We circle back to WAREHOUSE 13, spending time with Saul Rubinek and Aaron Ashmore as they share their memories of the show just a couple of weeks before the doors close for the final time. Plus one of the building blocks of The Marvel Age Of Comics passes away.
Comic book writer, editor, and raconteur Clifford Meth took to Kickstarter to fund the publication of Comic Book Babylon, a collection of essays, stories, and interviews drawn from the almost ten years worth of columns he had written for various comic book news sites across the Internet, including ComicMix itself. Promising an introduction by Stan Lee and illustrations by noted comic artist/political crackpot Michael Netzer, Comic Book Babylon almost quintupled its original funding goal with $11,219 in pledges. Last week, Meth delivered with the release of Comic Book Babylon, published in print by Meth’s own Aardwolf Publishing or digitally through the Amazon Kindle store. (more…)
Building a sequel to the hit film 300 wasn’t an easy task, and Zack Snyder talks about the choices he made to get RISE OF AN EMPIRE on the big screen and Lena Headey shares what it’s like to play another tough (but flawed) character. Plus CONSTANTINE gets a cast and Marvel gears up for their 75th.
Originally I had written something entirely different. I thought it was brilliant. Some of my best writing ever. Then I thought again. Then I spiked it. The piece was… inappropriate. This contradicts one of my personal commandments: thou shalt not edit thyself. Worse still, I’m now so late our ace peefrooter won’t have time to peefroot this. So there are likely to be all kinds of stupid mistakes here.
That’s the biggest hassle in the world of publishing – print, online, or metaphorical. The Dreaded Deadline Doom. I think Stan Lee coined that phrase, maybe Roy Thomas. Whomever. It’s as brilliant as it is accurate. The closer we get to an unmet deadline, the closer we get to tipping over one of those dominos left over from the Vietnam War. There’s a process in producing comics. This process is not written in stone, but it’s based upon two premises that most certainly are: 1) unlike movies, comics is a sequentially collaborative process and there is stuff that happens to a person’s work after it is delivered. If the writer is late, the penciler is squeezed. If the penciler is late, the inker is squeezed… and so on down the food chain.
It all winds up in the production bullpen, and those folks are always squeezed. Just ask ComicMix’s crack production director, Glenn Hauman. He’s been squeezed so hard for so long – he started out in DC’s production department at least a dozen reboots ago – he is often confused for an accordion.
But that’s not just the last place in the chain… it’s also the last place you want to squeeze. Those are the unsung heroes that quietly fix everybody else’s mistakes after the editor painstakingly marks them up. Of course, if the editor is squeezed, more mistakes happen. Making a mistake about correcting a mistake doesn’t balance the situation and you can never predict what’s going to go wrong.
Time is not a cure. Time is a death threat.
As an editor, I never give talent phony deadlines. When we start working, I tell folks I deal the cards face up and the deadlines I give are the real deal. Most writers and artists with any experience do not believe me.
Not at first.
This is not just a plea for efficiency. It’s a matter of respect. I respect the talent to do their job in a professional manner, and everybody should respect their fellow collaborators – including those at the end of the process, the color artist and the production artists.
Deadlines are not set in order to annoy the talent. I realize there’s some confusion on that point, because real editors enjoy annoying the talent – it’s our escape valve from the Dreaded Deadline Doom. You shouldn’t have to be Otis Redding to understand respect.
In what seems like three hours ago, Marvel Comics did a semi-reboot called Marvel Now. Unlike DC’s New 52, it wasn’t a makeover of their entire line. Unlike DC’s New 52, it wasn’t totally boring and arbitrary. It was still another contrived event that paved the way for a bunch of unnecessary first issues and a couple crossover stunts that led me to abandon reading a slew of their titles.
And, today, we get Marvel All-New Now. Or Marvel Now All-New. Or, if you’re Stanley Lieber or Jack Kurtzburg, Marvel Now – Nu?
So what is Marvel All-New Now?
Beats the hell out of me. I’ve read all their stuff, their Diamond solicitations, their website, all kinds of stuff, and as far as I can tell it’s still another contrived event with a bunch of unnecessary first issues and likely will pave the way for a couple crossover stunts that will doubtlessly lead me to abandon reading another slew of their titles.
In fact, this time Marvel is simply stuttering. They’re giving us Marvel All-New Now replacements for titles that had been published under Marvel Now that, previously, had been published by Marvel pre-Now. How many “first issues” of the Hulk and Daredevil can Mark Waid write in the 21st Century?
Do first issues carry the type of circulation boost as they used to? What about first issues that have a whole bunch of variant covers for retailers to trade back and forth to each other, bidding up their alleged “value” but rarely actualizing any gain by selling them to an ostensibly waiting marketplace?
Honest. Does anybody actually care about Marvel All-New Now? Are you excited by this “event?”
I’ll probably check out a few of these “new” titles – they’re relaunching a few characters that I’ve liked in the past, and no matter how the numbering works I still enjoy Waid’s Marvel work – as well as that of many others – and I see no reason for this to change.
Don’t get me wrong. I like superhero comics, as part of a healthy diet of sundry genres and media. I like DC and Marvel’s superheroes. I just seem to have stopped liking their superhero comic books. They willfully beat it out of me.
Lucky for me, there’s plenty of good stuff out there.
Hey there, true believer, when you book to the multiplex to see the new Thor flick, you won’t be seeing just a movie, or even just a superhero movie – you’ll be seeing a Marvel movie! And you’ll know it almost from the moment the feature begins to unreel. How? Easy! The word MARVEL will be splashed across the big screen, white letters against a red field – no point in being subtle, here. There may be references to other Marvel movies as the drama unfolds and, count on this, after the end credits – and you are going to stay for them, aren’t you? – there will be a brief final scene that hooks you into another Marvel movie! Or two, maybe.
Almost like it was all planned from the beginning, this creation of the Marvel brand, and in a way, it was. And by “beginning” I don’t mean…oh, say 2002, when Tobey McGuire put on the Spidey suit and began slinging webs. No, we’re referring to the 1960s when Stan Lee was busy revolutionizing the comic book biz. He once told me that he wanted everything Marvel to support everything else Marvel, and he made that happen, insofar as it could happen back in the dark ages. (No Internet? No smart phones? iPads? Google? Facebook? Not even – you gotta be kidding me! – fax machines?)
So Smilin’ Stan Lee created the Marvel Universe, a mirror image of our universe, but a universe not quite so beholden to life’s drearier realities – one in which superheroes could and did exist. Characters from one title popped up in another title and all the costume wearers seemed to know, or at least know of, each other. It was a cohesive fictional construct, this Marvel Universe, and it was given to us almost whimsically; footnotes and text pages and even cover copy emphasized fun and hinted that we didn’t have to take anything in a Marvel book too seriously. Y’know, just hunker down and enjoy. Oh, and you didn’t have much doubt that you were reading, not just a comic book, but a Marvel comic book.
The movie and television folk seem to have learned from the smilin’ one. They’ve taken Stan Lee’s paradigm, adapted it to their media, and achieved marketing success and, recently, a fair degree of artistic respectability. What Stan might call “the Marvel manner” has survived metamorphosis from cheap pulp magazine filler to the stuff of hugely elaborate and technologically sophisticated cinema.
Those cheap pulp magazines? Well, they’re not pulpy anymore and, let’s face it, not so darn cheap, either. But they’re still comic books – Marvel comic books. Somehow, the publishing arm of the Marvel empire has preserved some of its identity though decades of varying ownership and turnover of personnel in both the marketing and the editorial offices. And a lot of artists and writers, including your humble correspondent, have worked for and/or at both Marvel and its rival DC, and still at least a ghost of Stan Lee’s vision persists.
I haven’t mentioned Marvel’s television show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Well, the lead character has mentioned his appearance in Marvel’s big screen Avengers and the word on the street is that S.H.I.E.L.D. will have some connection to the next Captain America flick. ‘Nuff said?
Imagine: the word Shazam is uttered and Boom! – from the far reaches of nether being a lightning bolt, a very peculiar looking lightning bolt, flashes toward Earth. But something goes amiss! A crack in the cosmic egg? A misalignment of creational energies? Instead of altering a red-sweatered youngster into a larger and much, much mightier version of himself, the boomer veers through a twilight zone and a lot of alternate dimensions and…
… there I am, newly arrived in New York City, standing on a sidewalk, puzzled. I’m supposed to begin my comic book job today, but the Marvel Comics office is closed – closed at ten in the morning! – and as I look around, I see that most of the stores on Madison Avenue are also closed. What the heck? Isn’t this a plain old weekday? What’s with the closing?
I know no one in the city except Roy Thomas, and I don’t know where he’s staying. But I remember a name that was mentioned in a Marvel comic book: Flo Steinberg. I find a pay phone. (Ah, yes, pay phones. Remember them?) Ms. Steinberg is listed in the directory and I put a coin into a slot and dial her number. A pleasantly feminine voice answers and after a brief conversation, I have the answer I sought. Stores and offices are closed because this is something we didn’t have in the Missouri town where I was, until three days previous, a newspaper reporter: a Jewish holiday. Specifically, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
I didn’t know, on that Manhattan morning 48 years ago, that Rosh Hashanah was a new year’s celebration – I’d probably never even heard the words “Rosh Hashanah” – but the holiday and my life were in fortuitous synchronization: the Jews were beginning a new year and I was beginning a new life. I was undergoing a transformation, not as arresting as the morphing of the red-sweatered kid into a red-costumed superhero, but considerably more enduring
Flo told me how to find Roy, who was rooming with Dave Kaler in a lower east side tenement. I sought him out and the next morning, which wasn’t any kind of holiday, he introduced me to Stan Lee and…Shazam? I entered a building at Fifty Ninth and Madison a smarty-ass journalist and, eight hours later, exited it a comic book guy, probably a little less smarty-ass.
Hours and days and years and decades filled up. Comic books evolved from what was widely considered to be disreputable trash into a recognized and reputable narrative form and I evolved into…what? Somebody with the same name as the twenty-something who stood on Madison Avenue, puzzled – a slender fellow with hair, he was – into who or whatever is sitting in front of a computer – a computer? – and typing these words.
Sometimes writing this type of column requires the skills of an experienced curmudgeon – which, lucky for me, is how I got the job. But only a child with a weak bladder pisses over everything he likes, and I am not a child. I am an adult. With a weak bladder, but hey, I’m staring Medicare in the face.
Unlike some of my ilk, I still read comic books – not exclusively, but I read a lot of ‘em. I read a few out of curiosity and a few others just to see what my friends are up to. But I focus on the comics I actually enjoy (hence my annual “Top Nine” list). With comics characters and adaptations proliferating all across the media, the same is true with comics-based movies and teevee shows. And what’s making my little fanboy heart go pitter-patter? Spoiler Alert: look at the artwork up by the headline.
I have enjoyed Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever since its debut in Strange Tales #135. This comic book came out in the early summer of 1965. An endless sea of masterful writers and artists succeeded Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (for the record, Kirby plotted those early stories) and the most significant, the most interesting, the most awe-inspiring, was from a relative newcomer named Jim Steranko. He imbued the property with so much raw energy and skill that the property is still running off of the momentum he provided some almost a half century ago.
I love the way S.H.I.E.L.D’s been handled in the movies. It’s so… Marvelesque. It’s been handled by people who get it. So it should come as no surprise that my fanboy anticipation is entirely invested in the new teevee series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Of course I can be disappointed. This sort of thing has happened before. The right people get it wrong. But given how S.H.I.E.L.D. has been handled by Marvel’s movie division and the fact that Joss Whedon is the show’s overseer and Clark Gregg unsplatters himself from the movie storyline to reappear as Agent Coulson in this new series, I have every right to expect a solidly entertaining experience.
On Tuesday, September 24, nearly three weeks from today, I’ll find out.
And then I can move on to Doctor Who’s anniversary.
After all these years, it’s still fun to be a fanboy. I’ll grow up to be that old geezer at the assisted living center, completely not acting his age.
If you follow this column regularly (in which case I apologize for the feelings of loneliness and alienation), you might remember me mentioning that I now reside in Los Angeles, which is the perfect city to move to if you’re really desperate to live in a comic book. It’s so colorful and exciting and full of funny-looking noises. Like when the valet at Jerry’s Deli on Ventura slides that new car you haven’t even started making the payments on yet into a parking space narrower than its wheel base – at 120 mph – because he thinks he’s Batman.
So I am thrilled to report I’m serene, I tell you, serene as I continue to sit around, keyboarding like this. Only now I do it for fun because the keyboard I’m using is the digital one on my smartphone, and it’s now in my lap as I write this, with the vibration intensity on the haptic feedback set to “Maximum.”
I am, however, finding it somewhat more lonely here than I’d anticipated.
Many of my old friends – the kind who keep insisting I refer to them on social media as “not-old-that-way” – don’t get out much. They glide about their palatial homes in motorized tricycles which have to be loaded into their very tiny cars when a group of us goes out to lunch. Whereupon the one who still has enough use of his legs to actually drive a car keeps asking the voice on the GPS to speak louder, so he can hear her replies to his inappropriate comments about how hot she sounds and what time she gets off work.
Meanwhile, the other three beg me to push their motorized tricycles out into freeway traffic while they are still in them, because their fingers are too arthritic to use a trackpad and none of them has mastered SEO well enough to Google for the guy who inherited Jack Kevorkian’s equipment.
Thus I find myself in the rather odd position of actually looking forward to inviting to lunch Stan The Man, who, as you know, lives in Beverly Hills. And is not too busy to see me because there are no animation studios or comic book companies left out here with whom he can jointly announce a project that will be completed after you and I are dead.
(“Just came back from The Mansion and I’m way stoked, ‘cause Hef an’ I are This Close to launchin’ that whole Spider-Bunny thing.”)
I’ll have to find a way to break it gently to Mr. Man that Mr. Hefner no longer sits around all day in his pajamas and bathrobe because he needs to be ready at a moment’s notice to fuck a smokin’-hot babe, but because sitting around all day in your pajamas and bathrobe is just what you do when you’re 187 years old.
But, of course, as Bill Maher knows how to say with much better fake sincerity than I, I kid Mr. Man. I have every confidence that he really will be with us many years hence. That’s because, as he has helpfully informed us, he has a pacemaker but no need whatsoever for a motorized tricycle. I am, however, inviting Mr. Man to lunch in my home, where absolutely no effort will be made to point out that he’s standing too close to the microwave.
And, in what passes here in Hollywood for truth, Mr. Man has announced a strategic relationship with Archie Comics, for whom he will be writing Just Imagine Stan The Man Asking You To Believe He Actually Wrote This Comic Book Himself About What It Would’ve Been Like If He’d Created That Really Swell, Groovy Homo Kid We Came Up With That’s Putting Us Out Of Business Because It’s Pissing Off All Those Loudmouthed Jesus People Who For Some Reason Are Still Under The Impression That They Can Buy “Age-appropriate” Comic Books At Wal*Mart.
I, for one, am looking forward to chatting Mr. Man up about that book. I may be totally off-base on this, because I haven’t actually seen Mr. Man in the 20 years since the announcement, but I think Archie is a perfectly natural “fit” for him because, at least at that time, the back of Mr. Man’s head was orange, too.
Now, as we come to the conclusion of what I know all you reverential fanboys, with your keenly developed senses of humor, will have understood was meant as Just Jokes rather than the gratuitous and mean-spirited rant you, you hero-worshiping little cretins, you, mistook it for … I leave you with just these humble thoughts:
Apparently, here in The City On The Edge of Forgetaboutit, the way you fight ageism is by making fun of people who are even older than you are. If you can find any.
And so it is that I whistle past Forest Lawn and rage, rage against the dying of the light from my smartphone.
OK, so I’m a little cranky, too.
Some asshole just totaled my motorized tricycle, trying to park it at 120 mph because he thinks he’s Batman.