Friday, October 31, 2003

Sometimes you need to preach to the choir: Jarod Lam wants to teach comic retailers how to use the internet. What? You say retailers already know how to use the internet, and point to Michael Tierney's disjointed diatribes as an example?

No, no. Jarod doesn't aim to teach retailers to use the internet in that way. Instead, he wants to show them how to set up a website, target specific markets and, well, sell more comics. So, he's offering a free, downloadable booklet called "Internet Marketing Secrets for Comic Retailers," which lays out the basics in 25 pages.

As I read over the e-book I thought, "Retailers should already know all this." But then I realized if they did, they'd already be using the internet better. (Link courtesy of The Pulse.)

The eternal question: A poster at Newsarama poses the question asked by countless people on countless message boards back through the centuries to the very dawn of time: "Has anyone else been feeling that these boards are getting worse and worse?"

The answer? Well, there isn't one, because most of the other posters become quickly distracted.

But then Matt Brady poses the second-oldest message board question: "Do we need moderators?"

Ahhhh, existential angst.

Sign at the "X": Tribune Entertainment on Thursday sued Marvel Enterprises for $100 million, claiming the publisher made "fraudulent and negligent" statements that doomed the syndicated "Mutant X" series.

Yeah, like the acting and scripts didn't sink that ship.

"Tribune alleges that it has lost millions of dollars defending itself after 20th Century Fox Film Corp. sued two years ago to stop Tribune's planned TV spinoff of two comic book series, Marvel's 1963 'X-Men' and 'Mutant X' in 1998," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Fox also held rights to the mutants, producing a hit movie, 'X-Men,' with Marvel in 2000." (Link courtesy Journalista!)

From the mouths of ... Newsarama reports that Marvel/Epic's "Crimson Dynamo" gets a new artist halfway through Issue 3.

Series writer John Jackson Miller notes that, "Discounting Mark Millar's 'Trouble,' 'Crimson Dynamo' is by the best-selling Epic book so far," triggering this response from a forum poster:

"That's like being the smartest mongoloid. Or being the homeless person with the most expensive box of wine out of your group. Or playing a writer while you beg the new executive for a job as an editor."

ComiXtreme, take note: Unlike some people, iComics' Greg McElhatton knows how to write a review. Not coincidentally, he's also heard of Farel Dalrymple, and even a Jewish mafia.

Today, Greg reviews Judd Winick's "Caper" #1, noting that it "treats its readers like adults, and I'm always in favor of that."

Me, too. Unflinching violence and cursing aside, "Caper" is a "mature readers" title because it presumes its audience has a certain level of sophistication and intelligence. Of course, judging from ComiXtreme and the "debate" on the John Byrne message boards, perhaps Winick & Co. misjudged at least a portion of that readership.

Winick doesn't waste his time, or ours, with needless exposition, a glossary of Yiddish terms or a primer on the history of organized crime. He expects us to be at least somewhat familiar with all of that, or to be sharp enough to figure it out through context.

What a refreshing change from humdrum "recap" pages with endless soliloquies filling in the gaps.

Yes, "Caper" is an intelligently crafted comic for a mature audience. And (gasp) it's not even under the Vertigo banner.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

A mystery, wrapped in a burrito: Although Savant is, unfortunately, dead, three of its contributors march on with a new blog, The Comics Burrito.

It'll be interesting to see how it compares.

Elektra complex: While reading Marvel's "First Look" previews for next week, I was stopped cold by this teaser for "Elektra" #29: "Elektra is hired to assassinate the leader of a violent guerilla movement in Southeast Asia. But will Elektra be able to fulfill her contract when she realizes that the insane leader is just an 8-year old boy?"

I'm going to guess no.

Curse you, Wednesday! Why must you be six days away?

Don't know much about history: Devin Grayson talks to The Pulse about "Batman/Joker: Switch," then ends up wading into murky waters that surely will teem with enraged fanboys once they smell blood.

In response to a question about why continuity is sometimes ignored and disregarded, Devin says: "... I don’t think the occasional misalignment of continuity is necessarily a bad thing. Say one writer has a really stupid idea. Should we all have to follow it in six different books that you’ll never read all together again anyway? Or say a writer has a brilliant idea. Can’t he or she shape it and take the credit for it without twelve others writers pouncing on it and turning it into their own thing, maybe to the detriment of the original idea? Let me write what I want to write, let them write what they want to write, and that way there will always be something for everyone to read."

She backs up her position with some surprisingly insightful posts Mark Waid had culled from myriad message boards about "continuity" as it applies to myth and folklore. (I guess the legends are true: Forums can contain meaningful exchanges of ideas.)

"Greek myth had more than two thousand years of retcons," one of the posters comments. Others cite the King Arthur legends, as well as more recent literary reinterpretations of myth.

Brace yourselves for irrational backlash from Comicon posters.

Athletic supporter: Comic Book Resources loves Vertigo's "The Losers," and especially series artist Jock. This is, what, the second interview with him in as many months?

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. The book is a fun read, and deserves a wider readership. Plus, the CBR article provided me with a new desktop wallpaper.

Bugsy Segal, why have you forsaken us? In typical ComiXtreme fashion, one of the (ahem) "reviewers" fixates on whether "Caper" should be under the main DC umbrella, then forgets to actually review the book.

It looks as if he also neglected to do his homework, because he writes, "[Farel] Dalrymple is a new name to me."

But the high point comes from the informed follow-up exchange between a forum poster and said reviewer:

Poster: "Hmmmm, a Jewish Mafia. That does sound intersting [sic], but is there really any such beast?"

Reviewer: "I have no idea if it really exists, but like I said, it does give this book its only really unique twist. It opens the door for LOTS of stereotypes, though, and Winick falls into that trap on occasion."

The horror! The horror! You know how you can tell Halloween is this week? All the comic sites trot out the "horror" creators.

Because readers are only interested in horror during October.

Comic Book Resources gave us "Steve Niles Week" on Monday and Tuesday, yet somehow got scooped by Newsarama on the "30 Days of Night Annual 2004" announcement (see next entry).

The Pulse has, thankfully, spaced out its Halloween coverage, giving us stories on Insight Studios, and Jon Morris' "Boo!"

But today, CBR gives us a good interview with legendary "Swamp Thing" artist Stephen Bissette, who discusses the horror genre, his '90s anthology "Taboo" and his work with Alan Moore.

"To me, the keystones [of horror] are not the artifacts and the archetypes that people tend to associate with horror, but the unconscious well springs that are touched by horror," Bissette says. "There are the obvious negative ones: fear, dread, the feeling of being profoundly disturbed, frightened. But I think there's also an expansive and very positive side to horror, which is usually ignored. There's a very real feeling of awe and wonder that is tapped in some of the best exercises in horror."

Niles, Inc.: The Steve Niles-Ben Templesmith machine just keeps churning out the products. What's the current tally? Thirty-seven books? Fifty-one? Eh, who can keep track these days ...

After "Dark Days," the sequel to the mega-hit "30 Days of Night," wraps up in December, the duo will raise the dead again in January with "30 Days of Night Annual 2004."

Niles tells Newsarama that the annual will be a collection of four short stories, each by a different artist: Templesmith, Josh Medors, Brandon Hovet and Szymon Kudranski.

Templesmith's cover looks great, of course.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Be careful what you ask for: I complain about the lack of comic news today, and just look what happens: Mark Millar gets another title.

This time, it's a yet-unnamed Spider-Man title, because three monthly Spider-books and a bimonthly anthology apparently aren't nearly enough.

Oh, that's right. The second Spider-Man movie comes out next year ...

Millar will work with T&A afficionado Terry Dodson (his partner in crime on the -- ahem -- ground-breaking "Trouble" miniseries.)

"My take on Spider-Man needs a certain level of realism," Millar tells a surprised Newsarama.

And lest anyone accuse Millar of wringing the last drops of life out of the "real-world superheroes" trend established years ago by the likes of "The Watchmen" and "The Authority," he cites such contemporary influences as ... um ... Alan Moore's work on "Swamp Thing"?

"In terms of tone, I think Alan Moore's DC work has been a big inspiration for me on this project," Millar said. "He really used 'Swamp Thing,' for example, as a way to redefine a genre, but also explore an established universe from a slightly skewed, very British point of view."

Byrne victims: Graeme McMillan draws my attention to new rabid rants by John Byrne, this time on his message board.

Byrne leaps swinging into a discussion over the mature nature of the cover to "Caper" #1, and whether something like this should be under the DC Universe bullet.

When a poster argues that the graphic image should tip off most parents that this isn't children's fare, the ever-eloquent Byrne chimes in with, "Bullshit."

In fact, he responds with "bullshit" on at least three separate occasions.

Byrne continues to court fans by telling that poster to "Pull your head out of your ass for a moment," and "Please -- go away somewhere and grow a BRAIN, or at least some organ that allows you to perceive the world outside your basement window. THEN, and ONLY then come back with an opinion that will be worth the bandwidth."

Then there's one of my favorites: "So you're an even BIGGER idiot than I thought you were?"

The saddest thing is, these fans stick around and take the abuse. Some of them seem to bask in the glory that is Byrne's unfocused contempt.

Maybe that's it: Byrne's message board is really a virtual group home for self-loathers and masochists. It's a den of S&M indulgence.

Now it all makes sense. Byrne assumes the role of dominator, dishing out abuse to all those unworthy of his presence, but who cannot function without feeling the lashes of his virtual whip.

And John wonders why all these bad stories circulate about him ...

(Thanks, Graeme, for giving me something to muse about on an otherwise dull morning.)

Slowly he turned ... Damn. Slow news day. All the comic "news" sites and weblogs are dead. This seems like a good time for a plug:

"Digital Webbing Presents" #11 hits the stands today, featuring my first published comics work, "Bad Elements." As I've said before, it's a 10-page story, with art by Peter Honrade and letters by Ed Dukeshire, about crime, loyalty, family ... and magic.

There's a 16-page follow-up in the works, and maybe even an actual series. But let's see how the first installment goes ...

So, pick it up. It's only $2.95, and includes some other good stories by the likes of C.G. Kirby and Joshua Gamon. There are two covers, one dedicated exclusively to "Bad Elements," with art by Jonboy Meyers. It's pretty damn nice, if I do say so myself.

I'll keep trolling for interesting news, and maybe whip up a couple of reviews.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Delayin' "Cable": Call me a pessimist, but this just doesn't strike me as a good sign: The debut of the "Cable & Deadpool" series by '90s refugee Fabian Nicieza and UDON's Mark Brooks, with covers by Rob Liefeld, has been postponed from November to March.

X-Fan reports that Brooks had to attend to a previous obligation before diving back into the new series.

"Mark wanted to work on both and we wanted Mark to work on both," Marvel PR wonk Michael Doran told X-Fan. "So instead of finding a new artist for one or the other, we simply delayed the release of 'Cable & Deadpool' to the spring."

Rob must be feeling pretty good that, for once, a delay can't be pinned on him.

Travelin' man: It's more than a little sad when I have to travel more than 50 miles to find a decent comic shop. But travel I did, and found one I have!

If you (by "you" I mean all two of my readers) happen to live in southeast Ohio or northwestern West Virginia, you have my sympathies. But if you're in need of a good comic store, you have my recommendation: Universe of Super-Heroes in Athens, Ohio. Yeah, I know the name is wretched, but the store is spacious and well-stocked, and the owner is extremely friendly and knowledgeable.

I have a feeling I'll be making the hour trip to Athens a few times a month.

I hadn't been to what passes as my local shop in a couple of weeks, so I grabbed "The Losers" #5, "Dark Days" #4, "Hulk: Gray" #1 (although I'm not sure why), "Planetary" #17, "Catwoman" #22, "Gotham Central" #12, "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell" #5 (I somehow had missed that one), "Hellblazer" #189 and the "100 Bullets: Hang Up On The Hang Low" trade (at 10% off).

The owner also was nice enough to let me delve into this week's shipment a day early, so I bought "Teen Titans-Outsiders: Secret Files & Origins" (Phil Jimenez is seriously underrated as a writer), "The Legion" #25 and "Caper" #1 (what a great read; I may post a review later.

Two-fisted action: I don't know why I read Brandon Thomas' "Ambidextrous" column. I really don't. Maybe it's because I occasionally enjoy feeling embarrassed for someone other than myself.

It's sort of like watching BBC's "The Office," which takes discomfort and self-consciousness to hilarious levels. The only problem is that "Ambidextrous" isn't funny -- at least not intentionally funny.

This week, Brandon interviews the self-proclaimed "bad boy" of comics, Mark Millar.

Now, most people might see this interview as reciprocation -- the editorial equivalent of a reach-around -- for Mark providing Brandon with his entry into comics (via some scripting work for Rob Liefeld, comics' previous self-proclaimed "bad boy").

But most people aren't Brandon Thomas:

"The first thing you’ll notice after finishing Wanted, is that Mark Millar definitely wrote this book. A slightly obvious observation, but something that warrants a mention. The most popular writers usually become that way, because their voice remains unique amongst their counterparts, marking their style and tendencies with an individualized stamp that translates throughout their body of work. Millar’s 'thoughtprints' are all over this title, ensuring that the dialogue, pacing, and attitude present in his Ultimate titles, and his Authority run, can easily be found here. But something’s different…"

See? most people would've been too self-conscious to say something so obviously ridiculous, or gush publically over the guy who got them a job. They also would be too ashamed to use the term "thoughtprints."

But not Brandon, bless his heart.

Message bored: J.W. Hastings discusses his preference for comics-related blogs over comics-related message boards. (Link via Journalista!)

J.W. (Mr. Hastings?), in turn, references Sean Collins' earlier lamentations on the subject. Yes, it's an inter-blog extravaganza.

In any case, J.W. draws the distinction between message board arguments and cross-blog discussions. He doesn't bring up anything new, but he does hit upon my current state of thinking: I'm tired of posting on comics message boards.

Yes, the bloom finally has fallen off that rose.

It's taken more than a year, but it looks as if I've grown tired of the same handful of people bellowing the same comments over and over again.

The occasional well-thought-out analyis of industry economics, the current business model or storytelling structure is too often overshadowed by choruses of "Liefeld sucks!" and "Trades are the way to go!"

Yeah, I know that's nothing new. So, I'll just stick with my blog.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Review revue: Paul O'Brien updates The X-Axis with reviews of "Emma Frost" #4, "Uncanny X-Men" #432, "Sleeper" #10 and a handful of other books.

I love Paul's reviews, not necessarily because he crafts great literary criticism, but because he knows how to get to the point. Take his review of "Uncanny X-Men," for instance: "Basically, it's the usual vacant nonsense we've come to expect from this title."

The Fourth Rail guys also post their "First Look Reviews," which includes their assessments of the first issues of Judd Winick's "Caper" and Devin Grayson's "Batman / Joker: Switch."

At Eat More People, Rick goes ga-ga over this week's haul from the comic shop: "Hellblazer," "Batman," "Planetary, "The Losers" and "Human Target."

Is "lackluster" one word or two? Marvel's solicitations for January were released today. I'm not particularly anti-Marvel. I'm just non-plussed by the selection for January.

Grant Morrison's final "New X-Men" storyline begins, so I'll definitely pick that up. I've never been a fan of Marc Silvestri, but if the previews are any indication, this is some of the strongest work of his career.

I stopped reading "Uncanny X-Men" several months ago, simply because I can't stomach Chuck Austen's writing anymore. However, this Salvador Larroca cover for #438 is beautiful.

Other titles I'll probably pick up: "NYX" #4 (the first issue was decent, and I like Middleton's art), "Daredevil" #56 (the return of Bendis and Maleev), "Runaways" #10, and maybe "Marvel 1602" #6.

Unfortunately, January also starts Austen's run on "Avengers" Oh, well.

Don't you love Rich Johnston? He has a way of hedging his bets with certain bits of gossip so that, no matter what, he later can say, "See? I told you I knew all about that!"

People's Exhibit A: Today's item about Grant Morrison's permanent replacement on "New X-Men" ...

"I apparently know who the new writer of 'New X-Men' is, to follow Grant Morrison and then Chuck Austen. But if I report it, I may scupper the deal. Gah! And, since I'd rather read X-Men comics by this individual, than report the rumour and wreck the project, I guess I'm going to hold this one in.

"Yes, I know it's frustrating. It's even more frustrating to me. But, apparently, Salvador Larocca will be drawing them."

Ah, Rich Johnston. Deals are made and broken based on his very word. Nations rise and fall with every breath across his puckered lips. The mere sound of his voice causes the lame to walk and the blind to see.

So, for the love of God, Rich don't report anything on Morrison's replacement! And don't worry that it makes you look weak and easily manipulated.

You're above such mortal concerns. You, my friend, are a saint.

Johnston, however, does deliver with his weekly dose of Rob Liefeld gossip:

"I also hear that Rob Liefeld is to take full creative reins on a new 'X-Force' title, as Marvel outsource the entire creative and editorial responsibilities on the book to him. Liefeld will also be responsible for producing a range of one-shots and mini-series associated with the project. Expect the return of a number of his New Mutants and X-Force characters. Liefeld declined to comment."

Welcome to the '90s. Here's your pitchfork.

Fanboys in need of something -- anything -- to rage about: The Pulse reports on DC's attempts to stop employees from taking advantage of comp books through a trade-in "gray market" at Jim Hanley's Universe in New York.

Forum reaction about something that doesn't affect comic fans at all is muted so far, with only a couple of people tsk-tsking DC. Expect unfocused outrage by afternoon.

Over at Newsarama, Mike San Giacomo continues his painful recount of every second that has gone into producing "Phantom Jack" (heheeee!) for Marvel's ill-fated Epic imprint.

Mike hasn't had anything new or interesting to tell us since, oh, August, but that hasn't stopped him from keeping us abreast of every phone call and email exchanged between he and the rest of the creative team.

Luckily, though, Mike tells us that from here on out, "My Epic Journey" will only appear twice a month. finally chimes in on last week's furor over the Publishers Weekly report about Marvel's apparent plans for digest-sized collected editions of its Tsunami books -- but (gasp) only for the book market.

The retailer-oriented site adds this in way of comment:

"A 'channel exclusive' for the Marvel Tsunami trades doesn't make much sense; perhaps it would for some of the shoujo manga titles from other publishers, which do 80-90% of their sales in the book trade, but full color titles with ties to the X-Men and Spider-Man lines certainly have potential in the comic shop market. Marvel released its Mary Jane prose novel, which was clearly aimed at female readers, to the comic shops, so it appears unlikely that the publisher will withhold the Tsunami trades from direct market stores, but let's wait and see before jumping to conclusions."

Warren, what's the frequency? Warren Ellis finally comments on news that the WB has bought the rights to "Global Frequency":

"Frankly, I forget all the details and I'm freezing bloody cold in the pub, but as I remember the deal comes with a script commitment -- my friend the screenwriter John Rogers is writing and developing -- and I'm on as a consultant and producer."

When you have an hour or so to spare: Read last week's "Permanent Damage" at CBR. In it, Steven Grant sits down with writer Ed Brubaker ("Sleeper," "Gotham Central") to talk about the new "Sleeper" trade. But instead of asking Ed about, oh, how he broke into the business or how many hours a day he writes, Steven actually asks pertinent questions.

And, better yet, Ed answers them. The two talk, at great length, about the wait-for-the-trade mentality, the bumpy and (so far) unsuccessful shift by the comics industry from magazine model to book model, and writing in the 22-page format.

It's one of the best comics-related interviews I've ever read. If you have the time, check it out. Now.

Still crazy after all these years: Once a month or so, legendary comics curmudgeon John Byrne writes a column at Slush Factory. Occasionally, the column looks at changing trends in comics or gives a little insight into the art of storytelling.

But more often than not, it's just John lashing out at these nebulous segments of the comics-reading population that have somehow wronged him over the years. Many of these columns sound as if they got their start at John's message board, where he routinely delivers puzzling sermons from the mount to an audience of unquestioning devotees.

This time around, John unloads on fans and critics who profess to know what he thinks, and whether he's "into" a certain project. Stupid, stupid humans!

"Case in point, the 'Robin' book I did with Stan Lee a while back. When the pencils came into the DC offices there was an almost universal reaction of 'Wow! Byrne is really turned on by this project! You can see it in the work!' When copies of the pencils circulated into the hands of some quarters of fandom, the reaction was much the same. 'I wish Byrne would bring this kind of enthusiasm to his other work!'"

Now, what would make them think that? Foolish, foolish humans!

Lest you think he enjoyed the work, Byrne continues: "... it has been a long, long time since I cared LESS about a job than I did the 'Robin' assignment. I was handed a plot not written with me in mind, and I simply sat down at the drawing board and set about working through the dynamics of the storyline to the best of my ability. No 'WoW!! This is gonna be great!' No 'I'm so glad I got picked to do this book!' Nope. Just a job. Interesting for the way it exercised certain artistic muscles, but nothing more. Did it mostly for the prestige of working on a Stan Lee book at DC. (The money was not bad, but -- again, contrary to the telepaths in the audience -- I do not do the jobs just for the money.)"

Now that that's cleared up, we can all continue our sad little Byrne-free lives.

Another reminder: Yeah, I am going to plug this again ... My first published comic work, a 10-page story called "Bad Elements," comes out Wednesday in "Digital Webbing Presents" #11.

It's a little ditty about crime, loyalty, family ... and magic.

Peter Honrade is the artist. Jonboy Meyers did the cover. Buy it. Please.

And so ends the shameless pimping segment of our show.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Sweet Jesus. Have you seen the WB's new "Tarzan"?

I can just imagine the network pitch meeting: "People like 'Law & Order' and 'CSI.' They also like 'Angel' and 'Dawson's Creek.' What if -- stick with me here -- we combine them? But we'll throw in a bohemian Australian underwear model and the bald guy from 'The X-Files' just to hit all demographics."

"Housewives? Check! They love them some old bald guy from 'The X-Files'! Gay men and teen-age girls? Check! Check! They love them some bohemian Australian underwear models."

"But how can we draw in people who love literary characters that have been exploited by Disney and John Derek? I know! We'll update 'Tarzan'!"

Bah! Now these entries are jumbled. Oh, well. I'll catch on. Eventually.

It's recently been brought to my attention that there aren't nearly enough blogs, LiveJournals and the like. Worse yet, I'm told there's an alarming shortage of those devoted to comic books and comic-related websites.

If comic book blogs were endangered species, they'd be Bengal tigers or black rhinos. Or child actors who successfully made the transition to well-adjusted adults.

Yeah, they're that rare.

Okay, my information may be faulty. But I'm not willing to take the chance. Comics blogs must live on!

Because it's in my nature, I'm offering myself as the Siegfried and/or Roy of my generation, championing the plight of comics blogs like so many white tigers. I'll pass on the sequins, makeup and mullets, though. Thanks all the same.

With that in mind, I hope to provide a daily rundown of the comic book industry, providing summaries of interesting news on comics websites, and offering my take on things. If the stars align properly, I may do some occasional reviews. We'll see.

It's Sunday, which means it's time for "All the Rage" over at Silver Bullet Comic Books.

Man, how I miss Alan Donald. At least he reported actual gossip, instead of the disappointing results from an afternoon of message-board trolling. Seriously, that's a blog, not a gossip column.

I can't remember the last time I found Markisan's cobbled-together report even remotely interesting or informative.

Rob Liefeld's dropping names of creators who are just dying to work with him? No way! Mark Millar's pretending to misbehave? Get out of town!

The next thing you'll tell me is that Micah Wright is saying something to piss people off!

Markisan, you cheeky monkey!

Speaking of SBC and Alan Donald, would someone please put "The Panel" out of its misery? Surely, that column provides a convincing argument for mercy killings.

If you haven't been following the weekly car wreck, Alan asks a panel of supposed comics professionals questions like, "Why are there no Jewish superheroes?" and "Is Batman gay?" then steps back to let the good times roll.

It's no coincidence that the number of participating creators has steadily decreased while the number of SBC staff members has increased.

Bless Steven Grant and Terry Moore for staying with it week in and week out. It may have been a condition of their parole.

And just in case you were wondering, SBC's Tim Hartnett still hates Geoff Johns' writing.

You doubt me? Then read Tim's review of "Teen Titans" #4: "It's pretty sad that I have to stoop to such an immature phrase, but Teen Titans kinda sucks."

See? I told you.

If that's not enough to convince you, just wait until next week, when Tim undoubtedly will review more of Johns' work. Hate, hate, hate.

Oh, one more thing: Excuse me for a daily Columbo Moment. If anyone's reading this and anyone cares, my first published comic story, "Bad Elements," comes out this Wednesday in "Digital Webbing Presents" #11.