Tagged: Paul Levitz

Mindy Newell: Days Of Yore

Presenting two real-life stories from my days of yore, although names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

Story The First:

I knew a girl in high school – I wouldn’t say we were friends, but she was someone who had never participated in the Piggy horrors. Sally was an A+ student, on the track to an Ivy League school. Pretty (but not gorgeous) and popular (but quiet about it), she came to me one day and said that she needed to talk to me privately. I was surprised… and a bit suspicious. What did she want? But because Sally had never been overtly mean to me, even though she was part of the clique that instigated most of the callous cruelties upon me, and because I still hoped to be “accepted,” and I wanted to believe for some reason she was about to warn me of some new devilishness about to be inflicted on me – forewarned was forearmed – I agreed. But it had nothing to do with me at all.

Sally was pregnant.

I was, frankly, shocked. Not just about what she said, but also because I was thinking, why are you telling me?

She seemed to be reading my mind about that last part. “I can’t tell Laura, or Toni, or anybody. It would be all over the school in a second. You know how they are.”

Did I ever. Still –

“But they’re your friends.”

All she said was, “I made an appointment with Planned Parenthood in the city. Will you come with me?”

I know exactly why I said “yes.” Out of kindness, certainly. But to be totally honest, I also thought that this could be a way in. Hey, whaddya want? I was a teenager.

We had to cut school the day of her appointment. I met her at the corner bus stop, about an hour after classes started. Sally was very quiet, she didn’t say anything, but I remember she was very pale. As for me, I was sure I would see my father in his car on the way to work. I wasn’t so worried about my mom – I knew she was already at the hospital, where she worked in the ER. At any rate, both of us were very nervous and impatient, waiting for that bus to the PATH train into the city.

At the time – September 1971 – there was a Planned Parenthood in Manhattan on First Avenue between 21st and 20th Streets.  I guess – and I don’t blame her – that Sally made the appointment there rather than the one in Jersey City because Jersey City is too close to Bayonne… too close for comfort. Anyway, I don’t know what either of us was expecting, but it was modern and clean and the staff was professional, kind, and, most importantly, totally non-judgmental.

Sally’s name was called. I sat in the waiting room. It seemed like a long time, but the receptionist at the desk assured me everything was fine when I asked.

Interjection – as an RN in the operating room, I can tell you that the actual procedure takes very little time, especially in the first trimester [as Sally was]. Frequently I’m not even done with my charting before it’s over and I have to assist in transferring the patient to the PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, commonly referred to as the Recovery Room). Most of the intraoperative period is taken up with other things involved in any visit to the OR – anesthesia induction, proper and safe positioning, emergence from anesthesia, transfer to PACU, and monitoring in the PACU, which lasts about an hour or so on average, until discharge.)

Afterwards, as we had planned, we used our pooled resources and took a cab home. This was well before Uber or Lyft. Sally didn’t’ say much except to complain about some cramping – totally normal, btw – but the “worry” was off her face; she was visibly relieved. The cab dropped us off about a block from her house; I walked her home, and before she went inside, she turned and said: “See you in school tomorrow.”

No, we didn’t become best friends after that; things pretty much went back to normal, actually. Hey, we were teenagers, and there were rules of engagement. But I do remember that Sally was never around when it was time to “play Piggy with Mindy.

Sally went on to graduate in the top 25 of a class numbering 750 (I finished 145) and went on to that Ivy League school. I didn’t see her much after high school, a couple of parties and a reunion or two at the Jewish Community Center. I don’t even know what she went on to become as an adult, though I’ve heard she was “successful and happy.”

Story The Second:

Jack and Jill were my high school’s dream team. Every high school has one. Jack was the champion quarterback. Jill was the head cheerleader. Jack was the president of the Student Union. Jill was the editor of the school newspaper. Both had bright futures. Early admission to the colleges of their choice, with Jack receiving a full scholarship based on his football prowess to a Big Ten school, and Jill planning on majoring in journalism at NYU.

They were great people.

And they never treated anybody like Piggy.

Anyway, sometime in the late fall of our senior year, after the Thanksgiving holiday, Jill suddenly disappeared from the school hallways. First, we heard that she was sick with mononucleosis (the “kissing disease,” as it used to be called), but as January became March, rumors began spreading, rumors having to do with pregnancy and forced marriages. Especially after Jack dropped out – two months before graduation.

The truth broke free, as truth is apt to do, sometime in the fall of 1971. During the Christmas break when everybody came home from college, it was the talk of the town, the bars, and the parties.

Jill had become pregnant, and, since back in those stupid days, girls “in the family way” were not allowed to finish high school, she had been forced to leave under the cover of the mononucleosis story, though she refused to go to one of those “homes for fallen women” or whatever they were called. (Do they still exist?)  Her parents had gotten her a tutor so she could finish her high school degree, but not only had she disappeared from the school hallways, Jill had also been confined to the house to “hide her shame.”

Worse, when Jill wanted to go to Planned Parenthood for advice – and advice only – her parents would not allow it. They were very observant Catholics and the name Planned Parenthood was as abhorrent as the name Judas Iscariot. Jill’s pregnancy was treated as if it were a monstrous sin.

She had also finally admitted that Jack was the father because her father had beaten it out of her. Her father then called his father, and they decided that Jack and Jill would get married right away.

And in 1971, not only could you not be pregnant in high school, you couldn’t be married, either; which meant that Jack had to drop out, too, meaning, of course, that he lost his football scholarship and any hope for college. And in case you’re wondering – no college for Jill, either.

Of course, there was always the future, but…

After they got married and Jill had the baby, and Jack got some kind of job, nothing much, he started drinking. Drinking hard. And doing drugs. Hard drugs.

And that’s how the story stood that Christmas break, the last week of 1971.

But it didn’t end there. About 10 years later I met one of Jill’s cousins at the mall. We got to talking about high school, and eventually – of course – Jack and Jill came up. I’ll never forget that conversation.

Jack’s downward spiral had continued. He lost one job after another. The drinking continued, and he was chippinghttp://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=chipping on some weekends, too.

Then he started abusing Jill, and it hadn’t stopped.

“But Jill was always so smart. Why doesn’t she leave?” I said.

“Jesus,” her cousin said.

“Jesus?”

“Jill’s become really religious. That’s why she won’t leave. I think she thinks she’s atoning for getting pregnant and fucking up Jack’s football scholarship. “

“Jesus.”

“Yep.”

That was the last time I ever heard about Jack and Jill. I have no idea what happened to them. Or their kids.

•     •     •     •     •

As if this writing (Sunday, September 10) there are five days to reach the $50,000 goal to produce Mine!: A Celebration of Freedom & Liberty Benefitting Planned Parenthood. We are almost but not quite there.

And, look, guys, I get it. This has been a summer and early fall of donating funds. I understand it’s a matter of priorities. I get the feeling of being “donated out,” too. And our hearts go out to the many caught up in the current round of hurricanes.

Even if it’s just $5, hell, even if’s just a $1, just think about what Bernie Sanders accomplished with an average of $27 to his campaign.

When people think of Planned Parenthood, they think “abortion.” But I’m telling you, and now I am speaking to you as a member of the professional healthcare community, the organization does so much more: Counseling and cancer screenings and preventative and maintenance health care. For women and for men.

The anthology features work by:

 And even more.

Just do it, okay? Because one day, you or yours could be just like Sally or Jack and Jill. Because, just when you or yours need it, Planned Parenthood could be gone.

Don’t let that happen.

Ed Catto: Robert Loren Fleming’s Thrill Ride, Part 1

In the 80s, DC comics woke up the comics industry with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons. Fans and retailers were anxiously awaiting the next big thing. Thriller, the comic that you couldn’t read fast enough, was supposed to be that next big thing. Management was excited about this fresh title. The DC marketing department got behind it and sent the writer on the road with a presentation. Distributors got behind the first issues. Comic shop retailers aggressively ordered the first issue.

And then…it wilted. Thriller wasn’t the next big thing. It doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of great things about the series. There certainly were. In the recent issue of Back Issue magazine, I looked at Thriller and the tumultuous backstory. As a fan, I always liked the early issues of the series, and now, understanding the backstage drama, I love it, and respect it, even more.

Series co-creator and writer Robert Loren Fleming wasn’t able to fully participate in that article. Since it’s publication, there’s been a resurgence of interest in Thriller. And now, I’ve finally caught up with Robert Loren Fleming. So, as podcaster Karina Longworth always says: “Join us, won’t you?”… for an extended look from at the tragedy of DC Comic Lost Classic Thriller.

Breaking into Comics

Robert Loren Fleming loved comics and was determined to break into the industry with his secret plan. It was the early 80s and he had started at DC as a proofreader. He loved working for the company and being a part of the industry. But he was impatient to become a comics writer. He eventually did and scripted favorites like the Flash and Ambush Bug. But it wasn’t easy to crack the code at DC comics.

“I found out pretty quickly it was kind of a closed shop – pretty hard to break in as a writer,” said Fleming. “It was really difficult to get a story sold.”

The legendary Julie Schwartz even had some advice for Fleming when he was pitching Superman ideas. “Julie told me to go home and not to think about any ideas. He told me twice, in case I missed it,” recalls Fleming with a chuckle.

Upon reflection, Fleming realizes it was a kind of a hazing ritual. If you weren’t tough enough to get through it, you weren’t tough enough to be a writer at DC Comics.

At that time there was an unwritten career path for young writers at DC. And as a proofreader, he was, more or less, on that long track. Aspiring writers would work on the corporate side for a while. Eventually, they’d be given their start with short story assignments for anthology comics. Writing assignments for the company’s prestigious superhero comics wouldn’t be offered for quite some time. If you showed talent and professionalism, you’d be awarded bigger assignments.

His Sneaky Plan

Fleming reasoned that the only way to break into quickly was “to come up with my own personal story and a big idea that it would be so good they have to take it.”

An idea was percolating in Fleming’s head for a new series that would showcase some of the things he loved: pulp adventures, an ensemble cast and a science fiction adventure that would shift away from the traditional superhero stories, dominating the market at that time.

“When I finished it, I took it to four or five editors. They wouldn’t even look at it.” Clearly, Fleming hadn’t yet paid his dues by working on smaller projects first. Looking back, Fleming realizes his secret plan was fueled by the audacity and courage that comes with youth.

He presented his idea to the top guy. “So I took it into Dick Giordano. <This was> jumping the chain of command,” said Fleming. Editor-in-Chief Giordano had no problem with Fleming bringing it directly to him. “He read the thing and 15 minutes later he bought it. Paul Levitz read it a few days later – he signed off too.”

Partnership with TVE

Levitz suggested that a young artist named Trevor Von Eeden be assigned to the series. At that time, the Marvel series Master of Kung Fu, by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy, was a big influence on Fleming. Fleming loved that series’ ensemble cast, the espionage themes and the casting of real people as comic characters. In fact, of the characters in his proposed Thriller series, Quo, was essentially Bruce Lee.

When Levitz showed Fleming the recent Batman Annual by Von Eeden, Fleming could see all of the elements he loved in Master of Kung Fu in the artist’s work. Fleming knew Von Eeden’s style would be perfect for Thriller.

Bucking the System

One of the things Fleming didn’t realize – no up-and-coming young buck ever does – is that you don’t gain a lot of allies internally by jumping over the established system. The editors at that time were not amused.

“It created a strong reaction against me,” said Fleming. “A very negative reaction. One of them (an editor) came out and said to Dick, ‘You’re not going to let Fleming write it, are you?’”

It got worse. The editors conspired to see Flemings non-traditional idea and audacious career tactic fail. They put a number of obstacles in the way of Thriller.

Off Target with The Green Arrow

One obstacle, in particular, was the Green Arrow. At that time, Green Arrow was one of the characters who was always a bridesmaid but never a bride. He was a supporting player in the Justice League of America, a co-star in the groundbreaking Green Lantern – Green Arrow series and a staple of backup stories. He was finally getting the go-ahead to headline a comic with a four issue mini-series, written by Mike W. Barr.

Fleming recalls that Trevor Von Eeden was assigned as the series artist, specifically to keep Von Eeden busy. He’s too busy working on this Green Arrow series. The idea was that he’d be so consumed with this miniseries, and it would take so long for him to draw, that the young artist would lose his passion for Thriller.

But that did not happen. This Green Arrow mini-series looked phenomenal. Von Eeden delivered work that was fresh and exciting. One would think that he spent an inordinate amount of time on it. In reality, Fleming explains, the opposite was true.

Unbelievably, Trevor Von Eden finished all four in an incredibly quick amount of time – something like six or eight weeks. And then both the writer and artist were ready for Thriller.

•     •     •     •     •

Next week we’ll explore more Robert Loren Fleming’s memories and observations about what happens when you actually, against all odds, arrive at the starting line!

Interested in the full article in Back Issue #98? You can snag it here.

Joe Corallo: Joe Staton, Family Man!

Drew Ford has spent the last few years of his life dedicated to bringing classic out of circulation comics and graphic novels back in print in beautiful restored editions. A fierce advocate for creators such as Sam Glanzman, Drew has brought back multiple books of his work, a graphic novel from David Michelinie, another graphic novel from ComicMix’s own Denny O’Neil, and many more. This was originally done through Dover Publications until Drew founded It’s Alive! Press, an imprint of IDW.

Drew’s latest project is bringing Family Man, by Jerome Charyn and Joe Staton, back in print through a Kickstarter campaign. You can view the campaign here.

I got the chance to interview Joe Staton this past weekend about Family Man.

JC: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about today about Family Man! Before we get into that, you’re a comics veteran with over forty years of work under your belt. You’ve worked on comics like E-Man which you co-created, All-Star Comics, a long run on Green Lantern where you created the Omega Men with Marv Wolfman, and have more recently worked on the classic character Dick Tracy. Which of all your comics work is most meaningful to you and why?

JS: And thank you for the interest in our project. You’re right, I’ve been at this for a while. I suppose if I come down to what’s the most important to me it would be E-Man, the Helena Wayne Huntress, my runs on GL with Marv and Steve Englehart, and my current work on the Dick Tracy strip. I had the chance to develop characters sort of off on a tangent from what was expected. E-Man was somewhere on the border of funny and serious, Helena was the product of Earth II, where everything was an alternate take on DC history, my work on GL got me into visualizing SF aliens, always some of my favorite stuff. Tracy, I’ve always wanted to do. With Mike Curtis we’re trying to plug into classic Chester Gould while seeing Tracy as part of pop culture from the 20s up through now.

JC: Since I’m a big Legion of Super-Heroes fan and have read a lot of your work on it, I was wondering if you could humor me and talk a little bit about your time on that title.

JS: Paul Levitz brought me into the Legion without me knowing a lot about them. I was supposed to be part of a rotation with three or four other guys but for one reason or another, they dropped off and I wound up doing the most of a run. I was never able to get a handle on the characters as super-heroes so I got into the science fiction elements. It’s just lately that I’ve realized that the heart of the series is “teen romance in space.”

JC: Okay, now onto Family Man! What’s your elevator pitch for Family Man?

JS: One hour into the future, society and government in New York City are crumbling. The only forces that still maintain order are the Mob and the Church. Alonzo, a gangster, and his brother Charles, the monsignor, face each other for control.

JC: So how did you end up collaborating with Jerome Charyn, a very accomplished writer in his own right, but not so much in comics?

JS: Editor Andy Helfer was putting together a line of nontraditional crime books mixing regular comics types and people from outside. He knew that was something that I would be up for. I was originally scheduled to work on a book with Pete Hamill but Pete never got his script in and Andy suggested that I might work with Jerome. I had read Jerome’s work and thought that was a good idea. I’ve recently learned that Jerome had originally wanted to be a comics artist. But rather than go that way, he’s written around 50 novels and nonfiction. His earlier interest in art made it natural for him to describe visuals to tell a comics story.

JC: The vast majority of your published comics work at this point in your career was in superhero comics. What did you have to do differently to tackle a story like this? What was the same?

JS: Much of my work was in super-heroes, but partially that was just a function of what was being published. There was work in super-heroes. And even then, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve often wound up working on stories that are a bit outside the usual take on heroes. And I do have a history with crime and detectives. E-Man’s sidekick is Michael Mauser, the unsanitary PI. I worked on the Mike Danger comic strip with Max Collins. Chris Mills and I have our series Femme Noir, which was originally a tribute to The Spirit. My basic interests are SF and crime stories, rather than so much super-heroes. Turned out Family Man was a good fit.

JC: Much of your prior comics career was in monthly comics. Family Man was originally done as three 96-page digest comics. How did you approach working in this format? What were the challenges and benefits of it?

JS: I was drawn to comic strips when I was a little kid, especially Dick Tracy and The Phantom. I learned to think in terms of comic strips before I came to comic books. Jerome had quite conveniently written Family Man as four-panel and it would be in a square format. Four panel, square, lay them out in a row, and you have a comic strip. There is occasionally a two-panel page, rarely a single panel splash, but the comic strip concept still fit. For me, it wasn’t a question of monthly as opposed to a limited format, it was going from comic book pages to comic strip. Since Family Man wasn’t going for super-hero exaggerated foreshortening or pyrotechnics, it was comfortable in the squares.

JC: What about Family Man makes it an important story to you?

JS: In terms of what a “graphic novel” actually means, we need to remember that Jerome is an accomplished novelist. A novel usually implies layered storylines and characters and that’s what Jerome has provided here.

JC: It’s been twenty-two years since Family Man first came out and it has not been in print for the vast majority of that time in between. What about this story rings true today and would attract a new generation of comics readers?

JS: “One hour in the future” turned out not to be the future when the book was written but with us turning away from the structures of government and society it may be a future around the corner today.

JC: Why is It’s Alive Press the best place for Family Man and why is crowdfunding the best way to fund reprinting it?

JS: Drew Ford is repackaging solid projects that didn’t quite find their audience, maybe because they never had a proper collection or came out from smaller presses or whatever. Things like Sam Glanzman’s USS Stevens stories, Trina Robbins’ Dope. Family Man should be right at home at It’s Alive Press.

JC: Before we wrap this up, I want to thank you again for taking the time to talk with me and ask you if there is anything else you’d like to mention about the Family Man Kickstarter currently running or if you had any other work you’d like to note?

JS: As we’re speaking the Kickstarter still has a bit of a way to go, a few days left and some cash still needed. I hope everybody will head over there and contribute and get some nice premiums. As for other things, keep an eye out for an upcoming issue of Charlton Arrow, which will start to feature a new three-part E-Man from Nick Cuti and me. That should be out this summer. And I continue to draw Dick Tracy with writer Mike Curtis, available here. We just lately finished the big crossover between Dick Tracy and The Spirit. It’s all archived at GoComics.

And thanks again for the chance to plug Family Man, Joe.

Ed Catto: Inspiring Creativity – 100 years later

This is a little story of a little town that shifted from stoking fear to promoting creativity.

A few days before Christmas 1949, one of the Catholic elementary schools in Auburn, a small town nestled in Central New York state, encouraged children to bring their comic books from home and burn them in a school bonfire. The fear was that reading comics promoting juvenile delinquency. In fact, the school’s principal would even write a positive letter about the burning that was published in the local paper, The Auburn Citizen. This was before those misguided efforts really gained steam, culminating in the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency, focusing on comic books.

But a lot has happened since then. The region gave birth to one of the first-generation comic shops. Several more would follow, and recently the town just enjoyed its first comic convention.

And to celebrate the annual Will Eisner Week, Auburn hosted two events. Will Eisner week is a worldwide annual event that celebrates the birth of Will Eisner, called by many the father of Graphic Novels. And to make it special, 2017 marked the centennial celebration.

“Comic books are truly international. Will Eisner Week is celebrated in Angouleme, France to Sofia, Bulgaria, in Amherst, Massachusetts to Winter Park, Florida, in libraries, museums, bookstores, comic book shops, and online. Will Eisner was born in Brooklyn, New York 100 years ago during the Great Depression of first-generation immigrant parents, but even at an early age, he knew that comic books could be literature and would eventually hang on museum walls,” said Carl and Nancy Gropper of the Will & Ann Family Eisner Foundation. “We therefore celebrate sequential art, graphic novels, free speech, and his enduring legacy.”

On Eisner’s actual birthday, I presented an overview of the Will’s career and showed part of the 2008 movie, The Spirit, at The Seymour Memorial Library. This small town library embraces creativity and has a fantastic graphic novel collection. This library was actually designed by the same team who created the iconic New York Public Library, so there’s an impressive majesty to it all. The Library’s Director, Lisa Carr, is an enthusiastic proponent of graphic novels and has worked with Seymour’s Community Services Coordinator Jaclyn Kolb to create this unique event.

The following night, the Auburn Public Theater screened the documentary Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist, followed by a Q & A session. Angela Daddabbo, one of Auburn’s most passionate and creative voices, works hard to ensure that this venue provides a variety of enriching events to the local population.

Geek Culture at large got behind these events too. Paul Levitz donated an autographed copy of his recent book: Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel. Dynamite Entertainment donated comics of Will Eisner’s The Spirit (by Matt Wagner, Dan Schkade and Brennan Wagner) and Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The Corpsemakers #1 (by Francesco Francavilla) as well a hardcover of the recent Will Eisner’s The Spirit collection. Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con awarded three pairs of tickets to lucky attendees for their upcoming June comic convention.

“We’re thrilled by all the events for Will Eisner Week, especially in this Centennial year., in which we have over 100 events worldwide! I’m especially encouraged when new cities, like Auburn, New York, join the celebration,” said author/editor Danny Fingeroth, Chair of Will Eisner Week.

It was an invigorating experience for all involved. And Auburn’s pretty much stopped burning comics.

 

Auburn to Celebrate Will Eisner Week

Our pal and ComicMix columnist Ed Catto (also the nicest guy in the Atlantic Northeast) is up to something. Check out this press release!

Explore the life and work of Will Eisner with Auburn, N.Y.’s Seymour Library on Monday March 6th with a panel presentation/film screening and on Tuesday, March 7th with a documentary at Auburn Public Theater.

Will Eisner (1917-2005) was a trailblazer in the comic book world, showing the public that comics could be a genuine form of literature and popularizing the term graphic novel. His landmark comic series The Spirit (1940-1952) was noted for its expressive artwork and experiments in content and form. This year marks the centennial of Will Eisner’s birth.

Geek Culture expert Ed Catto will host a panel on Will Eisner: Celebrating Graphic Novels: An Appreciation of Comics as Literature at Seymour Library on Monday, March 6th at 6:30 pm. The panel will provide an overview of Eisner’s work and highlight other graphic novels that demonstrate the enduring power of Eisner’s convictions. There will be a screening of the 2008 film adaptation of Eisner’s The Spirit, after the panel.

The documentary Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist will be held at the Auburn Public Theater on Tuesday, March 7th at 7 pm.  Ed Catto will introduce the documentary.

Industry support for this event has been strong:

  • Dynamite Entertainment is donating comics and a hardcover collection of their recent Spirit series as giveaways to attendees
  • Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con (June 24th-June 25th) will randomly give away tickets during both events
  • Paul Levitz, author of Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel will be donating a signed copy of this recent book to Auburn’s Seymour Library

Ed Catto is a marketing strategist and speaks frequently on Geek Culture and Comic Book History.

“Auburn, N.Y. has a rich, but checkered comic history. In 1948 Auburn held a comic book burning, as part of the anti-comics hysteria of the day. But by the seventies, one of the first comic shops was established in Auburn,” said Catto.

More information about Will Eisner Week in Auburn can be found at the  Seymour Library website: www.seymourlibrary.org.

Michael Davis: Dream Killer 4 – Publish or Perish

dreamkiller4From last week:

That, boys and girl, is called knowing the game. Those who don’t shouldn’t play. So despite being blackballed by one of the big two how was I able to thrive?

Alternative means of finding distribution, budget and happiness.

The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use one option.

There are numerous more, and I’ll touch on those next time.

As well I will break down what option was preferred and why for the project I’m using for this series. I’ve been in the game for a long time. What I use as examples are not intended as a ‘how to’ to get into the comics biz. If so the series would be named ‘how to ruin your career.’

The underlying point is to look at the big picture when entering this field. I believe with every fiber of my being one should always look to do the right thing. Comics are a very small industry and to have a real shot, it’s counterproductive working on how well you write or draw without working on your relationships skills.

Put another way, when people tell who they are and what they are about, trust but verify.

“The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use one option.There are numerous more, and I’ll touch on those next time.”

It’s next time.

When I wrote about numerous other options, there certainly are. The four I list are ones I can speak about from a personal perspective.

Publishing Options:

  1. Find a major publisher
  2. Crowd Fund
  3. Fund Yourself
  4. Go outside the box.

The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use option number one. Presentation to publishers differs from creator to creator. My process varies depending on the entity I’m pitching to.

The Comic Book Companies: Who & Why?

I’m not an idiot. This is a pop culture site heavy into comics. As such a significant amount of this, many readers will know. That’s great, but those who know will be surprised to learn many and by many a mean most of the newbies looking to get into the business have clue zero regarding the publishers in the industry.

There are well over two hundred publishers in the United States and thousands worldwide. For our purposes, we should know the players that meet your criteria for your project. The competitive rules are distribution, brand recognition, and marketing clout. What follows are the current major power brokers of the industry in my opinion.

Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics is one of the big two. Marvel has a lineup of some of the world’s greatest comics. They include The X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Hulk, and of course, Spider-Man. When Disney acquired Marvel, the industry thought the mouse would destroy Marvel. Nope Marvel did change but for the better. Marvel is the undisputed superhero king in the mainstream because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. DC has yet to catch the kind of fire Marvel has on the screen.

DC Comics

DC Comics is the other half of the big two and despite my rocky history with them still my choice universe. Time/Warner owns DC, but as of this writing, the noise is AT&T is about to buy Time Warner.

When Disney purchased Marvel, I was one of the few voices that thought this was a good thing and it was. They were smart enough to let Axel Alonzo and other key playa’s stay and soon fear turned into faith. I also correctly predicted DC would oust Paul Levitz and move operations to the West Coast. This is not to say Paul was an obstacle to DC; he wasn’t. He was problematic. His influence spanned three decades and for better or worse Time Warner knew for DC to compete with Marvel Paul had to go.

In my opinion, and I do so hope I am wrong, if AT&T buys Time Warner and DC Comics is part of that deal (it may not be) then DC Comics may be fucked.

Disney is in the content creation business, and even James Bond can tell you nobody does it better. AT&T is in the telecommunication business and realizes within the high stake arena of telecommunication, they are far from the only game in town. What AT&T has is the ability to deliver content better than anyone. What they don’t have is content they own outright. If they buy Time Warner, they get the mother of all content and instantly become the biggest pimp in town. So big Comcast becomes their bitch, and even Disney had better recognize.

As most of you know, the DC lineup includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. DC further has a mature reader line of books called Vertigo. The Vertigo books have a suspense and horror tilt. Recently DC entirely rebooted their entire 78-year continuity with a revamping and retelling of all their major characters twice. The New 52 did not do the kind of numbers DC was hoping for but Rebirth is very strong and the talk of the industry. Outside comics Marvel may be king in the movies, but on TV it’s all DC.

All good right? No. Not really. If this deal happens all it takes is one high powered mofo to say; “What do we need comic books for?” Remember Disney got Marvel because of its superheroes.

Look at all AT&T gets:

HBO

TBS

TNT

Cartoon Network

Adult Swim

CNN

The CW

Warner Bros. Pictures

DC Entertainment

New Line Cinema

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

You see comics on that list? Nope. DC Entertainment, yes. Comics, nope. You don’t need comics if you own the property already. Far-fetched? Maybe, but so was AT&T buying Time Warner a month ago.

Image Comics

Image Comics started in the early nineties. They quickly rose to the number three position in the industry. They have a consortium of studios that all contribute to the publishing line. Many creators do creator owned books under the Image banner. Their publishing deal is as follows authors deliver the book Image manages the publishing distribution and marketing.

When I ran Motown Animation & Filmworks, my comic book division had its publishing deal with Image.

Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics have lots of success with taking their comics to movies. The Mask, Time Cop, Barb Wire, Mystery Men, and Hellboy to name a few. All of those movies were Dark Horse comics first. Their CEO and publisher also owns a chain of comic book stores. They have the most “Hollywood” take on the comic book business. Dark Horse has a history of working with maverick creators and Mike Richardson publisher is one of the smartest men in the industry.

IDW Publishing

Idea + Design Works (IDW) was formed in 1999 by four entertainment executives and artists, Ted Adams, Alex Garner, Kris Oprisko and Robbie Robbins. They decided to create a company that would allow them to work with a variety of clients on the things they liked: video games, movies, TV, collectible card games, comic books and trading cards. They have produced some of the best-looking books in comics.

NBM Publishing

NBM is a graphic album publisher. They rarely do superheroes but do science fiction, fantasy, horror and what they call Eurotica. They are more of a mainline publisher in the way they conduct business. NBM has published many graphic novels in comics stores with a second window in mainstream bookstores such as Barnes and Noble. Smart people run NBM, and they don’t suffer fools on any level so before you pitch to them, or any publisher make it a point to know what they do.

Dynamite Entertainment

Dynamite Entertainment focuses primarily on comic book adaptations of existing properties, with most of their original holdings being new interpretations of the classics. They hold or have held the rights to publish titles based on films (Army of Darkness, Darkman, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, RoboCop, and Highlander), television series (Xena: Warrior Princess) and literature (Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, Dracula, and Zorro). Other properties include Buck Rogers and Sherlock Holmes.

Lion Forge Comics

When Lion Forge added Joe Illidge as senior editor they changed the game. That move should put a certain landmark publisher on notice. Or put another way, you slow you blow.

Crowdfunding

Crowd funding the second option was at one time something I was not at all interested in attempting. I thought there was no formula to speak of and I don’t do maybe or hit and miss in business.

What many people fail to realize is once funded they assume all the roles that go along with a crowdfunding gig. It’s true that some notable people (Spike Lee for one) have crowd funded projects. It’s easy with that kind of name recognition and people at that level have an existing infrastructure.

Funding must cover marketing creative, printing, and fulfillment of whatever incentives promised those who chip in. That alone is a massive undertaking. To reach a mass market would in my estimate take funding of between $30,000-$70.000.

There is a growing number of companies that will handle the undertaking for you. Some for a small fee some for a huge stake in your creation. I’m rethinking crowd funding mainly because I found a gem of a project which wasn’t moving. Taking a chance, I funded it all myself then brokered a deal for the property at a mainstream publisher. I don’t own it, didn’t create it but the creator can now think about just doing the work and let someone else do the heavy lifting selling.

What do I get? Right now nothing but the future isn’t built on right now.

Next week I’ll break down funding yourself and try and get you out of the box.

 

John Ostrander, Temporary Celebrity!

DC Suicide Squad Pre Party

Last week I gave a review of the Suicide Squad movie. This week, I’m talking about my trip to NYC for the premiere.

I got in to the East Coast on 7/31 and stayed with my friends Tam and Kev English over in New Jersey, near to where I used to live. Tom Mandrake and Jan Duursema, who also live in the area, were going to be in town Sunday night before going on a trip so we all got together for a nice meal. Hilarity ensued.

Viola DavisTom and Jan also gave me a box full of Kros: Hallowed Ground booty. This is stuff that will be going out to our subscribers and it is killer cool.

I took the train into Manhattan on Monday to join my old bud and oft-time editor and my date for the evening, the lovely and effervescent Mike Gold.  We were meeting for a pre-festivities lunch. Among many other projects, Mike edited Legends, which is where my version of the Suicide Squad first appeared. True to form, I screwed up both the time and the location but eventually wound up where I was supposed to be, a little hot, a lot sweaty, but there.

It was a nice meal at Virgil’s BBQ (when with Mike, you’re quite likely to wind up eating barbecue) and then it was time to head out to the pre-premiere party being hosted by Dan Didio and DC Entertainment. On our way to a taxi (Mike suggested the subway but I was already overheated), we went to the heart of Times Square and there – lo and behold – was a huge frickin’ ad for the movie up on a building. It was at least four stories tall and wrapped around the building on either side. I was staggered.

On to the DC pre-party up at Pappardella on the upper west side. We were met outside by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor; seeing Jimmy always guarantees a good time and Amanda graces the company of wherever she is.

All sorts of DC stalwarts were inside including some old friends like Paul Levitz, Mike Barr, and Keith Giffen. Was also joined by Adam Glass and his wife at our table in the corner. Adam had written the initial issues of the New 52 edition of the Squad and we were able to chat Squad shop. Great guy, good writer, and a fun table companion.

I also got to meet Geoff Johns face-to-face for the first time. We’ve traded more than a few emails but have never been able to be in the same place at the same time. Geoff has recently been promoted to President as well as Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment and I had a chance to congratulate him. He sat down and we had just a really good chat. In addition to being a really good writer, Geoff is a hell of as nice guy.

Ostrander DivaThey got some group photos of all of us at Pappardella and then it was time to walk over to the nearby Beacon Theater for the premiere. We got off the buses and it was amazing: there was major security, both private and city, and barriers and people behind barriers looking for stars and celebrities. I was dazzled and dazed. I started to follow the herd towards the theater until I heard someone calling my name. It was Dan Didio as well as my date gesturing me over to a large air conditioned tent right there on Amsterdam Avenue. I mean, the air conditioning units were huge. I was supposed to go in that way. I wasn’t sure why but I went there.

Inside there was a backdrop and lots of press and photographers. I was in a spotlight and, swear to God, they were calling “John, look over here.” “John. Over this way.” “John, look straight ahead.” Flashes flashed and I had on my best deer caught in the headlights look. It was weird.

My baptism by strobes completed, I was escorted out of the tent and to the theater and given my assigned seat. The Beacon is no small theater (albeit a beautiful one) and every seat was assigned. I sat in the middle of the DC row and settled in. Geoff Johns was two seats to my right but the one right next to me was vacant. I decided that seat belonged to my late wife and frequent Squad co-writer, Kim Yale. Knowing Kim, she was having a blast.

Pete Tomasi, my one-time editor on a lot of The Spectre, Martian Manhunter, and The Kents, came over for a chat. It was great to see him; it’s been far too long. Pete‘s also a freelance writer these days and a good one.

I’ll admit to being dazzled. A lot of fuss was being made over me and more than a few people came up and said that this was my night as well; that none of this would have been happening without me. I guess that’s technically true but it’s a little hard for me to wrap my brain around.

Anyway, it comes time for the movie and the director, David Ayer, comes out to say a few words and he brings out the entire cast of the movie. Loud cheers all around. The cast walks off and the movie begins.

I reviewed the movie last week and I’ll double down on it. I’ve seen it again since then, with My Mary (who couldn’t make it to the premiere) at IMAX and in 3-D and I liked it even more. I understand that there’s people who don’t agree with me and that’s fine; different tastes for different folks. For example, Mary likes broccoli and I can’t stand it, referring to it as “tiny trees”. But I loved the Squad movie and I’ll see it still again.

One note about it and it’s a very minor spoiler. I knew ahead of time that they had named a building used in the movie the John F. Ostrander Federal Building. I knew it was there, I knew it was coming up and yet, somehow, I missed seeing it. The DC row cheered but I didn’t see it until we went to the IMAX. Go figure.

There were cheers when the movie was over and then it was time to get onto the buses and go to the after-party. It was held in a huge hall with parts of it made up to look like Belle Reve (I’m told it was on display at SDCC and then moved east). There was food, there was drink, there was a DJ and loud music; DC had a private area off to one side. I understood the stars of the movie were in attendance and had their own area as well.

This may surprise some folks but not, I think, those who know me well. I sometimes get a case of the shys; I feel awkward where I feel somewhat out of place. I saw Kevin Smith there and wanted to go up and talk with him but he was talking to someone else so I wandered off. I didn’t want to bother him.

The one person I did want to meet was Viola Davis who played Amanda Waller. Amanda is special to me and Ms. Davis did a superb job, IMO, and I just wanted to tell her so. First, I had to deal with security. I walked up to a guy guarding the artist’s area; the Hulk is smaller than this guy. Real tall, shoulders the size of a football field – nobody was getting past him. Nobody.

I went straight to him, explained who I was and why I wanted to see Ms. Davis. He was polite, got a hold of someone who had to go check on me. While I waited, he deflected two or three others. The guy was good at his job.

Finally, someone came up to take me back the handful of steps to –. I introduced myself and then told her how much I enjoyed her performance. She was very gracious and lovely. I think, although I’m not certain, that I did not babble unduly.

And then I was done.

I might have liked to say hello to some of the other actors and especially the director but, plain and simple, I’d run out of nerve. My date had already left to catch a train and it was time for me to do the same. Penn Station was only a block or two away and that’s where I need to go to get back to Tam and Kev.

I’m reasonably certain in my heart that Kim was there at the party. She would have been in her element. She was an extrovert and she would have been dancing and drinking and chatting with the stars and flashing that megawatt smile. I’m also reasonably certain she’s still there; at many a Con, Kim would still be partying while I went to bed. I couldn’t keep up with her.

I said goodbye to Geoff Johns, got to Penn Station and went back to my friends in Jersey.

It was an experience totally unlike anything I’ve ever had. I don’t know if I’ll ever have another one like it. Even if I went to another movie premiere, this was my first one. As they say, you never forget your first.

I was a temporary celebrity. I’ve done lots of interviews connected with the event and I’ll probably do a few more, told the same stories or given the same answers a lot of times. I’ve been dipped in the waters of fame. There were faces on the other side of the barriers in front of the theater or the after party, looking at me, wondering who I was. I must have been Somebody. For the moment, maybe I was.

I’m home now. The dishes need washing, this column has to be finished, and one of the cats wants attention. That’s who I am and I’m happy with that. The rest will fade as it should. I’ll tell you this, though – it sure as hell was fun while it lasted! For that night, I was John Fucking Ostrander with my name of the side of a building in a big ass movie..

Yeah. That was cool.

Joe Corallo: That Joke’s Not Funny Anymore

Doctor Manhattan Hail Hydra

For all you mainstream comic fans, last week was a doozy. If you’re in that tiny minority of people that somehow avoided all the craziness last week, haven’t read the new Captain America or DC Rebirth but still plan on it, maybe it’d be best if you did before you read on. I’m totally going to spoil things.

Now that we’re all caught up let’s start with the less controversial DC Rebirth #1. Other than my own personal issues with it being far too heavy on the exposition through narrative (come on people, it’s a visual medium!) the most striking thing to myself and seemingly many others was the introduction of Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen fame into the main DC continuity.

Watchmen has been an odd property at DC ever since it premiered, never quite being in the DCU but also not being allocated to one of DC’s smaller imprints. Damn near very comics fan is at least somewhat familiar with Alan Moore’s falling out with DC Comics. People higher up in DC like Paul Levitz did try to respect Alan Moore’s wishes in so far as pushing back against others within the company from trying to use the property in other projects. However, after Paul was no longer corporate president, plans were quickly put in motion to capitalize on Watchmen’s success with Before Watchmen.

Before Watchmen was met with mixed reviews and comparatively disappointing sales. So after Before Watchmen flopped, why would DC want to try to incorporate Dr. Manhattan into the main DCU? Did they feel like they haven’t annoyed Alan Moore enough recently? Incorporating Watchmen into Rebirth seems like it’s not only a bad idea, but a bad idea with a recent proven track record of being a bad idea.

We’ll get back to that in a bit. Now onto the more controversial comic from last week, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1. In case you did not heed my earlier warning and are reading this without having heard what happened, live firmly under a rock with no Internet access and someone was kind enough to print this column out for you, Captain America has come out as a Hydra agent. You know, that Hydra. The bad one. The one that has caused the Internet to argue over exactly what degree of Nazi that Hydra is.

Newsflash: if you’re arguing about how Nazi a thing is, said thing in question is probably already too Nazi.

I’m not going to get into too many of the details here as it’s been explained and editorialized into oblivion since last week. I do fall onto the side of the argument that goes: maybe don’t do this to a beloved movie franchise character that children look up to. And I will add that some people I’ve seen compared this to Superior Spider-Man, and while I under that it’s tempting to compare the two the reality of this fiction is that we all knew Superior Spider-Man was Doc Ock from day one.

Although both of these events last Wednesday seem radically different from one another, they are really both different parts of the same problem. The mainstream comic book industry, Marvel and DC, are uniquely trapped by their intellectual property and this problem has not and is not being addressed properly. I’d argue that reboots are absolutely necessarily for these companies. The problem is that they keep trying to reboot the characters and stories, but what really needs to be rebooted is the corporate culture.

We live in as world where if you create new characters for Marvel or DC you have no ownership of them. They could be a huge hit and a cash grab for a generation or more, but you won’t see much money from it, if any. Hell, our own Denny O’Neil wrote the Iron Man story that was borrowed heavily from to create the movie that launched Marvel Studios and saved the company. Try to find a producer credit for him.

No one expects every idea to take off and be a mega hit. And comics is a very collaborative medium where it can become difficult to figure out exactly who gets the credit, especially in the years before this was taken more seriously. However, a creator is not going to be nearly as motivated to use the best ideas, create the best characters, and give Marvel or DC the chance of getting big crossover hit. They can just take those ideas to Image or another creator-owned publisher.

You see it all the time now. Indie creators getting some buzz, Marvel or DC scooping them up and helping build the creator’s fan base, then said creator takes a chunk of those fans with them when they decide they’ve gotten enough out of Marvel or DC and focus on their creator-owned ideas. Just look at Rick Remender, Alex Kot, Matt Fraction. Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Ed Brubaker. That’s just off the top of my head.

I get that it’s not an easily solved situation for Marvel and DC. I understand how these are complicated problems that involved multiple departments and corporate entities. However, the way both companies are handling their properties right now with the constant reboots, reshuffling, shooting for short term profits and ignoring (at least publicly) long term solutions, the only reboot they really need to concern themselves with is in their legal departments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Catto: Respect – for the Presidents and for Geek Culture

JSA All Star Wood 65 and 64

As a kid, I had book called Our Country’s Presidents by Frank Burt Freidal. It was an important looking book published by the National Geographic Society. This heavy tome devoted a few pages to each president along with a handful of gorgeous, colorful pictures. In retrospect, the model they used was a precursor to today’s magazines, complete with sidebars and sections-within-sections.

Freidals Presidents BookWay back when, the U.S. presidents were held in high regard.

I didn’t think I could ever read it all, but it was great fun to skim a few chapters now and then to get a perspective on all these great men and the times in which they lived.

During that same period, as you can imagine, I was also reading a fair amount of comic books. And in one comic series, The Justice League of America, each summer they’d have an adventure with their out-of-town “relatives,” the Justice Society of America.
This made all the sense in the world to me. As an Italian-American family, we were all about gathering the family together at wonderful events. One of the leading restaurants in my hometown was founded by a relative, so getting the invite to their enormous annual summer picnic was always such fun.

Our family would just eat a lot at these gatherings. But when the Justice League of America, essentially a super hero family, would meet annually with their older, wiser, mentor-ish counterparts, the Justice Society of America, there would always be a grand adventure. Oh, sure, they’d typically have one or two pages showing all the heroes enjoying hors d’oeuvres and chatting, but that wouldn’t be very interesting for the entire story.

To help readers identify and understand the visiting characters, the comic would typically devote a couple of pages to each Justice Society member and explain a little bit about their background. To me, it seemed exactly like that U.S. presidents book. The message I got was “These old heroes are important and you should really learn about them- just like you should learn about presidents.”

JSA All Star Staton 72I dutifully obeyed and complied with this imagined directive. Chalk it up to the power of Geek Culture. Whenever there was an adventure with these Justice Society heroes, it was a treat for me and I took it seriously.

So with this background, you’ll understand how I was thrilled to find out that these “out of town” characters, the Justice Society, would return to star in their own comic. All-Star Comics #58 was published in 1976 and starred the JSA heroes.

There they were – these fantastic characters doing amazing things, presumably in the times between those family get-togethers.

For some odd distribution reason, this wasn’t available at my regular newsstand, the fabled Pauline’s News in Auburn, NY. I had to make a special trip to a specific drug store on the other side of town to get this comic. The extra effort was worth it.

There was a new character introduced in this series too. She was kind of like Supergirl, but not as demure and sweet. She was aggressive and always displayed her assertive personality.

She was also very attractive. One artist on the series was the legendary Wally Wood, who could draw anything but had a particular aptitude for rendering pretty blondes. To a 13-year-old boy, this was of great interest to me.

I’m writing about this because I’m thrilled to announce that I was given a great honor. Gemstone’s vice-president of publishing, J.C. Vaughn, asked me to contribute an article about the Justice Society revival series to this year’s Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.
The Overstreet Guide is another of those grand summer traditions. It’s a detailed price guide to just about every comic book ever published, but it’s more than that. It’s an incredible reference detailing the history of American comics, and provides insightful historical articles and industry trends by the nation’s top comics experts.

OverstreetThe book also celebrates creators with the annual showcase of legendary talents providing special cover artwork. This year’s cover is really special, in fact, as J.C. has recruited Amanda Conner to create a two-part diptych cover, one of which features that “pretty blonde” from my youth – Power Girl.

The limited edition cover is by a true master as well. Russ Heath is a phenomenal artist, whose life story is as fascinating and fun as is his art. Heath has created a moody, moving piece evocative of the old war comics covers. As usual, the Overstreet team has designed a unique alternative logo that always thrills evokes the original 60s war comics.

J.C. Vaughn treats the annual publication like one big party. As is the tradition, the book debuts at San Diego Comic-Con and then is on sale nationwide at comic shops and traditional bookstores.

Writing my article for The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide was such fun. I talked with creators of the series, young pups just starting out when the series was first published: Paul Levitz and Joe Staton. Each has gone on to establish incredible careers in the industry. I also spoke with Justice Society expert Roy Thomas. Although he wasn’t directly involved with this iteration of the JSA, he still had great insights and revealed a story or two I hadn’t heard.

David Spurlock is the wry, charming publisher of Vanguard Productions. You may enjoy Vanguard’s fantastic books spotlighting artists like Frank Frazetta, Paul Gulacy or Wally Wood. I sure do. On the other hand, my wife just likes talking to the guy because he’s charming and witty.

But he carries the torch for many artists, and Wallace (Wally) Wood is one of them. David pulled back the curtain and revealed some great stories (some of which I couldn’t publish) about Wood’s participation in this 70s Justice Society revival.

It was great fun to write and I think it will be great fun to read! Be on the lookout and don’t be shy about reserving your copy of The 46th Annual Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.

And if anyone has a copy of Freidel’s book on the presidents …. I’ll trade you an extra copy of the Overstreet Guide for it. I’ve got to finish reading that one!