Monday, March 31, 2008

Christopher Walken Turns 65

Christopher Walken turns 65 today. He's still going strong, and has been married to the same lucky lady since 1969. You are teh awesome, Mr. Walken. Hope you celebrate with some cham-pahn-yah.


A profile on some of his best (or worst) movie villain roles

Walken for President 2008

Weapon of Choice video

Christmas Letters To Christopher Walken

Walken Photoshopped

Walken Soundboard

Walken Striptease

Warren Ellis: If I Don't Own It, I'm Not Going To Spend My Life On It

" For those of you who harbour a wish to write comics, consider this today: you're either on this side of the line, with me and Brian K Vaughan and Garth Ennis and Grant Morrison and Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction... or you're not."

-- Warren Ellis on why he doesn't stick around long for the non-creator owned comics he works on

So I guess copyright/creator's rights issues is going to be a hot-button topic this week...

I can't begrudge Ellis leaving Thunderbolts. He had a really great run, and 12 issues is not too shabby.

Brubaker is on this list, though? Really? Hasn't he been on Captain America for like forever? What is his opinion on working on books he doesn't control the rights on?

Here is a list a Newsarama reader provided on the comments thread (I have no idea if this is accurate or not):

Warren Ellis:
Iron Man: Six issues
Thunderbolts: Twelve issues
Ultimate Fantastic Four: Twelve issues
Doom 2099: Fifteen issues
Ultimate Trilogy: Eighteen issues
Excalibur: Twenty one issues (back in 1994-1996)
Stormwatch: Twenty five issues (Back in 1996-1998)

Ultimate X-Men: Twenty issues
Runaways: Forty two issues

Ed Brubaker:
Captain America: Thirty five issues and counting
Daredevil: Twenty five issues and counting
Criminal: A couple volumes and counting
Immortal Iron Fist: Fourteen issues and counting
Catwoman: Thirty seven issues
Sleeper: Twenty four issues
Uncanny X-Men: Twenty five issues and counting

Grant Morrison:
JLA: Forty one issues
Animal Man: Twenty six issues
Batman: Twenty issues and counting
New X-Men: Forty two issues
Doom Patrol: Forty four issues

Matt Fraction:
Immortal Iron Fist: Fourteen issues and counting
Punisher War Journal: Eighteen issues and counting

Garth Ennis:
Punisher: About 100 issues
Hitman: Sixty issues

But that said, why should Ellis have to write the title beyond the point he felt interested in it? Isn't it better he write 12 kick-ass issues than hack it out past that point just for an easy paycheck?

And that list leaves out stuff like Transmetropolitan, which Ellis had some sort of creator-owned deal on, and which he wrote for 60 issues.

Would the publishers offering a bigger slice of the rights/royalties pie make these comic writers more likely to stay longer?

What do you think?

Comic Creator Offers Up Work For "Remixing" Under Creative Commons

Hot on the heels of the Siegel Superman ruling and many Internet discussions on copyrights and public domain, comic creator Dan Goldman ("Shooting War") is offering up his online comic "KELLY" for remixing under Creative Commons:

"Applying open-source ideas to comics has always excited me… and my freakadelic “KELLY” has served as my current laboratory for pushing boundaries in all directions, so it felt natural for me to take this step with this particular project."

Under the licensing agreement, anybody can spread or "remix" Kelly -- as long as they credit the original work and don't make money off of it.

I applaud Goldman on his decision. As an artist utilizing mixed-media and "found" art (who likes to incorporate old comics in her work), this issue of "remixing" is one of particular interest to me. I may have to produce some "Kelly" pieces. :-)

Fans Bash Siegel Superman Ruling

It has never occurred to me that there might actually be comic fans who are against creator's rights. But, the reaction by a selection of fans on the Blog@Newsarama boards regarding the recent Superman copyright ruling educated me otherwise. Their basic opinions, to sum up:

1) The Siegels are "greedy"
2) It was Siegel & Schuster's own fault for losing the rights
3) Time Warner is being victimized
4) The Siegels are "stealing" Superman

Meanwhile, people on the Bendis board are floored at the Newsarama forum's reaction.

Here is a selection of the negativity against the Siegel ruling on the board in question:

"Why they sold the rights they shouldnt get anything."

"Siegle and Schuster signed away the rights. Its their own fault. I don’t think they should have any creative control over the franchise. They should have huge, huge, HUGE royalties, but not creative control. Its not theirs."

"They shouldnt even get royalties they gave up that when they signed over the rights."


"Gimme a break. They were paid in 1938. They were paid off in 1968. Again in 1978. They kept taking the money and suing again, Time Warner will keep this tied up for decades and that’s good."

"As the end consumers.. we will be the ones paying for this. Keep this in mind next time comics prices rise, or your favorite book gets cancelled because it’s not selling well enough (less profit = less flexibility), or when they decide that making a Superman Movie or cartoon is not financially viable because of “licensing” fees."

"Total Crap! The families are just money hungry."

"I’m sorry, the ruling may be correct under the law, but in that case, it’s a bad law. The property should belong to the party that bought it, under the terms of the agreement between the buyer and the seller. The government has no business changing the law, as it did in 1976, to (among other things) take Superman away from its rightful owners. I sympathize with the Siegels, but this is just wrong."

"Yes, shame on us for calling shenanigans on the greed of people who did nothing to deserve it. Was the deal those two guys signed appropriate, given what Superman has become? Probably not, but hindsight is twenty-twenty. Punishing Time-Warner now for something that a former version of one of its many subsidiaries did decades ago is grossly immoral. The justice system you people have is hopelessly flawed if this is allowed to happen."

Created by Siegel and Shuster
Raised by DC
Killed by the Siegels"

"In retrospect, DC (or National Comics) should have avoided giving its artists and writers any credit at all. Perhaps they should adopt a policy of total creative anonymity now, and consider all of its comics to be authored by the corporation."

"Seigels family was just on Foxs and say they don’t care about Superman or the Fans They want the Money because they don’t feel like working the rest of their life"

"i really don’t know what to say. to be honest i’m not happy because i’m worried that we might lose superman forever. i know. selfish. but can’t help it. that’s just the way im feeling at the moment."

Occasional Links: The Full-Bodied Muppet Edition

Comic Mix wonders if the Siegel Superman ruling will hurt comic creators in the end...

The new Jason Voorhees has been cast

Read a Golden Age "Senorita Rio" story drawn by classic Teen Titans artist Nick Cardy!

Plastic bag subway animals (trippy)

This one only for the most hard-core toy fans in the audience:
Hasbro store mistakes Iron Man figure's shoulder armor as cute hat

Michael Keaton Batman costume nets over $100,000 in auction

Who would win in a four-way grudge match between Keaton, Adam West, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney?

"Sweded" Dark Knight trailer:

Yahoo counts down the top ten mismatched movie couples

Classic Twilight Zone episode being greenlit for movie

The Transformers sequel is already being filmed? Really?

Super-cool Quentin Tarantino montage:

Check out this awesome optical illusion of The Thing

Leaked! The plot of the new Muppet Movie

How a full-bodied Muppet works

Is Dane Cook America's worst comedian? It's down to Dane, Robin Williams, Dave Coulier, and Jay Leno

Meanwhile, America asks Jay for his best "gay face."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hayden Christensen Now Superman?!

Will Hayden Christensen play Superman in the new Justice League movie?

/film has the wild rumor (allegedly given away by Adam "The Flash" Brody at a bar).

I'm sorry, Christensen IS the new Keanu Reeves. He is a wooden-acting, pretty-faced sci-fi GOD, I tells you.

This one would be worth it just to see how many people bitch about it.

(still liked Attack of the Clones)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Final Crisis Or Secret Invasion: 3 Days Left To Vote!

Our highly unscientific poll here at OS has three days left to go, and almost 400 of you have cast your votes on the question:

What event are you looking forward to most: Final Crisis or Secret Invasion?

The rankings so far:

Final Crisis: 237 (62%)
Secret Invasion: 144 (37%)

So be sure to cast your vote at the poll to your right and make your voice heard!

Remember, the winner of this competition will win their very own contract with OS Studios, along with a very equitable royalties package including 10% on each action figure sold.* Then next month we do it all over again with another event! Event fatigue you say? I say thee "nay!"

*Fine Print:
1) "Marvel Boy" and the eight clones of "Marvel Boy" ineligible to vote, but will probably create multiple fake accounts and vote anyway.
2. For the more literal-minded readers in the audience, the "OS Studios" thing was a joke. I'd never split the profits on the action figures.
3) The "eight clones of Marvel Boy" thing was also a joke.
4) Those responsible for the "eight clones of Marvel Boy" thing have been sacked.
5) Those who sacked those responsible for the "eight clones of Marvel Boy" thing have also been sacked.

Comics Are Expensive: TRANSHUMAN #1 and PROOF #6

Comics Are Expensive is written by licensed Expertologist Chris Lamb. Don't try this at home, kids.

In hindsight, I should really learn to look at the next week’s shipping lists before declaring the subject matter of future columns. Not that this week’s books are bad, mind you, just that, by saying this installment would again be doing the all new books thing, I sorta cheated myself out of the chance to spend a few hundred words gushing about the new All Star Superman. Oh, sure, I can say over at my site (coughexpertologistcough) that’s it one of the most beautiful comics I’ve read in a good long while, capturing everything that makes the character great in all the shades of thoughtful poignancy and inspiring heroics you could want, but that’s hardly the same, y’know? Ah, well. There’s still plenty to talk about in the meantime, so best to get on with it.

But seriously, read All Star Superman #10. It’s just lovely.

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Jim Ringuet

The most impressive thing about Jonathan Hickman is perhaps his apparent inability to sit still. Rather than resting on his laurels after appearing on the scene with last year’s successful Nightly News, he almost immediately dove into Pax Romana, a story involving time travel, the Roman Empire, and Vatican-inspired dickery with promises of more to come once this initial four-issue mini-series wraps up. New book Transhuman makes three, and already looks to explore themes similar to Hickman’s other work, namely the tendency of greed run rampant to ruin everything it touches.

And it’s here we come to something else to be impressed by: Hickman’s storytelling is already showing signs of maturing past his first work, with a presentation and approach more subtle and sophisticated than I’ve seen from him before. Nightly News was a good book, if slightly weighed down by a predictable ending and a need to attempt to shock in all ways possible rather than just the right ones. Transhuman, on the other hand, already has a calmer, more careful feel to it (despite still not being able to resist breaking character a bit, even if for one of the better jokes to be found here), one that allows information to be dolled out at just the right pace to keep you hooked. The idea of framing the book as a documentary of the events that shaped this future world is a great one, allowing the use of an approach to storytelling I don’t really remember seeing in comics before (though I’m sure it’s popped up somewhere else): the oral history.

Which brings us, rather handily, to what it’s all about. Transhuman is the story of the next great step in humanity’s evolution, the people who got us there, and what was in it for them. While just the first issue, all signs point to Hickman taking the road less traveled here, opting not to focus on the global effects of genetically engineered superpeople becoming common place, but the commercial ones. Right from the start it appears we did okay by the advent of genetic tomfoolery, though some dark secret no doubt lurks at the heart of it all: the average human lifespan is on the rise, it’s an age of renewed human ambition, etc. For all the sunshine and roses of the far-flung future, however, it appears the road there was somewhat smooth. We meet the founders of two companies racing to be the first to make the great leap forward (and claim the unspeakable fortune waiting on the other side) and get a taste for the animosity fueling their less-than-friendly competition. Early failures involving monkeys and a messy group of early human volunteers hint at the sort of disasters a marketing war over the fate of humanity itself is sure to create, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else might have gone wrong under the not exactly stable hands of the people we meet here.

Mostly, though, I’m just looking forward to more. Transhuman shows great promise, establishing a firm foundation by providing just enough information to hook you in and give a sense of where things might go while leaving the field wide open. All kinds of questions abound – what is the world like, now that we all have access to superpowers? Is genetic engineering the norm now, or did cybernetics win out? How far is the fight between Janice DeAugustino and ex-husband Dave Apple going to go, and how long before the line between personal and business is completely lost? Hickman and Ringuet have three more issues to lay out the answers, and while they may not all be what I want to hear, I can’t imagine they’ll disappoint.

BUY STATUS: Unless things take somehow take an unthinkable turn for the horrible next issue, I’m in for the whole mini-series. I should also get around to finally reading Pax Romana as well.

Writer: Alex Grecian

Artist: Riley Rossmo

As a rule, there are worse ways to be introduced to a new comic than a first page splash of a family of dinosaurs peacefully grazing in a modern African jungle just moments before having their own “don’t go into the meadow” moment. The same applies to main characters – sure, anybody can do a book about the secret life and adventures of Bigfoot, but to put him in a button up shirt, tie, and sweater vest just says something about you as a creator. There’s class, and then there’s class, yeah?

That said, I can’t claim this particular issue blew me away. It is indeed the start of a new story arc, just as the front cover claims, and is clearly intended to serve as a jumping on point, but I’m going to need at least another issue or two to know for sure if this is just a furry riff on Hellboy or something more. The main characters don’t really do anything beyond hang out and talk about the last storyline’s adventure, none of which gives me a feel for who they are or where they’re coming from. The villain, Colonel Werner Dachshund, is rather interesting – I can’t remember the last time a bad guy’s master plan was to eat the hero, and I’m curious to see where that goes. All in all though, I’m left feeling like I would have enjoyed this more if I’d been reading since the beginning, which is not the sign of a good jumping on point.

Let’s be clear: Proof is not a bad book. There’s clear potential for this to be a lot of fun – the dialogue moves at a nice clip, always-fun internal team drama brews under the surface, and, as mentioned before, the main character is a nattily dressed Bigfoot. While this issue on its own might under whelm, there’s enough here for me to want to see what the story is capable of once its done setting up. If it can deliver on the promise of its ideas, then Proof could be something really special.

BUY STATUS: In for the next two issues, as is standard operating procedure, and expecting to enjoy myself more once things get rolling. Thanks for the recommendation cleverly disguised as adamant demands, Rich.

And that should do us. I had intended to cover Flight Explorer, the first attempt by beloved anthology series Flight at an all ages book in depth, but time and general not feeling great conspired against me. Suffice to say you’d be hard pressed to find a better use for ten dollars this week, particularly if you’re in need of a gift for any one interested in comics and old enough to have a pulse. As is apparently now custom, you can find this week’s other books at Expertologist. No idea what the plan is for next week’s column just yet, but if you’ve any recommendations then by all means mention them in the comments or drop a line to See you next time.

Girl Beaten To Death For Being A Goth

British teenager Sophie Lancaster was viciously beaten after trying to protect her boyfriend Robert from a gang of drunken teenagers. The couple's unconscious and bloody bodies were found lying side-by-side. Robert survived; Sophie didn't. Apparently, they were singled out for their Goth attire.

I read stories about violence and death every day, but this just got under my skin.

It's such a simple dynamic, isn't it? Angry, amoral thugs with no articulate way to express their desperation and frustration with the world find someone "different" to attack. The fact that she and her boyfriend embraced the Goth lifestyle is not even the most basic issue. In other places in the world there are Sophies who are physically attacked for being gay, of color, or even simply being a woman.

The worst part is, there is no real justice. The only real justice is if, decades into their life sentences, one of the boys responsible achieves a sufficient level of intelligence and empathy for human life that tortures their conscience. Even if if you gave them the death penalty, I don't see how justice is really served. If you don't have the reverence for human life to prevent yourself from smashing in the brains of a beautiful young woman like Sophie, you won't even understand why you're being executed.

But this dynamic has been around pretty much forever, hasn't it?

You know, back in the mid-to-late 1990s, the big "panic" was about "those anti-social Goths." Some parents were taught to spot the "warning signs" of their child becoming a Goth. Stories like Columbine, "the Vampire Clan," and others were held up as "proof" that the United States were under a "Goth Attack." Horrors!

But it was never really about "the Goths" (our cultural shorthand for a subculture that is far more complex and textured than the term describes). It was about disaffected teens, often from broken homes and low-income situations, who grow up amoral and sometimes with untreated mental disorders and substance abuse issues. I've seen a legion of these sorts of individuals go from childhood to a criminal adolescence to a horrible adulthood (if they make it that far).

A true "Goth" takes darkness and makes art out of it -- the art is in the way they dress, and can be in other creative endeavors they pursue like art or writing. Or they can celebrate and at the same time defuse the darkness in constructive outlets like movies, music, or roleplaying.

Sophie's attackers, on the other hand, lack that sort of transformative ability. They are raised to deny the darkness, and to believe they are "the normal ones" and the natural inheritors of the world. But though they deny the darkness, it is still very much there. Their darkness is raw, immediate, and ready to spring out at the first unlucky individual.

Anyway, this news story bummed me out. Probably bummed you out too. Sorry.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

When I Hated Will Ferrell

Sean Kleefeld's post about his lack of love for Iron Man brought up the topic of "hating" certain superheroes.

I really cannot think of any superhero I "hate." But I did, at one time, hate Will Ferrell. And he's sort of a superhero.

I remember the distressed look on my friends' faces as I announced, during a discussion of Saturday Night Live, that I hated Will Ferrell. They looked at me as if I killed a puppy. A very cute, oversized, especially hairy puppy.

Why do we hate on certain figures? What drove me to use the word "hate" in conjunction with Will Ferrell?

Well, for starters, that damn cheerleading sketch. Not funny, never was funny, not even when David Duchovny was on it. And David Duchovny makes everything funny.

Also, I never quite cottoned to his character "Mustafa" from Austin Powers, though I have substantially more sympathy for his many trials and misfortunes now.

Furthermore, while he was ostensibly the co-star of the SNL movie Superstar, it was the oft-ignored Harland Williams who really deserved more credit in that film. If it wasn't for Ferrell, Harland Williams might have been America's top bumbling funnyman. Things like that just keep me up at night.

What turned the tide for me on Will Ferrell? His depiction of the loveable manchild in the movie Elf. With Elf, I realized that only bad people hated Will Ferrell. Ferrell was indeed this generation's Dick Van Dyke, or even Tom Poston.

After that, thanks to comedy classics like Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and that ice-skating film with Napoleon Dynamite, I became officially converted to the Cult of Will. I felt ashamed of the hate I once expressed for Ferrell, and that anonymous Wordpress blog I used to write called "Why I Hate Will Ferrell" where I obsessively focused on his body hair and close-set eyes. I took that blog down right away; if I could have burned it, I would have. St. Paul in Damascus much?

So that is how I stopped hating and learned to love Will Ferrell.

Now I hate John C. Reilly, because he is a punk-ass.

The Many Faces Of Alfred Pennyworth

More casting news for that fabled Justice League movie we've been hearing so much about:
Heroes' Stephen Tobolowsky as Alfred. Which brings me to fond memories of Alfred Pennyworths past and present...

The first Alfred was a rotund, clean-shaven dude:
But when the Batman movie serial came out in the 1940s, DC editors wanted Alfred to resemble William Austin, the actor who portrayed him (Eric Wilton, an actor even more obscure than Austin, also played the butler in the serials):

And so, in one of the early cases of comic books being changed to have "synergy" with the movies, Alfred looked like this:

Fast-forward to the 1960s, when Alan Napier was hired to play the faithful butler:

He, to my mind, is really one of the best Alfreds. I liked the friendship he built with Batgirl, back when she was first introduced and Batman was sort of being a jerk about it.

British actor Michael Gough had a long career before playing Alfred in all four of the "first" series of Batman movies, but most people remember him for playing Alfred:
Gough made a good, dependable Alfred -- and certainly, as the films took that sharp right turn after "Batman Forever," he was sort of the "glue" that held everything together. Also of note is that in this continuity, Batgirl is his niece.

There is the Batman The Animated Series Alfred (voiced by Clive Revill and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.):
Ian Abercrombie played Alfred in the short-lived Birds Of Prey series. Why did they need an Alfred for this show, anyway? I guess it is the whole continuity with the Huntress being Batman's daughter, old did that make Alfred???

Michael Caine's Alfred was sort of like Alfred 2.0 -- far more active and independent. You got the feeling with Caine's Alfred that he could sort of kick ass if needed.

Alastair Duncan then stepped into Alfred's shoes in The Batman:

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Here's to you, Alfred Pennyworth: you might not be as flashy as Batman, that's true. But nobody ever called you "Goddamn Alfred." And there is something to be said for that.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Do Spoilers Spoil A Comic?

Here is the basic question:

Do spoilers spoil a comic for you?

My thoughts:

If it is a book I was on the fence about buying, it very much "spoils" things -- as far as me being motivated to buy it.

Sometimes, the only attraction certain books have for me is the "big reveal."

Case in point: Countdown. Despite some of its flaws, Countdown has contained some important -- or at least shocking -- events in the DCU. If I had no way but to call my friends to find out the spoilers, I might have just bought it every week. Just to see what crazy s**t popped up next.

But, if you have scans and full spoilers posted online by 12:00 on a Wednesday -- where is my motivation? All the "good parts" have been posted for me to read - literally, panel-by-panel. And if I'm really adventurous, I can track down the full illegal scan of the book, along with a good portion of everything else that came out that day.

But with comics with a proven track record, having the "big reveal" spoiled for me is annoying, but I can still enjoy the book. So I doubt Captain America readers will drop the book after finding out a key Cap spoiler.

Anyway, this is why I think keeping these things under wraps is so important to comic companies. I think they lose a lot of "casual reader" business when their books are extensively spoiled. It is, in a sense, their "business secrets" being given away.

While speculating about the spoilers for the event-of-the-month can be enjoyable -- I read regularly Lying In the Gutters, and think Rich presents these things in a fun way -- when it comes to direct play-by-play spoiling of a company's key book, I kind of take exception. What was sort of fun speculation starts to seem like hostility.

I am looking at things from the inside-out perspective of working within the industry. If the sales of the company's biggest books get hit because of extensive spoilage, and the overall financial performance of the publisher suffers, these are the people who suffer:
  • The writer
  • The artists
  • The editorial staff
  • The production staff
  • Everybody else on staff
To a jaded "fan" who resents not being inside that "clique" anyway, this is hardly a reason for concern. Indeed, the ruining of a company's event might be (and often is) justified as "payback" for not listening to the fan or fans (or including them in the perceived "clique").

(and the retailers suffer too, don't they?)

The Internet makes it extremely easy to disseminate leaked information. How do publishers deal with this inevitability, then?

For that, I turn to the example of

The people who post TV and movie clips (as well as the entire program) on sites like YouTube are considered, in a way, minor folk heroes. Though they add very little of their own ideas to the table (the exception being video "mashups"), they are "branded" to the product in some way. Some include personal logos before the clips or features.

But Hulu takes that notoriety away. It also provides free movies and clips. Even clips you can embed on your blog -- just like YouTube. NBC/Universal took control of their product. The South Park creators are doing the same thing -- offering every episode for free on their website.

The comic publishers need to similarly take control of their intellectual property and "spoilers."

Why should Marvel let other sites benefit through increased traffic over their own spoilers?

They should be hosting these spoilers on their own sites -- and at least control the flow of publicity and collect the ad revenues.

They should create a "spoiler day" before the books come out, driving traffic to their official sites. Or integrate spoilers into some sort of mystery or contest. The key is to give fans what they want and will get anyway, but at the same time having some degree of profit and control of the situation -- as opposed to having none.

But also, it is important for any comic to not heavily depend on the "reveals" and shocking material in order to get readers. The story should be able to stand on its own even if spoiled.

Finally, there is the question of genuinely wanting to enjoy your comic and let the story unfold on its own.

To be honest, I used to always turn to the last page of the comics I read first. But, then someone told me why that was a shitty way to approach things, and I stopped. Because the real person I was cheating was myself.

Any Star Wars Haters In The Audience?

As I was looking at these "Star Wars Zombies" pics at /Film, the following question popped into my mind: does anybody here "hate" Star Wars? Or merely dislike the franchise?

I cool with Star Wars but I wouldn't consider myself a "fangirl" about it. Apparently, "Return of the Jedi" was not the Citizen Kane-like masterpiece I remembered it being when I was 8

How Not To Succeed In The Comics Business With Lots Of Trying

When you're a freelancer, or a potential freelancer, the wait to hear back about a project can be frustrating.

In the case of "O," this apparently resulted in a nasty text message to Michael Davis.

In the Comic Mix article "The Story Of O," Davis elaborates on both the situation and the etiquette involved in dealing with publishers while you are waiting for feedback/movement on a project.

Davis's mantra? Don't burn bridges.

My own mantra on the subject is, assume the project might or might not happen, and just live within that. This might not be the most positive way to think, but I am pretty skeptical about any project I'm working on will come to pass until I sign a contract or see something in print. In the meantime, I work at my job. I see no need to be bitter or impatient about it.

Admittedly, my years in comic book editorial might have jaded me on this point. I've seen a lot of pitches become books, and a lot of them shot down. I've seen projects that get "fast-tracked," and projects that languish for YEARS.

Since "Goodbye To Comics," I have been involved in many pitches, projects, manuscripts, plans, etc. This is not bragging. As you can see, I have no printed work yet -- just this blog and one article in a magazine. I was picked up by a major literary agency within weeks of "GTC." But, despite working on a manuscript adapting the blog, and numerous drafts, in the end it was not meant to be. It might be meant to be some other time. However, I don't feel my time with my agent was wasted. I learned a lot about writing, and about the entertainment industry.

That's the way it works -- you might get something, you might get nothing, you might get something later, or you might have to wait a good long time.

Getting angry, feeling entitled, all this shit -- it's pointless. Because I've seen too many people driven figuratively or literally insane by this desire to write/draw mainstream comics. It's as if even if they reach that level, things will mysteriously be "okay" for them.

Getting your first comic gig does not put you on easy street. If you are prone to negativity, you will find a whole new bunch of things to bitch about. And you will still have to prove yourself, issue-by-issue. You don't just cinch your first fill-in and suddenly become Bendis. Bendis didn't even suddenly become Bendis.

Now, in the comments section of the Comic Mix piece, Elayne makes a good point -- what about a freelancer waiting for a "green light" on a project that is plagued with delays. Well, if you are an artist, and your editor wants you to "wait" for a project, wants to "reserve" you, and it's taking forever -- that's an entirely different matter. That's a matter of putting food on the table, and Elayne is right on that point.

But the nature of developing projects, of submitting pitches, it's very ephemeral.

And if somebody truly wants to get their creative works out there, and the mainstream is not receptive, there are so many options these days. Webcomics, e-books, blogs, podcasts, videos, etc. Try an independent route. Learn the skills of self-promotion. You might get just a small group of fans, or become the next Perry Bible Fellowship.

There is no reason to curse somebody.

Tales of The Bad Comic Shop: The King Of The Silver Age

Here is a story about Alvin, who collected rare silver age DCs and wanted to break into comics.

I hung out with Alvin when I was a teenager. He was at least ten years older than me, but I guess mentally we related to each other.

Alvin compulsively collected silver age DC comics. Oh sure, he had his eye on the jewels of any silver age collection -- first appearance of the JLA, first appearance of The Flash. But, he was not a snob about it. He dutifully filled out long, dogeared runs on Doom Patrol and Adventure Comics. When he upgraded, he gave me the doubles. It was awesome.

Alvin would walk in to the Bad Comic Shop in which I worked with an air of an entrepreneur. He always made my boss go up on the ladder to take down the expensive comics from the case. Alvin would then pick this Green Lantern or that Adventure Comics and say, "here's 5 bucks -- put it on the side for me." This pile of comics, reserved for Alvin with a stack of $1 and $5 bills paperclipped to them, began to grow.

"Alvin, when you're gonna pay for these books?" my boss would ask every time my friend came in.

"Just hold them for me! I've got money coming in soon!"

Like many of my adult friends and associates at that time, I had no idea what Alvin actually did for a living. I just knew that Alvin's biggest goal was to become a professional comic book writer.

Alvin knew people in Comics. He told me stories of being friends with X, Y, and Z -- names that, if I told you, would be quite familiar to all of you. Alvin apparently worked these contacts hard, until one day an editor gave him a small assignment.

But, that was the only assignment he ever got.

In the meantime, he always had his job as an assistant on a political campaign. One night he asked me to out driving with him so I could help him rip down the opponent's posters. When I refused, he said that this was the way all campaigns were run, behind the scenes. That there was nothing personal in ripping down the posters; and, besides, the opponent was a bad person anyway.

When I refused to assist him in this endeavor, he took it really personally. We had a fight, and I never spoke to him again. It was probably for the best; a week before, I had found out that he told his mother we were "steady," when we weren't even dating. Never mind that I was 17 and he was staring down the barrel of 30. His mom was ecstatic at the news, by the way.

The years passed, and I lost touch with him. Eventually, I started work in the comic book industry. Nearly eleven years after the last time I saw Alvin, a mutual acquaintance mentioned that he had spoken to him. Alvin told him that he knew all about my job in comics.

Further, Alvin said that the reason he never got a job in the industry again was because of me; because I "bad-mouthed" him in the biz.

Mind you, I had barely thought about Alvin in years, much less talked about him to others. He was simply not on my radar.

And yet I was apparently on Alvin's radar. And he believed that the reason he was not a big name in comics was because of me. It was my fault.

It was not his fault -- perhaps a defect in character, or not a good enough writer, or simply not at the right place at the right time.

It was because -- he imagined -- I set out on a campaign to ruin him in comics.

And this was not the last time I heard this story from people who knew Alvin; Alvin was happy to tell it to anybody that would listen; at the video store counter, at a party. In fact, he apparently tells this story to this very day -- 18 years since the last time I saw him.

For some reason, whenever I think of Alvin, I always think of this:

In a comic shop that was not the Bad Comic shop, in this very very old comic shop that I think is still around, there might be this old brown paper bag with a selection of 1970s Marvels in it. Attached to the bag with a paperclip are the three dollars I put down, with the promise that I would be back to redeem the books. I went with Alvin to that shop, and he convinced me to put down the money.

I'm sure it's a long shot, but if I went into that ancient comic book store today, I swear to God that bag of old comics would still be there. Seething.

Image from Satan's Laundromat

Jay Leno Asks For Ryan Phillippe's "Gay Face"

Regular OS reader Sammy pointed out this recent Jay Leno segment where he's giving Ryan Phillippe a hard time for having played a gay teenager. Oh, of course, it is all in fun, right? has the transcript, as well as the video:

JAY: Can you give me like -- say that camera is your gay lover -- number two --

PHILLIPPE: Wait a second. Wait a second.

JAY: Can you give me your gayest look? Say that -- say that camera is Billy Bob -- Billy Bob has just ridden in shirtless from Wyoming.

Jeff at Whitless comments:

"So naturally you homed in on how WEIRD and HILARIOUS it was that he played a GAY PERSON -- while Phillippe reasonably tried to shift the conversation to the larger issue of how weird it was to be on a soap opera. But you couldn't be stopped! You went for the comedy gold!"

I'm not saying Leno is a monster for telling this "joke." But, he just wasn't that funny. Some may cry "this is the PC police!" and all that, and assert their right to laugh at his routine. Of course, anybody has the right to laugh at whatever. But the routine is built around the premise that gayness is a punchline in-and-of-itself. And these jokes are told with the implicit understanding that the audience "gets" that punchline, shares those cultural cues.

For another exploration of when pop-culture makes these often offensive assumptions, read Adrian Tomine's "The Donger And Me" webcomic on NPR. It's a good companion piece to the piece, I think, focusing on how the author of each confronted the offending celebrity.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Kids' Comic Con 2008

click for bigger image

When: March 29, 2008
Where: Bronx Community College in NY
Admission: FREE for children 17 and under
$5 for all others

KIDS' COMIC CON 2008 will feature:

1) professional artists and publishers from the field of kids comics!

2) a huge variety of kids' comics' exhibitions, workshops, panels, and signings, aimed at kids, parents, and educators.

All in one day, March 29, 2008, from 10 AM to 6 PM!

The guest list includes editors from Archie, DC, and Marvel plus comic creators like Jamal Igle, Kyle Baker, Chris Giarrusso, Raina Telgemeier, Joe Staton, and plenty more.

And remember, admission for the kids is FREE!

The KCC is created/co-produced by comic writer Alex Simmons.

What Comics Are You Buying This Week?

As my budget is being tweaked and reevaluated (not to mention the apparent spike in food prices), I have to be choosy with what I purchase.

So once again I'm putting the question to the readers:

What comics are you buying this week?

What comics would you recommend?

Further -- if you had to suggest one comic coming out this week to a person who is new to comics, what would it be?

*for your convenience, here is a list of what's shipping*

"God Save Stan Lee" T-shirt available at the comic shop Secret Headquarters, found via Kitsune Noir)

Less Work For Comic Book Writers?

With the announcement that Hugh Jackman is developing a comic for Virgin Comics, a question I remember being discussed 6 years ago in the DC editorial offices has raised its head again. At the time, we were asked to start brainstorming TV & movie writers and developers we could ask to write and create comics for us. This was a new way of thinking back then (relatively speaking), while today it's pretty commonplace at every major mainstream comics publisher.

A year after that, I remember talking to a freelancer about the situation. He felt that this practice crowded the traditional comic writer out, and made jobs harder to come by.

With directors, screenwriters, novelists, and actors being enlisted in increasing numbers to script and create comics, has the amount of gigs at the major companies for traditional comic book writers really been reduced?

Not that I am at all criticizing the decision made by comic companies to turn to this route. Well-known names like Jodi Picoult, Joss Whedon, and Hugh Jackman are going to be an asset to these publishers. If we are concerned about reaching out past the niche "superhero" crowd and attracting the "masses," this is certainly one way (though not the only way) to do it.

But, the amount of really good comic writing gigs (by which I mean, ones that actually pay a steady paycheck) has been relatively small to begin with. Perhaps this really does reduce an already-small playing field.

There is a similar situation in another area, voice-work for animation. With the advent of big-name stars voicing animated movies and TV shows, traditional voice actors have found that they have less jobs (for a discussion on this in their own words, watch the extra features on the DVD Comic Book: The Movie).

To be fair, comic book writer Marc Guggenheim is working with Jackman on the Virgin Comics project. But again: Guggenheim also does work for TV. Perhaps the key is for comic book writers to diversify their skill set so they are working in multiple media anyway.

Pink Supergirl

You know, I saw this in some costume shop ad I clicked on Google and was like "what the hell?"

"Pink" Supergirl?

This is officially licensed material, here.

From the ad:

"Little Kara Zor-El, who has only known Krypton her whole life, is now on the Planet Earth. She's here to fight evil and to save the innocent along side her cousin, Superman. Includes a hot pink dress with attached cape, silver belt, and hot pink boot tops with silver trim."

When did Kara ever wear this outfit?



Well, anyway, it matches really well with the heart-shaped desert plates:

Occasional Links: The Kool Penguin Edition

Did the advertising mascot for Kool cigarettes inspire Bob Kane to create The Penguin? Bat-Blog has the answer.

Speaking of which, a group of angry clowns protest Harvey Dent's run for district attorney -- was it a viral marketing campaign? Or real angry clowns?

It's a couple of days after the holiday, but here's a Buffy the Vampire Slayer themed marshmallow bunny diorama
Your new Star Wars toys are available in Muppet or Disney versions (what was that thing about George Lucas being protective of his original creative vision again? did that include Gonzo as Darth Vader? did I miss something?)

Read Jeff Lemire's 5-page western The Horseless Rider for free on his blog

The new Friday The 13th remake will star Jared Padalecki from the TV show Supernatural...and the new Tintin will be this fellow:

In other news, they are actually remaking Friday the 13th. And that kid's a little creepy.

Destructoid gives suggestions on how to revitalize the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise:

"Sonic's over the hill. He's clapped out, worn out and ready to be thrown out. As someone who adored the speedy woodland creature as a child, it's horrible to have to say that, but it's true. He was introduced as the cool and sassy alternative to a reserved and "boring" Mario, but looking at the two characters today, it's easy to see which is going strong and which has aged very, very badly."

If Sonic the Hedgehog is over the hill, I must be ancient. I played games on the original Atari system. I remember taking that original Atari system out of the box and smelling its just-out-of-the-box fresh smell.

Apparently if you stare at the center of this picture for 30 seconds, you will shit bricks. Let me know how that goes.

Somebody actually edited together all the creepy scenes from the infamous child molestation episode of Diff'rent Strokes. I'm sure the producers had good intentions with this episode, but it was one of those television watching experiences as a child that freaked me the hell out, introducing me to concepts like middle-aged men doing photo shoots of little boys on safari with their shirts off. Biggest creepiness of all -- the way the laugh track or studio audience chuckles during inappropriate moments. Oh, Arnold is about to get involved in a child porn ring -- that's freakin' hilarious.

Now, if I remember correctly, there was a separate episode where this photographer tried to rape the sister after tying Arnold up with duct tape. Wow. You can see how by the time The Cosby Show and Family Ties came on, we were fairly starving for something a little less...dramatic.

Though there was always that episode where Tom Hanks played Alex's alcoholic uncle. Alright, enough reminiscing!