All posts by ERTorre

E. R. Torre is a writer/artist whose first major work, the mystery graphic novel The Dark Fringe, was optioned for motion picture production by Platinum Studios (Men In Black, Cowboys vs. Aliens). At DC Comics, his work appeared in role-playing game books and the 9-11 Tribute book. This later piece was eventually displayed, along with others from the 9-11 tribute books, at The Library of Congress. More recently he released Shadows at Dawn (a collection of short stories), Haze (a murder mystery novel with supernatural elements), and Cold Hemispheres (a mystery novel set in the world of The Dark Fringe). He is currently hard at work on his latest science fiction/suspense series, Corrosive Knights, which features the novels Mechanic, The Last Flight of the Argus, and Chameleon.

Corrosive Knights, a 7/6/20 Update

Actually, consider it a mini-update.

I’ve been rather busy the last few days with various things that needed to be done and the rest of this week looks like it might be busy as well on things other than my reading/revision of Book #8 in the Corrosive Knights series.

These are the types of bumps in the road that piss me off, frankly, when working on my novels but they always seem to come and they always seem to show up on the worst possible times.

Writing a novel is often an exercise in persistence. Just coming up with a decent first draft takes a hell of a lot of energy and patience on my part but then come the multiple revisions which are -again for me- absolutely indispensable to getting one’s novel ready for release.

Right now I’m reading and revision the latest draft, #5, and I’m roughly a quarter of the way through reading it and nearly a quarter of the way through putting those revisions on the computer. Because I knew my time might be limited and because the novel has three distinct opening sections before getting into the meat of the story (not really much of a spoiler, but there you have a bit!), I read and then cleaned up the first two segments on the computer and finished reading and putting in the pen and ink revisions on that third segment but have yet to transfer those revisions into the computer.

However, worth noting is the fact that there was a lot to fix up in the second segment and it is done, both pen and ink and computer transfer, at this point. The third segment required some work but not a whole lot and so far the “meat” of the story is going along pretty easily.

I don’t know if that will remain the case. In fact, I suspect toward the climax/end of the book there will be some things that will require my attention, but at least so far I’m pretty pleased that despite the things that are robbing me of my time, the revision is proceeding well and I feel that the novel should be ready pretty soon.

Let’s keep those fingers crossed!

The Bourne a) Supremacy (2004) and b) Ultimatum (2007) A (Belated!) Review Two-Fer

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Matt Damon starring Bourne films. In fact, the very last time I saw and thought much about those films was circa 2016-ish, when the fourth of the Damon starring Bourne films -but fifth of the “Bourne” films as there was the 2012 Jeremy Renner The Bourne Legacy– was released.

(For those interested, here’s my review of the 2012 The Bourne Legacy and here’s my review of Matt Damon’s last Bourne film, 2016’s Jason Bourne)

What perhaps is most memorable about those original three Bourne films (other than the fact that they were, SPOILERS regarding this particular review, pretty damned good) is that they seemed to revitalize the whole spy genre. When the first of the Bourne films, The Bourne Identity, was released in 2002, the last of the Pierce Brosnan Bond films, Die Another Day, was also released. While that franchise seemed to be on the rocks -if memory serves there was even talk this last Brosnan Bond film might also be the very last Bond film made- The Bourne Identity seemed fresh and new, exciting and action packed… something the last few Brosnan Bond films lacked… at least IMHO.

Over the July 4th weekend and over on the SyFy (I still have trouble writing this title) they had a movie marathon which included the Bourne films. I missed The Bourne Identity (indeed, I don’t know if they showed that one at all) but I did wind up catching The Bourne Supremacy, the second Bourne film and the first to feature director Paul Greengrass (who would direct the rest of the Matt Damon/Bourne films) and was intrigued, after all these years, to revisit this film world.

The Bourne Supremacy, unfortunately, starts with the death of a character who was very prominent in The Bourne Identity. This character’s death, which nowadays would be classified as a classic “fridging” of a character , is probably the one big negative against the film.

(I was delighted to discover the term “fridging” was coined by the great comic book writer Gail Simone and refers to a Green Lantern story which featured the then Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, discovering his murdered girlfriend left behind in a… refrigerator…!)

However, the film moves like lightning from that moment on, showing the grieving Bourne going after the people responsible for that killing as he also tries to remember things about his past.

For those unaware, that’s the big “hook” of the Bourne films and what distinguishes them from your average Bondian spy flicks: Jason Bourne is an amnesiac spy/assassin and he is trying to pierce together his past while dealing with those who are responsible for that past. These people, it turns out, want to keep the fact that the U.S. had an assassination Black Ops program going kept very secret.

So the first film has our hero losing his memory and discovering he was a top secret U.S. assassin.

The Bourne Supremacy has our hero trying to lead a “normal” life but he’s brought back into the thick of things because of the death of the character I mentioned above.

The plot winds up being somewhat a repeat of the original Bourne story -and, indeed, this is one of the main weaknesses, IMHO, of the Bourne films, but I’ll get into that in a moment- with Bourne playing cat and mouse with the bad guys while dealing with the “agency” which doesn’t know what he’s up to but fear the worst from him, as well as the memories he’s trying to get back while also dealing with a villainous assassin (in this movie’s case, played by the underappreciated Karl Urban) who is an equal to Bourne.

In the end, I loved The Bourne Supremacy despite the character that was “fridged” and thought the action sequences and the movie’s ending, in particular, was incredibly touching.

For there is one other element about the Matt Damon Bourne films I really love: While he was trained to be an assassin and, indeed, was one until he lost his memories, the post-amnesiac Bourne is a man who loathes killing and feels particularly guilty about his hand in the assassinations he did commit in the past. The Bourne Supremacy is ultimately a film about Jason Bourne coming to terms with his first sanction and making amends for it.

Very much recommended.

After seeing The Bourne Supremacy, I was all in and wanted to see The Bourne Ultimatum. Released a mere three years after The Bourne Supremacy and in 2007, The Bourne Ultimatum seemed like it was originally intended to be the conclusion to the Bourne saga.

Like the previous Bourne films, the plot is very much the same (see, I told you I’d get back to the whole “repeating” of plots): 1) You have an amnesiac Bourne seeking to get back his memories while you have 2) the “agency” trying to stop him and at least one of the people in the agency having a hidden -deadly- agenda. The agency fears Bourne may be either trying to get revenge/kill them all or expose their “evil”. And finally, you have 3) an assassin sent after Bourne who is essentially the man’s equal (in the first film the assassin was played by Clive Owen, the second featured the already mentioned Karl Urban).

So in The Bourne Ultimatum we have Bourne drawn into the work of a reporter who has uncovered the whole “Bourne” saga and this draws Bourne -and the agency, who wants to silence him- in. The two collide and the action explodes and the action -and intrigue- leads to the place where “Jason Bourne” was originally created.

What I liked the most -and found the most clever- about The Bourne Ultimatum is that they took The Bourne Supremacy’s ending and reworked it brilliantly within the context of this third film. I also liked the fact that they seemed to realize the films’ plots were reworked over and over again and that, with this third film, it was time to wrap things up.

As I mentioned in the previous reviews, I recall that Matt Damon himelf, upon the release of The Bourne Ultimatum, made a tongue-in-cheek yet very honest assessment that the films were essentially the same, plot-wise.

In spite of this and IMHO, both The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum are films that reach the same pinnacle and both are incredibly entertaining and know exactly what they’re up to and deliver the thrills and excitement in a wonderful way.

Both films are highly recommended and, I have to admit, I’m now interested in pulling out my copy of The Bourne Identity and seeing where the whole thing began.

But…

I have to admit after watching these two terrific films, I can’t help but remember what came afterwards. If you’ve clicked on the links to my reviews of The Bourne Legacy and Jason Bourne, you’ll read how I enjoyed the films well enough but felt neither was terribly spectacular.

If anything, they seemed to be far weaker retreads of these first three films which, as I mentioned before, were themselves repeating storylines, even if they managed to do so pretty damn effectively.

The Bourne films were a shot in the arm to the spy/action genre and when Bond returned with Daniel Craig with 2006’s Casino Royale, it was all too clear that the Bourne films had influenced those films and provided them a direction the Bond films sadly lacked by the end of the Pierce Brosnan run.

What is so sad, to me, is that the Bourne films wound up being short lived. The franchise, great as it was for those first three films released between 2002 and 2007, seemed burnt out by the time Jason Bourne rolled out in 2016. Meanwhile, the Bond franchise continues, perhaps stronger than ever.

Still, for a brief five year period, there were three terrific non-Bond spy films released which, even now, remain exciting, intriguing, and worth revisiting.

I’m glad I did.

Now I gotta find the time to see The Bourne Identity

Coronavirus Diaries 18

We’re in some kind of Sisyphus-type nightmare, aren’t we?

Seems like a couple of months ago we locked everything down and it seemed like we were getting a grip on the Covid-19 situation… to a degree.

The infection rate was stabilizing if not dropping and people seemed to be practicing social distancing. Masks, we found out a little later, were considered a great help in lowering the transmission rates and, as of the past couple of months, the wiser businesses have required any clients who step in their stores wear them.

Then things slipped.

The rates of infection are rising through the proverbial roof and the mighty United States, the envy of the civilized world, has shown itself to be far from ready to take on this particular fight.

As with so many things, the fault lies at the top.

I know, I know… its probably getting tiresome hearing me bemoan our “President”, but the reality is that Trump and his bizarre, uneducated, and irresponsible manners has for the past several weeks played down the COVID-19 situation and, sadly, so too have too many state governors.

When the states were “re-opened” there was this sense -incorrect, as it turned out- that perhaps we have turned the corner and could go back to normal.

Restaurants and bars opened in far too many places and without enough safeguards present.

In the end, too many people congregated too close to each other and, today, we keep seeing record numbers of infection rates. What follows, even more sadly, are deaths from this virus.

You can’t blame Trump for everything. I know that. I don’t blame him for this virus but I do blame him for his too blasé -bordering on criminal- attitude toward it.

He thought people wearing masks were dumb… and he even to this day refuses to wear one because, I can only guess, he feels it makes him look weak.

Or something.

This despite statistics and the professional immunologist advice that wearing a mask makes you less likely to contract the COVID-19 virus.

With someone as powerful as the President poo-pooing the notion of wearing masks, it was only nature that we’d see too many people doing the very same.

And they did.

And now we’re here, with the rates going through the proverbial roof with no end in sight.

I genuinely fear what’s coming next.

The economy has been severely hurt and if the rate of infection continues, it can only get worse. Europe is opening up but, given our infection rates, United States citizens aren’t allowed to travel there.

Can you imagine?

Our mighty country so far behind in dealing with this situation that we’re considered a danger for travel?

I don’t know what lies ahead but I genuinely wonder how much long responsible people in government are going to let this go on.

I also wonder how much longer regular citizens will have patience with this.

Are we in for another lockdown?

I have to admit, a part of me hopes this will happen.

But, once we do, will we again let our guard down and again open ourselves up too much and yet again find ourselves with far too many infections as before?

And so it goes…

This just can’t be…

I mean, please tell me this isn’t true.

Yes, tell me it’s “fake news”. Please!

Written by Bill Hutchinson and presented on abcnews.com…

Alabama students throwing “Covid Parties” to see who gets infected: Officials

The upshot of this article is even more frightening than the headline suggests. Read the whole thing, I urge you.

These are the first three paragraphs of the article:

Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been attending parties in the city and surrounding area as part of a disturbing contest to see who can catch the virus first, a city council member told ABC News on Wednesday.

Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry said students have been organizing “COVID parties” as a game to intentionally infect each other with the contagion that has killed more than 127,000 people in the United States. She said she recently learned of the behavior and informed the city council of the parties occurring in the city.

She said the organizers of the parties are purposely inviting guests who have COVID-19.

I mean, come on! This has to be a joke, right?

Please…?!

While its tempting to simply blame youthful stupidity, the reality is that stupidity seems to be all too plentiful these days.

“President” Trump refusing to wear a mask and still (still!) saying he feels the pandemic will miraculously “disappear”… even as our rates of infection are back to where they were when everything was first shut down.

The congress -sadly mostly Republicans- keep their mouths shut instead of screaming from the top of their lungs while citizens day after day die from this deadly disease. Many refuse to go to meetings with masks on because… I dunno… I guess its more manly to risk infecting other people?!

Is it so fucking hard for people to get it through their heads that, yes, the disease exists and that, absolutely yes, it can be deadly? And, sometimes when its not deadly, it can leave you with medical issues you may have to deal with for the rest of your life?

Is it so hard to tell people to please, please wear a mask and social distance?

Is common sense in such a limited supply?

I just don’t know anymore.

Corrosive Knights, a 6/22/20 Update

First: I haven’t been posting as much as usual of late and I do apologize for that.

The reason is pretty simple: I’ve been laser focused on Draft #4 of Book #8 in the Corrosive Knights series…

Corrosive Knights

Today -just a couple of hours ago, in fact!- I finished putting the last of the corrections into the novel’s Word file and will print the whole think out this evening and very shortly start up Draft #5.

Draft #4, as I look back on it now, was a watershed revision. What I mean by that is that this Draft felt like a very in depth, top-to-bottom revision which caught most of the important elements I needed to address in the book and fixed them. Hopefully, in completing this Draft, and until I get my fingers more into Draft #5, I feel like I’m very close to the point where I can focus entirely on how the story is told versus what I’m telling, and whether all the creative elements are in their proper place.

Looking back a little further, I regret my decision to do Draft #3 completely on the computer rather than as I usually do it, ie printing it out, reading the print out, and adding the voluminous corrections by pen on the pages themselves before going to the computer and putting those corrections in.

Which is, of course, what I did with Draft #4.

Mind you, I’m not saying the way I did Draft #3 was a total waste of time -it most certainly was not!- but given how early in the drafting process I was, I mistakenly felt I had advanced much further than I was. Therefore the corrections made for Draft #3, while they certainly moved the proverbial ball forward, in retrospect feel like they were pretty minor compared to the near total overhaul I did with Draft #4.

What pleases me the most now that I’ve finished Draft #4 is that the story elements are by and large where I think they need to be. There might still be some additions I’ll make -there often are!- but truthfully it feels like this book is very close to being done.

I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll repeat it again: For the last few novels and for whatever reason it has taken me 12 Drafts -not 11 and not 13- to get my novels to where I’m comfortable releasing them.

Not so with this book.

I believe when I’m done with Draft #5 I’ll be very close to the end. I will very likely need to do a Draft #6 but, after that, I can see myself finishing this off with either the 7th or 8th Draft.

This time around I either got really lucky and hit upon the plot quickly or I’m growing as a writer and don’t need to spend as much time in the earlier stages getting the book’s plot settled.

Regardless, I still feel like this is a book I can finish by the end of Summer or, unless some other problems arise, early in Fall.

I’m incredibly proud of this book and think it’s a wonderful addition to the Corrosive Knights series. I know Book #7, Legacy of the Argus, was presented as a conclusion to the major Corrosive Knights series and it remains so… but this new book, while not necessarily opening a whole new story line in this universe, adds an intriguing new piece.

I can’t wait to release it!

Rough Night In Tulsa…

I really, really try not to get too political in these postings but it’s really tough lately.

“President” Trump, who, if you’ve come ’round these parts now and again, isn’t exactly on my list of favorite politicians. (Quick aside: Is it just me or have the Republican presidents been going from bad to incredibly terrible from Nixon on? I mean, even those who love the admittedly very charismatic Ronald Reagan have to admit his administration had plenty of problems, especially in the second term, and what he opened up lingers to this day…)

The other day he had the first of his rallies, intended to kick start his re-election and…

…the whole thing was a gigantic failure.

Kevin Liptak and Kaitlin Collins over at CNN write about…

Sick and empty seats: How Trump’s triumphant return to campaign trail went from bad to worse

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, the last few weeks (years, it seems!) have been full of protest following the death of George Floyd, the rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and it seems the Trump White House has no idea how to deal with it. Worse, they used the protest time to stage a very ill advised photo-op at a church which backfired spectacularly on them…

Nothing wrong with Trump's Bible-toting photo-op | Letter ...

Then, “President” Trump seemed to dig his grave even deeper with conspiracy theories regarding the police pushing -and subsequently lying- about Martin Gugino’s fall…

See the source image

There were more things that happened (I don’t even want to get into the botched firing of Geoffrey Berman or the release of John Bolton’s scathing book), but suffice to say the Trump re-election is, at this moment, on very shaky grounds.

In fact, in recent days (and we must bear in mind the election isn’t until November, so much can change) the odds of re-election have dropped pretty significantly, and I suspect “President” Trump, shrewd enough to realize this was the case, decided in the middle of this pandemic that it was time to start holding his rallies.

His first one was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a state which overwhelmingly voted for him over Hillary Clinton in the previous election, as “safe” a state as one could find for Republicans and, by extension, Trump himself.

To Trump’s re-election campaign, things were looking really positive. There were a lot of requests for tickets and he was expecting the venue he was in, capable of fitting some 19,000 people, would be full to capacity and he would then go outside and give a speech to the overflow.

Only, things didn’t quite work out that way…

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Yikes! Want more?

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See the source image

Even official images, which had the sparse attendees crowded around Trump, revealed the emptiness…

See the source image
Check out the upper part of this photograph

Estimates were that only some 6200 people showed up for the event, less than half of the stadium’s capacity.

Even worse, reports came out that the Trump campaign tweeted during the event (one imagines, quite desperately) that there was still plenty of space available and for anyone interested in coming to please come on in!

Only, they didn’t.

The event was such a bust that the very few people by the outside platform were told to go into the convention center and the various staffers started dismantling that outside platform even as the main event was still going on.

“President” Trump was reportedly furious about the event and the lack of people who showed up and, in this case, I can totally understand.

This has to be concerning. A sitting President -even one as loathsome as I feel he is- should be able to get a decent turnout at any event and especially one that takes place in a voting stronghold for him.

The fact that so few people showed up has to be worrisome. If even his supporters aren’t that encouraged/motivated to come in to see him, how encouraged/motivated will they be to vote for him?

Again: The election is still a very long way away.

However, going by this alone, it seems his support is sagging.

Perhaps very badly.

Re-Evaluating Our Statues/Memorials

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement comes a needed re-evaluation of many of the memorials and statues both in the United States and throughout the world.

The fact of the matter is that with the passage of time, we’ve come to re-evaluate some of the statues and memorials in light of these more enlightened times and deem some of these items need to be gone.

I wrote about the Stone Mountain Memorial and the many Confederate statues and monuments which are currently being -rightfully, in my humble opinion- re-evaluated and/or taken down (you can read about that here), but when I heard the other day that a statue of Teddy Roosevelt was being removed, I thought… really?

I mean, Teddy Roosevelt never struck me as a historical figure quite in the same vein as the various Confederate characters we see paraded around far too much in the South… why him?

Then, I read this article, by Ed Mazza and presented on Huffingtonpost.com, and it all made sense:

Teddy Roosevelt statue gets evicted from outside Museum of Natural History

In this case, the removal of the statue is not so much because of any nastiness in Teddy Roosevelt’s history but rather because of what the statue depicts…

Equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt in NY New York City US

…and from the other side…

Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt" (1940), bronze statue by ...

From the article:

“The statue has long been controversial because of the hierarchical composition that places one figure on horseback and the others walking alongside,” the museum said in a statement. “Many of us find its depictions of the Native American and African figures and their placement in the monument racist.” 

You know… I can see that. It sure does make Roosevelt look like some kind of “giant” alongside the others.

Again, from the article, even the relatives of Mr. Roosevelt, the Museum itself, and it seems just about everyone else involved are fine with the removal of the statue. Further, there is no implication Mr. Roosevelt himself is being removed because it is somehow distasteful to show him… just to show him in this very questionable mileu, which is more on the artist and the people who commissioned the statue originally.

Whew.

Sometimes its nice to hear how everyone can agree about something without it going nuclear!

Coronavirus Diaries 17: Nothing To See Here

It’s one of the funnier jokes presented in the hilarious The Naked Gun:

The not so funny thing is that the Trump administration seems to have decided that if they can’t figure out the Coronavirus situation, their best strategy is to deny reality and act like its already done and the vaccine is just about here and, as Frank Drebin said above, “there’s nothing to see here.”

If only.

I truly don’t like to wade into politics that much and for the same reason I don’t like discussing religion. If people are perfectly capable of losing their minds over whether or not you like Batman v. Superman, then moving into the realm of religion and politics is just supercharging that nerve.

But, I’ll do so anyway…

At least in politics.

So, yeah, that seems to be the Trump message of late. Don’t worry about Corona. Absurdly, they state the only reason we’re seeing larger amounts of Corona cases is because of testing. If we eliminate testing, then everything will be fine and we won’t see those numbers (huh?!).

They plan to continue their rallies in closed off/indoor stadiums. They encourage people not to bother with masks (Trump himself seems allergic to them, I suppose macho-man thinks it makes him look like a pussy or something) and if/when those rallies come to be, we’re going to have a bunch of folk who feel Covid-19 is “fake news” and I doubt we’ll see too many of them bother with masks.

Which makes the fact that Trump and company are forcing people who do come to his rallies sign a contract which absolves them of getting sick or dying that much more hilarious…

…if it weren’t so fucking sad.

Yeah, I’m surly today.

We’ve got a guy in the White House who gassed peaceful protesters so he could do a stupid photo op in front of a church… where he looked like it was the first time he held a book, much less a bible.

This is a guy who is repeating stupid conspiracy theories about Martin Gugino, the 75 year old man who was pushed by police, and whom the police subsequently lied about what happened to him, claiming -until the video proved otherwise- he “tripped”…

It’s been reported the man suffered a skull fracture, brain damage, and is unable to walk.

But… let’s scream Antifa, amiright?!

Here’s the thing, though: It seems like Trump’s latest moves have exposed him to a very harsh backlash. His approval numbers are going down to historic (for him) lows. Polls in must win states are dropping and in some, he’s losing.

By a lot.

All this while Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, is essentially invisible.

Thing is: why should Biden do more than he is at this point?

The saying goes when your opponent is falling, give them space. Let them do your work for you.

Problem is: The election isn’t today. It’s in November, five months from now. An eternity in politics, surely.

Hopefully, Biden’s “down time” will allow him to sharpen his rhetorical knife and create a more powerhouse public machine to promote his candidacy.

At this point I’m at least cautiously optimistic that perhaps -maybe!- those people who voted for Trump because “what the hell, he’s better than Hillary” (as opposed to those who are still his most rabid fans, who will obviously vote once again for him) are finally waking up to what Trump is really all about.

I doubt very much there are many who did vote for Hillary Clinton who will now back Trump. He’s done nothing at all to make them want to vote for him… indeed, quite the opposite.

But again: November is still a long way away.

And it can’t come quick enough.

Please, don’t do as Trump. Wear your masks. You’re helping yourself, you’re helping others around you.

The Covid-19 pandemic isn’t through. It isn’t over. Magically thinking doesn’t stop it but wearing a mask might just help do so.

Please.

If not for your sake, then for your family members (elderly or not), friends, and co-workers.

Denny O’Neil (1939-2020)

The name may not be that familiar to most people out there, but it can be argued Denny O’Neil -along with artist Neal Adams- were instrumental in making Batman what he is today.

See, back in the 1960’s DC comics were having a somewhat rough time with their superhero books. There were some really good ones out there, don’t get me wrong, but Marvel was commanding readers’ attentions with the iconic work of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Stan Lee. Among their most famous comics you have the building blocks of what we see today in the very successful Marvel movie franchise.

DC, on the other hand, released their most iconic material at the beginning of the age of comics, when they published the first Superman story in Action Comics #1, 1938 (the first actual superhero comic book) and followed that up with Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 (1939).

Superman and Batman -and a little later Robin- dominated the superhero market, though they unleashed a flood of other characters, some of which did spectacularly (Captain Marvel, today known as Shazam!), while others didn’t do as well.

By the 1950’s, however, the books developed a certain pattern and when you got to the 1960’s, Batman in particular seemed something of a lost character. He passed through some weird phases (including more science fictional stories) but he -and his world- were simply not as fresh as they were a generation before.

The success -and then cancellation- of the purposely campy Batman TV show didn’t do the comics many favors afterwards and the character continued to float along, selling issues but never really seeming to do better than tread water.

Then along came Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams and the iconic issue #395 (1970) of Detective Comics, featuring the story The Secret of the Waiting Graves.

Detective Comics (1937-2011) #395 - DC Entertainment

In one fell swoop, Mr. O’Neil and Adams returned Batman to his darker roots in a story that also had more than a hint of the supernatural. It was a sober, serious story.

It was absolutely fantastic.

Mr. O’Neil -often with Mr. Adams- would continue writing Batman in his own unique -excellent!- style, bringing him into the then present as a force to be reckoned, a dark, mysterious being who scared the crap out of villains yet was very much human and decent at his core. The two would come together again to take on the Joker and also bring him to his roots as a homicidal psychopath in the absolute classic Batman #251 (1973)…

Batman (1940-2011) #251 - Comics by comiXology

But not only did Mr. O’Neil revive Batman, his cohorts, and his villains, he would also go on to create an incredible new nemesis in Ra’s Al Gul and his lovely -and deadly- daughter Talia… characters who would be prominently featured in two of Christopher Nolan’s trio of Batman films…

Batman (1940-2011) #232: Facsimile Edition (2019) - Comics by ...

Had his work on Batman been the only thing Denny O’Neil did as a writer, his iconic status within the field would have been assured.

But he did so much more. Again with artist Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil would write the incredible Green Arrow/Green Lantern series, which dealt with social ills in an adult manner and pushed the envelope of what comic books could focus on. Their run featured what is arguably one of the most famous sequences in comic book history, where the character of Green Lantern runs into the notion of racism …

Green Lantern No. 76 Was the Moment Superheroes Got Woke

While their run, unfortunately, wasn’t a big seller, the issues have become legendary for not only dealing with issues of racism but also political corruption, cultural fraying, and drug use…

Green Lantern Green Arrow #85 Facsimile Edition |

Indeed, it could be argued these books were the first “serious” comic books, and one imagines they must have been a big influence on the likes of Alan Moore (Watchmen) years later.

Mr. O’Neil continued working within comics and expanded into TV, scripting TV shows featuring Batman, as well as others.

He would move to Marvel Comics after his stint at DC and is credited, during that time, with being the person who named the Transformer’s Optimus Prime. He also wrote and edited many books during that time, from Daredevil to Iron Man.

In the late 1980’s he would return to DC and edit various Batman titles and began, in 1987, a lengthy run on The Question, another high water mark in his writing career…

Question TPB (2007-2010 DC) By Denny O'Neil comic books

He continued to work in comics and, sadly, yesterday the news came out that at the age of 81 Mr. O’Neil passed away.

He led a long, incredibly productive life and is one of the authors, along with the recently passed Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, I recognized by name when I was very young and really getting into comic books.

A part of me is obviously very sad at his passing, yet another part of me celebrates the fact that he was around as long as he was and that he was able to do as many great works as he did.

2020 has been a hell of a year -mostly bad- and the loss of Mr. O’Neil certainly doesn’t make things any better.

On the other hand, its given people the opportunity to look back at one of the icons of the so-called “Bronze Age” of comics, a man who left an indelible mark on the comic book world.

Rest in Peace, Mr. O’Neil.

You did more than good.

Dawn of Change… Stone Mountain

The death of George Floyd has ignited something both in this country and throughout the world:

People are galvanized not just against police brutality but a cold focus is being placed on systemic racism throughout society, whether it be subtle or only too obvious.

I think I wrote about this before so excuse me if I’m repeating myself: I’ve lived in many places throughout my life. My early years were spent in four different countries, the longest sustained time of which was spent in South America -Venezuela to be precise- before permanently moving to the United States.

My first semi-permanent “home” was in a High School, specifically a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. When I got there, there were plenty of new and interesting things for me to experience, but one of the stranger ones proved to be sightings here and there of the Confederate flag.

You might see someone with a T-Shirt or baseball cap with the Confederate flag on it or perhaps a passing car -often pickup trucks- would sport such flags on their rear windows or perhaps emblazoned on their door or, the smallest example I can think of, it might be a bumper sticker.

While it might have been a relatively small number of people, there was a definite Confederate flag culture, if one could call it that, back then. Please note: We are talking about Jacksonville as I experienced it nearly (*gasp*) forty years ago and my most recent visits, the last one I did not even two months ago, show the place to have changed quite a bit. I don’t see what I saw back then and, in that respect, the city has certainly matured.

Yet those memories persist and I distinctly recall when I first got to the city being bewildered by the sight of any Confederate flag.

Why?

Because up to that point though I had been raised in “American” schools (there was one!) in Venezuela, the history books I read and what I was taught tended to be pretty straight-forward regarding the Civil War rather than being suffused with revisionism and/or the glow of nostalgia or something far more sinister.

When studying the Civil War, the history was simple: The North wanted to get rid of slavery while the South wanted to keep their slaves.

However one tries to cut it, this is what that war ultimately was about and when looked at that way, there is simply no “kind” way of looking at those who fought for the South and what they hoped to achieve.

For what they sought was a continuation of the cruelty of slavery, no matter how one tries to frame it now.

Over at CNN.com, George Shepherd offers a fascinating opinion piece regarding the various Civil War monuments and one in particular, that found at Stone Mountain in Georgia…

Stone Mountain and other monuments to the Confederacy should be wiped clean

Mr. Shepherd, far better than I, provides a history of these various monuments/statues to the Confederacy and the dark reality of what they represented: A visual reminder to African Americans -and any others- that though the Civil War was lost by the Confederacy, the defenders of that cause are still very much around.

Or, as Mr. Shepherd puts it:

Like so many Confederate monuments, the carvings on Stone Mountain were not an innocent artifact of Civil War history. Instead, they were a middle finger both to African Americans and to the federal government that was trying to end discrimination.

If you’ve been to Stone Mountain -I have- there is no denying seeing those massive sculptures is an incredible sight.

But there is also absolutely no denying the subject matter, General Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis represents exactly what Mr. Shepherd noted above.

Considering what the Confederacy was fighting for, it is difficult to argue that statues and monuments to that cause should remain. We do not see statues or monuments dedicated to Joseph Stalin or Adolph Hitler. We see no monuments dedicated to Benito Mussolini.

Indeed, any building or park that once displayed material identifiable to these individuals in Germany or Italy or Russia has been stripped. In Germany, whatever monuments you see are dedicated to the victims of these people, not to the people who inflicted their cruel harm.

So it should be, Mr. Shepherd concludes, with the case of the Confederate monuments and statues. Instead of honoring those who fought to keep the brutal institution of slavery, we should instead have monuments dedicated to the victims of that heinous institution.

As Mr. Shepherd so eloquently concludes:

African Americans should not have to encounter each day the equivalent of state-endorsed swastikas. Museums should be established not to explain the Stone Mountain carvings and other Confederate memorials, but instead to explain the scar on Stone Mountain that will exist after the images of the white-supremacist leaders are blasted away. Like the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C., an apt memorial for the Confederacy is a scar, not an heroic statue. True healing will begin only when the pressure of racist monuments is removed from African Americans’ necks.

POST SCRIPT:

Just as I was posting this, the following news appeared online.

The article is by Steve Almasy and is presented on CNN. The headline tells all:

NASCAR bans Confederate flags

Rather incredible -and welcome, IMHO!- turn of events.