As expected, a sideways Sunday komix cover that’s 25% the work of Batty and Ayers, with the rest by James Pascoe and colored by Rob Ro. The same team gave us the Subterranean (1st ISSUE!) cover. Judging from what’s on his rather homely website (“.net”, snicker), Pascoe specializes in drawing covers depicting the character flying toward you.
The rest of today’s offering is your typical Batomix Komix mess: the book title, set in distressed digital type (which really irks me when he does it on the “retro” Batom covers), the heavy Photoshop filters, the fictitious trade dress, and, Batty and Ayers’ contribution, the “reality bubble” (which really is a bubble in today’s underwater scene!).
So apparently for every good idea Pete comes up with, you have to listen to two useless, shitty ones? Another “great name” for this new Elemental might be The Ordinaire…she’s just another buff Batom broad clad in a generic, formfitting superhero onesie. Why couldn’t she be a heroine who’s composed of water, and who needs a watertight suit to encase her, a la Doctor Atmos? A life sized, humanoid, water filled balloon animal would make for a truly original Sunday comic book cover (which, bet on it, we’ll be getting tomorrow.)
Even though Pete couldn’t afford an engagement ring, if and when he and Mindy ever do get married and start a family, at least he’ll be rich in “Dad jokes.” Webster’s defines these as “wholesome joke[s] of the type said to be told by fathers with a punchline that is often an obvious or predictable pun or play on words and usually judged to be endearingly corny or unfunny.” The key word there is endearingly: Dad doesn’t have to interject “…wait for it…” before striking a “har-dee-har” pose to sell the weak punchline.
Banana Jr. 6000 December 2, 2021 at 9:16 am
They’ve already published a Subterranean book…they’re apparently working on another one, and they’re just now determining who their characters are? Going over their character roster is the only thing these Atomik Klowns ever do!
…aaaaand Mindy, “The Girl.”
Batiuk famously builds story arcs set in milieux around which his lack of actual understanding becomes glaringly evident: think moviemaking, or military service. But we all know him to be a bonafide, lifetime consumer and aficionado of comics and comic books. They are his sworn passion. Young Tom Batiuk even followed his dream to New York. “I met with an editor at DC Comics who ripped not only my work up and down but me as well for having had the temerity to show up at his office with it.” OK, it didn’t lead to his dream job, and he had to settle for being a mere “cartoonist.” Still, he knows and collaborates with people in the industry. Which industry, with very few exceptions, probably operates nothing like the way he depicts it here.
Hitorque November 29, 2021 at 11:57 pm
…For all that money and all that artistic talent, this [Atomik Komix] outfit has the professionalism and maturity level of a bunch of neighborhood kids in a treehouse with a mimeograph machine…
In my dissertation yesterday regarding the traits of various FW characters, I called Phil Holt “a nasty, sarcastic little prick.” His partner Flash once diplomatically described him as a “grumpy guy who spent most of his time (emphasis mine) at war with the world and everyone in it.” Most of his time. Yesterday (or a few minutes or hours ago in strip time), Holt came thisclose to telling Pete to shove “all of these ideas of yours” up his ass. Today the Silver Alert, uh, Silver Age Duo have come a knockin’ to borrow a cup of Darin and Pete’s creative sugar.
Batiuk seems to have a fondness for his diametrically opposed duos: compare Les, for example, whose every endeavor (except I guess Lisa’s Story: the Movie) is met with acclaim, vs. his best friend Funky, against whom the very universe conspires to make miserable. Cody and Owen: the clueless stoner and the glasses-wearing geek. Those Crankshaft teen twins: sugar/spice, naughty/nice. Pete and Darin? Well, they’re equally and interchangeably douchey. But their Silver Age analogues “Flash” Freeman and Phil Holt? Phil, he’s just a nasty, sarcastic little prick, while Flash is generally kindly and even tempered. Batiuk also often has his characters finishing each others’ sentences, but of course that’s not what’s happening in today’s strip. Phil is clearly about to tell Pete to shove his ideas up his ass. Flash! Let the man speak!
Does anyone else get the feeling that today’s strip is a reflection of Tom Batiuk’s own creative process? We’ve often see Pete enthusiastically “tossing out” his half-baked ideas as rapidly as they pop into his head. But where Pete’s concepts must now pass muster with a couple of cantankerous comics creators, Batiuk seemingly is given carte blanche by an editorial director who’s probably too busy on Twitter to pay much attention.
Those of you who DIDN’T guess that Phil and Flash would be asked to take The Subterranean to Atomik Komix, please report to the front desk for your free brain scan.
And really, Phil Holt is accusing Flash of grandstanding? Isn’t Phil the man who loudly crashed a ComicCon panel to come back from the dead, then stormed the stage to have a reunion with his former partner that ended with both of them in tears.
Since when have we ever seen Flash Freeman grandstanding? We’ve all been treating Mr. Freeman as the stand-in for Stan Lee, but he’s even less like Stan Lee than Phil Holt is like Jack Kirby.
Visually, Flash is drawn as an old guy with a weirdly long face and a receding hairline, kinda like an elderly Stan Lee. And on the surface they’ve done similar things: being a head writer, giving the writers and artists in their employ pet nick names, making up behind the scenes stories, and being blamed for stealing credit from others.
Chester’s wailing about the ‘Batty Batom Bullpen Boasts’ is an obvious reference to things Stan Lee did to drum up enthusiasm and company loyalty in kidsoomers. Things like the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins and the Merry Marvel Marching Society, which put out a record that has been BURNED INTO MY MIND.
But in personality? Flash Freeman has been presented as an affable, laid-back guy. Down to earth, level-headed, and even reserved. He’s usually drawn with a slight smile and relaxed face, like he’s bemused about everything around him.
That is not Stan Lee.
Stan Lee was a man who treated every conversation as a performance. A man who only stopped flashing his toothy grin when he was posing or playacting a ‘serious’ moment. A man who rearranged his life into entertaining stories, and if he had to sacrifice the facts to do it, so be it. This is not Flash getting wrong the street address of a diner he last visited 60 years ago. Lee was a man who told a story to a convention about how he’d gotten hired, then called a former coworker who could expose the fib, and tried to convince him to go along with the ‘enhanced version’ of the truth.
Here’s an excerpt from the transcript of that coworker’s panel at ComicCon in 1998.
Stan Lee; is Stan here? No? (laughter) Stan Lee called me about two or three years ago, and says, “Joe, I opened my convention with the story that I answered an ad in the newspaper to get my job. I answered an ad in the newspaper for a job in comic books and then I went. You hired me and I was walking in the hall and I ran into Martin.” Well, I knew Martin was his uncle; well, his relative. Actually it was Stan’s mother’s cousin, something like that.
[Stan continues:] “So, Martin said to me, “Stan, what are you doing here?” And I said, ‘I work here.’ And Martin says, “Is that right? I didn’t know.””
I said, “Stan, that story can’t be true. We only had three offices and a bunch of relatives in the building. We didn’t even have a hall.” (laughter) So Stan says, “Is that right? My memory is going.” (laughter) I thought it was a pretty good story. (laughter) I figured at that time, he’d stop doing it. He’s still doing it. A month later I read the same story in Newsday. But, God bless Stan, he’s got a good story and he’s sticking with it. (laughter) He did a wonderful job. He did a miraculous job. I’m proud of him.
Who was that coworker? Why Joe Simon, the man who hired Stan Lee. The first editor of Timely (later Marvel) comics. And Jack Kirby’s creative partner for the first 15 years of his career. Theirs was truly a partnership where credit can’t be sorted. They both wrote, they both drew, and scripted, and inked. There are covers and pages with both their names on them, where not even experts can parse out who did what.
They first met working for Fox Features Syndicate, an early comics publisher run by Victor Fox who Joe Simon characterized more clearly than any Act III Funky Winkerbean character could hope to be:
It was at Fox Comics. I guess you all know about Victor Fox. He was a little chubby guy. He was an accountant for DC Comics. He was doing the sales figures and he liked what he saw. So, he moved downstairs and started his own company called Fox Comics, Fox Publications, Fox Features Syndicate, Fox Radio, Fox this, Fox that… He was a very strange character. He had kind of a British accent; he was like 5’2″–told us he was a former ballroom dancer. He was very loud, menacing, and really a scary little guy. (laughter) He used to say, “I’m the King of the Comics. I’m the King of the Comics. I’m the King of the Comics.” (laughter) We couldn’t stop him. So that’s the task I had when I went in to start that job.
When Joe Simon left Fox comics for Timely, he took Jack Kirby with him, and there they created Captain America. Then when they felt they were getting the short stick by Timely, Joe began negotiations for both of them to move on to National Comics (now DC.) There they wrote Boy Commandos and the Newsboy Legion, both very popular at the time, even if they’re mostly forgotten now.
After the War, they worked freelance, basically creating the Romance Comic genre. All the while, they were living across the street from each other with their young families.
Their partnership more or less ended in the mid-fifties, after comics hit a huge slump. The self-imposed censorship and moral panic in the wake of The Seduction of the Innocent and the Senate hearings made it an uncertain financial field. So Jack and Joe parted ways amiably. Jack stuck it out with comics, and Joe moved on to advertising and magazine publishing; though he would occasionally dip his toes back into the comics business. In 1974 he and Kirby worked together on a relaunch of ‘The Sandman’ for DC. They remained on friendly terms for the rest of their lives.
I’ll say this for Jack–Jack went back to Marvel, he switched to Marvel from DC. We got together a couple of times in-between. But every time I called Jack I’d say, “Jack, I’ve got a project to do; come do it with me.” He was there the next day–and in those days, we were always together when we had to be, when we wanted to be. He always came back to me. I never paid him the way I’d pay the other artists; I always split with him, everything we had. We had kind of a nice relationship.
Is Flash Freeman a poorly written Stan Lee? Or is he intentionally tempered with the soul of Joe Simon?
The prosecution presents the following evidence.
Now we needed a villain for inside the comic, too. … Even sitting at lunch, I was always thinking about heroes and villains, with all sorts of ideas swimming around in my head. Next thing I know, I had a hot fudge sundae sitting in front of me, with the vanilla ice cream, and the hot fudge is running down the side. It was intriguing.
The hot fudge looked like limbs—legs, feet, and hands—and I’m thinking to myself.
Gee, this’d make an interesting villain, I mused. We’ll call him Hot Fudge … Just put a face on him, and have him ooze all over the place.
You have to be stupid to be in this business. Nevertheless, I did some sketches, right then and there. And I Iooked at them.
Nah, I thought. Who would believe anything like that?
But I looked again at the sundae, and I saw the big cherry on top. The cherry looked like a skull.
“Wow,” I said to myself. “Red Skull … that sounds good.” And it made a lot more sense.
Let me see if I’ve got this straight, Phil. You faked your own death so you could work without being bothered, and in the literal years since you’ve managed to draw and layout a single issue? Seriously? GRRM works faster than you! I swear to Galactus, if there isn’t Berserk levels of detail to every single panel of this book…
Jack Kirby would be ashamed! You know, the guy you’re supposed to be based on? Jack Kirby was a legend for his output and work ethic. He could complete multiple pages a DAY. The man was a machine. If Jack Kirby faked his death to work on a project for four years, the final output would rival Henry Darger.
But how close are you really to Jack Kirby? I took the time this week to watch a few documentaries, read a few articles and interviews. Let’s see how close Phil Holt stacks up to The King. The glorious co-creator of Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Mr. Miracle, The New Gods and so many more.
First of all, the physical resemblance is as close an approximation as the art style allows, especially in the earliest appearances. The poofy, swept back hair, the cigar, the squarish head and round face, all look like a caricature of Kirby. Even more, they look close to how Kirby depicted himself in comic form. The strip even goes out of it’s way to show that Phil is shorter, just like Kirby who was 5’6″.
The only difference is the glasses, and even then, the glasses seem to serve the function of giving him the boxed off square brow and deep set eyes he had naturally.
But does Phil resemble Jack in personality?
Not really. Phil is prickly, he snips and snaps at everyone. He might have depths of generosity, and hidden warmth, but twice he is described as someone whose resting state was antagonistic.
The Jack Kirby described by others, and I saw in interviews was not this person. Yeah, he was a pugnacious guy, who could hold a wicked grudge against people who he thought slighted him. He even lashed out at people he was frustrated with by creating comic villains to RESEMBLE those people.
But to anyone else, he was warm and welcoming. He had a wide circle of friends. People liked working with him. The documentary I watched talked about how random people would show up at his house and he would let them in, show them his studio, and his wife would feed them sandwiches.
Did you know he had a wife? And kids too! People he was financially supporting. Relationships that drove him to look for work and and fight for contracts that paid him his fair share of the profits he was creating, and get rights to royalties that would allow him to continue to provide for his family in the future.
And Jack Kirby never disavowed comics. Sure, in the 80’s he moved on to animation for Hanna-Barbara, but he created comics intermittently through the 80’s and early 90’s. He continued attending conventions and meeting with fans right up until the year he died. He was proud of his work, and went through a legal slugfest with Marvel trying to get his artwork back.
I might think it was petty to draw a sniveling caricature of poor Roy Thomas, and print it in the pages of DC; but I’ll give Jack Kirby this, he didn’t stomp out of an entire industry in a huff and never work again. Jack Kirby worked hard his entire life. He fought hard for his credit, and switched comics companies multiple times, because he wanted that hard work to be recognized. Not just for himself, but for his wife and kids.
Is Phil Holt meant to be Jack Kirby? Probably. But he’s a Jack Kirby that existed in a world where he had nothing to fight for but his own ego.
This was my favorite of the documentaries I watched. It’s probably more hagiography than strict history, but peeling back the veneer of eulogy you can still see that the truth of the man beneath. If you’ve got the time, and the inclination, I’d recommend.
DID YOU KNOW? Despite being drawn 24 times, Mindy has only been allowed to speak twice this entire month?
Okay. I know that most of you have had a stab at trying to parse out the logic here, but I really want to get my own corkboard and string out and see if I can make a clearer picture. So let us follow the sequence of events.
1.) A few years ago Phil Holt was living alone in obscurity in California. He drew caricatures for the birthday parties of rich brats. He considered his old comics work junk despite the fact he hung pictures of it on the walls of his apartment. And wasn’t working on comics anymore despite the fact he had a drawing board and supplies out in a prominent place so must have been working on something (Fine art? Advertising?).
2.) This single conversation with Darrin (who never brings Pete by to meet him btw,) sparks in Phil a desire to create comics again. He affirms that he will ‘be there for Darrin’.
3.) Despite the fact that no one except Darrin has recognized him in years, Phil Holt is worried about being ‘bothered’ while working out his new inspiration. Phil Holt has a friend/acquaintance/stalker named Mickey. Phil apparently has no one else in his life to confide in. This fat old man with a badly named comic shop somehow knows a fancy lawyer in a high rise office who also loves Phil Holt so much that he’s only too happy to help everyone else on Earth (except, presumably the government,) think he’s dead. Phil Holt thinks this will help him achieve the solitude he needs to work?
NOTE: Mickey, who attended the con and then panel with Phil, phased out of existence the second Phil pulled off his mask. Where is he? Why doesn’t he get to go to the fun and fancy restaurant of reminiscing over retroactively recreated history?
4.) Phil decides to use the lawyer to gift a bunch of original art to Darrin. Art he had ALREADY decided to leave him in his will, and updated the will accordingly. It is worded vaguely enough that I can’t tell if this is the sole mechanism by which he faked his death, or just a nice thing he decided to do to ‘be there for Darrin’ despite planning on disappearing. The fanboy lawyer, who knows that Phil Holt is still alive, still somehow has trouble locating Darin.
NOTE: The auction of the comic covers was advertised, and Phil never moved from the SoCal area it was held in. So he knew that Darrin immediately cashed in the art. He’s shown no ill will toward Darrin so far, so I can only assume he approves of the charity donation.
5.) So, for the last few years, after faking his death quitting, his job as a caricature artist, and giving away valuable possessions, Phil has moved from a tiny apartment in the greater L.A. area to a house in San Diego that couldn’t cost less than 500K?
NOTE: I’m assuming they’re still in San Diego. Unless the ROAD TRIP Pete was so excited about was all of them driving 150 miles to LA after having supper, after a long day at a convention? Ruby is in in the same clothes they wore to the panel. But Pete and Darin politely changed shirt color before dinner. And Mindy hacked off her sleeves again.
6.) All so he can spend LITERAL YEARS working on a comic character he already worked on once before, and had entire folders of preproduction material prepared. And could have been working on constantly in the 40 plus years since he stomped out of Batom. I estimate he should have a Watchmen length graphic novel all penciled up and ready to go by now. Which means he never intended for his faked death to be permanent? I guess? Or he was creating for the sake of creation? Or he was going to release under a pseudonym?
Conclusion: I’m lost. It’s nonsense all the way down. But as I said on Monday, this is the kind of stupid and crazy I joined on for. If Funky Winkerbean was nothing but badly handled social issues, I think I would probably get burned out on the outrage and leave.
But THIS? An elderly man imagining that even more elderly men are still alive so that he can live out his fantasy of all the Silver Age Marvel greats that bickered over credit kissing and making up? I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed an arc this much since Zanzibar. Actually even Zanzibar had the unfortunate implications of being based on a real life murder.
This is *chef’s kiss* peak outsider auteur Neil Breen crazy.
Meanwhile… *stupid cloud bubble panel border that TB inexplicably thinks should indicate an in-strip shift from one place to another*
Everyone’s 5th favorite Stooge, “Curly-Joe” DeRita, and Darth Vader himself are hanging out at Ye Olde Comic Shoppe. What’s that all about? Spacemanspiff85 is going to be our guide as we find out (provided we do in the next two weeks). Thoughts and prayers, man, thoughts and prayers.