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Issue #87

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Issue #87
  • It’s that season in the world of TV again, when programmers thoughts turn to autumn, and networks line up next season’s rosters. It’s also a time for us viewers to see the networks are interested in generating anything actually new and interesting, or if it’s more of the same old same old, repackaged to make us feel all warm and cozy.

    NBC announced first, yesterday. The network took sort of a drubbing this year, with CBS‘s SURVIVOR and CSI basically killing the concept of Thursday night “Must-See TV,” a concept that has underscored NBC’s now-shattered dominance of that night since the COSBY phenomenon of the ’80s. On most other nights, only varying shades of LAW AND ORDER have given them anything to throw parties over. As might be expected, they’re shaking up their line-up. From their point of view, anyway.

    Out: WATCHING ELLIE (the “Seinfeld Curse” strikes again); the execrable IN-LAWS; the dull as dishwater JUST SHOOT ME, AUSA (despite just adding Heather Locklear to the cast; I hope she got a “play or pay” clause) and HIDDEN HILLS. Pretty much the entire Tuesday night line-up, in other words, except FRASIER, which, mercifully, is reportedly going into its last year. (As if FRIENDS. Unless it’s not.) Plus the WEST WING non-spinoff MR. STERLING, which everyone stopped talking about a month before it debuted. Then again, it could hardly have carried over the audiences WEST WING has been hemorrhaging all season, and, since many of that show’s fans are Aaron Sorkin fans and Sorkin has just left the show… Though I never liked it, WEST WING (9PM Wednesdays) has been one of the few successful shows about American politics in the history of American TV because it has been audacious and had a specific point of view, and didn’t seem much concerned with the toes it stepped on. How many TV shows can you say that about? Without Sorkin in control, it seems set to either go network tepid or totally over the top just to prove it doesn’t need Sorkin to stomp all over toes. The latter would at least make for interesting spectacle, but either way WEST WING now seems also geared for the scrapheap after next season. That’s two definite holes in NBC’s ’04-’05 schedule and one likely. (ER (10PM Thursdays), on the other hand, is renewed for two more years.)

    Some struggling shows managed to escape the chopping block. Despite ending its season this year on Friday nights, ED will be back at 8PM Wednesdays, leaving that NBC’s only unscathed night. (The now eternal LAW AND ORDER, original flavor, rounds out the night.) Somehow the terrible GOOD MORNING MIAMI, floundering between WILL AND GRACE and ER on Thursday nights but is headed to the Tuesday night killing fields post-FRASIER next season, so don’t get attached to it. Sunday’s morose BOOMTOWN gets a shift to Fridays at 10, and hopefully gets a sense of humor as well, while the fairly successful LAW AND ORDER: SVU gets sent to another current NBC graveyard, Tuesday at 10.

    New NBC shows:

    James Caan and Nikki Cox run casino security in the thriller LAS VEGAS (9PM Mondays). (I presume they added the LAS to differentiate it from the ’70s VEGAS, where Robert Urich ran casino security.)

    Rob (WEST WING) Lowe as an idealistic scion of a old boy network law firm (with “dark secrets”) in THE LYONS DEN (10PM Sundays).

    COUPLING (9:30PM Thursdays), based on the BBC dramedy of the same name, about tedious people wanting (or not wanting) to have sex with each other. I saw a couple episodes of the English version on BBC AMERICA and was bored silly. Hopefully it’ll transplant better than MEN BEHAVING BADLY did, since NBC is obviously angling for this to be its new FRIENDS. (Curiously, both shows feature six thirty-something mixed-gender buddies. What a coinkydink.)

    Christine Baranski and John Laroquette in HAPPY FAMILY (8:30PM Tuesdays) about an aging (though presumably still fairly attractive) couple (as all aging couples on NBC seem to be, and I can’t see Baranski taking on a regular frump role) who look forward to having their home all to themselves after decades of child-rearing when – who’d’ve guessed it?! – all their grown children suddenly decide to move back home (or thereabouts). Having had years of success with the same concept with EMPTY NEST. New ideas aside – just once I’d like to hear a capsule show description that didn’t sound like thirty other shows – I’m not sure it’s a great idea to anchor a show around two of TV’s most abrasive personae. Then again, they may also seem tepid coming after

    WHOOPIE (8PM Tuesdays) starring Whoopie Goldberg, which means who cares what the series concept is?

    Rounding things out: Alicia Silverstone (for those who didn’t get enough of her as Batgirl in BATMAN AND ROBIN) as a divorce lawyer who loves playing matchmaker on the side (presumably to generate future business in MISS MATCH (Fridays 8PM), with Ryan O’Neil. Since it’s an hour show, expect a dramedy ala ED.

    Over at ABC – it seems like only yesterday they were cock of the walk, now they’re regularly duking it out with Fox for fourth place – they’re trying to remake whole nights just like NBC. I’m trying to figure out what’s been cancelled, but I don’t actually remember what’s on ABC these days. I guess Skeet Ulrich’s cross between X-FILES and TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL is gone, whatever it was called, and THE DREW CAREY SHOW along with its stepchild WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? are also gone, but for all I know they could’ve been gone months ago. THE PRACTICE goes back to its 10PM Sunday timeslot after ALIAS, while DRAGNET jumps to 10PM Saturdays (why not just kill it outright?) and follows THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY while changing its name to L.A. DRAGNET, just in case you wondered what city it was set in. Coming back: NYPD BLUE; 8 SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER; ACCORDING TO JIM; MY WIFE AND KIDS; THE GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW; LIFE WITH BONNIE (Is ABC trying to monopolize the cuddly family comedy? Shouldn’t they leave some schmaltz for someone else?); LESS THAN PERFECT; THE BACHELOR; 20/20; PRIMETIME MONDAY; AMERICA’S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS and MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. If that’s not enough to nail your butt to the sofa at prime time (I’m guessing it’s not, given ABC’s ratings) here’s the new stuff:

    10-8 (8PM Sundays). Danny Nucci as a punk who tries to become a cop in Brooklyn.

    KAREN SISKO (10PM Wednesdays). Carla Gugino playing Elmore Leonard’s female skip tracer from OUT OF SIGHT (where J-Lo played her). Unless this can chip its way to second place, it’s DOA.

    THREAT MATRIX (8PM Thursdays). A band of actors no one ever heard of keep America safe. Up against FRIENDS and SURVIVOR, also consider this one DOA, like everything ABC dumps in that slot.

    BACK TO KANSAS (8:30PM Fridays). Brecken Meyer’s a New York boy who moved back to Kansas with his cornfed homesick wife and can’t cope. Hilarity ensues.

    HOPE AND FAITH (9PM Fridays). A soap opera star’s character is killed, putting her out of a job (apparently her agent doesn’t know there are other soaps on the air) and into her suburban sister’s home. Starring Faith Ford and Kelly Ripa, but Faith plays Hope, not Faith.

    I’M WITH HER (8:30PM Tuesdays). The romance between a high school teacher and a movie star, from Brooke Shields’ husband. Starring Teri (MEET THE PARENTS) Polo.

    IT’S ALL RELATIVE (8:30PM Wednesdays). A remake of BRIDGET LOVES BERNIE, with lovers coping with their obnoxious, antagonistic families. Expect lots of Irish and gay jokes.

    Unlike NBC’s schedule, which I can pretty much ignore, ABC’s has me conflicted. I like Danny Nucci, Teri Polo, Carla Gugino and Brecken Meyer, so I’m inclined to give their shows a shot, even if the most of the concepts have the stink of death. The comedies stand the best chance of survival. Nucci’s timeslot’s probably no good for a cop show, and the show’s from Aaron Spelling, always a bad sign. By now highly experienced in these things, ABC didn’t only announce their fall shows, they’ve started announcing next year’s midseason replacements already. Not surprisingly, they’re dramas, with no timeslots yet announced, but you should be able to figure them out.

    The final network to announce so far is The WB, trying to maintain and expand the foothold it finally got on audiences. But it hasn’t been easy: longtime fading success SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH finally gave up the ghost, while “big hits” like last year’s abortion BIRDS OF PREY failed to catch fire. Also gone: BLACK SASH, DAWSON’S CREEK, and a seeming infinity of bad sitcoms. Genuine big hit SMALLVILLE returns, but the WB, either sensing blood as ED and THE WEST WING fade or criminally suicidal, move it to 8PM Wednesdays, followed by ANGEL at 9, the last hope for BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER fans. (Rumor is BUFFY‘s Angel substitute Spike is migrating to ANGEL next season.) Also back are CHARMED (8PM Sundays); 7TH HEAVEN (8PM Mondays); EVERWOOD (9PM Mondays); THE JAMIE KENNEDY EXPERIMENT (8:30PM Thursdays); WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU (9PM Thursdays); REBA (8PM Fridays); and GROUNDED FOR LIFE (9PM Fridays). Plus repeats of old SMALLVILLE episodes on SMALLVILLE: BEGINNINGS (7PM Sundays). Way to recycle, WB!

    New:

    TARZAN AND JANE (9PM Sundays). A SMALLVILLE-ing of Tarzan, with the boy jungle lord forcibly brought to civilization by his (I’m guessing villainous) uncle, where he meets Jane, a female detective whose involved with another man. Sounds like an age discrepancy there.

    FEARLESS (9PM Tuesdays). Rachel Leigh Cook heads up a crack special top-secret FBI unit composed entirely of 20-something beautiful people.

    STEVE HARVEY’S BIG TIME (8PM Thursdays). The original STEVE HARVEY SHOW was the biggest hit in its black demographic on TV; unfortunately most networks don’t look at the black demographic. Harvey has reconstituted himself as a reality show host “bringing out the funniest bits in real people.” Uh-huh.

    RUN OF THE HOUSE (9:30 Thursdays). Older siblings are put in charge of younger siblings when Mom and Dad have to relocate. (Sounds like an episode of THE SOPRANOS, doesn’t it?) But can the self-parenting kids self-parent?

    LIKE FAMILY (8:30 Fridays). An African-American family lives with a single white mom and her kid. Gosh, how’s that for role reversal? Think they all get along peacefully?

    ALL ABOUT THE ANDERSONS (9:30 Fridays). Another single parent, this time a dad, tries to move back with his folks but has to live above the garage.

    So I guess ABC doesn’t have a lock on family schmaltz at all.

    Like ABC, the WB has also announced a slew of midseason replacements already, which must inspire confidence in the scheduled shows. There’s an old John Hiatt song that goes, “Your replacement waits in the basement, they got her down to your smile,” which pretty much sums up the state of network TV. Some shows manage to eck out their own personalities; most are tampered with and poked and prodded and sometimes even rebuilt week to week by networks (I’d like to see Howard Chaykin’s memoirs about working on CBS’ THE FLASH, a case in point). CBS, Fox and UPN still have their fall schedules to announce yet, but I don’t expect more interesting choices than found on ABC, NBC or the WB. (The most interesting feature so far is the lack of new “reality” shows, despite their general ratings’ success over more traditional fare.) The fact is that virtually all of American network programming is soporific timewasters; for the most part, the networks aren’t looking to excite you at all or get you really interested or involved, they’re only looking to get you reluctant to move enough to get up, or change the channel, or mute when commercials come on. Which leaves the “alternatives” like HBO that audiences increasingly move to, except HBO is getting slack now as well. Gone is OZ, THE SOPRANOS is approaching its supposedly final season and, like SIX FEET UNDER, has mostly surrendered to its own increasingly watery clichés. With SEX IN THE CITY bailing out after this season as well, HBO’s left with only CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM for a regular sitcom, while the only new shows on the horizon are another season of THE WIRE (beginning next month) and CARNIVALE in the fall, which seems to be about a carnival (strike 1) in the dustbowl ’30s (strike 2) coping with some David Lynch-esque metaphysical menace (strike 3). I could be wrong about it, but what I’ve seen of it so far looks awful. Still, two good shows (CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM and THE WIRE, provided the second season holds up) is more than most networks can boast.

  • Speaking of “reality” shows, the best “reality” show ever, CBS’s AMAZING RACE returns Thursday May 29th in SURVIVOR‘s 8PM timeslot for its fourth outing. Twelve teams of two (they’re always people with some sort of oddball relationship with each other) race around the world, following clues and performing spectacular, humorous, terrifying or disgusting stunts in order to get to the finish line first and collect one million dollars. The first three seasons were truly great shows that completely changed my mind about the potential value of “reality” TV. Don’t miss it.
  • A few comics notes: First, I was misinformed about Chris Claremont’s Vegas adventure. It wasn’t on Free Comic Book Day weekend at all, and I didn’t pass near him. He was here last weekend, in a special “show” at The Palms that it cost $25 to attend (including admission to X2 at the Brendan Theaters). No word on how many attended.

    Meanwhile, lots of comments on how Marvel’s handling crossing over fans of the X-MEN movies to comics:

    “I’d tell [moviegoers] to get the first ULTIMATE X-MEN trade issues #1-#6 and then pick up the “Return of the King” arc from ULTIMATE X-MEN #27-#33. They are closest to the movie version characters of the 4 X-titles available.”

    “I’m a writer, toiling these past years to break into the comics industry. This is an endeavor of love, certainly not money. I’ve had the benefit, as an outsider, to look at the industry’s practices with a critical eye. I think the problem raised by that new X-MEN fan’s e-mail goes deeper than Marvel’s ability to capitalize on the films.

    First off, Marvel should have made sure they ran an ad with the movie directing movie goers to a local comic book shop to get more of their X-MEN fix. But even if we can get a wider audience into comic book retailers, what then? Most stores are as impenetrable as Marvel continuity, catering to long time fans and geeks. Most ‘normal’ folks wouldn’t be caught dead walking into a store whose windows are packed with POKEMON posters and blow up Captain America dolls. As much as specialty retailers would love to bring in a wider audience, they certainly don’t endeavor to draw them in.

    Getting past the store front, anyone looking to get into the X books will find no less that five separate titles, all bearing the X-MEN name, to say nothing of specials or spin offs. I think that your recommendation of Grant’s run is a good one, and I might even suggest ULTIMATE X-MEN (a reboot of continuity by Mark Millar and Andy Kubert), but neither of these books offer the line-up, character development or style of the movies. People wanting more of the X2 characters will have to struggle through contradictory story material and characters they’ve never heard of. To all intents and purposes, the X-MEN movies are their own continuity new fans are looking to read about.

    It seems to me that Marvel should produce an X-MEN: THE MOVIE continuing series using the characters and developments from the movies. The cover would be distinctive from the rest of the ‘House’ books, and retailers would know to put it on their ‘beginner’ shelf. To do this right, you’d need to coordinate story material with the studio – a logistical nightmare that will keep a book like this from ever happening.

    I think the other problem is that when a comic book movie hits theatres, the prevailing wisdom is to flood the market with as many related titles as possible. Like the ‘Hulk Month,’ Marvel has planned for the upcoming release of the movie. Too many options will confuse a new buyer just as much as heavy continuity. I’m almost of the mind to say that there should be one book, offering a definitive cast with the best damn writing and art the company can keep on the title. Each month would be an event, telling stories in six issue arcs to be collected in trades. Each arc would be beholden to its own story without being bogged down in the stories that have come before – ala X2‘s relation to X1. But again, this is a plan that would never happen for a variety of reasons, #1 being the cut in sales Marvel would take going from 5 monthly titles to 1.

    So in the end…is there an answer? I don’t know. But I don’t think Marvel (or DC for that matter) know either. Hmmm… maybe if I can figure this out I’ll be the next EIC.”

    “I assume you’re going to get plenty of people, many of them more informed than me, coming in and telling you about Marvel’s X-Men publishing scheme.

    I assume their main ‘get the movie fan’ initiative is the ULTIMATE X-MEN series, which is pretty easy for a novice to follow – one book, no crossovers, six (?) sequentially numbered trade paperbacks. They explain all of this in a back page advertisement in the Free Comic Book Day X-MEN book.

    Marvel’s been making a point of numbering all their collections recently, and while this is a good idea for things like the recent collections of NEW X-MEN, X-STATIC and other ongoing collected series. It is a little confusing when they do it with their “legends” series, which means you go from Nocenti to Miller to Smith to Miller again, with no regard to original publishing or character chronology, just “hey, let’s slap a Roman numeral on the next DAREDEVIL trade we ship out”.

    They’re also releasing a 25 cent “jumping on” point issue of UNCANNY X-MEN today, which some local stores are giving out for free, and promoted it as such on FCBD. I haven’t read the book in ages, but it seems like it might be a hard sell seeing as it has two, maybe three characters from the movie in its ongoing cast, but the thought’s there. While I don’t know if Marvel is going to succeed in drawing in new X-Men (or comic book) readers through these efforts, it is miles above what was going on in the X-Men books when the first movie came out, namely an incomprehensible multi-part storyline that crossed over through I believe seven different titles.”

    “Actually, Steven, Marvel’s done quite a deal to capitalize on X2, and local comic stores are using it to their advantage. First, there’s two X-MEN 2 prequel comics (WOLVERINE and NIGHTCRAWLER) that fit in-movie continuity, and give readers a great introduction to the characters.

    Second, for the simplest continuity that movie-goers will understand there’s the ULTIMATE X-MEN series of trades. They’re low priced and contain fairly complete story arcs, none of which are too mired down in continuity. Try picking up some of the other X-MEN trades, or (AARGH!) an EXILES one where each issue is an exercise in parallel Marvel universes which rely heavily on a deep understanding of the X-Men / Marvel universe, and your eyes will glaze over if you’re a new reader. I love these other trades, but they really aren’t going to make sense to a moviegoer. The very first ULTIMATE X-MEN trade on the other hand makes an excellent gift for that first time movie goer who wants to see more of the adventures of these movie characters.

    Of course, there’s also the original “God Loves Man Kills” reprint for this week. The close relation to the movie, or even the X-MEN 2 MOVIE adaption would also be a suitible gift.”

  • [Adventure Strips]

    Adventure Strips is part of Modern Tales‘ largely successful experiment in web comics publishing: the unsuccessful part. The site’s being discontinued at the end of the month, while its parent site, Modern Tales, continues to thrive. The failure of Adventure Strips, which was aimed at readers of “mainstream” comics, suggests possible problems with exploitation of the web by “traditional” publishers, though maybe not. It could be “regular comics” fans simply have no interest in reading comics online – a recurring message in e-mail when I brought the subject up a few weeks back – or it could be that the Adventure Strips material, which shied away from superhero material and overall felt a bit retro, just didn’t connect with today’s readers. (Face it, the more you focus on that style, the more you’re aiming, consciously or not, at people who feel the ’30s-’50s were the height of American pop culture.) Modern Tales, with a much more varied and contemporary feeling mix, is reportedly doing just fine. At the very least, it firms up what we already know about print comics and extends that maxim to the Internet: people are not going to pay money for material they don’t find compelling. Doing comics is easy. Doing compelling comics is hard.

    Here’s a good one, if you haven’t read the story: self-proclaimed “moral watchdog” Donald Wildmon, whose American Family Association has had run-ins with comics and other bastions of pop culture in the past, is condemning the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the group that fulfills dreams of dying kids, for raising money at the Pittsburgh Comicon. Why? Because Playboy playmates are also at the show. Seems Wildmon has started a mail campaign to convince Make-A-Wish to cut all ties with the convention. Okay, if Wildmon has a moral problem with playmates in the proximity of comic books (he seems to have a moral problem with pretty much everything) he should take it up with the convention. Maybe he (probably rightly) figures they wouldn’t give him the time of day. But going after the Make-A-Wish Foundation is just trying to rob them of the funds they need, which means he’s trying to hold dying kids hostage in order to get his way. Where’s the morality in that?

    Finally, a couple interesting e-mailed questions I’m throwing out to the audience:

    “I am a MBA student in a marketing class. I am writing a market plan for a fictional start up comic book shop. I was hoping you could steer me to some information that I need. Basically I need to know if there is a place to find out who are the main purchasers of comics, what they are buying, how much the purchase, and how often. I have spoken with several owners of comic shops and have gotten a rough idea but I need an “official” count. I would really appreciate it if you could give me a pointer on this. I have tried an internet search but I get a bunch of useless sites. Yours is the first site that gave me any real information on the current comic book market situation. If you could help I would really appreciate it.”

    Of course, ours is a business notoriously shy on market research. If anyone knows where “official” statistical (not anecdotal) answers to the above questions can be found, let me know.

    And something not really meant for public consumption, but it brings up some interesting issues, so I’m cleaning it up:

    “I hope I’m not out of line asking for a bit of advice. I’ve been offered a graphic novel deal by [deleted] and a few aspects of the contract are troubling me. I’m seeing a lawyer later this week, but I thought someone inside the industry might be able to cut to the chase.

    Basically, I’m troubled by three clauses:

    o Right of refusal for all future projects.

    o 50% of all media/merchandising.

    o 10% royalty on cover price – to be split among creatives. (No idea if this is decent).

    Thoughts?”

    The reason I bring print this is that I don’t know that there are industry standards on these matters, and it’s to the point there ought to be. At least minimum standards. More and more I hear of this right of refusal business, but, let’s face it, right of refusal on all future projects is just nuts! (Not to mention, unless they’re going to put you on a development contract like movie studios sometimes, a little thing lawyers like to call restraint of trade.) First refusal on any sequels to the property being published almost borders on reasonable, on the principle that publication of the first volume represents a publisher’s investment and sequels allow them to maximize that investment, but even that argument’s shaky. But everything? Any publisher who holds to that deserves to go out of business. And if someone asks for first refusal on projects, be sure to get time limits contractually established, so they don’t have forever and a day to make up their minds. In a perfect world, I’d give ’em a week, but nobody really needs more than 30 days to make up their minds. As for royalties and percentages, what do publishers out there really think is a fair standard and why? Talent? You can tell me; as with the letter above, I’ll keep your name off it and wipe out any identifying references. But it’s time the business engaged in an open discussion of this matters, because this stuff’s starting to get out of hand, and clearly there’s no established criteria for what’s exploitation of talent and what isn’t.

  • Re last week’s political commentary:

    “In today’s column you write:

    ‘Since much of the information is already available, though scattered and in dribs and drabs, it can be assumed what they’re most afraid of is having it all coalesced into one place where outrage can be heaped on outrage until everyone’s, well, outraged.’

    Well, the ‘who knew what?’ information that is widely known, as well as some that isn’t, HAS been collected in one place, although sadly, the majority of the people will never read it, or simply dismiss it as a conspiracy theory.

    The book THE WAR ON FREEDOM by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, uses interviews with and quotes from FBI agents, US Congressmen, political analysts and many other sources to collect facts and build a case that is truly frightening to consider, but extremely plausible and possible. On top of the vast number of sources he uses in the book, Ahmed documents and footnotes every source, which goes a long way in establishing his credibility.

    The main thrust of the book is that the events of September, 11 were allowed to happen to justify preplanned military maneuvers in Afghanistan, just as Pearl Harbor was used to justify involvement in WWII, and the USS Maine to justify the Spanish-American War. The simple fact that there were no military aircraft scrambled to intercept the planes once they left their flight paths, despite the fact that such action runs counter to FAA and government standards, goes a long way toward making the case that somebody knew something, though this is but one example of evidence among many.

    And not that I think you would, but don’t let the author’s name discredit him because it sounds Middle-Eastern. The author is British, born and raised, and the topic of his religious background isn’t brought up in the book. On top of all that, the guy’s only 24!

    I strongly recommend the book, as it will probably answer some of the questions you raised in your column. I found my copy at Barnes and Noble, but it can also be found on Amazon.”

    Interestingly, among the material “re-classified” by the White House to keep Congress from releasing its investigative paper into who knew what before 9/11 are many of the “whistle blower” reports about the behavior of the FBI and other federal agencies – and in the proposed “Patriot Act II” – you remember; the one the Justice Department swore to Congress they weren’t working on, until after it was leaked to the press – whistle-blowing, corporate and governmental, far from the supposedly protected act it is now, is pretty much made a federal crime, in some instances treasonous. This continues the White House’s push for increased secrecy and non-accountability in both corporate and executive branch activities. What’s the obsession? You get the feeling, reading proposed measures, this ascension above and beyond oversight, not any “war on terrorism” is the intended legacy of this administration. Interestingly, the big opponents to this are ultra-conservative groups; supposed “liberals” (by which we mean, let’s face it, Democrats) are mostly locking into goose-step behind the Hand Puppet to prove they’re really Americans after all. Better they should prove it by supporting the Constitution.

    Meanwhile, despite a continuing barrage of headlines about “suspected” (but never “confirmed”) weapons caches being found, the US Army has announced it has all but given up the search for Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction.” But the Hand Puppet continues to chant that they will be found. I said a while back that the international credibility of the administration depended so much on finding those weapons that if they’re not there we’ll have to plant some, so I guess it’s only a matter of time at this point before we find out whether I’m right or not. (Though logically they’d have to wait until the eyes of the world are turned to some other hotspot, and the administration is under pressure to not generate another one anytime soon, since that would give credence to the theory of neo-Con “endless war,” and stands a good chance of alienating the American public.) Interesting stories about who’s profiting from Iraq are coming out now too: VP Dick Cheney’s Halliburton, which managed to score a contract to cap burning Iraqi oil wells without any competing bids ever being presented, has copped to bribing Nigerian officials will $2.5 million c. 2001 to set up oil facilities there. Over at The Village Voice, James Ridgway reports one firm, DESE Communications, lost a defense contract bid to rival L-3 Communications after L-3 scooped up Iraq boss Jay Garner’s company and Garner lobbied the government on L-3’s behalf. In other political tidbits, former Enron vice president, Secretary of the Army Thomas White, was fired recently. Seems the FBI’s investigating him for insider trading and leaking info to his old Enron pals during that company’s collapse. Lots of potential scandal there, including pressure on Rumsfeld to not fire White a couple years ago, because of potential “damage to the office of the presidency.” What that means we’ll probably never know, anymore than we’ll know what Cheney really talked about in his chats with energy moguls like Enron. That secrecy thing, y’know.

  • My favorite spam of the week (sans contact info, of course). I usually just delete spam but once in awhile the headings are too irresistible to pass up, and this one was titled “Has Your Life Been Ruined By Evil?”:

    “Hello,

    Have you really, really, really been hurt to the point where your live is a living hell?

    ~ Has somebody or something drastically altered your life? ~

    ~ Would you give anything to take back your stolen life? ~

    ~ What if there was a way to undo all done to you for $100,000? ~

    What I am referring to is something which is well covered up from the general public! I have access to the way, and need just one single person to work with.

    Who I pick will be determined on the severity of their situation. This is your one and only chance to live life over, and take control over what was stolen from you. Mentally stable open minded individuals a must! Someone close to the Boston area is preferred.

    If you want your life back and would like for me to consider you, email a brief description of your situation to me at [address deleted].

    Please do not reply directly back to this email as it will only be bounced back to you”

    On the one hand, I don’t want to know what that was about. On the other, I’d love to know what responses they got. But I wonder where someone whose life has been ruined by evil would come up with $100,000.

  • Not much going on at the moment. Just working. But an interesting interview with me, Frank Miller and William Christensen about Avatar‘s adaptation of FRANK MILLER’S ROBOCOP, with some lovely Frank Miller art, can be found at Newsarama. Go read it. I know I’m forgetting to mention something, so come back next week to find out what.

    Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail me but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it’s not trying to sell me something. IMPORTANT: Because a lot of people apparently list it in their e-address books, this account has gotten a slew of virus-laden messages lately. They’re no real threat but dealing with them eats up time I don’t really have, to the extent I can no longer accept unsolicited e-mail with attachments. If you want to send something via attachment (say, art samples) ask me first. If I say okay, then send. Unsolicited e-mail with attachments will be wiped from the server without being read. You can also leave messages for me and have discussions on other topics at my Delphi forum, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Please don’t ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.

    Those wanting to subscribe to the WHISPER e-mail newsletter should click here.

    I’m reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I’ll mention them – at Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074, so send ’em if you want ’em mentioned, since I can’t review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can’t do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.

    My old personal webpage – the one with all the information – has finally vanished, and it’s about time, since I left that server almost a year ago. The new one isn’t up yet, but keep watching this space for details.

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