Through the Mail Slot – UPDATED

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A reader named Rotem Cohen writes…
Just wanted to say a thing or two, having just finished reading the Marv Wolfman interview from the “READ” section.
Reading it felt a lot like going on a shopping spree in a supermarket when you’re absolutely famished. I’ve always wanted to write, especially comics, but never had the guts to just go with it. Life always came up first. The bit in the interview about writing to describe an emotion, and not a “theme”, made my eyes burst out of their sockets (the room was also a bit dark, and they ached frequently while reading, so wtf, who needs em). I’ve always felt that stories, whatever they are about, always came through to me when there was a coherent feeling behind it, and not just detailed events of some characters’ life.
Anyway, just wanted to say that.
Oh, and good health (I’m one of those who came via the Jean Grey rumors. I’m staying a bit, though, thanks to Google Reader).
Glad to hear it, Rotem. Hope we don’t disappoint.
Doing that interview with Marv was a real treat—Marv’s years of experience as writer and editor, as well as his ongoing enthusiasm for comics, make him a terrific interviewer, and the whole set of interviews up at his website is worth poking through. And on top of that, the bit you mention—I can’t say enough good things about The Fiction Editor by Thomas McCormack. It’s the book that kicked my ass and opened up the doors I needed to open to start thinking like a functioning writer rather than like an uncertain beginner. Every writer should be so lucky—might not be that book they encounter, or it might not be a book at all, but for me it was like dawn over Marblehead.
[And yes, that’s another Amazon link. Quick check—ha! I’ve earned another 60 cents, for selling a copy of Comic Book Lettering: The Comicraft Way. Clearly, it was worth getting on the phone with J.G. and figuring out why all the choices in the Shop section weren’t showing, since that was one of them.]
Another e-mail, from BigWords88…

So… I’ve managed to register for the forum, and the registration has (apparently) gone through, but I’m still not allowed to post replies. Anyways, I just wanted to point out that if your sinus troubles are continuing, maybe you should look into the Chinese herbal concoctions which some people swear by. It isn’t a replacement for conventional medicine, but there are some herbal remedies which can have drastic improvements in ailments.
Hope you’re feeling better. 🙂
Oh, I’ve been on Chinese herbal concoctions of one sort or another for years, B.W., including a spray that we hoped would fix up my current sinus travails, but alas, it didn’t do the trick. But my adventures into alternative medicine began when my regular Western-style doctor told me that there was clearly something wrong that I was suffering from, but allopathy just wasn’t turning it up, and he recommended an acupuncturist and a naturopath. And while I’m not seeing either of the fine folk he referred me to any more, that was what led to things starting to turn around for me.
So I keep one foot in Western medicine and one in Eastern/alternative, and it seems to be heading me off in the right direction, at least.
[And we’re hoping to oneday have the registration process at the message board be entirely automated, but in the meantime, I’ve forwarded your e-mail to J.G. to see what’s up with that “can’t post” thing.]
But as long as we’re talking about my half-compacted head, I figured readers here might enjoy one of the side-effects from it, over at:
Comic Book Resources
It starts out as a thread about the Age of Heroes mini-series, but since I’ve been dizzy and unfocused this weekend, thanks to pseudoephedrine and a vile anti-fungal nasal spray that’s been like flooding my sinuses with acid that doesn’t actually do anything but hurt a lot, I spent a fair about of time sitting at my desk, reading old bits of Neil Gaiman’s online journal, following the early news from the Red Sox at Spring Training, and answering questions on that thread. And it ranges quite a way from the initial subject, covering things like whether anti-mutant prejudice was part of the X-Men series right from the get-go, whether I was ever Marvel’s head writer, my upcoming “untold tale” of Spider-Man, the Silver Age Jon Stewart, whether the phrase “extremist Thor fans” shows proper respect for the audience, how comics from different eras feel like different worlds, a brief and unhealthy fascination with my scrotum, the value of trying to please everyone, political portrayals in comics, Wolverine as super-evolved-weasel, and more.
It’s actually the sort of thing I’d like to see more of in our message board here, more or less (and I’ll bet it’d be easy to separate out which bits are the ‘more’ and which are the ‘less’), but it might be an interesting read, if people want to check it out.
Meanwhile, I’m off to shower and head down to the Oregon Health Sciences University.
UPDATE: Well, I don’t have to take that vile anti-fungal spray any more. But the reason my head is blocked on one side is because the polyps are back, worse than ever on that side, and I’ll be having sinus surgery again in a couple of weeks or so. The good thing is, we know this works, we did it before and it cleared things up for almost a decade. The trick, apparently, is not getting complacent and assuming that if they haven’t come back for two years, we can stop the regular ENT checkups…

Dizzy Days

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So about three weeks ago, I came down with a cold.
These used to be regular things, but as my health has improved, I’ve gotten colds less often and recovered from them more quickly. Having six or seven sinus surgeries to make my sinuses drain better probably had something to do with it, too.
But I got a cold, and it wouldn’t go away. Or it wouldn’t go away on one side, at least. For the last couple of weeks, the right side of my sinuses has been clear, and the left side so blocked that my head felt like it was filled in with solid wood. Irrigation didn’t help. NyQuil didn’t help. Even Afrin, which normally makes me feel like I’ve got a vast, windy cavern in my head, didn’t do a thing. And worse, with my sinuses unable to drain, I was starting to feel like I had an infection of some sort.
So I went to the doctor. Two doctors, so far. I’ve had CAT scans of my sinuses and untrasound of my thyroid and neck (there’s a mass in my neck that’s probably a side effect of all this, but you never know), and I’m on antibiotics, and la di da. I’ve been diagnosed with “acute sinusitis on top of chronic sinusitis,” which is medical for “Sheesh, your head just won’t clear out, will it?”
Next week I go to OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University), where they did the surgery that ended most of my sinus problems close to a decade ago, and we’ll see what they say.
And in the meantime, I’m on Sudafed (or, more accurately, its more generic-y cousin, SudaGest), which I don’t like to take because all the way back to when I was a kid, it makes me dizzy and unfocused and kinda bleary, but I gotta do something to get my head to drain, and this seem to work, a little bit. I was unblocked enough last night to make a teeny little whistle through my left nostril, and open enough this morning to irrigate with a sinus rinse, and now I’m blocked up again but I get to take another dizzy pill in about ten minutes.
Fun, fun, fun.
So, what else we got?

The number of visitors here at Busiek.com sure skyrockets when I put up notes of how Jean Grey might have come back, or old Avengers pitches, doesn’t it? Traffic multiplied forty-fold for a while there, and has faded back down to about four-fold. It’s still kind of impressive to look at the counter at 10 a.m. and realize I’ve had more visitors that day than I had in an entire week not so long ago.
I’m sure it won’t last—I don’t have that kind of stuff in every blog entry—but I’ll enjoy it while it’s here. If you dropped by to look at one of those, feel free to poke around, look at what’s in the “Read” section, register for the forum, whatever.

And hey, I made another dime from Amazon! Thank you, Insomniacs fan, whoever you are!

In the mailbag, from Derrick Johnson…
I see that you are coming back to Marvel comics to write for them again. I am a fan of your work and am glad to see that you are working with other companies now. I never was a fan of the “exclusive” writer artist contracts that the major companies have. Anyway, the reason I wanted to write you was to ask you what you think of the current state of the Avengers.
I myself, (prior to Avengers Disassembled) was strictly an X-Men guy. I had never picked up an Avengers comic before. I read Spider-Man, JLA and some various DC stuff, but outside of the random crossovers and character interactions, I had never bought an actual Avengers comic. I read Avengers Disassembled by Brian Michael Bendis and was immediately hooked. (A lot of this had to do with Spider-Man joining the Avengers). I’ve bought every issue of Avengers since then and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I’ve even found myself going back and buying older Avengers stories so that I could learn more about the history of the book and also just to read great stories.
I had a few questions about your feelings on the Avengers franchise right now. There have been many debates on what makes an Avenger, in the comic shops as well as online. What do you think of the current Avengers teams and story arcs? Have you kept up with the characters and developments (Civil War, Bucky, The Death of Cap, House of M, etc..)
I just wanted to get your opinion on all this because your opinion as one of the great Avengers writers is much valued to a fan like me. Thank you.

Thanks very much for the kind words, Derrick.
Unfortunately, I’m really not the best guy to comment, since I’m woefully behind the times when it comes to the Avengers. If find it very difficult, most times, when I leave a book I’ve written for a long stretch, to make the shift back from master puppeteer to audience member. So when I read those books, my reaction is too often, “Well, that’s not what I wold have done.” And that’s not a valid critique, because the book shouldn’t be “what I would have done.” It should be what the new guy would have done, and be judged on that.
[If nothing else, if someone else could do “what I would have done,” then what do they need me for?]
So reading books I had a long run on but am not writing any more feels like work, not like fun, because of my unique perspective. As a result, I generally just put that stuff aside, figuring I’ll get back to it when enough time has passed, or when I need to read those books for research reasons. So I don’t read much Avengers, Thunderbolts, Conan or Superman, not because I’m angry about anything, but because I can’t really make the shift back to being just one more reader, not easily. And I have so much other stuff to read that I read the stuff I have to and the stuff I can approach as a reader and just plain enjoy, and the other stuff kinda piles up, if I’m getting copies of it at all.
And here I’ll hang my head in shame and note that Brian Bendis very kindly gave me a copy of Avengers: Disassembled, in hardcover, no less, and I said I’d read it, and it’s still sitting there in my very packed “to be read” bookcase, along with too much other stuff I have to get to. But I know right where it is, at least!
I do read Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, and I’ve been enjoying that quite a bit. The return of Bucky is practically comic book blasphemy in concept, but Ed not only made it work, he made it thrilling.
And in order to write my Age of Heroes story, I was given a lot of notes and feedback (and got to read all of Siege), to make sure I was portraying the team right. And if and when I’m writing a major Avengers project, I’d certainly catch up and do my research, like I did when Fabian and I wrote the Avengers/Thunderbolts mini-series, and I read through everything he’d done with the characters since I’d been gone.
In the end, though, what matters most is whether you like it. And for the Avengers franchise, it’s pretty clear that Brian, Tom and company have put a new spin on things that’s gotten a whole lot of readers interested and excited, so that’s a victory, for Marvel and for the reading audience. With luck, they’ll be able to keep doing that, though this “Age of Heroes” and on to whatever new spins and surprises and upheavals come along beyond that.

And now the pill’s kicking in, so I think I’ll just watch the room rotate around me for a little while…

Through the Mail Slot

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A few questions from a reader named Davide Giurlando…
Approximately 10 days ago I registered at your Forum under the nickname “Myskin.” Since then, I didn’t receive any permission to start a topic or reply in the forums. I thought that I would be allowed to do it in a couple of days after the registration, but perhaps I made some mistake. Could you clarify my problem? In alternative, I report here some questions which I wanted to pose in a topic: I’d be happy if you could give me some answer even in this form.
We’re working on adding “Captcha” software to the site to fully-automate registration, but in the meantime, part of the process is (as covered at the Forum):
“Once you’ve signed up through the site here, to COMPLETE your registration:
1. SEND AN E-MAIL to webmaster-at-comicworldnews-dot-com with the username you have chosen.
2. Check your e-mail for a registration message, and click the link in there to confirm your address.
We manually verify all registrations, so you will not be able to post or reply to topics until we have activated your account, which is usually within 24 hours.”
Hopefully, things will be simpler soon, but in the meantime that’s the only way to do it to keep the auto-spammers out. Still, as long as we’re both here, the rest of your questions…

1-About your recent Superman run. I reread some pages recently, and I think that the beginning is an extremely interesting start, but it’s intuitable that along way not everything went as planned. Some of the most recent Superman works (by Johns, Robinson or Rucka) apparently depart from the plans you had for the title. I remember that at a certain point you had some project for a Luthor mini with Guedes. More or less at the same time, in the pages of Countdown appeared this “Lex Luthor origin” which is completely different from the one Geoff Johns is dealing with in Superman Secret Origins.
Could I suppose that this “never realized origin” is the one you were proposing then?
I don’t know which one you mean by “never realized origin,” but that Countdown origin feature was one Geoff and I consulted on, to make sure it didn’t conflict with our plans. So what would have happened in Lex Luthor: Strange Visitor would have matched up to the Countdown origin, though there was considerably more that would have gone on in that story that wasn’t even hinted at in the Countdown feature.
As to how it matches or doesn’t match what Geoff and Gary are doing in Secret Origins, I can’t say—I’m way behind in my reading and I get my comics later than most readers anyway (I get a big box from DC every month that’s generally a few months behind whatever’s in the stores, and mail-order the other comics I buy, mostly), so I think I only have Secret Origin #1 so far, and haven’t gotten to reading it yet.

2-The Toyman. In Up, Up and Away, you and Johns created the mechanical Toyman (similar to the one from the Superman Animated Series). My impression was that you wanted to establish this Robot as the one, final Toyman, heir to the classic Toyman, Schott, who was possibly dead. Am I right?
I liked the new guy, though I considered him mostly Geoff’s character, as the new take on the Prankster as “distraction for hire” was mine. I don’t know what his final role would have been—we’d talked about doing a “Toy War,” as all three extant Toymen fought it out for the title, with Metropolis as the deadly playing field, but hadn’t gotten around to working out details before I headed off to Trinity-land.
Winslow Schott wasn’t dead, though—in that story, we established that Luthor was delivering Schott to the new Toyman as payment for his work on Luthor’s behalf. Looks like the delivery went awry, though.

3-Why did you give Riot a cartoony face instead of the old skeletal one?
I’m not sure I remember fully. A minor part of it, I think, was that we had Silver Banshee in the same story, and we didn’t want to have two skull-faces around for clarity’s sake, but the major part was to set up Riot for a new approach. He seemed less like a scary skeletal guy and more like a scary crazy guy, so the cartoony face, meant to resemble a demented child’s crayon drawings, that could shift to show his mercurial moods, would help visualize the new approach. I think.
4-Final one. Which were your original plans for “the big Brainiac story” which in the end was realized by Johns?
I almost never answer “what would you have done” questions, for one simple reason: If I didn’t tell the story I set out to tell, well, the ideas for it might turn out to be useful in the future. My original plans for a Brainiac story are actually a story I’d like to tell someday, in some form. So I’ll hang onto them for future use. Sorry.
And while I’m answering mail, let me toss in this, from Scott Edelman, writer of that Captain Marvel issue I praised in my George Tuska write-up—and, for that matter, the writer of the very first page of original art I ever bought, an Al Milgrom/Terry Austin Captain Marvel page where Mordecai P. Boggs shows Rick Jones a concert photo trading on Rick’s relationship with the Avengers, and Rick tears it up. Someday, I’d like to commission Al and Terry to do a full-size piece of art of just that poster. Great stuff.
But anyway, Scott writes:

Nice Tuska piece. Thought you might be interested in this one.
At that link, Scott goes into the untold story of why that issue has one page in it drawn by Dave Cockrum, and shows off the original last page of the story, as penciled by Tuska. So it’s more secrets behind the comics revealed, and a look at some cool unpublished George Tuska art. Go check it out.
And thanks, Scott!

Your Forbearance is Requested

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So, judging from the feedback so far, the new site is going over well.
We do have one hitch, and that’s with the registration process at the forum. You’d think, me being a comics writer and all, we’d have comics fans signing up. But it’s apparently astonishing how many devotees of Marvels, Astro City and Arrowsmith there are at domains like findyouradultfriend.com and pharmainstant.ca. All those eager comics fans with screen names like goodescort2 and hotlingerie4less.
And how could I leave out my new favorite in the “most unpromising e-mail address known to man” sweepstakes:

cruelty@buttmanmovie.info

Eventually, we’ll update our forum software to include one of those type-the-strange-word-you-see-here dealies, to separate the real actual genuine people who’d like to participate in our forum from those seeking to distribute their own brand of a delicious blend of pork shoulder and ham.
But for the present, if you’re trying to register for the message board, please follow this inelegant-but-effective procedure, as described by our fine webmaster, John Roshell:
1. Click the “Register” link under the Bruiser’s logo and fill out the registration form.
2. Send an e-mail to webmaster-at-comicworldnews-dot-com with the username you have chosen.
3. Check your e-mail for a registration message, and click the link in there to confirm your address.
We manually verify all registrations, so you will not be able to post or reply to topics until we have activated your account, which is usually within 24 hours.

Thanks, and please do register—we’d like to hear from you!