Tagged: party

Michael Davis: Denys Fucking Cowan

davis-art-133112-150x156-2400941Mike Gold is going to kill me. Again, It’s pushing 9pm PST and this article is just now being put together. This time I did wait until the last minute.

No excuses. I had a horrible falling out with a loved one that and a recent rash of random negative bullshit has totally thrown me completely off my game.

And yes, I’m about to have a pity party. I’m due. I haven’t had one since…never.

I personally sent out invitations to 30 people in advance of the VIP invite list. These were those I felt I must share what I knew would be one of the greatest events in my life the opening of Milestones: African Americans In Comics, Pop Culture & Beyond.

My invites reached zero people for whatever reason, so 10 days or so before I’m sending them out again and for all 30 I write a personal note apologizing for the late notice and pleading for them to attend. The longest and most heartfelt was written to my 10th grade art teacher Ms. Renee Darvin.

Less than five minutes after I sent that note I find out she died. I’m a wreck for a few days, but I carry on.

No. No I don’t.

Tatiana El Khouri, my co-curator for the show, saveed my ass. I was useless. Every major decision made over the next few days was all Tatiana. I was just looking to put my fist in a wall or someone’s face.

So there was that.

Speaking of which, I’m currently doing 300 hours of community service for (almost) putting my fist in someone face.

Now about those 300 hours…I was twice given the wrong information from the genius that work for the court so it’s impossible to complete the hours by my due date.

So there was that.

The Milestones show was always to feature the art of Denys Cowan as the centerpiece. Yeah, he’s my best friend but he’s also Denys Fucking Cowan. Without whom Milestone Media would never have happened and as such the Milestones show would have never been.




If for some reason that does not impress you consider this; a month or so ago Jay Leno had Quinton Tarantino as his guest and Jay held up the Django Unchained hardcover opened to Deny’s work. There were a number of artists in the volume but Quinton choose Denys’.

Not impressed?

Well, when your fan boy ass sits down to Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece; The Wolf Of Wall Street, ask yourself why you are not impressed when Denys’ face appears right smack in the middle of the film by way of an magazine ad he was featured in back in 1989.

Leno, Tarantino, Scorsese.

People at their level do nothing by chance. You don’t show 20 million television viewers a random page in a graphic novel nor do you display a random magazine ad in a 100 million dollar movie.

Leno, Tarantino, Scorsese.

Denys Fucking Cowan.

Denys’ work was always to be the centerpiece of the huge Milestones exhibit. The exhibit that was two years in the making, the exhibit that was to be the crowning cherry on top of the 20th year anniversary of Milestone cake.

All 28 pieces of his work were lost (bullshit, stolen…in my opinion) by UPS.

There was that.

I’ve been dealing with that for the last three weeks. Then a few days ago I had a horrible falling out with one of the loves of my life and said some horrible things and even if I was right to say them I shouldn’t have.

Now I feel like shit.

There was that.

Then a dog that wasn’t even one of my dogs (my dogs know better) pissed on my X-Box. It still works, hence the dogs still lives.

There was that.

Then the ultimate blow.

Everyone knows Christmas is my favorite time of year.

This year, no Christmas spirit and on Christmas day I was alone. I made it a point to whine like a little bitch to my dear beloved Lucy who tried her best to bring me out of my funk.

Like I said, I’ve never had a pity party but it’s my gift to myself and I was feeling pretty good about my pity party when I thought of the Christmas Eve gift I received in the form of a call from three of my former students, Felix Serrano, John Giuffo and Jean Segarra.

Man, that was great. But I figured I could still manage a pretty good pity party with that wonderful present but then I thought of the following…

Not a word. Not a fucking word.

Denys knew days before the opening his most prized work was gone, perhaps forever. He was heartbroken. I’ve seen him like that only twice in our 30 plus year friendship. Once was when the woman who raised him died, his grandmother and again when his grandfather died.

This was just like that. It was like a death in his family. Yeah, I knew. His family knew, but the hundred plus people who were the selected few invited to the opening of Milestones? Some of which were lifelong friends? Some of the most important sure to be sympathetic people in the industry?

Not a word.

Denys said not a word to anyone about the massive pain he was feeling in so doing he ruined my perfectly good pity party with his class and dignity.

All I can do now is make good on my promise I made the second after I told Denys his work was missing; “Trust me, you will get your work back. Every single page. I can’t say exactly when or under what circumstance but every single page will be back in your hands. Some UPS motherfucker is about to realize they opened the wrong box and when asked why UPS sends their packages Fed-Ex his great grandson will answer Denys Fucking Cowan.”





Marc Alan Fishman: A Hanukkah Story

fishman-art-131228-150x95-1655572I’m Jewish. Shocking, no? And as such, this time of year always bestows upon me (and my kin) an interesting level of ignorance to the festivities. While I did celebrate Christmas due to a family member (of goyish decent) throwing an annual party, we, the Jewish relatives, simply called it late Hanukkah and enjoyed the time together as I’m sure so many of you non-Jews do.

The interesting ignorance though, came from the obviously odd faux-nicety that spread throughout the land. Because of this, the one day seemingly all stores can close without ill-tidings, suddenly we’re all nice to one another? Not that I’m knocking it, mind you. But it always struck me odd that the celebration of the birth of the messiah (which historians all concluded wasn’t anywhere near December) could bring with it the notion that everyone should suddenly be nice. As I grew up, it became even odder as Christmas continues to lose any spiritual connection and becomes increasingly secular. Plus, it’s pretty easy to see Christians co-opted the Pagan Winter Solstice,  just to be mean about it. But I digress.

One of the biggest conundrums that struck my many friends growing up was my definitive lack of love and fondness for holiday movies. Perhaps due to my overly-zealous mother telling me at a very early age that Santa wasn’t real and even if he was, he wouldn’t visit me anyways… I just never saw much reason to get doe-eyed for some Claymation classics. Home Alone? Sure, I loved that flick. But more because of the freedom I could see having myself should my parents just leave me be. As a revelatory cinema de festive though, nay I say.

When I met my wife, it was mid-January. Our first date hovered close to Valentine’s Day. We’d moved in together in the summer. By the time we’d made it to our first December, my love was all a’flutter putting up fake trees, hanging stockings, and gleefully prancing about our junior one-bedroom apartment because A Christmas Story was to be played 24 hours, non-stop, on basic cable. Near a year with my baby, and I’d no idea she swooned over such a throw-away flick. No sooner did she pirouette to the couch did I crush her spirit when I declared simply “… huh. Never saw that one. Looked boring though.”

Well, she’d have nothing of it! My ass was duck-taped to the couch, eyelids pried open with medical equipment (with the whole eye-dropper dealie above it, of course), and I was made to absorb the film whilst she creepily monitored my every reaction.

Oddly… I loved it. Loved every second of it. From the first establishing shots declaring a setting not unfamiliar to myself (a South Suburban Chicagoan knows well of Gary, IN), to the final scenes closing in on a Jewish tradition of Chinese Food (Which, honestly, I didn’t know was a thing)… here was yet another cinematic celebration of materialism, and familial love that I’d only seen dozens of times before. But unlike any other viewings, with this sleeper-of-a-film, I’d actually drawn an honest emotional connection.

Ralpie’s desire for that perfect toy, and how it permeated everything in and around his life was very close to my own greedy little-childhood. And just as he was defeated around every corner, I too, recalled many a Nintendo game left on the shelf, whilst I was dragged away in utter agony. Then, the fateful morning. Gift-wrapping strewn about. Gleeful chortles of a younger brother getting toy after toy. The inevitable gift of not-toys (shudder… clothing!). When all hope was lost, I felt for poor Ralphie now coming to grips with the end of his innocence (You can’t always get what you want… sayeth the philosopher Jagger I believe). It’s only then, when that maturity washes over Ralphie that the old man gets that glimmer in his eye. He steps over to a desk, and out from a hiding spot presents his son with one more gift. The return of hope. The rekindling of the spirit within. The damned toy he wanted… right there for him! And, yeah, he shoots his eye out, yadda yadda yadda.

A Christmas Story was for me the first holiday-centric media I’d consumed that did not ultimately declare itself worthless treacle in my eyes. It was a story rooted in innocence and reality, elevated not with effects or deus ex machina like Krampus and the like. It was a celebration of people taking that extra step to be kind to their kin and fellow man. Not because of spiritual necessity… but because of the desire to be better human beings if only for a short time before it be forgotten.

With that being said, I hope all of you enjoyed your winter celebrations. Be safe this New Years Eve, kiddos.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


New Who Review: “The Time of the Doctor”

The question’s not IF you cried, it’s when. The Doctor hangs around one place for a while, Matt Smith bids the show farewell, and Steven Moffat pulls at all the threads and brings everything into a neat little bow.  It’s the end of an era, and the exciting start of a new one, because it’s…

by Steven Moffat
Directed by Jamie Payne (more…)

Michael Davis: Late? I’ll Give You Late!

davis-art-131224-150x168-6521812December 7th 2013, a date that will live in infamy, the United Parcel Service was suddenly and deliberately attacked by its own ground and air forces and soon beat themselves into a very dark place a place made of their own stupidity.

It’s Christmas. The time of love, peace and goodwill towards men.

Mike Gold is going to kill me.

I’m sending this in on Monday night, which for me on the west coast is 9 pm (ish) but for him it’s after midnight on his east coast. No, I did not wait until the last minute because I forgot or had nothing to write.

I waited for the last minute hoping to hear good news from my boy, Denys Cowan. UPS had promised good news regarding the disappearance of his most cherished pieces of art.

None came.

Imagine, if you will, being in love with the one person you have dreamt of all your life.

Imagine the love of your life leaving you for someone else. Imagine the hurt and pain you will have to endure knowing that he or she is lost to you forever. You tell yourself you will get over it and there will be other loves, other moments indeed other milestones but the love you lost was the love of your life.

Gone. Forever. But…

One day you get a call. It’s the love of your life. They have a glorious surprise for you. No, another is no longer keeping them away from you, they won’t say why or how but they will say when they will see you again and it’s tomorrow!

Tomorrow comes and it’s today!

No lover, nothing.

It’s Christmas and you want to believe the non-committal message you received (not from the love of your life but a third party) saying they are still coming just wait.

Then you think…wait for what?

All you have been told is to expect a glorious surprise. That does not mean they are coming back to you. It could mean any of a million different things.

It could mean that of the 29 pieces of irreplaceable art they are sending nine totally fucked up pieces and expect you to be grateful.

It’s Christmas, Denys his son and I started a sort of tradition of going to the mall for last minute before Christmas shopping.

That didn’t happen this year.

No. Instead UPS continues to think they are dealing with someone and something they can “handle.”


I bare UPS no ill will. They are a global zillion-dollar mega company. Denys and I want nothing but the return of his art.

But we have been told all sorts of things (after they got served by a well thought out and predicted outrage from thousands), which, like today just, have not rung true.

UPS is moving mountains (now) to make this right. Problem is I think, they think right is something they decide.

It’s not.

Right, the only right is the return of every single piece of Denys Cowan art in the same condition it left.

Anything less is an attempt to replace the love of his artistic life with some skank gold digging bitch that’s keeps asking what Brown can do for her.




Mindy Newell: Every Time A Bell Rings

Newell Art 131223As promised last week, here’s the list of my favorite Christmas movies, starting with all my very favorite-est…

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946). Directed by Frank Capra, who declared it his favorite of all his films and showed it every Christmas at his home, it stars James Stewart as “everyman” George Bailey, Donna Reed as his wife Mary Hatch Bailey, Lionel Barrymore as the banker Mr. Potter, and a veritable Who’s Who of notable character actors, including Beulah Bondi as Ma Bailey, Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy, Ward Bond as Bert the cop, Frank Faylen as Ernie the cab driver, Gloria Grahame as Violet the “bad” girl, Sheldon Leonard as Nick the bartender, and Harry Travers in the pivotal role of the angel Clarence Odbody. The story of an ordinary man who lives an ordinary life, driven to despair of having his dreams crushed once and for all as he faces bankruptcy and prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and who discovers that after all he has lived a wonderful life – “Dear George: Remember no man is a failure who has friends. P.S. Thanks for the wings! Love, Clarence.” – leaves me weepy every time I see it.

Miracle On 34th Street (1947) “Do you believe in Santa?” Doris Walker is a divorcee who is the events director at Macy’s, and a woman, hurt by a marriage that ended in divorce instead of happily-ever-after, is raising her daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood), in a no-nonsense, there are no such things are Santa Claus manner. Stuck when the Santa she hired for the Thanksgiving Day parade is found stinkin’ drunk below his float, Doris hires Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) as the store’s Santa. Kris is the most successful Santa the store has ever had, and Doris is basking in the shadow of his success, until it is discovered that there is just one small problem – Mr. Kringle actually believes he is Santa. The old man is taken to Bellevue’s psychiatric ward, and is in danger of being committed, but Doris’s earnest suitor, Fred Payne, is a lawyer, and defends Kris in court. The judge decides (for political expediency) that Kris is the real Santa. Everyone celebrates at a party on Christmas Eve, except for Susan, who doesn’t believe Kris is Santa (“you’re just a nice old man with a beard.”) because he could not give her what she wanted for Christmas. Driving home from the party with her mother and Fred on a route given to them by Kris in order to avoid holiday traffic, Susan suddenly yells for Fred to stop the car. She jumps out and runs into a house with a “For Sale” sign in the yard – the home she asked Kris for. While Susan is exploring the house, Fred discovers that Doris told Susan that she must believe in Kris, that she must have faith. His own faith in Doris renewed, he proposes, Doris accepts, and they decide to buy the house. Then Fred declares himself a great lawyer for having done the impossible, “proving” that Kris is Santa Claus.  But then he and Doris discover a cane that looks just like the one belonging to Kris, leaning up against the fireplace…

The film was condemned and placed on the banned list by the Catholic Legion of Decency because the character, Doris Walker, was divorced. This fact adds to my love of the movie.

The Bishop’s Wife (1947). Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young star in this romantic comedy from Samuel Goldwyn and directed by Henry Koster about a angel named Dudley (Grant) come to earth to help Bishop Henry Brougham (Niven) in his obsessive quest to build a new cathedral to the glory of God. Dudley reveals his true identity to Henry (who doesn’t really believe him), but not his true purpose, which is to heal the rift between the bishop and his wife, Julie (Young) and young daughter. There’s just one fly in the ointment – Dudley finds he is falling in love with Julia. Though Julia remains oblivious, Henry senses the truth, and, jealous, tells Dudley that as an angel, he’s no angel, and demands to know why Dudley hasn’t delivered on the cathedral. Dudley tells him that he didn’t pray for a cathedral, but for guidance.

Mr. Magoo’s “Christmas Carol” (1962). This has disappeared off of television, probably because Mr. Magoo’s near-blindness as something funny is no longer politically correct, but when I was a kid, this animated musical was something that glued me to the set. The original songs are by Broadway maestros Julie Styne and Robert Merrill, who started their collaboration on Funny Girl after finishing “Christmas Carol,” and I can still sing parts of many of them: “Ringle-ringle, coins when they jingle make such a lovely sound”

And “Alone in the World” is a melody whose lyrics reflect the loneliness of young Ebeneezer, left behind at boarding school at Christmas holiday, as Magoo, as the elder Scrooge brought back to his youth by the Spirit of Christmas Past, sings poignantly with his younger self: A hand for each hand was planned for the world, Why don’t my fingers reach? Millions of grains of sand in the world, Why such a lonely beach?”

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).  The tree that nobody wanted. And the music by the Vince Guarldi Trio. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”




REVIEW: Big 25th Anniversary Edition

Big 25Heart and soul.

It’s what Josh Baskin and MacMillan play during the memorable dance scene in 1988’s Big but it’s also what the film is infused with, making it stand up to the test of time. Yeah, its look is dated thanks to bad hair and big shoulder pads, but the story of a 13 year old’s wish to become an adult endures.

20th Century Home Entertainment has released Big 25th Anniversary Edition this week, in time for last minute stocking stuffers. It belongs under every tree because it’s just so well crafted, explaining how Tom Hanks earned an Oscar nomination for his performance. His work stems from the Academy Award nominated script by Gary Ross and Annie Spielberg.


Frustrated at being small for his age and unable to achieve his modest goals, Josh (David Moscow) makes a wish at the local carnival. The unplugged Zoltar fortune telling machine grants his wish in a nice touch of magical realism and then we’re off. Josh (Hanks) wakes up as a 30 year old complete with stubble. He panics after discovering the carnival has packed up and left, and goes on to terrify his mother (Mercedes Ruehl), who believes the man an intruder. Thankfully, his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton) accepts his crazy explanation and uses his savvy to help him navigate an adult world.

When the two learn it’ll take six weeks to receive details on carnivals in the state, it’s clear Josh needs a job so he can survive on his own. Fortune leads him to a computer job at MacMillan Toys where his unique perspective rockets him up the corporate ladder, much to the consternation of Paul Davenport (John Heard), confusion of Susan Lawrence (Elizabeth Perkins), and fascination of MacMillan (Robert Loggia). Of particular interest is Josh’s pitch for an interactive comic book way before graphic novels and digital comics were tangible parts of our world.
Tom-in-Big-tom-hanks-20282275-1024-576Director Penny Marshall brought a light touch to the film, encouraging improvisation from her cast, and a keen eye on treading the line between drama, comedy, and slapstick. She unleashes Hanks, who excels in several set pieces beyond the immortal dance bit such as the office party where he demolishes the appetizer table or gently caresses a woman for the first time. Her casting was pitch perfect, allowing the film to be alternatively sharp and warm.

The film comes nicely packaged with a Blu-ray and DVD, along with sound chip playing “Heart & Soul” and Zoltar cards for personal wishes. The Blu-ray offers you the 1988 theatrical release (104 minutes) along with the extended cut (130 minutes) which was first released in 2007. The deleted scenes are reinserted for the longer version and it’s not appreciably better. If you prefer the original, the ten deleted scenes are included as an extra, with five intros by Marshall.

Tom-in-Big-tom-hanks-9828233-1024-576Ported over from the 2007 release are several features including the audio documentary by Ross and Spielberg and the Carnival Party Newswrap. New is the Big Beginnings where Marshall, producer James L. Brooks, Ross, Spielberg, Perkins, Loggia, Perkins, and Rushton discuss the film’s origins. Interesting to note is that even though they had the body switching notion first, mounting the production took so long that other stories, now easily forgotten, hit the screens first making everyone nervous about its reception. Chemistry of a Classic further breaks down elements of the film, including behind the scenes footage of key scenes. The Work of Play is a nice companion feature looking at the real world of toy manufacturers and how closely Big captured the goings on. Finally, the syndicated Hollywood Backstory episode on Big is included.

Michael Davis: An Open Letter To Debbie Allen

Michael Davis: An Open Letter To Debbie Allen

Next week, Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture and Beyond opens at the Geppi Entertainment Museum. The show features unbelievable art from amazing artists and have been in the works for almost two years.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to curate a show on African American pop art by Missy Geppi, the president of the museum. I was and still am humbled to be chosen for such an honor. I immediately reached out to Tatiana EL-Khouri and John Jennings. Tatiana as co-curator John as adviser. I’ve known both Tatiana and John since the start of their careers. I was a mentor to Tatiana and I’ve advised John over the years and now he’s advising me.

Every now and then Tatiana or John will, out of nowhere, thank me for something or other I’ve frankly forgotten about. It’s always nice to hear and although I may have forgotten exactly what I did or said they are referring to they always remember me.

I’ve been in L.A. since 1994 and it seems I’ve been reminding myself since then to look up and thank Debbie Allen. Debbie’s former husband Win Wilford, then head of publicly at CBS Records, gave me my third professional job. I designed and illustrated an invitation for a Luther Vandross after party. The party followed Luther’s first performance as a solo act opening for Chaka Kahn.

Debbie Allen is an actress, dancer, choreographer, television director, television producer, and a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

She’s done remarkable work from choreographing the Academy Awards for ten years, six of which were consecutive to developing and producing Amistad directed by Steven Spielberg.

Below is an edited version for ComicMix of a letter I sent to Debbie. I’ve taken out all my career highlights so as to focus not on what I’ve done but why I was able to do it and that was because of words of encouragement from people like her.

Dear Debbie,

I’m sure many in emails, letters, and social media have told you how much of an inspiration you have been.

Although you may not have met them you have reached them as you reached me. In fact I can remember the very moment when you did. I was in your Mount Vernon home for a New Year’s Eve Party (81? 82?) sitting by myself in your kitchen.

I was a young artist at the start of my career attending a party filled with all sorts of successful people. An artist, (a broke ass one at that) was not, I felt a worthy enough occupation to roll with those I’d seen on TV or who’s music I’d heard on the radio.

You came into the kitchen, saw me sitting there and asked me why that was. I’d like to say I spent at least some time trying to avoid sharing my self-pity…nope.

I started to tell you how I was feeling but after a few (if that many) sentences you stopped me and said what to this day I’ve never forgotten; “Michael, Win and I invited you because you are a talented artist, we like you and know you will be a success. You belong here and would not be here if we thought otherwise.”

What you said next is what I hope will make you remember me. “I didn’t drive all the way to Queens to pick you up so you can sit in the kitchen.”


You and a driver who’s name I don’t remember drove to my apartment in Queens on New Year’s Eve to pick me up.

Your former husband Win, commissioned a number of paintings from me. One, a large watercolor of a proud 1930’s black man was the centerpiece in your Harlem brownstone even before the renovation was done.

I had no idea it was framed and displayed such as it was until I came to your new home to show Win sketches for a new commission. I was blown away.

“Debbie choose that spot.”

Yep. ;-)

I’ve been blessed in my career thanks in no small part to you, Win and a handful of others.

I’ve wanted to reach out to you for years. Something always came up. Well, I’ve never been as busy as I am now. It’s Thanksgiving Debbie and I’m thankful for your part in my life and career. So, yes I’m busy but this thank you is just as important and long overdue.

I’d love to sit and catch up and if you like I’ll pick you up. I owe you a ride ;-)

From the very bottom my my long winded heart,

Thank you.

Win Wiford took an interest in me and because of that he and Debbie were my first and only patrons. One year, the sale of art to them was my only income.

Without that income who knows what decision I would have made as to my career choice? If Debbie had not spoken those words to me maybe my self-pity would have gotten the best of me and the next day I’m applying for some job I didn’t want doing something I didn’t love.

That didn’t happen and what did happen Debbie was a part of and for that I’ll be forever grateful.




Mindy Newell: Stuffing Ourselves

Newell Art 131202I may have been a nice Jewish girl, but my family loved Christmas time. It started at Thanksgiving, when we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and watched Santa on his sleigh welcome the holiday season to New York. We lived on a block trisected by three streets, and in the middle of this triangle was an island. On this island was a tall, beautiful spruce fir. Every year after Thanksgiving all us neighbors went out and had a block party and the fathers hung lights on the tree, making it into our own private tannenbaum.

Every year my mom took my brother, two of our friends and me into the city on Christmas Eve. We skated at the ice rink at Rockefeller Center and then went across the street to watch the movie (I particularly remember Father Goose, with Cary Grant and Leslie Caron) and the Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall, which always included the nativity scene with camels and elephants and horses and donkeys walking across the stage and the angels singing O Holy Night and Adestes Fideles (Come, All Ye Faithful) and ending with the Rockettes performing the “March Of The Wooden Soldiers,” complete with the high kick line.

Sometimes when we came out of the theater it was snowing, and we would walk with flakes falling on our shoulders and our hats and feeling the magic of the night down Fifth Avenue to look at the Christmas windows of Saks and Lord & Taylor, which were always amazing, animated dioramas and for which there were always lines and lines of families enjoying the night, too. And then we’d get home and my mother and father would tuck us into bed and hang up our Santa stockings and my brother and I would go to sleep with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads.

And it all started with Thanksgiving, when we stuffed ourselves on turkey and brisket and family and friends and love.

That was once upon a time.

“I think commercialism helps Christmas and I think that the more capitalism we can inject into the Christmas holiday the more spiritual I feel about it ”

Craig Ferguson

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

“Money’s scarce

Times are hard

Here’s your fucking

Xmas card”

Phyllis Diller

“Thanksgiving openings are the new normal.”

Jose Pagliery, Money, CNN.com, November 30, 2013

Here’s a list of chain stores that were open on Thanksgiving: Wal•Mart. Target. Best Buy. Sears. Staples. J.C. Penney. Macy’s. Toy R Us. Old Navy. Kohl’s. Lord & Taylor. Michael’s. Express. Dick’s Sporting Goods. Abercrombie & Fitch. K-Mart. And most of the larger shopping malls.

I am disgusted.

I thought it would stop after the 2008 death of Jdimytai Damour. Remember him? As the New York Times reported on November 29 of that year, “Mr. Damour, 34, who was known to his friends as Jimbo, or Jdidread because of his dreadlocks, got his job at Wal•Mart through Labor Now, an agency for temporary workers. He had been trying to hold back a crush of shoppers pressing against the store’s sliding-glass double doors, the authorities said. Just before the store’s scheduled 5 a.m. opening, they said, the doors shattered under the weight of the crowd. Mr. Damour was thrown to the floor and trampled

Wal•Mart was fined only $7,000 by the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA), the branch of the Labor Department responsible for employee health and safety. And, according to the Huffington Post, they are still fighting that charge – “For a company with sales of $466 billion last fiscal year, the $7,000 fine from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration represents little more than a single store’s rounding error. Wal•Mart would have vastly outspent that sum simply in legal fees devoted to fighting the penalty. But the world’s largest retailer is less concerned with the monetary fine than with the broader implications of the case. A negative ruling could compel Wal-Mart and other retail companies like it to take additional safety precautions for workers or face new liabilities.”

And you wonder why I’m disgusted?

But surprisingly, at least to me, I discovered – after doing a little research on the web – that Wal•Mart, the most succesful “Big Box” store, did not start this atrocity. It was K-Mart, which has opened its doors to Turkey Day shoppers since 1991. Of course many supermarkets and grocery stores have always been open on Thanksgiving, at least for a few hours, to the “Thank God’s!” of all the cooks who find themselves suddenly short on stuffing or cranberry sauce or coffee or any of the numerous condiments used when preparing the big bird. I can remember making a few runs to Shop-Rite and Shelley’s for my mom over the years, and those memories are further back than 22 years. And of course I’m aware of the importance of Thanksgiving weekend to the year’s bottom line being in the black instead of the red for retailers.

But I’m still disgusted.

And I am sure that next year even more stores will be open.

Just so we can stuff ourselves on Thanksgiving.




Marc Alan Fishman: How to Meet Your Heroes*

fishman-art-131109-150x135-5922021*And not stick your foot in your mouth, come across like an idiot, or otherwise embarrass yourself.

The other day I hopped into Facebook because, you know, why not be pseudo-social, right?. I noted in my news feed that the show-runner from the Kokomo (Indiana) Comic Con was pleading to his friends, customers, and followers to help him live a dream – to secure Denny O’Neil for the 2014 Kokomo Comic Con. I figured since I shared column space with the living legend, I might be able to lend a hand. I made some introductions via e-mail, and well… the gentlemen are ironing out the details. Suffice to say, I love their con, and hope to see Denny there next year. Heck, I hope I see John, Mike, Michael, Emily, Martha, Mindy, Adriane, Glenn and everyone who reads my column there! But then again, like the aforementioned show-runner, I am a dreamer.

Several times throughout my life I’ve been able to meet men and women I greatly admired. And in every instance I wedged my foot so far down my mouth, I passed shoelaces. It’s taken many years, many opportunities, and a few lucky breaks to finally figure out the best way to meet someone I admire and come out of said meeting with my feet solidly beneath me. Consider this my three easy steps for not making the same mistakes I did.

Look where you are.

When you come across that special celebrity / comic writer / artist / C-List celebrity from a reality show you enjoyed back in 2008, do yourself a favor and look where you’re about to initiate a conversation. Are you bumping in to them in a coffee shop or are you in a receiving line at a convention? Context is key. If you’re running into them in a setting where they might be trying to live their life, be considerate. Yes, they may hold significance to you and your life would not be complete without telling them exactly how they’ve impacted your experiences as a night nurse in the Lackawanna County Jail… but let them get that cup of coffee. If they don’t look like they are in a terrible hurry, then go on, cowboy.

How did I learn this lesson? I ran into Mark Waid at the Chicago Comic Con about a decade ago. He was perusing some long boxes deep in the heart of the dealer room. Without warning, amidst hauling out a pile of Scrooge McDuck comics, I bolted up to him, and immediately started blabbing away. He smiled, gave me a curt answer to one of the 1,000 questions I stammered out, and pulled his focus back towards the dealer. I turned a brighter shade of red, and limped away. Flash Fact: Creators don’t walk the show floor looking to be interviewed. Sometimes they’re just enjoying being a fan.

Think before you speak.

I know it’s cliché. But it’s a long-standing piece of advice for a reason. A big thing we geeks tend to forget in mid-frenzy is that our heroes are in the industries we love… but that doesn’t automatically make them as fervent, opinionated, or as knowledgeable in the minutiae of their specific craft as we may be. I like to equate this to the person at the office party who bends his co-workers ears off about work. Your heroes are people. They have likes and dislikes that don’t always align perfectly with what they do for a living. While I myself love talking comics, I also love the Chicago Bears, haute cuisine, and the acoustic-stylings of the Barenaked Ladies. So too, might Wil Wheaton have more interest in the finer points of liberal politics over phaser settings.
Simply put, when you have an opportunity to have a little repartee with an esteemed person of note? Be original. Sure, you can tell them you love their work. But in the day and age of the Internet, Wikipedia, and social media, why not have a question about something outside of the norm? I’ve found that when I catch someone off guard with a question, comment, or anecdote they weren’t expecting? It breaks the ice, and moves the conversation beyond the normal small-talk that dissipates without even a lingering memory. My case in point: Pitching to Dan DiDio to buy my book because the stickers I threw in with the deal “are totally better than those ten cent rings you’re giving away for Blackest Night.” And you know what? He bought the book, and laughed.

Remember it’s not a pitch meeting, job interview, or investment opportunity.

When you come face to face with someone you admire, there just might be that catch in your throat… that little voice in your head that says “Hey, when will you ever have this chance again! Tell them about how you can save the franchise!” Obviously though, it’s not gonna happen. Trust me when I tell you this: I’ve spent the last five years finding every way possible to dance around the idea that I’m one joke, one conversation, one chance blurb away from landing that big gig I’ve always wanted. I’m now older, wiser, and weary; conventions are where deals get started, yes, but not because you want them too.
I’ve been lucky enough to have breakfast with a CEO of a company I would shave my face to be a part of. I broke literal bread with the man. I was witty. I listened attentively. I asked leading questions. I even got an industry veteran to vouch for what good work I was doing. And you know what? I’m not working with that company now, and can safely say it’s not on the horizon either. Lucky for me, the breakfast was damned tasty and the next time I saw that CEO he waved hi and asked me how Unshaven Comics was doing.

Sorry for going a bit long today, kiddos. I’m just looking out for you. Next time you run into that retired wrestler, cosplaying sexy Spongebob, or Kevin Smith at the Quick Stop? Remember: look where you are, think before you speak, and don’t waste your opportunity to make a memory in lieu of begging for a job they don’t have the power to give you on the spot. Shake their hand. Tell them why you love their work. Ask about their favorite album released in the last year, and then leave on a laugh. Those coveted creators and celebrities are just human, and as such, it’s worth it to enjoy making a human connection with them.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Mike Gold: A Condo On The Wild Side

Gold Art 131030As you may have heard, singer/songwriter/occasional actor Lou Reed died last Sunday.

This didn’t come as much of a surprise. Several months ago, ComicMix’s own Martha Thomases had a swell birthday party at a wonderful-yet-foo-foo West Village Manhattan restaurant. As we left we walked through the massive line waiting to get in and I passed by a guy I thought I knew or recognized. Embarrassed, I waited until we were outside before I asked Martha if she knew who that was. She stopped, stared for a second, and said “Oh my god, that’s Lou Reed.”

Lou looked like shit – well-coiffed shit, but still… A week later we heard he was in for a liver transplant. Ultimately, it was that transplant that led to his death.

Martha and I share another Lou Reed moment, this one with fellow ComicMixer John Ostrander. You see, there is this astonishingly funny and equally hard-to-come-by movie called Get Crazy – I have it on Japanese laserdisc. Starring Malcolm McDowell, Allen Garfield, Ed Begley Jr. and a cast of thousands directed by Allan Arkush, the movie is about the last days of an ancient rock’n’roll psychedelic dungeon, and Lou had a significant role as… well, as a drop-dead-perfect parody of Bob Dylan, right down to the shot of Reed as Dylan emulating the cover to Bob’s Bringing It All Back Home. It’s close to the funniest scene in the movie, second only to the bit where Malcolm McDowell (channeling Mick Jagger) drops acid and makes his penis the manager of his band. John turned me onto the movie shortly after its 1983 release; a few years later, Martha and I tried to turn each other onto the flick at the same time.

Lou Reed was one of the most important people in the history of rock’n’roll. Generally considered the Godfather of Punk Rock, Lou was instrumental in the creation of Alternative Rock (since shortened to Alt Rock), Punk Rock and Glam Rock. Much to the chagrin of many of his older fans (read: Boomers), in his final years he also worked closely with Metallica and appeared with them at the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary Concert.

Reed wrote and sang about subjects that many found taboo at the time of recording – addiction, S&M, religion, patriotism. He co-founded The Velvet Underground, worked with Andy Warhol, David Bowie, and Edgar Allan Poe – the latter, posthumously. Depending upon your religious predilections, he may have heard Mr. Poe’s opinion of his work in recent days.

Courage is the bedrock of creativity, and Lou had both in spades. He was a major influence on our popular culture, and he will continue to be for a great many years to come.

Mike will be playing a special tribute to Lou Reed this week on Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind, www.getthepointradio.com and on iNetRadio, www.iNetRadio.com (as part of “Hit Oldies”) this Sunday at 7:00 PM EST-USA – check www.getthepointradio.com for times of rebroadcast and for on-demand information.