Tagged: Neil Gaiman

Mike Gold: There’s No Business Like…

For some odd reason, over the past several decades many a wannabe comics creator has consulted me for advice. That’s quite nice; it makes me feel like I might know something. Of course, that also means I’ve been around the block so many times I’m prone to tripping over my own tracks. That’s the yin and yang of life.

No matter who the victim wannabe is, be that person a writer wannabe, an artist wannabe, or in extremely rare and unusual cases an editor wannabe, there are several chunks of hot glowing wisdom that I try to impart. Now you, if you’re a wannabe or you’re simply comics-curious, get to experience some of these radiant pearls without having to suffer through what I alone like to think of as “my sense of humor.”

I shall start with the most important lesson of them all. It is absolutely true for everybody, although some might find it daunting. “For every truly great guitar player with a contract and an entourage, there are well over 1,000 guitar players who are even better who never make it out of the garage.”

Even though truer words were never spoken, you might be wondering what the hell that has to do with producing comic book stories. Well… everything. The business of comics is show business. Admittedly, comics creators get less money than our performing counterparts, and we get less cocaine and cars and hardly any nookie, but we are in show business nonetheless.

Assuming you haven’t just decided to switch your major and wiki “hedge funds,” I shall drop the definition into your lap. You want to get in to the comics business, editorially speaking. Well, so do a zillion other people – and that’s growing as the medium achieves greater public acceptance. Let’s say you want to be a writer. For every Neil Gaiman out there, we’ve got a thousand people who aren’t in the racket, would like to be, and are better writers than my friend Neil Gaiman (sorry, pal).

O.K., there probably is nobody faster than Neil and that’s important, but we’ll leave that aside. On a planet with 7.5 billion human beings on it right now and births outnumbering deaths by more than two-to-one, there’s got to be at least 1,000 writers who are better than just about anybody we’ve seen thus far.

In order to get in the front door, you may ask, do you have to be better than the best? Well, that would be great and we can always use another bright, shiny beacon, but no – you don’t have to be better than the best. But you damn well better be more than half as good as the best to get noticed.

Yeah, there are schools that purport to teach you how to write (or draw, but not edit), but there are no schools that will teach you how to think. Most are incapable of teaching you how to be creative, but if you excel at the basic techniques and take creative chances and polish your work as though it was the Hope Diamond and work hard and eat your veggies, you’ll have a damn good shot.

If I had a dollar for every time I looked through an artist’s portfolio and offered some words of alleged wisdom only to be told that the wannabe’s work was better than, say, the two or three worst artists available, I’d have enough cash on hand to get somebody from Lenexa Kansas to drive out some Zarda’s barbecue to me here in Connecticut. The fact is, we’ve already got those “lousy” artists. Why would we need more?

Besides, that lesser talent might have been saving our deadline ass for years and years. Sometimes you just need the damn job finished, and I’ll bet you any long-term D-lister you care to mention has paid his or her dues and deserves the respect and the work.

Or not. There are assholes out there. I said this was show business.

So what do you do? After you’ve studied the masters who have written brilliant books on the subject – start with every prose-and-pictures instructional written by Will Eisner and Scott McCloud – and you’ve started producing and polishing and redoing everything and make it better, take copies of a few pages to your friendly neighborhood comic book store at some time when conversation is available (as opposed to, say, Free Comic Book Day) and show it around. Listen to what the clerks and your fellow fans have to say. And by “listen” I mean “pay complete attention, don’t be defensive and don’t be a dick.”

Then you take your pages back and redo them with all the additional knowledge you’ve just acquired. Eventually – and it’ll take a while – you’ll get good enough that you can put it online or work with one of the smaller “independent” publishers or even self-publish. And then you listen some more. And redo it some more. Then you might have something worthy of showing a comics editor or a comics bureaucrat (there’s a difference) or a friendly writer or artist, and… you’ll get some more advice.

Continue along that path, even though there are 1,000 wannabes behind you. Do not get off that path. No, you do not suck (probably; hey, a few do). Persevere. You are on your own personal lifequest. A jihad, if you will. You only lose if you quit before getting to the finish line.

There’s more stuff I will probably get around to saying in the future, and many of my comrade columnists here at ComicMix with names like “O’Neil,” “Newell,” and “Ostrander” have given out some great advice. Marc Fishman, who occupies this space every Saturday, has been on this quest for a while and is nearing that bright light of success – and he’s been sharing every step of the way with our readers.

One more thing.

Don’t give up.

Ever.

 

Martha Thomases: Adventures On Other Words

When I saw Moonlight, the first thing I said as the lights came up was “school sucks.” And it does.

I think this will be spoiler-free, but if you haven’t seen this magnificent movie, I hope you go as soon as you can. Like the best art, it showed me a new way of seeing the world and made me feel emotions that bound me to the characters. Although this is in no way real, for the two hours of that film, I was a self-loathing gay black man, unable to express my personal truth.

My life is privileged, however, and part of that privilege is comics.

Chiron, the boy/teenager/man who is the main character in the film, is not very articulate. This isn’t an unusual trait in a child. We all struggle to learn how to use our words. Unfortunately for him, none of the other adults in his life know how to express themselves either. His mother is a drug addict. The adults at school are overwhelmed with responsibilities that don’t allow them to take the time to notice one kid’s problems. The only exception is Juan, the neighborhood drug dealer, who offers the closest thing to fathering that Chiron gets. Later, his girlfriend, Teresa, offers him a refuge.

I’ve written frequently about how fiction helps me get through tough times. Reading a story about someone else’s reality has been a comfort since I was younger than Chiron at the beginning of the film. My mother turned me on to her favorite children’s author, E. Nesbit, and I felt understood in a way that really makes no logical sense. A Jewish kid in Ohio has very little in common with a bunch of English kids with magical friends, created by a Fabian Socialist. Still, I related to their confusion, to their sense that adults didn’t get it.

In a slightly different way, I found similar comfort in Greek and Norse mythology. I wanted to be one of the magnificent and beautiful gods. I thought they might understand me when reality didn’t. I bet gods never fell down and scraped their knees.

From these tales, I discovered superhero comics. These had the advantage of being new every week, instead of being old stories completed thousands of years ago. I wanted to be all the characters. I wanted to be Robin and Supergirl, Plastic Man and Wonder Woman. Wanted to be a telepath and I wanted to be invisible. I wanted to be Betty and Veronica.

Through these stories, simple though many were, I learned that all humans have hopes and fears, insecurities and passions. And even now, decades (and decades) later, I continue to learn this over and over again. I need to, because it’s all too easy to see people as cardboard stereotypes. It’s even easy to see myself as a stereotype.

For example, if I were the blatant red-neck Trump victim, hating on Muslims and immigrants and elites (a person who probably doesn’t entirely exist, at least not as this stock figure), I might read Southern Bastards and feel like somebody finally got me. And maybe, as I read each issue, I’d see that even the characters that didn’t look like me and how it feels to be them in the same kind of small town in which I lived. And, even if I didn’t get that part, I might enjoy some of the recipes sent in to the letters page.

And if I had strange feelings in my body that I couldn’t quite describe, if I didn’t know what changes were going on or whom I should tell about them, I might feel better after reading The Old Guard. In this case, the odd changes have to do with immortality, not sexuality or gender identity, but I think the quivering uncertainty applies to all of us.

A book that continues to knock me out, perhaps because it touches on so many of my personal obsessions, is The Beauty, about a sexually transmitted disease that makes its victims beautiful before it kills them. Sometimes people try to get the disease so they can be good-looking. A recent storyline had a trans protagonist, and I was engaged trying to figure out how the virus chose which traits were pretty, and if these traits were different depending on one’s gender, and whether that gender was determined by the same criteria demanded of North Carolina restrooms. If you get the disease in a culture with different standards than ours, do you acquire different traits? How is it that the fashion/cosmetics industry hasn’t thrown all their resources into finding a cure, given that the illness makes their products irrelevant?

Is it a blind spot of my white privilege that I don’t see that the solace I get from books wouldn’t necessarily help Chiron? Maybe. Music and dance, poetry, theater and movies, all can provide the same balm to the soul. I’m in favor of all of those. Still, I think books are the easiest to put in one’s pocket.

There are no books in Chiron’s house. If there is a local library, it isn’t part of his world. We don’t even see him watching television. Instead, he is isolated.

In an ideal world, we would all have brilliant, loving parents and other adults in our lives. In their absence, we have books.

Joe Corallo: Brave No World

This past week was quite busy. President Trump pushed back against a “so-called” judge, Melissa McCarthy nailed Sean Spicer on SNL, the Patriots pulled off a record-breaking upset that would have never happened if they were playing the Giants, and it was announced that Aspen Comics would be creating new comic with Scott Lobdell writing a black trans woman titled No World. As much as I’d like to hit on all of these topics, I’m going to focus on No World.

So let’s get into it. Aspen’s new comic is a team book. It will have characters from Soulfire, Executive Assistant, Dellec, as well as some new characters. Lobdell described one of the new characters as “Former NFL. 6’5. 250lbs. She’s here. She’s trans. She’s gonna kick evil’s ass!” You can see that Tweet here. We still don’t have a name or much of a background to this character outside of her being a former NFL player, but we have some information we can start examining.

Let’s start with former NFL player bit. When we’re dealing with a trans character and one of the only bits of information we get on them is about something from before they came out, that raises a few red flags. There’s a concern that when cis writers tackle trans characters, that there is an unnecessary focus on transitioning. Take a look at Alters where the character of Chalice is in the process of transitioning and we see her as her Charlie persona about as much as we see her as Chalice. If you look at trans writers like Rachel Pollack and Mags Visaggio, we see kick ass trans women without ever having to see them prior to their transition, hearing them go by their dead name or even knowing about it, and so forth. Unfortunately with her being a former NFL player we are likely here this character’s dead name multiple times. Sometimes cis writers do a good job with this like when Gail Simone had Alysia Yeoh come out as trans, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t approach this with some caution.

Moving on to her being 6’5 and 250 lbs, Scott follows that up using the hashtags #gnc, short for gender nonconforming, and #nonbinary. There is also an image of her that Scott shared with the line “passing is for footballs.” These elements are a bit more interesting. Trans characters in comics are mostly white and mostly attempt to pass. Trans characters of color, particularly black trans women, have been very rarely seen in comics and are also easily of the most victimized members of the queer community. This type of representation is sorely needed.

It’s also important to note that some people who consider themselves gender nonconforming or nonbinary may be okay with she/her/herself as well as they/them/theirself, so that could end up being just fine.

Scott Lobdell is no stranger to creating a trans character. He created Suzie Su for Red Hood and the Outlaws. This particular trans character was a very unflattering portrayal, a villain, and someone who was more than willing to murder children to get what she wants. It’s worth noting this was his only other portrayal of a trans character in comics that has made it into print and should at very least cause many to wait and see how No World plays out before praising or condemning this representation.

Unlike comics like Alters, No World has no trans representation in its creative team, which seems to be mostly straight cis white men. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but when tackling a character like this one it’s not necessarily comforting either.

Scott has at least stated on February 3rd that he’s consulting with some members of the trans community. You can see that Tweet here. He talks of a few trans friends that helped him as well, including Shakina who plays Lola on Difficult People. One thing you may notice following that link, at least at the time I wrote this, is that Scott Lobdell has yet to responded to Mags Visaggio’s questions and offering to consult with Scott on this character.

For the most part, I’m concerned about how this comic will play out. While there is evidence of talking with some trans women, there isn’t any evidence of Scott Lobdell consulting with people who are gender nonconforming or nonbinary. It seems this will also be a story that involves dealing with the characters life pre-transition. It’s also very possible that this character will not even be featured heavily in this series; it’s a team book.

I do hope that Scott will use his position in comics to help trans creators here on out. For example, Neil Gaiman wrote a trans character in The Sandman which helped get Rachel Pollack and Caitlin R. Kiernan noticed by DC Comics, which in turn lead to them working for thay company for years. While the character has been reexamined and there is valid criticism, by helping trans creators get noticed it shows that Neil genuinely cares about the trans community. Paul Jenkins on Alters got Tamra Bonvillain work on that title.

No matter how this particular title develops, I hope Scott Lobdell’s interest in the trans community goes beyond No World and that we’ll see him help lift up this group of comics creators that are too often overlooked.

Joe Corallo: The End of an Era

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persepolis-150x222-2910900Last week it was revealed that at least a couple of eras were at an end: one, America’s new immigration policies diminishing our reputation here and around the globe, and the New York Times no longer including a list of best selling graphic novels. As much as I would love to discuss the former, this is a site about comics and pop culture, so I’ll focus on the latter.

After eight years of having best seller lists featured weekly at the New York Times, it was announced with little warning that this week would be the last featuring such a list. This information was confirmed with little to no logical reason by NYT editor Pamela Paul via Twitter. Graphic novels will be folded back into fiction, making it more difficult to make the list and preventing many graphic novels from ever being able to obtain status.

Many creators, including Neil Gaiman, questioned this decision and aired their frustrations with odd, confusing, and seemingly ill-informed responses from Pamela Paul. One thing she did promise, however, was expanded coverage in terms of reviews and discussion on comics and graphic novels.

Here’s where I tell you that’s a bad deal.

white-donkey-145x225-7354177While, yes, I absolutely support expanded coverage of comics and graphic novels, that in no way should ever be an either/or situation. Also, ask a comic company what it can do marketing wise with more write ups. It may be positive, but doesn’t even come close to being able to slap the very coveted “New York Times Best Seller” label on your graphic novel. No press can replicate that. None.

Graphic novels have benefited greatly from being able to have their own lists. Combining them with other lists only hurts them. There’s very literally no positive to this. None. Even if they got nine slots on a combined list, that’s still less than the ten they had before.

One of the graphic novels that made the bestseller list in the past is Persepolis, the story of a young woman growing up in Iran and watching the country and the world change. Getting on the bestseller list helped the book. More people heard about it and looked into it. It’s exactly the kind of graphic novel we need to be reading today. If more stories like Persepolis came out after they remove the lists, large swaths of people may never hear of it and we’ll be denied important reading material being elevated where it needs to be to better serve society. A society that’s far too ignorant of the lives of those from the countries our President has banned, and from a country that has banned us right back.

neil-gaiman-batman-146x225-5644037Another graphic novel about a country we’ve banned that made the bestseller list in the past is The White Donkey. It’s the first graphic novel about the Iraq War created by an actual veteran detailing a lot of the tedium as well as the mental health issues brought on through war. It’s an important story and something people here should read to understand what our own citizens went through for a war that at one time had majority support. Again, this is a graphic novel that got legitimacy, praise and sales by making it on the bestseller list. Another story like it may not now.

Look, I understand that the New York Times is a privately owned company. They have absolutely no obligation to anyone to create bestsellers lists. However, these sort of moves have helped to keep the New York Times in high regard amongst many communities including the comics community. While I acknowledge that this is a private company’s decision, I’m also going to acknowledge that the decision is needlessly hurtful to a segment of publishing that’s been expanding by double digits and is now a billion dollar industry.

I hope it’s not too late to change course. I hope someone from the New York Times reads this. I hope Pamela Paul in particular reads this. And I hope that they all consider the inherently negative consequences of their actions to large and growing community.

Molly Jackson’s Creepy Confessions

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With a loaded title like that, I guess I just need to cut to the chase. Ok, so here it is. I don’t like zombies. The genre doesn’t do it for me. Seeing the struggle of humans retaining their humanity is always a good read but fighting brainless zombies is just boring. The last (and probably only) zombie movie I really liked was Shaun of the Dead and that’s only because I liked how they spoofed on zombies while keeping the essence of the genre.

So why am I taking the time to sorta bash on a beloved genre? Well, Halloween is right around the corner and I’m feeling topical. Let’s give Halloween its time to shine, especially since Christmas decorations are already in malls.

Ok, that’s not the only reason. Everyone is making a big deal about The Walking Dead premiere as well so it’s on my mind. I gave up after season two but it is one of those shows that everyone knows about it, whether you want to or not. So quick segue for the people complaining about the premiere, even I know that the comics are way bloodier than the show. Everyone’s favorite character dies in those books. Move on. And for the weird fringe group complaining it isn’t a family friendly show; seriously? Get a reality check, a parental channel blocker, and find a new cause.

Segue over. Moving on.

The real reason for my confession is that it’s time for the yearly celebration of horror in prose and comics. That’s right, this time of year is more than haunted houses and scary movies. Readers have their own events to celebrate the scariest time of the year.

All Hallow’s Read is a personal favorite of mine. Starting with Neil Gaiman, it promotes reading scary literature for all ages. But just because it is pushing prose doesn’t mean you stop there! Take this time to read something scary in comics. Just to get you started off, I can always recommend American Vampire from Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque. You already know that zombies aren’t something I read much of, but if you want werewolves in the wild west, check out High Moon by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis.

But maybe you don’t have the cash to spend on new books right now. I get it, but the comics world has you covered. Halloween ComicsFest is happening this Saturday! It is a mini Free Comic Book Day but all scary comics! Mostly all-ages, in an effort to bring new readers to local shops, it also can fill that void for reading something scary this year. I won’t mention how this is the closest I come to trick or treating.

These are both important events because they get you reading. Also, they get you directed towards a particular genre. Now you might be a regular horror reader, but I’m not. This flexes my brain muscles by changing it up from my usual science fiction fair.

Exploring different types of stories is good for your imagination. So tell your friends, your boss, and the creepy guy down the hall to check out some scary comics this year. You never know what suggestions they might have for you.

Emily S. Whitten: Convention Catch-Up — Yay, Dragon Con!

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Time flies, doesn’t it? It seems like just yesterday I was watching Animaniacs Live, interviewing folks about Turtles and cartoons, seeing the latest in geek fashions, hanging out with American Gods, and chatting with the Kings of Con at SDCC, not to mention chillin’ at Nerd HQ. And now suddenly it’s September, and I’ve since attended both the UK Discworld Convention and Dragon Con! Convention season: it really never stops, does it?

Despite my busy schedule, I don’t want to miss sharing any of the fantastic adventures I’ve been having with you; so first, let’s rewind to San Diego and reminisce about the summer party-party-parties, because they are a staple of SDCC and deserve to be featured. Every year, I try to line up at least a couple of parties each night, because, let’s be frank, I just love a good party. (I also often wish I could be in two places at once so I could go to even more parties. Alas that it’s impossible.) Although occasionally I don’t make it to one I really didn’t want to miss, it’s mostly because I’m having too much fun at another one – a good problem to have!

This year, I missed a few that were totally on my list; but I did manage to hit several super-fun ones…

Wednesday:

When you go to a con every year, you sometimes end up with con traditions, which can make the experience even better. On SDCC Wednesdays, my awesome friend Amy and I have turned going to BASIC for pizza and the Gabe Eltaeb Comic Kickoff Fundraiser into our own little tradition. The fundraiser is cool, with artists on hand sketching and neat auction items; the pizza is good and relatively quick to appear (very important after preview night!), and this year, BASIC was a Pokestop, so while we waited for our order we amused ourselves by catching Pokemon (I caught one of the pretty horse ones and named him Ricotta after our pizza). Definitely a good chill hangout start to the con.

Thursday:

Sometimes it’s good to get in the right frame of mind before a night of going out. On Thursdays, the WIRED Café, which runs from 11am to 7pm, is a good place for that. The downside is that it’s usually a bit of a wait to get in – to the point where last year I took a look at the wait and opted for other choices. But this year I stuck out the line, which was moving at a decent clip, and went on in. The WIRED Café was a fun combo of food and drinks, a DJ and little dance floor, and nifty interactive tech toys (plus a handy phone charging station). The gadgets you could play with included a VR Mars walk experience, and a Sphero BB-8 that could be controlled by head movements. They also had some really good specialty sno-cone drinks. (And if you got a marked coaster you won a shirt. I won on the first drink!) All-in-all it was fun, although I’d definitely weigh the wait against other stuff you might want to see on Thursday.

Once the day was properly in evening party mode, I hit up the Scholastic Party, which was celebrating a number of its newest Graphix publications on the Hotel Palomar pool deck. The pool deck had a nice setup and the party had neat features (along with welcome food and drinks) like a hefty swag bag and free Day of the Dead-style face painting. Well, I can’t resist free face painting, so of course off I went to get a super-cool design on my face (and then had to figure out how to eat and drink without messing it all up!). There were also several great guests there, like the super-nice Greg Grunberg (who told me I should never wash my face again, because the face paint was so cool), Dustin Nguyen, and Kate Beaton. I also ran into other fun folks there, like Sanford Greene, Simon Fraser, Edie Nugent, Patrick Reed, Amy Chu, and Batton Lash. Altogether it was a great party.

After it wound down ComicMix editor Adriane Nash and I hit up the NVE & Nylon Magazine After-Con Party. Celebrating the Women of Wonder, at Omnia. This was a full-fledged club party, with lots of celebs wandering around, and a fun time was had by all. The face paint was a big hit, and we chatted with everyone from Mehcad Brooks (Supergirl’s James Olsen, who was really happy to hear that Adriane liked what he’s doing with the character) to Teen Wolf’s Cody Christian (what a sweet guy). We also spotted others from the Teen Wolf cast, DJ Qualls, and Casper Van Dien – and I’m sure there were a ton of folks we literally rubbed elbows with, even if we didn’t realize it. It was packed! The party also featured Kristian Nairn from Game of Thrones as a DJ, with a surprise visit from DMX later in the evening; and a video booth where you and friends could take slow-mo “superhero” videos together with props. Closing that party down was a solid end to the night.

Friday

Friday night I somehow managed to fit three parties in (harder than it sounds!). I started out with the excellent Starz American Gods and Ash vs. Evil Dead cocktail party on the rooftop at Rustic Root, which I wrote about in detail in my American Godscolumn. This party had a themed drink, cool swag bags, and lots of American Gods and Ash folks, as can be seen here. Definitely a good time.

When that party wrapped, I hightailed it over to the SherlockeDCC party at the San Diego Central Library, organized by the Baker Street Babes, Sherlock DC, and NerdOut. This party featured themed drinks, vendors, a raffle of Sherlockian items, and an appearance by Steven and Louis Moffat. Every year I enjoy this party, where I always run into friends like fellow DC-area fan Lacy, and the esteemed Sherlockian Les Klinger. This year I was also extremely delighted to catch up, at least for a little while, with my North American Discworld Convention co-founder Anna, who I hadn’t seen in years, and who was, as always, decked out in the best costume; and our fellow NADWCon friend Shari. Love those ladies!

Although I hated to leave SherlockeDCC, I didn’t want to miss Nickelodeon’s Marc Summers & Double Dare Party at Fluxx. And that was a good choice, because it was epic amounts of fun. I wrote all about it in my Nickelodeon column, but to recap: they had Actual Marc Summers (who did not miss a beat the whole time) running an Actual Game of Double Dare on the dance floor at a hip nightclub, and the Red Team and Blue Team were comprised of Actual Nickelodeon People, including TMNT’s Mikey, voice actor Greg Cipes. Not to mention they provided us hungry con-goers with the best tiny diner food (burgers, fries, shakes, etc.). And that cool cats like TMNT’s Ciro Nieli and Eric Bauza were on hand to chill with. And that at the end of the night, they cleared the dance floor of all the cool Double Dare stuff (like the giant hamster wheel) and we all danced our hearts out to ‘90s music. Like I said, epic.

Saturday

Oh man. There were lots of cool-sounding parties on Saturday – including the HBO party, which fellow ComicMixers attended. But being totally honest here, by that point I was wiped. So instead of partying hard, I went out and had a niiiiice, relaaaaxing dinner with friends, followed by very chill drinks with other friends. And that? Totally rocked too. Woo!

Well that pretty much wraps up my SDCC experiences, although there are even more photos from the parties and the con floor in my SDCC photo collection. So check that out!

And now, on to the…

UK Discworld Convention

Going to the UK Discworld Con was something I looked forward to, but it was also tough – being the first Discworld event I’ve attended since Terry Pratchett passed away last year. I admit I still expected to see him around every corner, chatting with a fan or having a drink at the pub. And I admit that I needed a little more downtime than I usually do at cons, to deal with Terry not being there. But I’m so, so glad I went – both because the con featured many events that honored and memorialized Terry, and because it was really nice to reconnect with my many Discworld friends, and even make some new ones. One of the best parts of Discworld Cons is hanging out at the pub with your friends, and I was happy to be able to spend time with the likes of guests Rob Wilkins, Colin Smythe, Bernard Pearson, Reb Voyce, Ian Mitchell, Ian Stewart, Stephen Briggs, and Daniel Knight, and panelists Diane Duane, Peter Morwood, and David Bradshaw; as well as with my many fantastic convention friends. Discworld Cons are such a wonderful thing, and after going to the UK Con, I’m even happier that I’m involved in running the next North American Discworld Convention, which is happening next Labor Day weekend in New Orleans.

The con started with an opening ceremony in which The Hat was brought to the main stage, where it remained for the rest of the con. Among the most important panels were the programs that honored Terry. In one, selected clips from the memorial that was held for Terry last April were shown; including one of Good Omens co-writer Neil Gaiman reading from his intro to A Slip of the Keyboard; which is still one of the best summations of Terry that I’ve read. In another, Terry’s good friend Bernard Pearson of the Discworld Emporium told wonderful stories (as is his wont) of times he and Terry spent together (including that time they went in search of a specific type of pub urinal. No really). And then there was a good conversation between Terry’s longtime PA and business manager Rob Wilkins, and Discworld audiobook voice, playwright, and reference book collaborator Stephen Briggs, about their many recollections of Terry. And, of course, the tradition of the Bedtime Stories was continued; and although there will sadly be no more books, Rob read us all a bit of what could have been another story, had there been more time.

It wasn’t all about looking back, though. Although in documentarian Charlie Russell’s panel it was absolutely fascinating to hear him discuss with Rob Wilkins the previous three documentaries he made about and with Terry, he also talked about the new documentary he is doing with the BBC – about Terry’s legacy and the fandom, some of whom he interviewed while at the con. And although Terry’s independent production company Narrativia no longer has Terry to guide it, in the Narrativia Klatch we heard from two of its members, Rod Brown and Rob Wilkins (Rhianna Pratchett being the third), about exciting upcoming projects like The Wee Free Men, which is being adapted for the big screen by Rhianna Pratchett and developed with The Jim Henson Company; Good Omens, which is being adapted for TV by Neil Gaiman; and The Watch TV series, which is also currently in development. And in the field of amateur adaptations, convention attendees put on a very cool musical version of Witches Abroad that was enjoyed by all. All-in-all, it was a wonderful con; and you can check out my photos of it here, before we move on to…

Dragon Con!

Everyone who’s gone to a fandom con knows that they are wonderful but tiring. So of course, what better idea could I have possibly come up with than to go to two in a row? Sounds a little crazy, right? But given the UK Discworld Con and Dragon Con were just one weekend apart, I was left with no choice but to do it. (It’s a hard-knock life, for me.) And despite my jet lag, Dragon Con was as always, a total blast. I love this con for the wide variety of fandom tracks, the Walk of Fame, and the excellent level of organization involved in what can be an overwhelming con. And, of course, because it is the one and only Nerdi Gras – a great place to party with your nerd and geek friends.

This year, not only did I get in some great interviews (with Jim Butcher, Christy Carlson Romano, and Brian Henson, coming soon!) but I also managed to make it to some fantastic panels, and to discover my new obsession – puppeteering. Why puppeteering? It started with attending Brian Henson’s Evolution of Puppetry. This panel was absolutely fascinating, as Jim Henson’s son went through the history of the Jim Henson Company, showing clips of how Kermit and the Muppets developed over the years; and also demonstrated the Henson method of puppetry live using an on-stage camera and the video screens so that we could see both what he was doing, and how it would look on-screen. Seeing the magic behind the puppets firsthand was amazing. Then, thanks to roomie Cleolinda, I learned that there was a panel featuring the puppetry of adorable Star Wars droid BB-8. Well, of course we had to go to that! As it turned out, it was the very first Dragon Con of BB-8 puppeteers Dave Chapman and Brian Herring – and they were clearly having a blast as they showed us behind-the-scenes footage of their work, and discussed the six different versions of BB-8 and what it was like shooting on location. By the end of these panels, I had determined that I must learn more about puppetry – hopefully at future cons!

Another great set of panels were the Gotham panels. I made it to two, along with meeting several of the cast, and found them all delightful. The panels were both enlightening and entertaining (the best mix) and it seemed the Gotham cast was thoroughly enjoying the con. For such a dark show, the cast is very warm and funny; and one favorite moment from the panels was when Chris Chalk (Lucius Fox) joked that the reason Wayne Manor has such terrible security, with outsiders seemingly just appearing in various rooms all the time (I had noticed that!), is that Bruce gave Fox a key, Fox made copies, and now everyone in Gotham has one. Well – it’s as good an explanation as any! I also sympathized with Sean Pertwee and David Mazouz when they joked about how happy they were that in the new season we’d see more of Wayne Manor, because it meant they could finally get out of the library! (“We eat there…we sleep there…we never leave!”) And Drew Powell – well, pretty much everything he said was funny. That dude’s a riot!

The last panel I made it to was the Gillian Anderson panel, which was a great Q&A that ranged from X-Files to Hannibal and more. I hadn’t seen Gillian Anderson on a panel before, but it was clear that she’s got a broad intellect and a sly sense of humor – very fun to listen to. Alas, I did not get to meet her, but I did get to meet a lot of great guests on the Walk of Fame this year. Some favorites were the aforementioned Gotham cast members, who were great to chat with, along with Robin Lord Taylor, who was alas only at the Con for a limited time. Other great guests I chatted with included the BB-8 puppeteers (such cool guys!), Charlie Cox (I had to get a signed pic of Matt Murdock in lawyer mode, don’tchya know), Bob Bergen (voice actors are always so interesting), Richard Horvitz, Rikki Simons (a fellow Pratchett fan!), Nolan North (Deadpool!), Will Friedle (also Deadpool! As well as Ron Stoppable from Kim Possible, of course), Bill Corbett, Dana Snyder, and oh, so many more. And that’s not even counting the other guests, authors and Artist Alley folks I got to hang out with, including fab friends Esther Friesner, Alethea Kontis, Ken Plume, Aaron Fever, Joseph Scrimshaw, Molly Lewis, Dexter Vines, Sanford Greene, Georges Jeanty, Daniel Govar, Tony Moy, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Josh Greathouse. And I also met Baymax! (Scott Adsit.) And Gareth David Lloyd! (Ianto Jones on Torchwood.) And And, and, and…oh, I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of fun people I saw and things I did, but, well – that’s Dragon Con! It’s big, and crazy, and a bit overwhelming; and in the end, you look back and it might just be a bit of a blur – but it’s a fun blur, nonetheless!

I took tons of pictures at Dragon Con, which you can see here. And then, stay tuned for the aforementioned Dragon Con interviews, and Servo Lectio!

Joe Corallo: Caitlin R. Kiernan and the Rising Stars

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img_0085Last week I interviewed Rachel Pollack in this space. In my introduction I mentioned that only two trans women have written for DC before. That’s somewhat true, and somewhat not true. It would be true to say that only one trans woman had written for DC, and it would also be true to say that number is three. Rachel Pollack is the only one who has written for DC proper. The late Maddie Blaustein wrote for Milestone Comics, for which DC had (and has) the publishing and distribution rights. Rachel had created a trans character for comics. Today, I’d like to talk about Caitlin R. Kiernan.

In 1996, prior to becoming an accomplished and award-winning author, Caitlin R. Kiernan was an award-nominated author of short stories shopping around a novel. She was fronting a band called Death’s Little Sister, in reference to the character Delirium from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. In that year of 1996 she would be approached by the very same Neil Gaiman to write for The Dreaming, a Sandman spinoff, for DC’s Vertigo imprint. Caitlin R. Kiernan would go on to say yes, becoming the second and last trans woman to write for the Vertigo imprint.

For those of you keeping track at home, that means Neil Gaiman has played a crucial role in hiring 100% of the trans writing talent that has freelanced at Vertigo. If we add Maddie Blaustein to the mix, that’s still a sizeable 66.6%. Either way, not too shabby.

caitlin_r-_kiernan_by_kyle_cassidy2I don’t mean any of that to sound like a knock against Neil either. Quite the opposite. It’s great knowing that trans and queer representation was important to Neil at a time where the majority of Americans felt that it wasn’t even okay that we exist at all. It makes me more sympathetic towards his handling of the character of Wanda in Sandman as well considering the time that story had come out. You can see some of what Neil has to say on Wanda towards the end of this fairly recent article here.

Now back to Caitlin R. Kiernan, she would go on to write thirty-five issues, over half of The Dreaming. Working with people at Vertigo including Neil himself, she crafted stories in the dreaming with many characters we already know, like the Corinthian, as well as her own creations like Echo.

On earth Echo had been a male transvestite, but upon entering the dreaming she became a woman. Unlike Rachel Pollack’s Coagula and Maddie Blaustein’s Marisa Rahm, Echo isn’t trans in the same way. It’s through a sort of magic that Echo goes from being a male transvestite to becoming a woman in The Dreaming. That’s not to diminish the importance of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s contributions to comics or to imply that it makes Echo’s stories inherently less important than Coagula’s or Marisa Rahm’s, but Echo’s story and her journey as a character is certainly different, and it’s a story that does fit well into The Dreaming.

img_0084After The Dreaming ended with issue #60, Caitlin R. Kiernan would leave comics for the next decade before returning to the medium at Dark Horse, most notably with Alabaster: Wolves. Unlike Kiernan’s peers at DC Comics, she’s had six of her issues of The Dreaming collected in The Dreaming: Through The Gates of Horn & Ivory. This of course is just a fraction of her work on the title, and three of the issues in the collection are written by other writers. Any readers getting a chance to meet Echo in this collection will be disappointed to find that the rest of her journey remains uncollected.

While yes, many other comics at DC have not been collected (I’m still waiting for volume three of John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s The Spectre) the fact that the only three trans women that have written at one DC imprint or another have had nearly zero success at getting their comics collected and in print beyond their initial release is troubling.

If DC Comics is going to talk about the importance of diversity, push characters like Supergirl, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Midnighter, and the new Superman, then I see no reason why they wouldn’t want to celebrate how they were ahead of the curve decades ago. They’ve solely been working up to this by reprinting Tony Isabella’s Black Lightning, but reprinting the works of Rachel Pollack, Maddie Blaustein, and Caitlin R. Kiernan is an important part of that. Reprinting Milestone Comics instead of sitting on them is important.

img_008320That’s not to say this is just a DC Comics problem. Trans representation at other comics publishers is lacking as well. We’ve seen Sophie Campbell and Tamra Bonvillain getting more recognition for their contributions to comics, and that’s a step in the right direction. We’re seeing Mags Visaggio becoming a rising star with her comic Kim and Kim over at Black Mask Studios. However, we are not seeing enough trans and queer representation overall.

Hopefully we’ll see more trans writers telling their stories in comics. Not only people like Caitlin R. Kiernan or Rachel Pollack, but people like Sophie Campbell who have gotten greater name recognition as of late, rising stars like Mags Visaggio, Lawrence Gullo and Fyodor Pavlov, and the countless others out there around the world. Some of whom I’ve heard of and some I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing their work yet.

And maybe Marvel could hire one of them to write a story… as they’ve yet to do.

Mindy Newell: On Star Trek And Other Thoughts of Space & Time

Star Trek Starfleet Academy Experience

As my fellow opiners Ed Catto and John Ostrander have, uh, well, opined on these pages, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. You would think that there would be a lot more hoopla about it, but even though CBS has announced the premiere of a new ST show and even though, as Ed reminds us, the United States Post Office is issuing a special commemorative stamp – which I am absolutely positively buying – it’s been amazingly quiet on the P.R. front, especially when you consider that the franchise is legendary not only here, but around this world.

Consider, if you will, the build-up to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2013. Not only was there a reminder of the looming date on BBCAmerica seemingly every single commercial break, but any little bit of news – rumors – was all over the Internet, on television, on radio, and in the newspapers. The BBC commissioned a TV movie, “An Adventure in Time and Space,” about the creation of the series and its effect on William Hartnell, the original Doctor. Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker and Paul McGann appeared in the comedic homage “The Five (ish) Doctors Reboot” – which was written and directed by Davison – along with David Tennant, Jenna Coleman, John Barrowman, Russell T. Davies, Steven Moffat, and many other actors and behind-the-scenes people long associated with the show. There was a world tour. And of course there was the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor.”

Okay, I just did a quick search on the web. There are a lot of things happening, including the Star Trek: 50 Years, 50 Artists exhibition that debuted at the San Diego Comic Con this year, and which will continue to travel around the country and the world. There’s also: Star Trek: Mission New York, which is occurring as I write this over Labor Day weekend at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in the city. (Didn’t hear a word about it on any of the New York local news shows, or read anything in any of the metropolitan area newspapers.) There is also a traveling concert show of ST’s music, and the one that sound the most fun, Star Trek: The Academy Experience, which is happening now through October 31 here in New York on the U.S.S. Intrepid museum – now that’s something I could seriously get into…hey, Alix and Jeff, my birthday is in October. (Hint! Hint!)

But I still say it’s been amazingly quiet.

•     •     •     •     •

I ordered a copy of The British Invasion: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and the Invention of the Modern Comic Book Writer (by Greg Carpenter) mostly because I wanted to read the interview with my friend and once-editor Karen Berger; when I received the book I immediately read it, and though it will be an interesting perusal for those not around the halls of DC in the 1980s, there wasn’t anything there that I didn’t already know. I’ve just started the main bulk of the book, so I can’t really “officially” comment yet, but it already seems to be a rather, uh, “fannish” account of the introduction of the British artist community into this side of the pond’s comics business.

And there were other amazing talents from the mother country in DC’s pages, then – Alan Grant and John Wagner being just two. One thing I will say – and I know I’m possibly inviting trouble here, and I’m also saying this in a spirit of jealous discontent that still lingers from those days, as immature as that might be – but im-not-so-ho, the guys with the passports were given much more free rein to “create as they will” by DC’s PTB than those whose birth certificates registered them as Stateside natives. Just sayin’, that’s all.

•     •     •     •     •

I saw a picture of Donald Trump in a Jewish prayer shawl (a “tallis” or “tallit”) at the church in Detroit where he went to “court” African-American voters. Huh? Are you fucking kidding me? Trump’s the poster boy for the “alt-right” – don’t you just love the “new, cool, millennial” aphorism to describe his neo-Nazi, white supremacist acolytes?

Ed Catto: That Other British Invasion

3 covers British JPG

One day in the early 80s, I was with my girlfriend in a shopping mall. Somehow I had been relegated to the role of sidekick while she shopped. I liked to do a lot of things with her, but shopping wasn’t high on that list. I was bored so I decided to buy a comic book to read while she shopped.

Swamp Thing 21 p1 anatomylesson1Back then I was enjoying a lot of comics and purchasing them every week at Kim’s Collectible Comics and Records. But one store in that mall had a spinner rack filled with comics, and I knew I could snag an issue that I had missed.

I evaluated the comics available on that rack and hoped that one would be my salvation from the dreariness of shopping. I reached out for Swamp Thing #21, and was surprised to find an unfamiliar writer wrote it. I decided to give it a try nonetheless.

Those initial low expectations quickly gave way to… my brain exploding! That issue masterfully took a fresh approach to a tired concept, and wrapped it in thoughtful, clever and creepy prose. It was a big deal. I was so excited, and at the same time so frustrated, as I couldn’t really discuss it with that girlfriend. She had no interest in comics.

I didn’t know it then, but comics were about to change.

Alan Moore, that writer, was just one of the creators who ushered in a new era of comics. Sequart’s newest book, The British Invasion – Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and the Invention of the Modern Comic Book Writer discussed the important contributions of these writers. I was able to catch up with author Greg Carpenter and he shared some insights.

Greg CarpenterEd Catto: Can you tell us a little bit about your new book, British Invasion, and what you set out to do with this book?

Greg Carpenter: I’d be happy to Ed, and thanks for having me here. The British Invasion is an in-depth analysis of the intertwined careers of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison – three influential British comics writers who first began writing American comics in the 1980s. The book traces their work from the ‘80s through today (or as close to “today” as you can get in the book-publishing world), and it focuses in particular on how these three writers redefined our understanding of what it means to be a comic book writer.

At least, that’s the dry, academic-y answer. As for what I wanted to accomplish, on the simplest level I think it was to try to answer the question that students always ask me: “Why have comics become so popular lately?” Obviously that’s a loaded question with lots of presuppositions, but the gist of it – that comics culture has moved from the outskirts of society to the mainstream – seems fair. And for me, the answer to that question leads directly back to the work of people like Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison.

BRITISH INVASION coverI remember back in 2004 when I was sitting in a theater watching The Incredibles. Here – in a Pixar movie that didn’t really have to be all that smart or insightful in order to be successful – was a full examination of the wonder and the absurdity of the superhero genre, viewed through a real-world prism with real world consequences. Even though there had already been several superhero movies by that time – some of them quite good – what struck me was that Brad Bird seemed like the first filmmaker who had really “gotten” writers like Moore, Gaiman, Morrison. The thrill for the viewer came, not from the style of the costumes, the nature of the superpowers, or the threat posed by the villain, but rather from the momentary suspension of disbelief that comes when you realize – this is what superheroes would really be like.

That thrill, that feeling, that … sensation is far more rare than you might think, and I knew then that at some point in the future I wanted to try to show everyone why that feeling is so powerful.

EC: What’s your personal fan experience, and did you enjoy these writers when they burst onto the scene?

Miracle Man Eclipse PromoGC: I came of age at the perfect time. As a kid, my comics reading was pretty random – a smattering of superhero books and a lot of commercial tie-ins like Marvel’s Star Wars and GI Joe. By the mid-‘80s I was pretty heavy into DC’s Star Trek, but I kept seeing all these in-house ads about a book called Swamp Thing that was winning all sorts of awards. This was pre-Internet and I lived in the rural American South, so a person wasn’t going to find much comics journalism in the local Wal-Mart. My education came from those in-house ads. And if a house ad said I oughtta pay attention to a particular title, well, that carried a lot of weight with me.

So I wound up buying Swamp Thing #56 – the blue issue. I didn’t really understand it, but I could tell it was different from all the other stuff I was reading. And once I started stepping out of my comfort zone, I found myself swept away with the energy of the times – The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Maus, The Shadow, Byrne’s Superman, The Killing Joke, The Question, Black Orchid, Animal Man, Arkham Asylum, V for VendettaSandman. It was an amazing period. And Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison were the ones shaping my worldview, my own personal mentors – priests, professors, and practical philosophers. They could do no wrong.

So when they drifted away from mainstream DC, I drifted away from comics. It’s hard to remember now, but in those days, in the part of the country where I lived, there wasn’t much access to books like From Hell, Sebastian O, or Signal to Noise. It was like loving music but only being able to listen to Top 40 Radio. So for me, it felt like my three favorite writers had largely left comics – even though they hadn’t. And I really didn’t care much for what had taken their place at DC, Image, and Marvel in the early ‘90s. So I stopped reading.

And then, as fate would have it, I was standing in a Wal-Mart and saw a comic book display. I paused for old times sake and was struck by a new title – JLA #1 – written by Grant Morrison. From then on it was like the Michael Corleone line – “just when I thought I was out, (Grant Morrison) pulled me back in.” And I’ve been reading ever since.

EC: You do such a great job of putting it all into context and telling a “big picture story.” As I’m reading your book, I’m thinking “Yeah, I vividly remember those stories from Supreme or Promethea.” I’m impressed by the way you are able to analyze those stories in the context of each writers’ career and within a particular historical timeframe. How much of a struggle was it to tell the tale that way and how did you go about it?

GC: You’re very kind to say so. I wish I could say that everything just fell together perfectly, but alas. I think the low point for me came when I was staring at dozens of little scraps of paper scattered across the floor, trying to figure out how in the world to make the overall structure for the book come together. I knew I wanted to do rotating chapters, but there were lots of organizational problems. While these three writers have always been active, their creative peaks often come at different times. So I was left with a floor full of jigsaw pieces that all came from different puzzles and all I had was an X-ACTO knife and some touch-up paint to try to make it all go together.

As for the rest, I learned to make a friend of the Grand Comic Book Database, tracing chronologies and sketching out long timelines. If I can’t see something visually, it’s never quite real.

EC: By focusing on these three British writers, are you leaving out other important creators that are important to the big picture?

GC: More than I could even begin to list. The beginning of the so-called British Invasion wasn’t even a writer movement – it was about artists. People like John Bolton, Brian Bolland, and Dave Gibbons had begun working for DC and Marvel and were doing great work before Alan Moore made a splash with Swamp Thing. And, of course, there were so many great writers in those early days – people like Alan Grant, John Wagner, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan … and that doesn’t even begin to include the writers who came after these three – Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, James Robinson, Mark Millar … you could go on and on.

And that’s just the British creators. The book focuses in particular on the impact of the Invasion on the notion of the modern comic book writer. If you want to really look at the development of the writer’s role, there are also plenty of non-British writers who helped pave the way for what these three were able to do. I’m thinking of Denny O’Neil, Chris Claremont, Steve Gerber, as well as writer-artists like Frank Miller and Howard Chaykin.

But ultimately in any book you have to focus. What is the problem you’re trying to solve? What’s the question you’re trying to answer? In my case, I knew I wasn’t writing an encyclopedia. I was looking specifically at the role of the writer, and these three writers’ work seemed so interwoven that it was impossible for me to talk about one without the other. But I still lose sleep over all the creators who frankly deserve their own book.

EC: I love the chapter titles. Can you tell me a little bit about how you chose them?

GC: I love that the titles worked for you. That was one of my earliest ideas for the book. Each chapter gets its title from the name of a song by either the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or the Who. Some of those choices are hopefully pretty obvious – a Sandman-heavy chapter is “Golden Slumbers,” the chapter with Grant Morrison’s vision at Kathmandu is “I Can See for Miles,” and a chapter on Spawn is “Sympathy for the Devil.”

But beyond setting the mood or reinforcing the theme, the choices don’t follow any set pattern. I don’t think Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison correlate directly with the three bands – one of them isn’t the equivalent of the Beatles or the Stones, for instance – so I just drew liberally from all three to find the most appropriate title for each chapter.

EC: It’s a big book, but I’m sure you had to make decisions and choices about what to include. What do you regret leaving on the cutting room floor?

GC: When I started, I naively thought I’d be able to cover all the published work of each writer. It didn’t take long to figure out that was impossible. So there are lots of things I never got to write about. But of those things that I did draft and then take out, the most disappointing was probably a section I wrote on Alan Moore’s Neonomicon.

Any of your readers who’ve read that book know already that it’s a tough book to deal with – powerful, complex, and disturbing for a number of reasons. But when I was drafting the manuscript, I dove into it and wrote what I thought was a really nuanced, insightful analysis.

Well, have you ever had one of those moments of brilliance at 2 AM where you’ve just stumbled upon the plot to a novel that’s probably going to earn you the Nobel Prize for literature? You feverishly scribble the idea down so you don’t lose it, but then, the next day, when you pick it up to read it there’s nothing there besides the most banal idea imaginable. That’s basically the story of my Neonomicon analysis. When I found myself editing the manuscript a few months later and got to that chapter, I just scratched my head. What I thought was enlightening was utterly vapid. It was so nuanced that there wasn’t anything there. I thought about revising it, but the book was already overlong so I just dropped it. Maybe I’ll go back to it someday – just not at 2 in the morning.

EC: We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but your cover is clever and to the point. How did the design come about?

GC: The cover is great, isn’t it? Kevin Colden, who has done some great work on The Crow among other projects, did the cover. In keeping with the theme of the British Invasion, it’s an homage to the album cover, Meet the Beatles.

But it didn’t start that way. Originally, I actually tried to sketch out an idea myself. It was an image of Mount Rushmore with Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison carved into the rocks. Trust me, it was even worse than it sounds. My wife took one look at it and said, “Seriously?”

So I went back to the proverbial drawing board and tried to draw an empty bandstand modeled after the Beatles, with a drum set, microphones, and three guitars. I sent this one to Mike Phillips at Sequart and he said something along the lines of, “Um … yeah. So, anyway … what would you think about something inspired by an album cover?” And with that, for the betterment of all humanity, I retired my drawing pencil.

Mike and I talked about several album covers, but we kept coming back to Meet the Beatles. For legal reasons, you can’t use a real person’s face on a cover, which is understandable, but (and I think this was Mike’s idea) we thought it might still work if we put them in Union Jack masks. And Kevin took it all from there.

EC: If you could go back in time and give any “Dutch Uncle” advice to Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman or Grant Morrison, what would it be?

GC: Oh, I don’t think they need my advice. They’ve each done pretty well on their own, don’t you think? So I dunno … I guess if I had to, I might tell them – especially Moore and Gaiman – to skip some of the work they did for Image Comics in the ‘90s.

But honestly, I don’t believe in second guessing the past like that. Let’s say, for example, you were able to help Alan Moore get a better Watchmen contract with DC, saving him from some of the nastier aspects of the profession. That would seem like a good thing. But would a happier, more content Alan Moore have gone on to write From Hell? I tend to doubt it. I don’t know about you, but given a choice between enjoying three years of Alan Moore writing something like Green Lantern – as enticing as that might be – or getting Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, I’m gonna take the Jack the Ripper story every time.

EC: There’s such a rich landscape of creative comics being produced today. What are you enjoying and what do you feel will be viewed as important in the years to come?

GC: It feels almost like a cliché to mention it, but I really love the March Trilogy. What’s special about it, I think, is that once you get beyond how amazing John Lewis is and how well he and Andrew Aydin have compiled his story, Nate Powell’s art is extraordinary. All too often, comics that are classified as “educational” tend to be stiff and lifeless – like your great-grandmother’s idea of what a “good” comic book might be. But Powell is the real deal. Great cartooning, imaginative layouts. The national media might make it sound like broccoli sometimes, but it’s really great comics storytelling. And because of its subject matter, it’s going to be part of the high school curriculum for a long, long time.

Among mainstream comics, I was a big fan of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye. I always joked that it felt like I was watching some mythical Quentin Tarantino movie shot in the ‘70s and starring Steve McQueen circa 1963. I also think Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman is deceptively good. It’s one of those comic book runs that is easy to take for granted, but ten years from now we’ll still be thinking about it. And Eric Powell’s The Goon always makes me smile.

But the other area that makes comics exciting today is the changing demographics – particularly the infusion of more women creators and readers. Any time you can shake up the industry and change the aesthetics, good things can happen. I once got to interview the artist Janet Lee, best known for Return of the Dapper Men. She showed me some of her work in progress and, to be honest, I was dumbfounded. Instead of something conventional like rough pencil layouts, inks, or even watercolors, she was using a technique akin to decoupage, drawing and coloring images and then cutting them out and painstakingly layering them on a larger page. I can’t even imagine what it must take to do that, but once it’s published, her stuff looks unlike anything else out there. That’s what you get when you have greater diversity in the field – fresh voices, fresh perspectives, and new aesthetics.

In a lot of ways, that was the lesson of the British Invasion too, I think.

EC: What’s next?

GC: Well, my wife and I are both writers – her debut novel, Bohemian Gospel, was published last year by Pegasus Press (heavy-handed plug) – so we tend to alternate between projects around our house. That means that lately I’ve been doing a lot of copy editing and proofreading on her sequel, The Devil’s Bible.

That’s not to say I don’t have a couple of book ideas of my own brewing. I do. But I also remember what Hemingway said – the book you talk about is the one you never write.

EC: Thanks so much, Greg!

Three Alan Moore Comics

 

Mike Gold: Freedom of Speech Without Freedom to Listen?

Utah Porn Law

Who decides what is pornography? Who gets to stop people from seeing it? And why do they bother?

A Utah state senator got a bill passed declaring pornography a public health crisis. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Utah, but I was in New York City a couple days ago and I figure if porn is a “public health crisis” in Utah, there would be some sign of that in the Big Apple. I saw no signs of any public health crisis whatsoever. I asked my fellow ComicMix columnist Mindy Newell if she’s seen any signs of a porn-related health pandemic; by day Mindy’s an operating room nurse in the New Jersey portion of the metropolitan area. She acknowledged that pornography might be a threat to the health of certain religions that maintain broad governmental power, but it’s not a physical health threat like, say, the ebola epidemic.

Of course, true freedom of religion must include a person’s right to not be held to the religious standards of others. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, 37.36% of that state’s population is not Mormon and, by federal law, the majority religion has no right to force the rather large minority population of non-Mormons to adhere to its religious predilections.

But, I dunno, maybe they’ve got all sorts of problems with “porn” out in Utah that New Yorkers don’t have. I would give Republican State Senator Todd Weiler the benefit of the doubt, but then I’d be enabling him and I don’t want to do that. Weiler promises to introduce at least three more “anti-pornography” laws next session, including one that would demand your local Internet service provider (ISP) add systems that would make you have to register and prove your age in order to view pornography… assuming you are in Utah.

As I noted, “pornography” is not clearly defined. I understand why: any solid, comprehensive definition must define the bible as pornography as well as www.heresnewtittiesforyou.com… not to mention medical care sites, rape crisis information, psychological and suicide prevention sites, and so on.

Pete Ashdown, founder of a Utah ISP, told the Associated Press that completely filtering the Internet of porn is technically impossible, pointing to China’s inability to stop the courageous rabble from using the Net to foment protest. “Trying to control the Internet in these broad stroke ways never works,” Mr. Ashdown stated. “Whether you’re an autocratic government trying to tell people that democracy is not good for them or an uptight legislator in Utah telling everyone what is pornography and what is not pornography.” His opinion was shared by many First Amendment lawyers and freedom fighters, who note that the state of Utah cannot impose its will onto interstate traffic.

Of course, the electronic book-burners always hide their “moral” inquisitions behind the banner of “we’re doing it for the children.” These people are both liars and fools: the kids are alright, and turning something into forbidden fruit only makes it sweeter.

I simply do not understand why these imperious jihadists do not simply go back to doing what they do best: persecuting homosexuals, the transgendered, and feminists, and where they go to the bathroom.

You might ask, what does all of this have to do with comic books? Ask such accused pornographers as J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita Jr., Alison Bechdel, Keiji Nakazawa, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Phoebe Gloeckner, Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, Howard Cruse, Raina Telgemeier, Daniel Clowes, Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Robert Crumb, Howard Chaykin and Maurice Sendak… to name but a very, very few.

Better still, go over to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s website and see how you can help stop this madness.