TEEN ANGELS & NEW MUTANTS
“Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack® and the Art, Karma, and Commerce of Killing Sidekicks” by Stephen R. Bissette
“There aren’t many books which name check Batman, David Cassidy, Naomi Wolf, Arthur Rimbaud, Lindsay Lohan, and Justin Bieber. But then, there aren’t many books like Teen Angels & New Mutants.
Penned by comics artist Stephen R. Bissette (Saga of the Swamp Thing) the 400 page-long tome is partly a history of the ways entertainment has exploited teenagers, both fictional and actual, and partly a critical analysis of the early ’90s comics series Brat Pack. Written and illustrated by Bissette’s friend Rick Veitch, the dystopian Brat Pack is, amongst other things, an indictment of the comic industry’s penchant for killing off superhero sidekicks, albeit one that itself systematically slays or otherwise persecutes its own cast of young costumed heroes.”
- Clark Collis, Entertainment Weekly / EW.com,
Ordering Teen Angels
Teen Angels & New Mutants Now On Sale!
Teen Angels & New Mutants is available now!
* Teen Angels & New Mutants: Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack® and the Art, Karma, and Commerce of Killing Sidekicks is finally available directly from the author—signed and personalized, if you wish!
You can buy your signed, personalized copy for just $30.00 US plus shipping directly from myself by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send your snail-mail address in the initial email and I’ll reply with your shipping options (also posted below), and complete the order via Paypal payment. We’ll soon have the new shopping cart and mail order setup in place for the entire Myrant store, but for now, email me!
FYI, the shipping options for direct-from-the-author orders of Teen Angels & New Mutants are:
Within the US: Book Rate $3.00; First Class / Priority Mail $5.25 (its weight moves it into Priority Mail class); Express Mail $18.95.
Add $1.oo for Delivery Confirmation (not needed with Express Mail).
Canada: 1st Class Air: $7.60 US; Int’l Priority Flat Rate Envelope $12.95 US
UK: 1st Class Air: $14.75 US; Int’l Priority Flat Rate Envelope $16.95 US
Mexico: 1st Class Air: $12.00 US
Most of Europe (France, Germany, etc.) and Australia: $14.75 US; Int’l Priority Flat Rate Envelope $16.95 US (Priority Flat Rate not available all regions; please email to confirm)
Payment via Paypal to my account (email@example.com) preferred.
* Teen Angels & New Mutants is in stock in some direct sales comicbook stores! Diamond Comics Dist. shipped copies in June 2011 to all accounts that ordered the title; reorders were filled throughout 2011. Before you buy online, please, see if it’s available in your local comics shop, and support them with your purchases.
* In any case—the book is now available to all bookstores and libraries via Ingram and Baker & Taylor; available to Direct Market shops via Diamond Comics; and to individuals now via
* I also recommend, to international readers seeking a copy, you check out the Book Depository. They provide an excellent service:
Unpacking the Brat Pack
Teen Angels & New Mutants Preview!
Cover art by Rick Veitch; cover design and color by Cayetano Garza, Jr.; cover imagery ©2011 Rick Veitch and Cayetano Garza, Jr.; Brat Pack® is a registered trademark of Rick Veitch and King Hell Press, used with permission.
“I know Steve Bissette, and I know that this book represents him fully: his passions, his lifetime of thinking, his unflinching way of spelunking deep down into the dark, the repressed, the taboo. Those who know Bissette’s most personal work in comics will recognize the same mind at work here. It’s as scary as a book of cultural criticism by Steve Bissette ought to be—the more so because it’s about, well, kids….
“…Teen Angels casts its net wide, but without oversimplifying and without offering any easy outs. It’s a polemic against media exploitation of youth that refuses the simple, reactionary cultural politics behind most such polemics. It is a call for awareness that avoids the simple-mindedness of most such calls. It is a postmortem on many dreadful things that asks us to examine our own dread, and delight. In sum, it’s a conflicted and challenging book—in two words, damn smart.
“With its complex, hard-won arguments, its unblinking assessment of the wretched as well as the inspiring in popular culture, and its fretful examination of how we use and abuse the resources and images of youth—with all these things, Teen Angels & New Mutants is a firestorm waiting to happen.”
- Charles Hatfield, from his introduction to Teen Angels & New Mutants: Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack® and the Art, Karma, and Commerce of Killing Sidekicks
In all candor, there has never, ever been a book about graphic novels or comics that’s anything like Teen Angels & New Mutants. This is a unique work, unlike any analysis of a single comics creation ever published, and I hope it elevates the threshold of what’s possible (and necessary) in all future texts about comics and graphic novels.
“…I don’t know that it is possible to overrate this book. It is a work unique to the subject matter, and I speak not only of the genre of comic book analysis, but of pop-culture autopsy. Bissette has pioneered a new field of criticism nearly thirty years after he helped reinvent the horror comic.”
The following is excerpted from the Foreword to Teen Angels & New Mutants: Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack® and the Art, Karma, and Commerce of Killing Sidekicks by Stephen R. Bissette (Black Coat Press, 2011):
“The killing of comic book sidekicks was becoming big business in the late 1980s, when Rick Veitch first conceived Brat Pack, but it’s definitely big business now… Veitch knew this, and wove this element into the narrative itself. “Look at these figures—they’re robbin’ us blind!” King Rad wails as the corrupt heroes scrutinize their own merchandizing figures, anticipating the motivating factor in the creation of the creator-owned Image Comics coalition a few years later.
In a curious way, Brat Pack provides an ideal vehicle for analyzing what the traditional American comic book industry has become in the 21st century—hence, this book….
This is admittedly a bizarre book… Granted, to write a book of this length, breadth and depth on a single graphic novel—particularly one as overlooked and underappreciated as Brat Pack—is absurd. Then again, having done so, I would argue any graphic novel of substance and merit deserves, perhaps demands, such analysis. We are too quick to accept superficial discussion of creative works that draw from more than individual creative careers and lives, from our collective cultural experiences, as being somehow sufficient. I found in Brat Pack rich subterranean aquifers that resonated within the imagery, literary, cultural, and pop cultural components of Veitch’s creation—and, as I explored those, still richer associations with the rest of Rick’s body of work, and our shared generational experiences, appeared.
Odder still, what follows is not an analysis of Brat Pack, the graphic novel. I will leave such dissections to others; this was never intended to be anything except a detailed overview of how Brat Pack became Brat Pack.
What Teen Angels & New Mutants is intent upon is the history of Brat Pack, which is—like most histories—in fact many histories, a tapestry of histories, and each thread essential to the whole. They all feed and lead to Brat Pack—not as the be-all and end-all of these histories, of course, but to more fully grasp what Brat Pack was, is, and why it still resonates….
…But it’s the wider tapestry, the more invisible but essential threads, that interest me most, and that I think necessary to bring to your attention.
You’ll have to put on your comics geek hat at a few points, ditch that for a visit to the psychiatrist, be prepared to wade through some oft-unpleasant highs and lows in the careers of certain Hollywood teen stars, divas and 1990s boy bands, and ponder the adult exploitation of youth so central to 21st century pop culture.
Along the way, we’ll meet plenty of true-life “teen angels” who burned brightly and either succumbed to the ebbing of fame or died young. We’ll meet some of the real-life “new mutants,” at least two generations of children and teenagers who seem almost genetically bred (they are certainly embodying new behavioral mutations) for previously unimaginable stretches, heights and depths of exploitation of their uncanny athletic abilities (the Z-Boys), performance abilities and talent (child actors, teen and pre-teen rock stars, etc.), and their own empire-building and self-exploitation (the Olsen Twins, the Sprouse twins, Justin Bieber, etc.). We’ll also consider the markets for a new mutant generation, catering to young girls hitting puberty as early as eight and nine years of age: a 21st century sexual revolution that has been bagged, tagged, cultivated, commercialized and pre-packaged as a consumer class.
At times, it won’t be pretty, and I apologize in advance for some of the extreme behavior and misbehavior we’ll have to attend to en route.
We’ll also be exploring the life and career of Brat Pack creator Rick Veitch and all that entailed and entails (which I can speak to from hard experience for much of that path, having experienced much of it with Rick from 1976 to the present). For that, I won’t apologize; it is, in fact, the reason for this book, and its most celebratory center.
Like his hero Jack Kirby, Rick was a product of hardscrabble streets, too; sure, there were huge differences between Kirby’s urban roots and Veitch’s rural bedrock, but Veitch had his own part to play in the “boy gangs” of Bellows Falls, Vermont.
That, too, informs Brat Pack.
In short, to appreciate Rick’s Brat Pack, there are many, many other “Brat Packs” to consider—in life, on and off-panel, and on and off-screen, rumbling in numerous nooks and crannies of the pop culture.
Die with your mask on.”
“This book grew out of an article I commissioned from Steve Bissette when I was planning a special hardcover edition of Brat Pack a couple years back. I asked Steve to write a short history of what was going on with me, the comics scene and my co-publisher while I was creating the original Brat Pack. Steve dug into it deeper than I could have ever imagined, producing a voluminous manuscript that threatened to dwarf the graphic novel part of the book… Steve kept on going and, relying on his encyclopedic knowledge of film and comics, his vast reference library, his access to the author (me) and his passionate views concerning the exploitation of children in media, he has produced what must be the most comprehensive, contextual, far-reaching and in-depth analysis of a graphic novel ever written. It’s also an entertaining and enlightening journey through the cultural landscape in the company of a master storyteller.”
Brat Pack® is a registered trademark of Rick Veitch and King Hell Press. All Brat Pack cover art ©1990, 1991, 2011 Rick Veitch, all rights reserved.
Matt Kennedy Tears Into Teen Angels at Forces of Geek…
The first review just went up today for my new book, Teen Angels & New Mutants: Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack® and the Art, Commerce, and Karma of Killing Sidekicks, written by
“…Way more than a loving tribute to the work of a dear friend, this is the absolute, authoritative text on the subject, and should be required reading in every Sociology of Media program.
…Teen Angels & New Mutants is a reintroduction to the kid sidekicks of comics. It juxtaposes their creation with the media of their day, and traces the marketing behind their ascension with such thorough research, that you will know not only where the term ‘Teenager’ comes from, you might wish you didn’t. What began for me as a series of 25 pages in each direction on my subway commute became a voracious obsession with completing the book as soon as possible. And when I finished it, I went back and began reading it again.
Bissette has served a meal of the richest literary food, but managed to make it easily digestible. The risk of tackling any subject with this depth of research is that of delivering a self-indulgent, lifeless, academic essay. Thankfully (possibly miraculously), that’s not what happened. Teen Angels is easy to read, often shocking and above all, interesting. For those who would entertain a career in comics, this book is invaluable as a massive, encyclopaedic resource; it demystifies the lore in a straight-forward, but literary manner. For those more interested in the cultural aspects of the subject of sidekicks or even teenagers in general, here’s a 400 page crash-course on teen pop culture, the fetishism of childhood and the impact of the independent press on sequential publishing….The secret history of early comics is revealed to be a history of street gang culture, itself a sort of rite of passage for impoverished, urban youth –society’s sidekicks, if you will.
In other words, ‘thorough’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.
I’m not easily impressed, and while I’m possibly prone to fanboy zeal when presented with a rare opportunity to laud a work I feel is worthy, I don’t know that it is possible to overrate this book. It is a work unique to the subject matter, and I speak not only of the genre of comic book analysis, but of pop-culture autopsy. Bissette has pioneered a new field of criticism nearly thirty years after he helped reinvent the horror comic….”
Related Links & Previews:
* Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly / EW.com interviewed Stephen Bissette about Teen Angels & New Mutants in July 2011.
For more on Brat Pack® and the King Hell Heroica Universe:
“The ‘King Hell Heroica‘ is the collective name for an unfinished series of inter-connected super-hero comics created and published by Rick Veitch, starting with Brat Pack in 1990 (retroactively Book Four) and continuing through The Maximortal (Book One) before ending, for now, with two issues of the Brat Pack / Maximortal Super Special in 1996/1997. The specials outline the projected full Heroica at the time, including two more books set between the existing books (Boy Maximortal (Book Two) and True-Man, The Maximortal (Book Three)) and several more specials providing a meta-textual bridging structure and final conclusion to be collected as Book Five of the Heroica.
I read Brat Pack as is came out and got the collected edition of The Maximortal several years ago, but somehow missed the two Specials and didn’t have too much luck finding them. The recent publication of Teen Angels & New Mutants, Steve Bissette‘s book-length treatise on Brat Pack, gave me the impetus to finally pick up the collected edition of Brat Pack (which is heavily revised from the original serialized version I’d read) and as fortune would have it I was able to find the Specials as well. So, before getting to Teen Angels I decided to (re-)read the published Heroica….”
“I discovered Veitch‘s King Hell Heroica via The MaxiMortal in the early ’90s, which led me back to Brat Pack. Burnt out by the Marvel, DC, Image and Valiant superhero comix hype-machines, the Heroica definitely spoke to my “fuck superheroes!” mindset of the time. The stories were raw, brutal and sincere; genuine artistic expressions from an independent creator. Looking back on it nearly 20 years later, they likely served as a bridge between what I thought comix were and what I realized they could be.
I had the pleasure of revisiting both books a number of months ago and they ring more true now than they did then. Here’s hoping we get the continuing story someday… Until then—I’ve got a 400-page thesis [Teen Angels & New Mutants] to read….”
Teen Angels & New Mutants: Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack® and the Art, Commerce, and Karma of Killing Sidekicks is now available!
or at your local comics shop!
Teen Angels & New Mutants
Brat Pack: The Movie
* January 2011:
Hero! Comics/Sun Comics
Before the King Hell Heroica, Rick Veitch Created & “Self-Published” His Own Comics Series…
“I wrote and drew homemade super-hero comics starting at around six, and really getting into it around age nine and ten, and this continued all through high school right up until the underground explosion happened and I began to draw more personal comics. …Comics were… an organic part of me; it was just something I did without asking why. …The main run I did was called Hero Comics and I think I did 24 or 25 issues of that on a monthly basis! It starred a character called ‘Radioactive Man.’…They’re pretty crude, and it’s me learning to draw by copying Jack Kirby’s pencils and trying to write Stan Lee dialogue. But at the same time, when I go back and look at them, I’m blown away by the personal myth that I’m laying down…. They were just about who I was and what I knew. …there is something pure about Sun Comics. I treasure them….”
Rick occasionally shares images from these ancient treasures on his daily blog, RickVeitch.com. Here’s links to those blasts from Veitch’s comics past, cited with his own descriptive blog captions:
[Page from Hero! Comics #16, October 1966, art by Rick Veitch, script by Tom Veitch; ©1966, 2011 Rick Veitch and Tom Veitch, all rights reserved.]
How Out of Touch Was DC Comics in the 1960s?
Brother Power The Geek and More…
* I tagged Brother Power: The Geek as the single comicbook title most emblematic of “National Periodicals/DC Comics [being] hopelessly out of step” with the new generation of readers, particularly the counterculture Marvel Comics and Stan Lee so successfully tapped in the 1960s.
Brother Power “…was an entertaining, original, and surprisingly well-crafted curio. On the other hand, the comic was indeed one of the most exploitative and ludicrous of its era, sadly reflective of an older generation’s grossly caricatured, ill-informed view of the 1960s counterculture movement, a comic sadly out-of-synch with its target readership by a comic creator out-of-step with the times and marketplace…” (Teen Angels & New Mutants, pg. 117). It was also arguably based, in part, on Robert Bloch‘s short story “The Weird Tailor” (originally published in Weird Tales, July, 1950, cover by Matt Fox pictured at right; reprinted in The Skull of the Marquis de Sade and Other Stories, 1965, Pyramid Books; filmed as an episode of the TV series Thriller, originally broadcast October 16, 1961, and again as part of the Amicus Films anthology theatrical feature Asylum aka House of Crazies, 1972, both times adapted and scripted by Bloch himself).
As of the spring 2011 publication of his new autobiography, we can offer the co-creator’s own take on his creation! Here’s Joe Simon on his creation Brother Power: The Geek:
“…the Harvey Thrillers never really worked in the marketplace…. About the time they ended, I developed another superhero property that would be equally short-lived, but would become a cult favorite.
Brother Power the Geek was about a mannequin struck by lightning and brought to life. It had a lot of elements of Frankenstein mixed with the hippy culture of the 1960s. I experienced that culture through people I knew and by having an 18-year-old-son, a 15-year-old daughter, and 12-year-old twins, all still living at home. The stories put the Geek up against foes like the freaks of the Psychedelic Circus, and Mad Dawg and his gang. He ran for Congress and was shot into space. Over the years I think that the Geek was misinterpreted as a drug thing. It might have been a hippy thing, but there weren’t any drugs in there. I thought the hippy thing was cute, and we were doing a lot with it in Sick [Joe Simon's black-and-white humor magazine, a Mad imitation].
Alphonse Bare was my artist on The Geek. He would come over to my studio in Woodbury [NY] so we could work together. I thought he was a terrific artist. Our sales were pretty good, but Carmine [Infantino] has told me that [DC editor] Mort Weisinger hated the book. At one point Mort was convinced that the name of our company, Mainline, was a secret code that had something to do with mainlining drugs. Apparently he tried to get [DC publisher] Jack Liebowitz to cancel Brother Power. Whatever the reason, there were only two issues.”
- Joe Simon, Joe Simon: My Life in Comics (2011, Titan Books), pp. 219–221.
Romance Comics: Hippies, Woodstock, & Young Love…
Above: Falling in Love #118 (October 1970); below, right: Young Love #103 (April 1973).
* As note in Teen Angels & New Mutants, “…romance comics struggled with the new androgyny. The Archie and teen humor comics had their fans and appeal, but most mainstream comic publishers seemed capable only of ridiculing or reflecting their own dread of the counterculture… In terms of genre, only the teen humor and the romance comics came close to reflecting their time. Still, the generational abyss between target audience, fictional subject, and the creator/editor/publisher temas rendered a story like “I Found My Love at the Woodstock Festival” (penciled by Werner Roth, inked by Murphy Anderson) in Falling in Love #118 (October 1970) hopelessly risible. The word balloon on the cover of the very next issue (Falling in Love #119, November, 1970, for the story “Loser at Love”) could have been directed at the entire DC editorial bullpen: “Make up your mind who you love—the older generation or ME!”…” (pp. 153–154).
Here’s a gallery of romance covers to further illustrate the point (including a 1971 Woodstock exploitation ad that appeared in many romance comics of that year; below).
Below: My Love #14 (Marvel Comics, November, 1971).
Maybe those romance comics editors weren’t so out of touch: this happened to me! Girl’s Love Stories #142 (April, 1969)
DC and Marvel weren’t the only comics publishers cranking out faux-hippy romance comics: Teen-Age Love #61 (Charlton Comics, November, 1968)
Teen Angels MIA Illustrations
* There was a great deal of vintage comic book art that was scanned and prepped for Teen Angels, but precious little of it made it into the published book due to space restrictions. The splash page to this “Yank and Doodle” story from Prize Comics #28 (February 1943) appears on page 63 of Teen Angels, but this story page featuring the villain “Hot-Stuff” (scanned in black-and-white for book production purposes) was necessarily cut:
Originally ©1943 Feature Publications, Inc.
* This illustration is in the book (see page 157), but due to prohibitive costs, we couldn’t run it in color, as we’d have liked to. This illustration is Mark Landman‘s creation from 1991, entitled “To the Bat-Gerbil!!!,” and was included in the book with Mark‘s permission.
Artwork ©1991, 2011 Mark Landman, courtesy of Mark Landman.
Many mistakingly believe juvenile delinquency didn’t become a topic of mass media exploitation until the 1950s; the fact is, movies about “wayward teens” were being made from the silent era on. Here’s a few examples I didn’t squeeze into Teen Angels & New Mutants but can share with you here!
Ad from The Tampa Daily Times, Tuesday, January 18, 1944, pg. 4; I love how this ad was followed by a comparatively frivolous Dead End Kids comedy (scan preserves original placement of the ads; SpiderBaby Archives).
The “teens in trouble” genre is a venerable one, and here’s a few more selected ad graphics that didn’t make it into Teen Angels & New Mutants due to space considerations:
Ad from The Tampa Daily News, Tuesday, November 28, 1944, pg. 4 (SpiderBaby Archives)
Deceptive advertising: go ahead, try and find the title! The Case of Dr. Laurent (1958), the dubbed import version of Jean-Paul Le Chanois‘s “painless child birth” feature Le Cas du Dr. Laurent (1957); ad circa April 4, 1959, Salisbury Drive-In Theatre, Salisbury, NC
* This ad art was planned for inclusion in Teen Angels between pages 294–296, to illustrate the section on chickenhawk Sal Mineo stalking former child star Jon Provost (!), but had to be cut (I couldn’t resist running the original Rick Veitch pencil art to the book’s cover image instead). Sal Mineo in Don Siegel‘s classic Crime in the Streets (1956), from a rare Starlite Drive In Theatre flyer (Fort Myers, Florida, circa 1957); the film itself is now available on DVD in the Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 5 (Warner Home Video). (Ad: SpiderBaby Archives)
Snapshots of Bellows Falls, Circa 1970s
On pages 119-121, Rick Veitch says about his home town of Bellows Falls, VT:
“The town I came from was a roughneck mill town that was on the skids, was on the way down. There were a lot of poor people there, hard-drinking, hard-fighting, hard-livin’ kind of people…. Folks from other Vermont towns referred to it as ‘Sin City’…there was always weird stuff going on there: police corruption, pornography. …it was a big party town for all the hippies who moved to Vermont to get back to the land…. My group came of age between the hippy and punk generations, so we looked like hippies but acted like real punks. I grew up almost like a feral child, smoking, drinking and sexually active at way too early an age. The town we lived in was a bit like the wild west in the early 1970’s, with a whorehouse, a gay bar and dozens of other bars catering to the sudden influx of young out-of-staters.”
Bellows Falls indeed had a gay bar and inn. Rumors were that young men—including local young men—also serviced its clientele, though I’ve found no evidence to date to substantiate those claims. On a recent book hunting excursion, I lucked into a copy of the 1976 A Gay Person’s Guide to New England (Second Edition) (1975, GCN, Inc.; David Peterson, Managing Editor), which notes in its indicia, “No business or organization listed in this Guide is necessarily gay-owned or -operated, unless indicated.” Andrews Inn of Bellows Falls, VT, is the only establishment listed in the entire Vermont state section of the Guide to sport a formal paid advertisement. From pages 118 and 120 of the Guide (SpiderBaby Archives):
* In footnote #125 on page 108, I traced adult Charlie Chaplin‘s public record of teenage lovers and wives, a legacy which fueled his eventual exile from America. Note Chaplin‘s love life collided with the public adoption of Lolita as an archetype (a legacy I trace in Teen Angels on pages 229-232) as early as 1965—only three years after the release of Stanley Kubrick‘s film adaptation of Lolita—in the article “Those ‘Lolitas’ Who Made Chaplin’s Life a Comedy of Terrors” by Don Swain, in the men’s magazine Ace: The Magazine for Men of Distinction (July 1965, Vol. 9, No. 1, starting on page 44).
* Addendum to page 235-236: The notorious “broomstick rape of teenager Linda Blair in the girl’s reform school melodrama NCB TV movie Born Innocent (1974)” indeed “went to far,” given broadcast standards and practices of that era. As I noted in Teen Angels, “outraged viewers jammed the network’s phone lines during its September 10, 1974 debut, and the scene was shorn from all subsequently broadcast versions…” (pg. 235).
I’ve since discovered there were legal repercussions, too. According the “The Letter Box” in Adam Film World‘s February 1977 issue (Vol. 6, No. 3, page 77), “A $22 million suit was filed against NBC in San Francisco. The suit was filed on behalf of two young girls who claimed that they had been sexually assaulted by a group of older delinquent girls who had been incited by viewing the telepic which depicted a similar incident. Superior Court Judge John A. Ertola dismissed the suit. He tossed it out of court based on the First Amendment. NBC attorney Richard Haas argued that if broadcasters were held accountable for the acts of disturbed persons, they couldn’t even show the daily news on TV.”
Also note: the teen-girls-in-prison genre later became a TV staple in other countries. Australia broadcast Prisoner: Cell Block H (1979-1986; shown stateside in some markets at the time, and eventually released on DVD in the US by A&E in November, 2004), Britain had Bad Girls (1999-2006), etc.
Like Queer as Folk (which I discussed in Teen Angels on page 209), Skins was an American revamp of a popular British TV series (set in Bristol, South West England); the UK series was created by father-and-son writing team of Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain. It premiered on E4 January, 25, 2007, to date yielding five seasons and a planned Skins feature film.
The MTV series debuted January 17, 2011, and though it toned down many elements of the harder-edged British original series, MTV cultivated and scored far greater controversy in the US than the original series had in the UK.
For those who care, here’s a brief overview of the controversy MTV calculated, courted, and reaped. Note: These links are active as of this posting (May 2, 2011), but I’ll offer quotes to provide context in case they are no longer active when you access this addendum.
To introduce the clip, Michael Dance wrote, “MTV just released the first ad for their upcoming teen drama Skins, an adaptation of the British show of the same name, and…wow. It makes Gossip Girl look about as lurid as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”
Bennett wrote, “Sex, drugs, borderline date rape–it’s no surprise Skins is pissing people off before it even premieres on Monday. It’s a remake of the hit U.K. series of the same name (now in its fifth season), and MTV decided to bleep out swearing and take out the nudity that’s rampant in the original. But it wasn’t enough to strip the show of its MA rating, and on Thursday, the Parents Television Council condemned the series for its parental mockery, sexual objectification and overall “harmful, irresponsible, illegal, and adult-themed behavior.” “Skins,” the president of the council proclaimed, “may well be the the most dangerous show for children that we have ever seen.”…”
Bentley wrote, “Usually after the Parents Television Council decries something as scandalous, the fervor dies down after a few days. That’s not the case with MTV‘s controversial new series ‘Skins,’ about a group of hard-partying, drug-taking, sexually active teenagers—this time, the outcry has caused network executives to take a second look at the in-your-face show.”
Of course, Bentley was posting this only “a few days” (seven, to be exact) after the news broke of the Parents Television Council‘s condemnation.
Continuing: “According to the New York Times, MTV higher-ups have ordered producers to tame down future episodes of the show, which is based on a similarly boundary-pushing U.K. series of the same name, for fear of violating federal child pornography laws. A source told the paper that on Tuesday, “a flurry of meetings took place” during which executives discussed the possibility of facing criminal charges if especially racy episodes were shown without editing.”
Stelter wrote: “In recent days, executives at the cable channel became concerned that some scenes from the provocative new show “Skins” may violate federal child pornography statutes. The executives ordered the producers to make changes to tone down some of the most explicit content. They are particularly concerned about the third episode of the series, which is to be broadcast Jan. 31. In an early version, a naked 17-year-old actor is shown from behind as he runs down a street. The actor, Jesse Carere, plays Chris, a high school student whose erection—assisted by erectile dysfunction pills—is a punch line throughout the episode. The planned changes indicate that MTV, which has been pushing the envelope for decades, may be concerned that it pushed too far this time….”
Rohan reported, “Parents Television Council has called for a federal investigation into what it calls possible child pornography and exploitation on the show. Under pressure from the PTC, Taco Bell reportedly dropped its ads from “Skins” on Thursday, followed by GM on Friday and Wrigley on Saturday. H&R Block put out a statement saying that one of its ads ran “by mistake,” but that the company “is not an advertiser of the show.” On Monday, Subway had reportedly joined the list of desertions…. Pop culture expert Robert Thompson of Syracuse University believes that this will only make “Skins” more popular. “Once again, the PTC has managed to tell a whole bunch of people who may never have heard of ‘Skins‘ that it’s a show they want to watch, because it may be pornographic,” says Thompson, who has seen four episodes….”
noting, “Despite all the negative criticism and all the media attention the audience for Skins is declining rather than increasing. The first episode dominated with an audience of 3.3 million. The very next week the series ratings dropped by 52%, capturing only 1.6 million viewers. The third episode only capture 1.5 million views. Instead of addressing why the series is not connecting to its target audience despite all the buzz and media attention surrounding the series, the stars, MTV, and the creator of the series have constantly tried to shift the attention back to the drug, sex and alcohol issue associated with the series.
“Last week, instead of issuing statements about the rating decline, MTV decided to release two statements, one from the network and one from the creator of MTV Skins, defending the series as being a fair and accurate representation of teenage life today. By doing this MTV managed to create another week of news devoted to the Skins drug, sex, and alcohol issue to distract from the fact that over half of the viewers who watched the series the week before decided it was not worth watching again. This week MTV’s head of programming, David Janollari, said in defense of the series “You’re always going to have haters” and went on to compare the series to other popular series such as Jersey Shore and Jackass. The network executive series went on to say “I think it’s always good when people are talking about you and people are certainly talking about [Skins].”
“When it comes to MTV Skins the network, the producers and the stars have taken a page from Don Draper [the protagonist of the AMC hit series Madmen] and lived by the motto of “if you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” MTV Skins wants the conversation to continue to be about sex, drugs and alcohol. They want to talk about the buzz, not the fact that the series is not connecting. They do not want to have to address the criticism of the show itself. The network and the producers do not want to address the deficiencies of the series because they know there is no feasible way to correct all the things about the series that are lacking….”
writing, “So why did Skins start with a bang and end with a whimper? Well, if the finale episode, “Eura,” is any indication, the reason is simple: The show is just not very good…. Near the end of the episode, one character’s father said something that really resonated: “You’re boring me with this sh–. Yeah. And, uh, that about covers it.” You’re telling me, buddy.”
As if directly replying to the October 2010 copy Michael Dance wrote for ClevverTV.com‘s posting of the first Skins teaser trailer, Busis concluded, “PopWatchers, will any of you take to the comments to defend the show? Or do you, like me, think MTV’s Skins plays like Gossip Girl‘s sullen suburban cousin?”
Perhaps MTV‘s neutering worked too well.
Moore wrote, “MTV has always eagerly jumped to the front of the line for controversial television, so it’s no surprise that when the British adaption of an already-scandalous program was given an edgy American facelift, all hell broke loose. As Skins ripped a hole in the pop zeitgeist with every possible scandal in the book — from the on-screen sex and drugs to the off-screen child pornography investigation, the biggest problem the new series had to face? Itself: ratings spiraled week-to-week, advertisers pulled out in droves, and critics and fans largely decided that for all the hype, the show still wasn’t very good. With a hushed season finale and the word mum on a sophomore season of MTV’s most controversial series in years — one has to ask: Is Skins dead yet?”
Time will tell.
(Note: I post this overview in part because Rick Veitch asked me in conversation back in early February, 2011, “You’re going to include the Skins controversy in the book, right?” It was with great relief that I replied, “Rick, Teen Angels is at the printers. I don’t give a rat’s ass any longer!” Well, here ya go, Rick.)
Change or Die: The One
A Revisionist Superhero Roundtable Discussion
As noted on pages 245–246 of Teen Angels & New Mutants, I actively supported Rick Veitch‘s self-published King Hell complete edition of his Epic Comics series The One (1989) by coordinating a get-together with “Neil Gaiman and Tom Veitch at San Diego for a roundtable on the ‘Revisionist Superhero’…,” which was indeed published in the collected The One.
It’s easier to read the damned thing in a hard copy, though.
Brat Pack & Battle Royale
Before The Hunger Games, There was Battle Royale!
Among the in-depth research and analysis I poured into Teen Angels & New Mutants: Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack and the Art, Karma, and Commerce of Killing Sidekicks, I traced the ripples from Rick‘s historic Brat Pack series to subsequent pop culture creations that were companions to Veitch‘s dystopian masterwork. Prominent among those are comics series most folks take for granted these days, The Boys and Kick-Ass being the most celebrated.
But one key work I touch upon in the book that most Americans had no legal access to until 2012—but have heard of, at least—is Battle Royale.
Battle Royale was finally legally and officially released on DVD in the US on March 20, 2012, by Anchor Bay.
バトル・ロワイアル / Batoru Rowaiaru / Battle Royale (2000) was directed by the late, great Kinji Fukasaku, based on the bestselling novel by Koushun Takami, and its terrific ensemble cast included Chiaki Kuriyama, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda and Kitano “Beat” Takashi.
To see how it fits into the book-length discussion of Rick Veitch‘s career and Brat Pack, you’ll have to get your hands on a copy of Teen Angels & New Mutants… but I do want to share a few things with you about Battle Royale, specifically some of what predated its official 2012 US DVD release.
Here’s a bit of what I had to say about Battle Royale in Teen Angels & New Mutants:
“Columbine had previously prevented the stateside release of Kinji Fukasaku’s superior, similarly provocative バトル・ロワイアル / Batoru Rowaiaru / Battle Royale (2000), an adaptation of Koshun Takami’s 1999 novel that was a huge boxoffice hit in Japan and internationally. Battle Royale concerned a state-sanctioned condemnation of “trouble” teenage high-schoolers to a remote island facility where they were forced to participate in a timed survival marathon and ordered to kill one another; only a single survivor of the brutal games was allowed to leave the island once the game ended—once the clock ran out, multiple survivors were efficiently exterminated, preventing any attempt at collaborative survival. The relentless scenario pitched rebellious youth against rigid, lethal adult authority with brutal clarity and understandably troubled potential distributors. Just as Brat Pack vividly dramatized the plight of youth succumbing to no options save predatory exploitation amid an imploding American economy and culture, Battle Royale (and its sequel) were “reflecting fears of social collapse in the wake of the bursting of Japan’s economic bubble in the nineties.” [quoted from Andy Richards, Asian Horror (2010, Kamera Books), p. 42.] Contrary to rumor, Fukasaku’s film wasn’t banned in America: it simply never landed a distributor for either theatrical or video or DVD in the US….”
The latter is something I exhaustively researched, and address in the relevant footnote. There’s a vast amount of gross misinformation out there on the internet about this situation, so it seemed appropo to set things right with the facts. Here’s the full Teen Angels & New Mutants footnote:
See David Chute, “Indie Exposure: The Kids Aren’t All Right,” Premiere, July 2001, Vol. 14, No. 11, pp. 45–101. Chute quotes an anonymous film executive saying, “It would be almost impossible to release here… Not without a huge controversy that would blow up in your face” (Chute, p. 45). Chute also quoted an American indie distributor who said, “We offered to take it out as an art-house film, but Toei [the Japanese production studio and distributor] wasn’t interested. They see it as this huge commercial hit, and they want to open it on 300 screens in shopping malls. What they don’t understand is that it will never get past the MPAA ratings board, and the major theater chains will never play it unrated. If you cut it enough to get an R, there’d be nothing left…” (Chute, pp. 47, 101). Chute cited indie distributor Lions Gate Films as the likely last hope, given their “reputation for taking on films that other outfits deem too risky… Lions Gate and Toei have discussed Battle Royale, but haven’t reached an agreement. Lions Gate is probably Battle Royale’s last best shot” (Chute, p. 101). No US release followed. Most likely it was, in the end, both content and Toei’s too-high US boxoffice expectations and attendant fees that killed that opportunity; in Japan alone, Battle Royale grossed $25 million, according to Toei (Chute, p. 45). As Andy Richards noted in Asian Horror, “this may have been because of prohibitive costs as much as squeamishness… while the prospects of a mooted New Line remake have receded since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre…” (Richards, p. 70), the latter referring to the Monday, April 16, 2007 school shootings in which senior Virginia Polytechnic Institute senior Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 and wounded many more before committing suicide. For more on the fate of the proposed US Battle Royale remake, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Royale_(film)
When I posted this information to Myrant (March 29, 2011), in-the-know Matt Kennedy weighed in with even more information on what happened to Battle Royale and why it never earned an American release. Here’s his first-person account, never before published anywhere:
“When Battle Royale was scheduled for its first US screening at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles (at the Egyptian Theater) on January 18th, 2001, my ex-wife and I were contacted by my former Troma colleague David Shultz to perform some of the translating for Kinji Fukasaku. As CEO of Vitagraph films, Shultz (along with film programmer Chris D.) was central to organizing the tribute to the director, the opening night of which was the premiere of his latest film—at this point less than a month after its Japanese debut. I was already helping Shultz with production on most of his Japanese Outlaw Masters releases, and my ex-wife, Ai-chan, and I were set to perform the translating chores, when my father died, and we were forced to travel back to Massachusetts for the funeral. We returned to Los Angeles in time for the screening, but had to hand-off the translating to a Japanese-American Society translator. I had written several questions to be addressed at the screening, several of which were touched upon in the Q&A that followed.
The audience reaction was overwhelmingly positive, but the lawsuit over Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers was underway, and Toei executives were concerned that a lawsuit against an American distributor could pull them into an embarrassing controversy, and they chose to withhold licensing discussions fearing that a film like Battle Royale was an easy target for such a lawsuit. Back then, the Weinsteins’ purchase of all notable Asian films seemed like a foregone conclusion, but the ever escalating budgets of Miramax films in ratio to the vast number of unexploited titles in their acquisition library became something of a sticking point with stock holders, so Harvey’s heart attack in August 2000, and Disney’s ever-tightening purse-strings (especially with regard to a film about dead teenagers), didn’t help to close any kind of deal with Toei.
When I spoke with the same Toei executives at the American Film Market that November, the tune had changed. They wanted a ridiculous amount of money of the film. The film was receiving nearly unanimous acclaim, and they thought that by holding back on a release date they would make the property more valuable, not realizing the damage that parallel import DVDs were doing to projected US sales on the title, and also not realizing that major Big Box retailers like Blockbuster and Best Buy wouldn’t take solicitation on foreign films more than 2 years old.
The number I heard was $3million for US rights. Not North American rights, mind you, but just the US. This is a common practice among Japanese licensors—to want to limit the rights to a single territory. By the following year’s AFM, I had entered discussions to license a set of Pinky Violence titles that I had hand picked for future release on my own label, Panik House Entertainment. At this point, none of the usual suspects were interested. Miramax would not pony up the money Toei wanted, and I was told by an American liaison that Toei weren’t interested in a “Best Offer” scenario. They were also not interested in offering remake rights as they had for Ringu. They were fully willing to wait until someone met their unofficial asking price. It is important to divulge that the Japanese almost never state a price for which a film is being offered; they request offers. This frustrates international buyers to no end, and that’s why most Japanese films never get released here. Even setting up a relationship with a major entertainment company like Toei (or Toho or Nikkatsu) requires years of meetings before a single title is ever licensed. When they are happy in the knowledge that the arrangement is working, they are a bit more forthcoming and hint at the acquisition fees. It is common practice to employ a third party to inquire about price expectations so that a lowball price isn’t taken as a direct insult. The split (or deferred) payment model had been soured in Asia by the multiple Miramax purchased films that were half-purchase/half-royalty deals for films that were never released, eliminating royalties (and projected profits), thereby putting an end to such arrangements for future licencesees. After the success of the Ring remake and its Japanese directed sequel, royalty arrangements came back with a vengeance. But I digress…
It took me three years to license six forgotten catalog titles, and another two years to license seven more—and I spoke Japanese and had a Japanese wife. In 2005 I asked them why Battle Royale hadn’t been released. The Toei executive (a replacement for the man with whom I had begun licensing talks) told me that Toei saw Battle Royale as the family jewels (comparable to Toho’s Seven Samurai), and it would be embarrassing if it was licensed for less than the still-too-high price of $1 million. This was for DVD rights, as they were no longer interested in a theatrical release. This was an absolutely ridiculous asking fee.
The average price of a new release DVD in 2006 (the soonest a title could be released if a deal was closed in November of 2005) was $19.95. Of that, a distributor would take $10.50. They would keep 20% and the releasing studio would reap $8.50. Most studios spent $2 per unit on advertising, and back then a bare-bones DVD in amaray case cost about $1.00, so how many DVDs of a foreign language title would an American studio have to sell to break even at a licensing fee of $1million?
Well, let’s just for shits and giggles say (and this would never happen) that the licensor (Toei) would include a free DLT video master of the film, not requiring the added expense of buying materials for a new transfer. And let’s say that the licensee had a quick and easy template for DVD menus, packaging design, etc. that didn’t equate to more than a few cents per unit. At that rate, the US studio would have to sell about 182,000 units TO BREAK EVEN! That’s 365,000 units to cover negative costs! That would make it one of the top three foreign language DVD releases of all time. Without any domestic box office, Blockbuster wouldn’t take more than a couple hundred units, and Hollywood Video was about to go belly-up, which means that basically word of mouth would have to sell 360,000 units.
The talk about Columbine was a good excuse for American executives to lowball on a purchase price, and fear of a Natural Born Killers lawsuit was ample for Toei to explain why the film wasn’t licensed, but in the end it was a miscalculation of the film’s appeal further stagnated by the way Toei, and most other Japanese companies do business. There were easily a hundred titles that I inquired about licensing from the Toei back catalog, and the pace by which my inquiries were answered could best be described as glacial. There is an embarrassment in the lack of ease with which Japanese executives communicate in English, and contracts take eternity to negotiate when English speaking lawyers incorporate the types of rights that any reasonable standard of law would require. Payment schedules always involve 100% payment up front, which is not the case with most entertainment agreements (which allow final payment after a video master is delivered, allowing pre-sales to offset the upfront investment).
So it wasn’t fear of teen slaughter that killed Battle Royale—how could it be, coming from one culture that fetishizes its youth to another? It was really just red tape. The awful sequel further diminished the value of the original, and at this point I don’t know if the film would be successful if it was allowed to be released royalty free at a cost of nothing, because the cost of a successful arthouse release is rarely a break-even affair; often little more than a loss leader at best for home video and cable TV sales and a complete loss in most cases. I’ve been there with theatrical releases of arthouse films, and seen results from disastrous to actually successful, and I can tell you first-hand that it takes a budget of at least $300,000.00 to open a film in two cities with any kind of press behind it, and a wildly successful indie film will gross $1million, netting substantially less.” (—Matt Kennedy, March 30, 2011 post to Myrant comments thread)
Movie producer Don Murphy weighed in, too, adding:
“I was at the screening. I love Matt and I enjoyed his letter. The one error is that Toei doesn’t even HAVE The remake rights. They went around Hollywood and even sold them to New Line and they didn’t own them—the original novelist does!… About 3 years ago when VIZ, LLC published a translated copy of Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale I was able to get a copy and read the original story. The movie does follow much of the book but the original story does have a different ending. …well what happened was that Toei kept doing one of these “don’t worry we will get him to sign them over” and he refused – no money ever changed hands but they looked super stupid…” (—Don Murphy, March 30 and 31st, 2011, Myrant comment threads)
Now that the film is available for viewing in the US, I highly recommend the film (and its sequel). The spring 2012 theatrical release of the derivative American feature The Hunger Games no doubt finally cleared Battle Royale for an official North American release.
If anything, it’s more timely than ever, especially given what’s happening in our own country of late…
* On page 141 of Teen Angels & New Mutants, footnote 174 reads:
“Some tijuana bibles depicted explicit homosexuality, often to slander public figures, or reflect rumors of celebrity sexual orientations. A tijuana bible I bid on during an October, 2010 ebay auction, but lost to a higher bidder (before all tijuana bible and “8-pager” listings were pulled due to sexual content), featured Alger Hiss engaged in gay sex with Whittaker Chambers. Chambers had “outed” Hiss as a Communist before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and subsequently testified against State Department official Hiss in two trials (1948-50) that culminated in Hiss being convicted of perjury and espionage. Chambers admitted to being both a homosexual and a Communist during the 1930s, claiming to have given up both in 1938 when he embraced Christianity. Based on the images posted in the ebay auction, the Hiss/Chambers tijuana bible most likely dated from 1949 or afterward, reflecting both the anti-Communist hysteria and homophobia of that era. It was quite an artifact; how I wish I had won it!”
The Chambers/Hiss tijuana bible was entitled Chambers and Hiss in Betrayed, and it was reprinted complete in Bob Adelman‘s excellent Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America’s Forbidden Funnies, 1930s–1950s (1997, Simon & Schuster Editions), pg. 125.
Art Spiegelman cited this infamous bible in his introduction to Adelman‘s book. Crediting the anonymous artwork to “one of the post-World War II artists (from the decadent later period of the genre) ‘Mr. Dyslexic’…,” Spiegelman noted, “His virulent, know-nothing anti-Communism, and his visualization of rumors about Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss‘s homosexual affair are significant primary sources for understanding America’s zeitgeist at mid-century…” (see page 7–8 of the book’s introduction).
These include Little Anna Mae in Comic Land, in which Anna Mae spied Batman and Robin having sex (Batman said, as Robin fellated him, “I wish the artist of this comic would create a Batgirl so we wouldn’t have to do this”); Kathy (Batwoman) Kane in “The Boy Wonder,” in which Robin savored explicit hetero sex with Batwoman; and Batman in It’s A Crime (sample page below), a late bible (post-1961?) in which Batgirl interrupted and joined Batman and Robin going at it—and the Joker interrupted the threesome’s climax!
Both Anna Mae in Comic Land and Kathy (Batwoman) Kane in “The Boy Wonder” were reprinted complete in The Tijuana Bibles: America’s Forgotten Comic Strips, edited by Michael Dowers (2008, Eros Comix/Fantagraphics Books, Inc.), pp. 243–247, 253–269.
If I’d had access to this material prior to publication, they would have merited proper citations on page 141 of Teen Angels & New Mutants.
Note: All artwork and images are posted for educational and archival purposes only.
“…an incendiary history of the teen sidekick…the greatest reference book you never knew you needed.
“If Frank Miller brought comics into the Modern Age with his Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in 1986, and if Alan Moore wrote the final word on costumed superheroes within the coda of his Watchmen in 1987, then Rick Veitch both wrote and illustrated the greatest and most dystopian treatise on sidekicks with his Brat Pack in 1990. As tributary and referential in its way as Joss Whedon‘s Astonishing X-Men, and as seedy, grotesque and controversial as Garth Ennis‘ The Boys would each be fifteen years later, Veitch‘s Brat Pack exposed sidekicks as purposely sacrificial marketing tools. The exploitation of the American adolescent (both the fictional superheroes and their readers) is the springboard for a procession of taboo-breaking sequences and set-ups that simply must be read to be believed.
“Teen Angels and New Mutants… uses Brat Pack as the central reference point for a complete pop cultural autopsy of teenagers throughout the history of media. It’s the greatest reference book you never knew you needed. If you have even a passing interest in comic books or pop culture, you can do a lot worse than read Bissette’s book, and you should run right out and buy the collected Brat Pack.”
- Matt Kennedy, Pop-Sequentialism (La Luz De Jesus Gallery, May 6–29, 2011)
More online reviews of Teen Angels & New Mutants:
This is an exhaustive history of side-kicks in comics, mixed with an analysis of Brat Pack, covering almost every ancillary topic that comes up along the way. This means that Bissette covers topics ranging from Hollywood’s child stars to 1970′s exploitation films to the “death” of Superman to contemporary “Boy Bands” to the history of contemporary comic books and beyond.
What makes the book exceptional is how well-written it is. Bissette has done some amazing scholarship here, and manages to keep his “heady” topics genuinely interesting by showcasing how Brat Pack was a response to society’s exploitation of children, particularly in the entertainment industry. Some of the topics are uncomfortable, but Bissette (who is a close friend of Veitch) never moves into exploitation himself, instead raising the same questions as Brat Pack, and encouraging the reader to think for themselves.
GREAT stuff. In a perfect world, this would be recognized as a landmark of ‘pop culture’ scholarship.”
Intelligent, eccentric, entertaining… Part of the fascination of this book is discovering its scope and realizing how delightfully unclassifiable it is. At first I was prepared to enjoy a long overdue analysis of Rick Veitch‘s essential Brat Pack. But Teen Angels & New Mutants is so much more. In this personal, powerful, and sometimes savage book, Stephen Bissette takes a long, uncomfortable look at a corrupt and corrupting culture. There’s comics history, pop cultural insight, film analysis, and a very intelligent and informed look at the entertainment business at large (and our inevitable symbiotic relationship with it). A good read, scholarly (but not academic), entertaining, and vastly informative. Thoroughly illustrated. I honestly couldn’t put it down. Enthusiastically recommended.”
- Joseph A. Citro, amazon.com review (see link below)
Essential reading… An eye-opening and illuminating amalgamation of scholarship, media criticism, history and biography, with a little bit of autobiography thrown in for good measure. As 1991′s graphic novel Brat Pack by Rick Veitch was a commentary on the exploitation of children, Bissette‘s book-length examination of the forces that created the need for that commentary shines a harsh light at our culture and the many ways we take advantage of the younger members of our society, and how that has changed over time. It’s an astonishing, unique, vital work. You’ll never look at movies, music, advertising, books, comic books, or your neighbors the same way.”
- John Platt, amazon.com review (see link below)
Your Letters of Comment about Teen Angels & New Mutants
Dear Mr. Bissette:
I am reading and really enjoying your book on Brat Pack. I have to say I disagree with the notion that Veitch’s line is not erotic. One of the things that prompted me to come out about a year or two after Brat Pack came out was how I (in an inchoate sort of way) found his outlining of Midnight Mink’s body very erotic — I mean, he actually showed his basket! — at the same time that it disturbed me because 1) my gaze was not “aspirational” and 2) I was desiring a total asshole. As I write, I vividly recall, without looking up my copies, the panel of Mink clinging to the ceiling of the confessional and the panel of Mink and Maximortal at the beach.
(I suppose that explains why I write and edit gay erotic comics, too.)
PS: Man, I wish there was something like Taboo still around. I have a demonic gay bar story in me, I think…
Boy, are/were you guys onto something!
[Sent via iPhone, Wednesday, May 4, 2011]
Bissette replies: I stand corrected, Dale!
I am laughing that it takes a lot longer to read your critique of Brat Pack than to read the book. So it follows the precedent of reading the short story “Brokeback Mountain” [which] is shorter than the Ang Lee film…. In reading your big opus, Teen Angels & New Mutants, did you see all of your referenced films, TV shows, books & articles?—if you did, that truly is incredible.
Be well & I’ll write again!
[Sent via snail-mail, received June 25, 2011.]
Bissette replies: I got a laugh from your first sentence, Tom! Having spent much of my life reading interviews, articles, and books about movies (including short films), songs/records, theatrical plays, comicbooks, etc. that habitually take far, far more time to read than to watch the film or play, read the comic(s), or play or listen to the music, I guess I take it for granted than any analysis of merit or substance often spills far beyond the running/reading/listening/viewing time of the work that is the wellspring. Still, good point—I reckon it could be said you get more than you’re paying for with Teen Angels? Also, yes, I did see/read almost everything cited in Teen Angels, with the exception of TV series cited (I have, for instance, seen and reseen Twin Peaks and The Monkees, but can’t say the same for James at 15/16 or The Partridge Family!). I have seen all the TV movies mentioned, though, often during their initial broadcasts (or taped by friends from their initial broadcasts, which allowed me to discuss, for instance, the rather unsavory original commercials broadcast with the debut run of I Know My First Name is Steven). As with all media, though, much of it I experienced not during the concentrated writing period in which I worked on writing Teen Angels, but over the years as the media was first available, or fell into my hands. I did, however, revisit and/or refresh my memory on much I’d seen or read before during the years I worked on the book. It’s always part of the process.
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