Well, after the last few specialised columns, it’s time for a mixed bag… and what a bag it is. Stuff about Marvel, DC, 2000 AD, Wizard and the start of a new appeal. But with a word count topping 4300, it has been decreed again that the column should be split… this time into three parts. So we had Part One on Sunday, Part Two today, and Part Three coming up on Thursday. And today it’s all about nasty rumours!
Remember, these are rumours and gossip. If they were the word of God, your ears would be bleeding. And we don’t want a mess on the carpet. Don’t repeat these rumours as fact, do look to see what actual news columns are saying instead, but do sent comment to Kick Rich In The Bollocks, the message board section for this column.
There’s been a nasty little rumour going around certain DC and ex-DC bods about Paul Levitz’s alleged involvement in a South African boycott-busting exercise. Now, before I start, here’s Patty Jeres of DC Marketing’s thoughts. She told me “I don’t think there’s a story here, Rich; I think you’re being used by someone who’s got an old, real personal grudge…” Which is possibly true. However, since I’ve now heard a number of versions of this story from different sources, this could be a good opportunity to put the rumour to rest.
The rumour states that Levitz was involved in siphoning off talent from DC to a studio that prepared comics for a South African publisher in the eighties, during the South African state of emergency and enforced apartheid regime, when all good souls wouldn’t even buy a Cape apple.
The rumour seems to have originated at Archie Goodwin’s memorial service. An artist got up and told a story about working on superhero comics that were only published in South Africa. According to the rumour, people noticed Paul Levitz was angry about the story. This seems to have set the tongues wagging that Levitz was involved in the company selling comics to South Africa. The rumour goes that freelancers looking for work at DC were often told there was no work, but then sent to the other company.
However more recent reports that All The Rage have received tell a different story, one that places events in the mid-seventies, when South Africa wasn’t quite the international pariah it was to become in the next decade. The story goes that a studio was run by Joe Orlando from his mother-in-law’s house. And rather than running the operation, Levitz’s involvement was to write a few issues of the comics. These consisted of two titles, a black version of Tarzan and a superhero title, both aimed at the black South African audience. The publisher was a South African tea company. Books were written and laid out in the USA then finished off in the Phillipines. Less of a good story to pass to your friends admittedly, but also likely to be a lot closer to the truth.
Paul Levitz told me “Long before there were sanctions on South Africa (and long after there should have been), in the early ’70s, some comics were packaged in the States for South African publication starring black heroic characters. Joe Orlando did some work on the books, as did a number of writers associated with Joe, including John Albano and myself. I honestly don’t recall by whom they were published or even if they were published at all.”
So there you have it. Rumour seemingly quashed. If anyone has any more details, thoughts or comments, I’m always happy to hear them.
This Has A Rage Value Of Two Out Of Ten
For The Dark Things Cannot Stand The Light
Terry Beatty reported from the Wizard World Con about an unfortunate incident involving Marty Nodell, creator of Green Lantern, his wife Carrie and Marty Shamus, Gareb Shamus’ father. Beatty wrote “Carrie had gone to the Hospitality suite to get some food for Marty and herself. Some sandwiches–probably some for Spence and the grandkids too since they were helping with the table. And as you know, Marty doesn’t like to leave his table–he’s there for his fans and he also doesn’t get around without a wheelchair. According to Carrie, Gareb Shamus’ father told her she wasn’t taking all that food out, took it from her, addressed her by name(so he knew who she was) and said “Mrs. Nodell, you are no longer welcome here.”
This caused some serious words across the message boards and newsgroups. James Owen, creator of Starchild, wrote “I’ll give room for another side to this story, but I’ve also witnessed Marty in action: at WonderCon several years back, I was sitting next to an artist from whom Mr. Shamus was purchasing original art. Mr. Shamus wanted to pay with a personal check – $1200 buck of personal check – and the artist balked, asking for cash. Mr. Shamus said he was the ‘owner’ of WIZARD, and that he was very wealthy and the check was good. The artist replied that he didn’t know him or WIZARD (really!), and that he just couldn’t take a check that large.“
“Mr. Shamus went berserk. Threatened him with his job. Said that he knew people who could get him fired. Said he was a hack, and should be grateful that ANYONE wanted his crappy art at all. Then, without missing a beat, moved sideways and asked me how much my art was – perhaps hoping to show the hack how much money he’d be losing – and I replied (truthfully) that I don’t sell originals, to which he responded, “Well, I don’t know who you are anyway.” and promptly left. Tell Carrie it was nothing personal – he treats everyone that way.”
Another exhibitor wrote “We also had a horribly rude experience at our booth. We sell fantasy artwork that sometimes contains nudity. We have never had a problem in the past with censoring our work (in fact, it usually increases sales!). A person by the name of Fred Pierce approached our booth and began screaming at us that “All this has to go. Remove it from your table!” My wife began to explain that we would be more then happy to cover up the questionable areas but would not remove anything. He interrupted her by says, “No, I’m not asking you. I’m telling you. Everything has to go. You can’t sell this here! This is a family show” To that I began to question if this is a family show why are porn stars being allowed to walk around half naked. He interrupted me by saying, “I’m not hear to discuss this with you. Everything has to go!” By this time customers began to ask him why he was being so rude. I told him I would be happy to censor the art work but I paid for this table and would not remove anything from it. He became enraged and started screaming that he was the president of this show and he would not leave until I removed the artwork. I said, “Well your going to be here a very long F***** time because I am not removing anything from this table! You have said what you wanted to say. You are done here. Go away.” He left. Our sales increased by 50%. We are in no way mad about the censorship but rather the way he handled it. If he had simply said, “We have had a complaint about some of the questionable content of your artwork. Can you please cover up the nudity.” I would have gladly done so. But to be attacked like that is inexcusable! We are questioning if we will do WizardCon next year.”
It wasn’t long before a Wizard rep was hotfooting it to the Comicon message boards saying “My name is Brent Erwin, I work for Wizard Entertainment. When I became aware of this posting about Marty and Carrie concerning the Convention I notified the staff of Wizard World Convention. I was asked to post the following reply:”
“It has come to our attention that Mrs. Nodell has reported that she was not completely satisfied with the staff of Wizard World Chicago 2000.”
“We were very happy to have Mr. and Mrs. Martin Nodell, creator of the Green Lantern, as Guests at our popular convention for over four years. We arranged and paid for Mr. and Mrs. Nodell’s hotel room, provided Mr. Nodell with a complimentary table and complimentary admissions for their many family and friends.”
“Like many of our guests, the Nodells were invited to dine at the Hospitality Suite and made use of the facility on numerous occasions, but were limited to a modest amount of food being brought back to the booths. With a convention this large, we try to make sure that the greatest number of professionals and friends are fed and accommodated. At no time would anyone on our staff single out any guest not to enjoy our Hospitality Suite.”
“If there was any miscommunication, it would certainly be only due to the large number of people trafficking through the Suite. Obviously, we have nothing but the utmost respect for the Nodell family and are eager to see them return.”
“Thanks, Martha Donato, Vice President/Business Development, Wizard Entertainment”
Jackie Estrada of the San Diego Comic Con decided to compare their treatment of the Nodells. “Well, the San Diego Con arranged and paid for the Nodells’ hotel room AND air fares, gave them a free Artists’ Alley table (there are no charges for AA tables in San Diego), provided complimentary admissions for their family (which is always the case whether the Nodells are “official” guests or not), and of course gave them access to the hospitality suite. And I doubt that this is unusual for ANY con where the Nodells have been guests, especially in this year of the 60th anniversary of Green Lantern.”
Matt Ryan from Wizard also replied “You probably don’t need me to say this, but it never hurts to hear. There is always another side to every story.” When quizzed about what the other side was, he said “I couldn’t begin to tell you guys what the other side is because this is the first I have heard it. But I am pretty sure there is another side to it whatever it may be.”
DC’s Heidi Macdonald also pitched in, saying “I am very surprised at the lack of response from Wizard on this. Think what you will of the magazine, Gareb Shamus is a very good businessman, and a thorough professional, as are many of the people who work for Wizard and their other magazines.”
“I’ve been to a couple of WizardWorlds, and while they don’t go out of their way to welcome non-mainstream cartoonists, (whish I think is very shortsighted) I can hoenstly say I had a good time both times, and it’s a fun, fannish show. As someone posted somewhere, you shouldn’t hold one person’s bad behavior against everyone who works for Wizard.”
“Which makes their near-silence all the stranger. I know a bunch of Wizard folks read this board. Perhaps they don’t realize that this is an actual PR black eye for Wizard, and not just the carpings of some malcontents online. At the very least, they should simply apoligize to the Nodells for a misunderstanding. Considering that they did partially sponsor the Nodells, it’s the least they can do.”
Gary Colabuono, organiser of the Chicago Comicon before it became Wizard World gave a very insightful comment “Marty and Carrie are two of my closest friends. I’ve know them since the brief time I spent working with Marty for the same suburban Chicago newspaper. We met in 1978 and they credit me with launching Marty’s second (though I’m quick to point out third or fourth) career of attending conventions, doing sketches and meeting fans. Maybe there’s a bit of truth to that, but only in the sense that I was relentless in my attempts to convince him that there were thousands of fans who would love to meet him and purchase a small bit of his work.”
“I sponsored Marty’s first convention appearance at the 1982 Chicago Convention. I’ll never forget the look on his and Carrie’s faces when fan after fan came to my table to meet and greet him. He was absolutely amazed and kept saying “You were right, Gary, they are interested in me!””
“After that show he and Carrie became a fixture on the convention circuit. They are not wealthy people. The income they derive from sketches and bits of work here and there sustain them through the year. They’re frugal when it comes to themselves, but overly generous when it comes to their family and friends. Their sense of family is so important to them. Their son, Spence, has helped them get around from convention to convention and their grandchildren are now helping them too. These shows keep them young and healthy. They truly love it.”
“They are both in their 80’s and starting to show their age (except Carrie still looks so ravishing with her full rosy cheeks!). Marty needs a wheelchair now. The long walks in airports and conventions are just too tiring.”
“That’s why my heart sank when Carrie told me what happened in the hospitality suite. My wife and I had just come to visit them at their table. I spoke with Carrie first and she whispered to me what happened, because she didn’t want Marty to know. I tried to explain that it must have been some kind of misunderstanding but she was nearly in tears.”
“I told her that the whole incident was unfortunate and that maybe Mr. Shamus just had a bad day. And she was gracious in her response saying she knows that type of thing can happen to anybody, but was still so upset that she was beside herself. For those of you who don’t know, my partners and I sold the Chicago Comicon to Wizard. The show had grown to such a size that we just didn’t have the resources to run it profitably any longer. It’s probably my fault. I convinced Nancy, Bob, and Larry to throw banquets for Julie, Stan and Harlan. It was my idea to give away 15,000 copies of Neil’s 24-hour comic. It was my decision to fly in creators who had never been to Chicago, put them up, feed them and give them a chance to meet new fans. In other words, to throw a big party for three days each year.”
“And all at our expense.”
“When it looked like we were going to go under, Wizard was there to buy the show. We were in the middle of a trademark dispute with the San Diego Comicon and the costs were mounting. Personal problems of the partners also played a role in the decision to sell the show.”
“And Wizard was very fair in their dealing with us. Even when a dispute with one of my partners escalated to the extent that they had to terminate a business relationship, they honored all their commitments to us.”
“And I think Wizard World is a terrific show. For everything they do, I can tell you from experience that it’s extremely costly. If they’re making money, it’s surely not a lot. I didn’t talk to anyone who didn’t enjoy themselves at the show, and all the dealers I know made tons of cash.”
“Geez, except for a dearth of GA and SA creators, it was the kind of show I’d like to have put on…”
“Gareb Shamus is an honorable man. He loves his family and is very close to his parents and siblings. I’ve known Marty Shamus since meeting him in the Image tent at the 1992 Comicon. He was always extremely affable and friendly. I can’t for the life of me understand why he would treat a wonderful old lady like Carrie the way he did.
I suppose these types of things just happen in life. And I’m sure that a simple phone call from Marty Shamus to Carrie and Marty would solve everything. I can’t imagine going to Wizard World next year and not seeing the Nodells there.”
“I hope that Marty Shamus reads this post and picks up the phone. If he needs the number I have it right here…”
I tried to contact a Wizard World representative, but received no reply.
This Has A Rage Value Of Six Out Of Ten.
Paul Levitz Love-In Appeal
What with malicious articles like the ones above, and www.fandom.com/comics’s brief Alan Moore interview where Moore’s current dislike of DC is put firmly at Levitz’s feet, there’s a lot of bad feeling going around, and much of it blamed upon this very column. Well, as I previously stated, I hold Levitz no personal ill will, I think much of what he has accomplished at DC is to be lauded and so I’ve decided to try and give something back.
Do you have a kind word to say about Paul? A story about the warmth of his heart and the generosity of his spirit? Maybe you’re a key witness to him rescuing a kitten from a tree or helping an elderly nun across the street. Whatever story you have, All The Rage is the place to share it. As long as I receive articles, All The Rage will run a weekly Paul Levitz Love-In section of the column. I hope that our love will reach out, heal wounds and build bridges, and also soften Paul’s heart over stories in the public domain, social commentary about gun laws, superbabies in microwaves and Victorian adverts about feminine hygiene. So give generously, people.