Showing posts with label comics culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comics culture. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Frank Miller Takes Over the World



I have an employee who is into geek-culture stuff in a way that doesn't include actual comics.  She likes horror movies, Army of Darkness, and watches the TV shows and movies based on comics.  She just finished watching Daredevil (so say we all), and she was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt with art from the 90's cartoon while she was talking to me about the show.

"You know," I said, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a by-product of Daredevil."
She eyed me, somewhat skeptically.
"Frank Miller made ninjas cool in comics via the Daredevil comics run they're adapting for the show.  After that, ninjas were everywhere in comics, but Miller did them best.  It was the 1980's and Eastman and Laird were drinking beer and figuring out what might be popular for a comic and, hey, NINJAS.  The 'Teenage Mutant' part is referring to some X-Men stuff.  New Mutants, I think."
The look of skepticism was giving way to a bit of fear.
"Yes, I think you can argue that Bruce Lee started the craze, but in comics, I point to Frank Miller."
"Okay."
"Yeah," I said, refusing to let it go.  "The crazy turtle uses sai, right?  Elektra!  That's Miller.  What's the name of the bad guys the Shredder works with?"
She felt a trap.  "The Foot?" she ventured.
"Uh huh.  And the name of the ninjas in Daredevil?"
"...the Hand?"
"Right.  Now... let's talk about how Frank Miller is responsible for Batman v. Superman."
She was not impressed.
"Directly or indirectly, Jack Kirby and Frank Miller are responsible for everything in media right now," I concluded.
I don't think she bought a word of it.

In general, I'd argue the conversations the comics kids are having online these days don't seem to talk so much about what's happening in their comics as they do the characters in broad strokes, undergrad 101 media criticism of race and gender (which I welcome) and the creators, like they're following demi-celebrities who might talk back to them.*

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: David Rossi

I can't tell you how gratifying I'm finding this whole Gen-X Recollection project.  One of our first submissions was from a new friend from Denmark, and another from a person I'd only met once in the flesh, but that I spent plenty of time chatting with online (and Stuart is tops, people).  Then the flurry of submissions from friends from all across my lifespan.  I've been doing this blogging thing for a while, and this is one of the most fun things I've ever done here.

And now we have an entry from someone from the twitter-verse who I was kind of aware had a fascinating background, but hadn't put all the pieces together.

David Rossi is not someone I know in person, but he is a man who may have lived one of my lifelong dreams: working in a Star Trek Future.

Dave has had many roles when it comes to actually working on Star Trek.  But, I'll let him tell you about that himself, and how he got to that point.

Then, I'm going to ask him how many Captains chairs he's secretly sat in.


Editor's Note:  As a plaid-wearing Superman fan, I approve of Dave's whole aesthetic here


Dave Rossi
Los Angeles, CA via Buffalo NY
51 Years Old
Married, 2 kids.

I’ve worked at Paramount Pictures for 25 years, 14 of those on the Star Trek franchise, starting as a Production Assistant and ending as an Associate Producer. I also served as Supervisor of Star Trek Projects for Executive Producer Rick Berman, who created the position for me when he realized all the Trek knowledge in my head was actually valuable! I also co-produced the Star Trek Original Series Remastered project.

I’m still an avid Star Trek fan, Sci-Fi fan, Comic book collector, tabletop game player (It’s all about the Heroclix!). I am loving what Jason Aaron, Tom King, Geoff Johns, and Greg Pak are doing with their titles, and I think it’s a magical time to be a fan of these inspiring characters and their stories.


Before Comics Were Cool.

My father was a WWII veteran, and not much of a dreamer, unlike his youngest of 5 children, me. I had discovered Star Trek when I was in my 6’s, which profoundly changed my life. No one “got it.” None of my siblings, not my mom, certainly not my father. In fact our interactions on the subject went something like this: I’d be prone on the carper, head propped up on palms watching Star Trek with rapt attention. My father would walk in and say, in his deep voice, “Who’s winning?” to which I would reply, proudly, “Captain Kirk always wins.” My father would then say something pithy like “Now that you know that, turn the baseball game on.” It was a little game we would play I guess. Whenever it happened, I would use that tiny opportunity to try and imprint on him that what was happening on the TV was important, to me anyway. And I never thought he understood.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

That Supergirl/ Flash Meet-Up on CBS's "Supergirl"



Pick a tone, DC Entertainment.

I was never a fan of the "two heroes meet, fight, realize it's all a mistake and then go off to fight a common threat" trope of comics.  So, yes, just seeing the title of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice literally told me everything I didn't need to see in the WB opus (now down over 70% in ticket sales from last weekend).  It literally makes no sense for a person dedicated to improving things for other people to start a conversation by throwing a punch at someone else's head.  Frankly, it always kind of diminishes whatever I'm reading when the writers get lazy and that's the path they follow.

Yeah, even "Superman meets Spider-Man".*

I've been a fan of The CW's The Flash since episode 1, and I continue to enjoy the heck out of that show.  From this DC nerd's perspective, this is how you update a character and make the concept work in another medium with different needs than the comic page or context of National Comics in the Jet Age.  If you're going to change up Barry's origin story a bit, this makes sense, and I like the family with which they're surrounded Barry, both the Wests and his "work family", made up of repurposed C and D listers.

The show is far from relentlessly cheerful - villains are a threat, and we've had two seasons with serious arcs casting a shadow over the events of everything else.   But the core characters don't wallow in self-imposed pity parties and comply with the notion that being a jerk is a prerequisite to intelligence or depth of character (it seems Arrow is continuing to struggle with how to dig themselves out of that hole).  Barry and Co.'s ability to keep on going and improve things for themselves and the world is at the heart of what I like about ongoing superhero comics.

I wrote more than one post regarding the rocky start to CBS's Supergirl, but at some point the show started getting a grip on what it is and could be.  Once it dropped some of the standard soapy TV tropes and got on with the business of superheroing, it's been on a gradual incline of watchability.  They dropped the lame "nice guy" storyline for Win, and, to my great satisfaction, the seemingly one-dimensional character of Cat Grant (played by Calista Flockhart) blossomed immediately into a mentor character for Supergirl and her alter ego.  And, of course, the long game of naming Hank Henshaw as leader of this DEO business pulled a switcheroo and turned out to be a huge highlight of the season as the character turned out not to be the ridiculous Cyborg Superman but Martian Manhunter.**

I never disliked the cast of Supergirl, but CBS applied a lot of old-hat tricks, believing they knew how to make the show work for the broadest audience, but it seemed outdated and a drag on the show's velocity.  And, while I'm not sure we're getting a second season (it hasn't been renewed so far as I know), a second season could get down to brass tacks and be quite fun.  Plus, they've said Lynda Carter could play the President next season, which this site heartily endorses.  It could be a lot of fun.

And there's that word.  Fun.

SLAM EVIL with us During a Live Tweet of "The Phantom"! (Friday, April 8th at 9:00 Central)




Honestly, it doesn't seem like I've watched this from beginning to end since that summer when I dragged my brother to the theater to catch this flick.  The staff kind of shook their heads mournfully at us as we first, purchased tickets, and then, even more sadly as we headed willingly into the theater.

Basically, what I remember from this movie is that Billy Zane is fun (and still has hair), there's both a dog and a horse in the African jungle, Treat Williams chewing scenery and Kristy Swanson works a pair of jodhpurs and riding boots.

And, really, what else did we need in 1995?

We're recruiting YOU into joining us next Friday, April 8th at 9:00 PM Central for a Live Tweet of the movie.  Hopefully that's not too late for East Coast, not too early for West Coast and, apparently, this is the time that is best for Stuart.*

If you've not seen The Phantom and/ or don't know anything about The Phantom - all the better.  He's a purple superhero.  That's what you need to know.


  • The Movie:  The Phantom (1995)
  • Day:  April 8th, 2016
  • Time:  9:00 PM Central Time
  • Available:  On Netflix in the U.S.  Everyone else is on their own.
  • Technology:  We'll be on Twitter
  • My handle:  @melbotis
  • Our Tag:  #slamevil
  • Recommended number of drinks before starting:  3 beers/ 2 glasses of wine/ or 2 shots of whatever you've got (our temperate readers will need to just gird their loins)

Let's prepare to SLAM EVIL!


*And who are YOU to question what is best for Stuart?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: Jim D.

My very first memory of Jim D. is from an evening when I waiting for my Intro to Screenwriting class to start, and this guy behind me said "Hey!  Hey!  Are those comics?" about a pair of comics I had out on my desk.  No idea what they were.  Probably JLA, Invisibles or Preacher at the time.
"Yeah," I said, holding them up.  In film school, I was not much of a talker with people I didn't know.  UT is large, often impersonal and the film department could be competitive in the way everyone scrambling for scraps can be a bit un-fun.
"I used to read comics!" this guy said.  "Marvel!"  I think he mentioned Avengers by name.
This piqued my interest.
We began chatting and the guy was decidedly talkative in a breezy way, and decidedly not a blowhard film school jerk.
After that, we sat together in class, and pal'd around in the subsequent class, and then we both graduated.  He went to law school, I remained in Austin, being a non-lawyer.

As has been mentioned before, Jim and I kept up after graduation via email, and he got me started on all this blogging business.  After years of legal blogging, he's recently returned to blogging about pop culture, music, etc..., and we highly recommend his site.

This is a cross-post from Jim's blog, so if the formatting is a bit wonky, I'm tried of playing with the html he sent my way, but I'm glad he sent it.


elsons


A few years ago, I found myself wandering the streets of downtown Athens, Georgia on a lazy Saturday morning. After dutifully visiting the local record shoppes, I chanced across Bizarro Wuxtry, an old school comic book store located on College Avenue. A wonderful mess, the place offered its customers the opportunity to sift through immense piles of back issues, nostalgia drenched toys and collectibles, and other miscellaneous pop culture debris. As I strolled through the store that day, I suddenly caught sight of an issue of Elson's Presents Super Heroes Comics, the cover of which is depicted above. I was instantly taken aback, as I had been searching for this particular comic book for a number of years. This issue - apparently published in the very early 1980's when "Elson's Gift and News paid DC to repackage some of [its]√°comics" - was the very first comic book I owned. I don't recall very much about the circumstances surrounding its initial acquisition, but I suspect that my father purchased it for me as a gift during one of his business trips. Some Googling confirms that the Elson's franchises catered to business travelers during that time period. Somewhere along the way, my original copy of the issue was lost to the ages (likely misplaced during a move or otherwise purged from my possessions during some vainglorious effort to achieve a more minimalist existence). But three decades later, there it was again, sitting atop a pile of comic books and beckoning to me. Of course, I bought it and relived a few moments of my lost youth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: Jason C.

We are thrilled to have the participation of Jason C. here for the Gen-X Recollection Project.

Jason is a recently published author, a former co-worker, a former collaborator from my days at Comic Fodder, holds a PhD in English, a software developer and all around good guy.  Oddly, before I met Jason, I'd read part of his dissertation as it made the rounds in the geek-o-sphere as he discussed DC Comics as a collaborative shared universe through the lens of Crisis on Infinite Earths.  It was an odd moment when Jason and I were first chatting at work and I realized he was the guy who wrote that dissertation.*

Also, it turned out Jason was in grad school at the same time as my boss and they're pals.  Sometimes Austin, TX is a very small world.

Recently, Jason published his first novel, Old Green World. which is very reasonably priced at Amazon.

But, enough about me.  Here's Jason's narrative of how things went down.



I don't remember my first comic, but I'll tell you the first comics that I remember. A crisis happened every summer, late in the summer, around when the pool was getting routine. The Justice League would visit every year with the Justice Society. The Justice Society were the old heroes, the aunts and uncles and grandparents from World War II. It was a family reunion. The Justice League lived on Earth-1, and the Justice Society on Earth-2, but they would travel to see one another through a dimensional portal. When the portal went wrong, it was a crisis. The portal always went wrong. Every year.

ed. note:  Owl Man's original costume is insane


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

DC Comics details #DCRebirth, we look at Superman and... So many questions (not necessarily in a good way)

Thank Hera, WW is back in gold.  But what's with the blue boots on Supes?


Over the weekend at something called WonderCon, DC Comics used the Comic Convention platform to do what they used to do back before videogames and movies gentrified CCI/ San Diego - they actually delivered some fairly large comics news.

It's no secret to retailers or readers that DC Comics' line of titles has been in a creative hole of despair for going on 5 years, and sales have taken a related major nose-dive in the past two years despite incentive covers and as much Harley Quinn as DC could print.  The ill-conceived Convergence event of Summer 2015 gave anyone on the fence the opportunity to get the hell out of there, and, abandon DC they did.

It wasn't too hard to figure that after DC moved to the new West Coast offices many things would change, that the real-world stresses of moving would put any ability to react to sales issues on the back burner, but, once everyone was settled, they'd immediately begin planning.

The final product of a few months of brian-storming is now revealed:  DC Comics Rebirth.

So, what is Rebirth?

Monday, March 28, 2016

In Light of "Superman vs: Batman" - What is the Point of Film Criticism?


Batman ponders the Super Package


Although perhaps less so every year in a world of constantly sub-divided attention, movies and television are the modern cultural touchstones.  More than news, political figures or even war, there's nothing like a $400 million dollar movie to get everyone around the world doing the same thing on a Saturday.  International dominance of American cinema means that films transcend boundaries and political ideologies as Hollywood carefully crafts non-political films with standard "good v evil" tropes, without ever casting a particular point of view, aside from "evil menace" as the bad guy.

We aren't all just film viewers, we are all film reviewers.  We see a film, we consider that film against other films, source material and our particular perspective.  Sometimes we write that thought down.  The job requires no credentialing, and while some people are paid to look at movies, sum them up and say a few words about the relative merit of a film, others do this endlessly, fruitlessly on their own (cough), but it is something we all do mentally.  We are all ready to write a column for the local paper.  We all have the best, most nuanced of opinions.

Most of what you see in the press I think of as "reviewers" more than "critics".  Somehow, someway, those folks parlayed an interest in going to a bunch of movies every week into a job where they then must writer 1000 words about that movie.  A review contains a synopsis, who stars in a movie, and some sort of opinion about the movie.  Some make it colorful - and in this era of  anyone with a keyboard having the ability to publish, you gotta write some colorful stuff to get clicks.

How to separate a critic from a reviewer?

Well, a reviewer is a person with a local newspaper column or a website.  It's me.  It's you.  Your aunt who posts things to facebook.

There are two definitions of critic, I think.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: Ryan (It is I! Your humble blogger!)

Howdy!  And welcome to a not terribly special edition of Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project.  Because, it's me.  Writing about me.  And, settle in, kids, because this entry is entirely TL; DR material.

Fair being fair, I thought I'd partake in my own memory-gathering exercise.

The questions I put out there reflect some of what I've pondered of late when it come to how the notion of nerd-dom has changed, and as we watch the world embrace the same culture we reveled in, the same geek-type-stuff that once left us hated and feared by the very world we sought to protect, what it was like in The Before Times.

In putting finger to keyboard, it's a bit hard to think back on the past with genuine honesty.  The period we're talking about - when we got into comics and the fog of raw emotion that dominates your world in middle and high school - is one with which we all grapple.  My primary emotion during those years was "confusion".   Any tertiary emotions stemmed from whether my confusion was increasing or decreasing.

There are folks who read this site who will quibble with my assessment of how things went down, but that's the way of history.  I have tried to adhere to reality, but I know the years have painted over some of the truths, wounds have healed as the memories recede and the decades in between has provided a barricade from the days when everything felt like an open wound.

This may be the longest I've ever worked on a single post in all my years of blogging.  Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, this has also turned out to be one of the longest posts I've ever written.  So, if you're going to read it, go get your coffee now.

And, without further ado...


Howdy, y'all.  It's me.  Your friendly blogger.



Your name: Ryan (yeah.  I'm doing this, too.)
Your current occupation:  I am an Assistant Director at a Digital Library consortium.  My job is essentially "make the things work/ run a team of devs and sys admins/ other duties as assigned"
Your current place of residence: Austin, TX
Your current personal family status: Married, no kids, two dogs, extended family up in my business (everyone lives in town these days)


What was ground zero for you getting into comics/ science-fiction/ fantasy? About what year was that? Do you remember what was going on in your life?


These are the raw materials we were working with

It's probably important to mention, first, that my earliest memories of superherodom are tied to Adam West in Batman, which I reportedly watched in reruns before I could even speak.  As per sci-fi/ fantasy - my parents bought into Star Wars lock, stock and barrel.  My dad took my brother and me to see the first movie during its original theatrical release (take that, parents who aren't sure their two-year-olds can take Uncle Ben's charred skeleton!).  My Mom, who still likes Star Wars, had us in Star Wars wallpaper, figures, bed spreads... all that.  

But, yeah, I suspect I was imprinting on all of that stuff like crazy.

The Admiral took me to see Superman during its initial run (1978), but that took much later.  I vaguely remember watching (and playing) Gatchaman/ G-Force, as well as Super Friends in the late 1970's, and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  We had lots of capes around and a few Batman and Spider-Man toys.

The first actual comic books I read included Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny, maybe circa 1981, and I didn't like them.  It felt like the rushed, cheap work it was.  At some point, I got a Clash of the Titans comic book, and I liked that a lot.  Between the funny pages and that comic, I now knew not all comics were necessarily as hacky as the knock-offs of animation.

But none of this was exactly nerdy.  Just a kid consuming nerd-adjacent juvenile pop culture detritus.  However, that was not to last.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: My Brother! Jason S.

Well, well, well.

My brother, Jason "Steanso" Steans has decided to show up and get his two-cents in before I have a chance to set the record properly.

There's no doubt that having an older brother was an advantage in getting introduced to things a couple of years before others of my peers and friends.  Jason's almost exactly two years older than me, so we were in the same school sometimes, and close enough in age that we shared interests and did a lot of things together, even if I was on the losing end of any brotherly fist-fights over the years.

When it came to sci-fi, in particular, while growing up, we were often of one mind on what we liked.  We usually had to jointly agree on what movie we were renting until some time in high school, so we had moments like the time we decided to just spend the summer watching James Bond movies.  But he also was the person who told me to check out Evil Dead, brought home a lot of sci-fi classics from the video store, and, as he'll mention, was key in my transport to the comic shoppe once he had a driver's license.

He got into some things I didn't care about, and I was always more of a comics devotee than him.  And he's always been more willing to try on sci-fi TV shows than myself.  But to this day we compare notes on movies and TV, even if we're watching them on separate sofas in our respective homes.

He'll never mention it, but in high school he won a state-wide award for his short story, Death of a Netrunner, his, ahem, homage to the Cyberpunk works of Bruce Sterling, et al.

Here he is.  My brother and nephew, two of my favorite people.

Master Blaster


Your name:  Jason Steans
Your current occupation:  Mental Health Prosecutor- Travis County Attorney’s Office
Your current place of residence:  Austin
Your current personal family status:  Married with one child

What was ground zero for you getting into comics/ science-fiction/ fantasy? About what year was that? Do you remember what was going on in your life?

I don’t honestly remember a time without comic book characters in it. I remember watching the old Batman TV show in syndication when I was like 4 or 5. I remember running around in a Superman Cape while Ryan wore his Batman cape (yes- he used to favor Batman!). I got story books of each of the Star Wars movies and read them so that I already knew the plots when the movies came out. I remember playing Dungeons and Dragons (but probably not getting the rules quite right) in the third or fourth grade. Some of my first driving experiences were to take my brother and one of my friends to comic book shops and comic conventions.

No Country For Old Men: Let's talk about Superman vs. Batman (and initial reviews and whatnot)

All right. The first reviews are in for Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice, the much-hyped sequel to Man of Steel that, just there in the title, tells you how little faith Warner Bros. had in their desire for a stand-alone film franchise after making a terrible Superman movie in 2013.

Thanks to Randy, today I've also been thinking about actor Tommy Lee Jones.


How does one wind up with a face like Jones'?  There's a lot going on in that mug.  A lot of years written in the lines, the burned in look of disappointment.  How does one look that tired, that certain he's seen it all, and... yet... still confused how it keeps happening?  And, more so, the certainty it's going to happen again etched upon his brow.

Randy sent me a quote from an interview with Howard Stern, discussed in this article at Cinemablend, that detailed how much, apparently, Tommy Lee Jones hated Jim Carrey, who worked with him on Batman Forever.  Upon meeting Carrey, with whom he was to work the next day, Jones told Carrey:

"I hate you. I really don't like you…I cannot sanction your buffoonery."

That is a man with nothing left to lose and no time for antics.  And that was 20 years ago.

At best that's tangential to why I'm thinking of Jones and his face.  But it informs it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: Daniel F!

I've known today's subject since 6th grade.  We had a parting of ways that lasted for... 20 years?  But then Daniel and I started working at the same company in April of 2007 and were reunited.

Daniel was a classmate of mine in middle school, and we ran in the same circles, waited for the doors to open in the same pack and ate lunch together and whatnot.  So, lots of the sort of chatting one does at that age.  But, we lost track of each other for a long time.  But, now we know where each other are!
When he's not doing his day job, he takes pictures and creates art in a wide array of forms.  He's a fellow Austin resident, and a bit of a traveler.  Get to know Daniel better!

He's responded to my request for folks to participate in interview fashion, so... here goes!


Your name: Daniel Fu
Your current occupation: User Experience Strategist/Visual Designer
Your current place of residence: Austin, Texas
Your current personal family status: Single

he's on to you


What was ground zero for you getting into comics/ science-fiction/ fantasy? About what year was that? Do you remember what was going on in your life? 

My head's been in the clouds for as long as I remember. Seeing Star Wars for the first time definitely sparked my early interest. I became a voracious reader, but mostly focused on genre books... Sci fi, fantasy, mystery. I started drawing in high school, based on my interest in comics and cinema, investigating how the two related and how they translated story and images into 2 dimensions. Only recently have I started to break this down, a bit. Turns out, I'm drawn to stories with a bit of a mythological bent to them, some aspect that's larger than life. Comics, sci fi, and fantasy tend to fall into this pretty easily. But I also very much enjoy movies like Amelie, Sliding Doors, Blue Ruin, and No Country for Old Men that don't fall into those genres, but have that mythological quality to them. As far as timeline... I think G-Force (Battle of the Planets), Knight Rider, Star Wars, Transformers, and GI-Joe really got me started. So early 80s to mid-80's were formative. Our family had moved around every couple of years at this point, so I wouldn't say I was able to make lasting friendships.

Why You're Wrong About Batman, and Why Superman Would Win Every Time

the product of a Google Image Search for "Batman dumb"


Superman would win.

Superman
  • can fly
  • is bulletproof/ invulnerable
  • is able to push around an oil tanker, maybe even lift one (while full)
  • has eyes that
    • can see through anything but lead
    • see microscopic detail
    • provide telescopic vision
    • shoot lasers
  • has ears that 
    • can hear Lois's heartbeat on the other side of the country
    • can hear radio frequencies
  • has super-breath
  • can run almost as fast as the Flash (who runs so fast he runs through time)
  • has a dog
  • is mostly only vulnerable to kryptonite and magic
Batman
  • took some martial arts classes
  • still thinks throwing stars are pretty keen
  • has a hard time keeping friends
  • buys his way out of trouble
  • verbally abuses his butler, who is his only friend
  • puts children in mortal danger
  • spends nights beating the mentally ill
  • somehow never trips over a gigantic cape
  • might have a rock of kryptonite he'd never get out of his pocket before Superman took it away with a lead oven mitt

Yeah, yeah.  Batman plans ahead.  We've all heard that one.  Including Superman.  So, wouldn't Superman just plan on Batman planning ahead and just knock him over with his super breath from far away, then cover him in, say, piles of shag carpeting until Batman passes out?

Your argument is silly.

You are a silly, silly person.







This bit of internet trolling brought to you by:  Superman v. Batman - Dawn of Justice!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: Matt A.

I was beyond excited to see this entry show up in my inbox. Matt A. - who pops up in the comments - is a friend going all the way back to the 4th grade when he and I had both just moved to Austin.  His family came in from Minnesota and my own from the Houston area. Matt was my first comic book buddy, but I'll let him tell the tale.

We lost track of each other in the maelstrom of the early 90's when I moved away, but found each other again in the past decade when we both returned to Austin.  Matt's folks, by the way, are easily some of the nicest folks you would ever meet.  They get a solid thumbs-up from me.

Matt also had a special nickname at my house.  My grandparents were from Finland, and liked Matt enough that they called him by the Finnish version of Matt, which we bastardized to "Mutty".  He's still "Mutty" to my parents.  I doubt he knows this.

The thing is:  Matt knows. He was there at the very beginning when I was making all sorts of questionable calls. To get really old school, Matt and I played the Marvel Role-Playing Game together, rented Monty Python and the Holy Grail together, and, indeed, made our first voyages to the comic shop together.

Matt: Circa 5th Grade, Freaking Out The Squares


When I was 10, my family moved down from Minnesota to Austin, Texas. I was interested in a wide variety of sports, G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Star Wars, and I was just starting to get a taste of video games.

With the move, though, came new friends. Most of my interests were shared with the kids that I met in Austin. I had to transition to different sports - hockey wasn't too popular in the south at the time. But because the TV shows were shown nationally, we all had a shared interest in the toys of the time.

However, one kid I met had just started reading comic books. He showed me an X-Men comic, and I remember feeling a little strange about it. I had heard about them from my dad, who had told me that they were silly stories that kids had read when he was young. So I had this picture that comics were for kids younger than us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - Gen-X Recollection Project: Peter from Denmark!

Hey, everyone!  When I sent out the call for your recollections, I didn't expect the second response to appear in my inbox to come from someone I hadn't previously met, let alone someone from the fair land of Denmark!  That's pretty exciting, in my book.  And, to today's contributor, I can only say:  Jeg vil gerne hav en kop kaffe.*

We're collecting the stories of folks born before 1982 or so who grew up on comics, sci-fi and fantasy - back when that was maybe not the coolest thing to do.  There are a lot of different stories out there that defy the stereotypes and show what life was like before the internet and social media - and we want to hear them.

If you'd like to also participate in this grand experiment, please visit the info page we've put together.

Without further ado, here's our first surprise contributor:  Peter from Copenhagen!



My name is Peter Ravn Rasmussen. I'm an historian, mainly working as a teacher. I live in Copenhagen, Denmark, with my three sons. I am divorced.

I was born in 1965, the child of two people who came from working-class families. By the time I was a small child, my father had managed (despite very little education) to rise quite high in the ranks of one of the world's largest shipping companies, so I grew up in a fairly affluent home. But my parents were not academically inclined, and they were not habitual readers. To a certain extent, this meant that I was a "cuckoo in the nest" -- because I learned to read at a very early age (just before I turned 3). My earliest reading material was Donald Duck comics and, later, Tintin. By the time I was of school age, I was already reading voraciously and at very high speed, which caused some friction with my classmates (some of whom were just beginning to read).

In 1973, my father was asked to relocate to Hong Kong, and (after conferring with us all) accepted. I learned English in short order, and this must have happened at a favourable time, for English became functionally my second native language. It was while I was in Hong Kong that my interest in science fiction and fantasy, and comics (and all the other trappings of geekery) first began to grow. I watched classic 1950s and 1960s sci-fi movies on TV, I read superhero comics, and I came across some of the first science fiction books that I can remember reading. In particular, I remember reading many of Heinlein's juveniles, including "Farmer of Ganymede" and "Tunnel in the Sky", in this period. After a few years, we relocated again, this time to Singapore -- and I continued my exposure to these interests. I watched "Star Trek" (both the original series and the animated series), and I remember buying many of the Star Trek-themed Meco 8-inch dolls (this was before the term "action figure" had become common) to play with.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - Gen-X Recollection Project: Stuart W.

This is the first in what I hope will be a long-running series wherein we collect the memories of fellow Gen-Xer's recalling their experiences with comics, science-fiction and/ or fantasy, from back when these things were far from the coolest activities one could get up to, the internet didn't really exist, and the words "nerd" and "geek" were intended to cause shame.

By the way, I haven't really come up with a name for this project yet, so if you have ideas, email me.

Our first submission is from Stuart, a frequent commenter and a fantastic guy.  Stuart and I met in person last summer at the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois, and in between checking out The Superman Museum and eating fried foods, we go to hang out and talk quite a bit.  Stuart is a solid guy, and as we chatted, I realized he had this kind of amazing story, so I'm glad he chose to share it with us.

I know you all have stories, too, and we're here to collect them.

Stuart is a father, husband, and I personally know about one terrific act of heroism he performed that he cannot discuss and which is totally legit.

And so, without further ado...  

Stuart sits upon the Kryptonite stone, sharing his wisdom with all who seek it out

My first memory of buying comic books is off the spinner rack at the Navy Exchange in Keflavik, Iceland. My mother was a Foreign Service Officer stationed at the embassy in Reykjavik, so I lived there when I was nine and ten years old. This was during the height of the cold war, and the famous peace summit between Reagan and Gorbachev occurred while I was there.

As a Foreign Service dependent (“brat” is the common term, but it’s not derogatory) I moved with my mother every couple of years to a new country, or occasionally to the DC Area. As soon as I made a friend or two or started feeling at home, it was about time to move. So from a pretty young age I generally felt like an outsider and avoided emotional attachments.

Foreign Service Officers and their dependents usually live in civilian housing near the embassy or consulate they're stationed to. So it’s not like living on a military base surrounded by Americans with a familiar sense of cultural identity who speak English. Generally, you shop and live and do everything in-country. When I wasn’t being homeschooled, I went to foreign schools.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"I Remember When No one Knew What An Avenger Was!" Signal Watch Comics/ Sci-Fi/ Fantasy Gen-X Recollection Project - Call to Participate



Hey all!

If you've been considering participating in our Gen-X Nerd 1980's Recollection Project, we have some additional tools to do so.  (Basically, we're interested in your experience as a young nerd back when being a nerd could land you an atomic wedgie.)

We've had a pretty good response rate early on, so we started thinking a bit about possibly, maybe, one-day collecting the stories into an eBook or something. You know, for the people.

So, if you're trying to remember what we're up to - review the original post.

Y'all a diverse bunch and a better picture of what the comics/ sci-fi and fantasy scene was really like back in the day, so I'm hoping we can capture some of the pre-internet, pre-billion dollar movies world of nerddom here on these pages.

We've created some questions to get you going, but don't limit yourself to those points.  It's your story, tell it how you want to see it in digital print.

Click here for the questions.

But, I am asking that if you'd like to participate, you also make it semi-legit and make sure we're square in the future if we go the eBook route, I've got a release I'd like you to sign.  Sorry if it feels formal, but they beat it into us in film school to get those releases so we wouldn't have any confusion in the future.

If you're uncertain how all this works, I've got a couple of posts that will go up starting this week.  You'll see you're in good company.

If you'e got questions or want to participate, just email us here at The Signal Watch!


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Collecting Memories Project: You Were Into Superheroes, Fantasy and Sci-Fi Before It Was Cool



If you're over a certain age, you remember a dark era in the long, long ago when superheroes were not cool.  Reading science-fiction, fantasy or comics got you labeled a "geek" and "nerd" in an era when those words were legitimate slurs, not a comment vis-a-vis "I have an interest outside eating and breathing".  There was a time when the average person on the street did not know the name of the company that published Spider-Man comics, was pretty sure there were only four super-heroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Spider-Fellow) and they had never heard of The Avengers.  Many people found it inconceivable that all comics were not just published by one company.  

Reading an article in Cracked.com was actually a pretty good reminder of what it was to bear the secret shame of your hobbies.  As I begin so many posts here:  "The kids will never know..."

When I came back to The Signal Watch after a hiatus, it was, in part, because I realized that when I felt like talking about comics and pop-culture, it was from a perspective of an elder statesman.  It's one thing to be young and full of excitement about comics and movies.  It's another to be older and have been around the block a bit.  And, of course, remember the time before a Comic-Con in every city, when being seen with a Superman comic would get you assigned "permanent virgin" status, when you only let folks in an elite inner circle know about your extensive knowledge of X-Men trivia, and - really - in a time when comics had no internet, and it wasn't necessarily a very social thing to do.

As much as I think of my experience as typical of comic nerds, there really isn't a typical experience.  Everyone's story is unique.  Not everyone was a straight white dude living in North Austin pedaling their bike to Ballard's gas station to grab some funny books, candy and soda on a summer afternoon.

Here's the thing:

I want to hear your stories.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Geoff Johns Offers Vision of DCU "Rebirth" Didio will @#$% Up Before Issue 1

New day.  Same company.

DC Comics, in a sales death spiral, continues to not fire the people making the same terrible decisions they've been making for well over a decade.  On Thursday, DC Comics released a video of famed comics writer and live-action area liaison, Geoff Johns talking the mysterious "Rebirth" event hinted at by DC Comics Publisher Dan Didio via an obnoxious image released via twitter a couple of weeks ago.

this isn't even no data, this is negative data


This week is a sort of comics retailers meeting in Portland, OR, and DC has to say something to make retailers think the shoddy output and related plummeting sales of their company currently running comic shops right into the ground is due for am upturn.  Knowing that Dan Didio has about the same level of credibility as the Sham-Wow guy (and Jim Lee is, let's be honest, not great at this sort of thing), at least for the public face they put good ol' Geoff Johns out there in front with a video and some announcements about new price points, new #1's and a return to the numbering on Detective and Action Comics.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Our Valued Customers: The End is Nigh

On Monday, one of the longest running and one of the best online comics out there, Our Valued Customers, announced that the curtain will be coming down.  If you follow one of my more modern social media outlets - say, fb or tumblr, you've likely seen me link to the strips on a very routine basis.

I'm taking a risk and posting this strip without permission, but I do respect a good cease-and-desist request

The one-panel comic was about those of us who wander the aisles of our local comic booke shoppes, but the humor was always universal.  The set-up of the strip is a caricature of a real person saying a real thing overheard by the folks working the register.  And, having spent time in many-a-comic shop, it all rang exceedingly true.  I believe he's got a network of other comics retailers sending him heir best stuff, but I don't know exactly how this works.  Just that it does.