Welcome to Silver Bullet Comics! Dateline: Tuesday, 07-Aug-2007 00:09:55 CDT
Silver Bullet Comics - The Internet's Most Diverse Comics Webzine
Silver Bullet Comics - The Internet's Most Diverse Comics Webzine
 

 

RECENT INTERVIEWS

Drew Edwards: Taking Halloween Man to New Heights
Monday, August 6

Dennis Calero: Offering His Fresh Take on Supergirl's Legion
Thursday, August 2

Rick Remender: Where Fear Meets Sorrow
Tuesday, July 31

INTERVIEWS ARCHIVE

 

 

Michael Netzer's New Comic Book of Life
By Rik Offenberger
Print This Item



Michael Netzer was one of the Rising Stars of the 70s. His work was stunning, almost immediately; he was working on Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Wonder Woman. Then almost as quickly as he came on the scene, he disappeared. Michael recently agreed to talk about his career in comics as well as his political and religious involvement in the comic community.

Rik Offenberger: You attended Wayne State University; did you major in art?

Michael Netzer: I majored in art but didn't officially graduate from the university. I condensed the equivalent of a master’s degree in art and art history courses, with a bit of English literature, into two years and settled for finishing the studies without a degree.

Offenberger: I have your first published work as Dracula Lives #72 in 1976, how did you break in?

Netzer: It was initiated by a circle of Detroit area creators I knew in the high school and college years. Soon after I finished the university studies, in the summer of 1975, I was asked by Greg Theakston to accompany Neal Adams during his appearance, as a guest of honor, at the Detroit Triple Fan Fare convention he organized. During that convention, Neal took an interest in my work and invited me to come to New York and test the waters for getting work in the comics, from his base at Continuity. Several months later, Arvell Jones invited me to join him and Keith Pollard for a drive to the NY in order to get closer to the comics world, where they had an apartment available for a while and offered that I room with them.

This was a very big break for me, not being yet 20. Once in New York, I went straight to Continuity. Neal offered the use of the facilities at the studio and a list of phone numbers for editors at both DC and Marvel. On the first day of rounds, I'd received a 6-page back up for Kamandi from Jack Harris at DC and a frontispiece for Dracula Lives at Marvel as well as a cover for the Planet of the Apes British edition. One job led to another and a soon enough, a career in the comics was beginning to take shape.

Offenberger: Although you were not lacking for work, you were published by every major publisher, you worked on Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, you didn't ever have a regular monthly assignment, was that because you preferred to work this way, or did they not offer you anything you wanted to do?

Netzer: It was perhaps both reasons together. I was really quite young and realized that I had a much to learn about the industry, its history and the craft I was working in. The intense learning curve made it preferable not to become committed to a regular monthly assignment although I did nearly produce a book a month for a good part of the first two years until the fall of 1977. The work was simply scattered into short series like the Green Arrow / Black Canary and Martian Manhunter along with sporadic single or double issues in various books such as Challengers, Legion, Wonder Woman and Kobra. I believe that the editors I worked with sensed this also and waited for a time I might settle into a definitive working mode before offering a monthly assignment.

When the offer finally came, towards the fall of 1977 from Marv Wolfman at Marvel, to pencil the John Carter Warlord of Mars series he was editing, I was beginning to reconsider what it is that I was doing in the comics and why. This was perhaps the experiencing of the first serious issues of adulthood and I needed to come to grips where this career in comics was leading to.

Offenberger: From your debut in 1976 until 1980 you had over 50 comics published, what happened to stop that in 1980?

Netzer: It actually happened in the fall of 1977, followed by a period of introspection and the search for a goal to strive for. I didn't see it as a personal thing that only involved me, however. Being in the company and under the mentorship of a man like Neal Adams, I strongly identified with and shared his concern for the comics community and for the world we lived in. Having reached a point where it was necessary to define what I wished to do within the framework of being a comic book creator, I needed to learn a little more about myself in order to move on.


I had never been religious at all, but I did have some childhood contact with Christianity and Islam. Although always inexplicably bothered by the ceremonial worship in churches and mosques, as I am by the same in synagogues today, I always reserved a special place within me for the presence of specific intent and purpose to the universe which religious worshippers defined as "the will God". To me, however, God was not an object of shallow worship, as was perceived by the religious world, rather an inspiration for the creative spirit within us, which motivates what we do in our lives. This was evident to me in the scriptures, as the writings of the people who touched this root creative force, inspired by events, which transpired around them in their lives, and put it down into words for the sake of posterity. Very much in the same way that an inspired comic book writer creates a saga with a message, they wish to bring across to their audience. The scriptural writings became such a prevalent force throughout the generations, however, that the essence of the creative spirit within them became lost to us, because the religious institutions distorted their intent and turned them into the focus of redundant ceremony for the manipulation of segregated faiths in pursuit of political and economic gain.

Looking at the world in the state it was in - and through my role in it as a comic book creator, I was inspired through this period of introspection to take a leap - and resolved to dedicate my life to calling upon this good intent within us all, whether be it the will of God, the Force, Karma or by any other name, which was now driving me into this decision. At the peak of this tension, in mid-November of 1977, I came to a resolve as to the course my life must take. I was to become an ambassador for the greater goodwill of this spirit, within the comic book industry

Now, I understand the perception of eccentricity in such a statement. The nature of our journey in this world, however, is such that we all have inner feelings, dreams and aspirations that don't always match the reality around us. But then again, it's the striving to fulfill these dreams, regardless of what they are, which moves our lives - and the world - forward. In order to put things into perspective, try to imagine a brotherhood of fishermen as they were one day joined by a carpenter who relentlessly spoke about the state of the world and the forces within it which led to the strife and suffering which the people were experiencing. Now imagine if this carpenter would one day disappear from their midst and return after several weeks and appear to have lost his mind believing that he's come to deliver them from their travail. Although true that he'd be considered a madman for some time, such perceptions were easily changed as it became more and more apparent that he was serious about it and no one was succeeding in convincing him otherwise, more and more people began entertaining the notion that perhaps he is what he claims and is able to effect a change in their world. History has shown us that as insane as this man must have appeared to his fishermen friends at the time, he succeeded in becoming a very profound and lasting global influence on the goings on in the world, even 2,000 years later in our own modern times.

It was clear to me then that, like the lives of the prophets, this course would be ridiculed for a long time until it would begin to bear some good fruits. I was resolved to withstand the ridicule and tolerate the self-destructive results it would bring because this is what comes with such a role. The first thing I'd need to do, I thought, is to leave New York for a while, perhaps to some desert area and to spend some time with myself in order to prepare for what was to come. Such an act, for a creator at the center of the comic book industry , would set the stage for launching this new endeavor. And so it was, on November 19 of 1977, I notified the editors I was working with that I'd would not be producing any more comics and headed out to California, beginning a hitchhiking journey across America, without telling anyone, including Neal, of my intent.

On the way, I stopped at Steve Leialoha's home in San Francisco in order to inform him that I will not be able to illustrate the color story for Star*Reach which I was commissioned to do by Mike Friedrich. Well, Steve called Mike who came over promptly and insisted that I give him something that he could publish, as it was too late to find anything else. So, I put down what the ultimate aspiration of this journey would be to me, and thus was born “The Old, New and Final Testament” in Star Reach #12, which basically told the story of our conquest of the solar system, beginning with Titan the moon of Saturn, as being a direct continuation and fulfillment of Biblical history and prophecy.

For the next several weeks on the beaches of San Clemente, I read through the Bible in order to better understand the background to which the major religions of the world had evolved and to see whether it had a hint as to a role, such as the one I believed that I was to fulfill. There, in the books of Daniel and Revelations, both in chapters12, I saw the reference to the rise of the “messenger” of “the end of times” as bearing the name “Michael”. It was clear to me that both Judaism and Christianity had interpreted the presence of that name as that of the Archangel. To me, however, it was also clear that the writers of the scriptures had touched upon a vision of events to unfold in the future and that their true intent was the telling of the rise of a man named Michael on the world stage at the “end of times”, which basically referred to a time of social, political and religious upheaval that would bring about the end of our existing civilizational infrastructure and the beginning of a new and better world, free of the suffering from institutional oppression, death, sorrow and all undesirable things in the world.

Upon returning to Continuity, I allowed one thing to lead to another and within several days the buzz had spread through the comics community that Mike Nasser had lost his mind and now thinks he's the Second Coming of Christ come to save the world through the comics. Although I did produce a few comic book stories over the next several years, it was no longer the same career, which I was nurturing before these events. Neal, moved by all this and perhaps sharing in the vision he saw within me of such a role for the comics industry, attempted to direct it into an operative course which the industry would be more receptive to. It wasn't yet time, however, as I had a great deal to learn about the world, our history and the fundamentals of religious evolution in order to channel my energies into such a course. And so it was that the next several years were a very tumulus time for both myself and Continuity studios alike, which eventually led to my leaving America, in the fall of 1981, and emigrating to Israel in pursuit of the root source which had driven me into this undertaking.

Offenberger: The next thing we see from you is four issues of Uri-On, what can you tell us about Uri-On?

Netzer: The path to Israel necessitated a stopover in Lebanon where I became trapped for two years under the 1982 Israeli excursion into that country. Once having escaped Lebanon over the border into Israel, I settled down in a West Bank settlement and met Elana, whom I married and is the mother of our 5 children. This in addition to another child I have in Detroit, Michelle, from the time before coming out to New York to create comics.

Although I did settle down and put my past aspirations for the comics behind me, it was always clear to me that this is a temporary situation. At some point in the future, when the time would be right, I'd return to pursue what had driven me to come to the land of the prophets. For the time being, however, I would settle for being the meek and mild comics creator who'd emigrated to Israel. To this background I met a couple of American entrepreneurs who were looking to invest in a local enterprise and together, we agreed to produce Israel's first comic book, Uri-On.

Not having much previous cultural experience with comics, I felt Israel needed a comic book which would be a basic introduction to the Superhero adventure form, as were the early Superman and Batman stories. While its American counterparts were delving into the more sophisticated narratives of Watchmen and Dark Knight, Uri-On, told a simple and raw Superhero adventure to the background of the Israeli culture. I conducted the entire production of the comic book alone, including the technical and mechanical work of producing the color separations at the printers, none of whom had any previous experience or system in place for this type of work. The comic book endured for 6 issues, two of which were only serialized in a local children's magazine and not published independently. Our lack of familiarity with the Israeli economic market was perhaps the main reason we folded the company and stopped production after nearly two years of publication.

Offenberger: About this time you changed your name from Nasser to Netzer. Why did you change your name?

Netzer: I didn't really change my name. What changed was the transliteration between its Arabic and present Hebrew forms. The root word Nasser when written in Hebrew becomes Netzer, which also means “a sprout which grows from the root”. It's used in scriptures in reference to the “root and offspring of David”, which describes the messenger of the “end of days”. It felt appropriate to make the official change in the English transliteration once I'd settled into Israel and made it my home.

Offenberger: In the 90's you returned to American comics, did you do this from Israel or did you return to the US?

Netzer: I returned to the US. First for a year or so at Neal's Continuity Studios, illustrating several issues of Megalith alongside a hefty amount of commercial art - and then a shift to DC for a few Batman stories amongst others.

Offenberger: What made it the right time to return?

Netzer: On the one hand, our family was expanding with the birth of our first daughter, Oshrat, and our economic needs didn't seem to have an answer in Israel, especially for a profession such as mine. On the other, the advent of comics such as Daredevil's Born Again, Dark Knight and Watchmen were beginning to awaken within me the aspiration I had for the comics industry when I left America. These works, touching a much deeper chord of the human experience than what the comics had known a decade before, began to raise within me a desire to return to the medium, perhaps feeling that both the comics industry and myself would be more ripe for a merging of paths since the passing of this time.

Both of these factors together facilitated my contacting Neal from Jerusalem and asking if he had a need or desire for an artist of my ability at Continuity. Neal's warm reply with an immediate invitation led to my return to New York with Elana and Oshrat in the fall of 1990.

Offenberger: When you came back, you started doing Batman comics and Comet covers right away. Was it hard to get work after being out of the country for several years?

Netzer: After the year or so at Continuity I sought some work at DC and was immediately welcomed with several Batman projects, including a short run on Detective. There was no difficulty at all and I was made to feel quite at home by Archie Goodwin, Denny O'Neill, Paul Levitz and basically everyone whom I'd worked with a decade before.

Offenberger: In 1995 you stopped drawing comics again, why?

Netzer: I returned to Israel with my family in the fall of 1993 with two more children born to us in America. After finishing short runs on Babylon 5 for DC and Lady Justice for Tekno Comix, I made a decision to explore using the computer in place of the conventional drawing tools. I needed some time to see whether this was possible and refrained from accepting any more comics work. I turned to local employment at multimedia companies in order to learn the technology and its tools. I found all my premonitions about this to be true and have used the computer for all my work since.

By the time I was proficient enough with the computer to return to comics in 1998, there had been a turnover of the editorial staff at DC and it became very difficult to renew connections with anyone there from Israel. I succeeded in securing a Catwoman inventory assignment with Jordan Gorfinkle which was a test to show the computer generated art but he left his position at the onset of the project and I was left with the equivalent of computer generated pencils for the story with no one at DC who knew about it. It was a new staff and this project simply fell between the cracks. I called Paul Levitz about this and he tried to help but there was much upheaval at DC then and it just wasn't time. Realizing I'd come to a dead end, I let it go and concentrated on local visual media ventures until a time would come when another door would open for me in the comics again.

Offenberger: Both you and Neal say he created Ms. Mystic alone. Why is your name on the copyright for Ms. Mystic on the New Heroes portfolio?


Netzer: This was a mistake made by Sal Quartuccio in preparing the work for printing. Neal had asked him to give credit to another creator as co-copyright holder of another character in the portfolio, although that creator wasn't asking for it. In the last minute production rush, Sal forgot the details of the original request and only remembered my involvement in a previous joint undertaking with Neal, which led to his creation of Ms. Mystic. By the time the mistake was realized, it was too late to correct it as the portfolio was already in distribution.

Offenberger: You have been very active in the comic community lately without illustrating comics… In 2003, you started “The New Comic Book of Life” , what is that about?

Netzer: It's about the world and the role that the comics play in it. To understand this a little better let's first talk about the state that the world is in today.

The greatest force driving our civilization forward today is the economic front. Capitalism has in essence paved the way for a conglomerate of economic powers to call the shots on basically all major social and political events in our time. It's perhaps always been this way to some degree but it's never been as sharp and defined as it is now. In general, terms, the average person must work harder today, receive less wages and pay more for his lifestyle than ever before. There are no real signs of this long-term trend reversing direction at the hands of the powers that be. The money wielders appear to have charted a course for the enslavement of humanity in order to consolidate their power. There is no other way to see the trends of the last 30-40 years, which we're all witness to.

The political front has become the puppet of the economic system. It has become irrelevant in and of itself as the economic forces pull its strings. That's basically why we've seen the a blurring of the lines between the two major parties. Neither one can truly do the bidding of its ideology, they both maneuver between the same economic forces exerted upon them behind the scenes.

Socially, a wide schism has developed between a moral conservative right, led by the world religious hierarchies and the liberal secular front. Looking at recent trends, the religious right in the world is on a sharp rise and appears to be the willing puppet of the economic heads manipulating the governments of the world. The secular, liberal humanist has come to extreme disarray at the plight which the trodden of the world are in and there appears to be no relief in sight.

One of the major sources for generating revenue for the economic forces today is pop culture, which is an arbitrary force that comes from the people. Pop culture, whether music, film, comics, television or literature, is behind one of the largest merchandising mechanisms of the economic machine we live in. Comics live at the heart of this power and have yet to tap into the economic potential they have. The trends we see in the film industry adopting comics creations today is only the tip of the iceberg of what's to come.

So, where do the comics stand in this overall scenario and how can this medium change the tides of social, political and economic oppression we live in? First, it's important to notice the stand, which the comics have taken, whether inadvertently or intentionally, on the major issues pertinent in our world today. The biggest indication evident to us is the plight of The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Aside from a few marginal religiously oriented comics, the comic book industry continues to struggle against a perception of moral bankruptcy advocated by the moral right in America against the medium. This is a very good indication that the comics have managed to maintain a particular creative freedom, because they've been overlooked as the bastard child of the entertainment world. The ongoing struggles of the CBLDF indicate that the seeming irrelevance of the medium gives us a very strong voice for truth and justice - which other entertainment mediums have long relinquished.

The comics, being long buried at the root of pop culture and beginning to come to the surface today, stand poised to steal the show and change the course of history. We have the tools with which to navigate a glorious economic, social and political turnover in the world. We only need to draw the inspiration and the courage to move forward and realize the extent of our role in the global events, which are unfolding.

The comics have touched on every major aspect of our experience; science, history; religion; adventure; courage; heroism and the struggle for life in the face of death. These are all the building blocks of the enriched tales, which the comics tell.

The New Comic Book of Life lays out a wide scope vision of the socioeconomic evolutionary processes we're undergoing in these times. My own presence in the industry is not an arbitrary fluke and not simply another link in a coincidental chain of events devoid of any clear intent. It's part of a larger harmony of forces and events which many people in the comics industry are coming to see the veracity of. With the web site and its proliferation in the comics community, floodgates of inspiration are opening up within the creators community. Comic book creators are beginning to reach deeper for the tools with which to raise the understanding of the mechanisms, which drive the human spirit, and give us hope for a glorious revival of this force onto the world stage of events. In a recent philosophical dissertation on what drives Superman, Mark Waid reached for the same essences which The New Comic Book of Life touched, in its assessment of what motivates a man to heroism. This form of insight and serious analysis of what was once considered a juvenile medium helps push the comics into the forefront of 21st century statesmanship.

The revival of this spirit of heroism will come through a head-on confrontation between the secular and religious worlds. Through the ideas brought forth in The New Comic Book of Life, I offer the comics and the secular world the key with which to overcome oppressive and deceptive religious doctrine. We'll do this by turning to the scriptures and showing how they give us the keys with which to fend off religious claims of moral superiority. This will ignite the wrath of the religious leaders of the world and focus their contempt on the source of the incitement. It will also expose how hypocritical their outrageous deception and manipulation of God's name for political and economic gain is and how it's about to come to an end. Their anger against me and the support we'll have in the secular world, will lead the religious right communities of the world to seek to put an end to my work and squelch the voice of freedom it brings. This controversy and debate will be conducted in the media, to the eyes of the world and will spill into the comics and other entertainments forms in a manner, which the secular world has never been able to imagine before.

I fully understand the implications of such a course and the danger implied within it for myself and perhaps others. I offer the world and mankind the proof that everything I say about it is true and comes from the highest source. My life, given for this cause and my survival of the self-destructive tendency it will hold, will be the conclusive proof of the will of the highest powers that move our universe and the role, which the comics play in this next evolutionary phase for mankind. This phenomenon will become the most sought after and profitable event in history.

Along with the web site, I lay the accumulated years of my journeys in the world and the study of the mechanisms, which are driving civilization, at the feet of the comic book industry and offer it for the taking. Step by step, stride by stride, we'll embark on raising a new hope for the world. I conduct a blog today, which puts forth these arguments and ideas in many articles seen on the main page and in the archives. I ask everyone who has a true concern for the state of our world to go there, look through it all and come to your conclusions. MichaelNetzer.com

The movement will rise through the corporate world because it will become the most profitable merchandising mechanism in history. Through the comics themselves and through the voice of the people coming from comics fandom and its gathering at the conventions, we'll begin to clarify what the essences of our social, political and economic infrastructures are. We'll remind the world that God is not the property of religious institutions and has rather provided the comics industry with the tools to finish the work began by the prophets of old. This will all translate into a great inspiration for the content of the comic books, which will follow.

We'll show how the creators will rise on the world stage as the new statesmen and leaders for a new age. We'll inspire a new generation of children to turn their hearts to the parents and lead the way on the road to the revival of true goodness in the spirit of mankind for the success of all humanity. The powers that be, overwhelmed by the rise of the comics, will invest everything they have in order to see its success because it will be the most profitable and all encompassing realization of the deepest aspirations of the largest segments of humanity. Wells of knowledge and wisdom will open up within the hearts of every man woman and child in the world, which have long been suppressed at the hands of the dark clouds that have loomed overhead.

The New Comic Book of Life is the blueprint for a glorious age awaiting around the corner. It lays at the feet of the comic book industry and awaits its embrace.

Offenberger: “The New Comic Book of Life” continued towards “The Rise of Peace” , what is the Rise of Peace?

Netzer: The Rise of Peace translates the essence of the Superhero mythology into an operative inspiration for the comic book creators, as the leaders and statesmen of the world to come. It puts into sociopolitical terms the root force, which drives the world of the comics. The Rise of Peace is a small operative corner of The New Comic Book of Life which shows how the infrastructure of the comics industry, the publications, conventions and fandom are the tools that the creators have, with which to raise their voice as statesmen and leaders for a new world.

All of this is nothing new to the comic book creators at all. Neal Adams has led a political charge for years admonishing the injustices of our political system. The greatest comics creations of decades past have all carried a strong sociopolitical message for the readers and have all represented a plea for compassion, justice and peace in the world.

The Rise of Peace brings these undercurrents of the comics to the surface and into full view as the defining characteristics of the comic book creators who move this industry.

Offenberger: You are also part of The Comic Book Creators' Guild, what is the guild and what is your role in it?

Netzer: There has been an unspoken brotherhood, so to speak, of the comics creators since the inception of the craft. There is no doubt, however, that a formalization of this union would contribute greatly to the betterment of the comic book industry and the improvement of our lot in life as the creators who drive it. Looking back at the several past attempts to form a guild, which is slightly below a union on a hierarchy scale, the main recurring obstacle appears to have been the notion that creators are not willing to jeopardize their livelihood by the confrontational positions a guild might take with the publishers.

Such was the case in the latter 1970's when Neal Adams and a core group of creators embarked on such an attempt. There was an earlier effort in the mid 1960's by a group of creators led by Arnold Drake – and later again in the latter 1980's headed by Kurt Buziek, Len Wein and Heidi MacDonald amongst others. During a recent Big Apple Comics convention in New York, Neal Adams ignited the flames once again and called on creators to come together and explore the possibility today as the conditions in the industry have changed greatly since the last efforts and perhaps were now ripe for this undertaking.

This latest venture to formalize the establishment of The Comic Book Creator's Guild comes on the heals of growing support for its rise from the creators community. Ironically, even though the creators are more scattered than we ever were in the past, the electronic age provides us with a means of communication and community interaction to a degree, which we've also never enjoyed before. The vast expanse of web forums and message boards of the creators make it easy to discuss these issues and it was at one such coming together of the creators that the new web site for the formation of the Guild was born. The disenfranchisement of many creators, which we're all feeling - and the pursuit of better working conditions, including medical and retirement benefits amongst others, are perhaps the major factors indicating a change in perception as to our ability to formalize this union in these times.

It may also be prudent to consider that the creators' community has matured since the days of old and has acquired a sense of diplomacy and negotiating strategy, which allows us not permit a confrontational spirit to detract us from the initial need to establish this union. The essential formation of the Guild will not, in and of itself, require that creators to prepare to “walk off the job” and lose their livelihoods. Even if we have no confrontational issues with the publishers, the essence of this union alone will allow us to procure group rates for medical and retirement benefits, which would alone be a good, enough reason for the Guild's presence. We will approach the issues we have with the publishers in a peaceful and diplomatic manner, which will be beneficial to all parties involved, without having to resort to measures, which threaten the livelihood of the creators.

Aside from having produced, the new web site for the Guild and perhaps laying out a few inspirational steps, which will show the enormous benefits it holds for the creators, my role in it, is as anyone else's. I am simply fortunate to have a window of time to apply some effort into it and have taken advantage of this in order to help see it come to fruition.

Offenberger: The publishing arm of the guild is Flaming Sword Productions, how is Flaming Sword set up to help creators?

Netzer: Flaming Sword Productions offers the creators' community a preferred alternative in two major areas:

• For the many creators who have no work and source of income from the comics today, including many of the masters of decades past, Flaming Sword will become a home with an economic mechanism the perpetuates itself exponentially and offers creators an outlet for their work and a source of income with which to sustain themselves. In this modern age of the fast changing stylization sought by the major publishers, Flaming Sword will open a door for craftsmanship based on what truly inspires a comics reader to purchase a comic book, which is, above all, inspirational storytelling and relevance in content – and not merely modern stylistic creative methods. With this as a base and with such an economic venture as an umbrella for all of its publishing endeavors, Flaming Sword Productions aspires to bring together the disenfranchised creators of the industry an provide a stable platform and outlet for their work.

• The tendency of the marketing arms of the major publishers to fall into a safe creative mode for “what's hot now” has basically paralyzed the growth of the comics industry. The true great economic successes of the comics have come at the risk taken when giving the creators freedom that is more creative in their work and not through the corporate marketing dictates of the contents in the comics. Flaming Sword will base its projects on a vision, which the creators themselves have for their work and open doors to creative and economic freedom, which have been closed till now.

Offenberger: How is Flaming Sword different than Image Comics?

Netzer: While Image Comics set the precedent which inspires the formation of Flaming Sword as the imprint of the creators, it remains a private venture with the economic considerations turning to the few creators who own it. Image has essentially broken the barriers and paved the way for the rise of a publishing enterprise, which can become the home of the entirety of the creator's community. Flaming Sword, however, is not owned by any core group of creators but rather owned and managed by The Comic Book Creator's Guild and is operated under the interests of the entire community of creators whom it represents. This gives Flaming Sword a powerful decision making base which takes long term collective interests into consideration and allows us to operate under economic strategies which a smaller and more limited enterprise is not able to.

Offenberger: What is The Comic Book Creator's Party?

Netzer: As the name implies, it's the coming together of a core group of comics creators in order to put forth and inspire an alternative leadership for America. The notion that statesmanship and leadership also rise from the entertainment world is nothing new in modern times. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenneger are two prime examples but there are others. With such precedents now in place, comics creators can show that capturing the hearts and imagination of the American people is not only based on a political power play or good campaign funding as previously perceived.

The America people today look for courage and truth from their leader and are left wanting. Comic book creators, having analyzed such scenarios many times in comics such as Watchmen, DK2 and Kingdom Come, amongst others – and having delved into the social mechanisms which cry for Truth, Justice and the American Way, possess the essential elements to raise a brave spirit for America and a bold hope for the world by beginning to put forth a sociopolitical platform in their comics creations. As we begin to realize the veracity of such a union of statesmen, it will become more and more evident how beneficial and pertinent it will be to formalize the formation of The Comic Book Creator's Party and announce its emergence into the political arena.

Just as an example, and I understand, the differences in scope yet believe that the essential mechanism of the following story applies in the greater national arena today.

The high school years for me in Detroit were a Superhero adventure in and of themselves. I was highly active in the art department and became known as the Superhero artist of Redford High. I had also enrolled in the ROTC program, the Reserve Officers' Training Corps military academy course, offered by the army in the public schools, and was advancing quickly and gaining one promotion after another. Then, in the senior year and in a fit of trying to convince a friend that the school elections were a matter of a good campaign and not necessarily a popularity contest, I jumped into the fray and ran for Vice-President of the senior class against one of the most popular young jocks in the school. He was captain of the football team and vice president of the student council. A staunch opponent to say the least.

The question was whether this popular jock could stand up to a fight with Superman and Batman? I was the artist and strategist, after all, and knew how the sign making and promotional mechanism worked in the high school because that's what the art department was responsible for. My opponent had none of these skills but knew how to smile very pretty for the cheerleaders at the games. So, the campaign reached a peak as the school became flooded with posters and signs of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman beseeching the 600 member senior class to vote for “Funky Nasser” for vice president. Well, cute as those cheerleaders were, they didn't have a chance against Bruce, Clark and Diana as I went on to win an upset victory and defeated my opponent by 8 votes. Redford High had broken a liberal taboo of its time and elected an ROTC cadet as Vice President of the Senior Class. My appearance in a military uniform at the subsequent class officers' meetings didn't always go over well in the Nixon era anti-war sentiment, which characterized the spirit of the youth movements then – but we had some fun with it nonetheless.

Becoming Vice President of the Senior Class did however contribute to more promotions in the ROTC Program. I was soon decorated with a commendation award by the Army commander who headed the Detroit program in what was Redford's most prestigious ceremonial event of that time. The award was for bringing popularity to the program in its difficult hour and I eventually graduated with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, intelligence officer and second in command of the entire 4,000-cadet Detroit City ROTC program.

I believe that the same dynamics, which opened the doors to such a political upset at Redford High, apply today in our present political system, which operates under the same principles of inspiring and moving the people to exercise more flexibility in their voting habits and choice of leadership.

Offenberger: When will we see you return to illustrating comics again?

Netzer: Very soon indeed, I would hope. Aside from a graphic novel I'm producing now for Flaming Sword, I still have some attraction to working with other publishers, even on limited ventures. It's unfortunate, perhaps that the infrastructure at DC, for example, has become such that it's difficult to even establish contact with anyone there from Israel. So, I do what I can with what I have and hope for a day when someone there might feel some desire or inspiration to open a door for my return to some new comics work with them.

I do have a wonderful idea for a Batman/Ms. Mystic team-up which revolves around a DC/Continuity Comics crossover. I understand that none of these properties are really mine to play with but I believe that both DC and Neal Adams could seriously entertain such a co-production today. It also seems prudent to consider a Crusty Bunkers like assigning of various writing and art chores for such a project and revive the collaborative working methods, which proved themselves in the past. Who wouldn't like to see the likes of Larry Hama, Denny O'Neill, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan, Alan Weiss, Val Mayerick, Jim Sherman, Michael Golden and Tom Palmer, amongst many good others return to such a high profile project today?

Offenberger: I can't imagine who wouldn't want to see that. Thank you for taking the time to chat. Anyone who want to know more about Michael and his work can go to MichaelNetzer.com






Rik Offenberger has spent the last several years running the Super Hero News service, and in his free time he interviews comic book creators. He has been published both online and in print, with his work appearing in The Comics Buyers Guide, Comic Retailer, Borderline Magazine, Good Guys & Gals of the Golden-Age, and Silver Bullet Comicbooks. He maintains his own website at MightyCrusaders.net and currently freelances wherever he is asked.



Discuss this interview on the Feature Fiends Forum!






news | reviews | interviews | forums | advertise | privacy | contact | home