Month: April 2011

This Friday is brought to you by Hugging Kitteh

Things to do in and around LA this weekend:

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at the USC Campus, Saturday 10 AM to 6 PM and Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission is free!

The FoB commercial:

The 45 Show gallery closing event at the Twenty Miles East Gallery in Pomona, Saturday 5 PM – 10 PM. RSVP on Facebook

Wizard World Anaheim Comic-Con in the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim (duh), Orange County, Friday through Sunday. On-site tickets: $35/per day or $55 for 3-day ticket. RSVP on Facebook

Wonder Woman: All About Bondage

1943 letter re: use of chains in Wonder Woman comics (click for bigimification)

With a brand new Wonder Woman TV series being produced by David E. Kelley, and the ensuing panic over the show’s costume(s), it’s sometimes helpful to get a bit of historic perspective.

Take the document on the right for example. This 1943 letter was reprinted in the Chronicle Books publication from 2000, Wonder Woman: The Complete History by Les Daniels, and was recently brought online by the Hey Oscar Wilde! tumblr site.

Wonder Woman comics publisher All-American Comics thought that the character’s writer and creator, Dr. William Moulton Marston, ought to maybe tone down the use of chains in his stories of the Amazon Princess. Chains for tying Wonder Woman and other characters up. Apparently, they had received a letter from a reader or reader’s parent concerned about how often this particular plot device was popping up.

This may sound like a reader overreacting, but the truth is that early Wonder Woman comics invariably depicted the main character getting tied up, locked down, or maybe disciplined with a good spanking. Or all three.

Yes it was the 1940s. But this was also the same publisher that released Picture Stories from the Bible. So maybe time to reign things in a bit. A bit, of course, translating to specifically “50 to 75%” less chains minimum.

Another thing to note is that at most there had only been 5 or 6 issues of Wonder Woman released up to this point. The comic book series was barely over a year old, with a quarterly release schedule. And people were already thinking “enough already with the chains!”.

Never one to leave his creators without guidance, All-American Comics president Max C. Gaines provided Dr. Marston with a helpful list of alternative “methods which can be used to keep women confined or enclosed”. For story purposes! Nothing else. The list was “hastily dashed off” by a female assistance, so she would know I guess. Gaines reassures that substituting chains would not interfere “with the excitement of the story or the sales of the books”.

Nothing kinky going on here

At this point, it might seem like Dr. Marston had some issues. Well, yeah maybe. But to be fair, he had a lot going on in his life. He had invented a crucial element of the modern polygraph (lie detector). He was a Harvard educated psychologist whose work led to a behavioral model still used today. He created one of the most instantly recognizable and globally known comic book icons in history, and was among the earliest proponents of the educational power of comics. He lived with his wife (psychologist Elizabeth Holloway Marston) and another woman (Olive Byrne) for years in a polygamous relationship. Both women inspired and should probably be considered co-creators of his work. His studies led him to early feminist theories printed in popular magazines of the time. We’ve all got stuff going on. Right?

Some quotes from the good doctor (some represented last year by SarcasticBite.com, some from Wikipedia):

Wonder Woman-and the trend toward male acceptance of female love power which she represents indicates that the first psychological step has actually been taken. Boys, young and old, satisfy their wish thoughts by reading comics. If they go crazy over Wonder Woman, it means they’re longing for a beautiful, exciting girl who’s stronger than they are. By their comics tastes ye shall know them! Tell me anybody’s preference in story strips and I’ll tell you his subconscious desires. These simple, highly imaginative picture stories satisfy longings that ordinary daily life thwarts and denies. Superman and the army of male comics characters who resemble him satisfy the simple desire to be stronger and more powerful than anybody else. Wonder Woman satisfies the subconscious, elaborately disguised desire of males to be mastered by a woman who loves them.” – Dr. William Moulton Marston, Family Circle, 1942

“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.” – Dr. William Moulton Marston, The American Scholar, 1943

“The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound … Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society. … Giving to others, being controlled by them, submitting to other people cannot possibly be enjoyable without a strong erotic element” – Dr. William Moulton Marston, source unknown

“Give them an alluring woman stronger than themselves to submit to, and they’ll be proud to become her willing slaves!” – Dr. William Moulton Marston, source unknown

Digital Comics Update: Dark Horse launches Digital, NBM goes interactive, Nook gets Graphicly app, Archie translates digital to Spanish

Comic books continue their evolution into digital comics, where the sequential art form is available on mobile devices like the iPad and Android, game systems like the PSP, and web browsers. Expanding in distribution, getting more competitive with prices, and experimenting with interactivity – these are all good signs that digital comics might be growing from infant to toddler.

After some delays, Dark Horse Comics will launch their anticipated Dark Horse Digital program later today. The system was built in-house and uses a web-based system supplemented by apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. The comics will be priced starting at $1.49 $0.99 (versus competing apps that have comics starting at $1.99), and will be available in bundles as though you’re buying a full graphic novel collection. The app will be free and come loaded with the first issue of Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction by Mike Mignola and John Byrne. There will also be five free comics available: the first issues of Criminal Macabre by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, Joss Whedon‘s Fray, Mike Mignola’s Abe Sapien: The Drowning, Gerard Way‘s Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, and Mass Effect: Redemption. The app will have hundreds of other comics for download, including issues of Conan, Joss Whedon’s Serenity, Eric Powell‘s The Goon and more. An Android app will follow.

Meanwhile on the Nook Color, Barnes & Noble has launched a new app store which includes three graphic novel apps from Graphic.ly: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen, Mark Millar and JG JonesWanted, and Mark Waid‘s Irredeemable. All of the apps have been specially optimized for the Nook Color e-reader, which uses Google’s Android platform. Graphicly also has digital comics from major comics publishers available on the iPad, iPhone/iPad Touch and Android, on the web, Adobe Air, and Google’s Chrome browser app.

Dinosaurs Across America (iPad screenshot)

NBM Publishing and their all-ages Papercutz imprint has teamed up with TWP Interactive to produce what they are billing as the first interactive graphic novel, Dinosaurs Across America by Phil Yeh. (It’s not the first, but it’s still cool.) Dinosaurs Across America was first published as a traditional graphic novel in print in 2007. It was named one of the best 25 graphic novels of the year by School Library Journal and has won acclaim for its ability to teach geography to children. The new interactive edition allows the reader to zoom in on individual states, learn fun facts and play with puzzles. The interactive version is now available for $9.99 as an app for iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), and for $4.99 as an e-book on Koobits.

And finally, Archie Comics continues its aggressive pursuit of digital, launching Spanish language versions of some of their digital comics Monday. The comics are available on Archie Digital, as well as their iOS app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch provided by iVerse, and the Sony PSP. An Android app is coming soon. Further translations into French and Hindi are planned as well.

Happy Nuclear Disaster Day!

Yay!

Wait, that’s not right.

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up 25 years ago. It was a horrific incident that forever altered countless lives and the surrounding environment. And here we are watching Japan struggle with a partial meltdown (at least) at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant following the incomprehensible destruction and loss of life from an unprecedented earthquake and tsunami. Different and yet there are some frightening similarities.

Today and tomorrow in the Atwater Village community of Los Angeles, as well as Pasadena, there are several events paying tribute to the original Chernobyl disaster, courtesy of Voices From Chornobyl, a theatrical production adapting a book of interviews with survivors of Chernobyl. I have worked with Cindy Marie Jenkins on this in the past and her handling of this topic is pitch perfect. Never preachy or dogmatic, but sympathetic and humble to this massive event’s effects on real people. The performances of her actors aren’t manipulative, they are heart breaking on their own terms, filled with revelations about how the human condition responds to the unthinkable.

Tuesday, April 26th – 25th Anniversary of Chernobyl

3:30 PM: A special preview of the Hollywood Fringe Festival production of Voices From Chornobyl Jr., a workshop focusing on the disaster’s effects on children’s lives. The free event is for children ages 8+, at the Atwater Village Branch of LA Public Library.

Katya was 9 when the accident at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant changed her life. After recent events in Japan, a journalist asks Katya and her family about the accident 25 years ago. An interactive and educational story of a young girl struggling with her world, brought to you by the Awareness Team of Voices From Chornobyl. Profits go to Chernobyl Children International.

6-8 PM: Gallery reception for Art From Chernobyl at Kaldi Coffee & Tea, 3147 Glendale Blvd., 90039.

9 PM: Staged Reading of Voices From Chornobyl followed by a talk back session discussing radiation, at Brazilian Yoga & Pilates, 3191 Casitas Ave. #112, 90039.

Wednesday, April 27th

8 PM: Staged Reading of Voices From Chornobyl at CalTech‘s Baxter Hall in Pasadena, sponsored by CalTech’s Engineering & Applied Science and Theater Arts at California Institute of Technology. Snacks & beverages following reading.

Random Observations of Amazing Fantasy #15 – The Origin of Spider-Man

Amazing Fantasy #15 by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (click to read issue at Marvel.com)

I closely re-read Amazing Fantasy #15 recently, as reprinted in Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. This is the very first appearance of the amazing Spider-Man, as he appeared in the final issue of a weird little anthology previously titled Amazing Adult Fantasy.

Cover dated August 1962, the issue was plotted by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, scripted by Stan Lee, illustrated by Steve Ditko, probably colored by Stan Goldberg, and lettered by Art Simek. The cover was illustrated by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and colored by Stan Goldberg. In this reprint edition, art and color reconstruction was done by Michael Kelleher and Kellustration.

A lot has been written about this issue but I’d like to just post some of the random thoughts that popped into my head as I was reading this. A lot of it silly and trivial but not all of it and I don’t see many people specifically pointing this stuff out too often. If you’ve got a copy of the issue, follow along at home. It’s a fun issue and a great origin story told in a compact 11 pages. They really don’t make ’em like this anymore. You can buy the Marvel Masterworks reprint on Amazon or read the issue online at Marvel.com.

Random Observations:

Cover:

  • How did I ever not notice those big thick white motion lines on the cover?
  • I always thought it was funny that one of the cover blurbs was announcing a special message from the editor. As though this is an exciting sales pitch to people browsing the comic book section of the newsstands. Never mind the stories, this comic has a letter!

Part 1:

  • Page 1: Spider Man, Spider-Man, Spiderman – which is it?! (YES, IT MATTERS!!!) It would actually take a couple of issues of Amazing Spider-Man before they settled on the middle one.
  • Page 2: “Wheatcakes”? That sounds kinda gross. Or maybe just really bland.
  • Page 3: Scientists are just as obnoxious as the high school cool kids crowd, it turns out.
  • Page 3: The radioactive spider-bite caused Peter’s fingertips to turn yellow for a while?
  • Page 3: His tingling spider-sense does not go off here or in this issue at all.
  • Page 4-5: Crusher Hogan enjoys his work. That is the happiest wrestler I’ve ever seen.
  • Page 5: What is Peter using for his first mask? Fishnets maybe?
  • Page 5-6: Nameless TV producer has an awesome hat.
  • Page 6: Did they really have majors in high school in the early ’60s?
  • Page 6: I’m going to pretend that a prototype for his web fluid was being made in the earlier scene of Peter with a teacher in the school science lab. Because him just whipping it up on his own in an afternoon is too much for me. (And yet I’m totally fine accepting that a spider bite causes someone to stick to walls. I’m not saying these observations make any sense.)
  • Page 6: Maybe Peter also minored in home ec so he could make his costume.

Part 2:

  • Page 7: Quiet on the set, Mr. Camera Man! Geez. And get back behind the camera.
  • Page 7: I’m not real clear what Spider-Man’s stunt is here. Webbing a candle that’s sitting on a pendulum?
  • Page 7: Now the TV producer from the previous scene is yelling cut as though he’s the director?! I assume this isn’t the set of The Ed Sullivan Show, as mentioned on the previous page, because this production is a mess. Is there even an actual director on set?
  • Page 8: Yes that’s right. A high-speed express elevator for a TV studio in the 1960s. Totally standard.
  • Page 8: After being rejected by the kids at high school and his scientist “friends,” Peter declares his sole loyalty to his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, the only people he feels has ever cared about him. “I’ll see to it that they’re always happy, but the rest of the world can go hang for all I care!” This after they give him a new microscope he’s wanted, so maybe a tad materialistic of him but they are very loving elsewhere. He’ll soon discover that this kind of petty isolationism comes with a price.
  • Page 8-9: I wonder if the police officer in the TV studio is related to the police officer outside his house days later. Brother maybe?
  • Page 9: Speaking of that cop, nice tact there. “Bad news, son – your uncle has been shot – murdered!” And then proceeds to tell Peter precisely where to go to exact revenge from the burglar. So fired. (No actually, it looks like he whisks himself off to the warehouse for the story’s climax, where he is revealed to be the captain and commanding officer on the scene. Or the brothers are triplets.)
  • This is really an overall note for the whole issue, but Steve Ditko draws the most awesome and unique faces. Every character, no matter how minor, has their own personality. Even the older police officer and security guard, while similar looking, have different eye brows and profiles.
  • Page 10: Spider-Man’s first night time web-slinging! Whee!
  • Page 11: In times of great stress, Peter Parker’s pupils become so pronounced, they can be seen through his mask. Like the glowing fingers, another side effect of the irradiated spider bite that faded away. Naturally.
  • Page 11: Captain Fired is about to order his men to rush the warehouse, where the burglar would have surely gone down in a blaze of glory, taking as many police officers as he could shoot with him. Interesting that Spider-Man probably saved the lives of several police officers, but with the emotional state he’s in he’s probably never realized that.
  • Page 11: “… with great power there must also come — great responsibility!” This phrase eventually becomes the guiding principle of Peter’s life. It’s later credited to Uncle Ben, but he never actually says it in this story. It’s also worth noting the dash, and the “must also”, both usually left out when quoted today.

Announcement from the Editor:

  • Page 12: The story has always been that Spider-Man appeared in this issue because they knew it was the final issue of Amazing Fantasy, so there wasn’t much risk to try out a new character. But this editorial letter to the readers makes it clear that when this issue went to press, they thought there would be more issues of the series. The new editorial policy, which includes a change of format and a slight title change from Amazing Adult Fantasy, is laid out. And “Spiderman” will appear every month. Stan Lee has told the story that he tells in his introduction to Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 tons of times. He’s also admitted to having a terrible memory and re-telling stories that sound good but may not even be true. Turns out this is one of them.
  • Page 12: It’s also neat that they would have a scorecard of which stories in each issue of Amazing (Adult) Fantasy were most liked. (The comic was an anthology, so multiple stories appeared in each issue.) It’s amazing that they had 300 votes for the favorite story from the previous issue. 300+ fans were involved enough to mail letters and this was a comic on the verge of cancellation. It’s not specified, but the stories are from Amazing Adult Fantasy #12 due to the lag time from mailing and printing.
  • Page 12: If you want to read the scorecard winner, the 3-page story “Something Fantastic” from Amazing Adult Fantasy #12 was included in the 2005 collection Marvel Visionaries: Steve Ditko. [Amazon link]

Have any observations, random or otherwise? Questions about the issue? Post them below!

This Friday is brought to you by Masseuse Kitteh

Things to do in LA this weekend:

Spectacular Superhero Variety Hour at the Bootleg Theater in Silver Lake/LA, Friday 7:30 PM, $10. [Interview with director Ben Dickow]

Tumblr Reads at the Mountain Bar in downtown LA, Saturday night 7 PM.

The Magic Meathands Present Variety Comedy Hour with improv groups the Magic Meathands and [this space left intentionally blank], and stand-up comics Jeff MacKinnon and Atul Singh at the Mary Pickford Studio in West LA, Saturday 8:30 PM, $5. (With me!)

Interview: Stan Goldberg

Archie Marries... (click to buy from publisher Abrams ComicArts)

Speaking with comics artist Stan Goldberg was an honor, and I’m very grateful for his generosity with his time. I definitely did not expect this to go 45 minutes but he had a lot to share, and it’s worth it to hear him talk about all of this. His love for his work comes across quickly. He really loves what he does. It’s clear that this is a man still enjoying and exploring his craft and the process of storytelling despite already being a master at it.

I was also struck with how unfortunate it is for someone who has lived and breathed the Archie characters for the last 40 years, who has been the artist on their most commercially successful and buzz worthy books (for good reason), now finds himself with some uncertainty. Fortunately he’s still immensely talented. His abilities not only haven’t diminished, but may be stronger than ever. And he remained classy throughout, with not a bad word to say about his former employers. Already plans are in the works for the next phase of his career, and that to me is exciting. With over 60 years in the biz, he still has a lot of creativity to give.

Here’s the audio of our interview:

MP3 Download

Here’s a breakdown of what he talked about:

  • His 40-year career with Archie Comics, characters he clearly loves and respects, and his recent departure from the company.
  • Creating the color designs for Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four (the Thing is colored like “a wrinkled orange”), the Hulk (his pants were meant to be magenta, not purple), and the rest of the Marvel Comics universe, including the villains like Dr. Doom.
  • Being asked by Marvel to draw the Fantastic Four 50 years after coloring the first issue in 1961.
  • His work being reprinted in prestige hard cover books: Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg [Amazon link] and Archie Marries… [Amazon link]
  • Being mentored by Stan Lee the art director in the ’50s
  • Using the Marvel Method for Millie the Model
  • Creating Kathy the Teenage Tornado (reprint this, Marvel!)
  • On the comics industry during the Senate hearings of the 1950s and the industry’s response: “It almost destroyed the whole industry.” He says the Comics Code Authority, the industry’s content watchdog, went overboard: “They made some corrections, but I guess they had to show what they were then getting paid for.” Marvel even lost their distributor for a time, which resulted in Stan having to go freelance.
  • His work on Millie the Model influencing women in fashion design and magazines like Cosmopolitan, McCall’s and others.
  • Collaborating with Michael Uslan on last year’s “Archie Marries…” story starting in Archie #600, which sold 50% better than Marvel & DC comic books at the time. His pure penciled artwork for the covers of those six issues was reprinted in IDW’s recent Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg
  • The story of the surprise debut of Archie Meets Punisher and the plans for a sequel that never came to be.
  • And perhaps most exciting of all… teasing a future project he’s creating with a writer.

Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg (click to buy from publisher IDW)

(Also a cameo by my cat Cleo climbing up the back of my chair if you listen carefully. I should also apologize for the volume disparity between his voice and mine. Fortunately once we get started, it’s mostly him. Ah the joys of technology. I’ll try to work that out for the next interview.)

FF #1 variant cover by Goldberg (50th Anniversary of Fantastic Four #1, Marvel Comics)