Tagged: Martha Thomases

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



Mike Gold: It’s Not Your Father’s Boob Tube Anymore

gold-art-140122-150x214-1540579It just started to snow out here in the Atlantic Northeast. I got the mandatory robo-call from our mayor telling us the world is coming to its end. There’s just enough white stuff on the ground for a 1980s yuppie to slip into a twitchy nostalgic daze. Going outside would be stupid: people out here don’t know how to drive on snow, and they act as though a little bit of snow is a sign from their lord telling them they’re going to hell. Which, given the fact this is snow and not hot hail, seems oxymoronic.

I’d give up and just watch television, but I really haven’t enjoyed daytime television since Phil Donohue got liquored up and threated to bite Mike Douglas’s balls off, and besides, odds are in favor of my losing power for at least a while. The good news is, I’ve got lots of stuff on my iPad – including work – and I can recharge that in my car. The better news is, pretty soon we’ll all have access to a lot more fun stuff.

Perhaps you heard that Marvel Studios is cutting out a slice of the MCU and taking it to Netflix as a whole bunch of mini-serieses: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, each with its own 13 episode series, each set in Hell’s Kitchen, and then winding up with a big mini called “The Defenders.”

That’s pretty cool. I like the idea of programming coming from non-broadcast and non-cable sources, and I like both House of Cards and Alpha House on Netflix and Amazon Prime, respectively. Marvel says that Netflix gives them the ability to do more fan-friendly teevee; that’s either a really good idea or a threat. We’ll see.

Now comes word that another comics creation is coming to TabletVision. Amazon Studios is paying for the long-in-development Barbarella pilot, based upon Jean-Claude Forest classic science-fiction comic from the 1960s. Skyfall writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are still on board to write the series.

I don’t think any of these projects would have made it on cable teevee, and certainly not on broadcast. Oh, sure, maybe Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist or Luke Cage, but not all four tying into a fifth mini-series. As for Barbarella, well, the campy movie doesn’t transfer well into the 21st Century, but the comic book does. We’ll see which path it takes… and how salacious they can be.

With the recent, massive improvement of Agents of SHIELD, Fox’s Gotham pilot (which sounds like it has great potential), NBC’s John Constantine pilot, and ABC’s Agent Carter pilot (I loved the Marvel One-Shot on the Iron Man 3 Blu-Ray), I’m actually a lot more enthusiastic about teevee comics than their four-color counterparts at Marvel and DC.

And they’re willing to put it all on my lap, or, through AppleTV or similar devices, on my HDTV.

For free… well, pretty much.

Thank you.



FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


Mike Gold: Doctor Doom Is Obsolete

gold-art-140115-150x127-1516171A great many of our finer super-villains in the heroic fantasy world are bent on world conquest. Admittedly, a few simply want to destroy the planet, but at Lord Cumulous said to Prince Chaos in Warp, “Destroy the planet? Where are you going to live?”

For the life of me, I don’t understand why anybody would want to run a single nation, let alone the entire blue marble. Nonetheless, everybody from Doctor Doom to Ming the Merciless have tried time and time again. That’s how we know they’re insane: they keep on trying, and they never succeed.

These people spend a lot of money on their sophisticated Jack Kirbyesque machinery and even more money on henchmen. I’m sorry; henchpeople – just because you are evil, you don’t have to be sexist as well. And, by the way, are your henchpeople covered by minimum wage laws? How about health insurance? Obamacare? But I digress. Add the cost of your hidden lair, costume design and manufacture, those little flying television cameras that allow you to read the hero’s word balloons (today we call them “drones”), and you’ve spent the gross national product of Latveria and then some.

There is a better way to take over the planet. It’s probably less expensive and its got the benefit of being safer than, to site merely one example, the stunt the Masked Meanie pulled on Wonder Wart-Hog (Help Magazine #26) where he dug a hole several miles wide and as deep as the center of the Earth, filled it up with gunpowder, and lit the fuse.

If you’re a super-villain-in-training and you’re thinking about taking over the world, here’s what you do, in eight easy steps:

1) Start a Super-PAC http://www.fec.gov/pdf/forms/ie_only_letter.pdf.

2) Decide which of your henchpeople will follow your orders in the Senate and the House. You’ll need at least 60 Senate seats and 218 in the House. Make your henchpeople trade in their villain costumes for Brooks Brothers suits.

3) Use your Super-PAC funds to get your henchpeople elected.

4) Abduct and terminate the vice president.

5) Have your henchpeople vote you in as the replacement vice president.

6) Have your House henchpeople impeach the president and then have your Senate henchpeople vote to remove the president from office.

7) As president, go to the next U.N. opening and, during your welcoming speech, have your henchpeople slaughter all the representatives.

8) Declare yourself “King of the World!” Don’t worry; James Cameron won’t sue you. You’re king of the world! Tradition dictates you have a crown and you place that crown on your own head. It’s also a swell image on the teevee.

It’s just that simple. No muss, no fuss. And it has the benefit of not destroying the place where you live.

Any villain can do it.







The Tweeks Review 2013

The Tweeks Review 2013

This week the Tweeks look back at the rest of 2013, giving us a twin tween take on what worked and what crashed and burned.


THURSDAY 5:00 EST USA: Mike Gold

FRIDAY: Dennis O’Neil, Martha Thomases, Michael Davis

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


Mike Gold: Marvel Now What?

gold-art-140108-150x168-8434917Oy. They’re at it again.

In what seems like three hours ago, Marvel Comics did a semi-reboot called Marvel Now. Unlike DC’s New 52, it wasn’t a makeover of their entire line. Unlike DC’s New 52, it wasn’t totally boring and arbitrary. It was still another contrived event that paved the way for a bunch of unnecessary first issues and a couple crossover stunts that led me to abandon reading a slew of their titles.

And, today, we get Marvel All-New Now. Or Marvel Now All-New. Or, if you’re Stanley Lieber or Jack Kurtzburg, Marvel Now – Nu?

So what is Marvel All-New Now?

Beats the hell out of me. I’ve read all their stuff, their Diamond solicitations, their website, all kinds of stuff, and as far as I can tell it’s still another contrived event with a bunch of unnecessary first issues and likely will pave the way for a couple crossover stunts that will doubtlessly lead me to abandon reading another slew of their titles.

In fact, this time Marvel is simply stuttering. They’re giving us Marvel All-New Now replacements for titles that had been published under Marvel Now that, previously, had been published by Marvel pre-Now. How many “first issues” of the Hulk and Daredevil can Mark Waid write in the 21st Century?

Do first issues carry the type of circulation boost as they used to? What about first issues that have a whole bunch of variant covers for retailers to trade back and forth to each other, bidding up their alleged “value” but rarely actualizing any gain by selling them to an ostensibly waiting marketplace?

Honest. Does anybody actually care about Marvel All-New Now? Are you excited by this “event?”

I’ll probably check out a few of these “new” titles – they’re relaunching a few characters that I’ve liked in the past, and no matter how the numbering works I still enjoy Waid’s Marvel work – as well as that of many others – and I see no reason for this to change.

Don’t get me wrong. I like superhero comics, as part of a healthy diet of sundry genres and media. I like DC and Marvel’s superheroes. I just seem to have stopped liking their superhero comic books. They willfully beat it out of me.

Lucky for me, there’s plenty of good stuff out there.



FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


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!











Dennis O’Neil: Robber Barons, Then and Now

oneil-art-140102-150x96-8313542Where have you gone, Mr. Potter? Oh – I see. You’re over there with your chums Goldfinger, Scrooge and his pseudo-doppelganger, Scrooge McDuck and, oh look! It’s Uncle Pennybags, stepping away from the Monopoly board. And what’s causing that breeze?. Somebody left the portal between fiction and history open and look who’s coming through! People who at one time actually existed: John Jacob Astor, Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, John D. Rockefeller… on goes the list.

That last bunch, the ones who had birth certificates, are sometimes labeled “robber barons” and now you’ll allow me to quote from the invaluable Wikipedia: “In social criticism and economic literature, Robber barons became a derogatory term applied to… powerful 19th century businessmen,,, who used what were considered to be exploitative practices to amass their wealth. These practices included exerting control over national resources, accruing high levels of government influence, paying extremely low wages, squashing competition by acquiring competitors in order to create monopolies and eventually raise prices, and schemes to sell stock at inflated prices to unsuspecting investors in a manner which would eventually destroy the company for which the stock was issued and impoverish investors.”

But really. Were these guys actually so bad? Did they deserve to have writers of both fiction and non-fiction portray them as ruthless greed-heads? Is the stereotype justified?

I’m afraid so.

According research reported by psychologist Daniel Goleman “condescending or dismissive behavior… suggest, to a surprisingly accurate extent, the social distance between those with greater power and those with less — a distance that goes beyond the realm of interpersonal interactions and may exacerbate the soaring inequality in the United States… In 2008, social psychologists from the University of Amsterdam and the University of California, Berkeley, studied pairs of strangers telling one another about difficulties they had been through, like a divorce or death of a loved one. The researchers found that the differential expressed itself in the playing down of suffering. The more powerful were less compassionate toward the hardships described by the less powerful

In politics, readily dismissing inconvenient people can easily extend to dismissing inconvenient truths about them. The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on cutting financing for food stamps and impeding the implementation of Obamacare, which would allow patients, including those with pre-existing health conditions, to obtain and pay for insurance coverage, may stem in part from the empathy gap. As political scientists have noted, redistricting and gerrymandering have led to the creation of more and more safe districts, in which elected officials dont even have to encounter many voters from the rival party, much less empathize with them.

So ol’ Captain Leftie is doing the Mother Teresa tap dance? Not guilty. Around these parts, all morality derives from the desired survival of the race. Huggy love is fine but in the end breathing is what’s important and the Old Ones who lived long enough to pass on genes learned the value of cooperation, a value that seems to be vanishing from our 21st. century grouches.

I didn’t build the house I’m sitting in and don’t even get me started about computers.

And no, I don’t believe the poor deserve their lot, especially not the children.

Something else… Oh yeah – happy new year.

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases


SUNDAY MORNING: John Ostrander


Mike Gold: Comic Books Take A Hike!

Gold Art 140101It was a small notice in one of the media newsletters, a pick-up from Publisher’s Weekly: Marvel Halts Sales of Periodical Comics in Bookstores.

According to Media Bistro, “Marvel has ended sales of print single-issue periodical comics through trade bookstore channels. This will not affect the sales of book format graphic novels through those retailers. Several earlier accounts reported that Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble were dropping single-issue comics. According to Barnes & Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating, the removal of single-issue comics from B&N and other book stores is Marvel’s decision.”

This is not the end of an era. It’s the final death throes of an ancient era, a time of candy stores, corner drug stores, newsstands and newspaper wuxtras.

And that’s okay by me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love print. I love those 32-page pamphlets. I enjoy going to the magazine racks at Barnes and Noble. But let’s note that the decision to pull the pamphlets from the two largest American bookstore chains was Marvel’s, not the retailers’. And Marvel is simply being realistic.

Newsstand sales, as opposed to direct sales to comics shops, sell only about one-quarter of the number of copies sent to the newsstands, on average. Or, to put this in more political terms (I am what I am), for every four trees chopped down for newsstand comics, only one gets turned into stuff people actually pay to read. And the publisher has to ship these books and may have to accept returns (that’s a long story; trust me). That’s a hell of a lot of oil being wasted.

And for what? Clearly, the publisher isn’t making much (if anything) off of newsstand sales. The news dealer isn’t making very much, and policing comics racks is work-intensive. Better that such material is sold as e-comics, which carry a carbon footprint of a baby oompa loompa, and in anthologies.

Yes, there’s a loss-leader argument, but it’s very dated. The argument goes “New readers and people who don’t live near comic book stores can discover the thrill of comics by stumbling across them at Barnes and Nobles.” Fine, except that most newsstand comics are from Marvel and DC, and both companies are completely obsessed with “event” (read: stunt) marketing that require a reader to buy dozens of comics in order to understand the epic story… and some of those issues often are sold only via direct sales. So there is no jumping-on point for newbies.

Mind you, I could be wrong but I don’t see Archie, Dark Horse, and other publishers that are not OCD-compliant exiting the market as fast. They have high visibility books, often with impressive pedigrees such as Star Wars. But the economics of comics publishing are such that I can’t see them holding on to returnable sales to general newsstands.

I see Marvel pulling out of traditional bookstores as the logical thing to do. It’s probably the harbinger of things to come.

Of course, the way these guys have been doing the past couple of years, it’s pretty easy to see Barnes and Nobles and Books-A-Million going the way of Borders, Dalton’s, and Brentano’s. That’s a major shame, but it’s a shame of a different color.

So if you’re dependent upon one of these outlets for your comics fix, go buy an iPad. It’ll be around a lot longer, and you won’t strain your back lifting long-boxes.

Oh, yeah. And Happy, Brave New Year.



FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases


Mike Gold: Top Comics Pulls of 2013

Gold Art 131225You can tell when the year is coming to an end when media outlets start offering their various and sundry “best of” lists. We here at ComicMix are no exception, so for the third consecutive year, here’s mine.

I’ve changed from “Top 9” to my top comics pulls. This is because we no longer live in a world where any one character occupies only one title – yeah, I’m talking to you, Wolverine – and sometimes I want to note a series of character-related titles. Of the five I’m listing for 2013, three cover multiple titles. This doesn’t mean I won’t change back next year. Consistency is the hobgoblin on a small cerebral cortex.

I operate under the following self-imposed rules: I’m only listing series that either were ongoing or ran six or more issues. I’m not listing graphic novels or reprints as both compete under different criteria. I should do this as a separate piece, but I seem to have forgotten where I’ve put my memory pills. And, as always, I’m not covering Internet-only projects as I’d be yanking the rug out from under my pal Glenn Hauman, as you’ll see once again this March.

So, without further ado, my top comics pulls of the year.

Sex: Writer – Joe Casey, Artist – Piotr Kowalski, Publisher – Image Comics. I like Sex. I know lots of people who like Sex. Sex is good. Sex is great. O.K., I’m done now. This is a somewhat futuristic story about a rich semi-has-been living in Saturn City, and it’s another architecturally-driven series (hello, Mister X!). The protagonist is driven by his past who’s trying to get his act together and deal with a society that is quite unlike anything we’ve seen on this Earth. His antagonist is an ancient mobster with an unending sex life, one that gets our hero in trouble. Sitting squarely in the middle is the madam of a sex club that would have put the real Hellfire Club to shame. It’s a great journey, with the creators letting out the plot on a need-to-know basis. Ambitious stuff that actually pays off.

Hawkeye: Writer – Matt Fraction, Artists – David Aja and Annie Wu, Publisher – Marvel Comics. Our returning champion, this is about as far from a Marvel superhero title as one gets. It’s all about Clint Barton when he’s not working as an Avenger. It turns out his life is as screwed up as anybody’s in the Marvel Universe, but he’s not quite mature or grounded enough to pull his ashes out of the fire. He’s also got something of an estranged relationship with the female Hawkeye, a former Young Avenger. There’s plenty of action here, but this series is all about the characters and the issue of what, when he’s not on duty, is “normal” for a superhero.

Archie: Various writers and artists, Publisher – Archie Comics. While Marvel and DC are boring us to tears with endless reboots and mindless universe-changing highly contrived “events,” Archie Comics has been quietly taking their well-known characters on an evolutionary trip that, I think, would frighten the company’s founders. Archie Andrews is less interested in Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge and has been spending a lot of time with Valerie Smith of Josie and the Pussycats. That’s a very big deal; for the better part of 75 years the Archie-Betty-Veronica triangle has been as sacrosanct as the Clark Kent-Lois Lane-Superman triangle. Jughead left home for about a year’s worth of issues. The cast continues to expand… and they continue to launch new titles, including Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s Afterlife With Archie, which may very well be the only storyline involving zombies that I enjoy any more.

Sex Criminals: Writer – Matt Fraction, Artist – Chip Zdarsky, Publisher – Image Comics. Well, lookie here. Another Image Comic with the word SEX in the title. And, damn, another good one too. This one is actually sexier than Sex, probably a bit funnier, and exceptionally compelling. Great character work, science fictiony in the classic sense, and pretty much capeless. Plus, it’s got the best recap page ever.

The Shadow: Various writers and artists, Publisher – Dynamite Comics. When I learned how much this license was going for, I figured whomever got it would have to publish multiple titles each month in order to pay the freight. I was right, but I didn’t predict most of them would be really damn good. My favorite of the bunch is Shadow Year One, by Matt Wagner and Wilfredo Torres. There is also Chris Roberson and Andrea Mutti’s The Shadow, offering traditional 1930s-era stories, and The Shadow Now by David Liss and Colton Worley and set in contemporary times.  These books do not contradict each other. There’s also a mini-series or two that usually involves other pulp heroes, legendary and original, which dominate Dynamite’s expanding line.

Batman Li’l Gotham: Story and art – Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs, Publisher – DC Comics. I’ve waxed on and on about how much I like DC’s original online comics, and most of them are quickly reprinted in traditional comic book format. Batman Li’l Gotham is my favorite of the bunch. Unlike what one might expect from the name of the book and from the artist approach, my friends at Aw Yeah! Comics have no fear of competition here. The characters are… little… and the approach is kid-friendly, but the stories are clever, entertaining and involving, and the stories aren’t padded out like most superhero books these days. The whole BatCast is featured, as are plenty of other DC Universe characters. All are unburdened by whichever version of the Official Continuity that DC may or may not be following these days.

There are plenty of other titles I would recommend, but these are the ones I pick as the ones you should check out tomorrow. Of course, your mileage may vary but, damn, finding good new stuff is why we’re comics fans in the first place.


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases