Stan Lee and the Hollywood Reporter

‘Growing old is no way, to stop being young’

—anon

 

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/stan-lee-needs-a-hero-elder-abuse-claims-a-battle-aging-marvel-creator-1101229

Stan Lee Needs a Hero: Elder Abuse Claims and a Battle Over the Aging Marvel Creator

We are all of us the culmination of the people and influences that shaped us.

Those moments brief and bright that taught us either to dream, or not to.

As an introverted kid, writers were always that gateway to that better world for me, what Lincoln called the better Angels of our nature.

There would be Baldwin and Bradbury and Asimov and Poe and Ellison, but the first writer that really lifted the ceiling of this world for me, who really said ‘here be marvels, join us’ was Stan Lee. Not so much as writer, because when I started in this four color hobby, the writers were Giffen and Kraft and and Moench and Claremont; however Stan Lee as Editor, and cheerleader, and Guide, he was very much an Affable, super excited Rod Serling, but rather than introducing you to the bizarre, he was introducing you to the wondrous.

A lot of people in an effort, I’ve said this before, to build up an artist who didn’t perhaps get as much accolades as he could, made a practice of trying to underplay and tear down Stan Lee.

Here’s the thing,  Stan Lee doesn’t get enough praise for what he did. He when NO ONE ELSE was championing the creators of these comics, when the publishers barely wanted you to know who created these books and wanted it to be a faceless assembly line process, Stan Lee was the man who championed, and nicknamed, and personalized these creators for us. In so doing he created a family, and invited all his readers to identify, and be excited by the work. Often the books which were okay or good, were made grand just by the share fervor and excitement that Stan imparted to you, the reader.

 

Growing up in the often unforgiving streets of a major city, it is easy to fall through the cracks, and go the wrong way. Two loving parents helped, a few good friends, crazy siblings, but a lot of what you become, a lot of your value, is defined in the private conversations that define your inner world.

 

That was defined by quite a few influences of film, music, comedy, writing, but if I am honest, one of the bigger influences is the childish four star values of comics, of right and wrong, and True Believers. The Alliterative, fun, bombastic, no-limits language and vivacity of Stan Lee, leapt off the page and helped by fits and starts to make me a kid who dreamed and smiled and knew no limits.

Decades removed from that kid, the man I am, the good in that man, the poetic and hopeful, owes a debt to quite a few people, and Stan Lee is one of those people.

I consider him a hero. Deserving here in his twilight years of all the fame and adoration and joy, earned in a career bringing joy, first to kids through comics, and then spending his later years pursuing getting these modern myths taken seriously and embraced by cinema and the larger world.

He has done that. Not easily and not alone, but with a lion-share of the work as spokesman for comics, on his shoulder, he has done it.

He has fought the long road culminating in Billion Dollar Marvel movies, and new Disney Superhero Themed Amusement parks, he had a dream, long before anyone believed in it, and he through many setbacks, has manifested that dream.

Here in 2018, should be the happiest of his years, a reward of a singular life, and faith confirmed.

So the Hollywood Reporter article comes as a blow.

My God, that you should go through life, and give, and love, and hope, and endure, only in the final hour, to have it all ripped from you, by the greedy, and the venal, to have it all besmirched. And that the horror should come from those who should ease your days, is an injustice too great to bear. That a man who recently lost the love of his live, should now, if the Hollywood Reporter article is correct, have to endure abuse and the loss of his liberty is evil beyond anything even comics has written about.

I don’t know how this can be made right.

Especially if tales of a Stan Lee that has been systematically isolated from any potential defenders, is true,

It is a horrible article.  But too important of an article not too be read:

 

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/stan-lee-needs-a-hero-elder-abuse-claims-a-battle-aging-marvel-creator-1101229

 

Stan Lee believed in dreams, not too much removed from the ‘Idea Space’ of Moore or Morrison, a place where good thoughts could make good lives. I’ll ask you, wherever you are reading this, to spare a minute in offering Stan Lee, your best thoughts.

My thought, if thoughts may manifest, would be for the man who believed that ‘with great Power comes Great Responsibility’, and instilled that mantra in generations of kids, is protected by the power of the State of California.  That these allegations of abuse and coercion be looked into, and if found true Stan be immediately removed from the suspect situation, or the negative elements removed, and Stan appointed medical and legal and security protection to assist him in seeing after his needs without duress.

For a man who gave so many of us great victories, and helped us believe in heroes, there must be a way to get him his victory, and maybe for once be the hero to the hero-maker.

 

If you have any thoughts to add, please do.

 

 

 

 

 

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Marvel Studios BLACK PANTHER in 3D – The Verdict?

I just came from a sold out upscale theater showing of Ryan Coogler’s BLACK PANTHER for Marvel Studios.

I’m going to try to be brief. As someone who went into this having avoided all trailers, and spoilers, and special feature exposes (that in my experience is like pre-chewing your food before sitting down to eat, making it impossible for fan or reviewer to truly be surprised by a film) I was… blown away.

 

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In terms of look, performance, direction, pathos, and humor, and rock solid action, it is without argument one of the best of the EIGHTEEN Marvel Studio Films released to date. I saw it in 3D and it is worth seeing in 3D. You don’t get the things flying into the audience effect, but the sense of looking down, and into chasms and waterfalls, plays up to 3Ds strengths. So I recommend seeing it at least once in 3D. I say once because like the original AVENGERS film, this is a film that deserves to be seen more than once.

I plan to see it in 2D when I go back next time.

This BLACK PANTHER film, released during Black History month, in my humble opinion is in a three way tie for the #1 Marvel Movie of all time; tied with the original AVENGERS by Josh Whedon and CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER by the Russo Brothers. Those three movies share one shining exquisite truth; they are not just great comic-book movies, they are great films… FULL STOP.

Okay that should be all you need, go see the film now.

Okay still here, the following contains minor spoilers.

Black Panther Movie Poster

BLACK PANTHER is a great film from first frame to last. It is masterfully done; weaving effortlessly between drama, pomp, circumstance, humor, horror, tragedy, and heroism and hope. Chadwick Boseman is astonishing as the titular character, playing him with understated grace and elegance, that carries effortlessly the weight of the film. He is the rock upon which our tale is moored.

Writer/Director Ryan Coogler in three films has catapulted himself as one of the defining directors of our age, and BLACK PANTHER is that talent writ large. This is the tale of the death of kings, of fathers and sons, and things lost in the fire, this is about nothing less than the fate of the world, and about nothing more than the grief of boys for their fathers, a beautifully developed thread in all of Coogler’s films, but never done so well as here.

Coogler takes the admonishment of Hamlet ‘The common theme of life, is death of fathers’ and uses it like a lover and a lance, to both caress and break your heart. And he takes King Henry’s complaint in THE LION OF WINTER ‘I could have conquered Europe all of it, but I had women in my life.’ and here makes of it the saving grace of the protagonist, the film, and the world.

It is the women in this film who save the world, who save the men from their self extinguishing thirst for conquest and vengeance. And taking that line from LION OF WINTER, to also mean parental and familial influence, the difference between T’Challa and Killmonger then ultimately is in their relations to their fathers, even to the structure of their afterlives, one is defined by the inspiration of his father, and one by the lack of his father, and both of them have become completely extraordinary men in staggeringly different ways because of these relations.

It makes for a film of unexpected emotional intensity and depth. Coogler as a filmmaker has my number, as tears unbidden came to my eyes in places in this film. But I would argue he has everyone’s number, if you have the heart to feel, be you Irish or Korean or Ethiopian or American, Coogler will find those places that bind us all,… and squeeze. And then he’ll hit you with the action, then the humor, and sometime when you are laughing, he will squeeze again, and the tears will rise and you will know this is a filmmaker.

And it is wonderful when a director finds his muse, and an actor finds the director that gets him, brings out his best. Coogler and Michael B. Jordan are that combination.

They join legendary director/star pairings such as:

  • Ford and Wayne
  • Hawks and Wayne
  • Kurosawa and Mifune
  • Hitchcock  and Grant
  • Lee and Washington
  • Scorsese and Dinero
  • Scott and Washington
  • Woo and Yun-Fat
  • Ayer and Smith
  • Fuqua and Washington (It is not lost on me that Denzel Washington’s name appears with three different directors. It just shows the kind of fantastic actor he is, the longevity of his career, and that he can embody for many directors, the perfect actor).

Black Panther Movie Poster

Those pairings when they happen are the source of cinematic gold. And it happens in BLACK PANTHER with Coogler and Jordan, two of the respective best of their generation.

Simply a masterful film, with a stunning cast, and great performances. And Kudos to Kevin Feige who with 18 films under his belt, is not just producing films that transcend the source material, he has proved himself the most successful and influential film producer, in the history of the medium.Supplanting such names as Zanuck or Lewton.

It is a success richly earned.

That said, a lot of fans and reviewers care about the numbers, how much a movie makes. I do not. I could not care less if BLACK PANTHER made $1 or 1 Billion Dollars. In this day where studios own the films and the theaters; that is money that is being taken out of local economies. It is good the movie is successful in that we get more such movies from that director, that producer, those actors, but as far as making Disney richer, that does not concern me.

Now should we go back to the days of local and community owned theaters, then that matters, that we should support, because those dollars are staying in the community.

So I’m happy for the movie not because it does this much business, or that much business, I’m happy for the movie, because such visions raise us all, and the success allows such visionaries to keep telling stories.

Grade: An unqualified A+.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Black Panther (#18 of 23)

If you like this movie I recommend the following:

The following movies are too good, to trust in the ‘cloud’ or ‘streaming’ to always have them available, or always have them available in unchanged, unedited, or unaltered versions. The below movies deserve to be owned in physical form, in the age of digital.

Chadwick Boseman in Message from the King (2016)

Chadwick Boseman’s excellent A MESSAGE FROM THE KING
LION IN WINTER
http://amzn.to/2CtUltq
HAMLET
http://amzn.to/2C6aEk6
AVENGERS
http://amzn.to/2C5Lx0W
CAPTAIN AMERICA : WINTER SOLDIER
http://amzn.to/2C3M97v
CAPTAIN AMERICA : CIVIL WAR
http://amzn.to/2szGli8

WEEK 5 of 2018! Best Youtube Video/Channel!

Kudos to CEREAL AT MIDNIGHT for some excellent content on his blog and Youtube videos. His Youtube video on COLLECTING MEDIA IN A DIGITAL WORLD….  absolutely essential viewing.

 

http://www.cerealatmidnight.com/

 

As someone old enough to remember the pre digital days and the coming of vhs and dvd and cd, those formats empowered the consumer. And these Millennials growing up to think physical media ownership is a burden, and the instant gratification of the cloud is the way to go, do not realize the power that they are relinquishing back to the studios.

Do not realize that the freedom to be free of physical media, comes at the cost of never being able to have a product that is not subject to being removed, or altered or banned, at any time.

Comes at the expense of having anything that you can actually own, without the oversight of gatekeepers.

VHS and DVD and CD, in fundamental ways started an evolution that empowered the consumer and got the market to cater to the consumer. Increasingly with digital (sans physical media) the conversation has returned to a one way monologue.

Consumers being dictated to, rather than catered to.

And that will get worse if we let physical media as a companion or alternative to ‘in the cloud’… disappear. Because we have sold a new generation on a lie that privacy and physical ownership is a burden, that takes them too much effort… to preserve.

Much as our media and politicians are selling them on this idea that Liberty and Democracy and Civility… are likewise burdens that take too much effort… to preserve.

So yeah give CEREAL AT MIDNIGHT some patronage, especially that video. It currently has about 500 views, it deserves to have 5 billion.

TV REVIEW : Netflix’s LUKE CAGE Season 1 Episode 1-13 by Cheo Hodari Coker

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Well I’ve just finished watching the 13th episode of Netflix/Marvel Studios LUKE CAGE, and I have to say… I loved it. Full stop. Show runner Cheo Hodari Coker manages to in many ways do the impossible, and take a character already spotlighted in the JESSICA JONES series, and whose origins are the milieu of the Black Action or Black Agency film of the late 60s and 70s (mislabeled under the derogatory misnomer of Blaxploitation) and with him tell a rich, evocative, exciting, deeply layered cultural and historical and prescient love letter, to a place, Harlem, New York, and to an idea of local determination, and local agency, and self love, and colored love, and Black love in the age of Ferguson.

 

 

Or you can just look at it as a great action/drama series, set in the wonderfully expansive universe of Marvel shared superhero universe. :).

 

 

But what has exemplified the Netflix/Marvel collaborations to date is how grounded they are in a world not so dissimilar from our own. The gritty street level nature of DAREDEVIL’s 1st season, and ground breaking fight choreography, and fantastic writing made for a justifiably lauded 13 hours of television. (lost a bit in its less cohesive and interesting 2nd season)

 

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LUKE CAGE takes that to another level, in being a show that is as much about cultural signposts and idioms that define us, as it is the ‘A’ story of conflict and resolution. The literary and historical and musical references are not just littered throughout the story, they help define the scope of the character and the scope of the neighborhood that this story takes place in. A man is the things he loves, the things he reads, the things he listens to, the heroes that inspired, the places that mattered, and immediately in one episode Coker defines LUKE CAGE the character and the series in broad strokes, that for me reverberate deeply.

 

 

The first two episodes floored me in how good and rich and beautiful, they are. Coker here hitting, for me, the conversations I have in my soul and my head, Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, Denis LeHane, George Pelecanos, Donald Goines??? Come’ on Son!!! Kenyatta??? Those few strokes and I knew this was a writer with a deep love and understanding of genre fiction, and those who make it.

 

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But it’s more than name dropping, our influences define us, and define our world, and define who we care for, so immediately they make us part and parcel of this story that Coker and his team of writers tell. It’s a beautifully structured 13 hours of television, in that the first 6 episodes are very much their own chapter. You could bundle those 6 episodes up and have a great season.

 

Episode 7 feels like a swerve, very much like a start over, so if you rush into it, not recognizing that peak at the end of 6, that culmination, it’s going to feel stretched out. One of the possible dangers of binge TV… you have to pace yourself.

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Take a break after episode 6, let that sink in. It is very much, in comic book terms, the end of the first trade paperback or story arc. Episode 7 begins the 2nd story arc, so you have to go into it not rushing to a conclusion, but gearing up for the start, because start it does. As everything from the first arc gets turned on its head, and new major players break on the scene. It’s a jarring ride, but once it hits episode 9 its has picked up steam and by 10 is on a full sprint to the finish. Episodes 11, 12 and 13 are Brilliant.

 

There is a saying out there that ‘it’s not how you begin, but how you end that matters’; that saying is wrong. All of it matters. It is about how you begin, how you endure, and how you end. Cheo Hodari Coker’s LUKE CAGE does the extremely unlikely, in doing all three exceptionally well.

 

 

I want a Blu-Ray of this show, complete with Director’s and cast commentary, like yesterday. It is that good, and replete with episodes you want to go back to and know more about.

 

 

And I have to say it’s wonderful to see here in 2016, that TV is making great strides to not be exploitative, and to have shows where you can have more than a token number of characters of color.

 

 luke-cage-poster-claire-temple luke-cage-poster-misty-knight

 

One thing I love about LUKE CAGE, particularly about the 2nd half (I love the first half as well) is it is so wonderful to see 6 beautiful women of color in major speaking parts, taking center stage in moments of strength and weakness, and owning the stage. It’s so rare to see a three shot of powerful, beautiful Black women in uplifting, exciting, dramatic, heroic material. It’s non-existent in Hollywood but thankfully, through great show-runners of color, and the success of shows such as BEING MARY JANE and EMPIRE is becoming finally available on the small screen. And the same love extends to being able to see multiple men of color in powerful, uplifting, heroic roles.

 

 

And the appearance of Method Man, and that song… Amazing. This series in addition to a DVD/Blu-Ray, must release a sound track, because in addition to the songs, the score for some of the episodes… is stunning.

 

 

I’ve recently become addicted to listening and purchasing scores, and LUKE CAGE has a world class score.

 

 

Now, is the series perfect ? No. I thought episode 3, they had a real opportunity to do an action sequence as talked about as DAREDEVIL’s hallway fight, but the director/fight coordinator wasn’t up to it. You’ll know the scene when you see it, it’s perfectly fine, but never rises above fine, when it should have been spectacular. And it’s a different show from DAREDEVIL , so the action will be different, I get that, but you can still do different and STUNNING.

 

Also, my problem with a character like Luke Cage, is the same one I have with a character like Wolverine, just because you can stand there and take being shot by a hail of bullets, doesn’t mean you want to or have to.

 

 

Luke Cage’s character (minor spoiler ahead) is revealed as a former police officer, former Recon soldier, former Prison MMA Fighting champ, former Boxer, all this to say… HE CAN FIGHT. So speed the dude up! Rather than standing there and waiting for someone to unload a clip on you, he should be disarming them and wrapping the gun around their necks before they can get off a shot. Especially since ricochets can kill just as well as any other bullet. I understand visually it’s an exciting thing to depict, but it should be the exception for talented filmmakers, not the rule. When he is shielding people from gunfire, sure… let the bullets fly. But in combat mode he should be disarming these guys before they get a shot off. Particularly later in the season that attitude would have made for exciting sequences.

 

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So that was another issue I had. However, the sequences do improve as the series progresses. Plus it’s not a show that is about fisticuffs like DAREDEVIL, as much as it is about the fight for a soul of a neighborhood. And that tale it tells expertly.

 

 

It is a superlative 13 hours of television, and all involved should take a bow. Cheo Hodari Coker has made not just a great Netflix series, but a great television show, and the one to beat as my favorite show of 2016.

 

Marvel's Luke Cage

Marvel’s Luke Cage

And among the Netflix shows so far where do I rank it? It’s much better than DAREDEVIL Season 2, which was good, but not great, it edges out JESSICA JONES, which was great, and it battles it out with DAREDEVIL Season 1 for the top spot. DAREDEVIL Season 1 which was clearly the best show of 2015, outdoes it in terms of action, a definite A of a show.

 

 

However I have minor quibbles with it, like I didn’t like the loss of Ben Urich, I found the character of Karen page annoying through most of it, the character of Matt Murdock was a bit unlikable, and the last episode it failed to stick the landing with an unimpressive looking costume, and just a bit of a dour ending. So those nitpicks, are the reason LUKE CAGE edges it out, and gets a big A+ grade from me. It possesses a story and characters that I want to revisit… often.

 

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Final Verdict: Seminal, Must Watch TV! Will appeal to fans of mystery novels, especially fans of Chester Himes or Walter Mosley, or fans of movies such as TROUBLE MAN.

 

If you are not a fan or are made uncomfortable or nervous or have unexamined issues with women of color, you probably will have an issue with the later episodes.

 

‘The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ Brother, it always does. :).

 

But for the rest of us who watch the series, LUKE CAGE is phenomenal television at its best.

 

COMIC OF THE DAY: Al Ewing and Greg Land’s MIGHTY AVENGERS and the Black White Nick Fury?!


Marvel Comics.

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You know them? They are owned by Disney, they are brother to Marvel Studios that produces those box office shattering movies that have been all the rage for the last several years.

Well Marvel Comics while not the money maker of the film or video division, is the idea-space for those other mediums, and as such has an importance that belies its modest publishing revenue. As such, they are not going any place.

That said they could be doing better. But at every turn the publishing arm seems to be almost antagonistic to their customer base.

Tactics such as over-saturation of the market and expensive cover price of its titles ($4 is way too much to pay for an ad strewn comic with no additional content) translates into the audience (me) making a conscious choice to avoid all their books at best, and limit my consumption to one or two titles at worst.

Enter… THE MIGHTY AVENGERS.

THE MIGHTY AVENGERS by Al Ewing and the criminally castigated and underrated Greg Land is my favorite Marvel Comic, and the only one I purchase monthly.

Now don’t get me wrong there are other Marvel books I like, Aaron’s THOR, Remender’s CAPTAIN AMERICA and UNCANNY AVENGERS, the new MOON KNIGHT and IRON FIST has me interested, and if all those titles were $2.99 rather than $3.99 I would pick them all up. But I really do feel if any company can successfully ‘hold the line at $2.99′[an euphemism for not raising prices]… it is Marvel Comics, and their refusal to do so… is a misplaced arrogance, a belief that the entrenched fan-base will buy the books regardless.

It is a price gouging mentality, and I am proof to the contrary.

Rather than them getting $15 a month from me for five $2.99 comics, they get $3.99 for one comic. That greed, that one dollar extra cover price, has cost them $11 from me, $11 that now gladly goes to Image Comics or Dark Horse Comics.

And more than that, I am now trained to wait. I’ll wait till a Marvel series gets collected and is available at my local library and I’ll read it for free. So yeah Marvel Comics, that $3.99 cover price… here is one concrete case where you have actually lost business because of it. So great job there.

And the one Marvel Comic that I do get, is Ewing and Land’s MIGHTY AVENGERS.

Al Ewing creating a frenetic and pulp-inspired book that every month delivers a satisfying story, and one of the only books on the stands that offers multiple characters of color, treated respectfully (rather than as punch-line’s such as other Marvel Books are doing. Example being ‘Nick Fury’ gate. :).

Movies made workable the character of Nick Fury, by using the popularity of actor Samuel Jackson.

Now Marvel Comics wants to integrate that successful character from the movies with the 1960s comicbook version. So the brilliant way Marvel Comics decides to do that is by labeling the Black Nick Fury as the ‘son’ of the White Nick Fury. Wtf? Really? :).

That’s the direction you’re going? Can you say demeaning, bigoted and stupid? Hey Marvel here’s a solution for you… How about they are both just Nick Fury, with no relationship to each. Nick Fury being a title, like ‘Christopher Chance’ that gets passed to whoever is worthy. Took me two seconds to come up with a better way for both Nick Fury’s to coincide without demeaning and denigrating the Samuel Jackson version.

Who would have thought it would be the movie Marvel Universe that would get it right, and the comic-book Marvel Universe that would increasingly be the disappointment.)

Which is why Al Ewing’s MIGHTY AVENGERS is such a treat and a surprise. Despite being hamstrung with having to participate in Marvel’s various events (could not be less interested in Marvel’s Crossovers) Al Ewing manages to use the handicap of the crossover as a springboard to tell his own highly imaginative and absorbing tales of werechickens (don’t laugh, it’s pretty cool)and inter-dimensional evils, while at its heart always being a very generational story. A book that is about… Fathers and Sons.

Add to this Greg Land, who has had to suffer the recriminations of people with not a fiftieth of his talent, self styled art ‘critics'(parrots jumping on a bandwagon) who unable to create art, and ignorant even of the process, yet think themselves schooled to heckle their betters.

If you think Greg Land uses ‘porn stars’ for some of his inspiration, I would say two things to you, 1/ who cares and 2/you probably watch way too much porn. :).

Every artist from Jack Kirby to Gene Colan had a little stock/trace file, for poses or buildings or cars or fashion. You know why? Because it is a bloody job and stock photography and images are tools, and drawing, making your deadlines, is a job. And being able to take those inspirations, regardless of where they come from, and craft a functional and beautiful story out of it, takes immense talent. Greg Land is an immense talent, and his work on MIGHTY AVENGERS is drop dead gorgeous, brimming as it is with 70s Indie Black Empowerment images.

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So from writing to art, there is a one-two energy Ewing and Land have going here, that hopefully will continue for sometime. But when and if MIGHTY AVENGERS goes the way of other Marvel Titles, here’s hoping these guys create a similar creator owned title at Image.

I would love to see Al Ewing creating his own pulp-inspired or sci-fi tinged characters, and Greg Land drawing them. For all the good things Image has, a book with a majority of ethnic characters is not one of those things.

Perhaps it is time there was such a book.

So Marvel for all my bashing on them has to be applauded for THE MIGHTY AVENGERS. But if all involved really want the series to grow, 1/add a letters page and back-matter, 2/focus on stand-alone stories primarily, and 3/making it a $2.99 rather than $3.99 book wouldn’t work.

But other than that a fantastic read, month in and month out.

Oh and Al and Greg, two more suggestions, One/change the preamble that starts the book to be something with a little more import and oomph, and two/ Let Luke Cage take back the name Power Man. It’s a good name, and it’s his.

Thanks for reading and if intrigued by the above you can buy back copies of the Mighty Avengers or the Trades here:

http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=24852602&affid=200301p0
http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=25358810&affid=200301p0

Enjoy!

Crazy Rambling Short Story of the Day?! The War on the Public

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to a mad tirade is a complete coincidence. 🙂

Quick update, we have the WEDNESDAYS WORDS installment scheduled for tomorrow, that’s going to be a rough one, to get out on time. And I want to get up the MONARCHS OF MAYHEM interview with Charles Saunders for Thursday, which will push part two of 15 FAVORITE PULP HEROES into the weekend. So yeah just check back this weekend for part II.

But to give you pulp fans something in the interim, I bring you… The War on the Public! A mad, slightly quixotic rant (for those of you who’ve never seen me rant before… run away. The water is deep here, and in the words of Alan Moore, “the idea of a God… a real idea.” :)) :

CONDE NAST vs BLACK MASK – This is an oldie but an interesting read nevertheless about the first significant volleys in the war to eradicate public domain.

Here are some additional public domain links:

“Supreme Court Lands Final Blow Against the Public Domain! In Golan v. Holder (Jan. 18, 2012), the Court upheld the power of Congress to withdraw works from the U.S. public domain”

and

“What do we do now if Congress adopts a term of, say, life + 1000 years, or seeks to award a new copyright in Huckleberry Finn to Disney or to the Mark Twain estate?”

Public domain, public domain, public domain. Why is it disappearing? And Why should you care?

Well the first question is simple, it’s disappearing because people with money can make it disappear. It’s disappearing because of greed.

‘But’, you say, ‘there have always been rich people. and there have always been greedy people, so why is it disappearing now?’

Well it is disappearing now, because business has made such inroads into having the ear of our senate and house, and our courts, that the people who previously were elected to represent the citizens, are instead representing corporations.

The second question, “Why should you care?” I can’t answer that for you, I can only tell you why I care.

Now as a creative person and a writer, and as a friend of writers, I believe in copyright. I think it’s a great thing. But I also believe in Public Domain, and I think that is an equally great thing.

And I think before big business stepped in with their “more, more, more” mindset we had a perfectly workable compromise.

When I was coming up, public domain was very simple, after 50 years, a concept went into public domain

It became the property of the people. Of we, the people.

The writer doesn’t stop being the creator, he is still the creator, his or her name is still on the work. It’s just that after fifty years, his creation can be used by others.

The idea being that if an idea or concept has survived for 50 years that a/ it’s enough time for the creator to profit, sans competition, from the creation and 2/if people are still talking about a character or an idea 50 years later it has become part of the cultural conversation. It has become like an urban legend or a myth or a tale of Grendel and Beowulf, something that transcends the teller. Something that is part and parcel of a larger conversation and the basis for new creations.

(And notice I said people, Public domain is about insuring people, creators get compensated in their lifetime, it is not about ensuring the perpetual unending market share for an undying corporation. Why are companies, that don’t even have the welfare of this country at heart, given the right to lobby our representatives like citizens?

Companies that I can assure you don’t pay the percentage of tax that I do. I’d love to see Disney and Exxon and Shell paying 20% of their income a year in taxes. This nation would not have a deficit.

Corporations shouldn’t in a civilized world, have more rights than citizens. They don’t care about creators, they don’t care about this nation or any nation, they care about themselves. Which is fine if they are not drafting the laws for an entire nation, but they are, so their lack of concern for what is best for anyone besides them… becomes a problem.

A corporation without a sense of cultural and social responsibility… is a mob, to be watched, to be feared, and ultimately to be put down.)

That’s how culture and art works. New things building upon the old. And old ideas being re-imagined into the new. But the coming of the 21st century saw greedy companies rather than earn customers through the new, instead adopt a policy of profit through protection rackets, through intimidation.

So you get corporations lobbying for aggressive changes in the laws of copyright and trademark and patents. And suddenly public domain is an enemy for corporations to avoid and destroy at all cost, instead of what it should be, a necessary part of making old ideas the birth ground for the new.

Art doesn’t get made in a vacuum, it’s part of a continuing conversation. And we are made better for that open resource, for Universal Studios being able to do their version of Frankenstein or Dracula, and for Hammer Studios to be able to do their version, and for any writer or indie filmmaker to be able to do their version.

Without having to clear the usage of Mary Shelly’s concepts with Disney, or Bram Stoker’s concepts with Time Warner, anyone can do a Frankenstein children’s book, or produce a Dracula song or stuffed animal. And that’s wonderful, and cute, and beautiful, and healthy. So it’s about creativity, but it’s also about healthy commerce, and true free enterprise. Companies that want to generate wealth in a country, rather than just taking wealth out. And by Wealth I mean more than money, I mean the ability of people to be able to produce and own products of cultural recognition and interest, without having to pay tribute and protection money… to monopolies.

It’s especially galling to hear from these pompous companies, when the characters they are looking to lock down are, in many cases, popular inspite of them.

Who has kept the Shadow and Doc Sampson and even Spider characters viable? It wasn’t the bloody companies. The pulps and old time radio shows exist not because of the companies, that couldn’t erase the tapes and dispose of the pulps fast enough, it was the bloody collectors. These insane, lovely human beings, who threw together out of their own pocket, these things called conventions, at a time when a company’s initial response was, “Why are they talking about that lame, dead crap, come see my latest Disco Ball action figure! Look at the nerds still talking about the Shadow and Doc Sambo, or whatever his name is! Hey Nerds, the 1930s called they want their hero back! Ha! Ha! Ha!!”

🙂 (I just made myself chuckle)

Unfortunately much to businesses’ amazement, this old stuff, due to the passion of fans, actually had staying power. And if anyone has been to a movie theater in the last couple decades, monetary value.

However, as I’ve said before, it was the people, the collectors, the very obsessive types who corporations seek to criminalize today as filesharers, infringers, etc.,, that have saved and preserved much of the culture we now are able to still enjoy, that without them would have been lost.

I love the Old time Shadow radio shows, along with many other radio shows. Those shows, those great pieces of not just entertainment, but of art and culture and history largely exist, not because of Conde-Nast, or insert corporation here… those shows exist because rabid collectors, copied them off the air, made copies, and shared them down the years.

Same with the pulps. Same with silent movies, and sound movies, and film noir.

In the absence of companies finding a monetary value for something they destroy it. They erase over the tape of Doctor Who, they throw out the audio tapes of the Shadow, they burn original artwork of cartoonists.

Why? Because the number crunchers at companies, are not the creative people, they weren’t then and they aren’t now. They make decisions based solely on dollars and cents, and that tunnel vision is always flawed when dealing with work that is also about the imagination of man.

An ‘only Dollars and cents’ mentality will let what is quirky, and manic, and fun, and childish, and challenging in this world die. So these gentle angels of our nature survive because of people who love them. People like the owner of BLACK MASK. Rather than suing that man, Conde-Nast should have got down on their knees and thanked him.

Because he and his kind, collectors preserve these things, when Conde-Nast could not see financial gain to them. But in the wake of renewed interest from Hollywood at the end of the 20th century, and the gangbusters showing of comic and pulp related properties, suddenly everybody wants to sweep in and be the owner of old things made new.

Here’s the thing about public domain. It doesn’t stop you from making money if you have a good idea and a good product. So you don’t need to take Doc Savage or Shadow or Spider out of public domain, to do a book, or a movie, or a audio drama or a cartoon.

No one is stopping you. Build it and they will come. I don’t need to buy Spider Books or Shadow Books, however I do so all the time, when I see a great packaged product. However, if you’re a morally bankrupt company, that has no intention of putting out an attractive product, I can see how competition may not be for you. And you try to sue yourself into business rather than earning business.

And that is where we are at with these companies. They are so petty and greedy for every single penny, it is sickening.

Those…. bloodsuckers!! (Sorry, couldn’t resist! 🙂 )

Disney’s one of the biggest companies in the world, they can throw around 200 million dollar movies, like you and I throw around nickles, and yet they are afraid to death if a grade school kid creates and passes out her mickey mouse comic.

You can not have it both ways. You can not want something to be culturally iconic and generational, yet remain proprietary and exclusionary. No. We are creatures raised to spread stories over an open flame and for that story to travel from person to person, being changed by each person, owned by each person, passed on by each person, and becoming changed and new and different with each telling.

If you look at all the martial arts, they are pretty much the same art, changed over time, and over region. And we as a culture are better and stronger and richer for that migration, that cross pollination, that cross ownership… we are better for having silat, kung-fu, aikido, hapkido, capoeira, savate, kenpo, krav maga, systema… etc., we are better for free association, no fences, open source, public domain.

We have always been better for it. But now in the last few decades, fences are being put up by a few gatekeepers, on everything. And that cannot stand.

It is an unsupportable policy/mindset, utter control of the culture, art, and interactions of a mass of people by a few outside those people. There is a name for that, and it has always been the same name.

Because if you think that it is a nightmare and an outrage just getting rights to a song to use in your film or project or play, imagine wanting to do your short film of Poe’s TELL TALE HEART, and being told you have to get that approved through Disney, and if they approve you, fees start at $500000.

You wouldn’t have a filmmaker like Roger Corman, if the copyright and trademark environment of today was in existence yesterday. And then you lose all his Poe films, you lose all his collaborations with Vincent Price, you lose his part in the ascension of creators like Nicholson and Howard and Coppola. And who knows what we all lose for loss of those mad, creative cranked out Gothic films.

All that because one man was allowed to follow his muse without crippling interference or exorbitant costs imposed by ‘rights’ holders. How many possible Cormans are we killing, in multiple fields, today? Killing them because we are allowing dinosaurs to sit on our shared cultural conversation and art like a dragon sitting on eggs.

Doc Savage is public domain. Superman is Public domain as much as Robin Hood. Batman is public domain. The Shadow is public domain. Fifty years is a good run for exclusive rights to profits. None of this nonsense about renewal of copyrights, or trademark used to get around expired copyright.

[And speaking of trade-mark. MARVEL and DC have ‘jointly’ trade-marked the term ‘Super-Hero”. What is that about? So tomorrow do you trade mark the term ‘hero’ or ‘myth’ or god’? Do you trademark the term God? Who is at the trademark office just handing out the rights to every word in the dictionary to the highest bidder?

They haven’t begun invoking it yet, their ‘super-hero’ trademark, largely because I think they are waiting for some of the smaller comic companies to fold up shop, and don’t want a challenge to come up when their hand isn’t strong enough. But Like Microsoft, make no mistake, they will give it away for free today, to set themselves up to own the market share and charge you through the teeth tomorrow.

All you small comic-book companies need to come together and publish one big omnibus anthology called ‘Best Super-hero Tales’ or something, and get that trademark challenged and thrown out today. Now while the challenging is good. and all the old creators they are waiting to die before they can bring evidence, are still around. Because if you don’t, mark my words, ten years from now anyone who wants to use the term ‘Super-hero’, in the title to anything, will have to pay for the pleasure.]

I’m not saying companies can’t continue to sell and market their items past the 50 year mark, but what I am saying is that everyone else can produce their take on that idea as well.

(Quick aside here… A word on this copyright extended to 70 years after a writer’s death nonsense. Who the heck does that benefit, if not the money grubbing corporations? Did someone just say ‘the family’?

This isn’t about your family, fool! 🙂

Your family can make money, sell books, shoot movies, whether or not your book is in the public domain. We all know, the rights to a writer’s work ends up snatched up by the publisher. And with only about half a dozen conglomerates owning all the book publishing divisions as it is, that’s a troubling proposed consolidation of intellectual property.

See, what we’re talking about is every work after 1923 [that is the date today, tomorrow they might push it back to works in copyright being only stuff before 1823], all the accumulated wisdom, and hopes, and dreams, and pathos, and joy, and horror, and striving, and yes fighting against oppression of millions upon millions of writers, being owned, with this continued push toward extermination of public domain, the wealth of the world… owned by half a dozen oligarchies. What greater betrayal could there be? To any writer, to every writer. To have the work of the most imaginative, and moral people (which is what on a whole, I find writers to be), owned by people bereft of either imagination or morality.

And to that plan, of mad, sick twisted companies, their dream of a world devoid of public ownership, I say the only thing I can say, the only thing a life-time of loving books has taught me to say to such over-arching presumption and tyranny. I say… no. )

Public domain can work for all

Disney will still have Mickey Mouse, but if Tarantino or Seth Green or anyone wants to do a Mickey Mouse movie, they can. I’m not saying DC/Time Warner can’t still make Batman or Hulk comics or movies, but I’m saying past 50 years from date of creation, so can everyone else. How about a Batman movie by Werner Herzog or a Superman tv series by the Hughes Brothers?

Both those ideas just made me chuckle.

I can’t say you won’t get your share of train wrecks with such freedom, but you’ll also get get your share of wonders. You’ll get Baz Luhrmann’s Shadow next door to Branagh’s Doc Savage. And we are made richer when we can build on the culture we grew up in, rather than this new corporate policy of paying tribute to entrenched monopolies, Disney’s Culture or Time Warner’s culture.

This is very much a land grab, but not land rights this time, not water rights, not airwave rights (which they recently removed from Americans), this is about dreams… being fenced off.

We are on a perilous path. When I think of how much we have lost in the 6 years since Conde Nast sued BLACK MASK out of existence, it gives me pause. Because it is very much a culture where only the few will own anything, that we are pushing toward.

Not software, not hardware, not books, not houses, not music, not comics, not land, not our airwaves, perhaps not even our food or our air, do we get to own. Where everything we interact with is rented to us, is timed, our reactions to it… judged, to insure they are in acceptable non-infringing levels.

That is the end of culture my friends.

Fiction you say?

Yes… Fiction, I say.

Want to learn more?

Want to fight? You? Want to fight? After all I told ya Boy, ya want to fight the dragons of the world?! Swing at windmills like your uncle HT?!!

Aye, you bring a tear to an old man’s eyes. Aye, if I had five more like ya, I could ride into hell and put out all the fires! 🙂

Well get ya some education first boyo, read the following takes on public domain:

It’s a start.

OPEN RIGHTS– Ah, I love these passionate, mad Brits.

CR Fight ArticleYet another Brit! Where the hell are the Americans working to repeal copyright extension! Hold on, I’m still looking.

EFFAh, here’s the beloved Yanks! Over there! Over there! And the Yanks are coming! The Yanks are coming! Over there! WHAT??? Don’t you guys watch James Cagney musicals?!!

Stanford Overview of copyright

CR article

Public Domain info

OKFN

Why do you care if Avengers, or Dark Knight Rises, or Prometheus in Imax 3D makes a boat-load of Money?

As I’m wont to do, I tend to keep abreast of the entertainment news, specifically film. One thing I’ve been hearing quite a lot in the wake of the Avengers film is talk of it making over a billion dollars. And I listen to the fervor and sense of ownership all these writers and pod-casters are going on with about this financial mark. And I have to ask ‘Why’?

I mean I enjoy the Avengers movie, as much as anyone, arguably more than most people will in 6 months. By that I mean it’s an interesting hive mind approach that occurs in popular films as well as other things, where people’s steadfast belief in whether a movie is good and bad fluctuates with the slightest derision or the popular opinion of the day.

AVENGERS was and is a great movie full stop. Pacing wise, action, wise, story wise. But now barely two weeks into its release you hear a few people say, “oh well the first half was slow”, and people I heard broadcast not even a week ago how great the film was, begin to backpedal and parrot “Oh well the beginning was a little slow”. We live in a monopolized society where the individual is so scared to have an unpopular opinion, to the point that a lot of their opinions generally are not worth the breath they take to say it, or the paper they take to write it.

They have the spineless nature of slugs.

Same change of opinion (but to both a lesser and greater degree) happened to the Bryan Singer film SUPERMAN RETURNS. First week, people came out raving and loving that film. The Airplane scene, the bullet to the eye. It was a solid very good movie. But less than a week later, people began picking up the mantra of ‘why’s the kid there’ and ‘lex again’ and ‘Lois’. And you could see the ship of public opinion so to speak, turn. And people who initially were overjoyed about the film, started backpedaling, “Well, yeah I didn’t really say it was good.”. Until now a few years later people routinely call that movie awful and one of the worst.

It’s something I’ve noticed, Something that is not just American, because I’ve listened to enough British pod-casters do the same thing. So many are seemingly so afraid to hold an opinion derided or frowned upon or be seen cherishing something not embraced by their ‘friends’ or even their ‘enemies’.

It’s a lack of conviction, to anything you believe. Obvious symptoms of a propagandized population, so used to embracing any lie, that will keep it from having to alone, look at uncomfortable truths.

So yeah, when I say I enjoy the AVENGERS more than most people will in 6 months, that’s not me having you on, it’s just a fact. I’m not swayed by the mob.

I thought SUPERMAN RETURNS was a fun, solid B movie when I first saw it, and I still think so. I think AVENGERS is a brilliant, surprisingly so, Grade A movie today, and will think the same thing 5 years from today, when most of you have been pushed far afield of any opinion you may have had on the film.

I mean there’s nothing wrong with changing your opinion, if it’s your change, your growth, your adaptation. But that’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is a propagandized population taught by the media to have no constants, no ideals, no values, that will not be torn down; have learned to make their opinions on shifting sands, always ready to be remade at the slightest rise of the tide.

Superman Returns [Blu-ray] 2008 Remastered Version

Which brings us back to the original concern. Why are you celebrating or in any manner cheering the AVENGERS making over a Billion dollars?

Beyond just financial interest, I could care less if the movie breaks even, does 400 million, or does a billion. Honestly I don’t really have a stake in it if it loses money.

Of course liking the film, it’s nice if it doesn’t bomb, for the simple fact it would be nice to see more films by a competent director like Joss Whedon.

But it’s not a passion, I don’t have a dog in this fight. If I’m the studio, or someone with a percentage share in the film, hell yeah I’m celebrating every dime it makes. Or in the days when people from your neighborhood actually owned movie theaters and that blockbuster money actually cycled locally, rather than just getting funneled out of the community to make fat cats fatter, I might be happy.

But none of that is the case. I don’t personally know a single person who is in any way going to profit, by making a monopolized studio and theatrical system a billion dollars richer. All this did is take a billion dollars from a lot of little pockets, and put it into a very few big pockets.

Now I’m not making a deal on that. I went to see the movie like everyone else, but you can be damn sure I’m not celebrating this state of affairs either.

AVENGERS makes a billion dollars, okay. I accept it as a fact. But honestly, until such time as those funds and profits get distributed to real theaters and real people (a billion dollars, hell you can afford to hire real projectionists, pay the ushers, and ticket takers a real wage, get real popcorn and healthy drinks, etc, etc…but you’ll drop dead waiting for that money to trickle down. In fact all the studios can talk about is reducing costs at the local level and maximizing profits by digitizing everything), I have no interest in celebrating billionaires becoming bigger billionaires.

Beyond a movie breaking even to keep a good director or actor I like viable, that’s where my interest in what a film makes or does not make… ends. Some people were complaining because TRANSFORMERS:DARK OF THE MOON was a box office success. Who cares? I personally don’t get the Michael Bay hate, but as we’ve established I don’t follow the crowd.

Michael Bay is a talented director who puts bodies in seats. Some films of his I like, some I don’t. I loved his first film BAD BOYS, and loved his last film DARK OF THE MOON (which the end of the AVENGERS was more than a little like) and in-between like any other director he has been hit and miss. But even the movies I don’t like I don’t wish them ill at the box-office. What sense does that make?

If you don’t like a movie, does that mean everyone has to wish it ill and hate it as well? Does that mean you have to begrudge it its success?

I personally hated Nolan’s first Batman movie, and thought his DARK KNIGHT while better, was still flawed and over-hyped. So not really a Nolan fan, but I don’t begrudge his films their success. As stated, what Billionaires do or don’t make.. not concerned.

When some of that tremendous profit begins cycling back into the communities, well then that will be something to feel pride and ownership of.