Here’s a video review of the documentary Dig Comics that I somehow missed when it was originally released. I helped produce the doc short, which won Best Documentary at Comic-Con International: San Diego’s Independent Film Festival, and has also been an official selection at the Cannes and Vancouver international film festivals (among about a dozen other film fests). We shot some more footage a few weekends back and are ramping up for some epic comic evangelism action.
Cross-posted on the Magic Meathands blog. I’ve been a member of the Magic Meathands for nearly 3 years, performing well over 100 shows of improvised comedy. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, give yourself a treat and catch one of our shows.
April's Fools joins the Magic Meathands on Dec. 17
Did you get stuffed on Thanksgiving? Did you get trampled on Black Friday?
The holiday season brings joy but it can also bring stress. Shopping, cooking, decorating, family gatherings – these can either be a lot of fun or higher therapist bills in the works. One of the best things to do during this time of year is get out, relax and enjoy some good comedy. Fortunately we’ve packed December with plenty of opportunities for just that sort of solution. Here are the details:
As I mentioned last week, we’re back at the Westside Comedy Theater this Friday night. Santa Monica’s best place for laughs has been renovated with a bar, which is guaranteed to make us seem much funnier. Our show starts at 8 PM and tickets cost $10. Those tickets are good for every show for the rest of the night, which means you can hang around to enjoy The Waterbrains and Mission: IMPROVable, two hilarious improv groups. Three groups all performing improv comedy might seem like much but we each have our own distinct style and format, which really keeps the whole night lively and unpredictable.
Then it’s our popular family friendly night with Jump Start, so you can bring the kids, spouse, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and have a great night out. The show is Saturday, December 10, and starts at 8 PM with Jump Start, followed by us at around 9. Tickets are $7 for the whole show, which is at the spacious Mary Pickford Studio on Venice Blvd. at National in West LA.
And finally, it’s our monthly Tag Team Show where we’rere joined by some of our talented friends. This month, it’s the improv comedy group April’s Fools! Based in the South Bay area, they’ve been bringing laughs to Hermosa Beach and the surrounding area for over 13 years. Don’t miss your chance to see them with us on Saturday, December 17. The show starts at 8 PM at the Mary Pickford Studio. Tickets are $7.
So there you have it! Three opportunities to make the holidays just a bit sillier (in a good way). I hope to see you at one or more of this month’s shows. Each show is a completely unique experience, never to be repeated – just like a snowflake. So try to catch as many of our shows on your tongue as you can! … Wait, this metaphor just took an awkward turn. But if someone shows up in a snowsuit it will be worth it!
Whether published as comic books, graphic novels, manga, web comics, digital comics, or some other form of sequential art, comics published this year continues a fantastic renaissance in the art form that brings more creativity and innovation. Barely able to contain their excitement, several outlets have already released their lists for the year’s best. And since we’re now knee deep in the holiday shopping season, let’s see what has won the attention of critics and reviewers in 2011.
I’ll add to the list as more are released. Check out the artists own webpages and check out the publisher links for more info on each book. Select quotes are taken from the site/publication, visit each for more.
First, here are some Black Friday shopping guides that are still worth consulting and will no doubt influence those site’s final Best Of lists:
Also of note is the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs blog sending out an open call for nominations for this year’s Best Webcomics. Let me know if I’ve missed a Best Of list worth reading. OK, on with the lists!
Amazon.ca – Best Books of 2011: Comics & Graphic Novels (published November 28, 2011) [mostly the same as Amazon.com’s list below except for 4 items]
Host of NPR’s On the Media, Gladstone uses a cartoon persona to take the reader on a thoughtful and entertaining excursion through the history of the media from ancient Rome to the rise of digital technology.
“Habibi, Craig Thompson’s intricate and moving fairy tale about familial and romantic love, one’s relationship to their environment, the shared roots of Christianity and Islam, and the effects of industrial modernization, tops our list of the best Comics & Graphic Novels of 2011.”
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone in the United States! Everyone else… Happy Thursday?
This morning, the Magic Meathands and I are performing at a church in Inglewood that is serving a Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless and needy. I think this makes the third year in a row we’ve done this show. Improv comedy directly to the people that need laughter the most. I love it.
Eat hearty and be thankful.
Meanwhile, here’s an awkward and poorly-lit video of our cat Cleo:
After the last two days, I think we need something to lighten things up before we head off to the Thanksgiving weekend.
If someone thinks about comic books long enough to consider that people actually make them, that person is probably aware of Stan Lee. The head editor and face of Marvel Comics in the 1960s, Stan “The Man” Lee helped plot and script nearly the entirety of Marvel’s then growing line of groundbreaking superhero comic books. He also either helped write or oversaw the western, romance, suspense, humor, war and other comics back when Marvel wasn’t primarily limited to one genre. He was also an innovator in fan interaction for the comics world of the time, taking on a carnival barker persona that remains to this day. While he hasn’t been involved in Marvel’s day-to-day operations for a long time, he’s still thought of as the guy who created the Marvel Universe, even if that title almost completely ignores the contributions of the brilliant artists working at Marvel at the time (most significantly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko). Despite the controversies and legal issues of who really created Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and all the others, and to what extent, Stan Lee remains a beloved public figure of Marvel and a legendary force of goodwill and visibility for comics in general.
These days, he remains as active as ever with his POW! Entertainment, where he’s provided concepts for a mini-line of superhero comics published by BOOM! Studios, superhero characters for the NHL, manga, and countless other projects, along with a first look deal with Disney and other production partnerships. (But not Stripperella. Nobody had anything to do with Stripperella.) And on the side, he makes cameos in Marvel Studios’ films:
To expand his Twitter and Facebook presence, Stan Lee is getting ready to launch TheRealStanLee.com, which is going to be a community-focused site. Here’s the promotional video that was released yesterday:
And thus we get to the real point of me posting all of this. Included in the above video is a clip of Stan Lee meeting The Fake Stan Lee. Played by cartoonist/improviser Kevin McShane, the Fake Stan Lee hits the right balance of playful tribute and pointed satire. For a few years now, McShane has been posting funny videos of himself as Stan Lee attending comic book conventions and interacting with attendants unabashedly being Stan Lee. And if you don’t know what that means, you got a glimpse at the above video. Now check out the below two videos. The first includes the two Stans meeting at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con.
And they had another showdown in last year’s Comic-Con:
For more Fake Stan Lee videos, check out his YouTube channel.
On his Twitter page, Hart initially only posted “Miserable world”. Later, once word had spread, he tweeted “Thanks everyone for your words. They mean a great deal to us, thank you”. He also posted a picture of his daughter (right) with the comment, “Please don’t comment on this one, just let it be, thanks”.
Their friend and fellow cartoonist Lauren R. Weinstein (The Goddess of War) was the first to make the tragic news public. She has set up a PayPal account to receive donations to help Hart and Corman with expenses.
Just to be clear, this is not an ongoing charitable foundation; it is a bunch of Tom and Leela’s friends passing the cup around to help them surmount the short-term challenges arising from this tragedy.
Rosalie was a wonderful girl. She loved lizards, Miyazaki movies and duck ponds.
Cartoonist Jon Lewis (True Swamp) offers further context, explaining how the new family had only recently moved down to Gainesville, Florida, from New York City on a shoe-string budget with the hopes of Hart opening up a new comics school. In the comments section, Hart posted of their new home, “It’s a magical place, this town, where her soul was set free.”
My deepest condolences to Leela Corman, Tom Hart and their families.
LifeHealthPro has a lengthy article taken from the November 7th issue of National Underwriter Life & Health Magazine covering the heart-breaking story of comics writer Bill Mantlo. For Marvel Comics, he co-created the super-hero duo Cloak and Dagger, which is currently being developed as a TV series for ABC Family, and the sci-fi oddity Rocket Raccoon. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, he also wrote Spectacular Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, over 500 issues total. As the article details, in the early ’90s, he had become a public defense attorney for a non-profit until he was severely injured by a hit and run in 1992. For a moment, it looked like he would have a miraculous recovery, but through a series of bullying and manipulation by his insurance company, he ended up losing the ground he’d regained and getting stuck in what amounts to a nursing home. Bill’s brother Mike Mantlo has been running his affairs since the accident, and as you’ll read, it has not been an easy journey. That might be one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever written. Please read the article.
I reached out to some of the people who have been involved in various fundraisers and also Mike Mantlo to get some additional details.
In communicating with Mike, there were a few points of the article that he felt were inaccurate, and I offered him the opportunity to offer up his side for the public record.
Regarding the contentious selling of Bill’s comic book collection, which served as his archive and research library for his prolific work with Marvel, Mike told me that Bill had sold it prior to the accident. According to Mike, “he himself sold it off around 1986 to finance the cottage”.
As the LifeHealthPro article states, that cottage is another matter of controversy with the family. Mike stated that Bill never owned it outright, but shared ownership in a co-op. “Bill’s ex-wife was given 3 opportunities to assume the debt remaining on the mortgage that Bill bought her out of, but reneged 3 times with the bank.” Mike added, “I was forced to sell it to a friend of another co-op member through a ‘short sale’, just to get the asset off of Bill’s ledger so he could qualify for Medicaid”.
The final point he wanted to make was regarding the life insurance issue. “There was never any $100,000 life insurance policy that was surrendered for cash.” He pointed out that “if there had been, the state would have seized any funds” for Bill’s Medicaid coverage.
In 1994, Mike Mantlo set up a fund to help raise money to cover the ongoing expenses of Bill’s care. Recently writer Greg Pak (Incredible Hulk) wrote a wonderful tribute about Bill Mantlo’s influence on his own writing and included a link to Mike’s fund through PayPal:
I also checked in with Jim McLauchlin of The Hero Initiative. It was somewhat perplexing and disappointing to read in the LifeHealthPro article about The Hero Initiative’s apparent confusion over their own contributions. However, when I briefly spoke with McLauchlin, he said he had provided lots of information for the article. As he recalled to me, his contact with Bill’s brother was initially around 2002 and 2003 when the organization was still very young. This 2009 interview with Mike Mantlo confirms that The Hero Initiative provided the first support of any kind from the industry:
I had to struggle to fight his insurance company from cutting off his benefits, and the comics industry didn’t really step forward until many years later (probably because Bill had left it in the mid-80’s to become a lawyer). It was only when [The Hero Initiative] (comic book professionals support group) was formed in the late 90’s-early 00’s, that any assistance, or (financial) support came through. They deserve a lot of credit, as does Tony Isabella, who’s been the biggest champion of Bill’s throughout this whole ordeal.
The Hero Initiative is a great organization that has done crucial work to provide financial support and employment opportunities for comic book creators in dire need. The structure of the organization requires that requests for funds or assistance comes from the recipient or their family. McLauchlin stated that he hasn’t heard from Michael for about 3 or 4 years. I asked Mike Mantlo about whether he was considering re-approaching The Hero Initiative for additional support, but he said it wasn’t something he was planning on doing.
I will always be indebted to them for their kindness. I do not intend to approach them again, as I feel their mission is to assist all comics industry professionals that are in need, and I know their funds are stretched pretty thin with the many people they help (Ed Hannigan being the latest example that i was aware of). Bill would have wanted these funds shared equally, and I support his wishes in that regard.
Artist Ed Hannigan collaborated with Bill Mantlo on Spectacular Spider-Man and in creating Cloak and Dagger. Below is a video of Hannigan talking about his career, his struggles with multiple sclerosis, and how The Hero Initiative has helped him.
As The Hero Initiative’s Jim McLauchlin expressed to me, Bill’s story is tragic and it is indicative of issues that go beyond him and beyond comics. As health care reform takes full effect in 2014, we’re likely to see more of this topic on the national stage.
Mike Mantlo isn’t the only one remembering Bill. Over a year ago, Bill’s daughter Corinna Mantlo and her brother Adam Pocock set up the Facebook page The Bill Mantlo Project to pay tribute to their father and attempt to rebuild a complete library of Bill’s work. Eventually, they also hope to set up a non-profit scholarship fund to help kids pursue an education in art and writing. As the Facebook page mentions, “Bill was lucky enough to attend public art high school in NYC and then Cooper Union for a virtually free college art education, but many aren’t as lucky.” Friday night, I reached out to Corinna for additional details but by press time had not received a response.
As briefly mentioned in the LifeHealthPro article, during the last decade there have been other efforts made to pay tribute to and raise funds for Bill Mantlo. It started with Sleeping Giant Productions in partnership with Mike Mantlo producing Mantlo: A Life in Comics, a book which covered Bill’s life history and career (disclosure: I donated to help cover some production costs). While now out-of-print, it can be downloaded at Wowio.
I checked in with David Yurkovich of Sleeping Giant Productions to see his response to the article.
I wasn’t aware that the article was being published. My priorities over the last few years have shifted away from comics (ie, now a parent, new job, etc), which has left me with little time to devote to the medium. Even the Mantlo portal of the Sleeping Giant Creations web site has become terribly outdated, I’m afraid. But as the saying goes, you can only do what you can do. The article was heartbreaking. Obviously I’d known about Bill’s condition for a while, but my understanding was vague and limited. Bill Coffin’s article appears to have been exhaustively researched, both from a personal and health industry perspective. The costs associated with Mr. Mantlo’s care are staggering. I would have been interested in knowing more about the “new medication” that, for a time at least, improved Bill’s cognition and activities of daily living. If the drug was working, why did the physician in charge suggest doubling the dosage? Why wasn’t a small, gradual increase suggested? All water under the bridge now, I suppose.
As difficult as it was to read the stunning details in Bill Coffin’s article, I’m glad that he wrote it and that it saw publication. The vast majority of comics fans really have no idea whatever became of Bill Mantlo. The struggles he’s had to live with, not to mention the struggles his family have had to endure, really underscore the need for serious healthcare reform in the US.
Regarding any future plans for fundraising, Yurkovich told me the following:
There probably are [plans for more fundraising]. Bill has a legion of fans world-wide. Ideally I’d like to see Marvel step up to the plate and produce a Bill Mantlo Visionaries hardcover collection or an Incredible Hulk Omnibus containing Bill’s amazing run on that series, with a percentage of proceeds going toward Bill’s care.
In addition to Mantlo: A Life in Comics (pictured at the top of this article), the art show Rom: Spaceknight was put on by Floating World Comics in Portland, Oregon. They exhibited and sold new artwork of the cult favorite Rom character in which Bill was so involved. Walt Simonson (Thor), Jeffrey Brown (Incredible Change-Bots), and Guy Davis (B.P.R.D.) were among the artists that contributed. Finally Wowio reached out to Mike Mantlo to issue a digital release of Bill’s original graphic novel and comic book series Swords of the Swashbucklers, although that unfortunately does not appear to be available anymore.
My hope is that the LifeHealthPro article has inspired renewed interest in helping Bill Mantlo and that some of the above projects will see renewed interest and support. If you’re not comfortable with PayPal (above), you can also mail a check made out to Michael Mantlo to help with costs of Bill’s care:
26364 East Pintail Road
Long Neck, DE 19966
This Saturday, I’m performing with the Magic Meathands at the Mary Pickford Studio. It’s our Tag Team Comedy show where Held2gether kicks off the night. Improv comedy (that means we make it up but in a really funny way.) Come on out and have some laughs.