Brainiac On Banjo #037: Pat Mills and the Mitzvah Patrol

Brainiac On Banjo #037: Pat Mills and the Mitzvah Patrol

Back when books were still printed on papyrus, those of us in comics fandom did what the Ashkenazis call a mitzvah. We started honoring the men and women in the comics world shortly after the time they had been been identified by Congress, the Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest and Dr. Frederick Wertham as something akin to child molesters. We showed these talented people that their work entertained us and maybe even inspired us, and that we appreciated them for those efforts. These were creative people who, at parties and family gatherings, would self-identity as “commercial artists” in order to avoid being ostracized.

Most of us continue to shed light on creators who have not received their proper due. One such gifted human is well-known in his native United Kingdom, but here in the States… not so much. He probably doesn’t feel wronged, and if I’m helping to strip away some of that anonymity, I owe him an apology. But, hey, he signs his work. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #037: Pat Mills and the Mitzvah Patrol”

Brainiac On Banjo #036: Women Unite — But In Mongolia, Hold The Soda!

Brainiac On Banjo #036: Women Unite — But In Mongolia, Hold The Soda!

Avengers: Endgame passed the $2,100,000,000 mark ten days after release, so in honor of that momentous event, here is a photo of my all-time favorite superhero team-up, even though it has yet to happen on-screen.

Now that the Avengers movies have made about as much money as your average Wall Street cocaine dealer, I think we can say the “women heroes don’t sell movies” bullshit is behind us. It’s time to do the A-Force movie.

Seriously. It’s well past time, but before this weekend the banks might not have financed such a film. I think an A-Force movie will inspire more young girls than a woman president, though that is not an either/or proposition. And the prospect of women getting their boyfriends to take them to a big super-hero movie epic is the very meaning of “turnabout is fair play.” Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #036: Women Unite — But In Mongolia, Hold The Soda!”

Brainiac On Banjo #035: Niles Caulder’s Doppelgängers

Brainiac On Banjo #035: Niles Caulder’s Doppelgängers

When it comes to the DC Universe streaming series Doom Patrol, the world can be divided up into three groups: those who have never seen it, those who have seen it and hate it, and those who have seen it and love it.

It’s exceptionally weird and based (self-referentially) more upon Grant Morrison’s work on the comics series than the original Arnold Drake / Bob Haney / Bruno Premiani creation. Why not? We’ve got plenty of straight-forward superhero dramas on television. On streaming. Whatever. It is clear to me that everybody gets paid by the number of times Brendan Fraser utters a curse word, and that might upset the uptights. After the pilot episode, there isn’t much nudity or on-screen sex. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #035: Niles Caulder’s Doppelgängers”

Brainiac on Banjo #034: A Matter of Perspective

Brainiac on Banjo #034: A Matter of Perspective

If you’ve ever had any inclination to be an artist, or if you’re old and decrepit enough to have had art class in grammar school, you probably received at least a rudimentary education in topics such as perspective, gravity and physics. Drawing remains (for the time being) a two-dimensional experience and so the pencil pushers in the comic book medium must figure out how to represent our three-dimensional world in a medium that lacks visual depth.

Our friends in the closely-related field of animation figured this out long before most of us were born. You ignore physics and keep the story running so fast the viewer is undaunted by technicalities. Bob Clampett’s Porky In Wackyland – the best cartoon ever – employs this concept in nearly every frame. It’s the very purpose of the cartoon. Chuck Jones’ Road Runner series, for the same studio, uses perspective manipulation as a running gag throughout the run: Wile E. Coyote runs off a cliff but does not fall until he realizes he’s run off that cliff. Then he falls into a chasm so deep it would make the Grand Canyon cross its legs. He survives the fall even though the intensity of the drop is so great he’s pounded into the ground – still alive – and usually gets hit on the head by a chunk of that cliff.

In this, Wile E. has defied all three of the laws of motion. I think Isaac Newton would have laughed his ass off, but then again, he very well might have been deeply offended.

We’ve seen all kinds of wacky science in comics. Sometimes, defying physics comes off just fine. After all, if The Hulk really existed and he really could get from point A to point B by scrunching down and leaping into the air, that “equal but opposite reaction” thing would cause quite a stir. So which laws of physics do you obey, and which can you ignore? Continue reading “Brainiac on Banjo #034: A Matter of Perspective”

Brainiac On Banjo #033: Stream On, It’s A Crazy Feeling!

Brainiac On Banjo #033: Stream On, It’s A Crazy Feeling!

Most likely you have noticed the shift from static broadcast and cable television and movies to streaming services such as Netflix and DC Universe… to name but two. This stuff is growing like amoebas on steroids. In the relatively few years since this all began, it has knocked the poo out of the free media industries.

Unlike their cohorts in cable and terrestrial broadcasting, theater owners saw this coming and, in order to protect their investments, started offering new experiences such as larger, more comfortable and more adjustable seating, a wider range of unhealthy overpriced foods and snacks, new screens that can be viewed from the International Space Station, and sound systems that will deafen you. Great fun!

For the moment, at least.

The American comic book industry jumped on this concept out of the same cultural-shift that affected these other entertainment industries. Peculiarly, American comic book publishers have not shown much in the way of innovation over the past 86 years; the last huge improvement came when Major Wheeler-Nicholson decided to commission new work instead of relying upon newspaper strip reprints. That happened a mere 84 years ago.

When comixology came along offering comics new and old to their subscribers to be read (but not stored) on computers and tablets, as well as on cellphones for those who enjoy squinting, most publishers were quick to embrace this new means of distribution. Since then, the quantity of such material has skyrocketed and now DC’s stream-liner, DC Universe, is claiming they will be offering damn near every DC-owned comic online as part of that service. It’s also available on your television set, assuming you enjoy squinting but doing so on your smartphone requires too much effort.

That’s cool. Technology marches on, and the side benefit is that we’re saving a lot of trees, creating more oxygen and using fewer fossil fuels to distribute pretty colors printed on the corpses of saplings. Some people, not all of whom are nostalgia-soaked geriatrics, don’t like this and that is completely understandable. Just wait until they must move their comic book collection to a new abode. With two-terabyte thumb-drives available and heading towards affordability, you can put a copy of every comic book ever published in America on maybe four such drives and drop them in your purse or pocket.

So, last week Apple announced their new Apple News+ program which will stream more than 240 newspapers and magazines into the ethersphere for $10 a month. Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue… lots of stuff, with the promise of more to come. Well, that sounds convenient, particularly to those of us with tablets, and even more so to my fellow geriatrics with growing vision issues. That 13” iPad is looking better to me all the time, and I haven’t subscribed to this new service – at least not yet. Several more daily newspapers of note would be nice.

Immediately and quite predictably, the naysayers started screaming nay. “This will kill magazines and newspapers,” they say. Oh, yeah? If you live within a convenient walk of a retailer who offers more than 240 magazines and newspapers, consider yourself very lucky. Most people do not. If you want to choose from a variety of publications, you better be ready to drive out to one of the rapidly-dwindling big box stores such as Barnes and Noble and then pray for the best. This distribution method, pioneered by Apple with iTunes, saved the music industry. Is FYI still around? How about Borders? Ya wanna get this stuff somewhere.

If there’s but one rule that pervades Earth history, it’s that change is constant. Maintaining access to editorial content must adapt. If you lust for the smell of old paper – and I kinda do myself – pull apart one of those CGC clamshells and take a good snort.

(A tip of the hoodie to Buddy Holly for our headline this week)

Brainiac On Banjo #032: Friendship

Brainiac On Banjo #032: Friendship

I’m not immune to writer’s block; I doubt anybody is. But usually I hit the keyboard running. This time I hit that proverbial brick wall. I wanted to write this last week, but words failed me. Let’s see if I can wrestle this down to the ground – and forgive me for getting personal.

There’s a value to fandom – any sort of fandom; comics, sports, collecting Pez dispensers – that often is overlooked. It’s a great way to meet people and make new friends. Over the past half-century, I have been lucky to have established enough friendships to fill a minor league ballpark. Some folks have gone on to become part of the comics industry, either on the creative side or on the retail side. Some have gone on to lofty careers in other venues (name-drop: my childhood neighbor Merrick Garland).

Some… well, some are no longer with us. Death is binary. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #032: Friendship”

Brainiac On Banjo #031: The Joker’s On Us

Brainiac On Banjo #031: The Joker’s On Us

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”

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!”

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?”

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”