Friday, July 3, 2015

SUMMER REPEAT: CITIZEN OF THE ZONE

With the annual July Fourth Twilight Zone marathon coming up on the Syfy Channel, I thought this would be the ideal time to re-present an essay I originally posted here back in 2009:  "Citizen of the Zone."  Enjoy!


***

Our psyches are so tender, so innocently open, when we’re children that stories enchant us in primal ways they rarely can again.  As a kid, I was a story addict—devouring everything from comic books (didn’t matter if it was Richie Rich, Archie, Superman or Spider-Man.  I adored them all) to the legends of King Arthur (I was fixated on a knight named Sir Tristram, who, I decided, was so much cooler than that overrated bum, Sir Lancelot); John R. Tunis baseball novels (interesting, considering I was in no way a sports enthusiast) to history (I was obsessed with Remember the Alamo! by Robert Penn Warren.  What boy in the 60’s, raised on TV Westerns, could resist Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie fighting, and dying, side by side?).  And then there was the singular genius of Dr. Seuss:  I have a clear memory of clutching my parents hands as we walked to Brooklyn’s Avenue J Library; then sitting, transfixed, in the children’s section, discovering Theodor Geisel’s absurd, illuminating universe for the first time.

All of those wonderful books impacted and influenced me (and, in the case of comic books, launched me on my career path), but some of the stories that left the deepest echoes in my young soul were stories that, for the most part, I first encountered on television:

There was The Wizard of Oz, played once a year, every year.  (Can a child today, able to watch the film ad infinitum on DVD, possibly imagine the thrill of pulling a chair up close to the TV and waiting, with almost desperate anticipation, for that MGM lion to roar?)  A Christmas Carol, which, every Christmas Eve in New York, would be played at least three times (on The Late Show, The Late, Late Show, and The Late, Late, Late Show.  Two runs for the absolutely perfect 1951 version with Alistair Sim, with the 1938 Reginald Owen interpretation sandwiched in between.  My mother would eventually shuffle off to sleep, but my father and sister always stayed up with me to watch them all).  I adore Disney’s Peter Pan (the scene of Peter and the children flying over London is one of the most thrilling in screen history), but it was the Mary Martin version—which appeared on television with less frequency than Oz and so, in some ways, was even more of a special event—that first captured me.  Especially the ending:  The eternally-young Peter returns to London, not realizing that decades have passed, and is horrified to find Wendy ”ever so much more than twenty.”  I was horrified, too—and deeply moved, in ways my young mind couldn’t really fathom, by the strange, sad tricks of Time.

Then of course there was the King of the Modern Imagination—a man who remains one of my heroes—Walt Disney:  feeding me his dreams through the movie houses, certainly (the first movie I remember seeing was a re-release of Disney’s Cinderella, when I was two or three:  sitting on my mother’s lap, watching those birds and mice caper across a mind-bogglingly huge screen), but far more intimately through weekly doses of Walt Disney Presents—which later became The Wonderful World of Color (made no difference to me, since we had a black and white television).  The Disney story that impacted me more than any other was Pinocchio.  I’m pretty sure I saw the movie—the Citizen Kane of animated films—when I was a kid, but what I remember most was a record I owned (yes, a record.  Those large, disc-shaped objects that existed before CDs) which featured Jiminy Cricket himself narrating Pinoke’s story, with music and dialogue from the film.  I would listen to that recording again and again and again; lost, in terror and amazement, in the belly of the great whale, Monstro.

When I finally got around to actually reading those childhood classics, my respect for the tales deepened even more.  Okay, so I never actually finished Collodi’s Pinocchio—the Disney version is so perfect that it pretty much ruined me for any other interpretation—but Barrie, Dickens and Baum quickly became friends; Dickens and Baum two of the greatest friends I’ve ever had.  I could write essays about all of these extraordinary tales—and, with time and luck, I will—but there’s another television-borne story I’d like to focus on here; actually a series of stories that permeated the deeps of my child-mind in wonderful—and wonderfully chilling—ways:

The Twilight Zone. 

Unquestionably my favorite television show ever (the original Star Trek is a close second; but, sorry Captain Kirk, not close enough).  I don’t know how many times I’ve started writing a new story and then suddenly realized that, in some way, it was done before, and better, on The Twilight Zone.  Go to the movies, turn on your television, and you’ll see Rod Serling’s fingerprints everywhere.  (And let’s give credit to Serling’s brilliant collaborators, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont and George Clayton Johnson—as well as to the man who influenced all of them, the literary god who looms so large on my altar, Ray Bradbury.)

I have a clear and powerful memory of the first Zone episode I ever saw (I was five years old, staying up late at my Aunt’s house on a Friday night):  it was called “Time Enough At Last” and if you’re a TZ aficionado you probably know that it’s the episode featuring Burgess Meredith as a bespectacled bookworm who inadvertently survives a nuclear attack and becomes the last man on Earth (or at least in New York).  Meredith’s character, Mr. Henry Bemis, is miserable, lonely, despairing.  On the verge of suicide he stumbles through the ruins, looks up—and sees a library:  a massive, glorious library that wouldn’t look out of place in Emerald City.  In the next scene, Bemis has got books, miles of books, spread out across the library steps. He’s happier than he’s ever been.  “Time enough at last,” he says, ready to begin the feast.  And then his glasses slip from his sweaty face, fall—and shatter.  An absolutely heartbreaking ending (so much so that my daughter, who, thanks to her cultured father, has received an in-depth TZ education, refuses to watch it.  Oh, she knows what the ending is, she made me tell her.  But just hearing about it made her cry).

Despite the tragic ending, despite the haunting—and, at the time of broadcast, frighteningly relevant—images of post-nuclear devastation (the episode never addresses the fact that Bemis will undoubtedly die of radiation poisoning; or perhaps the broken glasses themselves are the metaphor), the image that mesmerized me was the library.  Equally significant was Mr. Bemis’s extraordinary solitude.  I’ve always been someone who enjoyed the universes inside his own head as much as—sometimes more than—the alleged Real World, so, even at that young age, the idea of one man absolutely alone with all the books he could ever want was tantalizing.  Magical.

In a strange way I grew up to become a kind of Mr. Bemis, spending decades alone in a room with stories as my only companions.  Okay, so I’m writing them, and Bemis was reading them; but, in both cases, it’s about immersing your consciousness in alternate worlds; in preferring those worlds to the bogus reality being fed to us daily by the maya-weavers at CNN.  And I have to wonder:  Did my impressionable young mind respond so powerfully to that episode because it was in my nature to?  Or did “Time Enough At Last” somehow dictate what that nature would be?  Who I would become as I grew older?

Even more significant, I think, is the world view that those collective TZ episodes created.  Serling, Matheson and the rest birthed a vision of a universe that moved and had purpose.  A universe that was alive:  conscious and interactive.  Looking back, the vision could be cynical on occasion, cruel and unfair (the fate of poor Mr. Bemis being a prime example)—but, at its best (“Walking Distance,” “A Stop At Willoughby,” “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “The After Hours” come immediately to mind), the Zone universe was one that responded to our deepest wishes and our soul’s needs.  It offered up opportunities for redemption (often to people society viewed as beyond saving) or, when necessary, a swift, cosmic kick in the pants.  Years of spiritual search have convinced me that Serling and his collaborators were right:  the universe is very much alive and interactive; is in fact a reflection of our own minds and hearts and truest, deepest Selves.  Every day of our lives is a journey through “a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.”

And again I wonder:  Did the Zone somehow prepare me for the spiritual search that gripped my soul at a young age, perhaps even inspire it in some way?  Or did I respond to those stories because, in my heart, I understood that The Twilight Zone reflected the truth of our lives far better than stories that claimed to be, excuse the expression, “realistic”?  I tend to think the latter is true:  When our souls are set aflame by an idea, a philosophy, a story, it’s because we’re responding to eternal truths that we already know and believe—even if they might seem (to our conscious minds) blazingly, brilliantly, new.  Our deepest wisdom, our deepest joy, is already there, like a long-buried memory, inside us, just waiting to be reawakened.  

At five years old, up past my bedtime, bathing in the television’s blue glow, Rod Serling’s universe wasn’t alien to me:  I recognized it.  I was home.  So you could say I was born a citizen of The Twilight Zone.  For that matter, I was born a citizen of Oz and Neverland, Dickens’s London and The Magic Kingdom.  All these stories continue to echo through my consciousness and influence my work, and my life, in strange, miraculous ways I still don’t completely understand.




©copyright 2015  J.M. DeMatteis

148 comments:

  1. The Twilight Zone even did the impossible, it improved on some adaptions. That is incredibly rare.

    Though, I'm not sure there was any proof that Mr. Bemis was in New York, was there?


    Also, if Marvel decided there next big event was to do some stories in the classic Atlas era style, what genre would you want?


    Jack

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    1. Serling made major revisions to many of the stories he adapted, using the germ of an idea and then making it his own.

      Re: the city. No proof at all, I always just assumed it was New York. Maybe the library reminded me of the 42nd St. Library.

      Re: Atlas. I have no idea.

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    2. I always thought an interesting "event" would be if Marvel they did some classic atlas style stories, but also did a story for each decade since, using each ones styles, beats, and tropes, but written as if each had been the dominant genre of the medium.

      If you want to give it more thought though, the big genres were:Giant monster, sitcom (Millie the Model for example), horror, sci-fi, jungle, horror, romance, western. war, sports, funny animal, espionage, drama, and crime.

      Its funny though, looking at it, the Marvel Revolution was less moving past these ideas as most people think, but rather smashing them all together.



      Jack

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    3. Absolutely a mash-up; with the monster stories casting an especially large shadow.

      I'd sign on for a Millie the Model monster story!

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  2. You know, we've seen your list of favorite TZ episodes, how about one for the least.


    Jack

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    1. Some of my least favorites:

      "The Bewitching' Pool"
      "Cavander is Coming"
      "Mr. Bevis"
      "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby"
      "Showdown with Rance McGrew"
      "The Parallel"
      "Uncle Simon"
      "Black Leather Jackets"

      But they're all Twilight Zones, so there's always something to recommend them...

      Delete
    2. I don't know, "The Bewitchin Pool's" is pretty unwatchable for me.


      Here's a question... with a preamble ( I do love babbling don't I?):

      I remember hearing from a comic guy on a comic documentary (Paul Levitz I think) talking about how since everyone lived in the same basic area there was a lot of seeing each others work and being influenced, which probably explains why movements in comics were somewhat more common in the heyday. Did that ever happen to you? Did any of your colleagues at the time open something up for you where you said, "wow. I can do that," or "I have to try that?"

      What about the reverse?


      Jack

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    3. For me it had nothing to do with being in the NY area; but we're all breathing in the same air, so if an Alan Moore comes along or a Frank Miller (or whoever) and I see them pushing off into new territories, then I'm re going to be inspired. (And it may not even be conscious.) Discovering Eisner, in the mid/late-eighties, was a revelation. Harvey Pekar's AMERICAN SPLENDOR inspired me. But that had nothing to do with the NY scene.

      What was fun for me about being in the NY area was just being able to go up to the office, see my editors, fellow freelancers, and just hang out as friends.

      "What about the reverse"? Were there stories/trends that made me so "Ugh, I want no part of that?" I'm sure—but I see no point in singling anyone out.

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    4. Actually by the reverse I meant what did YOU have an effect on?

      I'm not THAT big of a jackass.


      Jack

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    5. Me misunderstanding you doesn't make you a jackass, Jack. As for my effect/influence on others: I have no idea! Someone else would have to answer that question.

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    6. Fair enough. But, I think me trying to coaxing someone into badmouthing someone's work, I think might make me a bit of a jackass. Which is why I felt a need to clear it up.


      Jack

      P.S. The rule of comics: on every page if not panel you need to advance the plot, deepen the the character, or at least be something really cool. If you can name the comic pro, you win the grand prize. 3 guesses.

      Delete
    7. Nope, two more guesses. Hint, you have spoken highly of them.

      Also, I think this post may have predated 2009... on Amazon, but I don't remember.

      Jack

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    8. You're right...it was originally an Amazon post, but I don't remember when.

      Will Eisner?
      Steve Gerber?
      Charles Dickens?

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    9. I said TWO more guesses. And why would Charles Dickens be talking about comics? (I know it was I joke, so was mine)

      It was Ann Nocenti. I listened to an interview from back about the time the Daredevil show came out last night, after not being able to yesterday. And wow! does that not just sum up the mediukm perfectly?



      Jack

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    10. Sounds like something Ann might have learned training under Jim Shooter. Not that she couldn't have come up with that wisdom on her own!

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    11. What am I her biographer? I may not know where she learned it, but she said it here:

      http://marvel.com/files/podcasts/mcom_WomenOfMarvel_31_AnnNocenti.mp3

      I don't usually go in for such things (podcasts, especially industry insider ones) but I saw the the name, wanted to hear it, and remembered months later when I fixed the problem.


      Either way, good advice. I did paraphrase a bit.

      Jim shooter seems fascinating. He is another one of those guys in comics who could possibly fuel a whole documentary. He did good things, and bad things, good things that turned bad, and bad things that became good. He could even be considered the Godfather of Image Comics from what I've heard. But his passion for comics is undeniable.


      Jack

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    12. Jim IS a fascinating guy and a documentary about him would be a fascinating film.

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    13. Also, very tall, I hear.


      Jack

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    14. I also remember hearing that he had one of the best records for getting books out on time.


      Jack

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    15. Jim always had inventory stories in the drawer, in case something prevented the regular book from getting out on time. My first couple of jobs for Marvel were inventories for IRON MAN and DOCTOR STRANGE.
      The IM never saw print (and I reworked it as a Cap story), but the Doc story did.

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    16. Both marvel comics I bought this week were supposed to come out over a month ago, it is kind of weird ... and they're planning a giant relaunch. Yeah, Jim Shooter knew what he was doing.

      I'm pretty sure I've read that Doc story (in fact I know I did), However as someone who has all your Cap stories, I can only ask, which one was the Iron man planned story?


      Jack

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    17. It was an early incarnation of the Everyman story.

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    18. If I might take a moment to defend "Black Leather Jackets," the Twilight Zone episode and not the apparel, I think the problem is that it is a Zone episode. I think it could have been an amazing B-movie of the era.

      Jack

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    19. Might have made an enjoyably goofy B movie (or maybe Z movie) of the "Chiller Theater" variety. But as a TZ? No, no, no.

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    20. I don't know, if you expanded on it in the right way, they could have had a good Silver Surfer first lands on Earth and meets Alicia Masters you story. I think there is far more potential there than you give it credit for, Hell, you could have more allegory by drawing parallels between the culture of the era enforced by the parents and the alien civilization.


      Jack

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    21. Maybe at least a good Outer Limits.


      Jack

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    22. Reminds me a little of the Surfer story I did for FLASHBACK month...

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    23. It always comes back to FLASHBACK month. I'd have to reread the story, I remember broad strokes of the story. I really should reread... the whole of silver surfer. If only I had the time.


      Jack

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    24. You should take another look just for the great Ron Garney art. My Surfer run was frustrating for many (mostly behind the scenes) reasons, but I was very lucky to have guys like Garney, Tom Grummett and Jon J Muth illustrating those stories.

      Delete
  3. I spent my Fourth of July on Netflix watching some Justice League Unlimited. There was this one guy who wrote some pretty amazing episodes of that show. :)

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    1. LOVED writing for JLU: so much fun—and getting to collaborate with guys like Stan Berkowitz and Dwayne McDuffie was a genuine pleasure!

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    2. I liked that it embraced the history of the DC Universe. I also liked that Jeffrey Combs voiced The Question. Some of the casting choices were genius. Case in point; Hawk and Dove were Fred Savage and Jason Hervey who played brothers in The Wonder Years. Trivia fiends like me go nuts for stuff like that.

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    3. Yes, the voice casting was fantastic. One of my episodes featured Ed Asner as Granny Goodness, Michael Dorn as Kalibak and Artie Johnson as Vermin Vundabarr. MARY TYLER MOORE meets STAR TREK meets LAUGH IN. What a pop culture collision!

      Delete
  4. Oh, man! Simply one of the best TV shows ever made, as far as I'm concerned. It was something we could enjoy as kids for smart, scary stories; as we got a little older, we could see the allegorical aspects & the late 1950s existential questions being raised; and watching now, I can see how much of the then/future/current present they got right. Not in the specifics so much as in the overall zeitgeist -- "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You" for instance. The emphasis on identity & the loss of it really stands out now, as well as the soul-crushing aspect of the consumer society & its demands for conformity.

    And what really makes it great is that it was always entertaining & thought-provoking. If you simply wanted a good, strong story & nothing more, you got it. But the deeper stuff was there for anyone who wanted to dig it (so to speak). It's the same quality that shows like the original "Star Trek" & "The Prisoner" (for example) had -- or lesser-known shows like "Coronet Blue" (which really needs a DVD release).

    "A Stop at Willoughby" & "Walking Distance" remain two of my favorite episodes, in that they spoke & still speak so powerfully & viscerally to me. Serling was especially good when telling stories about mid-level Americans struggling to survive in the meat-grinder of a success-driven world -- with a rigid, narrow definition of "success" as the pot of false gold at the end of the ever-receding rainbow..

    Interesting footnote: if you look up & watch the "Father Knows Best" episode "Bus to Nowhere" online, you'll see that those existential ideas permeated damn near everything back then, perfectly suiting Betty Anderson's overly dramatic character (i.e., typical of an intelligent teenager). And while the ending may be somewhat reassuringly hokey by contemporary standards, there's a core of truth to it that you might well agree with.

    ReplyDelete
  5. CORNET BLUE? I thought I was the only person who remembered that show, Tim!
    Truth is, all I remember is the guy washed up on the shore muttering "Coronet Blue...Coronet Blue..." Frank Converse, right? (Now I have to poke around the internet and see if I can find any episodes!)

    "Bus to Nowhere" sounds more like a TZ episode than a FATHER KNOWS BEST.
    I'll have to check that out. And let's not forget that Elinor Donahue made a memorable appearance on STAR TREK. (It's all connected!)

    There's a lot to be said for shows that could engage an eight year old and a forty year old in the way that TZ did. There aren't many, or any!, around today that can do that. Shows geared for adults that can engage the young imagination at the same time. We've got children's entertainment that engages adults—thank you, Pixar—but not the other way around.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wally wood was probably the greatest sci-fi comic artist ever.

    No point, other than I thought it should be said.

    JAck

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    1. Favorite Eisner works not "A Contract with God," Dematteis.

      And since it should probably loop into what I'm replying to, thoughts on Wally wood, or sci-fi comic art in general.

      Or not what ever, your site, your rules.


      Jack

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    2. Can't choose only one, so I'll pick three: TO THE HEART OF THE STORM, DROPSIE AVENUE and THE BUILDING. (I'm also very fond of THE DREAMER.)

      I have great respect for Wally Wood, but I'm no aficionado. I may like his work for MAD best of all. (Is that heresy?)

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    3. I'm afraid you'll have to clarify as to what your asking if is heresy.

      Your Wally Wood response reminds me of something I once heard a voice actor say when asked about his favorite Marvel comics. He said that he really loved Not Brand Echh, since it was were the big name artists really cut loose.

      Though maybe not the best example of Sci-fi art, it is gorgeous.:

      https://p.dreamwidth.org/19b873916f32/172314-1010292/img.photobucket.com/albums/v420/Doop/weirdscience/wc.png


      Jack

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    4. Does it get any better than Superduperman?


      http://whatwoodwallydo.blogspot.com/2009/02/superduperman.html

      That art you linked to is absolutely gorgeous.

      I'm not saying I don't think Wood was brilliant, or that I don't appreciate his amazing work, just that he's never been in my pantheon of Comic Book Art Gods.

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    5. Super...-D-duperman?

      Don't forget about his work at Marvel.

      Oddly, I have never read any of his MAD stories, or much MAD at all. The mere fact that he could jump around with his styles so much is a testament.to his talent.

      His work at the rest of EC, other rest of EC as whole for that matter, are worth a look if you aren't familiar.

      The reason why Wood works so great for science fiction, is that his realistic work helps sell the fantastic.

      Such a sad way for such a huge talent to end


      Jack

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    6. Jack,

      Beautiful!

      JMD,

      That's funny stuff!

      I really enjoyed MAD and CRACKED as a kid, mostly for their take on summer movies. I remember their take on Superman II:

      Bystander #1: This movie finally gives fans what they've really wanted!
      Bystander #2: You mean Clark and Lois finally getting together?
      Bystander #1: No, people throwing buses at each other!

      --David

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    7. Sad indeed.

      The early MAD issues, when it was still a comic book, were incredible. I discovered them in reprints when I was a kid and they (to use a 60's expression) blew my mind. Very different from what MAD became.

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    8. What people today might not realize, David, is that SUPERMAN II was the first time we saw a real, honest-to-goodness superhero/supervillain battle like that. It had never been done before. Those flying buses were important!

      Delete
    9. I will never, ever deny the importance of those flying buses.

      SUPERMAN II was the first superhero movie I recall seeing in the theatre, and it blew my mind.

      I'm looking at it through nostalgic lenses, naturally, but there's something special about the days when SFX were rapidly improving, but not so much that you could ignore character work.

      You look at a movie like WRATH OF KHAN, for instance, where the hero and villain never met face to face. And I never even took notice of that until years later, because the acting and their interactions were so strong.

      Love modern SFX, but like fire, they make great servants but poor masters!

      --David

      I'm not knocking the SFX themselves,

      Delete
    10. Well, to bring it all back to the subject of this post, David: One of the reasons I think TWLIGHT ZONE was so great was because they didn't have much in the way of special effects. They had to depend on strong writing, acting and IMAGINATION to sell those stories. The mind is a better special effects creator than any computer software!

      Delete
    11. I think special effects have become a crutch. The rise of them have lead to a decrease of thrillers. Captain America II is a perfect example of what could have been a great thriller and was instead an action movie. The fact is CGI is easier to write into a script than other more complex things. Suspense (among others ) is harder to write than action.

      Barriers are good. To many writers want a world with no barriers. Really they should want one with the right barriers. Barriers can grow your imagination and skill. This sort of relates to my view that comi companies moving away from assigned work i creating a very different landscape than comics once were... people don't have to go outside their comfort zone as much anymore.


      Also we all know you hated Wally Wood Dematteis, but it was because of the alliterative name. Now go seek out those EC reprints. You won't be sorry.

      Jack

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    12. "Barriers are good." Yes, they certainly can be. Another example is Orson Welles who used the constant financial limitations of movies like OTHELLO and CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT and created works of genius. There's a classic story of him waiting for costumes to arrive for a scene in OTHELLO. They never did. So he shot the scene in a Turkish bath—no clothes!—and it was even better than he planned.

      Delete
    13. Maybe the best example of lack of money leading to greatness is Film Noir. A famed, beloved and oft-studied style, and all of it was done on B-movies. It moved forward that its influence can be seen in almost all genres at the time, including a Christmas movie a can't deal with called... It's a Wonderful Life.

      Or for that matter there is a long list of comics created by assignment, and not choice. Steve Gerber's man-Thing is a great example.

      In the end maybe being treated like a wonder kind that can do know wrong may be the worst handicap a writer can have.


      Jack

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    14. Re: Gerber. That's always the challenge: You're a freelancer, you need to survive, sometimes you take a gig just because it's a gig. So then the question becomes: How do I make this challenging? How do I make it my own? And Gerber could ALWAYS make it his own.

      Delete
    15. It seems like the days of assignments are if not gone, quickly disappearing. UI don't know if in the end of all things it will be good or bad, but it is a loss. It led to more interesting stories, and more well-rounded writers.

      Master of Kung Fu is another good example of trying to make something work.


      Everyone now: Sunriiiise sunset, sun rise, sunset, quickly go the years...what am I the only one who has seen Fiddler on the Roof?

      Jack

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    16. I loved MOKF.

      My daughter was in her high school production of FIDDLER, so I know it well!

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    17. M<y brother was in a production of fiddler on the roof when he was in high school. One of the minority of students with Jewish blood (if not the only one in the show) was cast as one of the Russian soldiers who oppressed the Jews in the play. there is a joke in there somewhere.


      Jack

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    18. He was in it when I was in, maybe the 4th grade, and I still think a better name would be little Jewish town of troubles. I wonder if it is just youth sticking to me, or if it is actually a better name.




      Jack

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  7. Personally, I would love a JM Dematteis story of the Atlas era.


    jack

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    1. Maybe an Atlas monster story about 50's rock and roll. Giant creature meets Little Richard. We could call it "A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-Fing-Fang-Foom!"

      Delete
    2. wait, would the giant monster be like Little Richard or would it actually meet Little Richard face to face?


      Jack

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    3. It would meet Little Richard face to face and he'd conquer it by throwing a rock and roll party. The story would end to the monster and all the kids in the neighborhood dancing to "Tutti Frutti."

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    4. End WITH the monster, not TO the monster!

      Sigh...

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    5. "A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-Fin-Fang-Foom"?

      GENIUS!

      --David

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    6. So FINALLY I produce a work of genius...and it's a one-line joke? : )

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    7. It's your Batman/Guy Gardner moment! :)

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    8. We find our successes where we can.

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    9. And even where we can't...I've heard it said, after all, that the impossible is just an invitation.

      And you'd never hear me say that you'd FINALLY produced a work of genius...I think you started pretty early on in your career and there's no signs of slowing down.

      --David

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    10. Genius would be Moonshadow. That being said, if I don't see the monster story in print in the near future I might be sad.

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    11. Don't be sad, Douglas...but don't expect that story, either! : )

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    12. That's okay, I've got it working in my head and it's playing pretty well. I'll just let it roll around in there for my amusement.

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    13. And thanks for the kind words about MOON!

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  8. Jim Starlin may be the truest son of the Marvel Age. There have been many great creators influenced by it, but one other so perfectly born of it.

    Starlin had Kirby's love of weird and knack for big ideas, Ditko's cynicism, Romita's beautifully real looking characters, and Stan Lee's ease/desire to combine/jump genres and uncanny ability to write characters in a realistic and believable,

    Starlin is even the one who reconciled both Lee and Kirby's visions of the Silver Surfer.


    Jack

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    1. Don't mince words, Jack, what do you REALLY think of Jim Starlin? : )

      You know I share your appreciation of Starlin's work. WARLOCK and CAPTAIN MARVEL were groundbreaking and influential. The kinds of comic books I'd share with friends who didn't read comics.

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    2. I DO love Jim Starlin. I first start reading his cosmic stuff at 18, and it was the perfect time to blow my mind and speak to me.

      However that was not my point. It is more that he is the true heir to the Marvel Age. Look at other great baby-boomer writers that made their name in the 70s:

      Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas, and Gerry Conway were too much Stan Lee's boys.

      Steve Gerber was a guy with a long list of references, including 60s Marvel, but also plenty of others.

      Simonson was straight up Kirby's disciple

      Len Wein and Marv Wolfman were a nice mix of Marvel AND DC, even if Marvel was much closer to the top.

      That's what I like about this site though, you just love getting down to nerdiness from time to time. You nevr forget to be a fan.

      though Starlin is life one of like 5 guys in comics who are their own genre almost. Also, he's from Detroit.


      Jack

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    3. In some ways, Starlin is what would have happened if Steve Ditko wrote and drew the New Gods. If Ditko had come of age in the 60's. But I get what you're saying about him being sui generis.

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    4. The cosmic movement that Starlin became the name behind was also the last movement in comics that was based around the idea of what can comics do that other media can't.


      Even Marvel movies with all their special effects are afraid to touch Starlin and his contemporaries ideas.

      And o think that era is so overlooked for its importance.


      Jack

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    5. Frank Miller likes to talk big about how he had a metaphorical rape-murder in comics with the way he had Bullseye kill Elektra. He likes to say that it left no doubt in anyone's mind that that is exactly what he did.

      Jim Starlin wrote stories that left little doubt in anyone's mind that he was taking his own suicidal impulses and turning them into cosmic epics.

      Alan Moore wrote that Rorschach's rough childhood in Watchmen was why he was nutty, or at least a factor. A decade earlier Steve Gerber wrote a Man-Thing about how a clown's rough childhood and continued life of problems led him to suicide with a cosmic debate about how the act and prelude should leave him labeled for eternity.

      The 70s writers rarely get the same level of respect as the 80s/90s deconstructionists, who were usually more blunt and therefore arguably less respectful, of there predecessors.

      The question is why are they punished for being more subtle and artful in their presentation? Why is that effort, talent, and brains rewarded with a footnote and not a chapter, or even whole volume in the annals of comic history and its importance?

      Are the greats of the 70s a Lost Generation for comics?

      Jack

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    6. I was thinking about the great comics of the 70's the other day, Jack. As I think you know, I consider that era a real high point in modern comics. Maybe a blog post on the subject...? You've got me thinking.

      And, yes, someone could write an entire book about that time.

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    7. I think the next TWO Avengers movies are supposed to be fairly Starlin-centric. Time will tell...

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    8. I'm sure you'll get around to that pro-70s post right after the one about violence.

      I'm sot sure how Starlin-centric it will be. Just because it will have Thanos and the Infinity gems does not mean it will be Stalin like. Can you see Thanos Fawning over Mistress Death? Or Soul World? Stealing souls? Wiping out half of all life in the universe? probably not.

      Whats more, given how Marvel has treated Thanos recently, making him simply an attempted conqueror, I feel that what makes Thanos... Thanos, may not be there. Just look what they did with another complex comic villain brought to the screen... Dr. Doom.

      I think Starlin sees that too. He said that he would never work for Marvel again, and now he is, and I think I know why. He is doing what Gerber did with Howard the Duck in the 90s.

      IN the 90s, feeling slighted by Marvel wanting him to write a Howard the Duck story in Spider-Man team-up and not offering him the proposed new series, he took his ball and went home. IN the story (which was an unofficial crossover with Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck), Howard was taken out of the Marvel Universe, and it was stated that any Howard the Duck comics not written by Gerber is a soulless clone.

      I think this is what Starlin is doing, Adam Warlock has already been taken off the board in Starlin cosmic fashion, I think Thanos will be too. The same Warlock can never be back now... I think when all is said and done so will Thanos.


      Jack

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    9. The thing about the 70s is that it is an era with great characters and titles which will never be utilized to the same degree or popularity. Yes, that is true with works in every decade, but in comics the 70s seem especially entangled in this problem.



      Did my other post go through? If you are still out of reach of online,just waiting or whatever, I am more than okay with that. I just really wnat my point about Starlin and the Avengers films to get through, and my computer is... well... kind of crappy at times.


      Jack

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    10. One interesting thing to note about comics and the 70s is that by the '82, Starlin was mostly out of mainstream Marvel, preferring Epic, Gerber had become mostly separated from comics as a whole, Englehart had left the country, and Marv Wolfman and Doug Moench had jumped ship to DC.


      In this time Chris Claremont rose to prominence. Before that Claremont was pretty much second rate. That is the whole reason he got the X-men, right? Second rate book with a fill-in writer.

      While I think his Man-Thing run was flawed to say the least, and he sort of screwed over Tomb of Dracula fans with his treatment of Rachel Van Helsing, he did get the importance character, and his praise for the character work in X-Men is well deserved.

      It says something for an era when it takes a total evacuation of writers for a major talent to be noticed.


      Jack

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    11. I can't tell you how cool it was that Starlin is from Detroit. It may seem like an odd thing to ignite someone, but it was amazing when I found that out. I'm not sure a guy who grew up in the same city as the two major comic companies can get how gratifying that is, but it felt almost legitimizing to an 18 year-old who loved comics. I some times wonder if you guys from the NYC area take that for granted.


      Also, I would love to see a cosmic story co-written by Englehart and Starlin. Two talented authors with a history of cosmic storytelling, one focused on the life-affirming side, the other obsessed with suicide, death, and well... death. A yin-yang of cosmic adventure.


      Jack

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    12. Just got back, Jack, and trying to catch up!

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    13. The "new" X-MEN was launched by Wein and Cockrum and was considered a MAJOR event at the time. I don't think Len would have given it to Chris if he considered him "second rate."

      And the "new" X-MEN launched in the 70's, when most of those guys you mention were still working away at Marvel.

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    14. Re: Starlin being from Detroit and growing up in NYC. I took nothing for granted. Marvel and DC might as well have been on top of Mount Olympus for all this working class kid from Brooklyn knew. The idea that I could ever work for them was The Impossible Dream. (Which is one of the ways I learned that "the impossible isn't a..." Well, you know how the saying goes.)

      A Starlin-Englehart team-up>? I'd buy that!

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    15. The term second rate was less about his talent as it was about his place in the public consciousness of comic readers. He was far less known. Even after he got the X-men in...what '76?... he didn't really start to grab attention until a bit later.

      I even praised Claremont. The fact is that his work needs room to breathe. Claremont wrote a family saga, if you catch my drift, it needed time to rev up and become dense.

      I meant no disrespect to Chris, I think a big issue with him was that he was simply the first writer of the 80s, he just needed people to buy what he was selling. As I said though, it says something for an era when someone with that much talent can be overlooked, and it isn't called a lost era

      Of course, he did unceremoniously kill off Rachael Van Velsing, so he can never truly.... I don't know something.

      You mean ANOTHER Stalin-Englehart teaming... they did co-create Shang-Chi. Despite all the love I have for the era, I think it tied Englehart's hand behind his back with the Celestial Madonna story.

      Not taking close approximation to Marvel and DC offices for granted? ... fair enough.

      I hope your brain isn't too fried from the trip. Don't let your work work suffer, take it easy when you can... but, I believe you have more point to comment on CHIP-CHOP Dematteis, no glazing over... as soon as you are up to it.

      Have fun,
      Jack

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    16. Yeah, still brain-fried. Got stuck on the New Jersey Turnpike for three hours on the way home. But a great journey off the grid and wonderful recharging.

      "CHIP CHOP"?

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    17. yes, Chip chop, it is a way to... shall we say, encourage expedient behavior. I find it a little hard to believe that you've never heard it before.

      And to be fair that is your own fault for being on the grid. If you weren't on it, you wouldn't need to escape, that's why you need to be a weirdo on the fringe of it like me, using it for only the most basic purposes.

      Now, I expect your full responses by close of business Friday. Creation Points are for closers, Dematteis. I'd hate to have to let you go, but such things happen.


      Jack

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    18. Three hours stuck in traffic would be the worst. I have my off the grid thing twice a year. I go to an exploitation drive in convention called Cinema Wasteland and use zero technology while I'm there, well except for DVD players and 16mm projectors to watch old movies. Best two weeks of the year.

      Delete
    19. "CHOP chop" I know. "CHIP chop"? That's new to me. But they both mean the same thing, so I guess one evolved from the other.

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    20. Sounds like great fun, Douglas.

      My off the grid experience takes me to a 500 acre retreat where I can turn off the world and reconnect with the Deeper Reality. My body's home but my heart is still there...

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    21. Glad I could broaden your horizon. But, tick tock, for closers Deamtteis... for closers.

      The key is to take enough time from the grid in the day to dayto not have a separation seem like a revelation. All those 50s sci-fi tales were really prophetic, weren't they?

      Tick Tock.


      Jack

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    22. I'm very good at stepping back in the day to day, Jack, but there's always some form of a grid in busy lives—it didn't start with the internet and cell phones and all our current nonsense—and there's always value in turning off the world completely and retreating to a zone where the illusion that we call the world thins and the INTERNAL internet that connects us to God provides a deeper connection.

      At least that's the way it's always worked for me.

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    23. I think when an author has very specific and personal goals in mind, you always worry that those adapting their stories will confuse the deeper meaning with the superficial trappings.

      Of course, opinions vary as to what's essential.

      There are those who would argue youth is indispensable to Spider-Man's narrative--and others who believe 'power and responsibility' lends itself very naturally to Peter Parker's adult years.

      And there are those who feel like the recent TREK reboot accomplished everything it needed to by recapturing the original's sense of adventure, while others believe the optimism and wonder were sorely lacking.

      These aren't questions that are easily answered...unless, of course, you just ask me. :)

      --David

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    24. You, sir, are wise. :)

      BTW, lest I forget, WELCOME BACK! Your presence here was sorely missed, but I'm very glad you had a chance to re-connect with God. And I'm confident that diving into the deeper realities will lead to some more great stories in the coming year!

      Thanks as always for taking some time out of your busy day to spend with your fans.

      Best,

      David

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    25. Thank you, David. That's incredibly kind of you.

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    26. I'm not entirely sure what we're talking about visa vie adaptions, but since I think I may have started the conversation, and m,ore important, I'm a big fat loudmouth, I'll jump in.

      The fact is if Thanos is a universe conqueror, that isn't a misstep, or a loss of superficial trappings, it is a blatant changing of the character. He is a nihilist courting death, not a wannabe-king.

      The fact is as a comic fan, I am sick of the constant concession making. Okay, the X-men don't wear skin-tight outfits, fine by me. Superman spends three movies with no jokes and then is rebooted ro where he makes jokes, but looses the nerd angle... aggravating... but, fine. Iron Man doesn't have a secret identity, fine. Prof. X English for some reason, dumb, but whatever.

      Daredevil doesn't torture though. That is absolutely part of who he is, its like to his core.The Kents Don't tell Clark not to use his powers to save people, and Batman isn't a fascist.

      You draw your own lines of what is too much, me, I haven't had too much (okay, Daredevil torturing was too much), I just don't care, about superhero movies. They are never as good as the source material in my opinion. I care only so much in that if affects comics, which is WAAAAY more than I would like.

      As I said, the Movie biz is based on theft, even if it is, hopefully, unintentional. Which I think won' end up being anything good for comics. At best it will be neutral.


      JAck


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    27. For the record: I LOVED Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Jack. Thought it was perfect casting.

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    28. I don't think he did a bad job, I just can't help but wonder about the British thing. He has an accent that you don't necessarily peg as English. Maybe he spent some of his youth in America. I don't know why they then cast an English actor Again with a thicker accent as Xavier. Even if you can place it, he is a good enough actor to do an American accent.

      To be fair, that mostly bugs me because by the time the new class was cast there started to be a bizarre number of British actors as American icons. How about an American Doctor Who, complete with thich Chicago accent?

      Now admit I'm right about Thanos. It wil make you feel better.

      There was something else... Oh, yeah.. Tick Tock Dematteis.


      Jack

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    29. Jack,

      I can think of one instance where the movie was not only as good as the source material but exceeded it: IRON MAN. I never found Tony Stark terribly interesting until Robert Downey Jr. brought him to life on the big screen.

      And while I wouldn't say Raimi's SPIDER-MAN 2 exceeded its source material, I felt it captured Peter Parker's heart and soul about as perfectly as any film possibly could.

      Believe me, there are big screen interpretations that I've found massively disappointing, I just don't think it's all good or bad.

      --David

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    30. I'm waiting for a FEMALE Doctor Who myself!

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    31. IRON MAN 1 was the first time I actually thought the movie version was better than the comic book version. And SPIDER-MAN 2 is one of my favorite superhero movies.

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    32. Female over American? A Brit played Superman, and not in an Elseworlds type tale where he lands there. Spider-man was a English. That is just wrong.

      As for Iron Man, I emphatically disagree. The origin is essentially a on-to-one, but the comics Obidiah Stane story was far more interesting. Stane is an outside influence who goes after Stark, eventually causing him to fall so far back into his alcoholism that he has to give up the suit for a few years. I think that is a far more interesting story than "this guy I work with and thought was my friend, is actually a bad guy."

      While I do prefer the more understated Tony Stark from comics who was inspired by Howard Hughes, yes Downey was great in it, beyond great...amazong. I can honestly say it was one of the few times that I have ever had any real respect for acting.

      That having been said, If you remove him the movies are a big step down.


      By close of business today, Dematteis.


      Jack

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    33. Jack,

      I see what you're saying about Obadiah Stane. I believe the first Iron Man comic I ever bought was #197 or so, leading up to the big battle in #200 where Stark returned and Stane blew his brains out. So I'd agree with you that in the comics Stane was a more interesting character. But the movie felt so fresh it wasn't even an issue for me.

      And to be honest, I think all eyes were on Tony Stark (and rightly so).

      I do think RDJ is the biggest factor in the film's success, but you also have to give credit to Jon Favreau. The film always feels very--I don't know if this is the right word--human?

      Given that the only other Marvel Studios film to feel that fresh is ANT-MAN, I think there's something to hiring comedic directors to do these films.

      On another note, I think Stark's gotten a bit less interesting in the films as he's edged closer to his standard comic book interpretation, by which I mean setting up CIVIL WAR in AGE OF ULTRON. But only time will tell if I still feel that way after the next CAPTAIN AMERICA film.

      And I get what you're saying about the MCU being homogenous. That's the strength and weakness of a shared universe. Time will tell if MARVEL STUDIOS can keep their solo film slate feeling like more than placeholders for the next big event...but I'm optimistic.

      --David


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    34. Favreau did a good job, I liked the film, but RDJ is the only thing that kept it together. It is really character driven, and yes that is a good thing. And I'm not alking just about the characters, the whole plot was more interesting in the original Stane saga. It was wasted on a first movie.

      Though I liked it, the idea of the guy in perpetual adolescence, like Tony Stark, as been done so much before that I saw very little reason to be over joyed. Since it IS a character based film, I have to say that the comic characterization was far more engrossing to me. By Stan Lee's own admission Stark was supposed to be unlikable to some degree. I think not liking a guy because he reminds you of that boss or politician that does good things... but is such a jackass in life that you have mixed feelings about them is much more interesting than because he is a smug frat-boy who can do whatever hey want because they have brains and money.

      Not to mention Stark had a certain world weariness to him even from the beginning. He was removed from things, but not quite as removed. HE knew how things worked in the real world. Even Pepper Potts was a better plot point in the comics, it was the ultimate tragedy, this man who can have any woman he wants, moves the world at a whim, looses the woman he loves to the man he trusts most. His very caring for her drove them apart, because he couldn't come to terms.

      This may sound strange, buit those early Iron Man issues had almost a Le Carre feel... though admittedly not anywhere near as much as Master of Kung Fu

      I am not a huge fan of Iron man either, he would not crack my top 5 or probably even top 1o on his best days, but I have had moments where I became very interested in him... and the 60s stuff IS Lee. I can't help but wonder, you both said that you weren't big Iron man fans. Is it possible that without the jolts of interest I had, that may have colored your views.

      Also, I don't think it is so much Tony becoming more like his comic persona, as it is his post-Civil War comic persona.

      I'm sorry though, you'll have to explain to me why you think it is better than the comics, because I legitimately don't see it, and as I said I did enjoy the film.


      Finally, Jon Stewart said he hopes to direct now that the Daily Show tenure has ended. Does the JLI film/tv show finally have its first foothold?

      Jack

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    35. If Jon Stewart wants to direct a JLI movie, it's okay with me!

      Re: IRON MAN. Although I often enjoyed the comic book (especially the David Michiline run), it was never a character that touched me in any deep way. I was never engrossed, never grabbed by Tony Stark. In the movie, I connected to the character in a way I never had before. The film wasn't perfect, but it entertained the hell out of me and Downey's Tony Stark became an instant classic. I enjoyed the subsequent Iron Man movies half as much, although they've been fun.

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    36. Uh...what I meant to say was I DIDN'T enjoy the subsequent Iron Man movies half as much. I'm having a typo kind of day....

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    37. I would say that Spider-Man 2 is one of my favorite Marvel movies. Doc Ock is perfection on the screen.

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    38. Totally agree, Douglas. Wonderful movie that captures the essence of the characters and distills them perfectly for the big screen.

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    39. And, since we never got a body, Doc Ock could come back and if it was Alfred Molina that would be epic!

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    40. He really was terrific, wasn't he?

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    41. Yeah, now I'm going home to watch that after work.

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    42. Does it matter if Jon Stewart wants to direct? I'm in favor of it, your in favor of it, I'm in favor of it. And I do remember him saying he is (or perhaps was) a comic fan. It seems logical.

      It seems like your view is that Iron Man worked better for you, not that it is necessarily better. I do believe there is a difference, and that distinction should be made. Scrooged works better for me, but I acknowledge that there are technically better adaptions of A Christmas Carol.

      As for Spider-Man 2, I liked it, but I have heard complaints that Doc Ock is too "comic-booky," and I get it, I don't agree but I get it. It is hard to translate that to the page. I will say neither movie got it quite right for me. The first 3 got Peter right, but Spidey lacked the fun-loving nature and the Amazing Spider-man lacked the human loss of luck. The duality of the character was lost in both.


      Jack

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    43. Jack,

      Though I'd never have classified myself as an Iron Man fan, I had occassional jolts of interest. I came in around the end of the Stane arc and enjoyed that, but quickly moved on. Then I read some of Armor Wars because of Tony's cameo in Gruenwald's Cap series. But I never read the book consistently.

      You're probably right about it being more Tony moving into a post-Civil War personality pattern. That's sort of a mixed bag in my opinion. It depended on who was writing the stories whether Tony came off as a man with a legitimate point of view or a mustache twirling villain.

      JMD, Douglas,

      Molina was great as Ock. I've always found it odd that the older comic book movies went out of their way to build a great villain and then kill them! I suspect it had something to do with the uncertainty regarding sequels, as comic book movies weren't a sure thing at the time.

      On a different note, can I say that I really enjoyed JL3K01? I love Supergirl being thrown into the mix...and the bits with the villain hiding in plain sight are HILARIOUS. (Didn't know if that was still a spoiler or not...)

      Best,

      David

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    44. You can never separate the movies from the source material (without the latter you could never have the former), but the bottom line for me was that the IRON MAN movie took what to me was a secondary, and not all that interesting, Marvel character and made me appreciate, and enjoy, him in a way I never had before. That's quite an achievement.

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    45. The "killing off the villain" thing IS odd, David, especially since we're dealing with villains that have been around for years and years, functioning as integral parts of the mythos. Maybe (as you suggest) it has to do with movies being self-contained and they want to make sure there's a complete story in case a sequel isn't possible.

      And, yes, you can absolutely say that you love JL3K1! We're having so much fun with the book—Keith's plots have been getting wilder every month—and I hope we have a long, healthy run. Thanks!

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    46. I think that the death of super-villains was a way to give the story weight and make it seem more adult. A common complainant from non-comic readers about comics is that they should just kill off the villains. Killing has weight to it, there is no secret to it. Any thinking-feeling person knows this and doesn't want to be faced with it. This automatically builds it up in our minds as taking a life as a serious thing... which it very much is... so in fiction it makes it seem very adult.

      Leaving a villain alive seems both comic-booky and juvenile, something they don't want. Ironically this takes out the very adult adult debate about if a person (what's more a vigilante) should take a life, which is at the heart the superhero nature. I call it the "Dark Knight principle"... When people try to make something seem more grown-up, but actually rob it of it's adult weight, like the films Dark Knight or X-Men 2.


      Bring back Martian Manhunter in JL3001 as either a diabetic or someone allergic to chocolate so he is deprived of his addiction to some degree. HE and Mr. Miracle are the only ones of the old JLI crew to not show up. Although... Beetle and Booster have been missing for a while.


      Jack

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    47. Beetle and Booster are back in JL 3001 #3. Along with a giant turtle man who looks suspiciously like Jimmy Olsen.

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    48. Glad top hear it, though admittedly I thought the concept of death in movies and the idea of "adult" is what you would run with. You live you learn.


      Jack

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  9. Jack, they aren't lost at my house.
    And I don't believe for a minute that the homogenized Marvel Cinematic Universe will have anything resembling anything Starlin wrote.

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  10. Interesting fact: If one accounts for inflation, the average comic book costs slightly more than 4 times what it did when Spider-man debuted, and about twice as much as in the 1980s.

    Just an interesting fact. No vocal judgement just a recently learned fact.

    Jack

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    1. Four times? Even accounting for inflation? I never heard that.

      Jim Shooter (I think it was Jim) used to say that the price of a comic book should always align with the current cost of a slice of pizza. I think we've passed that.

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    2. 12 cents in 1962-63 is comparable to about 95 cents today. And the fact is Marvel is seemingly pushing towards $5.00 per issue. If you look at other periodicals it makes even less sense. A newspaper is about $1.00 and an issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction is $7.99... for just a little more than 250 pages.

      The fact is every time the prices go up it is that much easier to drop a book. The $4.00 price tag is why I didn't pick up Justice League: Gods and Monsters, I liked the writer and it was an intriguing concept, but I'm not usually big on cross-promotion with other media, so since I was shy a bit in my wallet I shrugged it off. Did I miss out on something? Very possibly, but it was purely economic.

      For that matter 25 or 50 cent increases don't seem to exist in mainstream books anymore. Honestly, it is hard not to feel gauged sometimes with the increases. Especially when one of DC's first $4.00 books was Batman, making it seem almost like saying, "we know you'll buy it one way or another, you addict." Especially since no other book was increased in price.

      The fact is there is a growing mistrust (if not disdain) of comic companies by fans. For the most part the talent is bypassed in these feelings, and it goes straight to the management. A Lot of strange and alienating things have been going on in the comic world, whether it is good writers going bad because editors won't stand up to a name, price increases, the price increases, treating any fan who doesn't like something as someone who just doesn't want change as a traitor to the medium, or one of plenty of other issues, fans are getting restless.

      I have been getting comics since I was in about the first grade, I started focusing in at age 12, and have bought them weekly since I was 16 and could drive to the store every week. As a fan no0t of the properties, or the superhero concept, but the whole of the medium, I can honestly say for the first time I can foresee the possibility of me reading 0 comics, and the fact is that I am not alone.

      It is interesting that Shooter said that, since it seems like some of the price problems come from ideas he had for the industry that were good... only that shepherded as well as he did, once he left. That is the importance of a good leader.

      It is good advice though.

      Guess I did have some views on it after all.

      Jack

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    3. So we've far exceeded the inflation rate. But keep in mind that page rates for creators were incredibly low then, there were no royalties, paper and printing costs have skyrocketed, etc. So I don't know if just adjusting for inflation if fair.

      But those are still sobering figures.

      Wouldn't it be great if we could sell comics for a dollar a shot?

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    4. If I remember correctly things like royalties came in under shooter in the 80's. The 80's were double the price after inflation calculated. IN the past 5 years it has jumped a dollar and pushes on another. What's more the idea of increasing by a quarter or 50 cents is forgotten. If prices have to increase, why by that much.

      AS for cost increase, I pointed out other periodicals have escaped this problem, including literary magazines. Then there are newspapers whose writers are largely employed by them... which means not only salaries, but insurance.

      For that matter, Marvel is the one doing most of the price moving, but if I remember correctly they have owned their printing process since the 90s, though maybe that was lost in the bankruptcy.

      Then there is the paper, the slick paper they moved to, which most fans would be fine to get rid of for lower prices. Not to mention the fact that the ink more easily comes off on our hands.

      As I said those after Shooter just didn't have the abilities he did to make those benefits work.

      Of course, as someone who works freelance and makes no where near what a comic creator does and lacks even a copyright to his work, those pre-Shooter ways of running a comic company, they really don't seem very unfair. IN fact, it was probably less to fix a problem, than to prevent a new one in going to indie books. It seemed logical, but those at Marvel now seem to want to build a name then jump to other media, or have an indie book that they can own entirely, therefore holding back their best ideas for when they can cash in.

      We have all heard the stories of older comic book pros who got screwed over, and none of us fans want to see that happen top our favorite creators, but it the incentives for the talent interferes with bringing in the fans that is an issue.

      working in a creative field is always dangerous, because there is always someone talented willing to do your job for at least half the price.

      However, I also acknowledge that it is hard to ever ask anyone to to take a pay cut, and it certainly isn't fair to punish someone just for coming in at a point where things are good for them.

      One of the biggest issues however is the quite honestly idiotic idea to phase out all adds except one on the back cover. Sure there are 10 house ads, but those are essentially worthless.

      Think though, 5 years ago I could walk into a comic shop with $20 and walk out with 6 new comics and be able to buy a coke on the way home. Now its 5 new and a few pennies. With Marvel already starting to price $5.00 for 22 pages, in a year it may be 4 comics.

      If Image and Dark Horse, who have much thinner profit margins than Marvel and DC, can go to 50 cents when needed, why not the big two.

      Jack

      more to come...?

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    5. Baseball used to be the great American pass time. The strike ruined that popularity. Sure, it is still fairly popular, but Football has unseated it, and probably basketball too.

      Maybe when Marvel was bought out by people who had only dollar signs in their eyes and cared for nothing but profits, in the 90s that had a similar effect on the industry. As I recall, those corporate masters almost killed off the industry.as a whole. Maybe that set forth a bad set of practices.that will end it. Maybe it is over correction.for those dark days.

      In the end it isn't even really price, but worth. It isn't whether it is $4.00, but whether the contents are worth the price, worth what those 22 pages give us.

      A month ago I saw Double Indemnity on the big screen for the first time. I had only seen it on TV before, and it was a completely different experience. The movie is so dense, not in the way often used, buit ion that there isn't a wasted minute. When I left I realized just how much of ALL media doesn't give you tour money's worth. If I pay 4 bucks for a comic from 1985 lets say, good or bad, I will at least feel it was complete, if I watch a Simpsons from 1997 I'll feel everything there should be. Media as a whole doesn't do that as much any more, sure there are exceptions, but not enough to make those examples anywhere near the majority.

      I give comics much more slack since I love them, and guys who came in before 2000 don't have anywhere near as much as that problem, but in the end each comic takes about 4 minutes to read... maybe a bit more. I stopped going to movies because those two hours never seemed to be worth the $10 they want from me, yet comics hang on... that's love. But, who knows how long I can hold out on that? How long can a few things you really enjoy out way the habit and addiction before you just walk away? I don't know, but I will keep buying until it happens.

      Jack

      more...

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    6. Without those royalties that came in in the 80's, Jack, most of us in comics could' have afforded to STAY in comics. Those royalties are what allowed us to raise families and pay mortgages and have a decent life while we were creating our stories.

      As for fairness...Marvel and DC were making piles of money on the books and licensing and merchandising even then and it was only fair that the creators participate in some way, considering that they were...you know...CREATORS of the work that was being exploited.

      So if there's a comic book world without fair compensation for the people creating the work, it's not a world I would care to participate in. If you're looking for cost-cutting measures, that's not the place.

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    7. And we're all glad you're still buying, Jack!

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    8. Unfortunately, my computer wonked out on me before I could finish, so I am going to try and loop in my response with my further thoughts.

      My point about fairness was less about it being okay and about it not being right, but about it being common. No one wants to see Jim Starlin out on his luck and living in a box. However, as a freelancer who is currently on his third week of waiting for a paycheck from a place that has a cap on pay, has seen a picture for an article I wrote and multiple comic websites and my work on several sites with absolutely no compensation , I can certainly sympathize with this, and be glad for the push forward, but also be somewhat aggravated at the belief in the situation having been unique.

      While the pluses are great for the industry, but if they become dangerous to its existence they have to be re-evaluated for pure survival. Does that mean that it has to go back to what it was? No, there has to be a happy middle ground.

      Jim Shooter came up in that rough field, and as such understood both sides. This is why once accounted for inflation comics are twice the price than the 80s instead of four times like it is from the 60s. Perhaps there isn't the same appreciation for how far the industry has come, but Shooter's legacy shows there is a way to make both work.

      But I don't work I the comic industry...yet (and let's be honest probably never will), I don't know if there have been increases for creators since then. Most of that price changing has come in just the past few years. It could just be simple greed by those who own Marvel and DC, who know nothing of comics at all and just see movies based off of them making money. That is the only reason I can see that it is always a dollar increase.

      Of course, that is not the only issue with comics we fans have.

      Comics that don't perform as well as they hope get pulled, while books that sell less than that keep going for publicity reasons or a movie is coming out is hardly a great way to run a business.

      more...


      Jack

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    9. Ultimately, Jack, I'm not involved in the business end of things, so I don't know all the details re: cover price, but I suspect it might b far more complicated than either of us know. Someone like Dan Didio or Joe Quesada could address this issue far more knowledgably than I ever could.

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    10. hey, I'm finally going to finish this, but first...a response...

      I can't speak for comics, but usually, how they come up with cover price is anything but complicated. I've known a fair share of those in the magazine business, and typically it is planned out in such a way that it can easily be traced as new people come in.

      It is honestly, in some way, probably connected to the frankly foolish idea comics made in the early 2000s to have only one ad on the back, and the rest to be house ads. It was a complete changing of how they got revenue. That's right, most periodicals are funded by ads... not cover price. The industry would have been better suited to just have 10 extra pages of content instead of house ads. Complete change in revenue is never going to be one without complications.

      Though in reality, I doubt even that is the real reason.

      It doesn't matter though, because honestly price DOES matter, and it is unfair to creators. Books are easier to drop when they are more expensive. I have dropped books that historically I would have given a few more issues to let it find its footing. Is that fair? maybe and maybe not, but it is certainly not unreasonable? Seriously, I'm asking, is it?

      Price is something that needs to be figured out one way or another. It is probably a necessity.

      For course that is hardly the only issue, there is also the fact that books are often late, which seems odd since Marvel is planning a giant relaunch. It is easier to drop a book (especially in this era of multi-issue stories) with each month that is late.

      Of course there is also The strange fact that editors step back and stop assisting when I writer becomes a name. That's rarely good. Editor's exist for a reason, a good editor is more valuable than any tool a writer has other than a pencil and paper. But even the best editor is useless if they have to tip-toe with the talent. I'm sure yopu have at least heard of Frank Miller losing it, but honestly if they just let Denny O'Neil be his editor (some one he trusts and respects) most of those stories could be salvaged.

      Then there is the tension that has been growing between the fans and some of the upper folks in Marvel and DC's ranks for years.

      At the comic shop I go to I have seen Wednesday customers (still the most popular day) become just a shadow of the numbers they were just a few years ago.

      The owner said to me not to long ago that sometimes things just end and maybe its just comics time to go. Whether it is prices growing to high, a disconnect with the fan base, preferring other media for the properties, or the fact we ran out of Mark Gruenwalds a man who (I've never met him and this is all second hand so correct if wrong) had an equal respect for the characters, the medium, the company, the creators, and the fans.

      I really hop this doesn't seem like piling on. It comes from place of love, not for a company, or even your work, but for a medium, a medium a hope keeps going for a long time.

      These are potentially dangerous issues for the industry. The price most of all perhaps (boom! looped around).

      It is a medium of heroes. Lets just hope a Clark is out there and he finds a phone booth before its too late, which is not likely, have you looked for a pay phone recently? It is no east task.

      Jack

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    11. One last interesting fact about the price. It is less even after inflation than a gallon of gas.

      Jack

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    12. I agree that price really matters...especially in a world where people can get their super hero fixes at the movies, on television (where it's FREE), in video games, etc. The easier the economic entrance to the world of comics is, the more of a chance we'll bring in new readers and keep old ones. And I'm sure Marvel and DC are well aware of that.

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    13. Well... it isn't free if its on cable.

      The fact is that it all matters, because price and everything else I mentioned are interconnected. Making the best possible product matters, giving people the most bang for their bucks matters, It is about rapport with the fans and the providers, that has to exist, maybe more in comics than anything else. there is a history there that stretches back, no matter how big these characters get comics have the soul for something small and rebellious.

      Think about it, How many Oscar winners are having this kind of discussion about movies with a fan? Probably not a whole lot. Now how many Eisner winners are? At the bare minimum one... though I doubt with all the creators with blogs this is something new... there is something very special about his.

      I am not going to claim that we are blameless though. If nothing else the internet has made us more annoying and more difficult to suss out what should be listened to and what not.

      The of course there is the difficulty in figuring out who actually reads comics, and who is just complaining or criticizing to do so, and then how many are even potential readers.

      Neither side is in a great or even easy place right now. The fact is that our greatest strength and greatest weakens are one and the same, both sides are full of people who genuinely care and love the medium. Of course both also have people who are just sitting in for personal reasons with no real reason to be there than it is a scene or a good stepping stone, but I like to think the good outweighs that.

      It is too easy for those on BOTH sides to assume that the other doesn't care as much and has slipped into a personal place of self-indulgence.

      Comics are the one entertainment industry that is almost all fans from top to bottom. They are an American institution. They kick the Holy Hell out of Movies and TV.

      Jack

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    14. Another interesting Inflation fact, after the calculating the rights to Superman was sold for the equivalent of $2,231.87 in today's money. Everyone laughs at the number $130, but it was the depths of the Depressioin. Still not great business decision, but it was hardly the hose job people like to make it out to be.

      Jack

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    15. Selling all the rights to your character in 2015 for two grand is actually pretty pathetic, Jack. Your point about the depression, though, is well taken. When everyone's out of work and desperate for money, every little bit helps.

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    16. The pro-fan dialogue is something that meant something to me when I was a reader, Jack, and it means just as much, maybe more, now, It is, as you say, something that makes this industry unique.

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    17. I guess I should first say, you're welcome.

      And yes, it being the depression made a huge difference. Jerry and Joe being only about 23 made a huge difference too, as did Jerry Siegel not being allowed to truly get work mattered (his mother was almost a stereotype) , but even without all that I'm not sure pathetic is the right word, shortsighted may be better.

      I'm not sure he foresaw never reaching that level of success with a character again, and he certainly didn't see being fired from the strip coming. And remember licensing wasn't quite then what it is now.

      The story of Superman is full of bad business decisions. This wasn't even the first, Will Eisner passed on it.

      And remember, people have sold their life's work for far less.

      Jack

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  11. As far as prices are concerned, yeah they are a little ridiculous. Sure, there are books I would like to get and pass on. I really think that Marvel, with its huge success in films should show a little love to the faithful comic book reader and let some of that profit trickle down in the form of lower comic prices.
    In the meantime, if it has DeMatteis on the cover I'm buying it. Being a huge fan of all things What If? and Elseworlds I love how Gods And Monsters is playing out. And I haven't watched the film yet. It will be interesting to see if DC would be interested in continuing it when it is finished. The re imagined characters of DCs three heavy hitters are fascinating and I think it could play a lot like Marvel's Ultimate Universe if done correctly.

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    1. I would LOVE to write more GODS AND MONSTERS stories, Douglas, but that decision's not in my hands, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

      "...if it has DeMatteis on the cover, I'm buying it." All I can say to that is—thank you!

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    2. That is another issue with prices right there. If I know I'm going to like the old masters new book or I may enjoy the young upstarts... well I only have so much money. As I said, high prices are unfair to new talent.

      The fact is money is corrosive to comics all around. Money does make people more conservative, not politically, but they have to keep that check coming so you have to protect the brand and follow what works. It isn't even greed doing it necessarily, you also have to worry about your employees, and the fact is that Marvel and DC have both exploded in employment to where they probably can't whittle down to the former size of the 70s and 80s where you could feasibly list every employee on a page or two of a comic.

      marvel and DC have been shuffling around the same few names for quite a while now, and always go to the old guard for help when they want new blood. It isn't entirely absurd, they have to think of the creators as investments to an extent, they are just playing with too high of stakes.

      We all talk about how Marvel and DC was more experimental back in the day, abd many say that indie books cause problems their, and to an extent that may be true, but even many indie books are not that experimental. Image, Dark Horse, and IDW all have the conceptual brand that they want to push because they know it works.

      Then there is the use of slick paper (which has come off on my hands many times) and other "improvements," well if they go back from that who knows how they might be perceived about the industry... it may look bargain basement compared to the rest. What's more retreats always look like you are flailing, right?

      That fear is probably a little bit why prices can never fall, even if it was possible. A fear of what it may be perceived at. Which is a dumb stance by the way.

      Comics have a lot of issues to sort through if there is even a prayer of them still going on. every week people at my local comic shop seem less and less interested and attached.

      I have bought comics every week since I was 16. Last week I bought three new issues, next week I think it will be two. Even when I was a teenager (and had that little income) it was never so few, and I buy indies so it isn't just a big two issue. And last week was the first time ever there was a full week and I didn't buy a marvel comic. I AM a true believer, I think almost everyone that sets foot in a comic shop these days on a Wednesday is, but they are losing even us bit by bit. We want comics to keep going forever, is that enough? We already kept the lights on at Marvel in the late 90s, kept an industry going and employed when no one ever thought a big budget movie was possible. However, many people think the big two (which ARE necessary for indie books to live) have mostly turned there backs on us for other media and people who complain but never read comics. thui sentecne is VERY IMPORTANT: I don't agree with that at all, I have faith in the industry to at least want us, but that idea is out there and fairly large.

      Personally, I think that the last published DC book will be the Omega sized Action Comics 1000 in four years or so. People say I am overly optimistic.

      This is not an anger fuel statement, or prophecy of doom mixed with critique, or even someone who wants to keep reading your story, it is someone who cares about comics and wants them to exist and hopes this can be used for the betterment.


      sorry.

      Jack

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    3. Totally get that, Jack, and I always appreciate your insights.

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  12. I find myself buying less and less from Marvel and more from DC as I get older. There are indie books I purchase that embrace pulp fiction (The Avenger, John Carter, you get the idea.), I am curious to see what happens in Marvel after Secret Wars. It will decide for me whether or not I continue to buy from Marvel.
    I find the best way to make sure to continue comic books is to introduce younger readers to the fold. Of my five children four are avid readers and do buy monthly books.
    It's our best chance at a continued existence.

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    1. Turning our kids on to comics is a great idea, Douglas. We've got to cultivate the next generations, or the audience will dwindle away.

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