One of the joys of having returned to the comics convention scene this fall was seeing old friends and industry comrades again after too many goddamn years – Walter and Louise Simonson, Marv Wolfman, Fabian Nicieza, Timothy Truman, Jim Salicrup, Dave Gibbons, Cat Staggs, and Jill Thompson, to name just a few – and to have a chance, at last, to meet, face-to-face for the very first time, a woman whom I’ve wanted to meet for a very long time, a woman of immense talent and of immense class…
The first time Gail and I communicated it was through Facebook, by which she reached out to me to apologize for all the press she was getting about her assignment to write Wonder Woman, i.e., “Wonder Woman Gets First Female Writer” and so forth, and that she wanted me to know that she kept trying to correct the press.
I said something like this: “But, Gail, if they print that, if they call you the second ongoing Wonder Woman writer, there’s no story.”
Of course, Gail went on to write one of the best ever run of the Amazon’s adventures.
Anyway, that led to Gail asking me to participate in her “Five Questions with…” site. Check it out. I just reread it – it’s one hell of an interview!
Gail and I continued to communicate via social media, but we still remained only “Facebook friends” until…
At this year’s NYCC, knowing Gail was there, I walked up and down the aisles until I finally found her booth. She was off at a panel, but I was determined to make time to at last meet one-on-one. So at timely intervals I kept walking over to her table – it was about the fourth time that I knew that she was back because the crowd and line around it snaked up and down the aisle. I stood off a little bit watching her talk to fans and sign her work until there was a (very) momentary break – I slid in, with apologies to the fans at the front of the line (“Justwant to say hello for a quick second”) – and felt like a complete idiot. I finally had a chance to meet Gail, and I was tongue-tied.
It felt like an eternity; but it was probably a maximum of three seconds, until I said, “Hi, Gail, it’s Mindy Newell.” (Like I was on the phone or something.) I think I stuck out my hand for a shake and said, “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”
She just stared at me. I thought I had done something wrong, so I think I said, “Well, I don’t want to hold anybody up,” and left.
Then, yesterday, I found this on my Facebook page:
It was lovely to meet the legendaryMindy Newellbriefly at my table at NYCC.
She’s the REAL first acknowledged writer of the Wonder Woman ongoing title
(something I get routinely, but incorrectly, credited as being).
She’s a huge inspiration and a lovely person, and when she came to meet me at my table I was too overwhelmed to do much more than just gasp out a hello.
But she’s a legend and I adore her!
Honestly, guys, the last thing I think of myself as is “legendary.” Legends in the comic books industry, to me, are people like Stan Lee, or Jack Kirby, or Steve Ditko. Or Neil Gaiman, or Marv Wolfman. Or George Pérez, or Alan Moore, or Karen Berger. (And yes, you, too, Mike Gold, as I kiss up to my editor here at ComicMix *smile*.) To me, it is absolutely incredible that I even know these people. Or worked with some of them. Or can call so many of them, and others, friends. Or that I knew and worked with Julie Schwartz, whom my daughter still remembers giving her pink sucking candies from the jar on his file cabinet in his office. Or Len Wein, who actually invited me to a poker game where sat around the table people who had only been names on a splash page before. Or Mark Gruenwald, who always made me laugh and actually hired me to work at Marvel.
I’ll tell you a secret.
Sometimes I feel like a fake. A fool. An illusionist.
Someone who didn’t try hard enough. Someone who gave up too easily.
Yeah, it’s easy to say, “I suffered, and still do, from chronic depression syndrome.” It’s easy to say, “I had a daughter to raise.” It’s easy to say, “I needed a job with benefits and a regular paycheck.” It’s easy to say, “I didn’t have any support.”
Turning 50 doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, those typical black-and-white “50 years old” party decorations, suggesting that the celebrant is “so old,” seem out of place to me. Fifty can be fun. Fifty can be optimistic. Isn’t Hollywood’s most famous re-invented party boy, Robert Downey, Jr. over 50? Isn’t the always-engaging Marisa Tomei over 50?
This year Star Trek turns 50 and the phenomenon never looked better. There’s a new movie, a new fascinating Star Trek podcasts out there. And now, more than ever, there’s top TV show and even new stamps from the U.S. Post Office. There’s a bunch of -notch merchandise from innovative companies like Titan and Eaglemoss.
But it wasn’t always so. Back when Star Trek was turning 20 the future wasn’t so certain. It was a struggle. Fans were ridiculed. The world at large did not associate any ‘cool factor’ to Star Trek fandom.
And during those days, DC Comics was creating top-notch Star Trek comics. Looking back (at the future) through the lens of 2016, these adventures covered a perplexing time for the franchise. Spock was dead, Lt. Saavik had crashed the party, the main characters were all dealing with aging and career issues and interesting original characters were added to the mix.
I think it might be my favorite period of the Star Trek mythology. So instead of celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary like everyone else at the Star Trek: Mission New York convention later this week, let’s instead celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Star Trek’s 20th Anniversary…and specifically DC Comics’ Star Trek.
Marv Wolfman was essential to DC’s acquisition of the Star Trek license. Working on the Marvel Comics version helped him develop a unique perspective for successfully adapting the property into comics. Marv offered these great insights:
“I was a huge Star Trek fan. Still am, actually. I had written the first few issues of Marvel’s Trek but in analyzing it later felt everyone who handled Trek comics was doing it wrong. We were all trying to mimic a TV show’s four act structure and tone. We were all telling too many stories on the Bridge when we had an unlimited SFX budget. If they had the means they would have done other types of stories, but they were restricted by budget. Also, TV shows have tons of talking scenes, because that’s cheap to produce. Talking scenes in comics is visually boring, so I wanted more action and wonder.
“But Trek was pretty much dead at this point in comics and the first Trek movie (I wrote the adaptation for Marvel) didn’t offer much hope. But then I got the chance to see an early advance of the second movie and went back to DC saying we needed to get the license. I remember Jenette Kahn (DC’s President) didn’t think there was any hope for Trek back then (and most would have said she was right) but I was a fan and said this one was really good and I had a way of fixing it. Jenette may have disagreed but she trusted me and approved us getting the license.
“I brought in Mike W. Barr to write it, as I knew Mike loved Trek as deeply as I did. My thought was to handle the book like it was a comic, not a TV show. Have continued stories. Don’t structure it like a TV show. Have emotional characters and bring in new characters with whom we could tell stories we couldn’t necessarily do with the regular cast, which we couldn’t change. I wanted the cast off the bridge and on planets, and I wanted the problems to be big and not easily solvable. One of comics’ strength is building up a universe and there was no reason to keep it small because the TV show did.
“And all of that had to be done while 100% honoring everything else that made Trek great. Great characters and thoughtful SF stories. I thought we did it and the book sold amazingly well.
“I believe later on the approach was altered to go back to more of TV’s four-act structure, ignoring what made comics work, but as sales dropped that approach was changed back to what I had pitched and what Mike Barr wrote. I think whatever you do you need to remember to use the strength of comics.”
Next I turned to ComicMix‘s own Robert Greenberger, who has long been engaged in Star Trek fandom (be sure to read his Notes from a Final Frontiersman column). Robert was an editor for the DC Comics Star Trek series. I had a lot of questions for him:
Ed Catto: Rereading the first fun DC Star Trek comics, it still seems fresh and exciting to me. At that time, Spock was “dead,” the main characters were dealing with both middle age and career issues and the series introduced several new characters. What was it like to develop the series at that time?
Robert Greenberger: Marv Wolfman lobbied DC for the rights, feeling he didn’t have a real good chance to work with the characters when Marvel had the license. He and Mike W. Barr both worked under the far more restrictive Marvel license and so they wanted to see what they could do unfettered. The absence of Spock was seen as more of a creative challenge than anything else, since removing such a key figure changed the group dynamic. It also let Mike explore Saavik as a character.
EC: Can you tell me about the challenges you faced?
RG: When I arrived in 1984, the book was about six issues along and Marv and Mike were in a nice groove, developing their original-to-the-series characters, to round out the ensemble and have people they could actually do things to. A third film was being planned but we knew nothing about it at the time so continued to try and fill the gap after Star Trek II with interesting stories. Some of it felt like vamping and required some inventive thinking which is where, I believe, Mike hit on the idea for a Mirror Universe saga.
EC: At that point you were celebrating Star Trek’s 20th Anniversary. Just how different was that from the 50th Anniversary we’re celebrating now?
RG: Paramount Pictures chose not to do too much special for the 20th. There was some licensed merchandise but it wasn’t as big a deal to them. Len Wein was writing the comic for me at the time and we agreed we’d do a special story for that September. I got to use extra pages and he came up with “Vicious Circle!” a fun sequel to “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” allowing the TOS-era crew to meet their film series counterparts.
Paramount finally made a big deal on the 25th and now, the 50th. I’d love to have been involved with this year’s celebration since some transmedia storytelling could have been fun.
EC: I really liked the artwork on the DC series. What can you tell about working with talented guys like Ricardo Villagran, Tom Sutton, Gray Morrow, Curt Swan and even Eduardo Barreto?
RG: Ricardo was living in the NYC area in the early 1980s landed some work at DC, which led to Marv offering him Trek. He relocated to his native Argentina and we used DHL to make the monthly schedule. He needed the reference but smoothed out Tom’s pencils. Tom was a tremendous storyteller and I loved working with him, but the likenesses were never his strong suit. Eduardo Barreto stepped in for one story and if I could have, I would have shackled him to the Engine Room – I adored his Saavik spotlight, but he was in such demand I couldn’t keep him.
When I could, I spelled him with people like Gray Morrow and Curt Swan who handled the work really well. Then I lucked out with Gordon Purcell on Trek and Peter Krause on TNG, young guys who gave it their all and it worked.
EC: You’ve been involved with both Star Trek fandom and comic book fandom for many years, Robert. Can you compare and contrast the two fandoms?
RG: Comic book fandom was a direct outgrowth of science fiction fandom whereas Star Trek fandom splintered from SF fandom since they were looked down on for preferring filmed SF to prose. It was far more broad-based and in many ways welcoming so it grew faster than anyone could have imagined. The passions and infighting remains exactly the same, though.
EC: How does Star Trek fandom react to Star Trek comics?
RG: When there was nothing else regularly published, it was most welcome. Many didn’t like the inaccuracies in the Gold Key books but it was all they had between the infrequent Bantam novels throughout the 1970s. The Marvel series was much better received but suffered from inconsistent creative teams, an editor who didn’t know the property well, and a license restricting them to whatever was established in The Motion Picture. When DC arrived, they had a much broader contract and an editor, Marv, and a writer, Mike, who knew and loved the material. They got to be consistent, which the fans responded to. When I took over, I had a smooth-running operation and the fans continued to support us. Today, IDW feels the same love thanks to Mike Johnson’s stories.
EC: There’s a plethora of Star Trek podcasts now. Do you listen to any of them and what are your favorites?
RG: I honestly listen to exactly one podcast (totally unrelated to comics or Trek) despite having been interviewed for several. I respect Michael Clark, over at Visionary Trek, whose The Captain’s Table podcast has been good to me.
EC:Star Trek has had such a long history in comics. What are some of your favorite Star Trek comics over the last 50 years, and what do you think is the secret ingredient to adapting Star Trek to comics?
RG: I was honored to find six stories I was involved with make it to Comic Book Resources’ recent Top 10 Star Trek Comics of All Time list. My personal favorites are things like Star Trek Annual #3, by Peter David and Curt Swan, Debt of Honor with Chris Claremont and Adam Hughes, and The Modala Imperative miniseries by Peter, Michael Jan Friedman, and Pablo Marcos since it crossed TOS and TNG using Spock as the lynchpin. I enjoyed Glenn Greenberg’s Starfleet Academy run at Marvel and various stories from the other publishers.
Comics is not television and the action and special effects translate differently. To me, the secret sauce in the comics is keeping the focus on characters, working with the ensemble and serializing subplots so you can really explore issues in ways a 60-minute episode of two hour film cannot come close to working with. This way, we offer readers a different experience and shine the spotlight on different facets of the crew or races that make the universe so incredibly fascinating.
EC: Thanks, Robert and Marv. I wonder if Star Trek is one of those 50 year olds that wish to be 20 again?
Bear with me once again as we step into the “borrowed” WABAC machine to visit another era – one fraught with its own cultural peccadillos, its own world-view, and its own sensibilities.
You’ve probably heard that WB is extending their never-ending line of direct-to-disc DC-based animated features this fall to include a new, original, and undoubtedly awesome story set in the world of the 1966 Batman teevee show. In order to do this effectively they needed to procure the services of the sadly few surviving series stars, so they wisely put Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar in a recording studio to belt out their performances as Batman, Robin and Catwoman-the-first, respectively.
None found this a new experience. West has been voicing all sorts of stuff – most notably, Family Guy, although he returned to Gotham City in several of the subsequent animated Batman teevee series. Ward voiced Robin in numerous animated shows, and Newmar voiced Catwoman in the Arkham Asylum video game. She also played Martha Wayne to Adam West’s Thomas Wayne in The Brave and The Bold. And good for them; I’m glad they’re still around and still working.
But, wait. Let’s take that stolen borrowed WABAC and zot on down to January 12, 1966, the day the original live-action Batman series debuted. ABC promoted it heavily, stoking up the crowds to a fevered pitch with shots of sundry stars in action and of the greatest teevee car ever built. “People” were awaiting that debut with great curiosity while “comics fans” were looking for entertainment and validation. Many comics fans at the time felt they received neither.
The show was a joke. A sitcom in the classic “Hi Honey I’m Home” sense of the term. I enjoyed it, although my friends did not. I was a big fan of comedian/actor Frank Gorshin, and he was brilliant as The Riddler. I also enjoyed Burgess Meredith as The Penguin, both Newmar and Eartha Kitt as Catwoman, and Victor Buono as absolutely everything he ever did anywhere. And the show was funny – unfortunately, before too long we had seen everything they could offer and Batman the Phenomenon grew boring.
But not before the mid-summer debut of the wonderful movie version, which offered us all four main villains and a slew of fabulous toys (to quote a Joker of another mother) and a decent story, written by the teevee show’s developer, Lorenzo Semple Jr. Remember that name.
I think the reason why so many of my fellow comics fans of the time disliked – well, make that hated – the teevee series was because it was too close to the comic books. Not the Julie Schwartz-edited books of the time, but the Jack Schiff run that preceded it. Julie took over in 1964, around the time the teevee show started pre-production. Still, Julie did heroic work in restoring Batman to its historical glory, and this new… sitcom… seemed to undermine that effort.
Case in point: Around 1980 I was editing a magazine called Video Action and I pulled from my mini-horde of comics friends to write for the magazine. Marv Wolfman, he of enormous and well-earned comics fame, reviewed the movie Flash Gordon – a decent adaptation of the classic comics strip, except for the actors who played the male and female leads (yeah, that’s a problem). Marv started out with a condemnation of the movie’s writer, the aforementioned Lorenzo Semple Jr., as the man who ruined Batman. To be fair, Marv handled all that with his usual laser-like wit and affable charm, but he made it clear that he didn’t want to be invited to any dinner parties that Semple might attend.
That was then, and this is now (and so is the next moment; but I digress). Baby boomers love to talk about how great rock and roll was back “in our day,” but a lot of the most popular stuff heard on the radio sucked and we-all condemned it. But as both we and the music aged, we’d hear those tunes on the car radio and we’d find ourselves singing along.
I think, so it is with Batman 1966. It’s part of our childhood, our kids think it kinda ridicules our childhood and they like that, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to see the intended humor in the series when you contrast that approach with the almost psychopathic Batman we’ve seen over the past two decades. As an unintentional parody of these more “serious” times, the 1966 show can be kind of fun.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is due to be released on home video in mid-October and I’ll probably see it. It won’t get the same reception that the 1966 theatrical received when I went to see it at a Saturday matinee filled with 11 year olds, but that’s because it’s less likely that the younger movie-watchers will be hurling lethal Jujubes at one another.
But, of course, I’m not speaking for Marv here. To the best of my knowledge, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is not based upon a script by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
My mom died thinking she threw away a copy of Superman number one from 1938.
Yes, I do indeed realize just how lame that must sound, and it would be if I gave a flying fish about that book with regards to my mother. I don’t but it’s important to the story I’m trying to write and just so I’m crystal clear, I’d happily burn the last copy left on Earth to spend just a minute more with my mother.
It was Superman number two she tossed out, and you can read the whole story entitled A Comic Book Tale on ComicMix.
I told her it was number one while trying to make the point that she should never throw out another comic book of mine, ever, and she never did. I have been keeping that my secret weapon for when I needed a real ‘gotcha’ to use on my mom. She was always just to quick for me when it came down to… well… to anything.
I’m a funny guy, but she was funnier and smarter than me, and I’m a smart guy. Despite what you may have heard, I am not a loud mouth, thug, tasteless or immature. Bizarre is a matter of opinion as is nauseating and although a 160 IQ does not preclude me from being stupid (been there, be back soon) I’m nobodys’ moron.
I know. I didn’t believe it either.
All my life my mother said goodnight to me one of two ways: “Goodnight genius child of mine” or ” Goodnight Bartholomew.”
“Bartholomew’ was my mom’s way of stopping me from asking the same question repeatedly, such as “Why don’t I have a middle name?”
The last time she said goodnight to me I was in her hospital room during what would turn out to be her last two weeks on earth. “Michael, you are a genius. However, I have forgotten more than Scooter ever knew. So keep that in mind.”
That was brutal. Mortal Combat fatality, your 90-year old sweet as sugar grandmother, shouts Ooooooooh Shit all up in your face, brutal.
Scooter, the childhood nickname for my world renowned artist cousin William T. Williams.
Scooter once told me he had forgotten more than I would ever know. He said this to me after I refused to concede a point during a discussion about Picasso.
“Picasso can’t draw!”
I boldly told this to a man whose paintings hang in some of the world’s greatest museums. So badass is he when DC’s long-time publisher (and former art critic) Jenette Kahn found out he was my cousin she insisted on meeting him. In my defense, I was 12 or so when I threw down such stupidity, but the fact of the matter is his statement made today would still ring true.
In those two weeks with Jean (yes I call my mother Jean) I’d let her have her fun recounting my childhood antics then, always before any visitor departed, I’d hit them with the Superman #1 story. That tale always brought a smile to Jean’s face, and she would follow with an embarrassing story of my youth.
Without fail those accounts began with her patented; “Mike and those comics of his…”
It turns out a great many of my mother’s favorite stories had to do with my love for comics, like the time my sister got me to cease my evil little brother antics for an entire week after her friend Yvette promised me ‘lots of new comics.’
Damn Yvette and her evil lying demon eyes!
I was amazed at the amount of remembrances conjured up in that hospital room with comic books the lead or supporting a narrative. I always thought my comic book hobby was, like me, a wee bit annoying to my family.
It appears I was not paying attention.
My cousin named one of his paintings Batman, which at the time, I considered the coolest thing ever and that’s saying something because that was the year I discovered girls. One day I had a choice between seeing Sadie Jackson’s boobs or debating with Julian Butler, my then-best friend, why Swamp Thing was much cooler than Man-Thing. I choose to argue with Julian who I thought would forever be my best friend.
Then one day he just punched me in the face and ran away. That’s true, and I had no idea why. Damn, that keeps happening to me and still no explanation or Sadie Jackson titty action.
I never realized how comics played a part with others in my family.
It was my mom who turned me onto the original Captain Marvel and taught me the art of the comic book deal, buy two, trade one. It was another cousin, Greg, who sold me seven golden age comics including that Superman number two for a buck.
Those and other memories, once among my most cherished are now painful to relive. Without my mom to co-sign, my trip down that lane brings little joy these days.
I once loved the comic industry with a passion almost incomprehensible but that industry I loved so is gone. What remains is a fat out of shape ghost of its former self. A snake oil salesman selling a yearly new everything hoping fans will consider it a glorious new tune.
But it’s the same old song.
I watch as new universes are considered original ideas and wonder who else thinks the same characters in a different setting, i.e., ‘universe’ isn’t new?
Tom Sawyer in another setting is a new story to be sure, but it’s still Tom Sawyer. You make Tom a black kid and he’s still Tom. You put Black Tom in another setting where he’s painting a fence; he’s shot by the police who take his white paint covered brush for a gun, but he’s still Tom.
It’s most likely just me but that ‘new universe’ thing now feels fake and a lazy way to avoid trying anything new. No, originality is not dead in comics, but most of what are unquestionably original concepts are happening far, far away from where I live which for better or worse is DC and Marvel.
That same old song is a problem, but it’s not the problem.
Some of the brightest people in entertainment are in comics, so this too shall pass I’m sure as it always does.
What slays me and I fear will destroy us all is how we see, speak and represent ourselves.
Character assassination over a creative decision. Damning a company, creator or content because someone wrote or drew something someone took issue with, rumors perceived as news, news handled like press releases were all once virtually repudiated as just being silly.
Like the once King of Rock & Roll, I fear comics have left the building for perhaps the last time and like the king will die on the bathroom floor face down in the shit we’ve made.
Dan DiDio may be one of the most hated men in comics and for what? For doing his job? Back before Dan was running DC, he was a network executive at ABC. I sold Dan and his partner at ABC Linda Steiner an animated show called “Monkey But…” That’s not a typo – that’s how the title of the show is spelled; it was a nutty idea. The best way to describe it was how I pitched it: Animaniacs on crack.
Dan and I spoke every day and got pretty friendly. Then Disney bought ABC and Dan, and Linda’s jobs were in play. The Hollywood game was to wait until Disney settled on whoever would be running ABC Saturday mornings, I made it clear I wanted Dan and Linda on the MB team even after it became apparent Disney did not.
When Dan and Linda were let go, I called to offer support keeping in mind talented people always end up somewhere else. Dan ended up at DC Comics and although we’ve had two project meetings getting them were, let’s say, not as easy as you would think given our history.
Yeah, that sucks.
I thought he and I had become friends and have the emails to back that thought up. I thought the same of Bob Wayne, who for a brief moment in time was my DC Comics running buddy, until he wasn’t.
In today’s comic industry climate, I’ve ample reason to dislike or even hate Dan, Bob, Paul Levitz and others if I rolled like that… but I do not.
Dan brought a TV series from me; Bob took me to the single best convention ever in Texas no less… and Paul was an extraordinary mentor and friend.
I couldn’t hate these people if I were paid too and trust me people have tried. I’m just not that guy. That’s not who my mother raised. Each of those men represented a piece of my comics’ journey, and largely it was good.
I’ve voiced what issues I’ve had with each of them at some point but hate them because of such? I’m an adult with what I hope is a bit of integrity so, no.
Dan, Paul and Bob all love comics, in fact, I know not one single person who got into comics just as a job. Everyone I know who writes and draws comics got into it because they loved comics.
A few months ago I had dinner with Len Wein and his lovely wife, Christina. Anyone looking would have thought it was just three friends having a meal.
But across from me sat the man who has created more iconic characters than anyone with the possible exception of Stan Lee. Stan usually gets the nod outright, and his work is the work of legend to be sure. That said consider the following, Len has created A-list characters both at Marvel and DC. Although he ran Marvel for a year, most of his creative output as a writer had to find a home whereas Stan’s creation already had one.
Stan is still the man the man his mark on comics and pop culture so high it’s doubtful anyone ever reaches it. The same could easily be said for Len. Len’s been in the game for over 40 years; I’ve known him about 20.
In all that time I’ve never heard Len rant against anyone, and if anybody has a right to pitch a fit, it’s Len Wein. Whatever issues Len has if he voices them the goal is never to harm anyone. Len still talks about comics as if he were still a kid going taking the DC comics tour with his best friend, Marv Wolfman.
Both were hoping against hope that they would be discovered and start to work in comics. They were, and few creators can match what these two have done in comics.
What they haven’t done is take offense to someone’s work because they don’t agree with the person who did it. They don’t call creator’s horrible names or damn an entire company because they don’t like what one individual is doing.
Len, Marv, Mike and Paul all still talk about comics as they once did, with love and respect for the medium. Those guys have done more for the industry than every hater who is talking shit combined.
Be you a new fan who brought your first comic today or a superstar creator in the industry for 40 years jumping on a bandwagon of hate, bitching about something other than story or art adds nothing and takes away much from an industry already thought of as childish and immature.
I understand and support if attacked then by all means have at it. But piling on a creator because it’s the flavor of the month? It’s that sort of thinking that keeps us Hollywood’s bitch.
The movies making the most money are from our house. But we’d rather bitch about Dan DiDio still running DC than applaud Eric Stephenson, publisher at Image Comics. Eric gave the greatest comic book speech since Stan Lee told Peter Parker that with great power comes great responsibility.
“I’d like to talk about the future, but first, we’re going to do some time travel, back to a time when there was no Internet, no Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram. A time when there were no comic book stores.”
That was Eric’s spectacular opening and it got better from there. We should still be talking about it. The industry coverage of that speech?
Almost none. Perhaps if Eric had started his speech with the following, we would still be talking about it.
“I’d like to talk about the future, but first, we’re going to do some time travel, back to a time Dan DiDio wasn’t screwing up DC, Marvel didn’t suck, and there was no Dark Horse because there shouldn’t be any damn Dark Horse.”
Yep, we’d still be talking about that.
I believe, and I could be wrong its love that motivated the modern comic book industry. We live in an age where artists and writers have become publishers and owners; love guided them in, and it’s that love that’s been forgotten.
The love my mother showed by indulging my comic book passion became clearer to me during those two weeks with her. She explained how happy my reading made her and happier still when comics lead me to art. No easy thing to co-sign for a woman raising two kids by herself in the projects.
The Jon Cnagy; learn to draw art set was an early art gift from Jean. Soon I graduated to Dr. Martin’s 16 color starter kit, black bound sketch books and about a thousand Rapidograph pens. Not essentials by any means but my mother made sure if I wanted something for my artwork I had it.
A career in art wasn’t on the list of jobs that would lift you out of the ghetto. But it was all part of the plan to keep me off the streets and alive. Comics lead me to art which brings me to apprentice in my cousin’s studio which leads to a career in professional art.
I once loved my profession with a passion, now not so much and that just fucking sucks. I can use as much love as I can get these days, hell who couldn’t?
Like I said, I think it is love that’s missing from our industry. Love of our craft, love of our history and most importantly a love of ourselves.
No idea how to fix it, but somehow I’d very much like to get back to feeling about comics the way I did when I teased my mother. The way Len, Stan, Paul, Marv, Eric and yes Dan still talk about comicsL with love and hope for the future.
Bitch and moan all day about the work that’s the right of anyone who buys comics. That right does not extend to slandering, threatening or spreading rumor as fact, leave that to the Donald.
While many in the industry continue to turn on each other, some even creating another tempest of hatred once the last storm has lost the wind that propelled it Len Wein just writes another story creates another character all done without a hateful word towards his fellow creators.
That’s not to say Len can’t create a storm. He has. She’s in the X-Men.
Sometimes a writer can sit in front of the computer screen for hours, fingers poised on the keyboard, and – nothing happens. Not a word, not a syllable. Not a random thought, not a brainstorm. There’s not one single idea that can be expanded upon, not a hint of anything that seems at least remotely interesting.
Hmm, here’s something.
Did you read Denny’s column last week, the one about the Mighty Marvel Method? This writer came late to that particular game; in fact, I didn’t even know it existed, and the first time I heard the words “Marvel style” – another way to describe the “method” – I didn’t have a clue, though I was familiar with what a “script” was, having read numerous plays, including a whole lotta Shakespeare, in high school and college. I do think that, for novices, the best way to learn how to write a comic is by the “full script” method, which helps (forces?) the writer to understand pacing, hone dialogue, and think visually, because in the full script the writer is describing the artwork in each panel. This can be pretty easy to do in an action scene, but what if it’s basically just two people talking? Then the writer has to think like both a director and a cinematographer, and keep the “camera” moving and the “light” interesting, because otherwise a “talking head” interlude, no matter how important it is to the plot, how crucial to moving the story forward, is just plain b-o-r-i-n-g.
Either way, as in a football game, it’s a team effort. The writer may be the quarterback, but without a trusted receiver – Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Peyton Manning and Demarylius Thomas, Tom Brady and Julian Edelman, Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. – he or she won’t reach the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl. I’m thinking Alan Moore and Stephen Bissette on The Saga of the Swamp Thing, Marv Wolfman and George Perez on The New Teen Titans, Frank Miller and David Mazzucheli on Daredevil, our own Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams on Batman. Neil Gaiman and Sam Keith on Sandman. And, of course, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four, The Mighty Thor, Captain America, et.al. Of course, these are all classic pairings; YMMV.
Did you read John Ostrander’s column yesterday? John is rightly furious. What’s happened in Flint Michigan is a fucking disgrace. Oh, and one thing John didn’t mention. The fucking Republican Ohio Governor Rick Snyder wouldn’t ask for federal aid or for the President to declare a federal emergency because, you know, Obama’s a Kenyan Socialist Muslim Anti-American Democrat. And he’s black. Thank God for Rachel Maddow, Michael Moore, and the Detroit Free Press. And above all to Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who blew the whistle.
Yesterday I finished semi-binging on The Man in the High Castle on Amazon – semi-binging because I didn’t watch all 10 episodes at once, but divided it up into two “showings” – so I wasn’t aware of the release of the American prisoners from Iran until about 5:30 or 6 p.m. MSNBC and CNN were both covering the story. I turned to FOX, because I was wondering what they were saying about this windfall from Obama’s policy on Iran; no matter what you think about the nuclear deal with that nation – and I’m still on the fence about it – our people have been released. Would Fox, the bastion of fair and balanced reporting” at least celebrate that? Nope. They just kept replaying and replaying the Republican debate from Tuesday night until the other stations turned to other stories. So fucking typical. Meanwhile, the sixth prisoner, Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who allegedly was in Iran on a covert CIA mission (according to ABC News) and who disappeared in March 2007 is still missing. I told Mike Gold that I think he’s dead.
By the way, The Man in the High Castle is a brilliant and engrossing adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel. I heartily recommend it.
Labor Day. It sounds like a day when we all should be out there laboring our asses off – or, if you’re an expectant mom, the day you give birth. (Now that’s labor!) Instead, it’s a national holiday on which we all un-labor.
The United States Department of Labor defines the holiday as “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
There’s no mention of the bloody Chicago Haymarket Square Riot on May 4, 1886, or of the Pullman strike in that same city almost exactly eight years later, or of the appalling conditions in which ordinary workers, i.e., laborers, had to struggle to make a living wage. Three-day weekends? Are you kidding me? As the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) of Downton Abbey asked, “What’s a weekend?” Not only were there no weekends, there were no 40-hour weeks, no overtime, and no benefits. The unionization of industries was looked upon as a plot of anarchists, communists, socialists, and “foreigners” intent on destroying the fabric of American society.
It wasn’t until 1935 and the National Labor Relations Act that the right to organize and bargain collectively, i.e., to unionize, for better wages, hours, and working conditions, especially the safety of employees, had the bulwark of the U.S. government behind it. But immediately corporations en masse fought against the Act – which was progressively weakened until, in 2009, the corporate community used modern media tools and millions upon millions of dollars to create new lobbies, with “New Speak” names like the Workplace Fairness Institute and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace. The bottom line is that these national lobbies and individual state “right-to-work” laws have effectively killed unions in this country–which claimed that any legislation protecting the right of unions to exist would take away workers’ right to vote for or against unionization in a secret ballot.
And then there’s outsourcing…a product of President Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). Everybody knows that the manufacturing industry has fled the United States. Basically, the corporations said, “if you can’t join them, fuck ‘em,” and moved their operations to countries where:
The minimum wage is $3.00/hr;
There are no child labor laws;
The work week is expanded to whatever the corporation decides;
Health and safety laws are non-existent;
Unions are banned; and
Environmental protection laws do not exist.
So. What does all of this have to do with comics? Well, there was an effort to unionize, back in 1978.
In that year, a group of then A-list writers and artists banded together as the Comics Creators Guild – which is sort of like a union, but for freelancers who are given work but not on an on-going basis. Led by Neal Adams, the group included Cary Bates, Howard Chaykin, Chris Claremont, Steve Ditko (which I admit is surprising to me since he was a follower of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism), Michael Golden, Archie Goodwin, Paul Levitz, Bob McLeod, Frank Miller, Carl Potts, Marshall Rogers, Jim Shooter, Walt Simonson, Jim Starlin, Len Wein, and Marv Wolfman.
Janelle Asselin of Comics Alliance wrote on May 11, 2015, “One of the things the group did was put together a list of recommended rates for publishers.” These rates were (and thanks to Janelle and Comic Book News for this):
Fees for First North American Publication Rights
Art Work, per page: $300.00
Script, per page: $100.00
Lettering, per page: $40.00
Coloring, per page: $70.00
Fees for foreign first publication rights were to equal 25% of the first North American publication rights, and fees for reprints would be 50% of the first North American publication rights. In addition, any work used in licensing agreements would result in payment to the “talent” equal to the first North American publication rights.
Janelle wrote, (and thanks for doing the math, Janelle!) that adjusted for inflation, these rates would be $1080.00 for artists, $360.00 for writers, $144.00 for letterers, and $252.00 for colorists. I am assuming that these are “entry-level” rates, by the way.
I remember talking about the Comics Creators Guild with Paul Levitz and Marv Wolfman when I worked at DC in the 80s; I never really understood why it failed, except that perhaps it is because that, on the whole, creative types are ornery loners. And that there are – despite the growth of other markets and web comics and independent press – still hosts of eager-beaver young talents willing to accept pittance and give up any rights to their work in order to write, draw, letter and color Marvel and DC’s four-color heroes. Still, Hollywood, that bastion of creativity in America (say that with a smirk on your face) is a union town. In fact, you cannot work in the television and movie industry without a union card, and that includes extras, or a guild membership.
Which led me to this thought:
Now that Marvel and DC are firmly in the land of La-La, perhaps the fact that Hollywood is a union town will influence and lead to today’s (and future) comics creators to form a union that lasts. Or perhaps one of the unions and guilds already established will take them under their wing, such as the Writers’ Guild of America – West.
We’ll see. Because, for at least right now, Hollywood is just about the only place in America where unions still have real power.
With the possible exception of the Black Panther, no other black franchise has garnered as much “it’s going to be a major movie or TV show” hype within the fan rumor mill than Static Shock. Finally the Black Panther is going to happen. As for Static Shock … kinda.
In 2018 the Black Panther movie will be released from what is now the best superhero moviemaker bar none, Marvel Studios. Static will make his way to the Internet as part of Warner Bros’ Digital arm later this year.
I find that rather disappointing.
More than any other black property, Static pretty much already owns the Internet. The massive amount of love Static has on the net is nothing short of extraordinary. In the 22 years since Static burst on the scene the admiration for the character has only grown and at no point shows signs of waiving.
That’s simply remarkable and considering the half of a half ass way Warner Bros. has “supported” the franchise. Unbelievable. I will concede, on one hand it makes perfect sense to exploit the immense allure Static enjoys on the net.
On the other hand, Static is the only African American superhero with the overwhelming popularity created by African Americans and boy would it be nice to see him with a couple zillion dollars budget on the big screen or just a billion dollar budget on television.
Two white guys, Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan created Blade and I’m happy to say, Marv’s like family. I said as much to a sold out crowd at The Magic Johnson Theater on Blade’s opening night. When his name appeared in the credits, I could not control myself (story of my life). I leaped up and clapped like a maniac.
“What you clapping for?” Said a rather large black guy who was not amused at my outburst. Imagine that, someone pissed in a black theater over a loud outburst! Silly me, I should have remembered to only shout out during the movie.
“I know him.” I said, while eyeing the exits.
“Yeah? Is he a brother?” He retorted. Then I realized everybody black was now paying attention and except for a white girl some idiot had brought with him, everybody was black. Shit, I had to think fast…
“Yeah.” I said trying to sound hard. “He’s my brother.”
Big smile from the big guy and cheers from the audience. I sat down and my date put her arm around me. “Yo, white girl, what you doing?” I said as I took her arm from around my neck and whispered, “Hey, here’s some cash, take a cab back to my place.”
Todd McFarlane created Spawn…Oh! Some of y’all didn’t know Spawn was black? Yep. Al Simmons, Todd’s black pal, was the real life inspiration for Al Simmons a.k.a. Spawn. I guess that means Spawn is no longer in the running for the Tea Party’s favorite comic book character.
Todd’s a friend, and as far as I know still white. Cyborg is another character from my brother Marv and George Pérez. George’s a great guy also a friend and he’s Latino. That’s close, but not black.
Luke Cage was created by Archie Goodwin and John Romita Sr. Both white guys, both part of comic book, each a dear friend. Archie gave me my first professional job in comics and when I met John I quickly forgot how I planed to kidnap him and hold him until Marvel brought back Gwen Stacy, my second love after Laurie Partridge.
So, I had a thing for white girls! Get over it. I did!
Archie died in 1998, leaving a comic book legacy that will stand forever. He’s still widely regarded as the best-loved comic book editor, ever.
Sabre was created by Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy. Both white guys … sort of. Don’s so cool he could be black.
Don means the world to me so much so I’d take a bullet for him. He’s a wonderful writer (one of the best) and just as wonderful a person. I’ve never met Paul but he’s on a very short list of artist I wanted to draw like at one time.
There’s a few more famous black superheroes but trust me all were created by white guys, the grand daddy of them all, the Black Panther having sprung from the two coolest white boys, nah, scratch that, the two coolest creators in comic book history, period.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Stan was and still is the man and Jack will always be the king. Stan and I used to have lunch a couple times a week. His office at Marvel productions a floor above mine at Showtime in the Westwood Los Angeles office tower at which both companies were housed. I became friends with Jack a few years before the king of comics left the building forever. Sad, sad day.
Unless one of those fantastic creators are hiding a past which includes a white sheet and a southern drawl, African Americans had no better friend in comics. Much like those in Hollywood who dared create movies and TV shows around black people that were not bellboys, slaves or servants these men fought our fight before we were allowed on the battlefield.
Imagine the sheer balls it took Columbia Pictures to green light and then distribute the ground braking film, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? That film, a love story about a black man and white women, is still not shown in certain parts of the south. Released in 1967 during the height of the C=civil rights movement more than a few death threats were issued.
Now, imagine its 1966 a year after the assassination of Malcolm X. There’s another side emerging from the civil rights movement. The Reverend Martin Luther King’s non-violent approach was being challenged by those who cultivated Malcolm’s original “by any means necessary” doctrine.
No group was more ready to go to war against there oppressors than the Black Panther Party.
With that as a back drop Stan and Jack create the Black Panther in 19stillhanganiggerincertainpartsofAmerica66. That takes the kind of balls reserved for those few men and women with a sense of purpose, a goal, and selfless heart.
In a very real way the sons of Stan and Jack created Static Shock. Co-created by my former Milestone Media partners and I a great deal of our inspiration was the Black Panther, Luke Cage and Stan and Gene Colan’s Falcon. As a kid seeing those Black superheroes I have no doubt they brought us where we are today, African American comic book creators.
Static Shock may not be as well known as those black heroes but without a doubt it’s the most well known black superhero created by black people. It’s time that black kids see fully what they are capable of.
Any positive black face on television or in a film is important but we all know people of color are still the stuff of, “wow there’s a black (fill in the blank)” or “the (ditto) now has a black (ditto, ditto).”
Shock and awe still accompany way too many occurrences in America when a person of color is placed in a station denied until then. Kids of color need for those occurrences to become as commonplace as images of the black thug, lazy welfare mom or absent father.
That, my friends is my long-winded reason I find a live action Static Shock debuting on the net rather disappointing. The most successful black superhero created by black people will be seen in media outlets where black kids have less access than any other group.
Not a whole lot of MacBooks in the hood. Hell, not a whole lot of any book or computers. If there is a computer the odds are it’s the family computer. Everyone having their own is about as realistic as Ted Cruz giving a fuck about poor people.
Why Warner Bros. Consumer Products never made Static Shock toys when the cartoon was a mega hit is just as curious to me as to why Static has never been a movie or why a live action version can’t be on television.
Speaking of the live action version, there’s been a pretty hot rumor flying around that Jaden Smith will be playing Static Shock. People are losing their damn minds, clearly hating on the kid because of his off screen antics or secondly saying he can’t act and he will kill the show.
Bullshit. Jaden Smith will do fine.
Reggie Hudlin is the show runner and a better person to spearhead Static I can’t think of. If Jaden sucked (he does not) there is no way he would have that gig, Will Smith or not, Reggie wouldn’t cast someone not right.
I’m amazed people who call themselves fans of Static want that kid to fail.
Newsflash, fan boys and girls. If he fails so does Static.
I know a bit about Static.
Trust me, I should know, I’m not just a co-creator I’m the lead creator having created the Static Universe as part of the Milestone Dakota Universe. Static’s world is based on life and family growing up.
Despite what you’ve read as few so-called entertainment “journalists” do any background vettes Static’s my baby. Funny, an entire lying myth has been created, a lie, based upon lazy journalism printed somewhere else and copied over and over has now become reality to most.
That “reality” doesn’t make it true.
I’m the lead creator of Static Shock. I based him on my family and my life. That’s the truth. A lie may prevent most from knowing but like global warming the truth won’t go away and neither will I.
Jaden Smith is a good actor his personal life doesn’t make him a bad actor.
That’s also the truth. Hating him for no other reason except his idiosyncrasies is the stuff of simpleminded fools. He’s not playing himself, he’s playing Virgil Hawkins, A role he was born to play, in my opinion.
The problem with Jaden isn’t his off screen antics or his haters. The problem is a great many kids he was created for won’t be able to see him until some genius at the WB realizes just how important Static is.
Superman: C’mon, Kara…don’t give up. You’ll make it. Pl…please…please stay with us.
Supergirl: I can’t. B…But’s it’s okay…I knew what I was doing…I wanted…wanted you to be safe. You mean so much to me…so much to the world.
Superman: You succeeded in destroying the machines.
Supergirl: Thank heavens…the worlds…have a chance to live…y-you’re crying…please don’t,,,you taught me to be brave…and I was…I love you so much…for what you are…for…how good you are…
The Death of Supergirl, Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 October 1985, Marv Wolfman and George Perez
I watched the teaser. And though I generally don’t watch them because of their usually really bad quality, the bootleg version of the pilot episode mysteriously showed up in my e-mail box the other day; by the time you read this I will not have been able to resist. You are my favorite super-heroine of all time.
How many times have I mentioned you, Maid of Might – one of your nicknames back in the day – on these pages in the last two – or is it three – years? The last time was just two week’s ago in Occam’s Razor.
I was heartbroken when Marv and George decided to end your life in Crisis. I mourned both for you and for the death of my childhood dream. And I mourned for the end of an era – of all the changes that Crisis wrought, this was the one that struck me at my core, this was the one that felt real, felt irreversible.
And I felt old.
And even though you came back, you didn’t come back the same. You were no longer your cousin’s secret weapon, you were no longer hiding in an orphanage as an ordinary Earth girl named Linda Lee. You didn’t have a Linda Lee robot to cover for you when you were off doing super-missions on your own or for your cousin, and you didn’t have a best friend in the orphanage named Lena Thorul, whom you didn’t know was actually the sister of Lex Luthor, your cousin’s arch-enemy.
You didn’t have a cat – the only thing I didn’t like about you, because I’m a dog person – and you didn’t have a super-horse named Comet – which was another reason I loved you, because I’m a horse person – for the “strange brand” marking his hide. You weren’t a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and you didn’t have three boyfriends: the 31st century green-skinned, brilliant Brainiac 5, the Atlantean fish-tailed mer-boy Jerro, and ordinary Earthling and fellow orphan Dick Wilson.
Fred and Edna Danvers didn’t adopt you, and you didn’t rescue them from certain death, blowing your secret identity, which of course your cousin agreed you absolutely had to do. And the people of Earth never celebrated and honored you when your cousin finally said that you were ready to graduate and step out on your own, so you never met the President and you were never honored at the United Nations.
Well, there is one good thing. You were never kidnapped by Lesla-Lar of the bottled Kryptonian city of Kandor and brainwashed into believing you were she, living her life as a respected scientist in a city in a bottle kept by your cousin in his Fortress of Solitude while she lived your life on Earth.
All that history, and more, wiped out of existence as if it never happened, never inspired the imagination of one little girl and, I bet, thousands, maybe millions, like her, who read comics and dreamed of things that never were but could be.
All that history to draw from, to borrow, to homage, to even reinterpret…all the things that could be….
…when you, Supergirl, make your first debut on network television this fall.
Baby mine, don’t you cry. / Baby mine, dry your eyes. / Rest your head close to my heart, never to part, / Baby of mine. • From Walt Disney’s “Dumbo”(1941), Words and Lyrics by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington
So Donna Troy is coming back.
Only this isn’t the vibrant, intelligent, powerful, and oh-so-very human – with all the foibles and strengths inherent in homo sapiens – young woman that I came to know and love back in the day when Marv Wolfman and George Pérez created and collaborated on The New Teen Titans.
This is a Donna created through the teamwork of Meredith and David Finch, who has been granted life through the dark arts, through black magic, and as she rises naked from the brewing miasma of a black cauldron, and so we react with fear and horror, our intrinsic fear of human sacrifice, blood ritual, and “unnatural” life causing us to recoil in horror and to whisper a psalm of David, to cross ourselves in supplication to God, to ward off this, this thing with shaking hands making patterns in the air, signs and symbols as ancient and as useless as our dead forefathers who huddled in fear on the plains of Africa as the light left the world and the darkness arose.
This thing is something forged in fire and brimstone. This thing is evil personified. This thing is wickedness beyond redemption.
This thing is sin come to life.
Yet once there was a woman, whose soul was dying from longing. Yet once there was a woman whose arms reached to hold nothing but empty air. Yet once there was a woman whose life was desolate with the silence of her home. And so this woman prayed to her gods for relief from this sorrowful existence, begged them to release her from her solitary misery.
She fasted in repentance; she washed only enough to ward off evil odor; and she put off wearing colors and smooth satins and silk, and dressed herself in haircloth and solemn hues. She ate sparingly, only enough to keep her alive, and took the bounties of her kitchen to the sick and needy among her sisters. And yet, for so long that Queen Hippolyta of Themiscrya lost track of the days, months, and years of her travail, the gods were silent.
And her Amazons whispered behind her back, and some thought that she must be overthrown, for she was mad, they said, and death will come to us all in following her, as surely as it did to the daughters of King Cecropsof Athens, who threw themselves from the Acropolis, or into the sea. But others calmed them, saying that the melancholia in their queen’s heart would find respite in their loyalty.
Then, one night the queen had a dream. Hermes, the messenger of the gods, came to her and whispered instructions into her ear. “Do not speak of this to anyone,” the winged herald said. “For if you do the gods will turn away from you and your life, such as it is, will continue in solitude as you watch your sisters and this paradise come to enmity and fall into entropy and chaos.
That morning the queen bathed once again in the milk of heifers, and had her attendants clothe her in the magnificence that was her due. She perfumed herself with the musk of roses and broke her fast with jellied eels and warm bread, and once again slaked her thirst with the waters of the Pool of Life. Her attendants asked her many questions, but, remembering the words of Hermes, she silenced them and sent them away.
Alone now, Hippolyta made her way to the shores of Paradise Island, where in a hidden cove she stripped herself of her finery. Naked, the queen made absolution to the gods, smearing her face with the mud of the ocean, and also over her womb and breasts. She knelt in the wet sand, and from that same mud formed the figure of a newborn babe.
And she prayed, repeating the words that Hermes had whispered in her dream.
The sky darkened and night fell upon Themiscrya, though it was noon. A cold wind blew and Hippolyta shivered as it battered her naked body. She looked up into the sky and saw that Selene, the goddess of the moon, had eclipsed Helios, the god of the sun, for this was the time of woman.
She looked back down upon the clay figure, and as she did so, she felt her breasts suddenly grow heavy and milk leaked from her nipples. A great pain spasmed through her loins and up into her uterus, and the queen lay down, crying out in a moment of fear as her legs drew up over her stomach and something moved within her body. For what seemed a lifetime Hippolyta lay there on the beach, wracked with pain, unable to stir afraid, sure that she was being punished for her arrogance in not accepting the fate woven for her by the Morai.
“Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos, forgive me,” she groaned. “Forgive my presumption. Allow me to live to serve you and my Amazons.”
There was no answer.
And then there was a light, such a bright golden radiance, so that Hippolyta closed her eyes against it. And there were two voices.
“Do not be afraid, daughter,” said Leto, the goddess of motherhood.
“I am with you, as I am with all women at their time,” said Eileithya, the goddess of childhood.
Hippolyta opened her eyes. The goddesses, bathed in a glow that had no earthly source, stood before her.
“We have heard your prayers,” said Leto.
“And they are answered,” said Eilethya.
Suddenly the queen felt as if a great chariot lay at the doorway of her secret place, that place where no man had touched in so long. She felt, rather than saw, the two goddesses kneel on either side of her, then one was behind her and pushing her up into a sitting position, but taking the weight of Hippolyta upon herself. Opening her eyes, Hippolyta saw the other – was it Eilethya? – crouch before her, a blanket of silver cotton in her hands. “You must push now,” said the goddess. “Lean again Leto. She will be your rock.”
Hippolyta felt as though she was falling off a great cliff. From high above her, she heard the goddesses speak. Their brightness was as a pinprick in the darkness starting to envelop her.
“She will be the greatest of the Amazons, a gift not only to yourself, but to the world, for it is to the world she will belong.”
“A great warrior against the darkness, yet her soul and heart will be full of love,” said Eilethya. “All the glories and gifts of all the gods and goddesses of Olympus will be hers.”
“Her name will be Diana,” said Leto.
Warm salt water was in her nose and her mouth, and Hippolyta sat up with a start. The sun was warm on her hair and shoulders; it was noon, judging from the position of the sun; she was still in the cove, with only the sound of the surf and the cry of seagulls for company. Why had she come here? She had a memory of covering her face and parts of her body with mud, but reaching up to her cheek, there was nothing there except for a few wet grains of sand. She lifted her gown, which was soggy with ocean water. Her body was clean except for a few stray pieces of seaweed on her belly.
The queen shuddered. Had there truly been an eclipse? Had she dreamed it all? Or was she, as she knew many whispered, truly mad?
That wasn’t the sound of seagulls.
A baby was crying somewhere.
But there had been no babies born in Themiscrya for millennia, not since the last children were born to those Amazons who had been raped by the men of Greece and Sparta in that terrible final war. A war which had led Queen Hippolyta – she herself raped by Hercules, though no child had resulted – to lead those surviving sisters who were willing to turn their back on what came to be known as “Man’s World” to Paradise. The immortal island.
The baby – if that was what it was–was still crying. Hippolyta followed the sound with her eyes.
There. Just where the surf met the sand. Something was lying there. Shakily, Hippolyta rose to her feet.
As she did so, she felt a warm gush of liquid spurt from her breasts, staining her gown. And a trickle of blood slid down her inner thigh. As if….
She stared down at the baby. It had black hair, black like the waters of the River Styx, and eyes were a strange green-blue, reflecting the color of the Aegean Sea where it met the Mesogeios.
The queen picked up the infant, who was wrapped in a blanket of very fine and very soft silver.
This past week, you’ve likely seen it: Denise Dorman, wife of “Famed Comic Book/Sci-Fi/Fantasy illustrator Dave Dorman,” decided to write an op-ed concerning the decline of sales she and her husband have been privy to over the last years. She has since posted a second response to make her points more clear.
Denise’s original piece began: “Privately, famed comic book industry personalities everywhere are discussing with each other whether to stop exhibiting at comic book conventions. There’s a fine line between being accessible to and pleasing the fans vs. losing money at these conventions.”
Unshaven Comics has been independently producing comic books and attending comic conventions regularly for only seven years or so. In no way, shape, or form do we come close to the level of fame and success her husband has enjoyed. But in the time that we have been active, I have never heard a single peep (and we in the Artist Alley tend to be a gossipy bunch to begin with) about this discussion. In fact, at the Cincinnati Comic Expo I attended this past weekend, with Mark Bagely, Marv Wolfman, George Pérez, Neal Adams, and Bob Layton I saw only smiling faces – even when lines weren’t incredibly overcrowded. And while I did hear from some folks around us that the show wasn’t bringing them tons of business, only our neighbors decided to cut ties early. And for those playing at home, Unshaven Comics beat our desired sales goal by over 25%.
At first, Bleeding Cool would have you believe that she blamed the Cosplayers. This is not true. In her second blog on the matter, Denise points blame to the “newbreed of attendees who are there because someone said its cool to be there.”
To that point: Comic Conventions weren’t founded with the expressed concern of making creators money, they were ways to bring a community of fans together for the opportunity to commiserate, a way to trade and purchase issues to build budding collections, and meet those would-be creators who were the reason the conventions were created. These conventions were small – starting out in gymnasiums, VFW halls, and hotel ballrooms. This new breed (and those who specifically come to the new larger shows), per Denise, are hangers-on to the fad; those who come because they think it’s en vogue. Those who show up not being card-carrying comic book fans.
Her column went on to note as sales were simply non-existent at ole’ Wally World:
“…You know, you start to get paranoid. You start to think, ‘Is it only us? Is Dave no longer relevant?’ So I began covertly asking around. Asking artists equally in demand, equally famous. No one I interviewed made money at that show.” Ultimately Denise falls back on her assertion that it’s these quasi-fans that are most likely the culprit to her husband’s decline in sales specifically at conventions. Mrs. Dorman continued “I have slowly come to realize that in this selfie-obsessed, Instagram Era, cosplay is the new focus of these conventions – seeing and being seen, like some giant masquerade party. Conventions are no longer shows about commerce, product launches, and celebrating the people who created this genre in the first place.” She’s absolutely right. And may Rao bless that fact from here to the next Crisis.
Comic book conventions have become less and less about comic books. On this, I don’t disagree. In addition to comic books, they now encapsulate science fiction (like Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Star Trek), fantasy (like Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter), and gaming (like Magic: the Gathering, and Warhammer). A cursory glance back at Mr. Dorman’s Wikipedia page celebrates that he has created artwork for Batman, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Star Wars… and Magic: the Gathering. Curious then that he’s not connecting to the larger audiences coming to these shows. But I digress.
The point made was that the flux of cosplayers and their subsequent fans are now taking away from the open commerce, Marvel and DC press release parties, and the creator-gushing of yesteryear. You might say that the conventions are becoming more about a gathering of a like-minded community coming together to celebrate their loves and less about dropping ducats on merchandise from people who now can be accessed via a personal website, or any number of social medias.
What troubles me is this: My table of artists (including me) who aren’t in demand or famous saw an increase in book sales upwards of 10% at the show (over last year) Mrs. Dorman most recently attended. This included a day where we set a single day record for total books sold – 225 of them to be exact. How would it be then, that a table of peons would somehow out-earn those who are known in the industry? Did our nefarious plan of installing a toll booth actually work? Someone better go back and get a shit load of dimes!
Denise went on to ask: “At what point do you start to wonder if – other than your faithful, loyal regulars who are like family and who find you every time – the general fandom population even gives a shit about the creators more than they care about their Instagram profiles?”
Allow me to answer in kind. The general population – those Instagram-obsessed fans – gives more than just a shit for those creators who take the time to reach out and communicate. I say this admitting freely I’ve never seen Dave Dorman. And we’ve exhibited at the same shows more than once. I don’t know how specifically Dave exhibits. But if he is like others I’ve seen over the last seven years… he may sit, smiling, awaiting those loyal regulars to come with cash in hand. In short, it’s not enough anymore. It hasn’t been that way in a long time.
For those new fans Dave needs to continue to be the celebrated creator he is, I ask how he chooses to engage them? Having not been a specific fan of his work (and yes, he is actually an astounding talent), if I were to walk past him, would he attempt to stop me and chat? I’m not selfie-obsessed, but I’m also not apt to make it a chore to check with every exhibitor at a convention. Especially if there’s a cool cosplay I need to post a picture of. It’s no longer enough to rest on the laurels of a resume, or even the strength of a displayed portfolio. The market has evened out. All who exhibit are slowly becoming equals amongst the growing legions of fans flocking to the shows. And it’s clear to me, as it should be to all creators: If you’re not making money… it’s not the fault of the fans, or the rising ticket prices, or food costs. The blame doesn’t get to be shuffled anywhere else but on those who make no effort to change with the rolling tide.
The fact is that the newest generation of fans that frequent comic conventions are coming first and foremost to celebrate their love of the media. That love need not be via purchases in the digital era. A comic on my table is considerably less than a commission a known artist offers at their table. When one faces a sea of new faces (heh), the easy money is on the short sale – be that a celebrated or loathed fact. Never once in my time behind the table have I heard from legit fans (including those in every conceivable generation) that the cost of a ticket, a hot dog, or an autograph prevented them from purchasing a comic or print from my table. Cons are costly, I’m not denying that. But at the end of the day, the fans are coming on their own terms, not by the financial needs of those of us behind the table.
Mrs. Dorman’s original post ended “…at what point would YOU cut bait and stop attending these shows? How do we satisfy the fans in a way that makes sound financial $ense ? ? ?”
To be blunt, here are my answers: I won’t cut bait, ever. We earn our fans one at a time. I assess the marketplace. I exhibit within my means. I analyze my sales data. I adapt to a changing market. I work my ass off. And I don’t wait for fans to come discover me. I make them discover me. I don’t want to be an instigator, or one to throw a punch at an undeserving target. The truth of the matter is that the conventions of old are dwindling, if not dead. If Wizard and their ilk don’t offer comped tables to creators who are there to turn profit, then those creators must accept that the shows are now not there the fans’ need to connect to creators. For good or bad… They’re there to connect with each other. If you want that to change… It’s not about cutting ties or holding conventioneers responsible. It’s about getting your hands dirty and figuring out how to make the change yourself.