End of Summer
by editor I forgot my name

I thought this was a very appropriate title, given how late I've stayed up working on the latest issue of Fanzing…actually, I stayed up late on the first one, too, come to think of it. I'd like to thank everyone for being patient as this issue ran three days late. I wish I could say that it was because Yahoo announced Fanzing's listing in their January 6th "new listing" page, thus I wanted to give the influx of visitors a chance to read issue #1…but I'd be lying.

Basically, this last issue was a toughie, being so close to the holidays. Many of our regular contributors were eager to pitch in but weren't able to have anything ready by the publication date of January third. This was particularly true for the artists, as I was still scouting talent in early December…far too late for many of them to meet the deadline. I was almost afraid I wouldn't have any new artwork in this, the big "women" issue which I'd hoped would overflow with spandex-clad femmes. But enter Bill Wiist, who not only turned in four (4!) pieces but did it at the rate of one a day! Just call him Mr. Prolific (We need to get him a "Fair Play" chest emblem…oh, wait, that's a different guy).

As for the text, I ended up having to write many of the articles myself. Don't get me wrong, writing is my first love (next to playing KSP Solitaire…oh, whatagiveaway!), but there are only so many free hours in the day. Add to that, two weeks turning out an actual comic book script for Ed Dillon's online story contest (It came in second, and you'll read it here next month). Fortunately, a few new people came forward in the last couple of weeks. Bruce Bachand has taken over as our comic critic, and several more new people will have their work in the February issue. I have numerous artists lined up for future issues, a graphic designer making up new GIF images for the magazine, a new logo in the works…and we may even have link graphics in the near future!

Simon Brown proved himself to be a dynamo; after turning in an amazing article on "The Sword of the Atom", he realized that this was our special Heroines issue, told me to hold the Atom piece and managed to crank out a study of Black Canary's origins in time for publication! (Don't worry, you'll see the "atom" piece in a future issue) This also means he's relaxing until mid-February. Simon deserves his one-month rest…but it makes me wonder what he'll have for us with six weeks to plan!

One last thing: It's my intention to run Fanzing like a magazine, not a website. Published is published. But given how late I am with this issue, I don't want to delay with any tinkering. So you'll notice that a lot of the page colors are the same. I'm going to make an exception this month and do some occasional stylistic improvements after I've gotten a few hours' sleep.

Well, enough of my whining! Let's go to some random thoughts:

And now, the news for wombats…I mean, artists (Sorry…I really need some sleep). To make it easier for artists to contribute, I've put up an ONLINE RESOURCE…and I didn't make those words a clickable link because I didn't want everyone to suddenly go there. The online resource is for contributing artists only, just because I don't want to spoil the surprises for regular readers. The resource will list character art desired, future projects, artists who are already working on certain characters to avoid duplication…it's an idea which I hope is useful. If time permits, I may also list the text projects so that we know what's in, what's due, what articles are open to new writers, etc. So this isn't part of the regular magazine, and it's pretty dry reading, and I'm sure only artists will want to go there. I mean it. Don't click the link unless you want to spoil all the surprises………oh, now I've built up the suspense too much and you're all going to go there. Seriously. No one click on this except artists and anyone wanting naked pictures of Pamela Anders--um…oops. Well, that's it. I'm not giving it to you now. Nope. I won't. Stop looking at me like that. Oh, okay, here it is…but seriously, artists only. And I was just kidding about Pamela. I'm a Halle Berry man, myself.

Last month I mentioned the DCU Holiday Bash II, which was supposed to see publication on the same day as our first issue. Unfortunately, production delays arose due to complications in the printing of the Black Lightning story (you may remember, last month Tony Isabella informed us that it would feature Eddy Newell's impressive wash-style art). So, DC looked at the situation and realized that there was no way to get it on the stands in time for Christmas (yes, and Kwanzaa!) and made the regrettable decision to hold off on the whole issue until holiday season '98! Then, issues started showing up on stands here and there. Some people even had it in their hands before Tony got his complimentary copy from DC! Then it was announced that it would be out Christmas Day, which was late but better than nothing. THEN there's a mixup and all of the New Year's Evil books arrive on the stands a week early and the Dec 24 shipment arrives around New Year's…meaning that DCU Holiday Bash II missed all of the holidays! I finally tracked down a copy Monday and I must say it was quite enjoyable, even if it was a week late (and despite the many, many continuity errors in the Justice Society of America story). If you haven't bought it, I urge you to grab 'em before they're gone. And I applaud DC for making a gutsy decision.

Other books I've recently enjoyed include JLA: Year One and Prometheus. I'm still buying Starman, which I alternately consider both stunningly written and astonishingly mediocre. Despite the glaring errors in practically-household-word superhero names (including "Ralph Digby" and "Jay Garrett"), the amoral feature players (I guess I like my superheroes to be a little more inspirational, though I know that's the whole "hook" to Jack Knight's character), the lackluster plotlines which serve as a reason for characters to talk a lot, the art which is so beautifully distinctive and at the same time so…boring…despite all of this, I continue to buy Starman and would probably rate it as one of DC's best books. I'm funny that way.

I also picked up Uncle Sam (or simply U.S.), which was guaranteed to be a big hit simply due to Alex "So-Hot-He-Can-Do-No-Wrong" Ross' artwork. There aren't superlatives enough in my vocabulary to describe Alex's talent, so why don't I just say right now that Uncle Sam would be a masterpiece if the artwork was the only thing that counted.

Steve Darnall's script is another matter. And here, I run into a couple of major problems in trying to critique it. The main problem is that this is a Vertigo book and, by definition, it's supposed to be disturbing…thus, any comments to the effect that the book is "such a downer" will surely come across as the opinions of someone who probably shouldn't be buying Vertigo books in the first place! All I can really say is that this book is fiction, not a history book, and is no more a "true" vision of American history than any of the old history books which glossed over the many injustices featured in U.S.

For those of you who haven't read it, U.S. is about a derelict bearing a passing resemblence to Uncle Sam. He walks the mean streets of a nameless city, mutters inane political quotes (although some are only inane depending on your political persuasion) and envisions himself in different historical time periods, faced with some of the nastier moments in American history. Crashing a right-wing political candidate's acceptance speech, he lands in jail. Released the next day, he encounters the icons of other nations which have fallen from greatness (Britain, Russia, France and "Columbia", although I must say I was stumped as to which nation she represented, much to my embarrassment. I mean, it's not that nation that gives us all our cocaine, right? Perhaps she's supposed to be another facet of America.) and discusses how America may too pass away. Finally, he confronts "Uncle Sam"… a pompous, tyrannical dictator sitting on an easy chair made of televisions, and they do battle. Which one is the real Uncle Sam? Neither one truly exemplifies the spirit of America…but the derelict wins the Uncle Sam hat.

Criticism of this book hinges on your political perspective, and there's just no way around that. Not that all conservatives are blind, flag-waving patriots or that liberals are fierce America-bashers…at least, I don't believe that. Steve Darnall, apparently, does. I think it's unfortunate that he drags his own personal politics into the book, apparently under the assumption that only liberals are going to enjoy this book anyway. I know that this whole book could be said to be about politics, so let me say that by "politics", I mean things which are legitimately arguable…and I know some philosopher can give me an "all things are arguable" argument, so let me give an example:

Several times in the book, there are montages of the atrocities going on in America…Ku Klux Klanners burning crosses (although I've not heard of them doing that particular horror in years, but I don't want to get off my subject…), the boys who dropped a younger kid from a window, drive-by shootings, the abortion clinic murders…things which the average decent person on either side of the political spectrum has no problem classifying as "bad" or "evil." But he also cites the fact that "they're bringing back the chain gangs"…which is only evil to people on the left wing. I'm fairly conservative (read: I vote Republican and that doesn't mean I've bombed any clinics lately) and if it was me writing that book, I might turn that around and cite as evil the fact that multiple-murderers get to sit around watching Babylon 5 on TNT with my tax dollar while I can't afford premium cable myself. And that, too, wouldn't be evil to people on the left. The treatment of prisoners is a debatable issue…yet Steve Darnall thinks nothing of grouping that in with snipers and murdered pregnant women.

That's only a subtle example. The end of Book I is all about the derelict crashing a conservative politician's rally, shortly after running into the oh-so sweet and wonderful liberal opponent. The party affiliations of the two characters seemed so unnecessary, and I'm not just saying that as a Republican. I can name many good and many horrible politicians from both parties; any fair-minded individual can. The best writers can make a point without dredging up their personal politics; both "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "Dave" avoided any suggestion of the character's party, and both movies managed to make statements about the inefficiencies and corruption of our government.

I must say, this book had me in a funk for one month, because the first part of U.S. is designed to dishearten and shock the reader…which seems almost a crime when one has to wait 30 days for the second half (Maybe it's better to wait until the inevitable Trade Paperback?). Had I not found a copy of Book II, I'd probably be writing a far stronger diatribe. But after all the belaboring of America's mistakes and disappointments, Darnall manages to end on a positive note as the evil Uncle Sam is vanquished, the derelict admitting America's guilt while taking pride in the occasional bit of progress. As I said before, this book is by no means an accurate view of America, dwelling as it does almost entirely on the negatives; I doubt many Chinese Communist writers could have made better anti-American propaganda. But it's not an oversight on Darnall's part; he knows his readers are going to be shocked by what they see, he knows the emotions he illicits, and then he draws it all together in a surprisingly uplifting conclusion.

I still recommend U.S., despite some of its more debatable points. Darnall's book certainly makes you think…and agree with him 100% or not, if he makes you think, he's done his job.

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Updated 3/7/2007