Tagged: Vivek Tiwary

Martha Thomases: Liverpool To Waypoint – Tiwary Strikes Again!

Vivek Tiwary has been my friend for more than 15 years. We met through mutual friends, and bonded initially over rock’n’roll and cancer. Immediately, I thought he was one of the coolest people I’d ever met. These are some of the things Vivek has done: Broadway producer (of A Raisin in the Sun, American Idiot, among others), a tech entrepreneur who used his music industry chops to help talent deal with the business, and co-founder of an amazing non-profit that, among other things, helped soothe my husband as he was dying.

You can imagine my surprise when I found out that he is also a huge comic book nerd.

We don’t have quite the same roots – he’s a Marvel fan, I’m a DC girl – but we bonded over our love of the form. In fact, when he was having trouble finding a way to get a movie made about Brian Epstein, I convinced him to adapt his screenplay to a graphic novel script. The resulting book, The Fifth Beatle, won tons of awards and sold a gazillion copies, and will soon be on your TV.

Thus, I have tried to take credit for his success, including the things he did before we met, and his fabulous wife and his adorable children.

Recently, Vivek wrote a story for IDW’s Star Trek: Waypoint. This seemed like as good an excuse as any to talk to him about what he’s working on these days.

MT: I read your Star Trek story. It’s so different from The Fifth Beatle!

VT: I guess it is.

MT: The Beatles and Star Trek are, pretty much, the Sixties.

VT: I suppose so. I was born in 1973. To me, these are just two things that I’m passionate about. I don’t know that there is any pop culture connection between the two tied to why I like them. I’m a sci-fi kid and I’m a music kid. As you probably saw from reading the story, while it is a Star Trek story, really, at heart, it’s a boy-and-his dog story. As a writer, I lean towards those kind of human interest stories. It’s a story about loyalty and childhood dreams. It’s about how that child learns and carries those lessons throughout his life and applies those to leadership.

MT: I’m not familiar with Star Trek: Enterprise, although I love Scott Bakula. Is there time travel?

VT: There is. The last season of Enterprise revolves around what they call the Temporal Cold War. That stuff at the end is all very squarely part of the Enterprise last season continuity.

MT: Is the dog in that?

VT: Oh, yes. So, Porthos, Captain Archer’s dog, is a main character in the entire series. I may be biased because I am a fan and I am a bit of a Trekkie myself, but I believe it’s not just me saying he’s a beloved figure in the Star Trek universe in general. When I posted that I had done a Star Trek story that was, in a lot of ways a Porthos story, there were a lot of fans who were excited. A lot of people said, “Oh, does he get to have a piece of cheese?” There’s an on-going story where Admiral Archer gives him cheese, but it does a bad number on his digestive system. There’s a scene where Archer, in one of the episodes, goes away on a mission and is worried he’s not going to come back. He tells one of the crew members, “Look after Porthos. Give him a piece of cheese for me.” Even in the first Star Trek reboot that J. J. Abrams did, when Chris Pines’ Captain Kirk meets Simon Pegg’s Montgomery Scott, Scott had been doing early work on the transport. Scotty says “So, I tested it out on Admiral Archer’s prized beagle.”

And Kirk, “Wait, I know that dog!”

MT: Is Porthos related to the dog in your story?

VT: I guess I haven’t thought that far ahead. I would doubt it. They’re both beagles, obviously. It’s possible, I suppose, that the Archer family keeps breeding beagles such that maybe Porthos is a descendant of Maska. Certainly he’s a spiritual descendant. To answer your question in geeky Star Trek speak, there is no continuity to suggest that they would be related. In fact, I could claim to have created Maska. He doesn’t appear anywhere else. One of the things I’m most proud of is that the Star Trek story is the first time a Star Trek: Enterprise has been written in a comic. I have the honor of saying I wrote the first. We’ll see what other comic writers working in that universe decide to do with Masca.

MT: Do you have dogs?

VT: I most certainly do!

MT: I noticed the dedication. I wondered if they were current dogs.

VT: Well noted! Laika is the first animal in space, and Sukhi Sioux is my pet papillon, It’s dedicated to a space dog and a dog that is close to my heart who is a fearless adventurer in her own right.

MT: What else are you working on in comics? In your life?

VT: In comics, I’m at the early scripting stages of my follow-up to The Fifth Beatle. The tentative title is A Mess of Blues: Colonel Parker and the Un-Making of Elvis Presley. Those readers who read The Fifth Beatle have had a taste of how I feel about Colonel Parker. I respect what he accomplished but I don’t respect him much as a human being. This book will continue that overall feeling about Parker, but I believe that there’s no such thing as ultimate evil or ultimate good, so one of the challenges for me is doing the research and finding the human side. While he exists in the same world of artist management, these unsung characters who are the architects of pop culture history behind the scene, he and Brian are polar opposites.

MT: Do you have an artist?

VT: There are a number of artists I’m talking to. We don’t have that nailed down. I’m doing that in tandem, working on the script while I talk to artists. I suspect I’ll be able to announce that before the script is done. The Colonel Parker story, to my mind, has three distinct elements. He was born in the Netherlands. His real name was Andreas van Kujik. He fled the Netherlands when he was a young man for shady reasons that aren’t entirely clear. He may have murdered someone. He had to flee the country. He stowed away to make it to America. He arrived illegally. He gave himself the name, “Tom Parker,” partially because it’s a generic name. He joined the carnival in large part because he loved it. He was a carny, a huckster. But also, in the American carnival, everybody has something shady in his past. It was a way to protect himself. What he should have been doing in the carnival was laying low, but his ambition, the chips on his shoulder, he couldn’t do that. He had to become an impresario. In those days, carnivals were very tied to fairs and country music. Which is how he found himself intersecting with Elvis. There’s no question that his carnival marketing skills helped him market Elvis as not just a country star but as a heartthrob and pop culture phenomenon. There’s no question that Parker was in large part responsible for the superstar that Elvis became. Parker also always treated Elvis like an “attraction.” Those are his words, not mine. Elvis fans argue that it is because of that attitude that Elvis never became the artist he should have become.

In Parker’s later years, he prevented Elvis from ever touring outside of the United States. The reason for that is because Parker wasn’t a U.S. citizen and Parker might have murdered someone. He couldn’t leave the country because if he did, he might not be able to come back. Parker didn’t like the idea of Elvis touring without him. There are all sorts of other crazy things that all tie back to Parker being this nomad. For example, at the very height of his career, Elvis was the largest single individual tax payer in the country. Elvis just paid his taxes. What he should have done, like every human being has done, you hire a smart accountant so that you pay as little tax as possible while being legal. Elvis just paid. There were business managers and bankers saying, “Parker, why don’t you have people going through his taxes? Why don’t you set up tax shelters?” Part of the reason was that he didn’t want the authorities looking into Elvis because he didn’t want the authorities looking into him. If you follow him to the end of his days, you find out that it did come out, and he ended up with all these lawsuits.

MT: He wouldn’t let Elvis go on tour without him?

VT: That’s exactly right. It wasn’t unusual for artists’ managers to go on tour whenever they could, but it was incredibly unusual for it to never happen. Brian Epstein went wherever the Beatles went as much as he could. He wasn’t at every single date. When it’s not possible, you let the tour manager handle it. That’s why you have tour managers.

Parker had these three distinct periods of his life. He had life in the Netherlands, which in a lot of ways is a noir murder mystery. He had his early Dust Bowl carnival days and the discovery of Elvis, which is real Americana. Then you have latter-day Elvis, when Elvis is a huge superstar. That’s a downward spiral of Elvis and Parker. That’s Vegas and Seventies and pop culture. So there are three distinct parts of the graphic novel. The plan is that it will be serialized in a way that The Fifth Beatle wasn’t. Whether this means several issues or three issues or something else, we don’t know yet.

MT: Speaking as a consumer, I’d prefer the whole book at once.

VT: I hear you, but for my fans, I think that would take too long. My instinct now is that it would be three parts. I’m also toying with the idea that maybe it’s three artists. The styles can be different.

MT: I’m sorry Ralph Steadman isn’t around to do the third part.

VT: I’m happy to say that through the success of The Fifth Beatle, I’ve gotten to know some amazing artists who are interested in working with me, but the best artists are busy. It’s easier to get wonderful, in-demand artists to do 30 pages or 40 pages than to ask them to do 120 pages.

MT: What else are you working on?

VT: While I’m working on the Parker book, who I’d like to do is do more of these one-shots, these short stories. I’ll do a Star Trek story, I’ll do a Marvel story, I’ll do a DC story. I want to work on licensed properties in a one-off capacity. For many writers, it would be a dream to work on a high-profile character, to do be a series writer. The fanboy in me agrees that would be amazing. But that’s not what I aspire to do. I want people to do what you did, to look at the Waypoint story and say, “Wow, this is so different.” I want people to know that, yes, I adore the Beatles. If you look at my resume, I worked at Mercury records. I produced American Idiot and The Addams Family musical. I produced A Raisin in the Sun and cast a hip-hop guy, Sean Combs, in the lead. I’m a music guy. But I’m also a Star Trek guy. I want to do more of that. I’m talking to a few editors at a bunch of companies about doing one-off stories. I hope those stories will be a surprise, too. Part of the reason why I’m doing things like the Star Trek story is because, as you know, it took about ten years to get The Fifth Beatle published. It’s not going to take ten years for the Parker story, but I want there to be more for my fans.

MT: Most of us contain multitudes.

VT: If people pick up the Star Trek story, they’ll see that, yes, it’s Star Trek, but there’s not a lot of technology in it. The technology is there to set up the story, but it’s not really used to tell the story. My favorite science fiction is like that. The science fiction is the engine that sets up the story, but it’s the human story that I love. My story is about a boy and his dog, about friendship and loyalty. At the end of the day, that’s what the world needs now, to stick together. If you think the world is under siege, you need to get together with your friends who also care about the issue and speak up. And the Brian Epstein story was about a gay, Jewish kid from a random town who changed the world. With LGBTQ rights being attacked, the world needs to see if it wasn’t for a gay man, we might not have the Beatles. I hope you’ll see that these are human stories that are connected to global social and/or political issues. That’s the connective thread between all my work.

MT: Who would win in a fight, the Beatles or the crew of the Enterprise?

VT: That’s a good question. The Beatles were pacifists, so I would like to think that they would talk their ways out of the fight. I think there would have been Beatles fans in the crew. Brian Epstein said the Beatles music would stand the test of time. So the crew of the Enterprise would be Beatles fans. I think all you need is love and somehow the fight would have been averted and they would wind up hanging out. There would not have been a fight.

Martha Thomases: Gifts For People With Brains


I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday, and that your conversations with your friends and family were both peaceful and joyous. In my experience, the tryptophan in the turkey makes everyone so sleepy that noisy arguments require too much energy.

Today, Black Friday, is the official start of the holiday shopping season. With luck you are still enjoying the warm glow of gratitude from yesterday’s holiday, and we can use these emotions to consider your holiday shopping list.

I, for one, am grateful to live in a country that defends freedom of speech. Even hate speech. I don’t like neo-Nazis or what they say (and for even more video, check out this link). However, we know who a bunch of these people are now, and we can defend ourselves https://www.splcenter.org.

stuck-rubber-babyYou know another great thing about Nazis? They make excellent bad guys. A book or movie can have the most conflicted protagonist imaginable, but when he or she is fighting Nazis, you know who is the hero. It’s one of my favorite things about Inglourious Basterds, which remains an excellent gift.

If you like your Nazis even more vile, consider the Nazi vampires in The Strain. There are also some excellent choices if you want your Nazis impotent and hilarious. In fact, while The Producers has the most Hitler of any of Mel Brooks’ movies, you can find at least one cutting reference in everything he does.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. If you have friends or family who are ignorant about what could happen here, let me help you. There are some lovely graphic novels — award winners all — that you can share. Luckily, they are so entertaining that the recipients won’t feel like they’re getting lectured.

The third and final volume of March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin ad Nate Powell, just won the National Book Award. Previous prizewinners include A Catcher in the Rye and Profiles in Courage. The March trilogy tells the story of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s from the perspective of Congressman Lewis. We will need to emulate his courage and grace in these next years.

will-eisner-the-plotpxmI will also and continually recommend Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse. Aside from being a beautiful and engrossing story, it illuminates what I consider to be a most important truth — that we fight best against hate when we fight together as allies.

If you are afraid of other (but related) forms of hate infecting your loved one, you might consider the last book by the legendary Will Eisner, The Plot. His co-author is Umberto Eco, so your recipient will feel flattered that you chose a gift with such a fine literary pedigree.

And for that Baby Boomer relative who thinks he’s still hip (but is, instead, growing more narrow-minded by the day), there is The Fifth Beatle by Vivek Tiwary, Andrew Robinson and Kyle Baker. It is so colorful and fun that it can be easy to overlook how masterfully it protests homophobia and anti-Semitism.

Once you start looking for gifts like these, I’m sure you’ll find a lot of other things that will open hearts and minds. Please feel free to share them in the comments. We all need more and more and more.

John Ostrander Cons Around in Baltimore

Baltimore Comic ConSo, I wasn’t here last week. Some of you may have noticed. So, where was I? At the Baltimore Comic Con (BCC), which was dandy, and I enjoyed it very much. Usually when I’m gone somewhere around the deadline for this column, I’m supposed to get it in earlier and most times I do. This time? Just screwed up the time. What can I say? I’m (mostly) human.

Lots of my fellow columnists here at ComicMix have already done their columns this week on the BCC last week. Mike Gold, Emily Whitten, Martha Thomases, and Molly Jackson all contributed. Marc Allan Fishman wrote about an aspect of the BCC and he wasn’t even there. Makes you wonder what I could add to the (comic)mix. I wondered too, but Mike has already speculated I would probably write about the Con and I wouldn’t want to make a liar out of him.

One of the big pleasures of the Con was getting to see so many of my old friends. I shared a table with my bro, Timothy Truman, and he was considerate enough to bring his wife, Beth, who is a real treat. I hadn’t seen Tim in ages and Beth for even longer; she gave me a great hug and if that isn’t a great way to start a Con, I don’t know what is.

I had dinner with them the first night and we ran into Mike Grell who joined us. In fact, we were going to have a First Comics reunion of sorts over the weekend. In addition to Tim and Mike and Grell and me there was the two Marc/ks, Wheatley and Hempel, and Joe Staton. We even got our picture taken together to commemorate the occasion. The Mighty Gray Panthers of the real First Comics!

In addition, there were all the fine people over at the ComicMix table such as Martha Thomases, Glenn Hauman, Evelyn Kriete and Emily Whitten. I’d never met Emily in person before; she’s delightful and sat to my left at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night. I hatched an idea for a project with her and you’ll hear more about it as we get that act together.

There were lots and lots of other old friends there such as Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor and my old Suicide Squad editor and ComicMix reviewer Robert Greenberger. I want to take this moment to acknowledge how much Squad owed to Bob. He’s the one who suggested the title to me and helped guide it through its debut and onward. Take a bow, Bob.

As I mentioned, I was also at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night, sitting between Emily and Mike Gold. Vivek Tiwary was the host; I’d never met him before (among an amazing list of accomplishments, he wrote the graphic novel [[[The Fifth Beatle]]]). He was very personable, very enthusiastic about comics, and very generous when he introduced me (I was a presenter). I got to follow both Russ Heath and Jules Feiffer as they accepted their inductions into the Harvey Awards Hall of Fame. These men are legends and, if you don’t know them, go Google their names or look them up on Wikipedia.

And I followed them! Ye gawds. Well, at least I didn’t stutter.

As you may have read elsewhere, there was something of a controversy at the BCC. Some of the comic book guests charged for their autographs and some didn’t. Neal Adams charged 30 bucks per autograph; Mike Grell was also charging a much smaller sum and he donated what he made to The Hero Initiative.

I didn’t and I do not charge for autographs; I never have and I doubt I ever will. This is not to suggest any sort of judgment on those who do. Neal is a legend in the industry and an unquestioned leader in the fight for the rights of freelancers. He’s a long standing hero of mine, both as an artist and as a champion of our rights.

My rationale for not charging is pretty simple: the fan bought the book and it had my name on it and that has supported me. If they want me to deface it with my autograph, it’s the least I can do. Yes, I know that some dealers get them signed and then re-sell them on eBay or some such. I don’t think I ran into many of them, if any, while I was at the BCC. I can’t really sort out the dealers from the fans and I don’t bother trying. If others see the matter differently, so be it. This is just how I do it.

I want to say that the fans were wonderful. They were knowledgeable and enthusiastic and warm and friendly. There were all ages, too. Lots of kids, which wasn’t so true a few years ago. That was wonderful to see and hopeful for the industry.

I think it was Mike Gold who defined the BCC for me: it was really comics orientated. Other Cons are very orientated to the media guests. BCC had some but the main thrust was comics. It also seemed very much like family; other cons, such as NYCC, feel more like business. That’s okay, too; it’s New York City and that’s appropriate. In Baltimore, however, it felt like old times in the industry to me, in between the Con, the fans, and my friends. I think maybe that’s why I really enjoyed it.

I didn’t get a chance to see much of the city, which is usual for me at Cons. What I saw was interesting and nice. I ate a lot of crab which I take it is what one is supposed to do in Maryland. I think I’ve had enough Old Bay Seasoning for a while.

In short, it was a great weekend and I’m so glad to have been invited. It had been maybe two decades since I had last been there; I hope not to make it so long again. Of course, if I did, I’d be really old. Geezer City.

Thanks to all who made it a good time/ I hope we can do it again soon.

Martha Thomases: A Family Affair

Sunday Comics

Getting old isn’t for quitters. I’m just back from Baltimore Comic-Con which is a lovely show in my time zone and I was chauffeured back and forth door to door by the lovely and talented Glenn Hauman and even in these non-stressful circumstances I’m exhausted.

Baltimore Comic-Con is, as I said, a lovely show. For one thing, it is almost entirely about comics. Yes, there are media stars signing autographs. There are dealers selling things that are not comic books (including some great jewelry that I wish I had a chance to eyeball more) but they are on the fringes.

Comics are the heart and soul of the show-floor. Comics are the heart and soul of the show.

Comics are among the few mass media to have a heart and soul. Because they can be produced on (relatively) small budgets compared to movies television and popular music and because the profit potential is (relatively) small they attract creators with more personal passion than greed. Yes, we can alcove up with our own list of exceptions but I’ll stand my my statement as a generality.

ComicMix shared a very large space with Insight Studios and The Sunday Comics. I’ve known Marc Hempel and Mark Wheatley of Insight for more than 25 years, longer than the Sunday Comics crew has been alive. I enjoyed standing around mouthing off to my old friends. I loved loved loved! watching the new kids show off their big beautiful paper comics to new readers.

Speaking of heart and soul I kvelled like the Jewish mother I am watching Vivek Tiwary host the Harvey Awards. Vivek is relatively new to comics as a creator and he reminds me every time I see him of the simple joy I feel when I get a good story in a four-color cover.

This was only the second time I’ve attended the Harvey Awards presentation and I have to say sitting in that banquet room at the Hyatt I felt very much like I was attending a family celebration. It wasn’t a wedding or a bat mitzvah but it had that same combination of vague bitchiness but overwhelming love that (my) family celebrations have. Instead of DNA the comics business shares a love of graphic story-telling as well as a sense of ourselves of outsiders.

It’s a beautiful thing. Even if I didn’t get to see Dean Haspiel without his shirt on.

On a completely different note I enjoyed the first episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t Jon Stewart whom I’ve adored since before he got that gig but I like the new host and I like that he has a different perspective than I do.

It’s fun to watch a show where the host appreciates indoor toilets.

Emily S. Whitten: Baltimore Comic Con – Another Great Year!

HaspielI’ve said before that, despite liking to attend all flavors of fandom and comics conventions, including (clearly) the media guest-focused cons, I really love Baltimore Comic Con because it has stayed so focused on comics and comics creators. I’m happy to report that this has not changed.

I had a great time in Baltimore this year, doing some of the things that make me happiest at comic cons, like walking the exhibit hall and wandering Artist Alley to see what new things old friends are up to, meet folks whose work I know but whom I’ve never chatted with, and flip through the work of creators I haven’t ever encountered before. Amongst the fun things I discovered were this nifty accordion-style comic by Christa Cassano and Dean Haspiel; a gorgeous limited edition coloring book by Charles Vess, whose work I’ve loved for a long time but who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting before; some great art and collaborations by Tony Moy and Nen (I want Tony’s Vitruvian Totoro woodblock print so much!); these excellent interlocking covers for Amazing Spider-Man #17 and Spider-Gwen #3 by Mike McKone, which I hadn’t previously seen; some new pieces from Francesco Francavilla, whose work I never tire of; and this print of Poison Ivy by Tom Raney.

I also enjoyed watching the always-talented Barry Kitson work as he completed a striking She-Hulk commission; getting to know writer Amy Chu; running into longtime friend and artist Kevin Stokes, who I didn’t even know was going to be at the show; and catching up with other great talents like Cully Hamner and Clayton Henry. And of course it’s always great to hang out with my fellow ComicMixers, and this year I was delighted to finally get to chat in person with John Ostrander, whose work and columns I always enjoy. Good times!

An event unique to this year that I was able to attend and had a blast at was the opening of the exhibit “75 Spirited Years – Will Eisner and the Spirit” at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. I hadn’t been to the museum before, and it was really fun to walk around through all of the exhibits; and especially fun to be told stories about certain Eisner pieces by Denis Kitchen, cartoonist, publisher (of Eisner and many others), and founder of the CBLDF; and by Diamond Comic Distributors founder Steve Geppi himself. It was also great to see the covers current artists such as Mark Wheatley and John K. Snyder III had done as interpretations of a concept sketch that had been created by Eisner but never before finished, which were on display; and they were also on hand to sign their work.

I also really enjoyed another staple favorite of my BCC experience, The Harvey Awards, hosted this year by the heartfelt and engaging Vivek Tiwary, creator of The Fifth Beatle (a signed copy of which we received in our swag bags along with many other great selections, yay!). It’s always a pleasure to attend and see the industry honoring its creators (and shout-out to Mark Wheatley for his Harvey’s art and work on the media presentation for the ceremony); and of course the afterparty ain’t bad, either! It was fun to sit next to first-time Harvey winner Chad Lambert and experience his reaction to winning, to chat with BCC Guest of Honor Mark Waid (and covet his awesome Legion ring), and afterwards, to nerd out with Vivek, catch up with the likes of the super-nice Thom Zahler, hear some great industry stories via Dirk Wood and Paul Storrie, chill with fellow comics journalists like Heidi MacDonald; see Charlie Kochman’s historic Jules Feiffer button live and in person; and more. So glad I could make it, and congratulations to all of the award-winners this year!

Despite enjoying the focus on comics guests, I was still excited to see Baltimore hosting very quality media guests  – i.e. Paul Blackthorne, Katie Cassidy, Ming-Na Wen, Edward James Olmos, and Raphael Sbarge. It was cool to see them at the show, and the panels were very entertaining. I hope they had a great time at the con, too, and decide to come back again!

And until then (or next week!), I hope everyone who was at Baltimore Comic Con with me can catch up on some rest (I know I need it); and Servo Lectio!