Previously on ComicMix, we mentioned talked about how friend of ComicMIx and legendary comics creator Mike Grell makes an appearance in the latest movie that the RIfftrax crew did live, Star Raiders. While it’s no Space Mutiny (and really, what is?), Star Raiders has a lot to offer. I’ll be getting into that in the next paragraph though, so bare with me.
For those not in the know, Star Raiders is a Casper Van Dien starring science fiction romp put together with a modest budget. Though principle photography was finished in 2014, the team went to Kickstarter in 2016 to help offset the post production costs that ended up $40,000 over budget. Earlier this year, Star Raiders would appear on Kickstarter again through Rifftrax for their 2019 live riffing roster and to celebrate 10 years of Rifftrax.
Okay, okay, but what do I think about the movie? I was just getting to that I promise!
Basically, Casper Van Dien plays this guy Saber Raine who looks and acts kind of like Mal from Firefly and has to save this prince and princess who ended up getting captured by ancient bad people who have a plot at getting revenge because people were mean to them a while ago. There’s a bunch of other characters that do things sometimes, and a betrayal in the third act that feels pretty forced, and then a bunch of explosions, the heroes win, and they set up a sequel that we probably weren’t going to be getting, but now with the Rifftrax attention maybe that’ll be on the table.
The movie itself feels like a Sylvester McCoy era Doctor Who serial done today. Like, really, the special effects, the costumes, the filming locations, all of it seems about that quality. There were a few times that I genuinely thought I was watching the three parter Delta and the Bannerman. I wish they leaned more into how cheesy and campy it all was.
Honestly, one of the highlights in the movie was Mike Grell’s small role in it.
For Mike Grell’s acting debut, he plays the character of Jax Grymm (yes, we know, GrimJack), who steals the show for a precious couple of minutes when Casper Van Dien goes to him asking for help. The moment does feel like it could of been in Firefly or Blake’s 7 where a couple of morally questionable individuals are trying to work out a deal as you wait for one (or both) of them to double-cross each other. Everyone makes it out alive in this scene, however, so perhaps this means we’ll get more Jax Grymm if they ever make the sequel they tease at the end.
While this movie fails to deliver on its promise of the high adventure serials that it pulls inspiration from, it definitely delivers for the low budget sci-fi junkie crowd. If you’re into SyFy Channel Original Movies, this could make for some good Sunday afternoon watching.
If you’re watching this with Rifftrax, that’s another story.
This is one of the stronger Rifftrax Live events I’ve gone to recently. There are few if any boring lulls in the film like Octoman which gives our riffers Mike, Bill, and Kevin a lot to work with here. And like the best of MST3K and Rifftrax, they create a through-line with jokes going back to Casper Van Dien’s career having led him here and poor Gary getting killed all the time that honestly just never get old.
I highly recommend you check out the Rifftrax for this if you haven’t already. After it’s done showing in theaters, you can purchase it right on their website. For those braver souls out there reading this, you can check out the movie without Rifftrax on Amazon Prime.
Way back when, Green Arrow was sort of the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” of the superhero set. For a long time, fans could enjoy a new Green Arrow adventure just about every month, but he didn’t enjoy the headliner popularity of his hero pals like Batman or even Wonder Woman.
That’s all almost forgotten now. Today, so many fans enjoy this modern-day Robin Hood in comics, on TV and with licensed merchandise.
For some, Green Arrow became “a thing” when he debuted on TV, first as one of Superboy’s pals in Smallville and then in his own series. (He was briefly on Saturday morning cartoons before that too.)
Comics fan, and local dad, Greg Parker started with the TV series and now reads the comics. “In today’s world of income imbalance and overall division, Oliver Queen represents someone willing to do the right thing, whatever that may be,” said Parker. “Green Arrow has no superpowers. He simply wants to help defend his city from criminals and corruption. This is why we read about superheroes, someone doing the right thing regardless of the consequences to his fortune or popularity.”
For some fans, certain points of Green Arrow’s long comics career was their jumping on point. Many readers started to embrace this character during the groundbreaking Green Lantern/Green Arrow series by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams. Or it might have been when he finally headlined his own comic in a four-part mini-series by Mike W. Barr and Trevor Von Eeden. Other fans sat up and took notice during the 90s with The Longbow Hunters comic prestige series and the subsequent ongoing comic series by Mike Grell, Mike Gold, Ed Hannigan, Dick Giordano, Dan Jurgens and so many other talented folks. I should note that this iteration was shepherded by ComicMix’s own Mike Gold.
For me, Green Arrow was a “barbershop hero.” As a young boy, I distinguished the tattered comics I’d read in the barber shop from the new comics my dad would buy for me. For whatever reason, the local barber had a lot of old DC Comics with Green Arrow backup adventures. I never gave Green Arrow a lot of thought outside of getting my hair cut.
But one day I finally gained respect for Green Arrow. There was an adventure when a small child was confronted by a wild moose and Green Arrow saved the day with his “Antler Arrow.” I realized it takes a special kind of superhero to anticipate moose-related dangers, I realized.
I always liked the character after that. In my mind, it was years later, during the 90s Urban Hunter phase shepherded by Gold, Grell, Hannigan and others, when Green Arrow really grew up.
And It was during this Urban Hunter era that Green Arrow became a favorite of Australian writer Richard Gray. Those 90s comics were his starting point. Now he’s made himself something of a Green Arrow expert – searching out all the old stories and keeping up with the new comics, TV appearances and merchandise.
Gray wrote Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow, which just debuted and is published by Sequart.
He revealed that as part of his podcast, he had wanted to create one article on Green Arrow. But then he found there was too much to fit into one post. One blog became seven blogs, and that eventually became a book.
Gray’s pal, Ryan K. Lindsay, had written a Daredevil book, referred him to Sequart and Moving Target happened.
As I started my interview with Gray, I first wanted to understand if his Australian POV was similar to that of standard US comic fan. I was familiar with Australian titles like Tip Top (reprinting DC titles in the 60s and 70s), but more recently I had heard about how wonderful the Australian Comic Shops are. And that always seemed to be during the Eisner Awards Spirit of Retailer discussions. Gray explained to me that Australians now get their comics about the same time as stateside fans do. So it’s easy to keep up with Geek Culture and characters like Green Arrow. The direct market made it happen, although he remembers when he started reading comics and every corner had a “card store” that sold comics.
It was really right about the time when Oliver Queen died, and Conner Hawke took over, that Gray became a big Green Arrow fan. His passion for the character was ratcheted up when Kevin Smith started writing the adventures of a “returned from the dead” Oliver Queen.
“I did miss Conner Hawke – he was underused,” recalls Gray. “The story I wanted to see was with the two Green Arrows. I wanted to see what the interaction would look like. I wanted to see two Green Arrows on a page.”
He’s less enamored with the recent changes to character in the New 52 and Rebirth, although he noted that the GA we know has seemed to return with the legacy elements.
But as the guy who wrote the book on Green Arrow, Gray asserts that for this character, all roads lead back to O’Neil and Adams era.
“It was during that period where they established he was a liberal and wasn’t afraid of standing up to the gods of the Justice League,” said Gray. “In the very first issue of that run – he’s holding up them up to task. But also proving, in the process, that he can be wrong too. Green Arrow’s single-mindedness can be a weakness for him.”Gray talks about how enjoyed seeing the character struggle as a regular guy. And he mentioned how a favorite Green Arrow story was from that Mike Barr and Trevor von Eeden series. I learned, in my recent research on the cult hit comic Thriller, a bit about this Green Arrow mini-series. Artist Von Eeden was assigned to his mini-series in order to slow him down and keep him from starting work on Thriller. In retrospect, the Green Arrow series certainly holds up and Von Eeden’s art is spectacular.
There’s so much to Gray’s Moving Target, including:
Speedy – Green Arrow’s sidekick was always a favorite of mine. Gray does not disappoint and provides a meaty section focusing on Speedy.
Kirby – Likewise, Gray has a long chapter on Jack Kirby’s contribution to the series. Although Kirby’s run on Green Arrow was painfully brief, and how it important it has been in defining the character.
Interviews – There’s plenty of in-depth interviews too. Gray chats with long-time creators like Neal Adams, Mike Grell, and Chuck Dixon as well as some of the modern era writers like Jeff Lemire and Brad Meltzer.
Foreward – And while not really an interview, Phil Hester kicks it all off with a humble and insightful forward.
Moving Target covers a lot of ground with care and detailed analysis. There’s something here for every Green Arrow fan.
So, I wasn’t here last week. Some of you may have noticed. So, where was I? At the Baltimore Comic Con (BCC), which was dandy, and I enjoyed it very much. Usually when I’m gone somewhere around the deadline for this column, I’m supposed to get it in earlier and most times I do. This time? Just screwed up the time. What can I say? I’m (mostly) human.
Lots of my fellow columnists here at ComicMix have already done their columns this week on the BCC last week. Mike Gold, Emily Whitten, Martha Thomases, and Molly Jackson all contributed. Marc Allan Fishman wrote about an aspect of the BCC and he wasn’t even there. Makes you wonder what I could add to the (comic)mix. I wondered too, but Mike has already speculated I would probably write about the Con and I wouldn’t want to make a liar out of him.
One of the big pleasures of the Con was getting to see so many of my old friends. I shared a table with my bro, Timothy Truman, and he was considerate enough to bring his wife, Beth, who is a real treat. I hadn’t seen Tim in ages and Beth for even longer; she gave me a great hug and if that isn’t a great way to start a Con, I don’t know what is.
I had dinner with them the first night and we ran into Mike Grell who joined us. In fact, we were going to have a First Comics reunion of sorts over the weekend. In addition to Tim and Mike and Grell and me there was the two Marc/ks, Wheatley and Hempel, and Joe Staton. We even got our picture taken together to commemorate the occasion. The Mighty Gray Panthers of the real First Comics!
In addition, there were all the fine people over at the ComicMix table such as Martha Thomases, Glenn Hauman, Evelyn Kriete and Emily Whitten. I’d never met Emily in person before; she’s delightful and sat to my left at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night. I hatched an idea for a project with her and you’ll hear more about it as we get that act together.
There were lots and lots of other old friends there such as Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor and my old Suicide Squad editor and ComicMix reviewer Robert Greenberger. I want to take this moment to acknowledge how much Squad owed to Bob. He’s the one who suggested the title to me and helped guide it through its debut and onward. Take a bow, Bob.
As I mentioned, I was also at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night, sitting between Emily and Mike Gold. Vivek Tiwary was the host; I’d never met him before (among an amazing list of accomplishments, he wrote the graphic novel [[[The Fifth Beatle]]]). He was very personable, very enthusiastic about comics, and very generous when he introduced me (I was a presenter). I got to follow both Russ Heath and Jules Feiffer as they accepted their inductions into the Harvey Awards Hall of Fame. These men are legends and, if you don’t know them, go Google their names or look them up on Wikipedia.
And I followed them! Ye gawds. Well, at least I didn’t stutter.
As you may have read elsewhere, there was something of a controversy at the BCC. Some of the comic book guests charged for their autographs and some didn’t. Neal Adams charged 30 bucks per autograph; Mike Grell was also charging a much smaller sum and he donated what he made to The Hero Initiative.
I didn’t and I do not charge for autographs; I never have and I doubt I ever will. This is not to suggest any sort of judgment on those who do. Neal is a legend in the industry and an unquestioned leader in the fight for the rights of freelancers. He’s a long standing hero of mine, both as an artist and as a champion of our rights.
My rationale for not charging is pretty simple: the fan bought the book and it had my name on it and that has supported me. If they want me to deface it with my autograph, it’s the least I can do. Yes, I know that some dealers get them signed and then re-sell them on eBay or some such. I don’t think I ran into many of them, if any, while I was at the BCC. I can’t really sort out the dealers from the fans and I don’t bother trying. If others see the matter differently, so be it. This is just how I do it.
I want to say that the fans were wonderful. They were knowledgeable and enthusiastic and warm and friendly. There were all ages, too. Lots of kids, which wasn’t so true a few years ago. That was wonderful to see and hopeful for the industry.
I think it was Mike Gold who defined the BCC for me: it was really comics orientated. Other Cons are very orientated to the media guests. BCC had some but the main thrust was comics. It also seemed very much like family; other cons, such as NYCC, feel more like business. That’s okay, too; it’s New York City and that’s appropriate. In Baltimore, however, it felt like old times in the industry to me, in between the Con, the fans, and my friends. I think maybe that’s why I really enjoyed it.
I didn’t get a chance to see much of the city, which is usual for me at Cons. What I saw was interesting and nice. I ate a lot of crab which I take it is what one is supposed to do in Maryland. I think I’ve had enough Old Bay Seasoning for a while.
In short, it was a great weekend and I’m so glad to have been invited. It had been maybe two decades since I had last been there; I hope not to make it so long again. Of course, if I did, I’d be really old. Geezer City.
Thanks to all who made it a good time/ I hope we can do it again soon.
You probably read Emily’s column yesterday. It was all about the Baltimore Comic-Con. You’ll probably read Martha’s column Friday. It is all about the Baltimore Comic-Con. And, damn, I wouldn’t be surprised if John’s Sunday column is all about the Baltimore Comic-Con as well. This is because ComicMix invaded the place.
Emily, Martha, John and I were joined by fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Ed Catto, Bob Ingersoll, Robert Greenberger and Evelyn Kriete, all in a combined effort to make Adriane Nash feel bad that she missed a big one. I believe Nelson Muntz said it best: Ha-ha!
But I’m not here today to talk about the Baltimore Comic-Con. I’m here to talk about something that happened at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Something that Hilarie Staton captured in the photograph that (hopefully) appears above. Something that Baltimore Comic-Con’s official photog, Bruce Guthrie, also captured but, since he took so many photos last weekend even Carl Barks couldn’t come up with the right-sounding number, I don’t have them as of deadline-time. Bruce is quite the artistic guy and I look forward to seeing his… well, his pictures of me and my buddies.
Let’s identify the folks in Hilarie’s picture, from left to right, physically but not politically.
Marc Hempel, Mark Wheatley, Mike Grell, some pudgy asshole, Joe Staton, John Ostrander, and Timothy Truman.
Yep, that’s a reunion. The First Comics class of 1984, sans Howard Chaykin, Lenin del Sol, Hilary Barta, and Rick Obadiah. Rick had a pretty good excuse for missing the party.
It was about 34 years ago when Rick Obadiah and I were, literally, lying on the floor of an office in the mighty Video Action Magazine complex with our sketches and notes, detailing what was soon to become First Comics. The act of creation takes on many forms and an enormous amount of time, and Rick and I further developed the company through a wonderful series of elaborate restaurant meals that would provoke a vegetarian to a massive seizure. I know that it worked – actually, I’ve finally accepted that it worked – because dozens and dozens of people still stop me at comics conventions such as the Baltimore Comic-Con to tell me how much they enjoyed our work.
Yes, and more than a handful of fans whose introductory sentences started with “I discovered my dad’s comic book stash and…” Sigh.
The above-pictured people were responsible for Mars, Jon Sable Freelance, Starslayer, E-Man, and GrimJack. Our work either remains in print in trade paperback form or, as in the case with Starslayer, about to be so memorialized.
That’s really cool and sort of life-affirming.
I am not alone in saying that the Baltimore show is my favorite, and that it is my favorite because it’s by and for comic book fans. There aren’t many faded teevee stars there eking out a living; it’s all four-color, all the time. A celebration of what makes comics and comics fandom great. It’s also the home of the Harvey Awards – John and I were presenters this year – and as Martha will tell you Friday, the Harveys is all about family.
The combined age of all those guys up above is about 400 years old. Please note: all of us are still working, and still turning out great stuff. In many cases, better stuff. And signing all those comic books (sometimes in front of a CGC witness!) and chatting with you-all remains completely… what’s the word you kids say?… oh, yeah. Awesome.
Just a few decades ago, astronauts, presidents and cowboys and were some of our cultural role models. But today’s cultural heroes are the brave souls who pitch their ideas on Shark Tank. So it’s not a surprise to find an entrepreneurial high school (or middle school) student who has created a cutting edge product, service or app. That’s why the subject of this week’s column is all the more impressive. In the early 80’s, two teenage brothers launched a their comic publishing business, showcasing talents like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Neal Adams and Dave Stevens. At that time, they didn’t have any role models. They didn’t have weekly comic conventions in various cities. They were on the frontier with no maps or guidebooks.
That’s why I’m so pleased to present my recent conversation with Bill Schanes. He’s a great guy who’s accomplished so very much in his career. Conversations with him could fill up several of these weekly columns. But for now, I will focus on the early days, and the origin of Pacific Comics.
Ed Catto: Pacific Comics, as a publisher, was preceded by your mail order business, several comic shops and even a distribution business. How did you decide to start publishing Pacific Comics?
Bill Schanes: Since my brother Steve and I had several different but related businesses going at the same time, we noticed that there wasn’t very many “new” releases when it came to new comic books from the New York publishing houses. (It’s important to remember, the only mainstream publishers at that time were Archie, Harvey, DC and Marvel.) There were a number of “underground” publishers putting out books, like Print Mint, Rip-Off Press, Last Gasp, Kitchen Sink and others, but there just wasn’t enough new periodical releases to drive consumers into our stores on a weekly basis, so we decided to give it a try.
We first published a black and white comic book called ONE, which was part photo/illustration, and part traditional comic book style of artwork. We did this to make sure we fully understood how the whole editorial production cycle worked, plus we felt ONE had enough potential on its own to reach a wide range of consumers.
Most people don’t know this next tidbit, but we intended on our first major release to be a project Gil Kane was working on at the time – Blackmark.
Steve and I had also been involved with the San Diego Comic-Con since its second year (only missed the very first show), and during those early years, we got to know a number of the writers and artists who were the big names at the times, plus a wide range of new and upcoming talent as well.
EC: When you launched Pacific, the comics industry was very different than it is today. What are some of the major differences between the industry, then and now, specifically as it relates to publishing a new line of comics?
BS: As I mentioned previously, there were very few mainstream publishers releasing books at that time. The idea of a graphic novel or a trade paperback just wasn’t even being contemplated, except for a couple of exceptions.
Those early days were very innocent, as there really weren’t any rules or boundaries at that time. Competition was limited in the “superhero’ genre to DC and Marvel only, so we felt there was a fairly large gap into what we thought the market would respond to, which was to break out of the mold, and introduce new concepts that featured the creative teams as much, if not more than the character name, as any characters that Pacific Comics would be introducing would be brand new to both retailers and consumers.
While we had a general idea as to what we wanted to publish, we didn’t have a formal business plan at that time (silly looking back on it now).
It’s also important to remember that in the late 70s and early 80s, there weren’t thousands upon thousands of comic book specialty retailers. Pacific Comics was also the largest wholesaler/distributor of comic books on the west coast at the time, so we had a very good relationship with the vast majority of the comic book specialty retailers out west. We felt that they would treat us as one of their own, as DC and Marvel were those New York guys, who really hadn’t established any type of retailer programs yet.
Pacific Comics was the first “mainstream” comic book publisher who exclusively sold into comic book specialty market retailers (no newsstand), so the retailers really responded positively to this via very large initial order commitments. We combined key creators (Kirby, Ditko, Adams, Wrightson, Jones…), with what at the time was cutting edge color separations (blue line/grey line), upscale paper stock, which allowed for higher quality reproduction, and heat set printing. This basically means that once the ink was applied to the paper, the ink “set” on top of the paper. This is opposed to the traditional cold press printing method of the previous 40+ years, which the ink absorbed into the paper, and also transferred to the readers’ hands fairly easily.
EC: The roster of Pacific creators reads like a who’s who of comics – Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, Dave Stevens, Sergio Aragones…the list goes on and on. Which creators are your favorites and why?
BS: We were very fortunate, as at the time Pacific Comics was going into the publishing of comic books, DC and Marvel had just come off one of their worst periods in regards to creator/talent relationships. We were also very lucky to have a number of very bright people working for us at the time, including David Scroggy (now at Dark Horse running their merchandise program), Jon Hartz (former original Valiant EVP), Bill Lund (one of the original founders and 1st chairman of the San Diego Comic-Con), and many others.
I had played with the idea of “ranking” the talent/creators based on sales of the books they had worked on over the recent past few years (somewhat similar to sports stats). At that time (before excel), I put together a grid of sales stats (on a large oversized graph paper), broken down by writer, penciller, inker, letterer, colorist, editor and any other individuals involved in the creative process. Each month, I’d update the data to include the most recent sales. I also put a “point value” on each sales level for each category of creator, so when we wanted to put together an editorial team, we wanted to make sure that each new book or story within a book would have a “point value” which we felt would represent the best opportunity to achieve sales of previous books they had worked on. While it wasn’t 100% scientific, it proved to be pretty helpful.
Now to get back to your question, after weren’t able to come to terms with Gil Kane on his Blackmark project, we said we might as well go with the biggest names in the business at the time. That meant that the #1 on our list, and one of all of our personal favorites was Jack Kirby. Jack had left the business for a while to work at Hanna-Barbera; mainly because he was dissatisfied with the work-for-hire concept that was the standard in the comic book business at the time, as he felt he should retain ownership and be entitled to royalties versus just a flat page rate with no back end compensation.
We also wanted to work with Neal Adams – who wouldn’t want to? – as well as some newcomers, like Dave Stevens. When we first saw the Rocketeer concept and early pages, we were left speechless, and knew immediately that Dave was heading to be one of the brightest and biggest names in the business (Dave was lost far too early, so sad).
We were aware that both Jack and Neal had long fought for creator rights, and we wanted to work with both, to show the creative community that Pacific Comics was a new type of comic book publisher, one who wanted creators to work with us versus having creators work for us.
EC: Which projects or series were your favorites?
BS: Personally, I really enjoyed almost all of the books that April Campbell and Bruce Jones packaged for Pacific Comics. April and Bruce put together a series of fantastic titles, with all star talent involved. These included Twisted Tales, Alien Worlds, Pathways to Fantasy, Somerset Holmes to name a few. Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Berni Wrightson, Barry Winsor Smith, Tim Conrad, Art Adams, John Bolton, Joe Chiodo, Bo & Scott Hampton, Brent Anderson, and a host of others, plus April and Bruce wrote the majority of the stories, which lent to wonderful continuity along the whole line.
I also enjoyed the Elric series by P. Craig Russel (Mike Friedrich – from the then famous StarReach Productions) brokered this project with the creators.
Mike Grell was just in the middle of his fantastic run on Warlord, and we were really pleased to be able to publish his book Starslayer.
EC: And as a follow-up, which comics were you most proud of publishing?
BS: It’s hard to say anything other than KIRBY! The King had returned to comics and Pacific Comics engaged him on a creator ownership deal, whereby Pacific Comics licensed Jack’s titles from him, paid him a page rate, royalty from copy one, and at the end of the day, Jack owned 100% of his titles. (As it should be, as far as we were concerned).
Loved Dave Steven’s work on The Rocketeer.
April and Bruce were incredible to work with.
Steve Ditko did some back up features for us – I felt especially proud we were able to get Ditko back into the business (as we had done with Kirby).
SERGIO – need I say more! Sergio was, and is to this day, one of the nicest guys in the business. Sergio had done signings at our retail stores in the early 70’s, and was an absolute pleasure to work with (along with Mark Evanier).
EC: I’m especially intrigued by the Somerset Holmes series by Bruce Jones and April Campbell, and their Hollywood struggle. What do you remember about that one?
BS: Somerset Holmes was a series put together and packaged by April Campbell and Bruce Jones (a really terrific team). April was the main “model” for the lead character, and my wife at the time (Cynthia Lee Vice) was also involved in the photo shoots for reference materials used later on.
EC: After Pacific Comics, you started working at Diamond Comics. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about, and what your responsibilities there were initially?
BS: After Pacific Comics wrapped up its various business entities in 1984, I took a few months off from returning to the workforce, just to recharge and see if I still had enough in me to give another run. I was 26 at the time, started Pacific Comics with my brother Steve when I was 13 and Steve was 17.
Sometime in the late summer of 1984, I had taken a few months off, and felt I could re-enter back into the industry that I loved so much. I reached out to Bud Plant (the largest wholesaler/distributor on the west coast), Russ Ernst (one of the largest mid-west distributors – Glenwood), Milton Griepp and John Davis (Capital City), and Steve Geppi (Diamond). These four interviews were all somewhat unique, as we both interviewed each other in regards to help to fully understand if we’d be a good fit together. They each had a long list of questions and talking points, and I also had put together a detailed list of questions and thoughts based on each of their individual strengths.
After these four interviews, I felt I could have the most impact by joining Diamond, which I did on November 11, 1985. I moved my family, dog and exotic African Macaw from San Diego to Baltimore via a semi-truck. I drove all 3,000 miles for the first time in that semi-truck.
When I got to Diamond, there were only a handful of employees at the “home office”. I originally handled customer service, sales, order forms (no Previews catalog yet) and “other duties as called upon.” Within my first week, I was attending a trade show in Chicago, with the instructions to meet with the largest accounts in the Chicagoland area (this included Moondog’s, Larry’s Comic Shop, Joe Sarno’s Comic Kingdom and Carl Bonasera’s Amazing Fantasy Comics.
EC: Looking back on your experiences with Pacific, is there any learning that you could offer to new publishers starting today?
BS: It seems to me in order to be a successful comic book publishers today, you need to do a number of things very well. These include (but aren’t limited to):
Dedication to honoring your word with both creators, comic book specialty retailers, media, and other 3rd party partners
Publishing on time, every time (leave no doubts that your serious about your publishing plans, and do what you say)
Flexibility to change direction quickly
Define what niche you are good at, and stick to what you know
Financially ability to fund the start-up, building of, and continuing of your publishing business – over a 2-4 year time
Treating creators (writers, artists, colorists, editors) and creator rights (outside of licensed books from major intellectually property owners like Warner Brothers, Disney, Fox…) with ultimate respect.
EC: Bill, great insights, stories and advice. What a treat! Thanks so much.
Batgirl as portrayed by Yvonne Craig in the 1960s Batman television series.
Yvonne Craig, best known to comics fans as Batgirl in the 1966 Batman TV series, has died at the age of 78.
Yvonne Craig passed away at her home in Pacific Palisades, surrounded by her immediate family and comforted by Hospice yesterday night. She died from complications brought about from breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver. She is survived by her husband, Kenneth Aldrich, her sister Meridel Carson and nephews Christopher and Todd Carson. A private service is being planned with no date set at the present time. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to: The Angeles Clinic Foundation by mail at 2001 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404 or by going into their website at www.theangelesclinicfoundation.org and following the “Donate” link.
Yvonne Craig began her theatrical career as the youngest member of The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and toured for three years when she was accidentally discovered by John Ford’s son Patrick and cast for the lead in the movie The Young Land.
This was quickly followed by many years of film and television including two movies with Elvis Presley (It Happened at the World’s Fair and Kissin Cousins). However, she is probably best known for originating the role as Batgirl in the 1966 TV series of Batman, or for her character “Marta” from the third season of Star Trek in the episode Whom God’s Destroy where she played the well remembered insane green Orion Slave Girl who wanted to kill Captain Kirk.
Jon Sable Freelance creator Mike Grell sends his own reminiscence:
I can’t tell you how saddened I am to learn that Yvonne Craig, known to many as TV’s BATGIRL, has passed away. She was a great lady and a cherished friend whose warmth and wit made her a joy to be with.
I met Yvonne twenty-odd years ago and we struck up an instant friendship, partly based on a mutual love of Africa and partly because (she said) I had drawn her favorite comic: BATMAN FAMILY #1. She said it was because Batgirl finally got to kiss Robin.
A few years later we were guests at a comic convention and, when Yvonne saw me, she came running around her table to give me a hug. I put up my hand to stop her, turned to my friends across the room and said, “Hey, guys! Watch this!” Yvonne grinned and gave me what Batgirl gave Robin.
The last time I saw her, she had somehow managed not to have aged a day. She was as beautiful and vivacious as ever and gave no hint of the battle she was fighting. I wish I could say we were close, but our meetings were infrequent and too far between. Despite that, she always made me feel like a long-lost friend. Maybe a little more lost just now.
This new season of ARROW promises a major thrill ride for characters on the show and fans as well. We talk to the creators and cast who reveal a few secrets on what’s to come (i.e. Black Canary dead or ??). Plus comedian Adam Ferrara is in the driver’s seat for another season of TOP GEAR and he shares with us just how deep his passion for cars really runs.
“Must a name mean something?” Alice asked doubtfully.
“Of course it must,” Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh; “my name means the shape I am – and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.”
Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
There was a time in my life when it was my silent, constant partner. I didn’t know then what it was; this thing had no name, and no one had yet advised me to challenge it, to call it out from the shadows into the sunlight. It hid in the cold dark crevices of my psyche, curled around my thoughts and dreams like a boa constrictor, never letting go, an anonymous thing. I knew there was something wrong, but without a name to call it, I could not voice it. Without a name to call it, I could not control it. Without a name to call it, I could not reclaim my self.
Yesterday I went to a comic book store for the first time in a very, very long time.
What the hell does that have to do with my struggles with it? A good question. A legitimate question.
The first time I discovered a store dedicated to comics was way back in the early 80s, during the time when this anonymous thing lived with me day after day, week after week, month after month. I don’t remember purposely sniffing it out – IIRC I just happened to be stopped at a red light on Broadway in downtown Bayonne, New Jersey. The storefront caught my eye; the windows were full of comics and some other stuff, but then the light turned green and I continued along my way.
But for the few moments while I was waiting for the red to turn to green, the thing had let go of me, or, at least, had lessened its grip. It wasn’t an “uh-huh” moment…
But very soon afterwards I was in the store and I wasn’t feeling weird, or odd, or frightened or any of that remote, sad, heaviness of the thing-with-no name which I carried with me – well, not so much, anyhow…
Yeah, not to put it through too fine a sieve – and, yes, it’s 28 years later – I think what I was feeling was comfort.
I looked at all the covers of the comics and the colors and the artwork and all the heroes – Superman, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, The Legion Of Super-Heroes, and all the rest – and I felt better. Okay, not kick-up-your-heels-and-do-a-dance better, but yeah, definitely better. Probably, as my therapist would say, it had to do with being suddenly face-to-face with the little-girl-who-was-me; she who was excited, who was curious, who read comics by flashlight after Taps underneath the covers of my bunk at camp.
I remembered her.
I was her.
I don’t remember what else I bought that day, but I do remember buying Camelot 3000, the groundbreaking maxi-series by Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland, which imagines the prophesized return of King Arthur and his Round Table when the Earth is threatened by an alien invasion in the year 3000 A.D. I have always loved the story of the once and future king; it is the classic hero’s journey, told over and over again in many myths and in many cultures, the tale of the individual who is challenged to walk through the gauntlet, to vanquish the enemy, to achieve peace and knowledge even if cost is dear.
I read that first issue of Camelot 3000, and while I was reading it I escaped the hell of my life. And I kept going back to the comic book store and I kept reading C3000, and I bought and read other comics. I even wrote a “Letter to the Editor” that appeared in an issue of Green Lantern.
It was finally, and properly, diagnosed and named in 1990 as clinical depression.
And yes, naming the monster gave me power.
But I still hate it. Because it never really goes away, y’know? Even with medication and therapy, it’s always there, teasing me. “I’m still here. I had you once. I can have you again.” And sometimes it does, for a little while. The past month, for instance. But I have named it, and so its power is not what it was. And then, too, sometimes I think…
If the monster had not taken hold of me, if I had not had to struggle and walk through the gauntlet, I would have never walked into that comic book store in 1982 and started reading comics again. I would have never sat down on a rainy Sunday and written Jenesis, the story that led me to Karen Berger and New Talent Showcase and all the wonderful things that followed it. I would have never written Lois Lane: When It Rains, God Is Crying, and never would have been able to understand the pain of Chalk Drawings (Wonder Woman #46), which I co-wrote with George Pérez. I would have never gone to conventions and met so many wonderful people – this means you, Mike, John, Kim, and Mary. And you, Martha. And you, Bob Greenberger. And Karen and Len and Marv and Mike Grell and Tom Brevoort and Trina Robbins and Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner and Marie Javins. And so many others, some of who are no longer with us – Dick Giordano and Gray Morrow and Don Heck and Mark Gruenwald…
I hate you, depression.
I hate you with a passion that frightens me. You have fucked up my life in too many goddamn ways.
I would not be here now without you.
I said once before, in a previous column, that nothing is wasted.
If you’re like me, you learned way too much of your history from comic books. That’s how I first learned about Orson Welles and his infamous Mercury Theater “War Of The Worlds” broadcast which took place seventy-five years ago today, when the Atom went back in time and… well, why tell you when I can show you? From December 1974, here’s the back-up story from Action Comics #442, written by ComicMix columnist Martin Pasko and drawn by Mike Grell, here’s The Atom, or as he’s known here, “The Little Man From Mars!”
Here’s a thought that shocked me when I realized it: it’s been a longer amount of time from the time this story was published to today than it’s been from when this story was published back to the time when the War Of The Worlds radio broadcast happened.
Either Mike Gold or Mike Grell said the above quote some 20 years ago. Considering I was just five at the time, please forgive me if I can’t remember who said what.
Whoever said it was talking about the comics industry and the abundance of seemingly nice people in it. At the time we were all working on a comic called Shado: Song of the Dragon.
Mike Gold was the editor, Mike Grell was the writer, and I penciled and colored the book. We jokingly called the project, the Mike book.
It was my second major project and I was trilled as shit to be working with Mike Grell, who was (is) a nice guy. Mike Gold is a nice guy and I’m a nice guy.
Really, I’m a nice guy.
Most of the people I’d met in the comic industry have been really nice people.
I came to Hollywood in 1994 to run the film and television division of Motown Records. Most of the work I’ve done since then has been in television. I’ve met a lot of people in Hollywood and let me tell you compared to comics, that industry is full of not so nice people.
And by not so nice I mean assholes.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of really nice people in Hollywood. For example, George Clooney and Wayne Brady are two of the nicest people you will ever meet.
I’ve hung out a couple times with George and he’s a great guy. No, he’s not my friend (unless you are a really pretty Asian girl and that would impress you, if that’s the case then George and I are best friends) but every time I see George he treats me warmly and makes me feel genuinely like he’s glad to see me.
This kind treatment from one of the biggest stars in the world, how cool is that?
Now, Wayne is a dear friend and he’s as cool as cool can be and has been since the moment he and I met some five years ago. I don’t want to give the impression that Wayne and George are the only nice people I’ve met in Hollywood they are not…but I’ve met many and I mean many people in Hollywood.
And a lot of them are dicks.
I think I know why there are more dicks in Hollywood than there are in comics.
For the most part people in comics meet you and at least try and get to know you. In Hollywood that’s not the case, in Hollywood if people meet you and determine you won’t make them any money then that, as they say, is that.
No, not everyone in Hollywood is a blood sucking, money grubbing parasite but yeah; I’ve met more than a few who are.
The San Diego Comic Con International is the biggest pop culture event in the world. Comic Con does not need Hollywood, Hollywood needs Comic Con.
I’m sick to fucking death of Hollywood thinking Comic Con is their event.
Every year at Comic Con I give a big party, every year a bunch of Hollywood players show up and I let them in. I won’t bore you with the “stars” that have attended my parties but take my word for it, it’s impressive.
Every year, Hollywood gives parties at Comic Con and every year it seems that the comic book industry is shut out of those events.
That pisses me the fuck off to no end.
I think George Clooney is a wonderful actor and a really nice guy, I really, really do think that. But if George showed up at my Comic Con party at the same time Len Wein showed up and I could only let one of them in, it would be Len.
Because it’s Comic Con!
Len is part of Comic Con, like water is part of wet. Period.
Long story short, Hollywood, comics do not need you. You need us.
WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold and the Great Comics’ Shell Game