Friday, December 31, 2004

The Comic of 2004:

As everyone and their nephew knows, the comics blogosphere is just like the original Legion of Super-Heroes: we all have our exciting codenames, our colorful costumes, and we all hang out in a massive, upside-down rocket that's half in the ground for some mysterious reason that's never quite explained. Oh, and Ed Cunard has a protoplasmic shapechanging telepathic pet. Thus, it will come as no surprise when I tell you that Matt (Highway 62) Maxwell and I were to be found escaping a torrential downpour the other day by discussing the world of comics. During the enjoyable conversation I made the suggestion that, really, there's only one possible choice for the coveted title of Comic Of The Year, and that is Identity Crisis. As I'm sure you can imagine, the very notion made a flush of outrage appear on the cheeks of my esteemed colleague, and I realised that an explanation was in order, and quickly!

"Please understand, I'm not meaning that in the sense that it was the best comic of the year, simply that it seemed to be the most important one in terms of - if you will - the industry as a whole. Or, at least, the mainstream direct market. Identity Crisis," I said in hushed tones, "was a comic that sold shitloads based not upon the quality of the work, nor the popularity of the creators - for, before this, how many people really even knew who Brad Meltzer or Rags Morales were? - but, instead, purely because of the hype. DC told everyone that it was an 'important' book, and we all fell for it. Months before it came out, people were buzzing about who was going to be killed, and who it was that would kill them. Message boards were filled with breathless threads and guesses. And then, when the book finally appeared, message boards and blogs were talking about it again, wrapping themselves up in knots about whether it was misogyny or bad writing that was behind what happened to Sue Dibny. Why, even Alan David Doane, a man never given to hyperbole or outrage, became obsessed with the word 'assrape', a curious affliction he bears to this day! The outrage about the comic became as all pervasive as the rumor-mongering and excitement for it. Somehow, suddenly, Identity Crisis became the book everyone was talking about and had an opinion about, and that's the reason that everyone bought it. The actual book itself didn't even really seem to matter, in the end."

Mr. Maxwell took a gulp of his beverage, and nodded, sagely.

"It's almost as if it's a metaphor for what the direct market itself had become in 2004," he said. And then we moved on to other subjects, including whether "metaphor" had been used correctly in that last sentence.

The Comics I Liked Best This Year:

Rock'N'Roll (Ursula was a lot of fun, but there was something wonderful about this, also from Fabio and Gabriel, along with Bruno D'Angelo and Kako.)
Or Else (Thanks to Shawn Hoke sending me a copy of Kevin Huizenga's Supermonster zine, I ended up in love with his work just in time for Drawn and Quarterly picking him up and releasing the first issue of this.)
DC: The New Frontier (A love letter not just to the DC characters, but the era they were created in, this was easily the most beautiful, most fun, superhero comic released this year for me.)
Tales From Fish Camp (Yes, I know, it's not actually a comic. But AiT/Planet Lar are a comic publisher, and this was accidentally listed as a graphic novel at Amazon, so it's enough of an excuse to put it here and tell you how much I loved this short collection of stories that's more like a friend telling you about her fucked-up summer than anything else.)
Birth of A Nation (Kyle Baker, Aaron McGruder and Reginald Hudlin doing a political satire taking its starting point from the Florida electorial problems in 2000? Who could resist? Apart from Augie, of course.)
Carnet De Voyage (Again, not really a comic. But I think it's Craig Thompson's best work, with a lightness of touch and willingness to admit/confront the "I am so angst-ridden and I HURT" tendency that ended up ruining Blankets for me. Yes, I wasn't the biggest fan of Blankets. I'm sorry.)

That's not even a top 10, is it? In that case, I should probably mention Ex Machina, American Elf, Gotham Central, and We3, which brings it to ten unless my math is off. Still, to everyone who reads this: Happy 2005, when it comes. Now go and do something more fun than reading a blog.

As we speed towards the end of the year, Newsarama has both a letter from Charles Brownstein, Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, looking back at the last twelve months and a request for charity donations to help with Tsunami relief operations.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Heidi does such a good wrap-up of the year that I feel too scared to attempt one, now. Go read.

Pascul Ferry talks about his amazing work on Adam Strange:

"After drawing Superman, [editor] Eddie [Berganza] asked me what I wanted to do next. I had no doubts: Adam Strange. This is the opportunity for me to develop weird stuff, create new designs for old sci-fi DC worlds, and space robots. It's also a chance to be a part of something that has a clear start and finish in just eight issues without any crossovers. [I anticipated] the opportunity to use a new style and technique with my own ink and specially grey illuminations on the pages... After doing superheroes for almost ten years, I didn't have any clear idea about [an art style or technique for the series... I just had one premise: be myself. I wanted to take care of the details of the design, the outfits, the backgrounds, and try to create great action sequences. No referential tributes or anything like that - just to be Pascal Ferry for good or bad."

Millarworld responds to the Warren Ellis mailing quoted here yesterday:

"Warren knows many genre models, goth dominatrix's and S & M muses and the like, it seems. He's always linking to them around here. They have pretty big audiences for their websites. If there were a website that combined models such as these and others with comics, it'd be really popular. Imagine it; Warren Ellis and friends create webcomics for a site. Get a group of models to do shoots as the characters in scenery from the comics. It's getting comics out to the models' audience, and it's getting the models out to horny comic geeks who may not have heard of them before. And we've all got a website that gives us proper superhero genre near-porn. Have a members' section you need to subscribe to for the really interesting stuff, and the site's making money, which can be put into publishing comics or advertising in mainstream medium or whatever. Have a message board that builds up a community for this site, add in some free samples from fans' bands or something to get them out there more, plus advertise for new creators for the webcomics and models to act/star as the characters, and you've got a nifty community that's breaching people of various interests while keeping the creativity going. Budda-bing, budda-boom, budda-bango."

"F@ck the internet, personally. It's great when people are already here, but how do you get someone to go to randomcomicwebsite.com? Everyone needs to get their head out of the internet and focus on actual advertisment in print publications (and no, Wizard does not count), radio ads, tv ads, whatever... Isn't it illegial, or at least, immoral, for a company to not advertise their products? Trade magazines don't count, I'm talking real, actual publications. Time, Entertainment Weekly, Spin, Q, Rolling Stone, etc..."

"I imagine mainstream advertisement is a huge gamble at this point. They're not making the money to risk it and are at a comfortable equilibrium so neither company wants to take the plunge. To be effective I'd think you'd need multiple ads and that's going to raise the cost significantly. You'd be paying more to advertise a book than you're paying to the creators and printers combined. The best bet is to continue to promote that comics aren't for kids and continue to get more magazines to do the promotion for you. Alternatively, if they are gonna spend the money, I don't think a one page ad in a magazine is worth it. If you really want to draw a new reader you need to put a couple page preview in, something they can sink their teeth into and will be compelled enough to go to a store and buy. Just like novels that put a chapter preview in a magazine."

"One major drawback with advertising in national mainstream magazines is, once you've enticed potential new readers, they don't know where to find the product. If I'm interested in a new book, chances are I can pick it up at a any mall bookstore like Waldenbooks, or even Wal-Mart if it's a popular item. Same with the latest rock CD, which I can find in a mall music store like Coconuts, or in a chain like Target. If I see an ad for Ellis' Apparat books, and I live in Smalltown, USA, where do I go to buy them? If all the publishers put pressure on Diamond to arrange a better distribution system, reinstating return policies in some cases to encourage growth of new markets, and actually getting ALL comics into department stores and major chains, then mainstream print advertising would make more sense."

Neil Kleid talks to Chris Arrant about his upcoming graphic novel, Brownsville:

"I've always been fascinated by the criminal world before the 1950s and I've always wanted to tell a gangster story. I suppose, like Allie, I've been drawn to the patter, the life and was looking for a way to get involved. Thing is, I wasn't interested in creating a 'fake mob' like you see in so many gangster stories in comics... I wanted my world to be set in the actual history of the Mafia. I wanted my characters to sit in the same room as Lucky Luciano and all the rest. That's one of the things I dug about Road to Perdition. It's one of the things that bothered me about Judd Winick's Caper... So I did a bit of research and discovered that there were all of these little hoodlums out there that all contributed to the larger story of the Mafia - and more importantly to me as an Orthodox Jew, the Jewish Mob. I'm from Detroit where you keep hearing about The Purple Gang and had never really read up about the Jewish Mafia. I knew all the Italian players, and a good deal of the Irish. But apart from Lan! ksy and Bugsy? Zip.

"So I dug a little and found out about Reles and Pittsburgh Phil and Gangy Cohen and Mendy Weiss and so on. Did you see Band of Brothers? It's the story of the individual soldiers of Easy Company from D-Day until V-E Day and it lets us see that these heroes, these men who gave their lives for us, had personalities and individual hopes and dreams. I suppose my story could be subtitled 'Band of Bag Guys', because that's essentially what it does - shines a light on the personalities, hopes and fears of these nameless hoods you see standing in the shadows of movies like The Godfather and Once Upon A Time In America."

Marvel does something interesting; world stunned. Newsarama has the story:

"While Mark Paniccia has been at Marvel since October... this is the official notification of him joining Marvel as a Senior Editor. Already on Paniccia's slate is the new Amazing Fantasy series, which will showcase new characters to the Marvel Universe. What's also of note in the following release is that Marvel is planning on using Paniccia's expertiese in recruiting new talent - during his time at Tokyopop, Paniccia oversaw the bulk of the publisher's Rising Stars of Manga contests, as well as anthology compliations. Also of perhaps more interesting note is the indication that Paniccia will 'spearhead original graphic novel development.' The move, if it does indeed bear fruit, will mark the return of Marvel to the production of original graphic novels, something it ceased producing in the early '90s. Time and time again, when asked, if a return to OGNs was in Marvel's future, Editor in Chief Joe Quesada had expressed a desire to return to OGNs, but they were not, at the time, a financial possibility for Marvel to produce. Of course, something that also could cause a raised eyebrow is Publisher Dan Buckley's praise of manga as part of the larger comics industry. Are original, digest-sized Marvel OGNs on the horizon?"

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

From Warren Ellis's Bad Signal mailing list:

"My particular Gordian Knot for 2005: how to improve promotional impact on the net without going back to running a message board.

"There's a clear gap in comics message-board culture for something like the old WEF, but I can't face going back to all that. I could do it the way Mark Millar does, having it reflect the relentless cheerful populism of his current incarnation without actually having an active hand in it, but I can't see the point of that. I'll be releasing PDFs and other viral preview material through warrenellis.com, but that site still isn't gelling right for me -- it needs something, and I can't put my finger on what. DPH averages about 8000 humans a day, but I never feel entirely comfortable using it for promotion.

"If you take that whole New Economy-wonk mantra that 'markets are conversations,' then you tend to assume there's a corollary that conversations are markets. Which can sometimes bring you to the old saw about trees falling in the forest and no-one to hear them. There's a ton of work sold only in the direct market that no-one seems to talk about. There's a core comics audience that knows little or nothing of webcomics despite the likes of Justine Shaw getting nominated for Eisner Awards. Image Central are fighting an uphill battle just trying to get people to understand what they're doing. Dirk Deppey's trying to reinvent the Comics Journal and no-one outside the already-extant audience seems to know about it.

"There's a bunch of stuff happening that doesn't make it into the current popular comics message-board conversation -- and here's how that applies to me. I work in commercial comics, but a whole chunk of my output (taken as a whole, not just the last year) is what I think of as 'bridge' work -- adult-oriented fiction in genre, standing between the literary mainstream and the commercial mainstream. This may be arrant bullshit, but it's how I often think of it. And if no-one's talking about that kind of work, there's not necessarily a market perceived for it. I do okay, but then, I've been doing it for a while. I could do better, but so could we all. But I can't do it in a vacuum. Poor old B Clay Moore, possibly less aware of the broader sphere of things, thinks he IS working in a vacuum, writing adult-oriented genre work like THE EXPATRIATE. Y and FABLES are doing fine at Vertigo, but Vertigo as a whole feels quiet these days. Does that mean there's nothing to talk about? Or that we just can't hear the conversations? The circle of comics blogs are mostly pretty low-traffic affairs, and often pretty mainstream in intent. I'd also hesitate to call them conversations, call-and-response, commenting systems and trackbacks aside -- though obviously there's space to argue against that.

"Maybe it just comes down to buzz.

"Thinking out loud, obviously.

"Back to holiday time."

[Edited to include the entire email]

The Bendis Board has more disaster relief charity efforts in the works:

"As I'm sure most of you know by now, there is a dire need for disaster relief and donations to help with the almost impossible job of picking up the pieces after the huge tsunami hit this past weekend. I know with the christmas season just passing a lot of us are tapped financially. Others want to help, but don't know where or how. So I and Ronin as a whole are getting an anthology put together to help with the disaster fund. Every cent generated from the sale of this book will be donated to the American Red Cross to help with disaster relief. Throughout the entire life cycle of this book, no matter if it's still selling copies five years from now. All of it will be sent to the ARC. If you're a writer, we've got artists on hand to draw your story. Artists if you want to work on a story, or donate a pin up, then by all means speak up. We're looking for a fast turn around on this so we can get this baby printed up and get the cash flow started. We'll be soliciting this to Diamond through Ronin ourselves so we can forgo the whole courting process we're currently going through with the ACTOR charity anthology book. I urge any and all of you to contact me either by responding to this post, pm or send me an email to nlarimer@gmail.com [...] Anything you wish to donate. Short comic story, prose story, poem, pin up, or a full story written and drawn. Even if it's something you've had lying about for years collecting dust. We're taking them all."

(Also, more here.)

Steven Grant on exclusive contracts:

"Traditionally, companies went after talent who'd shown sales muscle, or, as mentioned above, had a reputation for getting attention regardless of overall sales (companies like attention). The array of talents offered exclusive deals lately, though, has been... well, baffling, particularly at Marvel. I'm not saying any of the talents involved don't deserve contracts - they're all talented guys, even if most as unrecognized by the market and rarely mentioned by the press - it's just hard to figure out what Marvel gets from it, aside from a guaranteed pool of warm bodies to make sure books come out on time."

Brian K. Vaughan updates people on scheduling issues of his books:

"First of all, I take deadlines incredibly seriously. I've been writing comics for almost nine years now (believe it or not), and I've never once kept an artist waiting for pages. I LOVE monthly serialized comics, and I know how much it blows to have to wait for the next chapter of whatever it is you're mainlining. My series all have pretty great track records, but a few different things beyond my control seem to hit a few books simultaneously."

Y: The Last Man, Ultimate X-Men and Wha... Huh?! are all running late, for various reasons, the Ultimate X-Men reasoning being the strangest ("Marvel decided to hold off on releasing [the first issue Vaughan has done with new artist Stuart Immonen] until January 5 just to give us a little extra promotional boost, and let everyone know that one consistent team will be working on UXM for the next twelve months. I know that sounds like bullshit, but I swear it's true, and I think there are retailers here who can confirm that our first issue has been finished for ages." Because it's impossible to have a twelve month run that starts in December?).

The Ultimates hardcover is out of print already. Millarworld react:

"I do not, in any way, understand Marvel's printing policy on tpbs. Now, I'm sure this will quickly go back to a new printing, but with what is probably Marvel's most successful title, and Volume 2 just out, why would they not go directly back to a new printing when the first one is almost gone? It's that the whole purpose of tpbs...to always be in print?"

"[Marvel] want to see what the demand for this is currently. I assume the current back orders they feel may not represent accurate demand from retailers/fans so they want to be sure if they print say 10,000 to cover current reorders that the actual demand is not closer to 20,000 causeing them to have to go right back to press....again and so soon [...] Not being familiar with Marvel policy all I can say for certain is that if you want to make the most money on product.. you want to go back to press as FEW times as possible. It's just good business, if they have to make you wait to ensure they aren't losing huge amounts of cash it's in their best interest and our own if we want their books to keep coming."

"Actually, The Ultimates HC vol 1 only sold : 4,728 copies in october (ICV2 figures)"

"Marvel's TPB/HC program seriously sucks. Number one, they underprint their books. In recent memory, two titles, 'Thor Vikings' and 'FF Unstable Molecules' went out of print almost immediately upon release, and still haven't been reprinted a year later. Now, look in the Marvel backlist section of the Previews Customer Order Form. Almost nothing but broken runs. I don't think they can even keep all four 'Alias' TPBs in print at the same time. There's always at least one that's unavailable. Vols. 1 and 3 of Frank Miller's DD Visionaries line are unavailable. The first Milligan/Allred X-Force TPB has been out of print for ages now. Half of Morrison's New X-Men run is also unavailable. It's ridiculous... wouldn't all of these broken runs end up actually hurting sales? And what's with Marvel not going immediately back to press on books until retailers have placed 'backorders?' Isn't that a generally bad policy for the retailer, to have to place orders and tie up capital for expensive books that might never ship?"

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Bendis Board are organizing a charity auction to raise money for Red Cross relief workers dealing with the aftermath of the Asian disaster at the weekend. Go here to bid on original Mike Oeming Powers artwork, with more lots apparently coming soon. Presumably, any creators wanting to donate something to be auctioned can contact Travis Howard, who appears to be organising the auction (details here).

(Oh, and everyone? Don't snark about this. Kind of obvious, I know, but somehow I just knew that someone was readying a FMK joke...)

The Hollywood Reporter on one reason why Marvel may feel lonely soon:

"Pixar Animation Studios' 'The Incredibles' has all the earmarks of a comic book movie: It features superstrong Mr. Incredible, superflexible Elastigirl, superfast Dash and the forcefield-wielding Violet. A family of superheroes, they all face off against supervillains and pal around with superfriends. But 'The Incredibles,' created by animator Brad Bird, is not based on a comic book. It represents a new wave of movies that derive their inspiration from comic book conventions but create universes that have never existed in a comic book imprint... 'People are now creating their own heroes,' said Paramount executive vp production Brian Witten, who is overseeing the development of an adaptation of the Marvel Comic 'Deathlok.' Witten also oversaw the comic book movie 'Spawn' while at New Line and was comic impresario Rob Liefeld's producing partner at Extreme Studios. 'You don't necessarily need a comic as your source material anymore.'"

(Thanks, Laurenn.)

DC's Teen Titans artist jumps ship:

"Marvel Comics is honored to announce that fan-favorite penciller Mike McKone has accepted a two year exclusive contract! ...The artist’s 'fantastic flair' for costumed superheroics will serve him more than well for his first new Marvel assignment. 'I’m going to draw my favorite comic book in the whole wide world,' beamed McKone. 'I’m going to be drawing the Fantastic Four!'"

Millarworld discuss cool, style and substance in comics:

"I like a certain amount of cool in everything, not just comics. But when comics pull that cool factor and I think 'Wow. Cool.', that's more awesome than anything. Style vs. substance? Doesn't mean shit to me. Do I like it or not? That's all it comes down to."

"Cool is out, or has at least changed it's stripes. Leftist social and culturally critical points of view are considered an element of a 'liberal establishment' and kids split, some are anti globalist - they read stuff like the Authority. Others turn right wing, pro=republican and pro-military -they enjoy the Ultimates. (The adroit Mark Millar gets benefits from both audiences.) The 9-11 attack takes place and patriotism is back in, Capt. America becomes unapologetically American again. And the anti globalist anarchists, are turned into symbols for Big Govt liberalism, one of the right wings favorite whipping horses. DC's revision of their long standing archetypes, a process pushed forward by Miller's Batman of the Eighties, takes on a bit of a retro feel on the one hand, while borrowing currents from the counter culture where it suits the situation..."

"The comics industry in general suffers from a large amount of self loathing these days. It disgusts me to be honest. Putting this in high school terms. We're the nerd that's OH so gratful to be getting a hand job from a cheerleader. The cheerleader doesn't really care and is just doing it so we'll do her homework. Comics are the nerd. Hollywood is the cheerleader."

Ron Marz talks about his recent run on Green Lantern, and in particular, the return of the villain that helped coin the phrase "women in refrigerators" in the first place:

"You know, everybody's up in arms talking about 'violence toward women' in comics, as if somehow violence toward men is perfectly fine. The point with [murdered girlfriend of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, and first woman in refrigerator] Alex was that Major Force was a sadistic son of a bitch, and that was the first time Kyle was confronted with real evil, not to mention personal loss. With Kyle's mother, the point was that it's the same sick bastard perpetrating the same crime. And in a larger context, it was about making Kyle deal with what he's been able to do as Green Lantern. If the same thing happens to someone else he loves, what's he accomplished? It was about making him decide if this job is worth it."

Over at Newsarama, Chris Arrant talks to J. Michael Straczynski about his plans for Fantastic Four:

"Oh, and to the net-heads out there who are on this 'Oh, Joe’s going to do a story where Sue tells Reed that Franklin’s really Namor’s kid', understand: I’ve written 200 TV scripts and about 100 comics scripts, and the one thing I never do is repeat myself. So y’all may be stuck on that, but I’m not. So there."

Monday, December 27, 2004

Rich Johnston asks if Bendis may be cursed in terms of DC:

"Remember the 'Batman/Daredevil' crossover kerfuffle that Brian Bendis went public with, appealing to Paul Levitz' better nature? And his subsequent apology for the problems it caused DC, and the fact that he damned the project the moment he started speaking? There does seem to be some further history between Paul and Brian here. I understand that Brian Bendis was the chosen writer for the upcoming "Flash" movie, but Paul Levitz personally intervened and got him ejected from the project - replacing Bendis with David Goyer. All because of Bendis' close association with Joe Quesada. And it's not just Bendis Paul seems to have a problem with. Bendis' friends can also go under the knife. Such as Michael Avon Oeming finding his Batman comic project cancelled for similar reasons."

Can't wait to see the Bendis Board reactions.

Paul O'Brien provides The X-Axis review of 2004:

"In December 2003, I sat down to write the X-Axis year in review, worked out how many X-books had been published that year, and nearly had a fit. Largely, this was because I was trying to work out when I would ever find time to write a column of that length. Eventually I ploughed through it anyway, and produced an eighteen-part epic, the longest X-Axis column I've ever written. This year, if I was giving every ongoing title its own page, we'd be up to something like part 25. This is ridiculous. I take a degree of comfort from the fact that many of the new launches have failed, with sales swandiving gracefully into oblivion from day one. I can only hope that the essential point - that there are too many of the damn things, and that the X-Men brand has been diluted into meaninglessness - will finally penetrate Marvel's thick skulls, although god knows I'm not optimistic... The biggest issue facing the X-books at the moment is that there are just too damned many of them. With that in mind, I'll be approaching every title with two simple questions in mind - questions which, sadly, Marvel rarely seem to ask themselves. First, was there any point in publishing this book in the first place? Second, should it be axed?"

As ever with O'Brien's work, but especially with his X-Axis reviews, it's well worth reading.

John Byrne explains it all! The origin of the word fanboy:

"'Fanboy' was, in fact, coined as a prejorative -- a term created to separate the fans (people who enjoyed comics for all the positive reasons) from the anal-retentives and other such whiners who used to be a small part of the audience."

The date of creation of the term "Marvel Zombie":

"The phrase was coined in the early 1980s, in a strip called 'True Fan Adventures' that used to run in CBG. And, as noted, it was coined as a prejorative."

The origin of his bad rep:

"Those stories began almost the exact moment I left UNCANNY X-MEN. There were many fans who felt utterly betrayed by my departure from that title, and I
was roundly excoriated for leaving. Since many of those fans worked in comic shops, where they had, essentially, captive audiences for their rants, it did
not take long for the 'Bad Byrne' stories to catch on -- to become, in fact, a way of proving how 'cool' one was, by telling of how 'Bad Byrne' had commited some atrocity (preferably involving small children) before their disbelieving eyes. No one has been able to produce a verifiable 'Bad Byrne story that did not have all kinds of ameliorating factors, but the people who tell these tales are not inclined to let their issues be clouded by facts."

Millarworld looks ahead to the next big thing:

"The major trend in comic book these days is to get the best artists and writers money can buy, and make sure the largest amount of people will get the book that will remain forever on the backlist so they can sell copies for the next ten years. It's what DC is doing with Superman/ Batman, JLA Classified and Superman these days, it's what they will do next year with Superman & Robin by JIM LEE and Superman by Morrison & Quitely. Marvel did it a few years back with the ULTIMATE line, but they failed to have constant, outstanding and regular creative team. It's what they did with Ultimate Spidey & The Ultimates, where every single issue has been written and drawn by the same team, but with the two others, something need to be fixed. We know Ultimate Fantastic 4 will have a A-list creative team next year after too many creative changes in the past 12 months. It's going to be fixed on Ultimate Xmen with 12 issues in a row by the same creative team. But what's next for 2006?"

"Ultimate FF has not had too many creative team shifts. It's had one. So far the title has only had two artists, and 2.5 writers. The only one that hasn't really been completely consistently good has been Ultimate X-Men, but thats less to do with the team and more to do with the stories just not being as interesting ...Which I guess is the creative teams fault. Okay."

"Geez, I'd have said that, relative to what's been the norm for Marvel over the years, the Ultimate Universe has been a model of consistency: USM is on track to go to issue 100 (or beyond?) with no changes or fill-ins, Ultimates is going on two volumes with no changes, UFF has had one change that happened at the end of an arc, and even UXM, while it's had changes, has avoided the abrupt fill-in issues that plagued NXM."

Jae Lee signs exclusively to Marvel. DC, apparently, isn't happy:

"I wanted to finish [Lee's Batman mini-series, Jekyll and Hyde]. In fact, my Marvel contract allows me to finish it, but DC was unhappy with the progress I had made on Batman when it was announced I was working for Marvel again... Freelancing is a tough business because you constantly have to line up work months ahead of time based on estimates of when you think you'll be done with something. If something happens in your life that slows your progress down, it screws everything up. When it's for the same company, it's usually not a big deal. When it's two different companies, it sucks."

Newsarama returns, refreshed from its Christmas break, full of stories. For one, Chris Arrant talks to Becky Cloonan and Brian Wood about what a year of Demo means to them:

"[Reception to the series has] been really great. Sounds a little cliché, but its been so much better than we expected. We, meaning AIT, Becky, and I, all sorta went out on a limb with this series, and didn't really know exactly what sort of reaction to expect. On a personal level, I've never written anything like DEMO before. I didn't think I had the ability to touch so many people on such a personal level. The emails we've received have been astounding."

Friday, December 24, 2004

You know, all I was doing was catching up with some last-minute Christmas things, but now I'm all verklempt after reading Chris's post and the comments thread attached. I'm practically unable to be snarky about Marvel's about-face about Mark Millar and Greg Land (no longer on Thor next year, they're taking over Ultimate Fantastic Four as of #19 instead, according to Newsarama. Millar explained "I'm a lot more interested in the FF than Thor. This idea that started with Neil and was embellished by JMS and eventually plotted out by me is really nice, but it could be done anytime. I walked out of The Incredibles thinking it was the best FF story I'd ever stumbled across and it's nice to be able to utilize the flood of ideas that came to me for the FF in the taxi home. Details of the first arc will be made available the second week in January. This requires some big co-ordination on the part of Marvel and the other writers so we can't release details yet. But in terms of a stunt it's probably the biggest and most ambitious thing the Ultimate Universe has attempted so far. This will be the most fast-paced and idea-heavy book in the Marvel line as of May. Just the way the FF should be."), and linking to Comic Book Resources's new column "Calling Manga Island" now seems like just a nice thing to do instead of an opportunity for some cheap shot. I can't even point out that, with Mark Millar offline until after the New Year but Brian Michael Bendis anouncing that the Bendis Board will be fully open for business over the next few days, then the Bendis Board is probably the best place to go to be mean about Millar and hope that he won't see it. Instead, I'll offer up this special Yuletide link and take my leave. To those who celebrate Christmas, may all your Christmases be white, and to those who don't, have a nice weekend anyway. I'm sure I'll be grumpy again by Monday.

Grim Tidings Indeed...

I just wanted to take the opportunity of Graeme's seeming disappearance to thank him for endlessly suffering through the various message boards, news sites, and other assorted tough-guy-postings-from-their-parents-basements for all of our collective amusements this year. Graeme's work here at Fanboy Rampage is a constant reminder that while the Bendis, Millarworld, and Newsarama message-boards are "nice" places to visit (or view from the Peanut Gallery, perhaps), I sure as fuck wouldn't want to live there.

Thanks Graeme, Happy Holidays.

- Christopher Butcher

Thursday, December 23, 2004

To put you even more in that elusive holiday mood, look at pictures from Slave Labor Graphics holiday party and marvel at the choice of songs ("She Said She Said" being one of my favourite songs ever). Dan Vado looks like he is, as the kids say "rocking the house" in that first pic.

Talk@Newsarama posters look at the bright side of things:

"Thank you Crossgen for going under. That way I get to see all those wonderful writers and artists from Crossgen work for DC and Marvel on MY favorite characters. 2004 was good and 2005 looks to be even better."

"Yeah, it's kind of cool seeing all the CrossGen names taking over some big name comics.But I honestly would rather have CrossGen be viable. The comics industry could use some fresh new characters and stories. These guys are bringing their ideas and talents to established characters, which is great for us fans, but I can't help thinking there was potential there at CrossGen for something exciting to attract new fans. Either way, I'll take them! There has truly been some great stuff created by them, and as you have pointed out -- more to come in 2005!"

"Cross gen was a great attempt at some really great comics... and they succeed for the better part of 3 years..that final year is the harsh one... but for those first 3 years Cross Gen was an amazing company that signed amazing creators and did some spectacular work. Nice job being snotty though...."

Marvel unveil a somewhat confused press release about Marvel Next. What is Marvel Next, you ask?

"Not a new line or imprint, Marvel Next is a collection of titles that will spotlight young characters in fresh and exciting ways."

So, wait, it's a collection of titles getting rolled out over a four month period that's getting its own branding and section in Previews, being collectively hyped in a press release instead of individually, and given promotion with quotes like Dan Buckley's "Marvel Next is a way for us to promote these teen focused stories to their core readership. When you see the Next tag, you’ll know you’re getting some solid teenage hero adventures," but it's not a new line or imprint? Why not? What's the difference between this and, for example, Tsunami? Or Marvel Age? Or Marvel Adventures? Or MAX?

Elsewhere in the release, poor Young Avengers gets hyped up again:

"The series that may well be considered the flagship Marvel Next book, as well as garnering a great deal of interest since it was announced, is YOUNG AVENGERS. 'We believe the Young Avengers characters could each carry a book by themselves. They’re that cool!' Quesada remarks. 'I think YOUNG AVENGERS is up for a long and heavy-hitting ride.'"

Am I the only person who feels sorry for Allan Heinberg for having to live up to all the hype that's being launched at the book? It's being continually painted as the coolest book that Marvel will be publishing, groundbreaking, etc., so much so that if it just turns out to be a good book, people will look at it as a letdown...

JP Dorigo offers up a list of Christmas presents for those that you love:

"Mom: Mom likes stories about girls that are badass since she’s a wimp. I’d recommend giving her Birds of Prey. Black Canary and Huntress make great role models for mothers everywhere. Then maybe the next time someone cuts her in line at the supermarket she’ll kick their ass in the cereal isle. Dad: Dad’s a pervert and likes women with big breasts. Don’t worry about picking a book with too much of a plot. As a matter of fact, the less dialogue the better. I recommend Danger Girl, Lady Death, or Codename: Knockout."

Superhero Hype has scans of the Wizard art previews for All-Star Superman and All-Star Batman, for those of us too cheap to buy Wizard.

At Newsarama.com: Mark Millar talks Wolverine:

"The X-Man who Wolverine [kills] in issue #25 has is probably one of the most high profile X-Men of the last ten years. He's enormously well-known and I'm amazed Marvel let me away with this. Obviously, they weren't going to let me kill Daredevil or the Hulk or whomever, but I was surprised when they said I could kill this character. It actually works really well. It's a real comic-book moment and I just saw the art last week and had to pinch myself. Wolverine driving his claws through this character was quite a sight. To be continued..."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Marvel try to catch up with DC's announcements: J. Michael Straczynski confirmed as Fantastic Four writer after Mark Waid leaves, and the "Formerly Known As The Justice League" creative team do a 4-issue Defenders series. Giffen on Defenders:

"When circumstances lined up that made it prudent for us to go to Marvel, I called [assistant editor] Andy Schmidt and we talked and I mentioned Defenders and we'd be interested... From then on Andy took the ball and ran with it. That the book exists is as much due to his diligence and pitching it and pitching it and keeping it in people's faces as our desire to want to do it."

(On Giffen's relationship with DC, by the way: "There's a lot of people out there trying to make a case for me being pissed off at DC and hating 'Identity Crisis,' and being broken hearted about Sue Dibny... Hey, reality check, Sue Dibny, she's not even real. No, I'm not angry over 'Identity Crisis' or anything that went on it. Do I have issues with DC? I have issues with everybody! No there are no hard feelings and as a matter of fact I read 'Identity Crisis.' It's a good read and I understand why they're doing it. I get it. I really get it.")

JMS on his relationship with Marvel, and whether his FF run will be affected by the FF movie due next year: "The thing about Marvel is that they understand something about me that most of the people I've worked for don't: I'm a workhorse that functions best without a saddle. Just let me go my own way, and I'll be fine. Micro-manage me, and everything dries up. I don't like to play the 'Oh, I'm an arteest' card because that is all too often an excuse for bad behavior, but I know what I'm doing, and I'm eccentric, and if I'm forced to become a square peg in a square hole, I know my own mind well enough to know that whatever the source of the small voice in my head that tells stories, it goes to sleep after a while. I need to have a fair measure of creative freedom, with the assumption that I will always do my best to service the character I'm handling."

Matt Brady has the final piece of the Superman puzzle - the new creative team on Action Comics:

"A writer who’s just as surprised as you to be reading her name here, a penciller who’s making a return to a series he hasn’t worked on regularly in 17 years, and an inker known for telling some of the most…colorful stories in the industry. In other words: Gail (Birds of Prey) Simone, John Byrne, and Nelson DeCastro."

Gail gives a tease as to what she's going to be supplying:

"We’re still putting a lot of this together, but if all goes well, we’ll be seeing some really very cool, very fresh new villains, including at least one that both literally and figuratively wants to rip Kal’s heart out... We’ll see some guests from the past, and quite possibly, the future. We’re going to see why Lois completely kicks ass, and why Jimmy is one of the coolest supporting characters in comics. And that’s just for openers. It’s going to be a blast."

And, just to give Rich Johnston an ego boost, he did call this one on Monday (LITG's updated, by the way, with confirmation of JD Finn's identity, and whether Jeph Loeb is leaving DC for Marvel).

Matthew Clark reveals his next project after he leaves Adventures of Superman:

"Artist Matthew Clark has alerted THE PULSE to news of his next project after Adventures of Superman. Clark is working on an arc of JLA Classified written by Peter Milligan. Clark couldn't reveal much more about the project, because he hasn't even begun to draw the story yet. He promised more details for us soon. Clark told THE PULSE he found out about the art assignment change shortly after we did our interview, but wasn't supposed to talk about the new assignment yet."

Mark Millar speaks out about Grant Morrison's revelation (in his Newsarama interview today) that the end of Red Son was his idea:

"Back in the 90s when I used to hang around with Morrison we used to throw stuff around on the phone every day. I had the last two pages of Red Son sitting blank and I knew the baby was getting sent somewhere (the previous ten pages having been inspired by Steranko's brilliant Superman 400 endpiece) and I just couldn't nail where the baby should go. I hadn't read Astro City, but Morrison suggested ripping off Kurt's idea for The Samaritan where the Superman character isn't blasted through space, but gets blasted back in time. We used to bounce ideas like this around all the time back in those days, hence my kitten-getting-fried ending to JLA Earth 2, etc, etc."

I love the mention of the kitten-getting-fried joke. It's like some kind of defensive "Yeah, he came up with the ending that everyone said that they liked. So? So? I came up with a lame joke that was near the end of one of his books! So THERE!" He continues to comment on All-Star Superman in general, not letting his bitterness get in the way or making odd passive-aggressive comments about Morrison's most recent work at all:

"I'm surprised some people think Vince will be an odd fit on the art because his art really reminds me of a kind of super-enhanced Murphy Anderson and should suit Superman better than any Superman title artist of the last fifteen years. I'm hoping the story is more late eighties/ early nineties Morrison than Seaguy, New X-Men, etc. Brotherhood of Dada: Good. Chubby the Tuna: Bad. A dinosaur-man villain and the Abominable Snowman worries me slightly, but I have high hopes given that he always makes an extra effort when working with Quitely and we should hopefully get a return to Flex-style form. The X-Men issues they did together were the best things Morrison has done since maybe 1997 or so so here's hoping."

Lunchtime update: Mark Millar clarifies his earlier comment about Grant Morrison:

"No, what I said was that NXM was Morrison's LEAST interesting work (tied with Seaguy) and doesn't compare with his excellent stuff like first year and a half on JLA, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, etc. But the issues that worked for me were the Quitely ones. I think having Quitely as an artist just makes him try harder. That was my point and why I'm more interested in Superman than anything he's done for a few years."

All snark aside, go read this at Chris Galdieri's blog and do as he says. Thank you.

Steven Grant looks back, quickly, at 2004:

"Mainly what 2004 saw the most of was No Direction. Except for manga. Not that there weren't any good books. There were. Most floundered in the low-to-cancelled range, and I can't think of one that achieved anything resembling critical mass. (Though doubtless many readers will, missing the point, regale me with lists of their favorites and provide convenient rationales for why obscurity is either a necessary byproduct of greatness or a badge of honor.) Perhaps the single true bright spot was the market resurrection of Dark Horse on the heels of the HELLBOY movie and the CONAN revival, and the most interesting development of 2004 was the return to the 'star' system. Comics companies cycle through this every so often, as the pendulum swings from them deciding the characters should be presented as more important than the talent creating their stories to them deciding, generally after years of insisting it's not the case, that Big Name Talent is the best way to attract readers and give the impression their company is hotter than the competition's. Marketing, marketing, all is marketing."

Like the Queen, Mark Millar offers a traditional Christmas message:

"This is just a quick thank you to everyone foolish enough to have supported me over these last twelve months. What's interesting is that, for the first time in my career, I'm really pleased with everything published between a January and a December. Such is the nature of this job that there's always SOMETHING a bit crap or not as good as you'd hoped out at any given time, but this is the first year I haven't winced at least five times as I open my comp box. Our Superman: Red Son trade, Wanted, Chosen, Spider-Man, The Unfunnies, Wolverine, the end of Ultimates and the beginning of Ultimates 2 are all books I'm really proud of and may one day actually read (I've never yet read any of my stuff once it's beyond the black and white lettered stage). Of course, the main reason these books look good is down to Hitchy, JRJR, Terry and Rachel, JG, Anthony, Peter, Frank The Wank Cho, Dave Johnson and young Kilian. I've been lucky to work with some of the best artists in the industry these last three years, but this is definitely the strongest line-up so far. I genuinely love these guys and am more excited than anyone else when I see their new pages downloading."

He also offers a list of upcoming projects, and thanks to the Millarworld mods.

Newsarama also has Joe Quesada's new Christmas song, as well as Joe talking about the inspiration behind it:

"The Christmas songs are always a hoot to do because I’ve tried to write each one with a bit of a different flavor while still trying to keep the accessible and topical... With this year, I knew six months ago that I was going to write about alternate covers. the melody didn't hit me until three weeks ago when I was bone dry and thought that I may have to call it a day."

Newsarama.com talks to Grant Morrison about All-Star Superman:

"I don't think we need to 'make' Superman relevant. We just have to tell stories which resonate with human experience. The best Superman stories are fables about love, pride, shame, fear, death, friendship etc. We can all relate to those big issues. Superman stories should represent huge, basic human dramas and human emotions, played out on a larger than life canvas... I'm still not sure about 'realistic' comics. Sales are always crap when comics get 'realistic' and sales are particularly crap right now, considering the wide-ranging public acceptance of superhero stories in other media. So Frank and I are keeping modern sensibilities in mind while trying to make sure that each of our stories addresses some basic human fear or need in a big, colorful, comic book way. We hope to produce a collection of science fiction folk tales with Superman at the heart of them. I like to think of these stories as 'relevant' to the human condition although not necessarily relevant to the current headlines, if you see what I mean. The All Star Superman is intended to appeal to a wide audience of diverse people for a long time, like the Greek myths."

He talks about his plans, and big geek that I am, they sound just what I'd wanted all along:

"The first issue 'Faster…' starts with Superman attempting to rescue the first manned spaced mission to the sun! An overdose of solar radiation triggers a fatal chain reaction in his cell structure, P.R.O.J.E.C.T. specialists race to create a new Superman and...well, you'll have to wait and see. The Fortress appears in issue #2, stuffed with a ton of new toys and gets haunted by the bandaged ghost of the Unknown Superman of 4500 AD. The Kandorians finally get out of that bottle. Superman gets a new power. Clark Kent winds up sharing a prison cell with Lex Luthor in issue #5. The Bizarro Cube Earth invades our world in an epic 2-part adventure (no 'decompression' here!) and we're recasting the Bizarros as a frightening, unstoppable zombie-plague style menace. Bizarro Jor-El and the Bizarro JLA turn up in the second part of that story too. What else? We meet Earth's replacement Superman and Clark Kent takes on a new superhero identity...Ten of the 12 issues are complete short stories in 22 pages, so lots of stuff happens. And it all links together as a maxi-arc or whatever they call them these days, entitled 'The 12 Labors of Superman'."

Oh, big updated Silver Age madness joy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Millarworld spoils another Wizard exclusive:

"Its official according to the new Wizard Mark Millar is on the New Thor with Greg Land and JMS is the new writer on Fantastic Four. Also Mark Waid and Mike Wierengo are going to be on a new Spiderman Book. Lots of great stuff revealed in this Wizard."

Also, later in the thread:

"Waid and Wieringo are on all new spider title. No mention of artist on Fantastic Four that i could see, and the guy whos writing black panther [Reginald Hudlin] is taking over marvel knights spiderman at least for an arc."

You have to wonder if Wizard is going to send another email out...

Update: The Bendis Board has more on the New Thor:

"The new Thor title is based on a pitch by Neil Gaiman, spun by J. Michael Straczynski and will finally be penned and drawn by Mark Millar and Greg Land respectively...Pieces of Asgard as powerful artifacts fall to Earth after Ragnarok, an aevil corporation collects these artifacts, building a base in Iowa around Mjolnir, an immovable hammer for the new guys out there...At the site a group of teens gather the rest of the artifacts as Iowa becomes ground zero for their transformation into Thor, Loki and the rest of the gods of Asgard."

Yes, it really does sound bad, doesn't it? It took three writers to come up with "teenagers get magical artifacts that turn them into superheroes"? It's practically Dial T for Thor, for the love of God. The same thread has a minor spoiler for Spider-Man and the Avengers, I guess.

DC Collected Editions editor Bob Greenberger on next year's art book, Batman: Cover to Cover:

"Imagine sorting through 500+ first round covers and winnowing it down to about 275 covers, organized by a variety of subject headings. Then try and find loose copies of 275 comics spanning 65 years. Now think about creating a list of 20+ people to write short pieces about their favorite cover. And then contacting them, getting their picks and getting them paid. That is the merest tip of the enormous amount of time and effort I, along with several of my colleagues, expended to make this book happen. To anyone in the publishing world, the idea that we got started on this in earnest in August and are sending it to the printer in Hong Kong on Friday, would seem ludicrous."

Todd McFarlane Productions, Inc issues a press release about the Chapter 11:

"Todd McFarlane Productions, Inc., producer of comic books, filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to continue regular operations, because of various situations including the aftermath of a $15 million verdict handed down last July by a St. Louis jury in a lawsuit by retired hockey player Tony Twist over the use of the name of a fictional mobster character. The filing does not involve and will have no impact on McFarlane Toys, one of the nation’s largest toy action figure manufacturers, or any of the other companies in which Todd McFarlane is an officer... Todd McFarlane Productions has defended its use of the name Tony Twist on First Amendment grounds and intends to press that claim on appeal. Todd McFarlane Productions has received extraordinary support for that position from many of the nation’s leading authors and entertainment figures, including Harry Shearer from The Simpsons, Michael Crichton, creator of the television series ER, and Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, all of whom filed a “friend of the court” brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the free speech defense in an earlier proceeding in the case."

For some reason, I would almost pay money to see Larry David in court, defending Todd McFarlane.

The post-Azzarello/Lee Superman creative team is announced:

"Following up on yesterday’s news of Adventures of Superman getting a new penciller in the person of Karl Kerscl in May, Superman gets a full creative team turnover, with Mark (Smallville) Verheiden coming on board as writer, with Ed (Birds of Prey) Benes joining the book as penciller. For Verheiden, the Superman run, which begins with May’s #217 marks a return to an ongoing comics gig in almost a decade. Don’t worry too much about his chops though, as alluded to above, Verheiden comes to Superman after working as a co-executive producer on the WB’s Smallville television series, telling the story of a young Clark Kent, growing up and coming to terms with his powers and his destiny... 'Especially after working on Smallville, I think there are ways to ‘re-imagine’ our sense of Superman without necessarily turning the character upside-down,' Verheiden said. 'For starters, I want to bring back the feeling of awe the character should generate when he does his ‘super’ thing on Earth. Sometimes Kal-el feels too much like mankind's pal and not the astounding, otherworldly, incredibly powerful being he truly is. However, that doesn't necessarily mean making him aloof or apart from humanity. It's pretty clear that Superman desperately wants to be part of human-kind, otherwise he wouldn't have married Lois or continued to stick around in the face of endless adversaries. So my series is going to explore his fascinating relationship with ‘us,’ a relationship that is going to be sorely tested by a variety of situations and villains'."

When not busy sending emails to Newsarama, Wizard update their website with Alex Ross sketches and commentary about his upcoming JLA miniseries, "Justice" (a word which will always be linked with animatronic Louis Armstrongs dispensing the death penalty in my mind. Thanks, Chris Morris). Why, look at how seriously Ross takes Gorilla Grodd:

"Here you have a simian who has a much more powerful mind than any of these other characters... Grodd can actually press his mind upon other physical beings. He can manipulate people. Now that’s an excellent ability that can be taken to a further level, and that’s what’s being explored in our story."

Just sometimes, don't you wish that Ross would just go "Come on, it's a telepathic gorilla. That's just fucking cool"?

Matt Fraction and Joe Casey talk Europe and comics:

"Going to Europe was like actually visiting Bizarro World-- Me am crazy legitimate medium for thoughtful expression on human condition! Me am also affordable! In Japan, Tezuka began making work for more than kids way early. I dunno so much about Europe, other than Tintin was never just for kids. Maybe over here, the most adult work we got out of the early days was the EC books and they were choked in the crib. Then the Batman TV show made comics and camp synonymous and a million lazy journalists go out of their way to remind us of it... Then again, you know, 90% of everything hasn't exactly been written for adults, you know?"

Jim Lee and Brian Azzarello - taking it to the fans, man:

"Starting this month and continuing every month til the end of our [Superman] arc—For Tomorrow, writer Brian Azzarello and I will be conducting interviews with randomly chosen fans about the controversial arc and the story as it unfolds. To launch the first of these interviews, we selected two fans off the Superman message boards—one, Kilgore Trout who has been critical of the run so far and Moira who has enjoyed it."

The full interview can be found here; a small bit of interest included therein is this line from Lee: "Brian and I have at least 2 batman stories lined up, and one related to the Superman mythos as well which is all i can say--it will be wacky tho’". I wonder if one of those 2 Batman stories will be All-Star Batman and Robin?

Over at the Geoff Johns forum, it's all about the rights:

"Wow! marvel threatened to sue me!, I got an email today... from the director of Marvel copyrights, complaining I had a PDF which violated marvel comics Copyright of the FF. I checked my files and found the item in question was a assue of a decades old crossover between the Xmen and FF, with Doom capturing Kitty Pride. The book value on this is nominal. It was never collected in trade, and to my knowledge has never been reprinted. It's a throwaway crossover and Marvel threatened to sue me for having it on my PC. Needless to say, Im annoyed. Their copyright department read the file title, and assumed it was the current mini-series, like I want to read that mindless drivel. This was a years bygone tale which cannot currently be found, and for having it on my PC they threatened legal action. This annoyed me greatly. Make mine Marvel? My @$$."

"What I want to know it, how did they find out about it. I highly doubt marvel is scanning peoples computers. More likely I would guess, you had it linked on the 'interweb' somewhere, and probably posted about it in a forum, not unlike this one. Your argument of 'causing harm' holds no water. If something is illegal, it's illegal, regardless of direct personal harm to the copyright holder."

"Appearantly, My Napster clone had PDF's listed as shared files. I've since corrected that and deleted the files. The fact that Marvel would THREATEN LEGAL ACTION over a 30 year old back issue worth maybe 2.50 reeks of petyness. However, with the Current Mini out, one might assume that they could re-release the old one with it in TPB form. In which case I would appologize."

"In order: My Napster clone - okay, right there....ILLEGAL. Do you not get that this is the kind of behavior that caused Napster to GET shut down??? 30 year old back issue worth maybe 2.50 reeks of petyness - I see, so a Beatles album is okay to download illegally because it's old? The copyrights are still in effect. You're in violation. However, with the Current Mini out, one might assume that they could re-release the old one with it in TPB form. In which case I would appologize. - You SHOULD anyway. You're in the wrong. Absolutely. Whether or not a book is new, old, popular or not is totally besides the point. It's theirs. You downloaded it. You did not pay for it. You stole from them. You probably left it in a place where others could download it. They did. You allowed THEM to steal from Marvel."

Also included: Emails from the guy's IP address, as well as from Marvel themselves. It's a legal and moral quagmire, I tells ya.

Interesting fallout from recent Wizard leaks at Newsarama:

"Dear Sirs:

"It has come to our attention that a Member of your Message Board has been and is publicly displaying, reproducing and distributing copyrighted material (the 'Material') owned by us, Wizard Entertainment, Inc, on your website [http://www.newsarama.com/forums/showthread.phpthreadid=23772].

"We hereby demand that you immediately remove and destroy all copies of the Material from your website and, furthermore, cease and desist from any and all present or future unlawful display, reproduction, distribution and/or any other infringement of any rights in the Material.

"This letter shall serve as notice that you are infringing upon our rights in the Material pursuant to the Copyright Act of 1976 (the 'Act'). As set forth in § 106 of the Act, we have the exclusive right as owner of the copyright to the Material to, amongst other things, reproduce, display, and/or distribute the Material publicly or otherwise. Therefore, your use of the Material is in violation of § 106 of the Act."

The Joe Quesada board asks how Marvel should respond to news of DC's All Star line:

"With DC announcing their new 'All-Star' line, kicking off with Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely on Superman and Jim Lee with an as-yet-unnamed artist on Batman and Robin, how can Marvel answer that kind of a challenge in their own premiere line? My suggestions (some of which are already in progress): Bryan Singer (and company) with John Cassaday on Ultimate X-men. Cassaday will be done with Astonishing as of issue #12, so I say keep him drawing the mutants with the man who brought them to the big screen. And if Cassaday can't do it for some reason, then give Mike Deodato, Jr. the job. I think he's ready for the big time after his stint on Amazing Spider-man. Orson Scott Card and Andy Kubert on Ultimate Iron Man. Keep Warren Ellis on Ultimate FF for at least another year with Adam Kubert. An Ultimate Hulk vs. Ultimate X-men mini by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch (to follow their run on Ultimates Vol. 2). JMS and Steve McNiven on Ultimates Vol. 3. And keep Bendis and Bagley on Ultimate Spidey (obviously)."

"Marvel's creed used to be 'the best writers and artists on the best books'. That just doesn't seem to be happening. Consolidate and bring the talent in to what's left."

"marvel should relaunch the marvel universe line [...] we need spitfire and the troubleshooters"

Newsarama offers a hint of this year's Christmas song by Joe Quesada (and, if you scroll down through the comments, there are links to the last couple of years' songs as well), called "Alternate Cover":

"Here’s a holiday story, a cautionary tale
About a night when love couldn’t prevail
The Christmas tree was lit so bright
Stacked high with gifts, it was quite a sight

With each I opened I grew so low
I held my breath there was one more to go
That’s when I left my girl standing by the tree
‘Cause when I opened that last box I didn’t receive my

Gold inlayed, leather bound, chromium, foil enhanced
Holographic, U.V. plastic, pencil sketch, photographed
One in ten, nine point nine, personally autographed, Alternate Cover"

Do you get the joke? Because Joe hates alternate covers, you see, and Marvel only floods the market with them and uses them as speculator bait because if they didn't, then they'd only have ten of the top 20 books each month and not fifteen! So he's being sarcastic! Oh, that Joe.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Someone at Millarworld has a sneak copy of this month's Wizard, and spoils the "major" DC announcement:

"I got the latest issue of Wizard today, 2 days early..., and there is an article about DC's ALL STAR line which is being compared to the Marvel Ultimate line. It looks like they are gonna start off with Superman & Batman. The Morrison/Quitely Superman story is going to be done in All-Star Superman and the long awaited return of Jim Lee to Batman will be in this All-Sytar line with the writer yet to be announced. According to DC, these books define what All-Stars is all about: giving only the best creators in the business access to the biggest characters in the DCU - and then watching the titles fly off the rack. Sounds really interesting I cant wait to see Jim Lee back on Batman for another arc."

Neil Gaiman on how the Todd McFarlane Chapter 11 affects the Spawn ruling:

"My understanding is that it doesn't affect me, as the court judgement on the copyright violations was against both TMP (the company which Todd has declared bankruptcy on) and Todd personally. Now that Todd's appeal process is over (and lost) we're still waiting for the final accounting to figure out how much Todd owes, and for the judgment to then be made final."

Greg Rucka talks Adventures of Superman, letting slip two things: One, he's staying on the book while Brian Azzarello and Chuck Austen depart theirs, and two, he's getting a new artist in the form of Karl Kerschl. Huzzah! He also talks plot:

"My terms when they gave me the job was that I had stuff I wanted to do and stories that I wanted to tell, and now, DC Countdown is going to lead into a bunch of other stuff over the summer, and I’m one of the three writers on Countdown, and Superman is one of the three icons of the DCU. So, here we get at least some consistency and continuity in terms of what we are trying to build, coming out of the Countdown book. That’s a big part of it... In [January’s] #636, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have their first big meeting since the events of Identity Crisis... Those who are not up to speed on what happened during Identity Crisis, meaning the characters who weren’t aware of all the sordid secrets, find them out. It leads to what will be the start of a huge fracture between the three pillars of the DCU. You’re going to see the beginnings of a breakdown. We’re not doing anything new – there’s a reason other writers have told these kind of stories before, because it is possibly the most core, relevant story of the DC Universe, which is: when Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman aren’t getting along, bad things happen. This is the start of them not getting along. And the rest of that sentence... well, it’s coming."

Paul O'Brien takes a look back at the year:

"It's the end of the year, the time when all columnists take a moment to pause and reflect on the last twelve months. And for Article 10, that means a look back on the highlights of the year in comics. Unfortunately, there weren't any.

"Well, that's that done. And now some music."

There are many reasons why I love Evan Dorkin. The following is just one:

"I heard from a source affiliated with DC that one reason my Metal Men series was canned was because the scripts were deemed 'too goofy' by a power-that-be. That's right. 'Too goofy'. The Metal Men. If that's true, I guess I should've had Platinum get raped and killed by Chemo while she was going to have Tin's clockwork baby. Or maybe someone should've read my pitch more closely before they approved it. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm still pretty sore about the whole thing."

Rich Johnston is in fine form today, with rumours about DC Countdown, and the identity of Chuck Austen's replacement on Action Comics:

"'Who is JD Finn?' The new announced writer for 'Action Comics' taking over from Chuck Austen. The name appears to be a pseudonym... and can be read as 'jaded fan.' Some have speculated this could be Chuck finishing his stories under another name, Writer X style, to stymie fan expectations. However, I'm also hearing another version. That JD Finn is actually John Byrne, telling monthly Superman stories again. But I've had that definitely stamped on from afar. Not true. May well have come about because it's mixed up with the rumour John Byrne will be artist on Action Comics with Gail Simone writing in the near future."

As reported everywhere, Todd McFarlane Productions has filed for bankruptcy. Newsarama has an indepth look at what this actually means. Green Lantern: Rebirth artist Ethan Van Sciver leads the Millarworld reaction:

"[McFarlane] "Profitted" by using the name Tony Twist? HOW? Who bought SPAWN because one of the characters was named Tony Twist? And even if they did, or if Todd's use of that name hurt the actual guy named Twist, 15 million dollars? F*cking lawyers!!! Despicable."

Other comments from the board are along similar lines:

"I couldn't agree more on this one. I was one of the most avid Spawn fans up until issue 100 and I sure as hell wasn't buying the book because some hockey guy from st. louis had a character that was named after him in it. I've always disliked our 'sue-happy' society, but this man was already making millions. If anything, Todd named people in his books out of homage, not spite. Complete and total bullsh!t."

"I'm not a huge McFarlane fan but this makes me sick to my stomach. This is the most B.S thing i think i've ever heard of. Our legal system SUCKS...and Tony Twist has got to be the biggest piece of festering crap to have ever lived for sueing McFarlane in the first place. There is no reason why a hard working ,honest , successful business man should have to pay someone like twist for a small (very small) infringment on his name. Major failure here... the system has failed somewhere down the line. I hope Twist dies."

On the Image board, the reaction is more or less the same:

"This is crap Todd McFarlane did not do any thing wrong. He came up with a brand new name Twistelli. Writers do this stuff all the time. Alot of writers even use people in there family. They take the middle and last name. Now if Todd McFarlane used Tony Twist then I can see his point. But its not the same name."

"No one who knows anything about the Spawn comics or this character could award this clown Twist anything. It seems Todd is paying for being a sucessful businessman. Hopefully it is possible for Todd to have kept his comic line apart from his other business so Twist can't get his thieving paws onto anything. But I hope this does not mean the end of Spawn. Todd has been out of comics for a long time and I hope this somehow spurs him to return to Image as an artist/writer with a new book so his fans can buy his work again."

Well-known McFarlane commentator Peter David offers his opinion:

"So people have been e-mailing me (yes, my e-mail is functioning properly once more) asking me if I'm 'happy' about the news that Todd McFarlane has filed for bankruptcy. The answer is, no, of course not, for two reasons. First, I take no pleasure in the misfortune of others, even if they've done me dirt. And second, I don't think of this as anything other than a canny accounting dodge so that Todd can get out of the debts he owes to people that he's done dirt to. Tony Twist, to whom he lost two court battles for naming a murderous thug after him; Neil Gaiman, to whom he made countless promises that he then broke; various artists including my past collaborator, Angel Medina, to whom he owes thousands. Depending upon how it plays out, all these people he's screwed over may wind up getting pennies on the dollar, while Todd winds up 'reorganizing' and eventually going back to business as usual without having to properly compensate these guys. Guys who (with the exception of Twist) made only one mistake: Trusting Todd McFarlane. Granted, I'm not an accountant or a lawyer. So if someone with an accounting or law degree would care to explain that I'm wrong, I would love to hear it. I would very much like to be wrong on this and think that guys like Neil and Angel will be able to get what's due them."

Friday, December 17, 2004

Brian Hibbs on Marvel's No Overprint policy:

"The problem of course is that it shifted the burden of inventory-management from those most able to afford it (the publisher) to those least able to do so (the retailer), and it limits the supply of a given work to the confidence and capitalization of the retailer. That’s two big humps to get over. Retailer confidence is why books like She-Hulk or Runaways tend to launch so low – on the March ’05 order form there are seventy comic books (and seventeen new TP releases) coming from Marvel. It is really hard for an individual book to stand out of the pack in that kind of swell of product (especially when you think about the eighty-three comics and twenty-six books coming from DC in that same month!) It is made harder when 11 of those 70 comics are issue #1."

Frank Cho talks about his now-less-tittilating-for-the-fanboys book, Shanna The She-Devil:

"I’ve been working on and off for about two years... There are many reasons why it took such long time. The main reason is [that] I often rewrite pages that I’ve drawn. There [are] some pages that I’ve redrawn as many as five times and recently due to the rating change, I had to go back, redraw and cover up certain pages... Axel Alonso was a big fan of mine. He got in touch with me and asked me to work on Shanna. Sexy women in skimpy outfit fighting dinos in the jungle. It was a perfect fit for me. I’ve always been a fan of jungle tales when man is pitted against nature. It’s my fondness for these types of stories that this Shanna adventure was born. That, and I get to draw dinosaurs tearing people up."

David Goyer jumps movie franchises:

"Writer, director, and now producer David Goyer isn’t giving up Hollywood versions of superheroes anytime soon. According to variety, the writer/director of Blade: Trinity and writer of Batman Begins will next write, produce, and direct a feature film version of DC’s Flash for Warner Brothers... Goyer is quoted in the trade as saying: ''Flash' is my favorite of the properties. I think the character of the Flash, who moves faster than the speed of light, opens itself up to rich cinematic and story ideas.'"

Johanna's having an Owly contest. Go and enter and win a copy.

Newsarama interviews a brand new comic store owner, about what it takes to open a store:

"[The person who approved the business loan] was pretty skeptical about it at first. But when we gave him the business plan, he was very impressed. We detailed out exactly what we were planning to do, what types of products we were going to have, who we were going to market toward, why we chose this location, and projected sales for a couple years -- which was very hard. But the business plan convinced him it was a real business. Actually, he told me later he wants to check out the store because he used to read the Punisher. So the banker may end up being a customer!"

Millarworld considers Chuck Austen leaving Action Comics:

"Didn't take too long, doesn't really suprise me given the major negative reaction to the run."

"Honestly, I think it was the right time for Chuck to leave. He started off good. . .the first few issues were just what he said he was going to do--nothing but action! But then, the old 'soap opera' Austen came creeping back. . .and I guess DC decided to take him off the book before it got worse. . .like X-Men worse. They didn't even wait to let him write the Gog/Doomsday issues (which includes an anniversary issue)--that's how quickly they wanted to avoid The Adventures of The Creeper and his pal Jimmy Olsen... Does anyone know what work [announced replacement writer] J.D. Finn has done previously? Never heard of him."

"JD Finn is probably the Superman editors."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Frank Quitely signs an exclusive contract with DC for 2 years:

"I've been offered an exclusive on a number of occasions in the past, but I've always been more interested in keeping my options open, but this time it looks like being on an exclusive is actually going to suit me... Dan [DiDio] has been very flexible with the way he's worked out a deal for me that works for all of us -financially, creatively and schedule-wise. I had a great time working at Marvel, but when I wanted to do a creator-owned project Vertigo was the best place to go. I got the opportunity to paint the Destiny story for [Neil] Gaiman's Sandman: Endless Nights book, and then Karen [Berger] was great to work with on We3, and now I'm gearing up for a DC company-owned character - it's as simple as that. Well, that and the fact that DC have been great to deal with since I went back there."

As for those Superman rumours:

"I'll probably do bits and pieces of other things as well from time to time, covers, for example, but there's something very specific that this is all set up for... As for scheduling, the first and second issues of We3, which was scheduled as being bi-monthly, came out on time, I think, and this third one is nearly done, which means it'll be coming out mid-January, which I think is nearly a month late. The scheduling problems with We3 arose from me having a really serious sciatica problem, but fortunately I’m over that now. The schedule won't be any more relaxed under the exclusive, but I hope to have a decent sized head-start so hopefully there won't be any deadline problems."

This may distort the dimensions of the blog something awful, but it's worth it. Courtesy of the wonderful Darwyn Cooke, the cover to DC: The New Frontier volume 1 trade paperback.

Nice, isn't it?

(Thanks to Darwyn, and to Chris for image hosting.)

Is it wrong of me to think that Marvel's press releases about their own characters should be accurate? Let's look at the start of the press release about Ultimate Iron Man, shall we?:

"Iron Man, the crusading super hero first introduced by Marvel in The Avengers series, will receive his own book in the Marvel 'Ultimate' universe this January as Marvel Comics launches Ultimate Iron Man."

Wasn't Iron Man around before The Avengers?

The Joe Quesada board has an anonymous letter to Marvel:

"Dear Marvel,
It seems as though Secret War is now coming out every five months. WTF?

Others try to answer the question of exactly what, if you will, the "fuck":

"i think they realized no one cares anymore..."

"easier on the wallet."

"I was waiting for the trade, now I hope the social security system won't be bankrupt by the time it comes out."

Chuck Austen is off Action Comics. Does that mean he's not doing any work at The Big Two anymore?

Hey, great! Another new publisher: Alias. Company boss Mike Miller explains:

"Right now I want to lay the seeds of a company that will hopefully some day rival the Big Two. Obviously a lofty goal, and I’m realistic about what an Everest that is to climb. But a people without vision will perish, so I aim to aim high. Of course, that means starting low. We want to build a foundation on solid rock. We want to ensure that we produce an ever-growing line of quality products that meet deadlines and complete their stories. We’ve even gone so far as to ensure that reality in our contracts with our individual creators and studios. Hopefully, we will be able to garner enough of an audience for our company as a whole out of the various studios we are publishing, that we can build upon that foundation year after year."

You know what I love? That publishers start out not wanting to publish good work, but wanting to become the next Marvel or DC. Now that's getting your priorities straight.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I am both somewhat stunned and amused. Definitions for the word "Millarworld" at Urban Dictionary:

"A shrine to the egotism and self-publicising arrogance of one of the most overrated comics writers of the current era... The moderators place their own whims and decisions above any sort of reasonable chat... and worst of all most of the posters put up with their shit just so that they too can some day be part of the elite 'in-crowd'... The elite in-crowd are anything but. Not the WEF."

"Simply not as cool as it thinks it is. Often has so-called 'drink-ups' where they gte pissed and act like they're so cutting edge on the boards because of it; as if they discovered getting really drunk. Sorry, Millarworld : about ten thousand students got there first."

People are named and shamed, and all I can say is that Mark Peyton, Andy Shaw and Frank d'Agostino, at some point all of you apparently pissed off someone in Ottawa.

(Thanks, Luke)

Ryan Higgins (also on my list of Great Figures of The Comics Internet) posts the retailer release from Marvel about the renaming of Marvel Age:

"In April, Marvel Age comics will become MARVEL ADVENTURES comics. There will be a formal announcement of this in January, but I wanted retailers to hear it here first. This change is a result of the success of the Marvel Age line across all markets, and the positive reaction that we have received from comic shop retailers. Recent focus groups (with readers 8-12 and parents) showed us that we have an opportunity to attract even more new readers to the industry by creating a brand that would clearly describe this line of all age comics. Marvel Adventures was the favorite choice by far."

(The release ends, in a burst of Mighty Marvel Self-Knowledge, "The hype begins in January. Believe it!")

Millarworld reacts appropriately:

"Those comics were so sucessfull that they choose to change the name? Yep, that's logical."

"When it was Marvel Age, I didn't give it a second thought; but now that it's Marvel Adventures, I'm going to subscribe to every issue of every series. AND pick up the trades a month later. In fact, I'll get two copies of each. Slick move, Marvel marketing department. Man, Marvel Adventures: Maggott is gonna rock!"

"About damn time."

Broken Frontier hosts an Image roundtable (well, of sorts), with B. Clay Moore, Jason Rand, Raven Gregory and Mike Bullock talking about the publisher. Rand on the "family" of Image:

"Image is a very diverse publisher and because of all these different creators all bringing their own unique visions there, you're not always going to like everything they publish, though I’d like to know how that differs a lot from other publishers. Equally, you're not going to get along with everyone there, but there's a certain camaraderie between Image creators - we've all 'made it' with our own babies at a very competitive publisher. It isn't easy to get the nod from the big I, so I have to feel there's a certain respect between everyone there. For me personally, I'd been hanging around the Image forums for a couple of years before Small Gods came out. I'd already become friends with people like Arvid and Eric of Rex Mundi, Clay and Steven of Hawaiian Dick, Azad of Sammy and more. Arvid even gave me some tips on the first draft of Small Gods #1 before [editor] Kris got her hands on it. So I felt very welcomed when we were accepted at Image. Now I try to extend the same courtesy those guys gave me to other new Image creators and those creators who are still trying to get in."

Kandora's C. Edward Sellner is still defending the new publisher at ICv2:

"First and foremost, we are working well ahead of schedule, so that we have some grace time built in. I've already written scripts for issues 3 of each of my titles, and mine are the later releases, meaning #1s will be released in May and June. Art is well underway for #2 of each, etc. Second, our artists are experienced Asian comic artists, mostly from Korea, and they are very used to working on titles with far more pages per month than U.S. comics. So this deadline for them is not as unrealistic as some might think. We are also using a good team approach, in terms of digital work, 3-D modeling, background artists and coloring teams to expedite production. The point being, we should be able to produce an issue in a good chunk less than a month.

"We recognize the value of on-time shipping and have a strong commitment to hitting every mark we set as far as release dates! Of course, like all things there may come a day that something serious happens and we miss one, but when that day comes, we will do our best to make it up to our fans, and our retailers and ensure, that that is considered a very unusual fluke to a normally good, timely system."

It's the comics rivalry you didn't know existed:

"Geoff Johns vs Brian Michale Bendis [...] Who do you think is the better writer? Theyre basically each companie's equivilant of each other. I preferr Geoff Johns, he was what made me start liking DC more than Marvel. Im starting to think now DC puts out better books"

"They're not really too similar. Only thing they really have in common is that they both write 28128748634 books."

"ding ding ding [...] they got nothing on alan moore"

"johns... when i recommend any dc book to someone, he is the person writing it! flash... johns... green lantern... johns... teen titans... johns... jsa... johns. and, once again for emphasis, the flahs is the best book out today. if i were to recommend a marvel title to someone, bendis might write one of the top 5, but i would first say supreme power."

"Geoff Johns all the way (especially when writing DC or Marvel superheroes - Bendis' indie and creator owned stuff is better but still not up to Johns standard IMO)"

Somewhere, ADD's head is exploding.

The Joe Quesada board want to bring back Alpha Flight. No, really:

"Both the second volume and this current volume of Alpha Flight were missing something important to keep sales going well and longtime fans from dropping the books.....what was it? It was Alpha Flight, of course. Why are the original team members missing, ignored, sent away into limbo, etc...everytime an Alpha Flight series is revived? Both new series(volume two and three) featured an almost entirely new cast of characters and mysteries galore, developed the new characters very slowly and both series had sales that dropped quite quickly, which ended in them being cancelled. Northstar is a great character, who is wasted teaching X-brats....Aurora has been shipped to some post Weapon X limbo, scads of other AF characters are also in limbo or just plain missing. many of the original team and some old favorites(Guardian, Vindicator, Shaman, Snowbird and Puck) were sent into outer space in issue six of this most recent series(the only issue they've truly appeared in, so far). Are writers afraid of using these characters or not creative enough to make them work? Why does Marvel have to alienate older fans of Alpha Flight each time they relaunch the book? When will we have an Alpha Flight series with Alpha Flight actually in it? Please bring them back to where they belong."

"Im with you guys on this one. Alpha Flight could work if done properly. I won't hold my breath as current Marvel seem to be convinced they can always do better than what came before. They did so well that I am a huge Alpha fan yet even I couldn't bring myself to pick up the last series past issue 2. If the hardcore fans won't even pick up the book who the *** is going to care about it. If Marvel do relaunche Alpha flight i think they shoudl go read JSA or Teen Titans first to understand how this kind of comic should be done."

"Alpha Flight has definietly been lacking in Alpha Flight appearances. You can't even get an Alpha Flight cameo in most of the new volumes. Sad that such a popular team, once a top 10 seller, has been shuffled into an abyss only to be supplanted by new less interesting teams. Unfortunately this just reduces the chance the real Alpha Flight will ever get a book again. Volume 1 eneded largely due to the fact that the originals were gone. Volume 2 and 3 never had the originals, so it's no surprise they failed. But there's more to it than that even. Marvel didn't even offer subscriptions to volume 3. Couldn't get it even if you wanted it! I can't tell you how many people I heard say they went to the comic store, but it was sold out. That wasn't the case in my neck of the woods, but it was in other areas. I've also seen some pretty deep discounts on subscriptions to X-title and Spider Titles in the past year, somewhere around 50%. I guess that helped their numbers, so they could stay on top of the Top 100 list. Alpha could've used this kind of help to at least spark some interest. I also recall seeing Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and Avengers comics for less that $1 on the newsstand. Something like that could've helped spark an interest or at least get some new readers to give it a try. And it's not just Alpha Flight that needs this kind of help. How many failed series have we seen over the past 5 years?"

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