Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Denny O'Neil, R.I.P. (1939-2020)

What follows is an excerpt from Mark Evanier's 6-12-20 News From ME obituary for Denny O'Neil:

"Denny O'Neil, one of the outstanding comic book writers of his generation, has died at the age of 81. He died at home of natural causes, we're hearing, and those who knew of his recent health problems are not surprised. I spoke to him about four months ago and he was talking then about not having much time left. I'll tell you in a moment what I called him to talk about because it might interest you.

"Denny had been a reporter writing about comic books in the sixties and then he moved on to become a writer of comic books in the sixties. He always said he owed his new career to two people — Roy Thomas, who suggested Denny try out for a writing job at Marvel (which he got) and Dick Giordano, who was then the editor at Charlton. When the work for Marvel dried out, Dick kept Denny busy writing for Charlton — sometimes under the name Sergius O'Shaugnessy — and then when Dick moved over to DC, he took Denny with him. Before long, Denny was the main writer of Batman and a little later, of Superman. He wrote most of DC's main books at one time or another and often worked as an editor there.

"His scripts for Charlton had been way better than Charlton deserved for the low rates they paid. His scripts for DC were way better than the higher rates DC paid. He had a way of infusing old strips with fresh approaches. A lot of people credited him for bringing 'relevance' to comics, crafting stories about current events and issues, most visibly in the acclaimed Green Lantern-Green Arrow series he did with artist Neal Adams. I thought it was a matter of Denny just trying to move comics a little more into the real world at a time in the early seventies when most comics could have been set in the forties without making much difference.

"Green Lantern-Green Arrow was, as noted, critically acclaimed. I was more impressed with what he did with Batman, and not just the stories he wrote of that hero that were drawn by Adams. You could tell that a lot of the other writers of the Caped Crusader were at least starting with Denny's Batman and building on what he'd done. I was also really impressed with a run he did later on Iron Man for Marvel. Denny had never been coy about discussing his own problems with 'substance abuse' and while it was risky to explore those themes in Iron Man, it made for one of the most personal runs of a comic of its kind.

"Actually, I was impressed with just about everything Denny did and the few times I got to work with him in an editor/writer relationship, I found him to be as good at editing as he was at writing, which was very good indeed. He was also a very conscientious writer, willing to mentor others and help out in any righteous cause."

To read Evanier's entire post, click HERE.

I'd like to second Evanier's endorsement of O'Neil's IRON MAN run. O'Neil's tenure on that book was far superior to most of the other comic books Marvel was publishing in the 1980s. I recall one vivid moment in my childhood that revolves around O'Neil's IRON MAN. I'd like to think O'Neil would have been amused by this....

When I was about thirteen, every morning on my way to J.H. Hull Middle School in Torrance, I would stop by my friend Brian's house. From there, the two of us would walk a few blocks and meet this kid Tommy outside his grandparents' pleasant little home on the corner of Arlington and Plaza Del Amo. We would usually meet Tommy on the sidewalk just outside the house. On this particular day, Tommy's grandparents invited us inside for some reason (I can't remember why). 

All three of us took a seat in the warm, dimly lit living room. The grandparents started chatting with us. Somehow, the topic of comic books came up, maybe because Tommy and I both read them. The grandmother turned to me and said, "So... what are your favorite comic book characters?" She had a thick Southern accent. I believe they had recently moved to Torrance from Kentucky.

I said, "Well... I really like Iron Man."

She said, "Oh, is that so? And why is he your favorite?" 

Without even thinking about it, I said the first words that popped into my head: "Well, you see, Tony Stark... he's Iron Man... he used to be this rich businessman/scientist in New York, but now he's a total, complete alcoholic. I mean, he's just wrecked. He's got the shakes, the DT's, the whole nine yards, and he's, like, hallucinating reptiles and stuff, y'know? So he can't be Iron Man anymore. He's wandering around on Skid Row somewhere. He's sloshed. Someone's got to take his place! So this jet pilot who works for Tony has to step in and start wearing the Iron Man armor while Tony's out licking spit up off the sidewalk when he's not sleeping under a streetlamp someplace. This pilot's name is Rhodes, Jim Rhodes. Oh, and Jim's black, by the way."

I ceased talking when I noticed that the grandmother's face had gone pale. She turned away from me and cast a dark, concerned look at the grandfather, who just glared at me and shook his head in utter disgust.

I now realized I had said something wrong. The living room felt chilly all of a sudden.

Brian laughed and said, "Just calm down." Then he turned to the grandmother and said, "He's kidding. He gets excited sometimes. None of that weird stuff's really in the comics."

I was confused. I just decided to shut my trap rather than make the situation even worse.

When we got outside, Tommy said angrily, "Why'd you have to go and say all that stuff? Now they're not gonna let me buy comics anymore!"

"But... why?" I asked. His face turned red with anger as he shook his head in frustration. It was as if I shouldn't even have had to ask such a stupid question.

To this day I don't know if the grandparents were more disgusted by the fact that Tony Stark was an alcoholic or that the new Iron Man was black. Perhaps it was a combination of the two?

(FYI: It just occurred to me that Tommy's father was not exactly known as the neighborhood teetotaler, so maybe alcoholism was a somewhat sensitive topic in that particular household.)

These days the Comicsgate crowd would no doubt accuse Denny O'Neil of "virtue signalling" for the progressive stories he wrote during his tenure on IRON MAN (and many other superhero comic books as well, especially his groundbreaking run on GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW), but I suspect O'Neil's writing was fueled more by a genuine need to exorcise his own demons rather than any artificial desire to shoehorn au courant political topics into his work. After all, as filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein once said, "There is no apolitical art."

Anyway... all I know is that I was never invited into that house again. And I have Denny O'Neil to thank for that.

Rest In Peace, Denny O'Neil....

Recommended Graphic Novels scripted by Denny O'Neil:



THE QUESTION #1-36 (1987)






Monday, June 29, 2020

YA Author Ashamed of Telling a Story

From Sara Grochowski's 6-25-20 Publisher's Weekly article entitled "Upcoming YA Novel 'Ember Days' Canceled by Author":

Alexandra Duncan has canceled her young adult novel Ember Days mere days after its cover reveal on BookPage. An hour after Duncan posted the cover reveal for the book, which was slated for a March 2021 release from Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, to her Twitter feed, an author questioned the representation within the novel, which was noted in the book’s description: "Naomi is the granddaughter of a powerful Gullah conjure woman, sent to Charleston to combat an evil force circling the city and hiding in plain sight as Deidre’s protégé" [...].

In a statement released yesterday by Duncan, she refers to exchanges with author colleagues following the cover reveal, which made her aware that in her "misguided attempt to write a book that was inclusive of all cultures of Charleston and the Lowcountry, where the book is set," she participated in the "ongoing erasure of [the Gullah Geechee] culture." Explaining that her "own limited worldview as a white person" led her to incorrectly assume she could responsibly depict this culture, Duncan said, "Clearly, the fact that I did not see the signs of the problem with my book’s premise in my research or conversations about the book is evidence that I was not the right person to try to tell this story. I am deeply ashamed to have made a mistake of this magnitude and hope my actions will not negatively affect the cause of bringing greater diversity to children’s literature."

Duncan also addressed and rejected the misconception that the cancellation is censorship, noting, “It is wholly my decision to withdraw the book in order to mitigate the harm I have done.”

To read Grochowski's entire article, click HERE.

"War begets war. Destruction begets destruction. On Earth, a century ago, in the year 2020 they outlawed our books. Oh, what a horrible thing--to destroy our literary creations that way! It summoned us out of--what? Death? The Beyond? I don't like abstract things. I don't know. I only know that our worlds and our creations called us and we tried to save them, and the only saving thing we could do was wait out the century here on Mars, hoping Earth might overweight itself with these scientists and their doubtings; but now they're coming to clean us out of here, us and our dark things, and all the alchemists, witches, vampires, and were-things that, one by one, retreated across space as science made inroads through every country on Earth and finally left no alternative at all but exodus."

--Edgar Allan Poe speaking to the ghosts of Charles Dickens and Ambrose Bierce in Ray Bradbury's short story "The Exiles" (collected in THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, 1951)

Tuesday, June 23, 2020


From a 5-29-20 Reuters article entitled "Monkeys Steal Coronavirus Blood Samples in India":

A troop of monkeys in India attacked a medical official and snatched away blood samples of patients who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, authorities said on Friday.
The attack occurred this week when a laboratory technician was walking in the campus of a state-run medical college in Meerut, 460 km (285 miles) north of Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh state.
“Monkeys grabbed and fled with the blood samples of four COVID-19 patients who are undergoing treatment ... we had to take their blood samples again,” said Dr S. K. Garg, a top official at the college.
Authorities said they were not clear if the monkeys had spilled the blood samples, but people living near the leafy campus feared further spread of the virus if the monkeys carried the samples into residential areas.
Garg said it was not clear if the monkeys could contract the coronavirus if they came into contact with infected blood.
To read the entire article, click HERE.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Pike Statue Toppled

From the Guardian's 6-20-20 report entitled "Protesters Topple Confederate General Statue in Washington DC and Set It on Fire":

Protesters toppled the only statue of a Confederate general in the nation’s capital and set it on fire on Juneteenth, the day marking the end of slavery in the US, amid continuing anti-racism demonstrations after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Cheering demonstrators jumped up and down as the 11-foot (3.4-meter) statue of Albert Pike – wrapped with chains – wobbled on its high granite pedestal before falling backward, landing in a pile of dust. Protesters then set a bonfire and stood around it in a circle as the statue burned, chanting, “No justice, no peace, no racist police”.
Eyewitness accounts and videos posted on social media indicated police were on the scene but did not intervene. The president, Donald Trump, quickly tweeted about the toppling, calling out DC mayor Muriel Bowser and writing: “The DC police are not doing their job as they watched a statue be ripped down and burn. These people should be immediately arrested. A disgrace to our country.”
Jubilant protesters read out Trump’s tweet over a bullhorn and cheered. After the statue fell, most protesters returned peacefully to Lafayette park near the White House.

To read the entire Guardian article, click HERE

For more information about "the shadowy Masonic figure" known as Albert Pike, read Chapter Eight of my first book, Cryptoscatology: Conspiracy Theory as Art Form ("The Mystery of Albert Pike"), and Loren Coleman's 9-13-14 Twilight Language post entitled "Pike Name Game Strikes Again."

Monday, June 15, 2020


Thanks to the magic of synchronicity, I have two new stories being released this week. You can read my crime noir novelette "The Loser" (13,000 words) in BLACK CAT MYSTERY MAGAZINE #6 and "Her Wounded Eyes" (3,300 words), a horror story of a kind, in NEW READER MAGAZINE #10, a themed issue about fears, dreams, and the imagination. You can download NEW READER MAGAZINE #10 for free right HERE. NEW READER #10 also features an interview with me, which begins on p. 26. "Her Wounded Eyes" begins on p. 104. 

If you want to order a copy of BLACK CAT MYSTERY MAGAZINE #6, you can do so right HERE

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission

From Wendi C. Thomas' 6-9-20 ProPublica article entitled "The Police Have Been Spying on Black Reporters and Activists for Years. I Know Because I’m One of Them.":

To get intel on activists and organizers, including those in the Black Lives Matter movement, [Sgt. Timothy Reynolds had] posed on Facebook as a “man of color,” befriending people and trying to infiltrate closed circles.

Projected onto a giant screen in the courtroom was a screenshot of people Reynolds followed on Facebook.

My head was bent as I wrote in my reporter’s notebook. “What does this entry indicate?” ACLU attorney Amanda Strickland Floyd asked.

“I was following Wendi Thomas,” Reynolds replied. “Wendi C. Thomas.”

I sat up.

“And who is Wendi Thomas?” Floyd asked.

She, he replied, used to write for The Commercial Appeal. In 2014, I left the paper after being a columnist for 11 years.

It’s been more than a year since a judge ruled against the city, and I’ve never gotten a clear answer on why the [Memphis Police Department] was monitoring me. Law enforcement also was keeping tabs on three other journalists whose names came out during the trial. Reynolds testified he used the fake account to monitor protest activity and follow current events connected to Black Lives Matter.

My sin, as best I can figure, was having good sources who were local organizers and activists, including some of the original plaintiffs in the ACLU’s lawsuit against the city [...].

Two days after Reynolds’ testimony, I filed a public records request with the city of Memphis, asking for all joint intelligence briefings, emails or other documents that referenced me or any of the three other journalists that the MPD was following on social media.

Four hundred and thirty three days later, the city produced the records — and I still don’t understand what would make police see me as a threat worthy of surveillance in the name of public safety [...].

My battles with the city of Memphis didn’t end with the lawsuit, unfortunately.

In 2018, I was trying to figure out which corporations had answered the mayor’s call to financially subsidize police operations by funneling $6.1 million to the city through a secretive nonprofit, the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission.

Strickland wouldn’t divulge the companies’ identities, but he realized that public records I’d requested would. So the mayor’s staff, in conjunction with the Crime Commission and another secretive nonprofit, came up with a plan to release the companies’ names to local journalists before releasing the records to me, I learned through emails released in conjunction with a 2018 public records lawsuit against the Crime Commission.

And this year, I was forced to sue the city after it refused to include me on its media email advisory list despite repeated requests.

To read Thomas' entire article, click HERE.