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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

When Kickstarters Kicked My Ass

When in despair I count blessings.

Recently I was hit by numerous emails and twitter messages from people with Kickstarter projects that they thought I should provide PR for in the space here on this blog. I recently offered here a Chuck Dixon project, a Mike Grell project, and a piece about Mike Baron in consideration of a future Kickstarter. As a result of these articles over 2 dozen people wrote to me suggesting if I helped these three great folks, I should help them. When I said no, to all of them, one group said I was racist for denying them my blog space. I had not even looked at their kickstarter, but apparently they came from a country and were of a humanity variety who are not like my own. I feel a need to tell the world who it is, where they are from, and all, but that would give a podium to get free pr, at the expense of my sanity. I had absolutely no interest in running more PR. So many of these people, however talented played the same cards, if you helped these other people, you should help us.  Well bullshit.  This is my blog, (along with friend Kurt Wilcken), and I refuse to let other people determine the content of it. It is as simple as that.

Over time I have come to respect, love, appreciate a group of people in comics that I am indebted toward. And covering comics since 2002 I am grateful to have connected with them.


In no order of preference...

Left to Right top row:
Mike Grell, Timothy Truman, Jamie Delano, Chuck Dixon, Josh Howard

Left to Right bottom row: 

Ashley Wood, Tim Bradstreet, Mike Baron, Grant Morrison, Moebius

(Technically speaking, I only contacted and appreciated Moebius via mail, but he counts as someone I adored every bit as much as the others.)

And these five talented people I never had an opportunity to connect with, despite my deep appreciation for their works.

From Left to Right
Jack Kirby, Dave Cockrum, Wallace Wood, Alex Schomburg and Kurt Schaffenberger


I am aware my work is nothing special in most people's minds.  I am also aware that I am not easy to work with, nor I am a fun table mate at conventions.  Social anxiety is not fun, being an introvert is equally no fun.  But, I believe in my own work, and I like my poetry.  I don't like every single story I've ever written, but the poetry I like.

If you are curious about my work or enjoy the works here and are curious if the books I've written are worth reading, I've uploaded three books. The most recent work uploaded is


I released a book in 2013 and recently rewrote it and wrote a sequel...

Here is a look at the books I've been fortunate to have achieved print.  I have accomplished publication in writing, with my poetry, comic book writing, or prose, but not all of the labors, obviously, are all of my own labor.  I work with many artists, and through public domain work, both living and dead.  I am fortunate to have worked with many other talented people.





Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Meet Mike Baron's Florida Man

FLORIDA MAN is comic series written by Mike Baron about a larger than life figure from the mythical, or seemingly mythical land of Florida, USA.

Watch this site for more information on the new series Florida Man.

Now about the writer of it.  There is this fellow Mike Baron, in comics who writes something different than the typical comic book works.  I find his array of published works to be uniformly excellent, but without the sort of audience that his writing deserves.  He is far too eloquent for most who read comics, but he doesn't feign write purely efforts in the "literary" vein.

This sounds like he is Jesus Christ come to writing, and no, I am not saying that.  But I do sense in him a morality that is absent in many people in comics, and that shines through his work, even if the work doesn't spotlight moral considerations.  When you encounter someone who has created work that is so different from everyone else's in the field, that work, if not the creator of it, deserves notice.  And in this case, so does that creative talent.

It would be true to say, he doesn't always give great interviews, unless you pursue his simple opening answers with follow ups and deeper probes. Also he tries to replicate speech in the written words of email interviews, and that is great, but the info feed is occasionally lacking.  That doesn't mean anything bad, just that, he is a writer who writes real life into these books of fantasy.

He did the adaptations of Michael Moorcock's character Corum for First Comics.  He did them so well I preferred them over the source material.  He even wrote them in such a way that I liked characters who I had previously been forced into abject boredom reading.  Moorcock has his fine abilities, but he writes characters who evoke precious little sympathy or pathos in me.  They just are literary excursions in fine writing, and little into excitement.  But Baron changed that.

His works from the 1980s, my time of reading more comics than other times, were criminally uncollected despite the rage of capturing runs of quality in the form of the TPB.  I cannot tell you why that is.  His Punisher was gritty yet didn't lose sight of the darker, broken, hero in Frank Castle.  His run on the Flash was completely new for comics, a hero who had to turn to capitalism to utilize his skills and keep a roof over his home.  Badger captured a broken mind in the humor and fun of the time, but never mocked the mentally ill, and presented a world that I quite enjoyed.  His Deadman series with Kelley Jones was fucking magnificent.  I not only loved it, it was slightly spiritual.  That is, he didn't convert me to any religion, but writer Baron and artist Jones created the near to life, but still quite dead layer near to this primal plane of existence that felt real.  And Nexus is, was, and will always be a book that defies the casual comic book reader, but it rewards the deeper thinker vastly.  The reason I say this, is, regardless of the story told in the front of the reader's mind, the story behind it is, what if you could kill all of the bullies of the universe, what would the cost to your soul become?  Is violence redemptive?  How can that be so?

I know a great many creative folks who adore the work of, but far more, the person of Mike Baron.  He is, without people saying it, a sort of comic book writing guru.  What is odd then, I think, that he hasn't been made a permanent fixture at any big comic book company.  Of the many comic book writers I follow, he is extremely rare.  He has never written a story I didn't enjoy.  I write stories and poems that many people don't enjoy, and even I don't like all of my stories, (I like my poems).  But here is a guy who has never ever failed to deliver.

And yet there aren't any great big collections of Mike Baron's Flash, or The Punisher by Mike Baron.  That he has not been recognized for the quality is something that blows my mind.  It is simply without my understanding.


Saturday, April 20, 2019

AIRBOY COMES BACK FOR MORE ACTION!



IF YOU BOUGHT AIRBOY By Chuck, Tim and other awesome folks, now is the time to get more

AIRBOY RETURNS

Friday, April 19, 2019

Wishing Fond Farewell to Manga Writer Kazuo Koike

At the age of 82 writer of amazing Manga Kazuo Koike has passed away.

He wrote into his late years, and never stopped being a master.

As a 23 year old dumbass kid I had only rarely become aware of comics other than by American or European creative teams and publishers.  On the stand there was Lone Wolf and Cub, and it introduced me to a wonderful world of new, awesome, historical works, told with master hands. Koike famously was teamed with Goseki Kojima for numerous different series, featuring Samurai and Ninja.  But, he was to later work with others on stories featuring the Japanese Yakuza and Chinese mafia in Crying Freeman, and the historical based character Lady Snowblood.

When a master dies people ooze platitudes and generous appraisals, and in time, some of the shine is lost.  But Koike was a master of his work, and I never read a story by him that wasn't something I treasured.

Farewell Kazuo Koike, you are already missed.

(Click all images for larger size)


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Who Is Captain Marvel? Part 2: Crisis on Infinite Reboots



In 1953, DC Comics, then known as National Comics, succeeded in doing what Dr. Sivana never could.  By getting Fawcett Publications to agree to cease publication of their comic book line, they effectively killed off Superman's biggest rival, Captain Marvel.  But if there's one thing comics have taught me, it's that super-heroes rarely stay dead.

Some echoes of the character still lingered.  Spin-off character Hoppy the Marvel Bunny lived on in reprints at Charlton Comics, albeit under a different title.  British publisher L. Miller & Sons, which had been publishing black & white reprints of Captain Marvel in the UK, rubbed the serial numbers off and began putting out a similar character named Marvelman; (later re-named "Miracleman").  Marvel Comics appropriated the unused name for a succession of cosmicly-powered heroes.  And the Captain's wizard mentor remained in the memory of Pop Culture in the catchphrase of Gomer Pyle.

Then, Captain Marvel returned, rescued from limbo by the very company which had exiled him there.  In the early '70s, DC Comics was looking for new properties to develop, and it's then publisher, Carmine Infantino, negotiated with Fawcett to license Captain Marvel and the Marvel family.  This was a licensing agreement; Fawcett still owned the characters, but for the first time in decades the Big Red Cheese was appearing in a comic book.  Though not under his own name.

In the intervening years, as we have seen, Marvel Comics had come out with its own Captain Marvel and trademarked the name.  (Since Fawcett hadn't published the character in years, their own trademark had long since lapsed).  This meant that DC could not use “Captain Marvel” as the comic's title.  (And the title the character originally appeared in, “WHIZ COMICS”, was deemed inappropriate for other reasons.  Snerk.)  The solution DC came up with seemed appropriate:  they named the book SHAZAM!, after the magic word Billy Batson used to transform into the World's Mightiest Mortal.

The Return of Captain Marvel was something of a coup for DC, at least as far as old-time comics fans were concerned; especially since DC was able to hire original Captain Marvel artist C.C. Beck to draw the new series.  But the comic faced other obstacles.  As Beck later told it, when he and writer Bill Parker created the character back in the '30s, they made a conscious decision to avoid the pulp action conventions that other Masked Mystery Men of the comics followed and to try to emulate the sense of old folk-tales and myths, updated to the 20th Century.  But during Cap's hiatus, mainstream comics had changed.  Partly this was due to the influence of Stan Lee over at DC's competition, who had established new standards of realism and characterization to the literature of Super-Powered Men in Fancy Tights; partly this was due to an older readership which expected a little more sophistication in its comics; and partly this was due to a reaction in fandom against the campy “Bif!” “Pow!” era of the BATMAN TV series.  But whatever the cause, it meant that fans were unaccustomed to the gentle whimsy of the Golden Age Cap.

How could the bright and cheery storybook Cap fit in with the more action-based main DC Universe?  Initially, they didn't even try.  Writer Gardner Fox had set the precedent a decade earlier with his story “The Flash of Two Worlds” in which he established that there were other, alternate universes, similar to our earth in some ways, but different in others; and that the heroes of the Golden Age existed on one of those other Earths.  As the Silver Age progressed, other Earths were added:  Earth Three,  home of Superman's evil counterpart Ultra-Man and the Crime Syndicate of America; Earth-X, where the Nazis won WWII, but heroes like Uncle Sam, Phantom Lady and The Ray (characters originally published by National's sister company, Quality Comics) carried on the struggle for freedom.    So Captain Marvel and the Marvel family were assigned a universe of their own:  “Earth-S”.

DC re-introduced Captain Marvel to the modern audience with a story written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by the character's co-creator C.C. Beck.  O'Neil might have been a strange choice to revive the Big Red Cheese; he was better at and more comfortable writing street-level, non-powered characters; but he was Julie Schwarz's go-to guy for character re-vamps and had done good work on Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow.

In the story, the evil Doctor Sivana, ("The World's Maddest Scientist") develops a substance which puts any living thing it touches into a state of suspended animation.  He uses this at a public event honoring Marvel to immobilize him, along with all his friends and supporting cast; (and Sivana himself, due to a goof on his part).  They all end up frozen in time for twenty years, which explains where the Marvel Family has been for the previous two decades.  But I suspect that the story was meant to explain the Marvels' wholesome innocence to the modern audience; that Captain Marvel was the product of a Simpler, Less-Cynical Time and so Doctor Sivana's huge globe of Suspendium also allowed the comic to bring that Simpler Time along with him to the present.

This '70s revival of Captain Marvel was one of those experiments DC puts out every now and then which is more interesting than successful.  The old-time Captain Marvel fans thought that the new series missed the charm and whimsy of the original; and the new readers just couldn't get into the Big Red Cheesiness of it all.  To be fair, DC was grappling with a problem that companies trying to re-invent a classic property for a new generation still face today:  How do you make an old character fresh and appealing to new audiences without irking fans of the original?

The SHAZAM! revival petered out after a few years, but Captain Marvel remained a presence at DC, popping in from Earth-S for the occasional team-up with Superman in DC COMICS PRESENTS.

Then came the CRISIS.

In its CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS miniseries, DC consolidated all of the adjacent sub-universes it had accumulated over the years into one single amalgamation.  At the same time it used the opportunity to re-tool and re-define some of its existing heroes, like Superman and Wonder Woman.  By this time, DC had bought Captain Marvel from Fawcett outright, and used the Cosmic Reset Button of the Crisis to finally integrate the World's Mightiest Mortal into the New DCU.

They had already begun modifying Cap's look to reflect the DC "house style"; but in order to fit into the mainstream Post-Crisis DCU, Captain Marvel had to be more realistic.  The innocence and cheerful optimism of the Golden Age, and even of the Silver Age, had become outdated; and the early shadows of what would become the Grim-and-Gritty Era were beginning to seep out of Crime Alley and permeate the rest of the universe.  But this same innocence and cheerful optimism were exactly what defined Captain Marvel as a character, and without those qualities, he is nothing more than what Judge Learned Hand ruled he was in the '50s: a Superman knock-off.

How DC solved that conundrum can be encapsulated by the tagline to SHAZAM:  A NEW BEGINNING, the 4-part miniseries re-introducing Cap and revising his origin for the Post-Crisis Universe:  "The World's Mightiest Mortal is Just a Kid At Heart."

Which, come to think of it, is pretty obvious.  The reason why Captain Marvel possesses such a child-like innocence is because he is still a child.  He may have the physique of Charles Atlas and the handsome face of a young Fred MacMurray, but deep down, he is still Billy Batson.  You wouldn't think this would be controversial.

But some fans of Captain Marvel have disagreed with this interpretation.  They point to repeated instances where Cap and Billy are depicted standing side-by-side on covers, although I don't think we need to be continuity literalists regarding cover art.  Covers tend to be symbolic of the stories inside rather than accurate representations of them.  There was also at least one occasion where Billy whispered the Magic Word during a test at school so that Captain Marvel could use the Wisdom of Solomon to slip him the answers, and in that case they were definitely portrayed as two separate people; but I'm not sure how much weight we ought to give to a single isolated sight-gag.  More relevant, Billy and Cap somtimes would refer to each other in the third person.  Then again, Clark Kent does much the same when he says "This looks like a job for Superman!"

I have to admit that while writing this piece I've gone back and forth between the two interpretations.  From a writer's point of view, it makes sense to show Billy experience his super-powers and learning to used them for the first time from his point of view.  It makes for a better story than to just have Cap emerge fully-powered from the head of Zeus.  Or of any of his other divine patrons, for that matter.

Frankly, Billy has a more interesting personality than Cap does.  In the old stories Marvel sometimes comes of as one of the blander cheeses, like muenster, rather than a sharp cheddar.  And what kind of grown man says "Holy Moley!" anyway?  (Well, I might; but then, I'm weird).

But their personalities do seem different.  Perhaps it's due to Cap having access to the Wisdom of Solomon.  Perhaps it's increased confidence due to having the strength of Hercules and the Courage of Achilles.  Maybe we can chalk up the difference to just being Billy pretending to be grown up, like Tom Hanks in the movie "Big".  Or perhaps the difference is simply my own perception, the way I imagine Cap's larger body giving him a deeper voice than he has as Billy.

The new movie version of SHAZAM! is following the example of Tom Hanks in how it portrays the World's Mightiest Mortal.  He's a kid in a hero's body, and he revels in his new form and abilities with wonder and excitement.  For the movie that's probably a good thing.  I'm enough of a "Crusty Crumudgeon", as C.C. Beck used to refer to himself, that it bugs me that DC has succumbed to inevitability and officially re-named the character "Shazam"; but I'm open to different interpretations of the character, so long as the character retains some sense of the joy and the exuberance of the original.  That, even more than innocence and whimsy, are to me the essential qualities of Captain Marvel.

And talking tigers.  But that will have to be a subject for yet another column.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Interview week II, Focusing on the Creative Fire with Omaha Perez


I've both interviewed Omaha and met him at SDCC, although I don't remember if that was at 2003 or 2005.  He is a highly talented story teller, being both an artist and writer, and without trying to suggest I have similar talents, because I don't, I would like to say I find his collection of works to be similar to my own, in that, they are different than most anyone else, not conventional, and remain interesting.  He is daring and that is frowned upon by many.  His work Holmes might well have pissed off some Sherlock Holmes fans, whereas with me, I thought it was quite delightfully different.

From the Drude 2, Lost Angeles
Thanks for doing the interview.  Tell me and the audience, if you please, about your new work Lost Angeles? 

LOST ANGELES continues the adventures of aging underground Rocker / Stoner / Layabout Boris Drude. Boris’s ambition in life is to get loaded and have a good time. This proves impossible when he becomes embroiled with The Great Beast, his own Doppelganger, and the Reptilian-infested Illuminati. It’s an existential nightmare and comedy rolled into one!

What made you a creative artist? Were you born to do it, did you find you had talents and worked to find the right outlet?

Yeah, I’ve always been artistic. I enjoyed reading, drawing, and writing stories from a very young age. I’m sure a big part of it was growing up as an only child.You have to be able to self-entertain.

What is your pattern of creative activity? Do you plan it, sit and work or, does it happen in a fit of activity?

All of the above! I do a lot of research, pile up notes and inspiration (news items, song lyrics, clever quotes, photos - you name it), and when I’m ready (and have carved out available time) I knock it out pretty quickly!

Do you listen or watch anything while you work? Do some media give you inspiration, or does it just give you company?

From The Drude 2, Lost Angeles
I voraciously listen to music when I’m doing graphics work. The new Ian Brown album is probably my favorite so far this year. I also really like Ranking Roger’s final BEAT album, which came out a couple months ago. When I’m writing I prefer silence.

How did you move from having a talent, to having a project to actually arriving upon being published? Is it an accident? Did you have a business or creative art business plan?

I’ve always created my own opportunities. I was never one of those artists drawing Batman or X-Men samples - I always wanted to be able to publish whatever comics I drew. That was always the intent. If I did a short (6 or 8 pager) it was with the intention of placing it in an anthology - or putting one together myself. Whenever I couldn’t find a publisher for a project, I’d self publish!
I have the worst business plan ever! Years ago I noticed that when I actively sought Illustration or Comics work, calling Art Directors or Editors, there was no work to be found. While when I stopped worrying about it and just kept working on my pet projects, work would serendipitously fall in my lap. I guess it’s the anti-business plan - I don’t recommend it for everyone.

What was your first published work, and how did it make you feel? Do you look on that work now as being hopelessly juvenile or, do you find great pride in it as a work for the time that was good, even if you have now moved far forward?

Based on a nightmare, it was a 3 pager I drew and painted near the end of art school. I sent it in to an indie, Millenium Publications, and was thrilled to receive a $300 check - and even more excited to see it in print! I thought, “I’m a Pro now!” It was printed in ASYLUM #3, I think before I graduated in ‘93.

Oh, I can’t even bear to look it now!


What works are you brewing, and what works are in print and on the way soon? Do you have any long-range hopes like licensed works of your creative property?


My LOST ANGELES Graphic Novel launches April 17th, I’m extremely proud of it - my best work yet! SUPER TERRE.R 2 is nearly complete, and I’ve got a couple more in progress. (www.thedrude.com for more info.)

There is a DRUDE screenplay I was asked to write, and I’m working on another one. We’ll see!


What would you recommend other people who seek to be creative do to get on the right track?

Just do it! Don’t wait for “permission,” for somebody to hire you. If you want to create comics prove you can - create an original work and print it up! If you want to make music, record a track or two. Wanna make a movie? Start with a short film. You’ll be creating a track record while building valuable experience. There’s no barrier. You just need to proceed.


From HOLMES

Friday, April 12, 2019

Enter Mike Grell's World

As some of my readers know, I very much like the work of and love the person of Mike Grell.  He wrote a foreword to my book Mythic Memories, took part in Life Of Ravens, and he has answered many of my questions in interviews over the last 20 years.

He has a kickstarter going, and, while I rarely promote kickstarters, because it is a contagion, promote one and get multiple requests for more, I love Mike, and feel like his work is among the most deserving of attention, and financial support.

So, if you are interested in his work follow the link, and below take a look at just some of the wonderful works he has created.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

No Capes Allowed

I was written an email from a follower on twitter who reads my work online and shares their thoughts with me about almost everything I write.  They said the following... (just to note, the person, despite being of my age, writes in the language of chat, and text, so I've modified the terms and spellings to make sense, but, it isn't out of correction, rather for simplification)

"Hey Alex, I know you love comics, and I love the art and artists you share and the writer lives, but, with the world of film being infected by comics, I think I should say, I think costumed super heroes are stupid.  I think everything about them is stupid. I think they are juvenile, I think the concept behind them is juvenile.  Most people by now are thinking, "where is the attack on me here?", well I love what you write and what you write about and love the interviews, because talented people are such even if they employ their talents in a field that is, well, juvenile. Since I trust your taste, I like what you write, and write about, I want to offer you a challenge.  Give me a list of comics, since the world including you love them so, without super heroes.   Is it possible?"

A bit should be explained from my perspective.  I appreciate people who can remain interested in the potential of something, even if what they see is something that offends their sense of normal or possible.  My father was not highly educated but he was bright enough to make a very good living for his family from very modest beginnings.  But when he saw the start of Star Wars on ABC television, which my mother had seen with me, he looked at her and said, what kind of person spends time watching this kind of garbage.  He had no measure of interest in anything that he couldn't prove or couldn't imagine being.  It wasn't that he was dull, he mentally had not even the smallest interest in anything that bordered on fantasy or imagination.  So, I grew to appreciate all forms of entertainment, because, not only was I limited to a certain bit of entertainment, I yearned to see more.  My dad loved football, and while he watched every sort of professional and most college sports, football was his favorite.  And I love football, but, I've gone years without watching it, and think it can be great, but, it is a sport, and I don't play it, so it has only so much mileage for me.  On the other hand, fantasy, imagination, movies, books, games and film are limitless.

Having said that all, I understand that the concept of super heroes fails you.  And, honestly, when I watched the last 20 years of super hero movies, most didn't actually work for me, even those now that get so very much praise.  To me, a comic has no limits save the imagination of writer and artist, so, films based on comics, in order to appeal to both the comic reader and the film goer, not necessarily a common group of people, there is a disconnect.  I either see works that try to so mimic the comic canon and ideas, it loses the rest of the world, or tells a story acceptable to the masses, even looking like the comic in question, but loses me in the fact that almost all of them could have been so much more.  So even though I have many comic book super hero comics, I don't watch the movies.  We are not so dissimilar perhaps, or perhaps we have a common outlook that the movies just work for a certain way of looking at it.

The trade paperbacks and graphic novels I'll offer are in groups, and will be almost free of comic book super heroes, if they exist, they are only in the background.  With two exceptions, one because whatever it looks like it really isn't a super hero, and the other is, but really isn't if you accept the story for what it is.  I will explain more as the article goes further.  Also, almost completely I've used books that are in whole form.  While comic books do well in TPB and original Graphic Novel, they are also easily found in sequential chapter form.  Single issues give you a taste of the whole, rather than one comic one story.  That works for some people, it doesn't for others.  A couple of the books shown are single entries, but they ought to be collected in TPB format.  Sometimes, while not all nor even often any or most of the time, I know more than certain publishers. 


MAUS won a Pulitzer prize, and the rest of these are critically acclaimed.  While I might have various quibbles, with titles, factual interpretations, or aim, these are worth time to read, and will linger with you.

WAR, HISTORY AND PERSONAL NARRATIVE 


Vampires, and Dracula the most famous of them, have a longstanding appeal.  The choices offered are dark, moody, scary and well done. I offer two that are illustrated prose, but the art, by Ben Templesmith and Jae Lee more than make up fewer pics and having to read prose.  Other books feature demonic characters. But, unlike most "real" demons, four of these offered are actually on the side of good.

THE SUPERNATURAL


Whether cyber punk, future science fiction, cloning, hybrid breeding, porn, Brave New Worldesque fears, this section has a couple of my favorite works in it.  I suggest giving them all a view and prepare to be rather moved.

SCIENCE FANTASY AND FICTION


Badger is a super hero, so to speak, and Richard Dragon interacts with super heroes, but, all of these are fun, and if you are interested in Kung Fu movies, they do a very good job of making homage while still telling their own story.  I love Master of Kung Fu with Paul Gulacy art, it is a perfect story and character for his beautiful art.

GIANT ROBOTS AND KUNG FU


If you believe in future dystopia, symbolism, big ideas, or adventure, these represent books for you to search for.  While they are all different, they share the quality of being excellent.

ACTION AND COSMIC


The subjects Cleveland Torso Slayings, Crime families, JFK assassination, criminal honor and robot crime solvers are amazingly ripe for story telling in the world of sequential art.  I am not a huge western fan, but, the five offered here, particularly Jonah Hex and Justice Riders will blow you away with the depth of story, and perfection of the art.

CRIME AND WESTERN


I love fantasy.  I love space wars.  The books offered here are magnificent.  They are violent, spiritual, dark, and even tender.  Two of the books offered show some eroticism, so, check out each for your own trigger warnings.

 FANTASY AND SPACE WARS

Some of the names that reappear in the sections are top professionals in the world of comics. I do not apologize for including any one, I just thought I should point out some of them.

Grant Morrison
Timothy Truman
Chuck Dixon
Warren Ellis
Steven Grant
Steve Niles
Ben Templesmith
Mike Baron
Moebius
Ashley Wood
Masamune Shirow

And I want to say, while I like these books, the avoidance of super heroes leaves some great works out.  Particularly I think the run of Green Arrow by Mike Grell, and the Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison are worthy.

CONCLUSION

I promise, there are hundreds more great books in the last 20 years alone that are not super hero genre that are amazing.  I hope anyone reading these will explore the works but also seek out and read more by any of the creative people.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

INTERVIEW WEEK: FOCUSING ON THE CREATIVE WITH ARTIST JOHN HOBAN


I've been at a number of events with John Hoban, and find him to be talented, funny, handsome, and bright.  He is a welcome guest at MCBA's Spring and Fall shows, and he often attends in full zombie make up and more.  He is a talent, and someone who will make you smile.  Unless you are unsmileable.

What made you a creative artist?  Were you born to do it, did you find you had talents and worked to find the right outlet?

I think I was just born with the traits that make me want to draw and be creative. I was drawing pictures before I can remember….and I just never stopped. It’s a compulsion. If I’m not working on or within some kind of creative process for a length of time, I start dealing with feelings of frustration, anxiety, and depression. I’m pretty sure I would have to deal with those feelings anyway, but they’re compounded.

My mother always encouraged me to draw and thought that I was (or could be) talented. She signed me up for classes through the Duluth Art Institute from elementary school through high school. A few of those classes were taught by Peter Gross (Dr. Fate, Unwritten, American Jesus).

What is your pattern of creative activity?  Do you plan it, sit and work or, does it happen in a fit of activity?

I wish I had a pattern of creative activity. I’m finding it damn near impossible to establish one with a family and a full time job. I only get little pockets of time to to work on any projects and I have to be creatively inspired within those pockets to create anything worthwhile. I often find myself drained in those moments, so not much art work gets done. Fortunately, my profession as an art educator allows me the option of not working in the summer….therefore most of my artwork is produced in the summer.



Do you listen or watch anything while you work?  Do some media give you inspiration, or does it just give you company?

I listen to and watch many things while I work. I can not work in silence. I use Spotify to listen to almost anything I could want to listen to. The app also provides a discover weekly feature so I can check out new music while I work….it’s awesome. I also play shows and movies I need to catch up on in the background wherever I am. It keeps me rolling. I consistently used to get in trouble for drawing in class throughout my educational experiences. Even as an educator, I would drive some administrators crazy by drawing during staff meetings. I think and absorb information better while I’m drawing and the opposite is also true.

How did you move from having a talent, to having a project to actually arriving upon being published?   Is it an accident?  Did you have a business or creative art business plan?

I just decided to publish my work myself instead of waiting for a publisher to emerge from the heavens and see all the stuff I was working on in my basement. I had no business plan. I had thrice re-drawn my comic completely and I was ready to put it out there, sink or swim. I printed it first through Ka-Blam, which is an online self-printing service for comics. I ordered a hundred copies and bought a table at the 2011 Wizard World Chicago convention. In retrospect, that was a really big show to start. It went really well, but I didn’t have anything to sell but one book. I sold a lot (around 40 books), but didn’t even come close to making my money back.

What was your first published work, and how did it make you feel?  Do you look on that work now as being hopelessly juvenile or, do you find great pride in it as a work for the time that was good, even if you have now moved far forward?



My first self-published work was Apocalypse City issue #1. I do take pride in that book. I still cringe a bit at some of the art and dialogue, but you can’t improve if you don’t start somewhere. I think I got a lot right and it says most of what I want it to say. I’m planning on re-working it a bit and reprinting it with issue #2 & #3 as a graphic novel of sorts.

What works are you brewing, and what works are in print and on the way soon?  Do you have any long range hopes like licensed works of your creative property?

I’m almost done drawing Apocalypse City #4 and plan on printing it this summer. I used to have long range hopes, but I’m mainly doing this for myself. If anybody cares after that, then that’s gravy.

What would you recommend other people who seek to be creative do to get on the right track?

Don’t stop. Don’t compromise. I know it’s easier said than done ( and this is coming from a guy who found himself drawing furries for a whole convention) but it’s got to be somewhat fun and rewarding.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Who Is Captain Marvel?



A couple of friends of mine back when I lived in Darkest Iowa were comics fans who ran a gaming group. They mostly ran a super-hero role-playing game called CHAMPIONS, and the husband had designed character stats for most of the characters in both the Marvel and DC Universes. The first time I played with their group, he showed me his file, a large box containing about a thousand laminated character sheets. “Who would you like to play?” he asked.

I did not hesitate. “Captain Marvel,” I said.

My reply puzzled him. “Do you mean Captain Mar-Vell, the Kree Warrior? Or the black girl from AVENGERS?”

“No, no, no,” I chuckled. “The REAL Captain Marvel. Wisdom of Solomon. Strength of Hercules. Stamina of Atlas...”

“Oh, him.”

“...Power of Zeus. Courage of...”

“All right! I got it.” 

As it turned out, the character I wanted was one of the few he didn't have; so he gave me Superman's character sheet instead. “Just ignore the part about 'Vulnerable to Kryptonite' and replace it with 'Must Say SHAZAM to Activate Instant-Change'”

But my friend's confusion brings me to the question of Who Is Captain Marvel? It's a question with two levels: the obvious one about which of the many characters to bear that name is the One True Marvel; and a deeper question about the psyche of the World's Mightiest Mortal.

Let's begin, then, at the beginning. In 1939, Fawcett Publications formed a comics division to take advantage of the wave of costumed heroes that followed in the wake of Superman's debut. Fawcett's circulation manager wanted a character like Superman, but whose alter-ego was a 10 or 12-year old boy. Writer Bill Parker and artist C. C. Beck came up with a plucky orphan named Billy Batson who was recruited by an ancient wizard named Shazam to fight for justice. When Billy spoke the wizard's name, he became transformed into a mighty hero, imbued with the attributes of an eclectic pantheon of gods and heroes.

Say them with me, won't you?

Wisdom of SOLOMON
Strength of HERCULES
Stamina of ATLAS
Power of ZEUS
Courage of ACHILLES
Speed of MERCURY

Originally, the character's name was to be “Captain Thunder”, but it turned out that another company was already using that name; a situation which sort of became a theme for Cap. So they re-named him “Captain Marvel”. C. C. Beck gave the character a more stylized, cartoony look than a lot of contemporary rivals of Superman had and later recalled that he and Parker wanted to draw inspiration from old folk-tales and classic myths rather than the hackneyed formulas of the Pulp Magazines which many other comic books emulated.

Captain Marvel soon gained a large supporting cast of Marvelous heroes: Captain Marvel, Jr.; Mary Marvel; The Three Lieutenants Marvel; Mister Tawky Tawny; Uncle Marvel; Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. He also became enormously popular, becoming the first comic book hero to hit the big screen as the star of a Republic movie serial. At the height of his popularity, Captain Marvel's comics out-sold those of his predecessor, Superman.

This could not stand.

Detective Comics and Superman, Inc.; the companies which later formed National Publications and eventually became known as DC Comics, had previously sued Fox Feature Syndicate claiming that its character, “Wonder Man” was a rip-off of Superman. With their success going after Wonder Man, they went after the Big Red Cheese.

The case dragged on for years. National claimed that elements of Captain Marvel, (the super-strength, the invulnerability, the cape and long johns, the alter-ego as a reporter) were clear imitations of Superman. Fawcett argued that both characters were derived from super-strong heroes of legend and earlier comics, such as Hercules, Tarzan and Popeye the Sailor.

The initial ruling went in Fawcett's favor based on a technicality. National had at one point authorized a licensed SUPERMAN comic strip, and the syndicate producing the strip had neglected to put a copyright notice on some of the strips. Therefore, the court ruled, the character had fallen into the Public Domain.

National appealed the ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, presided over by the famed jurist Judge Learned Hand. (Yes, his first name really was “Learned”. He had a brother named “August” who was also a judge and who was involved with the original case.). The Appeals Court ruled that National should not be penalized by the syndicate's negligence and that they still held a copyright to Superman. Moreover, he ruled that Captain Marvel was indeed a substantial imitation of Superman and infringed on Superman's copyright. This has always seemed to me like a pretty superficial interpretation, but then, since I hadn't been born yet, Judge Hand never asked me. He sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

Rather than go through yet more litigation, the two parties decided to settle out of court. In order for the lower court to rule on what kind of monetary damages National was owed, they would have to go through a decade's worth of both title to determine how much exactly Cap had swiped from Superman – and how much Supes had swiped from Cap, such as the ability to fly, or having a bald mad scientist as an arch-enemy. The only ones who would profit from this kind of panel-parsing were the law firms who would be paid by the hour to have their clerks scour the funnybooks; and both sides agreed that it would be more hassle than it was worth,

More importantly, by this time, a decade had passed since the suit was originally filed and in the intervening time, super-hero comics had dwindled in popularity. Captain Marvel was no longer the money-maker he had been previously, and Fawcett decided to cut its losses: pay a four hundred thousand dollar settlement and agree to cease publishing the character. They shut down their entire comic book division. 

Captain Marvel was still popular in Great Britain, where a company called L. Miller & Son held the rights to publish black & white reprints of the Fawcett comics. Now that no more reprint material was forthcoming, Miller & Son hired a comic packager named Mick Anglo to create a knock-off named “Marvelman”, who was similar to Captain Marvel in many ways except that he was blond and said the word “Kimota”, (“atomic” spelled backwards, sorta), in order to transform.

Another decade passed, and with the dawning of the Silver Age, the super-heroes returned. Fawcett was no longer in the comics biz, but another company, F. M. Enterprises, borrowed the Captain Marvel name for one of the weirder characters in comics history. This version of Captain Marvel was an android from a distant planet, sent to Earth to escape the atomic destruction of his homeworld and to protect his new planet. He had the standard portfolio of super-powers: super-strength, super-speed, and nigh-invulnerability; but he had one unique power: when he shouted “Split!” he could detach parts of his body from his torso to do stuff, re-attaching them when he shouted “Xam!” I suspect the creator of the character was thinking of possible Captain Marvel toys; but the character did not last long and the company quickly folded.

The Silver Age also saw Timely/Atlas Comics, the company which published CAPTAIN AMERICA back during the Golden Age, re-name itself Marvel Comics and revolutionize the whole super-hero comics genre, beginning with FANTASTIC FOUR, and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and exploding from there. Editor Stan Lee decided that Marvel Comics really ought to be publishing a character named “Captain Marvel”, and shortly after the demise of the “Split/Xam!” Cap, Marvel acquired the trademark for that name.

The Marvel version of Captain Marvel was a Kree Warrior named “Mar-Vell”, a soldier from an alien empire locked in an interminable war against the Skrulls. Mar-Vell is sent to Earth as an observer, but comes to ally himself with the inhabitants of our Small Blue Planet and defects from the Kree Empire to act as Earth's protector. 

After a while, the character was re-vamped by writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane. Mar-Vell was exiled to the Negative Zone by the Kree's Supreme Intelligence. He was able to escape the Negative Zone for brief periods by exchanging atoms with Professional Sidekick Rick Jones, using special wristbands. This somewhat recalled the dynamic between Billy Batson and the original Captain Marvel, of a boy able to summon a hero at need and essentially switching places with him.

The character was re-tooled further when he was handed over to Jim Starlin, who made him into a more cosmic-themed character. Because Cosmic is what Jim Starlin does. It was for this version of Captain Mar-Vell that Starlin created the character of Thanos, the Mad Titan, who became a major villain in the Marvel Universe.

Starlin also made the character the center of Marvel Comics's first graphic novel, titled THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL. In it, Mar-Vell learns that he has developed cancer and must come to grips with his own mortality. The story is a thoughtful, introspective one without a lot of fights and explosions; and Starlin drew upon his own father's struggles and death from cancer in writing it. And in the end – not a spoiler; it's right in the title – Captain Marvel dies.

Not wanting to leave a good trademark unused, Marvel created a new character, a black police lieutenant from New Orleans named Monica Rambeau who could transform herself into any form of energy. She became a member of the Avengers, and for a time the group's leader. She eventually ceded the “Captain Marvel” name to Mar-Vell's son, Genis-Vell. Since then, there have been a handful of other Marvels, few with a whole lot of staying power. 

The current holder of the title is Carol Danvers, the former “Ms Marvel”: an Air Force officer who gained super-powers when caught in an explosion from a piece of Kree technology. She was created in the late '60s as a kind of token feminist; got written out of the Avengers in an incredibly ignominious fashion in the '80s; returned long enough to give the Avengers a well-deserved scolding and to give a portion of her powers to Rogue from the X-Men and then faded back for a while. In the last decade or so, she's become more prominent, though, taking on the “Captain Marvel” name and becoming an important player in the Avengers. Her current characterization plays up her military background and has her acting more in leadership roles, protecting the Earth from intergalactic threats and acting as a diplomat to alien races.  And most recently, starring in a big-budget blockbuster film.

But while Captain Mar-Vell and his successors where having cosmic adventures over at the House of Ideas, the Fawcett Captain Marvel wasn't quite dead yet. At the same time this was happening, Billy Batson was making a comeback. Or trying to...

NEXT: “With One Magic Word...” Crisis on Infinite Re-Boots



INTERVIEW WEEK: FOCUSING ON THE CREATIVE WITH MICHAEL MAY

A friend, Joltin' Joe Hilliard thought that I should meet Michael May.  We were both large Minnesota men, each interested in comics, horror, and we both spent a lot of time asking other creators questions in interviews.  Michael and I were rightly suggested as friends.   We worked together a few times and Michael also added a foreword to the book Lancelot which I was a creative on.  He has a buttload of talent, and he is truly one of the most kind people I've met, in life, and for damn sure the comics industry.  As a moody poet I don't do well with most places, and the comics industry is definitely another.  But I've watched as people swarm around Michael, he hasn't been a huge name yet, but if it was a result of being beloved, it'd be him at the top.  That isn't hyperbole.  (Yes I know what hyperbole is, and it isn't a hyper boil that requires a jackhammer to pop.)

Thank you Michael for being available and willing to answer my questions about creativity and the creative artist.

What made you a creative artist?  Were you born to do it, did you find you had talents and worked to find the right outlet?

It's definitely something that I felt called to as a kid. I was a huge reader and loved filling my head with stories of other worlds. My mom would take us to the library and I'd just load up on Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E Howard, and whatever scifi adventure caught my fancy. At some point it was natural that I started making up my own worlds and stories and dreaming about writing them down. I liked to draw as a kid, too, and got pretty good at it, but my passion was always going to be writing. I'm terrible at drawing these days, but I love the craft of storytelling and keep working to get better at it.

What is your pattern of creative activity?  Do you plan it, sit and work or, does it happen in a fit of activity?  Do you listen or watch anything while you work?  Do some media give you inspiration, or does it just give you company?

Sadly, it mostly happens in a fit of activity these days. I'm a firm believer in setting aside a certain amount of time each day for disciplined writing and I'm working on getting back to that, but the reality is that I'm very deadline driven. I tend to work on whatever's due next. I'd love to get ahead of my own schedule though. That would be really nice.

I can't watch anything while I'm writing and I can't listen to anything with lyrics, either. I get too distracted. I work best in silence, but sometimes I'll try playing some instrumental music in the background to set a mood. It's not really for direct inspiration though. By the time I sit to write, the inspiration should already be there.

How did you move from having a talent, to having a project to actually arriving upon being published?  Is it an accident?  Did you have a business or creative art business plan?

I got started by teaming with a bunch of friends who were artists and writers and also hungry to publish stories. We put together a couple of anthologies and self-published them. I did have a plan, but it was super naive. I figured that I would just sort of move my way up the ladder. Self-publishing would lead to something at a very small press which would lead to something at a slightly larger publisher and on up until I was either writing the X-Men or my own, extremely hot creator-owned comics (if not both). Some of my friends had similar plans, but it rarely works that way. 

I mean, it CAN work that way. It's not a bad plan. But I've learned - in life as well as in creative endeavors - not to get too attached to one plan. It narrows your vision so that you can't see other opportunities when they pop up.

I ended up skipping a lot of steps in my plan and went from self-publishing my stuff to being published by Dark Horse. That was almost entirely thanks to Jason Copland (artist and co-creator of Kill All Monsters) and his relationship with Dark Horse. So maybe that's an accident? It's certainly not because of anything that I specifically did other than just make Kill All Monsters as good as I could when we were self-publishing it.

In other words, it's very useful and important to have a plan. But it's even more important to do good work and form relationships (real ones, not fake, mercenary "networking" relationships) and keep your eyes peeled for open doors.

What was your first published work, and how did it make you feel?  Do you look on that work now as being hopelessly juvenile or, do you find great pride in it as a work for the time that was good, even if you have now moved far forward?

It had some issues, but I still have a lot of fondness for it. I had a few stories in a horror anthology called Tales from the Inner Sanctum. It's the one I mentioned earlier that was self-published by a group of friends I was hanging out with online. I don't know if it was juvenile, but maybe it was. I definitely fell into the trap that a lot of horror short story comics writers do: going for those EC-style twist endings. Those are fun to write, but when you read an anthology full of them (and most horror anthologies are) they make the collection tough to get through. The most valuable lesson I learned from that is that I probably shouldn't be writing horror comics short stories.

What works are you brewing, and what works are in print and on the way soon?  Do you have any long range hopes like licensed works of your creative property?

I'm currently writing the sequel to Kill All Monsters, but I have a couple of other projects that should hopefully be available in the next year or so. One is a werewolf adventure story, but the other is too far away to talk much about. What's currently in print is the Kill All Monsters Omnibus from Dark Horse and a couple of adventure anthologies. There's a full list on my website: michaelmay.online.

As for licensing my creative property, Jason and I are absolutely willing to accept a couple of truckloads of money from anyone who wants to make a Kill All Monsters movie or TV show. I'll show you where to park it.

What would you recommend other people who seek to be creative do to get on the right track?

It's very old advice, but just do the work. I firmly believe that everyone is creative. It's what we are as humans. No one needs permission to create and there is no gatekeeper. If your goal is to be creative, just start working on stuff. 

If your goal is to make a living being creative, that's a whole other thing and I'm not the best one to ask. I do recommend that people do what I did though and get to know people who make their living as freelance writers and artists. I learned enough to know that that's not the job I want. Writing is a passion for me, but making a living at it and quitting my day job isn't. Freelance is a hard gig and it's not for everyone, but there's no rule that says you have to make a living off your creative endeavors. It doesn't diminish those endeavors even slightly if they don't pay the rent. For me at least, the work is its own reward.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

INTERVIEW WEEK: FOCUSING ON THE CREATIVE WITH GRANT MIEHM

You might have heard of my friend Grant Miehm.  He is a great artist in the world of comics and general illustration.  He comes from Canada, he loves to bring stories to life, and, I have to say, he is one of my all time favorite humans.  I bless God for letting me have a person in my life so wonderful as Grant.  This week I am focusing on how creators create, and Grant was kind enough to share his thoughts with the answers to my questions.

What made you a creative artist? Were you born to do it, did you find you had talents and worked to find the right outlet?


I was born to it, and worked hard to develop the gifts God gave me.  Finding the right outlets has always been a matter of perseverance and the ongoing search for them.

What is your pattern of creative activity? Do you plan it, sit and work or, does it happen in a fit of activity?

In order to hit a deadline, the work has to be planned.  There can be periods where inspiration strikes, and that can help create a more successful piece.  The ‘fit of activity’ happens after mulling over what I want to do, and getting a solid idea about how I want to approach a given piece.  Then, I quickly set that idea down on paper while trying hard not to overthink it.

Do you listen or watch anything while you work? Do some media give you inspiration, or does it just give you company?

I sometimes have the TV on as background noise so the studio doesn’t feel like a tomb.  I seldom actually watch it.  I’m a nut for internet radio, and listen to that regularly.

How did you move from having a talent, to having a project to actually arriving upon being published? Is it an accident? Did you have a business or creative art business plan?

I went through the paces of studying at art school, graduating, and then putting my portfolio in front of people until I got work.  There are no guarantees of work to be had just by connecting with others, but it wasn’t an accident, either.  Looking for assignments as a freelancer is far too random to ever think that finding work can happen within any finite period.  Building a career happens over a lifetime, not by being ‘discovered’, generally.  Admittedly though, that does happen to people sometimes.

What was your first published work, and how did it make you feel? Do you look on that work now as being hopelessly juvenile or, do you find great pride in it as a work for the time that was good, even if you have now moved far forward?

The first published job was either the work I did on ‘Elementals’ at Comico, or a ‘Codename: Spitfire’ issue I did for Marvel’s ‘New Universe’ titles – I don’t recall which.  It felt like I was working out some old ghosts by finally having the chance to see if I could execute some of the ideas I had about storytelling.  While I find it hard to look at older work, I do chalk it up to experience.  It’s where I was at the time, and I don’t allow anything to qualify it other than that.

What works are you brewing, and what works are in print and on the way soon? Do you have any 
long-range hopes like licensed works of your creative property?

I continue to work very enthusiastically for the Boy Scouts of America.  Best gig in the universe as far as I’m concerned.  A legitimate blessing from God.  I’ve always got other ideas and projects on the ‘back burner’, as they say.  How they’ll play out or when they’ll see the light of day?  Only time will tell.

What would you recommend other people who seek to be creative do to get on the right track?


Keep digging.  Don’t stop.  Be kind, be courteous, and be respectful, but be persistent.  Only you can make your career happen.  Be honest, work honestly, and stay honest.  A career – or a life – full of regret because of taking corrupt shortcuts is worthless.  Being true to yourself and living by your convictions is worth more than gold.