My Summer Vacation

 

Summer is almost gone.  Soon our thoughts will turn to my favorite time of year…Autumn!

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and cooler weather for those of us in warmer climates. Leaves and trees ablaze with color for those in the temperate areas. Pumpkin spiced everything and warm cups of favorite beverages. Yeah, Fall has lots to offer, and I love it all.

But, before all that, I had one of the best summers I can remember. Travel figured quite a bit for me.  All my efforts culminated with San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) 2022. The show had been on hold due to Covid.  It came roaring back this year. As I wandered the halls and streets of San Diego, I ran into many celebs.  I even had one come to a panel I was part of, more on that after a few more lines of my summation of the show in general.

It was unreal to walk past a display of sand sculptures on the street and see The Sandman himself, Neil Gaiman walking amongst the tributes to his wonderful comic, and now TV series. Walk a little farther and there’s Bruce Campbell and his “Pizza Poppa” cart mugging for the crowds. This time we were the ones who got paid by his hanging out with dozens of fans. Stephen Colbert hosted a panel. Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden shared an on-camera kiss. All the current Star Trek shows were represented at panels and on the show floor. At night, the city became a city of heroes and villains all raising glasses and hell. If you’ve never been or have an original idea and concept you want to find a home for, then take your chances to get a pass.  Or if you are an industry comics pro with provable provenance, apply to get a pro pass and join the rest of us in the green rooms and at the tables to plan and plot. I make more deals and get more projects launched there than any place else. I don’t care how big some promoters tell you how big or important their show is, nothing else is SDCC.

I was honored this year to be asked to participate in a very unusual panel which now has had repercussions of positivity beyond what I thought would come. The story of this begins last November.

SDCC wanted to test the “batteries” as it were to see if the summer show to come could work with required vaccinations and other issues at the time.  I was invited to come to the “Mini” con and get to be part of the most controversial and hazardous panel they’ve ever done. It was a little minefield called: “What is cultural appropriation opposed to appreciation?” It was organized by my friend, advisor on Mexican culture and artist for my book, “Chavela, Chocolate and Cthulhu” … Adalisa Zarate.

Ada has been instrumental in bringing Mexican culture to the show including doing programming, as well as being integral in getting artists, film makers, and writers from her beautiful country to be now mainstays at the show. Even when racism and bigotry rampant under a certain disgraced US president, she persevered. And, because she knows I’m passionate and forward-thinking SOB and disliked that president with heat hotter than the hell, I represent as my Satanic alter ego from my film.  Plus, I like a good fight and to bring hope and understanding to a world desperately failing in brother and sisterhood as of late. The creator of Green Lantern, Martin Nodell once told me that I would have made a good lantern as I have no fear. I laughed and said that I’m too dumb to be scared.  LOL!

Ok, all that side, we did the panel, and it went over great! It was tense and there were a few moments where logic and reasoning had to brought to a steel edge, but it got so much attention that we were asked back this summer to do another along the same lines. What I did not realize was that it was going to be at the center of another controversy and help to clear said trouble. Here’s what happened…

The new Marvel universe offering in the Black Panther series, “Wakanda Forever.” It features a new Panther due to the untimely demise of the brilliant actor, Chadwick Boseman. This alone created controversy and hatred on line but then, another character being introduced started its own watery maelstrom. They cast Mexican Actor Tenoch Huerta to portray Namor, the Sub-Mariner. This caught many by surprise and not a pleasant one. Tenoch was under attack from even other Latins of other places outside Mexico for his role. They called him names beyond ones deserved and I was disgusted by it.

I am a huge Namor fan since I was a kid. I collected the original 1940’s books because I was fascinated with him. But, I’m also an open-minded person and got angry because they were not attacking the new mythology as much as they were attacking the actor portraying the character. I even had some heated conversations with friends from Cuba, Puerto Rico and South America who had worked with me in the past. We went at it like comic and film pros, not just troll fan folk. This was professionalism breaking down to me. I don’t give a damn if they never speak to me again or if my already crazy rep gets more mud on it, I was not going to watch bigotry bloom over something untested and not yet seen but disliked because they just felt the person was unworthy due to birth. I’m Jewish and have lived this idiocy for my whole life and fight like hell over it. The real reason for my anger was the ignorance of the character in the first place. Namor’s origin was that his father was a sea captain sailing the North Pole region when he encountered a woman of blue skin who was in trouble (Yeah, sound as like another water-born hero doesn’t it. well, the Sub Mariner was introduced almost a year and a half before Aquaman. I wonder if Jason Momoa had the same grief as he was dark and swarthy and not the blond hero, we all knew till the film series from DC). So, Namor was not “Caucasian”, because a teal hued mom ain’t gonna achieve that. So, let’s push forward to today.

This Namor is from a region off the coast of Mexico and South America and so it makes sense that he would be from an aquatic race consummate to the Olmec, Toltec or Aztecs. This is film and comics. We take liberties with mythology all the time. Wonder Woman is from Greek mythos but wears costuming honoring the USA. Now, are you getting what I’m throwing folks? It’s about the story and involving us enough to make us embrace it. But if we fight from the beginning and not even try then we are being ego and ethno centric ignoramuses. Here’s where you can close this page and go find something else to do if you want. But if you read farther, you are going to see something pretty cool. Go ahead and decide. I can wait.

Still here? Cool and welcome to the “global village”. I’m proud to know you.

So, Ada gathered myself, Erasmo Rodriguez- a radio journalist and clay cartoonist, also former contributor to Mexico’s MAD magazine, from Mexico’s film region of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco, a brilliant comic artist Raul Valdes popular YouTube comedian Sebastian Finck and of course Ada herself. We took the dais and proceeded to talk of how we all can enjoy the world’s mythologies and learn from one another and do so without prejudices. As we were talking, cutting up and bonding, I noticed a really striking gent in the front row who was smiling ear to ear from our crazy antics. He was dressed as Mr. Fantastic and looking very cool. He applauded heartily when we finished and like a proper super hero disappeared to is next mission.  I had spotted Kang the Conqueror earlier and figured Reed had run to do battle with his long-time foe. Erasmo afterward when we were hanging out told me who the FF leader really was. It was Tenoch Huerta! He had heard from Erasmo what we were planning and came from his own panels and promotion for his upcoming debut film to see us.

Damn. Damn. DAMN!

Here was my favorite Marvel hero come to see us pontificate about his right to exist in our branch of the multiverse. I was so happy that I forgot my twenty-five years of being a pro not going fan boy and lost my shit. I’ve been partying with lots of film, comic, writing and TV celebs in the past but Tenoch was special to me as he was a good person and fighting the great fight for his role and himself as an actor to take his place in the Marvel and film universe.  With grace, good humor and intelligence I know he has, I look forward to seeing his debut in “Wakanda Forever”. And by the way, word reached me that if we do another panel like this, he is going to get the studios permission to join us on stage. If he does, I only hope Momoa doesn’t decide to challenge his Marvel rival. It won’t go well. I’m a tough bastard and have been a sport fisherman for most of my life.  If Aquaman thinks the Black Manta is a dangerous foe then he is about to meet the “Devil Fish” known as Mitch Hyman.

Now go read some comics, watch some film and TV and keep your minds fresh and open. I’ll see you all back here next month!

Be and stay well!

Note:  Here is the link to the SDCC 2022 panel.  Enjoy!

Chavela, Chocolate and Cthulhu

Two years ago, my dear friend Adalisa Zarate who lives in Mexico City, and I, began a noble experiment.

At the time, we were all in the midst of the global pandemic and so travel was not an option. Most of us wound up locked in or with limited ability to go farther than our towns or front yards.

We all began to find innovative ways to communicate and keep one another’s spirits up. We had Zoom meetings, Facebook Messenger and FaceTime. Tik Tok became the land of interpretive dance and other pretty cool ways to express ourselves to the world we no longer could physically travel.

We used these methods to cheer each other up. It was during one of these “support” sessions that Adalisa and I hit on what is now about to become something very special. I was working with Adalisa on a “Bubba” comic that is scheduled to be released only in Mexico. It is an exclusive to honor all the wonderful folks I’d met from there over the past few years who enjoyed my film and the comic book antics of the big hairy guy.

We were talking on FaceTime one afternoon and started discussing comedians of the past and present. We enjoyed and how comedy was the link between diverse cultures. I said Shakespeare had it right with the speech the money lender Shylock made when defending that even though he was from a different faith than most, he was still a human being with all the emotions and pain that every human feels. Ada and I both agreed that the arts were a binding force and through them cultures could learn to understand one another better.

We both talked about films, comics, books and music we both knew. We both liked Stephen King, Tolkien, Van Gogh, Sergio Aragones and so on. But it was when we got to talking about Mexican Wrestling that things really clicked.

I would talk about how I would watch the matches on Spanish language stations and even though my Spanish was poor to non-existent. I could enjoy the matches because it was all about the action and passion of the crowds just like in the USA.  I would watch WWE. It was all so “over the top”. It came at you with such force that not knowing the language did not interfere with the tableaus being played out. We began talking about telenovelas which are Mexican soap operas and how they were so over acted in both countries that again you didn’t have to be verse in the lexicon because the emotions were so clear.

By the way, I learned a lot of the Spanish I do know from those wrestling matches and the shows on Univision. It’s like how kids learn words from songs and TV shows they watched when small. You just picked things up by immersing yourself. Funny to note that there are several apps that can teach you other languages because they immerse you in the day-to-day conversation not just robotic repeating.

The conversation turned to music. I had been an FM DJ years ago. I worked at a jazz station for a few years that had a global music program where we would play music from everywhere. I was given the show as a specialty to do on Saturday nights and I would find out from all the countries I explored what groups or artists the most popular.  I found a lot of people doing “covers” of US hits and that was not what I wanted my audience to hear. I wanted them to take them to the places where people gathered to listen, dance, and celebrate their own unique artists.  Museums for years would have gallery showings of art from other cultures, and I wanted to showcase the music like it was a night of fun and learning at the museums and galleries.

To get back to the story here, I was talking to Ada about several musicians I liked from her country and spoke about the most soul wrenching song I ever heard and played a few times on the air by a person named Chavela Vargas. The song was the mournful but beautiful, “La Llorona”. I told Ada I had listeners who would request that other of her songs because of the amount of soul she put into them. You could not listen to any of them and not be moved.

Ada was not only familiar with Chavela, but was like a niece to her as Ada’s mother and Chavela were lovers.  So, what I learned about her from Ada and Ada’s mom let me know that if Chavela was still around, she would have gotten a big kick out of becoming an action hero. At a panel we did at SDCC ‘s 2021 November event, Ada was wearing the red sweater that Chavela had given to her “stepdaughter” to show her affection. Chavela Vargas was a pioneer of many positive societal things that today we hold dear and protect. Her life and experiences are fascinating. She touched so many lives of people that changed the world and some because they met her or supported her art.  I will not go into details here because you need to go explore on the internet and find her story and music and not just Wikipedia, make the effort to dig to the newspaper and other articles about this incredible woman. She was Frida Kahlo’s lover at one time and a major influence on many artists, writers, politicians and even some less savory folks in may parts of not only Mexican but global culture. She is a well-known music icon to those who are into such things.  Think Elvis Presley, Beyonce, Lady Gaga and others who are of legendary status in the music world.  Chavela like many celebrities also had another side besides performing.

She was an adventurer. She lived in a time where it was not only just unacceptable to be part of the LGBTQ community, but she lived in times where you could be arrested and prosecuted for it. She was a woman who wore men’s clothing, carried a gun and knives in the tradition of the notorious female rebels “the Adelitas”, and was as strong and independent as they.   She was a standard bearer for anyone not born where or how they were told to be but embraced that though passion and a great soul you could be whomever and wherever you wanted to be.  To put it simply, she was a hero for today that Ada and I agreed needed to be shown to the world.

And so, the noble experiment began. I was to write a story where Chavela became an action hero which if she had the opportunity of living in today’s world, she would be just that. I can picture piloting her own plane or sailing her own boat all over the planet. She would be getting into one crazy adventure after another and then going on stage after all the dust and smoke settled to sing the ballad of it to standing room only audiences and inspiring those who feel that they don’t belong could not only achieve that but to carve out their own section of the universe to be and live within.

Chavela, Chocolate and Cthulhu takes place in the year 1940. That was a pivotal year for the world in general but especially for two good neighbors who needed one another as both were starving and coming out of deep financial depressions. The US and Mexico had common needs and threats at the time and so a meeting between the two nations was arranged and it became more than just a political occasion as events unfolded that involved espionage, occult mayhem, ghostly intervention, and a romance that bloomed between two women who found more than just passion, they found purpose and acceptance.  Forgotten were the cultural and language differences and instead was spirit of cooperation to save their peoples from being crushed under the hells of fascist authoritarian boots coming from Europe and the way to a bright and prosperous future for the countries they loved.

Sound familiar? Sound like today’s headlines and news? Well, sorry to say not far off and sad that we are almost in that situation again. But the good news is that if we can learn to understand the lessons from then and like that money lender in an English play form almost 500 years ago, we all have damn good chance of understanding and working together to get fully into the light of a bright future. Yeah, I sound idealistic, but I’m only   relating a true and proven history where we did do just that and damn it, we can again.

The book will first be published in Mexico and if our dozens of test readers are any indication, the rest of  the planet will be reading and taking a roller coaster of a journey filled with Nazis, frenetic car chases, ghosts, combative elder gods and a romance that is both bitter and sweet that runs it’s true course as the tale is told.

Salud and cheers to you all from Ada, Chavela and myself!

See a lot of you soon at San Diego Comic Con 2022 where we are doing special panel about how our cultures can combine to do mighty things.

Happy Halloween all!

"Hell's Belle of Sleepy Hollow" - A short story by Mitch Hyman. Cover illustration by Ada Zarate.
“Hell’s Belle of Sleepy Hollow”
A short story by Mitch Hyman.
Cover illustration by Ada Zarate.

It’s my favorite time of year.  The time of warlocks, witches, werewolves, and all spooky creatures great and small.

It’s Halloween!

It’s time to post my tribune to my favorite Halloween tale, Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.  The version you are about to read is a version that I think you will truly enjoy.

I promise you one thing, you’ll never look at this story the same way again.

So enjoy, and try and keep your head.

Trick or Treat everyone!

Unruly yours,
Mitch

Continue reading Happy Halloween all!