Brainiac On Banjo #031: The Joker’s On Us, by Mike Gold

Brainiac On Banjo #031: The Joker’s On Us, by Mike Gold

Alex Ross

This Wednesday, DC Comics will be releasing the landmark 1000th issue of the longest-running comic book published in America, Detective Comics. Yup, if you look the word “landmark” in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of Alex Ross’s variant cover.

Go ahead. Check it out.

I’m a fan of Alex’s, both his work and his own self. But I really like this cover not only because it is a true tribute to Batman, who (not-coincidentally) turns 80 this week, but because it doesn’t have The Joker on it.

Michael Cho

Now, trust me on this one too: the real reason Detective Comics #1000 is called #1000 is not because of its linear numbering. It’s because there are 1000 different variant covers. Hey, kids! Collect them all!

No. Don’t bother. I’m sure DC will release a hardcover reprinting them. And I’m pretty sure I’ll buy it. But this week I am not ranting about the crisis of infinite variants, but, knowing me I probably will in the future.

Uh-uh. This week I’m ranting about The Joker. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #031: The Joker’s On Us, by Mike Gold”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #030: Is Bigger Worser?

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #030: Is Bigger Worser?

Last Friday Senator Elizabeth Warren called for the breaking up of the larger tech/innovation companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. She made this argument at the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology conference, citing anti-trust as her major concern.

It’s amusing to see Sen. Warren side with Donald Trump on anything. You may recall that Trump wanted to kill the AT&T / Time Warner merger. The standard reason of “limiting competition” was offered, and I agree with her in concept: limiting competition is bad, and monopolies suck. Ask anybody who subscribes to cable television.

A couple years ago Warren promised to break up the big banks. These few institutions are quite rich, extremely powerful, are paying their top executives in eight or nine and are doing much, much better now than they did before they forced us into our worst recession since the Great Depression. At that time, the government said they could not break up these institutions who had put a death grip on our economy, cost millions of mom-and-pop investors much of their life savings, and allowed them to gobble up hundreds of smaller, local banks. They were, as we were told, “too big to fail.” Which is the same as “too big to follow the law.”

Warren cried bullshit onto that, and she was right. But if she did anything meaningful about it except bray, she’s succeeded in keeping that to herself. So, instead, she’s shifted her attention to much lower-hanging fruit. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #030: Is Bigger Worser?”

Brainiac On Banjo #030: Ahoy There, Mr. Christ!

Brainiac On Banjo #030: Ahoy There, Mr. Christ!

If you’ve been to a comic book shop lately or you’ve thumbed through a recent Diamond Distributors catalog, no doubt you’ve noticed there are a hell of a lot of viable-looking, professionally-operated new publishers around who are doing some very interesting projects. You’ve also noticed there are far too many new projects for you to check out. Or, perhaps, you’re tired of hearing your credit card scream every time you go to the comics shop.

Lucky for Ahoy Comics, one of the better new imprints to come down the pike in the past couple years, our friends at DC Comics just gave them one hell of a promotional boost.

DC had this six-issue project called The Second Coming, by Mark Russell and Richard Pace – which, alone, should be enough to get you to check it out. It’s about Jesus Christ, his superhero roommate Sunstar, and his reactions towards contemporary society. As Russell told the New York Times he was telling a story about how we have “fetishized physical violence and force as being the solution to every problem.” OK, that’s a valid pitch for this satirical series which, clearly, was not intended to be the gospel truth, or a replacement or a revision of same.

DC solicited the first couple issues before word got out to the various hate groups such as the Christian Broadcasting Network, Citizen Go, Christian Headlines, and Fox News. Just because you throw around the word “Christian” does not mean you aren’t a hater, and these groups and their fellow travelers quickly organized petitions urging its cancellation and threatening a boycott of DC. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #030: Ahoy There, Mr. Christ!”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #029: Divide And Conquer, by Mike Gold

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #029: Divide And Conquer, by Mike Gold

Before I begin this week’s tirade, I need to make one thing perfectly clear: when it comes to the never-ending middle east conflict, I have no horse in the race.

This is because I believe in freedom of religion. I’m not in favor of a Jewish state, and I’m not in favor of a Muslim state. I’m also not in favor of a Christian state, although the presence of a large Christian population in the middle east seems to have escaped notice.

Now that I’ve pissed everybody off, let’s talk about Benjamin Netanyahu and Ilhan Omar.

Last week, Israel’s famed fascist leader Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens… According to the basic nationality law we passed (last summer), Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.” This is not to suggest that Benji is about to build ovens, but our Muslim-Israeli friends are justified in their belief that they are second-class citizens… at best.

Also last week, U.S. Congressperson Ilhan Omar implied that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee pays politicians to support Israel. This is likely to be true, but the global Jewish conspiracy has nothing to do with it. Lobbyists of all persuasions use all sorts of means every hour of every day to influence, rent or buy America’s lawmakers. Republicans who have been on the take from (for example) the National Rifle Association, FreedomWorks and Americans For Prosperity have been porking up at that trough for decades. The difference is, questioning AIPAC’s influence is often perceived as anti-Semitic. Of course, this puts Omar in bed with many Jews, including Israeli Jews (such as actor and Israeli soldier Gal Gadot) who are opposed to Netanyahu’s totalitarianism. These Jews are decidedly not of the self-loathing variety, which is the common response from the Israeli far-right. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #029: Divide And Conquer, by Mike Gold”

Kickstarter You Should Be Backing: Mark Wheatley’s Giant… Songs

Kickstarter You Should Be Backing: Mark Wheatley’s Giant… Songs

I’ve known comics creator and illustrator Mark Wheatley since he emerged from the pupae stage. We were handed a proposal for a project called Mars – “we” being the late and lamented real First Comics. Said proposal was given to art director Joe Staton and production manager Bruce Patterson. Joe and Bruce were raving; this, in and of itself, was nothing new but they were raving about this specific project. So I read the proposal, and as the kids say, I immediately green-lighted it.

Mars was the work of Mister Wheatley and his studio-mate Marc Hempel and they were advocating a story that was unlike anything I could remember in American comics, and they were telling that story in a manner that was equally unique. Silly businessman that I am, that’s exactly the sort of venture that I find most appealing. No, I have never thought about being wealthy enough to retire. As work progressed and we started to promote Mars, the head of one of the largest comic book distributors (there were many back then) asked me, quite politely, if I were out of my mind.

Well, if I wasn’t sufficiently excited before that moment…

A couple years later, Mark and Marc pitched a project called Breathtaker. By then I was at DC Comics, still ignoring my savings account. My feelings about Breathtaker were like those I had about Mars, and I pitched it to DC. They agreed, but “they” did not include the publisher who was not part of that approval process. She thought we were somehow making fun of concentration camp inmates. Decades later, I’m still scratching my head over that one, but I was comforted in the knowledge I was still upsetting apple carts. And I maintained those feelings some time later at the premiere of the first graphic novels exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum, where Mark, Marc and Breathtaker commanded the real estate of an entire wall – and sundry staff curators came out with copies for us to autograph. Pretty heady stuff for a bunch of comics guys.

I’ve worked with Mark on various projects ever since, and we’ve maintained a friendship that no one can rend asunder, unless that person is disgusted by puns. Mark and I can flip them back and forth with a fervor that could empty out Camden Yards.

I’m not involved in Mark’s current project. Perhaps it was something I said. Or didn’t say. You can ask us April 12 – 14 at the Windy City Pulp show in Lombard Illinois; we’ll both be there, but the part you’ll enjoy is gawking at Mark’s massive… exhibit.

So… what, you might ask, is this brand-new project of Mark’s? How can you become part of it? And why did I bury the lead so deeply?

Mark has just launched a new Kickstarter called Song Of Giants: The Poetry of Pulp – Illustrated. It’s got 72 pages of “mind-blowing illustrations by all of Fame artist Mark Wheatley,” as the back cover so intriguingly states. He’s limited himself to three such giants: Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H.P. Lovecraft. Oh, yeah, them again!

Of course there’s a website in addition to the Kickstarter page. Grow up! It’s 2019! It’s like gravity! Check it out for more info and even more pretty pictures.

Mark’s also coming out with an audio book, and he’s teamed up with noted producer / voice actor and all-around swell guy Mark Redfield. What can I say? He’s got a thing for guys named Mark. Or Marc. Yup, this is an audio book of a book of illustrations. Mark is still boldly going, I see… In these difficult times, it’s nice to see that somethings do not change – abruptly.

Check out the Kickstarter. Help make it happen. Tell ‘em Groucho sent you, particularly if you’re happening by a DeSoto dealership.

Brainiac On Banjo #029: Comic Books? Still?

Brainiac On Banjo #029: Comic Books? Still?

Captain Marvel, the movie, sold nearly one-half billion dollars’ worth of tickets in its first few days worldwide – maybe a week in a few countries – so I’d like to take this opportunity to shout “Screw you, incels!” but that’s not my point this week.

My point is that with billions of dollars being spent making comic book based movies each year and with more comic book based teevee shows than you can count on all available appendages, if you want to enjoy the comic book experience you no longer need to buy a single comic book. Even if you’re selective about the movies and shows you see, even if you have a job, a relationship, kids, take time out to eat and go to the bathroom you do not have time to experience everything you’d like. As you might be aware, comic book publishing is a capitalist enterprise and without enough profitability the money people will start thinking “buggywhips.”

But you might say, without comic books there would be no fodder for comic book-based movies and teevee. If you do, I would say “Yeah? Prove it!” Very, very few such media shows were borne of recent comic book debut, and the rights to most of the established comic book properties – except GrimJack (hi, Ken!) – are well-secured. Disney and AT&T spent about a zillion dollars buying Marvel and DC Comics outright, and they didn’t do a reverse mortgage deal based upon publishing projections. There hasn’t been a real relationship between comic book sales and their media spin-offs for over a half-century.

So why pulp trees and waste oil to print, distribute and digitize comic books? Where’s the money? Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #029: Comic Books? Still?”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #028: The Chicago Cubs and the Far-Right

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #028: The Chicago Cubs and the Far-Right

As I note at every available opportunity, I was born on the north side of Chicago, possibly in a log cabin. This makes me a Chicago Cubs fan by birthright. I followed baseball as a kid, but less so as an adult. The 1961 expansion confused me: why take 16 teams worth of good players and spread them out over 20? Brooklyn moved to Los Angeles, which still seems pointless, Washington moved to Minneapolis, and everybody started to do-si-do as though when the music stops somebody is going to pull a chair. A decade later some dick dreamed up the designated hitter rule and destroyed the American League forever.

Now that I’ve pissed off everybodyContinue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #028: The Chicago Cubs and the Far-Right”

Brainiac On Banjo #028: Comic Book Economics

Brainiac On Banjo #028: Comic Book Economics

Dan DiDio

Somebody noticed the comic book racks are overcrowded… and that somebody is Dan DiDio, co-publisher, DC Comics. I gather Dan’s deductive skills were sharpened by his decades of comic book collecting.

Well, he’s the right man for the job. Just about each month for the better part of a half-century the Diamond Distributors catalog, the one that terrorizes your friendly neighborhood comic book store owner who must bet the rent on his or her non-returnable orders, has grown like Stumbo on steroids to its present size and weight, rivaling the Manhattan phone book in water displacement. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #028: Comic Book Economics”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #027: The Deplorables Across The Street

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #027: The Deplorables Across The Street

According to John Oliver, 40% of the American public believe those cash-grabbing idiots you see on teevee really can communicate with the dead.

And, in a poll taken this century, as many as 20% of the American public believe the lunar landings were faked.

Worse, 23% believe vaccines that save people’s lives are so dangerous they refuse to let their kids be inoculated. These virulent Luddites are willing to bet your kid’s life to prove it. I don’t mind the Flat-Earth science deniers killing themselves off, but they should keep it to themselves. It’s the polite thing to do.

Do you sense a trend here? Is it any wonder that slightly more than one-third of the electorate, on average, still support Donald Trump?

Now, you just might think I’m calling these people dumb. Well… I’m sure most of them are at least fairly knowledgeable in sundry specific areas, but certainly not about civics, American history, or mathematics.

Mathematics, you ask? You betcha, I respond. These people do not understand that 60% is significantly larger than 40%. In political campaigns a 20% margin is more than a landslide – it’s an earthquake. When it comes to these three areas, I see people but I know they’re really door knobs. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #027: The Deplorables Across The Street”

Brainiac On Banjo #027: Movie Sign

Brainiac On Banjo #027: Movie Sign

It’s time for another of my nostalgia-drenched-yet-timely essays that fall under the category “Old Man Yells At Cloud.”

The trick to all visual media is to appeal to our sense of wonder. Life, society, and time conspire to rob us of that which is truly our seventh sense. This applies to comic books, movies, television, the stage (or, as its denizens call it, “The Stage”) and even architecture. The proper experience opens our minds to all sorts of phenomena and inspire us to engage in the creative process.

I suspect the past couple generations first encountered this feeling when watching something utterly fantastic on television. For a great many of my braggadocios baby boomers comrades, our initial experiences with the sense of wonder occurred in the opulent movie palaces of yesteryear – particularly those of us who grew up in large urban areas. Every neighborhood had at least one such theater, and some of those venues weren’t simply palaces, they were movie cathedrals: ornate and intricate conflations of terra cotta, red velvet, brass fixtures, Tiffany glass and brilliant lighting. This environment jacked us up for what was to follow well before our butts hit the well-cushioned seats. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #027: Movie Sign”