Tag: DC

Brainiac On Banjo: A Magical Event? Uhh… Bite Me?

Brainiac On Banjo: A Magical Event? Uhh… Bite Me?

They push you to the ground. You’re lying in the mud. They bite your neck, and they drink your blood. You’re lying there alone, trying to catch your breath, trying to cancel your appointment with the angel of death. — From Lesbian Vampyres From Outer Space, by The Scary Bitches.

In conversation earlier this week, I was asked if I could list all of the comics event series that are going on right now. I thought for a second, came up with two, realized there’s more, and then I let out a quiet “No. No, I cannot.”

Okay. I’ve bitched and moaned about the Comics Event Trap before and those feelings haven’t changed — events are not events when everything is an event, damnit! However, the fact that I am of an honest persuasion begs me to admit there is one such series going on right now that I not only remember, but I actually like.

It’s called “Blood Hunt,” it’s from Marvel, and it’s all about a massive vampire assault on this here planet. You might think that alone would turn me off — the whole global monster-takeover thing has been done to death, be it zombies, werewolves, vampires, or MAGA. In each (save for the last) the outcome is predetermined. Eventually, humans get their planet back.

But Blood Hunt seems to avoid other aspects of the Comics Event Trap that annoy me all the way to my keyboard. I say “seems” because we’re about a month into it and, like all of us in the commercial pop culture racket, there’s always the opportunity to screw the pooch. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: A Magical Event? Uhh… Bite Me?”

Brainiac On Banjo: Important Advice For Freelancers

Brainiac On Banjo: Important Advice For Freelancers

Well, we know where we’re going but we don’t know where we’ve been, and we know what we’re knowing but we can’t say what we’ve seen — “Road To Nowhere,” written by Tina Weymouth, Chris Franz, David Byrne, and Jerry Harrison

The Ritz Brothers “Here Kitty Kitty”

Deadlines are a pain in the ass, but let’s face it: you became a freelancer because you were tired of holding down a real job. However, work is still work no matter what the clock thinks, and that realization puts you on the Road To Nowhere. You are going to have to up your “cover your ass” game, and I’m going to lose a few friends by letting a few cats out of the bag.

You can not succeed without knowing the rudiments of grammar school arithmetic. Yes, yes, I know. No math. That’s the main reason why you quit flipping burgers. Nonetheless, it is important to know how to do some simple addition and subtraction, the latter simply being adding in reverse. Here’s why: Let’s say your deadline is 11 AM Monday, and it is now 7 PM Sunday. You think it will take you about three hours to do your work. You’ve got dinner tonight, the latest issue of Hey Kids! Comics! to finish, and those teevee shows aren’t going to stream themselves. Then, it’s time for your late-night snack (you are a freelancer; act like one!), and then, you should get a little sleep. When do you start on your deadline?

Well, like everything else in life, that’s a trick question. Your deadline is 11 AM, it will take you three hours to do the job. You weren’t going to do it the night before; if you were, you would have started it back when you landed the gig. So you’re going to subtract three from eleven and start working at 8 AM.

Yeah, of course you are. Out of habit, you’re going to stay in bed until 9:30 or until your brain starts working. At some point, maybe around 10 AM, you’re going to remember you should wash the dishes. After all, everything in life is a choice.

Okay. Let’s say your editor actually gave you a real, honest deadline. I realize there’s only one editor in the history of deadlines who does this, and he’s the one writing these words right now. Silly me. “If you treat people honestly, they will be honest with you.” This is, give or take, the funniest thing I’ve ever said.

However, more frequently I’ve had to explain why they put the word “dead” in “deadline.” We’ll talk about the psychology of editing some other time; this piece is to offer advice to freelancers. So here’s some advice.

First, become an editor. Listen to the talents’ excuses for being late. They know what they’re doing, as they do this part for a living. Write down or memorize the best ones. Then, when you are freelancing and your editor wants to know if you are still among the living, use one of those excuses. Of course, you’ll need to remember which lines you’ve used on which editors — that is how lying works.

Second, just before your assigned deadline brays, put your smartphone in “silent mode” the way you’re supposed to when you’re at the movies or in Colorado attending the Beetlejuice musical. In fact, you might actually be at the movies — that’s a very handy source of motivation when it comes to blowing off deadlines.

Third, check out the weather conditions. If you are not in the same city as your editor, then you have been experiencing severe storms that have been knocking out power all over the county, and you don’t have a clue when the power company is going to fix the lines, and if your editor has a problem with that, ask them if they have a dial-up fax machine. It will help if you know they do not in advance.

Finally, if you are lucky — and, really, this is turning a pound of shit into a shit soufflé — your editor will be representing a corporation that owes you money. That isn’t hard at all; DC Comics has owed me $250.00 for a couple years now, and it’s worth more to me as leverage than its rapidly diminishing spending power. So when your editor is putting the arm on you, change the subject to “hey, I wish you were as diligent about paying me for my work as you are demanding that stuff!”

This can be great fun. If you get in first and your editor hasn’t read this piece (which is likely), you’ll be treated to a lot of amusingly defensive grunts and groans. Swiftly change the subject to the WGA strike — particularly if you’re working for DC (Warner Bros) or Marvel (Disney). Then, just as the topic devolves back to deadlines, seize the high ground and tell your editor you have got to get back to finishing your assignment.

You know. The assignment you have yet to start.

(With apologies to Chris Ryall, Jack C. Harris, Bob Harrison and all my other editors who did not know they were road-testing the details in this column.)

Brainiac On Banjo: The ComiXology Kamikaze

Brainiac On Banjo: The ComiXology Kamikaze

When I look over my shoulder, what do you think I see? Some other cat looking over his shoulder at me. And he’s strange, sure is strange. – Donovan Leitch, “Season of the Witch.”

When it comes to the digital world, sometimes all those zeroes and ones just don’t add up. Let’s look at ComiXology, what I once considered to be a genuine revolutionary force in the medium.

In the history of paper publishing going all the way back to papyrus, it’s often been a crappy way to make a living. Oh, sure, some folks have been enormously successful, but on the same hand some folks win the lottery. Expenses are high and nobody knows what the market wants. Paper is getting hard to find (soon we will have to make a choice between having paper and having oxygen and trees), and places to buy the finished product have run thin. “Book browsing” and impulse purchases have become 21st Century rotary dial telephones.

We needed an alternative way to get comics. In 1981, Marvel Comics published Dazzler #1 and made it available only to the then-growing number of dedicated comic book stores, and that showed us there just might be life after the newsstands and candy shops. To make a long story short, around that same time I turned to theatrical producer Rick Obadiah and said “hey, you know, we could do this.” And that’s the shortest origin story for First Comics ever told.

Things went pretty well until the overwhelming number of distributors bellied up after exclusive distribution deals kicked in. As those distributors were coughing up blood, the “smaller publishers” (meaning just about everybody except Marvel and DC) started getting paid late, if at all. Again, I’m making a very long story short. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: The ComiXology Kamikaze”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #079: “Dear Dwayne”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #079: “Dear Dwayne”

Dear Dwayne,

I know you prefer to be called by your full moniker,  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but I want to speak to the person behind that particular mask. Put the eyebrow down. Send your posse on a 20 minute break. Place your phone on airplane mode, and place it face down on the table in front of us. It’s just you, me, and the millions (AND MILLIONS) of my fans reading this. Cool? Cool. 

You need to stop it. Seriously. C’mon, man. You know what I’m talking about. Really? You’re going to make me say it out loud? Fine.

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

We loved when you dabbled your toe into acting. That turn as your own father in That 70’s Show? Great. Playing an alien version of yourself in Star Trek: Voyager? Uhhh… let’s come back to that.. And hey… your first trip to Saturday Night Live? Pitch perfect. Seriously. Better than any “sports stars” they featured prior. You then took the summers off in 2000 so you could become the Scorpion King (which, I assume was why you were on SNL). Like many fans… I actually went to the theater to catch your first starring role. Because it would either be good, or we’d have something to replace that one flick where Hulk Hogan made a dude crap himself.

And hey. It was fine. 20 something years later? I can’t recall a single scene, line of dialogue, or action sequence. But I do recall you fighting the late Michael Clark Duncan, and thinking it was cool. 

After that? I really want to commend you. You started taking interesting roles. Get Shorty. The Rundown. Walking Tall. Southland Tales. Were you “generic badass tough guy” in most of them? Sure. But the scripts were smart. And because of it, you looked smart. Not just catchphrases and stuntman body slams. Versus previous wrestler-turned-actors — Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and Jesse Venture — you seemed to have more depth, better comedic timing, and pathos (when called for).  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #079: “Dear Dwayne””

Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?

Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?

“I need you, but I hate to see you this way / If I were Superman then we’d fly away / I’d really like to change the world / And save it from the mess it’s in / I’m too weak, I’m so thin / I’d like to fly but I can’t even swim” — Ray Davies, (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman, 1979.

You might have heard the news. It’s been bombarding El Casa de Oro all week, and it’s been blitzing the interwebs to the point where I’m thinking of upgrading my dial-up. But just in case you’ve been away chasing after the Perseverance Rover, I’ll make my journalism teachers happy.

This past weekend, AT&T sold control and most of their ownership of their WarnerMedia division to Discovery Networks, owners of the many, many Discovery “cable” channels, HGTV, the Food Network, TLC, ID, Animal Planet, the Magnolia Network, and the Discovery+ streaming operation. They call this stuff “reality programming” but, as we all know, reality is in the mind of the beholder. As far as I’m concerned, that million-dollar vaccine lottery is the only reality show.

AT&T had only recently bought what they now call WarnerMedia — Warner Bros, CNN, HBO, Cinemax, the Cartoon Network, TCM, TBS, TNT, and a bunch of other stuff. If you can read the six-point type, you’ll discover they own some publishing as well, such as whatever is left of Mad Magazine and the meandering DC comics. Ma Bell went into so much debt to do this deal that, upon reading the report, King Midas reflexively picked his nose.

After acquiring that Denali of debt load, AT&T came down with a severe case of buyer’s remorse. I’m sure the stay-home-or-die principle that governed most thinking humans these past fourteen months did not help one bit, but it wasn’t a very good deal in the first place. After all, what does AT&T know about running the Home Insurance Building of media (sorry; “I.P.”) companies? Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?”

Brainiac On Banjo #081: The Crack of the Whip!

Brainiac On Banjo #081: The Crack of the Whip!

I mean to say that every day Is just another rotten mess / And when it’s gonna change, my friend / Is anybody’s guess / So I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’ / Hopin’ for the best / Even think I’ll go to prayin’ / Every time I hear ’em sayin’ / That there’s no way to delay / That trouble comin’ every day • Trouble Every Day, Frank Zappa, 1966

 

People, including your feckless correspondent, have been predicting the death of the 32-page comic book pamphlet for many decades. It’s been an unsustainable model since the late 1950s, and sooner or later it was bound to catch up with reality. Us fans have been copping Sisyphus’s act for six decades.

Well, if you hang on long enough, most predictions kinda come true. This one hasn’t. Not yet.

Premature as they are, there have been conflicting reports as to when comics are going to resume publication and distribution, and how many comics shops are likely to be open – even with curb service. That’s putting the cart before the horse, but the comics racket has taken on the countenance of the buggy whip factory for a long time now. And, yes, they still make buggy whips, but I’ll bet you know far, far more comics readers than buggy owners. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #081: The Crack of the Whip!”

Brainiac On Banjo #079: The Future of Comics?

Brainiac On Banjo #079: The Future of Comics?

In these disease-ridden times, it is quite natural for us to be preoccupied with matters of life, health, and continuity. But it is equally logical to assume that someday this will pass, and most all of us will be around the celebrate.

Well, I hate to be a buzzkill, but on that much anticipated day… that’s when we step into deep pile of fresh economic bat-dung. Lots of people are going to be hurting bad for money – I’m writing this on Sunday, so I can’t check out my retirement fund, and that is a relief. I suspect almost as many are going to be hurting for jobs.

This hurts all of us, but it likely will be devastating to Mom ’n’ Pop stores, cockroach capitalists, and to self-employed folks of all stripes. In other words, I’m talking about the network of maybe a couple thousand (on a good day) comic book stores. Therefore, I’m also talking about the future of the “smaller” comics publishers, their staffs, writers, artists, and the related backroom activities like distributors necessary to keep everything moving. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #079: The Future of Comics?”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #060: Dear Dan

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #060: Dear Dan

Dear Dan,

First off… is it OK to call you Dan? Probably not. We’re not close friends. We’re not really even acquaintances. At best, I know some people you know really well, and you’ve come by my little table in Artist Alleys now and again, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Yeah, Dan seems a bit too informal. So, I apologize. Mr. Didio, I felt it necessary to write to you a complicated mélange of thoughts today. I’d seen — thanks to my blown-up social feeds — of your recent (likely undesired) conscious uncoupling with DC Comics. Admittedly when I’d seen the news, it came on the back of Ethan Van Sciver claiming he knew someone who knew someone at AT&T who was threatening to blow up all of DC publishing if 5G doesn’t go over well. That bit of foil-hattery on top of your release was a bit too much for me. I logged off, and moved along.

And as it happened, my feed stayed choked with DiDio Dictations; lovely words shared by the multitude of industry veterans I’m lucky enough to have known long enough to be worthy of personal Facebook friendship with. And each of these creators detailed both their love and respect of you, and the work you did. It began to gnaw on my subconscious a bit. And here I sat, looking over a picture of Pop Culture Squad’s Bob Harrison posed with you, and it — combined with the words of Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, Art Baltazar, Will Pfeiffer, and more — finally able to come to grips with what all I wanted to add to the mounting mass of mentions and manifestos. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #060: Dear Dan”

So Long And Thanks For the Fish, Man #58: Comics, No More.

So Long And Thanks For the Fish, Man #58: Comics, No More.

The other morning, my bff in comic books, Jim McClain (who is not part of Unshaven Comics, but exists perhaps as our ”big brother” in comic bookery), met me for brunch. As we’ve done in the past… we kibitzed about life, love, kids, and all things nerd. We dished and gossiped about Alley Folks we’ve rubbed shoulders with. We waxed poetic about what we liked, loved, and loathed across the Star Wars galaxy. Fun was had by all. Great conversation and amazing egg dishes aside, Jim was meeting me so that he might rid me of my comic book collection.

You read that right.

Every book I’d amassed since college had been piling up — some bagged and boarded, others less so — and I recognized that I’d not needed a single floppy copy for the better part of nine and a half years (the time in our home, which the wife and I are cleaning up a bit at a time to contemplate a springtime move). In the interest of no longer keeping treasure that could otherwise be of value back in the marketplace, I gifted to Jim two long boxes, seven or eight short boxes, and a tote-bag of comics.

Jim has already started sorting and valuing them. I wish him, and those who purchase from him, the best. There are a few real gems to mine there, too.

So, the real question then is why. Why was I so cavalier in gifting a collection away at a whim (for what added up to a delightful breakfast)? The answer is fairly straight-forward:

I’m still not over feeling played by the big two.  Continue reading “So Long And Thanks For the Fish, Man #58: Comics, No More.”

Brainiac On Banjo #063: Again With The Event Bitching?

Brainiac On Banjo #063: Again With The Event Bitching?

Bitch, bitch, bitch. Sigh. It’s a living…

For about three decades, I’ve been bitching about how our friends at DC and Marvel have abandoned the storytelling racket and are drowning themselves in the pool of “Event publishing.” During that time, line average comic book circulations have plummeted by about two-thirds.

(Explaining The Stupid Math Trick: “Line averages” are compiled by adding up the circulations of each individual issue printed by each publisher during the year and then dividing the total by the number of different issues involved. Variant covers and extra printings confuse the issue, but, screw it, they’re cheesy hustles that only complicate the processes. I refuse to acknowledge a second printing unless the publisher tells us what the first printing was. If Marvel Comics printed only 750 copies of Amazing Fantastic Fury #7 and then celebrated that success with a second printing, the whole thing is as meaningless as a fart in a blizzard in the dead of winter.)

So why am I carping about this now? And, not to mention, again? As is their wont, Marvel and DC each issued their February 2020 catalogs. On the cover of Marvel Previews – Wolverine #1!!! Another stunning concept from the House of Idea! Oh, and it’s got at least 12 different variant covers – not counting those that might be done for individual retailers – and this includes a virgin variant (wait… what? Alex Ross is a virgin???), hidden gem variants, a party variant, a die cut variant, and an adamantium variant – which, by way of disclaimer, is not even made of adamantium.

To honor their own Event, Marvel is reprinting three previous Wolverine #1’s as well. Will all this hubbub restore Wolvie to his former sales glory? Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #063: Again With The Event Bitching?”