Tagged: small

Marc Alan Fishman: Crowdfunding Fist To Your Face

Marc Alan Fishman: Crowdfunding Fist To Your Face

Bereft of much else on my mind this week, I turned to my social media outlets. I asked the world to inspire me, and seconds later, the world responded. “Monkey Fist”! It shouted at me. Well world, what about it?

“Monkey Fist” is in fact a crowdfunded project being thrown by fellow indie-in-arms studio, the Sun Bros. I myself am proud to proclaim myself a backer. Perhaps you should too. The Sun Bros, Wesley and Brad, are two hard-working dudes I’ve seen successfully launch now their third project, by way of crowd-funding. They hit the scene (which given the fact that Wesley knows Kung Fu means the pavement is now dead) with the apropos “Chinatown” in 2012, followed it up a year later with “Apocalypse Man”, and are now amidst their campaign to fund the fist. Suffice to say, they are making their way in the industry 1 great fan at a time. Not unlike Unshaven Comics. But given a look at their crowd-funded kitty, perhaps we should be asking them questions and taking serious notes… instead of shaving.

(more…)

Marc Alan Fishman: Cutting the Cord, and Shredding the Book

The other day Mike Gold shot me a quick e-mail about the WWE Network making its way to Apple TV. I should take this time to note that Mike likes me more than Michael Davis because I give him my articles on Tuesday evening, and they don’t post until Saturday… allowing him optimal time to source images at his leisure. Suffice to say, nya nya nya boo boo. Maybe that’s mean of me, it is Black History Month, after all. According to Jay Pharoah, I should opt to hug MOTU, not take pot shots at his obviously racial laziness. Damn, I’m punchy tonight. But I digress.

I’m punchy, in part, because Mike’s friendly e-mail reminded me that in my own laziness, I’d allowed a whole new technological break-through to settle into near-mainstream amongst my peers without me even considering it. For a good long time  ‘cutting the cord’ on traditional cable was more a signifier of pro-active TV consumption than I cared to debate mentally. With new technology emerging, I simply didn’t ‘buy’ that I could enjoy all that I do via my traditional cable/DVR combo. I should note though that I grew up in a home without cable. When I made my way to college, faced with the sudden luxury of dozens of channels churning out reruns and crappy original programming I’d never been previously accustomed to led me down a dark and slovenly path. Frankly, it’s been the drug I couldn’t quit ever since. Well, that and carbohydrates.

I’d like to think it was my generation that started a small march towards technological freedom. I recall fondly upon signing my first lease for an apartment declaring no need to own a home phone. My parents gawked at the notion. “How will we get a hold of you?!” they’d scream. “Oh, I don’t know, you could call my cell phone, which is literally on my person at all times I’m not otherwise sleeping?” I’d retort like a hipster ordering a Miller Lite. And thus, did me and my kin take our first awkward steps from out of the cave. Soon, we were graduating from MySpace to Facebook, and getting real jobs. City-dwelling friends of mine ditched cars in lieu of state-of-the-art (smells a bit, but it’s cheaper than gas!) public transportation. And now, those who share in muh-muh-my generation are shunning Xfinity, Uverse and Ycable for a whole new shebang.

The future is now, and we better start dealing with it.

I turn back to the argument I started a few weeks prior. I postulated that if someone could figure a way to Netflix up a comic book database, it might very well be the way to take the leap into the next generation. Screw the motion comics, augmented reality links, and ultimate experiences. Deliver me a litany of comic book content on-demand, for a monthly fee so low I can’t possibly deny myself access. If my dream for ComicFlix were to come true… how long would it take to see the death of the local comic shop?

That is to say, the death of what few comic shops still are in business and making enough money to stay in business beyond the calendar year with sincerity.

Let’s ask the tough questions then. Did we all mourn the loss of Blockbusters around the country? When you go to the Comic Con and snag that graphic novel you really wanted for 50% off cover price, do you hide it under your jacket, and leave yourself a reminder to never bring it up at the comic shop for fear the counter jockey will shame you to tears as he eats his last bowl of cup-a-noodles? Doubtful on both counts. Do we come to grips with the moral dilemma of watching our medium take the necessary steps to grow… or do we cling to the past in hopes that somehow everything will just get better though sheer will power? I mean, all those successful movies will get the masses over to invest in pull boxes at some point, right? Right?

Sean Parker and the late Steve Jobs used technology to upend the music industry… services like Spotify, Pandora, and the like are set to revolutionize it. Google, Roku, Hulu, and Netflix are on their way to evolving television. All content delivery is evolving at a rapid pace. The antiquated world of comics is not an uncrackable nut. There’s money to be made, content to be shared, and new fans to convert. If we build it, they will come. It won’t be pretty. But what matters now more than ever is that we find a way to adapt. Pulp and paper can be as good as bytes and pixels. It’s time to put the books down, and flip the tablets on.

That being said, I have a review to do, and I need to crack open my copy of Avengers World. I know, I know… But I have an excuse. My wife has the iPad. Cheers to the future kiddos. Hop on the band wagon before it starts to pick up speed. Lest you have a man a decade or two older making you feel like a luddite. Natch.

Michael Davis: ComicMix Up?

26261My last ComicMix article ran Tuesday past, January 29, 2014. When first posted the image used was so small it almost unreadable. Mike Weber posted the following in the comment section

Heh. That S.H.I.E.L.D. cover you reproduce so illegibly small at the column head was knocked off in the ‘80s for the back glass on a pinball machine named “Blackout”.

I had nothing to do with the art, Mike.

I think since no other art on the site is in such a state, perhaps Mr. Gold did so purposely. He’s fed up with my stuff arriving with but a few minutes to spare and what better way to show me he’s not standing for my shit than sending me a “I’m not standing for your shit’”email this?

There are many reasons why the art is reproduced in such a manner. The top four are listed below:

a) He’s not standing for my shit.

b) Because I’m black.

c) He’s not standing for my shit and I’m black.

d) Or, maybe (and let this be real the actual reason), there’s an issue with the site.

Guess which reason won’t be mentioned during the annual Black Panel at the San Diego Comic Con?

Someone is bound (A Plant? No!) too ask the question, “why is ComicMix disrespecting the most influential and sexist black man who has ever worked in comics?” That person I have never met will certainly follow up with “how can ComicMix hate when he’s committed to finding a cure for sex addiction in pretty women between the ages of 18-21, feeding the hungry and preaching the gospel?”

Then the completely unknown to me person will undoubtedly bring up how each of those noble undertaking are more time consuming than the other (from last to first…give that a sec) and ComicMix should be boycotted.

The following was posted by Doctor R-Man

Hey, Michael.

A bit OT, but I have a question.

Exactly what licensing issues are preventing Milestone characters from seeing use in DC stories?

Could you guys please allow DC to continue to use the characters? I’m hoping you could give DC a chance and sort this out.

It really doesn’t help for a character like Static to be stuck in limbo.

Doctor,

Milestone has decided if DC wants to use our characters they are forbidden to use any person of color in any of their books. They must also stop using the word and the color black. Frankly, we don’t see what the big deal is. We see this as neither unreasonable nor racial.

What do I consider an unreasonable demand?

Let’s see…a letter from a lawyer telling me to stop doing something a million other people are doing. Well, I can’t stop doing it because I have no control over where it’s being done.

But! If I could stop it I would.

Not because I give a flying fuck about some lawyer that my lawyers would destroy like the Seahawks destroyed the Broncos, no, I’d do it just to see the realization of just how dumb a move this was dawn on those who had the letter sent.

That realization would come fast, hard and often when they have to answer the question of why send a cease and desist letter on the eve of Black History Month that demands the removal of a black iconic character from a place where that character is being recognized as a part of black history?

That’s what I would consider unreasonable and what the black press and public would consider racial. I don’t see it as racial but what I see can’t stop what people think.

But Doctor, I (sorry Peter) I digress.

The above two examples are just plain stupid and I’m sure you get the joke that they are two fictional (as of now) instances that illustrate just how wrong a wrong move could be.

To your question about Milestone and DC: other than non-compete clauses and then only when necessary, I don’t comment on contractual agreements when those agreements are still valid that has all the making of a wrong move.

I have no idea where you heard this from, but I’ve got a pretty good idea – if I’m right I feel it’s a bit of a bitch move to say a contract is preventing you from doing something as it always cast the other party as the bad guy. It’s like the police saying someone is a person of interest. Everyone thinks that person is guilty.

Consider the source, when one party feels it needs to speak on what they cannot do because of an agreement there is always a self-serving agenda.

I’ve heard everything from Milestone is preventing DC from using the characters, Milestone is going to Marvel, Milestone runs the east coast drug trade and DC owed us money so Doomsday was sent to kill Superman because of that debt.

My dear Doctor, even if something is true, until it’s confirmed it’s hearsay. On that note, I’d like to take this time and confirm rather or not it’s true or not. The hell with not commenting.

It’s all true. Doomsday worked for us.

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold 

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY EVENING: Tweeks!

 

John Ostrander: Upsides & Downsides of Writing

Ostrander Art 140102There are some days that I love being a writer. When the everything is cooking, when the words are flowing, when the characters are speaking to you, when you’re on the top of your game, it’s all magic. That’s not every day. Not by a long shot.

There are the days when you’re staring at the screen and it stares back – and the screen does not blink. You pray and the gods/patron saints (depending on your belief system) do not smile, do not answer, do not share their favor with you. There are days when I have considered offering blood sacrifices to these gods/saints. On those days, the cats hide.

I make my living off of my writing. There are upsides and downsides to that. On the upside, I’m my own boss. On the downside, I frequently hate my boss. He always knows when I’m goofing off and I can hear his voice in the back of my head saying, “Are you making money doing that?” It’s hard to get a day off; there’s no paid holidays, there’s no paid sick days, no paid vacation.

On the upside, I work out of my home. The commute’s a breeze. The only traffic jam is when one or more of the cats gets in front of me as I head towards the office and decides to stroll or flat out lie down right in my path. A semi jack-knifing in front of you is not as likely to stymie your passage as completely as a downed cat. Swearing sometimes clears the path; sometimes it just gets me a blank look.

On the downside, it’s hard to get away from the office. It’s always there and that damned boss keeps on asking “When are you getting back to work?” Yes, I have my own separate office in my home and, yes, I could close the door. I’ve done that. I think there’s a small gravity well at my desk and it keeps sucking me back.

There’s the Freelancer’s Disease. If you’re offered work you tend to say “yes” even if you’re overbooked because you fear if you say “no” the aforementioned gods/patron saints won’t send you any more work. And there’s the corresponding Freelancer’s Nightmare when the work does stop flowing. Will the work ever come again; how will you pay bills, how will you eat if the work doesn’t come back? It’s not a rational fear but it’s a very real one and you can wake up in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning with an attack of it. Been there; felt that.

There’s a corresponding hope that lightning will strike. I was on a plane once and the guy next to me began talking. We were both in our forties. I told him what I did and he told me he was a corporate lawyer. I expressed some envy at him; he had a steady paycheck. He agreed and he said that was the problem: he knew how much he would make this year, and the next year, and pretty much ten years down the line. “You,” he said, “on the other hand, could be hit by lightning.” I could write something, come up with an idea or a concept that could make me millions. It could happen at any time. It hasn’t yet… but it still might.

That’s one of the things that keeps me at it, that and the joy I get when the writing works. I’m also too damn old to work in an office. I can’t see anyone hiring me. I really don’t have any marketable business skills and no résumé.

Nope, for better or worse, for all the upsides and downsides, writing is what I do. I’d better get back to it before the boss yells at me. Again.

The bastard.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

Win the Enough Said Blu-ray pack named one of the 10 best of 2013

EnoughSaid_BD_SpineJames Gandolfini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Catherine Keener shine in this heartwarming comedy that A.O. Scott of The New York Times calls “a small miracle of a movie.”

Divorced mom Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) may be falling for Albert (Gandolfini), a sweet, funny, like-minded divorcé. But as their relationship blossoms, Eva befriends Marianne (Keener), who’s always complaining about her ex-husband. When Eva realizes that Albert is the target of Marianne’s rants, she begins to question her own perceptions about first impressions and second chances.

The Blu-ray combo pack’s special features include exclusive second takes, promotional featurettes, and a look at the theatrical trailer for the film.

For your chance to win the Enough Said Blu-ray combo pack, answer the following question by 11:59 p.m., Wednesday, January 15. The decision of ComicMix;s judges will be final and the contest is open only to readers in the United States and Canada.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is best known for playing the character ______ in the show Seinfeld.

–                      Carrie

–                      Elaine

–                      Jennifer

–                      Jody

Jen Krueger: I Love This Show, Please Kill It

Krueger Art 131224When I watched the recent season finale of Homeland, I was left speechless. If you’re not caught up on this Showtime thriller about the CIA and terrorism, don’t worry; I won’t give anything away. Confining myself to spoiler-free praise, I’ll just say it struck me as pitch perfect and was satisfying to a degree that television shows achieve rarely, if ever. I loved it so much, in fact, that as the credits rolled I found myself hoping the show would get canceled before any more episodes air.

It’s almost impossible for a TV show to stay great from pilot to series finale. I know, I know, Breaking Bad proved it can be done, but Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece is the exception that underscores the rule. There are just too many things to ruin great shows, and an executive hitting the cancellation button even isn’t first on the list. Simply being left on the air too long is more than enough to take the wind out of the sails of something once lovable, whether it’s because the show starts stretching into weird new territory like on Fringe, or because intended end points keep being passed by in the hopes of squeezing out another lucrative ratings year, like with Dexter. And of course there’s the plot and punchline recycling that can occur when a show’s left lingering, making episode formulas uncomfortably obvious (*cough cough* Simpsons).

Outside circumstances rearing their heads can be damaging too. With many shows, a featured actor leaving would minimally rock the boat, and some end up capsizing altogether rather than recovering. Just hearing that Topher Grace was leaving That ’70s Show was enough to make me tune out, and leave me completely unsurprised when I heard the first Eric Foreman-less season was also the show’s last. The 2007 Writer’s Guild strike took down its fair share of TV, from amazing shows immediately unable to sustain themselves through it like The Riches, to shows that pushed through but hobbled on forever changed, like Heroes.

But while there have been plenty of shows that have gone downhill in front of my eyes, there are of course many others cancelled before their time. If you’ve never seen the 2008 BBC show Survivors, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s an amazing yet little known sci-fi drama that follows a small group of people who lived through a widespread virus wiping out most of the population, and it’s the best treatment I’ve ever seen of the “band of survivors must start anew” premise. The caveat that comes along with this recommendation is the fact that the second season finale ends on a cliffhanger so amazing that I was literally yelling at my television when I realized the show hadn’t been renewed for a third series. Then again, maybe letting sleeping dogs lie is best; Arrested Development‘s fourth season didn’t live up to the first three by even the most generous standards.

Yet even on the rare occasion that a show manages to go out gracefully under the pall of cancellation, I still can’t help being sad for it. The writers for the criminally under-appreciated Terriers knew there was a strong possibility they’d never see a second season, and deftly handled their finale in such a way that viewers could interpret the episode as teeing up another major story arc if renewal did come through, or as a beautiful farewell if the hammer fell, which it sadly did. Going out so skillfully even though they hadn’t gotten their narrative due was impressive, but oxymoronically reinforced that they should’ve been given another season to find a bigger audience.

So if it’s so hard for shows on TV to stay great and for great shows to stay on TV, why do I want one of my favorites off the air? Because, intentionally or not, the writers served up a season finale to Homeland this year that put the perfect cap on the show. Yes, there are some signs about what season four will entail, and yes, the writers of this particular show have proven time and again that they’re capable of taking the story and characters into increasingly compelling territory even when it seems they’ve already struck a narrative critical mass. But the way this finale wrapped up a major story arc (again, no spoilers!) left me with the rarest of my potential reactions to a TV show: content. I could walk away from these characters now and be happy to leave them because I know they’re all right where they should be.

Of course, I realize I could preserve this feeling of contentment by choosing not to watch the fourth season of Homeland when it debuts. But I’d be lying to myself if I pretended to have the willpower for that. I mean, did you see how amazing the third season finale was?!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis (maybe)

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold (definitely)

 

Michael Davis: The Teacher Who Changed My Life

Renee-Darvin_0002

12/10/2009

Hello,

If by some chance you are Ms. Darvin from Beach Channel High, my name is Michael Davis and I was at Beach Channel the VERY first year, I transferred to The High School Of Art & Design at the end of that year.

I was in your art class, I was black (still am) wickedly funny ( still am) and had a running rivalry with another student named Robert Stein.

Long story short-I’m now a huge success on so many levels ( and modest) and I’m reaching out to you because today I was being interviewed (told you I was a success) by CNN and they asked me who was the most influential teacher in my life.

I said Renee Darvin.

So, if you are that Renee Darvin please contact me so we can catch up. You told me once you would never forget me and I said the same to you…see I kept my promise.

If you are not THAT Renee Darvin…never mind.

Nah– I kid, I joke! if you are not THAT Renee Darvin I wish you well and please know that Columbia is one of the few schools (and I’m REAL picky) I respect.

Have a wonderful new year!

12/13/2009

Michael,

I am indeed THAT Renee Darvin, who remembers you fondly and very well for all your sass and talent. How bittersweet that your email came on the heels of the news that the city is closing Beach Channel as a failing school! It was my Camelot, in so many ways.

I am delighted that you are a success on many levels, and even more so that the success has not affected your modesty. I would love to catch up with you. Shall we plan coffee/lunch/dinner/telephone/hugs???? Its your call…..and thank you for remembering me in your personal art history. It warms an old teacher’s heart.

Let me know when the CNN interview airs …. I hope I havent missed it. I look forward to hearing from you.

Renee

12/5/2013

Ms. Darvin,

I’m sorry if this is reaching you late or if you are receiveing it twice. Hard copies were to go out some time ago it seems some did most did not. I’m not taking any chances, not with the single greatest teacher I’ve ever known.

I know it’s a trek if this is short notice but you played an VERY important part in my life and perhaps in a very real way if not for you my career and this show would simply not be.

“Michael, if you go to (the high school of) Art & Design, you may become a very different artist, just don’t forget what makes you, you.”

I never forgot that and never forgot you.

information about the show can be found here: http://milestonestheshow.com

If you have a moment please go the following link and look under ‘D’: http://www.comic-con.org/awards/inkpot

Ms. Darvin, I beg of you from the bottom of my heart if there is ANY way you can join me please, please do.

Lastly-yes I’m still an artist. I’ve attached two works of mine, hope you approve. Take care and I hope to see you soon…like in a week. ;-)

Attached to the last email, along with the two pieces of art, an invitation to the opening gala of Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture And Beyond. That’s the show I’m curating for the Geppi Entertainment Museum. The opening is this coming Friday the 13th.

The email bounced back, no big deal I thought. It’s been a while since she and I reconnected so I just figured she moved on from Columbia’s teachers college. I was too lazy to look up her personal email she had given me when we spoke so I figured I’d look her up on Facebook since it was already open.

No luck there, so I Google her name and with a quickness realized it was more than a while since we talked.

It was a lifetime.

Published in The New York Times on May 21, 2010

DARVIN–Renee, 80, passed away on May 19, 2010. Beloved wife of Jerry, loving mother of Debbie, Michael and Peter, mother-in-law to Mark, Linda, Marisol, grandmother to Michael, Liza, Emily, Theo, Henry, Mariana and Julia, sister of Marcia and Barbara, sister-in-law of Neil. Devoted over 60 years of her life to teaching Art and Art Education, most recently at Teachers College at Columbia University. Former Director of Art for the Department of Education of NYC.

Former Chair of Art Department at Beach Channel High School. Former Art Teacher at Tilden High School. President of the Student Art and League.

As her former students and colleagues would attest, teaching was a joy and a privilege she cherished. She leaves behind a family, large circle of friends and colleagues and students who will forever be graced by her legacy.

 We will always love and miss you. Funeral services May 21st at 10 am Riverside Memorial Chapel.

I read the first few lines and had to stand up. Then I couldn’t stand and fell back into my chair, hit by a wave of sadness so intense I didn’t just start to cry I wailed like a wounded animal.

Even now, days later as I write this tears just won’t stop pouring from my eyes.

I’ve mentioned my love for the High School Of Art & Design on many occasions. Ms. Darvin was the only thing that gave me pause to apply and if admitted not go.

She taught me a lot more than art, she taught me to always be who I was.

Beach-Channel-High-SchoolMy hood, Edgemere Projects, my address 434 Beach 58th, Far Rockaway, Queens was as far away from my school located at 100-00 Beach Channel Drive, Rockaway Park.

Another city. Another world. Another place.

The distance between the upper middle class white people of Rockaway Park and the poor Black people of Far Rockaway was great. The distance may have been great but travel time was around five minutes.

It’s a straight shot right up Beach 58th until around Beach 90th street. Magically Beach Street changes to Beach Channel Drive!

Just like that? Just like that. Why the change in the names?

No poor Black people could afford to live pass Beach 75th so I guess 90th street was a good a place any to let you clearly know you were no longer in Kansas, welcome to OZ.

Far Rockaway, far away where the poor black people were. Rockaway Park, a park where the rich white people were.

No idea if it’s still liked that but was when I lived there.

The grass was not just greener there it was ONLY there.

Grass in the projects was brown dirt with small pockets of dandelions that every kid in the hood thought was beautiful.

Beauty in Far Rockaway was atypical at best, yet in Rockaway Park they had splendor to spare. So much so our beautiful dandelion if seen was killed for fear it would overrun and destroy the entire garden.

Sound familiar?

Hopefully not.

But that’s exactly what I thought and felt as a black teenager now going to school in Rockaway Park. Then I met and fell in love with the one and only Renee Darvin.

I will always remember the day Ms. Darvin helped make me who I am. I was asked to open my locker by the school cop. No reason. None. He simply came into the class selected me (one of 6 Black kids not in the class but in the school) and had me open my locker. I did-he found nothing so I walked back into Ms. Darvin’s class pissed but said nothing-what was the point? I was a Black kid in a Rockaway Park High School.

He came in told me he was not done with me and for me to come with him.

I was done, screw him. I let loose with a relentless series of ‘your mother so ugly’ jokes and ended with a ‘fuck you I’m not going anywhere.’ I was freaking hilarious. The only person not laughing was the cop.

He came for me.

Didn’t get within a dozen feet of me.  Ms. Darvin blocked his path and told I was NOT leaving with him. PERIOD.

From the front of the room, the cop’s path still blocked by her small frame she said in a loud PROUD voice so everyone especially the cop could hear; ” Michael if you go to (the high school of) Art & Design, you may become a very different artist, just don’t forget what makes you, you.”

I never did.

I’d just made a fool of and screamed at a policeman two words, which could STILL get you shot TODAY and because of the injustice of his actions my teacher who at the very moment became my life long friend validated who and what you see today of that I have NO doubt.

As a teacher there is no doubt I’ve done good work but compared to my 10th grade art teacher and lifelong friend Renee Darvin?

I’m not the Master Of The Universe, I’m not a badass teacher, I’m humbled and proud, very, very proud to have been and will forever be, a student of hers.

Renee-Darvin


To Ms. Darvin’s Family my deepest LONG over due sympathies. I guess I thought Ms. Darvin would always be around because I’d always need her to be. She was everything I ever needed in a teacher a mentor and a friend.

Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture and beyond is as much Renee Darvin’s show as it is mine. She guided me, she saved me, she taught me and she helped make me.  I dedicate the show to her and pity the fool who has a problem with that.

There you go, Ms. Darvin, there’s that ‘sass’ you loved so much. I hope (I KNOW) I still make you laugh.

When we reconnected you asked me to do something and I said ‘one day’ I would. It just felt funny to me (still does) regardless today is that day.

Never for as long as I live will I ever forget you and will always love you, Renee.

Emails can be viewed @ http://mdwp.malibulist.com/2013/12/are-you-the-renee-darvin-from-beach-channel-high-by-michael-davis-straight-no-chaser-333-mdworld/

John Ostrander: Two Good To Read

Ostrander Art 131208For this week’s column I’m going to talk about two books that I’ve read recently, both of which I enjoyed although they are vastly dissimilar. The books are The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith (published by Pantheon) and Steelheart  by Brandon Sanderson (published by Delacorte Press). Both of them are series books: the former is the fourteenth and latest in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and the latter is the first in a planned Reckoners series.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series takes place in Botswana, which is in southern Africa, and the series follows the agency’s founder, Mma Precious Ramotswe and her friends, family, and co-workers as she solves small mysteries. Nothing is huge in these novels – the main mystery of the new book is about someone who is slandering the owner of the beauty salon in the title – but its very warm. The biggest mystery in the series, to me, is how the author, Alexander McCall Smith, captures the characters, all African, and the setting so wonderfully. McCall, Smith is a white Scot, now living in his homeland, was born in Rhodesia but he also lived in Botswana, helping to create and teach at the University of Botswana, and evidently knows and loves the land and its people.

The books in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series exemplify the pleasures of good serial fiction. The characters become familiar, as does the setting, and we come to both as old friends. Its not that the series is unchanging but often the changes are small, as befitting the tone of the books. Still, in this one, momentous events occur but they may only seem that way if you’ve read the entire series. If you’ve just come into the series and this is your first encounter with Precious and her friends, I don’t know if the events would mean as much.

In any books in a series, you have better ones and lesser ones. This year’s visit is one of the better ones.

Steelheart couldn’t be more different. Part science fiction, part super-hero exploit, it takes place slightly in the future. There’s been an event that gives certain people extrahuman abilities but the catch is it also appears to make them crazy and unleashes the darker side of their personalities. They’re supervillains and there’s no one around to stop them, especially the title character, Steelheart. However, he – like all other “Epics” (as the superhumans are termed) – has a weakness and, if you can find it, you can maybe kill them.

The novel isn’t really Steelheart’s story – it belongs to David, a young man who, years before, saw Steelheart kill David’s father. David has devoted his life to finding out the weaknesses of Epics, especially Steelheart, so they can be killed and the stranglehold they have on normal human society can be broken. To this end, he seeks out and falls in with a shadowy group called Reckoners who are normal humans also looking to kill Epics. David makes a case for going after Steelheart and that’s the bulk of the novel.

The book reads like an epic comic book but also asks some interesting questions along the way. Steelheart has created Newcago out of what was Chicago and rules like a ruthless tyrant but there is also some kind of order. Electricity works (some times) and there is some sense or society working, unlike other places. Remove Steelheart and will that still be true? Will the ordinary people thanks the Reckoners for their “freedom”?

The book is well written, the pace is fast, and the characters are interesting. I guessed one or two of the twists (that goes with the territory; as a writer myself, I can sometimes see the tricks in another writer’s hand) but I didn’t get all of them and did not guess the climax. It’s a fun read and there’s more on the way. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one become a movie.

Both books are currently in hardback but are almost certain to go into paperback some time next year. Both are worth reading.

MONDAY MORNING: Mindy Newell

MONDAY LATER: Introducing Jen Krueger

TUESDAY MORNING: The Debut of Jen Krueger

 

Michael Davis: Haters Gotta Hate!

Davis Art 131119From the very second we announced Milestone in 1992 to today, there have been those who simply hate us.

Chief among our haters are a small but vocal group of black comic book creators. Back in the good old days we were just called house niggers and we were hated because DC Comics owned us.

The fact that Milestone was never, not 20 years ago and not today, owned by DC Comics is irrelevant. It’s simply ignored by those who want to say we have somehow sold out the black race by any association with any white company.

I never got that.

Most successful black entertainment companies have some association with or are flat out owned by white companies. If the product is a good one and is focused on the African-American consumer I don’t see the problem.

Now, white backed black companies that market to poor urban black consumers products such as spinning rims, $200.00 sneakers and 40oz beers, promoting these and other items as lifestyle must haves to young black kids… now that I can see black people having a issue with.

I can see calling a white owned black company a bunch of house niggers if they were producing products that underscore a thug lifestyle as desirable.

But if a white owned black company was producing worthwhile products for the black community why would anyone call them house niggers? Why would any black person call them house niggers?

Milestone isn’t owned by a white company.

We produce positive comics and television animation featuring African-Americans role models not seen enough in pop culture. They are good stories well told and considered among some of the best comics ever produced by some.

Yet some just consider us house niggers because they think (wrongly) a white company owns us.

Forget the stories we are telling. Forget the excellence in the work. We are house niggers because a white company owns us.

Except we aren’t owned by a white company, but even if were why call the work we do the labor of house niggers?

I just don’t get that.

We’re an independent black owned company that has produced work that 20 years after our debut and 16 years after we ceased monthly publishing is still held in the highest of regard.

Our television show Static Shock has been on the air somewhere non-stop since 2000. Milestone has a worldwide audience and a dedicated fan base like no other.

The biggest pop culture event in the world just honored us with a celebration and bestowed on us one of the most significant awards in comics.

But to some black comic book creators we will always be house niggers.

OK. I get that. Haters got to hate. Hate us, hate whitey, and hate anything and everything they are not or can be.

In the 20 years since Milestone came to be we have never, and I’ll say it again, never attacked any black creator or company. But for all of our two decades we were and still are the target of countless attacks and outright lies.

I just don’t get it.

We never attacked anyone we rarely responded and when we did our response was; ‘there’s room for everybody.’ That was not just Milestone’s company line we believed it then we believe it now.

Recently a black creator of some renown wrote that he believed Milestone may have been given his companies’ business plan and used that to create the plan for Milestone.

That did not happen. It couldn’t have happened. It was impossible.

Milestone was already in the stores months before the date he assumed we stole his plan.

He has since acknowledged he was wrong in that regard. His creation and talent and are both still considered brilliant not just by me but every surviving member of Milestone. Our partner who did not survive loved his work as much if not more than the rest of us.

I’m not mentioning the work or creator because that sad chapter between his camp and Milestone is closed and I don’t want to give the impression they are the reason I’m writing this.

They are not.

Some other black creators are now saying Milestone not only stole the business plan but Milestone itself was “inspired” by and only came to be because of the idea and hard work of another black publisher.

So Denys Cowan’s idea wasn’t his idea and our business plan wasn’t our plan.

So now we are house niggers, lairs and thieves.

OK. I’ll be your house nigger if that’s how you define house niggers in your world. In your world I’ll be that. Since I don’t live in said world, what the do I care?

However, in no one’s world will Milestone be anyone’s lairs or thieves.

So, haters, think what you will. Say what you will. Believe what you will.

That’s on you.

I’ve no idea why you hate us the way you do but have at it. Continue to voice your hate in your forums, your on-line chats, your next hate Milestone meeting, any and all public and private social media.

But listen to this very carefully. Whatever you say, just be prepared to prove it. I’ll say that again, whatever you say, be prepared to prove it.

Be prepared to prove we are lairs. Be prepared to prove we are thieves.

Because sure as shit you continue to slander us you will be asked to prove it. Stick with calling us house niggers that you won’t have to prove. It’s laughable to us anyhow so feel free.

Slandering me and my Milestone partners as lairs and thieves, that’s no laughing matter to me. We are neither and continuing to say we are you will be asked to prove it. That question will come in a targeted legitimate onslaught. So unforgiving will the correspondence asking for your proof be, I shudder to think about it.

Shut up, put up, or pay up.

I’m fed up.

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil