TONY'S ONLINE TIPS From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1499 (12/14/02)
"Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
--John Kenneth Galbraith, economist
Old business first. A few weeks back, writing about a suicide bombing in the Middle East, I concluded with this:
If we have the power to change, and we do, we must, above all else, change this irrational hatred of those who are not us. The Middle East violence, the violence that has touched innocents in so many other parts of the world, is only the most visible example of this disease. It lurks and thrives even in this glorious country of ours, accommodated by those who discriminate and legislate and preach against those who are somehow different from them. And, if we are to prevent their like from breaking the promise of America, we must accept the responsibility that comes with power. Don't let them dress up hate and call it "justice" or "morality" or "values." It is none of those things.
Fight the lies. Change the world.
I received several e-mails praising or thanking me for writing the above and one particularly disturbing note from an individual who frequently complains about my column because, as near as I can figure, I don't think the way he does. He wrote:
Am I to understand you equate a suicide bombing in Israel to someone in the US, say, signing a petition saying they don't want a transvestite in drag teaching their kid in school? You got a bit vague at the end of your sermon, but I think I've read enough of your columns to know the type of point you wanted to make.
What many of you liberals don't understand is just because you disapprove of how someone lives their life doesn't automatically (or even usually) follow you want to blow up their car with them in it. I'm all for schools teaching that taunting and violence aren't solutions for views and lifestyles you don't share. But when you have situations where a school has a member of GLADD come in and preach that homosexual lifestyles and heterosexual marriage are moral equivalents, that's when the school is trying to take over the role of the parent. I doubt you'd like your kids' school to let a member of the RNC come and tell the students if their parents aren't Republicans they're disloyal Americans. Again, not the school's business.
I hesitated before running the above note here because, well, because it's full of intolerance and misinformation. I don't know of any school which allows teachers to crossdress or dress in drag in class. I do know of schools which allow transsexual teachers going through transition to dress appropriately, though, in every case I've heard of, every effort is made to minimize any confusion or discomfort the students might have.
Additionally, while I know of countless cases of violent crimes against gays and others whose "views and lifestyles" aren't shared by their attackers, I'm coming up blank on GLADD ever going to a school and doing anything other than calling for acceptance and trying to answer questions in a honest manner, not, mind you, that the organization gets invited to a whole lot of schools.
I probably should have ignored this writer, but the angry and hateful tone of his note stunned me. My response was that I would pray for him, pray for his freedom from the intolerance binding his heart, mind, and soul. What followed was a series of e-mails that were nothing short of incredible.
He condemned me for being intolerant of his views, which would put me in the position of being intolerant of his intolerance. He would have me there if I considered intolerance a legitimate point of view. It isn't.
Apparently missing my referring to my county as "glorious," he went on to describe me as a "self-loathing American," a "small-town small talent," and ended suggesting I burn a (presumably American) flag. I guess this would a bad time to mention that, while I can't see myself burning the symbol of the dream and liberties I hold so dear, I support the right of others to do so. Gosh darn my godless liberal soul.
Oh, wait, didn't I say I'd pray for him? Ah, well, I am vast; I contain multitudes...or at least the ability to hold on to more than one idea at a time.
In the interest of actually having space for some reviews this week, I've omitted the mutual "insults" that passed between myself and this writer. His were of the nature seen above, mine were of the "hope you get over the hate/ignorance/intolerance" sort, but I could and should have been far more diplomatic.
In his latest e-mail, which I won't be responding to, except here, the reader repeated his lament that I was intolerant of his views, admitted that he didn't have all the answers, accused me of thinking I did, and said he was sorry the conversation took such a mean and personal tone. If you check out his note above, I think you'll see where that tone originated.
The reader is mistaken when he thinks I think I have all the answers. That's not even close. For example, on the one hand, I think all people have a right to follow the faith of their choosing. On the other, I'm faced with faiths which strip women of virtually every basic human right. How do I reconcile these views?
The closest I can come to consolidating all the views I hold is this: fairness. Everyone should have the same basic rights and the freedom to exercise them as long as they don't infringe on the rights of others. The reader who wrote to me is, of course, free to avoid associating with those whose lifestyles and views he finds objectionable. But that doesn't give him the right to insist they be relegated to the back of the bus to increase his own comfort level. Not while he has the freedom to go out and buy his very own bus. And *now* we can talk about comics and stuff.
The inside front cover of BONEYARD #6 (NBM; $2.95) gives the new reader a leg-up on Richard Moore's supernatural sitcom:
Michael Paris has inherited a nightmare: a cemetery filled with monsters. But as we learned in the first story-arc, the real danger was not the monsters, but the fear and prejudice of the regular townsfolk. Mayor Wormwood--ultimately revealed to be the Devil himself--failed to oust Paris and the Boneyard folk from the cemetery, however, and Paris now finds himself facing an even greater evil: the I.R.S.
The new reader will still have questions and may not be able to "get" all the characters and situations, but I think he or she will be charmed by Moore's character-based humor and an art style that lies somewhere between cartoon and reality, perhaps closer to the former, but without abandoning the latter. It took me a while to get used to it, but the strength of the writing kept me around long enough for that to occur.
The first four issues of Boneyard are currently available in a $12.95 trade paperback. I recommend that collection, as I do the ongoing series. On our floating head scale of 0 to 5, BONEYARD #6 earns three-and-a-half Tonys.
Four times a year, editor and publisher Jim Kingman celebrates the joy of comics in COMIC EFFECT, a 52-page compendium of comic-book reviews from the 1940s to the present. In the latest issue, Comic Effect #30 ($3.50), the early end of the scale is represented by Howard Leroy Davis writing about "Mr. Mystic," one of the strips that backed up Will Eisner's Spirit in his weekly comics sections, while the fare of today is examined in Chris Khalaf's review of the recent Deadman mini-series. In between the two, you'll find such titles as Marvel Team-Up, Hellblazer, Dr. Wonder, Superman, Uncanny X-Men, and Strange Adventures. Kingman and his fellow reviewers do have the gift of sharing their wonder with others; I always have a smile on my face after finishing an issue.
You can get a four-issue subscription by sending $13.50 (cash, check, or money order) in US funds to:
P.O. Box 2188
Pasadena, CA 91102-2188
Interested parties outside the USA should probably write Jim to inquire about any additional postage charges.
COMIC EFFECT #30 earns four-and-a-half Tonys. I'm doing a lot of fence-sitting today.
I lament the loss of COMIC RELIEF, a fine magazine which, for well over a hundred issues, collected the best editorial cartoons, best comic strips, and best humorists of our time in a handsomely-produced magazine. Since CR's sad demise, I've been checking out a pair of possible replacements for my affections, though neither meets that lofty standard.
The publishers of FUNNY TIMES ($2.95) have been sending free issues to CR subscribers in the hopes of getting us to subscribe to their publication. Based in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Funny Times is a 24-page tabloid newspaper which does manage to squeeze a lot of great stuff in those pages, including some weekly comic strips I'd not seen before. The attractions for me are cartoonists Matt Groening, Allison Bechdel, Tim Eagan, Ruben Bolling, Carol Lay, and several others, as well as columns by Dave Barry, Chuck Shepherd, Jim Hightower, and Medina County Gazette columnist Craig Williams, who may be the only other liberal in my hometown.
I liked the paper well enough to subscribe. A 12-issue sub is a reasonable $24 and you can get the particulars of ordering from the Funny Times website:
I also sampled an issue of HUMOR TIMES ($3), which comes out of Sacramento, California. Though printed on better paper, Humor Times is smaller in both page count (20) and size (a smidgen) than its Cleveland Heights rival. It uses more editorial cartoons than Funny Times, has a more professional layout, and even has a color centerfold. It's a more stylish publication, but it somehow lacks the personality of Funny Times. Still, with a subscription rate of 12 issues for $15, I'm leaning towards subscribing. For more info, check out their website at:
One last item before we call it a column. Several CBG readers have asked if I will be attending conventions in their area. For a number of reasons, most of them involving a busy family and work schedule, the only event at which I'm currently scheduled to appear is Mid-Ohio-Con, November 30 and December 1. While I wish I could get around more, it ain't happening this year.
The follow-up question to if I'm attending this convention or that is whether I'm willing to sign things I've written through the mail. The answer is: of course.
Just send the item you want signed to the address below with a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Include a note letting me know where you want it signed (cover, splash page, Charles Atlas ad, whatever) and who you want it signed to. I'll sign it and send it back to you pronto...with my thanks for your support of my work over the years.
Only two-thirds of the above appeared in CBG #1499 [August 9, 2002], which shipped on July 22. Even as I wrote it, I knew I was pushing the envelope with my editors, but I had good reason to take such a wide detour from my usual comics content.
There was a time - under other CBG publishers - when the paper would publish gay-bashing letters from a pseudo-Christian and other vile creatures. We're talking foaming-at-the-mouth letters. We're talking attacking Mark Evanier for writing about an AIDS benefit on account of "sodomites" are evil. I can only assume there was some misguided notion of "fair play" going on, some feeling the letters balanced the admittedly liberal views of writers like myself, Mark, and Peter David. Me, I saw them as hate-speech pure and simple and not unlike the e-mail I responded to above...and I was determined to never let them go unanswered.
Fortunately, this shouldn't be a concern in the future. I've have been assured CBG will no longer publish such letters and that, if they do, I'll be allowed to respond to them. That could change with the *next* management team, but, while the current staff is in place, such blatant bigotry will have no outlet within the pages of CBG. If the trade-off is that I must confine myself to writing about comic books and comics-related stuff, which is my preference for that venue, it's a trade-off I embrace.
CBG remains one of my favorite comics publications. A year's subscription (in the US) is a bargain-priced $38.95 and, if memory serves, you can place your order at:
Although Mark Evanier is no longer writing for CBG, each issue still features Peter David, Heidi MacDonald, Chuck Rozanski, Craig Shutt, Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith, and a host of other articles both entertaining and informative. I recommend CBG to one and all. It truly is comicdom's newspaper.
From a variety of sources comes word that DENNY O'NEIL, one of comicdom's top writers and editors, suffered a heart attack earlier this week and is currently awaiting surgery. I don't have a lot of details - and some of them are conflicting - but what I do have is the address for get-well cards and letters:
Westchester Medical Center
95 Grasslands Rd
Valhalla, NY 10595
Let's keep Denny in our thoughts and prayers. It's the least we can do to thank him for all the terrific stories he's written during his long career in comics...and for all the terrific O'Neil-written stories yet to come.
IN THE NEWS
Several of you asked for the latest on the Ohio gubernatorial race between Republican incumbent Bob Taft and Democrat challenger Tim Hagan, mostly because Hagan's wife is Kate Mulgrew, who played Capt. Kathryn Janeway on STAR TREK: VOYAGER. So...
Hagan's Star Trek fundraiser was held at Cleveland's Playhouse Square on Saturday, August 24. A half-dozen members of Voyager's "crew" were there, though Jeri "Seven of Nine" Ryan couldn't get an excused absence from BOSTON PUBLIC for the event. However, William "Captain Kirk" Shatner was present and provided some good-natured silliness. One of Mulgrew's uniforms was auctioned at the event, which drew hundreds of well-heeled Trekkers. The fundraiser added around fifty grand to Hagan's campaign chest.
With Taft ducking the issues, Hagan's website started running campaign ads featuring a duck with the Governor's head and voice. The duck is called "Taft-Quack" and the ads have prompted a cease-and-desist from AFLAK, which uses a similar duck in their insurance commercials. Hagan's campaigners claim the similarity is merely a coincidence, but, come on, who are they kidding? For that matter, why should they deny it? I think they could make an excellent case for this being parody/satire and thus protected speech.
Bill Clinton, our last elected President, came to town and did some campaigning for Hagan. That event added about a hundred grand to the war chest. However, Taft is still outspending Hagan 10-1, courtesy of wealthy GOP contributors.
On the bright side, Hagan has cut Taft's lead in the polls to single digits, a considerable gain from when he entered this race. There may be hope for Ohio, which has suffered mightily from years of GOP dominance. I'll keep you posted.
A few columns back, I reviewed - unfavorably - a comic called LEAGUE OF SUPER GROOVY CRIMEFIGHTERS. However, I did say its basic premise was brilliant. Apparently, someone else has made the same assessment, as witness this press release from Ancient Studios, the publisher of the series:
Ancient Studios and Mosaic Media Group talk feature film "I never would have imagined talking with someone in Hollywood about making League into a live-action feature film", says Jan-Ives Campbell, the writer, creator and, under the name Ancient Studios, publisher of League of Super Groovy Crimefighters, a spoof on '70s super hero comics. "After thinking about it for a few minutes, the ideas began to flow. I can definitely see it, complete with a groovy '70s soundtrack!"
Gloria Fan of Mosaic Media Group, producers of films like Scooby Doo, Three Kings and 12 Monkeys contacted Campbell after hearing some buzz about his comic. "At the San Diego Comic-Con, a colleague asked if I had heard about this independent comic; League of Crimefighters. We found Jan's site and after reading the first issue online dropped him a letter of inquiry."
"Jan's story was really funny! About 99% of what we read doesn't have the potential to be a feature film, but this one has possibilities." Fan continues. "If we can successfully adapt the basic storyline for the big screen, League will be ready for the next stage in development."
Campbell's next step is to come up with a "treatment" that can be used to springboard a screenplay. "I won't be cashing any checks anytime soon," laughs Campbell. "My idea for my proposal can be summed up with the high concept tagline: "That '70s Show Meets the X-Men." I'll be able to use a lot of counter culture humor and work it into a super-hero team story. The Crimefighters are a pretty laid-back team, so I think they'll make the transition well."
No doubt it will be a strange trip for a comic that features ethnic stereotypes, bell-bottoms, super-powered dogs and pot- smoking monkeys. As Black Belt would say, "DYNO-MITE!"
Congratulations to Campbell on this development. My opinions of the book notwithstanding, I never doubted his enthusiasm for his creation and I'm delighted for his success.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
Please send material you would like me to review to: