Tagged: Mike Grell

Emily S. Whitten: What I’m Watching – Arrow

I love TV shows, but sometimes I’m terrible at keeping up with them. As with comics, I tend to skip a few weeks and then mainline three or four episodes in a row, mostly because I hate getting just a tiny bit of story and character interaction and then waiting a whole week for more. Impatience is one of my little flaws, and the mandatory waiting is made more bearable if I get a miniseries collection of stories first.

However, given that it’s often harder (or more inconvenient) to find and watch back episodes of current shows, this fall I did take note of two shows I was excited about and wanted to actually try to keep up with, one of which is Arrow, the new CW show about Green Arrow. So far, I’m succeeding. Go me!

I always try to give a new show at least two episodes to decide what I think of it. Sure, a pilot is supposed to grab you and draw you in, but sometimes it takes even a potentially good show a couple of tries to establish a balance (and sometimes it takes half of a season and by the time they’ve worked out the kinks the show’s canceled. I’m looking at you, Dresden Files). For instance, during the first episode of Dexter I was unsure of whether my long-time friend had been insulting my character or serious when he’d said “Oh, you’d love Dexter. It’s about a serial killer!” but by episode two I’d realized that he was absolutely right and I wanted to see more. We’ve had two episodes of Arrow so far, so I feel like I’ve given it a fair shot and it’s time for a frank assessment. So here we go!

 (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

The storyline is centered around Oliver Queen immediately after his return from a yacht wreck and five years marooned on The Island that Makes a Man Out of Him – or a Future Vigilante, whatever. He returns to Star(ling) City to discover that his mom has married the CEO of his dad’s company, his sister Thea’s a recreational drug user, and his best friend Tommy Merlyn’s a slightly smarmy partier – which apparently means he’s the one person who hasn’t changed at all in five years. Ollie’s ex-girlfriend, now-lawyer (Dinah) Laurel Lance, is mad he’s not dead because her sister Sarah died on the yacht because Ollie was cheating on Laurel with her. Classy!

Pretty much from the first moment Ollie arrives back in the city, he begins his purposeful transformation to (Green) Arrow with his stated (literally stated, in an Intense Voiceover) mission being to take down a list of corrupt people his dad told him about who have ruined the city.

Even in the comics, Green Arrow bears a lot of superficial similarities to Batman; but in this show, it’s obvious that they’re actually trying to channel Christopher Nolan’s Batman in particular. Ollie hides behind a more shallow “playboy” persona that he switches on in public so people won’t suspect his vigilante skills and activities; he’s most genuinely affectionate towards the household staff (which plays weirdly here, since it doesn’t seem like either his mother or sister are heinous people at this point); and he magically sets up a fully stocked and wired Arrow-cave with what are apparently two Bags of Holding containing computers, lights, weaponry, and an entire exercise setup.

The problem with all this, though, is that it’s done so quickly. In the Batman movies there’s a clear progression and motivation behind everything Bruce Wayne does to make himself into Batman, and we get to savor the transformation of an ordinary man into a superhero. In this show, it’s like they’re rushing to get the setup out of the way and don’t bother to appreciate what’s so cool about a superhero’s origin, or to go through the reasoning for his behavior. Which is puzzling, because if you’re going to have ridiculously dramatic voiceovers in your show, what better way to use them than to say things like, “I had to pretend to be something I’m not – a shallow, callous party boy – so people wouldn’t suspect the truth.” I can just hear Stephen Amell intoning that now. (Although hopefully he’d stop short of saying, “I also had to don a green hood of vigilante-ism. Because I cannot complete my mission as Oliver Queen. But as a symbol…as a symbol I can be incorruptible; everlasting…”)

Okay, I’m making a big deal about the Nolan parallels; and it could be argued that those movies redefined certain types of superhero cinema, and naturally a serious superhero show might resemble them. But there are actual shots in Arrow that are so cinematically similar to those movies that I can’t think it’s remotely a coincidence, and they’re a little too on-the-mark to be enjoyed as homages.

For instance, in the pilot we get a scene with the head bad guy sitting in a car looking scared as Arrow takes out his men just outside – a la Carmine Falcone at the docks in Batman Begins. And in episode two we get the previous part of that same Batman scene, when a different head bad guy looks around in fright as an unseen person starts taking out his men around him with projectiles in a warehouse-like area (a la the Batarang striking the light bulb and the ensuing mayhem in the movie). And that’s just a couple of examples. Let’s not even get started on things like Tommy driving Ollie into the bad part of the city (does that make Tommy Rachel Dawes?) and the dedication of an applied sciences building in episode two.

I’m not saying that stealing a few pages from Nolan’s playbook is a bad idea; in fact, I think it could be really enjoyable to watch. But as I said, here…everything is so rushed. It’s like they were in this huge hurry to slot every family member, friend, and piece of Arrow’s persona into place so they could get down to the nitty-gritty plot of the show. Which would be okay, except that so far, the plot isn’t a plot, it’s a…routine? I’m not sure what else to call it. Other than all of the establishing information (including the shipwreck and island flashbacks), if I had to sum up what has happened in real time so far, it would be: Queen goes after someone on his Bad Guy list and makes them pay somehow that involves trick arrows; Laurel is involved because she’s a lawyer who fights against the Bad Guys in court; and Detective Harry-Dresden Lance gets involved either because of his daughter or Arrow or both, which makes me happy because so far, he’s my favorite part of the show. (Seriously, I love Paul Blackthorne as Detective Lance so far, and I really loved him as Harry Dresden. Can you tell?)

And… that’s it. Sure, there’s ongoing character drama – sister Thea is alternately begging Ollie to let her in and angry at him for judging her, and the interactions between the two, while not always logical, are pretty well done. Mommy Queen is now married to his dad’s old friend, and is apparently in the midst of Evil Doings but still loves her son… maybe. Ollie and Laurel are back-and-forth about where their relationship is (and their interactions are probably the best part of the show so far, because actress Katie Cassidy, whom I last saw as Ruby in Supernatural, is killing it as Laurel). Meanwhile, there’s some undefined nonsense going on with Laurel and Merlyn; and Laurel and her dad have fights about The Right Way to Do Right. It’s all potentially interesting, but somehow the interesting moments are so disconnected that they turn into background noise for Ollie’s quest; and so far, Ollie’s quest is boring.

To compare: while Smallville, the last CW show to feature Green Arrow, was often goofy and sometimes entered downright “WTF?” territory, the same zaniness that allowed for total mis-steps like “Lana becomes a vampire for an episode” also allowed for stuff like Red-K Clark partying and knocking over banks in Metropolis, and Ollie leading a young Justice League into Lex Luthor’s evil labs and blowing them up; and seriously? That was kind of awesome. There were some really fun plots that only happened because the fictional world was wide open to stuff like Lois & Clark somehow getting sucked into the Phantom Zone via both simultaneously touching Clark’s Fortress crystal which had just been anonymously mailed to him. All in a day at the Kent farm, as it were.

In that universe, which features a different take on Green Arrow’s core personality (and one that I grew to appreciate despite his clunky introductory scenes), somehow Green Arrow targeting Bad Dudes and giving their money to charity managed to be both not boring and not the only thing we were supposed to be invested in. Ollie in Smallville had heart, a certain playfulness despite his tragic past, and, frankly, more firmness of purpose than Clark a lot of the time. Despite the Smallville-ian costume Arrow dons here, however, this character is pretty dour (too much firmness of purpose?), and while I get that he’s supposed to be suppressing his emotions for his mission, I miss the heart that the Smallville character had. Even when he was in pain and being a jackass about it, you felt for him and could understand why his friends would rally together to help him, as they did more than once. I don’t find that here.

I guess I’m having a bit of trouble collating how I feel about Arrow overall, because I’m torn between how much I really wanted to like it (especially given all of the good advance reviews) and my thoughts when watching it. Despite my criticisms above, there are some good pieces to this puzzle; but it seems like all of the pieces I might enjoy are jumbled in with each other in a way that makes it hard to enjoy any of them or put together a coherent picture. The good pieces include the aforementioned interactions between certain characters; Tommy Merlyn as the comic relief; the fun little nerd references to Andy Diggle, Mike Grell, and Deathstroke; Amell, who is gaining traction in a more nuanced portrayal of Oliver by episode two, and is plenty pretty for a CW show (it’s a requirement, dontchya know) and impressively fit (the salmon ladder exercise in the pilot is memorable); the flashbacks to the wreck (and Sarah’s whooshing out to sea, which was very well done); the trick arrows (I like how they’re modernized into technology arrows); and the Lance family (really I’d watch a whole show about the Lance family, as played by Blackthorne and Cassidy, and am thinking right now that maybe the network should have gone with that).

But there are also jarringly bad notes, like the over-the-top (and sometimes unnecessary) voiceovers; some not-stellar dialogue (“What…happened to you on that island?” “A lot.”); and the fact that Oliver Queen, Our Hero, cold killed a dude by straight-up breaking his neck (after presumably killing another dude by putting him in the way of about fifteen bullets to the chest). This happens in the pilot, when Ollie and Tommy are abducted so that some mysterious person (Ollie’s mom, as it turns out) can learn if his dad told him about all the Bad Guys in Star(ling) City. And I get that Ollie is in danger here, since the thugs Ollie’s mom hired are spraying bullets everywhere in a way that would have killed anyone who wasn’t trained to escape them (and since Ollie’s mom doesn’t know about his bad-assedness, that really makes me wonder about her); but still – he kills the guy in cold blood, just because the dude saw him do some sweet parkour and martial arts. I feel like this isn’t very heroic, you know? Also it’s uneven writing, because after that, he purposely doesn’t kill any more bad dudes (even the really bad ones specifically named in his book), instead “bringing them to justice.” Hm.

Taken all together, I would have liked to see a lot more of Ollie progressing from “traumatized guy with a purpose” to “full on superhero,” rather than the rushed bits we get here. Hell, I’d probably watch at least a half-season of just that. Instead of trying to pull every thread of his life together at once, I think if the show had focused in on Ollie, slowly drawing in and examining his interactions with others, I might already have become more invested. I also think that if they threw some challenges in Ollie’s quest path, instead of making it seem like each week he’ll just knock another name off of his list, no problem, I’d be more eager to watch.

As it is, the flashbacks have been interesting, the nerd references are fun, and there have been some snippets of good character interaction. What will keep me watching (for a few more episodes at least) is mainly my appreciation for seeing any adaptation of a superhero to a major network show; my love of the nerdy bits they throw in here and there; my appreciation of The Pretty (hey, Amell’s abs and chiseled looks are impressive); my interest in the Lance family; and my hope that the show is going to jump to a more surprising trajectory than it’s on now, and hopefully get better.

…So I guess I’ll keep watching and see how Arrow does next week, and until then, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis? Really?

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Gets Mad, For A Change

Mike Gold: The Secret Agent’s Secret Origin

Unless you haven’t been paying your electric bill, you probably are aware that the first James Bond movie, Doctor No, was released a half-century ago this week. You might not be as aware that several months earlier DC Comics released the comic book adaptation as part of its Showcase series. Editor George Kashdan said he didn’t understand why DC picked up the book except for the fact that the artwork was in hand and the rights must have been cheap.

Several months before that, the people who actually produced the comic book – Classics Illustrated’s British division – released the adaptation as issue 158A of their series. This explains why DC’s comic had the look and feel of a Classics Illustrated title. Just to complicate matters, Dell Publishing released Doctor No in Europe as an issue of its Detective Stories title.

At the time, I couldn’t care less. I was an 11-year old comics fan and, like most my ilk, a voracious reader. The Showcase issue had a text piece that discussed Ian Fleming and his super-spy creation. The next time my parents schlepped me out to Marshall Field’s department store I sought out the paperback novels only to discover they cost an unheard of 50¢ apiece. Most paperbacks were 35¢, some were still 25¢. I reluctantly passed, but I kept an eye out for the movie. I almost forgot about it when Doctor No finally came out.

Like an amazingly high percentage of baby boomer men and near-adolescents, James Bond was the coolest guy I’d ever seen on the big screen, and I immediately became a fan. By now I was actually 12 and able to afford a 50¢ paperback, but I couldn’t find Fleming’s Doctor No. I settled for Live and Let Die, and I was enthralled.

Over the next several years I devoured every Fleming novel, even reading the new ones as they were serialized in Playboy (I looked a bit older than my age, particularly if I didn’t buy it along with my week’s comics). I was in line for the debut of every subsequent movie, and I followed the James Bond newspaper strip in the Chicago American. The latter was a British strip that quite faithfully adapted Fleming’s books, and in my mind most of those adaptations were better than the books themselves. Here’s a fun fact: Modesty Blaise creator Peter O’Donnell wrote the Doctor No adaptation. But I wondered why DC didn’t do any more adaptations.

So did Carmine Infantino when he became publisher. In 1972 he discovered DC had a ten-year option on Bond, and that option was about to run its course. He approached Jack Kirby and his old pal Alex Toth and probably others, but then something terrible happened: Sean Connery announced he was quitting the series. Carmine let the option expire.

Clearly, DC would have made a fortune off of 007 had they picked up the series when the second Bond movie was made. Or even the third, Goldfinger, which truly launched the mega-fad. But the company was starting to doll itself up for a sale and the folks in the trenches were busy with the imminent launch of the Batman teevee series.

Perhaps the most popular heroic fantasy figure in movie history, James Bond never achieved an on-going comic book series. Many movies were adapted, some by guys like Mike Grell, Tom Yeates, and Howard Chaykin. A handful of original mini-series and one-shots were released, but nothing more.

The movie series went on and on and on, but most Roger Moore entries were more reminiscent of Adam West than of Sean Connery. The series started to improve after Sir Roger outgrew the part and Barbara Broccoli took over as producer, and Daniel Craig’s reboot in 2006 brought new hope and great entertainment to the masses. As Adele fans know all too well, the next Craig Bond flick, Skyfall, comes out in a few weeks.

But I got to tell you, as a baby boomer Bond boy, I feel greatly cheated.

An Alex Toth Bond comic?


THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Mindy Newell: Ruminations, Ramblings and Rumblings

So what’s in Mindy’s head today?

I haven’t been to a convention in a long, long time, but reading about some of the ComicMix crew’s sojourn to Baltimore (here and here) lit up my temporal lobe – that’s the part of the brain responsible for memory, for you non-biology majors out there. James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery “Captain, the engines canna take it” Scott of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701) in the “green room” at ICON spilling his coffee all over my new outfit and his gentlemanly response as he went to wipe my chest and then blushed, stopping himself just in time. London in 1986 – walking through London with Archie Goodwin, Mark Gruenwald, Louise and Walter Simonson. Meeting Neil Gaiman and John Wagner. Forgetting that I met John Higgins and then marrying him 17 years later. The British Museum. The Tower of London. Breakfast with Mike Grell and Tom DeFalco. Toronto: sitting on a panel with Chris Claremont. Chicago: Meeting Kim Yale and John Ostrander and Joyce Brabner and Harvey Pekar. Michael Davis in the audience lending support and trying to fluster me (“Number Nine. Number Nine.”) during the Women In Comics panel. Hanging out at the pool with a bunch of comics pros and getting such a great tan that my coworkers back home thought I had gone to the Caribbean for the weekend. Sitting next to Julie Schwartz at the DC booth. Being followed into the bathroom by a fan wanting an autograph.

Over at The League Of Women Bloggers on Facebook, I found out about a troll who has been sexually harassing and threatening women pros and their families on the net. As I said there, “I would like to know why it took Ron Marz and Mark Millar (and kudos to them for doing so) to take the asshole on. Having never been subjected to the troll’s attacks, I was ignorant until I read about it here. However, I will say that if I had been attacked like this, I would not have stayed quiet. (Anyone who knows me should not be surprised.) I would have taken him on, language for language, and if it had continued, I would have contacted the authorities. So, girlfriends, I do have to say…why didn’t anyone who was being attacked by this asshole not take him on? My graduate paper for school was ‘Horizontal, Lateral and Vertical Violence in Nursing.’ It’s a worldwide phenomenon in the field. What this trolling ogre has been doing is the same thing (and it occurs on the net in nursing, too.) And every peer review paper I read, every person I interviewed, said the same thing – those who are attacked in this manner must come forward. It’s the only way to stop it.”        

Reading comics as a kid taught me the meaning of “invulnerable” and that the sun is 93,000, 000 miles from Earth. (Thanks for the editor’s notes, Julie!) It opened my mind to the infinite possibilities of “life out there” and the wonders of the universe. It taught me that guns are bad and life is precious. It taught me to love reading. I mentioned this to daughter Alix’s husband, Jeff, who is a professor in the City University of New York system and teaches remedial English, suggesting that he use comics as part of his syllabus. He’s looking into it.  If he can get into his office. The key the administration doesn’t open the door. Ah, CUNY.

Conspiracy moment: It might be my writer’s brain, but can’t help having a suspicion that the release of The Innocence Of Muslims (the video that launched horrific demonstrations against the U.S., Israel, and the Western world all over the Middle East, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and resulted in the deaths of our Libyan ambassador and three others) was an act of Al Quada, especially as it occurred on September 11, and especially as Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over as head of the terrorist organization, released a message on the net calling for an uprising. Laugh if you must, scoff if you will, but I won’t be surprised if the New York Times reports that a link was found by our intelligence agencies.

The Giants lost their opening game. They deserved to lose. They looked horrible. Their offensive line is non-existent. For this I missed Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic Convention?

Martha Thomases’ fashion police column last week made me want to see a spread featuring the very fashion-forward women of comics. Hey! New York Times! How ‘bout it?

La Shonah Tova, everybody! That’s a big Happy New Year to all of you!





Mike Gold: The Secret Identity Myth, part 1

It’s beginning to appear as though we’re moving away from one of the pillars of superherodom, the secret identity. Even though this movement started back in the early 1960s with The Fantastic Four, it’s moved slowly up to the breakthrough moment in the first Iron Man movie.

Of course, that was telegraphed a few years before by my pal Mike Grell during his run on the comic book, but Marvel squeezed that back in the tubes where it sat until the movie people showed them Mike was right in the first place.

Such pettiness aside, I welcome the departure from tradition. The secret identity was almost always a stupid idea. Clark Kent became Superman to protect his friends and loved ones from harm? Okay, fine. I can appreciate that even the Man of Steel can not keep an eye on Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Lex Luthor (well, they used to be friends…), Linda Lee, Lionel Luthor, and Leslie Luckabee simultaneously, 24/7. But let’s do a little reality testing here: all Toyman has to do is grab Agnes Applebee off of the streets and hold a gun to her head and Superman is in the exact same pickle.

There were worthy exceptions. I can see why Bruce Wayne covers up: he doesn’t want all those people inconvenienced by the Dark Knight’s activities to sue the poo outta him. Going back to the dawn of the pulp era, the incredibly wealthy nobleman Don Diego de la Vega was committing high treason every time he dressed up as Zorro: to the natives of California he was a hero, but to the Power he was a terrorist. Even then, Zorro revealed his identity at the end his first tale, The Curse of Capistrano, but author/creator Johnston McCulley overlooked this aberration in his five-dozen subsequent stories.

Arguably the first costumed hero (Spring-Heeled Jack was a villain, and was further disadvantaged by being ostensibly real) was the Scarlet Pimpernel, created 14 years before Zorro by Baroness Emmuska Orczy in 1905. He had the same excuse as Don Diego: he was committing treason, in this case against the French Revolution. He and his 19-member legion ran around rescuing their fellow aristocrats from the best of times, the worst of times. So, sure, he had a good reason for his secret identity.

But Superman? Not so much. Wonder Woman? Give me a break; army nurse turned Second Lieutenant Diana Prince was wasting her powers as anything other than Princess Diana. The X-Men? They had no lives; did they need masks because “Hey, Beast!” sounds better than “Hey, Hank!”? Doctor Strange didn’t have a secret identity; in real life, he was Doctor Strange. If the wrong people got the right idea, he’d mystically brainwash them. Spider-Man? C’mon, we’d be better off without Aunt May.

The man with one of the most famous secret identities of all time – or, perhaps, two – in fact didn’t have a secret identity at all. Were he to be unmasked, he would be nothing.

I’ll tell you about him next week.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil Talks About Mike Gold’s Old Boss


MICHAEL DAVIS: The Greatest Story Never Told, Part 2

Please read last week’s installment before reading this. Thanks!

What has gone before – the quick and dirty recap. 1999: I pitched and sold what I consider the greatest idea I’ve ever come up with to DC Comics. Before I pitched the idea I checked with three of the best writers in the industry, Keith Giffen, Lovern Kindzieski and David Quinn. They all thought it was a great idea. Keith Giffen called it one of the greatest ideas he’s ever heard.

After hearing praise from those guys I ran the idea pass Dwayne McDuffie. Dwayne liked the idea so much he said he wanted to write it. It was with that in mind I pitched the idea to Jenette Kahn who was running DC Comics at the time.

Jenette loved idea and said “Let’s do it.”

Jenette Kahn is no longer head of DC. She makes movies now. Big movies. Jenette produced the Clint Eastwood film Gran Torino.

Like I said, big movies.

From the moment I met Jenette, I liked her. I’m glad to say she liked me also. We hit it off right away. We talked about anything and everything. One day, Jenette and I were talking about fine artists and she asked me if I knew the work of William T. Williams. I did. In fact, I knew his work so well Jenette was impressed. I knew more about his work than Jenette and at one point she remarked that I must be a huge fan. “I’d better be.” I told Jenette. He’s my cousin.”

Jenette said she would like to meet him so right then and there I made a call and in a few days Jenette was being given a studio tour by my cousin. In my entire life I’ve only asked my cousin to give two people personal studio tours. Jenette was one of them.

That’s a big deal because my cousin is a huge artist.

How huge?

He’s in the Janson History Of Art, the definitive book on art history.

That’s how huge.

My cousin is my mentor and my surrogate father. He and my mother quite literally saved my life while I was growing up. I’m fiercely protective of my cousin. Every mofo with a serious bank account asks me to hook them up once they find out William T. Williams is my cousin.


He’s too important as an artist and as my family for me to make a call on anyone’s behalf just because they can drop a million bucks or more (yes, you read that right) on some art. So I’ve only made that call twice and Jenette was one of them.

I made that call because Jenette is simply a wonderful person and I knew my cousin would enjoy meeting her as much as she would enjoy meeting him.

Some years before that, Jenette and I had talked about me coming to DC as the first black editor. As cool as I thought that was I couldn’t do it. Frankly, I couldn’t afford the pay cut. What I did do was make a list of some people whom I thought would be great choices. Jenette thanked me for thinking of that and actually someone from that list was hired. No, I didn’t get them the job nor do I know if anything I said had anything to do with him getting the job. What mattered to be was DC comics had a black editor.

I tell you the history with Jenette and I because of the importance of what happened to the project I sold to DC. The project I considered the greatest idea I’ve ever had.

Project X was green lit by Jenette and assigned to an editor at DC.

Me not being an idiot, asked Dwayne McDuffie to write it based on my overview and I was to handle the art. Dwayne said yes and I was doubly excited. The editor chosen, loved the idea, and couldn’t wait to do it.

I’d done it.

I’d sold the greatest idea I ever had. This would be an important project, written by an important writer, published by an important publisher with art by an artist with something to prove. I’d had two big projects before this from DC. ETC, the first series ever published by DC’s imprint Piranha Press and Shado, a four issue mini-series written by Mike Grell.

Neither of those projects were my finest hour.

Although, believe it or not I still get fan mail from France on ETC. Two months ago I received an email from a comic club in France asking if I was coming to France in the future. I just so happen to be going to France this September on some business and the club asked if they could take me to dinner and talk to me about ETC.

Damn. The French must do a lot of meth… and coke… together.

Back to Project X.

I was on cloud 9! I was about to begin work on what I still consider the greatest idea in the history of comics! Yes, I’m well aware it’s not the greatest idea in the history of comics but to me it certainly felt that way.

So don’t send me comments about how there is no way I could have come up with the greatest idea in the history of comics. As I said, I know I didn’t.

It’s a close second…

So, let’s recap.

I’d sold 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 with art by a guy 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 wanted to change one thing…


End, Part 2.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold On Good Fellowship



It was inevitable.   Sweden’s very first superhero, Agent Marc Saunders, the story of an American agent fighting the forces of evil worldwide, has finally reached the United States!
Teaming up with Serieplaneten, the original Swedish publisher of the hit comic book series, Ardden Entertainment, the publisher of Flash Gordon and Casper and the Spectrals, among others, is proud to bring this amazing new character to American shores.

Before Marc Saunders, Sweden never had a seriously meant superhero title of its own. There was “Dotty Whirlwind” back in 1945 – 1946, but she never carried her own book.

Until 2011, when writer/artist Mikael Bergkvist created Agent Marc Saunders.  A cross between James Bond and Doc Savage, Saunders is a super-powered agent working for the American government, facing a series of increasingly brutal enemies with bigger and bigger plans for destruction and mayhem.   Saunders is aided by his trusted team of allies, including the beautiful media tycoon Marion Gold. This series has been embraced by Sweden, largely due to its classic pulp type of adventure, like “The Shadow” or “Doc Savage”, but set in in modern times.

Issue #1 of the American version of Agent Marc Saunders comes out in April and is currently available for order through Diamond Comics.  It features a cover by none other than the legendary Neal Adams!

Mikael Bergkvist has been writing comics for 25 years but Agent Marc Saunders is his first original creation.

Serieplaneten, an up and coming comic publisher in Sweden, publishes the Swedish version of “The Simpsons vs Futurama,” among other titles, and in 2011 they began publishing Marc Saunders, making Swedish comic book history in the process.

Founded in 2008, Ardden Entertainment LLC is the proud publisher of FLASH GORDON, CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST, and the ATLAS COMICS resurrection, among others. Ardden is run by former Miramax Films executive Brendan Deneen and comic book store owner Richard Emms, with industry legend Mike Grell acting as the company’s Editor-in-Chief.
Ardden’s mission statement is to produce high quality licensed comic books as well as original concepts that work both as comic books and larger, multi-media properties. For more information about Arddenn Entertainment, please visit http://limited-edition-comix.com/atlas/index.htm

MICHAEL DAVIS: Who to Blame, part 3

Please read last week’s article before this final installment.

Maybe, just maybe Grell wouldn’t ask me. I mean he had yet to speak one single word to me in the two plus hours I was in his room.

No such luck. After Grell asked everyone in the room he turned to me.

“What did you think?”

All I had to do was lie. Why didn’t I? I didn’t because lying to me is never an option. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I think lying is such a terrible thing, it’s because I have a horrible short-term memory. I’ll never be able to support a lie once I’ve committed to it.

In other words, if I lie about something and the subject ever comes up again I won’t remember what I said originally.

“It’s not like me to sleep with a man on the first date,” said the very beautiful woman.

“It’s not a first date if I’ve known you forever.” I said with my best Billy Dee Williams voice.

“We just met yesterday.”

“But in my dreams I’m known and loved you forever.”

“You…you love me?”


The next morning I said goodbye and said I would call later that day so we can have dinner and talk about our new life together. 

Two weeks later…

“Why haven’t you called me??”

“Who is this?”

Now, here I was faced with lying to Mike Grell a man whose work I loved. I thought long and hard about simply saying I liked the movie. I mean what did I have to lose? I’d most likely never see him again. He was not nice to me at all when we first met and the show did suck.

Then I thought about what Denys Cowan told me about Grell when I told him I was invited to watch Sable in Grell’s room. “Mike Grell hunts.”

“Really? What does he hunt?” I asked wanting to know every thing about the idol I was about to meet.

“It’s not what he hunts.” Denys said. “It’s what he hunts with.”

“What’s that?”

“Grell hunts with a bow and arrow.”


I didn’t (still don’t) know a lot about hunting but I instantly recognized just how bad ass you have to be to hunt with a bow and arrow.

So now I’m scared as shit to lie to Grell.

What would happen if I said I loved the show and then someone asked me the same question later and I told them the truth and Grell found out, hunted me down, choked the life out of me and then shot me with an arrow?

Hey, stranger things have happened to me.

I decided not to lie. He asked again, “What did you think?”

“I like the comic book better.”

Yeah, sometimes I’m a fucking genius.

“So do I.” Said the man who would soon become my close friend, he added, “Let’s get something to eat.”

So, there I was at dinner with Mike Grell (sitting right next to him) John Ostrander, Kim Yale, Denys (who finally showed up) and tons of other comic professionals that I was totally jazzed to meet.

I was in Heaven. During dinner, Mike and I talked and after finding out I was an artist he asked to see my portfolio.

The next day changed my professional life.

I showed Carol Kalish my portfolio and she gave me a cover assignment for Marvel’s Open Space anthology. I then met with Mike Grell and after showing him my work he made a call to Mark Nevelow. Mark was the brand new editor of Piranha Press, DC Comics new mature reader imprint.

I’ve always been smart when it comes to seeing and seizing opportunities. That doesn’t mean I have not blown some opportunities. Just because I have a knack for spotting them and acting does not exempt me from screwing something up. Been there done that…often. Not this time.

I was to spend another two weeks in Ohio hanging with Denys at a friend of his house. I cut my trip short so I could get back to New York to work on the Open Space cover and meet with Mark Nevelow. I met with Mark and was commissioned to do Piranha’s first project, ETC.

I mentioned in part one of this series that I was about to accept a position running the Art Department of a prestigious prep school. When Mark gave me ETC I changed my mind. It wasn’t just the project that changed my mind, it was the people I met at that Mid-Ohio Convention and my unchanged love of comics I’ve had since I was a kid. The people I met were so wonderful to me that I decided to take a leap towards the dream I was right about to simply let go.

Denys Cowan invited me to The Mid-Ohio con. I met Carol Kalish who gave me a cover assignment and became a great friend and adviser. I met John Ostrander who invited me to meet Mike Grell. Kim Yale kept me from fleeing Grell’s room. Mike Grell called Mark Nevelow on my behalf. Mark Nevelow gave me the ETC series.

I decided to stay in New York and work in comics.

The people above are whom you can blame for me working in comics.

I wrote this with young artists and writers in mind.

Most of you have no idea what I’ve done in comics because I don’t illustrate many comics. The fact is I’m known mostly as a deal maker in the industry. You may not know me but I’m quite sure you know some of the creators that have come out of my mentor program or some of the work I’ve done in TV or The Black Panel.

Or maybe not.

Here’s what you should know if you really want to have a career in comics.

Talent is great.

Desire is wonderful.

Having a dream and sticking to it, priceless.


None of the above will matter if you don’t try and build relationships with good people. I’ve said it a zillion times, I know good people. I’ve pulled off some unbelievable shit in my career but without good people in my life it most likely would have still been shit but that’s about all.

Myr. Grell, Mr. Ostrander and Mr. Nevelow my sincere thanks to you kind sirs.

Ms. Yale and Ms. Kalish, you will never be forgotten and my thanks to you as well.

To every young creator, I leave you with this:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”

Mark Twain



MICHAEL DAVIS: Who To Blame, Part 2

Please take a look at last week’s installment before continuing on…

As I said, I’ve had a very interesting career in comics.

Denys Cowan and I were biding time until the premier of Mike Grell’s Jon Sable series on television. I’d been invited to watch it in Mike Grell’s hotel room and I invited Denys.

We were wandering around the 1987 Mid Ohio Con and I was on Cloud 9 thanks to John Ostrander, who issued the invite. While Denys was looking at comics at a retailer booth I moseyed over to a creator’s booth. As I mentioned before I talk to everyone and the thought of looking at someone’s work while they stand there and watch me look at their work is just crazy to me.

So, being me, I started asking questions about the copies of what looked like a quickly Xeroxed and even more quickly stapled comic book. One of my pet peeves is presentation. I don’t care how good an artist you are if the presentation of your work sucks I simply don’t want to look at it.

Hey, I don’t care how good a chef is in the kitchen or how good the food is, if I see a roach I’m not eating in the restaurant. I mean who the Hell wants a haircut from a barber who’s own hair is a mess?

Not me my friend, not me.

The book I was gazing at looked homemade – but – the two guys behind the table were cool as shit and the comic was the most original thing I had ever seen in comics before.

The artist and writer I was talking too were Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird and the book was Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles.

I know, how freakin’ cool was that?

And that is why I talk to everyone.


MICHAEL DAVIS: Who To Blame… Part 1

I’ve had a very interesting career in comics.

I’ve done some pretty interesting things in my career. Co-founded Milestone Media, created The Action Files, the only line of comics taught as a curriculum in the school system and created another universe, The Guardian Line, for African-American churches and Christian book stores.

When DC comics launched Piranha Press in 1987 I was the artist chosen to illustrate the first series for the line. The Black Panel, a comics and entertainment forum I started over a decade ago, is now in development as a TV show as is The Littlest Bitch (TLB) a book I co-wrote with David Quinn.

David and I first conceived TLB as a graphic novel on the New Jersey turnpike almost 20 years ago. We were driving home from The Kubert School where I was teaching a master illustration class and David was my guest speaker that day.

Speaking of TV, Static Shock, based on the character I co-created, can still be seen on a Disney channel, which cracks me up because Disney turned it down quick, fast and in a hurry when we pitched it there 10 years ago.

I’ve done some other pretty note worthy things (I think) in comics but I’m most proud of my mentor program. Some of the biggest names in comics have come through my program. I won’t bore you with the names but I will say that because of my self-funded mentor program I have four city proclamations and a school auditorium named in my honor.

I’ve also managed to carve out a bad boy type of reputation in the industry. That reputation has many origins, depending on whom you get the story from but that story is for another time. I will tell you this: when it comes to getting that bad boy rep, I have no one to blame but myself.

I don’t tell you some of what I’ve accomplished in comics to impress you but rather to impress upon you that is there is plenty of blame and help to go around and there lies within a tale, which just may help someone who’s trying to break in now. Sooo…

In 1987 I was offered and was right about to accept a position overseeing the art department at a very prestigious prep school. This was a dream job. They were going to pay me a fat salary, give me an on-campus apartment as part of my compensation package and all my meals were free. The only thing I had to pay for was my phone bill as there was also a clothing stipend.

That was a dream job, so why didn’t I take it? Those of you who hate me are thinking ‘Oh why, oh why, did that loud mouth mofo not take that job?’

In fact, I was going to take it. I had started packing my bags when Denys Cowan talked me into going to the Mid-Ohio con with him. As fate would have it I went to the Mid-Ohio Con to attend a very small but very cool comics convention.

It was clear when we got there, Denys knew everyone and everyone knew Denys. I did not know a soul there. Denys would often leave me alone to go and talk to some one, which left me to wander aimlessly around the convention. It was during one of these aimless walks that I met John Ostrander.

Wait a sec-before I go on I should let you know that I was (still am) a comic’s geek. Although I had a very good career going as an illustrator it was my dream to somehow work in comics.

John and I hit it off very well and before I knew it he was inviting me to Mike Grell’s room to watch the Sable pilot. I thought I had died and gone to Comic Book Heaven. I adored Mike Grell’s work. At the time he was my favorite artist on the planet! Later when Denys arrived I causally mention that I was going to Mike Grell’s room to watch the premier of his new TV show.

The look on Denys’ face was priceless. It said “how the hell did you manage that?” We still had some time (I told Denys he could come as my guest; you should have seen that look) so we decided to browse the convention floor.

If you know me, you are well aware I talk to everyone. I mean everyone. I’m just wired that way. Standing at an artist’s table looking at their work without uttering a sound is just freakin crazy to me.

Little did I know the two guys I was now chatting with would go on to change the industry in a huge way!

End of part 1.


MIKE GOLD: Baltimore Tales

As predicted, I had a swell time at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Lots of friends, lots of fans, and lots of attention from the best convention crew I’ve ever seen. The editorial we had a few fun experiences we’d like to share.

•     •     •     •     •

I bopped around the show carrying a cane. I don’t really need it, but since I was on my feet in a crowd for a couple days I thought bringing it would be a good idea. Besides, at any comics convention I can never tell when I might need to bash some head-slapping backpack donkey. Several people asked about my unconcealed weapon, including cosmic comics superstar Jim Starlin.

I told Jim I blew out my back in his hometown of Detroit. He sympathized and then one-upped me. He screwed up his back in South Africa, at a funeral, at which he was a pallbearer. When a breeze wafted by, the pallbearer in front of him lost his yarmulke and left his responsibility to go fetch. The weight of the coffin shifted over to Jim, and that screwed up his back. O.K. Jim wins.

•     •     •     •     •

At 88, living legend Stan Lee gets more attention from women than a 1960s movie spy. At least three-quarters of the men at the show were jealous, including those who were happily married. And including me. I was particularly amused at his lustful glowering at my daughter.

•     •     •     •     •

Most of the folks who dress up in costume at these shows are, at the very least, entertaining to watch. Some are sexy, others are cute, many are adorable. But for the life of me I just don’t know who the buff middle-aged guy dressed in nothing but a loin cloth was supposed to be, other than a buff middle-aged guy dressed in nothing but a loin cloth.

•     •     •     •     •

Mark Wheatley took me to a place purposed (by comics fanboy and teevee star Guy Fieri) to have some of the best pit beef in the nation. It’s a wonderful shack called Chap’s and it’s next to a strip club on Pulaski Highway. Both Mark and Guy are right. The place kills. This wasn’t the highlight of the convention for me, but it made my Top 10 list.

•     •     •     •     •

Mike Grell introduced me to his former assistant on [[[The Warlord]]], a woman who used to be married to the brother of Brother Grell’s ex-wife. Beverly Derouin was extraordinarily pleasant, particularly after Mike explained the etymology of their relationship. That’s really cool. Particularly in an environment that can be a bit overwhelming.

•     •     •     •     •

Timothy Truman and his son Ben were hawking their upcoming series Hawken. If it is half as fantastic as the t-shirt they were selling (and I should have purchased, damnit), this series will be absolutely fantastic. As well it should be, given its high pedigree.

•     •     •     •     •

I got a chance to tell Dean Haspiel how much I enjoyed [[[Cuba ­– My Revolution]]], one of my favorite projects of the year. It was written by Inverna Lockpez, and if you haven’t read it yet, you’re making a very, very serious mistake. It’s the best graphic novel I’ve read since Stagger Lee. Outside of those I’ve edited, of course.

•     •     •     •     •

The drive from Connecticut to Baltimore takes about four hours, which is how long it took for us to drive down last Friday. The drive back took eight and one-half hours, virtually all of which were spent on the New Jersey Turnpike. That road hasn’t been the same since Simon and Garfunkel broke up.

•     •     •     •     •

As always, I want to thank Marc Nathan and his unbelievably professional crew for putting on another great show, to Mark and Carol Wheatley for putting my daughter Adriane Nash and me up – as well as putting up with me – and to the aforementioned Ms. Nash for her assistance and companionship during the show and for sharing with me my proudest moment in my comics career.

I’ll be at the Baltimore Comic-Con next year. You should be, too.

(ComicMix editor-in-chief Mike Gold annoys the masses with his Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind rock’n’blues radio show, which streams four times a week on www.getthepointradio.com and is also available on demand at that very same venue. He also pens a very political column at Michael Davis World – http://mdwp.malibulist.com/ — where he joins ComicMix columnists Martha Thomases and Michael Davis.)

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil