Tagged: wrong

John Ostrander: Reading With the Enemy

Comics Code Authority SealThis week it was writer Chuck Dixon and artist Paul Rivoche ruffling feathers. Together they wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “How Liberalism Became Kryptonite for Superman.” The WSJ is a conservative publication and both Chuck and Paul are conservative members of the comics community.

The title of the article sums up the tone of the article pretty well. The article states “Our fear is that today’s young comic-book readers are being ill-served by a medium that often presents heroes as morally compromised or no different from the criminals they battle. With the rise of moral relativism, ‘truth, justice and the American way’ have lost their meaning.” They cite how in a single issue of Action Comics published in 2011 Superman gave up his American citizenship. (Interestingly enough, this story was written by David S. Goyer who would later write the screenplay for Man of Steel and is writing the Batmanv Superman movie and the upcoming Justice League movie. I’ve talked about Mr. Goyer before.) Chuck and Paul bemoan “That issue, published in April 2011, is perhaps the most dramatic example of modern comics’ descent into political correctness, moral ambiguity and leftist ideology.”

I guess that means me. Suicide Squad was nothing if not an exercise in moral ambiguity. I think you could say most of my work lives there. I’m certainly left on the political spectrum. “Political correctness?” I think that depends on how you define it but I could probably be accused of that as well, especially from the right. So I guess my work is dead center with what Chuck and Paul regard as wrong with the comics industry.

I have some problems with their selection of facts and their interpretation of those facts. For instance, they say “Superman, as he first appeared in early comics and later on radio and TV, was not only ‘able to leap tall buildings in a single bound,’ he was also good, just and wonderfully American.” Might I suggest they go back and read those earliest tales. Superman takes on crooked politicians and even the U.S. Army. He was a renegade and an outlaw. The earliest Batman carried a gun. I suppose that makes him wonderfully American, too. The heroes changed with the advent of World War II and became part of the war effort.

Superhero comics nearly died out in the 50s. Chuck and Paul state: “In the 1950s, the great publishers, including DC and what later become Marvel, created the Comics Code Authority, a guild regulator that issued rules such as: ‘Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal.’ The idea behind the CCA, which had a stamp of approval on the cover of all comics, was to protect the industry’s main audience – kids – from story lines that might glorify violent crime, drug use or other illicit behavior.”

The CCA was created to circumvent government censorship that was threatened following Dr. Frederick Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent, which alleged that comics were a corruptive influence on children. He said Superman, who in this era – when he was quintessentially “good, just and wonderfully American” – was both un-American and a fascist. Wertham’s work also was later discredited. There followed hearings by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, first led by New Jersey Republican Senator Robert Hendrickson and later by committee member / anti-crime crusader / presidential candidate Estes Kefauver and that scared the Big Comics publishers and that created the CCA. The publishers didn’t do it out of any moral conviction.

The CCA was a stranglehold on creativity and guaranteed it would infantilize the comics industry for decades. It was disbanded when it became irrelevant. Maus, which Chuck and Paulboth justly praise, would never have passed the Code.

The thing is – Chuck and Paul should know all this. They’re either being disingenuous or dishonest.

However, what bothers me more is the reaction of some ostensibly liberal members of the comics industry, who have announced that they will never again read anything by these two men because of this article. To my mind, the work exists independently of the creator. Chuck and Paul have done fine work over the years and I suspect will do so again. Not all of it will appeal to me, I’m sure, but that’s true for everyone’s work. Are there exceptions to this? I think so – if someone is doing a piece that is primarily propaganda, I would avoid it. If that’s a habitual thing with a creator, I might avoid him or her … like I avoid Rush Limbaugh.

If, however, it’s simply a different point of view then, no, I don’t and I shouldn’t avoid them. Even if I don’t agree with that point of view, I should hear it, find out what I can learn from it. Or – maybe – I’ll be entertained. Even if the creator and I do not agree politically.

I regard this as a far more serious problem than two conservatives speaking their collective minds about the comics industry. It is our increasing national inability to countenance anything that does not fall within our own increasingly shrinking moral view that’s the problem. No outside voices to test or shake our faith –whatever that faith may be. We need not only to talk to (instead of at) each other; we need to listen. They may be wrong … but so may we.


Dennis O’Neil: Villainy and Profit

Marvel Classics War and PeaceTime was, three-four decades past, that I wrote some fiction with environmental themes. There was a short prose story with no real villains; what the characters were contending with was an ecosphere that was completely decayed. Then there were the comic books. These, being heroic fantasy, sort of, did have villains – a genre requirement – but I don’t remember much about them and I will, thank you, spare myself the discomfort of rereading old work. It’s pretty safe to say, though, that these bad guys did what they had to do, serve the needs of the plot in narratives that focused on what they did, the polluting bastards, and very little on why they did it.

What to you want in a 22-page comic book, War and Peace?

If I were to do those stories today, I might, just might, try to peep into the villains’s motives. Something like this:

Our antagonist is wealthy beyond the needs of a hundred lifetimes, but he is not satisfied. He wants more…no, in a way, he needs more. He has been indoctrinated in the belief that men are judged only by profit. He does not question this, any more than he questions the air he breathes. Nor does he question the kind of society he strives for but, if it happens, it will be a world ruled by a plutocracy: the creators, the movers and shakers, the worthy at the top, and the moochers and lazy and incompetent, the rest, in some grey region doing what the worthy have given them to do – grumbling and grousing, to be sure, but doing their jobs because they must.

His philosophy, his religion, his family – all assure him that his is the correct zeitgeist and those who believe otherwise are pathetic and ignorant.

But he is starting to hear, sometimes from those in his employ, that his world is beginning to crumble. The damage he and his brethren have done to the planet has become manifest. He scoffs: lies! The deterioration continues: his companions tell him that the upheavals have perfectly normal explanations, that the whole thing is not man made and will soon correct itself. Just be patient. Oh, sure, the scientists are busy doom saying, some of them, but at the end of the day, what do the scientists know, really know? And aren’t most of them fuzzy-minded fools who suck at the public teat? No, no need to listen to the scientists.

Eventually, he must admit that, yes, something is wrong. But that science – he doesn’t understand it and so he feels that this lack of understanding means he is exempt from doing anything about the problems. What can he do but what he’s always done, make a profit.

That’s the villain. As for the story itself…I wonder what kind of ending it might have.


Marc Alan Fishman: Babyface, Heel, or Tweener?

In the pro-wrestling world, you are either a babyface, a heel, or a tweener. If you’re not down with the lingo and you’re suck at contextual clues: babyfaces are the heroes, heels are the villains, and tweeners straddle the line between the two. It’s always clearcut amongst the older generations that the lines between good and evil should be black and white.

In the golden era of comic books (and wrestling, while we’re at it), good guys were lantern-jawed and stood for the righteous. Villains sported crooked smiles, and completed acts of tyranny for no more purpose than the love of chaos. But with the modern era came the shades of grey. Personally, I live for those shades.

My favorite wrestler is CM Punk, a tumultuous canvas of ashen tones, made into a grappler. In his infamous pipe bomb promo (feel free to watch the entire brilliant tirade if you have an hour to kill here) Punk crossed the line between his then heel persona by breaking the fourth wall harder then it’d ever been broken before in the WWE. Through a scathing set of brutally honest speeches, the WWE Universe (the fans) soon learned that the straight edge superstar was more than a set of catchphrases and lack-of-merchandise. Amidst a hot crowd of vicious booing, Punk made his point: he wasn’t an out-and-out heel, he was a human being capable of good and bad. Eventually Punk got everything he wanted, including becoming a bonafide tweener where even if he completed acts of depravity, it was accepted as being a part of a bigger whole. It’s a theme that occurs elsewhere outside the squared circle.

The Punisher, Wolverine, Venom, dare I even say GrimJack, et al… the venerable anti-heroes. Good guys that do bad things, and we love them for it. They cross the line where Batman, Superman, or Professor X grit their teeth and shake their heads. As an audience, we respect, and even love that those heroes are forced to make the hard choices. But the devils that sit on our shoulders whisper sweet nothings to us – we want to see the villains pay the ultimate price. We want to see that the means justify the ends. We need to see that villains can’t always get away with murder, rape, and the like. And yes, we love it when those good men do bad things, because wish fulfillment is a vice we can all enjoy. Ask every Tarantino character immortalized in celluloid.

Most recently I’ve found a love for NBC’s Hannibal, which seeks heavily to relish in the subtle pathways between the light and dark sides of man. Dr. Lecter is a monster – a veritable Satan if ever there was one – but in his defense, he tends to only eat the rude. Humorous perhaps, but we as the audience are made to feel a wisp of compassion every now and again for the man-monster that Hannibal is. Much like Bret Easton Ellis makes us root for sociopathic serial killer in American Psycho. Never before had I read a novel where I’m rooting for a man to feed an ATM a kitten before. But there, Ellis shaped the world as such to make me see that beyond the pure chaos that Patrick Bateman represented, was a man living as a metaphor for the facade that existed in the go-go eighties. Can’t get that reservation at Dorsia? Well, that’d drive you to murder too, when you know that missing that squid-ink carpaccio is akin to you just being a failure in everything at life! Get my meaning?

And let’s get a little spoilery, if we can, eh? Seen Days of Future Past yet? If not, skip down a paragraph. For the rest of you, what did you think? I thought “Wow! They really played up the notion that these were actual human beings capable of an array of emotions!” Now I know that’s a bit of a complicated thought coming from a movie that was mostly made as an apology for The Last Stand, but I digress. Of all the things that made the movie enjoyable to me, was the fact that characters like Professor Xavier, Raven, and Eric Lehnsherr were allowed to respond from a place of emotion and thought, rather than because of a plot dictating them to do what’s right or wrong. In one of the best set pieces of the film (barring the whole Quicksilver sequence which was just fun as all get-out) came when Magneto decided that he was done being a pawn in a greater plan. With Bolivar Trask not murdered, the future was in flux, and Magneto, freed of his concrete and plastic prison stole a baseball stadium, rewired the Sentinels, and attempted to stage a bit of a coup. And when he lost? His best friend didn’t do the right thing; he let him go because he still cared for his troubled friend.

Therein lay the heart of my love for the tweening of fiction. When authors (me included) allow characters to be more than the sum of the plot and story beats, the audience is better for it. While there is a time and a place for white and black, I implore you to look beyond the simple. Complexity breeds intelligence. Intelligence allows for a deeper enjoyment of a piece of art. It’s sure fun when Al, Kung Fu Monkey Master of the Samurnauts clocks the evil pirate Blackstar with his bo-staff because it’s clear he’s the good guy… it’s a nice beat. But the true fans will enjoy the moment further because they know that when Al makes the critical strike, it’s make because of the torturous acts Blackstar used on former Samurnauts in the name of chaos. The blow is beyond justified – it is struck with anger, hatred, and desire for pain. Those shades of grey elevate what would be good defeating evil, into a personal vendetta.

At the end of the day, aren’t we all better people when the world is depicted in three dimensions?


REVIEW: How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your DragonWhen your children grow up and leave home, one of the regrets is that until they give you grandchildren, you have little excuse to go see the fun family films that keep rolling out. As a result, I missed How to Train Your Dragon when it arrived in 2010. I was told by those still with kids that it was a charming, funny film. Thanks to Paramount Home Entertainment, I finally caught up with it now that it has been rereleased today as a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital combo pack.

The unfortunately named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a young Viking growing up on the island of Berk. His father, the better named Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), is the tribe’s chief who insists that the youngsters are taught how to fight the fearsome dragons that share the island. Hiccup is destined for greatness – at least that’s the hope; he’s actually skinny and weak and prone to accidents — when fate shakes things up as he saves an injured young beast named Toothless. They bond and Hiccup is handed a new destiny: he has to convince the tribe that their ways are wrong and that the dragons are really allies not dinner.

It’s an uphill battle complicating with the distracting affection he has Astrid (America Ferrara). She, of course, sees him as annoying, clumsy boy. Their friend Gobbler (Craig Ferguson), a blacksmith. supplies support, crazy mechanical inventions, and even more comic relief.

Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DuBlois do a fine job adapting Cressida Cowell’s young adult novel. They make it heartwarming and funny, charming and goofy without tripping over the line and getting excessive on any account.

The current high definition disc is a visual treat for young and old alike. The 1080p transfer is pristine, keeping all the color bright and vibrant. Coupled with the wonderful 7.1 Dolby TrueHD lossless soundtrack, the viewing experience at home is superb, matching the film’s entertainment value.

This edition comes with a sticker on the slipcover offering $7.50 off a movie ticket for June’s obviously named How to Train Your Dragon 2. There are a bunch of extras carried over from earlier editions of the film such as the filmmaker’s commentary, a trivia track, the PiP feature “The Animators’ Corner”, and the featurettes “The Story Behind the Story” (7:40), “The Technical Artistry of Dragon” (10:13), “Viking-Sized Cast” (11:44), and “How to Draw a Dragon” (10:52).

New additions, and welcome ones, include “Frozen” (22:41), billed as an “exclusive episode” of the TV show Dragons: Defenders of Berk; “Book of Dragons” (17:38), a short that provides additional details about the fire-breathing dragons; Ultimate Book of Dragons, an interactive feature; and, Gobber’s Training Secrets” (2:10), a series of short vignettes about dragons.

Two more extras — the short film “Legend of the BoneKnapper Dragon” (16:33), and deleted scenes (7:33) – can only be found on the DVD.

Jen Krueger: The Gaming Sweet Spot

Jen Krueger: The Gaming Sweet Spot

Until very recently, the thought of spending a hundred dollars on a board game would have seemed like madness to me. If it actually is madness, then I guess it’s appropriate that Betrayal at House on the Hill is what had me considering it. It’s a game in which you and your friends explore a haunted mansion by building it out room by room with tiles that reveal objects, events, and traps to test your sanity. Everything changes in the middle when a haunt is triggered to reveal one player as a traitor out to kill the others, and playing it just once at a board game cafe was more than enough fun to make me want a copy of my own. Unfortunately, it’s currently out of print and procuring a copy would mean spending around a hundred dollars for a used set through a reseller.

So what about Betrayal at House on the Hill was so fun that a single experience with it made me actually consider dropping that kind of money on a type of product for which I’ve generally paid no more than fifty dollars? The fact that the mechanics for both the layout of the house and the type of haunt that occurs mean it’s never the same game twice. Knowing that even if I happened to run through all 50 different haunts the rule book contains, the unique layout of rooms and the randomness regarding which player becomes the traitor would keep the gameplay from ever becoming rote. As much fun as it can be to play a classic like Monopoly or a modern hit like Ticket to Ride, whenever I play something of a more fixed state like these, I find myself less engaged with the game itself as well as the other people I’m playing with. There’s never really any surprise to this kind of game, and at a certain point I end up on autopilot. There may be variation in which specific spaces I land on or cards I pull, but the range of possibilities is firmly set from the start, diluting the replay value and leaving me content to play them but never dying to own them.

But as much as I want board games I play to give me a unique experience every time I sit down to them, there are of course games that go too far down that path. Risk Legacy builds on the foundation of the classic game Risk, but is meant to be played by the same group of people 15 times because each session results in the players making alterations to the game based on their specific experiences with it, like scarring a territory with a negative effect on any future combat that takes place there, or naming a territory so that only the player who named it can start in that territory during future games. These alterations are permanent, and affect every session that follows, making every Risk Legacy set that’s sold into a completely unique experience for the group that plays that set. I was pumped to try the game when my friend Art wrangled a group to play. More friends of mine, Farley and Clay, were playing with a separate group around the same time, and as each group got more sessions under our belts, we’d check in with each other about our impressions and strategies for sessions to come. The incredibly customizable nature of the game meant that both of our groups were constantly realizing we’d been doing something wrong due to not fully understanding the understandably complicated rules, but the continuing effect of each session on the ones that follow it make it very hard to rectify mistakes. And though correlation doesn’t imply causation, I can’t help but think any game with such a high level of customizability runs the same (cue groan) risk.

For me, the games that do it right are the ones right in the middle of this spectrum of uniqueness per session. Cyberpunk card game Android: Netrunner gives players a wealth of cards to pick from with multiple expansion packs on the market and new ones released every month, making the possibilities endless when putting together a deck to sit down with a friend and, depending what side of the table you’re on, either hack their servers or foil their hacker. Betrayal at House on the Hill gives a different board and set of circumstances every time, but the rules governing play are constant and basic enough to let the players get them under their belts in a few turns on a first play-through, then simply immerse themselves from that point on. And if a game can be as simple in concept yet as different every time it’s played as Betrayal at House on the Hill, a hundred dollars for a set gives you unlimited replay value. In my book, that’s actually a bargain.

Marc Alan Fishman Becomes a Viking!

SpringConBy the time these words hit you, I’ll have trekked across the barren wasteland known as Wisconsin (sorry, Cheeseheads!) to arrive at the Midwest Comic Book Association’s Spring Con, held annually in Minneapolis. Since Unshaven Comics started seeking conventions outside the Chicagoland area, Spring Con has long been a desired destination. Our compatriots sang nothing but praises for the show each year without fail. And with careful planning, we’re elated to schlep our way west (for once) in order to hawk our wares to the unsuspecting Vikings fans.

I always look forward to a new convention. Unshaven Comics has built a reputation on the cold sale. Why? Because we embrace the fact that no one knows us from Adam. Or the Atom. Or Adam Strange. Or Dr. Strange. I could go on. The simple truth is our Artist Alley table represents a pop-up artist’s commune. But a Domo Trading Card or hand-made commission by Matt is only an expression of our physical talents. The sale of a Samurnauts book is a representation of two very important things: it’s validation of our ability to create a fulfilling piece of fiction, and it’s assurance that we are able to tap into the market and minds of like-minded fans. It’s cliché, but it’s true; there is no greater satisfaction professionally.

Even better, Spring Con is very much a dying breed, one we hope to continue to pump life into. As a convention that isn’t owned by some large conglomerate seeking to grow its mound of gold atop the mountain… it’s one of those “wacky” shows that seemingly is founded first and foremost on the celebration of the culture. Not ‘pop’ culture – tacky, silly, D-List, exploitative wastes of time – comic culture.

Panels at Spring Con? Adam Hughes being interviewed by Bill Willingham. Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber discussing their process. And rather than purposefully gouge show-goers with inflated concessions and needless gifts? How about free autographs, free picnic areas, and free parking. And the coup-de-grace? Over 250 comic creators on hand, ready and waiting to interact with fans. While Reed and Wizard may boast similar numbers… they aren’t the type to offer a free dinner for their artists. Spring Con does. Sensing a theme?

Don’t get me wrong. Unshaven Comics would not be in business (such as it is) without Reed and Wizard. C2E2, Chicago Comic Con, and New York Comic Con combined for over a thousand book sales last year. In all honesty, if we top a buck fifty by the end of Sunday night, it’ll be a banner convention for we beardly boasters.

Spring Con – which is nearly all volunteer run – exists first and foremost to bring people together. For over 26 years now, it’s been a staple of the great lakes (one would assume). Reed, Wizard, and the like also desire to bring people together… but their purpose is profit, and no one questions it in the least. The fact that they continue to pick on the local conventions like MCBA, and try to push them out of town only endears them harder with the community of creators. Of course we all also attend those for-profit shows too; we need to eat at some point.

This brings up my last li’l point. You see, many people (OK, like three or four) have asked us how we’ve attained the successes we’ve enjoyed to this point – specifically regarding our track record at making all attended conventions lucrative.

Well, I could (and will eventually) spill those beans at a later date. For now though, how about one juicy secret. We count everything. We count books in, books out, dollars in, dollars out, number of pitches, number of unique customers, number of up-sells, yadda yadda. And when we do a new show, we bring our data with us to try to figure out what sort of business we should expect. And when we leave the show, we debrief on the car trip home. Spring Con brings with it the most important thing Unshaven covets… numbers. But I digress.

Should you find yourself in or around the Minneapolis / St. Paul area today or tomorrow? Make your way out to the state fairgrounds, and find your way to our table. We’ll pitch, you buy. Sounds like a plan! There’s nothing more invigorating than a new set of fans to be made. I’ve built a semi-career around it. So, for the time being, I’m happy to declare it:

Go Vikings.


Marc Alan Fishman: “Dear Gotham…”

My dearest Gotham,

I saw that you prematurely showed yourself to the world. It’s OK to be a tease. I can forgive that. But I couldn’t help myself… I was a voyeur to your little show. What can I say? I like what you’re bringing to the table.

For starters, you’re what’s all the rage these days… what with the grim and gritty streets that threaten to be poisoned with rivers of blood. You’re chock full of seedy low-lifes, sexpots, and wealthy elites. Your soldiers are unshaven (which how could I not love?), morally ambiguous fighters looking to right wrongs by any means necessary. And at your heart? A unmoustachioed malcontent, ready to play by the rules,  for once, goddamnit! How could I not swoon over the possibilities!

That being said, I’m not without my reservations, kiddo. It seems like you’re awfully complex right out of the gate. While I know your generation is just chomping at the bit to show off, be wary. A slow burn works today too. Now, if you were a little less straight edge, I’d sooner see you look towards campuses like AMC, FX, or the ivy leagues like HBO and their ilk. But I get it. FOX is a good commuter school with tons of public transportation. What you’ll lack in creative classes, you’ll make up with exposure. And more eyes early in your career can’t be a bad thing – unless you’re light in the loafers. But I digress. It’s just that I care about you, Gotham, I do. And to see that you’re bringing so many of your friends to the party right out of the gate makes me think you’ll end up not being able to really enjoy everyone’s company. But I’ve been wrong before. Hell, ask your older brother Arrow.

What you need to know though is this: pay close attention to your cousin SHIELD. He tried to balance all his loose threads when he hit the scene, but it took some serious reevaluation of his mission before he really started coming into his own. Come to think of it, Arrow was much the same. Given what you showed the world already, I’m wanting you to do the best you can, and look to graduate on time. No need for a masters or doctorate, slick. Get in, do the work, and get out. Trust me, don’t be like your uncle Smallville. Sure he came on strong… but eventually he stayed too long at the party. It’s something for you to consider. And take heed in knowing no matter how much you slip up, you’ll never touch the depravity of your sister Birdy. I mean, it was over a decade ago, but people still won’t let her live it down! All you have to do is keep your pants clean, and mind your manners. Yeesh.

At the end of the day, I’m proud of you. You took a chance, and soon will be ready to let the world see you each and every week. Just stay true to yourself, take deep breaths between large thoughts, and be sure to keep us guessing what you’ll do next. Don’t go goth on us. Don’t have a sass-mouth. Respect your elders, and realize in our post modern world… we’ve likely seen it all, already. We don’t need you to reinvent the wheel so much as we need you to prove that you did your homework. Capisce?

All our love,

Momma and Papa Warner


Michael Davis: Deathlok Joins The Milestone Universe

Last week we ran part 1 of my ComicMix conversation with J. August Richards. Part two will print next Tuesday, on the same day as the season finale of Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD.

Yeah, that’s a fucked-up misleading title, eh?

Well, ask anyone over at Bleeding Cool. I can be a dick sometimes and try as I might, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in…to being a dick.

So, that happened.

So in the meantime I will answer more Milestone questions and deal with one bold statement, from Steve Chaput and Ryan Dean respectfully.

Please keep in mind these Milestone articles do not run sequentially (like some two part interviews), some questions may require a few sentences and others may require entire articles.

I’m looking at you Doctor.

Ryan asks:

Last time we saw animated versions of Milestone characters was in the great Young Justice series. What are the chances of seeing them pop up in any of the upcoming DC animated features or the DC Nation shorts?

Ryan, I can’t say when but I can say I’m pretty certain that will happen. More than one conversation about Milestone animated has happened. DC Animation is just kicking ass and taking names. The stuff that comes out of that studio just gets better and better. Not too long ago when it came to live action movies, Marvel was DC’s bitch.

Now? Errr, no.

Today Marvel, maybe not by much, makes the best superhero movies. Possibly they are making the best superhero movies ever made.

Animation? They still be DC’s bitch.

I recently saw the Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher animated movie. I felt I was the one being punished. It was, in my opinion, god-awful. If you’re not sure what that means in this case, it means almighty God said it was awful.

Steve really didn’t have a question but he had quite the point of view:

I’m with Paul Smith on this one. It just seems to me that it DC, for whatever reason, that is holding things back. I think any other company (Image, Dark Horse, IDW, etc.) would love to have the Milestone characters published under their banner. This would totally separate them from the DCU and the Milestone books could either start over fresh or take up where they left off when the initial titles were ended.

You can’t tell me, either, that there aren’t number directors, producers and actors that would not love to bring Icon & Rocket or Static to the big screen. Personally, I’d love to see Hardware in 3-D action.

Steve, I answered Paul’s question in detail last week. Perhaps you’ve read it, if not please do. It addresses all of your observations. Because those observations are widespread and considered by many a certainty, I’d like to use your post to underscore a point if I may.

With all due respect, what something seems to some seems entirely different to others. Many people see Ted Cruz and Allen West as reasonable public servants who will only make this country better.

I don’t see that.

I see two men who will stop at nothing to roll back civil rights, discard the poor like trash and take away health care from those who most need it.

I see them this way because of what they have done and said. I see them this way because of what I read and witness with my own eyes via media news outlets.

From what I see, these men seem to be at war against anyone that does not think like them. In the case of Mr. West, I see a self-hating Negro giving racists everywhere another reason to believe black people are indeed the shiftless, lazy coons they always thought they were.


I could be wrong. It’s possible what I’ve heard and the context in which I heard it were not how they were intended to be. Perhaps if I met them my opinion would change. I’m not above making judgments only to be proven wrong.

As an example, Ed Catto is a friend of mine who also just happens to be one of the people behind the return of what is to me my favorite thing ever, Captain Action.

Not the greatest toy ever; the greatest thing ever. Ed is not nor did he become a friend because of his Captain Action connection. I don’t do that.

A year or so ago before he and I became friends, I spotted something on his Captain Action Facebook page which to me seemed racist.

You could not tell me it wasn’t.

I then proceeded to say so on his page and ended up making a complete and utter fool of myself. It was in no way racist and I feel like shit each and every time I think of what I did.

Let me be very, very, very clear. My examples were meant to communicate the earnestness in which I write this. I am in no way suggesting your statement has any semblance whatsoever to the instances I set forth.

They do not.

Your assertion that DC is holding back Milestone suggests there is intent there to do such a thing.

There is not.

I give details on the what, when, how and why I think that in my last article.

I’m confident that Ted Cruz and Allen West are what they appear to be. Having said that I will concede I may be wrong. I don’t know them; I certainly was not privy to the genesis of an idea, which by the time it reached me may have became something different.

I wasn’t there.

Steve, I’m using your post to say as loudly and as clearly to as many people as I can, DC Comics has no organized agenda to hold Milestone back. I know this my friend as well as I know my own name.

I was there dude, really, I was.

Now you were spot on when you surmised directors, producers and actors would love to bring Icon & Rocket or Static to the big screen. In fact, a film about Milestone

In a meeting at Warner Bros Studios, Chris Rock was mentioned as the actor chosen to play me. DC suggested that role go to Bernie Mac or no one.

That meeting was yesterday. Give that a sec.

Dennis O’Neil Wants Credit For Captain America: The Winter Soldier

You probably don’t know this because it almost certainly isn’t in any of the books about the comic book racket and it happened before most you were born — in the neighborhood of 50 years — and even if you’d been there, in the offices of Marvel comics when Marvel was part of a parent company, Magazine Management, you might not have known about it and if you did know about it you might have forgotten by now because we are talking a half-century here, but… I once wrote Captain America and I’m pretty sure I used fewer words than are in this sentence.

And — stand aside now and watch your head — I hereby claim credit for the current, and generally excellent Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a film now playing at a theater near you, unless you live somewhere that is seriously rural.


John Ostrander: Whore To Culture And Other Working Relationships

I’m over at Facebook a fair amount. I use it not just for friends and family, people I actually know, but also as a way to keep in touch with fans which I think is important. I try to give them a good personal experience with me because I value them; their support enables me to make a living as a writer. Some publishers have an interest in hiring me because they know I have my own fanbase.

So I post things and answer questions or notes – sort of like at a Con – and it’s nice. Most of the fans are very respectful; sometimes, maybe a little too respectful. There have been those who refer to me as “master”. I appreciate it as a token of respect but, to be honest, I’m uncomfortable with it. To my mind, I’m just a working guy and my work happens to be writing. It’s how I make my living – buy food, pay the bills, and so on.

I’m a professional writer and I take great pride in that; people pay money to read what I’ve written and, as I’ve said elsewhere, that’s something I’ve never taken for granted and never will. There’s a big demand on your dollar today (mine too) and if you spend the money on one thing chances are you aren’t spending it on another. Maybe if you buy a comic I’ve written you can’t buy some other comic. So it’s my job to make sure you get your money’s worth.

I’m not a “fine” writer; I’m a storyteller. Both as a reader and a writer, my big interest is “and then what happened?” I’m not a stylist although I can turn a good phrase. I’m not apologizing in any way; I’m proud of what I’ve written but I know what I am and what I am not.

I had an interesting online discussion some years back with a defiantly amateur writer. He claimed he was “purer” as a writer because he didn’t accept money for his work. In fact, he claimed I was a whore and prostituting myself for taking money for something I should have done for the pure love of it.

I will confess to be a bit flummoxed by this. I wasn’t sure how to answer. I could have said that he probably couldn’t prostitute himself because nobody would pay him; it’s hard to make money if you’re an ugly whore. However, that would have been mere pique and invective and dodged the central question – does getting paid for my work inherently make one less of an artist? Shakespeare (a greater artist than I) got paid, as did Dickens, Shaw, and many other talented artists.

On the other hand, there are plenty of hacks out there who will grind out anything to make a buck. There are times I have taken an assignment, not because I loved the character or the concept but because I needed the work and the paycheck. However, I’ve never put in less work as a result. I have to find something in the character that I can relate to, into which I can invest myself. It’s not always easy but it is always necessary. In some cases I am more successful than in others but the effort is always there because I know that, at some point, someone will put down real cold cash to read it.

I write to be read. I know one of the cardinal rules of writing is, first and foremost, to write to please yourself and I do that. However, I don’t only do that. I’m aware as I write that, hopefully, someone is going to read those words as you are reading these words. If one writes only to please oneself, then I think that’s literary masturbation. I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with masturbation; I’ve dated Five Finger Lucy myself. There’s the old joke that goes “if it wasn’t for masturbation, I’d have no sex life at all” and, at one point in my past, that was very true. However, I also happen to think that sex with a partner is, well, better.

When you connect with your reader, it’s like flipping the electric switch to “on”. The electricity flows and it can flow both ways. It’s that connection with the reader that I’m looking for. In my stories, I ask my reader, “Have you ever felt this? Thought this? Considered this”? If they have, then we share something. The electricity flows between us. There’s a bond between us. We celebrate a shared humanity.

That’s my job. That’s what I get paid to do. What I get paid has never determined the effort I put into the work; it has enabled me to do it without expending time and energy making a living some other way, time and energy that I need to put into the work.

I’m not a master; I could never claim that for myself. I’m a guy from Chicaguh who writes for a living; a working stiff like most of you. Most days, I love what I do and, on the other days, it’s a grind, like any other job. Overall I’m proud of the work I’ve done and I hope to keep doing it until I drop. To quote James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams, “It’s what I do.”

Photo by mpclemens