Tagged: Peter David

Mike Gold: Phantom Survivor

While we’re all busy celebrating the 49th anniversary of Doctor Who and the 50th anniversary of both Spider-Man and the James Bond movies, the daddy of heroic fantasy characters quietly turned 76 way back in February. Or, depending upon how you look at it, he turned 476.

The Phantom was the very first masked, costumed hero in comics, debuting in the pages of the many Hearst papers February 17, 1936. He wore a dark outfit – when the feature added a Sunday page, an unthinking engraver made the costume purple for some unknown reason and the color stuck. He fought piracy and other crimes and handed down his clothes, his weapons, his Skull Cave, his fortune and, most important, his legacy to his son. The current guy – most have been named Kit Walker – is the 21st. This cool concept predated Doctor Who by a generation.

One would think the locals were pretty stupid to believe this dude has been the same guy all these many years. Indeed, given the fact that the base for the Phantom’s stories is in Africa (originally, it was sort of India-ish), one might even think this concept was kind of racist. Creator Lee Falk’s liberal street-cred was impeccable and he built the myth on local folk-lore and the unimpeachable fact that criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot.

As time progressed we saw African civilization modernize as we continued to see its treasures and its history plundered by contemporary pirates and opportunist Europeans. Nonetheless, about 30 years ago I was having a conversation with the features editor of the Chicago Tribune who expressed astonishment that The Phantom polled highest among its black male readership. I told him he wasn’t reading the strip very closely.

What’s remarkable – astonishing, really – is the fact that The Phantom remains in the newspapers to this very day. This is a feat unmatched by Terry and The Pirates, Little Orphan Annie, Li’l Abner, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and just about every other continuity newspaper comic strip except Dick Tracy and Mandrake The Magician.

I should point out that Mandrake the Magician was created by Lee Falk as well… two years before The Phantom.

The original artist was Ray Moore; subsequent talent on the strip and on the comic books reads like a Who’s Who of comics: Carmine Infantino, Bill Lignante, Sy Barry, Joe Orlando, Luke McDonnell, Dave Gibbons, Dick Giordano, Don Newton, Jim Aparo, Alex Saviuk, Graham Nolan, Alex Ross, Paul Ryan, Eduardo Barreto, and Terry Beatty… to name but a few. Writers include Peter David, Mark Verheiden, Scott Beatty, Tom DeFalco, and Tony Bedard. Tony DePaul has been writing the strip for the past twelve years; he’s also written many of the comic book adventures as well. Nearly every major American comic book publisher had a turn in creating new adventures, and it remains a top-seller in Australia, Sweden, India and many other nations.

Currently, the dailies are being drawn by Paul Ryan and Terry Beatty – perhaps best known for his work on Ms. Tree – is the Sunday artist. Terry had the awesome responsibility of stepping into Eduardo Barreto’s shoes after Ed’s sudden death last year. He’s doing quite an admirable job.

I continue to be amazed by The Phantom’s enduring appeal. If your local paper isn’t carrying the feature (assuming you still have a local paper) you can read it at King Features’ excellent Daily Ink site, where they carry all of the current KFS strips, including Mandrake, as well as reprints of many of their classics, including The Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon, Buz Sawyer, and about a zillion others. It costs $19.99 a year to subscribe to the whole thing, and I doubt you can spend the same amount on a better mix of comics material.

Every time we read a costumed hero comic of any sort, we owe a debt of gratitude to Lee Falk, an amazingly gifted and singularly interesting man.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Michael Davis: Visible Only To The French

Hi, there. I’m not Michael Davis. I’m his editor. Yeah, that’s not a good sign, is it?

Here’s the deal. Michael wrote the first part of his latest life-shattering saga Why Does Michael Davis Still Read Comics? We ran that last week; if you doubt me, click on the link. Then, according to Michael, he wrote the second part, scooped up his wife, and caught an airplane to France. That’s pretty cool, if you happen to like France. Evidently, Michael doesn’t. He doesn’t like flying even more. He likes his wife, and I suspect he likes the work he’s doing out there, and he probably changed his mind — in part — about France after some good old-fashioned American tourism. 

Please note, I did not say “Michael sent me the second part of his series and then caught an airplane to France.”  This is because he didn’t do that. Michael said apologetically he was in such a rush he forgot. This is entirely possible. It’s a human thing. We all do it. Unfortunately, one of the things I do is mock my friends given any opportunity, which is why I will no doubt be found floating face down in that dirty ol’ river next to Patches some day. But, to quote Michael when he rips off Peter David, I digress.

(By the way, did you know that Peter David’s last name is really Davis and he is Michael’s father? There’s a reason that story doesn’t get out much.)

Here’s the thing. The last line of Michael’s column reads “End of part one!” It does not say “continued next week.” Hmmmm… Makes me wonder. 

Anyway, Michael told me he’s having a lousy time, possibly so I wouldn’t get jealous. He says the bacon sucks, and I believe that part. Did you know that in France, French bacon is called liberté de bacon? Go know!

Since Michael is over there and not over here and evidently there’s a law against him contacting his assistant and having her e-mail me the missing column (it’s amazing what technology can do these days), Michael says he will probably go to a French comic book store and write up his experience there for next week. We’ll see. Personally, I’m doing a Kickstarter to raise his bail. 

Love you, pal. Enjoy your trip.

In spite of yourself.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Gets Serious


Marvel Adds “Castle Miniseries to be Written by Peter David

Marvel Entertainment and ABC Studios are proud to announce Castle: A Calm Before A Storm, an all-new comic book limited series by the popular Castle television series. The first issue of this five issue series, based the titular novel from noted author Richard Castle, hits comic shops, the Marvel Comics app and the Marvel Web Store on December 5th, 2012. Following issues will ship monthly through April 2013. Castle: A Calm Before A Storm is written by New York Times best-selling author Peter David (Stephen King’s Dark Tower, X-Factor), penciled by popular artist Robert Atkins (Amazing Spider-Man) and features powerful covers by Mico Suayan (Moon Knight).

Derrick Storm is looking forward to finally getting out of the game – stocking up his cabin cruiser and heading out into the open Atlantic for good. But his plans are put on hold when, on the eve of a UN summit, the severed head of a Russian diplomat is found bobbing in the backwaters of the Hudson. Storm’s CIA handler Clara Strike, enlists him to crack a plot of global proportions, pitting the uncanny PI against a legion of eastern bloc mercenaries, and an ex-KGB hit-man known simply as “The Fear.”

“The continued success by Marvel with these graphic fiction adaptations of my work is incredible. I’m thrilled to welcome Peter, Robert and Mico to the family,” said Richard Castle.  “Derrick Storm is one of my favorite creations and it’s great to have such an excellent creative team join us with this new comic series,”

This is the third Castle graphic fiction adaptation to be released through a collaborative effort between Marvel, ABC Studios and the producers of Castle. In 2011, Castle: Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm dominated sales charts and garner worldwide acclaim. And on October 15th, 2012, Castle: Richard Castle’s Storm Season will be released on sale in comic shops, the Marvel Comics app, Marvel Web Store, iBookstore, Nook Bookstore and everywhere books are sold

“The partnership with Marvel has been a dream,” said Andrew W. Marlowe, “Castle” creator/executive producer. ‘Their extraordinary creative vision has given our audience a new and exciting way to enjoy Richard Castle’s work.”

“With the newest adaptation of the Derrick Storm novels it’s safe to say that Richard Castle’s work is a hit with comic book fans around the world!” said Axel Alonso, Marvel Entertainment Editor in Chief. “Castle: A Calm Before A Storm follows in the tradition of our Castle projects full of great characters, international intrigue and packs every page with lots of action!”

Written by PETER DAVID
13 & Up …$3.99

Castle stars Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle, Stana Katic as NYPD Detective Kate Beckett, Susan Sullivan as Martha Rodgers, Molly Quinn as Alexis Castle, Ruben Santiago-Hudson as NYPD Captain Roy Montgomery, Tamala Jones as Medical Examiner Lanie Parish, Jon Huertas as NYPD Detective Javier Esposito, and Seamus Dever as NYPD Detective Kevin Ryan.

Castle is produced by ABC Studios. Andrew Marlowe is the show’s creator/executive producer, along with executive producers Rob Bowman, David Amann, Laurie Zaks and Armyan Bernstein.

Peter David is “Pulling Up Stakes”

Fans don’t always realize how much of what they get to read on the marketplace gets out there despite publisher preconceptions.  History is filled with any number of books, ranging from A Wrinkle in Time to Confederacy of Dunces to Harry Potter, that hit the market and left in their wake a host of rejections from various editors because the stories didn’t fit in with what they were looking for.

Pulling Up Stakes first made its presence known at various conventions when I first started working on it.  I’d read sample chapters and enthused audiences begged to know when it was going to be done so that they could find out what happened next.

Yet when the book was circulated to editors, the reason for their passing on it were impressive, to say the least.

Pulling Up Stakes tells the skewed tale of Vincent Hammond, a twenty-something vampire stalker, who lives with his domineering mother in a small community of hunters tracing their lineage back to the French Revolution.  Vince, however, has a rather singular problem:  he’s a vampire.  And if his mother finds out, she’ll kill him.  Literally.  So he doesn’t dare come out of the coffin, so to speak and keeping his secret becomes further complicated when…

Well, we’ll get to that at a future date.

Little did I, or the fans who have loved the readings up to that point, know that that Pulling Up Stakes violated too many rules of the genre.  Editors who rejected it, however, didn’t hesitate to explain the problems.

First, if you have a vampire story, you have to have a female protagonist.

Second, men can’t write vampire stories.  That’s solely the arena of women writers.  Bram Stoker, Joss Whedon…you can suck it.

Third, humor doesn’t sell.  So apparently you’ve doomed yourself when your vampiric narrator says things like, “Sparklepires?  Come on.  Real vampires considered the Twilight books to be such a loose flow of unmitigated crap that they were typically referred to as ‘Vampirrhea.’”

So apparently by writing a humorous vampire story with a male protagonist, I managed to hit the trifecta of hopelessness.  No publisher would touch it.

And as you, dear reader, work on prying your slack jaw off the floor, consider how nice it would be to send a message to the publishers that maybe, just maybe, thinking outside the box now and then might be a nice idea, by letting everyone know that Pulling Up Stakes is going to be making its debut at Crazy 8 Press in just a few weeks.  Because you can’t keep a good undead man down.

IAMTW Announces 2012 Scribe Award Nominees and Grandmaster

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers co-founders Lee Goldberg & Max Allan Collins are pleased to announce the 2012 nominees for the Scribe Award, honoring excellence in media tie-in writing, and the naming of author Kevin J. Anderson as this year’s Grandmaster for his lifetime achievement in the field.

Anderson is the author of more than one hundred novels, adding up to over 20 million books in print in thirty languages. His work includes the STAR WARS “Jedi Academy” books, three internationally bestselling X-FILES hardcovers, the Superman novels THE LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON and ENEMIES & ALLIES, many novelizations (SKY CAPTAIN & THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, etc.) and, of course, the ten globally bestselling DUNE novels he has co-authored with Brian Herbert.

He has won or been nominated for numerous prestigious honors, including the Nebula Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and a New York Times Notable Book prize…and now he can add IAMTW Grandmaster to the list of his extraordinary achievements.

The awards will be given at a ceremony in July at this year’s Comic-Con convention in San Diego.




MIKE HAMMER: KISS HER GOODBYE by Max Allan Collins & Mickey Spillane



STAR WARS: KNIGHT ERRANT by John Jackson Miller






CONAN THE BARBARIAN by Michael Stackpole

CRYSIS LEGION by Peter Watts


COWBOYS & ALIENS by Joan D. Vinge


ME & MY MONSTERS: MONSTER MANNERS by Rory Growler (Ian Pike)

THE SMURFS movie tie-in by Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon



MIKE HAMMER: ENCORE FOR MURDER by Max Allan Collins & Mickey Spillane




Visiting “After Earth”

As many recall, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman and I have been writing bible material for 2013’s After Earth film starring Will and Jaden Smith. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, its set in the future and we’ve had a ball filling in gaps and expanding on concepts found in the script.

Early last week, Peter said we three were invited to the set in Philadelphia to watch one of the final days of shooting before production wrapped and headed out for location filming. How could we say no? I arranged a day off from student teaching and on Friday, we took a road trip south.


Spider-Man: Threat, Menace, or Bank Robber?

Hat tip to Peter David, who sent this out with the note, “Holy crap. J. Jonah Jameson was right all along.”

Prince George’s County Police Department is looking for an armed man they suspect robbed a BB&T bank in Fort Washington, Md., on Wednesday afternoon. According to the police department’s blog, the man robbed the bank while wearing a Spider-Man mask and matching Spider-Man sweater:

The suspect is described as an unknown race male in his 20’s, around 5’5”-5’7” tall, and weighing between 150-170lbs. He was last seen wearing a black and gray “North Face” jacket, a black hooded “Spider Man” sweater with a spider on the chest, a “Spider Man” mask with a white web design, black shoes with white soles, gloves, a blue canvass bag, and armed with a silver handgun.

This is, of course, not the first time that Spider-Man’s visage has been employed in a bank robbery. In 2010, a Utah bank was robbed by a man in a Spider-Man mask. Earlier this year, a credit union was robbed by a man in a Spider-Man mask (the same man may also have robbed a Waffle House). The blog Consumerist says Spider Man masks for robbers are so common they’re a veritable trend.

via Spider-Man Robs Bank In Maryland (PHOTOS).

Maybe the new movie is going over budget, and Marc Webb needs to make up the shortfall?

MIKE GOLD: These Comics Really Suck Because…

Wow. I’m sure gonna piss a lot of my friends off. Please don’t take this personally. It has nothing to do with your skill, your judgment, or your personal predilections. It’s just my opinion, one that is somewhat contradicted (only somewhat) by sales figures. Here it comes, folks.

When it comes to comics, licensed property tie-ins suck.

Okay, this isn’t an across-the-board opinion. There are exceptions. Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson’s adaptation of Alien comes to mind. That was, let’s see, back in 1979. Remember Sturgeon’s Law? Ninety percent of everything Ted Sturgeon wrote is crap? Or something like that. My rule of thumb regarding entire genres is this: if you’re doing about five points worse than Ted Sturgeon’s Law, you suck.

There are solid reasons behind this blather. First, any group of talented creators – say, roughly, enough to fill Yankee Stadium – would not create what you see in a tie-in comic book if left on their own. Characters, concepts, designs, interrelationships, plots – they all would likely be… original.

Second, the characters, concepts, designs, interrelationships, and plots created for movies or teevee or toys were created for that particular medium. Transferring them to another medium requires sacrificing a degree of nuance that makes the source material unique. The timing of an actor’s performance that is used to establish character does not come across in comics; the artist is likely to get that bit across visually, but in the process he or she is changing the character.

Third, you can’t change the direction of anything. In a medium that for 25 years has been nothing other than constant change, the concepts of the licensed comic book are set in stone. The reader quickly realizes that any original character that might be introduced is likely to be killed off, and killed off in realistic terms – as opposed to the “death is completely meaningless” approach used in comics. Worse still, if the character works the licensor is likely to take it and use it in their own movies, shows, merchandising and whathaveyou – and the comics creators who thunk it all up ain’t gonna see a penny.

Finally, creators work with editors, some of whom are great (hiya, folks!), some less than great, and others couldn’t sort out a pack of Necco wafers if the candy was numbered. Editors work with editorial directors and editors-in-chief and publishers and if they’re any good they fight with the marketing department or at least try to wake them up. But when it comes to licensed properties, you’ve got the owners licensed products people to deal with. Not only do they not know comics, they usually do not know the properties they administrator. Case in point:

The idiot who passed judgment on DC’s Star Trek titles was so bad, if writer Peter David and editor Bob Greenberger flew out to Los Angeles and murdered the son of a bitch, I would have gone to great lengths to establish a solid alibi for them. Probably one involving a Mets game… but I digress. Here’s another.

Writer Joey Cavalieri plotted a Bugs Bunny mini-series that was, in my opinion as editor, as brilliant as it was hilarious. Stunningly brilliant. We sent it to the West Coast for the Warner Bros. studio approval. They hated it so much their Grand Imperial Klingon in charge of toothbrush licenses flew out to New York to cut me a new asshole. Unfortunately for editorial coordinator Terri Cunningham, this nuclear holocaust happened in her office.

The Mistress of All Things Looney started pointing out the good stuff we couldn’t do. Daffy Duck couldn’t issue spittle. Porky Pig couldn’t stutter. Tweety Bird couldn’t be a host on BTV, the all-bird watching network. Foghorn Leghorn couldn’t own a fast-food franchise. Bugs couldn’t be so manipulative. Hello? Anybody home? This is Looney Tunes we’re talking here!

I politely pointed out these were either long established character bits that started in the theaters in 1940 and continued on television to that very day. I said the Tweety and Foghorn bits were satire.

Looney Tunes are not about satire!,” she screamed.

I saw poor Terri Cunningham in my peripheral vision. She looked like she was desperately trying to gnaw her way out of her own office. I said “Answer me this one question. Have you ever actually seen any of the Looney Tunes cartoons? Ever?” I turned on my heel and walked back to my office.

Here’s the worst part. My story is not in the least bit atypical. Not at all. It’s not even the worst I can tell you.

So when it comes to comic books, there’s a creative challenge to doing licensed properties and I’d take on some of those challengers as long as the licensor knows the property, but personally, I’d rather read something original.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil