Sunday, July 21, 2013

San Diego International Comic Con

So Sherlock Holmes is being renewed for a fourth season...Superman/Batman is a coming movie. Nightcrawler's coming back to the Marvel Universe. Actress/ producer Alyssa Milano (Mistresses, Charmed) announced a graphic novel coming this fall called "Hacktivist" a war-time cyber thriller, as inspired by modern hackers and activists (like Jack Dorsey Twitter/ Square's founder), with a full team of talent including a lot of Eisner nominees, from Archaia Entertainment. Cyborg 009's Marcus To provides the art; Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelley are writing it, with Ian Herring and Deron Bennett from Jim Henson's comics properties lettering and coloring. An amazing diversity of Little Golden Books, comic books, and other media are all part of Chris Ware's 2012 Building Stories, which won the Eisner in three categories. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the coming Avengers sequel. It's not based on the collected story by that name, by the way. In fact, biochemist Henry Pym is no longer the creator of the evil artificial intelligence in the movie version. You do lose that dynamic with that particular character, of course (and who doesn't think it won't be Stark's mistake?), but how exactly a biochemist created an inadvertently evil robot would require some creative work, anyway. (Even if you credit the machine body to another source...hmm, well, there's always some comic book way to spawn artificial intelligence from a study (of ants?), but since we're dealing with an origin from the 1960's from someone who wasn't a full-time science fiction writer, some updates were bound to happen.) Thoughts? Dave Gibbons of Watchmen fame has an amazing new Internet site for his art and stories. People had fun "protesting Trask Industries" in anticipation of the new Days of Future Present X-Men movie. On The Vampire Diaries, Damon and Elena will have a relatively happy period in their initial relationship (every relationship needs work!) and Katerina will stick around for the Silas doppleganger stories in human form. That's just some of the San Diego Comic Con 2013 news. And me? I've got pictures of my neighborhood, downtown San Diego, and the Zombie Parade, which was really hard to photograph. I came out in my red blazer and sang Soul Rocket BA-Doom songs and actually got applause! LOL Goodbye, Comic Con 2013.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gerry Conway, Are You Kidding Me?

Gerry Conway, Are You Kidding Me?  The famous comics creator (Punisher, Arrow's Felicity Smoake, and many more) talks about what the fans can do to help character creators receive proper royalty recompense as the global media disseminates the images and interpretations of their work across an ever-growing spectrum.

Bill Mantlo : a Marvel Comics Group childhood

Bill Mantlo's prolific Marvel Comics Group comic book work holds many personal kid memories for me. ROM #24 is one of the first two comic books I ever bought with my own money It’s a nice way to tie up the Nova series, though I’m glad Erik Larsen and subsequent creators like Abnett/ Lanning continued his story. (Wolfman left for DC just before ROM #24 was created so it was a way of tying up the character’s legacy for the time being.)

Now when I came on to assist Joe Phillips for a brief while, one of our first conversations was how interesting it was to bring Rich Ryder back to Earth sans powers. That one idea sparks a corner of my own creative universe: it’s like Howard the Duck’s “What to do the Night After You Save the Universe?” story, that kind of quiet interface that makes the comic book world merge so readily with our own, especially when we are the young “secret identity” ! (You're welcome to check out my 'Sunstrike' posts in Be Chill, Cease ill, our sister blog. I really must re-visit the character, I think there's a cool sci-fi novel in his tale..) Meanwhile the ROM series –despite starting out with stories where the character’s name is used three to five times a page, by himself and those conversing with him, which may be a late 70′s thing—is a warm reminder of our honeymoon. My doll adored Mantlo’s Shakespearean (Surfer)-like diction and the romantic tragedy of Rom and Brandy, through about three dozen mid-run issues we found for a dime each and read together on the floor. I wrote a tribute to that memory through Zon, Cosmic Knight From Beyond, in my novel. Hey, I’m not playin’ with Parker Brothers unless it’s a board game.

 Originally, I made it back to the 75 issue run in its last year, fondly recalling #24, and bought it faithfully with my chores and grade money. I got to enjoy some first run Steve Ditko artwork( see my 2011 posts), and really enjoyed Bill's journey back to Galador, especially the fellow space knights found along the way. They represent a legacy that continues at Marvel, even with Rom himself snarled in ownership difficulties.

The Spectacular Spider-Man covers from Mantlo’s second run were full of brilliant graphic art ideas, weren’t they? Al Milgrom and Frank Springer may not be spoken of with the hushed tones of a Perez or Byrne, but their cover ideas were dramatic, even heart-pounding! To use a more straight-forward but visceral example, Spider-Man holding a bloodied Black Cat will remain sketched forever in my young memory (#76—the copy I borrowed was in bad shape, too, which just adds to the effect!) The tension of the Owl-Octopus War is remembered across the Internet; I don't think there had been a more badass confrontation with a villain since the original Goblin died, than in #78. I'll say no more! 

His Punisher appearances were really off-the-wall, and he wrote an ongoing saga with the Kingpin of Crime that hit Spidey close to home. Best of all was his creation of Cloak and Dagger, which seemed for a time to be the hit characters of the decade. With runaway teen drama and drugs, Tandy and Tyrone's dark origin story had a gritty real life vibe, and their struggles with right and wrong were intriguing. They were terrific foils to Spider-Man, who tried to control, counsel and protect them, alternatively. Bill wrote the great Carrion stories in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #25-30; it's always a great hook when the villain knows Peter's secret and Peter doesn't know the villain's! You can find his work in the ESSENTIAL SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN volumes (this story ends the first one). Some of my first collected back issues were written by Bill. I really liked the look of the Guardsman, featured on the cover of IRON MAN #97. I was about twelve---still a great age to enjoy Bill's work. That summer, I bought IRON MAN #95-100, one by one. Stark's showdown with governmental hearings marked a different era; can you imagine Tony Stark actually keeping his identity secret today? Probably not after seeing the movies! A swap with O'Brien and new hi-tech armor culminating in a great battle with a revamped Mandarin: it was many of the classic tropes of the character during his first few decades of existence. In fact, there's almost a haunting familiarity across the stories and plots over time. Jim Starlin drew a terrific tribute cover for #100...if only I hadn't asked Jim Steranko about it when I met him in 2006! Well, at least we got to hang out a while, so I made up for my ignorance.

Finally, “The Machine or the Mountain?” issue of HULK, with the death of Glenn Talbot, was one of the rare comics Mom bought me in those days. “Sunset of a Samurai!” in #260 was my first significant exposure to Japanese culture, and the director’s story alongside the battle with Talbot was maybe the richest comic book I had ever read for the first years of my life. Hulk’s trademark melancholy, indeed! Hulk stories often relied on transient characters to embolden the drama and human element, as the character was relatively limited before Peter David. Overall, Bill is the classic Hulk scripter of the 1980's. His most favored story line included the story above, in the midst of a globe-trotting odyssey where Hulk met super people originating across the entire world (like Sabre in Israel and the Arabian Night in Saudi Arabia). Hats off for trying something different and intriguing young minds with the globe.

When I read the synopses for the MTU time travel stories, I was enthralled, trying to block that action out in the style of those terrific covers, one bleak and exciting alternative history/ future after the next, complete with Doctor Doom! I think the concept and character choices are even better than the execution, but they’re so quintessentially 70′s! I loved those Olshevsky indices…perfect for the collector with limited cash…great for the imagination! Probably why I still let the ‘Net and blogs like this substitute for my mostly-distant comics collection. Anyway, Bill introduced Jean DeWolfe in Marvel Team Up, as well as her brother, the Wraith, and their twisted father Phillip. He even did a call back to Spider-Man and the Torch versus the Enforcers, the Big Man, The Crime Master, and the Sandman when he first came on the title, like a true loving fan revisiting the first glory days of Marvel. It’s just as well we don’t have the story of Spidey’s illegitimate child to kick around (a vetoed, controversial idea that provides interesting stories, but maybe just isn't a good Spider-Man idea?). I rarely felt Mantlo captured naturalistic dialogue like, say, Roger Stern. Yet, his Stan Lee-inspired melodrama, so often paired with Buscema’s rhomboid mouths, is a delightful callback to childhood for many of us visiting here. It's too bad I've only read a couple of his MICRONAUTS issues with Michael Golden. The saga of the lost rebels of the inner world and their timely battle with Baron Karza's coup and his truly evil use of his galactic empire had a healthy 80's run. Others recall them fondly, and you have to imagine toy tie-in fans by the thousands made Mantlo's some of their first, and maybe only, comics.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Super Nativity : a comedy skit!!!

Scene: Edith Wharton Maternity Wing A woman in a hospital gown lies back under covers, looking miserable, as a doctor examines her charts. Her belly is apparently great with child. There are two beds present, unless you can wheel a gurney in. The woman also has a towel on her lap.)

 DR.: Mrs. Stichards, we’ve detected a heart beat for you baby.
 RUE STICHARDS: How is she? DR: Well, we can’t get a sonogram of her position if you keep turning your womb invisible. RUE: I’ll try to cooperate. This intern came in earlier and accidentally saw everything!
DR: Just relax. RUE: I thought someone said “song-o-gram” and if I have to hear the baby’s Uncle Benjy belt out ‘Be My Baby’ again, I’m going to hide behind an invisible force field! (she throws up her hands in frustration)
DR: I’m sure if you can deal with the face of Doom, Mrs. Stichards, you can deal with such a natural procedure. The nurse will see you shortly, if you don’t turn invisible again. (a gloved hand comes into the scene, on a long poll, as the doctor speaks)
 DR: Have you noticed any flares?
 RUE: If there’s a flare, I’m not answering it, I’m busy giving birth!
 DR: If you’d like, perhaps Dr. Stichards could lend a bit of support. (the gloved hand pats her) RUE: OH, here he is, now! (pats the hand) You’re such a fantastic hubby, darling. (hand retracts back off stage)

 DR.: Perhaps a bit of company will help. Another patient had a private room, but with the emergency patient from Crouton, we were pressed for space. The princess was kind enough to offer her room. It will only be for a little bit…
RUE: If I decide I don’t want company, she won’t even notice me here. (Another woman is helped in carefully, to take the space next to Rue. She has a nice head piece and braids, if possible. She is huffing and puffing with an enormous belly.)
 IMA: Oh, the force is strong with my bladder. (she sighs, puts out her hand. The doctor leaves.)

IMA: Ima Dollah. RUE: You’re a dollar? IMA: I’m a princess, I don’t come cheap! Princess Ima Dollah.

RUE: Rue Stichards, of the Fantabulous Four. IMA: Hope your delivery’s going more smoothly than mine. (she puts her hand over her belly) They admitted me for preeclampsia, but it turned out I just had a high midi-chlorian count.

 RUE: Looks like twins! IMA: Wow, it’s like you can see right through me!
 RUE: I can! You want to see, too? (she waves her hand beside the princess’s belly; Ima looks down her gown with a joyous look.) IMA: Oh, would you look at that? Hel-lo, little Luke! Hel-Lo, little Leia!

RUE: I’m having a girl this time, too. Pretty neat that you have them both at once!

 IMA: Yes, I was surprised to have twins, but it was bound to happen.
RUE: Cosmic destiny?
 IMA: My thyroid medicine, actually. Increases the egg count.
RUE: Clomid? IMA: Oh, heavens, no, I didn’t clone it, I had them the old fashioned way.
RUE: I see! The father must be really excited.
 IMA: I’m starting to think he’s not into children much. Maybe the worse baby sitter in the galaxy. We’ve not been getting on so well. In fact I didn’t know him so well at all!

RUE: My goodness! I hope he didn’t use force?

 IMA: Oh, he has his dark side, for sure. Awfully good with his light saber.

 RUE: A bad boy, huh?

 IMA: He uses the Force, but we conceived in a much happier time. And you? RUE: It’s by my husband. He got me right in the Negative Zone!
 IMA: Oo-hoo, sounds like fun!
 RUE: (batting her eyes demurely) Can’t say it was ALL negative. If I was more than five centimeters dilated, I’d just make a little force field slide for her to zip on out my cooch.

IMA: I hope these two will be so cooperative. Not every baby does it by the book! Too bad they haven’t all read the book.

 RUE: Knowing my baby, she just may have already read the book. She may come out with a degree. But it won’t be long until I have Valeria. IMA: Ooo, (sucks in air through teeth) malaria’s not much fun at all! I really despise mosquitoes.

RUE: At least I am excited about the baby now. It was a happy little accident when we conceived. 
IMA: Did you use a rubber?

 RUE: OH, my husband’s entirely rubber. (she peaks under her gown.) In fact, I may be the only patient in the maternity ward whose husband ALSO has stretch marks. (The patient from Crouton, also great with child, enters the room. This could be a guy :-D)

 EL EL BEAN EL: Hello, ladies! I just wanted to come thank you, princess, for letting me use your private room. Everything was just blowing up at home!

 IMA: We expectant mothers have to stick together!

 RUE: I know what you mean! Sometimes I don’t know if I’m coming or going! I

MA: Me, too! Prequel or sequel? I can’t keep anything straight anymore. 

EL EL BEAN EL: I’m El El Bean-El. I’m very excited for you ladies.

 IMA: Ima Dollah.

 RUE: Rue Stichards.

BEAN EL: At least at this stage I still have some of the decision making! My husband’s such a control freak! IMA: OH, my Anny’s the worst control freak!
RUE: Mine treats me like an invisible woman.

BEAN EL: Well, congratulations to you and Annie. I think more gay couples should use in vitro! Too bad that I have to give mine up for adoption. I hope he finds a nice couple.
IMA, RUE: awww, that’s sad!

 BEAN EL: Well, when I say things are blowing up at home, I don’t mean the economy’s improving.

 IMA: Oh, no! Well, at least maybe my little twins won’t have to see anything so drastic. I would hate for little Leia to see her home planet blown up, right before her eyes!
 RUE: (pats her) I wouldn’t worry myself about such things, hun. I’m sure she’ll be a daddy’s girl!

 BEAN EL: I do have the sweetest little rocket picked out for Kal. It’s already in the NICU.

 IMA, RUE: Awww, how sweet!

BEAN EL: at least my husband’s working on our rocket, too. I told him he needed to have it ready last Tuesday but he just mumbled something about being busy at the Phantom Zone.

 IMA: Who’s the godfather?

BEAN EL: Oh, my husband’s already the Godfather.

 RUE: Must be a Crouton custom. Well, here! I have this towel made of unstable molecules. Maybe you can tuck it in and your baby can use it as a cape or something when he gets older.

 BEAN EL (takes the towel): I’ve got to get back to my bed. I feel him kicking…ohhh!!! (she leans backward and rushes out the door, stomach first)

 RUE: I’m sure her little one will grow up to be a real man of steel!

IMA: That’s what happened to my man. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. He’s a real metal head.

 RUE: Where IS he, may I ask?

 IMA: Probably somewhere getting baked with his teacher. Oh! I feel a contraction! (Doctor returns) DR: Looks like it’s that time! Let me escort you to the delivery room, Princess. Do you know a tiny green man, by the way? (begins helping her up) I told him I’d try to get him in before you give birth, and he said, “Do…or not do…there is no try!!!”

IMA: Yes, he had a hand in this, if it’s a little guy with pointy ears and wrinkles.

 DR: Funny you should say that, he had a hand in him, too! (they start to exit the stage left)

IMA: Nice fellow, but a bit of a puppet. (they leave, with Rue sitting alone)

RUE: (sighs) Well, Valeria, it’s just you and me, unless my brother brings me that chili dog I asked for half an hour ago. (the gloved hand from earlier begins to sneak back into the scene from off stage.)

RUE: I’m going to ask for a shot of Patosin if I don’t start contracting soon. Too bad your Uncle Ben isn’t here. Probably passing out big stinky cigars! At least he’ll be around to rock you. I was thinking, he’s always making contractions. But it looks like I’m stuck with a long-winded, four syllable speech kind of labor. You’re probably in there conducting experiments and don’t even notice it’s time to be born. You’ll be a daddy’s girl, for sure. But I’m sooooo bored! (the hand pats her on the shoulder comfortingly. Do not poke the actress in the face!)

 RUE: Aw, sweetheart! There you are!!! I love you. (over the intercom, we hear a voice)

VOICE: Calling Doctor Howard, Doctor Doom, Doctor Howard!

 RUE: You’ve got to be kidding me.