Tagged: small

Dennis O’Neil: Should Superheroes Booze It Up?

O'Neil Art 131113So there they were on the small screen, Oliver Queen and his main man, knocking back vodka shots and there I was, riding the couch and being maybe a bit befuddled, remembering that an MD once told me that vodka was the alcoholic’s libation of choice because it didn’t have much telltale odor. (As you lurch into the china cabinet, mom thinks you’re having a little inner ear problem.)

Ollie Queen and John Diggle were drinking vodka.

Of course, plenty of people devoid of drinking problems know the taste of vodka and scotch and brandy and absinthe and beer and the rest of the barman’s wares, and booze has been a part of civilized culture for millennia, even part of religious ritual. But I have a question for which I don’t have an answer and its this: Should heroes drink?

Consider: heroes are, among other things, role models and they appear as such in the fiction of everyone from Ayn Rand to Aesop. We seek other humans to admire – ask Evolution why – and that search leads us to heroes, both fictional and the real life versions: Athletes and musicians and actors who perhaps acquire a bit of the mystique of the stalwarts they portray. (And so life imitates art imitating and amplifying life and does anyone have a headache yet?) Our ad men know this, which is why they write checks to celebrities willing to smile at the camera and just love the living heck out of a product that you, yourself, can buy and thus, in some tiny way, emulate the objects of your admiration. It’s an old ploy and it must work because they keep doing it. Should they do it to promote alcohol? Or, more insidiously, should boozing be promoted outside advertisements by showing the good guys doing it?

If there’s a line to be drawn, I don’t know where it is.

One of the problems with alcohol is that when you take that first sip, you don’t know if every subsequent sip will be taken only on holidays in extreme moderation, or if someday you’ll find yourself puking in a gutter.

We know, from our nation’s horribly failed experiment with prohibition, and our more recent disastrous “war on drugs” that banning the citizenry’s recreational intoxicants is not wise. And there’s the matter of that pesky First Amendment, which, in effect, forbids censorship of anything spoken or written and surely that includes the words and actions of televised performers.

But to persuade some bonny young person that the gateway to sophistication, wit, and devastating attractiveness is found inside a bottle is to tell a seductive and potentially ruinous lie. Some will content themselves with that taste of holiday wine, sure, but others will find their way to the gutter.

In the end, I guess, creators must decide for themselves where the danger begins – with booze and tobacco and drugs and, hell, even with certain combat techniques. Sometimes, storytelling can be a bitch.


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases!


“The Middleman” Exclusive Interview with Javier Grillo-Marxauch

In case you weren’t already aware, The Middleman campaign on Indiegogo has just a few days left before concluding. It has proven to be a great success already, but there is still time for fans of both the TV show and the comic to get in on the action.

The Middleman‘s creator, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, was kind enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions about the crowd-funding campaign and the incredible world he hopes to bring back to life with your support.

ComicMix: To begin with, how would you describe The Middleman comic and the TV show to someone who has never seen or read it before?
Javier Grillo-Marxuach: It’s basically Gilmore Girls meets Men in Black… uh, ok, that may not be the best explanation… it’s the story of Wendy Watson, a young art school graduate with few prospects who – after an encounter with a giant monster at one of her temp jobs, is recruited by The Middleman: lone operative of an organization so secret that even he does not know who they are. Joined as a team, The Middleman and Wendy fight all threats extra-, infra-, and juxta-terrestrial, dispatching monsters, aliens, robots and mad scientists while always living up to the Middleman motto “fighting evil so you don’t have to.”

CM: What inspired you to create The Middleman in the first place and what were the influences behind it?
JGM: At the time I wrote the original script – in 1998 – there were a lot of “monster of the week shows” on the air – like Buffy, The X-Files, Angel, Charmed, what have you – and I felt that the genre as a whole lacked a certain “genre awareness” – every one of these shows featured people fighting aliens and monsters and so on, in a hermetic universe in which there seemed to be no popular culture and all these mythologies needed to be explained fresh.  I thought – “if a geek lived in these universes, no one would have to explain zombies to her!”  Also, I wanted to bring a little optimism to the genre – a lot of these shows dealt with the idea that I call “the tragedy of heroism” the notion that being a hero will mess up your life (just ask Peter Parker) – I wanted a lighter, more affirming take on the genre.

CM: When you decided to resurrect The Middleman, why did you choose the crowd-funding route over more conventional methods? How has the crowd-funding experience been for you and the project?
JGM: Because we have an established property with a small, but devoted fan following, crowd funding has been a glove-like fit and an extraordinary experience.  I think crowd funding is a great way for someone like me, who has a property for which there is demand, but maybe not enough demand to catch the attention of the major studios. Through crowd funding we have about a thousand pre orders for our new book – to a company like Disney, which owns the media rights to The Middleman, that’s not a large enough amount to move the needle – to us it’s more than enough to make a great product that truly does honor to the characters and to republish our old adventures in an exciting way.  Our fans have really stepped up to make this new book, and the webstore reprinting all the legacy material, and the cast reunion/live reading possible – so in addition to everything else, the experience has been enormously validating.

CM: Your crowd-funding project has been tremendously successful. Since the campaign has already surpassed its goal, what stretch rewards can contributors look forward to at this point? If your current top stretch goal ($85,000) is surpassed, do you have plans for another one?
JGM: Well, we have five days to go as I write this, so I am not placing bets on getting to our second stretch goal – but it all boils down to this, if we go past the 85,000 we will put any additional money into maybe doing a new book in color, or additional middlebooks down the line… it is all about keeping the Middleman alive.

CM: If you could tell one story in The Middleman setting that hasn’t been told yet, what would it be?
JGM: The great thing about The Middleman is that we have established that there have been Middlemen all through history – thanks to the crowdfund, we  are going to reprint a one-shot called “Legends of the Middleman” which we originally put out in ’06, and tells the stories of barbarian Middleman, Victorian Middleman (in which he face “The League of Professional Jealousy” when Phileas Phogg, Van Helsing and Tesla team up to stop him from solving all their cases) and World War II Middleman… in the TV show we did a story about a cryogenically frozen Middleman from the 60’s (played fabulously by Kevin Sorbo!)… but if i had my pick of any setting… I would do a Gerry Anderson Supermarionation Middleman story in which he teams up with the Thunderbirds!

Our thanks to Javier Grillo-Marxuach for taking the time to speak to us. Be sure to check out the crowd-funding campaign over on Indiegogo while there’s still time. I think I speak for all of us when I say I’m very excited for The Middleman‘s return.

DISCLAIMER: The Middleman crowdfunding project is being curated by ComicMix for Indiegogo. ComicMix is a partner with Indiegogo.

Dennis O’Neil: DC’s Wandering Boot-heals

O'Neil Art 131107Our good times are all gone

And I’m bound for moving on…

Ian Tyson

I doubt that anyone who cared was surprised when, last week, Diane Nelson, the high honcho of DC Comics, announced that the company was relocating to Burbank in about a year. The move had been rumored for a long time, particularly afterDC became part of a movie making company, Warner Bros., of which you may have heard. It was only logical: Manhattan real estate comes with a mighty price and so it seemed to make sense to leave New York and go where the parent company already owned property.

Once, on a business trip, Dick Giordano and I established very brief headquarters on the sprawling Warner’s lot, which had vacant offices we could use. So: empty space, huh? Interesting. And a publishing venture no longer much needed to be located in New York: electronic communications largely eliminated the required treks writers and artists made to midtown. No need to endure the subway when you could pop your work into a fax machine and, later, discuss it with your editor by telephone, all without changing out of your pajamas. And yeah, yeah, I know: fax machines – stone age stuff. But not to us, not then. And pretty soon, the technology got really nifty.

Sure, once in a while, usually when contemplating a complicated stunt, I thought it best to get some creative people together in a room and that was always possible – you know, airplanes and the like – and I always preferred to discuss plots with the writer and me breathing the same air, but that wasn’t strictly necessary. Mostly, editorial chores could be done with someone who lived in the United Kingdom as easily as with someone who lived in Brooklyn.

What we may not have been properly mindful of was that our most reliable product, superhero stories, weren’t about print and paper anymore; they had become about images on screens large and small, most serviceable in theaters and on television. They still have a place on paper and, I’m pretty sure, will continue to do so, and maybe one of you savants out there will write a monograph explaining why print is the proper venue for our characters but, bite the bullet, flicks and the tube are where the major action is. In the best superhero tradition, they’re going where they’re most needed,

My reaction? It’s never a good idea to get into a scrap with what is.

A few years ago, DC relocated some people, some of my former colleagues, from New York to California. In retrospect, that was the opening move, the fulfillment of an event long anticipated. Then the Mad Magazine offices became a suite of empty rooms: move number two. And now… amen. An era quietly ends.


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

Michael Davis: Maybe I’m amazed…

A selection of secondhand paperback books for sale…or just fucking stupid.

My closest friends are like family to me, and family is what Whitney Farmer is in my life. I’m a pretty smart guy (if I say so myself – and I do) and I know a lot of smart people,. Whitney is one of the smartest people I know.

There are two kinds of smart: street smart and book smart. I’m both. If I had to choose between the two, I’d pick book smart.

Oh hell no I wouldn’t. Book smart can get you a job, sure but street smart can save your life.

Being able to hold my own in a conversation with a art professor from Yale on artists is a lot of fun at dinner parties but the chances of me being shot in the head because I disrespected him are small.

However, being able to hold my own in a conversation with those who grew up I the hood like I did under a different value system is preferable. Odds are that Yale professor won’t bust a cap in my ass because I argued Kenneth Noland and William T. Williams were more color field artists than they were non-objective artists.

Whitney, god bless her, thinks she’s street smart but… no.

Yes, she can handle herself in most any situation. Yes she is a fighter but rolling with the homies?

Err, nope.

Whitney assumes that everyone is as smart as she is.

No. No they aren’t.

I’ve been telling her that for years. I’ve seen her talk to a rocket scientist who couldn’t keep up. I call that a “Whitney.” A Whitney is stating something that you think is painfully obvious to everyone but it isn’t because you are above their pay grade in that particular subject, point or gray matter.

The other day I did a Whitney. I wrote an article for Bleeding Cool and assumed people were as smart or at least as satirical as me. I thought people would see a clear farce with one goal, letting one young talented artist know and by her example let all young talented artists know they are worth something and the industry needs someone like them.

Some people got it, but those who didn’t suggested I was not professional enough to write for Bleeding Cool, the piece needed to be completely rewritten and various other reasons why the article sucked.

That didn’t bother me. Really.

Hey. I’m Michael Davis. People have loved what I do or say or hated what I do or say since the moment I entered the industry. The Bleeding Cool comments telling me how non professional and down right stupid I was made me spit tequila all over my Inkpot Award and PhD from laughing so hard.

So, come on, those bullshit comments didn’t bother me at all.

What really bothered me – and I mean really – is the complete non-interest in the focus of the article: new talent.

I’m real serious, when I ask this, when it comes to comic fans caring about the soul of the industry the future of the industry which is like any other entertainment medium is talent, am I stupid?

There is no entertainment media on the planet that can survive without nurturing and supporting new talent but do those who read comics care little about anything except rather or not Ben Fucking Affleck is a good fucking Batman?

The way my piece was written it could have been seen as a rambling mess. Although, throughout the piece I kept referencing that it was thus the joke assholes – but I can see how someone who did not see the humor or appreciate the style in which it was written could object.

The last time I checked, and that was before my un-professional ass got on a plane to Japan or Hawaii (I can’t tell) to talk unprofessional business, there were a few comments from people who saw what I was doing but somehow those other comments and the lack of mention or the down right dismissal of the artist made me wonder rather or not comic fans care about future talent and that means the future of comics.

If that is the case, I can’t blame them. Not because I don’t think it’s very important to have fans care about the next generation of creators. I think it’s fucked up if most don’t, really fucked up if that’s the case.

No, I can’t blame them because when I was “just” a fan I didn’t give any thought to future creators either. I’m a lot of things but I’m not a hypocrite.

Here’s the thing. I just have this overwhelming hope that today’s comic book fan is better, smarter and more vested in the future.

I hope there are more comic fans that get the Japan / Hawaii joke than those who will have to have someone explain it to them.

Last thing, Whitney once destroyed a woman at a San Diego Comic Con panel who dared to challenge her on comics in the classroom. Much like the ending of Kill Bill 2, she hit that woman so hard and so fast with facts it killed her but allowed her to walk five steps before her heart stopped.

Just because she’s not street smart doesn’t mean she’s not gangta.




Marc Alan Fishman: A Tale Of Two Cons

Fishman Art 131102This past weekend, Unshaven Comics closed its convention year out with Detroit Fanfare. In addition to the posh amenities of Dearborn’s finest hotel, we were also graced with the duty of completing a mitzvah: schlepping John Ostrander. Now, far be it from me to pelt you goyim with so much of the Jew-speak, but I’m finding myself a little verklempt. I’d ask that you talk amongst yourselves, but that would require you to skip to the comment bar before I have a chance to say something inflammatory.

Before we get to the meat and potatoes, I want to take a brief time-out to note just how awesome it was to drive John to and from the convention. Outside the small talk all near-strangers are prone to pelt back and forth, I’d like to think that even with as little as four or five hours in cars, or sharing meals, we Unshaven Lads got to know a hero and industry legend a bit more. Aside from sharing column space with the man and trading a few e-mails back and forth, my only other real experience with Mr. Ostrander was a few years back at Unshaven’s first foray at said Fanfare. We broke bread over the breakfast table one morning, and spent the majority of that ride home still convincing ourselves we’d had a meal with someone who took up significant shelf space in our private collections.

Aside from all the Ostrandering we did, Fanfare this year did as we’d hoped: it gave us an opportunity to see a sales gain from the previous year, meet up with old fans, make new ones, and spend just a little time making with the chit-chat amongst our fellow creators. That being said, I got more than a bit Jewy on the car-ride home, after we’d dropped off John. Matt and I, starving, stopped at a McDonalds on the way back to Chicago. Over fresh-from-the-fryer McNuggets (and screw it, real chicken or not, they are damn tasty when you’re starving), I looked over the hard numbers from the year. Specifically, the cost for our table verses the actual sales numbers we pulled down. And here is where the story gets interesting.

As per my witty title, it’s apropos that I open the lid on the jar of facts and figures for Detroit. Two times this year, Unshaven Comics made the trek to the Motor City. In the spring, we attended the aptly named Motor City Comic Con. Housed in nearby Novi, Michigan, the show boasts a large open convention center floor space and a multitude of celebrity guests. The big draws this year? Norman Reedus and Stan Lee. By the power of those names alone, the show suffered from what was later dubbed a humanity bomb, where fans literally waited hours outside the convention hall to even be able to walk in the doors. As creators, our table cost us $268. This was because the show-runners decided that each artist table would cover a single badge. Unshaven Comics’ trifecta-of-triumph required the purchase of two additional badges. By the end of the show, we’d sold 189 books. In 2012, we sold a scant 94 books. The increase of 101% in book sales was certainly enough to allow us to declare a stupendous victory.

Or so it would seem.

As noted, Detroit Fanfare is smart to wait long enough for fans to be hungry for con-goodness, some six months later. Also smart? The show opts to stay away from Detroit proper. The show takes over much of the Adoba Hotel and Suites. Far different from the Suburban Showplace, the hotel-centric con inhabits multiple ballrooms throughout the main floor. Media guests are also par for the course, with this years’ main delights including Billy West, John DiMaggio, and Tyler Mane, to name a few. Unlike Motor City, Unshaven detected no Humanity Bomb. All we really felt was a Walking Dead feeling to the fandom throughout the weekend. With multiple rooms to meander about, fans simply didn’t coagulate in waves like we’re used to in the big rooms. Instead, we simply saw a slow stream of passersby, many of whom were not in much mood to buy. That being said, we rounded out with 143 book sales, besting last year’s 126. Oh, and the table cost? $170, and that’s with the single extra badge we needed to purchase.

When I calculated the final costs of both shows – including gas, hotel, and meals – the numbers didn’t lie. The shows ended up netting Unshaven Comics nearly identical profit. Where Motor City showcased arguably larger stars and boasted a broader attendance, Fanfare’s more affordable table costs and attached hotel (with generous discount) offset a smaller audience. Motor City’s single-room show makes for better traffic flow, but Fanfare’s lower ticket price means fans more likely apt to purchase. At the end of the day, when Unshaven wants to work smarter, the devil is in the details. Fanfare occurs at the tail end of the year, when no other major shows tend to run. Motor City faces off against larger anime conventions and a few Comic Cons to boot. Now that we know we’ll end up with roughly the same amount of money from either? Well, I guess it’s just the best of times to be a lil’ indie publisher.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Talking Mr. Rhee with Dirk Manning

Dirk Manning is slowly becoming a household name in comics.  Currently, he is putting together Tales of Mr. Rhee for kickstarter which is going on right now.  You can find it here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/devilsdue/tales-of-mr-rhee-hardcover-graphic-novel-by-dirk-m

I talked to Dirk about Mr. Rhee, his kickstarter experiences, and his recent schedule.

Joshua Pantalleresco:  So you had a rock band perform at your signing?

Dirk Manning:  Absolutely.   I go to the signing and they tell me that they are going to have a band perform.  The great thing about this is that I know them [Voyag3r].    I said to them as we shook hands that  “Guys, it’s me.  Remember that music magazine ten years ago and that journalist guy?”  They replied “No way…”

JP: It really is a small world.

DM:  It really is.

JP:  So I think you’re at $5000 now on kickstarter?

DM:  Very close.   We’re around 4700 in 8 days which isn’t too bad.  I haven’t had the chance to really promote this like I really want to.  I’ve been busy touring and the kickstarter has pretty much been moving on its own.

JP:  So if you describe your kickstarter experience in one word?

DM:  Nerve Wracking.

JP:  So where did the Mr. Rhee as a character come from?

DM:  Originally, Mr. Rhee came from me being contacted by a cable company wanting me to do a horror comic.  I offered them Nightmare World, but they told me they wanted something darker.

In Mr. Rhee, the world had survived an apocalypse.  It wasn’t like the walking dead per se, but it destroyed society.  I always like the Kafkaesque stories where characters have to deal with the tyranny of the majority.   Mr. Rhee comes from a world that was invaded for three days by monsters and horrors and everything imaginable.   Society rebuilt itself and believed that the monsters are gone.  Rhee knows better.   Of course the tagline is once you call Mr. Rhee, it is already too late for a happy ending.

Rhee combines the kafka type story with horror and monster with my love of pulp and noir.   It’s probably the one character that I think is associated with me and I’m happy it’s that way.

JP:   So what’s in the kickstarter?

DM:  We’re collecting Volume one – the first 13 eight page stories of Mr. Rhee, plus it’ll include other material.  There will be a brand new  prose story.  One of the bidders had the option to give me a song title and that I would have to write a story about it in Mr. Rhee, and that’ll be included.  There is also a hardcover edition exclusive to Kickstarter with the cover illustrated by Riley Rossmo.

JP:  I’m so jealous of that. Riley is like one of my favorites.

DM:  Mine too.  I’m looking at the pieces(hardcover and softcover) right now.  If we hit $15000 we’ll include a five page Mr. Rhee story that was available online for a short time.  It’s probably one of my favorite stories I’ve ever done.  If we go past that and all the stretch goals, what I’d like to do with Mr. Rhee is make a Marvel Handbook like who’s who.

JP:  That would be awesome!

DM:  There’s this one scene in Mr. Rhee for example where this woman is sitting in a limo that fans of Nightmare World will know who she is, but it would be neat to do a who’s who on her and some of the other characters that appear in the series.

Beyond that, I’ll be adding a couple of new tiers in the kickstarter as well.   The nice thing about doing Rhee on kickstarter is that I’m able to reward fans of the series with things like the hardcover.  Most of the things I do aren’t collectible.  There’s no way to tell if there is a first printing of a Nightmare World softcover.  But here, the hardcover will be released for kickstarter and that’s it.  Once it’s printed it’s done.

(Update: It is funded.   Check it out for stretch goals.)

Marc Alan Fishman: Jump In, Let’s Save the World

Fishman Art 131026Erik Larsen, of Image Comics fame, said on his Facebook wall (and I’m paraphrasing and ignoring some of his sluttier words…) “Every comic is a jumping on point. Why are you so scared?”

Those words hit me like a brick house. As many of you know, I write a weekly review of a single comic book over at MichaelDavisWorld . The cool part (aside from Michael Davis calling me “his fourteenth favorite cracker just behind the Ritz”), is that with this new mantra instilled in me it was as if a veil had been pulled from before my eyes.

As many of you read last week, the era of collectability is all but dead. With that logic, combined with Larsen’s standard flapping in the wind… I decided that for the next good-long-while, I would review issues I’d never read before; ones that caught my eye for no personal reason like a love a particular character. While it’s not been a perfect plan that’s opened me up to worlds I feel like I’ve been missing all my life, it has given me plenty of new perspective. But I digress.

Larsen’s point makes sense when you apply it to other media. You see, this is how I tackled my initial fear. I didn’t start watching (and loving) The Cosby Show, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, or even Batman: The Animated Series from their very beginnings. I’ve certainly stumbled into movies playing on cable a quarter, a third, or hell, three-fifths into their running time, and saw them to their conclusion – and later got myself caught up. My first CD was Aerosmith’s 12th studio album. Guess what? I didn’t immediately run out and purchase 1 through 11. I bought their greatest hits album. Zing!

As I noted last week, prior to the Image renaissance of the early 90s my generation didn’t have “jump on points” clearly labeled on the covers of our favorite comics. You want to like the X-Men? Good, go get Uncanny #197 and dive in. Think Superman might be your speed? Action Comics #643 is right there for the taking. Enjoy! One simply couldn’t wait for the volume to end, reboot, or reset. I’d abstained from the monthly comics throughout high school, for the very fear Erik rails against. “How could I possibly enjoy Detective Comics #546 without knowing what happened 20 issues ago?” Hence, I purchased trade paperbacks instead. It didn’t take long of course to note that they were in fact collections of pre-existing issues. Tada!

A single comic book, yes, even Watchmen #11, is small slice of entertainment. A solid fifteen minutes tops, if you’re a slow reader or Brian Michael Bendis is doing dialogue. And if a comic is written well, and drawn well, you know it regardless of subtext. Hence, if you jumped into any comic off the shelf and it was worth its salt, you could catch up and have a new series to enjoy. If the comic doesn’t work for you, then a few bucks are wasted, and you have some glossy toilet paper next time you head to White Castle.

My hunch is that the whole “death of the collectible comic” stems from this ideology of having to be there from the beginning. Hell, let’s be honest, kiddos. When a book starts to get hot it’s fast-tracked to tradesville and then your local comics shop makes it all-too-easy to get in before it’s too late. I know for a fact I would never have followed Irredeemable, Y: The Last Man, or the current Hawkeye had it not been for that fast-track-treatment.

The rush-to-trade happens, I largely assume, when the printed single issues are selling fast enough to warrant the collection. The rub here of course is that for every big publisher able to push things like that to the racks, there’s tons more being left at the station because it’s not exactly a great business move to dump a ton of trades on a store that isn’t selling out dozens of copies of The Atheist.

Much like Community is beloved by critics and a group of rabid fans but doesn’t garner the ratings like Friends, at the end of the day the argument is moot: a #1 excites the fans to buy more than #2, 3, or 237. But that’s been discussed. What Erik suggests, and I concur, is simple: Go buy that #2, 3, or 18. If the cover looked cool, buy it. When you flip through it on the rack and you chuckle a bit at the dialogue, buy it. If your friend at the gym told you he’s been on the book for months now, and says you’d love it, buy it.

You don’t know until you try. You’re smart enough to connect the dots, even when they’re scattered. Our industry doesn’t always need to slam on the reset button in order to get you back into the fracas. Take the leap. You might actually stumble across something that really puts the pep in your step.

I mean seriously… what are you… scared?

SUNDAY: John Ostrander!

MONDAY: Mindy Newell!


Dennis O’Neil: Stealing Jesus

O'Neil Art 131017Well, celebrities have certainly been in the news lately, haven’t they?

You might be expecting a reference to Miley Cyrus here, the pathetic child who cries for attention by participating in grotesque displays of herself. You might even expect a grumpy septuagenarian to wonder if the guardians of a child raised in the humid heart of show-biz, as poor Ms. Cyrus was, could not be accused of a form of child abuse. Don’t look at me. This is one of the many things that I’m not sure about.

I can’t be sure about the dealings of Bill O’Reilly and Michele Bachmann with the Almighty, either. Both these celebrities claim to have received direct communication from on high – on very high. Mr. O’Reilly, an opinion-offering stalwart who gets paid by Fox News, apparently believes that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write his latest book, Killing Jesus. (Earlier books include Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. If you find something that works…)

As for Ms. Bachmann, the Republican congressperson from Minnesota, she thinks that same Holy Spirit wants her to ditch politics for a career in the private sector, wherein serious money can be made. But if Ms. Bachman is right about another matter, she’d better get started on that next career because the clock is ticking. Representative B has recently revealed that we’re living in the End Times – the big rock candy mountain is gnoing to crumble any nanosecond now and you and I can watch Michele and her posse ascend to eternal glory while we…gee, I don’t know. What are we sinners going to do? Miss our bus? Catch a really bad cold? Anyway, something.

Jesus got disrespected from another source last week. The Vatican misspelled his name on an issuance of a special medal commemorating Pope Francis’ taking over the big job. Ooops! Doesn’t say much for Catholic Education, but maybe we should blame, not the good sisters and brothers, but the devil, who still exists, but has gotten wilier, which explains why we don’t run into him much. This is the opinion of Supreme Court Justice Scalia, an eminent jurist who says that he gets most of his news from Bill Bennett, a conservative talk show host.

Note, please, that I’m not questioning the beliefs, just those who reap power and/or profit from them, or who may employ them inappropriately.

And all this snarkiness has what, exactly, to do with pop culture, our presumed subject?

Last week, in a Facebook posting, Larry Hama asked why we still call them comics conventions when they aren’t. Larry’s right, of course. These monster affairs aren’t about comics and haven’t been for a while now. They’re about selling stuff and the creatures mentioned way back in our first paragraph, celebrities. The celebs are rewarded for showing up while some of the comics folk must pay to get in and even those who get comped often get stuck with parking fees which, in someplace like Manhattan, aren’t exactly small items. In the end, most cons are mostly about money instead of promoting a quirky hobby.

The above is not a complaint, just an observation. Things are what they are. I might lament just a bit, but complain? No.


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases


Review: “Pokémon X & Y” bring new dimension to franchise

With nine sets of core games, six generations of characters, and eighteen years of history, one would think that Pokemon might be approaching the end of the tall grass.  But with Pokemon X & Y selling over four million copies worldwide on its premiere weekend, the series show no weakness at all.  The new game, the first to run exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS (and the new low-budget option for new gamers, the 2DS) adds a lot of new characters, new battle formats and a beautiful 3-D design to make it easily the most beautiful game in the series, as well as the busiest.

The basic gameplay remains unchanged – select one of three Pokemon to start your journey around the world, this time the lovely Kalos Region, a land based on the architecture and design of France. Use that Pokemon to catch other wild Pokemon, raise and train them to more powerful levels, allowing you to catch even more powerful creatures, lather, rinse, repeat.  But as with each game, there’s a whole new set of interesting critters to catch and collect, and almost unlimited strategy potential as you choose the most powerful moves for your characters, as well as choosing the most versatile fighting types to meet the challenge of both wild monsters, but other trainers, both in the game and in the real world.  The game is fully rendered in 3-D, taking advantage of the power of the 3Ds to deliver a new view of the characters, no longer the sinple top-down look of past games.  Battles feature sweeping camera angles as the characters battle, much in the style of the Pokemon Coliseum games for the various console systems.  There’s endless little details in the animation – your character drops to one knee when chatting to children, you see them actually pick up found items, and errant breezes make the trees sway and the grass rustle.  For the first time, the circle pad lest you move in diagonals, not the simple four directions of the games with only a D-pad.  Indeed, it’s so easy to move around, it takes some getting used to – you need to take an extra moment to make sure you’re actually lined up with items and characters you want to interact with.

Over and above the basic battle of the game, X & Y give you new ways to train and interact with your Pokemon.  Minigames allow you increase your friendship with your little friends and raise their battle stats.  Pokemon-Amie is a feature to the Nintendogs games, where you can pet your Pokemon, feed him treats and more, via the 3Ds touchpad.  The system’s camera is used for basic facial recognition, allowing you to play “monkey-see monkey-do” with them.  Super Training is a series of minigames designed to increase their battle stats like strength and speed.

About the only hardware feature of the 3DS that isn’t used to its fullest potential is Street and Spot Pass.  The game will receive messages of game updates and promotions from Nintendo in the game via Spotpass through an in-game device called the Holo-Caster, but interaction with other players only happens while the game is in play.  The Player Search Service allows you to interact with friends that you’ve met using friend codes, and if you connect to the Internet, any random players from around the world that are playing at the a moment.  Trading is much faster now, and more flexible.  An upcoming app release, Pokemon Bank, will allow you to store up to 3,000 characters on the Cloud, for a small monthly fee.

Each new Pokemon adventure brings new players and cartoon viewers to the series, and for long time players like me (seriously – the only thing I’ve done uninterrupted in my life that play Pokemon is be married), sparks the excitement of the series anew.  X and Y are easily the best new addition to the franchise in years, and if you were looking for an excuse to pick up or upgrade to a 3DS, you’ve got your reason.

John Ostrander: Are You Artistically Experienced?

Ostreander Art 131013Last week I wrote about seeing The Wizard of Oz again on the IMAX screen and how, once more, I really enjoyed the film. Since then, I’ve reflected on how my attitude towards the film has changed over the years.

The first time I saw Wizard was in the 50s on a relatively small black and white set. To be honest, I was not very taken with it. I was probably about eight or ten and The Guns of Navarone was far more my speed. Also, as I said, I saw it all in black and white and so the moment when the film transitions to Technicolor was lost on me until we got a color set. That’s when I got it and started to appreciate the film more.

What has really changed over the years has been what I bring to the film as I watch it – or any other film I see again or any book I re-read or piece of music that I listen to more than once. The work itself, in those cases, doesn’t really change. Oh, it might be restored or, in the case of The Wizard of Oz, blown up for the IMAX and have a few 3D effects tossed in. However, the fundamentals of the work do not change. I have changed.

To give an example, when I was in 8th grade at St. Jerome’s RC Grade School, I watched and was taken up with the TV version of Going My Way. This wasn’t the Bing Crosby movie, which I didn’t see until much later. This one starred Gene Kelly in the Bing Crosby role and Leo G. Carroll (previously of the Topper TV series and later of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) in the Barry Fitzgerald role. I was very taken with it and with the idea of being a parish priest, so much so that I signed up for the seminary.

My “vocation” (as such things were called) didn’t last more than my freshman year but that year in seminary had a profound affect on my life and has been highly influential in my writing. It all stems back to that TV series version of Going My Way. I doubt very much it would have the same influence on me today because I’m a different person. I would bring a different self to it. I might find memories – ghosts – of who I was back then but seeing the series again wouldn’t have the same effect on me.

Any artistic work is like a light switch. The potential is there even when the switch closed. However, it takes the person encountering that work to flip that switch so that the electricity flows. That’s when the work is truly experienced. Part of the magic is no two of us experience that same work in exactly the same way.

The work created has the artist’s intent and exists as his or her self-expression. It has a life of its own, often independent of the creator (witness Sherlock Holmes). The experience, where the work really lives, happens only when someone encounters it, takes it in, brings his or her own life to it, when they really participate in it. A good example are comic books – a comic book page exists in a static form but the reader somehow uses the gutters to “see” and experience the action move from one panel to the next.

This essay exists whether you read it or not but it only reaches its full potential when you read it and, even better, it affects you. Then we shall have shared thoughts, feelings – an experience.

So – was it good for you?