Back In The Sunlight

Actress Caity Lotz, who plays White Canary. Photo by Michael Buckner.

Actress Caity Lotz, who plays White Canary. Photo by Michael Buckner.

By James H. Burns: If you’re of a certain age, it’s rather extraordinary to discover that a new super hero TV series, one on at 8:00 p.m. and aimed, to some extent, at kids, features a super heroine, who’s also a lesbian…

Or who at least has Sapphic tendencies, as White Canary shows, in the first episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow on the CW.

Which somehow reminds me:

Did I ever tell you about what made me support gay marriage?

Science fiction, at least incidentally, held a strong role…

I was certainly never against gay marriage. I just kind of fell into that stand-up comedian’s line about why would anybody want to bother?  But as my closest gay friends today have pointed out to me, while it may have been disappointing to them that I wasn’t an activist on this particular issue, I also recognized that ultimately, it wasn’t really my business what people wanted to do, as long as it only involved themselves, and no harm…

A stance I’ve held on many social situations!

But then, some years ago…

I have the perhaps unusual habit, at times, of checking out what happened to old friends, by using the internet. Before Face Book, a Google search could present some surprising, and often pleasing results.

One night, late, I looked up a young woman I had kind of sort of dated, back when I was a teen.

She was brilliant, and a beauty. An Upper West Side of Manhattan kid who, oddly enough, I had met at a Lunacon, the New York Science Fiction Convention.  She looked like an even prettier, and far sexier version of Jodie Foster. We automatically took to each other. But she thought I was older, as most folks did back then…  And when I told her the truth, that I was fourteen…  Well, to a sixteen year old, that made all the difference in the world!

I thought…

We had a get-together, or two:   one, at a Chinese restaurant recommended to me by the late Duffy Vohland, an editor at the time up at Marvel Comics, and — coincidental to this story — one of my first close, gay friends.  Afterwards, the young lady and I went over to the park near Gracie Mansion. As we talked, I rued the fact that she was bugged by what I perceived was the age factor…  She said it wasn’t that, but that she had a secret.

A secret she wasn’t ready to tell me yet.

We’d talk on the phone occasionally, and she tried to begin a correspondence, when she soon went off to college; Vassar, I think. (That summer, I believe, she was also in a summer stock theatre program, one that co-featured Chris Elliot!)

But my ego led me, unfortunately, over being what I perceived as being turned down, to let the friendship pass.

Thirty years later, I discovered that the native New Yorker had moved to Vermont.

Because she had developed a fatal cancer, in her forties, and before she died, she wanted to marry her life partner.

(I cried for more than a few moments. My last image of my friend had been with a smile on her face, framed by the trees, as the summer sun danced.)

It hit me rather simply, That if two people were in love, and a particularly young one was dying, she shouldn’t have to leave her home, in her final days, to gain one of her final wishes.

I still think the road to all this could have been made much simpler, twenty years ago, by adopting a “roommates law,” one which gave anybody the right to assign a “partner,” to help any legal, financial or medical issues.

(Intriguingly, I know older straight roommates of many years, now in their sixties or seventies (some of whom have been long-time members of fandom), who could conceivably face all the same sorts of hospital visitation and other rule obstacles, if one of them gets in trouble–the identical problems that once could beset gay couples.)  Such a co-habitation law would have removed the politics from the gay marriage scenario, and possibly paved an easier path to its realization.

But ultimately, of course, who is anybody to stand in the way of someone’s happiness?

2015 Irish Comic News Awards

John McCrea

John McCrea

The winners of the 2015 Irish Comic News Awards were announced December 5.


  • Paul Bolger


  • Paul Bolger & Barry Devlin


  • Declan Shalvey


  • Maura McHugh


  • Ruth Redmond


  • Jordie Bellaire


  • Darren Brown


  • Death’s New Lease on Life


  • NHOJ Comics


  • Hound


  • 2000AD


  • Séan Hogan


  • Geek Ireland


  • Dublin Comic Con


  • The Big Bang


  • Lightning Strike


  • Hound


  • Heavy Black


  • Lightning Strike


  • The Irish Pubcast

And two additions were made to the Irish Comic News Hall of Fame, first given in 2011.

ICN Hall of Fame (Individual) 2015

  • John McCrea

Belfast born artist John McCrea is best known for his collaborations with writer Garth Ennis. He broke into American comics working with him on Hitman for DC. He is currently working on a spin-off mini-series, All Star Section 8. He has worked on a variety of projects for Marvel, IDW amongst others, recently stepping into the creator owned world of Image with Mythic (with writer Phil Hester).

ICN Hall of Fame (Book) 2015

  • The Earthbound God by Anthea West (editorial assistance by Ruth Redmond, published by Dustbunny Comics in 2013).

[Via SF Site News.]

The Zine Artists Online Museum

saarahonourrole36Many notable fanzine artists have banded together to present exhibits of their finest work at The Zine Artists, where they hope others soon will join them.

Here are high-resolution scans of great cover art unimpaired by cheap paper repro, faneds’ peculiar choices of colored paper, or massive blots of zine title typography. Pristine! At last, no barriers between the artist and the audience.

Already available are dozens and dozens of examples of the funny and beautiful work by —

Taral Wayne forestalls the obvious question —

The first thing you will notice is how terribly incomplete the list of artists is. “Where are Jeanne Gomoll,” you may ask, or “Jack Wiedenbeck, Randy Bathurst, or David Vereschagin?” The answer is that it will take time to track these artists down and contact them.

Taral has also penned a detailed history of the evolution of fanzine art – including his lament about the current state of affairs:

Then, of course, came the digital age, which changed everything.  No longer was it necessary to print anything at all to publish a fanzine.  Fan editors could  manipulate words and images directly on the screen, and distribute them in whatever file format was convenient.  It was no longer necessary to limit illustrations in any way.  Colour became almost mandatory.   Photographs were a breeze.  Any image that was already digitized was fair game to import into your document.  You could search the entire globe, through the Internet, for the exact image you wanted.  In effect, fanartists became redundant.

The golden age of fanzine art represented here never really seems to have been accompanied by a golden age of appreciation for the artists. In every era there have been justifiable complaints that the artists did not receive enough egoboo to “sustain life as we know it.” So take advantage of this chance to leave an appreciative comment in The Zine Artists chat section!

Video from 1976 Marvel Comics Convention

By James H. Burns: The other day I was amazed to see this interview with Archie Goodwin pop up on Facebook, from the 1976 Marvel Comics Convention…. (Archie, of course, was a legendary writer/editor who created or edited several science fiction and fantasy endeavors.) But I was even more amazed, because in two parts, here from YouTube, it’s part of a half hour show on comics, kind of hosted by Stan Lee, and featuring his daughter doing one of the interviews…

I became even more astonished, because I had been hired to put together much of the programming for that convention (and emcee some of the panel discussions)! But try as I might, I could nary see the very young me, among the crowd!  (Although, if the camera had just panned to the left during the Roy Thomas sequence, you would have seem the teenage me, interviewing him!)

(Thomas Sciacca, who’s also been around the comics world for ages, also helped put some of the programming together, and is now getting ready to rerelease his Astron Comics!)

There is a mystery here, of course: None of us knew, as far as I know, that Stan was involved with what seems like some kind of pilot on the world of comics…  (At first, I thought what makes that even more unusual, is that this is in black and white, in a very color video era…  But obviously, this might just be a black and white copy of a color master.) The title for the project was apparently Stan Lee’s Soapbox, taking its monicker from Lee’s monthly “column” in the Marvel comics line… One other fun note: Hollywood actor/director Jonathan Frakes actually played Captain America for a while, at public appearances in the 1970s…  That could well be him, behind the shield, in the video, talking to the kids!

There’s also, in Part Two, some lovely, if silent footage, of the great John Buscema drawing, during what was part of a “chalk talk.”

In any event, a neat rarity, and a mystery!

Sexual Assault Reported at SDCC

Dark Horse logoScott Allie, until recently Editor-in-Chief of Dark Horse Comics, assaulted two people during a party at San Diego Comic-Con reports Janelle M. Asselin in “Enough is Enough: Dark Horse’s Scott Allie’s Assaulting Behavior” at Graphic Policy.

We all know at this point that there is a pervasive sexual harassment problem in comics. This isn’t just about one or two people who behave badly, but about an industry-wide problem where harassers and abusers are protected by their employers — the very institutions that are supposed to operate within human resource rules and harassment policies. Dark Horse Comics has allegedly harbored a boundary-crossing, biting problem for 20 years — a problem named Scott Allie. And at San Diego Comic-Con this year, Allie apparently managed to assault a comics creator who is not willing to remain silent.

Allie, who was the Editor-in-Chief of Dark Horse Comics until September 11th, assaulted two people at a party during the convention….

Joe Harris… has chosen to speak out about what he experienced at the hands of Scott Allie.

During the BOOM! Studios SDCC party at the Hilton on Thursday, July 9th, Allie became extremely intoxicated. A few anonymous sources reported that he licked at least one person and wept openly at someone. The worst of it came when he was face to face with Harris. Harris said:

“Upon walking in, I noticed Scott Allie at the bar and thought to go say hi. I walked up to him and I extended my hand expecting to shake his… when, instead, he reached down and grabbed my crotch. Just went for it and squeezed. I was stunned, I guess? Not what I was expecting, obviously. Not what’s ever happened to me at this or any other convention over many years. So I try to back away a little, still shocked, when he leans in and bites my right ear.”

Dark Horse Founder Mike Richardson has responded with a statement that says in part —

I agree that harassment of any kind, routine or not, is unacceptable. It always has been. We at Dark Horse will renew our efforts to make sure that our company is never again mentioned with regard to this type of occurrence. As quoted in the article, our goal has always been to provide a positive, safe, and respectful environment for its employees, creators, and fans.

Scott Allie has also issued a statement.

I’m deeply sorry about my behavior at San Diego Comic Con 2015 and I apologize to everyone I’ve hurt. I’m completely embarrassed by my actions and how my behavior reflects on Dark Horse Comics, my friends and family. My personal approach and decisions for managing stress were bad. Dark Horse and I have taken the matter very seriously and since this incident, we have taken steps to correct and to avoid any behavior like this in the future. Although apologies can’t undo what has happened, I’ve tried to apologize to everyone impacted by my behavior. To my family, friends, co-workers, and to the industry — please know that I am truly, truly sorry.

And Comics Beat writer Heidi MacDonald, taking Asselin’s article as a starting point, has penned an extensive commentary about “How a toxic history of harassment has damaged the comics industry”.

Rosarium Publishing Set to Adapt Tobias Buckell’s Arctic Rising

arctic rising .promo.corr.flat COMPTobias S. Buckell’s near-future thriller Arctic Rising will soon be adapted as a comic book by Rosarium Publishing.

Set in a future possibly mirroring our own where the polar ice caps have all but melted, Arctic Rising centers around a United Nations Polar Guard pilot, Anika Duncan. She finds herself caught in the middle of an international battle between corporations, ecoterrorists, and global powers to stop a plot that could very well decide the fate of Mother Earth.

The first of twelve issues of Tobias S. Buckell’s Arctic Rising will be released digitally in February 2016. Keith A. Miller (Manticore, Triboro Tales, and Infest) is writing the adaptation and the art is being done by comics newcomer, Tommy Nguyen.

Buckell states, “I believe in creating diverse futures, and writing Arctic Rising was important to me because it attempts to tackle both the ecological issues I see just around the corner and the diverse peoples who will be affected (and who will be trying to solve the problems we leave them). Partnering with Rosarium to create the graphic novel is a tremendous opportunity, as I think they share a similar yearning for more diverse futures. I can’t wait to see what happens next.”

Arctic Rising is such an action-packed thrill ride, turning it into a comic book seemed like a no-brainer almost as soon as I cracked the cover,” says Rosarium Publishing head, Bill Campbell. “This adaptation is a dream come true.”

Cartoon Art Museum Shuts Its Doors

The Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco closed on September 12. A search is on for a new location.

The Guardian reports skyrocketing rent prices in the Bay Area are driving away nonprofits like the Museum.

According to museum curator Andrew Farago, rent accounts for approximately 50% of the nonprofit’s budget. When told the museum’s rent would be doubled, it was the game-over moment….

Statistics published by The Information show commercial rent per square foot in San Francisco has nearly doubled in four years, from $34.02 in 2010 to $64.45 presently. In the third quarter of 2000, at the peak of the dot-com bubble, per square foot commercial rent hit $67.20.

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee’s office has pushed forward on initiatives to assist nonprofits to remain in the city, but it is proving difficult. His office said they were doing “all that we can at the moment to assist the many requests for assistance that are coming in as rent prices soar”.

The Museum, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, began preparing for closure last year.

The Degenderettes Exhibit at Mission Comics and Art in San Francisco

Mission Comics and Art

Mission Comics and Art

By James Bacon: I love checking out comic shops, seeing what they are like, finding things I never knew existed or perhaps something I never expected to find. This is how I was as I walked into Mission Comics and Art in San Francisco. The shop was welcoming and large, a dogleg in the space meant it stretched back further than I expected, the shelves full of good comics, a couple of sofas ready to encourage spontaneous readers to browse and buy, posters, ephemera and years of comics culture adorned the shop.

As I continued into the shop, it became apparent that there was a gallery right at the back, an open functional space perpendicular to the shop, and then I found what must be one of the most interesting exhibits of my year.

The Degenderettes, a Feminist-Genderqueer Bicycle Club, had an exhibit that not only filled the space, but was a fun and vibrant commentary on gender and society.

There is a denim biker jacket in pride of place on the wall, it looks well soiled,  and it is only as I read that I see it is covered in menstrual blood. This is unusual but also potent stuff. There is no fear here by the artists of their own humanity. A whole wall is covered in brutal looking weapons, made of pieces of bicycle. I look at the razor blades on the end of wires coming from a handle bar, and a chain flail with knotted chain at the end, and a try the knuckle duster that is made from a bicycle cog, it tempts me to steal it, and I wonder should I.

The group have their own perspective and explained it as part of their opening:

After subjective collaborative renegotiation of the contemporary dialogue encapsulating the global cultural narratives of gender politics, we have decided to exhibit a Degenderettes jacket stained with menstrual blood, an array of bicyclist weapons and a birth certificate shredder, in addition to projections, paintings and sculptures by individual members. For the opening we will be smashing an R Mutt urinal with a pink sledgehammer, so bring your protective eyewear if you value those sorts of things.

There are seven weapons on one wall, and then a gun rack holds a dozen or so pink painted Nerf guns. A case holds two Maverick rotary Nerf guns, painted white and pink, along with dozens of mini tampons that fit perfectly into the space for Nerf darts. A mannequin has a pink sash covered in intricately made merit badges, sticking two fingers up at what people may consider gender norms, but which in reflection of this rebelliousness which I interpret as a stand against gender conformity. Also modelled is a bandolier holding tampons.

The Biker Jacket hangs in pride of place, while there is a shredding machine to destroy birth certificates, a selection of tampons for men, art on canvas, a ladies’ toilet door into nowhere,  and the smashed Urinal in many pieces on a dais.

It was fabulous use of the space, but also quite challenging in its concept. Here is art that is speaking loudly and prepared to be genuinely uncomfortable for the viewer. This is rare I feel, there was just something honest about what has been done, and at the same time inspirationally thoughtful and brilliant about the wider perception on our society.

There was also two walls are covered in exceptionally beautiful comic art, simply attached to the wall with small bulldog clips, and although one of the images featured a group of Degenderette biker jacketed characters, I was soon to learn that this is Falling Sky, the work of Degenderette  Dax Tran-Caffee.

Failing Sky is a web comic that contains four interrelated stories: the memoir of a failed sailor, the quest of a travelling ghost, the adventure of a genderqueer nancy drew, and giant robots. According to Dax Tran-Caffee:

 I wanted to see in the world – which means not just making art that addressed 21st century feminism, transgender issues, economically viable art careers, etc., but instead I would make something that would intrinsically represent these themes within the real world. In other words, I could have made a series of esoteric oil paintings about how awful rape-culture is, but perhaps it would be better to write a story in a popular medium about human relationships superseding rape-culture.

The artwork is beautifully done, hand drawn with watercolours enhancing the clean style and fine inks, and the structure is fascinating, again best explained by the creator,

Failing Sky is 4 storylines in 30 chapters, with chapters arranged hierarchically by theme instead of sequentially by plotline (not quite like Cortazar’s Hopscotch, but maybe more like if Wikipedia’s articles were narrative). What I’d like is for you to be able to read chapters out of order, selecting which to read solely driven by your own interests, no longer having to suffer through the boring chapters, and where you can stop reading when you feel your own sense of completion, not just because I’ve declared that you’ve reached the final page. I recommend that readers start at “The Sinking Ship,” but wherever you go from there is up to you.

I made my way into Mission Comics a second time.  Leef Smith the owner was exceptionally nice and it was indicative of this comic shop that Joe Keatinge writer on Image’s Shutter was relaxing in a sofa, signing stock as he had passed by. I again was drawn to the back room, and found the artwork utterly fascinating, and inwardly bemoaned that it would not see a wider audience, here in a comic shop, a venue that I love, I was transfixed by the interactiveness and freedom of artistic expression that was telling a story of people, real art and real meaning.

This article appeared in other online outlets.

Dax Tran-Caffee kindly supplied us with the names of those who created the artwork and:

  • hormone potions – Tara Sullivan
  • merit badges – Sara Sherman
  • tampon bandolier – Kian Smith
  • tampon guns – Sara Sherman
  • bike weapons – Tara Sullivan, Dax Tran-Caffee, Adam Flynn, Claire Woods, Robin Gruver, Alexander Cotton
  • birth certificate shredder – Ion O’Clast
  • tampons for boys – Sara Sherman & Kian Smith
  • Degenderettes blood jacket – the Degenderettes
  • paintings – Alexis Babayan
  • women’s restroom door – Dax Tran-Caffee
  • photographs – Khloe West
  • Failing Sky “Pauvre” original pages – Dax Tran-Caffee

The show was made possible by the support of Alanna Simone and of course Leef Smith at Mission Comics and I have to admit, it felt fantastic. There was an energy and connectivity about this show and a sense of reality that made it really connect, and I am sorry it was ending.

bike weapons - Tara Sullivan, Dax Tran-Caffee, Adam Flynn, Claire Woods, Robin Gruver.

bike weapons – Tara Sullivan, Dax Tran-Caffee, Adam Flynn, Claire Woods, Robin Gruver.

merit badges - Sara Sherman

merit badges – Sara Sherman

paintings - Alexis Babayan

paintings – Alexis Babayan

Degenderettes blood jacket - the Degenderettes

Degenderettes blood jacket – the Degenderettes

tampon guns - Sara Sherman

tampon guns – Sara Sherman

Fiddle - Dax Tran-Caffee

Fiddle – Dax Tran-Caffee

Three Speed Chain - Robin G

Three Speed Chain – Robin G

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee two pages

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee two pages

The Night I Became The Batman

Bat signalBy James H. Burns: Driving through Rockville Center, a pretty big suburban town in Long Island, New York, about twenty years ago, I realized that people really just don’t look any more. Because when I was at a stop light in the business district of town, on a busy Saturday night, just across from a movie theatre, its sidewalks packed, NO ONE happened to glance over, and see that there was a gentleman in a Ford—

Dressed as Batman.

No, not with the mask.

(One of the perils of super hero-dom, I discovered, must be the loss of peripheral vision.)

But there I was in tunic, cape, boots…

I was on my way to Oceanside to surprise the daughters of an ex-girlfriend who I had become very close to. I knew their grandmother was babysitting that night, and on the weekend after Halloween–which had always been a lovely holiday for us–we decided it might be a nice celebration…

I’m still surprised no one called the police.

Because when I parked on the suburban street, middle class houses up and down the lane, I pulled the Batman mask out of the trunk, and donned the gauntlets and gloves.

(No. I do not generally have super hero costumes in my closet. I was still involved with a business that sold at some of the pop culture conventions around the country, and we had developed a nice sideline in fantasy movie masks and the like!)

I had parked down the block, so the girls wouldn’t accidentally see my car out the window.

Moments later, I was knocking on the door.

My friends found Batman on their doorstep, in all his blue and grey glory.

Now, they were already eleven and eight at the time. But there’s an element in many a child–and many of us, for that matter–that wants to believe in the impossible.

Of course, the girls knew it was me, but they also wanted the fun of the Caped Crusader making a post-Halloween visit to their house.

I entered the living room, and their grandma and I joined them in the play room, where I gave them their Halloween goodie bags.

I shared stories of crime fighting in Gotham City….

And then  I heard the eldest daughter, someone who was REMARKABLY bright, quietly ask her “Gammy”:

“That’s not actually Batman, is it?”

(Every once in a while, it should be remembered, I can be a halfway decent actor. And to my surprise–and to that of my friends for that matter–when wearing a replica of the 1966 television BATMAN cowl, there was a stunning resemblance to the Adam West rendition…  On the other hand, I’ve never seen a Batman who’s under six feet tall….)

Within a few minutes, naturally, I removed the headpiece, and we all continued to have a good time.

I’ve been suddenly compelled to write all this, thinking more on the passing of television’s Batgirl, Yvonne Craig.

Because at one point, the eleven year old put on the mask.

Through the years I had shown her that amidst a whole world of great fiction, comic books could be wonderful fun, and that many of the lessons its best super heroes could teach us, held value  We had had many good times,reading comics , and my showing her the fun that could be had, not only in issues of Archie (or the New Kids on the Block comics!), but in Captain America, Superman, Flash Gordon, Batman

As  she donned the cowl, it was one of those lovely moments where fantasy and reality combine, because one of my best little friends in the world, with her long auburn hair, was now the spitting image of Batgirl.

Both gals have turned out rather well in life.  Every once in a while, I wonder if all those lessons in do-gooding and imagination, helped play a hand in they’re becoming such solid citizens!

James H. Burns today.

James H. Burns today.

Someone Who Deserves Recognition

Ron and Jim.

Ron and Jim.

By James H. Burns: There can be longtime contributors to the world of fantasy and science fiction who somehow never get not only the notice they may well deserve, but no attention, whatsoever, in the genre press.

Ron Forman ran Comics Unlimited from 1977 to 1994, along with business partner Walter Wang. Comics Unlimited was one of the major comics and science fiction distributors in the New York area.

(And I know — and hope Ron won’t be embarrassed for me to tell here, that in the tough days for some comic shops in the late 1980s, before the merchandising explosion of 1989’s Batman movie, it was their compassion that helped keep at least  a few stores afloat.)

Ron had been a comic book fan just about forever, and was a dealer at one of the early, classic Phil Seuling International Comic Art Conventions, in 1970.

Ron and Walter later went on to work with Seuling, at his Seagate Distributors, before launching their own venture.

(Seuling helped invent, and was the foremost pioneer, of “direct distribution” of comics and other material to comics and specialty stores; a development that helped bolster, and possibly even save the comic book industry.)

Like most comic shop distributors, then and now, Comics Unlimited carried a wide range of science fiction related products….

When Comics Unlimited shut up shop, they sold their business to Steve Geppi’s Diamond Distributors.

But Ron never lost his love for the medium.

Or other things.

He’s a professor of mathematics at Kingsborough Community College, a City University of New York, in Brooklyn. He’s also been hosting and producing Sweet Sounds since 1999, a Sunday radio series devoted to classic Sinatra and Billie Holiday and Broadway type music, on WKRB radio. Along with his wife of forty-six years, Ann, he’s a frequent presence on New York’s cabaret and theatre scene, writing reviews for Cabaret Scenes Magazine.

Ron and i have known each other since we met at the Marvel Comics Convention, that I helped run (I produced the event’s programming), in April of 1976.

As I’ve had the pleasure of watching Ann and Ron’s kids grow, along with our friendship, it has pleased me to realize that I know far few better guys. Behind-the-scenes, Forman was a key factor in many fantasy forums, for decades. (Comics Unlimited was a frequent presence at many of the North East comics and other conventions of the era.)

And I’m fairly certain no one ever would have predicted, back in those days, that there was a budding musicologist, behind the dealers table!

Twelve years ago, in fact, the Formans and I were just as likely to see each other at a Broadway show, as at Shea Stadium (we’re all long time New York Mets devotees), back when I was monkeying around with the idea of producing a play…

I ran into Ann and Ron at last night’s Mets game.  Baseball, to me, has always seemed the most fantasy-potentialed of sports, or at least the one with the most capacity for whimsy.

And what could be better, than running into old friends, above a diamond?

Like so many of the comic books and classic movies we’ve enjoyed, and the game itself, some friendships cannot tarnish, and best seek to endure.