Tagged: Neil Gaiman

Mindy Newell: Columnist Columnizing

Newell Art 140421“Don’t you wish you had a job like mine? All you have to do is think up a certain number of words! Plus, you can repeat words! And they don’t even have to be true!” – Dave Barry

Some thoughts this week reflecting upon my fellow ComicMix columnists’ opinions…

Last week Martha Thomases felt compelled to once again write about the bullshit practice of attacking women who “o-pine” (as Bill O’Reilly says) and dare to speak “truthiness,” as Stephen Colbert puts it, in her column, Criticizing Criticism. Toward the end of the piece Martha wrote about a panel at Washington, D.C.’s Awesome Con (held just this past weekend) that she was planning on attending. The name of the panel was “Part-Time Writer, Full Time World.” All the panelists were women, and apparently they were going to “O-pine” and “speak truthiness” about balancing the demands of a full time job, of being a parent, of having a part-time job – with these women, the “part-time” job is writing – with having time for your personal life, all while keeping a sane thought in your head. She made an excellent point when she pointed out that there were no men on the panel.


To (mostly) quote myself in the “comments” section of Martha’s column:

“As far as the full-time job/parenting/writing/hobby balance thing, it’s not a question of whether or not men don’t do any parenting. I think a lot of men are extremely involved in their kids’ lives these days.

“But what I think what Martha is pointing out is the assumption by the con runners, or at least those who set up this particular panel, that it’s only women who are dealing with this conundrum. Or, to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they just wanted to do a “Women in Comics” panel and thought this would be an interesting twist on the subject. Either way, it does seem somewhat sexist–against both sexes for a change!

“The answer, btw – and I feel that I am qualified to answer this conundrum because I was a single parent, and also because I’m now watching Alix and Jeff juggle parenthood, work, and school – is, paraphrasing a certain global sports apparel company:

“‘You just do it’…

“While seeking plenty of help from family, friends, babysitters – and sometimes, if you’re really lucky, an understanding boss or editor.

“And then, when the kids are all grown up and have families of their own, you have the luxury of being a grandmother, and you can just love and spoil the kid and then hand him back when you’re tired or he get’s cranky or it’s just time for you to have some

“And be proud of yourself, because you just ‘did’ it.”

Denny’s and Marc’s columns made me think once again of how Marvel is doing everything right, and how DC is doing everything wrong. As I indicated in last week’s column, Marvel’s creation of a “telefilmverse” has been just brilliant in its adaptation of its comic universe’s history, in its invigoration of old concepts and old heroes, and in the excitement and joy its inventiveness is creating in both old and new fans.

I grew up a total DC geek in its Silver Age. I loved The Legion Of Super-Heroes, Superboy, Green Lantern, Supergirl, and the “Imaginary Stories” of Julie Schwartz’s Superman. In the 80s and early 90s I was hooked on all things Vertigo (Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, to name just a few), Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans, George’s Wonder Woman (even before I co-wrote it), Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s Legion Of Super-Heroes (before I was involved), Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and Ernie Colon’s Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld (ditto), Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland’s Camelot 3000 (ditto) and many more. Back then DC was a groundbreaker, an innovator, “Bold” and “Brave.”

Today when I think of DC I think of words like moribund, and mired, and morose.

Today, like Marc Alan Fishman, I say, “Make Mine Marvel!”

Paul Kupperberg’s review of  The King Of Comedy http://www.comicmix.com//reviews/2014/04/17/review-king-comedy/ is dead-on. If you haven’t seen this movie, see it.

John Ostrander: Happy, happy, happiest of birthdays! I left you a comment, but I don’t know where it went, because it’s not there now. Just know that I wish you everything you talk about in the column – to live even longer than your paternal grandfather and his continue to bang out comic series and a new novel on a regular basis. I can’t wait to read the new GrimJack series, and that brilliant novel that resides on the New York Times Bestseller list for longer than Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games ever did. I want to see Peter David green with envy (just teasing, Peter!) with your success. Hell, I want to see me turn green with envy and choleric with bitterness about your success! And I want you to remember, bro, in the words of that old poet-hipster, James Taylor…

You’ve got a friend.


Jen Krueger: Binge Reading Comics

A friend of mine has multiple subscriptions at multiple comic book shops. He gets excited for every new issue, and has been consuming comics this way for most of his life. Try as I might, I just can’t understand this, though not because this fervor for comics is foreign to me. It’s the issue by issue thing that I’ve never been able to come around on.

Maybe some of this stems from the way I was introduced to comics. Years ago, I saw Neil Gaiman do a reading of short story and poetry material at the Printer’s Row Book Fair, and the first booth I stopped at afterwards had the The Sandman graphic novels for sale. It was the first time I’d seen the name of an author I knew on a graphic novel, and having been so entertained by that author only minutes before, I figured I’d give this foreign format of storytelling a shot. I read it in one sitting and couldn’t get my hands on the next trade fast enough. By the end of the month, I’d devoured the whole series and become interested in finding other comics I’d enjoy even half as much as I had loved The Sandman.

But even as a comic book convert actively looking for more to read, I just couldn’t bring myself to start with anything short of a trade or graphic novel because single issues of comics have always struck me as unfulfilling, just bite-sized bits of big stories. (more…)

Only Eight Hours Left To Get Epic Fantasy StoryBundle

Neil Gaiman. Brandon Sanderson. Tracy Hickman. Peter David. These are just some of the authors included in StoryBundle’s Truly Epic Fantasy Bundle. All these books can be yours for a price you name, all DRM-free, with the option to donate a portion of your purchase to The Challenger Center.

The books include:

Order them now at StoryBundle. But hurry– there are only eight hours left to take advantage of the deal.

Glenn Hauman: Like “Sandman” Through An Hourglass

George Harrison once said to Eric Idle, “If we’d known we were going to be the Beatles, we’d have tried harder.”

That’s the phrase that comes to mind when I look back on that fall day when the pages first came into the darkroom at DC Comics. I’d been working there no more than a month or two.

Back in the day, pages of art that had bleeds were drawn on 12×18″ boards, which were too big to photocopy. To make copies for the colorist, every page had to be shot on a stat camera. Hundreds of pages a week. With photochemicals. It was a mind-numbing job, and I know one person who simply left one day for lunch and never came back.

And so one day, this book came in to be shot. Great, an oversized book, and it looked double-sized– 40 pages. There goes my break. I started to shoot the book.

Ooh, Sam Kieth art. I knew his pencilled stuff from an APA in the early 80’s, but I mainly knew him as the inker for Mage and later, penciller on Manhunter. Mike Dringenberg I knew from Adolescent Radioactive Black-Belt Hamsters (Don’t ask. Please.) And the writer– Neil Gaiman? That new guy, the one who wrote Black Orchid? Hmm…


Benedict Cumberbatch with Christmas stories for you

Benedict Cumberbatch gives us a Christmas reading of “A Visit From St. Nicholas”:

Oh, all right– here’s what you really want to see today, the preview episode of the next season of Sherlock, “Many Happy Returns’:

Sherlock happily returns January 1 in the UK, and the 19th on PBS in the US.

Oh, and did we mention the BBC is rerunning the audio play of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere for this week, starring Mr. C.? We didn’t? Well, we did now. Go. Listen. Enjoy, along with

Wednesday Window-Closing Wrap Up: November 13, 2013

Wolverine is the best Disney Princess #16, by Strampunk

Closing windows on my computer so you can open them up on yours. Here we go:

Anything else? Consider this an open thread.

Emily S. Whitten: Think of the Children

whittenart 110513When it comes to reading, what is “age appropriate”? I’ve been thinking about this lately, especially after that school in New Mexico pulled Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere from its reading list and library after a mother complained about a certain passage in it.

Yes, when taken out of context, I can see how the passage might alarm a parent on first glance. It’s about sex, and it contains cursing.

However, as pointed out on the Tor blog, in context the passage is more than the smutty little interlude the complaining mother presumably thought it to be. It’s an “intimate” moment between a couple who probably wouldn’t be behaving that way if they knew there was someone sitting next to them, intended to show how literally invisible the book’s main character, Richard Mayhew, has become to those in Gaiman’s “London Above.” This scene also furthers the relationship between two characters, Richard and one of his guides in “London Below,” Anaesthesia. In the context of the book, it makes sense and it adds to the development of the story.

It’s all about context, something that seems to be ignored by those complaining about this book or demanding it be banned. Have these people even read the books in question all the way through? Maybe, but somehow I doubt it.

Now I’m not saying parents shouldn’t have a care for the media their children are consuming. I do. But, 1) parents should read the entire book before requesting it be banned; 2) parents shouldn’t use their own value system to affect what an entire school’s worth of children have access to; and 3) parents should trust a little more in the nature of print media and of children.

In regards to point three – there’s something about things that must be read that makes them different and more wonderful than any form of visual media: the reader’s imagination must be used. No matter how much the author spells out the scene, the reader must still imagine, even if not consciously, the exact way a character looks, or the smells being described, or the tone of voice being used, or the look of the scary old house on the hill, or what–have–you. Each page is another adventure for the imagination, and this element of intellectual involvement naturally and deeply engages the reader in the action. It personalizes the experience for the reader. This leads to a deeper connection with the characters and the themes at work, and with what is really important in the story.

If I was reading Neverwhere straight through, and came to the offending paragraph noted above, I would not be so concerned with what the couple was doing and the fact that the word “fuck” is used than I would be with poor Richard and his situation – his extreme loneliness, his outsider status, and the question of what is going to happen to him next. I know this because I have read Neverwhere, and, while I barely remembered the questionable passage until it became a news story, I distinctly remember Richard walking the streets of London Above and having a series of encounters like that one. I remember feeling sympathy for him, and concern, and, in terms of the two people on the bench, anger and disgust that they and the others in London Above could be so self-involved as not to see this character I’d begun to care about. That was the importance of that paragraph; not titillation or a scheme to corrupt today’s youth.

It is in the nature of print media that, if you engage with it the way the writer intends, i.e. read through the scenes in the context in which they were written, you will get something else entirely out of them than if you were to read just one paragraph, or even a few pages. In most cases, what you will get is something deeper than incidental curses used for emphasis, or a description of a slightly vulgar display used to highlight another’s loneliness. You may get an understanding of the feelings the character is dealing with – his desperation or his confusion. You may get a window into his soul and a deeper connection with the story. That is a valuable thing to experience, because in understanding others or sympathizing with them, you grow as a person.

Now, if a parent reads the whole of a book and determines that it is not something they want their children to read because it is badly written or repugnant overall, then, okay, it is their choice whether they want to shield their child from that story. Although I do not think that choice should be allowed to affect others by removing a book from a school library.

This brings me to my second point – that with most books, parents should trust a little more in the nature and intelligence their of children. Children won’t generally want to read what they’re not ready for, which is why “age appropriate” varies from child to child.

I have been a voracious reader all of my life. I read many things at ages where they would probably have been considered “inappropriate” by somebody, somewhere.

For years, I never picked up a book without finishing it. But when I was in the sixth grade I began reading The Grapes of Wrath. It was so. Darned. Depressing. Despite my innate feeling that it was somehow wrong to not finish a book once begun, I couldn’t bear to keep reading it because I wasn’t ready for it yet. I remember being actually angry at it for being something I loved, a book, and yet being full of dust and death and depression. I literally chucked it under my bed, something I would never do to a book – books are sacred! I left it there.

Two years later we were assigned The Grapes of Wrath in school. I started it again. This time I kept reading, and I wanted to. The story was still full of dust and death and depression, but now I got it. I got why it was important to read about these characters, and I cared for them because I had the capacity and maturity to care for them. I was ready.

As another example, my favorite book as a fifth grader was Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Did I understand, at that age, all of the nuances of Twain’s humor and satire? Undoubtedly not. I did, however, get enough of Hank’s humorous narration of the Arthurian court to enjoy it. I very likely learned more about humor and satire by reading it. Because I both enjoyed it and sensed that I didn’t get all of it the first time, I re-read it several times over the years, gaining more understanding of the text and of the nature of satirical humor with each reading.

That book also got me interested in the world of King Arthur, which led to my reading classics such as Le Morte d’Arthur at an age where I probably would not have otherwise. It led to my picking up Mary Stewart’s The Wicked Day on one of the pilgrimages I made with my mother each year to the storeroom where she counted up the school’s books. (My mother, being an English teacher, would go before school started each year to count up the books she wanted to teach and determine whether she needed to order more. I would go along and was allowed to wander around and borrow any books I wanted. It was a wonderful thing for a reading child.) Now that book certainly had some things in it that shocked me – there was incest and intrigue and there were family members lying to each other and literally fighting to the death. But those story elements didn’t harm me. They just expanded my worldview, as did so many other stories.

The ability that books have to expand a person’s worldview and understanding of people and places otherwise not within their immediate experience is one of the most valuable things books have to offer. Books reflect the patterns of thinking of their authors, or they reflect the writers’ views on history, or on family situations, or on any other topics you can think of. They are windows into the minds of others and into other worlds as seen through the authors’ eyes. Each of us has to grow up and live in a world filled with a mishmash of people who are not like us, but the more encounters we’ve had with people (even if they are book characters) who are not like us, or perspectives that are not like ours, the better able we may be to understand the other people we encounter in life, and to find our own places in the world. I’m not a parent, but I was a child; and I can’t even enumerate all the ways books helped me with this, and continue to help me.

So what is “age appropriate”? I don’t know, and more to the point, I don’t care. What I do care about is that children be allowed access to the books for which they are ready. I really do believe that allowing such freedom will make each child’s life, and our whole world, better.

So when you “think of the children,” think about the value they gain from reading something new and different and, yes, occasionally a little adult or shocking. Think of how much being able to see different perspectives and understand other people will help them in this world. Think about being an advocate for literature, instead of against it.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!




Martha Thomases: Sweet Lou

loureedWord of Lou Reed’s death spread across the Internet on Sunday. For me, it was Sunday afternoon, so I can’t make this allusion. Nor will I call it a perfect day.

That’s what Lou Reed was to me. From the time his first album came out, he provided not only a soundtrack for my life, but a running commentary. His New York-inflected nasal vocals seemed to perfectly capture my own yearning for something I couldn’t define, but wanted desperately.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, this made me unusual, especially in Ohio, where I lived. Lou had a hit in the mid-1970s, but there still weren’t a lot of people who would admit to liking him. I can only believe that people bought “Walk on the Wild Side” without acknowledging that they knew it was about drag queens.

He wrote about drag queens, and heroin, and despair. He also wrote about domestic violence, video games, and Doc Pomus. It didn’t matter. It felt like he was talking to me. It felt like he knew what mattered and who cared what anybody else thought. A valuable point of view now, but absolutely priceless to me when I was younger and even more insecure.

I’m not the only one. There were millions of us. Even though his sales never reflected it, he had millions of fans worldwide. He played for a pope. It’s possible to argue that he was part of the inspiration for the people’s revolution in Czechoslovakia.

It always seemed to me that Lou would like comics. Maybe he’d like Marvel superheroes, or maybe he’d just like cool, outré stuff like World War 3. He was in a comic as himself. And, according to Neil, he was an important inspiration to another.

Despite his reputation as a serious poet (or maybe because of it), he could also be hilariously funny. He was the reason I went to see what would turn out to be one of my favorite movies, Get Crazy where he played Auden, a singer-songwriter clearly satirizing Bob Dylan. If you don’t have time to watch the whole movie, you should still take ran minutes and look here.

(In our family, when we’re running, we sing, “We’re late for the show.”)

I only saw him perform a few times, not enough, and I never met him. If I had, I don’t think he would have liked me. He had a reputation for being mean to people he didn’t like. A woman I know who attended the dinner Neil describes above says he was vicious and dismissive to her and to the other woman at the table.

And yet….

He didn’t have to sit for an interview with Punk. Lots of musicians less famous than he would have refused to talk to a couple of kids with no published clips. He didn’t have to perform at Farm Aid.

In “Sweet Jane,” one of my favorite songs, he sings,

“Anyone who ever had a heart

they wouldn’t turn around and hate it

anyone who ever played a part

they wouldn’t turn around and hate it.”

Thanks for the life and the work, Lou Reed. I’m glad I spent it with you.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Gaiman’s Neverwhere Nevermore?

cbldfAccording to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Alamogordo Public Schools banned Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere last week after one parent filed a complaint over the book, claiming the content was “rated R” and inappropriate for her 15-year-old daughter.

Gaiman’s classic work has been on the school’s reading list for nine years and this is the first complaint that’s been received. Evidently, the parent did not take issue with the entire novel, just the word “fuck” found twice on page 86. It is not known if the same parent took umbrage with J.D. Salinger’s award-winning 1951 novel Catcher In The Rye, which was assigned reading in this writer’s high school back in 1966. It, too, offers the same word.

The CBLDF has taken on the cause of freeing Neverwhere for 15 year-olds in New Mexico, and Gaiman issued the following response:

I’m obviously disappointed that the parent in question didn’t talk to the teacher or accept the teacher’s offer of an alternative book for her daughter, and has instead worked to stop anyone else’s children reading a book that’s been in the school system successfully for almost a decade. On the other hand I’m impressed that this parent has managed to find sex and violence in Neverwhere that everyone else had somehow missed – including the entire city of Chicago, when they made Neverwhere the book that was read by adults and children alike all through the city Spring 2011’s One Book One Chicago program.

But mostly I feel sorry for anyone excited enough by the banning to go to Neverwhere in search of “R-Rated” action. It’s a fine adventure, I think, with some sensible social points, and perhaps some good jokes and characters — but it’s very gentle stuff.

For more information, check out the CBLDF’s website.

Marvelman / Miracleman Scheduled; Hell Freezes Over?

After their first announcement at San Diego four years ago that they had obtained the rights, Marvel Comics announced last weekend at New York Comic Con that reprints of the original Alan Moore / Neil Gaiman Miracleman series would begin in January 2014.  Gaiman will then continue the story with issue 25, which he said was completed, but never released, back when Eclipse was publishing the series.

Joe Quesada made the announcement at his “Cup O’ Joe” panel at the convention, to an appropriately appreciative audience. Marvel will be reprinting the entire series, starting with its first issue as seen in the UK magazine Warrior, reprinted in Eclipse’s Miracleman #1.  The early issues were written by Alan Moore, but his name is not being used in any publicity for the series.

Originally named Marvelman, the character became “Miracleman” in America after Marvel Comics contacted its US publisher, Eclipse, and asked it be changed to avoid confusion in the marketplace.  Marvel, who has been referring to the character as “Marvelman” since their first announcement of the acquisition, has decided to reprint the series under the US title of Miracleman after all.  Tom Brevoort explains, “Gaiman and Buckingham worked on Miracleman, and that’s the name under which the series is best known in the States. So Miracleman it is.”

The series will be re-lettered and re-colored, but there no editing or alteration of the art is planned.  Some of the violence was quite intense in the original series, and issue nine featured very graphic depictions of childbirth, so the plan not to censor the art is good news indeed.

Marvelman was created by Mick Anglo when the British comics publisher who was reprinting the popular Fawcett Captain Marvel needed material when the various Captain Marvel titles ended, pursuant to a DC lawsuit.  Marvelman bore more than a slight thematic resemblance to Captain Marvel – young boys given a word of power to change into a powerful hero – a deliberate choice by the publisher.


Marvelman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the early eighties, Alan Moore wrote new adventures for the hero, the first of his “Everything you know is wrong” style of completely revamping a heroes origin while still paying respect and adherence to the stories that were told.  He would do this again with great success on Swamp Thing when he came to the US to work for DC.

The issue of ownership of the character has been a rats’ nest of red tape, even during the original run in Warrior.  To attempt to summarize the tale would not come close to getting across the complexity – The management suggests you seek out the exhaustive work of Irish comics journalist Pádraig Ó Méalóid, whose exhaustive history of the boondoggle puts all obsessive comics writers to shame.

Specific details of the schedule and format of the Miracleman reprints will arrive shortly with the January solicits.  If the book is published monthly, with the same page count of the Eclipse issues, it would Neil’s new material would not be seen for two years.  But considering the nigh-legendary status of the run, new readers will finally have a chance to read this seminal series, both in the careers of the creators involved and the exciting storytelling style.