Oh, I promised this would be a positive column about comics. I wanted to write about the stuff I liked, but this is only my second “What Th--?” and I already have a complaint. Last week, didn’t I ask you to send me questions at marv@silverbulletcomicbooks.com? Didn’t I say you could ask anything you wanted about comics, animation, TV, movies and anything else that’s on your mind (I make a mean Broccoli dish I call “The Green Slime” [quick trivia quiz: What famous comic book writer wrote the movie, “The Green Slime?”] and would be willing to share my long held family recipe). But did anyone write in with deep, thoughtful, penetrating questions or observations? NOOOOO! What is it with you people— What’s that, Jason? I wrote my first column ahead of schedule and it still won’t see ‘print’ for another two weeks. Oh, so that’s why nobody’s written in yet?

Umm. Urrr. Never mind.

While I’m waiting for your questions, here’s a few real questions that I get asked a lot.

Q: Why are you still writing? You haven’t done anything good since your Captain Marvel two parter in 1970?

A: urr, let’s go to a different question I get asked a lot.

Q: What do you think about today’s comics?

A: That question is usually prefaced with “I loved the comics of the 40s/50s/60s/70s/80s” (apparently nobody liked the comics of the 90s and they all want me to agree). A few years ago everyone bemoaned the fact that it seemed there was nothing to read in comics if you didn’t like super-heroes. I happen to like super-hero comics, but I actively seek out others kinds as well. Today, you can walk into a comic shop and find comics about most anything imaginable. There are comics for all ages, all sexes and for many, many interests, no matter how bizarre, niche, or dumb they are. There’s kids books, mystery books, history stories, teen angst stories, and, a few years ago, I even wrote a few sports comics. Yeah, maybe it’s hard to imagine a comic book about, say, golf, published here in America, but once somebody figures out how size 44D boobs look in a golf shirt and plaid pants, trust me, it will be published.

For example, the wonderful writer/artist and all around great guy, Jeff Smith, sent me a copy of the “Rose” graphic novel collection (Thanks, Jeff. BTW, “Bone” still rocks!) illustrated by the equally wonderful artist, Charles Vess. Rose is a pure, undiluted fantasy that is as good as the best prose fantasy novels but uses the comics medium to add that extra visual layer to the story that can’t be done in writing alone. Rose is not a kid’s story, although kids can easily understand and enjoy it. This is an adult story that can be appreciated by everyone. Ten years ago there wouldn’t have been a market for Rose. Now there are many fantasy comics published.

On the other side of the coin, not published by an independent but by a major company, is “King David” written and illustrated by the always unique Kyle Baker. That’s right, DC Comics is publishing picture stories from the Bible, and we thought that went out with the old EC Comics. King David is biblically accurate and yet funny as hell. I read it on the plane coming home from New York and had to keep myself from laughing out loud. These days you don’t want to do anything on an airplane that calls attention to you. If you never thought you’d be interested in reading a comic about bible stories, you’re wrong.

Oh, there are lots of poor comics. Sturgeon’s Law holds true for everything, but despite the fact that there is always room for improvement and that we really should try to find a way to get our books out to the mass market and not just an audience of approximately 30,000 I like where comics are today.

By the way, we’ll get into “Marv’s Cure for Low-Selling Comics” in a future column. If the companies follow my sage advice honed from more than thirty years working in the comic publishing industry, I guarantee we’ll increase our sales to at least 30,001 copies.

Q: Why didn’t DC Comics stop you from killing Supergirl/Flash/ Earth 3/The Green Stringbean, etc. in “Crisis On Infinite Earths?”

A: Well, the truth is I went behind the backs of the company; the president, publisher, proofreaders, assistants, production department, curious bystanders, my dog, Tala, and random others to see if I could sneak in the deaths of major characters, all by myself, without anyone noticing. Also, because I don’t like green stringbeans and he deserved to die anyway! Final also, I personally get a visceral thrill in taking things that don’t really exist in the first place and murdering them.

There! At last I’ve told the truth. I’m glad to have gotten that off my chest after all these years. You have no idea how many times I’ve lied about this when I repeatedly said I worked hand-in-hand with the company in choosing our “death list.” Fortunately, nobody believed my lies and you’ve now forced me to come clean. I already am sleeping better. Thank you.

Q: What do you think about computer coloring?

A: Strangely enough, I actually am asked that at least twice at every convention I go to. I may have to ask myself the question, but it does get asked. So, glad I asked that.

Like everything else in the world, when done well it is excellent. But… and in the words of Pee Wee Herman, this is a big butt, I think 90% of the time it is not done well. Anybody with a computer and Photoshop can color comics, and it sometimes seems they do. Coloring is not merely coloring between the lines. Coloring, like everything else, is a matter of art and taste. Color, like writing, art and lettering, exists for one purpose only: to tell the story. If the coloring gets in the way of telling the story, if it hides or obstructs important art, if it never gives the reader a place to rest his/her eyes with some welcome White Space, then it’s failing to do its job. If the colorist overly renders simple art that should be colored simply, it is failing to do its job. Looking pretty isn’t enough. Tell the story. Don’t cover up backgrounds. When I was in Barcelona last month at a convention that had over 80,000 attendees (Yes! 80 THOUSAND) I mentioned to an artist I really like a lot that the only thing that I didn’t like about his book is that the color covered up almost all his beautiful art. I literally couldn’t make out some of the pictures. So, colorists, look at the printed page and see which colors work and which don’t. To repeat, color is not put down to look pretty. It’s there to tell the story. Nothing else matters.

By the way, the same is true for lettering. The lettering should fit the art, if possible. The balloons should lead the eye in an order that makes it easy to follow the art and panels. I’m fairly good when placing balloons, but back in the prehistoric days when I was Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief - before computers and even before people had noses - I remember occasionally not being able to find a place on a cover to place a balloon. I’d go to Stan Lee for help and he’d instantly find the perfect place that helped the cover and didn’t obstruct the flow of the art.

A second by the way. In some future column I’ll talk about my early days working alongside Stan. Working with him on a daily basis gave me a deep appreciation for his real talents, which are numerous. Some fans today say he’s corny or whatever, but Stan knows his stuff and he knows how to explain it, which is even more important. He also is the most positive human being I’ve ever known and rarely has a negative thing to say about anyone. I’ve always liked him and I’ll share the reasons why.

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: My friend Harlan Ellison to the contrary, is not Poughkeepsie. That is a very long answer and will take several columns to even begin to discuss. We’ll be starting on that subject next week on the first of my craft columns.

Q: How do you make that “Green Slime” broccoli dish you’re known the world over for?

A: What? You want me to share my top-secret family recipe handed down through the generations by the first Wolfman who stole it from the Silver Palette cookbook back in the ‘90s? Shame on you!

That’s it for my first Q&A. Since I’m asked pretty boring questions at cons, I hope that you will help out and send questions with a little more zing to them. Don’t forget the address: marv@silverbulletcomicbooks.com

See you in seven!

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