the wazoo, mopped floors in a dress and high heels and a stiff bouffant hairdo. I mean, maybe the freely naked and sensual female body doesn’t offend me because at some level in my pre-adolescent brain I resented that, as a girl, I had to be trussed up like a turkey ready for roasting at Thanksgiving to be considered appealing.

The other thing is, American society is still, in many way, a Puritan society, i.e., sex is bad, and women and men should only “do it” to procreate. You know what I mean – that whole “a woman is creature easily tempted by the Devil, we all carry Eve’s sin within us, we must fight this urge and bow to the wisdom of men, first as a daughter, then as a wife” crap.

And yet at the same time the erotic S & M novel Fifty Shades Of Grey sold bazillions of copies and Tupperware parties have been replaced by “sex toy” parties – the most profitable being held in the Bible Belt region of the country, home of the “women as original sin” theology. And though last summer former Disney girl Miley Cyrus and her “twerking” aroused the ire of uptight citizens…

This year Ms. Cyrus used that notoriety at the MTV Video Awards to raise – sell – awareness of the plight of the homeless and was lauded for it.

So which is it?

Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman, changed her Fantastic Four uniform to show off her boobs and her body. Was it just a sexist change by the artist, or an “I am woman, hear me roar” celebration of everything that she is? “Hey, Reed, get your head out of the Negative Zone and appreciate this brainy babe with the bodacious ta-tas!” And if you don’t, well, I’m moving on.” I mean, did the costume make her less powerful, or more?

So on one hand, yes, that shot of Spider-Woman with her butt up in the air is about anything but power. And yet, on the other hand, it is all about power. Embracing what you’ve got and who you are. For as Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) said to Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) in Working Girl:

 “I’ve got a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?”


Mike Gold: So… Who’s On First?

I’m a Bruce Springsteen fan, and of course Bruce taught us all how to count to four (One… One – Two – Three – Four!) So I’m pretty good at math, until I get to whatever number is past four. But the number before four is three, and that’s the number of seasons in which I haven’t been able to cross the convention floor without being stopped by somebody to ask what’s up with the new First Comics.

Here’s the bird’s-eye lowdown: I don’t have a clue. I’m not part of the effort. I never was. I did write a tribute for the 31st anniversary edition of Warp, and I helped procure the services of Frank Brunner to draw the cover – go figure; he only drew the insides – and I fussed with my pal Rick Obadiah’s tribute piece because I enjoy fussing with Rick’s work.

But that’s it. I prefer working with publishers that actually distribute their work to the public, and that’s the question that’s most often asked of me. They sell their stuff at some conventions – Chicago’s C2E2 and, I believe, both the San Diego and New York shows and probably others. There I chat with art director Alex Wald, one of the truly gifted backroom people in the comics business and, by the way, a really nice guy, and Mary Levin and I wave and smile at each other, and that’s about it.

Yes, I co-founded First Comics along with Rick Obadiah way back when Godzilla was merely a flaming hatchling. I left the company at the end of 1985, which was prior to Godzilla’s entering adolescence. The lizard needed the room, and I gave him mine. Now he’s making stupid money off of a movie he’s barely in… but I digress. A lot.

I have no claim to the trademark and no equity in the company, which may or may not be the same company as it was when I was there. Overall, I spent more time at DC Comics and I have a similar lack of equity. This is not a problem at all.

I’m not pissed at people who assume I’m involved – actually, I’m kind of honored. But it does get annoying after the tenth or twentieth inquiry. This is why I’m employing this chunk of bandwidth to set the record straight. We’ve started the 2014 summer convention season, and I’ve committed to several more shows in addition to the three I’ve already done this season. See? I said I’m a Springsteen fan.

The really nice thing about all this is that Rick and I have resumed an old First Comics tradition (that’s the first First Comics, not to be confused with First Second Books or, for that matter, the Fifth Third Bank). The first First Comics was founded under the principle that, if you’ve got to have a business meeting, it should be over a truly great meal, and, generally, an unhealthy one at that. Rick’s a New Yorker living in the greater Chicagoland area, I’m a Chicagoan living in the greater New York area, so we get together about three or four times a year. Probably not more, but being a Springsteen fan, I have no way of knowing.

The cool part is that I turn Rick onto great Chicago restaurants, and he turns me onto great New York restaurants. All of these places involve supplication to massive platters of beef. I fully expect a PeTA picket line when I get off the commuter train.

This is a tradition that I’ve tried to port over to ComicMix. My four-color comrade Martha Thomases has been trying to get me to improve my diet – not by edict, but by example. Please do not tell her it’s slowly working. I now actually eat fruit!

I remember during my first tenure at DC in the 1970s company president Sol Harrison took me to the (now closed) Ben Benson’s steakhouse in midtown Manhattan, and publisher Jenette Kahn and I ate regularly at the fabulous Warner Communications dining room in Rockefeller Center, among other such joints. The food was fantastic.

So, in case you ever wondered – and if you have, you really need to get a life – I’m in this business for creative fulfillment, for not always having to act like an adult, for enjoying numerous great and enduring friendships… but, mostly, for the food.


Mindy Newell: Columnist Columnizing

Newell Art 140421“Don’t you wish you had a job like mine? All you have to do is think up a certain number of words! Plus, you can repeat words! And they don’t even have to be true!” – Dave Barry

Some thoughts this week reflecting upon my fellow ComicMix columnists’ opinions…

Last week Martha Thomases felt compelled to once again write about the bullshit practice of attacking women who “o-pine” (as Bill O’Reilly says) and dare to speak “truthiness,” as Stephen Colbert puts it, in her column, Criticizing Criticism. Toward the end of the piece Martha wrote about a panel at Washington, D.C.’s Awesome Con (held just this past weekend) that she was planning on attending. The name of the panel was “Part-Time Writer, Full Time World.” All the panelists were women, and apparently they were going to “O-pine” and “speak truthiness” about balancing the demands of a full time job, of being a parent, of having a part-time job – with these women, the “part-time” job is writing – with having time for your personal life, all while keeping a sane thought in your head. She made an excellent point when she pointed out that there were no men on the panel.


To (mostly) quote myself in the “comments” section of Martha’s column:

“As far as the full-time job/parenting/writing/hobby balance thing, it’s not a question of whether or not men don’t do any parenting. I think a lot of men are extremely involved in their kids’ lives these days.

“But what I think what Martha is pointing out is the assumption by the con runners, or at least those who set up this particular panel, that it’s only women who are dealing with this conundrum. Or, to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they just wanted to do a “Women in Comics” panel and thought this would be an interesting twist on the subject. Either way, it does seem somewhat sexist–against both sexes for a change!

“The answer, btw – and I feel that I am qualified to answer this conundrum because I was a single parent, and also because I’m now watching Alix and Jeff juggle parenthood, work, and school – is, paraphrasing a certain global sports apparel company:

“‘You just do it’…

“While seeking plenty of help from family, friends, babysitters – and sometimes, if you’re really lucky, an understanding boss or editor.

“And then, when the kids are all grown up and have families of their own, you have the luxury of being a grandmother, and you can just love and spoil the kid and then hand him back when you’re tired or he get’s cranky or it’s just time for you to have some

“And be proud of yourself, because you just ‘did’ it.”

Denny’s and Marc’s columns made me think once again of how Marvel is doing everything right, and how DC is doing everything wrong. As I indicated in last week’s column, Marvel’s creation of a “telefilmverse” has been just brilliant in its adaptation of its comic universe’s history, in its invigoration of old concepts and old heroes, and in the excitement and joy its inventiveness is creating in both old and new fans.

I grew up a total DC geek in its Silver Age. I loved The Legion Of Super-Heroes, Superboy, Green Lantern, Supergirl, and the “Imaginary Stories” of Julie Schwartz’s Superman. In the 80s and early 90s I was hooked on all things Vertigo (Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, to name just a few), Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans, George’s Wonder Woman (even before I co-wrote it), Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s Legion Of Super-Heroes (before I was involved), Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and Ernie Colon’s Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld (ditto), Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland’s Camelot 3000 (ditto) and many more. Back then DC was a groundbreaker, an innovator, “Bold” and “Brave.”

Today when I think of DC I think of words like moribund, and mired, and morose.

Today, like Marc Alan Fishman, I say, “Make Mine Marvel!”

Paul Kupperberg’s review of  The King Of Comedy http://www.comicmix.com//reviews/2014/04/17/review-king-comedy/ is dead-on. If you haven’t seen this movie, see it.

John Ostrander: Happy, happy, happiest of birthdays! I left you a comment, but I don’t know where it went, because it’s not there now. Just know that I wish you everything you talk about in the column – to live even longer than your paternal grandfather and his continue to bang out comic series and a new novel on a regular basis. I can’t wait to read the new GrimJack series, and that brilliant novel that resides on the New York Times Bestseller list for longer than Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games ever did. I want to see Peter David green with envy (just teasing, Peter!) with your success. Hell, I want to see me turn green with envy and choleric with bitterness about your success! And I want you to remember, bro, in the words of that old poet-hipster, James Taylor…

You’ve got a friend.


Mike Gold: Hipsters, Inkwell Divers, and Misfits at MoCCA!

Last weekend I was with my fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Adriane Nash and Martha Thomases at the annual MoCCA independent comics convention. And by “independent,” I mean web comics, self-published comics, small press comics, and what Ms. Nash refers to as “I’d rather be hand-stapled” comics. It’s one of my favorite shows for one simple reason: the enthusiasm in the room is tremendous.

Gold Art 140409

I’d say that the average age of the creators who weren’t paying for one of the few corporate booths (Fantagraphics, Yoe Books, Abrams, etc.) was about 25 years old. Which means there was a lot of dyed hair and hipster hats in Manhattan’s Beaux-Arts 69th Regiment Armory. These are folks who, by and large, couldn’t care less about capes and masks and thought Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a fun movie but not necessarily a justification for one’s choice of vocation. They probably aren’t making a living off of their comics work, and they might very well be losing money. They are in the medium for the love of the medium, and they are taking the medium down roads undreamt by the folks at Disney and Time Warner.

The Armory was built in 1904 and is a grand place. It was built to house and train the 69th Regiment, which traces its roots back to America’s Civil War. I’m sure the idea of filling the space with many thousand young inkwell divers underneath a gigantic helium-filled Charlie Brown balloon eluded architect Richard Howland Hunt (1862 – 1931). Then again, Hunt probably couldn’t conceive his masterwork would also house the first Roller Derby television broadcasts or the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

I truly love the contradiction.

The prestigious Society of Illustrators acquired MoCCA several years ago, and we-all were worried they’d try to make it all frou-frou. And maybe they did try to appeal to their artsy-fartsy crowd a bit. Nope. No way that was going to work. These kids have their own artsy-fartsy crowd, thank you, and they’re very, very comfortable doing the types of stories they want to tell, in the manner they want to tell them.

To my ancient and besotted brain, this is wonderful. It was wonderful back when it started, attracting the likes of then-newbies such as Jessica Abel, Alison Bechdel and Dean Haspiel. These days, Jessica, Alison and Dean are getting comparatively ancient, but they remain lot less ancienter than I am. I’m sure their work inspired many of the young folks at this weekend’s show. Being a mentor is fun, but becoming an icon can be painful.

MoCCA got its start in 2002 and I attended the second show at the urging of Ms. Thomases. That enthusiasm I talked about was there back in 2003, and it revitalized my desire to work in the medium once again. One quick walk through the room and it was clear to me that the American comics medium had a future, one that was far beyond the traditional publishers, the traditional comics shops, and the traditional ways of thinking.

I am glad to say this enthusiasm has grown in the ensuing 12 years. When the Society of Illustrators picked up the show, I was afraid it was going to go on the legit.

Silly, silly me. Comics will never be truly legitimate. There are way too many gifted weirdoes slaving away at their drawing boards and kitchen tables. Some might be trustafarians, some might be downright freaks, and some might not be able to communicate in any other manner. More power to them.

As long as the comics art medium has a large pool of industrious misfits, we will have a wonderful future.

Mike Gold and His Invisible Donuts

(For reasons that will become obvious, this, my first column in about a month, is to be run both on www.MichaelDavisWorld.com and on www.ComicMix.com. Go nuts; read it twice and offer contradictory comments!)

I have a friend named Larry Schlam, a noted child’s rights advocate and a former Bronx street-corner singer. Back around 1973 he and I were cutting through the Montgomery Ward store in downtown Chicago and I wanted to stop at their donut shop, which was excellent. Larry, who is prone to eating frog’s legs and sushi (not necessarily together), explained the concept of “empty calories.” This past month, I learned the concept of invisible donuts.

This winter, the convention has been to slip on the massive ice floe that has engulfed most of this nation east of the Rocky Mountains. That’s not for me. I don’t roll that way. A month ago I took a fall about thirty feet below the ice, at the Times Square subway station. Had this not been an accident, I would have had the foresight to bring along a coffee can to collect contributions. Intention aside, I managed to pulverize my left shoulder – and, of course, I’m left-handed. I’m damn near left-everything.

But I say “pulverize” instead of “break” because that’s exactly what happened. Several X-Ray technicians, emergency room personnel, and my surgeon-to-be all wondered why I wasn’t on a morphine drip. Nonetheless, my shoulder replacement surgery was scheduled for about two weeks later, doubtlessly so I had time to reflect upon my behavior. However, I was given Oxycodone and Vicodin to battle the pain. They said I was stoic. I said it hurt.

Both are opiates and are taken recreationally by some. Contrary to common wisdom medicine is an art form and not a science – what works for you could be no more effective than a Skittle for me. The meds helped with the pain, but the concurrent high was insufficient for me to break out my Jimi Hendrix albums. So it goes.

When it finally came time to go under the knife, I was told I’d be in hospital for one night, maybe two. Surgery was scheduled for the last Monday in February. But I woke up on Thursday with a bit of grogginess and that whole unmentionable catheter thing (yes, guys, you too can squirm). Being in compos mentis, I figured I was wrong and the surgery must have happened on Wednesday.

Well, I was wrong. The new shoulder went in on Monday, and Tuesday evening I had a severe reaction to the anesthesia. My blood oxygen was down to a near-lethal level and I was acting like – in the words of my gifted daughter Adriane – a 220 pound drunken three year old. Evidently I was funny and charming, but I scared the hell out of the assembled medical practitioners. As I do not drink alcohol and do not have a street drug problem (they called around to confirm this), they were dumbfounded.

Meanwhile, I was having a blast. Prior to my blood oxygen train wreck I announced to the assembled masses that two boxes of invisible donuts had just materialized on my chest. Given the circumstances, I believe there was some attempt to quantify the humor of my revelation. A short time later, Adriane saw me pantomiming eating those donuts. She asked “Are you, ah, eating those donuts?” I responded mouth-closed (even in my condo in Wackyland, I endeavor to remain polite) by opening my eyes brightly and nodding happily.

I’m told I spent Wednesday in the ICU until my numbers recovered, and I was discharged the following Friday. My new shoulder has more chrome in it than a ’57 Buick and I still can’t use my left arm for more than a few minutes – this piece will have taken me about six times as long to write. After a few more doctors, I’ll be starting physical therapy in a couple weeks. Larry Hama, who’s been through this type of thing and just had a hip replacement, advised me “Whatever the therapist tells you to do, do it.” That’s good enough for me.

So I haven’t quite disappeared from the planet as of yet. I’m blessed with good friends, comrades who cover for me without squawking, a wonderful slew of professionals at Norwalk and Stamford Hospitals, and a daughter so awesome and self-sacrificing I wonder what I did in a prior life to deserve her.

Invisible donuts are just as satisfying as the real thing – but getting them is a bitch.

Mike Gold will get back to performing his weekly two-hour Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, www.getthepointradio.com and on iNetRadio, www.iNetRadio.com as part of “Hit Oldies” every Sunday at 7:00 PM Eastern, rebroadcast three times during the week – check www.getthepointradio.com above for times and on-demand streaming information. He thinks this will happen on Sunday, March 16th. Gold also joins MDW’s Marc Alan Fishman, Martha Thomases and Michael Davis as a weekly columnist at www.comicmix.com where he pontificates on matters of four-color. Gold also joins ComicMix’s Marc Alan Fishman, Martha Thomases and Michael Davis as a weekly columnist at www.michaeldavisworld.com, and chances are you’re presently reading these words at one of those two venues.

Marc Alan Fishman: Everything Is Awesome*

*Not really.

I’m in an odd mood, kiddos. Maybe it’s the polar vortex that’s waging war across our country. Maybe it’s seasonal affective disorder causing a case of the blues. Or perhaps the winds of change are blowing, and the time for revolution is nigh. I’ve simply noticed as of late an upward trend of general unrest. It’s got me equally excited, and potentially depressed. Let’s jump down the rabbit hole, shall we?


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


Mike Gold: The Great Editorial Squeeze

Gold Art 140205Originally I had written something entirely different. I thought it was brilliant. Some of my best writing ever. Then I thought again. Then I spiked it. The piece was… inappropriate. This contradicts one of my personal commandments: thou shalt not edit thyself. Worse still, I’m now so late our ace peefrooter won’t have time to peefroot this. So there are likely to be all kinds of stupid mistakes here.

That’s the biggest hassle in the world of publishing – print, online, or metaphorical. The Dreaded Deadline Doom. I think Stan Lee coined that phrase, maybe Roy Thomas. Whomever. It’s as brilliant as it is accurate. The closer we get to an unmet deadline, the closer we get to tipping over one of those dominos left over from the Vietnam War. There’s a process in producing comics. This process is not written in stone, but it’s based upon two premises that most certainly are: 1) unlike movies, comics is a sequentially collaborative process and there is stuff that happens to a person’s work after it is delivered. If the writer is late, the penciler is squeezed. If the penciler is late, the inker is squeezed… and so on down the food chain.

It all winds up in the production bullpen, and those folks are always squeezed. Just ask ComicMix’s crack production director, Glenn Hauman. He’s been squeezed so hard for so long – he started out in DC’s production department at least a dozen reboots ago – he is often confused for an accordion.

But that’s not just the last place in the chain… it’s also the last place you want to squeeze. Those are the unsung heroes that quietly fix everybody else’s mistakes after the editor painstakingly marks them up. Of course, if the editor is squeezed, more mistakes happen. Making a mistake about correcting a mistake doesn’t balance the situation and you can never predict what’s going to go wrong.

Time is not a cure. Time is a death threat.

As an editor, I never give talent phony deadlines. When we start working, I tell folks I deal the cards face up and the deadlines I give are the real deal. Most writers and artists with any experience do not believe me.

Not at first.

This is not just a plea for efficiency. It’s a matter of respect. I respect the talent to do their job in a professional manner, and everybody should respect their fellow collaborators – including those at the end of the process, the color artist and the production artists.

Deadlines are not set in order to annoy the talent. I realize there’s some confusion on that point, because real editors enjoy annoying the talent – it’s our escape valve from the Dreaded Deadline Doom. You shouldn’t have to be Otis Redding to understand respect.

•     •     •     •     •

A follow-up to Michael Davis’ column , posted in this space yesterday afternoon.

Wait. What? You’re black?

Damn! Go know!



FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: You’ll see on February 14th!


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



Mike Gold: Adolf Hitler, All Rights Reserved

Gold Art 140129One of the rights comics creators have been fighting for lo these many decades has been obtaining ownership of their work, or at least getting some control and a decent percentage. We think this is fair and necessary… as do even a few modern publishers.

Much of this revolves around how our copyright and trademark laws work. Neither are elegantly written – go figure – and our copyright laws are and have just about always been woefully outdated. Given the ludicrous growth in technology, this is likely to be true for a long, long time. The good news for creators is that these laws are understandable (by and large) and all talent, no matter what media helps pay their rent, should read these laws very carefully. If the laws sound like they were written in Klingon, there are plenty of resources out there to help you.

So… I’ll make it easy for you. Check out this website: http://www.uspto.gov/faq/trademarks.jsp.

Which brings me to a story.

One artist who was particularly knowledgeable about trademark and copyright law was an odd guy named Adolf Hitler. He sort of looked like Moe Howard, but he spoke more aggressively. Oh, and unlike Moe, Adolf wasn’t Jewish… we think. But to be fair, he did do at least three things that were quite remarkable. The first was design the Volkswagen. Now, I wouldn’t drive a Beetle even if I won it in a contest and it came with an alluring model, but its enduring popularity is above reproach.

Second, he built the Autobahn. Hey, people had to have a road upon which to drive their bugs, right? The Autobahn was such a great idea that, after the war, President Dwight Eisenhower ripped the Little Vegetarian off and created our Interstate highway system. Ike (he was called “Ike,” after the Rube Goldberg comics character) did run the European theater of operations during the Big One so he knew the strategic benefits of such a network of roads.

Third, and most significant to my oft-derailed train-of-thought, Hitler trademarked his likeness. Then he mandated his visage must appear on German postage, posters and other official papers, including some currency. Adolf earned tens of millions of dollars off of this little maneuver. Combined with his Mein Kampf royalties, the Little Dictator make quite a substantial fortune off of owning his trademarks and copyrights.

Rest assured, Hitler’s family does not make any money off of this today. These rights are in the hands of the state of Bavaria and any income goes to charity. And the German government discontinued the Hitler stamps almost 70 years ago.

Hey, I’m just citing history, folks.



FRIDAY: Martha Thomases