Tagged: Paul Levitz

Mike Gold: The Baltimore Fun

I like comic book conventions, although I’ve been pretty hard on them lately. These days most conventions have little to do with comic books. They have a lot to do with pop culture and celebrities and movies and autographs and promotion, but over the past decade or two comic books have become the ugly stepchildren within their own temples.

Except for a handful. Mid-Ohio Con has been consumed by the dreaded Wizard ogre; that one used to be a favorite. HeroesCon in North Carolina is high on my list of the exceptional; I wish I could get there each year. There are plenty of great small shows, usually held in hotels and attracting people from about a 200 mile radius, if the weather is agreeable. And, as I’ve incessantly proselytized to the annoyance of thousands, my absolute favorite: the Baltimore Comic-Con.

First and foremost, the Baltimore Comic-Con is about comic books. The panels are about comic books. The exhibitors are about comic books. The awards ceremony is about comic books. In short, it is a comic book convention.

Second, it’s only two days: Saturday and Sunday. The burnout rate is low and people tend not to leave as early on Sundays. You can get as much done in those two days as you can elsewhere in three… or four. Third, the staff is well-trained, efficient, and so damn polite if you’re from New York your skin just might peel off in strips.

I’m happy to say I’ve got a hell of a lot of friends who go there. It’s one of the few shows Timothy Truman attends. Mark and Carol Wheatley both put me up and put up with me year after year; my daughter and ComicMix comrade Adriane Nash gets to stay in Mark’s breathtaking library and studio. Marc Hempel joins us at the Insight Studios booth. Great folks like Gene Ha, Brian Bolland, Amy Chu, Andrew Pepoy, Denis Kitchen, Jack C. Harris, Walter and Louise Simonson, Joe Rubenstein, Larry Hama, Matt Wagner, John K. Snyder III … we don’t have the bandwidth to name a tenth of the people I hang out with at the show. Even the (fairly) recently liberated Paul Levitz showed up as a freelancer.

Better still, the ambiance of the Baltimore Comic-Con allows me to make new friends, something that’s almost impossible to do at the largest shows like San Diego, New York, and Chicago. This year I was exceptionally lucky, spending memorable time with Phil LaMarr and Ross Richie.

ComicMix was there in full-force: Vinnie Bartilucci, Glenn Hauman, the aforementioned Adriane Nash, Emily S. Whitten, and the non-alphabetical Marc Alan Fishman – who was there with the rest of the Unshaven Comics crew, Matt Wright, and Kyle Gnepper, where they managed to sell out of their excellent indy comic, Samurnauts.

Probably the highlight of the Baltimore show each year is the Harvey Awards dinner, and this year was no exception. Phil LaMarr served as master of ceremonies, keeping the three and one-half hour show moving while keeping the audience in stiches, Ross Richie delivered an inspiring keynote address, and as usual Paul McSpadden did his usual amazing job coordinating the whole event.

The Hero Initiative honored Joe Kubert with its Humanitarian of the Year award – a decision made before Joe’s passing last month – and Dr. Kevin Brogan delivered a moving tribute to the late cartoonist and educator. As it turns out, Joe left us one more graphic novel. Their annual Lifetime Achievement Award went to John Romita Jr., in a presentation made by the team of Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

I particularly enjoyed seeing Marc, Kyle and Matt there for the first time – being sequestered in that room with most of the above-mentioned folks as well as with Stan Lee, John Romita Sr. and Jr., Mark Waid and so many others seemed like a heady experience for our pals, who, I think it’s safe to say, were in fanboy heaven. Pretty damn cool. I’m proud to say our own Glenn Hauman helped in the IT end of things, and ComicMix joined Insight Studios, DC Entertainment, Boom!, Comixology, Richmond Comix and Games, ComicWow!, Painted Visions, Bloop, Captain Blue Hen, Cards Comics and Collectibles, and Geppi’s Entertainment Museum as sponsors.

And I managed to sign up a new columnist for this site. I mentioned the name above somewhere (good hunting), and this person will start out as soon as we iron out scheduling issues and the usual start-up stuff. I’m very excited about this, and you will be too when you read this person’s stuff.

We also went apeshit covering the cosplay scene. Adriane posted about 100,000 pictures on our ComicMix Facebook page, all to the obvious enjoyment of the masses. We’ll be expanding our cosplay coverage considerably, while at the same time polishing our alliteration.

On behalf of the whole ComicMix crew, I want to deeply thank Marc Nathan and Brad Tree for once again putting on the best show in comics, and to thank my dearest of friends Mark and Carol Wheatley for being our personal sponsors. We-all had a great time!

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Steve Ditko – Creativity Just Beyond Reality

The Creativity of Steve Ditko  • Craig Yoe • With essays by Mykal Banta, Mike Gold, Jack C. Harris, Paul Levitz, and Amber Stanton • IDW/Yoe Books • $39.99 retail

It’s only fitting that I start a review of a book about Steve Ditko by raising an ethical question. Is it proper for a critic to review a book in which he has an essay, no matter how brilliant, poignant and vital that essay might be?

I don’t care. The latest tome from YoeBooks, The Creativity of Steve Ditko is so magnificent such petty concerns such as objectivity do not matter. Anything I can do to help direct the masses towards this effort is in service to a greater cause and, besides, I don’t get royalties.

There have been a number of books about Ditko, one of America’s most important comics creators who is as reclusive as he is gifted. In fact, this one is a sequel to Yoe’s The Art of Ditko, which I haven’t read – not because I’m not in it, but because I’m a cheap bastard. Creativity runs over 200 over-sized pages and weighs over three and one-half pounds, supporting my argument for electronic publishing as I suspect the majority of its audience consists of aging baby boomers who can only keep the book on our laps for a short period before reaching for Depends. I’m hard-pressed to suggest what Yoe could have cut.

There’s tons of artwork, including lots of large reprints of Ditko’s work including many full-length reprints of sundry horror and mystery stories. Steve always said he wants his work to speak for itself; here, it doesn’t speak – it screams. Loudly. The photographs are particularly interesting, as Steve hasn’t been seen in public since roughly the time we crawled out of the sea.

As one would expect from the man who ran one of America’s foremost design studios after his stint as creative director, vice president and general manager of Jim Henson’s Muppets with enough awards, honors, yadda yadda yadda, to sink the Titanic, The Creativity of Steve Ditko is as exquisitely designed as a fifth dimensional cathedral. I particularly admire Craig’s patience: it must have taken him forever to find so many top-shelf Ditko stories from Charlton that were actually printed on-register.

I don’t know if Steve would like this book. My feeling is, probably not. He simply doesn’t like the attention, although I’m unlikely to debate the right to privacy issue with him. But whether he likes it or not, Ditko deserves that attention – and he deserves all of the effort that Craig Yoe has lavished upon him.

And those essays are great.


Mike Gold: Nancy’s Tale

“The secret to Nancy’s success,” the classic story goes, “is that it takes as long to read it as it does to decide not to read it.”

When I heard that gag back in the 1970s, it was attributed to the great artist Wallace Wood. Chillingly, it’s possible it predates Woody’s career by decades. What somehow became synonymous with the bland and the banal started off as the offspring of a cheesecake girlie strip, Fritzi Ritz. It turns out Fritzi had this niece named Nancy who came to live with her. Being a gag strip, I do not believe the details of the demise of the spiky-haired girl’s parents were ever revealed, but it would be uncharitable to assume the spunky, independent girl murdered them in their sleep.

Nancy’s best friend was a Dead End Kids wannabe named Sluggo. Had Nancy shaved off her hair, enjoyed a sex-change operation, and donned a striped t-shirt, she would look exactly like her friend. So perhaps it was Sluggo who did the parents in after uncovering the results of a blood test.

Fritzi and Nancy lived in the nice part of town. Sluggo lived in the slums. For quite a time in the 1930s and, less so, thereafter, clearly what separated those neighborhoods was Wackyland. Had those adventures been published in the hippie era, we would have assumed writer/artist Ernie Bushmiller consumed a prolific quantity of LSD.

In fact, I am surprised a Nancy underground comic wasn’t published during those paisley days. Publisher/cartoonist/freedom fighter Denis Kitchen was, and probably still is, quite a fan of the stuff. He even produced a line of Nancy ties; I once wore the subtle power-tie version to a big-deal executive meeting at Warner Brothers, much to the chagrin of DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz.

Nonetheless, I suspect the secret of Nancy’s success was the decision to “dumb it down” for the general audience, a trick that saved Blondie’s ass during the previous decade. Remember, the only reason the even more surreal Krazy Kat endured throughout the ridiculously powerful Hearst chain was the fact that it was William Randolph Hearst’s favorite feature… and he signed the paychecks.

Despite its homogenization, Bushmiller produced a funny and often clever gag strip. The proof of this lies in the strips produced by others after Ernie died: even recycled old jokes looked pale and pathetic compared to the original. At its dullest moments during the later Bushmiller era, Nancy was sufficiently entertaining to maintain its role in the readers’ daily ritual at a time when comic strips gave subscribing newspapers their competitive edge. You know, back when they actually had to compete with other newspapers.

Fantagraphics Books has released a hefty tome reprinting Nancy’s mid-forties run, fronted by an introduction from Daniel Clowes. Given the feature’s undeserved reputation and the plethora of fine newspaper reprint books, I fear their Nancy Is Happy might get lost in the shuffle.

Nancy was good enough to keep our elders laughing through the Great Depression and World War II. Nancy is certainly good enough to keep us laughing through the 2012 elections.

Nancy Is Happy by Ernie Bushmiller • Edited by Kim Thompson • Fantagraphics Books, $24.99

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


I’ve seen the light.

I’ve seen the future of comics.

I had a meeting yesterday with a company that is going to change the game on the net and can change for comics and creators. I’ve haven’t been this excited since I was 17 and my very first real girlfriend Yvonne Stallworth said, “My parents won’t be home until the morning.”

At 17you know what that means, right fellas?

Poon tang…yeah.

Or in my case spending the night saying; “Please…please…please.”  Before you think I was begging for poon tang; “Please, Please, Please” is the title of a James Brown song I was singing… as I was begging for poon tang.

I can’t talk about the company or what they are doing…no that’s not true, I can talk about it but I’m hedging my bets just in case I’m wrong…which, by the way, I’m not.

That way if they crash and burn I’m protected and if they succeed I’m golden!

All the above said, I’m at a lost as to what was the last game changing moment in comics.

I guess it was the New 52 from DC.

I guess.

I’m not sure because to say something is a game changer is a big deal. Because it’s such a big deal I started thinking, what does it take to be a real game changer?

This is what I came up with. Areal game changer is a person or event that creates a new way of looking at things and years later that way has become the way.

So, with my personal criteria noted what follows are what I consider the most important game change decisions or people who have done so since I’ve been reading comics. You may disagree and if so feel free to amend, add or challenge some or all of my choices.

This list is in NO particular order.

  • Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man
  • Image Comics
  • Jack Kirby
  • Stan Lee
  • Dwayne McDuffie
  • First Comics
  • Mike Gold
  • Milestone Media
  • Death of Captain Marvel
  • Death of Superman
  • The New 52
  • The iPad
  • The Killing Joke
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths
  • Secret Wars
  • Death of Barry Allen
  • Neil Gaiman’s Sandman
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Kirby’s fourth world
  • Death of Gwen Stacy
  • Dave McKean
  • Bill Sienkiewicz
  • San Diego Comic Con International
  • Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles
  • Alan Speiegal
  • Arkham Asylum
  • Paul Levitz
  • Jenette Kahn
  • Axel Alonzo
  • Howard Chaykin
  • Dark Horse
  • Mike Richardson
  • Len Wein
  • Marv Wolfman
  • The A.P.E convention
  • John Jennings

Like I said the above list is in no particular order. Don’t send me comments about McFarlane being before Stan Lee, the list is in no particular order.


Now. Have at it!



DENNIS O’NEIL: Celebrating Will Eisner

Well, I didn’t see you at the Will Eisner panel/celebration, held last Thursday, March 1st, at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, which, if you need to ask, is located at 594 Broadway, New York City, in the district known as SoHo. (And if you did need to ask…let’s just say that any comics reader, casual or otherwise, who is in lower Manhattan and has not yet visited MOCCA, and continues not to visit MOCCA just may have condemned themselves to an eternity of having Seduction of the Innocent read aloud to them by Bobcat Goldthwait.)

But back to the panel/celebration: you weren’t there and we didn’t miss you because we had what was pretty nearly a full house and that was gratifying. The “we” to whom I refer was three people who knew, or knew a lot about, Will, who died in 2005; Judy Hansen, Karen Green and your humble servant. Moderator was the always reliable and excellent Paul Levitz, so pertinent questions were asked, both of the panelists and the audience (of which you were not a member). I left knowing more than when I came, and I suspect that most of the other folk there did, too. I was particularly interested in Ms. Green’s discussion of Will’s business practices, which helped confirm my belief that Will Eisner was what Mark Twain wanted to be: a successful capitalist as well as a superb storyteller.

Did I mention gratifying? For openers, it’s always nice when someone of genuine merit gets recognized, especially when that person was a friend. And the fact that the venue for such recognition exists is nice, too. It indicates that the (always) artificial demarcations between “high” and “low” culture are going the way of the dinosaurs, and some would say, amen and about time.

(But not you because you probably wouldn’t be where amen and about time was being said.)

It might be possible, humbly, hat clutched in whitened fingers, to suggest that respectability does not always benefit what becomes respectable, but that is a pretty damn complicated topic for another occasion.

As we comics geeks continue our gradual trek toward the nicer parts of town, and the world outside our borders comes to recognize that the great comics guys – Eisner, Jack Kirby, Walt Kelly, and, no doubt, young others who are too busy at their boards to wonder about plaudits…these guys were as accomplished in their ways as Dickens and Michaelangelo were in theirs, we’ll have further opportunities to pay them the homage they deserve Is a televised awards ceremony too much to expect? Oh lordy, I hope so. (As I told you last wee, televised awards shindigs are, I boldly state, post-industrial versions of the Inquisition.)

Not that any of this concerns you. Awards? Panels? Not for you. You’re too busy watching Cops reruns. Bad boy bad boy.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Creators Are People Too

Hot off the lips of far better men and women than I (aka all the other ComicMix columnists) comes a little discussion weighing in on all this legal mumbo-jumbo going on in comic-book-land. Not to be outdone (remember when I lit a wee fire under Michael Davis a few weeks back?), I figured I’d let loose a few witticisms on the injustices being faced by far too many comic creators these days. Or just as every week, I’ll bury my foot in my mouth making wild assumptions, and asking dumb questions. Either way, you’re entertained… right?

For those not following the drama, read a few posts (such as here and here) and catch up. Basically Gary Friedrich got torched by Marvel for having the gall to turn a pocket out to them now that Ghost Rider is making them a few greenbacks. Gary isn’t alone in doing this. The creators of Superman did it. The family of Jack Kirby did it. And even over in the land ruled by Robert Kirkman, his longtime friend is doing it. And in all the cases, there seems to be a very simple precedent: When the check was cut to these creators for their initial involvement, signing it waived their rights to own their creation. Before the 1980s these checks had the contract right there on the check. I assume in the Kirkman case there were contracts and papers and lawyers, etc. In any event, for a small-time creator like myself, it’s scary and sad to read. A large part of me is angry. A smaller, more Jewish part of me is saying “Didn’t they know what they were signing?”

Please note, I am Jewish. So, it’s cool for me to go there.

Honestly, I’m torn on the subject. On one hand you’d figure that the person who did the legwork creating something should see the eventual fruit of their labor, when the money starts flowing. Would Marvel or DC be anywhere near as big as they are right now without the hard work and creativity of guys like Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and the rest? The short answer: Hell No!

Creating a character that becomes a cultural icon, even for five minutes, takes real skill. And a suitcase of money doesn’t make Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, or designs Superman’s iconic costume. When the profits from the Spider-Man franchise, or the Nolan Bat-Franchise started rolling in, is it wrong to think that the person who initially created the character be able to see a little cash come their way? Certainly, as a compassionate person, I say of course. I’m not looking to be a communist here, but seriously, are a few shekels sent to the Mr. Friedrich when Nic Cage’s movie sells a few pairs of Underoos really going break Marvel’s bank? I doubt it.

On the other hand… if the paperwork is all signed, these creators are up a creek without a paddle. When I signed on the dotted line for my car, it’s mine. Even if I hate it the second I take the keys from the salesman… I’m stuck with it. Not a perfect metaphor, but I think my point is clear enough, no? When Gary, or any of the aforementioned creators were given their assignments from their editors… was there not a discussion about compensation? Assuming there was, it’s really on the head of said creators to know exactly what they are getting into. At the end of the day, if you sell your soul to the Devil, there’s no way out of Hell. Even if everyone agrees that you got screwed. It’s your name on the dotted line, and it’s your duty to read every word above it.

Face facts, no comic book artist or writer I know is living in a mansion, with extra money flowing out of their pockets. The fact is as I write this very column, I’m scouring Craigslist for freelance gigs in hopes of earning a few more bucks so I don’t have to send my wife back to work, so we can barely pay for daycare for our son (who is only a few weeks old). If Marvel or DC came calling at my door right now and told me they wanted to offer me a book, I’d sign papers so fast they’d need a fire extinguisher to cool my hands off.

Why? Money. I need it. They have it. And I’m safely assuming most anyone working in comics before me was in the same position. And therein lies the problem. The bigwigs behind these publishers have all shared the same evil grin behind their creators’ faces. Having the rights to the characters means raking in all the money from all the avenues open to said characters. Movies, TeeVee, T-shirts, action figures, sippy cups, night lights, toothbrushes, online fan club memberships, cereal, and oh yeah… comics. There’s no doubt in my mind that those with the cash have maintained the mentality that it’s their money, and they’ll hold onto it by any means necessary.

Remember that whole #OccupyWallStreet thing? Well, I’m certain the people behind the people behind the people at both the House of Ideas and the Brothers Warner aren’t in the 99%.

At the root of all this is the human factor. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and when you need to pay a bill, you do what you have to do to pay it. If the check is sitting on your desk, and all that stands between your next meal is your integrity, do you starve with a belly full of pride? Do you go the route of Robert Kirkman or Mike Mignola, and take your million dollar ideas to places where they let you keep your soul? Well, it’s different for everyone in comics. And when the good guys like Paul Levitz (see John’s column) step down, who will be there to fight for the little guys? Cause let’s face it… the second someone turns heels and walks away with their idea, there’s a line out the door and around the block of people waiting for a chance to walk right in.

And I’ll be damned if I’m not one of them.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander Changes The Subject


JOHN OSTRANDER: Ghost Rider – What Is Owed?

Denny O’Neil used to have a T-shirt that proclaimed “Growing old is not for sissies.” As I get older, the hard truth of that keeps coming back to me. Case in point.

Two days ago, there was an article here in ComicMix about Gary Friedrich who lost his case against Marvel about participation in the monies made from the movie (now movies) of Ghost Rider, which he created at Marvel. Among other reasons cited by the judge, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, was that Friedrich gave up his rights to the character when he signed checks that had, above the signature line, language requiring him to give up any rights to the character.

I’ve done that, too. You had no choice in the matter in those days. If you wanted to cash the check, you had to endorse it and you had to endorse it beneath the legal crap. There was no negotiation, there was no discussion. It was, to be blunt, coercion.

The name, Ghost Rider, had also already been used at Marvel as one of the Western characters they had – said character, again, being created by Gary Friedrich. Friedrich also had to sign a document giving up all rights – and why wouldn’t he? This was seven years before the first Superman film with Christopher Reeve showed up, six years before George Lucas made Star Wars and showed there was a ton of money to be made off of ancillary rights such as toys et al. You signed those documents because that’s what was necessary to get the work. No movies were being made, no toys were being made, there were no video games – the only money to be made was from the work itself. There was no indie market in those days where you could take your ideas. You made the deal that was there to be made.

The judge had to base her decision on what were the legal facts – and they said that Marvel owed Gary Friedrich nothing. Without Friedrich, however, the property doesn’t exist. From all reports, he’s not in good shape. He could use the money – even a taste.

What is he owed?

Injury to insult department. The judge has not only told Friedrich to stop saying he created Ghost Rider, he was ordered to pay Marvel seventeen grand in damages.

Friedrich owes Marvel $17,000.00!

He’s not the only freelancer in this position. Years ago, I saw Gene Colan and his wife at a convention and I steeled myself up to go say hello to someone I thought (and think) was one of the unique great talents in the industry. He was having eye troubles at the time (with which I would come to completely empathize) and he was, to be honest, a little angry and bitter. Like other old pros, he felt cast aside and forgotten by the industry and he warned me to make sure I had money in the bank or find something else I could do. I wish now I had taken his advice more strongly.

This is not to say there are not groups like the Hero Initiative out there who do tremendous work in helping people who have given to the industry but there are financial limits to what they can do. There is no equivalent to a union or a guild in this industry; if you even think of starting one, you’re gone. John Broome, fabled writer in the Silver Age, found that out.

What is owed to any of those who built a company, built this industry, and then got left behind?

I won’t pretend; I’m more or less in that boat and it scares me. I’m luckier than some; with Amanda Waller, who I created, I’ll see some participation for her use in the Green Lantern movie, just as I did for her use in Smallville and Justice League Unlimited. I think that’s fair and, fortunately, legally binding. Thank you, Paul Levitz.

But what about others, like Gary Friedrich, who worked before there was any such notion? There is, as always, a wide distance between what’s legal and what’s right.

What is owed to those who came before, who did the work on which later, more lucrative, works are built? The contracts, the law, says nothing is owed.

Does that seem right to you?

It doesn’t to me.

If you agree, tell Marvel, tell their parent company, Disney, that they owe the creator something, contract or no contract. Fans can do something and it can be effective. Gary Friedrich isn’t one of the big, great names in comics. But he created Ghost Rider and, legally or not, they owe him.

It’s what’s right.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


MIKE GOLD: Stupid Logo Tricks

Sometime around 1987, DC Comics’ then-publisher Jenette Kahn told DC’s next publisher Paul Levitz that it was time to change the DC logo. Paul protested and pulled me in – I gather I was handy, or perhaps I was least likely to look like a plant. I chirped in “No, too soon. Branding takes time. Some people have just started to spend money on that logo with Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen.

It was painful for me to say this because I hated the DC Bullet. It was designed by Milton Glazer, and those in-lines of his were everywhere. But on cheap paper with those silly putty printing plates, his in-lines either dropped out or boogied up like a crack fiend drawing an arrow with his feet. Still, I supported Paul’s decision. If it worked for Coca-Cola for some 110 years, it should work for DC Comics for 30.

That’s about how long Glazer’s Bullet was in, and on, action. It was replaced by the one you see at the upper left-hand of the graphic above. Even after 30 years, many fans initially hated it. But I think even the most cynical liked it on the big screen… and even on the teevee screen. After a short while, it dawned on me that this was probably the best DC logo ever – except that, even though it is worthy, that particular distinction wasn’t much of a compliment.

Some five years later, DC is being rebranded. No, I’m not talking about The New 52: that’s rebranding in the sense that M&M added blue candies to their package while removing the light brown ones. The DC Spin has been sent to the glue factory, to be replaced by that which you see on the upper right of the graphic above.

I’ve started at it for a couple weeks now, taking time out for meals and New Jersey Devils games. And three words come to mind:

Boring. Stupid. And Needless.

Not to be eclipsed, the folks at Bongo Comics – represented by the logo in the lower left of the above graphic – decided to do DC one better. Their new logo is boringer. Stupider. And needlesser.

Both logos replace something that incorporates a bit of the energy and feel of the product itself. Both logos are bland at best; Bongo’s looks like an old Whitman title from the 1970s, and DC’s… well, I don’t know what the hell that thing is. It reminds me of the old toy I had back when milkmen still walked the Earth: it was sort of a pad with one plastic sheet on top of a black something or other. Kids scribbled on it with a wooden stylus, and when we got tired we’d pull the plastic sheet up off the black background and the scrawlings would disappear.

If only.

The most meaningful line in any movie was uttered by the character Governor William J. Lepetomane in Blazing Saddles: “Gentlemen, we’ve got to protect our phony-baloney jobs!” That sentiment is what makes the world go ‘round. If designers and art directors left well enough alone, we would have less work for designers and art directors.

Comics should stir some sense of wonder within the breast of the reader. These logos do not. They probably look real good on the thick glass doors that front their reception rooms, they certainly look real good in the corporate annual report (should Time Warner actually acknowledge they publish comic books), but as a device that inspires attention and attraction, they suffer from the worst sort of sanction: death by dullness.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


It’s not a black or white world. The world is made up of many shades of gray.

Yet somehow when something happens to a black character “racism” always clings to the debate.

There has been a flurry of activity since DC cancelled Static Shock. The DC official line is the book was cancelled because of sales. Some fans think DC should have kept the book alive by whatever means necessary and only canceled the book because they did not think enough of the character to change direction.

Some think that DC cancelled the book because Static was black.

What do I, co-creator of Static, think?

I don’t care why they cancelled the book. I care that they cancelled the book.

A guy once put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed. I didn’t care why the gun jammed, I cared that the gun jammed.

Sometimes the reason for something is not nearly as important as the thing.

In the almost 20 years that Milestone, I company I co-founded, has been around I’ve never publicly commented on the direction of the Milestone universe. Never a word on the management rather I was with the company or not. I’ll do it here, but just to make a point.

I did not like the book.

Moving on…

I mentioned in a post on ComicMix last week that there are some who think that DC cancelled the book because Static was black but somehow fail to acknowledge that DC published the book in the first place.  I love people who don’t let little things like the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

Over on my website, Danny Donovan wrote an amazing piece about the cancellation called “Not shocked.” A reader wrote a wonderful comment making the case that DC’s actions regarding the Static cancellation had strong overtones or racism.

I do not believe DC cancelled the book because of some racist agenda.

So why do I say the writer’s comments were “wonderful?” Because he presented his case, backed up his thoughts and wrote them in a clear concise way. I don’t have to agree with someone to acknowledge they make a good case.

A few years ago during The Black Panel at Comic Con International I addressed one of the many rumors about Milestone Media by telling the audience how Denys Cowan started Milestone and I co-signed, period. Milestone was Deny’s baby and without Denys Milestone never would have happened.




Soon after Comic Con, a blogger went on line and wrote that “his sources” told him that my “version” of Milestone’s origin was not the way Milestone started and because Denys (who was on the panel with me) didn’t say anything after I made my comments, somehow that meant I was lying.

Like I said, I love people who don’t let little things like the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

So, me being me, I went online and told this guy that his “sources” were wrong. He came back with “these are very good sources” and he was standing behind them.

He was standing behind “very good sources” instead of giving me (who was there) the benefit of the doubt. What I did next was tell him I’d give him ten thousand dollars if he could prove what he was telling thousands of people on the net.  If he didn’t prove it then he should give me ten grand or shut the fuck up.

He shut the fuck up.

The comment on MDW made by the guy who suggests racism had a hand in the cancellation of Static gave a few examples of DC purposive prejudice towards black characters and creators.

And… he made some good points. I know of one instance when he was on the right track. He did not give particulars so I cannot say for a fact that he was talking about the following incident but it fits the general description.

When Milestone started negotiations with DC there was one meeting in which an important high-ranking DC executive said that when it came to black characters in the market place, black meant death. He went on to suggest we don’t show the characters in any ads so as not to turn off the public. He finished once again with, “black means death.”

At that moment one more racist word out of his mouth may have meant death if the looks on the faces of Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle and myself meant anything.

Here’s my two cents. That guy was an asshole and people in the industry generally accept that he was out of touch and yes I felt at the time he was racist.  I was in his office once admiring a photo of a sports car he had on the wall. “Maybe one day with a lot of hard work you can have a car like that,” he said with a smile.

I reached into my pocket and showed him my car keys. “I already have one.”

The look on his face was well worth the distain he showed me from that moment on. He never spoke to me again unless he had to.

I believe he was racist and because he was a high-ranking member of the DC staff I believe he could be a problem. Was he a problem? I can’t say for sure.

Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz were his bosses and they believed in Milestone from day one, so fuck him. I saw him once after he left DC, he was very pleasant and so was I. Why be decent?

As Denys says, “too small, throw it back.”

That was then, this is now…

Hey Bruce! How you living? Guess how many sports cars I have now!

Here’d something that’s never addressed in these “DC is racist claims” concerning Milestone.

The founders.

No founder of Milestone would stand for any Jim Crow shit. Not now, not then.

It will never happen and if some people would just look at the backgrounds and resumes of the founders they would know that Milestone is made up of people that Ice Cube famously said are ‘the wrong niggas to fuck with.’

Has race been an issue at DC?  Yes!  Race is an issue everywhere. The question is when race becomes racism. DC did not cancel Static because they were racist; they cancelled Static because the fans did not want to see one of the greatest characters ever created fighting a giant fish.

A giant fish??


Lastly, DC took a risk with Milestone but almost twenty years later Milestone is still here, still a topic of conversation still a great universe with great characters and I’m sure that Static is a risk they will take again.

As Captain Kirk said, “Risk? Risk, is our business!”

Good job Danny… for a white boy. ;-)


MARTHA THOMASES: I’m Dreaming of… Paul Levitz?

Androids may or may not dream of electric sheep. Lately, however, I dream of Paul Levitz.

No, not like that. Get your mind out of the gutter. Yeesh.

Having said that, it’s still a disturbing experience.

I’ve known Paul since the late 1970s. He was my boss’s boss for the ten years I worked at DC Comics in the 1990s. His daughter is around the same age as my son, and sometimes we would both bring our kids to a convention and watch them work the booth together. I don’t see him very much these days, but our relationship has never been worse than cordial.

That’s not why he’s prowling through my sub-conscious.

In my dreams, I’m back at DC. The only problem is, no one else knows it. No one has actually hired me. I’m sneaking into an empty office, unpacking my Rolodex, and booting up the archaic IBM computer.

I’ve secured a space, and now I need to start doing my job, so I can justify my position. When I had the job, I’d go and talk to editors to find out what we were publishing, whether it was a newsworthy storyline or an interesting creative team. This technique worked pretty well for me. I got stories into gossip columns (e.g. the Lois and Clark engagement, the Death of Superman), and I got writers and artists interviewed by mainstream magazines (e.g. Neil Gaiman in Details).

Now I have to sneak around, crawling into offices to snatch photocopies of upcoming books. And then, I find out that Warner Bros. is going to make a Justice League movie. This fills me with fear.

Why? What does this mean?

I was one of the last people to actually get my own computer at DC, so clearly, my sub-conscious wants me to assert territorial rights. The crawling means my self-esteem is low, hardly a news-flash.

But a Justice League movie?

During my tenure, it was policy that any time there was a story involving a character scheduled for television or the movies, my work had to be approved by Warner Bros.’ publicists in Burbank before I could contact any media. This was cumbersome but doable when the only character involved was Batman. For the most part, corporate was reasonable.

The most frustrating exception, from my point of view, was when Chris O’Donnell was promoting a Batman movie on the Letterman show, right across the street. I wanted to send over a copy of a Robin comic, maybe get a picture. I was told I couldn’t, because Chris didn’t like to promote “licensed” products. My attempt to say that the movie was licensed from us was not successful.

A Justice League movie would mean that no character could be promoted without corporate approval from Burbank.

And everything would have to go through Paul. I have to keep myself a secret, but still be spectacularly successful to keep my nonexistent job. In my dream, Paul is the logjam. I must simultaneously perform a miracle and get the credit I deserve, while acting like I’m not really there, just visiting.

At least I kept my clothes on.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman