Tagged: Paul Levitz

Mike Gold: 52 Comics Pick-Up

Nope. This one isn’t what you might think. To paraphrase Li’l Willie Shakespeare, “Not that I loved the New 52 less, but that I loved DC more.”

The New 52 is not dead. Heck, it’s not even coughing up blood. Sure, a great many of the titles they started out with aren’t around any more, and yes, in June they replace a whole bunch of others (although several seem to be excuses for new #1s), and, certainly, they’re dropping the “New 52” branding, but the New 52 is alive and well.

That’s a mixed blessing. As crappy as most of the New 52 was, I prefer to look at this new stunt as an evolutionary change and not as a reboot. You know, just like what Marvel’s doing with their latest Secret Wars event. The one that starts the month before. Super-hero publishing is a pyramid scheme infused with Newtonian physics.

It’s been around for about three and one-half years, so the New 52 is hardly new. And, well, actually, they’re not really publishing 52 DCU books each month. If I’m counting correctly, in June they’ll have 49 – plus whatever annuals, specials, and clutter that may be. Or, maybe, the only reason they’re dropping the tag line is because it leaves a bitter taste… much like, oh, New Coke.

(Hey, Mike! Damn with faint praises much?)

The news sites have been full of the details of what’s missing and what’s coming and who’s doing what, and since ComicMix is an opinion site littered with some of the finest critical minds on Earth-Prime, I’ll cut to the commentary.

Many of DC’s new titles (New 24?) appear to be flop-oriented. Is the world really lusting for a brand-new Prez series? Bat-Mite? Harley Quinn and Power Girl? Bizarro? Maybe Section 8 will click – it certainly has the pedigree – but in the aggregate, the chances for long-term survival for some of these books appears minimal.

The fact is, I applaud many of these decisions. Do something different. Do something a little wacky. They’re not breathing new life into these (and other) characters, they’re breathing new life into the DCU. Original Marvel publisher Martin Goodman thought Spider-Man and the X-Men would flop. Superman sat in the drawer unsold for years. So, history tells us nobody knows what the hell is going to stick to the wall. Marvel’s bringing back Howard the Duck based upon a 10 second post-credit appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy; you’re telling me a Bat-Mite title is a bad idea? Who knows?

I’m looking forward to a few of the titles, although I will sample more than that. Most of all, I’m looking forward to the new Doctor Fate series by Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew. I love the character, Levitz has a solid track record with Justice Society heroes, and the guy is a lot more interesting than your off-the-shelf mystical hero.

On the other hand… I see where we’re getting a new Green Arrow #1 in July. Who would have ever expected First Issue Special would be so influential?


Mike Gold: Money For Nothing

I was having lunch with www.getthepointradio.com’s Mike Raub yesterday and we were deep in discussion about our favorite topic, what the hell is wrong with the planet and why we are the only ones smart enough to realize it. Before long we were ranting about the lameness of most mainstream comics and the various attempts the sundry marketing departments make to boost sales.

As always, this discussion came to the point where I started in on my favorite seething rage, which, in short form, goes like this: “Screw this variant cover shit; it has nothing to do with getting people excited to actually read the comic book.”

Variant covers became amazingly popular among comics retailers and a handful of wealthy consumers some 20 years ago. In fact, while packaging some books for Image Comics, I wanted to publish a variant cover printed on chewable bubble gum. Image vetoed that one; I strongly suspect they got the joke and had an understandable aversion to biting the hands that feeds them.

But as I was about to babble on and on, I came to a quick stop. A 25-watt light bulb (LED, of course) went off over my head. Indeed, I had an epiphany! It dawned on me there are at least three types of comic book covers being published today: the regular cover, the variant covers that are celebrity-drawn and/or way too cute for words, and the blank cover variant.

You’ve probably seen a few of them. Ostensibly, readers are supposed to get an artist at some convention to draw the cover for you, often in exchange for a stipend. Maybe you’ll just get autographs. Fine. Audience participation is cool. But variant covers generally go for a premium, or in exchange for purchasing X number of comics. What does this mean?

It means many comic book publishers have figured out a way to soak the reader for an “exclusive” that, in fact, costs the publisher next-to-nothing to produce.

That, my friends, is a business model.

Mind you, I may have been the first to publish a blank cover. It was DC’s Wasteland #6, and we did that because the printer screwed up massively and put the wrong cover on the issue. They reprinted it with a blank cover; my idea, as I wanted to alert the reader and the retailer that this was something different. I designed this cover, but I didn’t get paid for it for three reasons: 1) I was on staff, 2) Publisher Paul Levitz knows sarcasm when he hears it, and 3) the damn cover was blank!!!

Same thing with these contemporary blank variants. They are blank! You, the reader/collector/dealer, are spending money for nothing.

And your chicks for free.

To paraphrase Yakov Smirnoff, Comics – what a business!

Someday, somebody will try to sell a comic book based upon its merits and not rely on stunt marketing to do the heavy lifting.

If the business lives that long.

Martha Thomases: Yeah, Baby!

My son is 30 years old today. And while this is a wonderful thing and I’m thrilled to have the experience, it also demonstrates one of the great failures of my lifetime. He stopped reading comics before I did. When I was a kid, before the direct market, before cable television, before the discovery of fire, kids might read comics for a few years but usually stopped around the time they started high school. There were a lot of reasons for this (puberty, team sports, rock’n’roll) but I’ve always thought a big reason was the spotty distribution. It was more difficult to be a dedicated fan when you couldn’t be sure that the magazine racks would have the same titles every month. Still, I was an unusual child. I kept reading comics, despite the hardships, despite my gender. I’ve always enjoyed a quest – especially when said quest involves shopping. Of course, I wanted to pass on these values to my child. We spent many happy hours in his youth, walking to the comic book store on Comic Book Day, reading comics, discussing comics. He met Stan Lee before he started school. When I applied for a job at DC, I remember telling Paul Levitz that my five year old kid could explain Crisis on Infinite Earths and the multiverse, and Paul wanted to arrange for him to come in and explain it to the editorial staff. After I got the job, my kid could sit in the DC library and read the bound volumes of back issues because the librarian knew he would take care of the books. My son learned important lessons from his father, too. By the age of three, he could tell a Tex Avery cartoon from a Bob Clampett. Family values were important to us. And now, this. He’ll explain that it’s not his fault. The monthly comics that he read all of his life left him. The Flash that he knew (Wally West) is gone. So is the Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner). I could have said the same thing at his age, when The Powers That Be took away my Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). The difference is that TPTB made new characters who had new stories. I might like them or not, but they were new. My son’s heroes were replaced by the characters his parents liked. That’s a problem. The market for superhero comics (and I love superhero comics) isn’t adapting to a new audience. It’s adapting to the old one. My boy still enjoys a good graphic novel. He likes a lot of independent, creator owned series (which he buys as trade paperbacks). He can still speak with great wit and insight and humanity about the socio-economic and political implications of Superman and Batman. If we’re in the same city at the same time, I’m sure we’ll go see Guardians of the Galaxy together. He’s turned me on to some great books. I’m loving Saga based entirely on his recommendation. But I wait for the trades. Maybe I’m not as old as I look

Mindy Newell: Columnist Columnizing

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“‘You just do it’…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve got a friend.


Michael Davis: An Open Letter To Paul Levitz

davis-art-131008-150x187-1732919Dear Paul,

Paul, Paul, PaulPaulPaul, Paul.

I hope this letters finds you well.

You and I have had our differences over the years but I still remember when I used to hang out in your office and just talk to you and all the swag you bestowed upon me.

Clearly our styles have clashed and the differences we’ve had have been huge.

Like it or not Paul, you and I have a shared history that history includes your absolute undeniable contribution to Milestone Media. Without Paul Levitz Milestone would not have ever existed. I recently said just that at the Milestone 20th anniversary panel at the San Diego Comic Con. You have taught me a lot Paul and like I said rather you like it or not you’ve been instrumental in a lot of my career.

When I first became President and CEO of Motown Animation & Filmworks you and I were talking at a San Diego Comic Con event when a drunk colorist I trained and arranged his first professional job, rolled up to me in front of you and started talking shit about how horrible a human being I was because I fired a friend of his off a project. I was right about to do something very un-CEO like and put my fist in his throat when you lightly touched my arm and said softly “Michael you’re a CEO now, you will always have a target on your back, let it go.”

I did.

I know I’m a bit of a pill Paul, but no more than Todd McFarland, Frank Miller, Harlan Ellison or scores of other artists who have over-the-top take-no-shit-personalities.

Love me or hate me, I’ve earned respect. How many people do you know have a magnet school auditorium named them, were named Mentor Of The Year by Mentor magazine, has 12 count them, 12 Michael Davis day proclamations from 12 different cities because of my work with kids and education, a PhD… and on top of all that I’m cute as a button.

Paul, I am who I am.

You are who you are, one of the most influential people in comic book history if I hated your guts (which I don’t) I would still respect that. I don’t hate you, Paul. I miss you. I miss those Levitz talks, especially the ones that ended with me carrying out a huge Batman or Superman or Lobo statue.  All of which you’ve given me (when you liked me).

I’m super glad to see you are writing again. The Darkness Saga is on my top five ever-favorite story lines, the others being Watchmen, Dark Knight, Camelot 3000 and The Killing Joke. Paul, I’d like to invite you to my annual Comic Con party. We can sit down and swap Bob Wayne stories. I’ll tell you all about the time Bob took me dinner in Texas and how he continuously reminded me there were no black people within a-hundred miles. I wasn’t scared (much) it was all in good fun.

Again, I hope you and yours are well, call me, let’s do lunch, and bring some money so you can eat too. :-)




Mindy Newell: The Problem With Diana

Newell Art 130708Over at www.geekmom.com, Corinna Lawson’s June 21st Cliffs of Insanity column once again wondered why Wonder Woman doesn’t get any respect; this was instigated by the news that DC is producing a new comic, Superman’s Girlfriend Wonder Woman – the title is mine – which will “focus on the relationship between the characters.” (Apparently a DC editor considers Lois Lane nothing but a “trophy wife.”) This is occurring, as Corinna rightly points out, “in an environment where women are still fighting for some basic rights, even to the point of having to listen to politicians talk about ‘legitimate rape.’” And, may I add, in which Texas, North Carolina, and ten other states, along with the House of Representatives, have ignored Roe vs. Wade and declared abortion illegal past 20 weeks and making the procedure not only incredibly difficult to obtain, but incredibly denigrating to the individual woman who seeks it.

On June 28th, Shoshana Kessock of www.Tor.com focused on “The Problem with Wonder Woman” in Hollywood, while noting that the Themiscrya Tigress “has recently been dubbed the 20th greatest comic book character by Empire Magazine, and ranked fifth in IGN’s 2011 Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time…[standing] as one of the icons of the comic book world, and has been featured in dozens of comic titles since her debut in 1941. The character has also found success in other media, appearing in a popular live-action television series in the 70s, as well as several animated series (including Super Friends and Justice League).”

Why does Diana not getting her due bother me so much? I guess it’s because I have a personal history with her. Not only was Wonder Woman my first assignment as sole writer, but also I had no clue at the time that I was the first woman to be asked to write her – the only female cornerstone hero of the DC universe.

As I told Gail Simone when she interviewed me for her Five Questions webpage:

“I first worked on Wonder Woman in 1984 or thereabouts – back in the day, I was one of Karen Berger’s ‘fillies’ in her stable of writers in the New Talent Program. I honestly don’t know who suggested it – it sure wasn’t me. I think it was Karen, or perhaps it was Paul Levitz. Maybe it was Marv Wolfman or Len Wein. Anyway, it was about this time when plans were hatching for the [superb, imho] relaunch of Wonder Woman by the absolutely wonderful, nobody-can-touch-his-talent, charming and amazing George Pérez. So the then-current Wonder Woman series was running down – I think there were only about three or four issues le”ft – and I got a call from the editor, Alan Gold, asking me to come in and talk about finishing up the book.

Wonder Woman? Me? Frankly, I was amazed. Also very excited. And flattered.

I didn’t know it was going to turn into such a downer. You see, I didn’t really get a chance to write what I wanted to write. Alan told me – no, decided – what I was to write. He was big into Mayan civilization, theology and myths, and that’s the story he wanted to tell. I think he liked the idea of two great “pagan” civilizations clashing, as Wonder Woman represented the Hellenic Period. But I had no interest in Mayan culture at the time – or was it Aztec? (I still don’t have much of an interest in either of them, except that I know about the Mayan calendar, which ended in November 2012, so we’re all dead – or didn’t you know that?)

But this was my first chance at writing a regular series, plus I was a “nice Jewish girl” who hadn’t grown up yet, so I tried to go along with him – after all, he was the editor, right? But it was a disaster. I was trying, but my heart wasn’t in it, and when a writer’s heart isn’t in, then craft is supposed to take over. Only I was still learning my craft. And I couldn’t spell the goddamn name of the god who was the antagonist, and back then I wrote on a manual typewriter which meant a lot of erasing and White-Out and a lot of putting a fresh piece of paper into the typewriter when the original became too smudgy and too thick with the White-Out stuff.

It got to the point where I not only didn’t give a fuck about spelling the name of the god who was the antagonist of the story, but where I didn’t give a god damn about the whole story. I hated writing Steve Trevor because he lacked the right stuff: he was a nebbish, the perfect pisher, a humiliation in uniform, and a disgrace to the Air Force. I hated writing Etta Candy because she was a stupid fat girl who let men push her around and drowned her inner strength in chocolate.

And as for Diana…

I hated her.




Dennis O’Neil Is Not Jules Feiffer?

O'Neil Art 130418So there I was, standing in…no, make that sitting in for Jules Feiffer at MoCCA, a two-day long expo-type event sponsored by the Museum of Comic Art and held at the big armory on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. Talk about your bait-and-switch…folks come expecting to see and hear one of our era’s defining and multifaceted talents, a man who has done exemplary work in cartoons, playwriting, screen writing – an innovator and astute observer of manners and morals, a social commentator…This is the giant they anticipated and instead they got…me. Sitting, not standing, on a platform with Peter Kuper, Gabrielle Bell and Paul Levitz. talking about comics and the counterculture.

It’s a big and pretty complex topic and Jules Feiffer – the real Jules Feiffer – might have done it justice. Me – not so much.

Though the kind of comics I’ve been professionally involved in were a far stretch from the innovative, angry, and occasionally profane “undergrounds” that emerged from the turmoil of the Sixties, I guess the superhero stuff I did qualifies as at least marginally countercultural because, after the witch-hunting Fifties, comics of any ilk were not respectable. (Didn’t the Catholic Digest say they were trash? Weren’t there public comic book burnings? Didn’t that some senator or other hold hearings about them?) But, though we did hiccup out a bit of social satire/commentary here and there, we were never in the business of putting it to the man, making granny blush, calling for revolution.

Okay, maybe Feiffer didn’t work those sides of the street, either. Not exactly. But the kind of humor he practiced in his eponymous feature, first in The Village Voice and later in syndication, helped create the societal climate in which authority could be questioned – even mocked! – and the nooks and crannies of our national psyche theretofore ignored by our purveyors of comedy could be acknowledged and explored.

Now, some 55 years later, we can watch Louis CK push in the same direction.

Feiffer’s been on my radar since the aforementioned Fifties and I don’t know who put him there. Somehow, in St. Louis, attending a Jesuit university, I came into possession of Sick Sick Sick, a paperback collection of Feiffer’s early Voice pieces and…well, it wasn’t the brain-wrencher that Kerouac’s On The Road was to be, or, in a very different way, Salinger’s short stories were. But I thought it was funny and it was differently funny and that difference hinted at something out there, beyond the limits of school and parish and neighborhood, something past the boundary of the Mississippi, something that would be good for me to know.  Something that would nourish me.

Something that eventually put me onstage with Bell, Kuper, and Levitz, filling a seat meant for Jules Feiffer and grateful for the opportunity.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Mike Gold: Me MoCCA Mike

Gold Art 130417

Well, it’s convention season once again. This statement doesn’t mean as much as it used to, when there actually was a convention “season.” Now it pretty much runs from the beginning of spring (Glenn was at WonderCon and will be posting his pictures sometime before next year’s show) and ends the following March at San Francisco’s MegaCon… give or take.

My schedule includes Chicago’s C2E2 next week, maybe Heroes in Charlotte in June, San Diego in hell, Baltimore in August and New York in October, held each year at the only spot in all Manhattan that is inaccessible to humanity. For me, it started last week at one of my favorites, New York’s Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art, a.k.a. MoCCA Fest.

Being in our back yard, ComicMix was well represented: Vinnie Bartilucci, Glenn Hauman, Adriane Nash, and Mike and Kai Raub. Traditionally, Martha Thomases is in attendance but this year the she was in Japan at the time and the commute would have been a bitch.

I enjoy MoCCA because there it covers the widest spectrum of self-published, small-published, and web-published “independent” comics. If your thrills are limited to capes and masks from the Big Two, this event would either bore you… or transform you, opening your eyes to all sorts of really interesting stuff people do with our coveted medium. So if you’re into comics, it’s certainly worth a try.

If you could bottle the enthusiasm in the room, you’d have enough energy to replace Chernobyl. By and large, these people aren’t getting rich, although some make a living and others would like to eventually. They’re there out of their love for the comics art medium and to employ our unique storytelling concepts to communicate their stories. Each time I’m there, and I think I’ve been to eight or nine of their shows, I come away renewed and rejuvenated. So up yours, Ras Al Ghul.

Despite the quantity of behatted hipsters, this isn’t necessarily a young person’s show. Fantagraphics, perhaps the leading bookstore publisher of these sorts of efforts, was well-represented, as was Abrams and other staid outfits. While trying not to be overly creepy in my contacts with the younger folk, I also hung out with fellow geriatrics including Craig Yoe, Denis Kitchen, J.J. Sedelmaier, and Paul Levitz.

It comes as absolutely no surprise that of all the shows I attend, MoCCA routinely attracts more women per capita. Well, having made that statement I might have just put the kibosh on that, so let me say there isn’t as much semi-naked cosplay as I see at capes shows. I suspect that this is because the show is all about your desire to express yourself and tell your own story and not so much about who was the Avenger villain who crossed over into Amazing Spider-Man #214. (No, no; don’t Google that – I pulled it out of my ass.)

A high-point was when Vinnie, Glenn, Adriane, Mike, Kai and I semi-inadvertently all wound up at the Popeye’s Fried Chicken across from the venue. There was a point when ComicMix had actually taken over the joint. I’m glad to say that we didn’t spontaneously burst out in rousing song – MoCCA isn’t a science-fiction convention.

As it turns out, this column is sort of a crossover. My friend and fellow columnist Denny O’Neil was also there, and he will be waxing poetic about his MoCCA experience tomorrow, same-Bat-Time, same-Bat-Channel.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


Mindy Newell: Four-Color Valentines

Newell Art 130211DC released Young Romance this week, using the title of one of the overlooked and (imho) underappreciated gems of comics history, the seminal romance comic that was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and was published from 1947 to 1975. I’m old enough to remember many of the stories contained within those pages; they were attuned to the morals of the times, and regularly told tales of unrequited love, of compromised love, and of love triumphant.

The characters were easily identifiable: there was the bad girl, the bad boy, the good girl, and the good boy.

The bad girl (think Betty Rizzo in Grease) smoke and/or drank, wore too much makeup and perfume, wore incredibly slinky dress that didn’t leave much to the imagination, preyed on other women’s men, and was quite free with her, uh, favors. Not that anything was ever shown except for kisses, but somehow Simon and Kirby – especially Kirby with his magnificent art – definitely got the message across of what followed that forbidden kiss off-panel, even to a young and innocent girl like me.

I always rooted for the bad girl.

The bad boy (think Johnny Strabler in The Wild One) smoke and/or drank, rode a Harley or drove a wicked muscle car with fins, wore a leather jacket with a one-size-too-small undershirts and jeans, had a ducktail and a comb, dropped out of high school and worked at the gas station, and was always hot for the good girl.

I always wanted the bad boy.

The good girl was a secretary or a librarian or a nurse or a high school senior or a college freshman. She wore modest clothes and flats, pink lipstick, no jewelry except for her grandmother’s pearls, and never smoked or drank.

She was so boring.

The good boy was a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer or the BMOC (big man on campus) or the high school football team’s star quarterback. He wore a suit and tie or chinos and a windbreaker, never showed body hair, and always obeyed the speed limit in a Chevrolet or Oldsmobile – definitely your father’s car – and above all respected the good girl and would safely see her to the door after a date and say good night with a chaste kiss, saving “the act” for the marriage bed.

No thanks.

My preference for the “little bit of naughty” also made me veer towards those characters in the superhero world, caped and non-, that I imagined had some, uh, good times, when not saving the world.

I think Adam Strange’s relationship with Alanna moved quite quickly into intimacy, even before they were married. After all, Adam could not control when the Zeta-beam would either take him to the planet Rann or return him to Earth, so there was no time like the present, right? Though I do hope that that damn Zeta-beam didn’t snatch Adam away right at wrong time, if you know what I mean, for Alanna’s sake.

Certainly Sun Boy, a.k.a. Dirk Morgana, was an out-and-out roué: check out a little story called Triangle in Legion Of Super-Heroes #320, February 1985, a tale I dialogued over Paul Levitz’s plot, with artwork by penciler Dan Jurgens, inker Karl Kessel, letterer Adam Kubert, and colorist Shelly Eiber. But I always had a thing for Rokk Krin, a.k.a. Cosmic Boy. Maybe it was the black hair and the blue eyes, but there was just something about Rokk – I knew he was not above stopping by the 30th century’s version of the Bada Bing or hitting on the boss’s wife. And succeeding.

I know the newest couple in comicdom is Kal-El of Krypton and Diana of Themiscrya, but the pairing of these two, the classic “good boy” and “good girl” of DC, just doesn’t float my boat, y’know. Now Diana’s mother, Hippolyta… that’s a woman whom I suspect walked a bit on the wicked side in her youth. She just too worldly just knows life, with all its ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies, too well. It’s in the way she holds herself, the way she talks, the way she rules.

Lana Lang may have started as a “good girl” in Smallville, but I think once she left home she had some fun. Getting over Superman throwing her over for Lois, she let the “bad girl” come out in college, cutting classes, never missing a beer bash, smoking the ganja, and saying yes to whoever asked. As an adult she may be the “sadder-but-wiser-girl,” but damn, the woman knew how to party.

And of course there’s Selena Kyle, who brings home the bacon and fries it up in a pan. Hey, the lady knows what she wants. I’d like to see her paired up with Wolverine, the “bad boy” of comics. Hard-drinkin’, hard smokin’ Logan hooking up with Catwoman.

Oh, yeah





Mike Gold: Mad, or Sad?

A couple years ago, Mad Magazine was demoted to quarterly release – a status it had not had since it first converted into magazine format in 1955. Shortly after, I ran into its publisher Paul Levitz and expressed regret at the situation. Paul, a major comics fan and historian, shared my feelings but said with obvious sadness “Maybe its time had passed.”

Maybe so. Mad’s return to bi-monthly status, one suspects, has more to do with the successful animated series than any publishing-revenue prerogative. Paul was right, and he’s still right: Mad’s time had passed. To his credit, it had passed back when he was still a teenager.

I came across Mad at an early age, discovering my sister’s comics stash as I was ferreting about her bedroom looking for, well, comics. And maybe spare change. Like an unbelievable number of Boomers, it totally warped my mind. Mad was part of its time: we also had Ernie Kovacs and Rocky and Bullwinkle. Steve Allen and Del Close. Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. All assaulted a status quo that was desperately in need of destruction.

As it always is.

Perhaps these combined forces shaped me more than the average pre-adolescent. Truth to Power, there’s really no “perhaps” about it. Therefore, when Mars Attacks! came out I discovered creative people can up the ante. And Mars Attacks! ushered in the 1960s when the ante wasn’t simply upped, it grew daily and exponentially.

Somewhere along the way, Mad’s “usual gang of idiots” continued to age. Instead of hoisting our culture on its own petard, Mad sometimes turned on the latter-day iconoclasts. Not viciously, not regularly, but by the end of the decade you could hear the sound of the hardening of their arteries.

This was unnecessary, but it left room for the sons of Mad to take on the role – folks like Robert Crumb, Jay Lynch, George Carlin, Tommy Smothers, Richard Pryor, Michael O’Donoghue, Doug Kenny, Frank Zappa, Matt Groening, Mike Judge… I’m happy to say the list goes on and on. Now, the grandsons of Mad have taken over. Just as Frank Faye begat Jack Benny who begat Johnny Carson who begat Bill Maher, Mad is better thought of as a major influence than an active force.

I’m not saying Mad sucked. It continued to be funny and, often, clever. But it was totally ready for prime time. Mad was on Broadway. It became a movie (for which publisher and legend Bill Gaines apologized – in the pages of Mad). It became a television show. It became two television shows, actually, and both were more cutting-edge than the magazine had been in over two decades.

Onetime Madmen like Paul Krassner and Chevy Chase went elsewhere. If you’re in the culture evolution business and the establishment doesn’t regard you as a pariah, you’re not doing your job right.

Clearly, Paul was on the money. My inner-fanboy (who pays the rent; it’s a good arrangement) says Mad could of and should of stayed in the thick of the fray, but que sera, sera.

The massive talent of Mad was celebrated ten years ago in a wonderful book called Mad Art, by none other than Mark Evanier. It owns my highest recommendation. A new book, Totally Mad, is set for release next Tuesday, which means it’s in the “bookstores” right now. I haven’t read it so I won’t comment, but you might want to give it a look.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil