My mom died thinking she threw away a copy of Superman number one from 1938.
Yes, I do indeed realize just how lame that must sound, and it would be if I gave a flying fish about that book with regards to my mother. I don’t but it’s important to the story I’m trying to write and just so I’m crystal clear, I’d happily burn the last copy left on Earth to spend just a minute more with my mother.
It was Superman number two she tossed out, and you can read the whole story entitled A Comic Book Tale on ComicMix.
I told her it was number one while trying to make the point that she should never throw out another comic book of mine, ever, and she never did. I have been keeping that my secret weapon for when I needed a real ‘gotcha’ to use on my mom. She was always just to quick for me when it came down to… well… to anything.
I’m a funny guy, but she was funnier and smarter than me, and I’m a smart guy. Despite what you may have heard, I am not a loud mouth, thug, tasteless or immature. Bizarre is a matter of opinion as is nauseating and although a 160 IQ does not preclude me from being stupid (been there, be back soon) I’m nobodys’ moron.
I know. I didn’t believe it either.
All my life my mother said goodnight to me one of two ways: “Goodnight genius child of mine” or ” Goodnight Bartholomew.”
“Bartholomew’ was my mom’s way of stopping me from asking the same question repeatedly, such as “Why don’t I have a middle name?”
The last time she said goodnight to me I was in her hospital room during what would turn out to be her last two weeks on earth. “Michael, you are a genius. However, I have forgotten more than Scooter ever knew. So keep that in mind.”
That was brutal. Mortal Combat fatality, your 90-year old sweet as sugar grandmother, shouts Ooooooooh Shit all up in your face, brutal.
Scooter, the childhood nickname for my world renowned artist cousin William T. Williams.
Scooter once told me he had forgotten more than I would ever know. He said this to me after I refused to concede a point during a discussion about Picasso.
“Picasso can’t draw!”
I boldly told this to a man whose paintings hang in some of the world’s greatest museums. So badass is he when DC’s long-time publisher (and former art critic) Jenette Kahn found out he was my cousin she insisted on meeting him. In my defense, I was 12 or so when I threw down such stupidity, but the fact of the matter is his statement made today would still ring true.
In those two weeks with Jean (yes I call my mother Jean) I’d let her have her fun recounting my childhood antics then, always before any visitor departed, I’d hit them with the Superman #1 story. That tale always brought a smile to Jean’s face, and she would follow with an embarrassing story of my youth.
Without fail those accounts began with her patented; “Mike and those comics of his…”
It turns out a great many of my mother’s favorite stories had to do with my love for comics, like the time my sister got me to cease my evil little brother antics for an entire week after her friend Yvette promised me ‘lots of new comics.’
Damn Yvette and her evil lying demon eyes!
I was amazed at the amount of remembrances conjured up in that hospital room with comic books the lead or supporting a narrative. I always thought my comic book hobby was, like me, a wee bit annoying to my family.
It appears I was not paying attention.
My cousin named one of his paintings Batman, which at the time, I considered the coolest thing ever and that’s saying something because that was the year I discovered girls. One day I had a choice between seeing Sadie Jackson’s boobs or debating with Julian Butler, my then-best friend, why Swamp Thing was much cooler than Man-Thing. I choose to argue with Julian who I thought would forever be my best friend.
Then one day he just punched me in the face and ran away. That’s true, and I had no idea why. Damn, that keeps happening to me and still no explanation or Sadie Jackson titty action.
I never realized how comics played a part with others in my family.
It was my mom who turned me onto the original Captain Marvel and taught me the art of the comic book deal, buy two, trade one. It was another cousin, Greg, who sold me seven golden age comics including that Superman number two for a buck.
Those and other memories, once among my most cherished are now painful to relive. Without my mom to co-sign, my trip down that lane brings little joy these days.
I once loved the comic industry with a passion almost incomprehensible but that industry I loved so is gone. What remains is a fat out of shape ghost of its former self. A snake oil salesman selling a yearly new everything hoping fans will consider it a glorious new tune.
But it’s the same old song.
I watch as new universes are considered original ideas and wonder who else thinks the same characters in a different setting, i.e., ‘universe’ isn’t new?
Tom Sawyer in another setting is a new story to be sure, but it’s still Tom Sawyer. You make Tom a black kid and he’s still Tom. You put Black Tom in another setting where he’s painting a fence; he’s shot by the police who take his white paint covered brush for a gun, but he’s still Tom.
It’s most likely just me but that ‘new universe’ thing now feels fake and a lazy way to avoid trying anything new. No, originality is not dead in comics, but most of what are unquestionably original concepts are happening far, far away from where I live which for better or worse is DC and Marvel.
That same old song is a problem, but it’s not the problem.
Some of the brightest people in entertainment are in comics, so this too shall pass I’m sure as it always does.
What slays me and I fear will destroy us all is how we see, speak and represent ourselves.
Character assassination over a creative decision. Damning a company, creator or content because someone wrote or drew something someone took issue with, rumors perceived as news, news handled like press releases were all once virtually repudiated as just being silly.
Like the once King of Rock & Roll, I fear comics have left the building for perhaps the last time and like the king will die on the bathroom floor face down in the shit we’ve made.
Dan DiDio may be one of the most hated men in comics and for what? For doing his job? Back before Dan was running DC, he was a network executive at ABC. I sold Dan and his partner at ABC Linda Steiner an animated show called “Monkey But…” That’s not a typo – that’s how the title of the show is spelled; it was a nutty idea. The best way to describe it was how I pitched it: Animaniacs on crack.
Dan and I spoke every day and got pretty friendly. Then Disney bought ABC and Dan, and Linda’s jobs were in play. The Hollywood game was to wait until Disney settled on whoever would be running ABC Saturday mornings, I made it clear I wanted Dan and Linda on the MB team even after it became apparent Disney did not.
When Dan and Linda were let go, I called to offer support keeping in mind talented people always end up somewhere else. Dan ended up at DC Comics and although we’ve had two project meetings getting them were, let’s say, not as easy as you would think given our history.
Yeah, that sucks.
I thought he and I had become friends and have the emails to back that thought up. I thought the same of Bob Wayne, who for a brief moment in time was my DC Comics running buddy, until he wasn’t.
In today’s comic industry climate, I’ve ample reason to dislike or even hate Dan, Bob, Paul Levitz and others if I rolled like that… but I do not.
Dan brought a TV series from me; Bob took me to the single best convention ever in Texas no less… and Paul was an extraordinary mentor and friend.
I couldn’t hate these people if I were paid too and trust me people have tried. I’m just not that guy. That’s not who my mother raised. Each of those men represented a piece of my comics’ journey, and largely it was good.
Dan, Paul and Bob all love comics, in fact, I know not one single person who got into comics just as a job. Everyone I know who writes and draws comics got into it because they loved comics.
A few months ago I had dinner with Len Wein and his lovely wife, Christina. Anyone looking would have thought it was just three friends having a meal.
But across from me sat the man who has created more iconic characters than anyone with the possible exception of Stan Lee. Stan usually gets the nod outright, and his work is the work of legend to be sure. That said consider the following, Len has created A-list characters both at Marvel and DC. Although he ran Marvel for a year, most of his creative output as a writer had to find a home whereas Stan’s creation already had one.
Stan is still the man the man his mark on comics and pop culture so high it’s doubtful anyone ever reaches it. The same could easily be said for Len. Len’s been in the game for over 40 years; I’ve known him about 20.
In all that time I’ve never heard Len rant against anyone, and if anybody has a right to pitch a fit, it’s Len Wein. Whatever issues Len has if he voices them the goal is never to harm anyone. Len still talks about comics as if he were still a kid going taking the DC comics tour with his best friend, Marv Wolfman.
Both were hoping against hope that they would be discovered and start to work in comics. They were, and few creators can match what these two have done in comics.
What they haven’t done is take offense to someone’s work because they don’t agree with the person who did it. They don’t call creator’s horrible names or damn an entire company because they don’t like what one individual is doing.
Len, Marv, Mike and Paul all still talk about comics as they once did, with love and respect for the medium. Those guys have done more for the industry than every hater who is talking shit combined.
Be you a new fan who brought your first comic today or a superstar creator in the industry for 40 years jumping on a bandwagon of hate, bitching about something other than story or art adds nothing and takes away much from an industry already thought of as childish and immature.
I understand and support if attacked then by all means have at it. But piling on a creator because it’s the flavor of the month? It’s that sort of thinking that keeps us Hollywood’s bitch.
The movies making the most money are from our house. But we’d rather bitch about Dan DiDio still running DC than applaud Eric Stephenson, publisher at Image Comics. Eric gave the greatest comic book speech since Stan Lee told Peter Parker that with great power comes great responsibility.
“I’d like to talk about the future, but first, we’re going to do some time travel, back to a time when there was no Internet, no Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram. A time when there were no comic book stores.”
That was Eric’s spectacular opening and it got better from there. We should still be talking about it. The industry coverage of that speech?
Almost none. Perhaps if Eric had started his speech with the following, we would still be talking about it.
“I’d like to talk about the future, but first, we’re going to do some time travel, back to a time Dan DiDio wasn’t screwing up DC, Marvel didn’t suck, and there was no Dark Horse because there shouldn’t be any damn Dark Horse.”
Yep, we’d still be talking about that.
I believe, and I could be wrong its love that motivated the modern comic book industry. We live in an age where artists and writers have become publishers and owners; love guided them in, and it’s that love that’s been forgotten.
The love my mother showed by indulging my comic book passion became clearer to me during those two weeks with her. She explained how happy my reading made her and happier still when comics lead me to art. No easy thing to co-sign for a woman raising two kids by herself in the projects.
The Jon Cnagy; learn to draw art set was an early art gift from Jean. Soon I graduated to Dr. Martin’s 16 color starter kit, black bound sketch books and about a thousand Rapidograph pens. Not essentials by any means but my mother made sure if I wanted something for my artwork I had it.
A career in art wasn’t on the list of jobs that would lift you out of the ghetto. But it was all part of the plan to keep me off the streets and alive. Comics lead me to art which brings me to apprentice in my cousin’s studio which leads to a career in professional art.
I once loved my profession with a passion, now not so much and that just fucking sucks. I can use as much love as I can get these days, hell who couldn’t?
Like I said, I think it is love that’s missing from our industry. Love of our craft, love of our history and most importantly a love of ourselves.
No idea how to fix it, but somehow I’d very much like to get back to feeling about comics the way I did when I teased my mother. The way Len, Stan, Paul, Marv, Eric and yes Dan still talk about comicsL with love and hope for the future.
Bitch and moan all day about the work that’s the right of anyone who buys comics. That right does not extend to slandering, threatening or spreading rumor as fact, leave that to the Donald.
While many in the industry continue to turn on each other, some even creating another tempest of hatred once the last storm has lost the wind that propelled it Len Wein just writes another story creates another character all done without a hateful word towards his fellow creators.
That’s not to say Len can’t create a storm. He has. She’s in the X-Men.