Monday, May 31, 2004

The shipping news: At Ninth Art, Greg McElhatton combs through June Previews for "Things to Come" in August, while the Ninth Eight looks at "The Forecast" for books shipping this week.

More than pretty pictures? The New York Times (registration required) reports on Marvel's new prose imprint, and wonders whether superhero adventures will have the same appeal without pictures. Marvel's Gui Karyo assures they will:

"Time after time, we have shown that we have classic characters that interest readers, regardless of the format. Whether it's on TV, in movies, or on the printed page, Spider-Man has a compelling story to tell."

His father's legacy: The New York Times (registration required) talks with cartoonist Mark Bode, son of the legendary Vaughn Bode, who recently completed his father's work The Lizard of Oz:

"When he died, I knew I was going to have to take over because I didn't want the worlds to die with him."

Fantagraphics will publish the book next month.

Bizarro world: The Kansas City Star (registration required) profiles Bizarro cartoonist Dan Piraro.

Strangers in the night: The San Francisco Chronicle's "Night Cabbie" encounters comic artist Phil Noto:
I ask, "What convention are you in town for?"

He smiles, then says, "The Comic Book Convention."

"Are you a collector?" I ask.

He says, "No."

"I was when I was a kid, I saved them all," I tell him. "Batman, the Blackhawks and Superman."

"I do covers," he says. "I've done some Blackhawks and Wonder Woman -- Wonder Woman covers 198 and 199."

"Are you famous?" I ask him.

"I don't think so," he answers.

In the beginning: The Sacramento Bee takes a look at the other big Peanuts book published this year, the Charles M. Schulz Museum's M. Schulz: Li'l Beginnings:

"With Li'l Folks, you can see that Sparky already knew very strongly what he wanted to say and the impact he wanted to make on his readers. He spent those 2 1/2 years playing around with art styles. At first it was a sophisticated display of line work and, by 1950, when (the cartoon) ended, the (drawings) had a very strong resemblance to early Peanuts."

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Drawing in students: The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that more and more graphic novels are making their way into school libraries:

"People's first reaction is, 'Oh my God, you have comic books in high school libraries? Let's get real.' But if this is the way to get reluctant readers to read because of the format, then that's a good thing."

But not everyone is convinced it's such a good idea:

"I think English teachers are all too soft-hearted. When did a biology teacher turn to his students and say, 'Oh, you don't like photosynthesis? OK, let's stop doing it.' Do I care if a student doesn't like Great Expectations in the first 15 pages? Our job as educators is to broaden student interests, not pander to them."

(Thanks to Matt Maxwell for the link.)

Sometimes they do come back: Hints had been dropped for the past couple of weeks, but now it's official: Alan David Doane's Comic Book Galaxy has returned, with contributions by Doane, Chris Allen and Marshall O'Keefe. There's no set schedule for updates, so readers are encouraged to sign up for the mailing list.

Making waves: At, Andrew Arnold recommends four marine-themed comics to read on the beach: Leviathan, The Octopi and the Ocean, Fish and Gyo.

Manga's appeal: The New York Times Magazine (registration required) looks at the rapidly rising popularity of manga in the United States, focusing on one of the hot titles of the moment, Rurouni Kenshin:

"The open-ended, almost soap-opera-style story tells of Rurouni Kenshin's befriending a young woman and a little boy, and it alternates between humorous, vaguely romantic episodes and improbable sword fights. The hero is honorable, mysterious and, although he looks like a Spice Girl, basically invincible. According to Viz, almost half of the title's readership is female. In fact, it seems to be young girls who are behind much of the current manga boom, probably because many titles don't rely on superhero punch-ups."

Luann creator wins top honor: The Kansas City Star (registration required) reports that Luann creator Greg Evans received cartooning's highest honor, the Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year. The award was presented yesterday in Kansas City as part of the National Cartoonists Society's annual convention. Terry Moore won in the comic books category for Strangers in Paradise.

Creating a "secret world": The San Jose Mercury News (registration required) talks to manga artist Kazuki Takahashi, creator of the Yu-Gi-Oh! international phenomenon:

"I am trying to create a world that people over 17 can't understand. ... Children want to possess a closed, secret world as their own world. They want to draw you into that world, but they also enjoy the fact that you can't really enter it."

Reading (comics) is fundamental: The New York Post reports on Marvel's Summer Reading Challenge, a contest aimed at getting kids ages 6 to 11 to read more books. Participants have to read five books, then write an essay about their favorite. Grand-prize winners receive $1,000 worth of Marvel merchandise, while first-place winners get free one-year subscriptions to two Marvel comics.

Uhhhh ... Colorado's Rocky Mountain News decides it's a good idea to get superheroes ready for the beach. Along with Wonder Woman, Superman and Supergirl (yes, that's them above), we're treated to a trailer-park makeovers for Jean Grey, Storm, Mystique, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Spider-Man and, I think, Mary Jane (though it could be someone from Lil Abner).

Comic shop to close: The Adrian (Mich.) Daily Telegram reports that Tim's Cards and Comics, a downtown staple for the past 17 years, will close on June 12.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Flipping through Previews: Laura Gjovaag combs through June Previews, pointing out the books that caught her eye. She's nice enough to highlight Digital Webbing Presents #17 (JUN04 2442) on Page 279, which includes my 16-page story "Bad Elements: Good For the Soul." (You just knew this was going to turn into self-promotion, didn't you?)

"Anime weirdness": Courtesy of Eiso from Viz comes the Sabrina Gallery. It's like the anime version of The Stepford Wives.

Happy blogday ... err, blogoversary? Sean Collins marks his first year of blogging. Congratulations, Sean!

Make with the funny: The Kansas City Star reports from this weekend's gathering of the National Cartoonists Society.

Comics fashion? The Alien Online reports that the Diesel clothing company has teamed up with 2000 AD to launch a new fashion line "inspired by the world of science fiction and fantasy comics":

"Available with every purchase, a specially commissioned 2000 AD comic will feature the Diesel fashion editorial 'The Return of the Ice Crusaders', together with 'exciting bespoke stories on bizarre clothing and youth culture from the 2000 AD archives, providing a perfect backdrop to the Diesel vision of future fashion.'"

Sony and Marvel call truce: The Hollywood Reporter has news that Sony Pictures and Marvel have settled Marvel's lawsuits over the handling of the Spider-Man and Men In Black movie franchises. Terms of the deal, of course, weren't disclosed.

The scholarly Harvey Pekar: Australia's The Age profiles Harvey Pekar, who stopped in Melbourne as part of his world tour:

"I don't think I'm a typical American. For one thing, I'm fairly scholarly, I do a lot of reading. I'm not at all nationalistic like many Americans are. I think what the United States is doing in Iraq is just crazy and dangerous. I'm glad I live in America and not some country where everyone is starving. But when you elect a guy as stupid as George Bush, you've got to wonder about the electorate."

The Invincible man: Comic Book Resources talks with Robert Kirkman about Invincible:

"When it gets down to it all what I'm really doing is seeing where people in the past have zigged and zagging instead. I'm trying to keep things fresh. If it's been done before, I'm not going to do that. I'm trying to make this book interesting, not a regurgitation of all the comics I've enjoyed as a kid. Whether or not I'm succeeding is anyone's guess but I'm certainly trying. It's really as simple as reading a comic and going, 'man, it would've been cooler if they did this instead' and then throwing that in the comic. Of course... that could just be considered regurgitation comics I enjoyed as a kid. Hell, I don't know what I'm doing."

Trademark battle in the making? The St. Louis Business Journal reports that a Deerfield, Ill.-based investors group called X-Men LLC has purchased enough stock to make itself the fifth-largest shareholder of Falcon Products Inc., a commercial furniture manufacturer.

Review revue: The Washington Times' Joseph Szadkowski reviews Fused! Think Like a Machine #1-4, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies hardcover, The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde hardcover and Wolverine/Captain America #1-4.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Dini leaves Warner Bros. Animation: How'd this slip under the collective radar? In a May 25 entry on his website, Paul Dini announced he's parting ways with Warner Bros. Animation:

A number of folks who visit this site have followed my writing and producing career at Warner Bros. Animation over the past fifteen years. It is now with a mixture of excitement and sadness that I announce, effective immediately, I am leaving WBA, at least for the foreseeable future. From assorted Spielbergia through Batmen present and future, onto Superman, Duck Dodgers and finally closing out on JLU and a certain super powered pup, I was lucky to work on some great projects with a truly gifted assortment of artists and writers. I’ll miss them Part of me hates to leave ol’ Termite Tower (the somewhat presumptuous name the Tiny Toons crew and I gave our digs in Sherman Oaks when we started back in, yikes, 1989!) but new opportunities are calling and it’s time for me to go. On the horizon I look forward to doing more live feature film writing, more comic book writing (my own characters and others) and generally stretching myself in other creative areas. But a nice long vacation is what I need right now and I think I’ll lose myself on a desert island for a while.
Expect more details, I suppose, when the news sites or Variety pounce on the story.

Separated by more than an ocean: PopMatters examines the strange and complex affair between French and American comic books:

"On the one hand the French find American comics incredibly crude, while on the other (or maybe to make up for what they perceive as the lack of attention by Americans) they reproduce them in lavish versions that look cool on any bookshelf. Then there is the subject matter: while the French might knock American superheroes as 'brainless macho violence,' how do you explain the obsessive fascination of all French comic creators with equally brainless, macho and violent American genres such as Westerns and gangster flicks?"

This edition of PopMatters also features reviews of Michael Chabon Presents: The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist and The One, The Last Word in Superheroics.

Child's play: Newsarama talks with Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba about Ursula, their "all ages" graphic novel from AiT/Planet Lar:

"We make our lives much more complicated then they should be, and this story is about how simpler life can be, simple like when we were kids, simple like when we fall in love. When you are a child, there are no mysteries in life, everything is what it looks like to be, and there are a lot less layers in our actions. When you are in love, everything seems to fit right into place in your life and you start to think and live better. So we wanted a simple story told in a simple way to would show that."

Hyde and seek: The Pulse has word that IDW Publishing has canceled Steve Niles' Hyde one-shot, originally scheduled for June, and will resolicit it for October. Nick Stakal will replace Aadi Salman as artist.

Slow. News. Day: Wow. There's nothing going on today. I guess the comics industry -- along with everyone else -- started the holiday weekend early.

The variant debate, part ... whatever: At, Peter DeFelice of Pyramid Comics and Cards says retailers need to tell Marvel to end its variant-cover policy:

"Didn't we learn from the past that endless variant covers, chromium editions and the like bring only short term buyers into our stores, over inflate the market, and in the end make us all look bad when their comics are worthless? If Marvel wants to put out variants, make them orderable as DC Comics does so the true fans don't feel left out."

Greatest hits: In advance of The Punisher's June 10 premiere in Malaysian theaters, The Star counts down Frank Castle's Top 10 comic-book appearances.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Royale mess: Japan's Mainichi Daily News reports that 10 Tokyo schoolboys inspired by the bloody film Battle Royale were arrested after a gang fight with teachers. The students, who sneaked into the school's PA room and blared the film's theme music before being stopped by teachers, are charged with obstruction of business and trespassing:

"We just loved the movie and wanted to run the theme song over the school PA system. Before we graduated, we wanted to create a legend."

A male teacher sustained a broken bone during the fight.

Touring McSweeney's: At Broken Frontier, Shawn Hoke (not a permalink) provides a guided tour of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern No. 13, "The Comics Issue" edited by Chris Ware:

"The artists chosen are among the best in cartooning and most of the stories are new, while others may have appeared in other venues. This book offers an excellent opportunity for the curious and the overwhelmed. If you have no idea where to start with quality art comics, this issue of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern collects some of the best creators telling stories that are unhampered by ridiculous continuity problems. The strength of this volume lies in the diversity of stories and styles it represents. This isn’t simply navel gazing or showing off for art’s sake, but rather a collections of stories and strips that elevate the medium from its bastard art status label, not that there’s anything wrong with bastard art, mind you."

The End is surely near: I just bought a subscription to Newtype. The weather forecast calls for black sun and blood-red moon. Keep your eyes peeled for white, red, black, and pale horses.

Bat repellent: Publishers Weekly (subscription required) provides an interesting assessment of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's Batman: Broken City:

"Broken City, reprinting a recent run of the Batman monthly, turns the Dark Knight over to scripter Azzarello and artist Risso, the team behind the nail-tough crime series 100 Bullets. Though initially eye-pleasing, it’s not much fun to read. The bewildering plot, concerning a murder investigation and a fistful of villains old and new, involves little method and much mayhem, all set to our hero’s voiceover musings—a hard-boiled narration that strains after effect. Azzarello’s Batman is a frankly repulsive figure, terrorizing and torturing his victims, moving among crooks like an old, incestuous acquaintance. Yet despite his encounters with thugs, cops and victims, he remains essentially alone. Predictably, he obsessively replays the scene of his parents’ murder—Batman’s primal scene—in familiar, Frank Miller-esque fashion (the usual traumatic montage). Azzarello ignores the character’s larger-than-life, Shadow-like grandeur, offering instead a crudely sadistic vigilante; worse yet, he forgets to humanize the very people for whom Batman supposedly undertakes his mission. As in 100 Bullets, Risso’s art is an eye-stopping consolation, blending noir-ish chiaroscuro and crisp, clear-line elegance (with nods to Miller and Tim Sale). Though Risso’s breakdowns can be perplexing, in general the images are sharp and startling, compensating to a degree for Azzarello’s unremitting bleakness, while partaking of the same grim attitude. In sum: graphically enticing, but confusing and, finally, repellent."

PW also reviews Seth's Clyde Fans: Book 1 ("quietly mesmerizing"), Peter Bagge's The Bradleys ("alternately hilarious and harrowing"), and others.

Not so magical? UPenn's Daily Pennsylvanian files a brief -- and disappointed -- report from last weekend's Wizard World East.

Summer reading: Seattle Weekly looks at some of the "cartoon books" coming out this summer, including The Glamour Girls of Bill Ward , Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America’s Forbidden Funnies, 1930s–1950s, The Complete Peanuts (1950–1952) and R. Crumb: The Comics Journal Library, Vol. 3.

Anime invasion: California's Metro Newspapers previews the 10th annual FanimeCon, which is expected to attract some 5,000 fans this weekend to the San Jose Convention Center:

"As ugly is to an ape, so is cute to anime. Because of dangerously soaring insulin levels among anime fans, organizers held a 200-word essay competition asking which anime character most deserved to be clubbed to pieces for the high crime of supercuteness. At the convention, the winning creature will be presented in piñata form for summary destruction. (pick Ed from Cowboy Bebop!)"

Life, less animated: In an ... unusual commentary at Tech Central Station, Doug Kern argues that soulless and non-violent cartoons lead to unimaginative and emotionally comatose teens (well, specifically, boys):

"I always assumed that the threat of litigation had driven violence from Saturday morning. After all, if you show Superman frying a supervillain with his heat vision on Saturday morning, then, sure enough, some idiot kid in Dubuque will fry his little brother with heat vision one fine Saturday afternoon, and then everyone loses except the lawyers. But I was wrong. Federal regulators, rather than nervous trial attorneys, wussified Saturday morning TV in the early seventies. Uncle Sam made our cartoons insipid, in the hope that a nice stiff dose of cultural chloroform would deaden our proto-male violent tendencies and transform us all into prissy poindexters who would eat our vegetables, sit still in our seats, and eventually vote for French-speaking politicians."

Comics classified: The Virginian-Pilot takes notice of an unusual classified ad -- "A comic book collection: $500,000; yard swing, $50; small fridge, $50. Stuff" -- and talks to Gloria Query about selling her late husband's collection:

"I can’t tell you how. But I’m going to make over a quarter-million off that comic-book ad. Good things are already starting to happen."

Taking a jab at censorship: The Troy (N.Y.) Record previews "The Joy of Censorship," the one-man show by MAD Magazine senior editor Joe Raiola that takes a satirical look at First Amendment issues, and touches on the problems faced by MAD in the 1950s.

The art of comics: The Miami Herald spotlights artist Andy Warner, who teaches a monthly workshop for kids on how to creat comic books:

"The dynamism [of cartoons] can capture so many emotions. You can tell great stories. It's a dynamic form of self-expression, and I like to help people let themselves out through their drawings."

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Press to play: It was only a matter of time, I suppose. Marvel has announced it's creating an imprint called Marvel Press to produce prose books based on its characters. First up, Mary Jane II in June, followed by a "fantasy Wolverine title for adults," then a "middle-grade" Spider-Man book. Ruwan Jayatilleke left Scholastic's Book Group in April to edit the imprint.

DC, by the numbers: At The Pulse, Marc-Oliver Frisch checks in with a look at DC's month-to-month sales, noting solid increases by the publisher's "critical darlings," Birds of Prey, My Faith in Frankie and Y: The Last Man. Another critical favorite, Gotham Central, seems to have stopped its slow decline (and sales of its first trade are respectable).

The Losers, too, seems to be leveling out. But life doesn't look so good for DC's new Focus line, which continues to hemorrhage readers.

Wonder years: At Polite Dissent, Scott mourns the loss of that sense of wonder comics once held, and considers what should be done to attract a new generation of readers:

"When I was younger, comics were easily available. I would run down the block to the corner drugstore once every couple of weeks to buy some comics to read. I would scan the racks, and pick-up the comics with the most exciting and enticing covers first. The stories were easily accessible. I could tell what was going on even if I had never read the title before. The stories also had action; not necessarily fights, but there was a definite sense of story progression from the start to the end of the issue. An occasional cliff-hanger was fine, but most stories were self contained. I would read and re-read them until the books were on the verge of falling apart. The price was right; with a couple of crumpled dollar bills, I could buy at least four comics."

Legion found: Newsarama confirms that Mark Waid and Barry Kitson will revamp Legion of Super-Heroes, beginning with Teen Titans #17, continuing through September's Teen Titans/Legion Special and culminating in December's Legion of Super-Heroes #1:

"I loved Legion Lost and admired the forward-thinking science-fiction elements Abnett, Lanning and their co-conspirators brought to the series. That said, I think every creator working on the book since longtime writer Paul Levitz left over 15 years ago -- including me -- has been continually shackled by an ever-changing, ever-morphing continuity that’s continually weakened the Legion’s very foundation. With all the earth-shattering, world-redefining events that are happening in the present-day DCU in general in the next year or so, DC felt that there’d be no better opportunity to rethink and redefine the future as well."

Worley, family in need: The Pulse passes along news of writer Kate Worley's battle with cancer, and the plea for donations to help her family keep their home.

The one about the retailer: At Silver Bullet Comic Books, "The Panel" tackles "the shortsightedness of retailers":

The shortsightedness of retailers predominantly ordering from only the Diamond Top 50 will kill the comics industry. Discuss.
Retailer Stephen Holland: "By restricting the diversity of comics available on the shelves for the public to buy, the retailers in this industry are restricting the diversity of potential customers, and thereby their ability to generate income. The most catastrophic effect of which is that the creators of the material which we so desperately need to reach literate adults -- those 99% of the population who prefer straight fiction, autobiography, adult fantasy, humour, crime, politics and the downright weird -- aren’t making enough money to produce comics regularly. Some have a day job instead. Some may give this medium up for good. ...

"... If more retailers stocked these creators’ comics, the shops would make more money and the creators would make more money, then the creators would be able to produce comics more often, and then everyone would be making more money."

Dark Horse's Scott Allie: "The question immediately craps on retailers for making conservative business choices in a dangerous and some would say dying direct market. It's not shortsightedness if it's the only way they can keep their doors open. If the retailers are shortsighted, so are the readers, the publishers, and, yes, even the creators. ...

"... Business As Usual in all its ugly forms is what will team up like the Fatalistic Fifteen to destroy comics. What will save it is publishers, editors, creators, retailers, marketers, and websites all expecting the best of themselves and those they control to present the best material and push it on the most people. I don't think there's near enough of that going on."

Future Entertainment's Bob Layton: "It’s killing me and most Indy publishers. No one can blame the retailers, most of which are hanging on by their fingertips. However, that practice almost insures that the same 'cookie cutter' products are going to be jammed down their throats on a monthly basis. Look -- as a former executive of a shareholder-run company, the bottom line is 'units sold' -- regardless of what those units represent. Fifteen monthly X-Men books guarantee a certain amount of units to the company’s bottom line. So, it becomes a vicious cycle that eventually will eliminate product diversity."

Donna Barr, who always has a great response: "They keep saying that. I keep waiting for that to happen. Somebody let me know if that ever happens. In the meantime, I refuse to be part of the 700th panic or discussion of this subject. Been there, done that."

Little Archie collected: also has news that Archie Comics will release a 96-page Little Archie Comics trade paperback, collecting stories from 1961 to 1965. The collection, which has a $10.95 cover price, will ship on Sept. 21.

Mmm BOP: reports that Boomerang is airing the original "Sandy Frank" episodes of Battle of the Planets at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sundays and 1 a.m. Mondays:

"The return of this series, which inspired Alex Ross and numerous other artists with its unique character design, is good news for retailers. In addition to Battle of the Planets action figures from Diamond Select, Top Cow is planning another six-issue Battle of the Planets mini-series for the fall, and Rhino has released six individual BOP DVDs (containing the first 12 episodes) and one Ultimate BOP box set (with the next 12)."

Drawing cartoonists: The Kansas City Star (registration required) previews the 58th annual Reuben Awards Weekend, the convention of the National Cartoonists Society, held Friday through Sunday in Kansas City.

Best of the best: In its annual "Best of San Francisco" issue, SF Weekly has named Graham Annable (Grickle and Further Grickle) as Best Unknown Local Cartoonist:

"Maybe it's because he's originally from Ontario, Canada, but Graham Annable draws cartoons that lack the cynical, biting tone of many other Bay Area comics. Annable's collections, Grickle and Further Grickle (published by Alternative Comics), don't feature ennui-ridden art-school rejects like Adrian Tomine's or misanthropic freaks like Dan Clowes'. There certainly aren't any big-butted lascivious lasses, as in R. Crumb's tomes. Instead, Annable showcases simple folk undergoing simple tasks, like trying to get rid of a cough, weaseling a ride to a party, or attempting to keep a dog from eating a neighbor's wombat. But Annable's elastic facial expressions, superb comic timing, and wonderfully patient pacing -- probably learned from his other career as a video game animator at LucasArts -- make the regular Joes seem far more human than those of his peers. Of course, he's not above a little fart humor as well, as when a grandfather attempts to pass off his flatulence as gassy cloud children trapped in his belly. Hee haw."

(Link via Silver Bullet Comic Books.)

Witch craft, Part 2: Following on the heels of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press spotlights Tania del Rio, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design graduate who's giving Sabrina the Teenage Witch a manga overhaul.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Yes, I'm self-promoting again: Digital Webbing Presents #17, which includes my 16-page "Bad Elements: Good For the Soul," has been assigned its order code (is that what they're called?) from Diamond for June Previews: JUN04 2442. It's set for an August release. This issue is 40 pages (no ads), with a full-color cover and a black-and-white interior. The price? Just $2.95.

In "Bad Elements: Good For the Soul," two police detectives are called to a retirement home to listen to the ravings of a senile resident. But what begins as a routine visit quickly turns into a tale of murder, magic ... and frogs. Art is by Brian Churilla, with grayscales by Eric Erbes. This is the second installment of "Bad Elements"; the first stand-alone story appeared in DWP #11.

I now return you to regular blogging, already in progress.

Sketching Dave Johnson: At The Pulse, Atomeka Press' Ross Richie talks with Dave Johnson about his comics career, and why he draws covers instead of interiors:

"I was pretty lucky early on. I guess somebody recognized that I could actually design a halfway decent cover, so I got to do most of my own covers early on. When it finally came to the point when I realized I couldn’t make a living drawing interiors, I was just too slow and it was just taking too much out of me, doing covers was a nice little option. What really sealed the deal was getting a job in animation, having a 40 hour week dedicated to that job pretty much guarantees that I don’t have the time to do interiors. And frankly, interiors takes so much effort to do for so little pay-off when I can do a cover and get as much if not more exposure for doing the cover than doing all of the interiors. I’ve always been more of a singular artist image anyway. I think my storytelling is all right, but I tend to like to get in and get out because I get bored real easy and when you’re drawing a huge comic book project and you’re drawing the same characters over and over again, it tends to wear on me pretty bad. Makes Dave an unhappy boy. Covers are a nice little solution to that problem."

The Dave Johnson Sketchbook ships this July from Atomeka.

Local Dead Boy does good: The Providence (R.I.) Journal profiles local creator Eric Lebow, who publishes comics through his own Dead Boy Press.

Marvel, by the numbers: At The Pulse, Paul O'Brien examines Marvel's month-to-month sales, noting that orders for the first post-Morrison issue of New X-Men fell by 14.6 percent:

"But let's not jump to conclusions. This month's NEW X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN issues were effectively promoted as fill-in stories. Issues #155-156 are the first issues by the new creative team of Chuck Austen and Salvador Larroca, but Marvel have promoted May's X-MEN #157 as the real beginning of their run. Fill-in issues never sell that well, and the book should get a big push in the May chart thanks to Reload. Next month's chart will be the first real test of Austen and Larroca's success on this book."

However, he is puzzled by the 27-percent drop between Issues 4 and 5 of The Punisher. There doesn't seem to be a good explanation for that one.

I'm fascinated by the freefall of Venom, which started out a year ago as the strongest of the Tsunami launch, with sales of some 92,592. Now, 13 issues later, it's at 27,537 and falling. I can't understand why major editorial changes weren't made months ago. Silver Surfer isn't faring much better, though. Flip a coin to see which gets axed first.

Stop the presses! Movie Poop Shoot's prodigal son A.K. returns for a two-week engagement, filing the first entertaining installment of a two-part Q&A with NYC Mech creators Ivan Brandon, Miles Gunter and Andy MacDonald. He also references Gay Talese.

A very Sammy interview: Digital Webbing talks with Sammy creator Azad about Tourist Trap and A Very Sammy Day:

"By design, Sammy is such a flexible character that I can plug him into virtually anything my muse comes up with. I’ve got literally dozens of short stories and mini series ideas to keep me busy for years to come. No two stories are alike. I’ve got everything from Seinfeld-like stories about the mundane to epic world conspiracy stories to sci-fi. What ties them all together is this unfortunate soul named Sammy whose bad luck gets him in over his head. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all I need."

Philadelphia experiment: In this week's "Pipeline," Augie De Blieck Jr. files his report from Wizard World East, and it's not that flattering to Dan DiDio and the DC panel:

"DiDio did the slide show presentation, highlighting a couple dozen series with short corny write-ups, as is the DC norm. The only problem is that he had no other clue what to do past that. On the dais with him were Howard Porter, Tom Raney, Justin Gray, Mike Turner, Ron Garney, and Dan Jolley. DiDio took a half hour to give the slideshow presentation and then opened up the floor to questions which ranged the gamut, only half of which could be touched upon by the people on the panel. The disorganization wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that DiDio acted like a drunken lout through most of it, giggling at his own jokes and several others that went unheard. I could be charitable and think of it as a nervous reaction to the flop sweat appearing on his brow, I suppose. The best he could come up with was asking creators on the panel what they thought of books they had nothing to do with - or which had just come out three days ago. When one mentioned he hadn't read the book yet that DiDio was asking him about, DiDio mockingly (I hope!) scolded him for not reading through his comp box. The book just came out on Wednesday! Comp boxes are monthly, if I've heard correctly.

"It was so bad that there were two running jokes that comprised the majority of the dais conversation. 'It's the best book I've ever read' and 'she's a lesbian.' Truly, it was a shining moment for DC."

(And thanks for the plug, Augie.)

Astonishing revelations: UnderGroundOnline talks with Joss Whedon about Astonishing X-Men and the Firefly movie:

"It's not like I ran home and said, 'Honey I'm going to be making those big comic book dollars.' If I did a comic, my first instinct would be to do something that I created because I have things to say. Most of the things I have done have been owned by 90 different people. A comic book is something you can't make your own, but the bottom line is that it's the X-Men. That was Joe's trump card. I love that team, I loved what Grant was doing with them, and I grew up with them as much as I can I say I've grown up. The idea that I was going to spend a year telling them what to say and do made me just about as happy as any geek has ever been. I did it for the happiness."

This part made me laugh, though, on a couple of levels:

UGO: "Are you going to pull a Ben Edlund and put out twelve issues in five years, or go at a faster pace like Kevin Smith?"

Whedon: [laughs] "Fray was in the Edlund/Smith mode of storytelling. I don't have a choice this time. I signed a contract to meet deadlines. I know how Marvel works and I take it seriously. I'm not running three shows, so to me this is my TV show this year. It's going to air, so I better get to making it."

Top Cow discovers manga: also reports that Top Cow is playing catch-up by releasing a 128-page, digest-size, black and white trade at "a manga-like price point of $9.99." The book, called Myth Warriors, pushes all the right buttons: skateboarding teen, magic amulet, giant mecha warrior, and a fight to save the Earth.

Dark Horse turns to prose: reports that Dark Horse has officially announced the formation of two prose imprints, M Press and DH Press:

"M Press, the more literary of the new ventures, will include both fiction and non-fiction titles. Its first release, Shanghai Diary, is a remarkable story of the survival of a Jewish family trapped in the Far East during World War II."

It's also been reported that Bob Andelman's Will Eisner: A Spirited Life biography will be published under the imprint.

DH Press will concentrate on genre fiction and pop-culture material, including novelizations of manga titles, and original military science fiction. Publishers Group West will distribute the imprints to the book market.

Marvel and Lion's Gate expand deal: Reuters reports that Marvel has signed a deal with Lion's Gate Entertainment to develop eight animated DVDs based on its comic characters. This expands a distribution agreement that already includes films based on Black Widow and Iron Fist.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Gutter snipes: Rich Johnston marks the 100th installment of "Lying In The Gutters" with a few interesting tidbits:
* Although there's no "light" to indicate the reliability of the item, it seems Micah Wright has been fired from the final issue of Stormwatch. Chalk it up to Rangergate or an unlikely deadline disagreement.
* Josh Middleton's Sky Between Branches could be brought under Marvel's Icon imprint (along with something by Gaiman).
* I can't figure out who the artist is with the initials "SMG" who's supposedly working on an Ultimate Captain America miniseries with Mark Millar. But I'm not sure that I care.

Philly Vertigo: Comics Continuum has a little more coverage from Wizard World East's Vertigo panel. Of particular interest:

* The Losers' second trade paperback, Double Down, is set for November release.
* Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol will be collected, with the first volume to be released in September with a new Brian Bolland cover and three never-before-seen pages. The second volume, which includes art from Morrison, will be released in December.
* Morrison and Frank Quitely's We3 will ship bimonthly, and Vimanarama will launch in January.
* Mike Kaluta is the new cover artist for Lucifer.
* Richard Corben is the artist for Swamp Thing #7-8, a fill-in story written by Will Pfeiffer. A permanent writer hasn't been selected.

Raising hell: Writing for Publishers Weekly (subscription required), Heidi MacDonald reports on the brisk sales of the Hellboy trade paperbacks, spurred by release of the film:

"At the beginning of May, the book was number 1 on Bookscan's graphic novel list, and there are five Hellboy titles among the top 100. The first book, Seed of Destruction, which formed the rough basis of the movie, quickly sold 20,000 copies, about half through bookstores, and now has sold about 40,000. Hellboy: Wake the Devil has sold close to 20,000 copies. Early demand outstripped the available supply; additional books had to be air freighted to the U.S. from China. 'It did exceed our wildest expectations,' said Michael Martens, Dark Horse v-p of business development."

Legal challenge: The San Jose Mercury News reports the California Supreme Court on Thursday will hear arguments in a 2001 case involving a high school student was convicted in juvenile court of violating a criminal threats statute after handing "dark poetry" to a classmate. The poem read, in part, "I can be the next kid to bring guns to kill students at school":

"For school officials and law enforcement, the case is seen as an opportunity for the state's high court to provide guidance for when something a student has said or written should be sufficient to warrant a trip into the juvenile justice system. School officials have increasingly turned over cases of threatening behavior to police, prompting concerns among civil liberties groups that normal student expressions of inner turmoil are being treated like crimes instead of social and mental health problems."

The student's cause has been championed by Michael Chabon and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, among others. "If students are punished for doing what psychologists and school counselors say they should do, they will not stop having bad feelings," the CBLDF wrote in briefs to the court. "But they will stop expressing them."

Reading room: The Seattle Times reports on the opening of the $165.5 million Seattle Central Library, which features a spacious Young Adult section stocked with manga and graphic novels. Photos of the incredible new structure can be found here.

They walk among us! In this week's installment of "The Comic Pimp," James Sime looks at the "zombie contagion," giving a rundown of books like The Walking Dead, Dead@17, Lone, The Goon and Demo #6.

Angels in America: Mike Allred talks to Newsarama about his next project, an adaptation of The Book of Mormon called The Golden Plates: The Shape of All Things:

"Think It’s A Wonderful Life meets Conan the Barbarian! There's no other book that is so rich with adventure, action, romance, courage, beauty, and spiritual enlightenment; at least, none that I'm aware of. At the very least it's a phenomenal story rich with visual power. So, if I pull it off. It'll be the most significant thing I'll ever be a part of."

The shipping news: One more stop at Ninth Art, with a look at "The Forecast" for books shipping this week. Their book of the week is Tristan Crane and Ted Naifeh's How Loathsome.

Continuity crises: Also at Ninth Art, Paul O'Brien looks at the pleasures and perils of comics continuity:

"Because of the way the audience has been trained to respond, continuity still means money. So commercial pressures lead publishers to fudge the issue. Stories with glaring continuity obstacles will be blithely asserted as canonical, regardless. On occasion, stories that aren't in continuity at all will be released without actually clarifying the point, in the hope that nobody will notice. The current PUNISHER series appears to be out of continuity, for example (it gives a completely irreconcilable version of Microchip's history). God only knows whether ROSE AND THORN is meant to be in DC continuity. I spent half an hour trying to work it out, and I was left none the wiser."

Coming to terms with terror: At Ninth Art, Chris Ekman wonders why comics aren't realistically addressing terrorism:

"The highest-profile post-9/11 attempt came, naturally, in CAPTAIN AMERICA, in a 2002 arc written by John Ney Reiber that pitted the patriotic hero against a stand-in for Osama bin Laden, but nonetheless attempted to be even-handed. Paul O'Brien wrote an admirable and comprehensive takedown of the story at the time; for this article, I only need to talk about the villain, Faysal al-Tariq.

"In his showdown with Cap, al-Tariq explains that he hates America because his poor unnamed country-of-origin was used as a proxy battleground in the Cold War, and American-funded guerrillas murdered his father as he was out tilling the fields. This in no way resembles the actual experience of bin Laden, member of a wealthy and highly-favoured commercial family in Saudi Arabia, then as now one of the US's most cosseted client states. Apparently Reiber - or quite possibly his editor - can't imagine anybody hating America without having been personally wronged by it."

On the upswing? In its analysis of Diamond's Top 300 for April, reports that sales were up again last month, with a 6 percent overall increase over April 2003. That follows a 15 percent increase in March. The site also notes that Diamond shipped more than 230,000 copies of Superman #204:

"Piece sales on top comics dipped somewhat vs. March, with 17 of the top 25 titles down, and only five up. The bottom of the list was also weaker than March -- the bottom book in March sold 1901 copies; in April, only 950."

As usual, ICv2 has sales estimates for single issues and graphic novels. In single-issue sales, six of the top 10 titles broke the 100,000 mark. The first non-DC or Marvel title on the chart was Dark Horse's Conan #3, checking in at #34 with an estimated 48,588 copies. DC/Vertigo's Bite Club #1, which held the 100th spot, sold just 24,043 copies.

With the exception of Spider-Girl, Marvel has held firm to its imaginary Line of Death, with all of its recently canceled titles hovering below or slightly above the 20,000 mark: Captain Marvel #22 (21,742), Elektra #35 (20,313), Runaways #14 (19,363), Hawkeye #7 (16,607), Inhumans #12 (15,696) and Human Torch #12 (13,168). Spider-Girl #72 sold some 20,533 copies.

At DC/Vertigo/WildStorm, the Line of Death isn't so cut and dry, with titles such as Gotham Central, Hellblazer, Lucifer, The Losers and Plastic Man falling, in some cases, well below 20,000. Of course, most of those see new life in their collected editions (and the first Gotham Central trade clocked in at #16 on the Diamond graphic novel list).

Carey on Elektra: Comic Book Resources talks with Mike Carey about writing the Ultimate Elektra miniseries for Marvel:

"... I came out of exclusive with DC in March - at the very end of March - and I came out with a yen to write a strong superhero book. Partly this was because I wanted to show that I could, and partly it was because I grew up immersed in that tradition, reading all the DC and Marvel superhero books I could get my hands on, so I've always wanted to write something in that genre.

"So anyway, I was talking to editors both at Marvel and at DC about possible projects that I could work on, and the Elektra miniseries was mentioned as a possibility by Ralph and Nick at Marvel. And I pitched for it. I think they were looking at ideas from a number of other people, too, but they liked my take on the character and my ideas for where to go with a five-part story arc. So they gave me the green light, and here I am. Having a great time, I have to say."

POW! reshuffling: Arturion Entertainment announced today that it has "completed the reorganization" with Stan Lee's POW! Entertainment, meaning that POW! will become its wholly owned subsidiary.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

More from Philadelphia: Comics Continuum files its reports from Wizard World East, and includes some nuggets left out of the coverage by Newsarama and The Pulse. Some highlights:

* In his "Cup o' Joe" panel, Quesada mentioned that Garth Ennis will be working on another Marvel character "very soon," and that Neil Gaiman will have another project for the publisher next year.
* During the Avengers panel, editor Tom Brevoort said Captain Marvel will reappear in another title, but not The Avengers.
* In the DC/WildStorm panel, Dan DiDio said Andy Diggle and Pascual Ferry's Adam Strange miniseries "will reset the science-fiction aspect of the DC Universe." In what may or may not be an unrelated statement, he also said there are plans for Mister Miracle and the New Gods.

Hansen's comics cycle: talks with pro cyclist, journalist, novelist and sometimes comics writer Matt Hansen, who reveals he's about to return to one of his first loves -- comics:

"I have been given a shot to try my hand at working with the Transformer comics, with Dreamwave productions. I'm really excited about that and I hope it will go well for me."

Review revue: The San Francisco Chronicle briefly reviews Michael Chabon Presents: The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist Vol. One:

"You don't have to have read Kavalier and Clay to enjoy these snappy little vignettes of costumed superheroics, but readers with a sense of the history of American comics will appreciate the sly jokes and loving inside references. Told in a variety of styles -- from Japanese manga to grim 'n' gritty '70s urban drama -- these short tales capture the pulpy fun of a bygone era. The contributors' enthusiasm for the material is evident on every page."

Old Boy takes second prize: Korean director Park Chan-wook's Old Boy, based on the Japanese manga about a man who is kidnapped and tortured for 15 years, won the Grand Prize of the Jury (second prize) on Saturday at the Cannes Film Festival. The Korea Times has the story.

Rising Talent: The Clarksville (Tenn.) Leaf-Chronicle profiles local native Daryl (a k a Talent) Caldwell, focusing on his rise in the industry and his recent stint on Superman: Godfall. The article is littered with errors, from identifying Michael Turner as owner of Image Comics (a "graphics firm") to referring to Caldwell's first published work as Fanthom: Killian's Tide.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Brubaker assembled: It's all Wizard World East, all the time! In a disjointed report from Marvel's Avengers panel, The Pulse has news that Ed Brubaker will work on an Avengers story after the "Avengers Disassembled" event. It's not clear how that fits into Brian Michael Bendis' relaunched series, though.

And because the joke apparently never gets old, Joe Quesada pretended to call DC's Dan Didio and say, "Sorry we are taking all your talent, sorry we have a 45% market share."

Update: In its coverage, Newsarama contacted Brubaker for comment:

"I can't comment, other than to say that yes, I accepted the job. I start work after my exclusive ends, so it's going to be tight, but I'm really psyched about it.

"I'm not leaving DC or WS, I still have a lot of work there, and I have no problems with them, I just got a nice job offer that I couldn't turn down, and I wanted to go freelance for a while anyway."

Quesada panel highlights: Newsarama reports on the "Cup o' Joe" panel at Wizard World East. Some of the highlights:

* Ultimates Vol. 2, No. 1 is tentatively scheduled for October. Now placing bets ...
* A new Black Widow series, by Richard K. Morgan and Bill Sienkiewicz, will launch in September.
* Quesada said Astonishing X-Men #1 sold "an amazing amount of copies" -- some 225,000, according to Newsarama sources.
* Bryan Singer's run on Ultimate X-Men is targeted for the first quarter of 2005.
* A Ghost Rider series is set for early next year. Could it be the Dan Wickline/Ben Templesmith pitch?
* And last, but certainly not least, the long-promised Dr. Strange miniseries, by J. Michael Straczynski and Brandon Peterson, will debut in September. It's a Year One "ground-level take of the character."

Runaways on hold: Newsarama talks with Brian K. Vaughan about the future of Runaways, which sees its "season finale" with Issue 18. What's "season finale" mean? Eh, that's not entirely clear:

"After giving it a ton of thought, I came up with what I think is a really cool new direction for the book. It will still be called Runaways, and it will still be a parable about kids surviving the evils of the adult world, but our heroes will be in an all-new setting and have an all-different purpose. And since not everyone makes it out of issue #18 alive, we might even introduce a few new runaways -- and villains -- to the roster, too.

"But don't worry, the book isn't going to become West Coast Avengers or New Warriors Jr. or Wolverine and the Runaways. Our book is set in the Marvel Universe, and I'm not at all opposed to finding unexpected ways to further integrate our characters into that world -- I think our Cloak and Dagger crossover was one of our better stories, but the higher-ups at Marvel definitely understand that the series works because it's fun and different and new, and they're not going to kill what makes the book special in order to save it."

Marvel in August (again): Marvel's August solicitations were leaked on Thursday, but now the "official" information has been released, complete with cover images. Wow. Not even a Tony Harris cover for Identity Disc #3 can lift Marvel's covers above blah. Takeshi Miyazawa's cover for Mary Jane #3 is appropriately playful, though, even if it is just a pinup.

Trade listings can be found here.

By book or by nook: Singapore's Straits Times looks at the creative methods some bookstores are using to lure customers. In one secondhand bookstore, called ink, sandwiches and soups are served as customers relax on plush sofas amid shelves divided into categories like "Weird" and "Quirky." A Japanese eatery called Cafe Bon Gout has shelves full of manga and other books.

A first? Hispanic Business reports on the arrival of Americo, which it calls "the first Latino superhero." The comic book, created by Eli Hernandez, is scheduled for September release:

"Americo is a first in many ways. He was chosen by the people, by the spirits of our people and our land; he's not an accident of nature. He didn't become a superhero because he was bitten by an insect, and he didn't come from another world."

Tomb raiders: Comic Book Resources has a brief interview with Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, who provide an 18-page preview of their upcoming graphic novel The Tomb, illustrated by Christopher Mitten.

Eastern owner sentenced: The Hartford Courant (registration required) reports that A. Robert Palmer, former owner of Eastern Color Printing, was sentenced to three years' probation for his role in a bad-check scheme to keep his company afloat. In 1933, Eastern Color published Funnies on Parade, considered the country's first modern comic book.

Friday, May 21, 2004

X-panel: Newsarama reports from the Wizard World East X-Men panel, where the long-rumored Nightcrawler series was announced, but with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Marvel Knights 4) as writer instead of Chuck Austen. Darick Robertson will pencil the series, which launches in September.

A new What If? series also was announced: " Ideally, creators currently on specific characters will be tapped for stories, rather than bringing in outside creators."

Turning Japanese: The Albuquerque Tribune takes note of the rising popularity of Japanese culture in the United States:

"Japanese animation is a $19 billion industry in Japan and makes up about $106 billion of the country's gross domestic product -- that's half the country's car industry.

"In the United States, Japanese animation has grown into more than a $100 million industry, with anime far surpassing manga in popularity."

Spreading the Word: Today's Christian looks at Christian-themed comics, focusing on Jim Krueger and Metron Press.

Marvel stock sale triggers drop: Reuters reports that Marvel Enterprises stocks fell 5 percent today after Vice Chairman Isaac Perlmutter and Chief Creative Officer Avi Arad sold a portion of their stake in the company.

Oppenheimer analyst Peter Mirsky: "It's not a positive signal, ahead of Spider-Man 2 coming out. That said, Spider-Man 2 should be a positive for the stock. Both of these executives have sold shares in the past."

Marvel spokesman Matt Finick: "These are executives that have a lot of wealth tied up in shares. They are simply diversifying their portfolio."

Making a Difference: The Pulse chats with Eisner nominee Derek Kirk Kim about his influences, his career and his advice for aspiring comics creators:

"Do what you want to do. Do what you love. Don't pander to others or do something you think other people will like. Do what makes you like yourself in the morning."

Variations on the theme: At Newsarama, retailer Rick Shea examines the financial burden Marvel's variant-cover policy places on retailers, and what the return to multiple covers could mean to the industry:

"The good news on the variant front is that every copy of both covers of S/B #10 and Superman #205 will sell for cover price and not a penny more, at least initially, because they ship in equal numbers. Although, and not letting DC get off the hook, compulsive fans will want both covers, which will boost sales. Retailers who realized this increased their orders accordingly.

"On the Marvel side, the bad news is that an obsessive compulsive collector will have to shell out possibly as much as $100 for the level one cover of AXM # 1 and then as much as $10 to $20 for the level two cover, depending on where you get it. The irony is that Marvel will not see any extra money for these actual variants, but instead will see the money from the other books you have to buy to get those variants. So NXAX will be much higher on the sales charts that month (and that month only) than most retailers actually believe they can sell, thanks to the artificially inflated numbers. On the upside, I'm sure with this second variant that Marvel will indeed get that coveted number one spot edging out the tagteam of S/B #10 and Superman #205.

"Here’s the burn -- most people won't pay the ridiculous prices for the variants, but the completists will indeed give an arm and a leg to get a copy, and that's the part that I think could kill the industry. Someone spending up to $100 for a new comic when that could buy them 40 other great issues is a big waste of money. I won't hold back saying that. There are more good comics out now than there have been in a long time, and I'd hate for those 40 issues not to sell so that someone can have that uber-incentive cover with the same story as the $2.99 comic. I feel the same way about the CGC garbage with grading and slabbing new comics at 9.8 and selling them for ridiculous prices. Another thing the industry can do without."

Return of the Eagle: Silver Bullet Comic Books reports that the UK's presitious Eagle Awards will return after a four-year absence. The awards ceremony will be held in November at the UK Comic Expo in Bristol.

(Barnes &) Noble causes: At, the Barnes & Noble controversy continues, with's Andy Eaton weighing in on the limited edition Ultimate Spider-Man hardcover:

"So, what is our response to B&N's move? We admire it. We do not begrudge anyone's decision to purchase an exclusive. In fact, we would do the same if the right opportunity presented itself. The move by B&N appears calculated to take advantage of the Spider-Man 2 movie hype and will likely introduce new readers into the industry, not a bad side effect. Instead of demonizing either B&N or Marvel (or both), we evaluate our position and react accordingly. It would be arrogant for us to assume that we do not have to respond to these competitive pressures or that we are somehow 'owed' something by comic book publishers. I know that B&N (and the rest of the mass-market) touch a different customer than the direct market. Sure, there is some overlap, but for Marvel not to attempt to tap this market in the midst of Spider-Man 2 would be an opportunity lost. Besides, Marvel has not left the direct market 'high and dry.' The publisher has given direct market retailers the incentives it needs to more effectively compete with B&N on Ultimate Spider-Man specifically. It is up to the retailer to make the most of the opportunity presented."

Retailer Daniel McAbee recommends that comic shops not surrender to the likes of Barnes & Noble, but instead "get off our collective butts and compete":

"We have formed a Manga Buyers Club card to give to our customers to give them an incentive to purchase ALL of their product from us. When they fill their punch card with $12 minimum purchases, they get a $10 credit to use on anything in the store. We are also offering a 'Money-Back Rack' of risk free mange for them to try. In the past we had more manga titles than anyone, and we still have a substantial lead, but with more and more attention from the Big Boxes, that may not be the case by years end. We are trying to act now to minimize the damage that they can do to our customer base by giving them incentives to stay loyal. It used to be easy to be in the Manga game, but now we have to work harder to make the same money from the same buyers.

"As far as the B&N exclusives go, I have always had the B&N Marvel Masterworks to sell to my customers at regular retail thanks to bulk buying of them from my local store. I have already placed an order for the Ultimate Spider-Man as well. I encourage everyone to do the same if they are interested in having the books for themselves."

Shell of a movie? In its coverage of the Cannes Film Festival, Daily Variety calls Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence "a major let-down," and wonders why it was chosen for Cannes over Casshern, "which bests Innocence in inventiveness and sheer excitement at every level."

Witch craft: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune (registration required) carries this blurb on Tania del Rio, winner of Tokyopop's Rising Stars of Manga contest and new creator on Archie Comics' Sabrina the Teenage Witch:

"Who says majoring in comics will get you nowhere? Tania del Rio, a 2002 MCAD grad, has been hired to hip up the image at New York-based Archie Comics Publications by making over Sabrina the Teenage Witch in manga style. (Archie and crew were deemed too hopelessly square for such an update). Although Sabrina, who has been casting spells since 1962, has enjoyed renewed popularity due to the TV series, her print persona was overdue for a makeover. Del Rio, who grew up reading the series, is now in charge of both illustrating and writing the new manga Sabrina, which debuts in June. See, Mom and Dad? Told you so."

Pekar, on tour: Australia's Sydney Morning Herald talks with Harvey Pekar in advance of his Sunday appearance at the Sydney Writers' Festival:

"I've never made any money in comic books, despite the fact I've been written about in The New York Times. My stuff, it's kinda grim and even underground comic readers want a little more action, they want more sex ... I'm the same person with the same insights."

Wonder women: The New York Times reviews the work of Icelandic pop-artist Erro, whose "Femme Fatale" exhibit at the Goethe Institute features brightly colored paintings of powerful women, including Wonder Woman and other comic-book heroines.

Ex Machina images: Comic Book Resources concludes its preview of WildStorm's Ex Machina with a sneak peek at color pages from Issue 1.

Better dead than Red, redux: Writing for The Washington Times, David Eldridge bemoans Superman's current place in popular culture, where he's forced to shill for American Express or battle teen angst in "a darn-near-unwatchable" TV series. But Eldridge insists the Man of Steel's worst indignity is defending Communism in Superman: Red Son, written by Mark Millar, who, apparently, "earned his name in the comics biz by introducing the world's first homosexual superheroes":

"Save the world a couple of times over, and what do you get? Batman's always sneering at your sense of duty. Wonder Woman won't give you the time of day. And then there's always some cynic like Mr. Millar who wants to be The One Who Destroyed Superman."

Speaking of shilling, Superman returns today for the second American Express "webisode" with Jerry Seinfeld.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Retail roller-coaster: The Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press looks at the ups and downs of comics retailing, spotlighting Tardy's Collector's Corner, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, but also noting the overall decline in the number of stores:

"There were once 19 comic book stores here; now there are about eight. There is no shortage of those who enjoy the hobby, but there is a limit to how much they are willing to spend."

The comics jones: I took my once-in-a-blue-moon pilgrimage to the region's one good comic shop this afternoon, and loaded up on books both old and new:

* Julius, by Antony Johnston and Brett Welder
* Bite Club #2, by Howard Chaykin, David Tischman and David Hahn (I wasn't overly impressed with the first issue, but I'm giving it a second chance)
* Demo #5-6, by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan
* Gotham Central #19, by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark
* The Losers #11, by Andy Diggle and Jock
* Seaguy #1, by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart
* District X #1, by David Hine and David Yardin
* Wizard Edge (yeah, it's been that long since I've been to a good comic shop)
* Catwoman: Selina's Big Score hardcover, by Darwyn Cooke
* Sleeper #1-3, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (for a friend; they were out of the trades)
* Newtype #5
So, I should be set, at least for a couple of weeks. Heck, if I come off my comics high, I may even crank out a couple of reviews this weekend ...

Idol chatter: J. Torres and Comic Book Resources are back for another round of Comic Book Idol. The open call begins May 27.

August leaks: The Newsarama message board has Marvel's August solicitations, which include the "season finale" of Runaways, the last issue of X-Statix, the previously mentioned launch of Ultimate Nightmare, and an Ultimate Elektra miniseries by Mike Carey (Vertigo's Hellblazer and Lucifer). Of particular note:

* The "Avengers Disassembled" storyline continues in Avengers #501, "guest-starring every Avenger ... ever!"

* If that's not enough, there's the Avengers #500 Director's Cut, complete with foil-enhanced cover and behind-the-scenes extras. You've been warned.

* I still don't know how I feel about the new Invaders series.

* While the "Reload" event continues with Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld's X-Force #1, Chris Claremont trots out X-Men: The End, Book One: Dreamers & Demons #1-2. I just wish they'd kill them and get it over with. (The mutants, not the creators ...)

* Well, this is unexpected: Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin) is writing a story in X-Men Unlimited #4.

(Link via Fanboy Rampage.)

CrossGen's swan song? Newsarama reports that CrossGen has canceled Kiss Kiss Bang Bang #7, and will put El Cazador on hiatus while a replacement is found for penciler Steve Epting.

"I’ve never wanted to get stale":'s Bags and Boards talks with Stuart Moore:

"My specialty is science fiction, but I like a lot of different kinds of novels, movies, and comics. I really admire the careers of film directors like John Sayles and Steven Soderbergh who make very different projects at different times, applying varying techniques depending on the film but bringing their basic sense of storytelling and moviemaking to each one. The closest we have to that in comics is Alan Moore, who -- aside from being an amazing talent -- also hops genres a lot. That’s my ideal as well.

I’ve never wanted to get stale in my working career -- that’s why I left a very comfortable job at St. Martin’s Press, and why, after nine years on staff, I left DC rather than just sit around and do the same thing. The same is true of my writing. You have to challenge yourself, make yourself try new, difficult things all the time. Otherwise, you get very bored and restless -- I do, anyway. And then I’d probably just take it out on my cats. Especially the one who keeps trying to steal my chair."

Nightmare visions: The Image message board apparently has the goods on Warren Ellis' next project for Marvel, Ultimate Nightmare:

PART 1 (OF 5)
Superstar Warren Ellis teams with hot newcomer Trevor Hairsine (Ultimate Six) to tell a story of international intrigue that shakes every Ultimate book to its core! As world communications systems break down, the source of the anomaly is revealed as Tanguska, Russia. Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. leads a force comprised of Captain America, Black Widow and Sam Wilson to investigate, while, simultaneously, Charles Xavier of the X-Men dispatches his own team consisting of Jean Grey, Wolverine & Colossus. And what they discover there – and what happens next – defies belief!
(Link via the vigilant Marc-Oliver Frisch.)

Planet Larry, revisited: Ken Lowery continues his chat with AiT/Planet Lar publisher Larry Young.

Water world: Newsarama talks with Ronald Shusett (Alien, Minority Report) about the very cool-looking Shark-Man, due out in July from Atomeka Press. Retro sci-fi in an aquatic setting? Steve Pugh art? I'm sold.

House bill poses threat: Newsarama carries a release from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund about the Parents’ Empowerment Act, a bill in the House of Representatives that would allow the parents of any minor to sue anyone who disseminates any material with material that is "harmful to minors":

"The bill allows compensatory damages starting at no less than $10,000 for any instance in which a minor is exposed to 'harmful to minors' entertainment products. The bill also allows that punitive damages and reasonable fees may be awarded to the prevailing party at the discretion of the court. The bill also seeks to strengthen the current test courts utilize in determining what is obscene material by providing a separate definition of obscenity specifically for children. It is an affirmative defense to action under this bill if a parent or guardian of the minor owned the material.

"The bill is in its earliest stage, but if it passes, it will seriously threaten retailers, distributors, and publishers."

Into the Firestorm: Dan Jolley talks to UnderGroundOnline about the dangers of revamping Firestorm:

"There is indeed a very vocal contingent out there, who have made statements ranging from 'I'm not going to buy this book no matter what' to 'I'm hoping this book fails miserably' to 'Dan Jolley must be the laziest writer on the planet.' But, y'know, I was prepared for this kind of reaction by, of all things, Voltron, one of the books I'm writing for Devil's Due. Encountering the die-hard Voltron fans -- and there are quite a few of them -- made me realize that, if you're working on a property that has been published in the past for any significant length of time, there will be people out there who love it, who are devoted to it, and who don't want it changed under any circumstances. When we announced that we were 're-imagining' Voltron (which we did, basically, by keeping all the cool stuff and jettisoning all the non-cool stuff) the reactions from some of the fans were staunchly negative. 'How dare you change this story?' they demanded. 'Why fix what ain't broken? You're going to screw everything up beyond repair!' But now we're about to have our tenth issue on the stands, and every single one of the vocal naysayers has been completely converted, and loves what we're doing. I don't know if that's going to happen with Firestorm, but I'm anxious to find out."

The DVD connection: Also at, retailer Robert Scott calls for cross-promotions between comics and comic-based DVDs:

"Marvel's recent string of successes have allowed them to go from taking whatever they were offered as happened with the first X-Men and Spider-Man movies, to being able to set their own terms. There is absolutely no reason that a free special edition comic could not be created in support of each new comic based movie released on DVD. The comic could be offered to comic shops similarly to FCBD comics, perhaps in bundles of 50-100 at $10-15 per bundle.

"Ideally, the book could be 32-64 pages containing a front story starring the property on the DVD with the back story(s) involving excerpts from other books or the main property crossing over with other characters.

"Each new release DVD would have a sticker on front noting that there was a coupon inside redeemable for the Special Edition comic at local comic shops. Publishers and retailers sharing the cost and bringing it to a such a small cost, only the most belligerent could argue against it."

Killing them softly? It took a few days, but retailers are beginning to weigh in at on news of the Barnes & Noble Ultimate Spider-Man hardcover. John Miller of Lost Realms in Boca Raton, Fla., cuts to the chase, saying the limited edition hardcover is "one more way Marvel is killing the comic store."

"Don't get me wrong -- I know Marvel loves us, we buy their comics every month (with no return policy, unlike Wal-Mart stores or bookstores ). We buy them if they are late (Ultimates) or we never get them (anything by Kevin Smith ). And don't forget the months that they ship two books a month, doubling our invoices and giving us less shelf time to sell through. I especially loved it when they publish books every week such as New Mutants and X-treme X-Men, and my customers who come in once a month miss out on some books."

Mainstream releases: notes the summer release of two major graphic novels from mainstream book publishers: Birth of a Nation (Crown Publishing), by Aaron McGruder, Reginald Hudlin and Kyle Baker; and Persepolis 2 (Pantheon), by Marjane Satrapi.

Examining Yossel: New York's Jewish Press talks with comics legend Joe Kubert about Yossel: April 19, 1943, about a young boy in the Warsaw Ghetto who is ultimately murdered by Nazis:

"A few important and very experimental decisions distinguish Yossel from other graphic novels and Holocaust literature. No individual move makes Yossel so particularly fascinating, but the combination proves an exciting recipe. Firstly, the creative non-fiction component of writing a fictional story based on research and commitment to fact creates a complex dynamic. Kubert draws the novel in pencil, because, 'How could Yossel get ink?' The work reflects the reality of Yossel`s circumstances: pencil stubs and crumpled pieces of paper."

Comic strip eulogy: Gary Trudeau just keeps making headlines. This time it's with the announcement that the Memorial Day installment of Doonesbury will be devoted to listing the names of the more than 700 U.S. military personnel killed during the war in Iraq. The Hartford Courant (registration required) reports that comic strips historians say this is the first time such a eulogy has appeared on the comics page:

"This is the only time I can think of this happening in the comics. Every D-Day, Charles Schulz did a special drawing in Peanuts, but nothing like this."

Teen beat: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on the new Central Library's efforts to appeal to teens, with a spacious, brightly colored Young Adult section offering a selection of manga and graphic novels, computers and high-tech "sound domes" for listening to music.

Machina man, Part 2: Comic Book Resources talks with artist Tony Harris about Ex Machina, his new WildStorm series with Brian K. Vaughan:

"It's a great workout for me as a story teller. It's a great mix of high drama, political intrigue, and action- with a splash of costumed stuff, too. So I can't rely on the splashy hero shots to carry the visuals. I have to rely on my ability as an actor with the facial expressions, the body language between characters, etc. ... That's what drives this project for me. So when you get to action, hopefully you will have been sucked into these characters and their lives, then the action sequences become urgent in a huge way. Plus there is the other major character in Ex Machina: New York City! Jeebus!! I though creating and drawing Opal City in Starman was tough -- this is harder. New York is real, Opal was not. There are alot folks that live in and love New York. Plus they know it quite well. Brian is a native to New York City as well, so it was really important for me to give the city the respect it deserves. Right down to the slightest details. City Hall, Cops uniforms, police cars, FDNY, specific areas in the 5 Burroughs, and most importantly, The Brooklyn Bridge. If you are a New Yorker, you will appreciate this book."

Philadelphia freedom: The Philadelphia Daily News (subscription required) briefly spotlights Michael Turner, the guest of honor at this weekend's Wizard World East:

"I actually have some good friends in Philly and have been to a few Eagles games and had a lot of fun there. I love the town, and ... we have some really great fans there."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Distributing Initial D: In its coverage of the Cannes Film Festival, Daily Variety reports that Media Asia has signed an all-rights distribution deal for Japan with Gaga Communications on the live-action film adaptation of Initial D, the manga series that already has spawned a TV cartoon and animated features.

Cookie monsters? Where does Women in Refrigerators stand on removing the heroine's head in order to get to the "delectable treats" inside? Take it up with the Science Fiction Book Club and Wicked Cool Stuff, both of which offer this slightly creepy cookie jar:

She is poised and ready to fight for truth and justice, or to dispense some delectable treats. The head lifts off to dispense the cookies.
It could be yours for about $80.

Marine life: At Movie Poop Shoot's "Comics 101," Scott Tipton continues his examination of Namor the Sub-Mariner, picking up with his reintroduction in Fantastic Four #4.

The winner takes it all: Winners for the big Demo contest have been posted at Near-Mint Heroes. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all those who entered. And a special thanks to Larry Young, Mimi Rosenheim, Brain Wood, Becky Cloonan and AiT/Planet Lar, Ed Dukeshire and Digital Webbing, and everyone who helped to promote the contest.

Slipped Disc: The Pulse talks with Robert Rodi about Identity Disc:

"We were looking for all 'A-list villains' -- or I should say, 'A-list villains of a certain kind.' It wouldn't make sense to have, say, Galactus running around New York on an espionage caper. We finally settled on Bullseye, Deadpool, Sabertooth, Juggernaut, Sandman, and Vulture."

Apparently, nobody told Rodi that Juggernaut isn't a villain anymore, and that Vulture and Sandman don't even rate a look at the "A-list."

The price is right: uses the announcement of Barnes & Noble's 992-page hardcover Ultimate Spider-Man "Limited Edition" to its own advantage -- by offering the original three-volume hardcover set for the same price. Silver Bullet Comic Books has the press release:

"That’s three separate hardcover books, each printed on glossy stock paper in over-sized, but practical, dimensions. The artwork is clearly seen in all its glory, not manipulated to fit a freakish monstrosity, with pages stuffed into a cavernous spine that prevents true savoring of spectacular Marvel art. As Marvel continues to release each new volume of Ultimate Spider-Man separately, your bookshelf collection will dazzle with its sequentially numbered organization. And your health will remain intact while reading these fine stories, as the 3-Volume Set will not in any way inhibit blood flow to the chest or leg regions."