Thursday, July 8, 2010


I've just been castigated by a fan in a message that, as someone who's written Wonder Woman, I haven't spoken out publicly on the burning issue of the Amazing Amazon getting pants.  (Do I REALLY have to type "lol" or the sarcastic-face emoticon?).

Friday, June 25, 2010


I just found out that what I thought would be my next published work, The Essential Superman Encyclopedia, has been pushed back from its original planned release date of August 31 to sometime in the fall.

Coincidentally, I won’t be going unrepresented in certain book categories, because I’ve also learned that my latest kids' book, Superman: Prankster Of Prime Time, from Stone Arch Books, is scheduled for August 31. I’d mentioned this in my last post, but I’ve since gotten the news about the Encyclopedia, and I now have some sample art from the Prankster book which I’d love to share with you. So this is actually a revision of a previous post.

I do this to add the images -- which are copyright 2010 by DC Comics, of course -- because I'm especially happy with them, and delighted because the beautiful illustrations were supplied by my old friend and Blackhawk collaborator, Rick Burchett, whom I consider one of the best storytellers in comics.

Not that storytelling is relevant to spot-illustrations, but I already knew -- and I hope you will soon, if you don't already -- what a good commercial illustrator Rick is. His portfolio contains numerous samples of advertising art he's done over the years, including the huge volume of work he did as an in-house artist for the Ralston-Purina company.

Rick's an artist of extraordinary range, equally at home with cartooning and naturalistic illustration. And, while I don't want to be perceived as taking credit for assignments Rick's own reputation generated, I'm particularly glad that in 1991 I recommended Rick to then-Batman editor Scott Peterson for the DC series based on the WBA Batman animated show, on which I was a writer / story-editor.

Apparently, several other people had made the suggestion, too, so I can't take credit for it. But I'm glad it worked out: Rick became the "go-to guy" for all things DC Animated for quite some time.

Later, when I was the Group Editor for custom comics and special projects at DC, Rick's speed, in addition to his consummate skill, enhanced our program tremendously. Ironically, Scott and Rick collaborated on what I thought was the best custom comic I oversaw, a pack-in for a videogame called Batman: Dark Tomorrow, which was not only brilliantly illustrated by Rick within one week, but also magnificently colored by the majorly talented colorist, David Baron.

I hope you'll enjoy the Prankster book if you're inclined to check it out, and do let me know what you think. Thanks!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

GARY COLEMAN 1968 - 2010

My old friend Mark Evanier introduced me to Gary Coleman once, and it's one of the saddest memories of my show business career. That same year, I heard stories from my friends on the TV series "Buck Rogers" about Coleman's perseverence and professionalism during his guest shot, despite great physical pain and hardship.

It seems most people mistake Coleman for another case of a former child star who lost everything because of his own self-indulgence and self-destructiveness. As entertainment writer Joal Ryan has pointed out so eloquently, Coleman didn't fit the profile because you can't throw away what you never had in the first place.

Sleep well, Gary. Most folk don't know that for you, life was like being run over by a truck. You've earned the rest.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Been getting a lot of questions about The Essential Superman Encyclopedia (cover at right). It's not due out till the end of August, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.

And, by the way, to my super-fan friends who won't buy anything if they think the people behind it are all about the money: I was paid a flat fee for this and I don't make a dime off how many copies are sold. Just tryin' to help you get it into your hot little super-hands, is all.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


(NOTE: No jokes today, no "going off" on the subject. He was born on April 1, after all, and this year he's already gotten his share of roasting.)

What are heroes?

In an increasingly cynical age, can they actually exist in real life? And if they do, what shape do they take? Where are they found? Do we need them? If so, why? And what does heroic pop fiction have to do with any or all of this?

This subject is important to me because I deal with heroic fiction for a living and have a 10-year-old daughter. I think whoever might be reading this might share my passion for this subject.

One of the most widely-read writers of super hero comics is Brad Meltzer, who is, as you probably know, also a NY Times best-selling author. He's written a book about real-life heroes, entitled Heroes For My Son, due out soon. You can find out more about it, and read an excerpt from it, here.

On Tuesday, 5/11/10, NPR's "All Things Considered" aired an interview with Mr. Meltzer, who offers some interesting insights into what motivated him to write the book and the effect the work had on his own children. A podcast of the interview is available here. under the title "In 'Heroes' From The Past, Lessons For A Son."

Give a listen. I wonder if you'll find it as fascinating as I do.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Look at me; I'm so out of it I even quoted Britney Spears. That's so 20 seconds ago (20 seconds is the new 15 minutes, Andy).

Every time I get involved with the Comic Book Resources Forum, I stir up a hornet's nest, then have to calm people down. See, I have this horrible, horrible habit of not taking anything seriously while among the context-deaf. And then I (gasp!) say it out loud, as it were. This is interpreted by some as being "rude," or -- God help us all -- candid.

Controversy (Really? We're talking about fictional people here, folks, and people I know can take a mild kidding)... "Controversy" is, apparently, a problem in a nation terrified by the threat of car bombs in New York City and an unannounced visit from the Census Bureau.

We have all become hyper-sensitive on top of the damage done by three generations' worth of Boomer-tastic Incessant Self Regard. It's now everybody's job to anticipate everyone else's possible indignation before it erupts. We must censor ourselves before the fact because, who knows? -- those we can't say "Excuse me" to in a way they can understand may not be taking their anti-anxiety meds by the fistful. The Statue of Liberty weeps.

Sadly, I don't love upsetting people, nor do I do it deliberately, but the obsessive-compulsive in me can't resist the siren call of that angrily buzzing hive. That's 'cause it ups the visibility, yo. So bring the hornet's nest. I'll bring the stick.

And remember, now that we're all superstar wannabes: It doesn't matter what they say about you, as long as they spell your name right.

And can tell humor from truth. Reality from show biz. And...

Oh, s***. I'm f****d.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Well, hell. Not that you're going to read it here first, but DC made an announcement today of its new management team. You can read the full text of the press release here. The story, as it develops, is being followed here.

My only disappointment is that now I have to dump all the jokes I'd written but didn't post in time, in response to the stupider rumors out there. Like: "Grant Morrison?!?! I can't imagine that mind running anything in a corporate environment. No meeting would ever start or end on time, nothing in the meeting would ever be resolved, and you’d have to refer to at least two dozen other meetings that had occurred over the previous 20 years to understand what was going on in the meeting you were in."

So now all the speculation about who the new publisher will be can end.

Let the next round of speculation, about who reports to whom, who's going to get canned, and whether or not the company will move to Burbank, begin!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Until fairly recently, I’ve remained silent on the subject of the twin upheavals that are already reshaping the comic book business in ways that, I suspect, will startle most hard-core and long-time fans. The first thing I’m referring to, of course, is Disney’s acquisition of Marvel Entertainment.

The second is the process by which, over time, DC Comics will be reorganized into, or become a division of, something that will call itself DC Entertainment. Neither this new business entity’s exact mandate from its corporate parent, Warner Bros., nor its intended core business, has yet been revealed to the outside world. At least, not in precise or exhaustive detail.

My last working relationships with Marvel and Disney were long enough ago that I don't feel qualified to offer speculation, even if I were so inclined, on what direction that association will take. Much has changed recently in the business cultures of both entities, not to mention their increasing efforts to de-emphasize print media in favor of digital and mass-media entertainment that aggressively exploits each one's library of properties.

Since the publication of my capsule history of DC, The DC Vault, I’ve sort-of become DC’s freelance Boswell -- meaning I may be the only person besides Paul Levitz with so comprehensive an understanding of both the company’s history, including its products, and its business culture. Much of it comes from reaearch, but that knowledge is enhanced, to some extent, by the fact that a small bit of that history -- by virtue of my long association with the company in many capacities -- I had a hand in making. I've met or known well most of the people I write about.

Comics readers who know that have been besieging me with requests for leaks of secret, behind-the-scenes information that I simply don't have. It got to the point where I had to resort to a posting on my Facebook page stating that I'd chosen to remain silent for the time being -- not to protect any secrets to which I’d been entrusted, but because I just didn’t feel I had a well-informed grasp of what, in fact, was going on. And I had no desire to add to the blogospheric miasma of ill-informed speculation and whack-job hand-wringing.

I’ve since had the chance to get some information from various horses’ mouths on the DC situation, and, doing nothing more than carefully analyzing what I've been -- and haven't been -- told, an interesting picture emerges. It’s a case of announcements being made at a particular time for no apparent reason, if we are to believe certain denials -- such as the comment that the timing of the press release had nothing to do with the Disney announcement a week or so earlier. And when one carefully parses the sentences in the various public statements, one finds that what is supposed to be informative is, in fact, a dizzying stew of business jargon, Orwellian Hollywood newspeak, and upbeat, "supportive of the comics community" rhetoric that doesn't actually say anything.

In the weeks and months to come, I look forward to analyzing the various ridiculous rumors and "official" interviews with some of the players -- perhaps even here -- until a definitive announcement is made. Maybe even before Summer, 2010, if we're lucky.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I started talking yesterday about the problems I’m having figuring out the Free Culture Movement (not least of which is understanding in what sense they're using the word "culture"). Today I’d like to ruminate about these people a bit more.

You’ll notice that they have a Board of Directors, most of whose academic expertise is in philosophy, computer science, mathematics, or law, all of which are, of course, eminently worthy pursuits, but nothing I would call creative per se. In fact, only one of the Directors lists in her profile any activity a reasonable person could agree is creative. That is Ms. Ducruet, who tells us she “makes films.” What kind of films, digital or other; how they are produced; and where and how they are exhibited or distributed, she does not elaborate on, but she “makes films.”

I hope you’ll forgive me my skepticism upon finding this claim among a group of technocrats. And please excuse the possible leap to an unfair conclusion, but perhaps this Board is representative of this Movement’s followers.

If that's the case, there’s a strong possibility that few who subscribe to the tenets of the Free Culture Movement are actually supplying culture. Not that they realize that, however.

This is what for me, more than anything else, undermines the persuasiveness of the Free Culturists’ arguments: their implied loyalty to the idea that self-produced CDs from obscure garage bands, released in a vacuum and subjected to no critical scrutiny, nevertheless have an instant credibility as “culture” that is just as valid as the work of critically-acclaimed musicians. The Free Culturists seem to subscribe to the widespread but misguided notion that technology is somehow more than just a tool that will produce varying results depending on the innate skills of the individuals using the tool, but a skill in and of itself.

Sorry, but no. Buying a program that digitally edits .wav files does not necessarily make you a sound mixer. Having the technology to create a blog and post links to other content instead of describing, or offering an original analysis of, your subjects does not make you a journalist or essayist. Not any more than posting a video of yourself masturbating and forcing YouTube to cancel your account makes you a filmmaker. Similarly, knowing how to tell someone else’s joke, as opposed to having an original, funny idea, does not make you a satirist or a comedian, or even particularly interesting at a party.

Think I’m jumping to unfair conclusions about this “movement”? Here’s a direct quote from their manifesto: “With the Internet and other advances, the technology exists for a new paradigm of creation, one where anyone can be an artist, and anyone can succeed, based not on their industry connections, but on their merit.”

That undefined use of the term “merit” is the only reference I can find in the manifesto to the question of the quality of all this unbridled creativity that the internet is supposed to facilitate. As far as I’ve been able to determine, the Free Culture Movement offers us no clue whatever as to how or by whom this “merit” is determined. The quality of anything is, of course, a totally subjective consideration, unless you believe in listening to experts, academic or otherwise, who assert that there are generally-accepted qualitative standards by which to judge creative works -- a group that would qualify for being called an elite, not to put too fine a point on it.

But in the wikimaniacs’ world, in which any evaluation or assertion is as valid as any other, and in a society in which the term “elite” has a connotative weight that is always negative -- always inferred to mean groups guilty of some form of injustice or oppression -- merit will not be determined by critical elites. That’s not “democratizing” enough.

So if not critical approval, what else can determine “merit”? Popularity? In a capitalist society -- which is what ours is, like it or not -- popularity is generally determined by commerciality. But in the utopia these Free Culturists envision, everything will be free. (Right now, though, until the reliability of metrics improves dramatically, the definition of popularity will still make the ka-ching ka-ching sound.)

So, again I ask, what is merit?

I guess painting yourself into a corner is too low-tech for these people to recognize when they do it to themselves.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


The other day I was in the library looking for any non-fiction book -- you know, those things that have carefully-attributed footnotes instead of a link to Wikipedia (which, I shamefully confess, I’ve been guilty of here) -- on the Free Culture Movement, about which I’m deeply curious. It was hard even to know where to begin looking; the Dewey Decimal System doesn’t have a code for Magical Thinking. So I never found one -- not even next to the Libertarianism and Scientology books -- but that is probably only because of how woefully underfunded my local library is.

The Free Culture Movement is apparently a group of people, mostly students and adult academics who should know better, who’ve taken a vow, not of poverty, exactly, but of...what? They say they will “consume” free culture, popular or high (they don’t distinguish), with the implication, but not the explicit pronouncement, that they mean to do so exclusively. Rather than me trying to distill or translate it for you, which I’ll concede I’m probably unqualified to do anyway, why don’t you check out the link above and read their manifesto -- yes, that's what they call it -- in their own words?

Back now? Then maybe you can help me figure out what their central grievance is, which seems to get lost amid a lot of high-minded, pedantic circumlocution. Evidently, they equate “injustice and oppression” with culture being owned and controlled by corporations. Ohhhhkay...I guess. While I wouldn’t put it in such melodramatic terms, the idea of most entertainment and/or information being controlled by a small handful of huge, vertically-integrated conglomerates doesn’t much appeal to me, either. We’ve all seen what kind of diversity of opinion and availability of so-called "out-of-the-box thinking" is inhibited, and possibly even repressed, that way.

But, according to the Free Culture Movement, the internet, and its capacity to give anyone with a computer a platform, is supposed to be the corrective to the corporate stranglehold on intellectual property. The key to this, apparently, is its free accessibility to any would-be content provider, “amateur” or “professional” (which, I have no doubt, the Movement would tell you are meaningless terms), and the fact that -– so far, at least -- the content thus provided is free, too.

Here's where I start to have trouble following their logic. Most content on the net is free, of course: marketing experts will tell you that the only net content that is willingly paid for by a large number of people (as opposed to, say, the number of Salon Premium subscribers) is pornography. But the idea that everything else is free is largely an illusion, just as the idea that broadcast (as opposed to cable) TV is free is also illusory.

The content creators get paid for their work in both media; it’s just that their payday comes, directly or indirectly, from advertisers. And you, the consumer -- or, if you prefer, "end user" -- pay for it by having to sit through advertising. Something, by the way, you can elude a lot more easily with television, thanks to your DVR, than you can on the internet, where not all ads are pop-ups and thus can't all be suppressed by pop-up blockers.

The Movement seems to think that the way to end cultural corporate hegemony is this: “We will use and promote our cultural heritage in the public domain. We will make, share, adapt, and promote open content. We will listen [only?] to free music, look at free art, watch free film, and read free books." An elaborate boycott of stuff you have to pay for, it seems. Though what that's supposed to accomplish isn't clear to me.

It has apparently not occurred to these people that if all culture were free, there would be a great deal less of it, because most of the time in which this culture could be created would have to be taken up by the day jobs the Creatives would need to hold down in order to survive. That would leave a lot less time in which to be creating. After all, actors, musicians, graphic artists, and writers don’t wait tables to support themselves while they’re acting, playing, painting, or writing for free. For most of them, the idea is to keep a day job with flexible hours only until they can get steady, paying work doing their creative thing.

Nor has it occurred to the Free Culture Movement people, apparently, that they won’t be able to get much more of the free culture they like for very long, because people -- at least those who live on Planet Earth -- who spend all their time making things and giving them away for free can’t buy food, clothing, or shelter, and then they die.

The only counter to that argument that I can think of would be if all the Creatives were people who have trust funds. Scions of the very rich. Which would kind of kick the shit out of the "democratizing" goal that The Free Culture Movement holds so dear, wouldn't it?

I believe the average person might make the argument that the main reason "free culture" is free in the first place is because it's not "good" enough for someone to be willing to pay for it. There I go again, with that "amateur" and "professional" thing. But there are flaws that can be found in that contention, too.

So if you think I’m leading up to an argument in favor of market forces –- that what is popular (i.e., what sells) is what is by definition good and worth preserving -– a kind of Darwinian attitude toward culture -– you’d be wrong. It’s all much more complex than that.

And I think that’s enough of a “tease” to go out on, for now.


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