An industry guy (even if only self proclaimed) I couldn't help but separate the comics industry references from the story itself. This seems to be the thing to do in Hollywood, ever since the Spider-Man movie of 2002: to affectionately name minor characters or small locales in comics-related films after comics industry people (even TV's Smallville named a small bridge in the first season, Loeb Bridge after Jeff Loeb as his comics series, Superman for All Seasons was a big influence on the TV show's take on the early life of Clark Kent).
The Spirit contains several insider references, and a surprise industry cameo - and I'm not talking about Stan Lee. The first comics industry reference is the appearance of Frank Miller himself, cameoing as a beat cop, Liebowitz. It took me a minute, but then a local fence played by actor Richard Portnow, was named Donenfeld. And those two were two of the biggest names comics history: Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz.
Now, if you've read one of my favorites novels, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon or the brilliant non-fiction book about the history of American comics, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book by Gerard Jones, as I have, you'd know these two names intimately.
Donenfeld and Liebowitz are the historic partners of National Allied Publications (later DC Comics), which famously bought the rights to Superman from Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster for a pittance, as was standard at the time, but in this case - they made millions and built an empire. In The Spirit movie they were a schluby cop and a mover of stolen goods... interesting to say the least.
My favorite cameo of the film, aside from Miller himself, was the appearance of current President of DC Comics, Paul Levitz. I've met him a few times, he's a hell of a nice guy and does a great job at DC (he's been there over 20 years). I guess this cameo was a way of him blessing the project (I think his one line is a Superman sort of joke, "You'll believe a man can't fly," or something like that at a point in the film when the Spirit gets caught by his trench coat on a building's gargoyle horn). I thought the cameo was great, as Levitz is not the historical showman that Stan Lee is (nor does he try to be), but his small appearance in The Spirit was noticed by this comics fan, I mean insider.
There was also, of course, in the last scene, the delivery truck that Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson) drives away in, clearly labeled as... Ditko's (referring to Steve Ditko, legendary co-creator of Spider-Man along with Stan Lee and legendary reclusive Marvel and later DC Comics artist. Little references thrown here and there, a standard place in Hollywood script writing these days.
I realize this isn't much of a movie review, although I never claimed it was going to be. This was more of an observational post about a comics-related movie. Maybe I'll come back and post about the name dropping in The Dark Knight, Iron-Man, and other recent comic book films... but that's for another day.
What did I think of the movie? I liked it but thought it was just ok. I wished I liked it more. I saw a hell of a lot of Sin City in there. And there was plenty of other things to talk about, but this was the angle I chose to discuss. It is what stuck out to me the most, so there it is. I also realized once again, what an influence Eisner was on Miller. In that sense I thought it was nice that he handled the direction of the film.
Happy New Year everyone! Here is to wishing that 2009 is an amazing one.
Just last night I attended the intimate MoCCA holiday party at their gallery space on Broadway. It was a nice pot luck event and people brought all sorts of goodies for everyone to consume. Some of us brought booze and we toasted the holidays and the forthcoming year.
The party was fun and a good time was had by all. A long table was provided for those who wanted to show their personal art portfolios, and that was a nice holiday touch. And I know they have many exciting new things lined up for 2009. [below is the director of MoCCA, Karl Erickson, along with volunteer and MoCCA regular Oliver].
A photo of some very cool railing work in front of an Italian resturant on 50th.
And lastly, Lasagna, an old favorite resturant of mine, that I wasn't sure was still around on the corner of 2nd Avenue. I haven't been in years, but it was good to see it's still there.
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McFarlane Toys has announced cutting a few positions, reports The Beat. Nothing major, but obviously even the mighty Spawn creator & toy licensor has felt the sting of a stingy market.
Heidi, at The Beat, also has a nice piece about Nickelodeon magazine's (Nickmag.com) first comic book awards - a neat little piece about the enduring love of comics for youngsters - where they get to vote. Check it.
Also, a publisher I've always loved due to their beautiful design aesthetic, kitchy book ideas, and most-excellent superhero-themed spiral notebooks, Chronicle Books (based in San Francisco) announced that they have also felt backlist sales soften and must tighten the belt strap somewhat, reports Mediabistro's Galleycat blog, here.
The more I hear about "freezes" on salaries, publishing layoffs, and other related happenings, the more I'm reminded to try to stay as well-connected to contacts and friends in the industry, feeling that in our strength we can weather the storm, both under and outside of the corporate umbrella.
On a lighter note, I've a Deal of the Day, as I did some weekly comics shopping and holiday shopping at Midtown Comics earlier. It was a book that I had grabbed a few issues of and read a while back and I was waiting for the first trade paperback to come out: NORTHLANDERS: Book 1: Sven the Returned (from Vertigo/DC Comics).
I've already written a piece for a comics periodical which should be out in a few months, and this book is one of the few I profile as a great read. I'll write a full review of the 1st trade soon, but for $9.99 you get 200 full-color pages and an amazing story of viking adventure. What a steal! You rarely see comic book collections and trade paperbacks so aggresively priced, and I really hope it helps the word get out how great a comic book series this is.
Vikings have been a favorite of mine since I was a little kid [note: this book is targeted toward a mature audience], and this collection, falling under the Vertigo imprint, is equal parts brawn, steel, and balls. Remember, you are reading the blog of a guy who loved last year's Osprey holiday card with pillaging Vikings in a bacchanal-like frenzy. Below illustration by the legendary Angus McBride.
I found this picture and I thought I'd write about it. My father loved his horror movies. He loved a good scary film and interesting tv shows as well [like the X-Files, Highlander, and the like]. This is something my family always shared, a love of entertainment, good stories, horror, sf and fantasy. I have memories of watching Abbot and Costello with him on Saturday mornings at 11:00 A.M. [my favorite being the one when Wolfman fights Dracula fights Frankenstein].
He was also a big fan of little trinkets and doodads. He built little shelves in his workshop for tools, gadgets, etc. He also always ordered little trinkets through the mail, there were always little boxes and things, he was just a sucker for them. [I wonder which of us 3 children inherited that trait...hmmm].
Anyway, he once wrote this note to my sister as he gave her this Gargoyles [remember the cartoon?] watch as a little birthday present, and she kept it with the note as a momento. It was just like him to do something funny like this, and mind you my sister was in her mid-twenties at the time.
Whenever I am at her apartment I look at the watch, on a shelf, and smile. Just like every time I see a film or new show I knew he would have liked, I say, "Oh, dad would have loved that."
So here is this little photo and this memory of mine to share.
The Comic Book and SF & Fantasy world have been affected too. I’ve read about layoffs at Wizards of the Coast, the CEO of Devil’s Due leaving his position along with a few staffers let go. And word from L.A. is that Tokyopop has let a few people go.
Also, a few comic book magazines made some startling announcements this week as well.
The Comic Foundry — only in its fifth issue — decided to call it quits, as the good folks behind it are simply too busy with their day jobs. [Edit. Note: I’ve had one small article published in CF #3, and will hopefully have a longer piece about comics in the last issue, #5]. And this magazine was nominated this year for an Eisner Award – an amazing achievement in the comics industry. [tears]
Also, comics industry veteran, Danny Fingeroth’s comics writing magazine, Write Now! will publish its last issue in Feb. of ’09 reports The Beat. I’ve purchased this magazine many times over the past few years, loving its approach to writing in the industry [something near and dear to my heart]. I’ll be definitely picking up the last issue.
As a freelancer in the publishing world, this is a precarious time to be entering my second year ‘on the outside’ but such is the state of things. This grim reality reminds me how important it is to maintain a positive attitude, not to burn bridges, and to do everything possible to stay connected.
It is also a reminder to be as much of a jack-of-all-trades as possible. And that’s what this experience was all about for me. Trying my hand at special sales, subsidiary rights, book development, marketing strategy, and of course copyediting and proofreading – which I’m enjoying working on right now.
And, it’s important to hustle. I mean to literally hit the pavement. Getting work done at your desk is just fine, but sometimes in this big city, you have to get out there, walk the streets. Shake some hands.
I spent most of today going up and down subway steps, working my way across town then downtown, then back up again, all in the attempt to make a sale at a specialty store. So I lugged two heavy bags of books with me all day, and then dropped them off until the next specialty sale idea comes my way. You don’t know if you’ll succeed until you get out there and give it a try.
I realize the publishing business, just like any other, can be brutal at times. For me, I can’t see myself working with anything else – I love books. Comics, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, and of course non-fiction, such as military history.
I don’t know who I’m writing this post to. Maybe to myself. It’s scary when you see reorganizations happening (and I’ve been through one or two myself) and witness magazines fold. Not to mention watching the news these days about our economy is painful.
But we carry on. That’s what we do. Publishing folk. New Yorkers. Editors. Writers. People. We carry on.
As I told a friend earlier today when I emailed him to see if he was still safe at his day job, in the eternal words of Trent Reznor:
The Way Out Is Through [words to live by]