Tagged: Stephen King

Dennis O’Neil: Invisible Comic Books!

So look: we’re all part of the same whole, right? I mean, we can all trace our origins to the same big bang, between 13,000,000 and 14,000,000 million years ago, give or take a few calendar pages, so I shouldn’t have to perform mental/verbal gymnastics to convince you that radio drama has a relationship with comic book scripting, beyond the obvious, that both are what Stephen King calls story delivery systems.

But there may be a few gnarlys lurking in the crannies of bandwidth who present themselves as doubters. We shall let them continue gnawing on fish bones when I sweep you back some 68 (again giving or taking some of those pesky calendar pages — but much smaller calendar pages this time).

It’s me, there in the kitchen, standing on a chair so I can reach Mom’s white plastic radio which lived atop the refrigerator, also white and sometimes called the “icebox.” I was listening to – I was heeding – my programs. Superman. (Of course, Superman!) Captain Midnight. Buck Rogers. Tom Mix. (He was a cowboy, and of course we made room for cowboys.) These, and others I may be forgetting were after school shows, broadcast on weekdays between four and six.

I heeded them. Oh, yeah.

The radio stuff wasn’t all that was in my post-toddler portfolio. There were also the comic books and some weeks I got only one, largesse from Dad who picked it up along with milk for the family after Sunday Mass. Some weeks, though, I had a lot more than a single paltry comic to read. Every once in a while, often on a sunny afternoon, I collected my used comics, put them in a wagon and visited the homes of the other kid-comics readers in the neighborhood and, sitting on somebody’s porch, we’d trade: their used and maybe slightly torn comics for mine. Our books were never doomed to Mylar bags, to be hoarded like the contents of Uncle Scrooge’s vault. Our comics were only getting started! They were destined to extend their gifts of enchantment and delight into the future, to porches we had never seen and maybe even city blocks that would be new to us.

So, yes, I was a comics nerd before there were such things. But… except for the days when I went a’trading, I had only one new comic in a week. Pretty sparse diet of high adventure. But radio – Monday through Friday, exciting stories – and a bunch of them. Sure, they were continued but I didn’t mind that, and I didn’t know what the characters looked like (unless they also appeared in comics) but that was okay, too.

Better than okay. Not seeing the humans who belonged to the voices, I visualized them – you know, made them up in my head – and while I was at it, I imagined cars and planes and buildings and lots more. I imagined a world.

Pretty good training for a kid who would grow up to be a comic book writer.

Martha Thomases: The Horror! The Horror!

It is more than a little likely that, as you read this, I am getting a root canal.

Dentists terrify me. Not on purpose — they are not the stars of It — but, nonetheless, they fill me with dread.

I’m sure that most people who go into dentistry as a career are motivated by a desire to help others, and yet, when I go to the dentist, I can’t help thinking about this movie and this scene.

A lot (not all!) of horror fiction is about the fear and loathing of our bodies. As children, they frustrate us with their limitations. We can’t fly, and we are not tall enough to reach the cookies. As adults, they frustrate us because they no longer do the things they did when we were younger, like stay awake all night on purpose, or digest spicy food.

I’m not really a fan of horror fiction. My life as an informed citizen has enough horror non-fiction. However, I understand that fiction provides a way for humans to process our fears in a healthy way. And I enjoy Stephen King books, not because they are scary, but because he has a gift for creating characters he seems to really care about. If we didn’t care about them, we wouldn’t be frightened by the threats they face.

20100414-rock-bottom-remainders-stephen-king-band-600x411-4004220(A friend of mine was in a rock band with King, and he says the conversations on the tour bus focused on body functions a lot.)

The horror and thriller genres are, to me, most effective in prose, when I can imagine the threats, or in movies, where a good director (and script) provide surprising jumps. Comics can’t do that, at least not in the same way. Comics can give the reader some vivid imagery, and there is no limit to the amount of blood and gore and mucus the artist renders on the page, but, in the end, it’s just a flat picture. We, the readers, come at these images at our own pace. We can rip them up or throw them across the room if we like.

For me, the primary exception is Alan Moore. From his first Swamp Thing stories, with Stephen Bissette and John Totleben, he made stories that haunted me long after I finished reading. It wasn’t just the insects (although they gave me the icks), but the way he treated the characters’ perceptions of their bodies. The stories inspired not only fear, but disgust and mistrust.

More recently, Moore has explored these issues and this imagery in Providence. I confess that I’m not a big Lovecraft fan, so these books are not my jam. Still, Moore, with Jacen Burrows, gets plenty creepy and ominous, and perhaps you will enjoy it.

There are scary stories about ax murderers and the like, but it is those with threats from within that freak me out the most. As a culture, we especially fear women’s bodies. In modern film, from Rosemary’s Baby to this week’s debut, Mother!, it seems that the men who make most movies are terrified about women’s ability to have babies. What if women decide they don’t want to? What if women want to have babies, but with somebody else? What uncontrollable forces inhabit the bodies of women that allow the creation of other beings?

There aren’t many horror movies from the perspective of the women who might have children, especially when they don’t want them. The closest I can think is Alien and, this day, I can’t watch those movies because I read the comics adaptation first. A monster who plants a fetus in my body against my will that bursts from my chest? No, thank you.

The lesson I learn from horror fiction is that I am responsible for myself, especially my own body and what happens within it. Nothing will make me immortal, alas, but the choices I made about food and exercise and how I go through life are my own. This is why it is so important to me to support Mine!. Without access to health care, people cannot make the choices necessary to live the lives we want. We need to get PAP tests and STD tests and mammograms and birth control. We need pre-natal and post-natal care. Today is the last day you can pledge, and I hope you will.

Any other being that grows in and comes out of my body should only do so with my permission. The alternatives are too frightening.

Box Office Democracy: It

The original It miniseries came out when I was in first grade.  My parents, being reasonable people, didn’t let me watch it, I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know it existed back then.  But an elementary school has kids in it so much older than six and while I wouldn’t want my 10 or 11 year-old watching It they were certainly out there.  The imagery from that miniseries became the urban legends of our school.  The unused fifth floor had an evil clown living there and on an on.  Why did an elementary school in a busy urban area have an entire unused floor? I assume to make urban legends easier to stick.  I saw the miniseries myself in middle school and honestly was still probably too young to deal with all that stuff.  I’ve been scared of It for as long as I can remember.  I don’t think they should make movies based on It, I think all the copies of the book should be put in some giant box and never be touched again.  It scares me to the bone with almost no provocation needed and this new movie is spectacularly terrifying, I believe even to people without all the built-in baggage I brought to it.

It’s basically impossible to adapt an 1100 page book and not have to leave an awful lot out.  Luckily adaptation is an art form and not just a mechanism for translating a movie literally to the page (Peter Jackson I’m still quite angry with you for those Hobbit movies).  It leaves an awful lot out on the way to a 135 minute version of half a giant novel but it certainly gets the gist of it right.  There’s an evil clown trying to kill a bunch of kids and said clown has probably been doing it at this same spot for a good long time.  Bullies are terrible and adults don’t really care about the plights of children.  Oh, and the whole thing is balls-to-the-wall scary the entire time.  The atmosphere of menace only lifts for fleeting moments and it took every ounce of my willpower not to watch those moments though my fingers.

I am a bit of a pushover when it comes to horror movies.  Even bad ones where you 100% know when the jump scare is coming can get me hunched down in my chair and averting my gaze.  It probably isn’t enough to tell you that I was scared during It but so was everyone else in my theater.  From my seat in the third row I could see that the entire theater was cringing and averting their eyes.  Statistically there must have been some horror mavens in that theater and no one was having an easy time.  This is the director of Mama, a movie I’ve often cited as the least comfortable I’ve ever been in a movie theater, finding new and more cunning ways to manipulate feelings of terror.  I never want Andy Muschietti to make another horror movie.  I can’t stand the idea of him getting better at this.  I will be there for It Chapter 2 the day that it opens.

I lived the last month of my life dreading seeing It.  I had to stop watching Nick at Nite when I went to bed because they would run commercials for it and it was too much for my subconscious to bear just before asking it to cook up some new dream ideas.  It ran a brilliant marketing campaign and backed it up with the scariest movie I’ve seen since Crimson Peak.  In a perfect world the story would have had a little more time to breathe but this is already on the long side for a horror movie and I can’t figure out what I would cut.  I’m anxiously awaiting the second part and planning what show I will have to watch on Netflix while I go to sleep because I won’t be able to stand those trailers either.  I’ll never quite be free of It but at least the rest of the world can live in the same mental hell as I do now.  Hooray!

Box Office Democracy: The Dark Tower

I wonder if it bothers Stephen King that his 54 novels and 200 short stories have produced exactly one great movie.  (Two if you count The Shining, and you probably shouldn’t, considering the very public feud between author and director.)  We have the greatest pulp author of a generation, perhaps of all time, and he just keeps sending his ideas off to Hollywood to die.  I don’t mean to turn the man in to too much of a martyr; he keeps cashing the checks, so he knows what this is.  But to see The Dark Tower, the sprawling thirty year epic he wrote threading through so much of his work, turn in to a pale reflection on the silver screen must sting worse than most.  The Dark Tower is probably the best attempt we’ll ever see to turn a 4,000 page story in to a 90 minute movie, but also maybe no one should ever try that again.  There just isn’t room for any nuance.

I’ve never read any of the Dark Tower novels and I’ve never felt particularly tempted.  I understand that this movie is a sequel of sorts to the books and also that it tries to tell a fair bit of the overarching plot of the novels in this 95 minute movie.  I don’t understand how both of those things can be true but there’s no possible way this is a reasonable adaptation of eight Stephen King novels, that man writes a dense book.  I appreciate that this isn’t anything like the Peter Jackson Hobbit movies and they didn’t turn this in to an endless stream of movies with endless amounts of exposition until I feel like I’ve been ground to dirt.  The Dark Tower, for all of its other faults, has a sense of tempo that is lost with books by directors that make movies like an overly defensive book report needing to prove they did the reading.  I always felt The Dark Tower wanted to get to the next scene and wanted to be entertaining.  It didn’t always succeed but it was trying.

Of course, I can’t tell you anything about what this movie was about.  There’s the eponymous tower and it’s good that it’s there but some bad guys who are basically all Vincent D’Onofrio from Men In Black are trying to use psychic children to destroy the tower.  The first half of the movie has a fairly compelling plot about family and trust but that just completely falls away.  It ends up just being a boy (Tom Taylor) hanging out with The Gunslinger (Idris Elba) in a barren dessert world that looks an awful lot like a studio backlot but according to the credits was South Africa.  Occasionally an evil sorcerer (Matthew McConaughey) will turn up and make everything interesting but they try to keep him as far away from the action as they can.  Probably because it’s all building to a confrontation that takes less than three minutes.

Matthew McConaughey seems like he was basically born to play a slick Stephen King villain.  He has the honeyed way of American speaking that I always tried to do in my head when someone was trying to talk someone in to giving up their soul for a trinket or whatever.  He’s playing a rather generic villain here, I presume because the intricacies of licensing made The Man in Black a little smaller than his literary equivalent (I don’t know how I know so much about this character despite never reading the books but here we are).  He shows up to be menacing and he backs up his bluster by being very mean to his subordinates and characters who are no longer useful.  He’s like a Saturday morning cartoon villain that can actually kill people.

Idris Elba is a talented actor given no chance to act.  The Gunslinger is every gruff hero you’ve ever seen in anything ever.  He doesn’t want to form emotional attachments and he doesn’t want to talk about why that is.  He’s very good at shooting things and there’s solid work given to showcasing that talent but it’s a waste of Idris Elba.  All they needed from Elba was a look and while he looks amazing (he’s a handsome man) there’s no there there.

I’ve seen something like 250 movies since I started reviewing them in 2012 and I’ve learned a little bit about good movies and a lot about bad movies.  The Dark Tower is a bad movie but it’s a great bad movie.  It isn’t excruciating to watch, it has the sense to be short, and there’s always something to pay attention to even if the story is bland nonsense.  They put a giant amusement park sign that said “Pennywise” and I was on edge for a whole scene that had literally no other content.  The Dark Tower is the kind of bad movie that you can walk out of feeling refreshed, remarking to yourself that it “wasn’t really as bad as people said” and while it might not be true it feels better than the movies where you can’t wait for the lights to come up.

Dennis O’Neil: Crossing Over


There you are, somewhen on the far side of one of these bedeviling time gaps, at least four days in the future from when I’m typing this and – I don’t really know – you just might be squirming with anticipation because in a few hours or less – your hours – you’ll be watching the final part of the season’s megaevent, the four-part television crossover featuring Supergirl, The Flash, Green Arrow and the members of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Is your breath taken?

Me, I’m sitting here in Monday afternoon, not knowing what the crossover is even about. (Of course, it’ll be in some way about the heroes mentioned in the previous 81 word! paragraph.)

So, again, tv is following behind comic books. Not a knock on the video guys: comics got there first because high speed printing was invented before video transmission – the first steam driven press debuted way back in 1825 and there’s your trivia of the day – and although television technology and print technology are vastly different, they are both what Stephen King calls story delivery systems and in that capacity deal with some of the same problems.

Among those problems: making lots of money from fictional characters. One answer occurred to mass audience storytellers when very few people had ever seen a television set and comics were in their infancy: have characters from one popular publication appear in another publication. A publisher could hope that the crossover stunt would expose readers of one magazine to the other magazine and the newbies would become regulars. So went the hope.

The ancestors of today’s two biggest comics companies were the first publishers to do the big crossover thing. (I’ll call that a coincidence if you will.) What became DC comics gave us All-Star Comics, which featured the company’s most popular heroes, and some maybe not so popular, joining together to solve various humdingers of crises and what became Marvel Comics put their Submariner in the same adventure with their Human Torch. All this in 1940, just before World War Two.

And so crossovers joined comics publishing’s tool kit and they’ve been appearing ever since.

In 1927 – yeah, that early – television was presented to the world but it took another 20 years, give or take, for the tube to start being a household fixture. Television, like comics before it, had to deliver exciting entertainment every week using the same set of characters while being careful not to kill them. Like comics. I’d like to say that it was inevitable that screen drama would start crossing over, especially since a lot of the material began as comics stories. But what do I know from inevitable? It happened and thus it’s reality and reality always trumps everything else.


Did I just use a naughty word?


Mindy Newell: As The World Turned

jackie kennedy shooter

Here is a bulletin from CBS News… in Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.” • Walter Cronkite‘s first news flash on the shooting at 1:40 P.M. EST, interrupting the CBS soap opera As The World Turns. It is an audio-only report over the “CBS News Bulletin” slide on the screen.

“From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago – pause as Cronkite fights back tears, then regains his composure – Vice President Johnson has left the hospital in Dallas, but we do not know to where he has proceeded; presumably, he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the 36th President of the United States…” • Walter Cronkite announcing the death of J.F.K., 2:38 P.M. EST, November 22, 1963

Being a sucker for both time-travel and alternative history stories – genres that are not necessarily exclusive – I read Stephen King’s novel when it first came out and liked it fine, though I did think it was a little dry at times and a bit overly long and, dare I say, padded? I looked forward to the mini-series when it was first announced, and loved the first episode. Then, because Hulu was releasing each episode on a weekly basis, and being busy with that annoyance called life, I got really lazy about staying current – well, I wouldn’t say I forgot about it, but every time I reminded myself to watch 11.22.63, something else popped up.

Finally, inspired by Bobby Greenberger’s review of 11.22.63 here, I spent most of yesterday binging on the Hulu mini-series, which is now available at the site in its entirety. (Really, Hulu, deciding to dole it out like a weekly television show in this day of streaming and instant gratification was a really dumb idea. Take a clue from Netflix, why don’cha?)

I gotta say, it was definitely worth the wait.

Every generation seems to have at least one seminal historical event, and for us baby boomers, the assassination of J.F.K. was it – well, it was for me, anyway.

ActionComics309SupermanKennedyI was 10 when the President was murdered as his motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas; I was in my 5th grade classroom, doing math, when the principle of the P.S. 29 on Staten Island came and knocked on the door, gesturing to my teacher to come out into the hallway. One moment that has been impressed onto my mind is the moment I saw my teacher through the window of the classroom door – I was watching her instead of doing my math problem – put her hand to her mouth, and then turning and pulling down the shade of the window, blocking my view.

Teachers never did that when called out into the hallway, they wanted to be able to keep an eye on us. I sensed immediately that something was, well, off, and I got scared. A few moments later, she came back into the room and told us to close our books. “Now, very quietly, I want you to go to the closet and get your things. Everyone is to go straight home today, okay? No playing in the schoolyard or the gym. Will you promise?” We all hummed yes. I don’t know if the other kids felt anything, but my fear was now in the pit of my stomach. The teacher led us outside. A lot of cars were already out there, parents waiting for their children.

I found my brother, then Sandra and Chrissie and Tommy and Patty – we all lived on the same block – and started walking home. Oh, and also, Chrissie and Tommy and Patty all went to St. Theresa’s, the parochial school across the street from P.S. 29, and they had been let out early, too. I was so scared; I kept my eyes on the sidewalk all the way because I was convinced that the Russians were coming and about to drop a nuclear bomb on us, and I didn’t want my eyeballs to melt or go blind or see the sky light up on fire; this was not the result of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a year earlier, but from my parents in their wisdom taking me and Glenn to see Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb instead of getting a babysitter. Good job, Mom and Dad! – although, in their defense, those were also the days of air raid sirens and drills, during which us li’l boomers were marched into the hallway of the school and told to turn and face the wall. I don’t remember if Glenn was scared, but Sandra and Chrissie and Patty were happy to have gotten out of school early. Tommy, who was 11, told them to quit fooling around and walk.

Yeah, that was the beginning of a fun weekend, no doubt ‘bout it.

I’ve always thought that the “60s” really began on November 22, 1963 with the three bullets that killed Kennedy also killing the “pretend” United States; domestic and sexual abuse, homophobia, racism and political unrest are all there, just hidden under the red-white-and-blue patina of American nostalgia. And the success of 11.22.63 (the mini-series, nor the book) partly lies in its ability to capture the general population’s innocence of what was coming; the generation that had stopped Hitler and saved the world 15 years earlier was, at worst, complacent about America’s problems and, at best, willfully ignorant.

The other part is the cast, especially James Franco as the man out of time and on a mission – to stop Kennedy’s assassination. The tension rises slowly, cresting in the last three episodes, as Bobby G. said in his review, so that I didn’t even want to pause it to get up and answer the door for the pizza I had ordered for dinner.  In fact, I had to resist jumping to the last episode to see what happened (would it be true to the book? Thee were enough – really good! – differences so I wasn’t sure), so great was my anticipation.

Check it out.


The Point Radio: The Homegrown Genius Of Mary Kubica

Just a few years ago, Mary Kubica was a wife and mother raising her family in the suburbs of Chicago, but she has a passion to follow. That led her right to the top of the NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller list with her first novel, THE GOOD GIRL. Mary’s second book is just hitting there shelves while her first is headed for TV. Plus summer just seems hotter thanks to those dramas on CBS. We talk to the stars of UNDER THE DOME and ZOO about what lies ahead for the rest of the season

SCOOBY DO is back and we talk to the folks who made it happen, here in a few days! Be sure and follow us on Twitter now here.

Martha Thomases: Free Comics, Convergence And More!

This is going to be a slap-dash column, full of random thoughts (and, I hope, insights) because I’m having a slap-dash episode. The plumber is supposed to be here fixing my kitchen sink at some time in a four-hour period. I don’t know when he will arrive, but I’m pretty sure it will be when I’m in the middle of something really complicated.

The super in my building is supposed to come by to hang a picture for me that is too heavy for me to hang by myself. Again, that time thing makes it difficult to plan properly, or to think and act in an orderly manner.

My son and his girlfriend are coming to visit (hence the increased urgency for a working kitchen sink) and I have to make up the guest room, make sure there are snacks in the fridge, and explain to Salina the cat that she can’t sleep there at night.

So yes, I’m not thinking a lot about comic books, nor their spin-offs into other media. Except that super-speed and super-strength would be especially useful right now. Together, they would put my plumber and super out of business. Working people will have enough problems from Congress over the next two years without me wishing for extra abilities that make their lives more difficult.

Anyway, here are my random thoughts.

  • Convergence, the DC event that lets the corporate staff move to Burbank and get settled, sounds great to geek me. No, it won’t draw in new readers. No, I won’t like everything. But I’m psyched for Tom Peyer on The Atom, Larry Hama on Wonder Woman, Gail Simone on Nightwing/Oracle, Alisa Kwitney on Batgirl and Greg Rucka on Question.
  • That said, it seems that event-driven comics are not the guaranteed sales they once were and this is only good for comics. I mean, I’m fine with Spider-Man showing up in the third issue of every new Marvel series (god, I’m old), or a new DC character finding herself in Gotham, because that’s a way to introduce new readers to the book. Universe-spanning crossovers are the antithesis of this. Instead of using something familiar to make a new reader comfortable with taking a chance on a new title, crossovers tend to be so complicated (especially if one reads only a few titles consistently, not all of them) that it’s easier to skip the whole thing.
  • You know what would bring in new readers? Free comics. And, yes, Free Comic Book Day is a wonderful thing. So wonderful that I think we can take its success and use it to try to reach more targeted audiences. For example, if I, as a single woman living in Manhattan, could get a Groupon for a free first issue (or trade paperback) of Saga, redeemable at my local comic book shop, I might try it.

Yeah, it’s not cheap. Image would have to support the plan with co-op dollars. Still, I think it would draw in a bunch of people that comic book marketing doesn’t normally reach.

  • I’m liking Matt Ryan as the title character on Constantine. He seems to enjoy the hell out of all the snark he’s supposed to convey. The scripts aren’t terrible – a bit heavy on the exposition, but that’s what happens when there is a new universe to introduce to viewers. I like the way they use comic book art as Easter eggs.


His tie is always askew in exactly the same way. I just know there is someone on set whose job it is to wrangle the tie. It doesn’t look casual. It doesn’t look reckless. It doesn’t look like John Constantine, man of mystery, is caught in a world beyond his control.

It looks affected. More than anything, it reminds me of Miami Vice.

It’s a tie, John Constantine. If you don’t want to wear it, don’t wear it. If you put it on in a half-assed way, day after day, every day, I will think (and I’ll try to use words you’ll understand) you are a wanker.

  • Like a good geek, I get my comic books on Wednesday, usually in the morning because that’s how it fits into my round of errands. Often, I don’t actually sit down to read them until the weekend.

For the last few weeks, I have left-overs on Tuesday.

Are comics worse? Am I outgrowing them, finally, fifty years after all my childhood friends? Is it just a fluke of chance, that storylines aren’t appealing to me?

I take my own advice and try to pick up something new, from an independent publisher, on a regular basis. Lots of these comics (see Saga, above) become part of my regular list. So I don’t think it’s happening because I’m a slave to super-heroes. I still like them.

Any suggestions?

  • There is a new Stephen King book out this week. It’s titled Revival and I know almost nothing about it. I love Stephen King books. Reading one feels like getting into a warm bath, because I know that he can tell a story, and create characters I’ll care about. He cares about them, too.

And I’m probably not going to have the time to read it until the kids go home. And I like having them here and don’t look forward to their leaving.

Maybe I can stay up all night reading. When I finish reading my comics.


Martha Thomases: Would Batman Drive A Ford?

In a story in the business section of Monday’s New York Times, there was a discussion of product placement in self-published (or small publisher-published) e-books.

Naturally, my first thought was, How can this be applied to comics?

First, let me start with a few definitions. There is a difference between product placement, such as having a character on White Collar drive a Ford Taurus and so-called “advertorial content,” or specially produced web content about the Ford Taurus driven on White Collar. One is a lucrative part of the creative process, and the other is, essentially, a licensed deal.

Comics have a long tradition of licensing characters to advertisers. Baby boomers have fond memories of the one-page adventures that showed how something as simple and delicious as a Hostess fruit pie could help solve crime. More recently, DC produced a bunch of ads for Subway showing how the avocados in their sandwiches helped Green Lantern save galaxies.

As far as I know, there have been no explicit acts of product placement in mainstream comics. Perhaps I’m being naive. In any case, if there are, they are not very effective in that I have not noticed them.

Would they make any difference? Would you, average consumer, be more likely to be a Ford Taurus if you saw Batman drive one? At least on White Collar, we see an actual car drive through an actual city, even if it is Toronto. One can observe the product being used by a flesh-and-blood human being, albeit an attractive, well-dressed one.

Not every appearance by a real product in entertainment is the result of product placement. Stephen King will often mention plebeian items like Excedrin or Turtle Wax in his books, and these mentions ground the characters in some semblance of reality. No agency is shelling out money for this. If they did, they would demand approval.

In any case, product placement in mainstream superhero comics would probably be too expensive to be worthwhile. Warner Bros. is not going to let Batman drive the aforesaid Taurus in the comics without first making a hefty profit for letting him drive one in the movies. The same goes for Disney.

That’s not parallel to what the Times story was about. In the story, the author got paid to include mentions of Sweet’n’Low in her book.

I’m not a big fan of artificial sweeteners, but I know a lot of people who are. They often have strong feelings about which brand is their favorite. I could probably read that book without noticing the placements. At the same time, I probably wouldn’t think, “This character has such a rich and satisfying life, one I, too, would like to have. I suppose I should eat more Sweet’n’Low.”

Would product placement be good for independent comics? Maybe. At the very least, it could help some creators make a profit, something I strongly support.

Would it compromise artistic integrity? It probably depends on the product and the creative team, and the way the deal is negotiated. For example, I’m writing a story now, in which my protagonist, a knitter, struggles to find her true calling in a complex world. I wouldn’t accept a deal with the United States Army for her to enlist and find meaning in her life, not for any amount.

But hand-dyed cashmere? In a heartbeat.

Who am I kidding. I would do it just to look at the color guide.


Who Are The Top 20 Vampires in Books?

Vampires have been and will always be a wonderful creature that runs through the pages of comic books, graphic novels and literary books, but these few stand out as some of the best of the lot. Of course choosing vampires in literature is always a daunting task, and as such, is entirely subjective.

1. Lestat from The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
Anne Rices Vampire Lestat 1Lestat de Lioncourt from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. “The Brat Prince” has helped form what many see as the template for how a vampire should be in modern day fiction. His boldness, enthusiasm, defiance and charm has made him the iconic vampire of the 20th and 21st century. You can begin to read his exploits in the first book of the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice in ‘Interview With A Vampire‘.

(You can buy it HERE!)

2. Carmilla from The Dark Blue by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

800px-CarmillaAppearing in 1871 as a serial narrative in the magazine ‘The Dark Blue’, Carmilla predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 27 years, and even though it is lesser known and far shorter, the impact it has had is very noticeable. Being the first lesbian female vampire in literature, she’s easily one of the most iconic, even with the obscure following. You can find her originally in ‘The Dark Blue’ or in the authors later short stories, ‘In A Glass Darkly’.

3. Dr. Babette Varanus from The Ouroboros Cycle series by G.D. Falksen
One of my personal favourite characters in a new series by G.D. Falksen, Dr. Babette Varanus is one of the main protagonists, and is one of the Shashavani. Erudite vampires who are all about the pursuit of knowledge, and when you live forever that is the best usage of time as far as I’m concerned. This series is intelligent and has a fresh twist on supernatural creatures (such as vampires) that isn’t typical in anything I have read in quite a long time. That goes doubly for the characters. Dr. Varanus is tiny, sassy, all about the sciences, and like myself she is not fond of duels at Christmas time. Absolutely check out this series.

4. Kurt Barlow from Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
The principal ”bad guy” in Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, Barlow is strangely a little known character among most readers despite being the main ‘antagonist’. It’s a rare case of the book having more fame than the characters in it, as opposed to Stoker’s Dracula being more well known than the book. Salem’s Lot is well worth the read if you have not done so before, and Kurt Barlow is a character you should know in your vampiric repertoire.

5.Dracula from the Dracula novel by Bram Stoker
Not really needing an introduction at this point, Stoker’s Dracula is a character that is arguably the most well known vampire to date. If you don’t know who Dracula is…You best click that hyperlink and educate yourself! Remember to stay away from the sparkles, my friends.
As comics readers, we’re of course partial to the version drawn by Gene Colan and written by Marv Wolfman. [[[The Tomb Of Dracula]]] for Marvel lasted 70 issues, spawned two magazine spinoffs and an anime adaptation(!), and introduced the world to Blade, who would go on to be featured in three movies and a TV series.