Tagged: Mindy Newell

John Ostrander: Story Teller

South Park tnDespite my thirty odd (sometimes very odd) years as a professional writer in comics, I wouldn’t describe myself first and foremost as a writer. I consider myself primarily a storyteller. You don’t have to be a writer to be a storyteller; in fact, all of us are storytellers. Phillip Wilson, the former rector at the church I attended when I lived in New Jersey, used to describe story as the atoms of our social interactions.

Think of how we use storytelling every day – all of us. When someone asks you how your day has been, you don’t tell them each and every thing you’ve done (hopefully). You select this moment, that moment, and arrange it some sort of sequence. That’s a story. We use story to relay experience to one another.

Denny O’Neil and I were once talking about a particular story on which I was working (Batman: Seduction of the Gun to be specific) and he told me that in comics you can make any point that you want but first you have to tell a story. That’s what gives you the right to make your point. If you want to preach, get a pulpit.

Speaking of preaching – the Bible, itself a fascinating collection of stories, talks about the Great Storyteller, Jesus, this way. Matt 13: 34 “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.” (See? Even an agnostic can cite scripture to his purpose.) What is a parable but another form of story?

Taking the verse at face value, why did Jesus speak to them only in parables? Well, the author of Matthew claims it was to fulfill a prophecy but, simply, it was a way to communicate to the masses in a way that would be remembered. It also invites the listener to participate. They have to listen to the story and filter it through their own experiences. It becomes the listener’s story as well as the storyteller’s story.

The lessons that Jesus taught were also less specific and, I think, more applicable to a wider set of circumstances. His Dad had them etched in tablets of stone; very clear and very precise. (Although there’s a lot of later clarification; “Thou shalt not kill” seems pretty clear but evidently you can read between the lines and find exceptions: except in time of war, or self-defense, or a state approved execution and so on and so forth.) The Parable of the Prodigal Son, for example: One Son demands his inheritance and goes off on a bender and blows it while the other son stays at home and does all that is helpful and good for the family. Wastrel finally heads home and Daddy throws a big party for him which he didn’t do for the son who played it straight.

What the hell? How’s that fair?

Again, there’s lot of interps about what Jesus meant with that story but none come from JC himself. Different “authorities” will tell you the official line but, so far as I’m concerned, it’s a story and you’re free to decide for yourself what it means. If you decide it means, “Hey, who said life was fair?” then I think you’re perfectly justified.

That’s the point. There is a bond between storyteller and audience, a one on one situation. We each bring who we are to the equation and what you bring is as important to the story as my contribution.

Like life, story is experienced differently by each one of us and that’s what makes it endlessly fascinating.

(Note: This was supposed to go up this morning. The editor blames this on WordPress Gremlins combined with the indisputable fact that Fin Fang Foom has taken residence in the author’s sewer pipe. I think you had to be there.)




Marc Alan Fishman: Kirk Vs. Picard – I’m Ready to Choose

Fishman Art 130706A few months back, I declared that I found a love for Star Trek. Not just a passing affair mind you, but a legit love of the original series. As if all my tendencies towards being a CGI snob who once laughed-out-loud at the low-tech original FX suddenly melted away. And why? One man. Captain James Tiberious Kirk. The lightbulb went off. I got it. Beyond the ethics lessons, morality plays, and hilarious fight scenes… this was a show where the Captain didn’t just chew the scenery; this was a show that banked on Kirk to cook with it too.

This is in direct opposition to the mission statement of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I should note whilst laid up in my house this past weekend (with still-not-cured tendonitis) I consumed a great deal of TNG episodes. Thank you, BBC America. And thanks to the crash-course reminder, it became clear just how different a beast TNG really was from its elder counterpart. Take away the CGI, beautiful sets, and truly amazing make-up work? You get a show near devoid of the pulpy roots of TOS. You still get the ethics and moral dilemmas. So too, do you get occasional hilarious fights. But TNG’s Captain Du Jour chews not even the seat where he sits. And because of it, I see how many a Trekkie sets their allegiance to a thespian who lends gravitas to a role once dominated by the clinical definition of over-acting.

After making my way through roughly half the original series, I find myself ready to make the ultimate choice. Given that I’ve seen about the same amount of The Next Generation, I think it’s time to choose my captain. It’s only fair though (and a great way to waste column inches…) to come up with some categories to compare and contract Johnny Loo to Jimmy Tibby.

Obviously these are my opinions. Based on not watching every televised piece of either show. Nor all the movies. Nor the licensed books, comics, etc. This is strictly my gut opinions.

Space Fighting: Let’s face it. The first and foremost thing a captain should be able to do is use his ship in a fight. Kirk’s Enterprise didn’t come with an onboard android, or Klingon weapon expert. Just a sassy Vulcan, and a fencing Japanese dude. Picard always seems ready for diplomacy. Kirk seems almost to beg for a fight. And let’s not forget he beat the unbeatable training sim. Phaser to my head? Kirk wins.

Space Talking: Before a photon torpedo is sent a-wassailing into the nearest Warbird, sometimes you have to get your debate on. In Star Trek, all-too-often (and rightfully so) the issues of the day were best solved with smart repartee rather than fisticuffs and rabble-rousing. Kirk knows his way around the diplomacy manual all well and good, but Picard was a born talker. And let’s face facts: If you’re facing a dude ready to blow up a planet because it’s in your way? Who would you send in to talk him down? Unless he responds…. only… to… rhythmic…talking… then you know who has your back. Picard for the win.

Dealing With The Ladies: OK. Seriously. Is this even a competition here? Now, first, let me ensure you if this were a Janeway Vs. Other Male Captain fight, I’d be an equal opportunity chauvinist here. Fact is, sometimes a captain needs to show some cajones, and make the space oceans move. Because the final frontier totally means green alien wicky-wicky. The winner? No duh: Kirky Kirk Kirk.

Crew Relations: In between all the alien issues, wacky hijinks, and ship malfunctions… A captain and his crew must be a tight community all working towards the same ends. The best captains know how to delegate tasks, keep conflicts down, and ultimately keep the space-peace preserved on what amounts to a star-faring cruise ship with lasers and missles. Kirk and Spock have a friendship and bromance like very few do. Picard and Riker have always held more of a teacher / student vibe. That in and of itself lends to how I feel TNG’s Enterprise views their highest in command. Picard is the teacher, mentor, and solid voice of the ship. Kirk feels more blue collar in contrast. In between making out with various crew members, debating hard choices with his number one and ship doctor, and threatening to blow up the ship at any chance he can get? Kirk always gives me the impression of the “lead by example” school of thought. Not that Picard won’t get his hands dirty… but frankly he rarely needs to given the loyalty of his crew. Choices, choices, choices. I’m gonna give it to Picard.

The X Factor: Frankly there could be whole weeks worth of columns in this debate. Certainly the internet was built in part to link Trekkies together to squabble over the finer points. Beyond the broad strokes, every good captain needs that special something that makes you want to follow them. Makes you believe in them. It’s why (beyond crappy politiking) we choose our own leaders; we want to put ourselves behind a person we believe has our backs and best concerns in mind. Someone who doesn’t lose sight of the big picture when the little picture threatens to wipe it away. Kirk is a fearless fighter with a glint in his eye, and a permanent smirk. In the face of adversity he is apt to ball a fist, scream to the heavens, and then win the day by any means necessary. Picard is no less brave mind you. He is apt to think through all the scenarios. He’ll consult his android for logic, his counselor for emotional insight, and his magic bar-tender for conscience. And then? He’ll do what he was going to do all along because damnit… He’s Picard. When the chips are down, and I need one man to get me out of a pickle? Well, I have to give it to the man who doesn’t waste time making a choice. Kirk takes it.

So, there you have it, kiddos. I’m a Kirk man. Kirkman. Uh-oh. Crap. No! I don’t like Kirkman that much! He’s ok at doing homage, but he’s mostly just spinning his wheels these days. KHAAAAAAAAAAN! Ahem. Seriously though, while I love both Captains near equally, it boils down to Kirk’s brash and boldness. His pulp roots have broken me down such that I can’t not root for him. Case in point? The real reason I’m gonna choose Kirk? “Requiem For Methuselah.” In the episode, Kirk is introduced to a very pretty little thing. He looks at her, and basically it’s enough to make her break free from her genetic encoding (she turned out to be a robot or clone or clonebot or something). Facts are facts: Kirk is so awesome, his gaze alone causes space panties to fly.

And frankly? That’s boldly going where we all want to go.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


John Ostrander’s Got Nothin’

This is what a deadline looks like on writer’s block.

Ostrander Art 130630

Nothin’. I got nothin’. Lots of stuff has happened this week, lots of stuff happened in the pop arts, there are sure to be lots of topics from which to choose, something must interest me enough to blather about for the length of a column aaaaaaand

. . .nope. Brain’s not interested in any of them.

I finally went to see Man of Steel. There’s sure to be a column in that. What I thought of it, good bad or indifferent. Except that everyone has commented on it. Martha Thomases has commented twice and done it well both times. I’ve been lapped in Superman commentary by Martha Thomases. The film dropped 60% in attendees between the first and second weekends. Everyone who wants to see it already has and have their own opinions. A review on Man of Steel at this point is lame. Superman is dead. Even my brain doesn’t want to go there.

I got nothin’.

Hey, I’m a professional writer. I’ve encountered brain freeze and deadlines before. I know tricks and ways around writer’s block. One is to stop staring at the blank screen and go do something else.

Okay. Did something else. Aaaaaand. . .more nothing.

Distract yourself, John. Go on Facebook. Read what other people are saying, doing with their lives. Share funny things on your wall. Go do that.

Did that. FB bores me. It’s fifteen minutes later and I still have plenty of nothin’. And I’m slipping past deadline now.

I’m tired. That’s what it is. Go take a nap. That’ll do it.

No, it didn’t. A half hour shot and . . .

AAAAARGH! I can’t write I never could write why did I decide to be a writer?! The screen is still blank. Hungry. Demanding. Intimidating. Whatever made me think I could be a writer?

Oh, that’s right. Mike Gold offered me money. Curse you, money, you evil temptress! Why couldn’t I have remained as I was – an unemployed professional actor working part-time straight jobs to cover the rent? I was happier then.

No, I wasn’t. I’ve obviously gone around the bend. I’m hallucinating about the “good ol’ days” that were never really that good.

I’ll distract myself. Go play with the cats. Here, kitty kitty kitty.

Two minutes later. They’re bored and abandon me to my deadlines. Wretched felines. Can cats smell loser on you?

Play a game online. I often do that to cleanse my mental palate, get my concentration up and the brain cells energized. At least, that’s always been my justification. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Go play a game.

Did that, just came back,  and. . .I got nothin’. It’s just later in the day.

I went and washed dishes. That’s how desperate I am. It might work. Put my mind in zen mode and something will come out.

It didn’t work.

Stupid Computer! You know how I write! Why can’t I bring up an app or something and you write my column?!

Wait. There’s an idea. When musicians reach a certain age and don’t have anything new to do, they put out a Greatest Hits collection. Maybe I could do that. Just go back over some of my past columns and pull out random lines and string them together and see what happens.

Godfather II deepened and expanded on the first film; Godfather III – not so much. Any list of faves, yours, mine, or the guy down the street, says something about us. What I want is something new. As I said, Pamela Lee Anderson starred in the movie and I lingered, waiting to see if she would take off her clothes which is the main reason for any guy to watch a Pamela Lee Anderson movie. Mitt Romney wants to deep fry Big Bird.

Okay, that’s not going to work, either. Maybe interesting as a paragraph but a whole column of that? I don’t think so.

Maaaaybe I could write a column on what it’s like having to write a column when you have writer’s block and the deadline is upon you.

I wonder if I could get away with that?





Marc Alan Fishman: Ultimate Spider-Man Vs. Teen Titans Go!

FIshman Art 130629I freely admit a bias. DC’s animated efforts have always trumped Marvel’s. Always. Super Friends smacked Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends two ways from Sunday. And for every great episode of the 90’s X-Men or Spider-Man there were two Batman or Superman: The Animated Adventures. And sure, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Sensational Spider-Man were brilliant, but they don’t belong in the same breath as Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond.

At present moment the only animated war (and it’s a weak one at that…) that may be around is Ultimate Spider-Man against Teen Titans Go! Both are meant to skew young. But only one of them is doing it right. I’ll give you half a guess – it’s Teen Titans Go!

In the simplest of terms, Ultimate Spider-Man ultimately sucks. And that hurts to say, because my personal lord and savior Paul Dini, is a creative consultant. The show is a schizophrenic attempt at making Spider-Man for a new generation. This is after the way-better-written Sensational Spider-Man, mind you. Every single trope a cartoon can use to wave the white flag of “love me!” is plastered throughout the show. A misfit team of B and C listers meant to accompany the star? Check. Family Guy style cutaway gags every few minutes? Check. Frequent guest stars to make you forget there’s no character development? Ch-ch-check. In all the episodes I’ve sat through, the only thread that connects them all is the desperation that oozes from the pores. Here is a series that reeks of plot by committee that does anything short of shuckin’ and jivin’ in order to grab the kiddies’ attention.

On the other hand, Teen Titans Go! seems to suffer from none of this. An oddly post-modern retread of its former self, TTG takes the titular titans of 2003, and re-imagines them in kawaii form. This super deformed (more cartoony, if such a term could ever be applied to a cartoon) Titans show plays towards the micro-sized popular companion toons like Regular Show or Adventure Time. With no serious episodes to be had, TTG is a show hellbent on solely being entertaining. No secret machinations present. Where USM seeks to birth a brand new Marvel Animated Universe™, TTG seeks only to get some laughs. I should note in the wake of the cancelation of Green Lantern: the Animated Series and Young Justice I was apt to be cranky with whatever replaced them. It took literally two minutes of TTG to crack my grimace.

Normally I’m a bit more verbose, but the proof is in the pudding. As it stands, Marvel continues down a terrible path, choosing to aim at any market that will have them. DC continues to allow their creative teams to explore, experiment, and ultimately (heh) aim their cartoons with laser focus. Combine that with their continued brilliant voice casting, and smart writing? You get, more often than not, a superior product.

‘Nuff said.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


John Ostrander: We Have Met The Enemy

Ostrander Art 130623Finally got around to seeing Iron Man 3 this week (which I enjoyed). Yeah, I know. We’re way behind on our movie viewing at this url. At the rate we’re going, we won’t see Man Of Steel until Labor Day.

In any case, I was struck by the underlying premise of the movie and certain events of the past week. (SPOILER ALERT: To discuss this, I’m going to have to tell things about Iron Man 3. If you are even more behind in your movie going than I am but still intend to see it and want to be unspoiled, you may want to avert your eyes.)

Central to the whole plot of Iron Man 3 is the idea of creating a terrorist threat to provoke a reaction in the American public and justify certain acts. In the news in our so-called real world this week, it’s been revealed that the NSA has not only been reading our emails but is creating a massive building to store and analyze everything they read. All in the name of “National Security,” of keeping us safe from terrorism. The idea is that we trade in our freedoms and we are safe from the hands of terrorists.

Except we’re not. To quote Rocket J. Squirrel to Bullwinkle J. Moose who was trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat, “But that trick never works.” Not completely. Of course, the justification becomes that the measures the government is taking makes terrorism more difficult, that some plots are stopped even if you can’t stop all of them, that some American lives are saved. Doesn’t that make it worth it? If it saved your life or the lives of those you cared about, wouldn’t the sacrifice of those freedoms be justified?

I think of the British people during the Battle of Britain in 1940. To break the ability of the UK to defend themselves in the air after the fall of France, the German Luftwaffe launched massive air attacks that escalated, finally, to terrorist bombing missions against the civilian populations in key British cities, notably London. Everyone has seen the photographs and newsreels, especially of the aftermath – the burning buildings, the shattered homes, the struggling people.

The purpose of the terrorism was to drive the British government to an armistice or even to surrender. That’s one of the key things to remember about terrorism – the acts of violence are not the purpose in and of themselves. As terrible as they are, the purpose is to achieve some other goal.

The Germans failed in 1940. The British people stood defiant. They did not break.

The purpose of the acts of violence on 9/11 was not the death and destruction alone that they caused. The purpose of the architects of those acts of terror was to change us, to make us destroy ourselves, our values, our way of life. We’re doing that.

For an illusion of safety, we seem to be willing to trade in at least some of our freedoms.

When we allow the government to tap our phones willy-nilly, to spy on us, to even kill some citizens deemed hostile combatants without any pretense of due process of law, the terrorists win.

The alternative is to live with the threat of destruction, of death for ourselves or those we love, of more horrific, terrifying images such as we saw on 9/11. To stand firm as the British did in the face of Nazi terrorism and not surrender.

In hard boiled fiction, the “tough guy” is defined not so much as the one who can hand out punishment but take it and not give in. Today, we seem more interested in someone who is “bad ass” – who can hand out the blows. Personally, I’ll take a “tough guy” over a “bad ass” any day of the week. They show more character.

So, gentle readers, what do you think? Do we trade in some outdated “freedoms” and maybe sleep better at night or do we take some chances in the interests of being who we are or are supposed to be?

You tell me.




Marc Alan Fishman: OK WB, Now What?

Fishman Art 130622I’ve little to no doubt by the time I write this article everyone on this site, and every other comic-ish site will have weighed in on Man of Steel. For what it’s worth? I liked it a whole bunch. Disaster porn? Sure. The controversial ending? Made complete sense to me. And I’m not even a pessimist. I found the flick to be a popcorn chomping, scenery eating behemoth on par with Marvel’s Cap or Thor. Feel free to disagree with me. This li’l op-ed though isn’t about Man of Steel as much as it’s about what it means for DC in the near and not-so-near future.

The fact is the movie is making money. Good money. The most money to come in for the month of June in fact. And with no “big” weekend coming to theaters presumably until The Lone Ranger bombs, DC should be on the road now to adding some serious shekels to their calamitous coffers. Many nerds (myself included) all figured that all this time Marvel was running away with all the sick-movie profits. But let’s look at the tale of the tape:

According to Box Office Mojo: Iron Man 1 and 2, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, and The Avengers totaled roughly 1.75 billion dollars domestically. In the same amount of time Nolan’s Batman franchise, Watchmen, The Losers, Jonah Hex, and Green Lantern earned 1.45 billion. All things considered? It’s not necessarily a run away gravy train for Mickey now is it?

We all know the old adage: war is won with a single battle. Man of Steel rights a train derailed with Green Lantern. The fact of the matter is in the last five years of blockbusters, Mickey was laying foundation while DC merely rented a timeshare. It’s no secret (especially if you read comic book movie news on the Internet) that the Brothers Warner wanted Man of Steel to be the initial volley towards a larger franchise universe of their own. It’s fair enough to consider the movie to be a success. So, what’s next?

We know there’s talks to get Supes back in the multiplex as soon as late next year. Unless they actually know how to reverse time by flying around the Earth though? Color me doubtful. And the rumor mill has also turned out gems like a possible Batman / Superman team up. Or a Justice League movie that will spin-out into single character franchises. I envision the execs over at the Warner lot looking at a pile of New 52 books, with a sweaty Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns (no doubt wearing a dunce cap over his Green Lantern: The Movie cap) doing their best to help them plan. And somewhere behind two-way glass, Christopher Nolan sits in his private Inception pod (yeah it’s a pod now) smugly scoffing.

Enough pussy-footing around. If the reigns were in my hands, I’d bank on what made Warner money. While every comic-classicist sharpens their knives I boldly say the unthinkable. If you made money going real and dark? Go real and dark. There was optimism, hope, and smiles to be had in Man of Steel. Seriously. If DC uses that at it’s base, and builds a Justice League that stands with Big Blue in their front court? Those are big shoulders to do it with. Add in Jospeh Gordon-Leavitt’s Batman (heresy!) and introduce the movie-going public to Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Cyborg? Well, it’ll sure give Whedon and his Bro-Vengers a little competition. Put the movie in the hands of a capable comic-inspired director. Say… Brad Bird. And if Nolan can assist in crafting a picture that isn’t just filler, quips, and a fifty minute fight sequence… you’ve got yourself the making of a real counter blow to the powerhouse mouse.

At the end of the day, Man of Steel was a solid start to a new beginning. While many our brethren ball their fists and curse at the wind, many others are finding a new take on a familiar face. I hope sincerely that DC and WB figure out what worked (Optimism. Confidence.) and what didn’t (Wanton destruction.) and use it to find solid footing on a new course. The world needs a Justice League movie. We need a great Wonder Woman franchise. They need a movie DCU. It’s time to look up, up, and away from the past and soar towards a more profitable future. And I for one will be looking forward to the movies.

Because you know, their comics sure ain’t doing it for me right now.*

*My apologies to Scott Snyder and Gail Simone who totally get a pass

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


John Ostrander: Conviction

Ostrander Art 130616My very good friend, William J. Norris, is an excellent actor, a wonderful director, an inspiring playwright (I wrote my first play because I really admired a play that he wrote and that led, in turn, to my writing career), and one helluva teacher. I should know. I’ve stolen cribbed borrowed applied so many ideas and concepts from his teaching into my own attempts.

I met him one night for drinks after he taught an acting class and he told me that a student came up to him after a session and asked Bill if he thought the student could act. Bill said, “No.” William J. says that every time a student asks him that question, he gives the same answer. That seemed a little brutal to me in this nurturing, everyone-wins-an-award-for-showing-up era we live in. Bill said he was being kind; the life of an actor – of any artist, actually – is hard enough and if someone can be talked out of it, they should be.

He was, and is, right.

In my own theater days one of sidelines I pursued, on occasion, was that of a freelance actor coach, focused on helping someone with their auditions. It was surprising how many actors (and I include myself overall in this) let their sense of self-worth hinge on whether or not they got a call-back or were cast in the part. The whole artistic process is too narrow a reed on which to hang so weighty an existential question – do I have worth?

I encounter a variation of this at the lectures on writing.

I do. At the onset, I ask who is interested in writing. Some hands go up. I ask the hands, “Are you a writer?” You’d be surprised at how many people equivocate. “Well, I’m trying to be. . .I don’t know. . .Maybe. . .” All those answers are wrong.

If someone says that yes, they are a writer, I then ask, “Are you a good one?” Again, I often get equivocation – they want to be a good writer, they hope someday to be a good writer, and on and on. I slap the buzzer. Errnk! Again, wrong answer.

There’s a right answer but it’s also a trick answer: “Yes, I’m a writer. I’m a good writer. Not as good as I want/going to be yet.” That’s the right answer.

Here’s the trick part: you have to mean it. You have to believe it. If you don’t, why should anyone else? You have to have conviction.

I’ve sometimes compared writing – or any creative, artistic endeavor – to a circus. Sometimes you are on the high-wire, working without a net. You put one foot in front of the other and you don’t look down.

Sometimes it’s like being on the trapeze, and then the spotlight goes out. You let go of one trapeze and reach out into the darkness, believing that there is another trapeze bar and that there is another set of hands that will grab yours. You have to believe.

Sometimes it’s like being the clown car; you putter into the central ring and then all of these strange, absurd, maybe wonderful beings come out of you. If they don’t then you’re just a stupid little car in the spotlight. You have to trust in your inner clowns.

You don’t ask whether or not you can write. If you have to ask, then you can’t and won’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s the best thing anyone has ever written or even if it’s the best you have ever written. You put the words down and you decide later if you like them. You have to believe in your talent. You’ll figure out later if the writing is good, bad, or indifferent. For now, you’re writing and that’s what a writer does. A writer writes.

In the belief – not the hope, not the wish – in the belief that they can.




Marc Alan Fishman: The Real Samurnauts – From Fans to Friends to Family

Fishman Art 130615Forgive me folks. Today’s column is going to be a sappy, crappy, and sweeter than caramel drenched hot fudge balls dipped in rock candy. Consider this my spoiler alert: there’s absolutely no snark in today’s column. There’s only the happy tale of how a pair of acquaintances became so much more to me and to my Unshaven brethren.

The only thing truly standing in my way of bringing the noise and the funk to my half of every Samurnaut book were real life models. I make no bones about my abilities: I draw from life. A blank paper to me is less an invitation to showcase a spindly Spider-Man or healthy Hulk. I was trained to draw what I see, and sadly my mind is far too left brained to maintain an image well enough to reproduce from grey-matter to hand. But I digress.

When it came time to shoot The Samurnauts, I opted to reach out to those whose faces I wasn’t so acclimated to. That, and I honestly didn’t want my immediate family and friends traipsing around as superheroes. My call-to-action was met (largely) by members of a local(ish) comedy troupe I had opened for on a handful of occasions. Oh yeah. I should totally mention: for a hot minute I considered pursuing stand-up comedy. Don’t look it up on YouTube. Seriously. Don’t type “Marc Fishman Stand-Up.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you. OK? OK. Where was I?

Oh yes. Six members of “Big Dog Eat Child” were kind enough to lend their faces to The Samurnauts. With said Big Dogs I was granted a set of models built for emotion and staging. Putting a nerf gun into their capable hands and shouting “be heroic” showed their natural talent to contort and twist into brand new people. Amongst them, Erik Anderson and his wife Cherise (not of the troupe, but equally interested in helping out when our initial model had to cancel) stood out as being very much into becoming superheroes. After a fun afternoon of digital photography, Nerf wars, and prancing about… I made a last-minute offer to my new models. “If you are ever curious as to how this will turn out, feel free to look me up on Skype.”

It could not have been maybe a week or two later that my computer buzzed at me. Erik and Cherise, in the heart of the weekend (when most everyone is enjoying not having to make comic books), wanted to check in. And there they stayed glued to their screen watching me build a comic book from roughs to inks to colors to lettering. Over the course of the weeks that it took, they stayed up on Skype night after night watching the construction. Suddenly I was no longer making a comic alone in my basement… I was drawing for an audience. An audience willing to literally stay up with me until they couldn’t stay awake. As they would later tell me… I was better than HBO.

When the first issue of Samurnauts came hot off the press, Erik and Cherise were at the convention with bells on. Not happy enough to simply see a final copy of their issue, they were determined instead to see Unshaven Comics succeed. They grabbed a handful of business cards and took to the show floor to spread the word. A husband-wife guerrilla marketing team… doing the job we figured would not be gifted to us for many many years of convention-trenching. Oh how wrong we were.

Over the years (which I can’t even believe is how long we’ve been doing this…), Erik and Cherise have become less friends of Unshaven Comics, more family. Every convention, literally every convention we have attended since The Samurnauts was a thing, they have been in tow. We launched a Kickstarter to turn Erik into a cosplayer. And when it succeeded, soon our Blue Samurnaut was showing up in every costume-round up album across the mid-west. And this past weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, both Erik and Cherise stood behind tables pitching our wares at Heroes Con in lieu of our own Kyle Gnepper (who was deservedly enjoying a vacation gifted to him by his non-comic-book-making day job). They did it without being asked. They did it because they love our book. They did it because they want to see us succeed.

There’s that gem of a lyric… “I get by with a little help from my friends…” And never before would I have found it to be so profound. Unshaven Comics is substantially lucky to have a plethora of amazing friends out there in the industry. We’d be remiss not to thank Mike Gold, Glenn Hauman, Adriane Nash, and the whole lot of ComicMix‘ers for the continuing success we’ve achieved in the five years we’ve seriously pursued our dream. Erik and Cherise engrained themselves into our studio and company without asking for anything more than the promise of continued hero-dom. A price we still feel guilty for today.

I know those of us who make comic books have many reasons to be cranky, snarky, angry, or bitter. But here I sit in awe of two people who Skype’d in with me once because they loved the idea of being heroes to the world… and ended up instead being mine.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Martha Thomases: Falling In Hate

Thomases Art 120614In my entire life, there were two times I didn’t hate it.

The first time, in the early 1970s, I was walking out of Central Park with my then-boyfriend. I was wearing a green halter-dress, as was the fashion of the times. There was a group of construction workers having lunch near the park entrance, and when I rounded the corner, one of them, seeing me, fell to his knees.

About a decade later, my husband and I were going to a Halloween party with a movie theme in the Village. He was some version of the Phantom of the Opera, and I was Marilyn Monroe. I had a white luminous plastic halter dress, white shoes (leftover from my wedding – see, you can use them again!) and a blonde wig. As we crossed Houston Street, a man got out of his car and proposed.

Being hassled on the street is part of being a woman. In these two instances, I thought there was a certain amount of spontaneity, some wit. But I still didn’t like it. I didn’t like feeling judged every time I ventured out of my apartment. It didn’t matter what I wore. I could be in sweats, in running clothes, in a down coat, in a suit for work or wearing my baby in a Snugli, and still men would feel entitled to tell me what they wanted to do to me.

“You’ll miss it when they stop,” people said to me. No, I didn’t.

Men don’t do that because they are overcome by love or lust at the sight of a woman. They do it to put us in our place, to let us know that the sidewalks belong to them, not us, and we are allowed to walk about because it amuses them to permit it.

Which brings me to comics.

It was my pleasure to be at Heroes Con over the weekend. A fabulous show, full of talented young people making comics, sharing comics, and selling comics. At least half the floor space is dedicated to Artists’ Alley, my favorite part of any show, and the presence of the Savannah College of Art and Design means there is a lot of talent on display.

I noticed that a large percentage of the artists (Half? I’m not sure) were women, certainly more than I ever saw when I first started to go to shows in the 1990s. Coincidentally or not, there is way less art devoted to T & A on display.

Utopia, right? We’re here, we have ovaries, get used to it.

And then …

At breakfast on Sunday morning, I was sitting next to a lovely group from Orlando. One of the two women took me about a dinner she had been to the night before. She had to get up and leave in the middle because a colleague had made a series of crude remarks to her.

“I’m married,” she said. “He knows I’m married.”

Of course, even if she wasn’t married, he had no right to continue once she made her displeasure known to him. As humans, we occasionally misread cues and make the unwelcome pass. As humans, we can forgive one time. The fact that this guy continued indicates that he’s either really, really clueless, or, more likely, he was telling her that she was there solely for his amusement.

“I could write about this guy,” I said. “Tell me his name.”

“No, I can’t do that,” she replied. “I see him at all the shows.”

There has been a lot of discussion about gender issues in comics lately, by me and by my esteemed colleague, Mindy Newell. And it’s not just here, but at other sites as well.

And it’s not just comics. Female gaming fans are complaining more, noticing that the sexism they see around them is supported by the very corporations trying to sell them games, as if they can’t be demeaned anytime they want, and for free.

If you aren’t a woman, maybe you think this is a tempest in a teapot. Maybe you think, as a commenter on one of the links above, that the battle for Equal Rights is over, and that women are just looking for things to complain about so we can continue to be victims (because being a victim is so much fun). If you think that, you’d be wrong.

You can re-write this article and substitute “queer” or “African-American” or “Hispanic” or “Asian” for “female.” It’s all the same problem. You can try to change it because it’s the right thing to do, or you can try to change it because more kinds of comics mean better kinds of comics, which we all want.

But, please, for the love of all that is fun in life, let’s change it.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


John Ostrander: Quo Vadis the TARDIS

Ostrander Art 130609The Beeb announced this week that Matt Smith, the current actor playing the Doctor on Doctor Who, its long running (50 years!) SF series, will be leaving the show with the Christmas Special this year. For those of you living outside the Whovian time-space continuum, the Doctor is a time traveling alien who can regenerate entirely at points of mortality. Different face, different body, largely different personality, completely different actor in the role. They’ve done this eleven times so far so, in general, they have the procedure down pat.

I’ve seen some interesting speculations as to who will be the next Doctor. While usually the actor cast as the Doctor is not so well known, a names of a lot of well known actors are being currently tossed around by that mysterious series of tubes running underground known as the Internet. Hugh Laurie, best known as Doctor House here in America was one name mentioned and I think he would be very highly entertaining. I’ve seen Mr. Laurie in any number of different roles and he was marvelous in all of them. I don’t think the Beeb can afford his salary but it’s still interesting to think what might happen.

I read an interview where Helen Mirren had voiced a desire to the play the Doctor. Could the Doctor change into a woman? In the first episode that Neil Gaiman wrote for Doctor Who, “The Doctor’s Wife”, the Doctor mentions in passing a fellow time-lord who did regenerate into a woman so we have to take it as a possibility. Dame Helen Mirren has done a switched character before when she played Prospera, a female version of the character Prospero, in Julie Taymor’s movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. If she could do that, I have a feeling she could do the Doctor with no problem.

At one point before Matt Smith was cast as the current Doctor, Idris Elba’s name was bounced around as a candidate for the role. Elba is a fine actor who happens to be black; some Americans will know him as the title character on the BBC series Luther while others might know him as the character Heimdall in 2011’s Thor, a fact that cheesed off some Aryan neo-Nazi types who whined that Heimdall was supposed to be white. Mr. Elba has tremendous strengths as an actor and incredible charisma; I would love to see what he would do rattling around in the TARDIS.

Especially interesting to me is that the last two candidates are very non-traditional approaches to the character of the Doctor. I think that would invigorate the show. For example, I would love to see Helen Mirren’s Doctor meeting River Song or, for that matter, Captain Jack Harkness. You could argue that  a show that’s hit 50 can use some fresh air and a dusting away of the cobwebs.

One person who will not be playing the Doctor, I can predict with some certainty, is – me. Not for want of trying. Years ago, during my acting days, the part I most wanted to play was the Doctor. I realized back then that the odds of an unknown American actor living in Chicago would ever be cast in the part were in the infinity range.

However, I was part of a vibrant Chicago theater scene – I was not only an actor but I had been a writer, a director, and a producer. What about the odds of my putting on an all-new Doctor Who play in Chicago? I could cast myself in the part and I knew the mythos well enough, I felt, to write a convincing new adventure.

Long and short, I did try and I very nearly succeeded – although I couldn’t get the part of the Doctor which explains part of the reason why I left acting far behind. I mean, if I couldn’t even get the part I wanted in a play that I has written and was producing, that was the epitome of futility, wasn’t it?

The play never got produced although we got close but all that will have to be a column for another day. One lasting thing did happen as a result of all that – I met and got to know Kimberly Ann Yale, my late wife.

And the Doctor was partially to thank for that. Thanks, Doc.