Category Archives: Comics

REMEMBERING RICHARD HATCH AND DENNY O’NEIL

The Marriott Maquis in Atlanta, Georgia–one of the three main Dragoncon Hotels. Photo © 2019 Andrew E.C. Gaska

So, this weekend was Virtual DragonCon! As I’ve been for the past several years, I was a guest of the show, although I was only able to participate in some programming this time around (usually I am on upwards of a dozen panels). It was great being a part of Virtual Dragon Con 2020, and I look forward to returning to the physical Dragon Con next year.

This show has always held a special place for me. My first Dragon Con was as a guest of Richard Hatch, back when I first started working with him in 2003. For anyone who doesn’t know the details, this is the Battlestar Galactica Richard Hatch, not the Survivor one–and man did he hate people telling him he was “great on Survivor.” 

My relationship with Richard was complex–I had the strange circumstance of first working with and then becoming close to someone who I watched on TV as a child.

I remember once playing games at the arcade on a carnival cruise with Richard during a storm–it was one of those games where you have the pistols and are shooting at zombies coming for you. People who know me know I’m not one to “fanboy out” on someone whose work I enjoy, I understand they are people with faults and aspirations just like any of us. This time, however, I had the surreal realization that I was standing with Captain Apollo, shooting at bad guys–just as I did when I was a kid pretending I was Starbuck with Apollo at my side. Bizarre.

Richard and I became good friends over our many conventions and cruise trips together, but Dragon Con was always a special place for us. We always got together for drinks and dinners, at least one night of which would be Sear (Phil and Eva Vanermine) and the other Bennihanas (Derek Conley and The Crazy 88s).

I owe a lot to Richard, from many of the friends I’ve made in the industry to even just his infectious zeal for life. I am a better person for knowing him as I did–as a real friend.

A few years ago, Richard passed away, and I coordinated a memorial panel in his name for Dragon Con. There was standing room only–he was well-loved.

I took on the same task virtually this year for my former mentor, the late great Denny O’Neil. Denny was responsible for some of the most important Batman and Green Arrow stories ever told–and he was also the writer on the Question–my favorite “superhero” comic (if you can call the character a superhero).

Denny was my teacher in college and then insisted on tutoring me at no expense when I couldn’t afford to go to school anymore. He took me to lunch for six months on DC Comic’s dime, showed me the offices, introduced me to professionals, and even got me on the interview list for an assistant editor gig there (23-year-old me screwed up that interview, but hey, that’s life). He saw my talent and wanted me to move ahead as a writer. He believed in me. Here’s Denny O’Neil talking about his work at DC Comics during the 90s, when I first got to know him.

I hadn’t seen Denny in years, but I never would have followed the career path I did if not for him. I’m where I am because of him. I was happy to gather former associates and friends of his in the industry to talk about the man and his greatness. Panelists included:

Howard Chaykin – Writer/Artist
(American Flagg, Marvel Star Wars, Wolverine & Nick Fury)

Brian Augustyn – Writer/Editor
(Batman, the Flash, Justice League)

Andrew E.C. Gaska – Writer/Franchise Consultant
(Alien, Planet of the Apes, Predator)

Paul Levitz – Writer/Editor/DC Comics Publisher
(Legion of Superheroes, Batman, Wonder Woman)

Charles Kochman – Editorial Director
(Superman & Batman Magazine, Shazam, JLA)

Click here to check it out. Well, this is a lot longer than I planned. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, except to say I miss my friend and I miss my mentor. I love this industry, and the amazing people–fans, friends, and pros–I’ve gotten close to in it. Finally, I love these conventions that bring us all together to laugh, drink, and cry. I love Dragon Con.

I’ll just leave you with a 2013-14ish pic by Chandra Free of Richard Hatch and a VERY fat and VERY bald me (what was I thinking?), enjoying the Tiki bar at Dragon Con.

Enjoy.

—Andrew E.C. Gaska

An award winning game-writer, author, designerand graphic novelist with twenty years of industry experience, Gaska is the creative force behind BLAM! Ventures. He has worked as a freelance consultant to 20th Century Fox and Rockstar Games and is the lead writer of Free League Publishing’s ALIEN Role Playing Game. In addition to being the senior development editor for Lion Forge comics and animation, he is a contributor to both their game division and their licensing team. 

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Everyone is losing their sh!t over Batman’s penis.

4A01F7CE-72EE-469F-B54D-FF7F893A094A The heft of his ample member weighs heavily on the Dark Knight ’s brooding soul.

Comics, like movies and games, is an ever-evolving form of entertainment. As society changes, what is and isn’t considered acceptable changes with it. Sometimes, it seems, people feel things go too far. This isn’t the first time Comics has pushed the envelope, however.

Do you remember in the ‘60s when those amateurs Lee and O’Neil brought drugs into Spider-Man and Green Lantern comics? 

Disgraceful.

And then in the mid-‘80s when Squadron Supreme, Watchmen, and the Dark Knight Returns made politics, even more predominate in comics than they already were? Those books even introduced mature themes—and one even showed a blue penis—repeatedly. They were written by some hacks named Gruenwald, Moore, and Miller. 

0B7E3FDA-E236-41E7-A3F2-D3CE986C40D0SJW vs. Far Right shenanigans.

Miller’s book was just the start of the end for Batman. What about that Arkham Asylum graphic novel that came out in 1989, wherein Clayface explains his tortured life by proclaiming he was not born, but instead was “shit into existence?“

1B4A9652-A524-4F62-81E1-832F10CD75C6 Oh, the humanity.

That one was written by some nobody named Morrison who I’m sure never went anywhere. Remember how that mature readers’ book ruined Batman, forever?

Oh, wait.

In this age, everyone has to be outraged about what is being done to their beloved characters (“Not MY Luke Skywalker,” anyone?) Social media helps facilitate this because everyone feels powerful while hiding behind their computer or phone screen. There are no obvious consequences (although that seems to be changing).

Comic and film franchises can and should try new things without violating the old ones. A mature line doesn’t detract from the regular one and vise-versa.

Here’s how it works—you don’t like it, don’t buy it. 

AECG

P.S.

…and now, the batawang:

6B3CD29E-EFBC-4B5F-A956-E31D53461550Peniacal.

UPDATE: Due to public outcry, DC has neutered the Batman. All reprints will no longer showcase his penis—it has been erased from existence.

Good job, heroes. I hope you’re happy.

—Andrew. E. C. Gaska

An author, designer, game-writer, and graphic novelist with twenty years of industry experience, Gaska has worked as a freelance consultant to 20th Century Fox and Rockstar Games. In addition to being Lion Forge’s Senior Development Editor, he is a contributor to both Lion Forge’s Quillion gaming department and their licensing team.
blamventures.com | Twitter: @andrewecgaska | Facebook: AndrewECGaska

A Comic with Conscience

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Just as I owe my imagination to a movie trilogy and a role-playing game, I owe my social values to a comic book and a television series.

G.I.JOE: A Real American Hero (said aforementioned comic) and Star Trek (the previously referred to television show) together helped shape my conscience as a child and early teen. As Trek has been discussed at length by me elsewhere, I’ll discuss JOE here.

My first taste of G.I. JOE was in 1982. It was not an action figure but was instead a friend’s comic tucked inside a textbook and covertly read during class in the fourth grade.

For those of you who never experienced it, that comic is not what the general public perception of JOE is.

While the eventual cartoon was ultimately sci-fi driven kids’ entertainment, for over a decade Larry Hama’s G.I. JOE comic series was grounded in a near reality full of mature themes and concepts—and I don’t mean of the rated R variety. The comic taught a ten-year-old me about racial and sexual equality. It taught diversity, honor, and the difference between doing what you are told to do and the right thing to do.

646359_origThrough its characters’ past in Vietnam, it showed me that war was a terrible thing that no normal person wants to go through. It satirized real-world political and social situations, providing an unwitting me a glimpse at policy, bureaucracy, diplomacy and even economics. It showed me people can judge for the wrong reasons and can lose their way over legitimate issues. It taught me what freedom of speech meant. It taught me sacrifice and it taught me loyalty.

Finally, for a boy who was ostracized for his imaginative and intellectual pursuits, it taught me acceptance.

While Snake Eyes, the de-facto star of the series, was caucasian, his best friends—two other main characters—were Asian and Black. Snake Eyes had suffered through Vietnam and emerged from the war with his family dead. He wasn’t considered a hero by the public but was instead labeled a baby killer for nothing more than being a soldier in a war he never wanted to fight. He soon found himself without any direction. He was taken in by his friend’s family and trained by them in special skills until tragedy struck there as well—causing a schism of hatred between two men who previously thought of themselves as brothers.

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With nowhere else to go, Snake Eyes returned to the military—the only life he knew—and soon took an engine blast to the face when saving a fellow member from a helicopter crash. He was disfigured and rendered mute—unable to express his pent-up emotions and frustrations—and wore a mask to hide his scarred visage.

6748826_origAnd yet he was loved, both by his friends and the highly skilled strong woman he had saved during the helicopter accident. She loved him for the man he was underneath that black mask. Constantly in physical and emotional pain, he didn’t make it easy for her. And she gave him shit for it, even putting him in his place. While she could more than handle herself and stand on her own, she also loved him for his tortured heart and his personal code of honor. She was his partner.

Heavy stuff for an insecure outcast kid who thought of himself as ugly. Surely if Snake Eyes could find love and acceptance, one day I could as well.

Ironically, my mother originally wanted to keep me away from G.I. JOE because she was afraid it would lead to me wanting a life in the military. My father was an NYC Police Officer, and the idea of her son being professionally in harm’s way as well was something she didn’t want to deal with.

It was the colorful, racially diverse cast of characters (along with my persistent nagging) that made her change her mind. At first, I was only allowed to get the figures that “didn’t look army”—Snake Eyes, Scarlett, the Cobra Troopers, etc.—basically anyone who wasn’t wearing green.

Finally, when she figured out I’d been buying the comic behind her back with any spare change I could scrounge up, she conceded.

Even got me the 7ft long U.S.S.Flagg Aircraft Carrier.

G.I. JOE spurred both my creativity and my sense of social justice.

Thank you, Larry, for helping set me on the right path.

Andrew. E. C. Gaska

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