Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Waiting for the nausea to pass: In his "Waiting For Tommy" column, Rich Johnston interviews Ian Edginton, who reveals CrossGen's Sojourn will end with Issue 41. Johnston also has a nauseatingly upbeat sitdown with Joe Quesada about how much "arse" Marvel is "kicking." Brace yourselves for that one.

A Hellboy primer: At Movie Poop Shoot's "Comics 101," Scott Tipton turns his eyes to Hellboy.

Catwoman honored: The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation honored Catwoman as "Outstanding Comic Book" Saturday at its 15th annual GLAAD Media Awards. Other nominees were The Authority, Gotham Central, How Loathsome and Strangers in Paradise.

Silver Bullet Comic Books has the item, culled from a DC Comics release, which includes this comment from Catwoman writer Ed Brubaker:

"I'm thrilled to see our work on this book once again getting recognized by the outside media, although, personally, I thought that my Gotham Central partners, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, deserved to win for their Renée Montoya arc. But it's great to see a depiction of a normal, loving couple who just happen to both be women getting recognition. Holly and Karon are two of my favorite characters to write, and I'm glad they've struck such a chord with readers, hopefully because of how real they are."

Hammering at Thor: Silver Bullet Comic Books talks to Michael Avon Oeming about taking over as writer of Marvel's Thor, at least for one story arc:

SBC: "Given that Thor is a staple in the Marvel Universe, are there any worries you have about writing the series?"

Oeming: "Besides embarrassing myself, 40+ years of continuity and ruining my chances of ever writing a mainstream book again? Naw ..."

Tales his father told him, Part 2: Yesterday, The Toronto Star spotlighted cartoonist Seth (a k a Gregory Gallant) and his new book, Bannock, Beans And Black Tea. Today, it's The Globe and Mail's turn. But this time the focus is on his father John, whose stories are illustrated in the book:

"A typical anecdote involves Gallant working all day in the local priest's field picking potatoes. At the day's end, the priest's maid gave Gallant and his friend a bowl of cold mashed potatoes for a meal. As he left, Gallant looked into through the priest's window and 'saw just what we expected. There he was seated at a nice table and at its centre was a golden chicken surrounded by roasted potatoes and vegetables.'"

I predict a cease-and-desist letter: In a press release,'s Scott Bilker trumpets his latest creation -- the Debt Daredevil (TM) online comic:

"I've always thought of myself as a credit-card and debt vigilante, but many radio hosts have referred to me as the Debt Daredevil."

Another day, another distribution deal: Book distributor Source Interlink has been busy, first inking a deal with Marvel and now making an arrangement with eigoMANGA to supply RUMBLE PAK to North American chain stores like Barnes & Noble, Borders and Waldenbooks. Comic Book Resources has the press release.

The law according to Stan Lee? The Providence (R.I.) Journal (registration required) reports that Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch has decided to hang a quote from Stan Lee, of all people, outside his state office building. The infamous quote, "With great power comes great responsibility," will appear on a bronze plaque outside 150 S. Main St.:

"... Lynch's office has become a miniature Spider-Man museum. In one corner is a Spider-Man pillow -- for when his children visit. In another corner hangs a 'bad Hawaiian shirt' bearing a Spider-Man logo -- a present from his criminal division. And on one wall hangs a gift from Lt. Gov. Charles J. Fogarty -- a framed print that portrays Spider-Man swinging on a web, with a silhouette of the State House in the background and the words 'Remember, Patrick . . . with great power comes great responsibility.'

"'Now it's a running joke,' Lynch said, 'because everyone knows I use this.'"

Support group: The Kansas City Star (registration required) spotlights the Kansas City Comic Creators' Network, which just released the second issue of its anthology, Show and Tell.

Checking in on the Tribute: Comic Book Resources talks to Clifford Meth about The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute. Barry Windsor-Smith's name doesn't come up, though.

Coming to a TV near you: Britain's Wakefield Today reports on a new Channel 4 show called Zero to Hero, in which contestants get a chance to live out their superhero fantasy. Comics artist Stewart "Staz" Johnson helps design the costumes:

"Using a range of household junk, or the kind of things lurking at the back of the garage, contestants and designers get together to make an outfit that the would-be new Supermen or Superwomen must wear to complete a task set for a fictitious comic book character.

"Tasks tough enough to challenge a superhero include walking on water, breaking a block of ice and scaling a sheer wall."

Of course, it's only a matter of time before someone swipes this for American TV.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The road to Hellboy: The Arizona Republic runs an LA Times interview with Mike Mignola and Guillermo del Toro about Hellboy's journey from indy comic to $60-million motion picture.

Cat and Mouse: Back at The Village Voice, there's a review of Bob Levin's The Pirates and The Mouse: Disney's War Against The Counterculture, published by Fantagraphics Books.

A growing empire: ADV Manga announced it has acquired 37 new manga titles. Anime News Network has the press release.

Examining Sim's soapbox: The Village Voice reflects on Dave Sim and the end of Cerebus:

"Cerebus's enormous contradictions have alienated it from the comic-book market. To Sim's readers, Cerebus was the satirical story of a talking aardvark in a realpolitik world. To Sim, Cerebus was a soapbox from which to proclaim his beliefs. And, like a true monomaniac, Sim painted himself into a corner, denouncing the Marxist-feminist axis to an increasingly hostile audience."

"O cruel April-time!" At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson wades through April Previews, and tosses in a few snarky comments:

"It's interesting that Marvel is trying to bring back more diverse comics, comics about something other than superheroes, by using superhero characters like Mary Jane to launch a 'new, ongoing teen drama'. Of course, without the Spider-Man tie-in, a significant portion of the Previews market wouldn't give it a second glance."

Hero and heroin? I generally like Mitchell Breitweiser's work well enough, but I thought Greg McElhatton's assessment of the art for Phantom Jack #1 was funny (and fairly accurate):

"On the downside, though, Breitweiser draws people's faces so strangely it's actually distracting. Every time Jack appears, his face is oddly glazed over like he's just injected heroin into his veins a couple of minutes earlier. Adding in strange poses and stances by characters (the Iraqi soldiers dragging Aziz to their death, for instance, seem to be standing on slippery floors that are causing them to involuntarily do the splits) and some bizarre anatomy (the heroin seems to make Jack's neck grow) and the entire comic ends up looking nothing short of odd. In a book that (aside from a certain invisibility power) tries to ground itself in the real world, being unable to draw people is a bit of a hindrance."

Coming of age: Newsarama talks to artist Takeshi Miyazawa about Marvel Age's new Mary Jane series:

"You'll see her life from all perspectives. Whom she hangs out with, how she deals with issues and what sort of emotional ride she goes through when deciding on a prom date. Imagine going back to high school and seeing MJ roaming the halls. It's kinda like that."

I realize I'm nowhere near the target demographic, but I'm actually looking forward to checking out this series.

Technically speaking: For someone who makes his living via his Internet connection, I'm shockingly inept when it comes to the technical aspects of this world wide web. Thankfully, Ron Phillips is not. Last night, he fixed a problem that had been plaguing my blog since I started it in October: I installed Site Meter wrong, so I couldn't view referrals. Everything is working properly now, giving me something new to obsess about.

Out in the cold? reports on the distribution deal between Tokyopop and Diamond, and gets reaction from Cold Cut Distribution, one of several smaller distributors who will be affected by the new arrangement:

"A spokesman for Cold Cut Distribution, one of several distributors directly affected by Tokyopop's decision, told ICv2 that Cold Cut had not been contacted by Tokyopop, but if the reports of a Diamond Tokyopop exclusive were true, 'It would not be a good thing for comic shop retailers.'"

As Franklin Harris points out: "What this spokesman really means is that this is bad news for Cold Cut."

Doom sayers: David Fiore looks at Grant Morrison's rescue of Doom Patrol from the clutches of Paul Kupperberg, and points to a related paper by Marc Singer titled "On Byron Shelley and Crazy Jane: Romanticism and Modernity in the Comics of Grant Morrison." I'm flagging it for more in-depth reading this evening; I recommend you do the same.

Gerber on Hard Times: UnderGroundOnline talks to Steve Gerber about Hard Times, Howard the Duck and the Man-Thing movie.

Importing kidculture, but not as comics: The Washington Post reports on Walt Disney's plans to import a top-selling international comic franchise into the United States -- as prose. Although W.I.T.C.H. comics sell more than 200,000 copies a month in Italy, Disney thinks American girls will prefer "chapter-book storytelling," at least at first. The first two volumes in the series will be introduced next month; a cartoon series is scheduled to debut next year.

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ... a spokesman? The New York Times (registration required) reports on the new Internet-only advertising campaign for American Express, which features Jerry Seinfeld and an animated Superman. The first of the Barry Levinson-directed "webisodes" premiered yesterday; the second spot is scheduled to air in May.

A dog's life: Britain's News Shopper covers a Snowy lookalike contest to launch "The Adventures of Tintin at Sea" exhibit at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. (For those not in the know, Snowy is Tintin's dog.) The exhibition includes the oldest existing drawing of Tintin, and an Andy Warhol painting of creator Herge.

Manga uproar: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Scholastic Inc. is pulling Shonen Jump from its list of books sold at school book fairs across the country. The comic had been bought by a fifth-grader at Hillcrest Intermediate School, where the principal was "stunned" by the content which, the article explains, included mild profanity, violence, a swastika, a female character "who asks readers to pick up the next issue to see which 'hot guy' would be the next to die," and cigarette smoking:

"This is a fifth- and sixth-grade building. These are 10- and 11-year-olds. It's against what we're teaching. It's against our DARE (Drug Awareness Resistance Education) and the St. Vincent College prevention program."

Tales his father told him: The Toronto Star spotlights cartoonist Seth (a k a Gregory Gallant), who has created a book of his father's stories called Bannock, Beans And Black Tea. Seth will launch the book tomorrow at The Rivoli in Toronto, along with Chester Brown:

"I'll be reading in a boring manner to an uninterested crowd."

Monday, March 29, 2004

Early Demo: I love "The Making Of ..." documentaries, rough character sketches, early drafts of scripts -- most anything that gives a glimpse into the creative process. That's why I was glad to see Brian Wood link to the above image at his Delphi forum. It was his original idea for the cover of Demo #4. "It wasn't working," he writes, "so Becky came up with a much better concept." You can see Becky Cloonan's final cover here.

British comics duo still the rage: The Guardian reports on the popularity in France of classic British comic strip characters Blake and Mortimer, who are part of an exhibit at Paris' Musée de l'Homme:

"For generations of French-speaking children, Blake and Mortimer would have been their first contact with British culture. If readers were to believe the comic book, Brits wear tweeds, sport David Nivenesque moustaches and smoke pipes on every available occasion.

"Our heroes share a flat on Park Lane -- never a hint as to whether they have girlfriends or wives -- and have a faithful Oriental servant named Nasir who served under Blake in the war (yes, there's more than a whiff of colonialism in Blake and Mortimer adventures)."

Hell of a contest: Dark Horse has photos of the top winners from its Hellboy store-display contest. Good stuff. I just wish more retailers displayed such marketing savvy (and design sense) on a regular basis.

Interesting bedfellows: Tokyopop and Diamond Comic Distributors have struck a deal making Diamond the exclusive distributor of the publisher's English-language graphic novels to the North American direct market. And this should make retailers happy:

"In addition, Diamond has elected to raise the discount it offers its retailer customers on TOKYOPOP's titles. Effective with items in the March 2004 Previews, all TOKYOPOP items will be sold to Diamond customers at an "E" discount, up to 50% off. The same discount applies to all in-stock merchandise, beginning with orders placed after March 31."

Mr. Toad's wild ride: At (click-through ad), Hilary Flower opens the Great Illustrated Classics edition of The Wind in the Willows, and discovers a childhood favorite has been Disneyfied. And don't get her started about Winnie the Pooh:

"If the Great Illustrated Classic of The Wind in the Willows is actually faithful to anything, that would be the many animated versions that have spun off from Grahame's book over the years. When Disney ate Milne's treasure, the evidence was everywhere. There are the trademark cartoon figures; there is the text that retells the popular cartoon more than Milne's stories. Fittingly, the Disney versions are to be found under 'D' in our library's children's section. Under 'M' you may, if you are lucky, find The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh, by Milne himself, intact and full of their original wit.

"But the Disneyfication of The Wind in the Willows is more insidious. Because, as Evil Clones are wont to do, Disney's Toad has gone back to wipe out the original, replace it with himself and cover his tracks. Only those who know to poke around will discern the plunder, and by that time the real treasure may be long gone. When our library's vintage copies of The Wind in the Willows finally wear out, the Great Illustrated Classic, with its sturdy library binding will be all that's left. And the only hint of the desecration will be the ambiguous but friendly 'adapted by' bit on the title page. We'll find Mole sick of cleaning. Toad flinging horrid little wagons. Mole sitting in his chair with a bubble of Badger over his head. Cleansed of 'divine discontent and longing,' bereft of 'poetry of motion,' with Mole never taking time out to smell Home, Little Portly neither lost nor found, and no Pan pipes to be forgotten by Rat or reader. Greatly diluted and poorly illustrated 'classics' will be the literary legacy left to our children."

The superhero question: At Ninth Art, Paul O'Brien takes a slightly different look at the old "Why do superheroes dominate comics" debate:

"The reason why the North American comics audience is overrun with fans of the superhero genre is quite simple: where else are they going to get those stories? Yes, there's a handful of TV shows and the occasional film. And there are some novels. But for the most part, those are just spin-offs of the comics. Comics have always been the driving force behind the genre.

"So if you're a fan of the superhero genre, naturally you will come to comics for your fix. You really have no alternative. This is the medium where all the important stuff is happening - for that genre. Comics attract these readers because they have a unique status as a destination for people who want those stories. That status isn't merely historical. It still reflects the position across the media as a whole - superheroes don't exclusively mean comics, but they primarily mean comics. More casual audiences may be satisfied with the occasional film or TV show. But the fan will come to comics.

"Like it or not, this is one of comics' major unique selling points. They do superheroes better, and more, than pretty much anyone else. It's their home turf."

"Marvel has ... sold us out": At, retailer Rick Keefe responds to news of Marvel's bookstore-distribution deal with Source Interlink. Needless to say, he isn't happy:

"I find it ridiculous that we as an industry decided to move Free Comic Book Day to time with the release of Spider-Man 2, a Marvel movie, when Marvel is willing to take the bread and butter of comic book stores away and pass it off to the corporate chains.

"I feel no need to support Marvel in the way that I have been in the past. Their decision just doubled or tripled or quadrupled the number of competitors that I and other independent comic specialty shops have to work against. It is a clear signal to me that Marvel DOES NOT have our best interests at heart."

A long and winding history: South Africa's Pretoria News touches on the 75-year history of Tintin, including the accusations of racism against creator Hergé:

"Hergé has rightly been accused of racial stereotyping, and it is noteworthy that Tintin's early Congolese adventures found little favour in later years.

"Yet, his close relations with such people as the Sioux of North America, or his long friendships with Chang, the inspiration for Tintin's Chinese adventures, suggest that much of the politically incorrect depictions were in response to the medium - the comic strip - rather than a dislike of, or contempt for, other peoples."

Manga, with a hip-hop beat: The Orlando Sentinel reports on Ahmed Hoke, a graffiti artist who tried his hand at drawing superheroes, but got nowhere fast. So, he turned to manga. Now he has a 158-page graphic novel called @Large, with plans for more volumes:

"Manga is great for me because it allows me the freedom to take the characters anywhere I want. I'm not trying to compare to American comics, but manga is a story. It's thicker, so you tell more of a story."

Daily dose of Pekar: Hm. We haven't had a Harvey Pekar story in a while. So, here's the University of Minnesota's student newspaper covering a book-signing.

Battling bullies: The London Free Press reports on a 20-year-old college student who has produced an anti-bullying comic book called Misadventures of Bully-Boy and Rumourgirl, to be distributed to Ottawa elementary schools.

Batman meets the werewolf (sort of): Comic Book Resources talks to Sam Kieth about Scratch, his upcoming five-issue miniseries for DC starring a werewolf named Scratch. Oh, yeah. Batman makes an appearance, too:

"It's the typical thing with these things. We've got a Led Zepplin here and if we stick Batman in, then it may not go down quite so quickly. I'm being sarcastic, really. I have to warn people, though, that Batman doesn't appear until the last issue, so, you should basically avoid the first four issues and just buy the last issue. I tell ya, we shoulda reversed it! We should have made the first issue the last issue, but of course it doesn't make any sense that way. Well, it doesn't make any sense, anyway!"

"By the time I finished [Scratch], and in fact my next project is a Batman project for DC, I was talking to Dan Didio and he said, 'It might have gone a little better for you if we'd come out with Batman, first.' It's basically a Werewolf book that Batman shows up in. It's not really a Batman book.

"I tell ya, if I drew Batman now, I'd totally draw him differently. I'd draw him super-realistically, because I think I've gotten so weird that I'm just taxing people's patients. That I'm getting so weird that even I don't know what to make of it anymore. It would be nice to get back to normal.

"That's not a good endorsement for a book, to talk about how far off course you've gotten is it? Go out and buy the first issue because by the fifth issue I'd pretty much had it!"

Churning out Garfield: The Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune profiles local resident Gary Barker, who has drawn Garfield since 1983. Yeah, I know it comes as a shock to everyone that Jim Davis doesn't draw his own strip.

Batman adventure: WTNH Channel 8 in Connecticut spotlights 13-year-old Ansonia resident Patrick Ugas, who will appear in an issue of Batman Adventures after winning a contest sponsored by DC Comics and Tang.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Review revue, Part 2: Johnny Bacardi gives a rundown of The Losers #10 and Hellboy: The Corpse one-shot, among others, while at Near-Mint Heroes, Shane offers quick-hit reviews of more books than you can shake a stick at.

Review revue, Part 1: The Science Fiction Crows Nest reviews Titan Books' The Matrix Comics and DC Comics' The Adam Strange Archives Volume 1.

Hollywood appeal: The Toronto Star tracks the history and allure of comics-based films, and turns to Toonopedia's Don Markstein and Comics2Film's Rob Worley for some insight:

"Ultimately, I think fans use pretty much the same criteria as everybody else. If the movie is good, it does good box office. If it falls short, so does the take."

Comics as art: The Pittsburg (Kan.) Morning Sun talks to David Beach, who is displaying part of his comic-book collection at Labette Community College's Hendershot Gallery in Parsons:

"What really makes a good cover artist or comic book artist is the detail they put into it. Some of the best artists would actually go out and take pictures, so they could see the buildings and where the telephone poles were, and draw the scene in the correct perspective and detail. The good ones wouldn't just schlock up a picture, they would try to make it art worthy, so you could get a sense of the story and the tension inside. That is what would make it attractive to buy and see what's going on."

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Ultimate cover story: At Silver Bullet Comic Books, artist Mark Bagley addresses the problem of those annoyingly generic Ultimate Spider-Man covers:

"They’ve been bugging me for a while also. At first, the idea was to use a Spidey figure incorporated with a photo background. Very soon though, that became unwieldy and we started doing the poster shots. For quite a while I didn’t trust the cover colorist to do much more than a single figure and a simple background, but now that Richard Isanove has come aboard - he is really something special - I’m really trying to add more elements to the coves and to make them more reflective of the book’s contents."

Tough times for animators: The Arizona Republic carries a great article by LA Times writer Lynell George about how shifts in the animation industry have led to the elimination of some 1,000 jobs in Southern California in the past three years:

"The success of Disney and Pixar's Toy Story changed everything -- hand-drawn was out, CG was in. Recent poor showings for hand-drawn projects with high hopes -- Looney Toons: Back in Action and Treasure Planet -- haven't helped matters. Although the new technology created new jobs, they were neither numerous enough nor technically suited to the skills of established traditional animators. Ink and paint people are told that they can make the tech transition but most in-town productions want animators with lots of experience, says Bronwen Barry, a clean-up artist and 'in-betweener' who has served on the animators union executive board for more than a decade. 'Although it's nice for the resume,' Barry says, 'it's not the lifeboat that people thought it would be.'"

Memo from MegaCon: The Washington Times' Joseph Szadkowski reports from MegaCon, where he found few publishers, but many creators and fans:

"At first, I was disturbed by the lack of heavyweight comic-book publishers at the year's first major comic-book convention. There was just one large display, by CrossGen Entertainment, and a booth from Antarctic Press, but that did not stop an avalanche of sequential-art luminaries from attending. Fans in the know could find stars such as Wonder Woman artist Phil Jimenez, cover creator extraordinaire Kaare Andrews, Daredevil artist-writer David Mack and golden-age Flash artist Harry Lampert hanging out at tables, ready to do a sketch or sign a book."

Friday, March 26, 2004

The art of MAUS: Australia's The Age previews "Art Spiegelman: MAUS," an exhibit of original artwork from the Pulitzer Prize-winning tale being shown at The Jewish Museum of Australia.

Internet porn law struck down: A federal appeals court has overturned a Virginia law that limited the online display of sexually explicit material to minors, saying the measure imposed an unconstutional burden on protected speech. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was among the plaintiffs in the case. The Hampton Roads (Va.) Daily Press has the story.

CrossGen in court: Broken Frontier reports that former CrossGen-exclusive penciler and inker Andy Smith has sued the publisher in Small Claims Court for money owed to him:

"Trust me, I’ve said this and I mean it from the bottom of my heart: I don’t want to see CGE go down, I don’t want to see the doors close. I just want to see Mark Alessi out of there because I believe he’s the one that ran the place into the ground. He loves to spew that CGE is in the shape it’s in because of other people, but, in my view, it’s not because of other people. He didn’t listen to anybody. The most he knew about comics when he opened the doors was what he knew as a fanboy that read comics. That’s it. That’s what he knew. If it was me, I’d have hired people that knew the business, which he did, but then I’d listen to them, but he didn’t listen to them. So the company is in the position that it’s in now, money-wise, because of him and nobody else.

"All people who remained after the layoffs had their salaries cut. I was switched from penciling back to inking, even though I'd been promised a new book to pencil, and had $27,000 cut from my yearly salary. We were all told that absolutely everybody in the building took a pay cut. I think Mark referred to it as 'sharing the pain' in one meeting. But I've since learned for a fact that wasn’t true. At least one creator didn't take any pay cut, and some administrative people actually received raises."

Law enforcement: IDW Publishing has announced it will publish all-new adventures of Will Eisner's John Law, although the series will be produced by Gary Chaloner. Here's what Eisner has to say:

"The launching of the John Law series by Gary Chaloner represents a very important episode in my career. After all, it is most unusual for a character created so long ago to be given new life in the hands of someone so able as Gary."

Stealth "Breakdowns": Chris Allen sneaked in his "Breakdowns" column at Movie Poop Shoot. I could've sworn I looked for it yesterday, and it wasn't there. That's it; I'm joining the mailing list.

DC, by the numbers: At The Pulse, Marc-Oliver Frisch works his magic with DC Comics' sales estimates for February, noting that crossovers and shakeups of the status quo seem to be working wonders for the publisher. He also takes a look at a handful of non-DC titles, just for good measure.

"Place Ultimates ... in the dumpster": At, New Jersey retailer Ilan Strasser doesn't have much faith in Marvel's plan to wait to solicit Vol. 2 of The Ultimates until four issues are complete:

"As far as I'm concerned, Marvel can just place the Ultimates title in the dumpster and leave it there. Marvel now says they won't solicit the title again until they have a story arc in the can - so what? After that first 4 to 6 issue trade paperback is completed, how long will it take for Volume 2 of the book to become as pathetically sporadic as the first volume was?"

Award-winning lines: The Nashville Tennessean profiles Lipscomb University junior Nate Creekmore, who recently won a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award for his comic strip, Maintaining.

Intro to anime: The Cleveland Plain Dealer previews a local manga and anime convention, and provides a bit of a primer on the subjects.

Quantum leap: The Queens Chronicle talks to local comic book creator Philip Clark, who is self-publishing a 12-issue series called Quantum: Rock of Ages.

Phantom success: Nashville City Paper profiles local artist Mitchell Breitweiser, who illustrates Image Comics' Phantom Jack:

"I've pretty much known from the start that I wanted to be an artist, and that led me to doing comic art. And with comics, you aren't really limited - comics can be anything from a superhero story to a fantasy story to a real world story like Phantom Jack. I was fascinated that I had the chance to one day be drawing a scene out of Times Square in New York City and the next day I could be drawing a space scene with aliens and space ships blowing each other up. It's just a really cool aspect of the medium, there's a total variety."

30 Days of Niles: The Kansas City Star (registration required) talks to "one-man cottage industry" Steve Niles about creating 30 Days of Night, and the release of Return to Barrow. Niles will appear at this weekend's Planet Comicon.

CD art as metaphor: Atlanta's Southern Voice talks to the Indigo Girls about same-sex marriage and their new album, which features cover and interior-booklet illustrations by comic book artist Jaime Hernandez:

"Saliers describes the odd Hernandez-drawn storyline in the booklet, which involves a woman who plants statues from outer space in the desert, as 'a metaphor for the beautiful miracles the universe can provide.'

"'The cover art is this woman on a pipe, but to me, it is a balance between nature and the destruction of nature,' she says."

Teaching comics as literature: The San Diego Union Tribune spotlights Palomar College professor Rocco Versaci, whose "Comic Books as Literature" class focuses on such works as American Splendor, Ethel & Ernest and Summer of Love:

"Many people tend to dismiss comics as lowbrow and juvenile, but in fact comics are a complicated format that can express ideas, create characters, address issues, and tell stories in ways unmatched by other forms, such as literature and film. ... Because comics are both textual and visual, they can explore the rich ground upon which these two means of expression collide."

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Shipping shocker, Part 2: Are you sitting down? Good. NYX #4 has been rescheduled again, moving from its old rescheduled release date of April 7 to its new rescheduled release date of April 14. I say Marvel should just call issues #1-3 "Vol. 1," then resolicit #4 as "Vol. 2" sometime later, when several issues are in the can, a la The Ultimates.

Ultimate Six #7 also is on the late list, rescheduled for April 14. I apparently haven't been paying attention, because I thought that miniseries ended a long time ago. Oh, yeah: The Ultimates #13 now is coming out March 31. Supposedly.

Juggling schedules: Spider-Man 2 has been moved to a June 30 release "to take full-advantage of the Fourth of July holiday period." Of course, that decision creates a little problem for Free Comic Book Day, which was scheduled for July 3 to coincide with the film's release.

Distribution deal: Source Interlink, "the nation's largest distributor to major bookstore chains and independent retailers," has signed a deal with Marvel to distribute comics to some 8,000 stores in North America, including Barnes & Noble, Borders and Waldenbooks. Here's Interlink's president and COO James Gillis:

"The distribution of comic book publishing provides us with an additional strong growth opportunity. This agreement reflects our commitment to expand our core specialty distribution market beyond magazine publications. Marvel serves as the leading comic book publisher, and we are excited to effectively broaden the reach of Marvel's popular characters and plot lines to the specialty market."

Slott hulks out: UnderGroundOnline talks with writer Dan Slott (Arkham Asylum: Living Hell) about the new She-Hulk series:

"Well, off the bat I can promise that she is not going back to her savage persona. And I can also promise that we're going to keep the 'fourth wall' firmly in place. John Byrne did a fantastic job with that spin on the character during his runs on Sensational She-Hulk. It'd be foolish to try to Xerox that success. This book is going to be its own thing: in current continuity, but totally different from any other Marvel book out there. She-Hulk is about to enter the bizarre field of Superhuman Law. She's going to try cases in a world where time-travel, androids, and alien invasions are common place. These cases will be the springboard for action, adventure, and (hopefully) a little comedy. For example, in #2, a man is going to file a class action suit against the laboratory that caused his superhuman 'origin.' Issue #3 focuses on a ghost that wants to testify in his own murder trial. This new She-Hulk book is going to feature bizarre stories with its own unique voice."

Retailer worries: At, another retailer voices concerns about Free Comic Book Day, because of the date and the absence of Bongo comics:

"For us, as for him, Simpsons and related comics are one of our top sellers, and it'll hurt not to be able to pump them on FCBD. And about the date -- don't get me wrong -- my store will definitely participate, and we'll do all we can to do what we can with what we get. Still I can't help feeling a sort of resignation to the fact that it just won't be like it has been in the past."

Para trooper: Also at Silver Bullet Comic Books, Tim O'Shea talks with Stuart Moore about Para, and his regular "A Thousand Flowers" column at Newsarama.

Looney tune: I've commented before on "Zack S." and his terribly unfunny column at Silver Bullet Comic Books. Lately his shtick has been fictitious interviews with comics creators. But this week, Mr. S. turns his attention to what ails the comics industry. Oh, how I long for the days of bad, made-up Q&A's. Here are some of the highlights:

"Diamond Distributors, the Halliburton of the comic industry, puts out the Market Shares for comics every month. Why did I just call them the Halliburton of the comic industry, you ask? For a couple reasons: they pretty much run the whole damn show here in comic Iraq, and trying to get a straight answer regarding money from them is like trying to get rednecks to stop breeding, it ain’t going to happen. Okay it’s not just Diamond that hides the numbers, the publishers don’t make any effort either. So, here’s the main question we got to ask, how the hell are we suppose to believe you? Every week thousands of fans fork over a good chunk of money, the industry claims to be poor, and at the end of every month they put out a guess as to what they’re making. This makes sense how? Oh, that’s right, it doesn’t."

"Okay, number five on this list is Tokyopop, I’m going to try to hold back my laughter long enough to get through this. I’ve got a news flash people, Manga is not the solution to breaking free of the super-hero mold. Not as many people as you think take Manga seriously. Think about it, why should they? The dialogue is usually garbage, the art all looks the same, and the cookie cutter stories are just plain retarded."

"Now we have to look at the top selling comics. Remember, I’m doing this to help you. I’m not trying to make you look like the lying sack of shit you are, I’m merely opening your tired little eyes to the truth. I figure there’s plenty of people out there telling you all this shit, but why listen to them, they’re all on the inside."

"Two X-Men books, two greedy attempts to cash in on older stories, one book with two of the biggest characters in all of super-hero land, and one book by one of the richest writers in the industry. Damn, could you imagine if comic book fans were in charge of the civil rights movements? 'Equal rights for all! Black and Whites can live together, we’re all human! Hey, is that nigger drinking out of my water fountain?' Lazy ass hypocrites."

"Oh yeah, you know those Graphic Novels everyone’s always talking about? The books that are going to save the industry. They’re in bookstores, more people are inclined to buy them, more diversity, blah blah. The number one selling GN in the month of February, New X-Men Vol. 6. You’re just sucking the fat cock of hypocrisy all the way back to your childhood fantasies, aren’t you?"

I'm guessing since the pale "You'll All Be Sorry" imitation didn't set the world on fire, Mr. S. is going for the scattershot Let's Try to Piss Everyone Off approach. Good luck with that.

"I would like to flee like a wounded hart ..." Sorry. I was channeling Oscar Wilde for a second. Anyway, The Arkansas City Traveler reports that Arkansas City is using "See ya in da funnies" as the theme of its big Arkalalah celebration, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the "first published comic book":

"I went on the Internet to find things going on, to find a big anniversary. Somewhere, I found that the first published comic book was 100 years ago."

I think it's great the city wants to give a nod to comic books, and far be it for me to question the information someone found on the Internet. But I'm not sure what this would be the 100th anniversary of. The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck, published in 1842, often is considered the first comic book published in the United States. The Yellow Kid, widely (and perhaps erroneously) thought to be America's first comic, appeared in 1894-95. Funnies on Parade and Famous Funnies appeared in 1933-34.

So, am I missing a 100-year comics landmark that the good people of Arkansas City have uncovered? What was the big comics event of 1904?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Retailer spotlight: The Contra Costa Times in California profiles local retailer Dr. Comics and Mr. Games which, its owners say, has a "fair amount" of female customers -- who make a beeline for the manga racks.

A life less animated: The Los Angeles Times (registration required) looks at life for anime illustrators in Japan, where starting pay can be less than $500 a month:

"Despite the huge popularity of the industry and its growing cachet internationally, even big studios typically pay recruits between $1,200 and $1,800 a month. Their counterparts in Tokyo office jobs earn up to twice as much, including benefits such as subsidized accommodation and train passes. Even convenience-store work pays $8 an hour."

Back from the dead: The Seattle Times examines the growing popularity of zombies in film, video games and comics:

"This ain't a Psych 101 primer, but we'll let you pick our brains: Zombies are easier for monster-jaded audiences to buy into than other types of overfamiliar or preposterous menaces. They're just people, and maybe people you know, turned into mindless, inexorable things who don't just want to kill you, but devour your flesh. There are subtler fears, such as being absorbed into a group, and the original Dawn's satiric warning of idiot consumerism. But take that folkloric fear of the undead which has always run through ghost stories, add the species-deep terror of being eaten, throw in a helping of apocalyptic dread, and you've got yourself a horror subgenre with legions of slack-jawed fans."

Have pen, will travel: The San Francisco Chronicle profiles cartoonist/rapper Keith Knight (The K Chronicles), who's about to start an eight-city book tour for his book Red, White, Black & Blue: A (th)ink Anthology.

Local legends: The Kansas City Star (registration required) previews this weekend's Planet Comicon convention, which will feature local creators like Bruce Jones and B. Clay Moore.

All the world's a stage: The New Haven (Conn.) Advocate spotlights playwrights-turned-comics writers Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Marvel Knights' 4) and Colin Mitchell (Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Out of Reach).

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Dead man talking: talks to Robert Kirkman about the success of The Walking Dead:

"I think if The Walking Dead has done anything, it really has told people that I can do more than the goofy superhero type stuff. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the range that The Walking Dead shows, because it’s completely different than anything I’ve ever done. I think it shows people that I can do a serious drama, because everything that I’ve written before The Walking Dead had some level of comedy in it. I think The Walking Dead is not funny in the least.

"As for effect ... The Walking Dead sales figures started going up with issue three, and we’ve gained sales on each issue after that. Just recently Invincible sales figures have gone up as well. I don’t know if that’s because people are reading The Walking Dead and come over to Invincible, or whether it’s the word of mouth that’s being generated from both books. But I can definitely see how the success of The Walking Dead is helping my other projects."

The law of the jungle: The Supreme Court has let stand a lower-court ruling that leaves the copyright of the art in the Tarzan books with the Burroughs estate, not with the heirs of artist Burne Hogarth, who had created illustrated versions of Tarzan of the Apes and Jungle Tales of Tarzan in the 1970s. The Washington Times has a brief story. (Link via Comics Worth Reading.)

Ass-chaffing comics: New York Press columnist Hiroshi, who routinely writes about gaming and comics, takes a swipe at Marvel's Ultimate line in the latest issue:

"I’m not sure how many people reading this are comic book fans, or how many are fans of the vintage Marvel days, but the Ultimate Marvel line chaffs my ass. Granted, they’re well-made, but how many times are they going to remake the characters? Reading Bendis’ turn on both Ultimate Spiderman and Fantastic Four just made me think he could write this stuff in his sleep. I know that recreating iconic characters is a tempting idea for writers (and highly profitable), but I wish movie studios, tv producers and comic companies would stop doing it."

Shipping shocker! We may not have The Ultimates to kick around anymore, but we still have NYX and Wolverine: The End. Diamond informs us that the latest issues are being rescheduled. Again.

Questions and answers: Alan David Doane has "Five Questions" for cartoonist Peter Bagge.

Peanuts, revisited: New York's Newsday reports on the serious re-examination of Charles Shulz and Peanuts, represented by the wave of books dedicated to the cartoonist and his creation. Seth, who is designing The Complete Peanuts series for Fantagraphics, talks about Schulz's appeal:

"Schulz managed to infuse so much of his personality into the work. A lot of newspaper strips -- there's been some good ones over the years, but mostly they fall short of being a real artistic expression. Schulz took it to a different level. His style totally suited the content, and he had an eccentric sense of humor and a melancholy personality that were just perfect for what he was doing. He gave Peanuts real depth and human feeling."

Author, graphic designer and comics fan Chip Kidd also is interviewed.

Ohio's comics center: At UnderGroundOnline, Rich Watson's "Small Press Nation" spotlights Columbus, Ohio, home of Ferret Press, Mid-Ohio Con and next month's Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo (SPACE).

Ultimate cancellation? The long-running joke about the chronic lateness of The Ultimates has come to an end, at least for now. Last night, Marvel announced it is officially pulling the series from its schedule, but will relaunch the second volume once six issues are complete. Comic Book Resources has the press release.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Captain Marvel: The End: On his blog, Peter David confirms the end of Captain Marvel with Issue 25, and a return to the Hulk, at least in miniseries form. (Heads up via Fanboy Rampage.)

A bargain at twice the price: I just got the latest mailing from the Quality Paperback Book club, which offers Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis in softcover for $5.99 (regular club price: $11.99).

Bracing for the invasion: Newsarama talks to Allan Jacobsen, co-writer of the upcoming Invaders relaunch. I'm worried:

"Basically, this is a story about a group of Idealists who are willing to go beyond borders to do what they believe is right. That being said, I want to be clear that this isn't a book about hate, and it isn't about disrespecting any real-world culture. It's about breaking down barriers the barriers that we've built between ourselves and inspiring disparate cultures to unite against a common threat."

"The new series has a different focus. There is a common enemy/threat that holds the new series together---an extension of what the Invaders battled in the original series, but more universal."

"Captain America – Well - 'a' Captain America. Wait and see. This character was part of the Invaders project before I came along. I admit I was hesitant at first about precisely how he fit in. After writing Invaders #1, he has quickly become one of my favorites. This is a man passionate about his commitment to his personal beliefs. Fiercely pro-soldier, though not necessarily pro-war. He's complex and extremely compelling to write."

Okay, if the new Invaders is a covert, "pro-active" quasi-military group -- featuring USAgent -- that hunts down superhuman terrorists, I'm going to ... to ... Eh, if anyone needs me, I'll be in my room reading tattered copies of Roy Thomas' old series.

Review revue: Johanna Draper Carlson updates Comics Worth Reading with reviews of Iron Wok Jan!, Soulcatcher #1, and others.

Johnny Bacardi reviews a handful of comics, including DC: The New Frontier #3 and Lucifer #48.

Slow learner: You'd think I'd learn to stop blogging on weekends, and save everything for predictably slow Mondays. But I never learn. So, while this day creeps and crawls along, go here to start reading some fine weekend blogging (including a WizardWorld LA news summary, and a breakdown of Marvel's June solicitations).

The shipping news: Previews Review updates with a rundown of comics shipping this week:

"TRES FANTA this week, a new POPBOT a few weeks back, my but Ashley Wood has been busy lately, hmm?"

Best of both worlds: At Silver Bullet Comic Books, Tim O'Shea talks to Colleen Coover about the adult Small Favors and the all-ages Banana Sunday.

Comics piracy: At Ninth Art, Bulent Yusuf ponders the ethics of comics file-sharing:

"But how should you feel about this rampant orgy of electronic larceny? Probably the same conflicting emotions that come with downloading music. In the eyes of the law, you'll have wilfully ignored the intellectual property rights of another person or company. Thanks to the internet, the opportunity is there, and, short of having a policeman standing over your shoulder while you use your computer, there's no way you can get caught."

Le boin boin: On Saturday, a BBC News correspondent in Tokyo discovered manga. Now its Paris bureau is reporting on manga's inroads into France, where it accounts for 30 percent of the country's comic book market:

"Though the dialogue is mostly translated into French, real connoisseurs know that the words 'boin boin' signifies the bouncing of a character's breasts, while 'bashi bashi' is the sound of someone being hit on the head."

Complex questions: The St. Petersburg Times wonders whether television mysteries have gotten too complicated for viewers to solve. In its search for answers, the newspaper interviews comics writer-turned-TV writer Gerry Conway, who's now on the staff of Law & Order: Criminal Intent:

"For my mother, (traditional mysteries) were like comfort food for the mind -- she was able to sit down with characters she enjoyed, like Angela Lansbury's Jessica Fletcher. Now we're dealing with an audience that expects a sense of novelty from moment to moment. It's the difference between sitting down to dinner and getting on a roller coaster."

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Picking through Deadwood: This doesn't have anything to do with comics, but I'm a big fan of the Western (good Westerns, not those of, say, the Hopalong Cassidy variety). The New York Times (registration required) has a good, if brief, interview with David Milch about his new series Deadwood, which premieres tonight at 10 Eastern on HBO.

The Magazine also looks at how film and television repeatedly resurrect and transform the genre:

"Set in the mid-1870's in a bloody Dakota Terrritory settlement where prospectors rush to claw the gold from sacred lands belonging to the Sioux, Deadwood is relentlessly obscene, overwhelmingly pessimistic and meticulously depraved. It's the brainy, complex feel-bad series of the year, and every year needs one, at least on cable TV. Its good guys are bad, its bad guys are good and its medium guys are both and neither."

The WizardWorld report: Comic Book Resources, Newsarama and The Pulse all report from WizardWorld LA with varying degrees of completeness and success. I'll wade through all the nonsense so you won't have to:

* The long-rumored return of Rob Liefeld to X-Force comes to pass this summer with a six-issue miniseries written by fellow '90s refugee Fabian Nicieza. The Pulse has an interview with Liefeld, and a preview of some of the art. Now taking bets on the completion date for the series ...

* At his "Cup of Joe" panel, Joe Quesada made it known that Runaways and Captain Marvel are in danger of cancellation, and that we should expect more solo mutant books (which is, of course, just what the world needs). Quesada also made his annual promise that we'd see J. Michael Straczynski's Dr. Strange series later this year. CBR has the most coherent story.

* Comments were made about timing and similarity in titles between DC's Identity Crisis and Marvel's Identity Disc. Jeph Loeb referred to the Marvel miniseries as "Identity Diss," to which Joe Quesada responded, "What would Jeph know?" Oscar Wilde, eat your heart out. Newsarama has those oh-so-witty remarks.

* In the "This Is News?" category, Brian Michael Bendis announced he'll be exclusive with Marvel at least through 2006 (a deal that excludes his creator-owned work). He spoke obliquely about the "Avengers Disassemble" storyline, but said that Allan Heinberg, writer of Fox TV's The O.C., will pen a second Avengers title. Bendis also announced that Robert Kirkman will take over Captain America (although Kirkman says it's just for four issues), while Mark Ricketts will write Iron Man. CBR and Newsarama have the best reports.

* Marvel's panels certainly didn't produce any earth-shaking news, but they still came across as more exciting than the DC session, which seems to have been concerned with minor housekeeping matters such as guest appearances and confirmation of release dates. Among the titles mentioned were a relaunched Books of Magic series called Life During Wartime, The Witching and Grant Morrison's Vimanarama. Again, CBR and Newsarama have the best reports.

* The Pulse talks to Sean McKeever about the previously announced Mary Jane series for Marvel Age: "It’s not going to be a 'shiny, happy' series, but we want to strictly avoid the whole 'very special episode' vibe."

Women in tights: The Edmonton Journal talks female superheroes with scholar and author Lillian Robinson, whose book Wonder Women: Feminisms and Superheroes hits stores this week:

"Over the last 30 years, feminists have raised questions about all aspects of society -- religion, education, psychology, health, literature. There are no sacred cows. ... We've been free to challenge everything except superheroes, which are treated as icons."

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Whither the Good Ol' Days? The Times of India laments the passing of time and the changing of tastes -- primarily the decreased popularity of comics staples like the Phantom, Archie and Superman:

"Gone are the days when people used to wait for the Sunday paper to read the adventures of Phantom. Nor are these the days when kids pester their parents to buy them Amar Chitra Katha and Archie comics to pass time during summer vacation? TV toons have taken over the world of comics. Though many book sellers and publishers say there has not been a drastic drop in comic sales, they all agree that cartoons on TV have definitely made a dent into the comics market."

What's this manga of which you speak? BBC News discovers manga, notably yaoi, and cosplay parties:

"Yaoi is all about two men, in love, having sex, and a lot of girls are desperately wanting a love relationship. But those two men are not attracted because they are gay - that's the key point. They are attracted because they are in love with each other. I think a lot of women who read Yaoi Doujinshi, are interested in sex, but also they are rejecting their sexuality as well."

Love it or leave it: Mike Sterling has some funny comments about American Power, CrossGen's jingoistic offering for Free Comic Book Day.

Come on baby, cover me: I haven't seen a Marvel Comics cover I've liked in ... well, a long time. The Jemas-mandated move to "iconic" covers in which the characters strike a pose better suited for convention sketches ran out of juice sometime back. Much has been made of the lack of variety (and flavor) in Ultimate Spider-Man covers; it's gotten to the point that the casual reader can't be certain which issue he's picking up. The other Spider-books aren't much better. I mean, how many "iconic" shots of Spider-Man swinging out over the city toward the reader can we take?

But I don't come to bury Marvel's covers; I come to praise Kaare Andrews' cover for the clunky-titled Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One #1 (shown above). Sure, it's essentially a pin-up, with Doc Ock -- the dumpy, geeky Doc Ock, not the recently redesigned Matrix clone -- glaring out at us. However, Andrews injects a sense of humor and menace, by depicting what I presume is a young, cherubic Octavius (is that his name?), proudly gripping a beaker, and standing within the clutches of the adult Octavius' mechanical tentacles.

That image by itself would make a cover stronger than most any other Marvel has published in recent months. But Andrews adds another element, another layer: He sets the two Doc Ocks against the background of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. I have no interest in the story of Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One #1, but I must have that cover.

Now, where was I going with this? Oh, yeah. Marvel released its solicitations for June yesterday afternoon, instead of the customary Monday at noon.

With the second Spider-Man movie opening July 3, it comes as no surprise that Marvel floods the shelves with six new Spider-books (that's in addition to the five it already had, plus myriad Marvel Age titles). Among them is Powerless, a six-issue series that explores what Peter Parker, Matt Murdock and Logan would've done if they didn't have superhuman powers. Alex Maleev's depiction of Logan on the cover makes me wonder why Marvel doesn't just advertise, "And starring Hugh Jackman as Logan!" (Yeah, yeah. I know. Money, contracts, legalities, blah, blah. I was just kidding, anyway).

Marvel's also taking full advantage of Brian Michael Bendis' heralded relaunch of The Avengers, with supposed tie-ins and guest appearances in no less than six books.

Speaking of glut, Marvel figures it'll exploit Joss Whedon's Hollywood profile by issuing an Astonishing X-Men #1 Director's Cut. A director's cut? As if that's not enough, there's a variant cover! Come on!

Other items of note:

* Ultimate Fantastic Four #7-8 -- Warren Ellis takes over
* Mary Jane #1 -- Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa launch a new Marvel Age aimed at girls that might actually be of interest to girls; this could be a Marvel first
* Amazing Fantasy #1 and Spider-Girl #75 -- Does anyone know what the hell is going on here?
* NYX #5 -- Solicited again
* Identity Disc #1 -- Marvel's villains team up in an attempt to stop Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis, or something like that; on the plus side, Tony Harris is doing the covers
* Thor #80-81 -- Michael Avon Oeming unseats Dan Jurgens
* Thor: Son of Asgard #5 -- Dude, Thor's hot!
* The Avengers #84 -- Chuck Austen destroys the Avengers; wait, isn't that Bendis' gig?
* Invaders #0 -- Chuck Austen destroys my childhood memories
* Witches #1-2 -- So, Earth's Sorcerer Supreme needs three teen-agers to help him? Charmed, I'm sure

Friday, March 19, 2004

Hilarity of the day: NeilAlien's summary of this Ninth Art editorial made me laugh:

"Irrelevant elders like Byrne and Claremont need to be put out on the ice floe"

The Iranian experience: The Carnegie Pulse, Carnegie Mellon's online student newspaper, reviews Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.

Filing down the filing: Publishers Weekly (subscription required) boils down Marvel's year-end SEC filing to four paragraphs, noting that publishing sales rose 13.5 percent in 2003, to $73.2 million, while operating income increased 30.2 percent, to $25.4 million:

"Marvel said it intends to expand its line of products aimed specifically at the mass market, and cited the release last year of its first young adult prose novel, Mary Jane, as an example of the product extensions it is planning. Those efforts, however, are not expected to have a significant impact on revenue in 2004. Growth will come from expansion of its core comic book and trade paperback lines."

A fitting eulogy: On his blog, Neil Gaiman reprints a funny and touching eulogy for Julius Schwartz written by Alan Moore and read by Gaiman at the memorial service:

"And now we hear that Julie has been…discontinued? Cancelled? But they said the same about Green Lantern and the Flash back in the early 'fifties, so we can't be certain. This is comics. There'll be some way around it, be some parallel world Earth-Four Julie, born thirty years later to account for problems in the continuity, and decked out in a jazzier, more streamlined outfit."

The invisible man: At Silver Bullet Comic Books, Tim O'Shea chats with Marvel Knights 4 artist Steve McNiven about his influences, storytelling, and who came up with the "new" way to depict Sue Storm's invisibility powers:

"Certainly not me. I think someone else came up with that, but who or where or why I'm not sure. Maybe it was the same guy that got rid of thought balloons in comics."

Freebies: The sponsors and titles for July 3rd's Free Comic Book Day have been announced. Newsarama has the info.

By the numbers: At The Pulse, Paul O'Brien works his number-crunching magic on's February sales estimates, tracking losses and gains of Marvel titles of a several-month period. For those of us who irrationally follow the monthly Diamond Top 300 with the intense focus of day-traders, this is an interesting read.

But one Comicon poster thinks this type of analysis can only do harm. Here's "Cray_ws":

"... [T]his doesn't do anything for me, if anything this serves no bigger purpose than to create a greater divide among the readership(fans). It pits a Marvel reader against a DC reader. It creates more arguements than debates. Then there's a question of the correct figures and the non-Diamond sales. So basically this report while very well done is missing a big part.

"Vast majority of comic readers on this site and as well as others are easily influenced by others for whatever reasons and and rarely their own reasons. What the highest grossing movie shouldn't be a factor if i show go see it or not. I would think the same applies to comics or any other form of entertainment."

Golden years? At Ninth Art, Andrew Wheeler ponders the fates of once-revolutionary creators who continue to toil in the comics industry. Yeah, he's talking about John Byrne, Chris Claremont and the like:

"Now, I don't mean to be ageist. There's no reason he [Byrne] shouldn't still keep going if he's still got what it takes. And indeed, he can still draw better than many other artists out there, even if he is a shade of his former self. It's not his linework that marks him out as a dinosaur, but his attitude. Byrne today is more notable as an outspoken and trenchant crank than as a creator. His recent works suggest that he's increasingly out of touch with his audience and has nothing left to say beyond, 'I remember when all this was pre-Crisis', yet he insists on writing his own stories with gleeful disregard for the works of others and little appreciation for his substantial shortcomings as a writer, and nothing he does can justify his arrogance."

More from APE: At UnderGroundOnline, Rich Watson continues his report on last month's Alternative Press Expo, this time reviewing many of the comics and multimedia works he found.

A place to rest your head (and read some manga): Japan's Asahi Shimbun reports that many late-night office workers who miss the last train home are killing time in all-night coffee shops, where they can read manga and surf the Internet until morning:

"The two-year-old shop has a package deal popular with salaried workers, according to store manager Misaki Sato. For 1,280 yen ($12 U.S.), customers can stay five hours between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. They can choose from 25,000 comic books, surf the Net, play video games or get some shut-eye in a reclining chair. Soft drinks, tea, coffee and fruit juice are included."

The Cool Japan movement: The Age spotlights the new Gaijin! magazine, and Australia's growing fascination with Japanese popular culture:

"They see the Asian influence in films, particularly cult movies like Kill Bill, is loads cooler than what's coming out of Hollywood. They see the clothes, particularly from independent designers but also the massive streetwear designers like A Bathing Ape (which can be seen in Chinatown streetware shops), is cooler than the American and European brands. And then in dance music, there is a huge influence from India and Japan."

In remembrance: Comic Book Resources has the copyrighted text of Harlan Ellison's eulogy for Julius Schwartz.

Comics empire: reports on the purchase of Hake's Americana & Collectibles, the leading pop-culture collectibles auction house, by Diamond Comic Distributors owner Steve Geppi.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

As seen on TV: IDW Publishing will add Fox Television's 24 to its stable of comics based on TV shows, which includes The Shield and CSI. Comic Book Resources has the story.

More pimping for friends: It's been hinted on Steve Niles' website and in the Digital Webbing forums, but now comes official word that Niles has written a story for Digital Webbing Presents, scheduled to appear sometime this fall.

And in this week's "Open Your Mouth," J. Torres mentions that his Monster Fighters Inc. will make a return, this time in the pages of Digital Webbing Presents, which is holding an open call for artists to illustrate the story. Francis Manapul will draw the cover.

There. Another good deed out of the way.

And the winner is ... Variety's comics blog has some highlights from Comic Shop News' recent reader poll of dubious achievements in comics. Here are my favorites:

The "All in the Family?" Award -- John Constantine
"Yes, I understand that sleeping with her will create a god-like child that will eventually save humanity. But dude, that's your sister!" -- Cora Worden

The "Where the Girls Aren't" Award -- The Industry
"The industry as a whole in America are ignoring the 13-17, the pre-teen, and the 5-and-under comics audience, as well as females of all age groups. I'm sorry guys, but most of the female characters created for the American comic and video game market, like Lara Croft and the current Batgirl, are appealing primarily to guys; to me, they seem like they're basically guys with boobs..." -- Nina Twersky

A Visitation with Scott Morse: UnderGroundOnline talks to Scott Morse about Batman: Roomful of Strangers, his approach to storytelling, and his art style:

"Well, I work in different styles, depending on the tone of the story in question. I try to change it up to fit what I'm working on, so that things don't feel stagnant and repetitive. I just don't want to be another clone of everything else being published, so I try to push myself to try new things design-wise and color-wise. I draw on influences ranging from strong draughtsmen like David Mazzuchelli, J Muth, Kyle Baker... all the way to old children's book and animation designers like M. Sasek, the Provensons, Mary Blair, and my mentor, Maurice Noble."

Astonishing pencils: Marvel provides a glimpse of John Cassaday's pencils for Astonishing X-Men #1. Comic Book Resources is all over it.

Coming to terms: Silver Bullet Comic Books reports that Marvel Comics has reached an agreement with ailing artist Dave Cockrum that will financially compensate him for the characters he helped to create, while the company will retain full ownership of the properties. Cockrum has been hospitalized since December with complications from pneumonia, diabetes and a possible stroke.

Marvel released this statement yesterday:

"Marvel has stepped in to help Dave Cockrum, and it is clear that he and his family are satisfied with Marvel's actions, and appreciate its assistance in this matter.

"While the terms are confidential, Marvel is pleased that it could help Dave and his family, and wish him a speedy recovery and the very best."

Kim Jong Il, manga superstar? Voice of America reports that a manga series portraying North Korean president Kim Jong Il as an "evil despot" is selling well in Japan. The two books have sold more than 700,000 copies.

Expect trading cards and plush toys within the year.

Mid-life crises? BBC News uses the record-setting sale of a rare Beano first edition as a springboard for examining the life of a high-priced comics collector:

"The average comic collector is someone whose mum threw away all their comics when they started getting interested in girls, and years later found themselves able to afford 'childish throwaways'."

Drawing on the classics: Thailand's The Nation writes that Sky Books has adapted the classic Ramayana Indian epic as a manga for children (the Thai variation is called the Ramakian):

"Youngsters don’t like studying difficult Thai literature because they hate reading text without any illustrations. ... Cartoon books like this will help draw them to literature."

Wheelin' and dealin': The Alien Online reports that Vintage has bought McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, Volume II, by novelist and comics writer Michael Chabon, and that actor-writer Amber Benson and writer Christopher Golden have sold two original novels based on their animated online drama Ghosts of Albion.

Conspiracy theory: The Associated Press reports on Golgo 13, a manga whose storyline highlights a growing fear in Japan: that Washington officials are conspiring to keep the dollar low and force the Japanese government to buy U.S. currency and save the American economy.

More bang, less pow: The Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun looks at DC Comics' Batman in the Forties collection, and wonders whatever happened to brute violence on the funny pages:

"With Batman in the Forties, we're able to see how these costumed do-gooders were able to become overnight national icons. The stories had such appeal. They had a unique, if somewhat bizarre, fusion of campy, cartoon humor for the tykes and sheer, realistic violence for the adults, many of whom were slugging it out in World War II."

Tales of the City: I don't usually do comics-to-film news, but ... eh. England's Empire Online looks at some of the casting rumors surrounding the Robert Rodriguez film adaptation of Frank Miller's Sin City. Among the actors reportedly "targeted" for roles: Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Willis and Elijah Wood.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

List-making time: Montgomery Blair High School's Silver Chips Online (Silver Spring, Md.) names "five comic books every casual reader should have": Watchmen, Marvels, Torso, Astro City: Confession and X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills.

Yeah, I had the same reaction.

Planet Larry: Sean Collins has 10 questions for AiT/PlanetLar publisher Larry Young about comics blogs ("pretty self-indulgent affairs"), his online persona ("I don't have a 'persona'") and plans for maintaining his company's success ("slow and steady wins the race").

Hear me Roar: Does anyone else think of the TV show Roar when you see anything about Marvel's Thor: Son of Asgard miniseries? No? Come on. Thor has a rat-tail, Conor (Heath Ledger) has a rat-tail. Eh, maybe it's just me.

Going global: Malaysia's Malay Mail loves Vertigo's The Losers: Ante Up: "This is definitely the coolest, funniest and most explosive series to have come out from Vertigo in the last two years."

The reviewer also enjoys the Batman "Broken City" storyline ("this is Batman as he should be") and Rose and Thorn #3 ("there is an appealing humanity in all of Simone’s work").

The American president: At Silver Bullet Comic Books, Tim O'Shea talks to Gossamer Books president Angel Oberoi about the publisher's first book, Abraham Lincoln: The Civil War President, a graphic novel for elementary school students.

Pimping for friends: My sometimes-collaborator Brian Churilla has taken over the art chores for the Action Datsun webcomic at Movie Poop Shoot. Colors are by Eric Erbes, who provided the grayscales for our story, "Bad Elements: Good for the Soul" (coming in September from Digital Webbing Presents). There. I've done my good deed for the day.

Happy anniversary: Newsarama marks the fifth anniversary of indy publisher AiT-PlanetLar, which published Astronauts In Trouble: Live From The Moon #1 on this date in 1999. Publisher Larry Young talks about the past half-decade, as well as the outlook for the future of the company and the medium:

"I think people are just going to be reading more comics. When you see Entertainment Weekly, and Variety, and Wired, and other mass-media treating comics seriously as an art form, well, of course that’s reflected in growth. I can’t even tell you the last time I saw a “BAM! POW! BIFF! COMICS AREN’T JUST FOR KIDS ANYMORE!” headline, and that’s nothing but good, if you ask me."

Expansion pact: Publishers Weekly (subscription required) reports on Digital Manga's expansion plans, which include publishing 15 titles this year, including a series of nonfiction manga. The company's sales tripled last year, and founder and president Hikaru Sasahara thinks they will continue to grow. In the article, he compares the manga market with the Japanese gaming market in the United States:

"No one would have thought gaming would grow like it has in the U.S. Now it's bigger in the U.S. than in Japan." And he expects a similar growth pattern for manga. ... The U.S. and Japan are converging on culture. We listen to the same music, wear the same fashion, eat the same junk food, have the same mentality. The notion that manga is a fad is just the wrong perception."

Gotta catch 'em all: The San Antonio Express reports that Pokémon isn't finished with us yet. Despite increased competition from the likes of Yu-Gi-Oh!, the newspaper assures us the '90s phenomenon is poised for a comeback.

Sports fantasy: The Houston Chronicle discovers the new NBA comic books published by Ultimate Sports Entertainment, and sold at Wal-Mart:

"(The comics) are very family-oriented. They give kids someone to look up to."

Deep Sleeper: Comic Book Resources talks to Ed Brubaker about Sleeper: Season Two and Gotham Central, but mostly Sleeper:

"My biggest hope, though, is that we get more stores to just start carrying the book at all. From what I've heard, it sounds like very few stores were racking this book each month. I thank all the ones that were, a lot of whom did really well with it, but I want the stores we didn't get the first time around to get onboard this time. There's no reason now for anyone, retailer or reader, to not buy the book if they're interested -- The first Season will be out in Trades, and the new #1 will hit stores the same month. If that doesn't help, nothing will, probably."

From prose to comics pros: The New York Times focuses on novelists-turned-comics writers Michael Chabon, Greg Rucka and Brad Meltzer:

"Writing comic books is 'the ultimate 11-year-old fantasy,' Mr. Meltzer said. 'When they first offered me the job, I was going to say no, but my wife said to me, "Moron, you've been waiting your whole life for this." As always, my wife was a lot smarter than me.'"

Hey, big spender: The Scotsman reports the first issue of Beano sold at auction for £12,100 ($21,964 US). It's thought to be the most expensive British comic ever bought at auction.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The shakeup continues: Morales off of Captain America. Miller off of Iron Man. Bendis relaunching The Avengers. Now comes word that Dan Jurgens will leave Thor, and Hawkeye will end with #8. Newsarama has the story.

Their thing: This has nothing to do with comics, but is anyone else following the weekly back-and-forth about The Sopranos at between mob writers Jerry Capeci and Jeffrey Goldberg? Every Monday, they exchange emails about the previous night's episode, but the discussion quickly turns to funny mob anecdotes, an examination of gangster morality, and even a dissection of FBI grammar:

"Why does the federal government insist on referring to the mob as the LCN, i.e., La Cosa Nostra? Doesn't La Cosa Nostra translate as 'The Our Thing'? So wouldn't 'The LCN,' a designation which turns up in indictments regularly, translate as 'The The Our Thing'? Enlighten me, please."

Through their discussions, Capeci and Goldberg help to pinpoint why mob stories appeal to so many people (including me):

"... [W]hat is really interesting about mobsters, to me and I suspect to others, is that they get to live a fantasy life in which you can wake up at 1 in the afternoon, park wherever you want, wear track suits all day, eat heavily discounted food, and hurt people who annoy you. It's that transgressive quality that makes them so appealing. Also, their nicknames. Ridiculous nicknames make mob reporting fun. (I believe that the introduction of the street names 'Big Pussy' and 'Little Pussy' in the first couple of episodes of The Sopranos is what actually signaled to curious HBO watchers that something unusual and clever was happening here.)"

Go here for the Week 1 conversation. Week 2 starts here. It's good stuff.

Machina head: What's that saying about asking and receiving? Last night I hoped DC Comics would start hyping Ex Machina, and this morning Newsarama comes through with an interview with writer Brian K. Vaughan:

"I've always been interested in using this medium to ask questions about contemporary society, but that doesn't mean Ex Machina is going to be a boring polemic. It's a fast-paced political thriller, an action-packed sci-fi drama for adults, with all of the intelligent sex, horror, humor, violence, and shocking twists that readers of books like Y: The Last Man and Starman hopefully know and love."

Political thrills? Check. Horror? Check. Action? Check. And just look at those Tony Harris sequentials.

I don't know what to make of this, though:

"So to make sure that only the most deserving people get a copy of our first issue, it will only be sold to readers who are registered to vote. Our protagonist is independent, but Tony and I don't care which party you choose to affiliate yourself with, if any, as long as you're registered. It only takes a few minutes of Googling to find out how to do this in your area, and you've got three damn months before our first issue comes out to make it happen, so I don't want to hear any crying from the feedback section down there. And yes, this is open to residents of all democratic, socialist, U.S.-occupied, whatever, countries, just as long as you're registered.

"I realize this means that most people under 18, as well as many convicted felons, won't be able to buy our premiere issue, but because this is a "mature readers" series, teenagers probably aren't ready for some of the shit that happens in our first three issues, and felons will just shoplift the damn book anyway, so I'm comfortable with our restrictions.

"Retailers and readers with any questions about this policy and/or its enforcement are welcome to contact me anytime at:"