Sunday, November 30, 2003

Oh, the things you'll see: I learned at least four things this weekend at Mid-Ohio Con:

1. Stormtrooping is hot and stinky work; some of those guys are ripe.

2. There's never a line for Herbert ("Battlestar Galactica") Jefferson's autograph. Ever.

3. As long as you've published something, people want your autograph. So what if they don't know who you are?

4. Daredevil, Spider-Man and The Flash are very, very comfortable with their bodies, even if everyone else isn't. Also, Daredevil and Spider-Man are clearly circumcised, but I'm not so sure about The Flash.

More to report in the morning ...

Friday, November 28, 2003

December drops no weak, relenting tear: One more entry before I leave, if only because I forgot to check out Previews Review earlier this week. In a surprise turn, Christopher Butcher provides an uncharacteristically upbeat look at items shipping in December.

Thankfully, though, Christopher's new outlook doesn't prevent him from turning a snarky eye toward Mark Millar Month:

"A note about Mark Millar month: While it's all ostensibly creator-owned material and blah blah blah, I just can’t bring myself to care about any of it. It's all so warmed-over and toothless. It’s nothing that, by turns, AIR PIRATES, RICK VIETCH, and any number of zine-guys haven’t done before (and better, by all accounts). I just don't care. I wouldn't have even bothered mentioning it if the hype surrounding it wasn't so dense, and I wasn't expected to because of the whole "Creator Owned" thing. Tell you what Mark, pay Jada Pinket Smith likeness rights then we'll talk."

I'm also happy that he draws my attention to "Chimney 25" and "Mince," two books from Foo Swee Chin that I'd have missed, if only because -- say it with me -- my local comic shop sucks.

Here's what Christopher says about them:

"One of our favourite creators here at is Foo Swee Chin, better known as FSc, the artist on NIGHTMARES AND FAIRYTALES from Slave Labor and the creator of many of her own stand-alone works. This Christmas, she’s unleashed a new work for us all to enjoy: CHIMNEY 25 ($3.95, 32 pages, Page 219, Slave Labor Graphics, OCT03 2030). Featuring a bunch of short stories and pin-ups with a creepy-winter theme, it should be suitably creepy for the goth kids bah-humbugging their way through the Holiday season. Though goth or not, it’s hard not to enjoy FSc’s creepy characters and oddly charming stories. FSc’s books are cover-to-cover comics too, no ads or filler. With 32 pages (and an 8-page colour insert!) this one is a total treat. Also available this month from FSc is MINCE ($2.99, 24 pages, Page 334, Neko Press, OCT03 2615), a little bit of Jhonen Vasquez-meets-Neon Genesis Evangelion, all rendered by FSc’s gorgeous pencils. A suicidal boy, his murderous imaginary friends, techno-organic goodness. Another visual treat from FSc, get them both!"

I'm sold. Now I just need to find a good, reliable online retailer.

Convention bound: I leave early this afternoon for Mid-Ohio Con, so I doubt there will be any blog entries over the weekend (or at least until Sunday night). You'll do fine without me, I'm sure.

As I wrote the other day, this is my first comic convention, so I imagine I will have much to report when I get back. Tonight is the infamous pre-convention party at The Laughing Ogre comic store, which should be enough a couple of blog entries. If not, I'm sure I'll have plenty of comics finds to write about.

In any case, have a good weekend.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

War of the words: Christopher Priest isn't happy about an item in this week's "Lying In The Gutters":

"It's alleged that Christopher Priest, all too frustrated by angry gangsta rap, has created a total spoof at, crafting the song You Ain't White which could possibly be characterized as White Power hardcore rap.


"I wonder if it will be referred to in his upcoming Captain America/Falcon series?"

I couldn't make heads or tails out of the item. Apparently, neither could Priest. But he's still upset -- so upset that yesterday in his blog he asks for a public apology from Rich Johnston:

"I have not much clue what this is about, and can take a joke as well as the next guy. But do you realize how patently racist the underlying subtext of this post is? Rich, it really is hard enough just surviving in this business during these volatile times. Having somehow, to my great and enduring horror, become a BLACK writer, when once upon a time I was as much a writer as anybody else, only compounds the problem.

"Laying off racist bias on CAP/FALC before you've seen even one paragraph of what we're up to is totally unfair. And, while I'm sure you meant no harm (and you'll likely make full advantage of this note to further undermine me and my work), I just wanted you to know I'm perplexed by the hostility and wanted you to be aware (because I'm betting you're not) that the posting is completely offensive and patently racist. I'm sure you made what you thought was a harmless enough joke but one that was loaded with unfair racial inferences about me and about CAF.

"I'd really appreciate a public apology."

In the comments section today, Johnston replies, in part:

"I had a number of emails telling me you were behind this spoof, from a number of separate people across the industry.You still haven't told me if you are... that's fine. Your prerogative.

"But no I don't understand how racist the subtext of the post is. Because there is no subtext. Doesn't subtext demand intention?

"There was no racist bias towards Cap/Falc intended. No hostility. No undermining of work intended. For fuck's sake, haven't I championed your work on Q+W, BP and Crew?"

Johnston goes on to say, "Public apologies are fine. I'd just like to know what I'm apologising for," and, finally, "I've emailed my editor to remove the offending piece. Let's go from there."

As of the time of this post, the item hadn't been removed from his column.

They stumble among us: This has absolutely nothing to do with comics (unless you want to make a Steve Niles connection), but it's Thanksgiving, so there's nothing else going on ...

I love Pravda.Ru. It's always a good read, and it's occasionally even brilliant. Take, for instance, this matter-of-fact account of the humdrum, and apparently drunken, lives of provincial vampires:

"For a few years no one has seen him doing anything but drinking. Then Vasily found another passion: he slaughtered cattle for old women, who could not do this anymore. They paid him what they could, and he accepted everything: sometimes it was a plate of borsch. No one remembers now the first time he asked for a cup of fresh, still warm blood, but with time he has started asking this as payment."

The article also includes a helpful checklist to help determine how much of a vampire you are, courtesy of the Vampire Research Center:

Are you skinny?
Is your face pale?
You often wear sunglasses and use sunburn protection cream?
You prefer candles to electric light?
Are you tolerant to temperature changes?
You look much younger than your age?
You have a deep, magnetizing look?
You are rarely ill, avoid medicines?
Do you judge smokers and drug users?
Do you like night-time loneliness?
Do you like raw meat?
You are not interested in sex much?
You like occult sciences?
You like dressing in black?

I'll admit I'm a bit worried. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Don't believe the hype: Joe Casey, in this week's "Waiting for Tommy," on the unwelcome trend of creators "dropping bombshells" in interviews:

"Hasn't the hype gotten out of hand? If I hear another loudmouthed creator jump online or taint the sacred, solemn pages of WIZARD Magazine with their bullsh*t blustering about how their version of (--insert character here--) or how their relaunch of (--insert superhero team here--) is going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread and how it'll change the face of comics as we know it … I'm going to burn my treasured copy of AVENGERS #161 ('Beware the Ant-Man,' by Shooter/Perez) in supreme frustration. In fact, it's gotten to the point where if the hype is that something is going to 'change the face of comics,' you can pretty much guarantee that it won't. So, the idea of dropping 'bombshells' in interviews has completely lost its appeal for me, and I can only hope that my fellow creators follow suit. Besides, my real interview comes out in the next issue of THE COMICS JOURNAL #257. That's the one where all the bodies are buried …"

Bang! Bang! You're dead: Marvel has canceled the final two issues of Daniel Way and Jon Proctor's "Gun Theory," the only creator-owned series in the Epic debacle -- I mean, imprint.

Who's your daddy? Keith Giffen talks to The Pulse about taking over as writer of "Thanos":

"I feel as if I'm a caretaker until daddy comes back. Thanos will always be Starlin's character. ... I know it's difficult. I know my working on Thanos is the equivalent in some people's minds to Jim Starlin working on the Ambush Bug. I know there are some characters that are just locked in people's minds as being associated with just one creator or creators. But I'm not changing the character. Jim pushed him in a specific direction. I'm not changing that. I'm going to continue along that quest. My destination might not be exactly what Jim envisioned, but I don't think I'll miss the target by much. I hope Jim will be a fan of it."

Who's Who of whodunnits: Brad Meltzer talks to Newsarama about his upcoming seven-issue DC murder mystery, "Identity Crisis."

I love crime stories/mysteries, and Meltzer can certainly write a thriller. But I was more than a little nervous when I read in the lead that the miniseries "vows to change the status quo."

A good comics rule of thumb is that any "event" that promises to change the status quo won't. Luckily, the phrasing is Matt Brady's, not Meltzer's. The writer is tight-lipped, and only teases the plot in vague terms:

"It's a murder mystery set in the DC Universe. Pure and simple. But the consequences of what unfolds ... well, that's the real story. Characters live ... characters die -- and hopefully, you'll never looked at these masked men and the villains they fight quite the same way again."

Which characters will die? Hm. Let me break out my dusty copies of "Who's Who" and see who hasn't appeared in the past 10 years or so.

A question for the ages: Shouldn't an SBC intern be compiling "The Panel"? Instead, it falls to Alan Donald, who should be writing "All The Rage."

Anyway, this week's question boils down to, "Is the Internet good or bad for the industry?" The answers are pretty predictable, with the panelists generally condemning message boards ("populated by morons"), but praising the Internet as a research tool.

Marvel's Axel Alonso is quick to pick up the Chuck Austen banner by pointing out: "The net can be hilarious but bottom line: It is not an accurate reflection of the comic-reading public. It’s a small slice of the pie: those individuals who choose to spend their free time on the net discussing comics. To take your cues from internet chat boards is career suicide."

And CrossGen's Bill Rosemann longs for those times of yore: "I miss the days when all I knew about an upcoming issue was what was printed in the 'Next Issue' box."

At least late shipping dates wouldn't be as much of a problem ...

Convention tension: This weekend is Mid-Ohio Con in Columbus. It also marks my first venture into convention territory, so we'll see how that goes.

I'll be at the Digital Webbing table, hawking copies of "Digital Webbing Presents" and doing whatever else exhibitors (exhibitionists?) do. I'm sure it'll be fun, but at this point I'm not excited about it. Sure, it'll be nice to finally meet some of the people with whom I've previously only interracted online. And maybe I'll be introduced to that person who'll help me launch my career.

But the rest of the convention experience just doesn't appeal to me. I mean, I enjoy the work of Alan Davis, P. Craig Russell, Michael Avon Oeming and the like, but I just don't see me waiting in line to have them sign a comic. What am I going to do with an autograph? (On a vaguely similar note, can anyone tell me why Larry "Soup Nazi" Thomas is at the convention? Anyone?)

It will, however, give me a chance to buy some comics since, as we all know by now, my local shop is terrible. Maybe, just maybe, I'll even come back with some manga. No guarantees there, though.

Stellar reception: Never ones to let their lack of familiarity with a creator get in the way, the Comicon gang reacts to word that Keith Giffen will replace Jim Starlin as the writer of "Thanos":

"Interesting move. Is this Giffen's first writing gig for Marvel?"

"Most of his [Giffen's] Marvel work was doing art chores and Kirby swipes back in the 70's. Last work I can recall him doing off the top of my head was some of the last issues of Killraven. And it's probably for the best that he's writing and Ron Lim's doing the art. Because I can't think of anything more nauseating than the concept of Thanos being rendered in a Munoz swipe style."

"Another DC boy to f*ck up a good Marvel book. So long Thanos it was great reading you with Starlin while it lasted."

Thankfully, a few posters step up to point out Giffen's extensive resume.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Vampire chronicles: "Sword of Dracula" writer Jason Henderson talks to Newsarama about Tony Harris' cover for Issue 3, and the series' artistic shuffle as Greg Scott leaves for a stint on "Gotham Central" and William Belk steps in.

Cosmic thing: Keith Giffen is the new writer on "Thanos"? Interesting.

Brevity is the soul of wit: Who needs tryptophan? The comics world is sluggish, sleepy and dull days before Thanksgiving.

That's just as well, though, because I'm behind on a script that I'd promised to have finished by Sunday evening. So, this may be it for the blog entries today. If you're bored, check back this evening. Maybe by then something will have happened.

Raising a stink: At Broken Frontier, Mike Bullock breaks down the components of a good comic book store. He hits upon some solid points (diverse inventory, friendly staff, etc.) But what stands out are the references to the shop's cleanliness and smell:

"Something overlooked by many who spend long hours in a retail environment is the smell. Is the store musty? Does it smell like old books, body odor, and left over pizza? No one wants to smell that. Make sure the store is clean and smells that way as well."

I don't highlight this to diminish Mike's argument; cleanliness and lack of odor, obviously, are important. They're so important, in fact, that I routinely see them mentioned in discussions of comic retailers. And that's what troubles me. What does it say about the industry that we have to list "clean" and "don't stink" as attributes of the good shops?

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other retail outlet in which cleanliness and an absence of foul smells are areas worthy of special praise. We don't stroll into the Gap and think, "Wow, this is clean." We don't browse the aisles of Waldenbooks and suddenly proclaim, "They're right. It doesn't stink in here!"

So why should we expect anything less from our comic book stores?

Perhaps we've been conditioned to lower our expectations. Maybe we're such a sad and neglected lot that we'll take whatever we can get.

I don't know; I'm afraid to think too much about it.

But, damn. Cleanliness and an odor-free environment shouldn't be on our wish list. That's just sad.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Isn't every month Brian Bendis Month? Marvel has released its February solicitations, and, well, hmm. A few observations:

*Move over, black history. Watch out, groundhog. Out of the way, Cupid. February is "Brian Bendis Month." So says Marvel, for whom he's churning out seven titles that month. The family-friendly followup to "Alias," with the unfortunate name of "The Pulse" debuts Feb. 18, with Spider-Man on the cover.

* "4," Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's take on the Fantastic Four, debuts with two issues in February. Remember him? He was the guy tapped to take over "Fantastic Four" when Mark Waid was "fired." When Waid was rehired, Anguirre-Sacasa was sent to Marvel Knights with his FF premise. Steve McNiven's art is beautiful, but Marvel uses the word "edgy" in the solicitation copy, which makes me wince.

* You know Marvel has its finger on the pulse of young America when it references Bono in the solicitation copy for "NYX."

* "X-Men Unlimited," the bimonthly anthology featuring "new" writers, debuts. "Spider-Man Unlimited" follows in March. Tick, tick, tick.

* The cover of "Venom" #11 makes me queasy. I have a feeling the story wouldn't do much for me, either.

* As I mentioned previously, "Namor" and "Sentinel" end in February.

* To add insult to injury, this is the cover of "Epic Anthology" #1 (also known as the one-shot):

On the plus side, the price tag is $5.99 for 72 color pages, not $8.99, as it said in Previews.

Playing "Games": Marv Wolfman gives The Pulse more details about the long-awaited publication of the "New Teen Titans" graphic novel "Games," scheduled for release in December 2004. (DC made the announcement Friday during Wizard World Texas.)

But Wolfman saves the best stuff for his website, where he recounts the graphic novel's long, frustrating history, and explains why it's taken this long to finish.

As a warning to regular readers of this blog (all two of you), I'll let you know now that I'll likely note every excrutiating aspect of "Games" between now and next December. As I said Friday, I'm not one for nostalgia, but the Wolfman/Perez "New Teen Titans" is the only comic from my youth that I still treasure. So, you'll have to indulge me. NeilAlien has Dr. Strange. I have "New Teen Titans."

"Thanos" pathos: In his ComiX-Fan forum, Marvel editor Tom Brevoort tries to clarify Jim Starlin's reasons for leaving "Thanos," but ends up widening the mystery:

"I don't really think it's appropriate to get into these matters publicly, but I will say that Jim's reason for leaving THANOS had nothing to do with working on THANOS itself; it had to do with another matter entirely."

Serial thriller: John Jakala takes issue with a couple of David Fiore's points in the ongoing comics format debate.

May I suggest a bake sale? Newsarama reports that the Bankruptcy Court is requiring CrossGen to pay an additional $15,000 for Lady Death, a character the publisher purchased right before Chaos! filed bankruptcy.

"Sentinel" scrapped: In another blow to Marvel's Tsunami line, and perhaps Bill Jemas' legacy, it's been announced that "Sentinel" will end with February's #12.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

NYT on "NYX": The New York Times (registration required) profiles Joe Quesada in today's Region section, and pumps his new series "NYX."

Among my favorite excerpts:

"One of the three is Marvel's editor in chief, Joe Quesada. He is a big guy, with a bull neck the Hulk would be proud of and thick Jackson Pollock wrists. His brown hair is dyed partly blond, making him look like the Human Torch on simmer."

"October was an especially strong month [for the comics industry], with each of the Top 10 titles selling more than 100,000 copies. While not comparable to comics' glory days, it's a reason for optimism. 'The industry is the healthiest it's been in roughly 10 years,' says Brian Cunningham, editor of Wizard magazine, which covers comics. 'Some people credit Marvel's resurgence. Some credit the wave of popular comic films like "X-Men" and "Spider-Man." Yet others credit the overall quality of many comics.'"

"But Mr. Quesada relishes his role as an industry lightning rod. 'I set out to get people talking,' he says. 'Let them hate me, let them love me, just feel passionate about it all, one way or another. Silence equals death. Right after I took the job, I was advised by a previous editor in chief that as editor of Marvel, as the guy in charge of the biggest and most popular publisher in comics, I will always be walking around with a target on my back.'"

Deep in the heart of -- eh, forget it: In this Bizarro World in which we live, Comics Continuum once again provides better coverage of Wizard World Texas. Now why can't the site do a better job on a daily basis?

I'm now left wondering whether The Pulse attended a different convention, because Comics Continuum's take on the "Cup o' Joe" panel is a little more newsworthy:

* The "re-envisioning" of Dr. Strange actually has a date attached to it. Sort of. It should be in 2004. Maybe. (It will come as no surprise that NeilAlien is a little nervous about this talk of "re-envisioning.")

* Quesada will write "NYX" through at least Issue 6. "I would like to go further, but it takes a lot of time, so we'll see," he said. By that time, perhaps the story will have moved beyond "Kiten's home life sucks. And she can stop time." (See yesterday's review.)

* Plans are for the Ultimate Peter Parker never to leave high school. Whew! At least we won't have to relive the god-awful wedding issue in the Ultimate universe. (I have that around here somewhere.)

And then there was this:

"Quesada said he couldn't provide any insight into the recent downscaling of the Epic imprint. 'It's like the trade paperback division,' he said. 'Epic operated out of its own office, so there's not much I can tell you about what's going on in Epic.'"

Plausible deniability, anyone?

Singles scene: As usual, David Fiore provides a well-reasoned look at an issue. This time it's the debate over comics formats, and that old bugaboo called "closure."

"I'm not saying that interesting things cannot be done in self-contained artistic efforts, but I am saying that the 'traditional' model for the presentation of these narratives is actually far more unique and interesting (formally!) than the types of works that mature fans seem to be clamoring for. My message to the proponents of the monthly, 'single' super-hero format? Do not equivocate, and do not apologize! Most of all--do not defend your opinion based on 'sentimental attachment' (or, you know, go on doing so, by all means, but understand that you're just asking to be patronized by the Dirk Deppey school!) By the same token, I say, if we must have rigidity, then bring it on!!! (sounds like the viagra e-mails I get by the gross every day ...)"

Saturday, November 22, 2003

"Opus" opus: To mark Berkeley Breathed's return to the funny pages, interviews, um, Opus. You know, the penguin. Unfortunately, it's not very funny.

Dynamic overstatement: In its ongoing efforts to sell comics fans crap that they don't need, Dynamic Forces takes hype to a mind-boggling level. In its hard sell of the "Captain America 50th Birthday Commemorative High Grade Litho signed by Jack Kirby," DF tells us:

"Mr. Kirby's autographs are one of the hardest autographs to get these days ..."

Hm. I wonder why.

Texas roundup, Part II: Here's a quick summary of Joe Quesada's "Cup o' Joe" panel at Wizard World Texas:

We'll see a new Dr. Strange series someday. Eventually. Really. About the same time Kevin Smith finishes "Spider-Man / Black Cat."

He then led the audience in a round of "Pull My Finger."

Texas roundup: I'm not sure of the logic behind comics publishers tying their "major" announcements to "major" conventions. It only creates artificial time contraints, and invites comparisons and criticisms. Chicago's announcements, inevitably aren't as good as San Diego's, and Texas' aren't as good as Chicago's. By the time you get around to the end of the ever-lengthening "convention season," the only way to up the ante and impress the online minions would be to resurrect Jack Kirby and put him back on "Thor." And even then, people would complain.

Witness reaction to the announcements made Friday by DC at Wizard World Texas:



"Some really great news there, but I'm upset that there was nothing mentioned at all about upcoming Green Lantern plans..."

In fairness, there was some excitement about "The Flash" and the release of the Wolfman/Perez "New Teen Titans" graphic novel.

I feel a full-size a rant coming on about convention announcements. Hm. More on this tomorrow.

Oh, and once again, Comics Continuum has better coverage of the convention than Newsarama or The Pulse.

For an easy-to-follow rundown of the DC announcements at Wizard World Texas, go here.

Woe is me: Have I mentioned lately how unbelievably bad my local comic shop is? I thought I'd long ago accepted its generally poor selection and lack of genre diversity. I'd even come to terms with its prime display shelf being devoted to RPG and collectible busts.

But yesterday made me realize how truly wretched the place is. I hadn't bought comics in a couple of weeks, and gleefully headed out to buy some of the more mainstream titles that I thought my local shop surely would have ("Legion Secret Files," "Lucifer" #44, etc.).

What should I find when I reach the store? Nothing. Well, next to nothing. The comics section looked like Kroger right before a snowstorm, or images of Soviet supermarkets they used to show on the nightly news in the '80s.

But it's not as if there was a sudden run on comics in my city. I can't imagine that this week, a good portion of the populace decided they had to have "Namor" #9 and "Superman-Thundercats," then left the shelves bare in their wake. Hell, in the past year, I can only remember a half-dozen times when I wasn't the only customer in the store.

No. The truth is my local shop is shit. Complete, unapologetic shit. If I wanted every Spider-Man title published in the past six months, I would've been in hog heaven. But I didn't, so I'm left with three books, only one of which I actually wanted (the other two I bought only because I didn't want to feel like I'd wasted a trip). And none of them actually came out this week!

"1602" #4: I like Neil Gaiman, but the only reason I'm even remotely enjoying this miniseries is because of the large role played by Dr. Strange. I stopped caring about the mysteries of the bad weather, the Templar treasure, Virginia Dare and the Fantastic Four analog two issues ago.

"Lucifer" #41: It's funny how #44 came out this week, but the only issue my shop had was #41. My reading of the series has been hit and miss, and I'd missed this issue. It was okay. I'm not keen on David Hahn's art, at least on this title.

"NYX" #2: Okay, two issues in and we've established (twice now) that Kiden can stop time around her, and her home life sucks. Next issue: We learn her home life really, really sucks.

Friday, November 21, 2003

When nostalgia attacks: I'm not one of those aging fanboys so handicapped by delusions of long-gone adolescent glory that I think comics reached their creative peak around 1985. But I'm occasionally a sucker for comics nostalgia.

Case in point: DC Comics' official announcement at Wizard World Texas that Marv Wolfman and George Perez's long-promised "New Teen Titans" graphic novel, "Games," finally will see the light of day sometime in 2004.

I will have this. I don't care how much it costs.

DC, at long last, also released more information about its new Focus line of books. I still think it sound as if they're trying to stretch the "H-E-R-0" concept into four more titles. We'll see ...

Changing times: I was going to retrace the steps in the Waid-Wieringo-Jemas-"Fantastic Four" saga, but it's too tiring. So, just read about the latest twist: news of Mike Wieringo's two-year exclusive agreement with Marvel.

"... there seems to be a real free creative feeling coming back to Marvel now -- which is really similar to the way it seemed just a couple of years back when Joe Quesada took over as EIC. They're trying new things -- seeing what works and what doesn't. And that's always an exciting feeling. The possibilities seem broad and promising -- so it feels good being at Marvel right now."

The wind beneath my wings: Laura Tegan Gjovaag and David Allen Jones are my Heroes of the Week for their valiant defense of the single-issue comic (a k a "floppy" or the dreaded "p-word").

Quoth David: "If the evolution of the industry dictates that in order to survive, the floppy must die and trades will be the norm, so be it. Survival of the fittest, baby. But you'll excuse me if I don't get too enthusiastic about it, and continue to by those floppy pamphlet sequential graphic type comic books until the bitter end."

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Penguin dreams, and other things: (click-through ad of Hugh Jackman in "Oklahoma!" required) talks to "Bloom County" cartoonist Berkeley Breathed about bringing Opus back to the funny pages beginning this Sunday.

I particularly like that the reclusive Breathed conducted the interview entirely by email:

Salon: "Last we heard from you, via the Onion interview a few years back, the odds of you ever doing a strip again seemed pretty slim. What changed?"

Breathed: "The world went and got silly again. I left in 1995 with things properly, safely dull, and couldn't imagine why anyone would feel it necessary again to start behaving ridiculously. It would have been at least courteous of the Republicans to warn a few of us inclined to retire our ink-swords that they had King George waiting in his zoom-zoom jetsuit aching to start the Crusades again."

Salon: "What are the advantages of a Sunday-only strip?"

Breathed: "In my case, having a life. Ever see a seven-day-a-week cartoonist? They all look like Keith Richards at 5 a.m. I've said that cartooning, like education and sex, is wasted on the young ... but I understand why it's that way. It's wearing, corrosive, killing work. Consider Charles Schulz. Look where he is today."

And things only get better from there.

Breathed: "... I'd hate to see readers force editors to eliminate the comic strips marketed by corporations, widows and distant relatives long after their deceased creators pass on. What would happen to all the hacks hired by Jim Davis to write and draw 'Garfield' if we were to put it out of business? Remember what they did to Mel Gibson at the end of 'Braveheart'? There's an idea."

J'accuse! J'accuse! In a hilarious turn, the Brian Michael Bendis-"Secret War" lovefest at Newsarama is suddenly derailed by this:

"I'd like to know when Bendis had this epiphany. This is the story that I submitted to Epic about 4 months ago. After hearing no response I assumed they were not interested or that it was under some huge pile of submissions somewhere left to rot. Apparently BMB is culling those for his new material."

When forum nanny Matt Brady informs him that, "all remaining Epic submissions were shredded," the fun really begins.

"Says the shill. Shredding them means that no one got to read them ahead of time? I will be speaking to an attorney this afternoon."

Welcome to the Hellmouth? Rumor at Millarworld is that Joss Whedon will follow Grant Morrison as the regular writer on "New X-Men." (Link via Graeme McMillan)

More "purty covers": For some reason, I'm incredibly inept when it comes to any coding, etc. I usually throw up my hands and wait for someone else to come to my rescue. But in a move that amazes even me, I just figured out how to post images directly. My mom says that I'm special, and the other kids are just jealous.

Anyway. Armed with this new knowledge, I'm continuing the rundown of "purty covers," using some of the Image Comics' February solicitations:

"Age of Bronze" #19: Eric Shanower's covers belong on leatherbound volumes of classic mythology.

"Dodge's Bullets": I'll probably buy it for Tony Harris' cover alone.

Now, if I can just figure out how to make my permalinks work. (Laura provided me with the code, but it was already in there -- and it still doesn't work.)

Not-so-secret "War": It's official. We've come full circle to 1983. That, and the cat's finally out of the bag on Marvel's long-rumored "Secret War" miniseries.

You may find this hard to believe, but it's "a gritty real world take on the idea of a secret superhero war." Really.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Giving them the shaft: "Hawkeye" scribe Fabian Nicieza is tired of the same old questions:

"THE PULSE: What do you think has to be done to revitalize the industry and get more people reading comics?"

"NICIEZA: We have to include joysticks, televisions screens and game cartridges with every comic."

"THE PULSE: Why do you think most mainstream comics aren't selling hundreds of thousands of copies each month?"

"NICIEZA: Do we really have to go over this litany? Hasn’t it been discussed ad infinitum on every comics message board across the known universe? The reasons are too many and too varied to go over in a mostly fluff interview where I want to hawk my recent work and maybe do the 'Entertainment Tonight' walk, even if it’s by myself in my office."

Death watch: Retailer Ed Sherman ups the ante in ICv2's comic format debate by predicting the "pamphlet" (oh, how I hate that term) will be "gone within five years or less."

His points, while mostly valid, are nothing new: Comics have a short shelf life. They're overpriced. Collected editions look pretty on your bookshelf. Girls prefer trades.

Again, they're fairly valid points -- although the aesthetics of shelf display seems pretty low on the list of selling points -- but none of them adds credence to Sherman's "Logan's Run"-like expiration date. The same arguments could've been made five years ago. So, why the magical "five years or less" prediction?

Blast from the past: While rummaging around in a far corner of the attic a couple of weeks ago, I uncovered a long-forgotten comics stash from my youth. Some of them were tattered and coverless (probably bought at garage sales and flea markets), while most were in fairly decent shape, considering how and where they were stored. Is "Fairly Decent" an acceptable grade, like "Very Fine"? Eh, I don't collect comics, anyway. I read, and occasionally, enjoy them.

Among the Wolfman-Perez "New Teen Titans," Simonson "Thor" and Claremont-Smith and Claremont-Romita Jr. "Uncanny X-Men" were several copies of "All-Star Squadron" and its indirect ancestor, "Invaders." The "Invaders" were obvious later flea market finds (I don't think I started reading comics of any kind until around 1980 or so). But I remember buying "All-Star Squadron" every month off the spinner racks at 7-11 and another little convenience store.

Flipping through them now, the dialogue seems stilted and over-the-top, the plots thin, and the exposition glaring. And I can't detect even the slightest hint of irony. But as a kid, I enjoyed the hell out of "All-Star Squadron" and, to a lesser degree, "Invaders." I didn't really care much for Spider-Man, or even Superman and Batman (except for when the latter two's Earth-2 incarnations showed up in "All-Star Squadron").

The comic wasn't an easy sell to a kid. It was set during World War II, a period that held no interest for me. It starred super-heroes that, for the most part, I'd never seen before. (Johnny Quick? Liberty Belle? And who's that guy calling himself Green Lantern?) None of my comic-reading friends bought it.

But for three or four years -- a lifetime for a kid -- I never missed an issue. And that's a credit to Roy Thomas, which brings me to the catalyst for this trip down memory lane (brought to you by the good folks at Journalista!).

After all these years, Thomas is still talking comics, and the appeal the super-hero genre held -- and maybe can still hold? -- for kids.

My "adult sensibilities" cause me to chuckle as I skim through Thomas' irony-free comics. But I can't deny there was something that hooked me, and reeled me in, as a kid.

Deathlok. Deathblow. Whatever: Marvel has canceled orders for Daniel Way and Darick Robertson's "Deathlok: Detour":

"Retailers are advised that all orders for DEATHLOK: DETOUR #1-2, solicited for a January 2004 release in MARVEL PREVIEWS #3, have been cancelled and the series will be resolicited at a later date."

Drugs are good: In his meandering "Permanent Damage," Steven Grant comes a little late to Grant Morrison's party by proclaiming, "Comics should be the new drugs." Steven realizes he's a little slow on the draw, but it's the sentiment, and not necessarily the timing, that counts.

Steven wants a return to upredictability, and an unleashing of "alternate realities." He wants real imagination:

"I'm not talking about 'dark' or 'bright' or 'realism' or 'fantasy.' I mean imagination. Real imagination. We can turn comics in a real literature of imagination if we want to. There's absolutely no reason why a good comic book can't trigger the same sense of wonder and sense that there's more to this life, this world, than we experience everyday that a good acid trip or a good jolt of ecstasy does. The experience wouldn't be as internalized, sure, but it would still be vivid when it was over, and you could go back to it any time you want to.

"But part of the appeal of drugs is the sheer danger of them. So to do this, we have to make comics dangerous again, open up the possibility that it's not only possible you'll walk away from a comic changed in some way but that that's what's supposed to happen. Because there's danger implicit in every true adventure. But danger attracts the attention of the status quo, because they don't like danger. There's no safe ground on this. We've got to walk on unsafe ground and, to be convincing, be thrilled to do it."

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Trade winds: DC Comics puzzles me when it comes to issuing collected editions. Although the publisher has long had a reputation as being sluggish and erratic when it came to releasing trades, in the past year or so, it seems to have implemented some sort of coherent collected-editions program. I just can't figure out what it is.

I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to buying comics. I'm one of those freaks of nature who actually likes the single issues -- I refuse to say the "P" word -- and typically only pick up trades when I'm late learning about an ongoing or miniseries. In short, I don't suffer from Wait-For-The-Trade Syndrome.

That being said, I still puzzle over DC's trade policies, wondering when or if certain series would be collected. Take "Gotham Central," for instance -- a book deserving of a larger audience that a tpb likely would bring. Now, at least some of my puzzlement has ended.

In an apparent press-release purge, DC runs down the collected editions being collected in spring 2004. Among them, the trade collecting "Gotham Central" #1-5 for $9.95.

Other titles of note: "Teen Titans: A Kid's Game," collecting #1-7, for $9.95; "Formerly Known As The Justice League" for $12.95; "Green Arrow: Straight Shooter," collecting #26-31, for $12.95; and "JSA: The Liberty Files," for $19.95.

There's also the "Shazam Archives: Vol. 4" hardcover for $49.95, for anyone looking to get me a Christmas gift. Or you can go with the deluxe hardcover "Batman / Superman / Wonder Woman: Trinity" for a mere $24.95.

Thanos: The end? announces that, "due to irreconcilable creative difference," Jim Starlin is leaving Marvel's "Thanos." According to the website, Starlin has scripted and penciled Issue 6, and is finishing the script to Issue 7. Issue 3 comes out Dec. 3 (Link via The Pulse.)

Reaction on the Comicon message boards is swift and, well, largely indifferent.

Poster A: "Thanos is one of those quirky characters that only certain writers (in this case his creator, Starlin) can get a handle on and do justice to."

Poster B: "Does anyone else even WANT to write about Thanos besides Starlin?"

You call that living? Paul Brian McCoy doesn't care much for Dave Gibbons' "Captain America Lives Again" storyline:

"Thank whatever all-powerful tentacled thing in the sky you care to sacrifice your goats to that this steaming turd of a story is finally over. Not in the last five or ten years have I paid for a story that was so intellectually and imaginatively deficient as this one. Want a cliché? I’m sure it’s in here. Want hackneyed science fiction concepts that sound grand to a five year old – but ONLY to a five year old? It’s definitely in here. Want stereotypes and goofy caricatures instead of character development – or hell, character at all? It’s in here in spades. I can’t remember ever feeling slapped in the face like this. This is the worst writing I’ve read in a Marvel comic in years. And the art is ugly, drab, and boring."

And ...

"This is without a doubt the worst looking incarnation of Captain America I’ve ever seen. It’s as if Jack Kirby had been kidnapped, had his fingers broken and then told to stop being so expressive and draw him as if he were real. No. That’s not it. That would be better."

Comics journalism at its finest: At -- that's "UnderGroundOnline" for those not in the know -- contributing editor Derek Handley absolutely gushes over Devin Grayson. Because, let's face it, what's more "underground" than "Nightwing," "Smallville" and a Batman video game tie-in?

But let's get back to Derek's gushing:

"When I told a friend that I was going to interview Devin Grayson, he said: 'You lucky, lucky bastard.' This Python quoting was not motivated by the fact that he is a big fan of her writing (although, like myself, he is), but because among interviewers, Ms. Grayson is known as a great interviewee; unexpected answers, detail and mystery and lots of character analysis, just like in her books. So get ready for the psychology and allegorical meaning of the Joker, the physicality and sexuality of Nightwing and police uniforms, the difference between writing novels and writing comics, and an interview that was, as my friend predicted, a pleasure."

To Derek's credit, though, he answers the question that's dogged many a comics fan: What tune does Devin Grayson's cell phone play? (It's the "1812 Overture.")

Artistic license: I meant to mention this as part of last night's entry on DC's February solicitations, but got sidetracked. Anyway ...

John Jakala and Graeme McMillan both comment about DC's "purty covers," so I won't dwell on that. I will, however, point to a couple of interesting -- and, for mainstream comics, unconventional -- choices for cover artists.

I've already singled out Tara McPherson, whose "Lucifer" cover appears in December. She'll also be painting the covers for "The Sandman Presents: Thessalay, Witch For Hire." I love her work.

The other notable, and welcome, deviation is Tomer Hanuka's cover art for "Midnight, Mass: Here There Be Monsters" and "Hard Time" (as well as the other titles in the new Focus line).

Tomer is probably best known for his editorial illustrations in the New Yorker, and his work on the indy book "Bipolar."

Pimping other people's stuff: Movie Poop Shoot has tossed up the promo for "Brat-halla," a new online comic chronicling the misadventures of the lil' Asgardians. It's by fellow "Digital Webbing Presents" contributor Jeffery Stevenson and artist Seth Damoose. It looks -- dare I say it? -- cute. It kicks off in December.

There. I've done my good deed for the day.

Cower and be afraid: Seventy-five years ago today, Mickey Mouse was unleashed upon the world in "Steamboat Willie."

The Associated Press notes the passing of time: "The years have dulled Mickey’s personality, a result of him becoming the corporate face of a multibillion-dollar entertainment empire. In the process, Mickey also has become a cultural Rorschach test — a symbol of American optimism, resourcefulness and energy or an icon of cultural commodification and corporate imperialism."

Monday, November 17, 2003

Con games: It looks like the only interesting tidbit in yesterday's "All the Rage" -- rumor that CrossGen had sold MegaCon to Gareb Shamus & Co. -- is wrong.

The Pulse reports that convention director Beth Widera is the purchaser. Widera also works in CrossGen's education department.

Focusing on February: Why is it that DC Comics' February solicitations have a midnight embargo on the "news" sites, yet you can go over to DC's website after business hours and check them out? It's like that every month.

"Hard Time," the first of DC's new Focus line debuts Feb. 4. The creative team of Steve Gerber and Brian Hurtt sounds promising, and Tomer Hanuka's cover looks nice (he's apparently doing the covers for all four series in the line). But is DC even promoting this line? I think I've seen a couple of press releases, and a mention among the San Diego or Chicago convention hoopla. Oh, yeah, and they're being previewed in December DCU books.

I know next to nothing about Focus, and Dan DiDio's vague description for the line doesn't help all that much: "These four titles will put the DC Focus on the characters, not the costumes. We'll be exploring what happens when super-powers touch the lives of people who don't know how to handle them. Each one of these series is compelling and outrageous from page one, with lots of unexpected twists and turns along the way."

On a more positive note, it's nice to see Greg Scott ("Sword of Dracula," "Strange Magic") is starting his stint on "Gotham Central," filling in for Michael Lark. He's a great choice for a fill-in artist, and deserves all the exposure he gets.

And staying positive (for perhaps the longest period ever), DC is issuing the trade to "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell," just -- what -- two months after the miniseries ended? How odd. I'm not complaining, mind you. I have all six issues of the mini, and enjoyed it a great deal. It's just unusual for DC to move this fast on a collected edition. If you missed the miniseries, pick up the trade.

Gray matters: Tim Sale talks to The Pulse about "Hulk: Gray," and answers the question on everyone's mind: "Which version of Catwoman from comics, film, or TV is your favorite?"

His answer? "Darwyn Cooke's, Javier Pulido's and Julie Newmar's."

The man has taste ...

Bullet riddled: I enjoy reading stories about Brian Azzarello almost as much as I do reading stories by him. Dirk Deppey points out this Chicago Tribune profile (registration required), which focuses on Azzarello's upcoming run on "Superman," as well as his work on "100 Bullets" and "Batman."

The article also touches upon his habits, both good and bad: "Azzarello's pastimes include hanging out at bars, playing cards and wagering at off-track-betting places. 'There's not one vice I don't have my finger on,' he said with a laugh after lighting a cigarette."

The Tribune also addresses the rather unconventional thinking behind putting Superman in the hands of Azzarello:

"'It's a roll of the dice,' said Dan DiDio, DC's vice president/editorial. 'It's going against the grain, but it's a feeling that good writing will attract readers to the comic character. … Brian is going to bring a very contemporary take on Superman.'"

Penultimate "Fantastic Four": Marv Wolfman praises Mark Waid's stint on "Fantastic Four," crediting him with reinvigorating the franchise:

"Mark went back to the inspiration of how we remember those early FF stories and re-created that without ever doing what had been done before. Also, he did it without immediately bringing back some old villain. More importantly, he has gone further than anyone, Stan included, to make us care about the core FF characters as well as the stories they’re in. For the first time, perhaps ever, I have a clue to who the characters are."

(Note how Wolfman mentions Walt Simonson's run on the series, but avoids any reference to John Byrne.)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! John Jakala expands on his theory why "big anthologies" -- "Shonen Jump," for example -- may save comics. Or at least give them a brighter future. It's largely in response to retailer John Robinson's comments at ICv2.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Wrapping up "Namor": Andi Watson talks to ComiX-Fan about yesterday's announcement that "Namor" will end in February with Issue 12:

"The decision was made a coupla months ago so it's no big surprise or a case of shoehorning everything in to one last issue. There's closure. There were no plans to write beyond the twelve that are coming out. Is anyone surprised?

"The idea behind Namor was to create a book that teenage girls would read. Teenage girls don't go into comic shops, they go into book shops. The target audience for the book will now never see it. It's just another book that got mauled in the direct market and by the fanboys and will sink without trace. But yeah, Bill was keen to reach out to build new audiences for mainstream comic books but it's always gonna be a long term project that requires a longer term consideration of profit and loss. The direct market continues to shrink and appeal to an ever narrower demographic ... we all know this, it's been happening for decades. I said the same thing when I started and it still holds true."

It's Millar's world. We only live in it: Cliff Biggers piles on the Mark Millar publicity juggernaut with a preview of "Wanted." It's "Watchmen" for super-villains. Really.

Just imagine if super-villains existed in our world!

Yeah, I know. I can't get excited about it either. I think I'll just dust off my copy of "Watchmen," instead.

Sunday sermon: Markisan Naso kicks off "All the Rage" with a bitter and somewhat irrational lecture, lambasting new Marvel publisher Dan Buckley for daring to cancel / consolidate / whatever Epic:

"San Giacomo was lucky enough to escape his contract and move his book Phantom Jack to Image, but for the rest of the poor sons-a-bitches looking forward to their first mini-series, they have no choice but to stand by helpless as Marvel cuts off their knees like they took Gimley’s ax to the caps.

"I have to tell you this is complete bullshit.

"If you start a venture and tell the parties involved it’s going to happen a certain way, you don’t go and change the deal at the last moment. Where I’m from that’s called screwing people over. Buckley, and whoever else was involved in this crap, you should have taken responsibility for Marvel's actions. You should have seen the first round of Epic through whether it cost you the green or not. After you fulfilled your promises a move to an anthology becomes an option, but not before. You should have stood by the people who busted their asses to write and draw those mini-series. What you’ve done instead is some cowardly shit."

The tirade certainly makes this installment more interesting than most of Markisan's columns. But it makes me wonder whether he's been hanging out with Michael Deeley. Eh, maybe Markisan can blame the craziness on Blair Marnell, whose services apparently were required to co-write this week's "ATR." (Trolling message boards for "rumors" is a two-person job, y'know.)

For the comics geek who has everything: A Life-Size Magneto Helmet. Sure, it's $150, but it's worth it. It'll keep Prof. X from reading your thoughts, and you can wear it with your Life-Size Wolverine Claw! (Claw sold separately.)

If I were into collectibles, this might interest me: A Spike action figure from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." It's much cooler than the 12-inch Angel and Buffy. Look for it in June 2004.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Drowning their sorrows: Newsarama reports that Marvel will cancel "Namor" with February's Issue 12. The series, co-written by Bill Jemas and Andi Watson, was considered the flagship of the Tsunami line (which isn't really a "line," we're told, but that's a discussion for another day).

The cancellation comes as little surprise, and not just because of theories that Marvel is trying to distance itself from the Jemas Era.

Reading between the lines of Watson's Oct. 21 statement to ComiX-Fan, it's fairly clear the fate of "Namor" has been sealed for a while:

"Bill [Jemas] plotted through 12 issues and I've written 12 issues. It's Bill's baby and I've got it eating and walking. I'm not gonna pre-empt any Marvel announcements but the facts are Namor was Bill's baby and Bill is no longer in editorial ..."

UPDATE: In its cancellation coverage, The Pulse gets a fresh (and pretty funny) quote from Watson: "It's no surprise, I have no strong feelings either way. I did my job, got paid, end of story. 'Love Fights' is a really good book from Oni Press, rush out and buy the first five issues of this great ongoing series."

But Watson also poses some questions of his own:

"What does interest me is are the Big Two going to try different ways to reach readers outside the direct market? It's no secret that the DM is shrinking and has been for years, there will come a time (and soon) when it's no longer possible to make money outside of the characters that were created in the last millennium (arguably that's already happened). Are the big guys happy to see that happen (and rake in the licensing deals) or are they interested in making comics?

"With Blankets doing well in bookstores, TOKYOPOP reaching 60% female readers, the Shonen Jump anthology shaming the DM sales, trades in general making inroads in bookstores and getting wider media interest, If western comics as a medium hasn't already reached a point of no return, then it's on the cusp of big changes."

Damned permalinks: One a more personal note, does anyone have any idea why my permalinks don't work?

I just don't get it: Response to "news" that "Teen Titans" #1 has sold out for the 147th time somehow turns into a discussion of the quality of paper DC uses in its collected editions.

But that's not what puzzles me. This is:

In response to a post about Geoff Johns being "the king of team books," someone writes: "I don't read TT, but the plunging sales on Avengers would seem to indicate otherwise. And Flash is not exactly high up on the sales chart either. Most people seem to really love him, but I dropped The Flash after about a year or so, and I'm only getting the Avengers because I have continued to do so over the last 15 years. Of course, I believe I am in the vast minority regarding Johns." (Emphasis added, of course.)

It's perfect fodder for the "stop buying shitty comics" argument. Mind you, I enjoyed most of what I read of Geoff Johns' "Avengers" run; but that's not the point.

The point is that this poor bastard, for whatever reason, has collected "Avengers" for the past one-and-a-half decades not because he's enjoyed the title that entire time, but ... just because. Poor, masochistic bastard.

Oh, I know he's not the only comics fan (slave?) to respond to some primitive instinct to hoard entire runs of a series, mindless of their quality. I'm sure that, somewhere out there, someone has bagged and boarded all the issues of "Justice League of America" --even when they were based in that Detroit warehouse. (I love you, Gypsy! I love you, Vixen!)

But I just don't get it. Other bloggers (my apologies, but I don't recall who right now, so I'm not linking), have criticized readers who will ride out a story arc, even though they're not enjoying it. Well, that's nothing compared to the Avengers Masochist.

Why would you collect a comic that you don't enjoy? And to what ends? It's not likely that Marvel will cancel "Avengers" anytime soon, and the guy's collection only goes back 15 years. So, there's not even bragging rights at stake. He can't boast to his message-board friends, "I have all the 'Avengers' books in recorded history!"

Not that anyone would care, anyway.

Eh, let's see if he's still collecting "Avengers," say, six months into Chuck Austen's run on the book. That'll be a true test of his devotion (and pain threshold).

Man, I'm cranky this morning ...

Friday, November 14, 2003

Dream analysis: A Newsarama interview with Alisa Kwitney about her "Sandman: King of Dreams" readers' guide sparks a debate over how well Neil Gaiman's epic holds up, and whether we need another "Sandman" retrospective:

Poster A: "Enough already. Enough Sandman. Yes, it was a difficult, groundbreaking work at its time. AT ITS TIME. It really does not hold up particularly well (except for Seasons of Mist, where Gaiman at least pretended the character was from the DCU), and yet another analysis is not needed (especially after the pretentious Hy Bender companion from a few years back). ... DC can move on now: no more miniseries of background characters, no more Neil Gaiman back one last time! projects, no more lil' endless nonsense. I used to think it was annoying that Alan Moore would never revisit watchmen projects, but now I see his point."

Poster B: "So should we similarly stop analyzing Shakespeare because others have already been there and done that?

"Every year that Sandman is still in print, someone is discovering it anew for the first time. That alone is reason for continual analysis."

Poster C: "... at the end of the day, it was still a comic book series. How much new is there to say about it after all this time?"

De mortuis nil nisi bonum: Oh. Sorry. But Mike Sangiacomo broke out the Latin first with "My Epic Post Mortem," which is not so much a look back at Epic as it is a look at the task ahead.

Anyway, Sangiacomo gives us more "Phantom Jack" minutiae by letting us know that Ray Dillon is busy ridding the book of that pesky Marvel-exclusive downstyle font (which should make Augie De Blieck pleased as punch).

But, Sangiacomo tells us, it's too late to make some changes -- namely eliminating the Jemasification and decompression of his original concept:

"Some of the scenes that I wanted in the book were excised during the editing process.

"It’s too late to put them back in. Actually, Mitch threatened physical violence if I asked him to redraw the book.

"So issue #2 will be closer to my original concept and issue 3 even more so. Mitch has already done layouts for #2, so we won’t change it too much. Issue 3 is wide open and I am trying to figure out how to cram some of the fun stuff that was cut back in."

October numbers: ICv2 releases its comics sales estimates for October, which means Newsarama should follow suit sometime next week with somewhat higher figures. I don't know why I obsess over the Diamond numbers, but I do. It's just one of my many unhealthy fixations.

In its dry analysis of the Top 300, ICv2 notes, "While no book broke the 200,000-copy barrier like 'Batman' #619 did last month ... sixteen of the top 25 titles went up compared with their sales from the previous month's issue while only four titles declined." The retailer site points out one interesting anomoly, the increase in sales of Neil Gaiman's "Marvel: 1602" #3 over the previous issue.

I'm sure Dirk Deppey or one of the more manga-oriented bloggers will take issue with the relatively anemic figures (sales of "Shonen Jump" are about twice that of top-selling "Avengers/JLA" #2). So, I won't dwell on that.

Instead, I'll look at a couple of things I found interesting:

* "Batman" #620, the first issue of the Azzarello/Risso arc, clocked in at No. 7 (117,213). With the end of the overblown "Hush" storyline, I expected the exodus of Jim Lee fans to push sales further into the Top 20.

* Sales of Marvel's Tsunami titles, at least for the moment, seem to have stabilized. Series like "Runaways," "New Mutants" and "Sentinel" even saw an increase. And even "Venom" appears to have stopped its readership hemorrhage. For now.

* Several of Image's ongoing titles are relegated to the Bottom 50: "Mythstalkers," "Kore," "Hellhounds," "A Distant Soil," "Age of Bronze" and "Paradigm," among them. I wonder how much longer some of these creators can keep afloat ...

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Get us out from under, Wonder Woman: File under "It's about time": DC Comics announced today it will collect George Perez's legendary 24-issue run on "Wonder Woman" in four trade paperbacks.

"The series kicks off in February with WONDER WOMAN: GODS AND MORTALS, a 192-page trade paperback collecting WONDER WOMAN #1-7. The first two of these issues were written by Pérez & Greg Potter, while the rest were written by Pérez and Len Wein. Art on all seven stories is by Pérez and Bruce Patterson."

"Gods and Mortals" will arrive on shelves Feb. 18 with a $19.95 price tag. I'll start saving my pennies now ...

Coincidence? I think not: The same day that news of Geoff Johns' departure from "Hawkman" sweeps across the internet, comics "reviewer" and Chief Geoff Hater Tim Hartnett announces his resignation from Silver Bullet Comic Books.

Without Tim's (ahem) insightful reviews, I'm afraid I'll be a ship adrift. Who will give me my weekly reminder that Geoff Johns loves over-the-top dialogue? Who will point out in every review that very little happens in Johns' books?

Hell, who will write, with Dorothy Parker-like aplomb, lines such as, "'Teen Titans' kinda sucks"?

Sadly, no Geoff Johns titles are among his final reviews.

Tim, you'll be missed.

How bizarre is this? Okay, first beleaguered CrossGen announces that they're ending "Sigil" with Issue 43. Fine. Whatever.

But now they're not publishing Issue 43 at all, opting instead to post Chuck Dixon's script on their website, so fans will know how the series ends.

In a press release, the company writes: "All of us at CrossGen are very sorry that we had to stop the party early, as we know how much our loyal fans had been looking forward to plot resolutions for the space soldier Sam as the invading Negation forces trigger the upcoming War. Especially since Chuck Dixon wrote such a great issue!

"But, then we thought, 'Hey...since Chuck wrote it, can't we share it with the fans?'

"Of course we can!"

So, they did. And, oddly enough, the folks in the CrossGen forums are doing somersaults, thanking Bill Rosemann for posting the script.

Hey, maybe that's the answer to CrossGen's money problems: Cut out the artists, colorists, letterers and printers, and just post the scripts online! They'll be in the black in no time.

Bizarre, indeed.

Flying the coop: On Monday, Rich Johnston teased that the next "Hawkman" creative team would be Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Ryan Sook. Okay, it was more than a tease, seeing as how Wednesday's "Waiting For Tommy" interview was with current "Hawkman" writer Geoff Johns.

In the seven-page Q&A, Johns reveals, "No one's more unhappy to see Rags, Michael and I leave 'Hawkman' with #25 than the creative team itself. Rags and I were having a great time on the book, and I really think we made leaps and bounds during the last year in terms of the quality of the book."

Today, The Pulse runs with the story, and Johns fans the world over react (or is that overreact?) ... negatively:

"Well Im dropping this now, Johns was the only reason I bought Hawkman; a character I never really liked. Ill probably not even finish his run and will cut it before the JSA crossover."

"This is supposebly his dream comic that took forever to get going and now he's leaving? Okay. I won't be there."

"and one comic book off my list!"

And at the DC Comics Hawkman message board:

"Tis a sad, sad day."


"It is sad news. And even a little frightening."

Me? I've never read "Hawkman," but if Ryan Sook is the new artist, I'll probably give it a whirl. I loved his work on "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell."

Soap opera digests: Dirk Deppey points out an interesting discussion between J.W. Hastings and Eve Tushnet regarding the highs and lows of Chris Claremont's original ("classic"?) run on "Uncanny X-Men."

Among the highs, Eve points to the creation of "characters that still resonate (Rogue, Wolverine [yeah, I know, but the basic idea is pretty good], Storm, Nightcrawler ...)"

Not to nitpick Eve, or to diminish Claremont's contributions to the X-Men and Marvel canon, but he didn't create Wolverine, Storm or Nightcrawler.

Another Epic twist: Newsarama reports that writer Mike Sangiacomo has pulled "Phantom Jack" from the ill-fated Epic anthology, and will publish it through Image.

"It's clear to me that Marvel's heart just isn't in it," Sangiacomo said. "I've been in enough bad relationships to know when my partner is just going through the motions."

What's perhaps just as noteworthy as the move itself is how Sangiacomo cut the series' ties with Marvel:

"I got the contract back from 'Phantom Jack' from Marvel by asking first Bill Jemas as in, 'You got me into this, you gotta get me out.' He put me in touch with new Publisher Dan Buckley who was great. He felt bad about the whole Epic situation and was happy to cooperate. I called Marvel the next morning and was told that the contracts would be returned, no harm, no foul."

Sounds easy enough. I wonder whether this is a big, flashing green light for Jason Henderson to take "Strange Magic" on the road. (Henderson & Co. already are publishing "Sword of Dracula" through Image, and he's made it clear that "Strange Magic" certainly can exist outside the Marvel Universe.) That would leave "Young Ancient One" and "Sleepwalker," both of which are firmly entrenched as Marvel properties.

I also wonder whether this means Sangiacomo will change his book's wretched (but hilarious) title. "Phantom Jack." Teeheehee!

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

"Central" booking: Newsarama brings us "Up to Date" with the comic more people should be reading, "Gotham Central."

Series co-writer Ed Brubaker talks about the current "Soft Targets" storyline, and dashes the hopes of hackish would-be writers everywhere:

"Let me just level with you for the record. No one at DC will ever kill the Joker. The only place he dies is in 'Dark Knight.' If someone tells you the Joker is going to die in a comic, it's just hype."

He also gives some hints about upcoming arcs:

"After this arc, we've got three issues focusing on some of the other partner teams, real character stuff to highlight the fallout from this arc, and to get to know some of the other cast members a little better, which is something that fans have been asking for for a while now.

"And after those, I'm doing my next big solo arc that will deal with a bunch of different aspects, one of them being Harvey Bullock and what he's been doing since retirement. He's a long term character that fans have been screaming to see again, so who knows, maybe I'll kill him?"

Round robin: I think Christopher Butcher started it with his declaration that "there are too many mediocre fucking comic books and you really need to stop buying them." Since then, the call to stop supporting shitty comics has made its way through the blogosphere like a chorus of "Row, Row Your Boat," with a discussion popping up at John Jakala's Grotesque Anatomy, joined by the voices of other bloggerati.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Chain reactionaries: Reading some of the responses at Newsarama to the aforementioned Michigan law makes my head hurt (and doesn't do my heart much good, either).

I'm apparently missing out on something by not being hip to the manga: What's with all this talk about "tentacle rape" and "tentacle sex"? Is there some sort of calamari porn ring from which I've been sheltered?

Ask and you shall receive: Just hours after Dirk Deppey complains that the comics "news" sites have ignored a new Michigan law that likely will affect comic retailers, lo and behold, Newsarama jumps (stumbles, falls) on the story.

The one True Faith: At CBR's Marvel Comics forum, a well-meaning poster starts out trying to defend comics from fanboys, but ends up sounding like Pope Urban calling for the First Crusade:

"Comic fans who come in here just to complain and whine about books are NOT TRUE FANS!!!! they are just whiney complainers who make us all honestly look bad! there is a sterotype associated with comics fans typified by these people and my question is this ...

"Is anyone else sick and tired of these negative fanboys, tired of them casting a sterotype over the rest of us who read for actual ENJOYMENT instead of unhappiness ..."

Onward to the Holy Land!

It's news to them: Dirk Deppey chides the comics "news" sites for failing to report on a new Michigan law that restricts the public commercial display of printed material containing "sexually explicit" content -- "a statute seemingly tailor-made to cut comic books and graphic novels for adults off at the knees in that state."

Deppey writes: "I realize that neither Wolverine nor Mark Millar are factors here, but couldn't one of you guys even pretend that this was a story that affects comics retailers negatively? Shoot an email to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and ask whether they're looking into the situation?"

Maybe they're just waiting for the press release ...

Monday, November 10, 2003

This made me laugh: In his dissection of this month's Previews, Chris Ekman turns his eyes toward Riverdale:

"Did you know that there are several online comics reviewers who regularly review Archie comics? I find this unfathomable. It'd be like travelling the country and reviewing various McDonald's. Why couldn't these people have been doing something more productive with their space, like warning me that HUMAN TARGET: FINAL CUT was a piece of shit?"

"Dead in the water": At Ninth Art, Paul O'Brien takes his own look at Epic's journey, from its pie-in-the-sky beginnings to its current death throes.

"Now, true enough, Epic was designed to be viable at lower sales levels than mainstream Marvel comics. However, if these books are making any money, the profits must surely be marginal. Marvel's management might well be setting out to distance themselves from Jemas' policies for the sake of it, just to make their mark on the company. But they might equally be looking at the figures and asking themselves whether this is really a sensible use of Marvel's resources. How much time and effort has Marvel ploughed into this project, and how much money is the publisher ever likely to see back? It's certainly a valid question."

Destination nowhere: Mike Sangiacomo finds there's not much of a sunny side to his "Epic Journey":

"Way back in the beginning of this whole 'Nowhere Man/Phantom Jack' experience, I said part of me was waiting for someone to say it was all a joke.

"It took just under a year, and now that it has happened, it’s not all that funny."

He goes on to eulogize the idea behind Epic, noting, as most everyone else did months ago, that there were troubles from the ambitious start.

He also elaborates on one crucial matter: money.

"Despite what folks have been saying on the message boards, none of us have been paid. The only payment will come after publication.

"That is the true shame here. These guys and all the other creators involved, took Marvel on its word and did the work. Now they are told to hold off on the second issue. Excuse me, second issue? I’m sure every writer has already completed the first story arc and beyond. You don’t just shut that idea tap down once you get started."

Of course, as usual, the true gems at Newsarama are found in the forum messages after the article:

Poster: "Alright, here we go. Marvel, FUCK YOU. I'm out."

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Epic tales: ComiX-Fan updates its coverage of Friday's Epic Comics announcement with quotes from Rob Worley ("Young Ancient One") and Mike Sangiacomo ("Phantom Jack").

From Worley: "As reported, myself and the rest of the 'Young Ancient One' creative team received an e-mail on Friday informing us of Marvel's intention to combine the four unpublished Epic comics into one anthology title. The news came as a shock and disappointment. A shock, because I had been assured just weeks earlier that the three-issue series would be published as promised. A disappointment, because the chances of the anthology succeeding seem miniscule."

From Sangiacomo: "Marvel's move was completely unexpected and incomprehensible. It came after almost a solid year of hard work by people on the 'Phantom Jack' crew and at Marvel. It doesn't make much sense."

Sangiacomo also confirmed an earlier statement that none of the "Phantom Jack" creative team has been paid yet.

Courtin' Beau: This week's "All the Rage" is turned over to comic writer and IDW Publishing's vice president of sales Beau Smith, who rails against anonymous posters in comic forums -- or, rather, in "little festering maggot holes":

"The comic book internet is a town gone bad. A town in need of taming. I’ve always believed that if you have something you think is important to say then your name should be attached to it. That way if it’s something that will help others the credit goes to where it belongs. On the other foot, if you say something that pisses someone off, then you should be man enough to defend your remarks."

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Bobble, bobble, toil and trouble: I'm not sure which is more disturbing, this or this. Who buys these hellish things?

This made me laugh, for some reason: In the continuing debate at Newsarama about Epic (I can't stop reading about it), I ran across this:

Poster #1: "I can't believe some people, 'Oh, if Jemas was still here this wouldn't have happened.' Hello, he's the mastermind behind the 'toss them out, see what sticks' idea."

Poster #2: "No, Stan Lee was the mastermind behind that idea."

M.I.A.? Although its forums show signs of life, Slush Factory hasn't been updated in two weeks.

Oddly enough, I think the last new content was John Byrne's curious rant about "mind-reading."

Epic update: Yesterday's announcement that four of the planned Epic titles would be combined in an anthology left some question about the fate of Marc Campbell's "The Northwood Saga" one-shot.

But today ComiX-Fan reports the title won't be published by Marvel.

"The reason I received from Marvel is that, in light of recent changes, this is not the type of story that Marvel wants to do under the Epic imprint," Campbell told X-Fan this morning. "Northwood Saga is an epic fantasy, featuring a rotating cast of elves, dwarfs, trolls, wizards, and tragic heroes and heroines. The villains of the story are the humans, who wage neverending war against what they call 'monsters', and the book explores some of the consequences of this. It's a creator-owned project with all-original characters, and it was not set to take place in the Marvel Universe. The book was never officially scheduled, but there was talk of it coming out in 2004."

And I meant to link to this earlier but forgot: At Broken Frontier, Matt Maxwell confesses to succumbing to the Epic hype. It's an interesting perspective, written before yesterday's revelation.

Deep cover: Here's the cover Tony Harris created for "Strange Magic" #1. Of course, with Epic's shift to an anthology format, it's unclear whether the art will be used.

Mixed response: Reaction at the Newsarama forums regarding yesterday's Epic news has been pretty much as I (and probably everyone else) predicted, with unfocused outrage intermingling with satisfied smugness and occasional longings for the days of Bill Jemas.

What's a little puzzling, though, are the folks rejoicing in the imprint's "downsizing," as if Epic's very existence was a personal affront.

Poster #1: "It always brightens my day to have my predictions affirmated." (Yes, he wrote affirmated.)

Poster #1, in another reply: "Epic was ridiculous in premise and design, and if you read the Marville #7 epic rules (also hosted on Marvel's website", you'd know exactly how severe a problem the initiative was. All Marvel's doing here is trying to politely clean up the mess and sweep it under the rug at the same time. Yeah, they look bad doing it, but thank god they're doing it."

Of course, he doesn't seem to care that each of the Epic titles had a creative team that will be affected by the move.

So, Jason Henderson ("Strange Magic") explains matters to him: "Thank god? Why? That ignores the possibility that these titles-- which no-one has actually read-- might have been worth reading. I can say, sir, with all due respect, that I am proud of my team and their very professional efforts, and the other guys probably feel the same. And we weren't afraid of being judged on the stands. So unafraid that major work got turned down by some of these professionals because of their faith in the project. These guys are not a mess.

"These teams shouldn't be comforted because the suck but tried. These guys are good. And I stand by there work."

Friday, November 07, 2003

Not-so-Epic proportions? Newsarama reports that the first issues of "Phantom Jack," "Young Ancient One," "Strange Magic" and "Sleepwalker" will be combined into one anthology to be released in February. The second issues will receive the same treatment, and so on, if sales warrant it.

Newsarama obtained a memo sent by editor Stephanie Moore to Epic contributors asking that they stop work on their second issues until the fate of the anthology is known.

Expect the usual shitstorm of fan outrage and choruses of "I told you so" to follow ...

Feel like bustin' loose: Know what gets the fanboys excited? Busts.

No, not those kinds of busts. These kinds of busts, and assorted miniature statues. Just witness the rejoicing at Newsarama when it's announced that Bowen Designs will again be cranking out mighty Marvel merchandise:

Poster #1: "FINALLY!"

Poster #2: "This is the best news ever." (Seriously. I'm not making that up.)

Poster #3: "Thank you god! Fantastic news."

Maybe that's what will turn the comic industry around: Collectibles! Quick! Get me the number for Dynamic Forces!

Wayward son: Silver Bullet Comic Books talks to Mike Carey about "Lucifer," "Hellblazer," his upcoming miniseries "My Faith In Frankie" and his planned stint on "Wetworks."

Carey, who's always an entertaining interview, gives SBC some great quotes, particularly this one, in response to a question about possible backlash from the religious right:

"I've been writing The New Adventures of Satan for four years now, and apart from a few desultory 'you're going to burn in Hell' emails very early on we've never had any problems. You can really get away with a lot more in comics than you can in TV and film just because they're a sort of niche market. If Salman Rushdie had written 'The Satanic Verses' as a comic book, he'd have had a much easier time of it and probably still be enjoying modest but steady sales in Iran."

The interview also features the cover to "Lucifer" #45, by Tara McPherson. I found her website a month or so ago. Go there. Now. She has a great style, and is an unusual choice for a comic cover artist. Kudos to Vertigo.

Hit me, baby, one more time: James Sime braves the slings and arrows of the bloggerati and Delphians again with another installment of "The Comic Pimp."

This week, Sime looks at how retailers use and abuse Previews and, in turn, make or break a comic. In a Discovery Channel moment, he even takes us through the monthly life cycle of the catalog. (I'm sure Diamond and the creators of "Ruule" will enjoy the photo of Sime tearing out the pricey inserts, followed by another photo of said inserts in the trash can.)

It's a column that may be helpful to new self-publishers who don't understand how or why retailers use Previews, or customers who still scratch their heads and ask, "What do you mean, I have to pre-order?"

But my mind keeps coming back to the words with which he ended last week's column, and uses as a peg for this week's installment: "Retailers want to help you sell your book. We're here for you. Don't get lost in the shuffle."

I have no doubt that Sime really wants to help creators and publishers sell their books. I'm sure he's there for them. Even before he began his column at Comic Book Resources, he had a reputation as one of the more vocal, aggressive and innovative comics retailers in the country.

I'm not part of the anti-Sime chorus, but I disagree with his wording. He should have written, "Good retailers want to help you sell your book."

On the surface, it seems like a missing adjective, a minor point. But it's not minor. That one word is the key: good.

There certainly are many good retailers, but they're significantly outnumbered by the bad and mediocre. I can count the number of good comic shops I've been to on one hand, and still have a free finger to pick my nose. However, the bad and mediocre ones would require the removal of shoes.

Good retailers want to help you sell your book. The others don't give a shit.

We all know the telltale signs of a mediocre or bad comic store: RPG displays dominate the front of the shop, while the comics are shoved into a far corner. Comics are organized using a method known only to the manager, in which new releases and older titles interweave across walls and shelves like some Mobius strip. Dissheveled boxes of back issues, which the retailer will haul to next weekend's card and comic show, create a dusty maze in the middle of the floor. There's no "Staff's Picks" section. The graphic novel shelves feature a handful of DC and Marvel trades, plus a stray copy of "30 Days of Night." And last, but certainly not least, when asked to pre-order a title, the retailer responds, "I'll see what I can do."

That kind of retailer has little or no interest in "helping" a creator sell a book. That type of "relationship" likely never crosses his mind. In fairness, though, I don't imagine many creators or publishers reach out to that kind of retailer, either because of the size of the store or the attitude of its owner. So, it becomes a vicious circle.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal that I was a little annoyed at mediocre and bad retailers before I read Simes' column. Last year, I moved from a major city back to the relatively rural area where I grew up, and was confronted by the drastic differences in comic shop quality. (Although when I was young, there was a great comic store in the area that since has closed.) That's not to say Big City always trumps Small Town when it comes to comic stores, because I've been to shops in rural areas that put some of those in population centers to shame. Case in point: Universe of Super-Heroes in Athens, Ohio; small town, nice store.

And in the interest of fuller (can I write that?) disclosure, I also should reveal that I was unable to order my own comic from my local comic shop. I'm not bitter, just baffled.

Well, it's not my comic; it's the anthology in which my first published comic story appears ("Digital Webbing Presents" #11, which came out Oct. 29). It's solicited through Previews, but the retailer said he wasn't sure whether he could order it. I offered to buy 20 copies through him to tide me over until I received my comp copies. He still wasn't sure whether he could do it.

After more than two months of mentioning the comic to him, I decided to drop it and go through Discount Comic Book Service. I received a hefty discount and ordered more copies, so good enough, I suppose.

But the point is that the retailer had no interest in helping a local creator sell his book, and he lost out on guaranteed sales (I was going to give him the cash upfront).

Yes, I know it's anecdotal, but it's far from isolated or unique. Stores like Sime's Isotope in San Francisco are great, but they're not what most of us encounter when we go to the comic shop.

No, most of us don't get the good retailers; we're stuck with the bad and mediocre ones.