At least three nights a week, I do long form improvisation. Sometimes I do this in a blackbox theater for a handful of other improvisers, and sometimes I do it in a hall at the Staples Center for hundreds of comic book convention attendees. Either way, I get in front of my audience, take a suggestion, and spend the next 15 to 60 minutes pulling things out of thin air in the hopes of making that audience laugh. I’ve been doing improv for almost five years now, and though I’ve sharpened the skills associated with it, that doesn’t mean it is (or ever will be) easy to get in front of people and make something up.
I’ve also done my fair share of working with something written. Whether it be public speaking or performing from a script, I’ve gotten in front of a group of people with the objective of delivering some manner of copy more times than I can count. While some people find a script to be a comfort when speaking or performing, I definitely do not. There are hundreds of ways improvisation can go well or poorly, but having scripted lines means all you need to do to get it wrong is flub one of those lines. I feel pressure to be faithful to what’s been written and it makes this endeavor at least as challenging as improv, if not moreso. But whether dealing with improvisation or something scripted, it’s a pretty universal human feeling to be nervous in front of an audience since no one wants to look bad or mess up.
Look, I get that some of Bay’s works are so big and silly that they’ve been the source of many punchlines in the past. I’m sure I’ve even made a Transformers 2 joke or two myself at some point. So when I saw tons of tweets and Facebook posts about Bay having a “meltdown” on stage, I figured someone moved beyond good-natured ribbing and into mean-spirited mocking of his work to his face, prompting the director to lose his temper and storm off. Curious, I watched a video of his supposed “meltdown” and (god help, I’m going to sound like a Buzzfeed headline) I was amazed at what actually happened.
Bay later explained on his blog that after he accidentally skipped one of the lines of the host speaking with him onstage, the teleprompter feeding them both their copy tried to compensate for the jump and went on the fritz. Watching the video, the moment the script is lost is clear even before Bay tells the host that he’s lost the prompter, and it’s this moment that made me feel bad for him. The nerves jangling as he tries to continue after that are palpable, and it’s not long before he’s simply unable to continue and walks offstage with an apology. The clip I’d thought might give me a chuckle actually ended up making my skin crawl because it and the way people have been labeling it made me so uncomfortable.
Admittedly, there are better ways Bay could’ve handled losing his place in his copy. He could’ve vamped for a moment while the teleprompter operator got the script back on track, or taken a deep breath to shake off the prepared text entirely and fully committed to winging it. I’m sure the fact that he’s a hugely famous film director means many people assume he’s used to speaking off the cuff, but the difference between speaking from a script and improvising is the difference between having turn-by-turn directions to get somewhere and just going out for a drive. When you’ve left the house with turn-by-turn directions, losing them suddenly is nerve-wracking, no matter how many times you’ve been behind the wheel. So what exactly is it about Bay’s response to this script flub that bears labeling what happened a “meltdown”?
Nothing. There was no yelling, no veins bulging, no expletives or accusations laying blame. Bay left the stage calmly and quietly to save face when he knew the snafu had unnerved him beyond the ability to continue, which is a fairly tame reaction when all things are considered. I suspect Bay’s preexisting status as a pop cultural punching bag is the only reason he’s being mocked over this. If the same thing happened to a student in a high school play or a scientist giving a TED Talk, the reaction from those witnessing it would likely just be sympathy. Personally, I’ve never gotten so flustered on stage that I’ve had to walk off, but I hope that if I did, I’d handle it as gracefully as Michael Bay.
Wait, did I just use “Michael Bay” and “gracefully” in the same sentence? There’s a first time for everything.
Ba dum ching!
REVISED COLUMN SCHEDULE FOR THIS WEEK:
THURSDAY 2:30 EST USA: Tweeks!
THURSDAY 5:00 EST USA: Mike Gold
FRIDAY: Dennis O’Neil, Martha Thomases, Michael Davis
“We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”
The Doctor, Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 13
Perhaps I expected too much.
Yesterday my dear friend and fellow columnist John Ostrander did an excellent job in explaining “wibbly-wobbly storytelling” that marred “The Time Of The Doctor,” Matt Smith’s final bow as the Gallifreyian.
I feel the same way as John. Though I will try not to repeat what John wrote because I expect you to click here and read his thoughts, but I just want to add some of my own.
The whole episode, as John and others have said, did feel extremely rushed and cramped – it could have used at least an extra 15 minutes, though I would have preferred a two-hour special, which I believe Matt deserved as it was his Doctor, especially, that reignited the global Doctor Who frenzy.
I still feel cheated out of seeing more interaction between the Doctor and Clara’s family. So much of Clara’s story as “The Impossible Girl”has to do with her mom and dad, I was excited when I saw the rest of the family sitting around the set-for-Christmas dinner table. We had never heard mention of them before, but unfortunately, it just fell completely flat for me. In fact, I think I felt a bit of embarrassment here, just as Clara did – umm, naked? Really? Naked?? Yeah, I know that being clothed in nothing but your birthday suit is expected when attending the Church of the Papal Mainframe, and the Doctor was about to whisk Clara off to see the Wizard – sorry, I mean Mother Superior Tasha Lem, but again, it just felt rushed and uneven.
I mean, since the return of Doctor Who in 2005 the families of the companions have played important roles in the Whovian story, especially Jackie Tyler and Wilfred Mott. Wouldn’t the Doctor have been at least a little curious about Clara’s father, the man who was led by a falling leaf to meet Clara’s mother? Couldn’t we have seen at least five minutes more of interaction?
Having Clara hanging on to the outside of the TARDIS, creating a “drag” on the time machine as an explanation as to why 300 years passed before she was able to return to the Doctor was an awfully complicated twist to emphasize just how long the siege of Trenzalore was, and to allow the make-up masters behind the scenes to work their magic in aging Matt Smith – although they did do a masterful job in hinting at William Hartnell in Smith’s appearance.
Actually, about Clara – do you agree with me that, as a companion, she just sort of played more of a Watcher (to borrow a Marvel Comics character) when compared to Rose or Martha or Donna or Amy and Rory? I understand that, as the Impossible Girl, the role of Savior is her ultimate role in the Doctor’s saga, but in too many episodes she seemed to be sitting by and waiting, and although her impassioned plea to the Time Lords on the other side of the crack in the wall was beautifully written and beautifully acted by Jenna Coleman, I would have liked to have seen Clara engaging in more physical action, as she did in “Nightmare in Silver.”
And the bestowing of the “extra” regeneration energy by the Time Lords as a way to get around the 12th and final regeneration was the biggest cheat of all – though it was a clever way and use of “dues ex machina” around the myth, which of course was set up years ago because who in 1963 could imagine that 50 years later the show would itself have regenerated into a world-wide phenomenon?
But, oddly enough, of all these flaws, the one that really got to me, the one that made me feel most cheated, was the regeneration of Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi. It happened in a literal “blink of an eye.” I suppose we are to understand that we didn’t see the “burning time/regeneration energy” flowing out of Matt because he spent it destroying the Daleks, but there was no punch – when Christopher Eccleston regenerated into David Tennant, and David Tennant (admittedly the most heartbreaking of all the regenerations, with his Doctor’s poignant “I don’t want to go”) into Matt Smith, you felt it.
Yes, Matt’s removal of his bow tie, letting it just fall to the floor, was wonderfully moving.
Yes, Karen Pond’s return as Amy was tear-jerking (and bravo to the BBC and Moffat and all of the Doctor Who crew to keeping it secret!).
But I think the final gut-wrenching heartbreaker would have been Matt suddenly blazing into energy as Amy said…
When we last saw the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, he watched from afar as John Watson beseeched, “Don’t be dead,” to a headstone bearing Sherlock’s name. Watson does this at the end of “The Reichenbach Fall” after seeing Sherlock seemingly leap to his demise, and I thought it bold of series creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat to tackle this update of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem” in their second series. A faked death on a show is as logistically tricky as a real one, and if there’s one thing that almost always creates a make or break moment for a TV show, it’s dealing with a major character’s death.
For a lot of shows, it’s a break moment. Perhaps some of the problem comes from the fact that a character’s death is often prompted by an actor’s exit from the show. When Dan Stevens decided to leave Downton Abbey at the end of his three year contract, his character Matthew Crawley was killed in a car crash that struck me as a spiteful way to explain his forthcoming absence in series four. Aside from the fact that the crash itself didn’t look severe enough to be fatal (I mean, how fast was he going, 30 m.p.h.?), it also felt like an afterthought to the 2012 Christmas special, as if the episode had been scripted to end in the preceding scene and the death was tacked on once it was official Stevens wouldn’t re-up. This was particularly disappointing from a show that had so recently served up an amazing character death by killing off Sybil Crawley mid-season. Even if I hadn’t hated her character (we get it, you like irking daddy by playing blue-collar), I would still have been pleased with her demise because of the way it affected the other characters on the show. Watching her parents, sisters, and husband deal with their grief was more interesting than Sybil herself had ever been, yet asking viewers to watch the family hit the reset button at the top of series four to mourn Matthew is grating.
But perhaps worse than the character deaths that are forced are the ones I don’t believe even within the world of the show. When Peter Bishop stepped into the doomsday device at the end of season three of Fringe, I didn’t for a second buy him exiting the show. His character was too important, and the circumstances of his disappearance too obviously pointed to a return for me to believe I’d never see Peter on the show again, which seemed to be what the writers hoped I would assume. Instead, watching became a waiting game centered on his return, and one that wasn’t concluded quickly or satisfactorily enough to justify his unbelievable disappearance in the first place.
That’s not to say shows can’t kill important characters successfully. When Boardwalk Empire concluded its second season by offing Jimmy Darmody, the character who’d served as the audience’s entrance into the (under)world of the show, it was wonderfully stunning. Even though the drama had blossomed into a sizeable ensemble by the time Jimmy was eliminated, he was still the most frequent point of view character, which meant his death irrevocably changed the show’s direction. But Boardwalk Empire had managed to build to Jimmy’s death in such a way that it seemed inevitable, and created plot momentum that carried forward into even the most recent season finale.
Of course, the holy grail of TV character death is the surprise demise. Four episodes into its third season, Southland unceremoniously killed detective Nate Moretta on the job. The disturbingly quick and brutal death was shocking in and of itself, but it also demonstrated no character on the show was safe regardless of their rank, skill, or narrative importance. From that moment on, I watched Southland with my stomach in knots every time a character I liked was in peril because I truly didn’t know if they’d emerge from it unscathed, or at all.
Though the titular character of Sherlock didn’t actually die in the series two finale, his faked death was just as striking to me as the most successful of these actual TV character deaths. The charade has the same effect on Watson as the real thing would have, meaning the audience still gets the emotional payoff of a pivotal character death, while how Sherlock managed to pull it off is a mystery fans are as eager to solve as they are any of the eponymous detective’s cases. Which, of course, is precisely the point. American audiences will get their answers in the series three premiere on January 19, but having already seen it myself, I can say “The Empty Hearse” sated my curiosity and I’m very glad that, as this prequel minisode promises, #SherlockLives.
Well, 2014 is six days old, and though I’m not too maudlin about it, I’m glad 2013 is over. It wasn’t my worst year ever – that was pretty much 2006, though 2009 does come close, for reasons that I’m not going into here because some things do have to stay off this page – but 2013 was the year I lost my father. No, he isn’t dead, but he is gone for good, and this is how I know.
We (Glenn, Alix, Jeff, and Meyer Manuel) were visiting my parents on New Year’s Day. I had brought my father up to an apartment from the nursing home division; my parents live in a continuous care adult community. We were having either a late lunch or an early dinner, and one thing about my dad, he hasn’t lost his appetite. He eats everything put in front of him, even eggs, which, in fact, he actively disliked. Anyway, my brother made a joke about how there’s nothing wrong with Daddy’s appetite and how, even when he was in a coma last year, somehow if we put food in his mouth he ate it. We all laughed (a sad, kinda bitter laugh, I think), and then all of a sudden my mom started coughing. She kept coughing. Hard. And all of a sudden I realized she wasn’t just coughing, she was choking.
I went to give her the Heimlich, but Glenn had realized what was going on the same time I did and got to her first. It took a couple of too many abdominal thrusts for comfort, but it worked, thank God. Mom sat down, cried just a little bit because she was really scared there for a moment (of course), drank some water… and I realized that my dad had just sat there during all this and continued to eat – no, wolf down – his french fries. He had been completely unaware of what was happening to his wife of nearly 66 years, of what had nearly happened. All he knew was his french fries. He was just staring at wherever it is that he stares at and eating his french fries. “That is not my father,” I thought. “My father is gone.”
So, so long, 2013. I hope the door hit you on the ass on the way out.
And hello, 2014.
What would I like to do this year?
Like Marc Alan Fishman, my fellow columnist here at ComixMix, I’d like to get back to the comics shop this year. Unlike Marc, I stopped going because of the financial blues I’ve been living with for the last couple of years, and I dream of the day I have real discretionary income in my checkbook register again. I’m making inroads, but sometimes the dream is overtaken by the nightmare, if you know what I mean.
I’d like to get off my procrastinating ass and talk to Editor Mike about a story idea that’s been floating in the back of my head for more than a couple of years. It could encompass all sorts of genres if I’m a good enough writer – a little bit of soap opera, a little bit of fantasy, a little bit of thriller, a little bit of romance, but not a little bit country or a little bit rock n’ roll. It can address a bunch of issues like racism and politics and evolution and love and hate and family and madness and sanity. That is, if I’m a good enough writer, which is the fear that keeps me procrastinating.
I’d like to stop thinking that my dreams are merely the flights of fancy of some crazy woman and act on them. Like, what the hell, why not work into a script the story of my father and his sharing a bottle of Scotch with Lord Mountbatten in Burma during World War II to Dreamworks and Steven Spielberg, whose father was a chief mechanic who was responsible for keeping those P-51 Mustangs flying the Hump in the C-B-I theatre during the war? The worse that could happen is that I hear nothing.
Or write it up as a short story and submit it to, oh, I don’t know, where do you submit a war story these days? The web is my best bet, but exactly what site? I’ll have to buy a current copy of Writer’s Digest.
Or maybe I can do in comic form after all, only then I have to find an artist. God, I wish I could draw and just do my own stuff; the toughest part of being a writer only (only a writer?) in a visual medium is seeing everything in your head so clearly but not being able to translate the whole picture onto the page.
Did I ever tell you that artists amaze me?
I’d like to go to San Diego this year. Yep, I’ve never been to the San Diego Comic-Con. I can hear all the groans now from those who have walked the floors of the convention center, hear all the complaints about how it’s not about comics anymore, that it’s now a marketing tool for Hollywood. But I don’t care. I’d like to experience it at least once. I’d like to go to some panels and I’d like to star gaze just a little bit (but not collect autographs because autographs have never interested me) and I’d like to see people I haven’t seen in too many years and I’d like to go to the beach and watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean instead of rising up out of the Atlantic.
And I’d like to write Wonder Woman again, and do another Lois Lane book. I’d like to sit down over a cup of tea (I don’t drink coffee) or a glass of wine with Gail Simone and meet Kelley Sue DeConnick and hang out with Martha Thomases (I want to pick up knitting again, Martha!). I’d like to be on a panel about women in comics at a convention and talk about the harassment going on and challenge some of these jerks in person – you want me take me on, you’re welcome to try, assholes.
And I’d like to say thanks to everybody who read my column in 2013. Thanks to everybody who wrote in response here on ComicMix and on Facebook and the League of Women Bloggers. Thanks for all the different opinions and the discussions they engendered.
And thanks to Mike Gold and Glenn Hauman and Adriane Nash and everybody at ComicMix who continue to let me open my big mouth right here, every week, every Monday, for better or for worse.
While many of you were out toasting the New Year with friends and acquaintances – perhaps a bit tipsy from the festivities and calamity – I was spending my NYE at home with the wife and kiddo. Wifey and I recently came down with a crappy bug (of which I was the first recipient, on my birthday to boot), and did not feel it smart to venture outside the containment field of our suburban enclave. I was all set and ready to throw myself a pity party, but Michael Davis not only took that cake this week… bitch cooked it up from scratch, decorated it, and served it with ice cream.
I thought it might be nice for me to spare you all a post of malaise and doldrums, and opt instead to look to the coming new year, and make some resolutions for myself. But not the typical “I need to lose weight” (I do), or “I need to quit cigarettes” (I don’t). I’m going to use my column inches today to make some geek year resolutions; things I need to do or stop doing to be a better geek in 2014.
Become a Whovian. Well, as many read some time ago I gave in and watched “The Day of the Doctor.. I also recently have partaken of a few choice episodes, as well as the most recent Christmas Special. That allows me now to start fresh and new with whatever Capaldi’s Who will be. Now, I’ll be honest… a cursory Googling did not tell me when the new series will start, but I’m simply resolving in 2014 to watch more Who. Thanks largely to a DVR and BBC America, that shouldn’t be a problem. This will also mean at conventions I’ll be more apt to draw my patented Domos (note that they are NOT actually patented by me, nor should you think they are…) in the guise of all the various Doctors of yore. And maybe a Weeping Angel Domo. Ooh! And a Dalek Domo. That outta’ be a larf.
Start A Wrestling Podcast. One of my friends in the Indie Comic Industry (we don’t have an acronym yet, but who wouldn’t like the ICI?) recently posted on a random wrestling tweet I made that he and I should do a wrestling podcast. I’ll be honest. As soon as I saw that response, I was half-planning it already. I know there’s few wrestling fans here at the ‘Mix, but I can’t not let my freak-flag fly. In 2013, I became a full-fledged re-upped wrestling fan. I purchased a single pay-per-view (it was enough), and I’ve since relegated two evenings a week to watching the product. I spent at least some time every day reading the dirt sheets (online rumor mills), and formulating my ever-so-important opinions. Knowing that I have a great gaggle of pals on the internet (who live semi-local to me) means I can finally make that excuse to learn how to Skype in guests from my home computer, and launch my own wrestling podcast. All I’ll need? A catchy name. The front-runner for now… “Let’s Go Wrestling! Wrestling Sucks!”
Get Back to the Shop. I admit it, everyone. I gave up buying weekly comics. It wasn’t a logistic or financial decision either. It was one grown from malaise. Too many predictable beats from the big two… and too little knowledge about the “not big two” to know what to buy, and what not to try. In the end, I opted to read someone else’s books, and even then… not with any rhyme or reason. Over at MichaelDavisWorld, my review column enjoyed my new approach to “read anything,” but on a personal level, I lost the personal connection I had to my favorite characters. So, in 2014, I’m vowing to find my passion for the medium I create in to become a reader once again. And while I’m likely to continue to stray away from much of the Big Two’s offerings… I don’t think I’ll be missed. Instead, I’ll be making a more concerted effort to seek the stronger smaller-press books that are made by those I might dare to say work even harder than those who are enjoying tenure on prestigious titles.
Give Up Worthless Gaming. Candy Crush Saga and Tetris have a place. They belong on my phone, to be dusted off when I’m in those rare waiting rooms where I have no choice but to distract myself with said phone. I’ve lost perhaps whole days worth of my time to the crushing of digital candies… all for what? Unlocking the next level that frustrates me until I tell myself it’s OK to drop a buck to buy the cheat to win. I’ve only done it a handful of times, but frankly? That’s handful too many. Instead, I’ll resolve to fill my time with more creative endeavors. Just as I can “zone out” whilst swapping striped and wrapped tokens, I can do much the same flatting or inking my work. This leads me to the big one:
Publish Two New Issues and Start The Next Series for Unshaven Comics. In 2013, Unshaven Comics was able to produce only one new issue. Granted we still crushed our sales records, but it almost felt like a hollow victory. The key here is that we (Unshavens…) have only two issues left to produce for our first real mini-series. “The Curse of the Dreadnuts” when finished, will immediately be ready to pull together into our first real graphic novel. Pair that with a foreword by Mike Gold, and an afterward by John Ostrander (see how I’m beginning to beg already!) and a gallery of pin-ups from appropriate friends? We’ll have ourselves a real piece of work that we just might find a way to get into those aforementioned local comic shops. Dare we to dream of a world where the Samurnauts are a known name without our siren’s song of “Excuse me! Can I tell you about my comic book?”
A boy can dream. A boy can dream. Be well, my friends and fans (c’mon, I’ve got to have a few by now, right?). Cheers to a nerdy new year.
Mike Gold is going to kill me. Again, It’s pushing 9pm PST and this article is just now being put together. This time I did wait until the last minute.
No excuses. I had a horrible falling out with a loved one that and a recent rash of random negative bullshit has totally thrown me completely off my game.
And yes, I’m about to have a pity party. I’m due. I haven’t had one since…never.
I personally sent out invitations to 30 people in advance of the VIP invite list. These were those I felt I must share what I knew would be one of the greatest events in my life the opening of Milestones: African Americans In Comics, Pop Culture & Beyond.
My invites reached zero people for whatever reason, so 10 days or so before I’m sending them out again and for all 30 I write a personal note apologizing for the late notice and pleading for them to attend. The longest and most heartfelt was written to my 10th grade art teacher Ms. Renee Darvin.
Less than five minutes after I sent that note I find out she died. I’m a wreck for a few days, but I carry on.
No. No I don’t.
Tatiana El Khouri, my co-curator for the show, saveed my ass. I was useless. Every major decision made over the next few days was all Tatiana. I was just looking to put my fist in a wall or someone’s face.
So there was that.
Speaking of which, I’m currently doing 300 hours of community service for (almost) putting my fist in someone face.
Now about those 300 hours…I was twice given the wrong information from the genius that work for the court so it’s impossible to complete the hours by my due date.
So there was that.
The Milestones show was always to feature the art of Denys Cowan as the centerpiece. Yeah, he’s my best friend but he’s also Denys Fucking Cowan. Without whom Milestone Media would never have happened and as such the Milestones show would have never been.
If for some reason that does not impress you consider this; a month or so ago Jay Leno had Quinton Tarantino as his guest and Jay held up the Django Unchained hardcover opened to Deny’s work. There were a number of artists in the volume but Quinton choose Denys’.
Well, when your fan boy ass sits down to Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece; The Wolf Of Wall Street, ask yourself why you are not impressed when Denys’ face appears right smack in the middle of the film by way of an magazine ad he was featured in back in 1989.
Leno, Tarantino, Scorsese.
People at their level do nothing by chance. You don’t show 20 million television viewers a random page in a graphic novel nor do you display a random magazine ad in a 100 million dollar movie.
Leno, Tarantino, Scorsese.
Denys Fucking Cowan.
Denys’ work was always to be the centerpiece of the huge Milestones exhibit. The exhibit that was two years in the making, the exhibit that was to be the crowning cherry on top of the 20th year anniversary of Milestone cake.
All 28 pieces of his work were lost (bullshit, stolen…in my opinion) by UPS.
There was that.
I’ve been dealing with that for the last three weeks. Then a few days ago I had a horrible falling out with one of the loves of my life and said some horrible things and even if I was right to say them I shouldn’t have.
Now I feel like shit.
There was that.
Then a dog that wasn’t even one of my dogs (my dogs know better) pissed on my X-Box. It still works, hence the dogs still lives.
There was that.
Then the ultimate blow.
Everyone knows Christmas is my favorite time of year.
This year, no Christmas spirit and on Christmas day I was alone. I made it a point to whine like a little bitch to my dear beloved Lucy who tried her best to bring me out of my funk.
Like I said, I’ve never had a pity party but it’s my gift to myself and I was feeling pretty good about my pity party when I thought of the Christmas Eve gift I received in the form of a call from three of my former students, Felix Serrano, John Giuffo and Jean Segarra.
Man, that was great. But I figured I could still manage a pretty good pity party with that wonderful present but then I thought of the following…
Not a word. Not a fucking word.
Denys knew days before the opening his most prized work was gone, perhaps forever. He was heartbroken. I’ve seen him like that only twice in our 30 plus year friendship. Once was when the woman who raised him died, his grandmother and again when his grandfather died.
This was just like that. It was like a death in his family. Yeah, I knew. His family knew, but the hundred plus people who were the selected few invited to the opening of Milestones? Some of which were lifelong friends? Some of the most important sure to be sympathetic people in the industry?
Not a word.
Denys said not a word to anyone about the massive pain he was feeling in so doing he ruined my perfectly good pity party with his class and dignity.
All I can do now is make good on my promise I made the second after I told Denys his work was missing; “Trust me, you will get your work back. Every single page. I can’t say exactly when or under what circumstance but every single page will be back in your hands. Some UPS motherfucker is about to realize they opened the wrong box and when asked why UPS sends their packages Fed-Ex his great grandson will answer Denys Fucking Cowan.”
With the bustle of the holiday season and the craziness that inevitably accompanies the end of the year, it wasn’t until this week that I was able to get to the final installment of Locke & Key. Joe Hill has been penning this amazing comic since 2008, but I didn’t start reading until 2012, so by the time I came to it there were only seven issues left to be published. For a lot of people, this would be disheartening. For me, it was thrilling.
Comics can be daunting. Spider-Man has been around since 1962, Batman made his debut in 1939, and Superman had them both beat by first hitting the scene in 1933. For a completionist like me, picking up one of these comic book staples would mean starting at the very beginning, and that seems downright impossible. Superman had 716 issues before a relaunch in 2011 brought another #1 around, and this doesn’t even take into account other titles in which Superman appears. Assure me all you want that there are acceptable jumping in points for long-running comics that don’t require me starting from day one, but I’ll never be able to shake the sneaking suspicion I’d understand them better, and therefore like them more, if I did indeed start at issue #1 and work my way forward.
Superman: Red Son, on the other hand? Love it. Mark Millar’s three-issue mini-series exploring what Superman’s life would have been like if he’d landed in the Soviet Union is well written, unique, and managed to get me to crack its cover despite the fact that its titular hero has decades of history behind him because in this particular volume, he actually doesn’t. By standing completely on its own, Superman: Red Son was accessible to me in a way no other Superman comic ever has been. And yes, I realize there are other stand-alone volumes out there, but even with something self-contained like Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman, I find myself held at arm’s length because there’s still an assumption that I know more about Superman when I start than I actually do.
Yet the years of backstory aren’t the only reason long-running comics feel impenetrable to me. The fact that they’re continuing their adventures into the future with no end in sight is equally discouraging, if not more so. How formidable can a villain be when I know there’s always another waiting in the wings? How high can tension run toward a climax when it’s understood there’s always another around the bend? And most importantly, how can a hero truly best his inner demons when his story is expected to carry on indefinitely?
Locke & Key is the best comic I have ever read. A large part of what makes it so amazing is not the fact that there’s a whole world in its pages, but that its pages contain its whole world. Whether or not Hill had the entire saga in mind when he wrote the first series, Welcome to Lovecraft, by the last frame of Alpha there is no stone left unturned. I came in knowing nothing of the story or characters, and that was perfect because I didn’t need to know anything of them.
The sole thing I knew from the outset was that I’d only have 39 issues to spend with the Locke family, and because of this, I appreciated each moment with them more than I could have without their end in sight. The characters travel an arc that is more moving in its fixed breadth than it could ever be were that arc just part of a larger ebb and flow. Their story is exactly complete, and so too is my enjoyment of it.
Though she did nothing wrong, and she’s totally innocent in this.
I was sitting here tonight wracking my brain while absentmindedly watching The Devil Wears Prada for the zillionth time (Meryl Streep just completely rocks as Miranda Priestley, a thinly veiled “version” of Anna Wintour of Vogue magazine) and surfing the web for ideas when I decided to check out Corinna’s column, Cliffs of Insanity, over at GeekMom.com. (Yes, I can multi-task.) Her November 15th column caught my eye, dealing as it does with a woman also close to my heart, though this woman only exists as a trademark of DC Entertainment, nee Comics.
I’m talking about Lois Lane, of course.
Corinna’s column, Lois Lane and Comic Culture, is ostensibly a review of the recently released Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years, and, although I haven’t read it (more on that in a bit), Corinna doesn’t hesitate to point out that Lois has and is a bellwether of the status of women in comics. Quoting Corinna:
“When there was a great movement to more independent women, Lois was smart, strong, funny, tough, and worthy of admiration. When there was a backlash after World War II, she morphed into something less admirable. Later, she regained some of her original intelligence and focus on journalism. But recently, not so much.
“As society moves forward, the comic industry seems to be going backward.
“I cannot help thinking the stories I hear constantly about numerous, well-known comic pros basically running their own version of “casting couches” at conventions, about those employed by the big two companies who create a hostile environment for female characters and creators, and about the ever-present dismissive attitude by a very vocal group of male comic fans who are hostile to women even reading superhero comics, has something to do with Lois Lane’s devaluation of the last few years.
“Lois was created at a time when women were starting to have careers. In every telling of Superman’s origin, Lois is there, not necessarily as a love interest, but always as a tough, professional woman…”
Especially in the Fleisher Studio theatrical Superman animated shorts of the mid-1940s, in which Lois was snarky, resourceful, sarcastic, brave, contemptuous of Clark Kent, and didn’t moon over Superman.”
“Yet Lois’s history is loaded with stories that are somewhat cringe-worthy.”
Yeah, they were. Especially in the Silver Age: Lois Lane: Bearded Woman; Lois Lane: Conehead; Lois Lane: I Married A Monster From Mars And Superman Was The Best Man!! (*choke*sob*) But those stories, silly as they were, are understandable as part of an era (which Corinna points out in her column) in which it behooved the U. S. government to get Madison Avenue and American industries, including the publishing industry, to make a concerted effort to get Rosie the Riveter out of the factory and back to kinder and kuche.
But Corinna also makes mention of some good stories about Lois, which I remember reading and also enjoyed: Wonder Woman #170, written by Phil Jimenez, in which Lois spends a day with Diana, and they get to talking woman-to-woman; and Adventures of Superman #631, by Greg Rucka, which is “Lois Lane: War Correspondent.”
But here’s where I started seeing red and getting really pissed off.
And I asked myself…
Should I write a column about how pissed off I am that (a) I didn’t even know about this book because no one from DC approached me about it; and (b) apparently, from Corinna’s review and from the book’s Amazon page, there is no mention of my Lois Lane 1986 mini-series, When It Rains, God Is Crying.
I mean, it’s one thing to understand why the press didn’t want to hear that I “beat” Gail – from Gail herself, I must add – at being the first WW writer in the history of the character, because if she isn’t, there’s no story and the DC PR department would have egg on their faces…
But to ignore a “seminal” Lois Lane story, seminal in that it was her book, the first in many, many years, and that it didn’t feature her running googly-eyed after Superman to prove he was Clark Kent, but dealt with an important issue which hasn’t gone away, and if anything, has gotten worse – there’s a reason Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is on television 24 hours a day…
…To ignore a story with absolutely magnificent artwork by the late, great Gray Morrow, who told me he was honored to be part of it…
…To ignore a story that Robert Greenberger, as editor, sweated over as he encouraged and guided me and Gray to do our best work…
…To ignore a story I researched and spoke to the FBI and state children’s services and policemen and doctors and nurses…
…To ignore a story into which I poured my heart.
And I wasn’t going to write about this, because it certainly wouldn’t be a smart thing to do, burning bridges and not “politically” advantageous and all that, but then, well, I figured, hey, I like to think of myself as an honest writer, I’ve written about my struggles with depression, I’ve written about my dad and my mom, I’ve shared a lot of things here, so fuck it, I decided, I’m going to share this too.
Yeah, it really pisses me off, people. And it hurts.
December 7th 2013, a date that will live in infamy, the United Parcel Service was suddenly and deliberately attacked by its own ground and air forces and soon beat themselves into a very dark place a place made of their own stupidity.
It’s Christmas. The time of love, peace and goodwill towards men.
Mike Gold is going to kill me.
I’m sending this in on Monday night, which for me on the west coast is 9 pm (ish) but for him it’s after midnight on his east coast. No, I did not wait until the last minute because I forgot or had nothing to write.
I waited for the last minute hoping to hear good news from my boy, Denys Cowan. UPS had promised good news regarding the disappearance of his most cherished pieces of art.
Imagine, if you will, being in love with the one person you have dreamt of all your life.
Imagine the love of your life leaving you for someone else. Imagine the hurt and pain you will have to endure knowing that he or she is lost to you forever. You tell yourself you will get over it and there will be other loves, other moments indeed other milestones but the love you lost was the love of your life.
Gone. Forever. But…
One day you get a call. It’s the love of your life. They have a glorious surprise for you. No, another is no longer keeping them away from you, they won’t say why or how but they will say when they will see you again and it’s tomorrow!
Tomorrow comes and it’s today!
No lover, nothing.
It’s Christmas and you want to believe the non-committal message you received (not from the love of your life but a third party) saying they are still coming just wait.
Then you think…wait for what?
All you have been told is to expect a glorious surprise. That does not mean they are coming back to you. It could mean any of a million different things.
It could mean that of the 29 pieces of irreplaceable art they are sending nine totally fucked up pieces and expect you to be grateful.
It’s Christmas, Denys his son and I started a sort of tradition of going to the mall for last minute before Christmas shopping.
That didn’t happen this year.
No. Instead UPS continues to think they are dealing with someone and something they can “handle.”
I bare UPS no ill will. They are a global zillion-dollar mega company. Denys and I want nothing but the return of his art.
But we have been told all sorts of things (after they got served by a well thought out and predicted outrage from thousands), which, like today just, have not rung true.
UPS is moving mountains (now) to make this right. Problem is I think, they think right is something they decide.
Right, the only right is the return of every single piece of Denys Cowan art in the same condition it left.
Anything less is an attempt to replace the love of his artistic life with some skank gold digging bitch that’s keeps asking what Brown can do for her.