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REVIEW: Atomic Blonde

REVIEW: Atomic Blonde

After James Bond and Jason Bourne, the bar has been raised high for espionage films that mingle international intrigue with edge-of-the-seat action. Many have tried and failed to reach the upper echelon of the genre and none have featured a female lead. Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron, is pretty close and if she returns for a sequel, just might find a place in the pantheon.

The summer film was based on The Coldest City graphic novel from Antony Johnston and Sam Hart and was chosen for development prior to publication by Theron, then looking at properties for her production company. She brought on Kurt Johnstad to adapt the story which was fine given his previous work adapting 300 from comic to screen. He also wrote an Aquaman script losing last year’s bake-off to Will Beall.

Set in the waning days of Cold War Berlin, an MI6 agent is shot, the microfilm he was carrying stolen, and the hunt is on for his killer and the list of field agents in the USSR. Lorraine Broughton is set on the hunt and from there, the pace rarely lessens. We start with the end, seeing a naked, battered and bruised Lorraine soaking in a bathtub full of ice then reporting to her superior Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and his CIA counterpart Emmett Kurzfield (John Goodman). During her recounting of the actions, we gain an increasing sense of unease; someone is a mole, endangering the mission. The audience is left wondering who it might be starting with David Percival (James McAvoy), the Berlin station chief who may or may not have gone native.

Complicating her mission is Delphine (Sofia Boutella), a rookie French agent posing as a local, who gets too close to Lorraine. She’s a Bond girl but her affair with Lorraine packs more emotional heart than most similar heterosexual encounters.

That action was hyped during the trailers but what you don’t appreciate until you see the film is how much director David Leitch, pushed the action. He made a name for himself with uncredited work on John Wick and was coaxed away from the sequel to this film and he made Theron work hard and its pays off in some of the freshest fighting sequences captured on film in years.

He nicely integrates mostly familiar 1980s music to the film, helping ground it. Director of Photography Jonathan Sela does a nice job maintaining a gritty, run down look and feel to East Berlin, contrasting it with its Western twin.

There’s a relentlessness to the pace which nicely matches the ticking clock as the Wall crumbles and the microfilm is out to auction. By the end, everything is neatly tied up and I’ll admit to being surprised as to who was the mole.

The film, out now in a variety of formats from Universal Home Entertainment has a fine, not exceptional, high definition transfer with a solid DTS:X Master Audio soundtrack.

The 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray discs contain an assortment of interesting special features starting with Deleted/Extended Scenes (7:23), six sequences, two of which focus on Delphine and would have been nice to have in the main feature. Welcome to Berlin (4:33) is a cursory look at the city along with shooting locations and production design. Blondes Have More Gun (7:01) focuses on Theron with a nice look at the intensive training that went into readying her for the action sequences where she did the vast majority of her own stunts. Spymaster (4:18) lets Leith talk about what drew him to this project. The best feature is Anatomy of a Fight Scene (7:52), focusing on the protracted fight sequence inside an apartment building before spilling into the streets. There some nice picture-in-picture director commentary along with split screen behind the scenes footage.

Finally, there’s Story in Motion, animated storyboards for two scenes: Agent Broughton (2:16) and The Chase (1:38), each offer optional Leitch commentary.

The Audio Commentary: Director David Leitch and Editor Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir is interesting and informative so if you enjoy the film, you’ll learn plenty from a second pass with this option.

 

 

Mindy Newell: What Goes Around…

DC Comics Editor Suspended After Forcible Reports Of Forcible Kissing, Groping

by Nicole Hensley, New York Daily News, Sunday, November 12, 2017

A high-ranking editor at DC Comics has been suspended after three women publicly accused him of forcible kissing and groping in allegations dating back more than a decade.

DC Entertainment on Saturday announced the company is investigating group editor Eddie Berganza after Buzzfeed reported on his alleged history of predatory behavior.

“There will be a prompt and yet careful review into the next steps as it relates to the allegations against him, and the concerns our talent, employees and fans have shared, DC said in a statement, the news site reported.

Former writer Liz Marsham said Berganza kissed her during a party and groped her at a company gathering at a bar in 2006.

Another DC Comics employee reported a similar encounter. Joan Hilty, who is openly gay, said Berganza tried grabbing her at the same bar during a separate incident, according to Buzzfeed.

At least five women confronted DC Comics’ HR with their objections after learning Berganza was being considered for an executive editor promotion. He was promoted anyway, the site said.

Berganza was demoted to group editor in 2012 after a similar allegation that he forcibly kissed a married freelance writer during the WonderCon convention.

Despite the demotion, Berganza went on to oversee projects related to Superman and Wonder Woman.

•     •     •     •     •

I just posted this bit of news on my Facebook page.  My friend Neil Cohen replied:

“I know it was a different time a whole few years ago when this first broke, but how was nothing done then?”

And I replied: “Because this happened yesterday, Saturday, November 11, 2017…”

And my next post: “…and they can’t hide it anymore.”

•     •     •     •     •

Ever since October 5, when the New York Times published the Harvey Weinstein bombshell (reported by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey), the bombs have just kept on exploding.  Here’s a list, released by the Times yesterday, working backwards from Friday, November 10:

Andrew Kreisberg, Executive Producer of Supergirl, Arrow, and The Flash

Louis C. K., comedian and producer

Benjamin Genocchio, Executive director of the Armory Show art fair

David Guillod, Co-Chief Executive of Primary Wave Entertainment agency

Jeff Hoover, Kentucky Speaker of the House

Brett Ratner, Producer and director

Kirt Webster, Music publicist

Andy Dick, Actor

Michael Oreskes, Head of news at NPR and former New York Times editor

Hamilton Fish, President and Publisher of The New Republic

Kevin Spacey, Actor/Director

Ken Baker, E! News correspondent

Mark Halperin, NBC News and MSNBC contributor, author of “Game Change”

Rick Najera, Director of CBS’s Diversity Showcase

Knight Landesman, Publisher of ArtForum

Leon Wieseltier, former editor at The New Republic

Terry Richardson, Fashion photographer

John Besh, Chief Executive of the Besh Restaurant Group

Lockhart Steele, Editorial Director of Vox Media

Robert Scoble, Tech blogger and co-founder of the Transformation Group

Chris Savino, Creator and showrunner of “The Loud House”

I’ve only listed the names, but you can go here to see the allegations and fallout.

I’ve also heard Dustin Hoffman’s name bandied about while driving to work and listening to the radio, though that was the only time I heard it.

And speaking of work, well, sometimes the talk can get pretty risqué but lately any jibe or joke has been preceded by is this sexual harassment? or assurances that I am just joking, I’m not harassing you, am I? This is mostly a good thing, I suppose, as awareness is heightened that someone listening might be offended, but at the same time, I can’t help thinking that the “sensitivity-meter” can be working overtime. Meaning, any joke or acerbic comment or ironic observation is capable of offending somebody at any given hour or on any given day—are comedy clubs and HBO specials on the road to extinction?

And then there’s this:

Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.

Unknown: Whoa.

Trump:  I did try and fuck her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

Trump: No, no, Nancy. No, this was [unintelligible] –  and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture – I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.

Trump: Whoa! Whoa!

Bush: Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!

Trump: Look at you, you are a pussy.

Trump: All right, you and I will walk out.

Trump: Maybe it’s a different one.

Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s, it’s her, it’s –

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

Hey, Donald, remember this…

What goes around comes around.

Mueller’s got you by the balls…

And he’s squeezing.

•     •     •     •     •

And on another topic…

Hey, Maddy (Maddy Ernst, ½ of the Tweeks). Regarding Stranger Things 2 and your review:

Yep, it totally rocked!
I gotta give Noah Schnapp major kudos here, especially as it seems to me that everyone else gets so much praise and attention from the media and fans. He had an incredibly difficult path as an actor this season, and the kid totally pulled it off!!!
Also, David Harbour and Millie Bobby Brown as Jim Hopper and Jane Ives/Eleven? Loved their pairing!!!!

Totally agree with you regarding Sean Astin.
SPOILER ALERT: The Mind-Flayer/Shadow Monster hovering over the Snow Ball at the middle school–okay, girlfriends, who is infected with the “virus?” Mike? Chief Hopper? Maybe too obvious, hmm? How about Dustin? (My vote.)

One more thing…
I stretched out the binge to two sittings, but even so, nine episodes went by way too quickly. And now it’s gonna be, what, another year until the third season?
That sucks, doesn’t it?

 

Ed Catto: Sky Masters, Part 2

When it comes to music, we all get it right away. We understand what duets are, and how the combination of two favorite performers can result in something new and special. In 2006, the album Duets teamed Tony Bennett with a myriad of music’s A-listers. It was an instant hit. Part of the fun was the surprising range of match-ups. While a song featuring Bennett collaborating with Barbara Streisand was expected, duets with musicians like k.d.lang or the Dixie Chicks were wonderful surprises.

Sometimes a collaboration exceeds the original. For example, I’d argue that the version of Gloria by John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison is much more fun than the original version Morrison recorded with his old band, Them. Likewise, Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, two geniuses from different generations, collaborated in the late 90s and produced wonderful songs enthralling fans of both artists.

Comic art collaborations are different. When enjoying traditional comic art, it’s harder for most folks to understand what the penciler and the inker each bring to the party. But both types of artists have a role to play and opportunities to seize. Sometimes fans will like a certain artist paired with a certain inker. Other times, the combination might not gel, resulting in an unsatisfying experience for readers. Some inkers support a penciller’s vision, other times they might dominate it.

Wallace (Wally) Wood was one the great very artists, but he often played the role of inker. I reached out to Walter Simonson (an incredible artist in his own right) to find out just what it was like to have Wally Wood ink your artwork. Walter kindly shared his thoughts with me:

“Back in 1976, Denny O’Neil asked me if I would be willing to draw layouts for an ongoing DC comic, Hercules Unbound. Wallace Wood had been doing the finished inks over layouts. I jumped at the chance. I knew Woody personally just a little from the time I spent hanging out at Continuity Associates, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano’s studio in New York. But I knew Woody’s work extensively, from his EC stories to his work on the early MAD magazines, to Witzend, and his later work on Daredevil and other mainstream comic books. I was thrilled.

“As the layout artist, I expected that the finished work would look like Woody’s stuff. And by and large, it did. But it was such a learning experience. For layouts, I wasn’t spotting blacks in my drawings, and it was a revelation to see what Woody did with them. Beautiful to observe. My real regret was that Woody left the book after he had done only two issues over my layouts. But he told me before departing that he really liked what I had given him to work with. It was the structure he needed to create his finished work without difficulty. I was thrilled. Thanks, Woody. Nobody called it a bucket list back then, but that’s exactly what it was, a big check mark off the bucket list!”

The best collaborators actually collaborate. And that’s what happened when Jack Kirby worked with Wally Wood to produce the newspaper comic strip Sky Masters. Last week we talked about the new reprint edition from Amigo Comics. This week we’ll take another bite out of the apple. I’ve persuaded my friend, J. David Spurlock, an expert on Wallace Wood and a guy with a lot of great stories, to contribute a few more thoughts about this unique collaboration.

So join me for J. David Spurlock’s Sky Masters: The Jack Kirby-Wally Wood Masterpiece —the greatest teaming of America’s two most iconic mid-century comic book talents!

McCarthy-era political witch-hunts fed even vice-presidential hopeful Estes Kefauver’s investigations into juvenile delinquency. The fallout came very close to killing the American comic book industry in the second half of the 1950s. Comic books were demonized and workers in the industry humiliated. Most publishers went out of business. The few that stumbled on, slashed titles to the quick and experimented with new/alternative genres. As Carmine Infantino told me, even the industry’s top company, National/DC, were not only laying-off talent but also cutting pay rates for those who stayed. Joe Orlando confirmed he was so humiliated he started telling non-industry people that he “illustrated children’s books” in lieu of confessing he was a comic book artist. Stan Lee likewise confirmed that in that period, he skirted telling people he worked making comic books. Every artist aspired to doing a newspaper strip. Newspaper strip work — as opposed to the then-shamed comic books— was not only respectable, it was celebrated and could generate great income based on circulation. 

In 1958, inspired by Sputnik and the emerging US and Russian space programs, Harry Elmlark of the George Matthew Adams Service newspaper syndicate asked National/DC Comics writer-editor Jack Schiff to help him put together a team for a space program-related strip. Schiff was too committed at National/DC to take on writing a daily strip and reached out to Dave Wood about writing. Dave Wood and acclaimed 1940s Captain America co-creator Jack Kirby had been working under Schiff as editor on the Kirby-created DC-published comic book, Challengers of the Unknown. Dave Wood and Kirby had previously worked on another proposed space strip which had not been picked up. Both Kirby and Dave Wood confirmed they were interested in creating the proposed new strip.

Kirby, Schiff and Dave Wood assumed Kirby’s associate, Marvin Stein, would be inking Kirby’s pencil work but, Stein had had enough of the cockamamie comics business and left for better, steadier work in advertising, as so many did during the mid-to-late ’50s comics implosion. With Stein out, Jack knew he needed a top quality, polished inker to help his work compete with such illustrative adventure strip artists like Alex Raymond, Hal Foster and Milton Caniff. Jack realized the absolutely best man for the job was Wallace Wood (no relation to Dave) who had quickly risen to be America’s foremost sci-fi comic book artist a few years earlier via his groundbreaking work at EC Comics on such titles as Weird Science and Weird Fantasy.

Wallace Wood had nothing to do with negotiations with Schiff and/or the syndicate. His relationship was solely with Jack Kirby. As my research for the Eisner-Award recognized Wood biography, Wally’s World revealed, it was Kirby who phoned Wood’s studio and the call was answered by Wood’s wife/assistant/colorist Tatjana: “Who’s calling?” “Jack Kirby” the response came. “Wallace, Jack Kirby is on the phone.” Kirby invited Woody to work on the still untitled newspaper strip. They followed up with Jack coming to Wood’s studio where they started brainstorming including on what to name the strip. Jack liked the name Sky as the lead character’s fist name but wasn’t sure what to use for a surname. Wood had been playing with the name Cannon since childhood. Jack and Wally considered Sky Cannon and Wood drew that option up as a rough logo design, along with other ideas. Jack Kirby and Wallace (a.k.a. “Wally” or “Woody”) Wood ultimately settled on Sky Masters with Wally drawing the final logo art. 

Wally Wood at the time was not working in comic books. He had grown to be so successful, he was doing far better paying humor, men’s, and sci-fi magazine illustrations, as well as paperback and hardcover book covers, and advertising. It was because Wood considered Kirby a “genius” (Woody was likely the first big name pro to use the word “genius” to describe Jack) and that, like everyone else, he dreamt of a hit newspaper strip, that Wood agreed to collaborate with Jack.

As soon as Kirby told Schiff that Wally Wood had agreed to ink and letter the strip, Schiff got excited and inquired whether Wood might be willing to return to comic books as well, to likewise work with Jack on Challengers of the Unknown. Out of respect to Jack, Wood agreed. Kirby and Wood hit it off and work started on the Sky Masters, Challengers, and an underwater strip idea, Surf Hunter.

Newspaper strip deadlines never stop. There is no break. It is important to gear-up and have plenty done prior to the launch, as that is the only buffer a strip artist will ever have. Work on Challengers started during the Sky Masters gear-up period. Because of the release date of Wallace Wood’s first issue of Challengers, there has long been confusion about the timeline — which came first, Wood’s joining Challengers or Sky Masters? Through my Wally’s World research, I was finally able to clear it all up via my interviews with a few of the first-person witnesses to these matters, Tatjana Wood, who took the initial call from Kirby and was in the studio when Jack came over for meetings and with my dear friend, Al Williamson who occasionally helped out inking some backgrounds. The Kirby-Wood collaborative period started with Sky Masters. Their work together is ultimate Americana. Imagine John Wayne doing a film with Elvis or Marilyn Monroe doing a film with James Dean. Kirby and Wood are like that except in their case, it actually did happen for a bright, fleeting moment.

A short digression re: the Kirby-Wood signatures that appear on the art. For many years, general readers didn’t know Dave Wood was involved with the strip. It was understood that the Kirby-Wood signature was for Kirby and Wallace Wood who put as much work into that strip as he did anything else that he signed in his career. After many years, it started getting out that the writer’s name was also Wood and he had a brother/helper named Dick Wood. Jack Kirby said, for a while he thought everyone in the business was named Wood. Some would say the Wood in the signature is for the writer, Dave Wood — and that is reasonable if not traditional. I would like to propose that this case might not be so traditional: When the artist Wallace Wood — one of the most accomplished comics artists of all time — who signed the signature signed them, that he was not signing for the writer who was nowhere near as notable of a talent as the artist was but, happened to have the same name. Woody signed his own name to his own work. It has nothing to do with who made the original agreement to produce a space strip or when, in the pre-launch process Woody came on board. It had to do with one of the top talents of all time putting blood, sweat and tears into his labor of love and being proud of his work. How many National/DC strips listed Dave Wood’s signature? But, even when DC did not publish credits, if the great comics master Wallace Wood signed, no one at DC dared white it out (see first-person account from Jim Shooter). Unless we find a contract saying that Dave Wood’s name was required to be credited and lettered into every strip, we have no way of knowing what the signature would have been had Wallace Wood not helped launch it and signed it with his own hand. 

Wallace only stayed for about half of the strip’s tenure. It was a huge loss when Woody left the strip. But he understandably did not want to get dragged into a growing legal dispute between Jack Schiff and Jack Kirby which he had nothing to do with. Plus, the strip was not picked up by enough papers to make big money. To minimize the public knowing Wallace had left.. to minimize change… and as the writer’s name was also Wood, they kept the signature going after Woody left. Likewise, Kirby himself attempted to ink in Wood’s style. When Kirby hired Dick Ayers to take over inking, he requested Ayers to likewise mimic Wood’s style. I got that fact directly from my dear friend Dick, who went on to say, he would have loved to have done work more like Wood’s but, it took too much time and there wasn’t enough money in comics (or Sky Masters) to work that way — because, Wood did far more than just ink. 

To add confusion, in a late interview, Jack oddly minimized Woody’s well known and obvious contributions and indicated what they had wanted the public to think of the signature after Woody left—that it was for the writer. It must be understood that in the period that Jack gave that interview, Jack was so fed up with the fact that most of his career, he had been credited in second place to Simon and Lee, who Jack felt did less of the creative work than Jack did. At that time, Jack was on a mission to balance the scales and set the record straight that he/Jack had been the primary creative force — and unfortunately, when Sky Masters unexpectedly came up, Woody got caught in the crossfire. Again, unless we find a contract saying that Dave Wood’s name was to be credited and lettered into every strip, we have no way of knowing what the signature would have been had Wallace Wood not helped launch the strip and signed it.

Sky Masters is the greatest teaming of America’s two most iconic mid-century comic book creators, Jack Kirby and Wally Wood. What makes it better, more important, than their other works (even Challengers) is that particularly on Sky, they worked as equals. It is not Wood inking Kirby, it is a different animal. Something new, something more unique than their other works… not Kirby, not Wood, but the totally unique hybrid that can only be called, Kirby-Wood! Jack once said, in Wally, on Sky Masters, “I was [only] looking for an inker but got a [true] collaborator.

Jack Kirby and Dave Wood never created a masterpiece.

Jack Kirby and Wally Wood created a masterpiece!

One of the titles I have so aptly bestowed upon Woody is “The Great Collaborator.” Whomever he worked with made history: Kirby-Wood, Eisner-Wood, Ditko-Wood, Kurtzman-Wood, etc.

If Kirby had not brought in Wallace Wood, Sky Masters would have been just one more in Kirby’s long history of minor, attempted and/or short-lived newspaper strips and we would not be discussing it now and no one would be investing years of work to put together a glorious edition of it. Instead, it is one of Jack’s greatest artistic accomplishments — something he proudly hung for decades by his drawing board — despite the later business problems. It may well be the first work he was so proud of he fought to get the originals back on, after publication. It is the ultimate Kirby-Wood masterpiece specifically because, thanks to Kirby recognizing, inviting, and wisely granting Wally Wood the creative freedom to be so much more than a technician who traces with ink; it is a true, equal, artistic collaborative creation.

David Spurlock is a prolific, award-winning author-historian and serves as Director of The Wallace Wood Estate, and was a personal friend of Jack Kirby. For more info on Wood, visit the Wallace Wood Estate Facebook page. This piece is © J David Spurlock 2017, ARR and gratefully used with his permission.

John Ostrander: Suicide Squad Redux – The Dragon’s Hoard

It feels a little silly to be issuing a spoiler warning for a story that’s more than twenty years old but it’s entirely possible that there are folks out there who have never read the story described below. I’ll need to discuss some plot points and twists so if you don’t want to know ‘em, avoid this week’s column. Spoiler warning issued.

December 22 will see the publication of the seventh volume in the reprint series of my Suicide Squad, just in time for last minute holiday giving. See? Sometimes it does pay to wait until the last minute to shop.

This will probably be the penultimate volume in this reprint series as there are only a few more issues to gather. Kim Yale was once again my co-writer. I’m taking this opportunity to re-read these stories myself and over the next few columns I’ll comment on them, as I’ve done with some previous volumes.

The title tale is the biggest one in the volume but, as not unusual, is not the only story. The first one reprints issue 50 which was extra-sized. I’m of two minds about anniversary issues. Certainly, you want to celebrate the longevity of the given title but sometimes setting it up can throw off the whole pacing of the series. That happened with GrimJack and maybe the Spectre; you can wind up treading narrative water trying to get to an anniversary issue.

However, the Squad 50th issue worked.

Kim’s and my goal was to take as many story points that we had in the early days, especially issue 1, and re-work them into a new narrative. That can be difficult when you’ve spent as much time killing off your characters as Kim and I did. Basic background on the Squad; the series was created by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru and ran for five issues of the Brave and the Bold. The first Squad was a team of four: leader Captain Rick Flag, medic Karin Grace, and scientists Jess Bright and Hugh Evans. Rick and Karin had fallen in love but felt compelled to keep it a secret since the two scientists were also in love with Karin. It could’ve gotten kind of kinky but this was 1959.

The element that I took for the new Squad was that the old one fell apart on a disastrous mission to Tibet. Bright and Evans found out about Rick and Karin and were pissed at being played for chumps. They died falling into a chasm during an attack by a Yeti. Karin had a breakdown and wouldn’t see Rick anymore.

Rick and Karin were both part of the new series but by issue 49 both had died. Rick would get better and return but for issue 50’s purposes, he was still dead. However, we revealed that they had a son; Rick was never aware of it and Karin blocked the boy’s birth from her memory during her breakdown.

The incident triggering the plot is that the boy has been kidnapped by a zombie like character named Koschei the Deathless. During the story, it’s revealed that Koschei is actually Jess Bright who had survived the fall into the chasm but loss his nose, lips, toes and fingers to frostbite before being rescued by the Chinese. He later winds up with the Russians where he becomes Koschei.

Unaware that both are dead, Jess wants revenge on Rick and Karin and, having run afoul of the new Squad since becoming Koschei he also wants them dead. To this end he has resurrected members of the Squad who were killed on missions by using mechanical implants at the base of their skulls. Oh, and I should mention that Koschei has also died but, using the same technology, walks and talks and plans terrible revenge.

So we have the Suicide Squad up against the Zombie Squad which makes for some fun visuals and match ups. The climax takes place in a fake Quraci airport that figured into the first story.

Yeah, it all does sound convoluted, but I think it all works in context of the actual story.

One of the flaws in issue 50 is that it concludes rather quickly without a lot of space for visuals but that’s a flaw I sometimes have as a writer; I don’t always pace everything as well as I might. All things considered, however, I think it is a good story and covers the anniversary tropes pretty well. It even ends with a surprisingly tender moment for Amanda Waller. It also gets this reprint off to a good start, I think, although you folks are the ones who have the real say.

We’ll continue this next week as we look at the next story or two. Ciao for now.

Marc Alan Fishman: The Times, They Are A Changin’

Can you feel it in the air, kiddos? Whether it’s our President’s RussiaGate investigation picking off staff members and placing others under house arrest, or the massive movement of that other three-named comic book creator being snagged by their rival comic company. The times? They are a’changin.’

And while I’m apt to discuss my continuing thoughts on our super-villain-in-chief slowly devolving our country into the antithesis of what it was founded upon, I think it’s more apropos I dive in instead to the recent(ish) announcement that Brian Michael Bendis is headed towards DC Comics.

In 2000, which I’ll be double-damned was seventeen friggin’ years ago, BMB was brought in on a little experimental book Ultimate Spider-Man. The proto-millennial Peter Parker of Bendis’s pen was what a generation needed from their comics. He was young, unencumbered by decades of backstory, and full of delicious teen angst. Paired with the artwork of stalwart journeyman Mark Bagley, the book skyrocketed Bendis’s name-value into the upper echelons of the modern comic book fandom. And over the course of his career at the house funded by the Mouse, Bendis had amazing runs on Daredevil, The Avengers, Alias, and the X-Men. But you have access to Wikipedia too, so, let’s just call it a day with the basics, shall we?

While some would be quick to point out that BMB’s clout may not be at the same levels it once was, anyone with a Facebook feed like mine when the announcement dropped surely could argue otherwise. Every comic book fan and creator I know had something to say on the matter. Most all of it was purely positive – save literally for that one friend who literally can’t say they like anything, ever. But, pardon my French, fuck that guy.

With Bendis headed to DC, the potential energy here outmatches the kinetic force of his Marvel departure. With decades (plus) full of ideas for DC’s pantheon of super-powered beings, there’s a change in the air of mainstream comics – if only for the time being until his name is actually attached to specific projects with specific deadlines.

Simply take a look at the modern comic landscape, and you’ll see how BMB moved the needle of mainstream comics like a nuclear-powered sharknado. He made a generation believe that Spider-Man could become a legacy character through Miles Morales. He took the idea of a Wonder Woman, removed all heroic chakras, and gave us Jessica Jones. He whispered through Scarlet Witch “no more mutants.” He disassembled and reassembled the Avengers. And even recently, he created RiRi Williams – giving us the female Rhodey we never knew we wanted. Like I said: needle-moving creation.

Now, take that mind, and give it the keys to a new kingdom. This move allows us to build on the potent world-building of Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, etc., and grant carte blanche to introduce the humanity that Bendis has built a career off of… ultimately (natch) allowing DC to have its cake and eat it too.

 

If we think big picture, it’s easy to see how the street-level vision of BMB could breathe new life into staple DC champions like Batman, or Green Lantern. Or, Bendis could lend his pro-woman-writing wares to Wonder Woman or Supergirl. Hell, they could just let ole’ BMB nab someone like Jamie Reyes or Kyle Rayner (please oh please) and let him steer their ships towards brighter shores. Again: the possibilities are endless, and exciting. Oh wait! Could Bendis be allowed to work with the Endless?! I digress, I digress.

Yes kiddos, the times they are a’changin’. Amidst all the hellfire and panic that exists in the real world? I’m happy to know that the fake ones that exist on paper now have a new voice and energy to distract me from the impending doom. And that is a change worth subscribing to.

Win a Copy of Atomic Blonde & The Coldest City GN

Atomic Blonde arrives on DVD next week and we’ll give you a hint, we loved it. Thanks to our partners at Universal Home Entertainment,  we have a combo set of the Blu-ray edition of the film along with a copy of The Coldest City,  the graphic novel it was based on. The Cold War spy thriller is by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart.

In order for you to be eligible to wn this, tell us about your best encounter with a personal “atomic blonde”. Your entries have to be submitted no later than 11:59 p.m., Wednesday, November 15. The contest is only open to readers in North America and the decision of ComicMix‘s judges will be final.

We look forward to your entries while you enjoy the action thriller, starring Charlize Theron.

Martha Thomases: The Casting Couch

Now even Louis C. K.

How far we have come in the one year after Trump was “elected” President, despite his boasts about being able to grab women by the pussy and being able to walk into the Miss Universe dressing rooms while contestants were changing. Women and queer people of all genders refuse to obediently walk off and let the men-folk run things. Instead, we are speaking up and telling our stories.

In January, with the Women’s March, I think we realized that, together, we could create our own system. We could create an environment in which we would be believed, and from which we could create change.

You may remember a time, lo these many weeks ago, when Harvey Weinstein’s behavior was first held up to the glare of publicity. In the last few days, we’ve heard horrible things about Kevin Spacey and Charlie Sheen.

Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly had already fallen victim to the news of their own bad behavior. These new revelations demonstrate that sexual harassment in the workplace is not a partisan issue.

Not all of this kind happens in show business, although the so-called “casting couch” gets its name from the exploitive behavior of people in charge of hiring casts. It exists in every business that has a hierarchical structure, including tech, politics and so much more.

Including comics.

Yes, that last link is to an old story, but it is newly relevant. Because the problem isn’t only the people in power sexually abuse people in their employ (yes, this sometimes includes women. The problem is also that, even when the abuse is known, the company will often cover for the abuser.

The Weinstein Company knew about Harvey. Netflix knew about Spacey. Fox knew about O’Reily.

And DC Entertainment knew about Eddie Berganza. Their response was to protect him by limiting his exposure to what I think the Catholics call “occasions of sin.” In other words, women were not allowed to work with him.

I don’t want to sound like I’m excusing sexual harassment and abuse, but the problem is not always only with the perpetrator. When I read about Weinstein and Berganza (and Scott Allie) and Spacey, I feel terrible for them. I mean, they are horrible people and they shouldn’t have any authority over anyone else, much less command big salaries and respect, but I think they have a sickness.

The real crime is committed by those who choose to change the workplace to protect them and not the people they abuse. Instead of setting up a fund to pay-off victims, run businesses so there are no victims. And instead of limiting the opportunities of women to work on Superman comics, limit the authority of the man causing the problem in the first place.

The next steps are to connect the dots from actual abuse to other, more subtle ways of marginalizing women. I know that I’ve been the subject of gossip, suggesting that I slept my way into various jobs. I’ve heard parallel stories about other women — and men. As long as we are body parts first and humans with skills and talents later (if at all), we will never get the credit we deserve.

I’m part of a few on-line groups of women in comics, and in the last few weeks, there have been more than the normal number of warnings about other professionals in the business. Some are well-known, and some are new to me. I’m not going to name any names here because 1) the stories are told in confidence and I’m not going to violate a trust and 2) the laws about slander are much tougher when the stories are published, and I don’t have the first-hand knowledge. Also, you, Constant Reader, don’t need to know the specifics.

You need to know that we talk.

Women have always talked among themselves about predatory men. We’ve always warned newcomers about who was too “handsy,” who told lewd jokes, who to being alone with.

Now, we’re warning you.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Arrives on Disc December 12

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (November 9, 2017) – Rejoin the world’s most elite secret service when Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment releases KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-rayTM and DVD December 12. Director Matthew Vaughn returns to helm the sequel in his signature kick-ass style, with stars Colin Firth, Taron Egerton and Mark Strong reprising the roles that helped make Kingsman a global phenomenon.

Kingsman: The Secret Service introduced the world to Kingsman. In Kingsman: The Golden Circle, our heroes face a new challenge when their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage. Their journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US called Statesman, and in a new adventure, these two elite, secret organizations band together to defeat a ruthless common enemy in order to save the world, something that’s becoming a bit of a habit for Eggsy. Kingsman: The Golden Circle stars Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, with Elton John and Channing Tatum, and Jeff Bridges.

The home entertainment release will give fans over two hours of brand new bonus content that will take them inside of the exclusive worlds of the Kingsman and Statesman:

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD™ Bonus Features:

  • KINGSMAN: INSIDE THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (Multi-chaptered Documentary)
    • Distilling The Story: Kingsman Returns
    • Trafficker, Tailor, Southerner, Spy
    • Poppy’s Special Guest: Elton John
    • Nefarious Lairs & High-Falutin’ Headquarters
    • Suited And Booted
    • Weapons of Choice
    • Brothers In Arms
    • Doomsday Protocol: Visual Effects
    • End Game
  • Black Cab Chaos: Anatomy of a Killer Chase
  • Kingsman Archives
    • Concept Art: Sets, Costumes (36 Images)
    • Stills: Behind The Scenes, Sets, Props, The Cast (52 Images)

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE DVD Bonus Features:

  • Black Cab Chaos: Anatomy of a Killer Chase
  • Kingsman Archives
    • Concept Art: Sets, Costumes (36 Images)
    • Stills: Behind The Scenes, Sets, Props, The Cast (52 Images)

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE 4K ULTRA HD
Screen Format:                    Widescreen 2.39:1
Audio:                                   English Dolby Atmos, English Descriptive Audio 5.1,
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Subtitles:                              English SDH, Spanish, French
Total Run Time:                   141 minutes
U.S. Rating                           R

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE BLU-RAY™
Screen Format:                    Widescreen 2:39:1
Audio:                                   English DTS-HD-MA 7.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1,
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:                              English SDH, Spanish, French
Total Run Time:                    Approx. 141 minutes
U.S. Rating                           R

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE DVD
Screen Format:                   Widescreen 2:39:1
Audio:                                  English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1,
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles:                             English SDH, Spanish, French
Total Run Time:                   Approx. 141 minutes
U.S. Rating:                         R

Marifran O’Neil, 1940 – 2017

Our friend Marifran O’Neil died yesterday morning.

A teacher in Brooklyn NY, Maryland, Illinois and her native St. Louis Missouri, Marifran was the wife of writer / editor and ComicMix columnist Denny O’Neil, whose column normally runs in this space at this time.

Born February 10, 1940, Marifran and Denny were childhood sweethearts who became separated by time and distance. They reconnected in the 1990s and were married in 2009; a true story of love and romance. I know first-hand; Denny and Marifran got back together when Denny and I were sharing an office at DC Comics at the time. Upon reuniting with Marifran, Denny immediately morphed into a man completely and hopelessly in love.

She had that impact not only on Denny but on all of us. A charming person and a wonderful conversationalist, I looked forward to seeing her at various comics conventions and social gatherings, including Martha Thomases’ legendary Hanukkah donut party, the annual salon of New York comics people. Marifran’s presence made each meeting an event.

Marifran had two daughters, Meg and Beth, who live and work in Portland and Nevada respectively.

Trying to avoid an overused meme is impossible: Marifran truly was a special and unique person, and we will miss her greatly.