Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Birthday Party at the Fights

My son Avi and I celebrated my birthday in style at StrikeForce's Heavyweight Grand Prix at the Izod Center last Saturday night. Our seats--courtesy of my son Benjy and his pal MMA talkshow host Ariel Helwani--were six rows off the stage allowing us to rub elbows with the royalty of the mixed martial arts world. That's me with former UFC heavyweight champ Bas Rutten, and my son Avi with Renco and Igor Gracie (who Avi trained under at Real World Martial Arts, a Gracie Ju-Jitsu dojo), as well as runningback legend Herschel Walker. We were also fortunate enough to meet George Saint-Pierre, Kenny Florian and Vitor Belfort.

The StrikeForce card was one of the best I've seen. Not a single decision went to the judges; all serious submissions and TKOs. Big Foot Silva's impressive victory over former Pride heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko was the icing on the cake.

Thirty More Years

I was recently interviewed by columnist Rob Trucks for his book about the trauma or pre-trauma or whatever one might call the anticipation of turning 50, which I was at the the time of the interview. I found myself not quite so surprised by this fellow writer's questions as my own answers. Had I spent all year thinking about turning half a century old? Yes, I had. Was I conscious of playing on the back nine? Yes, and there was a frequent line playing in my head, the refrain from my pal Steve Forbert's "Thirty More Years," which addressed his own thoughts on the condition when he faced it. Thirty more years and I am out of here.

Today, the BIG day, brought calls from friends and emails from readers and fellow creators. Paty Cockrum sang to me from South Carolina. Gene Colan, 84, kvelled about how I still had my whole life ahead of me. I treated myself to a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #1 for more money than I should have spent and went off my diet to eat chocolate cake as my small children blew out candles which numbered more than I cared to count. Life may not begin at 50 but playing on the back nine means means I'm on my way towards the clubhouse. And there's no place like home Auntie Em.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thought for the Day

“We are not mad, we are human, we want to love, and someone must forgive us for the paths we take to love, for the paths are many and dark, and we are ardent and cruel in our journey.” -- Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Leo Klein, Esquire

I wasn’t crazy about the idea of sharing an office with an attorney like Leo Klein at IDT Entertainment, initially because I’d learned from experience that the best office mate is really no office mate. And my suspicion was confirmed as I discovered that Leo was what cunning linguists refer to as a wee bit verbose—as in he could go to Washington with a mouthful of billiard balls and still out talk everyone. Which, to this writer, meant I’d never get anything written between the hours of 9am and 6pm. Hi ho.

But rooming with Leo—a man who introduced himself as a recovering attorney—also had several distinct advantages, not the least of which was an endless supply of dangerously well told new jokes, at least new to me. Indeed, the one about the bowling ball still has me roaring at inappropriate moments, often with milk through my nose. Leo, clearly, had missed his true calling. Or so I thought.

But eventually I caught Leo with his lawyer hat on. And oddly enough, his stock shot up again. I saw how he handled himself not only with his NBA clients, but also with those occasional nebich cases that wandered into his four cubits. One guy in particular wanted Leo to handle his wife’s funeral arrangement, estate, and so forth, but when Leo learned that the woman was to be cremated, he refused. “She’s a Jewish girl,” he told the client as I looked on in awe. “She had a Jewish mother and a Jewish father. If you’re not giving her a proper burial, I can’t help you. Nazis burn Jews. Jews don’t burn Jews.”

Other than an Elton John tale, which I published years ago, I have far less interesting Leo stories in my quiver than have many of our common friends, but every one has left an indelible impression. And all of this is simply to say that having this fine and ethical and seemingly inexhaustible man in my corner is a comfort and an honor and a privilege.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bob Milne, RIP

By way of Dave Maliniak, I just learned that our mutual friend and former colleague Bob Milne has passed away. Dave forwarded an email to me from our colleague Lucinda Mattera:

Tonight I received a call from David Marshall who is the neighbor living across the street from Bob Milne. He told me that Bob had passed away unexpectedly this afternoon... Bob has not been feeling well for some time, ever since his atrial fibrillation became permanent a couple of years ago--but he managed somehow. About a year ago, he was informed he needed to replace one of his heart valves. However, he required extensive oral surgery beforehand to treat a serious oral infection. It took Bob many months to complete this dental work, then he had difficulty coordinating events with all his doctors and caregivers for the open-heart surgery.In the ensuing months, his neighbor told me, Bob began to suffer from congestive heart failure. A few days ago, he had great difficulty breathing and was rushed to the hospital. His doctors used cardiac catheterization to implant a stent and open a blocked artery. He was discharged today and wanted to stop by his local CVS on the way home to pick up his medications. He died suddenly right in the store... I will miss him, especially all his insights into computers and the Internet. Bob was a very intelligent fellow who knew how to write quite well. He had a wonderful sense of humor and a terrific wit. I will remember how he often made me laugh and amazed me with his sharp observations. Farewell, Bob. I hope there are computers and test instruments in the afterlife, so you can continue to enjoy tinkering with them. -- Lucinda Mattera

Bob was a warm man with warm insights. We lost track of each other sometime after I left Electronic Design but I remember him fondly. Named a character in one of my stories after him. You don't usually get that unless you're a villain.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Michael Netzer Don’t Get No Respect

Michael Netzer has been blinging around the comic book industry since the mid-1970s. I think blinging is the right word. Imagine a pinball on one of Bally’s old machines.

After apprenticing under Neal Adams, Michael’s professional work (as Michael Nasser) first showed up on DC books like Superboy, Detective and World’s Finest Comics. From that point there were half-a-hundred stops and starts, which fans, foes, and ex-art agents attribute to any number of happenstances. One urban legend claims Michael wandered around the Galilee healing the sick while his walking stick sprouted myrtle. Another finds him sitting in a cave for three years eating nothing but dried carob and old Beach Boys 45s.

Regardless, Michael’s fans remain legion, and his presence in comics is firmly established.

Or so he thought.

A recent article at Newsarama on The Adventures of Unemployed Man—which Michael penciled slightly more than issue of—noted the creative team behind the comic but, oddly, left Michael’s name out. An accident? Maybe.

“I don't want to attribute a motive for columnist Albert Ching omitting my name so blatantly from the ‘several notable creators’ who were enlisted for the art on The Adventures of Unemployed Man,” Netzer replied when I asked him to comment on the snubbing. “The article was just posted yesterday and it struck me as part of a bizarre trend that I may be becoming an object of. Whatever the reason, it doesn't seem like it could be an oversight because I'm only one of three pencilers, and I did draw the grand finale of the book along with more than a quarter of its content. The omission, for whatever reason, indicates a severe lack of consideration in that crediting work properly and fairly in comics journalism has become a statement on the vital role of creators to a project.”

Like his mentor Neal Adams, Michael has always been vocal about the mistreatment of comics’ creators; his own blog posts and sometimes long-winded soliloquies on comics message boards and forums (which, in this authors’ opinion, are rarely self-serving) have earned Netzer both new fans and new foes. He doesn’t necessarily believe that Ching or Newsarma fall into either category, but…

“This book [Unemployed Man] falls between the cracks in the comics’ community because it comes from the wider book market and is not as one of our own,” Michael says. “As such, the writers who orchestrated the entire project astounded us time after time along the way. On the one hand, they certainly didn't have a lack of knowledge of the industry and its conventions. On the other, they seemed to be completely oblivious to some of the most basic tenets of comics’ culture. The cover, for example, only carried the names of the authors. How much more trouble or distraction would it have been to add Fradon, Veitch and Netzer under their names in type that's, say, about half the size? I don't think this was just an oversight but a conscious marketing decision that I believe is very unfortunate for the book itself.”

Michael points out that columnist Heidi MacDonald noted this problem, as well, in her review of the comic; that so many issues undermined the artists’ contribution to Unemployed Man that he is hard-pressed where to begin listing them. “This omission at Newsarama only compounds a serious existing shortcoming of the book,” he laments.

Personally, I‘ve taken more of a gonzo approach to the whole matter of comics’ journalism for many years now. But Newsarama is a more ‘serious’ enterprise and, as such, tends to reflect industry trends and attitudes. Michael is mindful of this. “When Newsarama does something like this, there's nothing left to do than to remind them that they are not doing artists and writers any favors with their coverage of our work,” Michael writes. “Indeed, it’s just the opposite. Most news sites and reporters wouldn't have a life in comics if it weren't for comics creators. It's the bulk of the thrust of their coverage, after all, and it behooves them not to play such infantile games.”

Michael notes that this is not the first time he's experienced professional dissing. He’s only done a handful of comics-related projects in the last year, which were his first after a 15-year absence from the mainstream, and the first of these were four black-and-white covers for Dynamite as a promotional vehicle for a pivotal and highly publicized issue in Kevin Smith's Green Hornet series.

“When Dynamite sent out the covers with the press release teaser,” Michael recalls, “they wrote a lengthy intro but made no mention whatsoever of the artist of the covers that were plastered all over comics news sites. I don't believe it was an oversight and I've heard excuses about these covers not being part of the book itself. But Dynamite went on to use one as an alternate cover, and the excuse is lame in the simple situation where a publisher distributes four loud and effective pieces of art and completely disregards the need to even place a small caption under the images crediting the artist. So I look at these two instances and wonder whether they are part of a trend. Or are they just indicative of a sloppy conduct of business?”

Considering Michael’s reputation as something of a ::ahem:: big mouth—as someone who says and writes things that some publishers (and journalists) might not be happy about hearing—perhaps there’s room to consider these oversights as something less than accidents. “The only other option,” Michael believes, “is sloppy conduct by purportedly professional entities. I'm not sure which of the two possibilities favors their subjects more.”