Tagged: New York

Mike Gold: So… Who’s On First?

I’m a Bruce Springsteen fan, and of course Bruce taught us all how to count to four (One… One – Two – Three – Four!) So I’m pretty good at math, until I get to whatever number is past four. But the number before four is three, and that’s the number of seasons in which I haven’t been able to cross the convention floor without being stopped by somebody to ask what’s up with the new First Comics.

Here’s the bird’s-eye lowdown: I don’t have a clue. I’m not part of the effort. I never was. I did write a tribute for the 31st anniversary edition of Warp, and I helped procure the services of Frank Brunner to draw the cover – go figure; he only drew the insides – and I fussed with my pal Rick Obadiah’s tribute piece because I enjoy fussing with Rick’s work.

But that’s it. I prefer working with publishers that actually distribute their work to the public, and that’s the question that’s most often asked of me. They sell their stuff at some conventions – Chicago’s C2E2 and, I believe, both the San Diego and New York shows and probably others. There I chat with art director Alex Wald, one of the truly gifted backroom people in the comics business and, by the way, a really nice guy, and Mary Levin and I wave and smile at each other, and that’s about it.

Yes, I co-founded First Comics along with Rick Obadiah way back when Godzilla was merely a flaming hatchling. I left the company at the end of 1985, which was prior to Godzilla’s entering adolescence. The lizard needed the room, and I gave him mine. Now he’s making stupid money off of a movie he’s barely in… but I digress. A lot.

I have no claim to the trademark and no equity in the company, which may or may not be the same company as it was when I was there. Overall, I spent more time at DC Comics and I have a similar lack of equity. This is not a problem at all.

I’m not pissed at people who assume I’m involved – actually, I’m kind of honored. But it does get annoying after the tenth or twentieth inquiry. This is why I’m employing this chunk of bandwidth to set the record straight. We’ve started the 2014 summer convention season, and I’ve committed to several more shows in addition to the three I’ve already done this season. See? I said I’m a Springsteen fan.

The really nice thing about all this is that Rick and I have resumed an old First Comics tradition (that’s the first First Comics, not to be confused with First Second Books or, for that matter, the Fifth Third Bank). The first First Comics was founded under the principle that, if you’ve got to have a business meeting, it should be over a truly great meal, and, generally, an unhealthy one at that. Rick’s a New Yorker living in the greater Chicagoland area, I’m a Chicagoan living in the greater New York area, so we get together about three or four times a year. Probably not more, but being a Springsteen fan, I have no way of knowing.

The cool part is that I turn Rick onto great Chicago restaurants, and he turns me onto great New York restaurants. All of these places involve supplication to massive platters of beef. I fully expect a PeTA picket line when I get off the commuter train.

This is a tradition that I’ve tried to port over to ComicMix. My four-color comrade Martha Thomases has been trying to get me to improve my diet – not by edict, but by example. Please do not tell her it’s slowly working. I now actually eat fruit!

I remember during my first tenure at DC in the 1970s company president Sol Harrison took me to the (now closed) Ben Benson’s steakhouse in midtown Manhattan, and publisher Jenette Kahn and I ate regularly at the fabulous Warner Communications dining room in Rockefeller Center, among other such joints. The food was fantastic.

So, in case you ever wondered – and if you have, you really need to get a life – I’m in this business for creative fulfillment, for not always having to act like an adult, for enjoying numerous great and enduring friendships… but, mostly, for the food.

 

Martha Thomases: To Infinity … And Beyond!

Martha Thomases: To Infinity … And Beyond!

Thomases Art 140425Do you ever think about infinity? I do, and it makes me dizzy.

I don’t just mean infinity in terms of numbers, although I do mean that. I mean infinity in terms of space. When I think about space not ending but going on and on and on and on indefinitely, it makes my stomach hurt. This is why I can’t see Gravity, even though it’s supposed to be an excellent film.

Then there is temporal infinity. There is time before the dawn of time, and there will be time after the end of time. Millennia more. This makes me so queasy that I understand why humans invented religion.

But that wasn’t enough for infinity. There had to be more. Which, I guess, is kind of the definition of infinity.

Then, I read a New York Times review of a new book  about infinity. I haven’t read the book yet (it’s on my Kindle, I swear), but it looks like the kind of thing that I will really want to read and then it will make me nauseated. According to the Times, the book posits that everything that could possibly happens either has happened or will happen, if not in our reality than in another.

This means that at every decision point in every day of every human’s life, one or more parallel dimensions came into existence. Not only for the big decisions, like whom to marry or which job to take, but also whether one chooses paper or plastic bags at the grocery store, crosses with the light or jaywalks, watches Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D or Brooklyn Nine Nine.

The concept of alternate and parallel dimensions is nothing new to comic book fans. We know there are Flashes on Earth-One and Earth-Two. We also know there is a Marvel Universe and an Ultimate Marvel Universe.

What we didn’t know is that, if I understand this book correctly (and I’m only going by the review), all of these dimensions do, in fact, exist. That’s how the concept of infinity works.

In any case, I have a few questions.

• Are these dimensions better than mine?

• If so, how do I get there?

• If I go and superpowers are a thing, do I get any? Do I get a choice as to the kind of powers I want?

• Will my credit score go with me? Can I choose a dimension without credit scores?

• What are housing prices like? Can I afford something with a pool?

• Is there some kind of “no-backsies” clause so I can’t change my mind? And, if so, can I choose one of the infinite number of alternate dimensions in which the “no-backsies” clause doesn’t apply?

In any case, I expect to be back here next week, in the potential dimension in which I survive another week. I hope you do, too.

But if you go someplace better, please send a postcard.

REVIEW: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The-Secret-Life-of-Walter-Mitty-blu-rayGrowing up in New York meant the secondary channels – WNEW, WOR, WPIX – often ran the same features often enough you came to expect them and knew the films from their frequent advertisements. It’s where I first met Walter Mitty, as portrayed by Danny Kaye in the 1947 adaptation of the James Thurber short story which first appeared in the New Yorker on March 18, 1939. The influential tale is among the most anthologized short stories of the last century and is said to have inspired a young artist named Harvey Kurtzman. As a youngster, I loved the idea of an adult who had these amazing fantasies, meaning when I grew up I could continue to enjoy the fantasies I was imagining rather than doing schoolwork. The movie was fairly faithful to the story while allowing Kaye’s everyman to also sing and pater his way through some sequences, making the character permanently linked to the performer.

Satire and humor authors are often overlooked when examining the great writers of an era and Thurber, beloved as he was, lacked the prestige of Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald and other contemporaries. As a result, his works have been largely forgotten and are rarely taught outside of universities. It’s therefore interesting to note that it took nearly 20 years for a remake of this film and story to reach theaters. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the current edition, had a lengthy gestation period over rights agreements and a variety of high profile directors (Steven Spielberg, Gore Verbinski) coming and going. Originally conceived as a vehicle for Jim Carrey, it could have been an interesting updating. When Spielberg got to it, he instructed his writers to go back to the source material, a piece of advice I wish had been maintained by screenwriter Steve Conrad.

The remake, which opened to middling notices and so-so box office at Christmastime, is now out on Blu-ray and it’s got such incredible potential that it is ultimately a disappointment. Mitty is now an employee at Life, the venerable picture magazine that was about to go from print to digital and the vital negative needed for the ultimate cover image has gone missing. As a result, Mitty is propelled to search it out, using other negatives from photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) as a guide. Along the way, this average guy facing redundancy has a series of spectacular adventures that fuel his overactive imagination.

Thurber’s Mitty imagined the love of his life, who in the Kaye version (played by Virgina Mayo), intruded on his fantasies and took him on his first “real” adventure, winding up with her. Here, it is Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig), a fellow staffer facing unemployment who has been the object of his desire. From the get-go you know they will wind up together undercutting some of the emotional journey.

Where Kaye’s Mitty wanted to be a fighter pilot, lawyer, and surgeon, here Ben Stiller’s Mitty is now an explorer, heading for Greenland and tasting rea life rather than looking at the images in Life (get it?). He’s a likeable enough character and you do find yourself rooting for him, but this does not feel like Thurber and the social satire is entirely absent, robbing the film of its chance to be special instead of merely commercial.

The video transfer to Blu-ray is just fine as is the sound. There are a handful of superfluous Deleted, Alternate and Extended Scenes (15:45); The History of Walter Mitty (3:39), which briefly gives Thurber his due; The Look of Life (5:01); That’s a Shark! (5:57), which has Iceland standing in for Greenland; The Music of Walter Mitty (4:01); Icelandic Adventure (3:26); Nordic Casting (3:51); Titles of Walter Mitty (2:49), a look at title designer Kyle Cooper’s playful opening; Sights and Sounds of Production (5:11); Pre-Viz (4:15); “Stay Alive” by Jose Gonzales (4:22); and, Theatrical Trailer (1:55).

Mike Gold: Of Mice and Cheese

Gold Art 140416Like most businesses, we here at ComicMix have regular senior staff meetings. By “regular” I mean “every week or two” and not “structured.” Last week while we were working on our convention schedule (Glenn to WonderCon, Adriane, Martha, Emily, Evelyn and me at Washington’s Awesome Con, me at C2E2, etc. etc. and endlessly etc.), I wondered out loud “when does the so-called convention season actually begin?”

Adriane voiced Emerald City, in Seattle. Everybody concurred. Well, everybody but me. I suggested “New Year’s Day.”

OK. I’ll admit it. When it comes to comics conventions that have little to do with comics, I’m a bit burnt out. My first big show was Phil Seuling’s hallowed 1969 program in New York, I helped organize the Chicago Comicon and helped run it for its first ten years, and I represented First Comics, DC Comics, arrogantMGMS and ComicMix at approximately one billion shows. It’s possible that Martha’s actually done more of them. So when I parse out my time and energy, I prefer to be at comic conventions that actually have something to do with… you know… comic books. Go figure.

My favorite shows are MoCCA in New York, the Baltimore Comic Con in (you guessed it) Baltimore, and Heroes in North Carolina. These shows are nearly 100% focused on comics. There are others, to be sure, and Emily’s been telling us Awesome Con is, ummm, awesome. I’ll probably know first-hand in a couple days.

My least favorite shows are the big clusterfucks that have little or virtually nothing to do with comic books. At the top of this list, most certainly, is the San Diego Comic-Con. Often, I feel those folks who are interested in comics just get in the way of the autograph buyers and media gawkers. I have no idea how the show continues to justify its tax-exempt status: it’s been years since they’ve bothered with their well-advertised mission statement. And now that the nearby hotels and restaurants caught on to the show, San Diego is a very expensive way to spend the better part of a week.

The people at Reed Pop (New York Comic-Con and C2E2 in Chicago) might have been somewhat interested in the comic book medium when they started out, but now they’re jut a gaggle of San Diego wannabes. I get that: Reed is a business and the best way to make big money at a comic book convention is to load it up with media has-beens and almost-wases and treat the fans and comics dealers like afterthoughts at best. I live in New York and I’m from Chicago and I have a lot of work to do at both shows. But there’s this “diminishing rewards” thing going on, and I no longer attend either show on Sundays. Next week’s C2E2 is up against the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, and for those of us who are fans of old paper – including comic books – this is a far more entertaining affair. I’ve done a lot of business there as well, and I have a lot of friends that go there and not to C2E2. That’s where I’ll be a week from Sunday.

I will have been to about a dozen shows this calendar year, so forgive me if I act like my sphincter muscle seems like it’s set to 1000 pounds per inch. I’m a fan of many media, but first and foremost I’m a comics fan. I prefer comic book shows to autograph shows, and I prefer not wasting three hours standing in line to get into a desired panel.

I’m looking forward to Washington’s Awesome Con  this weekend, and ComicMix will be set up and in force. Drop by and say hello. Feel free to tell me I’m full of it and/or that you haven’t been to the San Diego Comicon but you’re dying to do so.

I know how you feel. I used to feel that way, myself.

Martha Thomases: Like A Virgin

I don’t like to brag, but over the weekend, I deflowered three virgins.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I love to brag.

Lest you think my sex life is more interesting than it actually is, I mean the above statement metaphorically.  As you know if your’e female, breaking in virgins isn’t really that entertaining.  Instead, what I will now describe is how I took three friends to their first comic book convention.

Lucky for them, it was MoCCA.

Going to your first anything can be intimidating, even something as simple as a county fair or a school dance.  Every event that has occurred more than once has a history.  Often, there are traditions and customs with which you are unfamiliar.   The way the media portrays comic book conventions, whether on Entourage or The Big Bang Theory or next year’s talk show wars, can be unnerving for newbies.  Does one need to dress as a Stormtrooper?  How do you know what you’re looking at?

At MoCCA, my friends didn’t have to figure it out.  The tables were welcoming, with clear signage, lots of books on display, and friendly smiles by the creators (at least on Saturday, when I was there.  The closest thing to cosplay was aggressive hipster-ism, which I noted primarily through the prominent number of heads adorned with hats.

Best of all, my friends didn’t require an undergraduate degree in graphic story-telling to be drawn to the books.  Two of my friends are leftist political history junkies, and I soon lost track of them as they found book after book that intrigued them.  My other friend, who shares my love of the obscure laugh, joined me in celebrating a new book from Shannon Wheeler and various other booths.  There was one by a woman whom I think was named Stevie Wilson, who had a sign claiming her books were all about coffee, feminism and cats.

Everything I want in one place.  I wish I could find her again. Stevie (if that is your name), please tell me how to buy your books.

I hope that, when my friends go home, they continue to be curious about graphic story-telling, and start to explore the kinds of books that appeal to them.  I hope find more joy.

And next year, if they’re in New York at the right time, I hope they go to MoCCA with me again.  Perhaps, for the occasion, we will all dress up like John Lewis.

Photo by KLGreenNYC

Mindy Newell: How Unforgetable Sentences Can Help You Make Magic

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

The other day two grandmothers, Mindy and Lynette, were visiting their beloved grandchild Meyer Manual.  After playing and cooing and aahing and watching Alixandra attempt to feed him mashed bananas, 99% of which ended up on his bib and his chin and my elbow and just about everywhere but in his mouth, Lynette said she had to split.  As she was leaving, she said to me, “I love your columns.  You’re such a good writer.”  (Be that as it may.)  I said, “I don’t know where it comes from, I never had any formal training.”  Lynette laughed, and said, “Well, I had formal training, and I can’t write like that.”

Well, I don’t know how good a writer I am; I always think I could be a gazillion-million times better.  But that’s not the point of this column.  This is…

I left soon afterwards, and as I was driving home in my car, listening to All Things Considered on WNYC-FM (my local NPR station), coincidentally the segment was about writing.  Well, not writing exactly, but about great sentences.

The editors of the magazine American Scholar have compiled a list of their ten best sentences in fiction and non-fiction; as associate editor Margaret Foster explained, “It came about as a result of ‘water cooler’ talk around the office. We’re sometimes struck by a beautiful sentence or maybe a lousy sentence, and we’ll just say, ‘Hey, listen to this,’” Her choice, she went on to say, is the last line of Toni Morrison’s Sula:

It was a fine cry — loud and long — but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.

I haven’t read Sula, but even without knowing the context of the sentence, I agree that it is beautiful. It could be describing the wail of a mother who has lost her child, the ghostly unending cry of six million Jews exterminated by the Nazis in World War II, or the devastating misery of a population in a world gone to apocalyptic madness.  It captures an emotional resonance that echoes of unforgettable pain, unforgivable brutality, and undying loss.

It’s hard to say what makes an unforgettable sentence.  I agree with Ms. Foster, who said, “…in the end, very subjective,” she says. “I mean, who are we to say what the best sentence in The Great Gatsby is?”

By the way, Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, which many consider the Great American Novel, made the list with this sentence:

“Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”

It’s not “See Spot run”, is it?

But even Fitzgerald started someplace.

I don’t know if diagramming a sentence is still taught in elementary school English classes anymore, but I remember it as a continuing homework assignment back when I was a student at P.S. 29 on Staten Island, New York.  It began with simple sentences and progressively became more difficult with our increasing comprehension of grammatical structure.  It looked like this, using the simple sentence from above:

Sentence Structure

Actually, that’s not such a simple sentence, “run” is a shortened present participle (don’t ask!), and the grammatically correct sentence should read, “Did you Spot running?”

So let’s pick another, simpler sentence.  How about…

I | love | comics

         …in which the diagram above indicates the “form” of a sentence.  The “I” is the object, “love” is the verb, and “comics” is the subject.

But how do you get from a simple, three-word sentence to something like Fitzgerald’s last sentence The Great Gatsby, or to William Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom! or James Joyce’s Ulysses without your editor throwing you out on your ass with a copy of E.B. White’s The Element of Style following your bruised butt?

It’s the same answer as that old joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice.”

Or is it?  Maybe it’s something else—a mastery of the language, or talent, or maybe it’s something intangible.

Call it a mystery, call it a gift from God or the Goddess or the Universe or even call it The Force…

Whatever it is that allows some to grace us with words that form sentences that speak truth to us and stay in our heads forever and ever—It’s magic.

Photo by gualtiero

The Law Is A Ass # 312: The Superior Spider-Manslaughterer

Fifty shades of grey isn’t just a runaway best-seller of debatable literary merit soon to be a major motion picture of, probably, even more debatable merit. It’s also the world we live in.

No, I don’t mean it’s a world of erotic fantasies, BDSM role-playing games, and dominance. Although if it were, can you imagine how that would change the popular Disney attraction  “It’s a Small World?” (And I apologize for having put that now unwashable image into your minds.)

What I mean is that the world isn’t just “white hats” and “black hats,” good or evil. It’s a world of grey tones where everyone has some good and some evil, where everyone is grey. Some people are more good than evil, while others are more evil than good, which is why there are shades of grey; at least fifty of them if bad literature can be believed.

Otto Octavius, the former Doctor Octopus and now the controlling mentality in the body of Peter Parker, who is trying to prove he’s a “white hat” by being a superior Spider-Man is proving instead that, like Batman in The Lego Movie, he “only work[s] in black. And sometimes, very, very dark grey.” And the world around him is trending darker too, like it’s got some sort of Goth hashtag.

Which brings us to The Superior Spider-Man #15 and the world’s reaction to the events of The Superior Spider-Man #14. (more…)

Dennis O’Neil: Veronica

Well, my friends, here we are, home after a weekend of adventure down south in horse country.

That’s a lie.

We intended to spend the weekend in Lexington, Kentucky, but we never got there.  Friday/travel day, we got up at the crack of eight a.m., which for us is pretty early, and arrived at the Westchester airfield on time.  The line in front of U.S. Air’s counter seemed unusually long and, after a fidgety while, we were facing an airline employee and learning the reason for the long wait: the flight had been cancelled and no other flights to our destination would be leaving that day.  The best the very accommodating agent could do would require us to drive through New York traffic to another airport, change planes somewhere in the journey, and arrive in Lexington after the con had closed.  We didn’t know about travel the following day, but assuming it was possible, we wouldn’t arrive until the con was, in all likelihood, mostly history.  So I made one of those snap decisions we often regret and cancelled the whole trip. Then I spent much of the ensuing three days wishing I’d pushed harder, tried harder, mostly to assuage my conscience. I hate not doing what I’ve said I’ll do – would I have succeeded in politics? – and I felt I owed the Kentuckians something, which is a long story not to be told here.

So, instead of enjoying the bluegrass turf, we came home and eventually did a movies-on-demand viewing of Veronica Mars. I used to call Veronica’s television show a guilty pleasure.  But why guilty?  It was, in retrospect. a perfectly acceptable mass entertainment, maybe a cut or two above most of its kind. I didn’t miss the explosions or car chases – there were none – and the violence was well-choreographed, but fairly mild, and not overused.  The plot was multi-layered and reasonably complex, but again, is this something we want to complain about?  The ending left the sequel door wide open, but hey – this is the twenty first century media and am I not contemplating a sequel to my grocery list?  (Bet there’ll be one, too.)

Which brings us to today.  March 17. St. Patrick’s Day. Our annual bacchanalia.  The first bacchanalia was begun in early history to honor the god bacchus.  Our version is, as I type, being celebrated about 25 miles to the south, in Manhattan, among many other places, and presumably exists to honor a Christian saint named Patrick who allegedly evicted the snakes from Ireland, though a skeptic might say that the snakes symbolized the so-called pagans.  That might include some of you, but not to worry: you almost certainly don’t live in fifth-century Ireland.

If you live in twenty first century Manhattan, well…maybe being a pagan is the least of your worries.

The Point Radio: Jeri Ryan Returns To Sci Fi on HELIX

Almost two decades ago, actress Jeri Ryan was a science fiction icon on STAR TREK:VOYAGER. Now she has returned to the genre with a new story arc on HELIX. Why did she leave SF TV, and what brought her back?  We talk about her new role and where it’s headed on the intense SyFy drama. Plus Caliber Comics returns and New York gets a real comic book convention.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.