Tagged: Robert Greenberger

Ed Catto: The 30th Anniversary of Star Trek’s 20th Anniversary

DC Star Trek Comics

Turning 50 doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, those typical black-and-white “50 years old” party decorations, suggesting that the celebrant is “so old,” seem out of place to me. Fifty can be fun. Fifty can be optimistic. Isn’t Hollywood’s most famous re-invented party boy, Robert Downey, Jr. over 50? Isn’t the always-engaging Marisa Tomei over 50?

This year Star Trek turns 50 and the phenomenon never looked better. There’s a new movie, a new fascinating Star Trek podcasts out there. And now, more than ever, there’s top TV show and even new stamps from the U.S. Post Office. There’s a bunch of -notch merchandise from innovative companies like Titan and Eaglemoss.
But it wasn’t always so. Back when Star Trek was turning 20 the future wasn’t so certain. It was a struggle. Fans were ridiculed. The world at large did not associate any ‘cool factor’ to Star Trek fandom.

And during those days, DC Comics was creating top-notch Star Trek comics. Looking back (at the future) through the lens of 2016, these adventures covered a perplexing time for the franchise. Spock was dead, Lt. Saavik had crashed the party, the main characters were all dealing with aging and career issues and interesting original characters were added to the mix.

I think it might be my favorite period of the Star Trek mythology. So instead of celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary like everyone else at the Star Trek: Mission New York convention later this week, let’s instead celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Star Trek’s 20th Anniversary…and specifically DC Comics’ Star Trek.

Marv Wolfman was essential to DC’s acquisition of the Star Trek license. Working on the Marvel Comics version helped him develop a unique perspective for successfully adapting the property into comics. Marv offered these great insights:

“I was a huge Star Trek fan. Still am, actually. I had written the first few issues of Marvel’s Trek but in analyzing it later felt everyone who handled Trek comics was doing it wrong. We were all trying to mimic a TV show’s four act structure and tone. We were all telling too many stories on the Bridge when we had an unlimited SFX budget. If they had the means they would have done other types of stories, but they were restricted by budget. Also, TV shows have tons of talking scenes, because that’s cheap to produce. Talking scenes in comics is visually boring, so I wanted more action and wonder.

“But Trek was pretty much dead at this point in comics and the first Trek movie (I wrote the adaptation for Marvel) didn’t offer much hope. But then I got the chance to see an early advance of the second movie and went back to DC saying we needed to get the license. I remember Jenette Kahn (DC’s President) didn’t think there was any hope for Trek back then (and most would have said she was right) but I was a fan and said this one was really good and I had a way of fixing it. Jenette may have disagreed but she trusted me and approved us getting the license.

“I brought in Mike W. Barr to write it, as I knew Mike loved Trek as deeply as I did. My thought was to handle the book like it was a comic, not a TV show. Have continued stories. Don’t structure it like a TV show. Have emotional characters and bring in new characters with whom we could tell stories we couldn’t necessarily do with the regular cast, which we couldn’t change. I wanted the cast off the bridge and on planets, and I wanted the problems to be big and not easily solvable. One of comics’ strength is building up a universe and there was no reason to keep it small because the TV show did. 

“And all of that had to be done while 100% honoring everything else that made Trek great. Great characters and thoughtful SF stories. I thought we did it and the book sold amazingly well.

“I believe later on the approach was altered to go back to more of TV’s four-act structure, ignoring what made comics work, but as sales dropped that approach was changed back to what I had pitched and what Mike Barr wrote. I think whatever you do you need to remember to use the strength of comics.”

Robert Greenberger Marv Wolfman

Next I turned to ComicMix‘s own Robert Greenberger, who has long been engaged in Star Trek fandom (be sure to read his Notes from a Final Frontiersman column). Robert was an editor for the DC Comics Star Trek series. I had a lot of questions for him:

Ed Catto: Rereading the first fun DC Star Trek comics, it still seems fresh and exciting to me. At that time, Spock was “dead,” the main characters were dealing with both middle age and career issues and the series introduced several new characters. What was it like to develop the series at that time?

Robert Greenberger: Marv Wolfman lobbied DC for the rights, feeling he didn’t have a real good chance to work with the characters when Marvel had the license. He and Mike W. Barr both worked under the far more restrictive Marvel license and so they wanted to see what they could do unfettered. The absence of Spock was seen as more of a creative challenge than anything else, since removing such a key figure changed the group dynamic. It also let Mike explore Saavik as a character.

EC: Can you tell me about the challenges you faced?

RG: When I arrived in 1984, the book was about six issues along and Marv and Mike were in a nice groove, developing their original-to-the-series characters, to round out the ensemble and have people they could actually do things to. A third film was being planned but we knew nothing about it at the time so continued to try and fill the gap after Star Trek II with interesting stories. Some of it felt like vamping and required some inventive thinking which is where, I believe, Mike hit on the idea for a Mirror Universe saga.

EC: At that point you were celebrating Star Trek’s 20th Anniversary. Just how different was that from the 50th Anniversary we’re celebrating now?

RG: Paramount Pictures chose not to do too much special for the 20th. There was some licensed merchandise but it wasn’t as big a deal to them. Len Wein was writing the comic for me at the time and we agreed we’d do a special story for that September. I got to use extra pages and he came up with “Vicious Circle!” a fun sequel to “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” allowing the TOS-era crew to meet their film series counterparts.

Paramount finally made a big deal on the 25th and now, the 50th. I’d love to have been involved with this year’s celebration since some transmedia storytelling could have been fun.

EC: I really liked the artwork on the DC series. What can you tell about working with talented guys like Ricardo Villagran, Tom Sutton, Gray Morrow, Curt Swan and even Eduardo Barreto?

RG: Ricardo was living in the NYC area in the early 1980s landed some work at DC, which led to Marv offering him Trek. He relocated to his native Argentina and we used DHL to make the monthly schedule. He needed the reference but smoothed out Tom’s pencils. Tom was a tremendous storyteller and I loved working with him, but the likenesses were never his strong suit. Eduardo Barreto stepped in for one story and if I could have, I would have shackled him to the Engine Room – I adored his Saavik spotlight, but he was in such demand I couldn’t keep him.

When I could, I spelled him with people like Gray Morrow and Curt Swan who handled the work really well. Then I lucked out with Gordon Purcell on Trek and Peter Krause on TNG, young guys who gave it their all and it worked.

EC: You’ve been involved with both Star Trek fandom and comic book fandom for many years, Robert. Can you compare and contrast the two fandoms?

RG: Comic book fandom was a direct outgrowth of science fiction fandom whereas Star Trek fandom splintered from SF fandom since they were looked down on for preferring filmed SF to prose. It was far more broad-based and in many ways welcoming so it grew faster than anyone could have imagined. The passions and infighting remains exactly the same, though.

EC: How does Star Trek fandom react to Star Trek comics?

RG: When there was nothing else regularly published, it was most welcome. Many didn’t like the inaccuracies in the Gold Key books but it was all they had between the infrequent Bantam novels throughout the 1970s. The Marvel series was much better received but suffered from inconsistent creative teams, an editor who didn’t know the property well, and a license restricting them to whatever was established in The Motion Picture. When DC arrived, they had a much broader contract and an editor, Marv, and a writer, Mike, who knew and loved the material. They got to be consistent, which the fans responded to. When I took over, I had a smooth-running operation and the fans continued to support us. Today, IDW feels the same love thanks to Mike Johnson’s stories.

EC: There’s a plethora of Star Trek podcasts now. Do you listen to any of them and what are your favorites?

RG: I honestly listen to exactly one podcast (totally unrelated to comics or Trek) despite having been interviewed for several. I respect Michael Clark, over at Visionary Trek, whose The Captain’s Table podcast has been good to me.

EC: Star Trek has had such a long history in comics. What are some of your favorite Star Trek comics over the last 50 years, and what do you think is the secret ingredient to adapting Star Trek to comics?

RG: I was honored to find six stories I was involved with make it to Comic Book Resources’ recent Top 10 Star Trek Comics of All Time list. My personal favorites are things like Star Trek Annual #3, by Peter David and Curt Swan, Debt of Honor with Chris Claremont and Adam Hughes, and The Modala Imperative miniseries by Peter, Michael Jan Friedman, and Pablo Marcos since it crossed TOS and TNG using Spock as the lynchpin. I enjoyed Glenn Greenberg’s Starfleet Academy run at Marvel and various stories from the other publishers.

Comics is not television and the action and special effects translate differently. To me, the secret sauce in the comics is keeping the focus on characters, working with the ensemble and serializing subplots so you can really explore issues in ways a 60-minute episode of two hour film cannot come close to working with. This way, we offer readers a different experience and shine the spotlight on different facets of the crew or races that make the universe so incredibly fascinating.

EC: Thanks, Robert and Marv. I wonder if Star Trek is one of those 50 year olds that wish to be 20 again?

Bob Greenberger, Howie and Shatner

 

John Ostrander’s Story Behind the Story

Suicide Squad

There’s a lot of attention focused on the Suicide Squad, what with the movie being filmed right now and coming out next year, and, yes, it’s based on the version of the Squad that I created back in the 80s and, yes, I should see some money for the use of Amanda Waller (not the Squad per se since it already existed in another form in the DCU) and that’s all pretty cool. Might as well tell my version of how this all started and give some credit where credit is due. You may have heard/read some of this before but I’m at the age where repeating stories is de rigeur so let’s do this.

My first shout out goes to Robert (“Bobby”) Greenberger who was our first editor on the Squad. I had met Bob at several conventions and while waiting in airports afterwards for our respective planes. I was working only for First Comics at that point; I hadn’t yet moved up to the major publishers. Bob and I got along really well and he broached the idea of my doing some work for DC. I was perfectly amenable and we started talking what I might do.

I loved the title “Challengers of the Unknown” which was lying fallow at the time. I considered, then and now, that this was one of the great titles in comics. All by itself, it conjured up possibilities. Really cool.

Unfortunately, someone else had already grabbed it for development so it was off the table. Then Bob suggested “How about Suicide Squad? It only appeared for five issues of Showcase a million years ago and nothing is being done with it.”

My first reaction? What a stupid name! Who in their right minds would belong to a group that called itself Suicide Squad? And just as I was dismissing the whole thing, an answer struck me: the only ones who would join would be those who had no other choice. Who doesn’t have any other choice? Folks in prison. Supervillains who’ve been caught. How do they get out of prison so fast? The Squad.

I thought about the Dirty Dozen and Mission: Impossible and The Secret Society of Supervillains, a DC title that teamed up loads of supervillains. I loved that. So the idea was to have a team of supervillains, rogues, enrolled by the government to take on secret missions deemed in the U.S. national interests. If caught they could be disavowed easily; they’re bad guys running around doing what bad guys do. If they die, who cares? They were bad guys. If they succeeded and got back alive, they would have time shaved off their sentences or outright freed.

It would also give us a chance to see the villains as competent and even deadly in their own right. Make them dangerous. For the missions, I’d comb newspaper and magazines for real world ideas. In fact, our first issue had a super-powered terrorist group attacking an airport while Air Force One was landing. I doubt I could get away with that today.

Bob suggested we also have some superheroes in it as well; not A list or maybe even B list. I was resistant at first; I wanted it to be all bad guys. Bob was insistent and it turned out he was right.

I wanted B-listers because I wanted to be free to kill any of them off. I wanted the missions to be dangerous; in all other comics, you knew the heroes were coming back alive because they had to be there for the next issue. Not with the Squad. We could kill them off with impunity. And we did. Always added to the suspense of the story – you never knew who was coming back alive.

To run the group I created Amanda Waller, a.k.a. The Wall. Tough as nails, heavy set, middle aged, bad attitude, African American woman. Why? Because there had never been anyone like her in comics before (and there hasn’t been since). Actually, she was based on my paternal grandmother who scared the bejabbers out of me when I was a kid. One glare and that was it; whatever I was doing, I stopped, even if I wasn’t really doing anything.

Bob also brought in Luke McDonnell as our artist; Luke had just finished some Justice League and was looking for another gig. Luke had (and has) great storytelling and real good character skills. Not flashy but that suited the stories we were telling. Bob also added Karl Kesel as our initial inker. Karl was a hoot; he was brimming with ideas and I’d get what I would call “Kesel Epistles” where he would share his notions. I used some but always encouraged the participation; I figured that was the best way to make a good team. Let everyone have a say if they wanted it.

We picked our members and I wanted the ones that no one else wanted. Deadshot had a cool name, a really stupid costume when he first appeared that Marshall Rogers later revamped and made really cool, and only a few background facts. He was technically a Batman villain but the Bat office said they didn’t want him so I was free to give him a backstory and a bit more of a character.

Captain Boomerang was a Flash character but the Flash had also just been revamped as a result of Crisis on Infinite Earths and, at that point, the Flash office was no longer using the rogues. Bob suggested we use him and, at first, my reaction was, “What a stupid character.” (I really needed to learn not to do that.) However, I decided to make him like the character Flashman in the Flashman series of historical novels by George McDonald Fraser. Boomerang was an asshole but he knew what he was and liked it. Every time you thought he could sink no lower, he’d find a new level. He quickly became one of my favorites.

Bob also got us an issue of Secret Origins for the same month as our first issue so we could use background material; and reference the original Squad(s).

This is when Mike Gold stepped in, Mike is an old old old friend, my former editor at First Comics, and the one who gave me my first shot as a comic book writer. (Yes, it’s all his fault – unless you like my stuff in which case it’s all due to me.) He had gone over to DC and was intent on taking some others with him, including me. Mike got me a shot at plotting the first company wide crossover since Crisis, which we called Legends. Mike felt it would be a good idea to include the Squad in it for their first appearance since lots of attention would be drawn to the series. Among other things, John Byrne would be drawing it – his first work at DC after leaving Marvel.

Of course, I wasn’t sure. (Notice a pattern here?) I didn’t want the Squad getting lost in the shuffle. They weren’t, and we had a great launch.

At some point into the Squad’s run I brought in my wife, Kim Yale, as co-writer. Kim was a very good writer in her own right and she complimented and completed my work with the Squad. To say it wouldn’t have been the same book without her seems obvious and trite but it is also true.

Bob eventually moved on to other work at DC and new editors took his spot although none could take his place. His love of the Squad and his enthusiasm for it shaped the book from the beginning and it would not have existed without him, or Mike, or Luke, or Karl, or Kim. Did it change comics? Beats me but we told some damn good stories and now they’re making a movie out of it.

Not bad for a series with such a damn stupid title.

 

Mike Gold: The Magic Of Comics

At MoCCA this past weekend – that’s one of my favorite shows, by the way – a surprising number of people asked me about how I felt about DC Comics Entertainment Periodical Publications moving to the Left Coast.

It amuses me to note that only one of these people actually worked at DC, and he was being sarcastic.

In its 80 years DC Comics has moved more frequently than a family of vaudevillians. I worked at only three of their locations; I know many who worked at five or six. Every time DC moves, they relaunch Aquaman. They are now a fully integrated part of Warner Bros., so moving to LALALand is a no-brainer.

And I hope my friends at Marvel are paying attention.

Once Marvel joins Disney out in Hollywood, only one comic book leaflet publisher will be left in New York City proper, that being Valiant. (If I’m missing anybody, forgive me – you really can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and, besides, I haven’t seen Jim Shooter in about a year). If you consider the entire New York metropolitan area, that number grows to… what, two? Archie Comics is in Westchester County. If ComicMix returns to leaflet publishing, and, yeah, we’re considering it but then we collapse in a fit of giggles – then that’ll make three. The combined output of the New York comic book leaflet publishers wouldn’t amount to a fart.

For the record: I think it is absolutely great that we have comics publishers all over the nation. There’s no magic to publishing comic books in Manhattan, despite what lazy publishers told poor cartoonists between the middle of the Depression until the election of Ronald Reagan.  Actually, I think it is great that we have so many comics publishers that they can be all over the nation.

I admit: the first time I dropped my butt into my chair at 75 Rockefeller Plaza – that’s four locations and 40 years ago – I was in fanboy heaven. It was a great feeling. Jenette Kahn offered me the job at a moment when, as they say in the business, I was “between radio stations.” In 1976, stations were changing their pretty much after every third song and I saw the handwriting on the wall. It said “Work for Superman.”

The fact is, most of my best and most enduring friendships have been formed while in the comics racket. I’ve lunched with Steve Ditko, I’ve worked with Will Eisner and Peter O’Donnell, I intervened in a, ah, friendly discussion between Stan Lee and Joe Orlando. Great stuff. ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Martha Thomases, Denny O’Neil, Mindy Newell, Bob Ingersoll, and Robert Greenberger? These folks have been my friends forever, and I met them all through comics. Yes, they have amazing intestinal fortitude.

John Ostrander is different. (I can’t tell you how much I wanted to end this paragraph right here.) I’ve known John even longer, through our common interest in both theater and comics. I brought him into this business – at his own request, so he can’t complain.

I have absolutely no doubt that there are a ton of people just out of school out on the Left Coast who will put in their time at DC Comics and come out of it exhausted but with plenty of great friendships.

And for me, that is the magic of the comic book racket.

 

Mike Gold: Marvel’s 75-Year Marvel

Marvel 75th Anniversary MagazineIf you can find a decent magazine rack near you, or you are lucky enough to live near a bone fide comic book store, you might want to check out Marvel’s 75th Anniversary magazine, conveniently pictured to our left.

Oh, look! Rocket Raccoon and Star Lord and Groot and Nova! And no Sub-Mariner or Human Torch! Man, 75 years go by so fast we forget our roots.

Look, these magazines are rarely more than the team programs they sell us as we walk into sports stadia, and by that measure this one is a lot more attractive than most. It’s good for what it is – an opportunity to get people excited about new talent, new media and new movies. In other words, it’s really more about Marvel’s next 75 years than it is a tribute to its past. Not a lot about Bill Everett, Carl Burgos, Steve Ditko or even Jack Kirby here.

A real Marvel history would run a hell of a lot more than four-dozen pages, and there are plenty of such histories in the bookstores to prove that. The only real “history” is the article about Marvel’s golden age written by ComicMix’s own Robert Greenberger.

Bobby, as we affectionately call him, was once DC Comics’ own Robert Greenberger. And Marvel’s own Robert Greenberger. And Starlog’s own Robert Greenberger. And Star Trek’s own Robert Greenberger. He’s also been my friend long enough to deserve a medal for perseverance. Oh, and his daughter is getting married this month, so he’s The Father-of-the-Bride Kathleen Michelle’s own Robert Greenberger. And, as pictured here, he’s also Deb Greenberger’s Robert Greenberger. Woof.B&DGreenberger

OK. Enough fawning about a talented old buddy. I’m embarrassing him. (OK, I’ve been doing that for three decades. Hey, it’s a living.)

His piece is called “The Timely Birth of Marvel.” Get it? Timely Comics begat Atlas Comics which begat Marvel Comics which is now the Pac Man inside the Disney empire. It’s worth the price of admission. I said it was about the golden age, but to be clear Bobby’s piece is not just about the Golden Age – it’s about the company’s founding right up to the founding of the contemporary Marvel Universe.

There’s a hell of a lot of information in this article. It is the Secret Origin of Marvel Comics, which is vaguely ironic in that Bobby edited DC’s Secret Origins title.

Marvel survived on enthusiasm. Bigger publishers – Fawcett and Dell/Gold Key, to be sure – went blooie in the mid-1950s, as did Quality, EC, Gleason, Gilberton (Classics Illustrated), Charlton, Harvey and a great, great many others. Only DC and Archie join Marvel in its unbroken timeline from the beginnings of the Golden Age, and it survived by respecting the readers’ intelligence while consistently catering to our sense of wonder.

You did ‘em justice, pal.

 

2014 Scribe Award Nominees Named

SCRIBEv3medWINNER2The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (www.iamtw.org) is pleased to announce the nominees for the 2014 Scribe Awards, recognizing excellence in the field of media tie-in writing: books based on movies, TV shows and games. The winners will be announced and awards presented in July at a ceremony and panel discussion at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Best Adaptation (Novelization)
Man of Steel by Greg Cox
Pacific Rim by Alex Irvine
47 Ronin by Joan D. Vinge

Best General Novel (Original)
Murder She Wrote: Close-Up on Murder by Donald Bain
The Executioner: Sleeping Dragons by Michael A. Black
Mr. Monk Helps Himself by Hy Conrad
Leverage: The Bestseller Job by Greg Cox
Leverage: The Zoo Job by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Best Speculative Novel (Original)
Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox by Christa Faust
Supernatural: Fresh Meat by Alice Henderson
Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Supernatural: The Roads Not Taken by Tim Waggoner
Star Trek: From History’s Shadow by Dayton Ward

Best Short Story
“The Dark Hollows of Memory” (Warhammer 40,000) by David Annandale
“Locks and Keys” (Shadowrun) by Jennifer Brozek
“So Long, Chief” (Mike Hammer) by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane
“Savior” (After Earth) by Michael Jan Friedman
“Redemption” (After Earth) by Robert Greenberger
“Mirror Image” (Star Trek) by Christine M. Thompson

Best Young Adult
Kevin by Paul Kupperberg
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 by Stacia Deutsch
The Croods by Tracey West

Best Audio Book
Dark Shadows: The Phantom Bride by Mark Thomas Passmore
Dark Shadows: The Flip Side by Cody Quijano-Schell
Blake’s 7: The Armageddon Storm by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright

The IAMTW was created seven years ago by Max Allan Collins and Lee Goldberg and has over 200 members, all professional, published authors who write books based on movies, TV shows, and games. To find out more about the Scribe Awards, and lists of previous winners & nominees, visit

http://iamtw.org/the-scribe-awards/previous-scribe-award-winners/

Read Every Issue of Starlog for Free

Starlog 7The complete run of Starlog magazine has been scanned and made available over at archive.org. For those unfamiliar with the publication, it began life as a one-shot magazine about Star Trek. After art directors Kerry O’Quinn and Norman Jacobs were left high and dry by the publisher, they took all the existing material and decided to turn it into a magazine celebrating all science fiction on television and film. O’Quinn reached out to his friend David Houston to edit the new publication, dubbed Starlog and it debuted in the first half of 1976.

At the time, other publications covering the field appeared infrequently or failed to gain newsstand distribution in sufficient numbers to thrive. These included The Monster Times, Castle of Frankenstein, and Cinefantastique. Covering only aspects of science fiction was Warren Publications’ Famous Monsters of Filmland so there was a niche to be filled.

Starlog’s approach was to mix episode guides with news and features, interviews and columns covering books to conventions. Houston set the tone and handed off the reins to Howard Zimmerman as sales figures showed increases so the mag went quickly to a monthly schedule. As a result, there was an audience in place a year later when 2th Century Fox’s latest offering, Star Wars, opened in May 1977. The issue sold out and the magazine’s place in the hearts and minds of fans was cemented.

Much as Star Wars ignited a new round of SF on film and the small screen, Starlog’s arrival signaled a new round of magazines, both domestic and international, to cover the genre. Over the course of its life, Starlog presented fans with their first looks at upcoming events and studios used it to tease fans. As a result, they were the first to have images from Paramount Pictures’ first Star Trek feature film and again were the first show off designs for the Enterprise-D.

Its success led to other titles such as Cinemagic for budding filmmakers and Future Life for those who liked hard science with their daily dose of fiction. The most successful of the new launches was 1979’s arrival of Fangoria which dared to go deeper in its coverage of horror and gore than FMOM. They were the first nationally distributed newsstand title to cover comic books, comic strips, and animation with Comics Scene. Starlog Press also developed a thriving back issue and mail order business along with guidebooks and other one-shots.

The company became a launching pad for many writers and artists as Ed Naha went to Hollywood where he cowrote Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; and DC Comics became the next destination for editors Robert Greenberger, Eddie Berganza, Mike McAvennie, and Maureen McTigue.

After Zimmerman stepped down as editor, Dave McDonnell, who joined staff in 1983, took over and ran with the title through good times and bad until the company was sold off and the print edition shut down. He gamely ran a web-based version of the title until that too was closed. The digital archive is a treasure trove of things that never were, columnists whose opinions stirred up sharp debate, and ran deep interviews that went beyond the basics. It never evolved with changing times and technology thanks to short-sighted business decisions so spinoffs such as a radio program, retail store chain, and branded direct-to-video films died aborning.

The magazine ha been rediscovered by fans through John ZIpper’s Weimar World Service which recently did an issue by issue blog.

Mindy Newell: Lois Lane – That’s All

Newell Art 131230God bless my friend Corinna Lawson.

Or maybe not.

Though she did nothing wrong, and she’s totally innocent in this.

I was sitting here tonight wracking my brain while absentmindedly watching The Devil Wears Prada for the zillionth time (Meryl Streep just completely rocks as Miranda Priestley, a thinly veiled “version” of Anna Wintour of Vogue magazine) and surfing the web for ideas when I decided to check out Corinna’s column, Cliffs of Insanity, over at GeekMom.com. (Yes, I can multi-task.) Her November 15th column caught my eye, dealing as it does with a woman also close to my heart, though this woman only exists as a trademark of DC Entertainment, nee Comics.

I’m talking about Lois Lane, of course.

Corinna’s column, Lois Lane and Comic Culture, is ostensibly a review of the recently released Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years, and, although I haven’t read it (more on that in a bit), Corinna doesn’t hesitate to point out that Lois has and is a bellwether of the status of women in comics. Quoting Corinna:

When there was a great movement to more independent women, Lois was smart, strong, funny, tough, and worthy of admiration. When there was a backlash after World War II, she morphed into something less admirable. Later, she regained some of her original intelligence and focus on journalism. But recently, not so much.

As society moves forward, the comic industry seems to be going backward.

I cannot help thinking the stories I hear constantly about numerous, well-known comic pros basically running their own version of “casting couches” at conventions, about those employed by the big two companies who create a hostile environment for female characters and creators, and about the ever-present dismissive attitude by a very vocal group of male comic fans who are hostile to women even reading superhero comics, has something to do with Lois Lane’s devaluation of the last few years.

Lois was created at a time when women were starting to have careers. In every telling of Superman’s origin, Lois is there, not necessarily as a love interest, but always as a tough, professional woman…”

Especially in the Fleisher Studio theatrical Superman animated shorts of the mid-1940s, in which Lois was snarky, resourceful, sarcastic, brave, contemptuous of Clark Kent, and didn’t moon over Superman.”

Yet Lois’s history is loaded with stories that are somewhat cringe-worthy.”

Yeah, they were. Especially in the Silver Age: Lois Lane: Bearded Woman; Lois Lane: Conehead; Lois Lane: I Married A Monster From Mars And Superman Was The Best Man!! (*choke*sob*) But those stories, silly as they were, are understandable as part of an era (which Corinna points out in her column) in which it behooved the U. S. government to get Madison Avenue and American industries, including the publishing industry, to make a concerted effort to get Rosie the Riveter out of the factory and back to kinder and kuche.

But Corinna also makes mention of some good stories about Lois, which I remember reading and also enjoyed: Wonder Woman #170, written by Phil Jimenez, in which Lois spends a day with Diana, and they get to talking woman-to-woman; and Adventures of Superman #631, by Greg Rucka, which is “Lois Lane: War Correspondent.”

But here’s where I started seeing red and getting really pissed off.

And I asked myself…

Should I write a column about how pissed off I am that (a) I didn’t even know about this book because no one from DC approached me about it; and (b) apparently, from Corinna’s review and from the book’s Amazon page, there is no mention of my Lois Lane 1986 mini-series, When It Rains, God Is Crying.

I mean, it’s one thing to understand why the press didn’t want to hear that I “beat” Gail – from Gail herself, I must add – at being the first WW writer in the history of the character, because if she isn’t, there’s no story and the DC PR department would have egg on their faces…

But to ignore a “seminal” Lois Lane story, seminal in that it was her book, the first in many, many years, and that it didn’t feature her running googly-eyed after Superman to prove he was Clark Kent, but dealt with an important issue which hasn’t gone away, and if anything, has gotten worse – there’s a reason Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is on television 24 hours a day…

…To ignore a story with absolutely magnificent artwork by the late, great Gray Morrow, who told me he was honored to be part of it…

…To ignore a story that Robert Greenberger, as editor, sweated over as he encouraged and guided me and Gray to do our best work…

…To ignore a story I researched and spoke to the FBI and state children’s services and policemen and doctors and nurses…

…To ignore a story into which I poured my heart.

And I wasn’t going to write about this, because it certainly wouldn’t be a smart thing to do, burning bridges and not “politically” advantageous and all that, but then, well, I figured, hey, I like to think of myself as an honest writer, I’ve written about my struggles with depression, I’ve written about my dad and my mom, I’ve shared a lot of things here, so fuck it, I decided, I’m going to share this too.

Yeah, it really pisses me off, people. And it hurts.

As Miranda Priestly would say:

“That’s all.”

TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

 

Mike Gold: Heroes Con And The Big ComicMix Reveals!

Gold Art 130605Would you like to meet ComicMix writers and staffers Martha Thomases, Marc Alan Fishman, Robert Greenberger, Adriane Nash, Glenn Hauman, and me?

Why? Geez, get a life.

All seriousness aside, the Heroes Convention in Charlotte North Carolina is one of the few large conventions that is actually still about comics. As people who memorize my columns know all too well (when they’re not wandering about Times Square mumbling to themselves), I dislike those huge shows that call themselves comic book shows or, worse, comic cons yet are nothing more than mass media B-list star feeding frenzies. Not that those shows don’t have their place; they do. Just don’t call them comic book shows unless they are actually about comic books.

You know, like the Heroes Convention in Charlotte North Carolina… this very weekend, from Friday, June 7 through Sunday, June 9, at the Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College Street.

It’s also a damn good show, well-run by a seasoned staff under the direction of show founder and all-around swell guy Shelton Drum.

Here’s your reward for making it this far into my column: on Saturday at 1:30 pm in

Room 207CD, ComicMix is going to have a panel called “Your Comics Your Way.” We will be making several major (honest) announcements regarding this here ComicMix thing, including the first public reveal of our new ComicMixPro Services!

Wow!

Just go there. You’ll have a swell time. Seriously swell. Tell ‘em Groucho sent you. Maybe they’ll give you a DeSoto.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

 

Mindy Newell: Star Child

Newell Art 130603I’m writing this while listening to John Williams’ magnificent score for Superman – the one and only Superman, starring Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder.

Why?

Well, this morning (Sunday, June 2, 2013) I was doing my usual routine, sipping tea at the breakfast table, working on the New York Times Sunday crossword and listening to NPR. (Yeah, I’m a media multi-tasker.) NPR’s Studio 360 series “American Icons” was about to start. It turned to be a rebroadcast of a program that originally aired on July 6, 2007.

And today’s icon was…

Superman.

I didn’t remember hearing the original broadcast, and I’m guessing the station chose to rerun it because Man Of Steel is about to be released. At any rate, being a comic geek, I was delighted. Commentators included Margot Kidder, Jack Lawson, Bryan Singer, Michael Chabon, Jules Feifer, and Art Spiegelman. It touched on many areas – of course Siegel and Schuster and the shitty way they were treated by DC (NPR never reins in its guests, which is why I love it!), the relation of Superman to Jewish mythology and the immigrant experience, the history of Superman in the media, from the comics to radio to the dynamic Fleisher Studios animated movie shorts to television to the big screen – although there was no conversation about Man Of Steel, since it was a rebroadcast from just before Superman Returns was released.

Even though it is an old program, the content was still relevant – proving their point that Superman is an American icon. And the producers did their homework. A section that I especially liked was the discussion of Superman: Red Sun (by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, and Killian Plunkett. The prestige format mini-series, which hit the bookshelves in 2003 and was later collected and released as a graphic novel, was published under DC’s Elseworlds imprint, and explored this particular “what if?” scenario: What if Kal-El’s rocket from Krypton had landed in the Ukrainian farmlands during the Cold War? What if Superman wasn’t raised to fight for truth, justice, and the American way, but – as Millar wrote – “the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact?”

This led to a really cool conversation on totalitarianism, fascism, World War II and the Nazis, and the use of Superman during that time as a propaganda tool by the American government to promote American ideals and values. As fellow columnist Robert Greenberger wrote here at ComicMix on December 7, 2009 , “a special edition of Superman…was produced for the U.S. Army. The Army had a problem at the time – they were drafting thousands of men a year, but many of them had no education to speak of, with large swaths of them functionally illiterate, and they were expected to operate complex machinery pretty quickly. They had to learn how to read, and fast. The troops also needed cheap and portable entertainment, something that could be carried through the battlefields of Europe and Asia. So with the cooperation of National Periodical Publications, the forerunner to DC Comics, this edition was produced by the War Department with simplified dialogue and word balloons. Hundreds of thousands of copies were distributed to GIs, and it helped them learn to read and to pass the time. And of course, copies of the comics were handed out to kids in faraway lands, as gestures of goodwill.”

The guests also discussed Superman and his role as the ultimate superhero, someone who has the power to do either enormous good or enormous evil. Either way, isn’t his decision to act at all, to interfere in the lives of the mortals beneath him, that of Nietzsche’s “übermench,” who will decide the fate of society?

IM-always-Not-So-Ho, Studio 360 did a great job dissecting what it is about the Kryptonian that makes him an American icon, and I totally recommend going to the NPR website and either streaming it or downloading it for podcast for your listening pleasure.

Meanwhile…

Williams’ score is still playing.

What really strikes me as I sit here, scenes from the movie replaying in my head – the oh-so-cool opening with the kid reading a comic and the camera zooming in on the Daily Planet as it transitions from comic page to “reality,” Superman rescuing the cat from the tree, of course Superman’s first rescue of Lois (“You’ve got me? Who’s got you?!”), the finale with Superman flying in orbit around the Earth and Christopher Reeve looking at us and smiling as he zooms off camera – is the impressive way that Williams leads the music from a grand, baroque science-fiction scenario (Krypton) to the down-to-earth gentleness of the Kent’s farm to the majestic sweep of the Kansas prairies as Clark follows his destiny to the romantic, impossible reality of Superman in Metropolis.

This is the Superman I love.

This is Superman. An American icon.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

Second ReDeus Universe Anthology Announced

beyondboarders_lorraineSchleterOne reviewer at Goodreads commented on ReDeus: Divine Tales, “The tales focus on different gods, many I had never heard of before. What I enjoyed most was how the authors dealt with the culture shock experienced by the characters, not just the mortals, who are now lorded over by these mythological figures, but also the gods who must come to grips with a world that has moved on without them. Hope to see future volumes. ”

That wish is being granted in May when Beyond Borders, the second volume in the ReDeus universe is released by Crazy 8 Press to coincide with Balticon. The new book continues a universe that was conceived by co-editors Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, and Paul Kupperberg. Initially, the trio of established authors intended to be the only ones to write stories about an Earth that has had every pantheon of gods simultaneously return. Instead, they decided to invite their peers to join them in exploring this fertile territory and the eleven stories in the first volume spanned the first twenty years since the gods and goddesses appeared in the skies during the 2012 Olympics.

“Zeus, speaking for the gods, tells everyone they’re back for good and they want every man, woman, and child to return to their native land in order to properly worship them,” Greenberger explained. Some of the gods were horrified at the technological advances, not understanding them and therefore had them banned. Suddenly, some countries were without internet and television while some only allowed radio. Populations shifted and the global economy shuddered, causing untold chaos.

ReDeus Brings Back the Gods and Goddesses of YoreMost of the stories showed what was happening in America. For the second volume, the stories focus on other countries and their people. Several characters introduced in the first book will reappear while most of the stories focus on new characters interacting with ancient deities.

“Many of our Divine Tales authors found themselves growing attached to their characters,” Rosenberg explained, “so we were happy to see what happens to them next. But there are plenty of new characters as well, and the series in general continues to show a wide variety of people in different places and varying circumstances.”

Returning authors for Beyond Borders include  the recently Nebula-nominated Lawrence M. Schoen, Scott Pearson, Steve Wilson, Dave Galanter, Phil Giunta, William Leisner, and Allyn Gibson. Kelly Meding, Janna Silverstein, David McDonald, Steve Lyons, and  Lorraine Anderson will be making their ReDeus debut in this volume. Rosenberg, Greenberger, and Kupperberg will also have stories in the book.

Artist Lorraine Schleter provided the cover.

A third volume, Native Lands, was announced recently and will be out in August, in time for Crazy 8 Press’ second anniversary.