Tagged: Mike Gold

Marc Alan Fishman: In Defense of the Modern Comic – Continuity

One more time to the well I go! As with my articles over the last two weeks … I’m taking to task one Tim Marchman of the Wall Street Journal. He quipped that the comic industry is in a tailspin in part because of “clumsy art, poor writing, and (and I’m paraphrasing…) the clinging-to-continuity.” I’ve defended the art. I’ve defended the writing. I might as well finish off the trifecta of telling this putz where to shove his opinions, right? Even if it gets Mike Gold in a tizzy.

It’s the argument I hear (and honestly have made myself… whoops) time and again; Modern comic books are too hard to get into because they have a nearly-impossible-to-grasp forever-changing mythology. In fact, this very argument was brought to life (and a live audience) to WBEZ (Chicago’s NPR affiliate) at a well-attended debate. At that debate? Tim Seeley, Mike Norton, and a handful of other local comic artists and writers. Suffice to say, the argument has legs. Long, tall, sultry legs. Legs that start at the floor, and go up to the heavens. The kind of legs that keep lesser men at bay. OK, I’ll stop with the leg analogy. I get it. Really, I do. “If I want to read Spider-Man, I need to read decades worth of stories to understand what’s going on!”


Sorry, my son is watching me type.

Huh. Now there’s something to latch on to – my son. Soon, Bennett will gain the power of language and communication. And I plan to read him a comic book every night before bed. Why? Because I want to teach him, from as early an age as possible, that comic books (and their never-ending back-stories) are entirely accessible. From the simplest base of knowledge – sometimes rooted only in the musings, opinions, and un-fact-checked thoughts of another comic book fan – enjoyment is not hindered by a lengthy back story. In fact, when handled well, a story with a rich history only yields further desire to immerse ones’ self in the adventure further.

Case in point? GrimJack

When “The Manx Cat” hit shelves, I nabbed it, tepidly. Knowing nothing of the adventures of the beret-wearing, bar-owning, sword-gun-and-sorcery-using mercenary, I still made the purchase. The issue was clearly meant to attract a new reader (as DC did with relaunching their entire line, and Marvel does when they append a “.1” to a book’s numbering). As I recall, the inside front cover didn’t have a lengthy history report. Over the course of six issues, I learned what I could from what John Ostrander presented. Some of it was easy enough to latch on to. “This guy’s been around the block a few times. Seems to have an elaborate network of operatives, friends, and history around this universe.” Other things made me scratch my noodle. “He’s obviously referencing a previous adventure the older fans know. Hmm. Sounds interesting. Maybe I’ll go back and check it out…”

And therein lies my point. All it took was a spark of interest, and I dove in. Comic books are akin to other serialized mediums – Professional Wrestling and Soap Operas come to mind. Before your eyes roll, and you snort loud enough to make the cat wake up, hold tight. When I uttered (err, typed) those phrases, did the hair on the back of your neck raise up just a little? Well, suck it up, nerdlinger. For the “big two” in the industry… their wares aren’t really all that different from Vince McMahon’s steroid showcase, or the major networks’ never-ending dramas of soapy nature. The fact is the very root of comic books is tied to the idea of serialization. To proclaim it being part of the reason the comic book business is failing is like saying wrestling is failing because it’s fake.

Now, to be fair, Marchman may very well be commenting on modern books being “written for the trade”, which I covered last week. When you walk into the store today, and want to check out The Avengers (cause you just saw that kooky flick, don’t-cha-know…), the first issue you pull off the shelf may be right smack dab in the middle of some zany plot you’ve no clue about. Reading 20 pages of content piling on top of two, three or four previous episodes makes for an nearly impossible-to-enjoy experience. I guess you’d throw up your arms, and leave the shop. Maybe go into the back alley. Buy some drugs. I mean drugs don’t care about history, do they? And they’re just as addictive… Damnit comics! You made another near-fan a drug addict.

Here’s the rub: It’s a lame excuse. If you came out of the movie theater jazzed about the Avengers, a quick jaunt to your local fiction house would help satiate your new-found-taste for muscles and fights. A well-picked trade, or handful of issues later (let’s say about $20 worth, or less if you go digital), you can then start pulling off the rack, right afterwards. Will you know everything going on? No. But if the books are written and drawn well enough? I bet you go back and fill in the gaps. I did with the Fantastic Four, not that long ago. Without any knowledge of the years Hickman spent building his nuanced epic arc, I jumped in head first (right after Johnny “died”). And over the course of the following year? The book rose to the top of my pull list. And now, I’m going back through his entire run. Because I want to know more. All it took was the first step – and admitting my previous excuse for not buying the book was just that… an excuse.

Suffice to say, Marchman’s point about barrier to entry is just a sly dodge away from the real issue (which is more about the Direct Market, availability, and proper marketing by Marvel and DC to potential fans). For those people who say “I’d get into comics, but there’s too much backstory to get through,” what are they really telling you? Jim Gaffigan had it right all along:

“You know my favorite part about that movie? Not reading.”

SUNDAY: Did Somebody Mention John Ostrander?


Michael Davis: Once You Go Black, Part Four

I got the idea for this series when I received a call and was told a project of mine was turned down because “Black doesn’t sell.” I was told to my face more than once by a certain asshole “when it comes to entertainment, black means death.”

Really, Bruce? How you living now, motherfucker? I’m going to guess it’s nowhere as good as I’m living, bitch.

Yeah, I tend to hold grudges but in my defense I’ve been pretty good lately. I’ve been known to rant like a mad man from time to time. In fact when I first started in the industry I did and wrote some shit that got me tagged as the “bad boy of comics.”

You know what I did upon hearing that? I changed the name of my studio from, Michael Davis Studios to Bad Boy Studios and, yes, this was before Diddy.

Why embrace what many think is a negative? Anger. I was very angry back in the day. I figured if people wanted a bad boy I’d be a bad boy.

How that work out for me?

Very well, actually.

Now, young creators, just don’t think you can develop an asshole, take no prisoners, attitude and the world will beat a path to your door. That road is paved with the bodies of many mofos who think that personality equals talent. It does not. People put up with Harlan Ellison’s shit because Harlan is the real deal, or to put it plainly, Harlan is one of the greatest writers to ever pick up a pen: Harlan once told Frank Sinatra to fuck off.

This was during the time when Frank was not only the biggest star in the world but he was also hanging out with more than a few wise guys, if you know what I mean. Harlan takes no shit and he calls a spade a spade. Harlan’s opinions are bigger than life but there is not a single publisher on this planet that would not love to publish a Harlan Ellison project.

But if you think that just being a bad ass is a great way to secure a rep and thus secure a career, you are an idiotic asshole or a Right Wing radio host and that shit will not work in comics.

How did (do) I get away with the occasional rant? Because I deliver the goods. I’m real good at what I do and I generate revenue and it’s all about the revenue.

I’m nowhere, even remotely in Harlan’s league but the people I work with know what they are getting with me and either they don’t care about my rants or they don’t think about them.

Why don’t they care? Would you care if the million dollars someone was bringing you were old or new bills?

It’s all about the money folks. It’s all about the Benjamins. It’s all about the cash. It’s all about revenue.

One day I realized that even though it had worked for me, anger was not the only way to fight against what I thought were injustices some wanted me to endure.

I figured I’d just cool out and not let little things bug me. Why be angry?

So over the past few years I’ve been mostly “rant free” on the comics and entertainment front. Politics is another matter; I regularly lose my mind about that over at www.MichaelDavisWorld.com.

While working on this series of articles I started to get angry. Angry like the Michael Davis of old. The Michael Davis of old that was the “I don’t give a fuck” Michael Davis.

My plan when I started writing these series of articles was to make my case in parts one through three and bring in some of my heavyweight black entertainment friends to underscore that black does indeed sell in this, my final installment.

So much for the plan.

I was on the phone with the director Bill Duke when the anger I’ve tried my best to curtain over the last few years returned with a fury. I told Bill I’d call him back and sat down to write this last segment and, yes, the old Michael Davis is back.

Back and I’m mad as fuck.

Hollywood’s unofficial “Black doesn’t sell” attitude is simply bullshit and the more I think of it the madder I become.

It’s all about the revenue and black properties and people generate revenue in every category of entertainment. Hell, in music and sports we are the rule, not the exception. You don’t see anyone saying that the white players in the NBA who fail is because they are white. No, they fail because they are not good enough, just like the black players that fail.


I don’t have to call my Hollywood black powerbrokers to underscore that black does indeed sell. Take a look at what has been done across all entertainment areas. Every single one of the people on my list to call has made a grip in Hollywood and not just selling to black audiences. The Cosby Show was the most successful sit-com on television. Will Smith and Denzel Washington are two of the biggest box office draws ever. In fact, Samuel L. Jackson is the highest grossing film actor…ever.

Black doesn’t sell? Give me a fucking break.

Black projects sell like crack… if done right. That’s goes for every damn project in Hollywood. If done well, the project will do well.

Every time a black project does not do well Hollywood makes black creators in effect show their papers like a freed slave at a southern checkpoint. The black President of the United States of America has been vetted by the CIA, FBI and scores of other agencies. He has showed his birth certificate time and time again and yet some on the right continue to insist he show his papers, again, like a suspected slave stopped in the middle of Alabama in 1850.

Well it’s not 1850 and Hollywood is not Alabama. It’s 2012 and there’s a brother in the White House and Samuel L. Jackson is the highest grossing film actor… ever. If the leader of the free world and the king of the box office are both black don’t insult the intelligence of the people who buy those tickets you sell Hollywood with your “Black doesn’t sell” lie.

I am under no misconception that the Far Right inbreeding bastards will stop the attack on the President, but I still harbor some hope that the entertainment industry and hell yes this includes some comic book publishers will stop condemning projects because some black projects have failed, its stupid and has to stop.

In comics it’s not just a black thing either, projects that feature women fail and that’s reason for some publishers to be wary of the next project featuring women no matter how bad ass the idea is.

That’s just stupid.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

The new Static Shock series was not cancelled because Static was black. It was cancelled because Static was fighting a giant fucking fish.

Grow the fuck up, Hollywood. It’s all about revenue and any project that succeeds or fails in this day and age does so on its creative merits or many other factors, bad marketing, horrible word of mouth, opened on the same weekend as Avengers II.

Reasons for a movie failing or succeeding are many. Making the reason black people is a bullshit reason. Granted if there is ever a movie called Kill All White People and it starred an all-black cast of white people hating black militants and the story line was to kill all white people and that movie failed then Hollywood would have a point.

Then, yes, if that was a real project, black meant death… on more than a few levels, if you think about it.

I know how hard Hollywood hates change, so here’s my idea. Ready, Hollywood?  Keep that silly black doesn’t sell bullshit line when a film that features a black storyline or actor in a leading role fails. Keep that but the next time Will Smith or Sam Jackson star in a film that makes a zillion dollars say the reason it did so is because they were black.

I’d be OK with that, but somehow I don’t think you would be.




Dennis O’Neil: Selling The Flag

Captain America, Abbie Hoffman and the sexy statue in the women’s department? What the heck do they have in common?

Hey, everyone, it’s Memorial Day here in the beautiful lower Hudson Valley and if we venture out into the sunshiny pre-summer day, we’ll be seeing some flags. Flags flapping from flagstaffs, flags draped on the front of houses, flags on cars and maybe shop windows and if we drive west, toward New City, we’ll see flags – a lot of flags – displayed along the road that passes over the reservoir because somebody – I have no idea who – hangs them from roadside poles there.

Maybe I’ll even throw them a salute or two, those flags, for old times sake. (At one point, my life was full of salutes. Not so much anymore.)

The other day, en route to a department store escalator, I passed a curvy mannequin clad in a bikini that seemed to be fashioned from, yes, a flag. I didn’t salute – hell, I didn’t even leer – but it’s just possible that I thought of Abbie Hoffman and Captain America.

Abbie, most of you may not know (because his moment happened before most of you were born) led protests of the Viet Nam war. (He was smart, charismatic and energetic and articulate and, come to think of it, a friend of ComicMix’s own Mike Gold.) In 1968, in Washington, Abbie was arrested for wearing a shirt that looked like a flag. This is not as draconian as it might seem (though it’s still plenty draconian): in those days, most states had anti-flag desecration laws. So, technically, Abbie was breaking the law.

His conviction was appealed, and overturned. Sometimes the universe is just.

I wonder: would the law have pounced on, say, a lady wearing a stars-and-stripes bathing suit? The flag code, which is promoted by patriotic organizations, specifies “no part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.” Surely, a swimming suit, however minimal, qualifies as an “athletic uniform.”

And what if our swimmer lies down for a snooze on the beach? Again, the code: The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.” Wouldn’t sand be as insulting as water? (And what kind of “merchandise” are we talking about, anyway?)

If our hypothetical bathing beauty is in trouble, Captain America had really better watch his p’s and q’s. Remember: “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume…” And doesn’t Cap roll around in the dirt dodging bullets and the like?

I guess, at the end of the day, it all depends on who’s wearing the symbol, and why, and on who presumes to sit in judgment. That’s what the flag is, a symbol. Or a rectangle of colored cloth. But I won’t be entirely facetious if I salute it, later today, though what I’ll be saluting is probably different from what a tea partier salutes, or what is honored by the old men who send young men to war.

That’s a problem with symbols. They’re slippery.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


Michael Davis: Once You Go Black, Part 3

If you have not done, so please read last week’s article. Thanks.

I’ve encountered quite a few things in my Hollywood journey. Some great some not so great and some that really sucked.

Really sucked.

I once sold a show on a Monday morning and by Monday night the show was gone and so was my deal.

I once had a great idea for a reality show. I took the idea to a huge Hollywood player with the intention of making him the host of the show. He loved my idea. He loved my idea so much he tried to sue me and take the show. The show I created and asked him to be a part of.

One of the fun things about Hollywood is finding project financing. That’s always the highlight of any deal…not.

My partner in one particular deal was the fantastic writer, TV producer and now huge young adult novelist E. Van Lowe. E (yes, I call him E) and I spent a weekend in San Francisco securing funding for this great project.

We were a well-oiled money getting machine that weekend. We pitched the project like major league all stars and the money people were so impressed we had a yes before we left to go back to L.A. In fact, the meetings went so well that after we sold the idea and spent the rest of the weekend in the city by the bay just hanging out and celebrating our new fully financed deal!

Monday morning bright and early we boarded our flight secure in the knowledge that we were about to make television history!

When we touched down in LAX all was right in the world. E dropped me off at my house and before he left he took a phone call.

The deal was dead.

Dead like Lincoln. What happened? Or in hood speak, What had happened? Why hood speak? Because this is an article about blacks in the entertainment field and unless I throw in some hood speak many in Hollywood won’t take this seriously.

I know, I know. It’s pandering but you have to understand there are some in Hollywood that thinks my Ph.D. stands for pretty hard dick.

Well, continuing hood speak, what had happened was a third partner had decided she had not contributed enough to the closing of the deal so while E and I were happily flying to L.A. that bright Monday morning, she who must not be named was having a talk with the investors at breakfast.

Neither E nor I had any idea she was having this talk, and what a talk it was. She talked us right out of the deal.

Ah yes, there’s no business like show business!

I’ve got more horrible yet uplifting to my enemies stories but I’d best get to the point. In the blah blah years I’ve been doing the Hollywood thing I’ve had some great experiences and some (obviously) not so great experiences. Rather great or sucky I’ve never had a deal go south because I was black.

You would think that the way some in Hollywood react to black properties that would be the standard issue rejection.

Dear Michael Davis,

Thanks for coming in to pitch Negro Stories: Stories about black People.

Unfortunately, although we loved the concept, we could not help but notice there were many segments about black people in your pitch.

We completely understand the need for more diversity on TV but we are a business and everyone knows that black does not sell.

Sorry, homie.


Ian White

Executive, Fox Studios

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that black doesn’t sell or black is death and many more asinine statements regarding black properties in the entertainment business.

Think about this for a moment. There are people running studios, networks and comic book companies in 2012 that think that black doesn’t sell. These people think that America will not pay to watch black people entertain them.

That’s as stupid as thinking that just because I’m a black man I have a huge peni…nope, wrong example. That’s as stupid as thinking global warming is a myth. Global warming has been proven without a shadow of a doubt. Those people who refuse to believe in it despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary do so, in my opinion, because they simply don’t want to believe it.

Who denies facts? Well the GOP for one, and many in the entertainment business for sure.

Black doesn’t sell?


Here’s a news flash, Hollywood. Young people drive Hollywood revenue. Young people decide what’s hot and what’s not. Pop culture is a young person’s playground.

Here’s the kicker. Black culture is youth culture. Let me be clear, African American culture is youth culture all over the world.

It’s our swagger that drives pop culture. That’s our music your kids are listening too. That’s our style of dress you kids are wearing, that slang you don’t understand comes from us. That’s us who dominates sports, that’s our dance your daughter is trying to do…badly.

The film Heaven’s Gate was made for what was in 1980 an unheard of budget of 50 million dollars. That’s like 75 billion dollars in 2012 money. OK, maybe I’m a tad off but it’s not a stretch to think that in 2012 dollars that 50 million would be upwards of 300 million or more even.

Heaven’s Gate made three million dollars.

Damn! That, as they say in the hood, is ghetto!

Now that would be bad enough if the lost was just 47 million but the lost was much more. The budget was 50 million to make the movie. The adverting and marketing costs added millions more to that sum.


Heaven’s Gate just may be the worst box office disaster in the history of the world…that and The Spirit. Sorry, Frank.

Using the Hollywood formula applied to black movies that box office performance should have prevented another western from being made for years and years. When a black movie fails Hollywood loses its mind and then it’s years before another black movie is made because black means death and black doesn’t sell.

Here’s what I think, when any movie fails, black or white it’s because the movie could not find its audience for whatever reason… or perhaps it’s because the movie sucked.

George Lucas wrote a $58 million dollar check to produce Red Tails, an all black film about the Tuskegee Airmen. He said in an interview that Hollywood did not want to fund the movie because they did not know how to market it.

Translation: black equals death.

The movie did not do well. Here’s my guess why that was. It wasn’t a great movie.


I wanted to like it but there were too many plot issues for me and the film seemed a bit contrived. The movie was the problem, not the racial element.

According to some in Hollywood, when a black movie fails its because it was a black movie – when any other movie fails it’s because of a zillion other reasons.

If that’s not the world is flat thinking then I really don’t know what is.

I’m amazed at the sheer idiotic thinking of some in Hollywood.

Black doesn’t sell?

Will Smith.

Black doesn’t sell?

Oprah Winfrey.

Black doesn’t sell?

Tyler Perry.

Black doesn’t sell?


Black doesn’t sell?


Black doesn’t sell?

Jamie Foxx.

Black doesn’t sell?


Black doesn’t sell?

Denzel Washington

Black doesn’t sell? Bullshit, Mr. Hollywood, simply bullshit. The above list is a very short one to be sure but I think it makes the point rather well.

I think the problem is not that black doesn’t sell Mr. Hollywood but rather you don’t know how to sell black.

End, part 3.

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Emily S. Whitten wants stuff!

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold takes on Secret Identities!


Marc Alan Fishman: Words of Advice, From One Noob to Another

The Sunday after Free Comic Book Day, we Unshaven lads participated in a very old-skool styled convention. Housed in a ballroom and corridor in a hotel off a major road with little to no foot traffic. Don’t get me wrong, the show was fine for us. We made back our cost of attending, and a little to spare. Even better? I found some old Exo-Squad action figures and Matt got some old Marvel trading cards. It was a good day. What really made the con for us though, was our across-the-aisle neighbor. A young pup, still in college, selling at his first show. Shucks, we thought, that was us just a few years ago.

And then he asked us for advice.


We tripped over ourselves to unearth every con-attending-tip we’d accrued over the years. And this dude … well … he ate it up. This is what it must feel like to be Mike Gold.

With that in mind, I thought I might take a week off my normal ranting and raving to give some sage advice to all four of you reading this column who are either younger than me, or like ironically reading advice from a nobody. Specifically, I want to address people out there looking to start a web-comic. Why? Well, because Unshaven Comics wants to do it. See? I’m offering advice to myself. How meta! But I digress … some things to consider:

1. Deadlines exist on the web too.

The best web-comics being produced today all share one thing in common. They update on a schedule. The point is clear: Commit or quit. If nothing else, I freely admit this is the single reason Unshaven Comics has yet to have to throw a tooned-up beard in the ring. We’ve simply never mustered the gumption to produce work in such a manner people can depend on it. With the advent of our website we’ve slowly come to terms with posting content on a schedule. We’ve released podcasts nearly every week the site’s been live … as well as releasing monthly sketch contests inspired by our fans. It’s only now that we feel comfortable enough to commit to a schedule. Hence … a forthcoming launch is inevitable.

2. Your voice will come all in good time.

I look at my favorite web-comics these days … Penny Arcade, PvP, Let’s Be Friends Again, The Gutters … and it’s easy to notice how styles (both in script and in presentation) evolve over time. Well, maybe not so much The Gutters, but there’s always an exception to the rule. One of the best parts of working on the web is that it’s a forever-shifting canvas. All artists evolve. A web-comic is as much a timeline of an artist’s work as anything else. The key here is to just start making strips, and let the product and the responses you get to it, help shape it as you continue. This applies not only to the ‘funnies’ mind you. Even the serious web-comic is a never-ending project in process. Just as joke writers learn to find their own voice … so too, do novelists, musicians, etc. Simply put? Your comic needs to have a point-of-view, and a set of rules to play with and then eventually break. None of this comes though, if you’re waiting to “perfect the idea.” Sometimes you just have to hit “post” and let it ride.

3. Putting your name on it means it shouldn’t suck.

It’s an oldie but a goodie. If you sign your name to something, mean it. A commitment to craft at all times can only stand to sway your readership to stick it out with you. Read and reread your script. Ensure characters stay on model. If you can’t draw a hand, go take some classes and come back when you’re ready. Your audience will evolve with you, but if your “pilot” isn’t enough to capture them the first time you’re wasting pixels and bandwidth. While this may seen an antithesis to my previous point, it is indeed not. Put frankly, you need to find a balance between delivering a product you’re proud of, and challenging yourself to get better with every book/strip/joke/piece.

4. No creator is an island.

The single best part of making comics for me is sharing the experience with my two best friends. The second best part of making comics is meeting and collaborating with like-minded creators. Scott Kurtz eventually packed his bags and moved to Seattle to be inspired and challenged by the Penny Arcade dudes. In Art School the critique exists not to knock us down as much as it’s there to pick us up after we fall. That being said, sharing your work as you create can only stand to ensure you reach your target audience with the best foot forward.

5. Don’t be afraid to get off-topic.

Some of my favorite strips have all been smart enough to know when to take a break. Not from posting mind you … but from continuing a narrative without coming up for air. Fans of PvP no doubt refer to LOLBat, Scott Kurtz’s love letter to Memes, action comics tropes, and lighter-than-normal punchlines. And after a heavier set of strips, nothing cleanses the palate (of both artist and reader) better than a well-placed non-sequitur. The key being able to know when to “go to the well” to take that break. Cookies are only a sometimes food, kiddos.

I’m sure there’s tons more points to be made on this subject. Consider this being me putting a pin in the idea. And hey, I’m no stranger to listening to myself. If you have any suggestions for budding web-comic creators … why not put some of them in the comments below?

See you in the funny pages. Well … webpages that is …

SUNDAY: John Ostrander Gets Weird On The Avengers


A Death In Our Family

A Death In Our Family

I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate writing this.

Back in the late 1970s, I was editing a home video consumer magazine called Video Action. Amusingly, I staffed the publication with freelancers from the comic book community – people who excelled in the art of visual communications and popular culture. It wasn’t long before I received a letter from Martha Thomases and John Tebbel inquiring about writing opportunities. They presented their pedigrees and cited a whole bunch of mutual friends as references. They could have stopped at Denny O’Neil and Larry Hama.

John and Martha quickly became good friends. There isn’t enough bandwidth in all of Apple’s clouds for me to detail the nature of that friendship and divine the depth of the love I have for them, so instead I’ll focus on one element. There is nothing I value more than brilliant conversation with good friends. It takes wit, intelligence, experience and personality to pull it off on an ongoing basis, and I would swim upstream in piranha-infested waters to spend a few hours with these two.

A few months ago, the three of us met for a wonderful meal at a midtown Manhattan steakhouse. The three of us arrived separately, and John and I arrived early. We got into a deep conversation about how much the James Bond novels meant to us as kids but, upon later reflection, how Ian Fleming was a genuinely crappy writer and what the hell did JFK see in him anyway? By the time Martha arrived we had moved on to our favorite topic, the genius of Jack Benny and his stylistic influence over the next two generations of comedians (Benny begat Carson, Carson begat Maher). When we were seated, we moved on to an array of topics. This was typical for our dinners, but because we had that time before Martha arrived it was, for me at least, an important bonding event. We left vowing to get together again soon.

Several days later – it might have been longer; right now it seems like moments later – Martha called to tell me John was in the hospital after significant medical trauma at home. In short order, we learned he had lung cancer.

John appreciated the irony of having a particularly nasty form of lung cancer despite his lack of an addiction to tobacco. Martha showed more strength in spirit and in love than one could imagine, but none of us were surprised in the least.

You know this story doesn’t end well. John died yesterday. And that, folks, sucks.

Martha’s birthday is tomorrow. Their friends are gathering this weekend to be with her; we were planning on that anyway when we all knew John was in dire straits. It’s a lousy way to celebrate her birthday, but her essence is beautiful and she’s one of the most grounded people in Manhattan. By and large you do not cope with the death of our closest loved ones, but eventually you accept and understand you are surrounded by the love and support of your friends and family.

The ComicMix community lost a member of our family this week, and we grieve as we celebrate John’s wit, intelligence, experience and personality. Our hearts go out to Martha and to their son Arthur, and I know I speak for the extended ComicMix community, our bloggers, our commenters, our friends, co-workers and associates, in offering our love eternal.

– Mike Gold

MICHAEL DAVIS: The Greatest Story Never Told, Part 3

Portrait of former DC Comics publisher and pre...

Please read the last two week’s installments before reading this. Thanks!

What has gone before, quick and dirty recap… I’d sold (in my opinion) the second greatest idea in the history of comics to one of the greatest publishers in the business. It was to be written by one of the greatest writers (Dwayne McDuffie) with art by a guy (me) who was going to make sure this time he got it right.

All was right in the world. Except for one teensy little problem. The editor assigned to the project wanted to change one thing…


A few days after Jenette Kahn assigned the editor, Dwayne went to meet with him to map out the production schedule.  I was living in Los Angeles and the meeting was in the New York offices of DC. There really was no reason for me to be there. After the meeting Dwayne would call and fill me in.

I couldn’t wait for that call. In hindsight, yes, yes I could have.


MARC ALAN FISHMAN: How an Indie Comic Creator Prepares for a Con

Hello, all! With but a few short days before my little company, Unshaven Comics, takes C2E2 by storm, I figure I might as well abuse what little power I have to hype it up. Then I thought that you can get more flies with honey than poo. Maybe my metaphor sucks, but I think the point is clear: Hype is good, but sharing experiences is better. So, consider this the MTV’s True Life: I’m an Indie Comic Creator of articles. Except there will be 10% less talking head interviews.

The first time we crossed the aisle to become “creators” instead of “fans” the whole world was turned on its ear. Whereas I used to mill about the Artist Alley with careful consideration to not make eye-contact with the would-be pitch men, here I was in their spot muttering “How Rude!” under my breath when passersby floated past our table without so much as a nod of the head. It was a sobering experience, all in ten minutes. Luckily for me, Unshaven Comics has been and will always be a communal effort. Sitting next to my two best friends of nearly twenty years makes the cons only a pleasure, never a chore. But I digress. With every con we’ve attended, big or small, we’ve always learned a new lesson to bring to the next.

Lesson one? You can pitch anything you want, but if you don’t believe in it, it shows. Our first con, Wizard World Chicago 2008, we had only The March: Crossing Bridges in America to sell. Don’t get me wrong, we were (and still are) proud of the work. But it was commissioned work. Educational too. 54 pages of upbeat messages, smiling, walking, and immigrant empowering narrative. Pitch that next to the guy selling the Anime Crime Noir story features boobs and guns and see where it gets you.

Simply put, we learned at con #1 that if we were to be successful, we would have to promote material that made us excited to create. For many artists in the alley, their work sits on the table as a testament to their exploration of the craft, or their desire to turn a quick dollar. But for those people pitching their wares because they truly believe what they created is something to note… those are the folks we gravitate to.

Lesson two. Presentation matters. Our first con? We had some sloppy Café Press tee-shirts, a too-long table skirt, and some books. Over time, we added to the menagerie: Business cards, higher quality tee shirts, an 8 ft. banner to sit behind us, and a black tablecloth made our little slice of Artist Alley a bit more homey. We’ve since decided to drop the massive backdrop. Trust me, carrying three paint buckets full of cement, a pile of painted PVCs, and all your materials doesn’t make for an easy trip from car to table. Still to come? A handy rack to display multiple issues. Maybe a small red carpet for those standing at our table. Heh. Artist alley showcases to the masses where you as a company (be it a one manned structure or a small self-publisher such as ourselves), and if you look like you just rolled in from Kinkos, it’ll show on the table.

Lesson three. The pitch. Simply put, we wouldn’t be a success without Kyle Gnepper. Not only a founding member of the company, lifelong friend, and contributing writer and production assistant… at the cons he becomes something far more powerful. He becomes a visceral selling machine; Fearless, hungry, and completely oblivious to whoever stops in front of his cone of selling. Like Hal Jordan facing down Darkseid, Kyle has pitched to Dan DiDio, Tom Brevoort, Mike Richardson, and numerous creators without any knowing smirk just passion to show off our wares.

Did they buy the book? DiDio did, because I guilted him into it. Now you can’t necessarily count Matt or me out of assisting in sales. We both bring our own flair to the pitching process. Matt’s steady hands produce copious commissioned sketches, delighting many passersby. I stay between Matt and Kyle… part salesman, part artist. Sometimes I’ll doodle on the iPad, other times I’ll help us market and coordinate future events, partnerships, and relationships. Don’t knock it… it’s what landed me here at ComicMix.

The final lesson. Growth. Every con we try to bring something new to the table. For C2E2 we are debuting a live action Samurnaut, as funded by our fantastic Kickstarter backers. We have three books (and one repackaged book) on sale at the table, as well as posters, and commissions. Last year we almost sold 1000 books across all the conventions we visited. This year? We plan to break that barrier, and continue making new material. As we gain new fans and followers, we’ve gain amazing friends. And while we may never grow out of the artist alley, get our shot at the big time, or graduate to ‘featured guests’ at any con… the best lesson we’ve learned puts it all in perspective:

It’s not the prize at the end of the quest you do this for… it’s the thrill of the journey.

This weekend, Marc Alan Fishman and the Unshaven Comics crew will be at Booth K19 in Artists Alley. Don’t be offended if fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Adriane Nash and Mike Gold are hanging around interfering with sales from time to time.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander Leaves Morocco!


I’ve seen the light.

I’ve seen the future of comics.

I had a meeting yesterday with a company that is going to change the game on the net and can change for comics and creators. I’ve haven’t been this excited since I was 17 and my very first real girlfriend Yvonne Stallworth said, “My parents won’t be home until the morning.”

At 17you know what that means, right fellas?

Poon tang…yeah.

Or in my case spending the night saying; “Please…please…please.”  Before you think I was begging for poon tang; “Please, Please, Please” is the title of a James Brown song I was singing… as I was begging for poon tang.

I can’t talk about the company or what they are doing…no that’s not true, I can talk about it but I’m hedging my bets just in case I’m wrong…which, by the way, I’m not.

That way if they crash and burn I’m protected and if they succeed I’m golden!

All the above said, I’m at a lost as to what was the last game changing moment in comics.

I guess it was the New 52 from DC.

I guess.

I’m not sure because to say something is a game changer is a big deal. Because it’s such a big deal I started thinking, what does it take to be a real game changer?

This is what I came up with. Areal game changer is a person or event that creates a new way of looking at things and years later that way has become the way.

So, with my personal criteria noted what follows are what I consider the most important game change decisions or people who have done so since I’ve been reading comics. You may disagree and if so feel free to amend, add or challenge some or all of my choices.

This list is in NO particular order.

  • Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man
  • Image Comics
  • Jack Kirby
  • Stan Lee
  • Dwayne McDuffie
  • First Comics
  • Mike Gold
  • Milestone Media
  • Death of Captain Marvel
  • Death of Superman
  • The New 52
  • The iPad
  • The Killing Joke
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths
  • Secret Wars
  • Death of Barry Allen
  • Neil Gaiman’s Sandman
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Kirby’s fourth world
  • Death of Gwen Stacy
  • Dave McKean
  • Bill Sienkiewicz
  • San Diego Comic Con International
  • Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles
  • Alan Speiegal
  • Arkham Asylum
  • Paul Levitz
  • Jenette Kahn
  • Axel Alonzo
  • Howard Chaykin
  • Dark Horse
  • Mike Richardson
  • Len Wein
  • Marv Wolfman
  • The A.P.E convention
  • John Jennings

Like I said the above list is in no particular order. Don’t send me comments about McFarlane being before Stan Lee, the list is in no particular order.


Now. Have at it!




A few weeks ago my dear friend Lisha invited me to a dinner party.

I hate dinner parties.

I especially hate those where I don’t know the majority of people at the table. I hate them with a passion. I’d rather sit at home alone with a bowl of Frosted Flakes watching movies than attend 99.9% of the dinner parties I’ve been invited to.

I don’t care if they are serving my three favorite foods in the world, steak, lobster or bacon.

I’d do anything for bacon, but as Meat Loaf says “I won’t do that.”

At most dinner parties it’s always the same kind of people. Boring. Boring people.

I just cannot abide people sitting around a table getting drunk and talking smack about things I just could give two cents about. I always end up in a debate with someone over something and the person who invited me in the first place always ends up apologizing for me pimp slapping someone verbally.

Case in point: the last dinner party I attended was around four years ago. If that seems like a long time it is, now consider this, I’m invited to a dinner party at least at the very least 5-10 times a month. That’s a lot of dinner parties, is to not?

The previous dinner party I went to I got into it with a woman on, of all things, being black. She thought I didn’t know how to be black.

She was a white wasp in her mid-fifties and she just could not understand why I was not supporting Obama. This was during the Democratic primary season and at the time I was a Hillary supporter. This woman could not imagine a black person who was not prepared to vote for Obama. I tried to explain to her that I supported Hillary because I thought she was a better candidate and I just wasn’t prepared to vote for Obama just because he was black.

She didn’t get it. She refused to get it. After a good 20 minutes of her telling me how ignorant I was I had had enough so I went… here… “Voting for Obama just because he’s black would be like marrying a women just because she’s a Ugly Bitch. It makes no sense to me, but clearly it made sense to your husband.”

Like I said. I went there.

She went away.

That sort of things always happens to me at dinner parties, so I simply do not go.

This occasion, I did go. I went because lovely Lisha invited me. Truth be told, I trust Lisha like I trust few people. I figured if the people there were Lisha’s friends I was in good hands…and there might be bacon!

The party started at 7:30 pm and I didn’t get to the house until 8:30. I had a few challenges finding the home and more than once I considered just going home. Home to my Frosted Flakes, movies… and bacon.

Right when I decided to go home I found the residence (guided by Lisha’s phone call) so I walked in to the Lion’s Den trusting that Lisha had not put me in the middle of a Herman Cain rally.

Guess what?

Everyone in the party was ultra cool. Well except for this one black guy who kept eyeing me… (It’s a Black Man thing; you wouldn’t understand) but discounting him these were all great people.

At the party I noticed a young lady who was breathtakingly beautiful. I mean she was stunning. She also had a great smile and there was an empty seat next to her so

I ended up sitting next to her… what???

Her name was Paige, she was beautiful, smart and she was also something that almost knocked me off my feet…

She was 14.

I was amazed that she was 14, not because she was attractive but because she was so well spoken and she was smart. I’m talking real smart.  Paige was sitting next to a woman whom at first I thought was her sister but turned out to be her mom. I knew it was her mom not because I was told but because she was giving me the “I’ve killed before and I’ll kill again” look only a mom can give when defending their children.

Paige, her mom and I hit it off pretty well mostly because they both have a sense of humor and, as most people know, I’m a funny guy.

Now here’s the kicker… Paige is not just pretty, smart and mature. She’s… wait for it… wait for it… an artist.

She’s a fantastic artist. She showed me some of her work and again, the level of sophistication to what she was showing me was wonderfully beyond her years.

Paige and I spent most of the party talking about art. She loves to draw and is going to a prestigious high school for the arts.

Paige wants to be an interior designer.

That’s a problem.

Don’t misunderstand me, Paige would be an incredible interior designer, in fact she already is. Her mom told me Paige designed their home and it looks fabulous.

The problem is I want Paige in the comic and related industries and I’m trying to figure out a way to get her interested in such. Not too long ago I wrote an article about what it takes to make it in this industry. Paige at 14 has everything I was talking about.

Did you hear me, industry? She’s 14 and more professional than some artists I’ve met who are twice her age. We need people like Paige in the industry; we want people like Paige in the industry.

Over the weekend I attended Wonder Con and caught up with my dear friend Barbara Randall Kesel. She was sitting with a few other women artists signing this incredible book from IDW called Womanthology / Heroic.

It’s a hard cover anthology featuring women artist. I brought two, one for myself and one for my girl Tatiana. The book is simply wonderful. I need to buy another one because even though the artist signed my book to me, I’m giving my copy to Paige.

If anything can cause her to take a look at comics as a career it’s this book!

Paige is going to be my guest at Comic Con. I’ll take the time to introduce her to the playa’s in the industry and hopefully she will take an interest. Who knows maybe she will decide to be a comic book creator and an interior designer? I’m sure she could do both-she’s that talented.

No idea if Paige will see this as I’m sending it to her mom first to make sure it’s OK. If you are seeing this, Paige, I hope you consider becoming a creator in an industry that is great and can use new blood like you.

If not-I want my book back and I’m spreading a rumor on Facebook that you have been in and out of jail since you were three.

Your move young lady, your move.