Tagged: Neal Adams

Michael Davis: No Sex On The Good Ship Lollipop

In the 1960s, the Black Panthers were the number one target of the FBI. They were viewed as terrorists and J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime leader of the most powerful police force in the world, was hell bent on getting rid of them by hook or by crook.

Yep, hook or crook.

It’s no secret the United States Government from time to time will ignore the law. It’s fair to say it goes on often and as far as we know it goes on all the time. When caught, those who swore to uphold the constitution offer apologies for actions that dismissed the law like Trump denies any negative press.

But it’s all bullshit.

If not caught these people may have stopped breaking the law, but it’s doubtful they would have been sorry. I gather few are sorry for wrongdoing that benefits them. How many people have you seen come forward to admit how sorry they are for gaming the system when they have no incentive to do so?

I’ll wait.

The FBI broke all sorts of laws to accomplish their Black Panther agenda. As always, don’t take my word for it. Google that bitch. Unless you’re blind to the truth backed up with a few court rulings the war on the Panthers was a one-sided American tragedy fueled by a lie and driven home by a liar by the name of J. Edgar do I look fat in this dress Hoover.

Yeah, I can talk a lot of shit from my cozy little home in suburban Los Angeles. I can talk smack because I’m secure in the knowledge I’m protected by:

  1. First Amendment Right Freedom of Speech
  2. What I wrote about the F.B.I is true.
  3. I’m just not that important, and neither is ComicMix nor Bleeding Cool to anyone in power that may object to my point of view.

I’m not as naïve as the above list would suggest. I’m fully aware my rights are subject to the will of the arresting officer and temperament of the D.A. regardless of my innocence if arrested for a crime I didn’t commit.

Been there had that done to me. Twice.

My circumstances notwithstanding in 2017 there exists a reasonable chance that someone may be believed if they claim police brutally or unjust treatment.

In 1966 the odds of a black person being believed were slim. I would wager a Jewish person would face the same type of incredulity and, given what happened to the three Civil Rights workers in Mississippi June 1964, the same dangers.

From Wikipedia:

In June 1964 in Neshoba County, Mississippi, three civil rights workers were abducted and murdered in an act of racial violence. The victims were Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner from New York City, and James Chaney from Meridian, Mississippi.

All three were associated with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) and its member organization the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). They had been working with the “Freedom Summer” campaign by attempting to register African-Americans in the southern states to vote.

This registration effort was a part of contesting over 70 years of laws and practices that supported a systematic policy of disenfranchisement of potential black voters by several Southern states that began in 1890.

The three men had been arrested following a traffic stop in Meridian for speeding, escorted to the local jail and held for a number of hours. As the three left town in their car, they were followed by law enforcement and others. Before leaving Neshoba County their car was pulled over and all three were abducted, driven to another location, and shot at close range. The three men’s bodies were then transported to an earthen dam where they were buried.

Two of the three men killed for trying to do the right thing were Jewish.

In the 50s and 60s, certain parts of the deep south were deadly. Those who sided with black people were treated as if they were black people often that meant death. It’s one thing to risk your life for your rights; it’s another thing indeed to do so for somebody else’s.

In my mind, that’s the textbook definition of noble. That takes a whole other level of balls. It’s gangsta with a capital G.

In 1966 the F.B.I was on a mission to destroy the Black Panther Party and woe be on to those who got in their way.

Marvel Comics was all the rage on college campuses in the 60s. Stan The Man Lee was the captain of one of the hottest pop culture ships to set sail in the ever changing 60s sea. His first mate Jack King Kirby navigated just as much of the Marvel boat as Stan and together they ruled comics, campuses and cool.

Stan wasn’t content to just cruise. He continuously looked to change the comic book landscape he had already transformed. DC wasn’t without some cool stuff, Wein and Wrightson’s Swamp Thing, Adams and O’Neil’s Green Lantern / Green Arrow those books along with others were DC’s stellar addition to the cool that Stan ushered in. Alas, those came in the late 60s early 70s.

DC held its own in sales, but in the ‘cool’ department they were outclassed at just about every port. Seen by most as still just for kids DC may have sold as much or more, but Marvel was – to use 60s slang – where it’s at.

The age of sex, drugs and rock and roll embraced Marvel. although they featured none of the above. Neither did DC.

The difference was a bit like the shower scene in Psycho. People swore they saw the knife plunge into Janet Leigh. There was no sex drugs or rock and roll in Marvel books, but fans thought there was.

Over at DC you didn’t have to be in collage to know Lois Lane may have had the title “Superman’s girlfriend” but everyone knew Clark wasn’t hitting that.

Put another way… DC was the Good Ship Lollipop and Marvel was the ever lovin’ Starship Enterprise.

Like another ship, the Titanic, once people heard about Marvel they couldn’t wait to jump on board. Likewise, the Titanic, Stan and Jack faced an Iceberg.

Unlike the doomed ship they looked for that potential death dealer on purpose. Those two Jewish guys were about to take a stand and strike a blow for civil rights. Not for themselves – for African Americans and doing so, whether they knew it or not, chuck a serious fuck you to Hoover and his crew.

A Black Panther with a serious attitude showed up in New York and preceded to win over the masses with his message. If J. Edgar won’t wear white after Labor Day, Hoover wanted to do something he couldn’t just bum rush the place he knew the Panther would be.

That’s because this Black Panther wasn’t real. Stan and Jack made him up out of thin air. Or did they? In 2017 it’s hard to imagine meeting someone who had not heard of Donald Trump’s:

Take your pick.

  1. Wall
  2. Tweets
  3. Hair

The Black Panther Party was a regular item in print and broadcast news. The year was 1966 what you read in the newspaper or watched on TV was damn near (for many it was) gospel.

Ya think Lee and Kirby just happened to create a character with the same name as the most wanted radical group this side of the Weather Underground with no knowledge that group existed?

That’s as likely as a character called The Birther showing up out of thin air.

Name: The Birther!

Tag Line: He Came Out of Thin Not American Air!

Mission: Kill Grandma!

Stan was as tuned in to what American college kids were doing as anyone over 30 could be. He spoke at many universities, and Marvel’s mail was an endless stream of hip American youth feedback.

The question is, did Stan, and Jack create the Black Panther to make a buck or a difference? Did they risk aliening some fans becoming an FBI file and possible violence?

I’m sure a lot of you think you know the answers but I most certainly do. Mine came straight from the man himself.

Stan The Man Lee.

End, Part 1.

Joe Corallo: Last Week In Intolerance


Some of you may have heard of the Mockingbird controversy and harassment of Chelsea Cain. Less of you probably heard about Tokyo Comic Con banning men from cosplaying as female characters. While the two events are unrelated, they both involve intolerance in the comics industry… and they both have a happy ending. Well, happier than it could have been, I guess.

Back in March, the character of Mockingbird was given her first solo series at Marvel Comics. The character of Bobbi Morse, Mockingbird’s alter ego, debuted at Marvel back in 1971 with her becoming Mockingbird in 1980. Though she was created by Len Wein and Neal Adams, her first published story was written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith. Mockingbird has appeared on and off in Marvel Comics as part of S.H.I.E.L.D. and different Avengers teams ever since with varying success. Once Mockingbird appeared on network TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on October 21st, 2014 it made sense that Marvel Comics would want to try a solo series for the character.

Enter Chelsea Cain, successful novelist, columnist and outside-of-the-realm-of-comics recruit. Comics taking in people from the outside is hardly new and has been seen as having at least some potential to tap into a different audience. Despite solid reviews the series has been cancelled at only eight issues in. After brutal backlash on Twitter towards Chelsea Cain’s pro-feminist take on the character, she quit the social media outlet. Heidi MacDonald’s piece at The Beat goes into more of the details, which I linked to back up at the top.

i-vampireWhile her future in the realm of comics is currently up in the air (as far as we know) there are some important takeaways here that may not be quite as obvious – the biggest of which for me is how well the first volume is selling. It’s reached number one on Amazon’s graphic novels list. Some of this may be due to the controversy, but that’s still an incredible feat for a comic cancelled for lack of sales… although that is hardly new.

I remember I, Vampire getting cancelled for lack of monthly floppy sales even after its first volume made it to #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. That was over four years ago. More recently we had Tom King’s Omega Men cancelled by DC Comics, briefly uncancelled, then ended for good with trade paperback sales also hitting #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. Mockingbird may end up enjoying that same fate.

Since then, the big two have seemingly made no real attempts to try and adapt to the changing markets. Sure, they’ve upped the output of straight to graphic novel stories such as DC Comics’ Earth One, but they can’t seem to solve this particular problem.

Though Axel Alonso tweeted out his support of Chelsea Cain, for which I applaud him –it’s something he didn’t have to do – the real support may need to be the comics industry putting more faith in their talent and their product similar to how Vertigo used to years ago. If Neil Gaiman’s Sandman came out today with the sales it had at first, we’d likely never have gotten past a dozen issues. I don’t have the answers to that. Maybe moving print comics to digital-only if they’re selling that well as trade paperbacks, I’m not sure. Either way we need the big two doing more for creators and to cultivate worthwhile stories so that maybe Mockingbird getting cancelled can have a happier ending.

tokyo-comic-conWe already got a happy ending with Tokyo Comic Con, a large convention featuring guests like Jeremy Renner and Stan Lee. Well, sort of. After a large public outcry through social media, the organizers decided to end the ban on men cosplaying as female characters. It was very bizarre, and seeing how quickly they were able to change their minds on this decision it lends itself to the idea that it was entirely unnecessary.

What’s still a bit troubling is that Tokyo Comic Con is issuing gender specific registration cards that will be checked to make sure that only people of the corresponding gender will have access to changing areas and restrooms. I haven’t found anything specific on their policies regarding transgender and non-binary attendees, so these gender specific registrations do raise some red flags for me.

While I do hope there won’t be any issues because of this, we’ll have to wait and see. I’m thrilled that they reversed their needless cosplaying restrictions, but it does seem to me that if they were trying to keep men out of women’s changing areas by implementing such a ban that their attitudes towards transgender and non-binary attendees may be troubling.

That wraps up last week’s examples of intolerance in comics. I’m sure there were more, but I only have so much time to research. Come back next week to see if people have become more tolerant by then.

The answer may surprise you.

Mike Gold Has Seen The Future


Back when I was a waddling comic book fan, I loved all those little spy cameras that Doctor Doom had floating around the planet. I figured that was the source of his obvious wealth – he sold them to other evil-doers such as, say, Haliburton. It titillated my sense of wonder, which always is a wonderful experience.

Technology has progressed exponentially in the ensuing half-century, and today we have so many spy cameras that last week’s unsuccessful bombings in Manhattan were so well-monitored the authorities were able to see the bomber, identify him with speed and efficiency that would have been impressed Felicity Smoak, and bust his ass within hours. Not only that, but other “security” cameras found the other bomb he placed four blocks uptown – below Neal Adams’ studio, no less – and they saw the thieves who stole the luggage the bomb was placed in, leaving the bomb in the dumpster where it was placed.

I love New York, but that’s not the purpose of my rant today.

Cars used to be a major part of our popular culture. Back when Doctor Doom was still in the spy cam biz, my friends and I could identify passing cars a block away from our school playground.

To a considerable extent the car culture remains part of our American fabric – even though there’s only about a half-dozen different looks and each are changed significantly only when some executive decides he has to keep his phony-baloney job. And now, Doctor Doom-like technology is deeply imbedded in our cars.

All sorts of outfits – Tesla, Apple, Google, and the more common car companies – have driverless cars well in development. Prototypes already are on the street, and Uber is experimenting with driverless car pickup service. An aside: If Uber (et al) is making the taxi driver redundant, Uber is even more rapidly making the Uber driver redundant.

Personally, I enjoy driving… probably too much. I’ve driven between New York and Chicago so many times I’ve named each tree along I-80 in Pennsylvania. I’d drive to Hawaii if I could hit critical speed before I hit the Pacific. So I doubt I’m the type of person “they” have in mind for the driverless car, although I’m not getting any younger and neither are my eyeballs.

The problem is, nor is anybody else. When it comes to new tech, I am not a naysayer and I am not saying nay now. I’d just like to point one out one small fact.

Minolta DSCIf you’ve ever driven at or below the speed limit on any of our interstate highways, you have been subjected to more middle fingers than Mr. Carter had little liver pills (yeah; even I am too young for that line). We love to get where we’re going as fast as possible. The police count on it, particularly in troubled times when tax receipts are lower than the needs of the municipal budget… or, in other words, all the time.

It stands to reason that, like some rental cars, driverless cars will be regulated to meet but never exceed the speed limit. That will mean two things: we will get to the pizza place five minutes later, and our municipal budgets will go to hell.

I don’t think your average American will stand for this. Moreover, it will be extremely dangerous as long as speed-regulated driverless cars have to share the road with human drivers who possess the tendency towards lead-footedness.

On the other hand, much of our population lives or works in areas that really have run out of room for highway expansion. Regulating everybody’s speed will allow for more cars and might even result in an improvement in driving times during “rush” hour.

I think of driverless cars as the home version of NASCAR… with the possibility of the same results.


Dennis O’Neil: Have I Offended Anyone?


So there’s some kind of election going on? Well, not in comicbookland there isn’t and maybe that’s just as well.

Last week, we blathered about the lack of ethnic diversity in mass entertainment, particularly regarding names, and suggested that the purveyors of such entertainment didn’t want to alienate potential customers by giving their heroes traits that some might find offensive. And it doesn’t stop with names.

You may have noticed, the more astute among you, that we as a nation are embroiled in what is surely the daffiest presidential contest in our history, and by “daffiest” I don’t necessarily mean most entertaining. On the contrary: I’m disgusted with it. But we’re stuck with it until November and then, if the results are not to my liking, I may consider some serious depression.

Politics generally plays no part in the procedurals that glut television, and even less in comics stories, and given the nastiness of our current national conversation, maybe we should be grateful. Here it is again, that fear of losing audience in action.

I’m not complaining. Mostly, we go to our screens and pages, not to be proselytized but to be entertained, and we don’t have to know everything, or even much, about a character to be amused by said character’s adventures. (Do we know how Spider-Man likes his coffee? Do we care?)

Let’s forget about television and movies for the moment and concentrate on comics, which have almost entirely avoided politics. I don’t recall any comics that labeled a character Democratic or Republican, or even Independent, or anybody in comic book political campaigns being identified by party. Maybe Abraham Lincoln. But comics have, occasionally, touched on subjects that concern politicians – or should concern them. There was, for example, an excellent short story in EC Comics’ Weird Science, published in 1953 and titled “Judgment Day.” It is as relevant today as it was 63 years ago and, given the subject matter, bigotry, that’s a shame. In an early Superman story our Man of Steel give the what-for to a wife beater. And in the early 70s, Neal Adams and I did a series inspired by the state of the world. All this and much more were possible political concerns, but they nothing to do with parties and precincts and superpacs and the rest of the kerfuffle of modern politics.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned religion. You’re right. I choose not to step into that particular quagmire. Ah, but why? Religion, as a subject for stories, is certainly pertinent to our discussion. The boundaries are relaxing and once in a while, character’s religious preference is specified. But this is new. Throughout the history of the media, religion has been largely avoided. (When it is part of a narrative, it usually affirms that what the parson told you about the Lord and going to Heaven was absolutely correct and don’t give me any of your sass, young man.)

Come to think of it, why have I not engaged what some might call spirituality here? Could it be that I’m afraid I’ll offend someone?


Mike Gold: Muhammad Ali… and Me?

Superman Muhammad Ali Ticket

I had a close friend and brother-in-arms named Larry Schlam, an attorney who specialized in juvenile rights. He later became a law professor and a lecturer on that same issue. He had been a doo-wop singer in Brooklyn, but that has no relevance to this topic. As it comes to us all, Larry died last year.

muhammed_aliBack in 1971 or 1972, I was with Larry at his office in downtown Chicago. We were working late – to the extent that we were actually working – and I left around 10 PM. As I walked towards the elevators, I saw one about to close and, like many late-evening neurotics, I was convinced that was the last elevator for the night. I shouted “Please hold the elevator!” and a giant mitt popped out to hold the door open. I trotted into the booth, turned to thank my benefactor, and found myself face-to-face with Muhammad Ali.

I did a double-take that might have impressed Moe Howard. Ali let out a gut-level laugh, flashing that famous smile. I thanked him – I think in some version of English – and mumbled something about inspiration. He thanked me. It wasn’t the longest elevator ride in history, and I would have paid good money if the machine got stuck for an hour or two.

As it happened, Ali was in the building to meet with his lawyer, whose office happened to be next door to Larry’s. I had met the lawyer several times; this will become significant in a few paragraphs.

Like many baby boomers, perhaps most, to me Muhammad Ali wasn’t merely a boxer and a political activist and a humanitarian. Muhammad Ali was a legend, a living super-hero whose costume was a pair of Everlast shorts and two bulbous, cartoon-like gloves. That’s all he needed. Shortly after he became the youngest American to win the heavyweight title I read he often worked out at a gym on East 63rd Street, near the bank that held my family’s account. Every time I went there (admittedly, not all that often – protohippies didn’t have a lot of money) I would gawk up and down the street on the off-chance I could catch a glimpse of The Champ. Sadly, that didn’t happen until the elevator incident.

We now flash forward to 1978. I was on staff at DC Comics and we were about to release Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali. Part of my job was to publicize the book, and like most publicists I was trying to think up a gimmick. Ali was globally known as a man who could out-talk a Dexedrine fiend. The proverbial light bulb lit up over my head, and I called Larry Schlam and asked him to put me in touch with Ali’s lawyer.

I discussed my planned stunt and he was all in favor, and he added a few bells and whistles of his own. He also added the obvious admonition that The Champ might not agree or, if he did, he could change his mind right there at the press conference. Que sera, sera, as both Doris Day and Sly and the Family Stone used to sing.

Muhammad Ali & Mike GoldStill, I was concerned the idea might tank, so I didn’t tell anybody. Not my faithful assistant Mike Catron, not my boss Jenette Kahn nor my co-boss Sol Harrison. As it turned out, Ali had sort of mentioned it to Jenette the evening before, but aside from that the only person who knew about it was celebrity columnist Irv Kupcinet, who stood ready to break the “exclusive” the moment it happened. That’s how you did it in the pre-Internet days.

The press conference was held at the massive Time-Life auditorium, which was filled with reporters, microphones and camera crews. We started the show with Jenette introducing The Champ… and not a single camera crew had their lights on. Jenette was, and certainly remains, an extremely photogenic person but they weren’t there to record her comments. They were there for Muhammad Ali.

When Ali took the microphone, the reporters started shouting out questions about his upcoming fight. And, for the first time ever in recorded history, the man who was called a blabbermouth (with good reason) about as often as he was called a boxer… refused to comment about that upcoming fight with Leon Spinks! This incited the press all the more, and they would not let up. Ali picked up our oversized comic book and said that was the only reason he was there.

He also said he hadn’t read it. That set off my “Oh-Oh” sense (thank you, Len Wein), but the press couldn’t care less. The headline was “Muhammad Ali Doesn’t Speak!”

But the second paragraph of that story read “he was there to promote his upcoming comic book, Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali” and it was on the front page of literally hundreds of newspapers across the planet. Most carried a shot of Neal’s meticulous and beautiful wraparound cover.

Comic books simply did not get this type of exposure in 1978. After the press conference I was offered a job by both Bob Arum and Don King, the two leading boxing promoters at the time and, perhaps, of all time. The next day the head of publicity at Warner Communications called to congratulate me, and then he asked me if I was going to take one of those job offers.

An aside: this wasn’t the first time a convicted murderer offered me a job, but it was the second time I declined a convicted murderer’s offer. Very, very politely.

Given the trajectory of my purposely unusual career, I have been fortunate enough (and, at times, unfortunate enough) to have met a lot of celebrities. Most were normal people; a bit isolated perhaps, but pretty much normal. Muhammad Ali had a presence that I cannot put into words. I think I would have felt the same way had I met the Buddha.

His life speaks for itself, in a tone much louder than any pre-fight couplet ever uttered by the three-time heavyweight champion of the world. He was a man of conviction, a man of principle who overcame racism and anti-Muslim sentiments and pro-war hysterics who took his crown for nearly four years during his prime in payment for standing up for his beliefs. Yeah, that always carries a price. Deal with it. Muhammad Ali did, and he won back his title. Twice.

When I think of Muhammad Ali, I think of the man and not the boxer. When he lit the torch at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1996, he body wracked with Parkinson’s, I was moved to tears. Muhammad Ali, the man, was indeed The Greatest.

Marc Alan Fishman: Nerd Rage Begone

Wonder Woman 49 Neal AdamsMaybe it’s the fact my son Bennett has finally mastered the art of pooping, or that my second son is due in less than three weeks, but I’m getting soft, my friends. To be clear, I still get migraines whenever I pull my attention towards the pending nominations of candidates from both parties. To be clear, I still shake my fist aggressively when Chicago drivers cut me off. To be clear, I still snark at things and get bent out of shape over tons of crazy Internet news. With that being said, a few of my friends on my social media feeds are seemingly raging hardcore over a litany of geek-related issues that just plain baffle me. Actually, strike that. It doesn’t baffle me so much as enrage me. I get the irony of it all, mind you. But I just can’t keep my snark in any longer over their bunched up panties.

And for the record, I don’t deny anyone the right to be snarky, angry, or anything else. I merely find these topics too silly to get an anger-boner over.

Issue 1: The Big Bang Theory

Recently this tweet elicited a resurgence of hatred over the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. If you’d like a detailed recounting of my feelings for the show, you’re welcome to do so. I penned that article in January of 2013. And here I am, basically three years later feeling absolutely no different.

For someone to feel the need to light the torches and mount the armies of nerditry in an effort to chase this windmill really must have nothing better to fret over. To mock the lowest-common-denominator joke mills that are most of the network half hour sitcoms in perpetuity is akin to scoffing at those who eat fast food. No one – and I assure you that includes the entirety of Big Bang‘s staff – actually feels like the show is somehow a Bat-Signal for nerds, geeks, and dweebs to uniformly celebrate as barrier-breaking television. It’s stupefying to believe I have more than a fair share of friends that feel a need to #nerdrage over the comings and goings of that show – in part because a few soccer moms said trivializing comments to their local comic shop owners.

A person who doesn’t know Bruce Wayne from Wayne Brady tells a store clerk he reminds them of  Sheldon Cooper is as bad as that store clerk implying the insulter shops at Lands End and drives a Buick Enclave. Both parties are in the wrong. And if you find yourself seething and foaming at the mouth because Big Bang had the audacity to make boobie joke about Saga? Go buy a tee shirt that says so from Hot Topic and blow that rage out yer’ hipster ass. Next time? Be glad Saga got mentioned to literally tens of millions of people instead of pitching a needless hissy over the sheer gal of it all.

Issue 2: Wonder Woman’s Ass and Leg Lifting Kiss

Wonder Woman #49’s Cover B Variant by Neal Adams depicts Superman and Wonder Woman embracing in a totally PG-13 kiss. Diana’s rear end is facing the camera. I assume this was done because the way the legendary Adams depicts the Amazonian Princess, had the camera angle been reversed, the entirety of the cover would be Superman’s cape, calves, and booties, with Wonder Woman’s feet in between, making a passionate kiss look more like a night at the Cosby residence.

Let me make this clear, in case the snark isn’t coming through. The cover that has caused several pals of mine to shake their fists to the heavens in womanly rage (and this includes dudes too) is a variant cover. Meaning the actual cover than the majority of comic collectors will preciously bag and board after reading cover to cover is not in fact this man-first, woman-hating, soul-destroying piece of dreck. This means that only those who covet artwork by Neal Adams, or are tender completests in the highest regard will actually need to seek the cover out from their local comic retailers to even get it.

To quantify any negative feelings over this drawing is simply a rage too far to me. Yes, Wonder Woman isn’t facing forward on her own cover of her own book. Because Neal Adams chose to draw it this way, and the editors said “cool.” Yes, Diana has her leg up as if to imply she’s not only enjoying the kiss, but she may even feign to a submissive role in Superman’s larger frame. But that’s the prerogative of Neal Adams to choose to make her that much smaller than the Big Blue Boy Scout. For the record, I’ve long held it in my mind that she was likely as tall as he was, but nowhere near as wide. But hey? Guess what? I’m not Neal Adams, and I wasn’t paid to draw the cover. A cover by any account isn’t being force fed to adolescent males with a call out balloon declaring “Superman gets what’s coming to him, baby!”

I could go on. I could hand-pick several other ragers who need to calm down – like those who need to imply that the executives of Hollywood don’t understand our culture. Or the dorkus milorkuses who feel it necessary to pass judgment on a blogger declaring Chris Hemsworth went full geek in the next Ghostbusters movie because he’s wearing a vest and horned-rimmed glasses. The list goes on and on.

Simply put, when our nerdy culture can finally take the time to accept that those not-in-the-know mean us no harm when they simplify our loves… when we can stop over-analyzing every little detail to acknowledge our hobbies are still businesses in the business of making money… when we can stop feeling the need to throw stones through the glass houses that offer us shelter?

Well, that’ll be the day I feel no rage against the nerds who need to rage.

Mindy Newell is Just Ramblin’ On

Swamp Thing

Sometimes a writer can sit in front of the computer screen for hours, fingers poised on the keyboard, and – nothing happens. Not a word, not a syllable. Not a random thought, not a brainstorm. There’s not one single idea that can be expanded upon, not a hint of anything that seems at least remotely interesting.

Hmm, here’s something.

Did you read Denny’s column last week, the one about the Mighty Marvel Method? This writer came late to that particular game; in fact, I didn’t even know it existed, and the first time I heard the words “Marvel style” – another way to describe the “method” – I didn’t have a clue, though I was familiar with what a “script” was, having read numerous plays, including a whole lotta Shakespeare, in high school and college. I do think that, for novices, the best way to learn how to write a comic is by the “full script” method, which helps (forces?) the writer to understand pacing, hone dialogue, and think visually, because in the full script the writer is describing the artwork in each panel. This can be pretty easy to do in an action scene, but what if it’s basically just two people talking? Then the writer has to think like both a director and a cinematographer, and keep the “camera” moving and the “light” interesting, because otherwise a “talking head” interlude, no matter how important it is to the plot, how crucial to moving the story forward, is just plain b-o-r-i-n-g.

Either way, as in a football game, it’s a team effort. The writer may be the quarterback, but without a trusted receiver – Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Peyton Manning and Demarylius Thomas, Tom Brady and Julian Edelman, Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. – he or she won’t reach the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl. I’m thinking Alan Moore and Stephen Bissette on The Saga of the Swamp Thing, Marv Wolfman and George Perez on The New Teen Titans, Frank Miller and David Mazzucheli on Daredevil, our own Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams on Batman. Neil Gaiman and Sam Keith on Sandman. And, of course, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four, The Mighty Thor, Captain America, et.al. Of course, these are all classic pairings; YMMV.

Did you read John Ostrander’s column yesterday? John is rightly furious. What’s happened in Flint Michigan is a fucking disgrace. Oh, and one thing John didn’t mention. The fucking Republican Ohio Governor Rick Snyder wouldn’t ask for federal aid or for the President to declare a federal emergency because, you know, Obama’s a Kenyan Socialist Muslim Anti-American Democrat. And he’s black. Thank God for Rachel Maddow, Michael Moore, and the Detroit Free Press. And above all to Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who blew the whistle.

Yesterday I finished semi-binging on The Man in the High Castle on Amazon – semi-binging because I didn’t watch all 10 episodes at once, but divided it up into two “showings” – so I wasn’t aware of the release of the American prisoners from Iran until about 5:30 or 6 p.m. MSNBC and CNN were both covering the story. I turned to FOX, because I was wondering what they were saying about this windfall from Obama’s policy on Iran; no matter what you think about the nuclear deal with that nation – and I’m still on the fence about it – our people have been released. Would Fox, the bastion of fair and balanced reporting” at least celebrate that? Nope. They just kept replaying and replaying the Republican debate from Tuesday night until the other stations turned to other stories. So fucking typical. Meanwhile, the sixth prisoner, Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who allegedly was in Iran on a covert CIA mission (according to ABC News) and who disappeared in March 2007 is still missing. I told Mike Gold that I think he’s dead.

By the way, The Man in the High Castle is a brilliant and engrossing adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel. I heartily recommend it.











John Ostrander Cons Around in Baltimore

Baltimore Comic ConSo, 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.

Marc Alan Fishman: Autograph THIS!

US dollar bills and coins in tip jar

Once again, retailer extraordinaire Dennis Barger is involved in some amazing debates and discussions within our industry. The last time his name came up we discussed the over-sexualization of the Powerpuff Girls. This time, it’s a far less provocative topic.

Already well-covered by Bleeding Cool, the recent plight of pencilers revolves around the cost of their signature. The debate: some well known creators charge for their autograph. Others choose not to. In choosing to be free, there are those who say this now devalues the ability for others to pluck a buck from a would-be fan. For some creators, the option to take a tithe of the nerditry is traded part-in-parcel for donations to the Hero Initiative, the CBLDF, or other worthy charities. And if any of this sounds familiar, My ComicMix compatriot Molly Jackson gave her two cents, wonderfully, earlier this week. So, the definitive question that we’re trying to figure out is… Who’s right?

Well, sadly our comic culture lives in a world no longer set in just black and white. Both sides have valid points. For those on “Team Charge!” the notion is simple: When you are able to be compensated for your nom de plume costs of attending the con are better covered. Money in one’s pocket, when the per-page rate isn’t pulling in proper piles of cash, is always preferred. And in the cases where a Sharpied autograph equals a rise in the value of the item it’s adorned on, the signature is merely an investment. Who could argue with having to pay $5, 10, or 30 dollars for a name, when it nets the owner $50, 100, or 200 more in potential payouts? No one should argue. That’s called good business. And let’s be fair: if you’re willing to part with a finsky for the signature of a Hollywood celebrity, why wouldn’t you do the same for the author a favorite comic?

What if the answer to that aforementioned rhetorical question was no? Well, you’d be in the “Team Free!” camp. And you’d be just as right as those crazy capitalists across the lake. Some creators who get their table space at these conventions are compensated to attend by their publishers or the convention promotors themselves – who know that their presence yields higher attendance. Charging a fan for a signature inflates the value of a comic sure, but it also takes money out of their pocket they might spend elsewhere in the convention.

Like at a smaller indie table, where they might give a chance to a new book they’ve never seen before. By not charging, there’s a potential butterfly effect to pay it forward within our comic community. That’s good karma. And if that signature on the book is for a retailer who turns that issue into more profit… the same karma applies. I bet the day Dennis Barger mints a hefty payday for his efforts is another day his comic shop stays open. And that in turn increases the potential for him to sell more comics to more kids. See the bigger picture?

Let’s also not forget: It takes seconds to adorn an issue with a scribble. To charge for that scribble, no matter how important you may or may not be can seen unseemly to some. Say that three times fast. If you do though, I’ll have to charge you.

Obviously it boils down to a personal choice. Some creators are too humble to charge for an autograph. Others embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. There isn’t necessarily a wrong choice here. And for those who posit that having some creators charge while others abstain unnecessarily devalues those creators who do… they aren’t wrong in thinking that. If a fan sees Neal Adams charging $30 for a signature next to Scott Snyder charging nothing but a smile? Well, some fans will scoop up a few more Court of the Owls trades and walk away with a few more shekels in their pocket. But, as with everything here, It’s their choice to do so.

Of course, this is where I should chime in, right?

In my own little swatch of ComicTopia, my name is worth spit. If someone wants it on something I created? Well, I’m damn flattered, and it comes at no increase in cost. And I can’t personally see any future where I’m not willing to sign for the same Free-Ninety-Nine I do now. Because frankly I don’t foresee any future where Marc Alan Fishman is a commodity like Neal Adams. And that’s perfectly OK by me. Subsequently as a fan, I’m not a seeker of autographs at any price. While I might be tempted to see Alex Ross or Mike Mignola scrawl their name on any of the well-kept tomes I own of theirs… I’m honestly too cheap to consider trading hard-earned disposable income over said scrawl. The opportunity cost isn’t greater than the enjoyment I’d sooner have taking the exact same money and buying more of their work at full retail. But then again, that’s just me. And because of that opinion – which many share – it’s not taking money out of another creator’s pocket. Because that money would never reach it that way over the sloppy drag of a felt tip marker. Maybe I’m missing out on some would-be profit. Or maybe I’m just not the target demo. Either way, I’m entitled to think that way.

And you can take that opinion to the bank.

Mike Gold: Jack Larson, Jimmy Olsen, and My Generation

Jack LarsonI’m guessing it was 60 years ago. I was a mere tyke; five years old. My sister was eleven. We lived in an apartment on Chicago’s mid-northwest side, and we had a television set. There were “only” five VHF stations and one of them was educational – a betrayal of my sensibilities. I hated school, even if it was merely kindergarten, and the idea that someone would waste one of those few precious teevee channels on school was simply beyond my ken.

At that time I was only interested in cartoons and in Jack Benny. Yeah, I’ve been a Jack Benny fan since the light from the cathode ray tube first shined in our living room. And I wanted to watch Bugs Bunny. Being six and one-half years older, my sister had more sophisticated taste. She wanted to watch Superman. And, being six and one-half years older, my sister usually got her way. So I watched Superman with her, as though I had a choice.

The show wormed its way into my heart, not so much because of Superman or Lois, although Perry White and Inspector Henderson were pretty cool. No, the character that appealed to me most was Jimmy Olsen, as portrayed by Jack Larson.

Jimmy was, indeed, Superman’s pal and who wouldn’t want to be that? He was a bit of a doofus, but in a very endearing way. He was one of those guys who could fail upwards and turn a crisis into a victory. He was swell enough to enjoy Superman’s confidence (but not his secret identity) and to help Clark and Lois in their work – and share their danger. Even though I didn’t want to be him as I knew Superman didn’t really exist, I sure as hell wanted to live next door to him.

Just like every other baby boomer. Jack Larson helped raise my generation.

I first met him in 1977, give or take a year, in Neal Adams’ studio. There were about a dozen of us, and Jack was polite, funny, informative and charming – even more so than his alter-ego. This was before he became convinced that George (Superman) Reeves committed suicide, and his analysis of the various conspiracy theories was fascinating.

I’d seen him at conventions and various DC functions since then and became aware of his career as a producer and a writer, often working with his life-partner James Bridges. But it was his previous lover, Montgomery Clift, who told him he was hopelessly typecast as Jimmy Olsen and he should move behind the camera, where he was quite successful.

Due to Jack Larson, Jimmy Olsen became even more successful. Roughly mid-way through the television run, DC came out with their first Superman spin-off book, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. It ran for 163 issues, with subsequent revivals.

When DC was forced to abandon the Superman series due to the death of its star, they asked Jack if he would be interested in starring in his own Jimmy Olsen series. By then, John (Perry White) Hamilton had died, so they could take the show in just about any direction. Understandably, Jack declined.

Jack Larson had a major impact on an entire generation – and that was a damn large generation. He was the first television actor to make bow-ties cool.

We mourn for Jack, who died last Sunday at the age of 87. Thanks to him, Jimmy Olsen lives on.