Thursday, November 21, 2013

Joe St. Pierre Knows How I Can Really Screw Up

I like to think of myself as a decent guy. But I guess everyone thinks of themselves that way.

To wit: I went out of my way to write “Joe St. Pierre Knows Why I Don’t Read Comics Anymore” to promote a comics project from Joe. And, along with that piece, I posted an image from David Lapham because I thought it was Joe’s. Why? Because it had Joe’s signature on it (he had autographed it) and that was the photo I found when I was rooting about looking for a cool image from Joe’s Valiant days.

Worse: I talked about Joe’s gorgeous Valiant work instead of telling you nice people about his Liberaider comic strip, which is, after all, where he is now.

Worse: My babbled depiction of Joe made him feel that I’d painted him as a sexist when Joe, in truth, is anything but. It wasn’t my intention. I was just goofing around about his long line of female groupies queuing up for an autograph. But what do I know about groupies? All of my readers have hairy legs.

Worse: When Joe brought all this to my attention, I got a little defensive. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.

And then I sat down and missed a real deadline because I had to make things right.

I’ve removed my earlier piece, now, which talked about why I can’t read comics anymore and how lovely the old comics smelled and how today’s comics don’t smell like anything and how they are printed on advertising brochure paper instead of decent pulp. I said some other things, too, that probably aren’t worth remembering. At least I can’t remember them.

And now I’ll append that I don’t do plugs anymore either because all it does is come back to bite you. If you don’t believe me, I’ll show you the scars.

But before I stop: Go read Joe St. Pierre’s Liberaider.
Clifford Meth thinks Joe St. Pierre is the cat's meow.
But he sure has a strange way of showing it.

At Last, An Alternate History of the Comics: The Truth

After a successful Kickstarter, I was hoping my book ComicBook Babylon—in the making for nearly a decade—would be here for the holidays. And I was right. Only it will be President's Day, not the festive gift-giving season. We’ll live with that. I imagine some people give gifts in February, too, even if it’s only a shovel.

ComicBook Babylon tells stories that I’ve kept to myself for many years. I’m finally comfortable imparting many of those stories now. Some of them I’m still uncomfortable with but I have a good lawyer. At least he tells me he’s a good lawyer. His name is Leo. I had a puppet named Leo once, too.

At 340 pages, ComicBook Babylon is like a multi-ring circus. You’ll find Stan Lee speaking very frankly about Jack Kirby, Alan Moore speaking very frankly about Hollywood, Frank Miller speaking very frank millerly about Marvel, and so forth. Okay, they may have occasionally spoken to others frankly, too, but my detailed stories regarding Dave Cockrum’s fight with Marvel—or, more accurately, mine and Neal Adams’s fight with Marvel on behalf of Dave Cockrum—is something you haven’t seen the whole truth about, until now. Neither have you read Bob Layton being this candid. Or Joe Kubert. Or Herb Trimpe. And what really happened to Gene Colan? And why did Harlan Ellison want to punch Jim Warren in the nose? And what happens when Barry Smith can't find his Windsor?

The book is late but it’s finally done. I was done months ago and now Michael Netzer—who illustrated exquisite portraits of his illustrious peers and designed the book—is done, too. This is a beautiful book, with covers by Dave Cockrum and Mike Pascale. I’m proud of what it says and how it says it.

Copies should be going out in late winter. If you ordered the book from the Kickstarter promotion, good for you. Aardwolf hasn’t made copies available yet on its website and won't until they are in hand. But my friends—both on Facebook and the real ones—can order my personal, “publisher copies” directly from me while supplies last. This is how I get paid, people. If you’ve enjoyed my work, please buy one.

As always, everything I do has a money-back guarantee. Imagine hospitals offering that. Talk about population control!

If you want a copy—signed, personalized, or otherwise—please send me a message or email so I can reserve one of mine and then mail me a check for $26.95 (which will cover postage). Let me know how I should sign it, if at all.

With thanks,

Clifford Meth

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Favour for Harlan

Harlan called this evening. “I need a small favor,” he said.

“Does it require a cattle prod or a midget?” I asked.

“Nothing like that.”

“Good. I had to go into hiding for seventeen months after the last small favor,” I said, “and I still haven’t picked all the burrs out of my hind quarters.”

“This one’s easy,” said H. “My book Ellison Wonderland is being brought back again by another publisher. The book first came out in 1962 but it follows me around. I’ve already written a 25,000-word foreword for the damn thing—it’s like a novella. And Straczynski did the afterword, which is an interview with me. But I got to thinking there’s something in that interview you did with me years ago—your ‘Tough questions for Tough Jews.’ Can I have that? I’d like to use it as a caesura.”

“That’s the favor?”

“You’ll keep your copyrights and I’ll get you a copy of the book.”

“Sold,” I said. “Now I’ve got one. I was cleaning out my closet and found a handful of comic books that you wrote. Can I send them to you to sign?”

“Sure,” said Harlan.  “Send them. You fucking ghoul.”

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dave Cockrum: Birthday Memories

Gone seven years now, my friend Dave would have been 70 today. I think of him often--how he helped me so generously when I was just starting out as a writer. He was everything a comic artist should be. My walls are festooned with his work; my children grew up reciting his creations by heart.

Favorite memories? There are too many. I think his was the time we were driving around and I picked a fight with a van-full of Kappa Douches at an ICON convention. Mine was when he and his wife Paty attended my seven-year-old's birthday party and he drew superheroes for all the kids. And then they took them home and colored them in.

I look forward to honoring my pal's memory early next year when Aardwolf Publishing publishes Dave's final, never-before-published issue of The Futurians.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


The artist Bob Almond--a friend of mine and a bigger friend to the artists in our the industry--asked me to post the following note that he received from Jim Sanders III (who inked for DC and Marvel on such books as Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Sensational She-Hulk, Silver Surfer, and DC Who's Who).

Right now my health and living situation keeps me from doing much. I went from child to child's home over the last 2 yrs; now in a cheap hotel and broke... Last November, they told me my kidney transplant had failed and I have been on kidney dialysis 3 times a week since. In February our youngest daughter, Jane, who was 21, died from a condition commonly associated with the spina bifida she had... This past weekend I was admitted to the hospital because I couldn't breathe and found out I had congestive heart failure on top of everything else. These last 12 months have been, by far, the worst year of my life.
Hero Initiative helped me thru a 7 month unemployment stretch 5 or 6 yrs ago, as well as buying us a van for Jane for her appointments, so when I went to them about a year and a half ago when everything went south, they said that they had to help new clients since their funding was low, which I totally understand. If you can help every little bit helps. My paypal is Thank you for answering me and taking the time to talk. It's frustrating when you see that someone saw your message and they don't answer back. It makes me feel like I am beneath contempt. Be well an be blessed. JIM SANDERS III

I don't know Jim personally but I don't have to to hear what he's going through.

In response, Bob has started a charity auction to benefit Jim Sanders III

On Saturday, November 9, the non-profit Inkwell Awards will hold auctions for one week to help Jim. If you have a donation to offer, please immediately contact Inkwell assistant director and auctioneer Michael W. Kellar at to inform him of what you'd like to send along with a good lo-res scan of the item and full description of it (original art? published? signed? condition?) Remember to sign the item if you are the artist who worked on it and pack it securely. Mike must receive items by November 8. The Inkwell Awards will send all auction profits to Jim and will pay for the eBay fees.

Jim reported to Bob that this assistance will help him relieve his present, dire financial circumstances and allow him and his wife to move to his brother's home in another nearby state where he plans to tackle commissions and work again. Updates will be posted at the Inkwell Awards site.

Please ship all donations to Mike Kellar, Inkwell Awards, 110 Ferry Road, New London, NC 28127. Straight monetary donations can be sent directly to Jim at his Paypal account of

Thank you for your attention.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Happy birthday MICHAEL NETZER

Happy birthday MICHAEL! One of our industry's finest artists, in every sense of the word.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

(Mostly) Wordless

Every once in awhile I stumble upon something. Usually they're things I want to kick to the gutter so the next guy won't stumble, too. This time, it was worth picking up and sharing.

Jed Alexander, a writer/artist of children's books that I was unfamiliar with personally and professionally, has a new Kickstarter for his book (Mostly) Wordless, A Picture Book for Everyone. It's the kind of book I would be happy to buy for my five-year-old daughter. I like to buy her books that I will also enjoy reading again and again because, let's face it, that's what happens. Moreover, I liked Mr. Alexander's presentation and Kickstarter video very much, so I jumped in as an early supporter. You might want to, too. And there's just a few days left.

I am a huge fan of the crowd-funding model. This is the type of grass roots, creative-collective bargaining that master artist Michael Netzer and many others have talked about for years. Artists and writers and musicians, and fans of artists and writers and musicians, have a unique opportunity to bring to life the types of projects that may not otherwise survive incubation because of lack of funds or political connections.

(Mostly) Wordless, A Picture Book for Everyone promises to be such a project. And it's funding is now in, so I know I didn't waste my time. It's nice to be an early supporter of something worthwhile. Go see for yourself.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013



September 10, 2013
For Immediate Release


Peppi Marchello, the founder of Long Island’s popular Good Rats, is being commemorated in a special book that has rallied die-hard fans. PEPPI MARCHELLO: SONG WRITER will collect not only Marchello’s never-before-published lyrics from such popular LP’s as “Tasty,” but also dozens of songs that were never recorded due to the singer/songwriter’s untimely death on June 10. Marchello’s widow has also shared rare and intimate family photos to be included in the book.

“Peppi’s fans were always legion, always enthusiastic and receptive to anything he was working on,” says author Clifford Meth, a long-time friend of Marchello, who organized the project. “I was certain the announcement of this book would hit home. Good Rats fans are eager to participate in this exceptional project and to spread the word. Ultimately, the book will benefit Peppi’s widow and allow for the release of many songs that Peppi was working on before he died.”

PEPPI MARCHELLO: SONG WRITER was launched as a Kickstarter project on September 2. Within two days, the project had passed its financial goal, and less than a week later, its funding doubled.

“As fans hear about the project, they want to participate,” says Meth. “The Kickstarter platform not only allows fans to pre-order the book, but also to be a sponsor, or even participate at a higher level. Both the book and its marketing success are things that Peppi would have been proud of—and as his fan and friend, I am proud to help bring this to life.”

Copies of PEPPI MARCHELLO: SONG WRITER can be ordered from Aardwolf Publishing. Fans who would like to participate in the Kickstarter for the project can click here. A promotional video is found here.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Lost Dachshund in White Meadow Lake (Rockaway, NJ)

Update 9/2: The little dog returned. Thanks to everyone who Tweeted or helped in any way!

My neighbor's small brown Dachshund is missing since midnight tonight. It is still on a red leash. If found, please call the Rockaway Twp. Police Dept. immediately. The dog is frightened and skittish but does not bite.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Peppi Marchello in Photos

Have a good Peppi pic? A rare recording or video? Please share. I miss my pal.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Peppi Marchello Memorial Services

Peppi's funeral services will be at St. James Funeral Home South Chapel, 829 Middle Country Rd. /Rte. 25/ Jericho Turnpike, St. James., NY, Saturday 7/13 and Sunday 7/14 from 2-4 and 7-9. 
Mass will be held Monday 7/15 at 11 am at Saints Philip and James Church.
All family, friends and fans are encouraged to attend.


written at the behest of the family:


Peppi Marchello, founder and front man of the Long Island-based rock band The Good Rats, died last night at approximately 9:00 pm of an apparent cardiac arrest. Marchello was 68.

Marchello formed the Good Rats with brother Mickey in 1964. The band released its debut LP five years later on Warner Bros. In 1974, they released their best-known and most popular album Tasty.

The Good Rats reached their zenith in the late 1970’s, building a cult-like following that stretched from Long Island’s thriving club scene to hotspots across the Tri-State area, performing at such venues such as Madison Square Garden, The Nassau Coliseum and England’s Hammersmith Odeon. Rock critics regarded the Rats as one of the top live shows, where Peppi played air guitar on a Louisville slugger, threw rubber rats at the audience and doused fans with beer.

By the mid-1990s, Marchello’s son Gene had replaced both guitarists and three new studio CDs were released with this lineup: Tasty Seconds (1996), Let's Have Another Beer (2000) and Play Dum (2002). Fans considered the new music some of Peppi’s best writing. The Good Rats were inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2008 and were referred to by Rolling Stone Magazine as “the world’s greatest unknown rock band.”

“Peppi’s life was about his family and his music,” said Clifford Meth, Marchello publicist and family friend. “His love for songwriting and performing never diminished and he continued playing as many as 100 times each year until the very end. He was adored by his legion of fans who regarded Peppi himself as an event they wanted to be part of. He will be dearly missed.”

“The phone doesn’t stop ringing—fans and musicians from all over the world calling to say that my dad was their biggest influence and inspiration,” said daughter Kristin.

Information regarding services will be announced soon.

Press Contact:

Peppi Marchello: RIP my dear friend

I am deeply saddened to report that Peppi Marchello died last night from an apparent heart attack. Peppi--the founder and frontman of the Good Rats--was a brilliant songwriter and deeply devoted family man.   I am shocked by this news, which I just received from Peppi's daughter in law, and can't say more at this time beyond this is a great loss to many of us. RIP my dear, dear friend.

11:30 a.m. update:
The Marchello family asked me to release this statement.

Monday, June 24, 2013


INDIE READER requested an interview with me regarding the new book. Here's how it went:

INDIE: Tell us about your independent project.

Meth: ComicBook Babylon weaves together a decade of my columns on the comics industry, which were initially launched to aid X-Men co-creator Dave Cockrum, who was dying from complications from diabetes. Dave never received a dime of royalties from Marvel and as the column was being  published, we were fighting behind the scenes to get Dave a settlement.

INDIE: How have you been able to fund your project?

Meth: Other comics industry professionals have been happy to support my work. They regarded my fights for creators’ rights as important.

INDIE: What are your plans for the future?

Meth: A hamburger and fries when I get home. Maybe a movie.

INDIE: When will your project be released?

Meth: August, 2013

INDIE: What is your method of writing/creating and how do you come up with your content?

Meth: Truth sells. Sex sells, too, but I’m getting too old for that, so I rely on the truth. And short sentences.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Pal Harlan

As announced earlier, a number of comics pros, authors & rockstar pals are interviewing lil old me as a sort of turnabout-is-fair-play thing to promote my new book ComicBook Babylon. Most significant of these is now the inclusion of the one man who history will hold up to prove that giants once walked the earth, Harlan Ellison.

Cliff: If by some unfathomable miracle you could come into sole possession of only one "book" from the long-lost, oft-torched Great Library of Alexandria, what book, papyrus, scroll, codex or glyph would that be?  What would you conjure to be its content, and authored by whom?
With love, your eternal pal, Harlan 

Countdown to ComicBook Babylon

There's eight days left to participate in my project ComicBook Babylon, which has been a long time coming. Introduction by Stan Lee, art by Michael Netzer, rants by Meth.

I have an all-star cast throwing support to this book including Jimmy Palmiotti, Don McGregor, Dan Jurgens, Bob Layton, Adam Troy Castro, David Lloyd and David Gerrold, to say nothing of participation from punk-rock legend Andy Shernoff and rock maestro Peppi Marchello.

If you haven't done so already, please watch this two-minute video.

Monday, June 10, 2013

When Creators’ Feelings Explode:

A ponderous consideration of Dynamite and its detractors.

Some two decades ago, a small company in New Jersey began contracting with comic artists and writers to autograph their comics for repackaging and distribution through Diamond, Capital City, Heroes World and Friendly Franks. The creators got a few bucks, fans with no access to convention signings could purchase autographed comics, and everyone was happy.

I am not speaking of Dynamic Forces, which took a heavy stake in this business space during the ‘90s, but of Clobbering Time in Union, New Jersey. I was one of Clobbering Times’ two proprietors. We also had several stores. Then Superman died and Ebay was born. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

It wasn’t long before I took an interest in publishing. It made sense. I had a good Rolodex of writers and artists, a solid relationship with major distributors, and often found myself seeking a more immediate outlet for my own material. Besides, how hard could it be to publish comics?

Well, it’s harder than it looks. There are deadlines to meet, budgets to balance, and that nasty bugaboo returns. Nowhere in any industry of my acquaintance is it more evident that the devil is indeed in the details. The most innocent of gestures (or bone-headed of oversights) can be amplified exponentially by the type of people you’d expect to find in an oversized mom-and-pop industry.

For its part, my fledgling Aardwolf Publishing made one stunning faux pas with our earliest project. We took a cover we had commissioned and paid for and then re-used it on a book’s sequel without first seeking the cover artist’s permission. It wasn’t a business decision intended to cheat anyone but the burden of communication certainly fell upon us and we dropped that ball hard. It burnt a relationship with a creator that I respected and taught me at least one valuable lesson: The value of good communications.

Dynamite Entertainment was another New Jersey-based publishing house that, like Aardwolf, sprung (or crawled) out of the parasitic repackaging business. I never thought of it that way until Mike Kelley, at Stan Lee’s POW Entertainment, recently told me he considered the burgeoning CGC a leech on the industry. It’s not necessarily meant as a derogatory statement. Parasites, like gut worms, are a legitimate part of the food chain, albeit a disgusting part.

While I am loathe to source the ever-changing digital-graffiti repository Wikipedia, that site’s current description of Dynamite Entertainment (henceforth Dynamite) is significant only insofar as it was clearly keyed in by a company employee. Thus: “Dynamite Entertainment is a comic book publisher founded by Nick Barrucci in 2005, first producing two Army of Darkness limited series published through Devil's Due Publishing until self-publishing their titles later that year. The first two years saw them adding only a handful of titles like Red Sonja and Xena. After devoting itself to publishing only Army of Darkness, Dynamite came back one year later with Red Sonja, debuting with a 25-cent issue #0. It sold 240,000 copies and #1, the first to sell at a full cover price of $2.99, sold 100,000 in initial orders which cemented Dynamite's position as a force in the American comic book industry. Now Dynamite publishes a current slate of 14-20 comic books and 2-10 collections per month.”

I’ve had no personal experiences with Dynamite and, until this article, only chance few occasions to meet or speak with its founder/president Nick Barrucci.

I first saw Nick at Will Eisner’s memorial service in New York City where I watched him volunteer to address the assembled who’s who of still-living comics icons gathered there to pay respects. Since then, Nick and I have met several times at various industry functions; we briefly discussed potential business when I was at IDT Entertainment five years ago, and, more recently, the possibility of reprinting Dave Cockrum’s Futurians. None of these talks went anywhere; neither of us pursued them. No harm, no foul.

All of this is to say that I have no axe to grind with Nick Barrucci, no bad history, and, given our background, even some common ground.

So where is the bad guy?


On June 2, I became aware of a situation broiling between Barrucci and the writer Don McGregor when Don forwarded a piece that Michael Netzer had written.

In the interest of full disclosure, allow me to note that I am friends with Netzer and have collaborated with him on numerous occasions. I am also very fond of Don McGregor and overly protective of him as I find him to appear in a weakened state. Both he and his wife have been ill for as long as I’ve known them. Further, work has been scarce for the 67-year-old creator. From our first encounter in Gene Colan’s living room years ago, this warm and extremely emotional man has expressed one need very clearly: He wants his work taken seriously. Consequently, like others who haven’t had a hit record for some time, Don clings to his former successes. And rightly so—his were formidable. His work with Colan on Ragamuffins was splendid. His Black Panther run on Jungle Action is among the finest series of the Bronze Age. There are many other robust examples. But fate is a fickle editor and even the cruelest plots have nothing on real life, so Don spends more time in Lenox Hill Hospital these days than he does in front of a typewriter.

By the time I began to investigate the Barrucci-McGregor melee, it seemed to be over. A venerable tempest in a teapot, it began with an announcement that Dynamite had licensed Lady Rawhide, a property initially published by Topps Comics in 1995. The project had been announced weeks earlier by Dynamite along with a startling cover image that brought my ironic connection to this tale full circle. But more on that later.

While Lady Rawhide had been created by McGregor and artist Mike Mayhew, the announcement from Dynamite lacked mention of McGregor. Learning of this for the first time from a Facebook friend, McGregor expressed his distress at what he considered a glaring omission:

"First I'm reading about it. I created Lady Rawhide, and wrote every Topps comic featuring her. Zorro Productions has a contract with me that I get a percentage of anything done with characters I created. Are Zorro Productions and Dynamite now screwing creators?"

In little time, both Heidi McDonald at The Beat and Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool gave the story attention, and both solicited a response from Barrucci:

“I’m running around the city in meetings,” Barrucci wrote. “Funny coincidence – Last night I had a meeting with two comics creators, and the interesting thing about when they talk about royalties. They get them after the book ships and after the end of the reporting period. You know, the way the world works. They don’t seem to get paid based on an announcement. Now, a book gets announced and Don is already being screwed out of any financial compensation that he has an agreement on? I doubt it. I’ve worked with the Zorro Property Owners for 4 years, and they always honor not only their contracts, but their word. I’m not speaking for them, but saying what in my experience and what I can comfortably say for the experience that I’ve had with Matt Wagner and others. Don talks about “honest failure” to the audience. I guess it’s ok if he lets them down. I have a lot of respect for Don. But this was unfair to Zorro Properties to go out there and make these claims without asking anyone what the release schedule was, the book ships, etc. It would have been nice if Don would have been professional and asked honest questions before making wild assertions. And then complain if he’s not happy. Which he is happy to do. Don – feel free to drop me a line directly to answer any questions –”

Forum discussions at Bleeding Cool and comments at The Beat displayed a divided response. No one used the word cheated and the matter would have likely simmered out quickly had someone not blazed a more profound tangent.


Michael Netzer’s response to the situation, which arrived on June 2 in the form of both an article and an illustration, is best taken in its historical context.

Netzer, age 57, first emerged on the comics’ scene as Mike Nassar and came under the tutelage of comics pioneer Neal Adams. When I say pioneer, I refer less to Adams’ industry-changing art than his vocal and widely covered fight for creators’ rights—both the return of original artwork to artists and, more importantly to comics’ fans, his historic battle on behalf of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Eventually securing work at both DC and Marvel, Michael’s nascent years were spent witnessing how a previous generation had been largely robbed and mistreated by publishers whose bottom lines excluded any regard for those comics’ creators who’d birthed and popularized the intellectual properties these publishers now milked. Disgusted with what he’d experienced and desirous of pursuing other callings, Netzer left comics. When he returned 15 years later, it was to Dynamite.

“I have mixed feelings about my experience with [Nick],” Netzer wrote to me when asked for a statement for this article. “Our communications were cordial but not warm. My first comics’ job in 15 years, those b/w Green Hornet covers, he asked me to do them in some other artist's style that he obviously didn't want to pay for. Then he published the covers in a flamboyant press release. All four cover variations in an art showcase, and not the slightest mention of the artist. What a way to make a comeback. I kept quiet about it out of respect for him. Now I see it's a way of life. He only gives a shit about creators he caters to and needs for more work. Everything else seems expendable to him.”

There’s no need to interpret Netzer’s statement. His pain bubbles to the surface. He doesn’t accuse Barrucci of lying to him or cheating him in any way—but of treating him expendably. Given that context, coupled with the history of BIG comics publishers treading on comparatively small creators that haunts Netzer’s generation (to say nothing of those who witnessed the recent dismantling of Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich), Netzer’s response to Barrucci was not unpredictable. That Netzer allowed his reaction to sit for so long until another, older creator was similarly slighted should not surprise anyone either. Netzer’s basic nature is balance, not battle. He’s an artist first and foremost.

Nevertheless, a heated discussion arose with multiple battlefronts, from the forums and comments of the aforementioned articles to various threads on Facebook. At one juncture, Netzer declared, “This is a war.” Tongue in cheek? Perhaps. But the gauntlet was thrown.


On June 5, I was asked by Jason Sacks, owner/editor of the ComicsBulletin website, to look over an article he was preparing on the subject. I was approached, I suspect, for various reasons. For one, Jason is currently engaged as the digital coordinator for a project of mine at Aardwolf. More importantly, Jason edited my “Past Masters” columns a decade ago for ComicsBulletin. That column, in which I detailed the injustices suffered by X-Men co-creator Dave Cockrum, was part of a strategy to get Cockrum attention with an eye towards an eventual settlement with Marvel.

Awash in my own workload, I read Jason’s article quickly and made some small editorial suggestions for the opening graphs that had less to do with content than style. The next day, Jason’s article “The Woman with a Whip: Why Lady Rawhide Matters” appeared. And in referencing it on his own Facebook, Jason mentioned me: “It's great that so much attention is paid to creators' rights these days. But the price of creators' rights is that we need to be eternally vigilant about those rights. Last week's incidents around Don McGregor show why that is so important, as Michael Netzer and Clifford Meth often remind us.”

It would become a heated, back-and-forth exchange. Barrucci was the first to respond to Jason’s post: “Yes, creators need to be vigilant about their rights. But a direct phone call or e-mail to ask the person that they need to talk with is better than the lynch mob which you claim did not happen. There was a lynch mob. And guess what, I'm not chiming in for me. I'm now posting now because every publisher has to be concerned with any internet "mob" that wants to rile up and attack anyone.”

Barrucci’s post was actually three-times longer than what I’ve quoted. I read the lengthy, overwritten billet-doux and, against my better judgment, chimed in:

“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

It was just my little toe in the water. But now, like it or not, I was fully engaged. Nick’s replies were instant. A précis of our public June 6th conversation follows:

Barrucci: Cliff - really? the play actually sucked
Meth: Just trying to lighten the air, Nick. Didn't I read on Michael Netzer’s blog that everyone lived happily ever after?
Barrucci: We were supposed to. But then some more people assuming and throwing stones showed up just as we were finishing kissing and making up.
Meth: (Old Arabic saying: All the arbitrator gets is torn clothes)
Barrucci: is that why there aren't any arbitrator's in comics?
Meth: Just Gary Groth.
Barrucci: Cliff - you're publishing, and you've worked with a lot of creators. Do you think that all publishers are out to screw creators? Do we not get the same chance to talk to people that you would expect us to give creators?
Meth: I don't think that for one second.
Barrucci: oh, shit, watch it. you said some bad internet words - you just said that not all publishers are evil (this is kidding - no context).
Meth: The Jack Kirby crucifixion, to say nothing of those poor old guys who created Superman, has created a fairly strong gut reaction in those of us who care about history/comics/people. And every case is individual. And there are LOTS of publishers.
Barrucci: Basically, and not saying you, but everyone said creators have been treated like shit for years, now let's have karma and treat publishers like shit.
Meth: I think it's a fair assessment that creators in comics have mistakenly NOT been part of a unionized effort that would allow for collective bargaining. The Writers Guild protects Hollywood writers. SFWA protects SF writers. Comics writers/artists are at the mercy of BIG publishers with BIG legal teams; and they are naive when they are young and desperate when they are older. There have been some terrible injustices. But that is not a reflection on every individual publishing house. It's just an equation that makes it clear, to me at least, that writers and artists need to better organize. What just happened with you and Don can easily be chalked up to a miscommunication where many people jumped in (because of their love for Don, hatred of injustice, or memories of little guys getting run over by BIGGER guys). I happen to like Don very, very much. I might even have his baby. But my real interest in this was how Michael Netzer grabbed it (for right or wrong, depending on your vantage point) and was able to create a small riot. THAT, Nick, is fascinating.

And that’s where I was willing to leave it.

It wasn’t long before Sacks and Netzer had joined the conversation. I lurked for a bit but it grew late so I signed off with the following, which would become my own Facebook status for a day: “I wouldn't worry about a guild rising up in the comics world anytime soon. People here are too childish. They still read comics.”


It seemed that McGregor had worked out his issues with Barucci. The bigger problem for Barrucci, near as I could tell, was the quantity, if not the quality, of his own responses, which, when taken together and measured by the word, likely outweighed all those of his many detractors and defenders combined.

Netzer responded directly to me: “After we settled everything about Don McGregor, he [Barrucci] started flipping out all over the internet trying to silence anyone talking about him with personal attacks, disingenuous self-accolades, pathetic attempts to pit creators against each other, evading issues and calling on favors he must have done for people to continue a fight that nobody else but him was fighting anymore. I don't think it's dishonest, just extremely immature and disrespectful, like his first response to Don that started all this. I can imagine what a shitty feeling it must be for artists and writers who have to work with him, or fall between the cracks because he doesn't need them anymore.”

On his own website, Netzer added: “Barrucci’s cynical ploy to turn the tables on the creator whose work he intends to exploit, entirely disregarded the fact that Don made no mention of payments, only the basic professional courtesy failings of keeping the creator out of the loop and not even mentioning his name in the promotional material. As has been the case in such internet discussions, which I’ve commented on at Tom Spurgeon’s Comics Reporter, the talk quickly lost focus, giving way into bickering over the legal responsibility of the publisher. I’ve joined a few good members at both venues, trying not to lose track of the unprofessional and disingenuous way that Nick Barrucci responded – and the effective attempt to insult Don McGregor, most likely to cover up for his own failing in how the affair has been handled… Don McGregor is owed a sincere apology from Nick Barrucci for his distasteful and abusive response to Don’s justified grievance.”

In sum, it wasn’t about what Barrucci did or didn’t initially do to McGregor—it was about the way he did it. Or didn’t do it. Or refused to own up to it. And the deep hole he refused to stop digging.


On June 9, I used Facebook, Twitter and good old word-of-mouth to put out a call to creators, asking them to contact me privately regarding their experiences with Dynamite Entertainment and Dynamic Forces. I gave all involved parties a heads up. My stated goal was "a balanced article."

The first objection came from Barrucci. A précis of our email exchange follows:

Barrucci: My quick request is to ask that you just have your facebook post say Dynamite [and not Dynamic Forces]. The two divisions do two different things and so far, everything has been about Dynamite.

Meth: The two might be different divisions, but they both work with comics’ creators. At this point, I am simply shaking the trees.

Barrucci: Sure, I do see that, but at the same time, one handles publishing and things with creators and one is about signing books with creators. Other collectibles, but you're looking for the comics’ part. Is it too much to ask?

It was too much to ask, so I didn’t reply. I wasn’t going to argue with anyone about what they believed was relevant to my research. Indeed, Barrucci’s request struck me as oddly self-damning.

Barrucci’s next email to me regarded Mark Ellis, an author he had attempted to do business with. The two, apparently, had left the non-deal disliking each other more than a little. I had no interest in this preemptive attack and won’t quote from it, nor did I attempt to contact Ellis. The two had not done business. They had merely pissed on each other’s shoes.

Over the next 24 hours I received messages and emails from various comics’ creators who wanted to give me their perceptions of Dynamite/Barrucci. My first question to all of them was the same: “Did Nick send you?”

Yes, they said, Nick had sent them.

The following is an excerpt of their offerings:

Dennis Calero: Nick has been one of the most professional, fair and even handed publishers I ever worked with. I don't know what this individual situation is about, but if Nick says it was a misunderstanding, I would at least initially take him at his word.
Jai Nitz: I've written quite a bit for Dynamite in the last few years… All told, over 50 issues of comics. I'd be happy to go on the record about working at Dynamite.
Ken Haeser: I've never had any real problems with them the few years I've known them. They have always been upfront with everything and as far as I know, never tried to screw me.
Colton Worley: Been with them since 2009 and haven't had any problems with them.
Heubert Khan Michael: I have been under exclusive contract with DE since March, 2011. From the very beginning—from my asking for a higher rate than initially offered to my "demand" that I be given regular work since I am the family's breadwinner—Nick was all instant "yes", no dead air or hesitation to give what I asked for over our overseas phone conversation. Minutes after hanging up he emailed the contract—with all my requested provisions stated in black and white. Two years and Nick's yet to break that agreement, and I've already lost count the times he's went out of his way to help me when I was in need. Nick's also very supportive of my growth as an artist. He'd send me emails directly but tactfully telling me things I should improve on every now and then. He would also look out for me whenever I attend conventions in the US, and see to it that we get to chat about projects, my work, and ask about what else I would want to stay happy at DE. I don't think a newcomer like me can be any happier being given a flagship title on a regular basis, and I thank Nick for having that much faith in me.
Arvid Nelson: I guess there's some kind of kerfuffle going on, and Nick Barrucci emailed me asking me to PM you about my experience working for him. I can't speak to whatever's going on (of course!) but Nick's always treated me very well. Prompt payment, consistently upfront about what's going on. I have nothing but warm, fuzzy feeling for him.
Ande Parks: Not everything has always been perfect. Nick and I have had a few misunderstandings and/or miscommunications. These have been handled directly, on both sides of the equation. If I'm upset, I talk to Nick about it. If he agrees that he screwed up, he apologizes and we find a way to fix it that pleases both parties. If I screw up or fail to deliver, we handle it the same way. I've always felt that I can call Nick and hash things out. I think he feels the same… Nick is honest and straight-forward. He will tell you he's got to watch his bottom line to keep his company going. He'll tell you what he can afford to pay. He'll tell you if a book is selling well. He'll tell you if it's doing poorly. He'll tell you what he wants and listen if your needs don't coincide with his. Of course, I say all this as someone who is still getting paid by Dynamite on a monthly basis (as an aside, their voucher-processing and check-cutting system is as smooth as any I've ever dealt with). If I no longer worked for Dynamite as of tomorrow, I would offer the same assessment, but people will have to take my word on that. I understand that some may think I'm biased or wanting to court favor. My answer would be that my integrity is not for sale.
Tom Sniegoski [who responded to my asking if Barrucci had sent him with, “I just decided to put my two cents in”]: I've known Nick Barrucci for over 20 years, and have worked with him and his company on various things… and I've never had any problems. Sure, Nick might be a little bit difficult to get in touch with here and there, but I've never been given the impression that he was trying to screw me over in any way. Basically I think Nick is a good guy, that really does love the comic book art form, and I'm glad he's in business.

There were two other comics’ creators I spoke with. I reached out to Gail Simone, who has an excellent reputation for, among other things, being outspoken. Gail replied, via Twitter for all to see, “I am working for them right now, I am re-launching Red Sonja, lovely bunch. I have nothing but positive things to say!”

I also had a very pleasant conversation with Mark Waid who reached out to me and who, in sum, had only nice things to say about “Nicky” and was saddened to see this episode engulf so many people. “Anyone can have a shitty day,” said Mark.


I estimate that in 10 days, Nick Barrucci wrote more words in response to this subject than I have written about anything in a month or perhaps two months. And I’m a writer. That’s how I make my living.

I don’t call attention to the volume of Barrucci’s voluminous responses to belittle him. I state it as fact and as part of my theory: Nick Barrucci has, in this instance, become the victim of protesting too much. As in the lady doth.

Further, many of Barrucci’s protestations were less than polished. I have not included any [sic] inserts, as William F. Buckley most assuredly would have—I’ve just quoted and reprinted Barrucci’s responses as they came in and left the grammar, or lack thereof, intact. Another observation: In a public internet graffiti arena with writers and would-be writers, lack of net-eloquence is tantamount to picking a fight with a gorilla.

And then there’s the paranoia:

“Cliff,” Nick emailed at past-midnight last night, in perhaps his tenth email to me in just three hours, “You should ask Joe Rubinstein how Michael [Netzer] really needed work years ago and contacted me and we worked out a promotion for Mike to draw 4 covers and created an annual for him to draw to help him. But Michael does not like that to be mentioned. I mention it because Michael was one of the ones who hit me hardest. The only thing that I can think of that happened was I helped Michael, and it wasn't enough. I know your close with Michael, so I should actually be careful with my words, but the whole situation was unfair and my name is f'ed on this situation forever.”

I took umbrage with that last part—the bit about being close with Netzer and therefore someone Barrucci had to be careful with. I said as much in my response:

“Yes, I'm friends with Mike Netzer,” I wrote, “but I am not writing an editorial… This is a bigger piece than you and Don and Michael.”

But what I wrote wasn’t true, although I meant it when I wrote it. This piece would certainly be editorialized. It's gonzo journalism. Only obituaries are free of bias. And even that’s arguable.

So I asked myself: Can I write an honest story that includes Michael Netzer? I believed so. I thought I could look past the many times I’d turned to Michael during a moment of personal turmoil seeking his usually unusual gift of calm. I was fairly certain I could put aside memories of the times Michael and I worked together, the gifts we’d exchanged, the beautiful pieces of Netzer art hanging in my children’s bedrooms… But not of my tendency to see Michael as vulnerable. As a brave man, sure, but one who is older than I and physically frail; an artist of meager means who supports a large family and lives in a besieged community; a man who often appears to struggle (as compared with, well, this suburban New Jersey-based writer).

Unbiased? Maybe not.

It was nearly 1 a.m. Nick Barrucci and Michael Netzer were still on Facebook trading insults in a thread that had gone on for days. And every fifteen minutes I got another email from Barrucci, each one more desperate than the last. “It’s been 10 days of these attacks,” he wrote, defending himself more than any innocent man should have to, talking about “haters” and injustice and leveling “how would you like it?” sentences at me that were filled with misspellings.

“Go to bed” I told him.


I suffered from lack of sleep. There’s worse things, sure, but it’s hard to think of them when you’re exhausted. I was considering how easily all of this might have been avoided, and how much time I’d already spent on this matter, and how utterly dumb that was when I had deadlines and paying work in front of me.

There was a new note on Twitter regarding L’affaire Barrucci. “They've always been straight shooters with me,” said artist Phillip Hester.

The preceding incidents, this 5,000-word arbitration, and the torn clothes that will follow cost me at least ten waking hours. I can only imagine the toll on Don McGregor, who needs that time for his wife who is hospitalized, or on Michael Netzer, who needs time to work and feed his family, or on Nick Barrucci, who is tasked with running a company.

I stared at the cover of the advertised Dynamite Lady Rawhide by artist Joseph Michael Linsner—a sexy, voluptuous drawing of a well-endowed cowgirl staring back. And I recalled, sadly, how despite our once budding friendship, Joe Linsner hadn’t spoken to me in nearly two decades because of my own little company’s foolish failure to contact him and ask for permission to use his cover a second time.

So where’s the bad guy? I looked in the mirror.

Accidents happen and can be mitigated with a few words. If they’re the right words. If you have the right words. Or so one would hope.

In the meantime, what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.

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