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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Devin Grayson talks to Comic Foundry about her experiences in the industry:

"[T]here’s a huge difference between working in the comics medium and working in the comics industry. The medium, when you begin to explore it, quickly reveals itself to be capable of handling almost any kind of storytelling. It’s great for pulling readers into the emotional life of a story and has a powerful, interactive aspect not precisely mirrored in any other type of fiction. I really feel like it’s still evolving as an art form and is open to a tremendous amount of redefinition and growth. The industry, on the other hand – by which, by the way, I always mean the mainstream industry, since that’s where my experience lies – is one of the most limiting and circumscribed producers of fiction going. Though richly layered with decades of creator contributions and sometimes so archetypally pure as to survive almost any embarrassing mutilation, most mainstream superhero characters work not at crime-fighting or entertainment so much as at marketing. At the end of the day, Superman has to go sell Underoos and Batman gets his head planted on the top of a Pez dispenser. It is difficult to even begin to explain the ways in which this fundamental truth necessarily dominates and regulates character and story development. No one ever mentions it, but it is the financial driving force of the industry and ultimately influences every decision ever made about a superhero comic book. The next time you catch yourself balling your fists in frustration over a story line and yelling 'Why don’t they just – ' I can almost guarantee you that the answer is 'toothpaste.'"

The San Francisco Bay Guardian profiles local creator Justin Hall:

"I moved here because the Bay Area has such an incredible comics history... And there's a huge breadth of stuff going on – the Alternative Press Expo, SF Zine Fest, WonderCon, you name it. There's the opportunity to work with other cartoonists, go to comics jam sessions, get to know other work. It's a great place to be, not only for artists, but also for people who just love comics. And comics are available everywhere here. There's not many places left in the country where you can walk into a bookstore and see comics on display. Retailers willing to take a chance on locally produced pieces of narrative illustration – that's pretty powerful."

The article also previews the upcoming gallery show by SF comic creators, Ink, which Hall is involved in:

"I'm obsessed with that ever-shifting line between 'high' and 'low' art... and how it is that comics are always somehow positioned on the 'low' end. I want to see if a movement like that of photography or lithographs or the 'art of the book' can be started with cartoons, to bring them into the fine arts world, or allow them to move freely between the two worlds of 'low' and 'high' as they do in Japan or France, so they feel equally at home on a magazine stand or hung in a gallery."

The current Ultimates creative team talk about the Ultimates creative team to come. Mark Millar:

"What Joe's done here is as radical and interesting as Frank Quitely and I being hired to replace Warren and Bryan on The Authority. It's not a team you might expect, but they're absolute quality and, having spoken with them, I know they're bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. Jeph's a very versatile writer. Superman/ Batman is a great, fun, kinetic book, but he can also do atmospheric and subtle better than almost anyone else as we saw on The Long Halloween. My only real interest was seeing the book in good hands. I genuinely think this was an inspired choice and the online interest in this thing is so super-charged I have a horrible feeling the buggers might even outsell us."

Bryan Hitch:

"Jeph and Joe have a solid base here and can bring something really fresh now that we two tired old hacks are done. It will be faster and bigger, I bet and much more explosive. I can't see how they can disappoint given their pedigree."

Continuing August's theme of Everyone Overreacting To Everything, Millarworld continues to forsee the end of the world with the coming of Jeph Loeb and Joe Mad to The Ultimates:

"Ultimates is about ultra realistic art and politics just one superhero step away from the real world. Nothing this pair has even done in their careers indicates that they can deliver this particular 'flavour' to the ultimates. Thats me down to three marvel books next year. And a big sour taste left in my mouth."

"This is a total pisser. I don't think I've ever been this dissappointed with a creative team taking over a book in over 20 years of reading comics, as this is the most vocal I've ever been about something like this. Goodbye Ultimates."

"This is worse news than the book getting cancelled."

"the only thing that bothers me is that i really enjoy the current tone of paranoia and mistrust of american foreign policy in the book. jeph loeb's writing strikes me as the polar opposite of this. it seems more kinda flag waving mom and apple pie type storytelling. joe mads art is also less subversive than hitch's realistic ripped from the headlines kind of art."

"Ultimates is more of a creator driven project. And I think thats the essence of most peoples problems with 'this' creative team. This is not the 616 Avengers which are character driven as is most of the 616 universe. But the Ultimates are a different animal. And personally I do not see the book working with a different vision and a 'new' direction."

"I would love an Ultimate Hulk series written by the Ghost world writer, I would love the Ultimates to be written by some fantastic unknown talent. Someone with edge, someone with great new ideas. I don't care about 'fight comics', I don't care about super-powers, I just want a nice strong story that lasts longer than the time it takes to read the book itself. Loeb is not going to supply that, and MAD is not going to inspire me with his artwork, and that's before the insistence of returning to more traditional costumes."

"I wanted to quit comics for a while because it cost me too much. Hey it`s as good a time as any to do this now. Wow that is so depressing. Since i`m not the sort to hold grudges, I won`t toward Joe and the 'Powers-That-Be', I won`t say negative things after this one in message boards. But one thing I will do out of protest is stop being a Marvel fan. Consiser this: I buy 20 Marvel titles every months. And i`m dropping them all because of this Ultimates 3 decision. Since 2000 it`s been real. A Hell of a ride. I guess i`ll come back to the house when a new bankrupcy rears its head just to see what`s up."

DC Comics and Brad Meltzer - or, as he's known in the wonderful world of publishing, New York Times Bestseller Brad Meltzer - has an offer for those who might be interested in picking up Identity Crisis in hardcover next month - buy one, get one free:

"Brad Meltzer has written a graphic novel murder mystery that has all the critics talking. And you don't need to know anything about comics to enjoy it! When death hits too close to home, Superman, Batman and their costumed allies race against the clock to uncover the identity of a vicious killer...and end up uncovering a shocking event that will change the way you look at super heroes forever! And now, in a special offer for Brad Meltzer fans, when you buy Identity Crisis, you will also get a free copy of Brad’s Green Arrow: The Archer's Quest graphic novel! No strings attached – we're talking free book here!"

Details at the link. Interesting outreach effort, though.

The Comics Journal can be somewhat verbose, don't you think?:

"To me, it seems that comics have been deemed an 'inferior' form of art/entertainment through recent history primarily due to its close relation to the tradition of written literature, or perhaps more accurately, the illustrated children’s book. To render image alongside text is often associated with some sort of ineptitude on the part of its audience to adequately tap into the imaginative processes necessary to generate one’s own mental imagery, as one would when reading a novel. Now, this perception is only applicable when the written word is present in comics, it being the fundamental common element between the two. Remove the written word, and suddenly, the connection to literature seems to evaporate entirely, disregarding the basics of storytelling of both that transcend language. In this new scenario, we find comics as they truly are: the complete polar opposite of written literature, complete with a wholly different approach to reading and imaginative participation. Here, instead of generating imagery in response to text, as found in literature, the comics reader is invited to invent the narrative itself. The imagery provides the base scenario, but the reader’s participation is in the generation of their own mental dialogue, sound effects, even music, effortlessly elevating the medium as an equal sibling to traditional written literature. It is here that the question should be asked, does the written word really belong in comics, and if not, has its inclusion in the medium been to its own misfortune? ...To read text-laden comics, to me, is to miss the pure beauty of visual storytelling in its purest form, as we instantly gravitate towards the written elements, then work our way down the hierarchy towards the visual elements, ultimately synthesizing the two in our minds only after the initial viewing, engaging in a counterintuitive struggle that does little except slow the entire experience down. It’s after thinking on these ideas lately that I’ve decided to devote my own work exclusively to silent comics, and I am eager to hear others opinions on this. Keep in mind that I’ve spent my entire life reading comics with text, and this is only a recent development of opinion."

See what I did there? I made a joke about verbosity as an introduction to someone writing about verbosity. Me am so clever. Not that I'm the only one who couldn't resist cheap jokes:

"The next time you post on this board, you might want to be more brief in your writing. It's good writing, but a little overwhelming as a block of text. You know, like those text-heavy comics?"

Anyway, the rest of the thread engages the subject matter with slightly more weight...

Apologies are for the weak, claim the Bendis Board:

"Rob Liefield/Gail Simone apologized for [Teen Titans] #27 [on the official DC boards; it was an "I'm sorry if it didn't work for you" apology, as opposed to an apology for something in particular.] Even though they have nothing to apologize for in my opinion."

"For once I'd like the creators to give a big FUCK YOU to the audience saying that if you don't like it then TOO FUCKING BAD. What's w/ all the apologizing latley?"

"They didn't have to apologize. People are going to not like some books. Okay, the feedback was poor, so what could they do? Rob's had his day, and Gail is currently kicking all kinds of ass all over the place. (Anyone read Birds of Prey? Well you should be readin' it.) So they dropped a clunker. Everyone has 'em."

"Dude, it is part of being an adult. Saying 'fuck you'....well, in the professional world, it just doesn't help to say that to your purchasing community. I actually appreciate it, as someone who was let down by the overall story. I didn't hate it, but with their combined talents...I did expect something better than what I purchased. Thanks to Rob & Gail...I'm honestly more of a fan because of their honesty."

"Rob and Gail shouldn't have to apologize. The people who didn't like are not owed an apology. If you don't like it, don't buy it. If you tried it out just don't buy the second issue and wait for Geoff to return."

"Once Liefield begins appologizing for his work in the comics industry, how will he know when to stop?"

Mike Allred talks about his future work - his DC Solo issue, the Golden Plates, and a return to X-Statix:

"The [replacement of Princess Diana] hit me hard. Maybe even harder than Peter [Milligan, writer], but I doubt it. I just complained a lot louder after it took me out at the knees after drawing three whole issues and having them nixed. There's probably no moral to this story. I've been fully aware of the treatment of artists and writers my entire career. I've just been spoiled by enjoying most of my successes with my own creations and the freedoms that going along with that. And with the exception of that one crazy situation, my experience with Marvel, Axel, Joe, and all the terrific supporting players and co-stars was 100% killer. It's like winning a billion dollar lottery and complaining that the air conditioning isn't working on my private jet."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Anyone looking for confirmation of a rumor from this week's LiTG?:

"Pascual Ferry was to have drawn the Mister Miracle series, part of Grant Morrison's 'Seven Soldiers' arcing series. Well, he's only doing the first issue, with Bill Dallas Patton taking over the remaining three issues, with Michael Bair inking and Dave Macaig on colours."

Well, you should look at Mr. Patton's website for a fairly big hint:

"Bdp has agreed to take on a major project, finishing up a mini-series for DC Comics. Details are sketchy, though, and no planned announcements can be made until solicitations are released. Just know that miracles DO happen."

James Sime provides niceness:

"With handfuls of cardboard box sections at the ready, sharpies in hand, and pipe clenched firmly in his teeth, [Dave] Johnson whipped out amazing sketch after amazing sketch which he handed out for free to those in attendance. The Isotope scanner ran hot trying to keep up with and document Mister Johnson's sketching prowess. While not all of Mister Johnson's sketches were recorded before the eager fans ran home to frame their very own Dave Johnson Originals, a selection of ten of his best have been preserved. And now the archive has been opened to the public and these sketches are available to peruse on-line at your leisure."

Wizard spills their own beans at their website, previewing tomorrow's issue:

"JEPH LOEB MOVES TO MARVEL [...] The DC writer heads to the House of Ideas to do Ultimates with Joe Madureira!"

I really hope that Ultimates 3 is more similar in tone to Superman/Batman than anything else, just to see the reactions.

A retailer writes:

"Many of you long time comic geeks I am sure are familiar with this event. Someone finds out you are into comics, and immediately goes into how they have a bunch of comics from when they were kids that they are 'POSITIVE' are worth money, and they want you to help them price them. Almost always it turn out to be a giant pile of crap, worth absolutley nothing, but they proudly shout they have Spawn Number one and The Death Of Superman issue, still in the black bag. And with thier proud faces they look at you for reassurance, claiminfg 'surely these are worth money?' I used to hate it, because after hearing them go on about how great their collection was, it was so dissapointing. But now I realize I love it, when these poor deluded suckers come to me, expecting me to tell them they are sitting on a financial goldmine, and I can CRUSH all their little hopes by informing them that I spent more on gas coming to look at their books than their entire collection was worth, and I only live a block away. Does anyone else derive any sick pleasure from this?"

Millarworld is worried about Superman:

"Lately, the never-ending battle has turned into the never-ending need for more kleenex to dry the big guy's wet ones. Is he going to have an emotional breakdown during the infinite crisis? He hasn't been going to the shrink much, anymore. Personally, I think the poor guy's headed for a crash. He's just been burning the candle at both ends for too long. What's everyone else think? Before last week, I thought he'd NEVER KILL anyone, but he will, now. How long until he starts drinking rocket feul to get a buzz? I don't know if I like this Superman, but you have to admit, he's unpredictable."

"He'll bounce back. He killed three people in the Phantom Zone, starred in a porno with Jack Kirby's wife, and starred in a TV series with Delta Burke as a supervillain. If that doesn't wipe out the big lug I doubt anything can. Worst off, in-continuity Superman'll be a mess and we'll have to stick to All-Star. I'm not sobbing too hard over the idea of having to only spend my super-money on Grant & Frank, y'know? I'd like more good stories than just that but I'll soldier on."

"Will it make him stop acting like the biggest pussy in the DCU? If so, I'm all for it."

Fox News - Fair, Balanced, and their finger on the pulse of comics:

"It's invaded the comic book world and children's entertainment. But can manga make it at the movies? Simply, manga (rhymes with 'bang-a') is Japanese for 'comics.' Dishpan-sized eyes, samurai-like movements and girls in microscopic miniskirts are a few of its tell-tale elements. Technically, you can bring a Superman comic to Japan, and it will be referred to as 'manga.' But nobody's bringing Superman comics to Japan. And everybody's bringing manga to America."

But not content with introducing Sean Hannity to what The Kids want, Fox looks to the future. But not the future you'd expect:

"Slated for 2007, Dreamworks' as-yet-untitled 'Transformers' movie will be the closest thing we'll see to a major mainstream attempt at bringing manga to the big screen. Though it didn't follow the traditional manga path (comic-anime-movie), producer Don Murphy makes the link. 'Just the whole idea of giant robots is a very manga-type thing,' he said. The 'Transformers' movie will be an interesting test of whether the current hunger for manga — combined with the box office's lust for superheroes — can go one step further. If giant robots can't conquer American audiences, then, what can?"

The John Byrne forum reflects on the state of the industry:

"if you look at sales on an individual comic things look pretty grim but there are some good things compared to when I started reading comics in 1980. 1. There are a huge number of comics being produced. I think there are more Batman comics produced in a month than DC used to produce across their line. If you like Batman you are set. 2. If you do not like the current batman there are more trade papaerbacks being created than ever. You can read the version of Batman you like since there is a trade for it. 3. There is more variety. If you only look at the top of the charts you won't see it but there is a comic now being prodused for any taste. Look at the size of Previews if you cannot find something you like in there you do not like comics. There are three series just by Byrne this month. 4. Many artists and writers are making good money. Kirby had to work really long days to make enough money while many artist now make plenty on one book that does not even come out very often. 5. Anybody can start a comic and get it distributed. This was much more difficult in the past."

"Keep in mind that the combined sales of all the Batman titles sold today probably don't equal the sales of the Batman title, alone, 20-30 years ago."

"What can we do about it, though, except continue to buy comics?"

"There is something else to be done other than we, the readers, continuing to buy comics, and that's to go out and convert! In recent months I've slowly suckered a friend into the dark, murky world of comics. He's 28 and he's now picking up at least 3 books a month! Now I'm casting about for the next mark!"

"We need the BIG TWO to expand into EVERY genre...we need comic book shops and comic book READERS that will support other genres... BUT...mostly...we need NEW READERS...the KIDS need to come back...and we really, really need BETTER DISTRIBUTION."

"It is assumed by and large on this board that the number of people actually buying comics regularly has declined. But has it? From 73 through to 83 I brought regularly 20 or more comics a month both Marvel and DC, and often more. Now I buy 2 regularly. I rarely see people at my local shop buying more than 2 or 3 at a time. Is it the case now that we have lots of peoople who buy a few comics each month as compared to the old days when we had roughtly the same number of buyers reader but they bought a lot each month? I don' t know but from what others have posted on other threads I think it may have some basis in fact. Other than anecdotal evidence, can anyone give information that either supports this or not?"

"In my opinion, most comics should be produced as cheap as possible, distributed to as many outlets as possible, and be save for readers of all ages. Leave the lesbian assassian comics to the comic shops, but I want to see spinner racks in convenience stores again. Let's find a way to get more people reading them in the first place, then they can discover the depth the industry can reach."

"What does this Manga stuff sell anyway? What percentage of kids are reading it? Why won't it be a fad like GI Joe or TMNT or Smurfs or Image or Transformers, He-man, etc, when this generation grows up/gets tired of it, and their younger brothers and sisters look for their own things, as I did and then my sister and brother?"

"I'll put it very bluntly: the reason manga has beaten the pants off American comics is because it's better and appeals to more people. I'll take a single Crying Freeman over a thousand stories like 'Sins Past.' Even their immature wanking material is better than ours. What's amazing is how material written and drawn for a different culture is outselling domestic stuff here; the foreign companies are that good and the domestic ones are that clueless. If American publishers don't like how they're getting slaughtered, they should improve their material and their distribution. On the other hand they really don't seem to be bothered, as the bad behavior just keeps getting worse."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Who can follow Mark Millar? CB Cebulski offers hints:

"C.B. Cebulski, standing in for Joe Quesada at the 'Cup ‘O Joe' panel seemed to confirm that Jeph Loeb and Joe Madureria are the new team on the recently announced Ultimates v3. Cebulski was asked 'What are Jeph/Joe doing?' and answered 'See Wizard in four days'. He was then asked 'Who’s the next team on Ultimates?' and answered 'See Wizard in four days,' and then added 'I think you guys can put two and two together.'"

Mr. Cebulski is singing a slightly different tune at Millarworld, though:

"I don't work at Marvel anymore. I sat in on the Cup O' Joe as a favor to answer any questions I may know the answers to. I do not know what Joe Mad's next project is. I do not know who is taking over Ultimates 3. I just gave the same answer I heard Joe give to these questions when I was at his panel in Chicago. 'Wait for the new Wizard.' I'll be picking it up this Wednesday to read the news myself."

The Millarworld response to the rumor in general is somewhat as you'd expect:

"God, and that's how I stop buying The Ultimates."

"If this is true, I'm totally dropping this book, and I'm totally disgusted at Marvel for picking such a poor replacement for one their best creative teams on one of the best books. Millar's and Hitch's legacy just got crapped on."

"Personally, I don't want to see what these guys do with the book. I've always found Loeb's work boring and sometimes pretentious, and I despise Madureira's work. It most definetly is not my cup of tea. So I see no reason whatsoever to drop a sigle cent towards a book done by these guys."

"Loeb and Mad doing Ultimates 3 just means I save money each week. Not a fan of either, and I'm of the opinion that they don't have the chops to keep that book as good as it's been."

"Looks like I will start saving three dollars soon."

The Bendis Board gets ready for Engine, Warren Ellis's new message board:

"Yay! Finally a new place where introverted American high school and college students can go and awkwardly speak British slang! They've been so lost for so long..."

"Yay I can finally dump this place."

"Okay, it's not trying to be the Bendis Board, it's not trying to be Millarworld, and he'd rather we didn't come to discuss his more disseminated works, Planetary being part of this list of undesired topics of conversation. Speaking as a huge Ellis fan, what's the bloody point here?"

"A place for speficially talking about non-superhero, creator-owned work? A read-only pro forum? Sounds great to me. These things are pretty lacking in the current online community. Also, hopefully it'll keep the rape-o's out."

Millarworld also prepares.

Millarworld reacts to the preview design of Ultimate Galactus:

"GAH LAK TUS AS A DISGUSTING, PLANET CONSUMING SPACE BUG. I CAN SEE IT. f.y.i.-I WANT TO BE THE FIRST TO COIN THE PHRASE "GAH LAK TUS INTOLERANT" FOR ALL FUTURE USE."

"That Galactus design will look as dated as some people think the original version looks. It's totally a product of the Matrix/Mecha era. Ooh, a mechanical bug with LED eyes. I don't care if it came from the mind of Warren Ellis or not. It just looks awful. Then again, this is just a preliminary image, so I can't bitch too much yet. For all I know the bug is going to come to rest on the shoulders of a big Mecha syle robot..with tentacles. Oof."

"THAT'S Ultimate Galactus? You know.....this is exactly why I prefer the originals to the 'keweled up' Ultimate versions. There's this spirit of 'we can top that' at work with alot of these updated Ultimate versions of characters, no more evident than with this absurd 'improvement' over Lee and Kirby's giant space-god. How is a Geiger-esque bug head inherently 'kewler' than 'a guy with a bucket on his head'? Or how about this, Oh Mighty Ultimate Writers: How about something entirely original that doesn't involve sticking mag wheels on 'old school' ideas and characters? How 'new school' can you guys actually be if you can't put these archetypes behind you and strive for something truly new and original?"

The Bendis Board reacts to the same:

"Pretty cool. Looks kinda like Brainiac's skull ship from the front."

"Doesn't really strike fear in your heart though does it?"

"Did a Giant man wearing a purple helmet with antlers with a big G on his belt and chest do that? Pretty neat design if you ask me."

Brandon Peterson, artist of the sketches, responds to the comments:

"Hey guys, those are my prelims for the 'Ultimate Galactus' project. Those images are prelims, as in quick developmental ideas that may or may not be used. I am actually very surprised that those prelims were shown as they were a couple of ideas that were bashed out quickly by me early in the development process. They are rough ideas to visualize some specific things Joe, Warren, Ralph and I were talking about over e-mails. I would say folks should wait until the book comes out before they make up their minds about it and to not judge the final product based on a couple of 20 minute prelims and a little heresay. I mean it's entertaining and all, but it's also a little silly."

Tom Spurgeon has the SPX Anthology line-up on his blog.

Larry Young talks about his secret origin, his future and AiT/PlanetLar:

"You have to adapt or die, man. Even though some observers of the scene think I make absolute pronouncements about doctrine and dogma and whatnot, I think that's just a reaction to my passion and focus. Honestly, the one bit of dogma anyone could accuse me of and be correct is that we zig when you think we're gonna zag. Look at the history: think we're self-publishers? Astronauts In Trouble: Live From The Moon, was published by the Snell Brothers' Gun Dog Comics. Think we only do graphic novels? Enjoy AiT: Space: 1959, DEMO, and The Black Diamond. Getting used to us pitching our editorial slate the week before San Diego? Not this year; we're rolling out things individually. What can I tell you? I'm just not one of those guys who enjoys the familiar. I like the new thing, around the corner. I like to innovate or trail-blaze. I'm not going to repeat myself or do something again, because it's familiar. That's a good way to get stale."

So, as we've seen even here, there's some upset at the recent events in the Batbooks. One LiveJournal poster sums said upset up in one long post:

"See, the thing is? When it comes right down to it, for me... it's not about the actual plot-points. Not Steph-as-Robin, not Steph's death, not even Leslie's character being raped for the sake of, apparently, sales-increasing outrage. I've been around this comics block a few times, after all, and I completely do get how many of these cracked-out and massively world-shaking decisions either come down from on-high or are actively *approved* by those on-high.

"'Cripple the bitch,' said the DC editorial staff in response to Alan Moore's questions about what he could and couldn't do to Babs. I know this. *We* know this, yes? At this point, I'm not actually finding all that many people who seriously believe that all of the nutty things that have been happening in Willingham's issues are, in fact, all Willingham's fault. If there are still people who believe that? Stop. Stop. Because a) it wasn't, and b) it's so completely not about that.

"How many of you have some story somewhere which you loved to bits despite the fact that it killed off a favorite character? How many of you have *written* stories like that? Stories where heroes do crazy and morally wrong things, stories where heroes legacies' are tarnished... you know, the sort of thing that, once it makes it into canon, often causes us to freak the hell out. Now, meta could most assuredly be written -- and has, in terms of 'Identity Crisis,' at least -- about how it *is* the divide between fan-fiction and canon which makes the difference, and I do think that there's a *point* there that should be considered. After all, we're talking about a canon which cannot -- will not -- actually *end*, and so every decision which comes down the pike must have consequences, and those consequences must ripple down the timeline now and forever -- or be edited out in some offensive universe re-set or another.

"Killing Anya off in the last episode of BtVS is both more and *less* meaningful than, say, killing off Stephanie in 'War Games.' It was the last freaking episode, you know? We, as fans, don't have to gird our collective loins and live on tenterhooks to see how the writers will try -- and possibly fail -- to handle the aftermath of that death correctly. In comics-land... this is a) a big ol' open wound which must be considered, and b) a big ol' open wound which we frankly have very little reason to believe will be treated with the care it deserves and requires in order not to fester. [Insert Jason Todd-related rant here.]

"When you have an open-ended -- and neverending -- canon, there is virtue in conservatism. There are things which simply cannot be done in the Batverse -- or the rest of the DCU -- which can be done on the Vertigo side of the fence. As a fan of both DC and Vertigo titles? I'm on board with that. I think it's ass-stupid that Bruce can't be allowed to have his fortieth birthday, but, you know, I'm *not* a DC fan for the Great! Big! Shakeups! I don't think I actually *know* anyone who *is*. It's not the 'Identity Crisis'-type storylines which bring us to the proverbial yard -- even though I, for one, quite enjoyed IC -- it's the generations of history, it's the legacies, it's the decades of slow, cautious character-building. It's the *world*, and the way it turns quite slowly, indeed. Five years of real time for every year -- at most -- of comics-time. THAT is what does it for me. Break Gotham to bits? Fine! *Spend* that year-and-change exploring the ramifications of an earthquake and, yes, rebuilding. It wasn't the quake which did it to us, collectively, it was the reactions to it, the family, the coming-together, and, yes, the rebuilding.

"It was the ways in which destroying a city which meant so much to people both fictional and not, and the GIANT OBVIOUS METAPHOR OF ETERNITY which informed the rebuilding which was just as important as the tearing down. It's that, in the end, we all know that Bruce isn't truly a Murderer, at all. What we're *here* for is what it does to the characters and their universe before they -- yes -- *rebuild*, once more. It's the fact that Batman and Robin's relationship could never be the same after issues like Gotham Knights #26 and BATMAN #600, but that, because they're Batman and Robin as much as they're Bruce and Tim, they have to *try*, they have to live with it and they have to *try*.

"So what's the deal now? What happened to the other half of the process, DC? Where's the rebuilding? Where's the reshaping of what had been broken into something both ultimately changed from the original but still recognizable as the -- perhaps inevitable -- *child* of the original? Where's the *legacy*? There are any number of fans who will hate you, DC -- or claim to hate you -- every time you do something negative (or even 'negative') to their favorite characters. Frankly, people like that *should* be ignored, because there's a difference between respecting the legacy and letting the proverbial swamp stagnate.
However, there are any number of areas of overlap between *that* sort of fan and, well, a fan like me. I loved 'Identity Crisis,' you know?

"Frankly, I think the only problem with "Emerald Twilight" was that you, in your infinite wisdom, failed to give it to a creative team who would handle your editorial edicts with the respect and care that they deserved. I think your recent decision to 'redeem' Hal Jordan via offensively stupid retcons and a careful removal of all blame is, well, offensively stupid. NIGHTWING #93 made me gasp and moan and rock back and forth. ROBIN #100 made my eyes try to remove themselves from my head in shocked joy -- and I will never, ever get over 'A Boy and His Mask.' So what's so different about these issues and storylines? What makes the one fantastic and brave storytelling and the other offensive extremism and disrespect?

"Well, you know, it's sticky, O Editorial Ones, but I think, in the end, you can boil it down to one damned word: RESPECT. Here, I'll say it again, just in case it wasn't clear: RESPECT [...] For whatever reason, you tend to hire writers who fall into two distinct camps: Camp One: Giant fanboys and fangirls who love the universe and want to honor it as much -- if not more -- as they want to tell their own stories. Camp Two: Men and women who want to tell their own stories.

"Frankly, DC? It's dead fucking obvious which writers fall into the former camp and which fall into the latter. It doesn't matter if every 'major' plot point in Willingham's storylines was a decision made by *you*, you really should've known better than to give it to a man who has actively expressed contempt of the very idea of superhero comics -- and the fans who love them -- and who has flat-out said that he never read them before. Especially once it became clear that he didn't exactly bend over backwards to catch *up* on those superhero comics he hated so much before he set pen to ROBIN paper.

"I'm a fangirl, DC. I'm a professional writer sometimes, but, in the end, I'm *mostly* a fangirl. That *kind* of fangirl who believes that there are no objective limits to the kind of story you can tell about a given set of characters -- and the content of those stories -- so long as you start from a place of respect, if not flat-out love and adoration. Kill my woobies. Maim my woobies. Make my woobies do things that make me weep. But, for the love of all that's holy -- remember that they *are* woobies. That they're people, too -- if not to you, o DC editors, then to their fans. Babs might have been just a useless 'bitch' to you, but she was *your* bitch. You put her out there. You gave her *to* us. And if we failed to find her superfluous, then, you know, perhaps you should be congratulating yourself on a job well done... rather than getting pissy with us, as fans, for not going with the program. [Insert additional Jason Todd-related rant here.]

"The reason *why* 'Identity Crisis' worked for so very, very many of us -- even for those of us who violently disagreed with the things Meltzer said about Barry, and who will never forgive him for killing Sue -- is that it was rather abundantly clear that we were dealing with a writer from Camp One. The reason *why* "Red Hood" is working for so very, very many of us -- even for those us who violently disagree with the things Winick is saying about Jason Todd, and who think he's smoking the bad crack, besides... the reason why we're *not* up in arms against Winick is that it remains abundantly clear that we are, again, dealing with a writer from Camp One. So why isn't it clear to you, hunh?

"What are you *doing* that the nature of fannishness, of love and respect for legacies and fictional characters seems so alien and so strange? Take a step back, people. Breathe. And remember that *without* the insane fanboys and fangirls -- the ones who love so wildly and strangely, so intensely and so illogically -- you wouldn't be getting *paid*.

"Please.

"Or don't... and continue to watch those sales numbers of yours fall."

Bill Willingham? Would you like to respond?

"After this issue came out, I took a rare tour of other message boards to try to gauge what the general reaction might be. As expected, it was overwhelmingly negative, with lots of 'how dare Willingham do this!' What I didn't expect is how much message traffic this book would generate. Message boards that might have one or two regulars post every few days, or so, suddenly exploded with five and six pages of new messages per day.

"Here's something you readers need to realize: Though we generally hope readers will like our stories, hating them is almost as good. Hating them so much that yours is the one book everyone is talking about now -- well that's golden. One can't hate without passion and involvement. The one reaction we most fear is indifference. Yes, I'm a little put out by the (at least three and counting) reputedly male readers who posted testimony that they wept after reading this issue (one claiming it was for the loss of innocence). Not that I believe they actually did. But I'm still from an early enough American generation to find men claiming to act like overly dramatic little girls just a little bit cringe-making.

"And of course there were scores of those claiming that this incident was the last straw and they're giving up my books, or the Bat books, or all comic books, forever. Here's a splash of water for everyone who ever has or ever will make such an hysterical claim on a message board: We never believe you. If you're the type to indulge in 'how dare they do that!' we know you'll always be back for further outrages. Those addicted to indignation need constant indignation feeding.

"But, that aside, all is good. Feel free to blame me for ruining Batman. I could claim that editorial mandates were in force here and thereby split the blame a bit, but I think this time I won't. I willingly took the job, and I'm too greedy to want to share the credit this time.

"How do you like them apples?"

(Thanks, Libby and Ollie.)

There's an admittedly odd, throwaway line in Robert Kirkman's interview at Newsarama:

"Darkhawk's appearance in Marvel Team-Up will tie-in with his appearance in Runaways. So fans of that book will see the connection. I won't be ignoring anything set up there, I'm a fan of that book, I'm just not a fan of Brian K. Vaughan as a person."

Of course, gets what gets the most commentary in the follow-up posts?

"What beef does Robert Kirkman have with Vaughan???"

"I didn't know Kirkman had issues with Vaughn. Anyone care to enlighten me?"

"Hopefully it was just a playful jest. I've heard there's been too much of this writer-on-writer hate going around."

"He's being facetious. All those Marvel writers like to make jokes that they hate each other. Vaughn picks on Millar's height. Bendis prints Kirkman's phone number in a letter column. Everyone picks on Bendis and Vaughns lack of hair. Etc."

"Well that did not sound facetious,because it did not have a punchline........i mean to say i do not like someone as a person is pretty upfront and no veiled humor in that."

The Kirby Museum opens its virtual doors:

"The Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center is organized exclusively for educational purposes; more specifically, to promote and encourage the study, understanding, preservation and appreciation of the work of Jack Kirby by... illustrating the scope of Kirby's multi-faceted career, communicating the stories, inspirations and influences of Jack Kirby, celebrating the life of Jack Kirby and his creations, and building understanding of comicbooks and comicbook creators. To this end, the Museum will sponsor and otherwise support study, teaching, conferences, discussion groups, exhibitions, displays, publications and cinematic, theatrical or multimedia productions."

(Via Newsarama.)

James Kochalka explains Superfuckers:

"It's a real superhero book. It's just filtered through me, which makes it all Kochalka-y. Basically, I began by meditating for several years on the nature of the universe, and how every creature exists in conflict with every other creature. Humans can't exist without killing (even vegetarians kill countless thousands of bacteria and viruses every day, unconsciously). These meditations eventually formed what I call my 'Evil Universe Theory.' However, when I sat down and started writing and drawing the book, it turned into this superpowered animal house-type thing. I guess it's a silly book about a bunch of nineteen-year-old kids living in a clubhouse, or like a co-ed dorm, doing drugs and playing video games, and being obnoxious to each other. But I think there is a hidden depth underneath it all, which refers back to two years of contemplation on the evil nature of the universe."

"Stop me if you've heard this one. Man walks into a bar. And the barman says to him, what can I get you? So the man orders a copy of SCOTT PILGRIM."

Paul O'Brien gets the last word (well, probably not) at Ninth Art.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Fantagraphics' Kim Thompson on timeliness:

"The most frequent reason for a book's lateness is simply that the artist blew his deadline. (Sorry, Fantacartoonists, we love you, but you know it's true.) Because of the way distribution (both comics-shop and bookstore) works, we as publishers have to announce books before they're completed, or in some cases even begun --four months for comics, up to a year for books (we're nailing down our August 2006 releases even as I type this)-- and as a result, cartoonists' schedules are sometimes no more than educated guesses, or distant, foolish hopes."

More explanation at the link, as well as a guide to some currently-delayed Fanta books and when to (possibly) expect them.

Hang on, Leslie Thompkins is killing sidekicks and now this? What's going on in Gotham City these days? Larry Young, fill us in:

"I'm nearly 42, so kids' adventure comics don't really appeal to me much, because I'm 1. not a kid and 2. don't get much out of adolescent power fantasies not being an adolescent, so much, anymore. But, you know, I check out the superheroes every once in a while and I stay informed on the latest outrage sweeping the biz. Crossover this, gotta-buy-that-to-understand-the-other, etc. Everybody's got an issue to bellyache about. It's human nature.

"Anybody read Batman: Gotham Knights #67? Dig the end?

"Why isn't the 'Internet cracking in half' about Alfred (Alfred!) murdering someone to protect Batman's secret identity?

"This is Alfred, everyone. Loyal manservant to a beloved pop culture icon. It's not an episode of The Shield, or something. Alfred killed somebody.

"Dang."

Eric Stephenson is at Newsarama again, talking to Matt Brady about Marvel and DC's Summer O'Crossover:

"NRAMA: It’s been said that the events, such as House of M and the Infinite Crisis buildup are good for the entire industry – a rising tide lifts all ships and all that. Is that the story from where you’re sitting?

"ES: Who says this? Is that seriously the spin on this stuff?

"NRAMA: That more people are coming into stores with more excitement about comics in general...

"ES: It's a lovely notion and all, but I'm not sure it's grounded in any kind of reality."

Via Kevin, news of DC moving into a new (well, old, but one they haven't been in for awhile) area:

"Black Industries, the role-playing game division of U.K-based game and comics publisher Black Library, has entered into a licensing deal with DC Comics to develop a role playing game and book series based on DC Comics super heroes [...] Vincent Rospond, global sales and marketing manager for Black Library, says the agreement gives BI 'free range' to create a game based on any of the characters from the DC Comics universe. BI will publish at least 6 books, launching the series with a game rule book that will be released at the San Diego Comic-Con in July 2006. After the initial six books, says Rospond, BI will follow with a new book each month beginning in late 2006."

Chris Butcher has some thoughts about the state of the manga market, prompted by the following:

"I heard a fairly well-sourced rumour yesterday. It was about ADV and GENEON, two large anime publishers, who were just hit with a terrifyingly large set of returns thanks to a U.S. chain store ceasing to distribute manga. I'm hearing multiple solid tractor-trailers full, with several studios being shut down and cost-cutting measures across the board? Apparently, there's no money in anime or something, despite radical growth in both sales and popularity. Really, I think there's just so far they're willing to let the cost be cut and that's not low enough for the deep-discount chain stores. I picked up a volume of LAIN for $8 Canadian a few months back at Walmart, for example.... In short, popular product line hit with huge returns and market correction. It sounds an awful lot like the black & white boom in comics, 20 years ago."

Much more at the link.

Millarworld is not so happy with current events in the Batbooks:

"It was the worst kind of shock twist, the kind that's created in artifice instead of naturally coming out of the characters. It's as if they thought to themselves, 'We'll make the killer Leslie Thompkins! NO ONE will expect that!' Well, of course no one will expect that, because IT MAKES NO SENSE. And now a perfectly good character is ruined, because you can't really come back from negligent homicide. Unless it was really Clayface."

"It could be one of two things: As part of one pre crisis mini (JLA 115-119), Batman is the moral compass. 'How dare you mind wipe me and take preventative measures against me'. In another mini (OMAC), he's created the engine (Brother Eye, who i think will eventually become Grant Morrison's Solaris)that has been responsible for killing a bunch. So he just seems like a dick. It could also be that Barbara Gordon wiggled her toes in Birds of Prey. Everybody hates when you fuck with something Alan Moore has done."

"that Leslie thing is totally shit [...] such a great character wasted with such a stupid thing, goign totally agianst her personality and her oath as a doctor, it doesn't make sense at all"

"nex t thing we know is Bruce has repressed memories of Alfred molesting him"

"Don't go there. Please."

"that's what Bruce said"

The enjoyable First Second blog - from First Second Books, who launch next year with a pretty fucking stunning line up of talent, although I may be biased by the presence of Eddie Campbell and Nick Abadzis in their ranks, considering those two are two of my comic heroes - has been introducing the creators of their upcoming books by letting them select some of their favorite comic moments. Joann Sfar, whose Pantheon book The Rabbi's Cat has been getting just a wee bit of critical praise lately, picks a nice eclectic selection, including one of the greatest splash pages of all time (The Spirit one, if you're wondering)...

While I'm on about blogs I like, I've been meaning to link Sean Maher for awhile. Not that we share that much of a taste in comics - he thinks that The Infinity Gauntlet was the last good superhero crossover, for the love of God, when everyone knows that that title belongs to DC One Million - but any man who spends a week writing about what comics you should read on the toilet deserves more of an audience.

Given what normally happens when I mention other blogs, this may be a very bad idea, but I just want to tell everybody that if you're not reading Dave's Long Box, then you're missing out on the very joy of comics itself. The latest thing to emerge from Mr. Campbell's impossibly long box is a look back at The Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe, from the '80s. But not just any issue of TOHOTMU, my friends. Dave's talking about the issue that was all about the gadgets:

"The Book of Weapons, Hardware, and Paraphernalia was an appendix of sorts to the regular Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe, the nearly-comprehensive catalogue of Marvel heroes and villains... Presented in a dry, technical style by writer Eliot R Brown, the BoWHP gave an air of plausibility to wacky shit like Stilt-Man’s armor and The Ringmaster’s hypnotic top hat. It was presented with such a straight face that you would start thinking, 'You know, that actually makes sense, the Stilt Man thing! He has microprocessors in his suit which handle flat, inclined, and broken surfaces, and he has foot pad actuator rams which compensate for terrain. I guess it really would work!'"

This presses so many geek nostalgia buttons for me it should be illegal.

Mark Millar talks about The Ultimates, as part of Newsarama's Ultimate Fifth week:

"I love writing adult stuff, but the restrictions on the Ultimate line is very interesting to work with on a creative level. People never, ever notice this, but we get away with much less than the regular MU books. We aren't allowed to use loads of words Marvel U books can use, make any kind of sexual innuendo or anything. It's actually quite tricky sometimes. But I like to push things when I can because, as a five or six year old, I was thrilled and scared when I read my Marvel UK reprints of the Death of Norman Osborn. We live in a world where the most dangerous thing kids see is recess and their parents drive them to and from school every day. I think a little danger prepares them for the real world."

Marvel announces a new ongoing Mary Jane series, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. Created by Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawai, the team behind the previous MJ series, the press release has some interesting comments:

"The new Mary Jane Vol.2: Homecoming Digest is teen drama at its finest. The Mary Jane series have been garnering tremendous support from fans and critics, with Vol.1: Circle of Friends making it onto Entertainment Weekly’s Must List. Now look for that drama to continue this December as Mary Jane gets her own ongoing series, tentatively titled Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane... Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane will also be making a grand introduction to the world of comics with a strong presence in newsstands as well as being available for subscription orders. But before that happens, don’t forget Mary Jane Vol.2: Homecoming Digest... For compelling teen angst and high school romance in the mighty Marvel manner with a guest appearance or two by Spider-Man, don’t miss Mary Jane Vol.2: Homecoming Digest. Look for Mary Jane’s ongoing title to debut in December."

Playing up the digest collections and the non-direct market outlets, huh? Interesting...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Eric Stephenson talks about Image Comics:

"B. Clay Moore used to compare Image to HBO in that you look at the programs they've come out with – comedies, dramas, you name it – and the thing linking them together is that they're all good. That's the goal here. The goal is to do good comics that, hopefully, you haven't seen before and that brings me back 'round to your original question and that thing I wrote in Previews last month. If you want to know what Image Comics is, it's pretty simple: new comics. New ideas, new characters, new creators."

Poor Tom Spurgeon's letter column has taken on a life all of its own this week, mostly due to its playing host to Alan David Doane's latest seeming-breakdown. Why, if it's not people writing in to respond to Alan's misunderstandings or wilful ignorance of how the industry works - like this, from Brian Hibbs: "Look, it sure seems to me that you don't know nothing about comics retailing. I have face-out display of Embroideries and Summer Blonde, while I sell a whole lot of that yummy material, what pays the rent on a week-to-week basis is the habitual serialized fiction that you so deride. See, what we want you to understand is that it is often the SAME PERSON buying House of M and Optic Nerve, really, really it usually is!" - or people responding to Alan in general - "Much as I've heard artists talk about buying Liefeld books to chuckle at the proportions and panel continuity, I now read Doane's hyperbole-laden rants and just laugh at them. There is always a possibility he's purposefully obtuse, looking to stir up controversy (or in the jargon of Usenet, 'trolling' for a fight). It would explain a number of things." - then it's Alan himself, finding all new holes to dig himself. Here, realizing that his emails to Tom probably gain him a wider audience than his own blog, he summarizes his week so far. After linking to a few blog posts and comments, he writes:

"What do all these have in common? They are all the fruit of the poison tree of O'Brien's original filler-as-column piece on how bored (yawn!) he is with what he thinks is comics, i.e., those pesky, spandex-clad North American superhero comics. The sub-genre of the defunct boy's adventure genre that continues to exclude an unheard, unseen majority of potential comics readers by virtue of its stranglehold on an entire industry that shuts its eyes, plugs its ears, and yes, wishes it into the cornfield. Jimmy."

It's like he's the blog Bill Jemas, going out of his way to say outrageous things just to get attention and feel superior; he's the alt-comics Omar. Long may he rain on everyone's parades.

Erik Larsen sings Herb Trimpe's praises:

"Herb Trimpe made it all work. His Hulk looked like the Hulk to me. 'Incredible Hulk' #185 was a masterpiece (and no, I'm not going to spoil it for you-- go get your own copy). I couldn't imagine how they could top this! Somehow-- it all just clicked, seamlessly-- even with a string of rotating writers, it worked. Herb kept it grounded in reality and each writer kept the amazing soap opera elements rolling, year after year."

I am a massive fan of the way that Trimpe used to draw mouths. It's the strangest thing, I know, but he had this surreal, sub-Kirby way of doing teeth...

Bored of hearing about how Stephanie Fierman's appointment at DC has shaken things up, Dark Horse makes some personnel changes of their own:

"Dark Horse Comics has announced that Dirk Wood has been named Marketing Director, and Michael Gombos has been appointed Japanese Licensing Manager. Wood, an Oregon native, spent eight years as the Operations Manager for Dark Horse's retail chain Things From Another World and then a four-year stint at Dark Horse Comics where his duties have ranged from trade show coordination to international distribution."

We start this day of pushing comics sideways by directing your attentions to the Isotope Communique, where James Sime is offering a 30-page preview of Paul Sizer's Moped Army:

"The future's pugnacious youth revive a legendary organization of the distant past... the Moped Army rides again! With great art and a book full of speeding down cyberpunk city streets on two wheels of discontented fury, the Moped Army riders live their breakneck lives in a full throttle world of danger, intrigue, young love, and screaming blacktop."

Also for those of you who like the preview action, Speakeasy Comics have provided Newsarama with the entire first issue of Elk's Run for you to sample, as a preview of their upcoming Elk's Run Bumper Edition.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

More Tom Spurgeon talking sense:

"We're certainly in the age of the graphic novel or trade paperback format, but comics people think so often in binaries, one option or the other, that it's a pleasure to see older options being explore. I like buying a giant spined book in a Barnes and Noble and I also like buying three or four stapled pamphlets in a comics shop."

It's at the end of an interesting article about the re-emergence of the comic series as a format from "alternative" creators that's well worth your time.

Eric Stephenson's explaining Long Hot Summer to Newsarama:

"I'd wanted to do something about Mods for a while, but I wasn't sure exactly what. I'd just read some great books about 60s London – Stoned and 2Stoned by former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham and Ready, Steady, Go! by Shawn Levy – along with a couple more Mod-specific books by Paolo Hewitt, The Sharper Word and The Soul Stylists, and at first I was kind of toying with the idea of doing something about the early days of the Mod scene in London, but after finishing an early draft of my story for Four-Letter Worlds, I started thinking about other things I could do in that vein, things that were kinda sorta autobiographical. I guess I kind of gradually came around to the idea of doing something about my experiences with the fringes of the SoCal Mod scene in the mid-to-late ‘80s."

CBR is having a week of Fear Agent, Rick Remender's new Image book. Remender talks about the plan behind the book:

"Let's not mince words-- science fiction has lost its stones... it became the stomping ground of nerds who would rather know exactly how the warp engines actually work than have high adventure. They focused on trade federations and on the intricacies and politics of alien worlds. However, when done right, this offered us a momentary reflection on our own society, but it wasn't very fun. They took away the tooth and grit and made it sterile. Though in some circles 'Star Wars' and 'Star Trek' are loved by people whose love of the genre allows them to overlook their lowered expectations, sci-fi has long since lost the collective mainstream conscience and it lost me. 'Fear Agent' is our attempt to return sci-fi to its proper place-- to do it the way we think Mr. [Wally] Wood would have wanted it. We're here to tell big stories packed full of over-the-top monsters and high adventures where the stakes are as simple and primal as basic survival."

Klaus Janson talks at Comic Foundry, and makes me love him

"There's a trend in comics right now that seems to work with the audience and that is a riff on being 'realistic' - using photos and such as a basis to get closer to reality. Although, personally, that just makes me absolutely vomit... I don't think that comics are about photorealism, and I tell you that if I had one wish for this medium it would be to pull back from that. I think it's the thing that's going to kill comics. Don't get me wrong, there have always been artists and comics that rely on photorealism including myself, I might add, but it's going too far. The problem is that the attempt to mimic realism in comics results in work that is very limited and constrained... Comics are not about reality, it's about reality plus."

And this is only part one!

Ryan Higgins answers questions on Ghost Rider #1, JSA Classified #2 (including spoiling Power Girl's new origin, which is... um... an interesting twist), and provides a retrospective of Power Girl's breasts:

"As Power Girl continued to appear in various Justice League and All-Star Squadron comics, more and more people began to comment on her breasts. By the time Crisis on Infinite Earths was over and Karen Starr was a member of the Justice League again, they became one of the time’s longest running in-jokes, next to 'Bwa-hah-hah' and the pies-in-the-face from Suicide Squad."

Talking of Spurgeon, the "Smalltown Comic Stores" conversation is continuing in his personal digital post office. If you'll remember from yesterday, Alan David Doane wanted the comic industry to die, while others wanted it to evolve and grow. William Binderup of Elite Comics isn't convinced by ADD's credentials:

"Come on, you're a fucking blogger!! Tarot card reading is a more legitimate industry."

ADD, in turn, isn't convinced by William's credentials:

"http://www.elitecomics.com/ [...] Well, I can see why my letter got this guy all defensive about an exclusionary, hostile-to-non-superhero-fan readers letter."

Only problem is, ADD's looking at the wrong Elite Comics, as Matt Fraction explains. Rob Schamberger elaborates:

"William Binderup's Elite Comics is one of the better-stocked, indy-friendly shops in the KC area, actually, and he even publishes indy comix. I worked for William several years back, and I can say first-hand that he actively cares about the industry and isn't someone whose shop I would want to see, as some ill-informed person put it, 'DIE'."

Evan Dorkin chips in, trying to drag the conversation back onto the original topic:

"Comics are a luxury, and still an outdated, backwards medium most people can and do live without (whatever they're priced at and no matter how many recent mainstream articles are written that extoll their virtues). There's a reason why, when a comic book bull session turns to the idea of opening a store of one's own, someone always has to mention that it's a crazy fucking idea. And it is. And I guess that's why nobody opens shops. A few folks I know who looked into the idea couldn't get any capitol, nobody wanted to put their dough on a perceived loser. Maybe only people as succesful as Kevin Smith or wrestler Rob Van Dam can afford to open a comic book shop, people who don't necessarily need the income from such an operation. If opening a shop is so daunting and seemingly lunatic, doesn't that speak volumes about the commercial viability of the product, of the medium? Or at least the perceived viability?"

Meanwhile, Nat Gertler responds to Robert Boyd and Alan David Doane:

"I have seen signs that some retailers who consider getting into manga simply choose not to -- and not due to racism, misogyny, and whatever other scurrilous reason that ill-informed and logic-impaired pundits may choose to invent. Yes, it is competition from other sources carrying manga, as Robert points out, but it's not just because these other sources are conveniently placed rather than destination stores, and thus draw the new customers. It's also because some of the chain stores that carry manga discount the books heavily... That's the sort of business considerations that businessfolk have to face. People seeking to make comics better may wish to educate themselves on such situations. Presenting ill-founded assumptions as fact and then telling those who correct them to 'shut up' wouldn't seem to serve the goals of improving comics (or any other worthwhile goal, for that matter.)"

Tom Spurgeon is listing eight worthwhile stories from the year so far over at The Comics Reporter. Yesterday, he reached the current state of Marvel and DC's infinite crisis:

"In a way, what's going on across entire lines now is something akin to the creative impulse behind those recent mini-series or runs in a regular title where a hero fights all of their foes and answers all of their fundamental questions -- the Mark Millar stuff, or the Jim Lee Batman thing from a couple years back. The problem with the whole line being in play like that is that if everything is exhausted all at once, there's no place for anyone to go but away."

Not that True Story Swear To God's Tom Beland is excited about working on Spider-Man or anything...:

"Marvel Comics asked me to write a Spidey book back in January. After I came out of my shock-induced coma, I tried to figure out how you write a story about a character I've been reading since I was a kid in the late 60's/early 70's. So, I came up with story that I enjoyed writing and, hopefully, you'll all like. The story is issue #12 and, I believe, it ships in November. Check the upcoming PREVIEWS just to make sure. Doing the art chores will be none other than Sean Phillips, from SLEEPER fame!! After coming off my second shock-induced coma (from hearing Sean is going to draw one of my stories), I began to talk with him online and the dude's a class act and sweetheart.

"BUT WAIT.. THERE'S MORE!!! ALSO in this issue is a story penned by Brian Reed and drawn by none other than Michael Lark! Brian let me take a peek at some of the pages and, well, wow. Incrdible stuff. So... enjoy. I hope you'll like it. I'm a barely high-school graduate who worked hard on his craft. I was doing mini-comics seven years ago and now my name is giong to be on a Spidey book. It's surreal beyond words and if you're sitting there at home, working on YOUR mini comics, thinking they're going to go nowhere, trust me... dreams happen. You just have to bust your asses to produce the best work you can until your name is called. Seven years seems long, but it was a blur to me. If I can do it, anyone can."

Tony Caputo tips his hand for continually suggesting that Marvel license out their comic production:

"Sell me (or anyone) the license to ANY one of your 4000+ intellectual properties - anyone - and I'll publish it for you, following your licensing guidelines and show you a royalty check somewhat the same, or better than if you published it yourself, but I'll take the risk and headaches to produce it, thus giving you 100% gross margin. The IP can be obscure; in fact, I'd prefer it. I'm willing to prove to Marvel Enterprises that there is nothing to fear and that licensing your IP to even the likes of my little company will: (1) Not reduce your potential revenues, because it's the IP and creators that sell the books (2) The quality will not degrade (3) You will not lose control over the editorial process, as every step of production will go through the proposed approval process (4) Save the comic book, because smaller comic book companies make their bread and butter from publishing licensed titles, not licensing titles, thus they will handle the IP carefully. This is my personal challenge to Marvel Enterprises."

Brian Michael Bendis gets nostalgic about the birth of the Ultimate books:

"I got the call. It was Joe, and instead of telling me they didn’t need my services anymore, he asked dif I was a fan of Spider-Man. I asked him if he was kidding, and he explained to me that Marvel was thinking of starting Spider-Man all over from scratch, and I didn’t hear that from him, but if Bill Jemas called me, to just say yes."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

As it seems that the comic internet becomes ever more angry and divided - Really, what is with this current "You disagree with me? Then fuck off and die!" thing? - we finally find something to unite everyone in happiness: Heidi MacDonald's dreams come true at Otakon.

People who don't like Heidi need to have their throats slit by chickens. Or something.

Amanda Conner talks Power Girl:

"Power Girl isn’t too sure of what’s going on inside of her right now, but the one thing she can be sure of is that killer bod of hers. She might as well run with it. I’ve only had one person express concern about her body and her costume, and I explained that’s just the way the character is. I also mentioned that I draw each character differently, ‘cause just like real people, they’re all not going to look the same. If you look at Saturn Girl, she is much more slender and wiry than Power Girl. Power Girl is Power Girl... Actually, there is a scene in #2 where she explains her costume, so I won’t tell you. I’ll let you read it. Although in my circus of a brain, I don’t know if it has any other meaning than ‘WOW! Nice ones! … and thanks for lettin’ them breathe!’"

After Tom Spurgeon wrote about the closing of a local comic store on Sunday - "I'm now three hours from a comic shop, more than four hours to one I would actually choose to visit once a month if I lived in city limits. It can't be healthy for an industry that presumes an international audience for its offerings to leave large stretches of the country without reasonable access to even its most popular product. Is there anything that can be done about this? Is anyone else concerned?
" - his virtual mailbag has been filled with people commenting on the state of small town retailers.

Alan David Doane:

"While I continue to question how many comics shops truly exist in the United States -- average the usual figure out between 50 states and something smells fishy to me, and it's not the sushi -- more and more I feel that the 90 percent of the comics industry that is curring it's own throat with clean stores and friendly clerks and nothing but superheroes -- CANNOT DIE FAST ENOUGH FOR ME. DIE, AND GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY OF THE FUTURE.

"If there's not enough left of the industry that the only comics that are left are manga and homemade North American mini-comics, man, that's FINE. If the industry as it exists today can only maintain itself by being a network of olive loaf -- I mean, male-dominated superhero boutiques -- this shambling, undead monster I've watched kill itself now for 30 years that laughingly calls itself an 'Industry' cannot die fast enough for me. In my darkest moments, I must say that the comics industry cannot die fast enough for me."

T. Campbell:

"So much has been written about the DM's fan-centered, change-resistant culture that I don't think there's anything I can add. But if it dies, we'll feed on its corpse and metabolize something better. Webcomics, bookstore comics, some new market not yet even imagined. Maybe even a new form of comic-book store, minus the detritus that the current stores have accumulated. Maybe the comic-book store *needs* to die before it can be reborn. The death of the pulps was not the death of pulp, and the last store closing will not be the end of comics."

Christopher Duffy:

"For years I wished the comics stores would just all die so the industry would be forced to deal with the reality of the world outside of their hobby and appeal to new (and mass) markets again...But lately I've been thinking that so many good comics and publishers came out of the direct market, I'd rather see the stores get better and survive... [U]nless some other viable model of comics shop presents itself (and I'd love to think these hip new stores in Brooklyn, Penn., and L.A. are the answer--but I doubt it)and catches on like wildfire to a new generation of possible store-owners, I think the direct market the will limp along more lamely every year and finally crawl into its deathbed around 2012. (I thought it would be fun to suggest a final date.) I guess I'm concerned but pessimistic."

Brian Hibbs:

"I think if you point it out to most anyone involved in publishing comics, they'll be found to be concerned as well, but in a 'save the whales!' kind of concern, not a 'holy shit! We're chronically under-stored!' way. Can anything be done? To a large extent, yes. One of ComicPRO's chief aims is to establish a thriving 'mentoring' program where prospective retailers have a resource to draw upon, so that's something the retail community is going to try and step up to the plate to handle... I think any real hope of any of that coming into fruition is probably 3-5 years though, if we can actually get our shit together. I want to believe it, though. We've got a lot of genius-level brain power in comics, and it's clearly possible that we can harness it."

EDITED to add Nat Gertler's response to ADD's letter:

"Obviously, Alan David Doane hates the comics industry. His wishes of death for it and resorting to cussin' make that clear. But it doesn't justify his making up stuff, as he appears to do. When he claims 'People /are/ buying comics in huge numbers, but the 'industry grits its teeth and closes its eyes and redefines 'comics' so that Frank Miller and Jim Lee or Brian Bendis and whoever is drawing House of M can falsely claim their comics are best-sellers' he neither provides a pointer to where anyone has redefined 'comics' in the wake of manga's entry (I suspect he's thinking of the icv2 figures, which are clearly specified in their articles as 'the number sold to North American comic shops by Diamond Comic Distributors'). Nor, more importantly, does he point to any reliable figures on comics that are outselling these... Doane hates the comics industry, but then many folks hate that which they do not understand."

Another EDIT as ADD responds to Nat:

"I do hate the part of the industry that actively and with racism, misogyny and prideful ignorance excludes women, children, and non-superhero 'fans' from participating in a storytelling medium with limitless possibilities, yes, I do. If those stores were only ten percent of the industry, there'd be no problem. The problem is, the vast majority of 'comics shops' are indeed superhero-only he-man woman-hater clubs, which is why the artform is finding new and interesting ways around this vile 'industry' of yours, infiltrating libraries and real, clean, well-lit bookstores with comics that appeal to everyone. I hate the comics industry, and I love comics. If that bothers you, Nat, make a better comics industry, or shut up."

Also, Robert Boyd responds to ADD and Nat Gertler, as well.

Ethan Van Sciver knows his limits, and explains them at The Pulse:

"I can't do anything on a tight schedule, clearly... I honestly just can't. It's not worth it to me. I have a family that likes to see me now and then. And people tell me, 'Oh, you should be making so much more money, you ought to learn to cut corners' and so on. But look, I'm not here to clutter up the shelves with product that wastes anyone's time and money. I work for DC comics, and I hold them in high esteem. They'll get my best work, or I won't do anything. And if that makes me less important in anyone's eyes, well, that's the price I pay. I have high standard for my work, and it hurts to lower them. Six issues a year, that's what I have to offer. And they'll be great."

The Comics Journal board looks beyond the credits:

"today I ran into a comic artist who has worked for Wildstorm and (ISTR) the mainline DC line (though not Marvel). he happened to casually mention that he had ghosted the work of at least one other artist (who I had never heard of...) and I wonder how often (and why) this happens. the concept of ghosting fascinates me in general. why would they simply not simply say they had a fill-in artist, like in the old days?"

"I know the Kubert brothers have been using ghost artists for years. The reason for that is usually because of the contracts they've signed.
They have a huge ghost artist talent pool - its called the Joe Kubert School. They usually pick talented artists to ghost their work."

"This is true. I graduated from Kubert a few years ago, and during my time there one or two of my classmates assisted the Kubert bros. From what I understand the contribution from their assistants is actually not really ghosting in the true sense of the word, so much as finishing up backgrounds and such. Or at least it was at the time. Since Adam and Andy are teaching now, they could have an entire army of students drawing their pages for all I know. I was taught directly by Joe, and I know him much better than I know his sons, but they're all stand-up guys. I don't think that there's any shame in them using an assistant if they so choose (although I know that Joe STRONGLY prefers not to); in fact, artists have used assistants since time immortal."

Brian Wood talks to Chris Arrant at Newsarama about comic book design:

"A lot of this [mainstream superhero comic] style of design is classic, timeless stuff, and regardless of the fact that its not breaking any new ground, design-wise, still holds up. I think the more successful covers are the ones that are able to use the classic comic book layout but bring a level of maturity and sophistication to it that wouldn't have existed a couple decades ago. I have a copy of The Winter Men #1 on my desk, and this is a good example of what I mean. Title across the top, company logo box in the upper left, UPC on the bottom. But stack this up next to the standard Marvel or DCU stuff, and you just know instantly that something is different about this book. It also passes the 'squint test' - you squint at something and it hold up in terms of composition, color, and balance.

"And by mature and sophisticated, I don't mean for adults only, but rather than the cover design was approached in a serious manner, some time was spent thinking about how the image would work with the text, and it was designed as a whole, as opposed to a a pin-up piece of art with a garish logo slapped on top, assembly-line style. I also think, to quote a classic rule, that 'less is more'. I learned that early on in college and its become a rule I've adopted for myself in everything creative I do. When you look at a crowded shelf of single issue comics, and everything is crazy and busy with lots of contrasting colors and images, its the cleaner, simpler, clearer cover that will always stand out."

You may have read about the low orders for Corey Lewis's Peng and wondered if there was only some way that you, dear reader, could sample said book risk free. Joe Keatinge provides that way:

"So, here's the deal -- If you're reading this pre-order a copy of Peng. Once you receive it, read it, and if you feel like it's the biggest piece of crap on the planet, I'll BUY IT from you. That's right - I'll put my hard earned dollars where my mouth is just so I can read this comic."

Go to the link for details, and thank Joe while you're at it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

If there's one thing that the Isotope Lounge is known for, it's James Sime. If there're two things, it's possible that the other one is the Toilet Seat Art:

"The Isotope is proud to feature the world's only museum dedicated to original art on toilet seats by comic creators. These lids were offered to the many comic artists and authors who have visited the Isotope for special events. Seats are only given out to those who visit the store in person and most were drawn in-house with our assortment of Sharpies."

A gallery of said toilet seats is now online for your entertainment, amusement and wonder.

Via Brian Wood, Khepri offers a nice incentive to pre-order 1000 Steps to World Domination creator Rob Osborne's new book:

"The Sunset City deal just got sweeter! Everyone who pre-orders Sunset City @ Khepri.com before Tue 30 Aug gets (1) free full-color sketch by Rob Osborne."

All The Rage offers up the surreal sight of Complex Magazine's Marvel superhero fashion spread.

Matt Brady gets into his time machine to celebrate five years of Marvel's Ultimate line, rerunning some Newsarama stories from before the launch of the imprint. Interesting in retrospect is Mark Millar's quote from before he was known to be involved in the line:

"Kids generally aren't interested in the kind of comics that their parents are going to approve of. Marvel, I hope, are savvy enough to realize this and aim the books at teenagers instead of the under-12s. This is what I call trickle-down comic-book economics; aim the books at older kids and the younger kids will bite their own arm off to get at them. Ever seen a kid's face when he sees a South Park keyring for the bargain price of ten bucks? Brian Bendis is a really nice choice for the first two titles. He's smart enough to keep these books cool... As for who I'd like to write? Cap, FF, Avengers, Iron Man... They're all great toys. It's like a bartender asking an alcoholic what he'd like to drink?"

As referenced in the Bendis Board thread I just linked to, the comments thread for Matt Brady's last Joe Quesada interview has some creators talking about their experience of whether Marvel is more creator-friendly than DC. Gail Simone is first:

"I'm not interested in company bashing...I just don't see the point. But the DC being described here doesn't match the reality for the vast majority of DC writers. I only say majority because I don't want to speak for everyone...but if you've talked to a DC writer lately, I suspect you already know how jazzed we are about what's coming up. And since it's highly unlikely that either Dan or Paul would spend an interview on why Marvel isn't creator friendly, I think a slight correction is in order, from someone who actually works at DC."

Peter David:

"In the case of HoM, the new editor of 'Hulk' was told about HoM and decided that it was something he WANTED to become involved with. It was not, to the best of my knowledge, pushed upon him by a mandate from Joe. The editor decided it would be good for the book from a sales point of view...and, by the way, considering the 10,000 copy jump and the back-to-press orders, it's hard to refute his belief. Anyway, the editor said it was something he really wanted to do, and felt that I was in first position in terms of who should be asked to do it. As with all creative matters, I decided first and foremost whether it was interesting to me. I felt it was. So I did it. I think people should know me well enough by now to know that if I was not interested, I wouldn't hesitate to step aside and have someone else do it."

Millarworld has a long memory:

"I have one of the shittiest memories out there, but I don't recall seeing Blade or Bullseye or whoever won that Marvel.com poll a long time ago in the book yet. I had forgotten all about that until I realized that there's only one JR Jr. issue left. Maybe Mark forgot?"

"Shit, you're right. Wasn't that supposed to happen? Heck, I remember reading in a Wizard interview that said that the reason Millar got on Wolverine was because he wrote a Blade proposal."

"I've been thinking about posting ths for weeks. I think that it was just more 'get excited for nothing' Millar / Marvel style."

Mark Millar appears to explain:

"The Bullseye thing just didn't fit. I had a choice of squeezing a character I like into a story he ended up not really working in because of a Marvel poll or doing what was right for the story. Apologies to any Bullseye fans, but I ended up just going with what felt right for the story. As a consolation for anyone who wants to see this, I'm going to use Bullseye in another project at some point in the future and already have the story plotted. Ditto Blade. I have a plan for Blade (whom I love)."

The Bendis Board is split down the middle about Matt Brady's last interview with Joe Quesada:

"Matt Brady pulled no punches and asked some hard questions that I'm glad Joe Q answered about editorially driven products. First time i've been impressed with a Newsarama interview."

"His comments sort of flipped around on him. At first he said that Marvel was more focused on creator-initiated storylines than DC did, but then we saw proof that the House of M tie-ins weren't necessarily everyone pitching in, and that DC is going creator-pushed stories with Rucka, Johns, Morisson, etc."

"i dunno. seemed to me that matt was pushing just to be pushing after a certain point. there is a very distinct difference between M and the milliion mini (with crossovers between issues!) march."

"Agreed. This week's Joe Friday was a big waste. If Matt hadn't asked the same question for half the interview, we might've been able to read about some other topics."

"Yeah I know what Matt was getting at, but at a certain point you have to realize that you're talking to a brick wall (at least with this issue). Bottom line is that each company is in it for the money. DC knows that these type of events sell well. And if Marvel thought they could make money off of a line wide crossover I'm sure they would jump on the chance too. But Marvel hasn't had a cohesive universe in a long time. Certainly nothing like DC's. At this point they're too fragmented to pull something like this off, so they do intra-franchise crossovers. X-titles crossover with X-titles, Spider titles with other spider titles, etc. Calling DC editorially driven is really pointless. Ultimately it doesn't matter where the story comes from, the writer and artists still have to execute it. Good comics are good comics whether an Omac pops up in them or not. Its kind of hypocritical in a way. I mean what does Joe pay his editors to do, spell check and moral support?"

"I didn't care for the tone of the most recent Joe Friday. Reminded me a bit of a time when Rich Johnson and Joe exchanged words in an interview."

"Mark Millar's Wolverine run is a one-trick pony, which is fine so long as it's a good trick that doesn't outstay its welcome. But it isn't a trick that requires to be reviewed twelve times in a row. Whedon and Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men is rather similar. Beautiful as it may be, there simply isn't enough content in 'Dangerous' to merit six reviews. There just isn't that much to say about it. And it goes without saying that almost every miniseries from the last two or three years falls into this category as well. The upshot is that the X-Axis, in its current format, is becoming a chore to write."

Paul O'Brien writes about the future of The X-Axis. He also launches a new, non-comics, blog, If Destroyed, Still True, which may give a bit more insight into where his head is at:

"Feedback from the X-Axis tells me two things. One, a lot of my readers don't even read, or care about, the actual comics being reviewed. Bluntly, they don't much care what I write about. These people should be happy, because If Destroyed... will probably also feature me writing at length about things they don't care about. Two, a lot of my readers actively lobby for me to write about other things. If Destroyed... will feature me writing about other things. Although not necessarily the other things they had in mind."

Peter David explains his new X-Factor:

"There's a fundamental theme to X-Factor that arises from the Madrox series: Namely that no one is ever what they appear to be. That there are always layers, always more things to discover. And the unexpected is always there to thwart expectations. Just when Jamie thinks he's got a bead on his new status, it changes. Just when readers think they have a bead on our team or the team's opponents, they will discover that, no, here's this aspect that they didn't know about or hadn't considered. The issue that everyone remembers from my previous X-Factor run was #87. Why? Because it was 22 pages of upending people's perceptions - I can't tell you how many people read that and said to me, 'NOW I totally 'get' Quicksilver!' - My goal with the new series is to do that to some degree with every single issue. That at least once, maybe twice each issue, readers will hit a point in the story where they say, 'Whoa. Okay. I have to reconsider what I've seen up until this point.' Every issue will feature some aspect of the unexpected, the unanticipated, the element that throws things for a loop: In short, the X-Factor."

Dan Buckley is at ICv2, talking about Marvel's business plans:

"[W]e are doing digest-formatted books because that's where we think the manga reader is. I'm know I'm not making manga, I'm not professing that, but we do think we have some products that the manga reader or demographic might be comfortable with. Runaways is the flagship of that... The most important thing we need to do right now is to develop product that works there. Runaways is a good example, Spellbinders, and Machine Teen are products that we definitely feel if you look at it you're going to realize [the teen girl market is] what they're designed for. I know I'm missing one...Mary Jane... We need to develop some depth, a backlist, something where we can develop some presence. A year ago we didn't have anything that we could walk into anybody to develop any kind of presence. I think we have enough product now that we can go in and start talking to people about developing a presence where it's not just one-off books off to the left or to the right. And one of the richest categories for us to date is still X-Men, how we tap into that."

Mike Richardson, Dark Horse's founder and president, talks to CBR about his new project Cravan, and the state of the comic industry in general:

"One of the things that's happened recently that's also fueling graphic novel growth is something that's unforeseen: the introduction of teenage girls into the market by Shojo Manga. That's the biggest single element fueling graphic novel growth and getting bookstores to pay attention... The real growth in the comic market as shown by the sales of Shojo is not superheroes. People who want to read superhero books know where to get them, and the people that want them go there. There's not like some hidden clientele for superhero comics. That market is well-served. It's trying to figure out how to serve the much larger market out there with comic material that they'll be interested in.

"I always point to one book of ours in particular as an example of this: we had Andrew Vach's book 'Another Chance to get it Right' held up by Oprah on her show for about six seconds with our phone number under it, and we got 150,000 phone calls trying to buy the book. But all the people who went to traditional bookstores to buy that book couldn't get it because none of them had any. If you figure that most people aren't going to call, we could've probably sold half a million books that week if bookstores had taken a position on it. So it just shows that there is a market out there, it's just a matter of figuring out ways to get the right product to the right market."

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