Somebody Wake Up Lenny, He’s Up …

Neon Escape

Between a compromised immune system, allergies, asthma, and a wildly overprotective mom, I didn’t get out much as a kid. Not saying at all, just not much. Thus, along with a few other factors, I learned to appreciate solitude and an inner, more imaginary world. Comic books were probably my greatest escape. The New Teen Titans, All-Star Squadron, Defenders, Fantastic Four, Marvel Team-Up, and Marvel Two-in-One were particular favorite series at the time.

As I grew up, I learned, and begrudgingly accepted, that life cannot be exclusively about escape. As much as it appealed to me, hiding away wasn’t the solution, and I learned that lesson almost exclusively from the super-heroes I was reading in the comics. Spider-Man, especially, taught me that with great power must also come great responsibility; so said the Prophet Stan Lee.

Nonetheless, with our world being the way it is, sometimes, some days, I still need to withdraw, get away from all of the real-world horrible things. I recognize that, in and of itself, is a sign of privilege, because some people can’t take a day away from the shit show. For those of us who can, though, I ask: where do you turn? Fiction? Non-fiction? Poetry? What genre or medium? Where do you run when you’ve just had enough?

Colleague Promotion!

Hello to all of you Beautiful, Silly, but never Terrible fans out there!

Today we’d like to direct your attention to a brand new series with its first issue that dropped on comiXology today! It’s by our colleague and contributing cover artist for our upcoming Issue # 5, Isaac Bergmann! Here’s the cover to whet your appetite:

Blackwater Chronicles 1 Cover

And here’s where you can get a digital copy for the low, low price of $0.99!: Click HERE!

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to show Isaac some love!

Remembering Denny O’Neil

DON

Growing up in the 1970’s, starting out young, I would thrill to the old 1960’s Batman TV show. I’m pretty sure that Yvonne de Carlo’s Batgirl was my first ever TV crush, just barely before Lynda Carter showed up on Wonder Woman. Around that same time, though, mid to late 1970’s, I was (re)introduced to Batman in a wholly different way. An oversized collection titled “Batman’s Strangest Cases” that my parents bought for me brought stories like “The Demon of Gothos Mansion”, “A Vow from the Grave”, and “Red Water, Crimson Death”, amongst others, to my attention for the first time. I was astounded by the art, the stories, how dark it all was. They were scary and intense, and Batman was a badass! No puns, no quips, an amazing detective with off-the-chart physical capabilities. Those stories, while drawn by different artists, had one person in common: Denny O’Neil. I didn’t realize that until much later on, when I returned to comic books after a sabbatical of being “too grown up” for that sort of thing. That’s when I started paying attention to creators more than characters.

As I became more aware of creators, I found that Denny had been the one that had revolutionized Batman in many ways, steering him away from the camp and getting him back to the mystery man, world’s greatest detective, and dark roots of his creation. It was Denny O’Neil, also, who helped get Frank Miller brought on to DC, Frank Miller who would also re-revolutionize Batman with Year One and The Dark Knight Returns. Denny wasn’t just confined to Batman, though. He changed the comics industry forever with Green Lantern / Green Arrow, especially with Issue # 85 where Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy was revealed to be a drug addict. Denny also created John Stewart, one of the greats of the Green Lantern Corps, the villain Ra’s al Ghul, his daughter Talia, and Jean-Paul Valley a/k/a Azrael, the man that would replace Bruce Wayne temporarily as Batman following the events of Knightfall, arguably the second most attended-to comics event of the 1990’s (after the Death of Superman, natch).

Still, you can find most all of that and more out in a Wikipedia entry. Here’s what really brings me here today. Just a few weeks ago, after concluding Tom King’s run on Batman, I asked a couple of comic-reading friends who they thought was the writer for the greatest Batman run of all time. Not just a story or even an arc, but who really had a crack at the Bat and made it his or her own. A few names were bandied about, but the first and the one ultimately agreed upon was Denny O’Neil.

Fast-backward, Baltimore Comic Con several years ago, I got the chance to meet Mr. O’Neil and get a few books signed. I, unintentionally, interrupted his lunch at his table. He was incredibly gracious and didn’t seem to mind at all. Amongst the books I got signed that day was his novelization of the aforementioned “Knightfall” story. It sits on my bookshelf, here, directly across from my office chair, and is one of my more prize possessions.

Denny O’Neil died a couple of days ago. On behalf of all of here at Beautiful, Silly, & Terrible Things, including myself, thank you Mr. O’Neil for sharing your vision, your creativity, and your amazing heart through your characters and stories, for being one of if not the best Batman writer of all time, and for being one of the truly nicest people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting.

Rest in peace, sir.

Unrest

During this time, not just in the U.S., but in the world, we believe that it’s pivotal that voices are heard, voices aside from our own, voices of those who know what it’s like and who live with the pain, the damage, and the murders. With that in mind, we are asking you to please watch the following video:

Kimberly Jones asks How Can We Win?

In the video, Ms. Jones specifically mentions Tulsa and Rosewood. If you’d like to find out more about those two events, here’s the Wikipedia links:

Tulsa Race Massacre

Rosewood Massacre

Ms. Jones is a writer of various media, including books. You can find out more about her at:

Kim Jones’ website

or her Amazon listing with her books at:

Kimberly Jones’ Amazon Author Page

Remember, Black Lives Matter.

BLM

Going Mute

BLM

In what seems a lifetime ago, I believed a lot of nonsense. Getting older feels more and more a sloughing off of misconceptions and bad beliefs to the point that I often think of Don Henley’s line from “The End of the Innocence”: “The more I know, the less I understand, all the things I thought I’d figured out, I have to learn again.”

So please hear me when I say that I don’t write this today to tell anyone that I know the answers, that I have it all figured out. I don’t. I know that I’m slow to react sometimes, and if that is a failing here, then I sincerely apologize. And as a last caveat, I don’t want to spend time giving credence to those that I believe are clearly in the wrong, especially those that troll and tout their bile everywhere. In a previous post, I declined to mention a certain movement in comics; I’m going to exercise that same restraint here.

Then, what am I here to actually convey? Glad you asked! I’m here as the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Beautiful, Silly, & Terrible Things and as John M. Waller Sewell, individually, to say unequivocally that BlackLivesMatter. I’m not going to hashtag it, because right now that needs to be used for more pressing circumstances. In the COVID-19 times, we had been making an effort to post more frequently and somewhat regularly. Tuesday has been one of the days I really wanted to repeatedly post. Yesterday was Blackout Tuesday, and so we participated in that instead. This is not to toot our own horn, and in fact, that very conception is one of the reasons why I haven’t posted much while everything has been going on. But silence isn’t a good idea either, and binary thinking is an unnecessary bane in my life.

Here’s what I’d like to ask of you: don’t buy our comics or visit our shop right now (we’re actually taking it down temporarily anyway, so, yeah, serious). Instead, go support a good cause at this time. There’s the Southern Law Poverty Center or your area’s local Bail Relief Fund, as examples. Or if you’re determined for art, here are a few artists that we highly recommend:

Armando Ramirez – his Instagram @armandoramirez_art

Geoffrey K. Gwin – his Instagram @geoffreykgwin

Mike Lancette – his Instagram @mikelancetteart
AND check out his comic, Master of the Edge here: IndyPlanet – Master of the Edge
(Mike, if you read this, man, I’m looking forward to seeing you on the convention
scene again dude!)

Taurin Clarke – his Instagram @muaadib

T.E. Lawrence (not the Lawrence of Arabia one) – his Instagram @t_e_lawrence

Thanks for reading. In conclusion, we here at BSaTT believe in the pursuit of real, true justice that is being sought by the protesters all over the U.S.A., and to that end, we will be joining so many other artists and creators as we go muted through June 7, 2020. Just didn’t want our silence to be misconstrued as a lack of support. We love you! Stay safe, stay healthy, don’t give up, and don’t give in.

The Comic Chat Authority reviews BSaTT # 1 & 2

Hey there all you Beautiful, Silly, but never Terrible fans out there! We’re delighted to share The Comic Chat Authority has posted a new video that reviews our first and second issues of our flagship anthology series!

Check it out right:  Here

And while you’re there, be sure to give them a thumbs up!

Part two of their review with Issues # 3 & 4 is coming soon.

Behind the BSaTT Curtain, Part 2

Page 1

This is the first page from our upcoming “What is Your Emergency?” story in Issue # 5 of our flagship anthology series. Bonus! It’s in color here, which the comic will actually be in black-and-white. Josh Hood (yes, that Josh Hood!) did the pencils and inks, Travis Perkins (yes, that Travis Perkins!) did the colors and the lettering.

The story that this art introduces is what brings us back around, too. The controversy that was mentioned last time around.

I was sitting at a friend’s house years ago on a Friday evening. It was the Friday that Netflix dropped its first Daredevil series, and we’d gathered to watch some of it. Like so many, I was blown away by that series, especially the one long continuous shot of Daredevil fighting through that one particular building. Watching it, I wondered what would it be like for someone to really do something like that? Be a vigilante. This is nothing new, I’m well aware. Even so, it kept kicking around in my head. Not costumes. No capes or tights or even body armor. I wasn’t looking at doing the second coming of Kick-Ass.

What would compel someone to go out and patrol a city at night and put themselves in harm’s way? I started working on this idea as a story and talked it over with a few friends. The immediate response that I got was that my story was a tricky one to pull off because the protagonist in the story is an African-American man, and I am not. One very good friend in particular introduced me to a two very key things: 1) A movement (that I shall not name because I don’t want to give them any traction) that was growing at the time in comics that opposed diversity in characters as well as creators; and 2) Ta-Nahesi Coates, more specifically Between the World and Me, his best-selling book that is really more an open letter to his son. This was just before Mr. Coates began his amazing run on Marvel’s Black Panther series.

Reading the opposing sides of an argument over inclusiveness in the comic book industry at the same time as reading Mr. Coates’ book opened my eyes to a much bigger, and truthfully, much scarier world. Privilege, for those of us who benefit from it, can be a warm blanket that makes us feel like everything is safe. Or at least better than it really is. I confess, I had been naive, and perhaps I still am.

I shelved the story. I’d come back around to it occasionally. I pitched it to an independent comic book company (spoiler, they passed on it). Time went on, and the story kept rummaging around in my mind. I decided that I wanted to tackle it again. Everything I had learned made the story feel even more important to me, even though I recognized that it would be a difficult story to properly tell.

In mid-2018, I struck up a conversation with independent artist Josh Hood at a convention. I was surprised that I was even talking about it at all, let alone that anyone else was interested. In no time at all, we were at work, and pages were coming in. I approached some colleagues with my script just before sending them to Josh, and I received a lot of the same warnings and concerns that I’d received before. For years I’d been struggling with this question, and here it was again:

Is it really a good idea for a white man to be writing an African-American story? At all? In this time? If one is going to tell a story that involves racism, can it really be told by someone who hasn’t experienced it? Or even worse, has been the beneficiary of privilege? Ok, that’s more than one question, but they’re all intricately woven together into one very important subject. I wasn’t sure whether or not it was a good idea to continue.

Then my Mom died, abruptly, unexpectedly, and somewhat violently. I wasn’t with her when the initial accident happened, but I was with her at the hospital, and I saw her go from being upset with herself for having fallen in her house and talking about how silly she felt for being there to losing her ability to talk at all. I saw her afraid, and I witnessed many of the horrors they had to do to her body in the name of trying to save her life.

There are moments in our lives that change us, shape us, pivotal moments. Many of them are positive, and I’m grateful for those in my life. In this case, though, I got thoroughly and utterly derailed. Grief, loss, guilt, all these things that I thought I knew, they took on a whole new depth and breadth. In late 2018, I was changed, and not really for the better.

The script got revised. My goal in telling the story changed. The circumstances in the story didn’t change too much, but the overall goal was radically different. I wasn’t trying to tell a story of racism, or vigilantism, crime, or anything else really.

I was telling a story about grief.

So here we are, the first part of this story is complete, in the can as we like to say in the biz. Issue # 5 will hopefully be coming out this year, that’s the plan at least. Plagues have certainly upended a lot of plans, so we’ll do our best.

When it does come out, I’ll be interested to see how the story connects with readers. I freely admit, I may not have any right to be the one to try to tell this story. I may be utterly and completely wrong, and I surely have been before. But oddly enough, it’s an easier decision for me now because I believe that grief and loss are common to us all, and death is the great unifying fate that we all face. I hope, and I would like to believe, that compassion and empathy are also unifying forces for us, but that may well be more of that naivete coming out.

A little spoiler warning: there’s a scene in this first installment of the story where our protagonist has come home from a funeral of his family. He’s wrecked, on the floor of his kitchen, the room where his family had died, and listening to his voice mail messages. That scene, his actions there, I do not think I could have written those scenes before my Mom had died. I definitely know that seeing them come alive with Josh’s pencils and inks and Travis’ colors resonated with me in a powerful way. A painful way. Eventually, a little bit of a cathartic way.

Until later, stay healthy and stay safe all of you Beautiful, Silly, but never Terrible people!

John

Behind the BSaTT Curtain

Welcome to the first of our new, recurring sections, Behind the BSaTT Curtain, where we share some of the stories behind the stories you read in our comics! Here in our first installment, we’re not shying away from the uglier side of things, either:

Beautiful_Silly_Terrible_01_02&03

It wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever written; thus far, that distinction belongs to “The Black Gate # 2”, which is a story for another day. No, today we’re looking ahead to our fifth issue of our anthology.

Yeah, ahead, as in hasn’t even been published yet. The art you’re seeing above, it’s the rough pencils and layout for a double-page spread from one of the stories featured in our upcoming fifth issue, done by comic book artist extraordinaire Josh Hood. For those of you die-hard comic fans, yes, that Josh Hood. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited we all were to be able to work with Josh! We met, talked, and before I knew it, we were working on this story (it’s called “What is Your Emergency?” by the way).

Thing is, this was back in 2018. “What’s the delay?”, you might ask, and rightfully so. This story has generated quite a bit of controversy, well before it’s even available to the public. It’s not even the scene above, though, not really. It’s something far more real. Want to know what it is? Come on back next time for the next installment of Behind the BSaTT Curtain to find out!