Category Archives: Writers

Listmania part 2: Favorite individual issues

Daredevil #181 “Last Hand” April 1982: Frank Miller was just hitting his stride and the character of Elektra was becoming hugely popular.  I remember picking this one up at the local newsstand and thinking it was just going to be cover hype.  I was already a jaded fan at that point.  By the time I was done reading this I had a new interest in comics.

Justice League of America #0 “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” September 2006: This was more like favorite single page.  Each of the short scenes in this story are interesting, but the single page that references Batman’s reaction after Superman was killed by Doomsday redefined the character for me and put a lump in my throat.  You don’t often think of Batman as human and this changed that for me.

The stunning wraparound cover to Mage #14

Mage #14 “…Or Not to be” August 1986:  This was the issue after the series lost the character that was the emotional center of the book and set out the direction for the lead Kevin Matchstick.  Drawing the parallels to King Arthur seemed odd on the first page, but by the last page I could not imagine a time when I couldn’t see them.

Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children #21 “Dances with Cows” February 1991:  There was never a point I didn’t love this forgotten series from Piranha Press (a DC precursor to Vertigo), but this issue was funny and sad and odd all at once.  I really wish they would collect this anthology series in bookshelf volumes.  There is a large amount of creator owned and fringe material that is all but lost to readers now unless they search out the original back-issues.  This series was uneven at times, but so different from what was out there then, and still very readable now, that it could not help but find a new audience today.

Miracleman #22 “Carnival” August 1991:  It is very hard to pick a single issue from this amazing series, and picking a Gaiman issue over a Moore one might be considered a bad choice, but this issue had an emotional core that would resonate with anyone, even people who had not read the preceding 21 issues.  It touched on much of what had come before without ever relying on it and made this a stand-alone issue that really packed an emotional punch.  Now all we need is for these to be reprinted.

Avengers Annual #10 “By Friends — Betrayed!” 1981:  An uninspired Al Milgrom cover (nothing against Al, the cover just didn’t work for the book) covered up the first appearance of Rouge, and began a run of X-Men stories that would see the book rise in sales to be Marvel’s biggest book for many years to come.  The fact that it was in an Avengers book, and that the X-Men are only in a few pages of it messed with my head a bit, but this really is more of an X-book than an Avengers one.  Art by the amazing Michael Golden with inks by Armando Gil gave this book a look that no other book at the time had.  This is collected (finally) in Marvel Masterworks X-Men vol 7 and the Claremont omnibus.  It had been reprinted before, but never in an edition where it really worked, and certainly not as nicely as it is here.

Lord Julius and a “like-a-look”. Cerebus #137

Cerebus #137 (& 138–sort of) “Epilogue” August 1990:  This was a single story that Sim used an issue and a half for, but the first part is the best.  It has never been collected in the phone books since it was a fun filler issue that really does not fit in either the book before it (Jaka’s Story) or the one that followed it (Melmoth), but gives a silly look at Lord Julius and his “like-a-looks”, explaining a lot about the character in a funny way.  It is available ONLY as the original issue(s) or in Cerebus #0 which collected the other in-between issues that are not included in any of the phone books.

Toad Men!?!?

Sensational She-Hulk #2 “Attack of the Terrible Toad Men” June 1989:  The first issue seemed like a fluke or a one-off, but when they did this one I was left in awe of how funny this book really was.  Byrne left the book after issue 8 over a flap with editorial and the book never quite recovered, until his return in issue #31 that is!  Then he left at issue 50 and the decline started all over.  Dan Slott did some fun stuff with Shulkie later, but this series is still the best there has been.

Alpha Flight #12 “… And One Shall Surely Die” July 1984:  I freely admit I was one of the zombies that jumped on this Byrne book when it arrived, and I loved it for the first years’ worth of stories.  Byrne himself has said he never really saw the point of having an AF book, but it didn’t show for most of his time on the book.  This issue was a surprise in every way.  Yes, they advertised that a major character was going to die for weeks in advance, but how often had we heard that before only to see some turd third stringer die?  Yes, death in comics has since become a revolving door plot hammer.  Never in a million years did I think Byrne would GUT the heart out of the team and kill someone as important as that!  Naive of me?  Maybe, but I had not become so jaded at that point and just didn’t see it coming.  This book gave me chills, and still does when I read it.

Uncanny X-Men #186 “Lifedeath” October 1984:  The single most beautifully drawn mainstream issue of the 1980s.  Barry Windsor Smith as inked by Terry Austin was too much for many at the time. It was a challenging story that made me expect more (too much) from my comics after that.

Superman #712 (had to sneak this one in) “Lost Boy: A Tale of Krypto the Superdog” August 2011:  I was never a huge fan of big blue and have only occasionally read his adventures.  What I AM is a dog person.  This was an inventory story used to fill time while the Grounded arc needed to get caught up.  This issue was better than ANY of those.  I defy any dog person out there to not be an emotional wreck after reading this book.

This was a REALLY hard list. To just come up with ten (OK, eleven) was really tough, and if asked in a month I would think that there would be changes.

Feel free to start throwing chair and arguing, but I would really rather see some other people’s lists.

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Bat crap crazy or just misunderstood?

Not long ago I mentioned that if a particular creator didn’t go bat crap crazy like Frank Miller, he should always be given the benefit of the doubt creatively.  That got me thinking about the various level of crazy in comics.  There is everything from the normal Human frailties like depression, so common in creative types to rabid nutbaggyness that only a special few endure.  Or are these people just misunderstood and disliked?

Al Capp as a younger, more likeable guy.

The classic comics equivalent to Miller’s increasingly extreme views was Al Capp.  Best known for the strip Lil’ Abner, Capp’s talent was matched only by his increasingly conservative and even hateful politics as he grew older.  He was universally loved as a cartoonist and nearly as disliked as a human being.  Deliberate clashes with people he viewed as liberal or too far left, sexual scandals (including criminal charges in Wisconsin), run ins with talk show hosts and even a confrontation with John Lennon and Yoko Ono captured on film from the “bed in for peace” ensured that anyone that knew more than just his professional work would find him hard to like.  In today’s media saturated environment it is unlikely he would have maintained his general popularity.  I am regularly reminded of him every time I drive in Arkansas.  In the largely nonexistent town of Marble Falls, stands the crumbling remains of Dogpatch USA, a failed theme park of his popular characters home.  Was he crazy?  I can’t really say, but he was clearly someone who was extreme and anti-social in many ways.  Extreme viewpoints are often branded as crazy to discount them, but Capp seemed to relish his status as a mean old man for much of his life.  Today his work is forgotten by all but serious admirers of comics and cartooning, which is unfortunate because he was a very talented man, just not a very nice one either.

On a sadder end of the spectrum was Wally Wood.  One of the finest illustrators in the medium, Wood suffered health issues that contributed to depression and alcoholism.  While never diagnosed with much of anything officially, many who knew him considered him a deeply troubled man.  Wood killed himself in 1981 after kidney failure and a stroke had left him severely limited.  One of the most admired names in comics and illustration, there are few in the industry that cannot claim some kind of influence by Wood on their work.

A stunning piece by Wood

General public perception weighs heavily in most creators life stories.  I doubt Frank Miller is anything more than poorly understood.  Like Capp before him, Miller’s opinions are not always popular, but they don’t make him crazy.  It is when the work is affected that fans look more harshly on the creator.  Holy Terror was just awful.  In every way it was just Miller venting fear and frustration.  This is nothing new in comics today since 9-11, but many creators have managed to do it so much better that Miller has begun to creep people out.

In a current context there is Rob Liefeld.  His recent tweets as he ran out the doors of DC in a huff are certainly adding fuel to the fire that there is something very off with Rob.  While you can debate the level of talent, I think anyone would have assumed he would always find work in comics based solely on his name, but the fervor with which he has burned bridges lately make many doubt his motives.  As of this writing he has tweeted that he is retired from comics.  For now sure, but he will be back, I’m sure.  The reasons for the departure are what have left many scratching their heads.

While there are many that question the sanity of Dave Sim, I have to say I am not one of them.  I question his give a damn.  I really don’t think he cares that much about what the world thinks of him and his lifestyle choices.  The religious stance he has taken in the last few years and his perceived misogynistic opinions have made him something of an outcast.  I think he prefers the solitude.  Based on his writings and interviews he has given, I think he would be fine having only the bare minimum contact with the rest of the world as long as he can still create comics and commune with his God.  Nothing wrong with that, if that is what fills your life and makes you content.  He is one that I met years ago at a signing.  His “rock star” attitude was not a nice thing.  I imagine he is a nicer and better person the way he is now.

Thanks to his interest in the “expanding earth” theory, Neal Adams is often branded as crazy, which bugs me.  Since when are contrary opinions and beliefs crazy?  At what point will we start considering anyone that believes in invisible sky Gods (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) crazy?  Having spoken to Mr. Adams at shows, he is in my opinion, no more or less crazy than any creative person I have met.  500 years ago, people who believed the Earth to be round were crazy.  While I don’t share Mr. Adams’ opinion on the formation of the Earth, and doubt that science will prove him correct, I don’t think calling someone crazy for believing in a theory is any better than calling them crazy for believing in a God.  His work in support of creators’ rights has earned him some enemies in the field, but I doubt anyone serious can fault him as a creator or a good person.

Then there is Steve Ditko.  Is wanting to be left alone and not in the public eye crazy?  Again as with Adams, I think the political and social views he once spoke of have condemned him to a degree.  Since he has not been a public figure and avoided interviews for the last 40+ years, Ditko has added to the mystery surrounding himself and added fuel to the fires of speculation.

A Chaykin B&W piece

I have even heard people call Howard Chaykin crazy.  I have begun to believe that just not following the mainstream is what gets many of these creators the looney label.  I have never met Chaykin, but I would love to get that chance.  There are few creators in the industry today as vibrant and creative, and I bet he is just a hoot to talk to.

It is amazing what one overblown story can do to a creator’s reputation as a person.  Mike Grell has never really been able to escape the gun on the table incident from his days doing books at First comics.  The story has been so over reported and so miss-represented that many seem afraid of him at cons.  This is the view that seemed to be in the line I was standing in at a con a couple of years ago, waiting for him to sign a book.  While it was only a small group, can it really be just an isolated opinion?  Having spoken to him, he is just a guy.  He likes or liked guns.  That is really all anyone should take from the story.  He was a very nice fellow and not all that scary.  Quite a small guy compared to what I had expected too.

There is also someone who has developed quite an odd reputation since his death.  William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman, had an interesting outlook and an even more interesting home life.  He lived with his wife AND his mistress and the children by each.  Crazy?  Well, who knows, but it is interesting to me how he is spoken of almost entirely in the context of his marriage now, rather than his professional work.

I’m sure there are some I am missing.  If you think of any, speak up!  It might be fun to start a little debate here.

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Must be something in the water.

The issue of creator’s rights has been a sacred subject for years.  Since the Siegel and Shuster fight in the 70’s, it has been a real issue for fans and creators alike.  Without getting specific about any one fight, it is clear that the issue is a tough one, and the farther away we get from the early battles, the more divisive it is.

Which is why I find it odd or maybe hypocritical that it does not get brought up much when it is creator vs. creator rather than creator vs. “Evil Corporation”.

There has been a lot of jerk-like behavior lately on the creative front.  Disputes of every kind have been cropping up.  Most like the above creator vs. “Evil Corporation” is Gary Friedrich vs. Marvel over the credit and money etc, involved in Ghost Rider.  Marvel has won both the original suit against then and their countersuit and now Friedrich is on the hook for $17,000 for money he made selling Ghost Rider prints.  Legally, Marvel is 100% in the right.  Based on what I have seen of this, it was the textbook definition of work for hire, and Marvel has every right to protect profits by preventing Friedrich from selling their prints.  (If they were original sketches by him or someone that gave him explicit permission to sell their work, this would be different).  But Marvel is just making an example of him, and being dicks in the process.  Friedrich can now no longer claim to be the creator of Ghost Rider for any kind of personal gain.  They didn’t even do that to Kirby!  With a movie coming out with the character, Marvel needs to back off if they want to save face, however since it is Disney, now really and truly protecting their house; they are likely to grind Friedrich into powder because they legally can.  They have ever legal right to do so.  But this is just piling on.

Then there is Static Shock from the New 52.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this book has not been great, so much of what has been said publicly may be pointing the blame for a failing and now cancelled book.  John Rozum was the writer that decided to leave, citing the old chestnut “creative differences”.  He claims he was being pushed aside for Scott McDaniel and the editor to have greater story input.  They in their turn have said that they were just trying to make the best book possible, and they thought everyone involved was on board.  I think the only real jerk here is DC editorial for bringing on a very talented writer, known for odd, introspective and intelligent work to write something completely out of his wheel house.  Not that he couldn’t have done it, just that they didn’t want that.  If what you want is a book with all the hallmarks of “X”, you hire “X” or the nearest available equivalent.  You don’t get Shane Black or Paul Verhoven to write a screenplay adapting Pride & Prejudice, so why expect Rozum to write this book when he clearly had a different direction in mind?

Next up  is Robert Kirkman.  He has gotten his fair share of bad press lately and is rapidly on his way to becoming the Dave Sim of the 2010’s.  First he had a very public break with Rob Liefeld over The Infinite.  With very little actually done on the series they have cancelled it because they cannot agree on what sounds like some pretty simple stuff.  Again, I think that one party (Kirkman in this case) just did not adequately express what he was really looking for.  If you bring a guy like Liefeld onto a book, you are going to get some pretty specific things.  Like him or hate him, Rob’s stuff is very distinctive and has a very specific style that cannot be confused with anyone else’s.  Sounds to me like someone who is a little too full of his own success and thinks that he is infallible.  Because he and Rob were more or less equal partners in the book, it is easier to kill the book than buy out one partner.

In what sounds more like 2 people that really need a time out, Tony Moore is suing Kirkman over payments he says he is owed for The Walking Dead.  I’m sure there IS money there, but at issue are the terms of the contract that was signed between the two of them.  Sounds like Kirkman feels he more or less bought Moore out and owes him no further money.  Moore for his part states that the deal was pushed on him and misrepresented. To be blunt, much of what I have seen and heard from Kirkman himself in video posts, about his view of things in general, leads me to believe that he is being the jerk here.  This is strictly my impression on this, and is just my opinion.

Many people look at the original Image revolt of Lee, Larsen, McFarland etc, was about creator’s rights.  I’m sorry, but that really is oversimplifying it.  They wanted THEIR rights.  As they felt they were being denied.  Were they correct?  Probably.  Were they interested in improving things for ALL creators?  As a secondary objective, yes.  Did other creators benefit from their actions?  Eventually, yes.  Who gained the greatest benefit?  They did.  But ascribing this noble goal and lofty visions of equality is not correct.  In much the same way that Kirkman, Moore and even Alex De Campi and Jimmy Broxton/James Hodgkins (if you have not heard about the Kickstarter hassle on this one—look into it.  It is fascinating) all want their own rights protected, they will, at times damage other creators to get them.  It is all a long way from Neal Adams fighting for Jerry and Joe with DC over Superman.  Was Neal 100% right and pure in his motives?  I cannot say.  Surely he knew if he won, things would be better down the road for him and others, but I really don’t think that was the main motive.  There was a wrong, and he wanted his voice heard.

All creators have rights.  The trick is to know when those rights begin to trample on the same rights of others.  Let’s all keep that in mind before we run screaming into the hills in outrage.  Neal Adams is a legend in the industry.  And all legends, like everyone else I have mentioned here, is human.  They are not perfect, and sometimes they make questionable choices that are in their own interests only.  Other times they make altruistic choices with no clear benefit to themselves.  Putting on the blinder called creator’s rights, just does not allow you to get deep enough into the issue.  Look closer.  Look seriously and without undue passion.  Sometimes these are legal issues only, and others they are moral issues of right and wrong.  It is sad that the right and wrong are rarely decided fairly, and often we need to “think” solely with our emotions for the right side to win.  Just remember that in creator vs. creator, there really ARE two sides.

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Wizard World Chicago 2011

I convinced myself to go.  This is the first time I have been to this con since before it was Wizard.

This con IS NOT C2E2!  There are a lot of similarities like all cons, but there were many differences, not all of them good ones.

August 11th through 14th in Chicago, I chose to do just one day as I really had only a couple of things on the list that interested me.  And that is where my issues with this con start.  The site is awful.  There is a list of guests and really not much else.  The site fails to give any other info, at least that I could find.  True there is a very thorough FAQ page and info on the actual nuts and bolts of the show, ( what, when, where, how type stuff ) but nothing on who the vendors were or specific locations for most of the guests.  I don’t have any interest in the celebrities that were going to be there.  I like Gil Gerard as Buck Rogers very much and I still think Mimi Rogers is one of the most stunning women in the world, but I have little need to meet them and get an autograph.  For the casual fan like me, this part of the show was very well set up.  The above mentioned Gerard and Rogers, as well as most of the other guests were easy to see and approach.  There were no long lines designed to discourage, like at some of these shows.  I got good looks at Ms Rogers, as lovely as ever, and most of the others there.  They were all very pleased to see their fans and I imagine the experience was great fun for the people there to see them.  The only person on my list in this section of the show was Mike Grell (Jon Sable Freelance, Green Arrow the Longbow Hunters).  He was running a little late ( a common hazard for anyone wanting to go right as these shows open for the day) but it was no big deal.  There were 4 of us waiting when he arrived and he was very nice to speak with.  I try to be brief when I am meeting someone like this.  I know there are other people waiting to see the person I am speaking to, and for some of them, this is a valuable source of income, and my yammering on would only impede that.  Mr Grell was charging to sign books.  The first one was free and each additional book was $1.  A very reasonable fee really.  I had only one thing to be signed.  It should be said that I do not pay for autographs.  I do not begrudge these people a living or feel that they are being in some way crass.  I just do not want to pay to be able to appreciate someone or take away a memory of meeting them.  Had I had more than one thing for Mr Grell to sign, I simply would have stopped at one thing.  No biggie, no harm, no foul.  Now if some of these celebs were not charging, I may have had more interest, in meeting them up close, but not a lot.  TV and movie celebrities hold little fanboy interest for me.  While I might pay for, say Linda Carter, or someone I was really interested in as a kid, that list is very short and I have never had need to get in line when I have had the opportunities.  All in all, this section of the show was well put together.  I was able to move around and see the guests to whatever degree I would choose.  A quick walk-by, or something more direct and personal.  This is what the Wizard shows seem to be focusing on more and more in recent years, and it is the prime reason that C2E2 and other comic-centric shows are more my speed.

As I said, my list was short for this show.  Just a handful of creators.  My other issue with this con is that I had to cover the entire hall just to scope them out.  This was partly my fault and partly the show’s.  The maps given as you enter the line after getting the wristband (the ONLY swag you get without paying extra for VIP tickets) have VERY small type.  The names and locations of the guests on one side and the labeled map on the other.  Without my reading glasses, I had no hope of being able to use it.  Had this info been available before hand like it was for C2E2, then this would not have been an issue.  I started right as the doors opened and went right to the Artist Alley section that this con calls “fan tables”.  Two of my targets were not yet seated, so I knew I would be making several trips.  Franchesco! was there, drawing away and chatting with a fan.  I have met him now a few times at these shows and he is always, without fail, one of the nicest people to meet and speak with.  His art brings me back to my youth spent reading comics, and his style so much fun that I always look forward to seeing the con sketchbooks at the table.  His style always reminds me of Rick Leonardi, and when I mentioned this, he seemed to appreciate the comparison.

Cover to The Art of Franchesco! 2011 sketchbook

Next was a quicky with The Crow creator James O’Barr.  Brief and a little awkward would describe this one.  I would guess he is just not all that at ease talking to the fans.

Micheal Golden and Bill Sienkiewicz were there and very nice to see, as were artist Bill Rinehold and writer Peter S. Beagle.  Mr Beagle and I ( a signature for the wife, who is a fan of The Last Unicorn and could not attend the show) spent a few minutes discussing movies that always get to us.  His is the Chaplin film City Lights.  I can completely agree, as the last scene always gets me too.

I made sure to stop by the mighty Kurt Wood’s booth and get a couple of sketches from him.  Don’t worry Kurt, I will be sure to post for all to see once I get a chance.  See the link to his site to the right on this page.

Among the things I saw that I had not been specifically looking for was a booth for “Bachelor Pad” Magazine.  The is a great quarterly that is a throwback to the early days of the pin up girl in printed periodicals.  As much like the old peek a boo type mags as you could ever want, with fun stories and articles from fiction and instruction to stunning good girl style photos.  And no, there is no porn here, just a fun take on a style that is now sadly more a part of our past than our present day.  I plan to support this magazine and see if I can’t get more people into it and maybe we can bring this cool retro sexiness back into the mainstream again.  I am including a scan of the cover to issue #11 here so you can see.  It is done without permission and if they want I will take it down.  This cover is as racy as it gets and it is all good clean-ish fun.  If you think you might like it, go to www.bachelorpadmagazine.com for more info and subscriptions. (see link on the right)

The main focus of this trip for me was Matt Wagner, creator of Mage, Grendel and writer/artist of books like Trinity.  I was going to get some things signed.  I got something FAR better.  He had several copies of some of the recent hardcovers and was doing original painting in them to benefit The Hero Initiative a charity that helps comic creators in need.  (see link at right)  They were very expensive and very beautiful.  I thought long and hard and, in the end, gave in to my desire to have a piece of original Matt Wagner art.  Had it not been for a cause I support, the price may well have been more than I would have been willing to pay, but for this stunner I couldn’t say no.  It was done on the inside end paper, just inside the cover and is included here so you can enjoy it too.  And with this image I will leave you until next time…

All mine!

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Women creators in the big time…

Wow, DC really can’t do something big without stirring up the storm can they?

Art by Amanda Conner

With the relaunch announcements grabbing more headlines than the real news (that being the day and date digital releases) DC has managed to not see one issue coming.  Or they see it, and just don’t care.  Where all da wimmin at?

Gail Simone is writing 2 of the new monthly books and Jenny Frisson is doing a cover.  Just one cover.  There is more out there in the world than Rob Liefeld.  Did we really need to bring him back?  There was not ONE other woman out there that could write Hawk & Dove?  This is a book that will more than likely, be on the short list for cancellation within 3 issues.  Maybe that is why no one would touch it.  There are, to my knowledge more female artists out there than writers, but I know there are more than just the wonderful Ms Simone!  In the artist end of things I am even a bit more surprised.  There are some real fan favorites (artists and writers) that have nothing on DC’s schedule in September.  Amanda Conner, Katie Cook, Nicola Scott, Trina Robbins, Louise Simonson and the list goes on!  True, some were probably offered something and were not interested for reasons of their own, but just Gail Simone and Jenny Frisson?

There was a point in the past I would have said that this was just the women complaining, then I grew up some and try to look at it intelligently.  Or at least as intelligently as I am able.  True, there are not all that many women in the field these days compared to the men, and a lot of that is a cultural issue.  Women have not been mainstays of the industry in any point in its history.  The days when a Dalia Messick could get work because she went by Dale are gone.  The internet makes all of that kind of insulting tomfoolery transparent.  There has always been a serious  lack of women but I believe that it can never be truly equal.  There just are not as many women as men interested.  The reason for some of that has shifted.  It used to be simple enough:  girls didn’t read comics.  That is no longer true.  Many books, and not just the ones you would assume, have larger female readership.  And it is not that women are not artists and writers.  One look at the bookstores will tell you that.  Now I wonder if it may not be the fact that there are other, more attractive mediums/markets to go into.  There is a talent drain that has happened slowly over the years from comics in the traditional mainstream sense, to other medium peripheral to the traditional comic book.  Web comics seem to have a much better ratio of men to women.  A couple of the standouts here would be Danielle Corsetto (Girls With Slingshots) and Lora Innes (The Dreamer).  In other media there is quite a draw also.  Design, book illustration art of all kinds that would draw someone, not already interested in comics further away.  In fact, I think it may be a safe bet that if someone, man or woman, is not a comic book fan to start with, they are not likely to enter the field professionally.  As the medium slowly fades away (yes, it is slowly fading away) fewer young people are influenced by it and chose it as a career path.  So there is that factor, but it does not explain this huge shift.

As I look at this more, I really do wonder if this isn’t something different.  This level of exclusion is SO out of the norm, that I wonder if it might not be deliberate.  This is not to say that I think Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Dan Didio are sitting in the dark halls of the DC compound planning ways to exclude Ms Frisson et al, but there can be an institutional mindset that can be so much a part of the industry, that even the newer blood is not immune.  It does not have to be a conscious choice to be something that is made to happen.  The “old boys” network is not just for the long serving, and it need not be worked at.  At some point, to reverse this trend, a deliberate choice to go the other way may be needed.  No, not quotas or preferential hiring.  The need for a meritocracy is still there.  Bringing in female writer “X” just because the is female does not solve the problem.  In fact, it will make it worse.  Nevermind the inevitable male backlash, the issue here is that bad books by less than stellar talent, again male or female, will drive readers and other talent away.

What is needed, I think, is a concentrated search for new talent ALL the time.  Just like any kind of marketing or recruiting, you tailor it to fit a demographic.  Just like you want to sell a car to a thirty something male with no kids and a lot of disposable income, you can target any segment of the market you want.  You can choose to bring in new talent in very much the same way.  Even the days of the old Marvel Try out book are well past, and no longer likely to be of use.  (Any one who thinks products are not marketed that specifically needs to wake the hell up!  I knew an ad guy for a car manufacturer many years ago that was quite proud of a campagne he helped design that marketed one specific model of a car to gay men over 40.  And it sold to that demo just as planned.)

I remember there was once a lot of talk about the big two recruiting in the art schools, but that never seemed to materialize.  Now you get portfolio review at cons.  The attitude that the talent will show up when needed does not bring the top talent, it brings in whatever comes through the door.  Comic as an industry has always been more than willing to cannibalize itself.  I think that comes from the trash product mentality from the earliest days of the medium, and it is unfortunately still with us.

Get it together DC.  For that matter, the entire industry.  While some publishers are better than others, and most are better than DC in this case, there is a long way to go.  The diversity created by women and men sharing the creative duties can only help comics.  This all just seems so short sighted…

 

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Douglas Adams

It is every year around now that I start to feel a little sad.  May 11th 2001, one of my favorite authors died.  I still get a little blue when I think of it.

I first discovered Adams about the time science fiction in particular and reading in general had begun to lose my attention.  When I first picked up The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I had no interest in reading.  I was just starting to hit the teens and the discovery of girls had ruined all those nasty habits like reading and thinking.  It didn’t take long to make me want more.  Over the next decade and a half as the full 5 books of the trilogy (do i really need to explain it to anyone at this point?) and the Dirk Gently novels came out, I never lost interest in Adams.  In fact, since that time and even now, Adams influence has kept me reading.  Thanks to him, I read Woodhouse, Rendell, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Cerf and he even helped me make the jump from Neil Gaiman’s comics to his other works.  Anyone that enjoys Adams but has not read Gaiman’s Don’t Panic is only getting half the story.  My interest in science and technology was fed by his non-fiction writings.  Last Chance to See is a masterpiece that cannot be ignored, particularly by anyone claiming to be environmentally friendly.  It is one of the finest first person accounts of endangered wildlife ever written and his passion for the subject comes through clearly.

I have been lucky enough to meet almost all of my favorite writers, as most have lived during my lifetime.  I have met Neil Gaiman a couple of times, and Christopher Moore is a treat like no other.  If you get a chance to hear him speak at a bookshop or whatever, jump!  He is a hoot.  But every time I pick up one of the Guide books, Dirk Gently novels or even the not-terrible …And Another Thing, written by Eoin Colfer, I feel a little pang of the sads.  It only lasts a moment though, as Adams would no doubt prefer, once I am in the world of the books all is forgotten.

The spirit of Douglas carries on though.  In the friends and colleagues that are public figures today.  Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins come quickly to mind.  In the annual world-wide celebrations of Towel Day, celebrated annually May 25th.  At the H2G2 website he help create.  In the silly video game Starship Titanic sitting on the shelf across from me right now.

I wanted to let everyone know that they should go search out all of these thing.  If they are a fan, to refresh and celebrate.  If they are new to the absurdity and wonder that is a Douglas Adams prose selection, to invite them to try it for themself.  I dare you not to like it.  Or if you prefer non fiction, try Last Chance to See or go to the website H2G2 and learn something new.

I miss him terribly despite never having met him, but that is the way greatness in an artist works.  They never know how far their reach will extend.

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