in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: COMICS, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 1,653
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Big Two Comics
, Breaking News
, Top Comics
, Top News
, free comic book day
, Add a tag
By: Alexander Jones
After revealing the first wave of Free Comic Book Day titles, it was only a matter of time before the rest of them started to pop up. This next batch is very exciting, and full of fun offerings from all your favorite publishers with the big guns like Marvel and DC, along with Valiant, Comix Tribe, IDW, Image, Oni and the mysterious new Legendary Comics imprint that kicked off with Grant Morrison’s Annihilator. DC still has their titles blocked out with the letters ‘TOP SECRET’ sitting on the front page, it’s likely whatever these comics are will be revealed closer towards Convergence. Of course, Marvel is launching Avengers material close to their upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron film. Included in this silver collection of titles is a lot of material from other media, meant to turn you non-comics reading friends completely addicted to this medium. See if Attack on Titan, Avatar, or Sonic can hook your non-reading friends. Free Comic Book Day is on the first Saturday of May. CBR broke the news this morning with covers, and quick description information. All these titles are considered silver comics, with the gold titles being the first wave of books.
- 2000 AD Special–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- And Then Emily Was Gone–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Avengers #1–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Bodie Troll & Friends–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Captain Canuck–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- CBLDF Defend Comics–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Comics Festival–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Dark Horse All Ages Avatar PVZ Bandette–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- DC Comics Silver Book–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- GFT Wonderland Special Edition One Shot (MR)–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Graphix Spotlight Cleopatra In Space–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Gronk and Friends–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Hatter M Love of Wonder–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Hip Hop Family Tree 3-in-1 Featuring Cosplayers (MR)–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Ice Bayou Blackout–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Jojos Bizarre Adventure and Yu Gi Oh–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Jurassic Strike Force 5 One Shot–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Kodansha Comics Sampler–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Lady Justice–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Legendary Comics Sampler–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- March Grand Prix–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Mercury Heat Debut (MR)–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Motorcycle Samurai–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Overstreet Comic Book Marketplace–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Phantom Special–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Rabbids–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Sonic the Hedgehog Mega Man Worlds Unite Prelude–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Stan Lee Chakra The Invincible–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Steampunk Goldilocks–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Street Fighter Super Combo Special–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Stuff of Legend Call to Arms–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Supermutant Magic Academy Step Aside Pops Combo–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Tales of Honor–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Terrible Lizard #1–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- The Tick–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- TMNT Prelude to Vengeance–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Valiant 25TH Anniversary Special–FCBD 2015 EDITION
- Worlds of Aspen–FCBD 2015 EDITION
I suspect that I’m not alone in thinking any day that brings new work from Dr Bryan Talbot is a very good day indeed. The fourth of his Grandville books, featuring the adventures of Detective Inspector LeBrock (who is, as the name might suggest to the scholarly, a badger) in an anthropomorphic steampunk Paris, is at least as good as the three previous volumes, if not considerably better. Wherever LeBrock goes, mayhem and a high body-count ensues, and this book is no different. We also have a messianic unicorn, evil criminals, and a Lucky Luke look-a-like, called Lucas Chance. Briefly, if you’re not reading Grandville, you’re missing some of the best fun there is to be had between two covers. I’d interviewed Bryan pretty comprehensively before (here & here), so I got in touch to ask him just a few more questions about Grandville, and his future plans for the character.
Pádraig Ó Méalóid: I had been meaning to ask you, before I started reading this one, if there were going to be any further Grandville books after this, but by the end of it you’ve several trailing story threads that I imagine might take a few more books to sort out. What can you tell me?
Bryan Talbot: Although the books are stand-alone stories and can be read individually, you will have noticed that each takes place a month after he previous one, and there has been a story arc gradually building that comes to fruition in volume five. I scripted it over two years ago now, though have been polishing it since. It’s much longer that the other stories, about 160 pages, and will probably be the final one. If I write any more stories set in the world of Grandville, they’ll be drawn in a different style. The fifth, although still containing some of the humour of the other books, is definitely the darkest story and features one of the vilest villains in the history of crime fiction. Characters from earlier volumes have cameo roles and we finally meet the execrable Chief Inspector Stoatson, mentioned in all the books since the second one but never seen. We also discover, for the first time, [Detective Inspector] LeBrock‘s backstory and are introduced to his mentor, the great detective who trained him up. I’m currently drawing Mary*’s 3rd graphic novel, but will start work on the 5th Grandville when I finish that, in summer.
[*That’s Dr Mary M Talbot, Bryan Talbot’s wife, with whom he collaborated on Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, and co-collaborated with on Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, along with Kate Charlesworth, both of which are recommended.]
PÓM: I notice that the human characters – the ‘doughfaces’ in the story – seem to be getting restless, and coming more to the fore, in the 3rd and 4th volumes. Will we be seeing more of them in the last volume, too?
BT: They’ll be reverting to background characters, as in the 1st book. It’s in Grandville Noël where they come centre stage and, by the end, there is some kind of resolution.
PÓM: As I was rereading my way through the Grandville books, I was wondering how many different animals you had included in them. Have you any idea what sort of number you’ve done?
A Stuffed Badger in Dublin’s Natural History Museum
: No idea, but quite a lot! As well as common animals, there are several many people won’t have heard of, such as an aye aye, an echidna and a star-nosed mole. As well as a computer file containing hundreds of animal photographs that I’ve accumulated on line, I’ve visited the natural history museums of Milan, Helsinki and Dublin, all of which have large collections of stuffed animals that I’ve snapped from different angles. It’s always hard to find pics online of exactly the right angle you need. I also have a collection of plastic animal models to draw from.
PÓM: How do the Grandville books do on the European market, particularly in France, where they’re up against work which they’re sometimes drawn from?
BT: I’m very disappointed with the French Publisher of Grandville, Bragelonne. They are primarily a publisher of horror, SF and fantasy prose and I don’t think they really pushed the books. They don’t even have a booth at Angouleme. The books went into profit (I know as I regularly receive royalty payments from them) but obviously they didn’t make as big a profit as they’d like, as they only published the first two volumes. This, despite Grandville Mon Amour winning the prize given by French railway industry, the Prix SNCF, for best graphic novel, voted for by the rail-traveling public and all the many French reviews of both books, which were universally positive. In Spain and Germany, though, they seem to be quite popular, Noël coming out both places next year. I think a Finnish edition of the first book is forthcoming too. It’s also been published in Serbia, Greece, the Czech Republic and Italy.
PÓM: You mention a third book by your wife, Dr Mary Talbot. Can you tell me anything about this, or is it still under wraps?
BT: As it’s only going to be published in 2016, we’re keeping quiet about it at the moment. Primarily because we think someone else might pinch the idea, research the subject, and produce a graphic novel of their own before then! Suffice to say that it’s another historical story about a strong female protagonist, one that most UK readers will never have heard of.
PÓM: There’s a very brief mention of a cataclysmic event that helped shaped how things are in the Grandville world, in the fourth book. This seems to me to throw you into the same general Wold-Newton Universe concept that Philip José Farmer initiated, and which also informs Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books. That, plus the fact that the aircraft that we’re constantly seeing in the air over Paris look very like the ones we see in your Luther Arkwright stories, makes we wonder if there’s a larger ‘Bryan Talbot Universe’ setting behind all your work. Or is this just something I’m over-thinking?
BT: I never actually got around to reading the Farmer books but, yes, the cataclysmic event is basically a reference to Firefrost. In the Arkwright story, where it’s made clear that its arrival on earth sent ripples affecting reality through all the alternative time streams. I did have the intention on doing a story based on it sometime but, as I said earlier, the 5th is now probably going to be the last of the series. The iron flying machines are common to Arkwight and Grandville, though in the former, there is only one type, a military vessel, and only made by one of the countries involved. In Grandville, they are public and private skyships of various designs. Vaguely inspired by Jules Verne and Albert Robida, I use them because every other steampunk story uses airships.
PÓM: Do you have any idea when we can expect to see that fifth and final Grandville volume?
BT: I’m hoping 2017.
PÓM: That’s a long wait! You already mentioned the book with Mary, but is there anything else we need to know about, to fill up the lonely days while we wait – more Luther Arkwright, maybe?
BT: ‘Fraid not. Not many people realise what a long slog it is, producing a graphic novel. These books take a long time, especially in the sort of style I use for Grandville, which takes up to 4 days per page. The fifth volume is going to be 160 pages. That’s nearly two years’ work, more if I’m away a lot. Plus, big publishers like Cape ideally want the finished books up to a year before they publish them, so they sit around for months before being released. One reason for this is so that they meet the scheduled publication dates. Another is so their reps can show the books around to retailers several months in advance to create interest. So it may be an even longer wait than that! I do actually have a folder full of notes for a possible Arkwright story, and have done for several years, but it’s simply not gelled. Perhaps after I finish Grandville.
By David Nieves
Last month Marvel announced former WWE Superstar, and upcoming UFC fighter, CM Punk would contribute a ten page story to February’s Thor Annual. Today on Vertigo’s blog, the publisher announced a new book for debut this Spring that will also feature a story written by Punk. Strange Sports Stories #1 is set for March release and will see the former wrestler join a list of talented creators such as Paul Pope, Gilbert Hernandez, Lauren Beukes, Ben McCool, Ivan Brandon, Monica Gallagher, Lee Loughridge, Nick Dragotta, Christopher Mitten, Darick Robertson, Mark Finn, John Lucas, Gabe Soria, Ronald Wimberly, Michael DiMotta, Tim Fish, Rael Lyra, and Brian Azzarello.
Strange Sports Stories shares a name with a six-issue DC Comics series that ran from 1973 to 1974. In 2015, Vertigo will release four chapters of the new series. No word yet on plot details or what issue Punk’s story will be featured in. However the series general theme seems to be, “strange, sexy, scary and extraordinary sports stories.” If any athlete in the last decade has experience with that it’s CM Punk. Only the first piece of art from the book was shown for solicitation today.
With his upcoming multi-fight UFC deal happening in 2015, CM Punk’s writing gigs could prove to be a great way for the comic book industry to get new eyes on the medium. Strange Sports Stories #1 is set to hit stores on March 18, 2015.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Top News
, Doug Braithwaite
, Joshua Dysart
, Add a tag
By: Alexander Jones
Imperium is coming. After getting briefed from Joshua Dysart on mission orders, check out these brand new pages from the fantastical Doug Braithwaite in a press release sent straight from the Valiant Entertainment headquarters in New York City. Imperium is Valiant’s spiritual successor to Harbinger, a title that carried the company into greatness, and also introduced Toyo Harada, one of the most interesting villains in the Valiant world. Toyo is a decrepid old man, with intense psiot powers, enabling him to hide his appearance and true nature. Until, the events of Harbinger changed his path forever. Now, everyone knows the deranged actions of Harada. To combat his loss of power, the dictator is now seeking an army to help him operate in the shadows, enter Imperium, Harada’s band of merry misfits. These aliens, robots, and psiots may not bring holiday cheer.
Imperium #1 ships February 4th, and features covers from Doug Braithwaite, Raul Allen, and Trevor Hairsine with Tom Muller.
In our very own interview with Joshua Dysart, the author had this to say of what’s left of Toyo Harada’s empire before Imperium:
The current situation with the Harbinger foundation that was sort of the secret organization buried within Harada Conglomerates, is that Harada’s conglomerate has dissolved. However, Harada still has thousands of secret accounts located all over the world. These things are actively being tracked down all over the planet. It’s difficult for him to track all of them down, but they exist. The Harbinger Foundation itself is now whatever technologies he has found and pilfered. It’s now predominantly found within the U.S.S. Bush – Harada has stolen one of the largest nuclear aircraft carriers in the United States, and they are also taking the Somalia itself. But that’s all that’s left of Harada’s empire. It’s like if he were a musician, at one time he was in the biggest stadium band in history, but now he’s back to playing garages.
Text By: Alexander Jones – Image By: Jeff Stahler
All hell broke loose today as DC Comics quickly tried to sweep a host of cancellations under the rug. The upcoming Convergence event taking place in April and May seems to be pulling some big change in the house of Batman and Superman. The news came from CBR, who announced the solicitations for March 2015. However, it’s hard not to miss some of these books, especially when realizing that some of the titles have been with the publisher since the launch of the New 52 in 2011, including Swamp Thing, Batwoman, Green Lantern: New Guardians and Red Lanterns. It also seems likely that Batman Eternal was planned to end at #52 this week, seeing as how that is now the magic number for DC Comics.
Here are the titles on the chopping block:
- Aquaman and the Others #11
- Green Lantern: New Guardians #40
- Infinity Man and the Forever People #9
- Injustice: Gods Among Us – Year Three #12
- Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie #8
Some of these books are downright shocking when considering new these launches are, ongoings like Trinity of Sin, Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie, Klarion and Arkam Manner barely got a chance to launch before being outright cancelled. Perhaps DC has something else in store?
Rumors have been flying around the internet, hinting at a possible relaunch for the company in June. With so much of their superhero line in limbo, this now seems like it is a must for DC.
By: Alexander Jones
“Venditti’s cooked up a good one”
In 2015, Valiant Entertainment is gearing up to send Aric of Dacia, the greatest, most butt-kicking 15th century Visigothic that was ever placed out of time in a brand new storyline entitled Dead Hand. The creative team features the usually spectacular talent of Robert Venditti and Diego Bernard, and kicks off after Enter: Armorines concludes. The story begins in March’s X-O Manowar #34 in 2015.
Author Robert Venditti himself chimed in via a press release from Valiant on what he has been brewing for the series:
“DEAD HAND is going to take the mythology surrounding the X-O Manowar armor, and the entire Valiant Universe, in a direction not seen before,” said Venditti “As formidable as the adversaries in the series have been to date, none of them measure up to this single-minded, doomsday threat. X-O Manowar has made a habit of taking what readers expect and turning it on its head. We’ve challenged ourselves to do that again.”
After exploring space for a little, the Visigoth seems to have gone too far into the unknown. He accidentally stumbles across a squad of bloodthirsty robots known as the Dead Hand, whose creators have been proclaimed long dead (pun intended). Aric has activated these robots in the storyline who have been created to combat an unknown enemy.
Valiant’s Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons had the following to say about Aric’s predicament:
“Last summer, X-O Manowar went up against the Armor Hunters for a full-metal throwdown between Earth and alien life. Well, we won the battle, but that doesn’t mean we’ve won the war,” said Simons. “Somewhere out there, something colder, grimmer, and more calculating is about to come online. And it won’t concede that war, even in death. An extinct world has saved a nasty treat for the Valiant U – something insanely effective that could only exist in the wake of their failure – a dead hand. Venditti’s cooked up a good one, folks.”
The first issue hits finer comic book shops in March with covers from both Lewis Larosa, and Jorge Molina. Take a look at the solicitation copy from Valiant:
X-O MANOWAR #34 (NEW ARC! “DEAD HAND” – PART 1)
Written by ROBERT VENDITTI
Art by DIEGO BERNARD
Cover A (Overlay Wrap) by LEWIS LAROSA
Cover B (Wraparound) by JORGE MOLINA
Variant Cover by DAS PASTORAS
Dead Hand Design Variant by JORGE MOLINA
Artist Variant by BUTCH GUICE
$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+ | On sale MARCH 4 (FOC – 2/9/15)
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Big Two Comics
, Top Comics
, Top News
, Babs Tarr
, Brenden Fletcher
, Cameron Stewart
, Add a tag
This is obviously prefaced with a heaping helping of “what the hell does a straight white male know about these issues?”. The simple truth: I don’t know anything. I likely never will – or at least not in a way that can be internalized. At best, I can gather other people’s feelings and memories and keep them in my brain for reference, paging through as I react and respond, because… well, I might not know anything about this, but I think that reaction and response is important instead of choking the fire of discussion dead through inaction.
So. Batgirl #37.
The new creative team on Batgirl arrived with a certain amount of pomp and circumstance. Briefly bringing my experience as a retailer into the fray, the fervour was created almost entirely by the creative team themselves, and not the company publishing the book. A book lives on finding an audience and marketing to that audience, and while DC did eventually run a house ad steeped in current social media trends, it was the creative team that was actually out on social media sites stirring the fan base and building a culture. At the time, I remember thinking that this was something important – not only in the way the creatives were interacting with the fans, but in the way that the reaction seemed to transform into a small movement of sorts, one that would boost sales of a series through actual interest in tone and content. This week, it seems as though the shine is off that apple with the release of the team’s third issue, Batgirl #37.
In the issue, Barbara Gordon is confronted with another Batgirl, one that is using social media and various forms of “art” to essentially take her branding identity away from her. Over the course of the book, you discover that the person under this fake Batgirl’s mask is in fact Dagger Type, an artist who is identified by characters in the story as male. Babs is taken aback by this and is left defeated as the issue’s villain continues with their nefarious plan to steal her public identity.
As the book crescendos, Dagger Type is portrayed as erratic, firing a gun into a crowd of essentially innocent bystanders. Babs eventually defeats the villain, and discovers that they’ve been doing this at the behest of a mysterious benefactor. The cops take Dagger away, and the book draws to a close. This reading of Batgirl #37 has dredged up accusations of transphobia. As with all art, this is a valid interpretation of fictitious events – a reaction to substance informed by opinion, experience and information. That’s a shame because… well, this book was meant to be something else. As stated before, it was something different than the norm, and marketed to a different and potentially new audience, and this misfire will probably do some damage. The only consolation, I would think, is that despite this valid interpretation of the comic, it isn’t something done with malicious intent, more than it was the unfortunate side-effect of the story’s plot.
Revisiting the plot again, using the same reference material, the plot is also about the nature of art, identity, and belonging. The book opens with the fake Batgirl going on a crime spree. Babs shows up and stops the crime, but not the fake Batgirl, who is said to have been up to these types of heists and behaviours for quite some time, chronicling these events on social media platforms. Babs is upset that she’s being defamed, which is compounded when she goes to a Dagger Type art show that features nothing but pictures of this so-called Batgirl, complete with a rendition of the heroine in a wheelchair, splashed with shadow and a bright red overlay. The presentation effects the characters present in different ways. It strikes Babs as demeaning and regressive. She makes a move to find Dagger Type, and soon discovers that the artist has been the fake Batgirl all along. The plot involves using art and social media to co-opt the Batgirl brand, and add it to the Dagger Type cache. When the reveal happens, everyone in the audience acts dismissive. Dagger waxes poetic about how they should relish in this moment, where they “begin to comprehend that the artist is really the subject. And the subject, his brand!” This elicits the greatest reaction from the crowd, who rejects this notion with lines like “why does everything cool turn out to be an ad?”
The intention – or at least my interpretation of the events as described – is a comment on art and commercialism, as seen through the lens of the modern superhero genre. It’s an ugly balance that comic companies (and retailers… hi!) have been trying to work with for years, taking art and using it for commercial gains. It’s an exploration of the kind of rejection that occurs when false notes are struck, and the commercial ends up bleeding into the art. It’s also about the pretension of craving attention, and the effect popularity can have on art and the artist. There’s a lot to dig into there, but at the core of it all, deep down in the nugget, I truly believe this book is about art, and the reactions to it. It’s typified by the scene where Babs and her friends are walking through the Batgirl gallery, and they all have different reactions to the presentation based off of experience. Babs’ very personal experience with the identity being explored in these photos elicits a very personal and valid response. I can only imagine that’s what many people felt as they read through this issue and experienced a similarly flawed take on identity. The issue essentially agrees with the idea of interpretation being in the eye of the beholder, and never once says that people who enjoyed the art installation in the pages of the book are wrong. It does cast judgement on intent. Dagger Type’s intent was self serving to a cartoonish degree, climaxing in rage when people didn’t understand his genius. I don’t think the creative team is doing that here. I think they wanted to turn in a story that commented on what they did, letting the art speak for itself. It may have said something things they didn’t intend, but they aren’t mad at anyone for it – as the issue implies, any reaction to art is valid.
Now, not long after I wrote this article (but a long while before it’s been posted), Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher and Babs Tarr issued an apology.
I wish Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr and Maris Wicks all the best as they continue to explore this character and produce art for us to consume. I hope that it continues to challenge us, and causes discussion. I hope that discussion comes from an honest place, and is not confronted with reductive reasoning. I also hope that, like all great artists, they will continue to grow and learn from previous experiences and new information, as even the best intentions can be flawed. The best artists take those noted flaws and learn to grow, instead of digging their heels in. These people are some of the best. Oh, and one more thing:
By: Andy Yates,
Blog: Illustration Friday Blog
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, pen/brush and ink
, weekly topics
, Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers
, comics illustrator of the week
, comics tavern
, comics tavern cover of the week
, DC Vertigo
, Dogs of War
, Federal Bureau of Physics
, illustration friday
, Nathan Fox
, Pigeons from Hell
, Add a tag
If Paul Pope and Brendan McCarthy had a love child it would be Nathan Fox. Rarely have I seen an illustrator who produces work that is equally as impressive in ink/brush mode, as it is in full colored/painted mode; each being perfectly realized pieces of art. After a short stint of focusing his career on editorial illustration, Fox moved onto comics in the early 2000’s, and further expanded his skill-set at The School of Visual Arts(New York), in the Illustration As Visual Essay Graduate Program.
Nathan Fox’s career in comics has been an eclectic one, including work on mainstream books like Harley Quinn, The Haunt, and Batman: Gotham Knights, along with indy projects such as Pigeons from Hell, Blue Estate, and Dogs of War. Currently, Fox is providing cover art for the DC/Vertigo series Federal Bureau of Physics AKA FBP(which was recently optioned for a film), drew a story in Vertigo Quarterly: CMYK, and is part of an impressive collection of artists reviving Jack Kirby’s Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers for Dynamite Entertainment.
Nathan Fox has also done illustration work for Wired Magazine, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Mad Magazine, and Entertainment Weekly, just to name a few. His work has been featured in art galleries across the U.S. and he teaches Visual Narrative at The School of Visual Arts in New York City.
You can get the latest news, and explore more of Nathan’s work at his website here.
For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates
Gary Spencer Millidge‘s Strangehaven may well be the best comic you’ve never read. Originally self-published in eighteen issues over the course of ten years, between 1995 and 2005 (with three collected editions, Arcadia, Brotherhood, and Conspiracies), it has been on what seemed like a permanent hiatus since then, despite the plaintiff pleas of tear-drenched fans like myself. Now, though, Strangehaven has returned in the pages of Soaring Penguin Press‘s anthology magazine Meanwhile…, whose first issue has just been published, which very nicely suimmarises the story to date, for all you new readers.
Briefly, Strangehaven is the story of a man who crashes his car in deepest rural England, and wakes up to find himself in a small village called Strangehaven. From there on, strange things happen. Very strange things. Not only does Strangehaven have a compelling and nicely convoluted storyline, with all sorts of odd and interesting characters, but Gary Spencer Millidge’s art is beautiful too, being a gorgeous photo-realistic depiction of the people, their lives, and the village they live in. If you’re wondering where you heard Gary’s name before, you probably heard it as the author of 2011’s Alan Moore: Storyteller, or of 2009’s Comic Book Design: The Essential Guide to Creating Great Comics and Graphic Novels, both of which come recommended. Since I started reading Strangehaven myself, I’m corresponded with, met, and got to know Gary, the creator of the book, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask him a few questions about it…
Pádraig Ó Méalóid: for those arriving late to the party, gave you give us a brief, bullet-point synopsis of what Strangehaven is about?
Gary Spencer Millidge: Not really. This is the one question every interviewer used to start with when I first started self-publishing Strangehaven in 1995, and I used to hate it with a passion. Partly because I didn’t know how to answer it. I didn’t know what Strangehaven was about for a couple of years, and giving a brief synopsis of the plot would, I felt, reveal too much about it. I also hated repeating myself in every interview, and I used to churn out the same, “Strangehaven is a village on the edge of Dartmoor in the rural south-west of England, blah, blah, blah” until I realised I could actually answer the question any way I damn pleased.
So what I’d want to say about Strangehaven today is that it’s a number of storylines that weave in and out of each other concerning the lives of the inhabitants of an improbably isolated village, very much in the vein of British ‘60s television like The Avengers and The Prisoner, but was also inspired by Twin Peaks. At the time, I was reading the new vein of naturalistic comics like Heartbreak Soup, Big Numbers, Dave McKean’s Cages, Strangers in Paradise, and I think you can probably spot various influences from those in my work as well. [Not to mention on this noticeboard, from the first volume, Arcadia – PÓM]
I originally called it a surreal soap opera, but I think that turned out to be off-base, and it might be better to describe it as a magical reality mystery, or something. I wanted to reflect real life rather than clichéd and predictable soap opera plotting even if many of my characters were tongue-in-cheek archetypes.
As for what it’s actually about, I’d say it’s about the perception of reality, but that sounds terribly pompous and dull.
PÓM: There are three previous volumes of Strangehaven – is this storyline going to be the fourth and final one?
GSM: The short answer is yes. There is a twinge of regret and uncertainty when I say that, but that probably is the case, if only for the sake of my long-suffering readers.
I was very much inspired by Dave Sim and Gerhard’s Cerebus, which for those that don’t know, was self-published monthly for 300 issues. I always loved the ongoing serial aspect of the comic book, but even by the late 1990s, this was changing. Trade paperback collections were beginning to emerge as a viable business model, and it was hard to convince new readers to join the party at issue 11 or whatever. Paperback collections were the answer to a degree, but the difficulty then was keeping all the books in print. There was no print-on-demand, and for a self-publisher to have to print at least 1000 copies at a time pretty much absorbed any profit the endeavour was making.
Not only that, but new readers invariably had to be pointed towards the first book, which for obvious reasons contained some of the weakest material (certainly art-wise). So at what became the halfway point, I decided a four volume series would be symmetrically and structurally pleasing.
PÓM: Have you known from the start how it’s all going to end?
GSM: There wasn’t ever meant to be an end. I wasn’t sure how the first issue was going to end when I started, to be honest. The first issue alone was more comics pages than I had ever drawn in my life before, put together. As I say, it was intended to be an ongoing, open-ended series. I figured that there could be collected editions by character arc – e.g. a Megaron and Chippy one, and Alex and Janey one and so on. I had imagined Strangehaven as a sort of anthology of different stories set in the same village, at the same time.
But pretty soon, the characters had increasingly become such large parts of each other’s story arcs that I abandoned this idea. Strangehaven was never meant to be built around a single plot. What I ended up with was numerous plotlines and characters that entangled themselves so intricately that I couldn’t pick them apart; which satisfied my perverse desire to be unconventional, but made Strangehaven a hard sell to foreign publishers and film producers and the like.
So, way back in 1999, after I had completed volume two, I decided that Strangehaven really needed to be a finite series and sat down and plotted out the next two books there and then. That’s pretty much the template I’ve been following ever since, and that’s when the ending (such as it is) was cast in stone.
PÓM: Is it rude of me to ask how long it’s going to take to get to the end of volume four, if you’re doing sixteen pages every two months? Call me cynical, but I’m just wondering how long it’ll be before I can sit down and read the entire things through, in actual book form…
GSM: Most episodes will be a tad shorter than that, about 13-14 pages. Essentially, it’s about half an old Strangehaven issue’s worth per Meanwhile… issue. Twelve episodes in all. Assuming that Meanwhile… maintains its intended bimonthly basis, it’ll take two years before the last episode’s published.
How soon after that any collection is published is dependent on a couple of factors; there are contractual considerations and so on, and of course, that’s all dependent on everything going smoothly, which, looking back over the previous twenty years, isn’t a given.
PÓM: Have you given any thought to re-releasing the first three volumes of Strangehaven, or are they still readily available?
GSM: They are, and have always been, in print, and theoretically available to order from comic stores, book shops and the usual Internet retail outlets, as well as directly from my own website, or from Top Shelf in the USA.
I say theoretically because there have been various distribution hiccups, one in particular that led to Amazon claiming volume three was out of print and only ‘available from these sellers’ for a couple of years, one of which was testing the waters by offering copies at £150 each. And it’s an incredibly difficult task to get Amazon to change factual errors, especially when going through a third party distributor.
I do believe all those wrinkles have now been ironed out (at least for the time being), so you should be able to order a copy in any of those places. Or if you’re lucky enough to live in Nottingham, Page 45 always stocks them.
PÓM: Do you have any misgivings about this new work being in colour, seeing as the work up to now was in good old black & white?
GSM: Well no, I wouldn’t say ‘misgivings’ exactly. Certainly when I originally signed up to producing new episodes for Meanwhile… I was expecting to do them in monochrome. John the publisher had floated the idea of colour in the early stages of negotiation, but I had dismissed it out of hand. I thought it would add an unnecessary additional stage to production and cause a potential conundrum for any future collected editions. And I am possibly correct about both those things.
But as plans for the anthology developed, it became apparent that John would be very keen to see these new episodes in colour, and after thinking about it, I thought it may be worth adding that string to my bow, especially as the cost of the colour printing wouldn’t be coming out of my pocket. I thought it might also possibly broaden the appeal of the series.
But it has been difficult to settle upon a technique that I could implement fairly quickly and yet keep the familiar look and feel of Strangehaven. I’m still finishing the art in grey wash tones, the same method with which the previous volume was produced, and adding colour digitally at a later stage. I’m fairly happy with the way it looks on the SEQUENTIAL digital edition, but the printed version of the first issue has turned out a little dark and desaturated. That’s something I’m looking to correct for future episodes. Not that anyone’s commented upon it anyway.
PÓM: Seeing as you were saying that you originally intended this to be ongoing, are there any plans for further Strangehaven stories, after you’ve finished up this initial storyline. Hope springs eternal, etc!
GSM: I’m not sure if anyone will be hoping for more Strangehaven once I finish this fourth volume; it may be the last thing anyone wants. From a personal point of view, after working on this behemoth for twenty years, and trying to get the damn thing resurrected for so long, it would certainly be refreshing to work on something different. I have enough ideas for comics already to keep me busy for the rest of my days, and I’m starting to feel a little restricted by the format I initially devised all that time ago.
You can never say never of course, and I suppose, there’s always the possibility of a ‘twenty-eight years later’ story emerging at some point, but let me finish this damn volume four first, okay?
PÓM: What sort of ideas for comics, do tell?
GSM: Maybe it would be advisable for me to attempt something a little less ambitious than an open-ended ongoing series with a cast of thousands, maybe a self-contained graphic novel to start off with. Obviously I don’t want to say too much about any potential ideas as it’ll be a while before I’d be able to start any serious work on anything new; plans are always shifting and morphing, and I don’t want to get anyone excited about something that may or may not happen.
But I will say I have a couple of well-developed projects that I’ve been fiddling around with for as long as I’ve been doing Strangehaven. In fact one pre-dates Strangehaven; after my Dad unexpectedly died in the late 1980s I wanted to do a memoir in comic book form celebrating his life and I even started work on it, but I soon realised that I didn’t have the chops at that time. So that’s always been on the back burner.
There’s also a globe-spanning Hitchcockian mystery/thriller and a time travel/moral paradox story that I’d like to get done, although I wouldn’t necessarily choose to draw either of those. I have come to the conclusion over recent years that I’m not likely to live long enough to draw all the comics I want to draw and working with a high quality artist would be a good compromise. That would probably mean that I’d need to get a publisher involved, so those projects are a few steps away from happening.
I’ve also become intrigued with the atheist/deist/theist debate and how that relates to current scientific theories about the creation of the universe and quantum mechanics and so on and I think I have a pretty strong idea for a vehicle that could explore that a little bit. That’s not all by any means, but you get the idea.
PÓM: One of my brothers lives on a small island off the south-west coast of Ireland, which has a population of 124, more than half of whom are non-natives, originally not only from various parts of Ireland, but from Germany, Scotland, Canada and elsewhere, so it seems to have that same sort of geographic gravity as Strangehaven does, although possibly not as inescapable. Are we ever going to get any sort of explanation for that?
GSM: That sounds like an interesting island to live, or even visit. Does your brother have any explanation for the diverse nature of the immigrants to his island? Is there one or sixty different explanations? As far as Strangehaven’s concerned, I think it’s pretty well established that it does have an apparent ‘geographic gravity’ as you’ve characterised it, or at least some of the inhabitants seem to think so. Whether it’s relevant to the central themes of the series (if there are any) may or may not be explored in future episodes.
But it is essentially the backbone of the series; it enables me to have a disparate cast with substantially different back stories to explore. At the highest of high altitude maps, Strangehaven is a simply a place full of weird people with their own views on the world.
PÓM: Does it not do your head in having to wrote Adam Douglas’s dialogue? [A character who claims that he’s from another planet – PÓM]
GSM: I’d say no, not really. It’s hardly Hob’s Hog*. You come up with the character, and his speech patterns, and if it’s difficult to write, then that’s part of the challenge of being a writer. It’s probably easier for me than it is for the reader as I know what he is supposed to sound like. Adam’s character is defined well enough in my head to let him ramble on while I merely transcribe what he’s saying.
I have to admit that I introduced Adam as a bit of a novelty, but I immediately became aware that he was a hugely popular character and as a result has become an increasingly important cast member.
Ronnie did say in one issue that she thought he was from Düsseldorf which suggests a Teutonic accent. But some astute readers may wonder why his distinctive use of grammar isn’t entirely consistent – is it because of the writer’s lack of skill, or is Adam not being entirely honest about his origins?
PÓM: I believe that the publication date for Meanwhile… #1 is a bit complicated. What can you tell me?
GSM: For a definitive answer, you would have to ask my publisher, Soaring Penguin Press. They’re essentially a book and graphic novel publisher, and they tend to have different publication dates for the UK and the US. Obviously the direct comics market is a bit different in that periodicals tend to get published simultaneously worldwide. There are some contractual concerns regarding dates which may have complicated things as well, and two British comics festivals – The Lakes and Thought Bubble – were close enough together in the calendar this autumn to make it an irresistible time to launch the anthology in the UK. So it’s been available in the UK at selected outlets since October, but will be getting its full international direct market distribution as from February. (Meanwhile… #1 is listed in the December issue of Diamond Comics’ Previews and can be ordered from your favourite comics retailer from that point. It’s also available on the SEQUENTIAL digital platform as well.)
PÓM: Thanks for taking the time to answer all these, Gary. And I’ll just mention here that we’re part of the way through a longer interview, which might even get finished before Volume 4 of Strangehaven runs its course!
GSM: Well thank you for wading through all that drivel that I’ve supplied in lieu of proper answers to your respectful and pertinent questions. Let’s hope it entertains someone somewhere who’s lost their internet connection and only has this one page to read. And as far as the ‘other’ interview is going, well let’s resolve to have a race to see who finishes first.
[*Obligatory obscure Alan Moore reference.]
About the book:
In 1974, Hello Kitty stepped on the scene, and she’s had the world wrapped around her little red bow ever since. Here, some of her biggest fans—from comic artists to muralists to toy creators—pay tribute in story and art.
Foreword by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, creators of Babymouse
I am a huge Hello Kitty fan. I own notebooks, pens, pencils, a tea set, a rice bowl, a cookie tray, and many other items emblazoned with the iconic character. I was crushed when I broke my Hello Kitty sugar bowl, but I eventually got over the shock (a few years later). I was confused this summer when reports shocked the world that she was not a cat, but a British girl instead, because, really, how many girls have cat ears? And those whiskers? The Sanrio PR machine quickly responded that while Hello Kitty isn’t a human girl, she isn’t entirely a cat, either. Huh? I quickly shoved all of that nonsense back in a corner of my brain, and I am content to clearly state that, to me, Hello Kitty is a CAT! What do you think?
Anyway, getting back to Hello Kitty: Hello 40, A Celebration in 40 Stories (Plus One for Good Luck) – this is a fun book. A compilation of short comics by international artists, it’s a fitting tribute for Kitty White’s 40th birthday. Featuring a fascinating variety of artistic styles, each artist celebrates her special day, contributing short stories and thoughts on how Hello Kitty affected their art and pop culture in general.
The production values are very high, with a study hardcover binding, heavy paper stock that will stand up to repeated reading, and bright, vivid colors. If you are a Hello Kitty fan, or if you have one on your holiday gift giving list, you really can’t go wrong with this book. It’s also available digitally, for those who prefer an electronic format.
Thanks to VIZ Media, I have a copy to give away. US addresses only, please.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The post Review and Giveaway: Hello Kitty HELLO 40 appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
By: Andy Yates,
Blog: Illustration Friday Blog
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, pen/brush and ink
, weekly topics
, Batman Beyond
, comics illustrator of the week
, Darwyn Cooke
, DC The New Frontier
, Donald E. Westlake
, ed brubaker
, Parker: The Hunter
, Add a tag
Darwyn Cooke is another great cartoonist from Canada to grace the pages of mainstream comics. Cooke’s current career in comics began when he wrote, and drew the memorable DC Elseworlds special Batman: Ego. After a short stint in comics in the mid-late 80’s, he found success as an animator/storyboard artist for Batman: The Animated Series & Superman: The Animated Series in the 1990’s, including creating the main title design for Batman Beyond.
Notable works from Darwyn are DC: The New Frontier(which told the tale of DC Superheroes during the dormant period of the 1950’s), Catwoman’s reboot/redesign in 2001 with writer Ed Brubaker(this run of comics is proving to be ahead of it’s time since we’re seeing a new trend of rethinking/redesigning superhero style & character; i.e. Ms. Marvel, Batgirl, etc.) , the comics adaptations of Donald E. Westlake’s classic crime thriller series Parker, and a recent spate of cover art, including a whole month’s worth of variant covers for many of DC’s flagship titles, and the first issues of IDW’s King Features line.
You can keep up with all things Darwyn Cooke on his website here.
For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates
Brought to you by Publishers Weekly, it’s More To Come, the weekly podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.
In this week’s podcast More to Come’s Calvin Reid interviews comics scholar and creator A. David Lewis about his new book ‘American Comics, Literary Theory, and Religion: The Superhero Afterlife’ and more on PW Comics World’s More To Come.
Download this episode direct here, listen to it in streaming here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes
Brought to you by Publishers Weekly, it’s More To Come, the weekly podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.
In this week’s podcast, the More to Come crew discuss what we’re thankful for in comics this year, including the manga resurgence, greater diversity, digital sales, favorite books and much more on PW Comics World’s More To Come. PW Comics World’s More To Come.
Download this episode direct here, listen to it in streaming here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Top News
, art auctions
, black friday
, high schools
, Raina Telgemeier
, Taschen Books
, Add a tag
[Click on the headlines for links!]
The case that landed both men in jail began in May 2012, when they were assigned to investigate attorney Anthony Chiofalo, who embezzled about $9 million from his client, a company that manufactures heavy cranes.
In October 2012, Blevins sold thousands of dollars worth of rare comic books to a dealer in Chicago who later discovered they were the same items purchased by Chiofalo from an online auction house.
An attorney representing the company Chiofalo had worked for learned about the comics and recognized the name of the seller: Harris County DA’s investigator Lonnie Blevins.
The FBI arrested Blevins in February 2013 – about two months after he left the district attorney’s office. Federal prosecutors said he “cooperated substantially” in their inquiry.
Here’s the link showing all of the titles! Wimpy Kid! Smile! American Gods! Amulet! Timmy Failure!
Raina Telgemeier has posted scenes of her massive signing schedule on Facebook, where she signed eleven packages of book pages over ten days with twelve Sharpies. The pages were then shipped to Asia, where they were bound into the books. All in top secret mode.
Dunno if President Bush did the same, or if he went to an undisclosed location and signed the actual copies of his book.
…and why was he fired six years later? Comic Book Resources has the secret history!
“Since we created the Safe Ship & Zip boxes, the damage rate has dropped to nearly zero,” said Drucker. “And, we’ve received lots of e-mails from customers thanking us for making opening boxes so easy.”
“We’ve shipped comic books to 117 countries, and our damage rate is among the lowest in the comic book business,” said [CEO Jim] Drucker. “So, if you buy comic books online, or are looking for comic books for sale, you don’t have to worry about shipping damage at NewKadia.”
[I did a sample search on their website. They have a copy of “Superman Meets The Quik Bunny”, so it seems like a decent site.]
In a briefing today, Al Ahli Holding Group (AAHG) chief executive officer Mohammed Khammas said the company will hold the Asia Pop Comic Con 2015 in the Philippines.
The annual event features international brands in comics, animation, toys, music and movies, and Manila’s hosting will mark the United Arab Emirates-based conglomerate’s investment in the Philippines.
Established in 1977, AAHG’s businesses range from real estate to construction, engineering and infrastructure, retail and trading, technology and logistics, lifestyle and fitness, entertainment, as well as hospitality.
The conglomerate operates in 25 countries and has a 5,000-strong workforce.
Those are not the only pleasant surprises you’ll find upon entering Subspace Coffee House, though. Living up to the establishment’s moniker, the three-year-old coffee shop is divided into diverse, uniquely designed sections—“subspaces,” if you will—that, when taken together, deliver a one-of-a-kind cafe experience for K-Pop fans, pop culture geeks, office workers, and social media enthusiasts alike.
They specialize in latte art… using the foam to make an illustration, as seen here.
Thor is also proud of the fact that, as geeks and fans themselves, they can get pretty much any latte art request right, with minimal to zero questions and at no extra cost. “Our coffee is good, but our strength is really our latte art—we transport people to different locations by personalizing their coffee.” From comic book characters to TV shows to K-Pop bands, Subspace’s artists have got latte art down to a science. “[Our regulars] know that when they come in, we ‘get’ it. No need to explain what they want us to draw on their coffee. No questions asked, we get it.”
In the “Guys Read” program, students are paired with mentors who read with them and try to introduce them to the joys of the printed page. Many of the mentors are South View High School students.
Baldwin librarian Jennifer Scott said boys were singled out for the mentor program because they tend to read less than their female counterparts. Particularly at the fourth-grade level, Scott said, boys tend to drift away from reading.
Scott said the program attempts to identify books that 9- and 10-year-old boys might like.
“They like graphic novels. They don’t want books that don’t have pictures,” she said. “They don’t like made-up stories. If they do come to the library, they spend their time in the nonfiction section.”
The school advertised the mentoring program and partnered with South View High School. Many of the mentors are ROTC students looking to earn community volunteer credits, but other people from the community have volunteered to help.
Red Bank Regional High School teacher Sara Van Ness, who has published books on graphic novels, has turned her interest in the art form into a popular course at the high school.
“Graphic novels combine both visuals and the written word, so the reader is really participating in the meaning making process,” Van Ness said. “The kids not only have to interpret the words, but also the pictures and the interaction of the two. So it’s sometimes a more challenging reading experience for students, which is not the perception we have of graphic novels of: ‘Oh, they’re just for kids’ or ‘Oh, they’re easier text to read.'”
You started selling books very young. What were you into then?
I was interested in one particular comic book artist who made the Donald Duck series: Carl Barks, who is one of the great American 20th century art geniuses, and he’s still totally underappreciated. I thought I was the only one collecting comic books, but I learned that others did the same but much older than me — people who were looking to buy back the lost dreams of their childhood. So I started dealing when I was still in school; I had a little mail-order business when I was 14. I have this DNA for what a collector needs or loves. What we wanted to do later on with our books was create the ultimate fetish items for the collector.
Read the entire interview to discover an exclusive announcement! (And if you’ve been good this year, Santa might bring you this.)
Kanan and Kelly Dhru still have the wide-eyed enthusiasm characteristic of fresher law students. The sisters are on a mission to foster a new generation of kids who will grow up to be socially responsible adults aware of the laws that govern them. To this end, they plan to release a series of comic books called ‘Lawtoons’.
The first volume, which was released earlier this month, is titled “A Song for Everyone” and deals with topics like the Right to Equality and Freedom of Expression. The initiative has been successfully crowd-funded, with a total of 2.75 lakhs being raised for the first volume alone.
[Now if only someone in the U.S. could produce a comic on how Grand Juries work…]
Some 400 lots of comic art were sold at the auction in Paris on Saturday, Artcurial said, with the highest price fetched by a Tintin strip from “The Castafiore Emerald”, signed by its creator Herge, going for 404,500 euros.
You can see the results at Artcurial’s website. Search for Sale 2666, held 22 November 2014. Or view the 244-page catalog here!
By: Jerry Beck,
Blog: Cartoon Brew
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Bjorn-Erik Aschim
, Christoffer Elsborg Kramme
, Ewen Stenhouse
, Golden Wolf
, Henry Purrington
, Justine Waldie
, Marie Ecarlat
, Max Englehart
, Pedro Vergani
, Peter Dodd
, Sim Marriott
, Thomas Purrington
, Tim Whiting
, Add a tag
London-based Golden Wolf created this slick animated trailer to promote Horse's upcoming graphic novel release of "VANDROID."
While I may play running shoe favorites, you get the idea. Get running and in any shoe that meets your fancy…cuz ‘stopping’ just aint all it’s cracked up to be.
More RUNNING MOTIVATION
#SweatsintheCity Runnerchick Chic
By: Kenneth Kit Lamug,
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, adventure time
, adventure time art
, andy ristaino
, art book
, cartoon cards
, cartoon network
, coffee book
, Jake and Finn
, nick jennings
, paul linsley
, pendleton ward
, phil rynda
, Add a tag
The first of two beautifully lavish books created to celebrate the distinctive designs behind the Adventure Time title cards. Combining sketches, works in progress, revisions and final title card art, the book will take readers on a visual guide of the title card development, with quotes from each episode and commentary from the artists – Pendleton Ward, Pat McHale, Nick Jennings, Phil Rynda, and Paul Linsley.
- Hardcover: 111 pages
- Publisher: Titan Books (September 23, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1783292873
- ISBN-13: 978-1783292875
With both Marvel and DC running big, somewhat vague multiverse spanning crossovers this year, I decided to take some time to go over what retailers would be looking for from both of these series. Last week (a day before more details were released about the event), I went over the shape of Convergence and what it could do to move the sales needle. Today, I’m hitting Secret Wars.
While Convergence is an event being built out of near necessity, Secret Wars is an event that’s emerging from years of planning on the part of Marvel and writer Jonathan Hickman. Both approaches have their pros and cons. While I’m really enjoying Hickman’s work on the Avengers line, it was never anything I would be able to hand to a new reader easily – and his work on the title has only gotten more complex. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this approach, especially when you have several titles on the stands that new readers can easily gravitate to like Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, and Hawkeye – but when it comes to the big event, you want to try and make that thing as accessible as possible. DC can theoretically do this with Convergence by structuring their event as a low-threshold buy-in, featuring two part stories that exist without too much connective tissue. Marvel could theoretically do this, but there’s very little known about the actual structure of Secret Wars beyond the fact that it will be impossible to escape if you’re interested in their line.
The unfortunate part for people who are afraid or intimidated by it is, if you’re following Marvel Comics, you’re not going to be able to get away from it. This is a profound and huge moment in the history of Marvel, and it’s going to reverberate throughout the entire line, except maybe Star Wars.
-Tom Brevoort, from his interview at CBR on Friday
On the one hand, this sounds cool an ambitious – especially given the fact that many Marvel editors and creators have stated Secret Wars will effect Marvel through other forms of media as well. A project on that scale would be a cool thing to be a part of, even as a spectator.
On the other hand, an event with so much connective tissue also breeds a high level of incomprehension. While it’s all well and good to market to the hardcore audience every now and then, it’s long term murder to build a story that only your die-hards are going to appreciate the whole shape of. Built without some finesse, this event could be a very cool way to lose a lot of interest in your product. Built correctly, however, and you could turn a lot of casual fans into die-hards.
The first thing I would do, is have the event function on it’s own. Yes, it’s the culmination of a few years worth of storytelling, but keep the ideas at the core relatively simple. At first blush, it looks as though all the reality crashing that’s been happening across Hickman’s Avengers books will come to a head as all realities meld into one, saving everyone briefly before human nature takes over and territorial fights start to erupt. The key to running this would be to address the circumstances, but keep things simple. Speaking from experience, you can kill a person’s interest in something by explaining it to death before they have a chance to read it. Give people two sentences of description, and include a bit of meat on the bones to whet the palate. If they want to bite, they might go back and explore how things got to where they are, and if they don’t, you’re not implying that they have a big knowledge gap that they have to fill. I would go with a simple declarative, “realities have condensed on themselves, and it’s up to us to keep the peace”. Boom. Concept dropped, with the slight implication of history for those who are interested in going back to check things out.
Beyond that, the structure of the thing will have to be addressed. The main event should be self contained, requiring nobody to push out into other series to grab the whole context. Any other series that push out from there (presumably, the ones that feature specific realities as teased by Marvel over the past few weeks) should be able to function on their own, and be enjoyed on their own accord. Any ongoings that tie into this structure should be able to function as well. What I expect is for something akin to the original Secret Wars series to happen. One month, things are normal, and the next, Spider-Man is running around in a new costume, and people are left wondering until the facts are slowly revealed. This would point new readers back to the big series for more information, but again, if played right, will not require them to do so.
What I want to be true? Marvel pulling a bit of a fast one, pretending as though they are following the original Secret Wars formula by having different realities “infect” certain titles, before returning to a slightly altered states-quo when the event is wrapped. It would play beautifully into a culture of overly specific fan service, offering people a glimpse into realities and eras that the wish never went away, while not fundamentally changing the line in an irreparable way. Note: this seems to be what DC is doing with the two issue minis, offering people a glimpse into realities where Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon get married, where Stephanie Brown remained as Batgirl, where Wally West exists as he did with his family, and so forth and so on. Fan service bait, before a reversion of sorts to a structure that might not be pleasing to all, but cohesive enough to function on the larger scale both companies need.
In the end, I know the shapes of all of these events has already been decided, and that my natterings will have absolutely no effect on the shape of anything. That said, I always think it’s good for companies to take into account structures that would fit the needs of retailers in addition to their budgets, sales goals, and creative input. While retailers can be dragged along a certain amount, at some point, they’ll either wise up, or go out of business, and both options are lose lose for publishers. Build these events to welcome as many people as possible, market the hell out of it, and you’ll do just fine. Allow ambition and sales goals to dictate structure, and you could very well end up with a universe breaking event. That will sour retailers and fans alike on the aftermath – and in an industry built on the perpetual second act, that’s not a good thing.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Is there more? Maybe. I’d still like to hear what you have to say about Convergence and Secret Wars. What do you like from events. What do you want from events? Comment below, and I might address them in a third part to this series.
[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Stan Lee
, Top News
, Aspen Comics
, big dog ink
, Add a tag
By David Nieves
2014 has been quite a year for Aspen Comics, following their 10th anniversary in ’13, the house that Michael Turner built made waves striking a deal with digital platform Madefire and recently acquiring publishing rights for some of Big Dog Ink’s titles. Now they’re wrapping up the convention year Sunday afternoon with a panel at Comikaze. We’re sure to hear more details on the Big Dog Ink partnership plans, and how the company will evolve some of their staple characters for today’s modern readership. Aspen sent over a preview of a few titles they’ll be talking about and showing tomorrow, one of the things we’ll hear about also includes a new project by Scott Lobdell.
We’ll be covering the panel tomorrow, but you can see a preview of it below.
Here’s the sixth part of my interview with the late Steve Moore, with more to follow. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th parts are already online, along with some explanation of how the interview came about.
One note on the text, which is particularly relevant in this section, so worth repeating: As we went along, I would ask supplementary questions, which got inserted into the previous text. To make it clear where a question has been added in later, I’ve included little arrows for those subsidiary questions, like this: ->. Occasionally, there were further questions, which are indicated by an ever expanding length of arrow, like this –> or this —>. Hopefully this will help to understand how the interview unfolded. So…
PÓM: You were a young man in a very vibrant and modern London, at that time. Did you have any interaction with the kind of things we hear about it, like the emerging drug culture?
SM: Well, I had a couple of nice hippy bells [bell-bottom jeans, for those of you too young to know what he's talking about - PÓM] when I was working on Pow! (Ken Mennell was most derisive!) But in many ways I was more of a passive participant. I read things like International Times and Oz and I bought psychedelic albums by people like Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, and occasionally I’d go to hip bookshops like Indica and Compendium (and, of course, Bookends was quite hip, though that was 1972, rather than the late 1960s). But I didn’t go on protest marches and I rarely went to see bands or to events like the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream at the Alexandra Palace (and I rather missed out on the ‘free love’ too, unfortunately). I listened to John Peel’s Perfumed Garden show on Radio London in the summer of 1967, and he encouraged listeners to meet up, wearing Perfumed Garden badges to identify one another. So I made myself a badge and when a meeting was announced on the radio at Greenwich Park I went off and met a few people. I’d guess there were about a dozen people there, one of whom was Phil Bevan, with whom I became quite friendly for a few years, and who also worked at Fleetway House for a while as an art assistant, shortly before I left. We produced a little booklet together for the fanzine market in 1971 called Doomlore, a rather twee fantasy story that I wrote and he illustrated, and he also contributed to the unpublished Orpheus #2. And we’d occasionally drop acid together.
From which you’ll gather that, if I had a fairly marginal involvement with the culture, I had an amiable relationship with the drugs. I first smoked hashish in 1969 with the set of friends I mentioned that had gathered round the founding of Dark They Were and Golden Eyed and, of course, they’re absolutely right when they say it can lead you to much more addictive drugs. In my case, it was tobacco. I only started smoking cigarettes as a result of smoking dope, and that was a habit I didn’t kick until 2000.
Hashish was something I mainly indulged in when it was easily available, as it was at Bookends and during the time I worked at and hung out at DTWAGE, especially in the final years in St. Anne’s Court, when it was delivered by motorcycle courier. Otherwise, friends would get it for me when they got theirs; I had very little contact with actual dealers. So a lot of my work in the first period of my comic career, from 1972 to the late 1980s, was written on dope; I seem to recall this was particularly the case on Warrior. These days I can’t work on it at all, but since I gave up smoking I’ve had to eat it, and that can have a tendency to just wipe out all inclination to work anyway. Especially the way I tend to overdo it.
There were psychedelics around in the late 1960s and early 1970s as well, of course, though I tended to be a bit timid about those. Where friends would say ‘I’m taking two (or three) tabs of acid!’ I’d tend to say ‘I think I’ll stick to one.’ As a result I rarely got completely blitzed, though I had some interesting experiences; but I think I liked to stay in control a bit too much (though that hasn’t stopped me, on occasion, eating so much hashish I passed out, or laughed so much I went into cataplectic fits). There were a few LSD trips, a couple with mescaline (if that was, in fact, what was in the tablet it was sold as) and rather more with psylocybin mushrooms, which are probably my favourite psychedelic, though I hardly ever indulge these days.
When things got tough at Bookends, toward the end, we resorted to amphetamines for a while, to get the work done, which isn’t at all a good idea; and, being available during the late 1970s when I was hanging out at DTWAGE, I indulged again for a little while (though never since). If someone offered me a free line of cocaine I wouldn’t say no, and I smoked opium once or twice, but it only put me to sleep and didn’t do anything. Heroin and barbiturates I stayed well away from, though, as I could see the damage they were doing to people I knew. So it’s really mainly been hashish. I’ve tended to steer clear of modern, laboratory-made drugs, preferring stuff that occurs naturally. But I’m really not into ‘drug culture’ the way some ageing hippies are. If somebody says ‘Oh, but you must try so-and-so!’ I just say ‘no’, these days.
And if you ask: ‘can drugs increase creativity?’ I’d probably say, on balance, that for me, they probably haven’t, though I know some people would have a different view; but they probably haven’t decreased it, either. I neither advocate nor oppose them. When they were there, I took them; when they weren’t, I got on without them. That’s life…
PÓM: You mentioned you thought some of the Chinese clubs might have been run by Triads. Did you have any proof of this, or indeed any contact with the Triads, as you became more immersed in Chinese culture?
SM: No, I can’t prove they were run by Triads, though I rather suspect it. The best I can say is that this is what’s known as ‘informed speculation’. But it turned out that my friend, the young kid who’d been working as a projectionist and letting me in to the movies for free, quite separately managed to get involved with the Triads, and not in a very pleasant way.
For reasons that will soon become apparent, I’m going to call him ‘Chang’, though that wasn’t his real name. Well, by the end of the 1970s, the cinema clubs were starting to close down, to be replaced by Chinatown video hire shops, which meant that I lost touch with my beloved Chinese movies until the advent of the home video market in the mid-1980s. It also meant that Chang lost his job. By then he was in his early 20s and married to a Chinese immigrant who’d illegally entered Hong Kong, and they had a baby, so without the projectionist job he then started working in a takeaway restaurant in Watford. When he was back in London, I’d occasionally meet him for lunch, often accompanied by his equally young Scottish friend ‘Peter’ (again, not his real name), who seemed nice enough. And then the lunches stopped, and we just sort of drifted apart.
Then a couple of years later, in the early 1980s, Chang suddenly turned up on my doorstep (I think on a Saturday morning), in something of a state, which I eventually realised was fear. So I got him on his own (my mother and brother were still here) and a rather complex story came out. It seemed that, like many Chinese, Chang was fond of gambling, and he told me he’d borrowed £500 from a Triad loan-shark to get himself a stake. Obviously, that was worth rather more back in those days than it would be now. I think Chang had been mainly gambling on arcade gaming-machines in Soho but, unsurprisingly, he’d lost all the money. I don’t know what the interest would have been – probably something like 10% a week – but now the Triads wanted their money back, and they meant ‘now’, not ‘soon’. So he was sleeping in his car and hoping they wouldn’t find him.
Chang, however, had a novel solution in mind, involving Peter – of whom, it seemed, I’d gained a rather mistaken impression. Instead of being the innocent young kid I thought, it turned out he was actually both gay (I hadn’t realised) and an armed robber, who sometime previously had attempted to mug a pensioner at Waterloo. Things went wrong, however, when the pensioner not only fought back, but started chasing him as well, at which point Peter turned round and shot the man in the head, leaving him in a vegetative state. He then fled to Thailand with his Thai boyfriend, and I think was about to return now that the heat had died down a bit.
So Chang’s plan was to turn Peter in for the £1500 reward that had been offered, and use the money to pay off his Triad creditor. The only problem with this plan was that the reward wouldn’t be paid out until a conviction was obtained, so he wanted to stay with me in the meantime, in the hope that the Triads wouldn’t look for him here.
I still have very mixed feelings about my reaction to this (I’m not sure it was my finest hour), but I’d had a fairly sheltered upbringing with no direct contact with the underworld, and I really didn’t want my aged mother opening the door to a bunch of armed Triad thugs if they turned up looking for Chang. Or my brother or myself, come to that. I asked Chang if there was anywhere else he could go, and he said he knew someone in Manchester (which itself was a Triad hotbed, so I’m not sure this was the best option). So I gave him a blanket and all the money I had in my wallet, which I think was about £70, and off he went. I never heard from him again, so I don’t know what happened about the plan to shop Peter to the police, or whether Chang sorted out his differences with the Triads. But I find it very difficult to think of a particularly positive ending to the story. Perhaps it’s better not to know…
So that’s as close as I got to the Triads and, frankly, even that was rather closer than I wanted to get. But I still sorta hope that Chang managed to get out of that scrape … somehow …
PÓM: What sort of amount of work were you producing at that time?
SM: I’ve a feeling things may have been a bit slack around 1975/76, and that may have been the period when for a few months I worked a couple of days a week at DTWAGE. Each year I had the annuals to carry me through from about September to February, and on average there’d be four or five books to work on. I also know I did a few projects that never saw publication – I particularly remember doing a comic-strip adaptation of Stevenson’s Treasure Island for someone (which was the first time I’d actually read the book, and I found it far more enjoyable than I’d expected), but it never appeared. That may have been around this time. And it was probably around then that I was writing the movie scripts. But work started to pick up with House of Hammer, and then at the beginning of 1977 there was 2000 AD and in 1978 Hulk Comic, followed by Dr Who and Warrior. So the end of the ’70s and the beginning of the ’80s was one of my busiest periods of comic-book writing. I never made a fortune and (as I may have said earlier), if I’d had a mortgage to pay and a family to support I would have been in some difficulty. But I had enough to buy books, which has always been my first priority!
And apart from the paying work, I was writing stuff for Fortean Times as well. I had a regular oriental column around then called ‘Tales from the Yellow Emporium’ (a pun on the legendary Chinese ruler, the Yellow Emperor), and I’d write up archaeological stories, and occasionally more regular Fortean material. So I kept myself busy.
PÓM: Did you do any work for Dez Skinn while he was in charge of Marvel UK?
SM: Yes, quite a bit. Dez moved to Marvel UK shortly after HoH folded, and started Hulk Comic at the beginning of 1979. The first issue came out in March, so there would have been a bit of lead-time before then when we were working on this. Dez had the idea that we should do original material featuring Marvel heroes, but tailored for the British market, and I think this was around the time of the Hulk TV series with Lou Ferrigno. This was alongside the reprint material as well, so I think the early issues actually had two Hulk strips in each issue, one reprint, one original. I’m pretty sure I wrote at least some of the Hulk stories, though I can’t remember if I wrote all the original stories or shared them with Steve Parkhouse. The main thing I wrote for this, though, was Nick Fury, which I think ran for the first 19 issues. This was drawn by Steve Dillon, who was about 16 at the time, and it may well have been his first strip. I don’t think I actually met Steve when we were doing this. It was still the time when for the most part a writer would have no idea of who’d be drawing his script, and no contact with the artist; a situation that I think only really started to change when Warrior began, at which point I worked very closely with Steve.
I haven’t looked at Nick Fury for many years, so I’ve no idea how good it was, but I remember really enjoying writing it. The original strip had been one of my favourites, especially when Jim Steranko was drawing it, and it was the sort of non-superhero adventure that I liked to do. Writing it was also very influential on my later work, as the ‘tough dude with smart dialogue’ that was Fury influenced my characterisation of both Abslom Daak and the straight, non-underground version of Axel Pressbutton, though obviously in both cases this got twisted up with a lot of other weird stuff that went into them too.
Eventually the original strips were dropped, presumably because they were less economical than the reprints. And, of course, by then we were starting work on Dr Who Weekly, the first issue of which appeared in October 1979. So I just moved from one to the other, and kept on working for Dez.
PÓM: How aware were you of what else was going on in the UK comics business at that time? Pat Mills and the like seemed in particular to be trying to push what they could get away with.
SM: I was hardly aware of anything at all except what I was working on. Since I’d gone freelance I wasn’t really reading comics for pleasure and no longer considered myself a fan, and I’d never even heard of Pat Mills before 2000 AD. I’d really kept away from IPC, once I’d dropped writing the odd Slowcoach story for Whizzer and Chips (okay, apart from Mirabelle!) as I didn’t like their editorial attitudes when it came to handling scripts, and I much preferred to work for relatively smaller companies, rather than a big corporation like IPC, with its corporate attitudes. I gather that Pat was doing some fairly progressive stuff on Action and Battle, but Battle was a war comic, which of course was revolting to me, so I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near it. And, besides, I really hadn’t envisaged working for IPC again until 2000 AD came along, which only interested me because it was an SF comic.
PÓM: Did you end up writing for any of those new titles? I’m primarily thinking of 2000 AD here, of course.
SM: It was basically just 2000 AD, though before we talk about that I’d just like to briefly mention the short-lived comic Tornado as it’s a good illustration of my relationship with IPC. Tornado was a mixed action and adventure comic that started in 1979, under the editorship of Kelvin Gosnell, and only lasted 22 issues. I was already working for 2000 AD by this time, and Kelvin asked me to contribute a short strip starting in Tornado’s first issue. He may actually have asked me for a historical story, but anyway I persuaded him to take a three-issue series, which was a true story about the Japanese warrior-monk, Benkei, who lived in the 12th century and was eventually killed by his enemies. There was enough adventure in his life for me to make a decent little three-part series, but I was basically writing a historical biography of a real person, ending with his heroic death. When the comic eventually appeared I found they’d altered the ending into something much more optimistic. I haven’t got a copy to hand, but I seem to remember they’d changed it so that Benkei actually escaped his enemies and ‘became a legend’. This they’d done without consulting me, and they’d put my name on the strip, which, to anyone who knew about Benkei, would have made me look a complete idiot. I was so annoyed I never worked for Tornado again.
I can’t remember exactly how I got involved with 2000 AD. I think I must have heard about it over the grapevine from someone, and it was an SF comic so I got in touch with them, rather than them approaching me. I think at the time my only other work was House of Hammer and the annuals, so I was looking for a bit of extra work. But I never actually felt comfortable working for it, for a number of reasons. One of them was the thing I just mentioned about IPC being a large corporation, and whereas I always felt with a smaller company that I was working with the editor as a collaborator, with IPC I always felt I was working for them, as a hired hand. Successive editors of 2000 AD have always given me the impression that they thought it was an enormous privilege to work for it, and that I should be grateful – presumably because they always had lots of other people wanting to get in on the act. The only editor who I actually felt made me welcome was Andy Diggle, when I returned to work for the title in 2000. I also used to feel that the editors and contributors formed a sort of clique that went to conventions and on signing tours together, and from what I hear a lot of them are heavy drinkers. As I’m not a drinker and can think of nothing more ghastly than spending an evening with a bunch of drunks talking about comics, I never really penetrated the clique, and always felt something of an outsider. And lastly, of course, I don’t actually like the comic that much.
I always thought Judge Dredd was utterly loathsome (though I did write one short strip for an annual). I appreciate that it was often beautifully drawn and that John Wagner’s a good writer, and I’m also told that it’s supposed to be satirical on occasion, but it espouses execution without trial and is basically about a personality-free fascist who I find about as entertaining as that hilarious Mister Hitler. Then there are the thinly disguised IPC war stories like Rogue Trooper, and B.L.A.I.R.1, the side-splitting super-adventures of that notorious war-criminal Tony Blair. What could they have been thinking of? Even when I was working for 2000 AD, I couldn’t actually bring myself to read the rest of the comic. And I absolutely hated Tharg, which I thought was utterly stupid and childish, and brought down the tone of what I was given to believe was supposed to be aspiring toward a slightly more adult comic. I still feel the same way – and of course, they’re still continuing with the same dim-witted puerility, even though I gather that the average age of a 2000 AD reader these days is somewhere between 30 and 40. But if they’ll still put up with something as irritating as Tharg, I’m not sure exactly how the term ‘adult’ applies here.
But work was work and, besides, at the beginning I didn’t really know what direction the comic would be going. I was well-established enough by that time for them to offer me the second story-arc on the revamped Dan Dare, which I think ran from about issue 12 to 20, or something like that, and was drawn by Bellardinelli, an artist who didn’t appeal to me much at all. All I can remember about the story is that the villain had two heads, which argued with each other. I didn’t much like the new Dan Dare, and maybe it showed, because they didn’t offer me another series on it.
So after that, they asked me to write short stories as filler material, which is what turned out to be the Future Shock series (though the fact that they were then called ‘Tharg’s Future Shocks’ and were given dumb introductions pissed me off – as did being described as a ‘script robot’). Essentially I based the format on the old EC twist-ending SF stories and they’ve been doing the same thing ever since. I think I wrote the first dozen or so and, interestingly, the first few could be written to different page-lengths, just depending on how the story came out. I seem to remember writing one that was only two pages long, though later they settled into a more standard five-page format. I think they then began bringing in other writers, though I wrote a few more. And that was pretty much my first period of involvement with 2000 AD. I then got enough work with Marvel UK, and was happy to leave 2000 AD behind.
I returned in the early 1980s (when the editor was Steve McManus, who I found smug, arrogant and unsympathetic) to write some more Future Shocks and, of course, by then Alan Moore was writing them too, so we used to have a bit of a private competition to see just how far we could push the ideas and still get away with it. And at that time I also got the chance to write a revived series of Rick Random, a strip I’d loved back in the 1950s Super Detective Library, and with Ron Turner, the original artist. Apart from beefing the action up a little for a 2000 AD audience, I tried to write it fairly straight … more a tribute than an updated revision … and I think it was about six episodes long. I was really pleased with it until the last episode appeared in print, at which point it turned out that, for some reason I never discovered, Turner hadn’t finished the strip, and (of course, without informing me) they’d given the last episode to Carlos Ezquerra, an artist I hated anyway, and one who really couldn’t have been further away in style from Turner, and who made no attempt to emulate what Turner had already done. If they’d given the episode to someone like Dave Gibbons I would have understood it, and it would probably have been a reasonably close match – but they gave it to Ezquerra. So, you won’t be surprised to hear that after that I didn’t work for 2000 AD again for another fifteen years or so.
PÓM: I know that yourself and Alan Moore are friends, and have worked together on many things over the years. Do you remember how the pair of you first got in touch with one another, and when you first met?
SM: This is a bit vague, but Alan and I spoke about this recently and I think we’ve got it sorted out. Before organising the first UK Comic Convention, Phil Clarke put out a sales list called The Comic Fan (this is to be distinguished from The Comic Fan Special, which was the bulletin of the Convention), and I printed the lists off for him on my duplicator. In the second issue, as well as advertising Ka-Pow #1, there was an advert from me, because, being besotted with the TV Avengers at the time, I was looking for a novelisation called Dead or Alive. Alan saw those ads, wrote to me, and so the correspondence started.
Unfortunately, that issue of The Comic Fan carries no date, but as Ka-Pow #1 had already been published, it was some time after July 1967. The odd thing about this, though, is that Dead or Alive is a book that never existed. At the time, Hodder published a couple of Avengers novels, credited to Patrick MacNee but ghosted by Peter Leslie, called Deadline and Dead Duck. Dead or Alive was advertised as the third in the series, which was why I wanted it, but if it was ever written it never appeared. So the whole friendship is basically rooted in a quest for a non-existent, chimaerical book … which is a motif that’s turned up occasionally in the work of one or other of us, in mine as recently as Somnium. It’s not a bad symbol for writers, too, as their job is to bring non-existent books into existence, by writing them. But perhaps more interestingly, in view of our more recent notions about Idea Space, we were brought together by the idea of a text, rather than a real one. Attribute whatever significance you wish to that. Maybe it was just the universe having a laugh.
After that, Alan seems to think that we first met face-to-face at the second Con in 1969. I’ve a notion, though, that we first met on a day-trip he made to London with his parents. I met them in town (where they presumably got the chance to check me out and see that I was, in fact, at least basically human) and then brought Alan back to my house for the afternoon before returning him, apparently undamaged, to the loving arms of his family. But exactly when that trip was (i.e., either before or after the 1969 Con) may be open to dispute. I think it was before. Actually, considering how important that first contact turned out to be for both our lives, it’s surprising how fuzzy the whole thing is. Maybe the Martians have tampered with our memories. Or, more likely, it’s the drugs.
Either way, the tradition we’ve always maintained is that we’ve known each other since I was 18 and he was 14. Going by our respective birthdays, that would mean we’d have to have first got in touch by letter sometime between November 1967 and June 1968, which seems to fit with his being a non-attending member of the 1968 Con. Whenever it was, I think one of the things that drew us together initially was the coincidence of our surnames, absurd though that may seem. Of course, in the decades since I’ve seen myself referred to as ‘no relation’ so many times I rather feel they’ll put it on my tombstone, and it was with considerable glee that when we got to preparing the back-flap biographies of Somnium I was able to describe him as ‘Alan Moore (no relation)’!
Anyway, Alan used to send me entertaining letters decorated with little drawings of ‘The Avenging Hunchback’ (sole line of dialogue: ‘Glerk!’) and before too long we were seeing each other quite frequently. And taking drugs together, of course. Apparently, Alan decided that if I was smoking dope it must be okay for him to do so too (I don’t think his mum ever forgave me, especially after he was expelled from school).
->PÓM: Have you kept any of those letters? And, if so, how likely is it you can scan them for the rest of the world to see?
SM: Yes, I’ve kept Alan’s letters, but obviously they have to remain private. There’s no way I’m going to embarrass him by publishing his teenage correspondence. But I’ve scanned one of the sketches of the Avenging Hunchback …
PÓM: I have this romantic scenario in my head where Alan is the wild one, always leading you astray, whilst you are the quiet one, being dragged into all sorts of wild scrapes by your friend. But this is really entirely wrong, isn’t it, as regards comics, drugs, and magic? You are quite literally the man who led Alan Moore astray.
SM: Well, I’d like to portray myself as an evil Svengali who took one look at Alan and realised that here was a striking-looking but malleable individual who I could get years of pleasure destroying an inch at a time, but it wasn’t really like that … even if he has said publicly that I was the man who ruined his life! I just wander into these things like writing comics, smoking dope, practicing magic and resigning on points of principle, and the next thing I know Alan’s decided that as I haven’t actually died as a result, he’ll do the same … only he does it much larger. It’s not my fault, honest! Mind you, he doesn’t always follow my lead. I’ve never got him hooked on China or classical music, in the same way that I’ve never really shared his interest in science or stand-up comedy. We just have areas of interest that overlap … and enormous mutual respect in areas where they don’t. And even where they don’t, there’s still a bit of influence going back and forth.<-
Alan swiftly got involved with the Northampton Arts Lab, and their poetry magazine, Embryo (and its variously-named sequels). That was another attraction for me: I’ve always chosen my closest friends (at least the male ones) among people who were actually doing things, rather than talking about doing things, and that creative bond has remained central to our friendship ever since. So I submitted a couple of poems too (don’t ask me about the quality!), which they kindly printed, and that rather set the pattern. If one of us was working on a project where we could offer an opening to the other, we did, and it’s been pretty much like that ever since.
There was a time in the mid-1970s when we didn’t see each other quite so often (perhaps twice a year) mainly, I think, because Alan was busy getting married, having kids, holding down a ‘proper job’, etc. And then one day he showed up and showed me a drawing he’d done (I’ve a feeling it may have been some sort of fantasy scene with a sailing ship) and told me he wanted to get back into drawing again. And that really kicked off the second phase of our friendship, which has lasted to this day.
->PÓM: Probably a colossally stupid question, but what was Alan Moore like? What were your first impressions of him, do you remember? What appealed to you about him?
SM: You have to remember that our friendship was first established by letter, and the ones he wrote were always entertaining, funny and a bit mad. When I actually met him he was still very young, with a thick mop of hair that hadn’t yet grown long, no beard and a slightly chubby face. And he was fun. He had a great sense of humour, he was affable, honest, generous, straightforward, interesting and interested in everything, and far more sociable than I ever was. We just took to each other and haven’t been able to get rid of each other ever since.<-
PÓM: Comics legend has it that you taught Alan how to write a comic script. Do you remember this, and what advice you gave him?
SM: It’s a story that Alan has very kindly promoted himself, as well, though I’m not sure what I did really justifies it. As I’m sure you know, at the start of his career in the late 1970s Alan saw himself more as a cartoonist, and was quite capable of writing his own stories when he was just presenting a finished page of artwork. But when he decided to write serious strips for other artists to draw (and editors to read), he wanted a little advice on how to present things. So I basically just showed him some of my scripts, and how they were laid out, etc., which was very much in the British professional tradition of the ‘full script’, as I’d picked it up from people like Ken Mennell and Tom Tully, with several lines of description for each frame (I still think of the pictures in terms of the British ‘frame’, rather than the American ‘panel’).
And he sent me his first couple of scripts to look at, on which I scribbled a few comments (not with the blue pencil that editors usually used, but with a red pen so I looked far more outraged!) … mainly about things like the usual beginner’s mistakes of using too many words … and that was about it. All the rest of it was Alan’s talent. And I should, perhaps, point out that a couple of other people later asked me ‘how to write a comic-strip’; but none of them actually ‘got it’ in the same way that Alan did.
Having said that much, though, I have to add that I’ve also learned an awful lot about technique from Alan over the years. Of course, back then we were writing very basic scripts, and such things as the immensely long frame description was something he developed on his own. Later, especially in my ‘second period’ in comics after 2000, I also wrote pretty long descriptions, and that’s an example of the reverse influence. I think we really started to get interested in technical discussions about the time of Warrior, and from there it just went on. Even when I’d left the comics field for a few years in the 1990s to write and edit non-fiction, we’d still spend weekends together talking about writing technique, in various media. Mind you, Alan was always more interested in technique than I was; I tended to have a more instinctive approach, which has also been the case with things like magic. I think it’s just a basic difference in temperament.
As for why Alan reversed the usual format where frame descriptions were written in lower case and dialogue in upper case, to write his descriptions in upper and his dialogue in lower, I’ve really got no idea. I tend to look at things like that and think ‘Oh, it’s just Alan …’
PÓM: You got him some of his earliest work, like the stories he did in Marvel UK’s Dr Who comics, I believe?
SM: Obviously, Alan got the vast proportion of his early work on his own. For example, Sounds and 2000 AD he approached entirely by himself. As for Dr Who, which was a little later, that came about because I was switching from the back-up stories to the lead strip, so a new writer was needed for the back-ups. I think by then Alan had made a few sales and wasn’t a complete beginner, so I felt confident enough to recommend him as a replacement. There wasn’t anything special about this. It was just the sort of thing you’d do for a friend, and it certainly didn’t take any work away from me, so everybody won out. I don’t really remember anything else, script-wise, in the very early days. There may have been one or two other things, but my attitude was basically just that if I couldn’t or didn’t want to handle anything, Alan might as well be offered it.
Before that, though, Alan was still thinking of a cartoonist’s career, and what he mainly wanted was exposure, so he was quite prepared to do stuff for free. Steve Burgess, one of the editors of Dark Star (a magazine about West Coast rock music), worked at DTWAGE, so I knew him quite well; and they occasionally ran one-page underground strips, so I made the connection for Alan. I put him forward for some cartoons for the BJ and the Bear Annual, and I think I suggested him for a spread in the Frantic Winter Special that Marvel did in 1979. The last two, he actually got paid for!
PÓM: Just to clarify on the reference to the BJ and the Bear Annual, is it that Alan only drew the cartoons, to accompany your text? Currently, his bibliographies have his as doing both, for want of clearer information. So you’ll be doing the world of Moore scholarship in general a service by clarifying this! [It's all here, if you're interested - PÓM]
SM: This was a feature called ‘C.B.? – That’s a Big Ten-Four!’ This was a glossary of C.B. radio slang, and I’m afraid I’ve got no idea who wrote it, but it certainly wasn’t me. Looking at the text, it doesn’t really look like Alan either, so my guess would be that it was an anonymous feature-writer working for Grandreams. Alan provided four cartoons that, printed large, stretched a very slim feature to four pages. It appeared in the BJ and the Bear Annual for 1981, and so the artwork would probably have been drawn in the winter of 1980/1981. The feature was reprinted wholesale in The Dukes of Hazzard Annual for 1982.
PÓM: You worked together on a few strips, starting with Three Eyes McGurk and his Death Planet Commandos. How did that come about?
SM: Actually, the first thing we worked on together was a half-page strip called ‘Talcum Power’ (not ‘Powder’, as it seems to be referred to occasionally), for Dark Star #21 (July 1979). Alan had produced a full page ‘Avenging Hunchback’ strip for #19, which was pretty much a parody of the Superman origin story, and also drawn a second instalment for #20, but the artwork was stolen before it could be printed. So as a replacement for that he then did a half-page ‘Kultural Krime Komix’ in which he committed suicide over the theft, and that was pretty much the end of the Hunchback.
‘Talcum Power’ was basically a jam session, constructed one stoned weekend when Alan was visiting. We ‘wrote’ as we went along, and then we pencilled bits and pieces alternately, handing the artwork back and forth (along with the joints), though Alan plainly did more of the drawing and filled out the backgrounds in most of the frames. And after he’d gone I inked and lettered the whole thing. We concluded with a tag-line saying ‘Did you spot the hidden meaning?’ to cover up the fact that it plainly didn’t mean anything at all … it was just two hippies out of their minds on drugs having a good time … but for some reason that quite escapes me now, Dark Star liked it enough to publish it. It went under the by-line ‘by Curt & Pedro’ which, as the name hadn’t gone on my ‘Bangkok sex’ article, was the first time, I think, that the Pedro Henry pseudonym appeared in print.
Just as an aside, at around this time Alan was also drawing ‘St. Pancras Panda’ for the Oxford underground magazine, The Backstreet Bugle, and I did actually draw (all on my own!) a half-page silent strip for them called ‘Foobl’, in which an ancient city is attacked by a biplane (again, the meaning probably wasn’t apparent). That appeared in Bugle #30, August 1979, again as by ‘Pedro’. Later, in the first episode of ‘Abslom Daak: Dalek-Killer’ for Dr Who, I included a passing reference to a character called ‘C. Henry Foobl’ (derived from Curt Vile, Pedro Henry and Foobl), which was pretty much the sort of in-joke we used to indulge in back then … and later Alan actually used the character in ‘The Stars my Degradation’.
Anyway, Alan liked my inks on ‘Talcum Power’, and then asked me to write a series for him, which turned out to be ‘Three-Eyes McGurk and his Death-Planet Commandos’, which we did as by Curt Vile and Pedro Henry. We ended up with Alan pencilling while I wrote, inked and lettered, and the four episodes appeared in Dark Star #22-#25 (Dec 1979 – Jan 1981). It took absolutely ages to produce … more than a year, though obviously we had professional work to do at the same time … and Alan, trying to be helpful, produced what was virtually finished pencil artwork, including every dot of the stippling, and as the episodes progressed it just got more and more minutely detailed. While most comic-book pages are drawn ‘half up’ (i.e., half as big again as the reproduction size) or ‘twice up’, we were actually producing this ‘a fifth up’ (Alan had somehow got the completely mistaken notion that this was the ‘right’ size for comics), which meant I ended up inking most of it with a rapidograph nib 0.1mm wide. Later, when I showed the printed copies to Gilbert Shelton, who was interested in reprinting ‘McGurk’ in Rip-Off Comix #8, he guessed the originals must be huge … twice up or more … and seemed completely bewildered when I told him the actual size. Alan and I were both thrilled to be in Rip-Off (a real American underground!) and I think we actually got reprint fees of about $20 a page for it. With Dark Star, of course, we got nothing at all, but that had always been the deal from the start. Many years later, while browsing the web, I discovered that someone had actually liked the strip enough that they’d called their band the ‘Death-Planet Commandos’, though what sort of music they played I’m not sure. It would have been quite nice to know …
One of the reasons Alan wanted me to script for him was that it would be a challenge, in that he’d have to draw stuff at somebody else’s bidding, rather than just taking the easy option of writing stuff for himself that he knew he could draw. I think he was a bit taken aback when I asked him to draw the Numinous Paddlesteamer, though he responded magnificently. Of course, I’d made a rod for my own back, in that I then had to ink the damned thing! We had a lot of fun: I just let myself off the hook and decided to be as mad as possible, and that drew from Alan probably his best pencils to date. But there was so much work going into everything that by the fourth episode he was sending me the pencils a quarter of a page at a time, so I could be inking while he was pencilling the next quarter, before taping together the four sections of the page. But even so I think we only just managed to get the last episode in on time.
‘McGurk’ saw the first appearance of Pressbutton, a character I’d first come up with in late 1977, and I still actually have the original notebook in which he was first scribbled down:
Character called ‘Press-button’ – he caught Vegan Green Rot years ago, and his body had to be rebuilt from the feet up to above his hips – at the same time they built a button into his chest which, when pressed, give [sic] direct electrical stimulation of the pleasure centres of his brain.
Thus he chats up broads (in bars): “Wanna press my button, honey?”
Thus he is shot to death ‘right on the button’ and dies a happy man – his chest shattered & a hideous grin on his face.
And his companions:
‘Lonesome Henry, the Human Bomb’
So, as you see, the plot for ‘McGurk’ is pretty much there from the start, apart from Pressbutton’s cleaver-arm, which evolved in the scripting. Incidentally in the very first frame he appeared in, Alan drew the cleaver on the wrong arm! At the time, though, I just thought ‘There’s no way I’m going to sell a character who has orgasms to IPC or Marvel’ (at least not in 1977) so the idea just got put aside, and it was only when I thought I could do it as an underground strip that I dusted it off. It should also be plain from this that Pressbutton was created before the Abslom Daak character I did for Dr Who. Some people seem to have got the impression that the ‘straight’ version of Axel I did in ‘Laser-Eraser & Pressbutton’, for Warrior, was somehow a ‘replacement’ for Daak, when I wasn’t writing that any more; actually it was quite the reverse … Daak was what I wrote because I couldn’t do a straight version of Pressbutton.
Of course, following my original idea, I had actually had Pressbutton shot ‘right on the button’ at the end of ‘McGurk’ and that, I thought, was that.
PÓM: I know Pressbutton turned up in Alan’s The Stars my Degradation strip in Sounds, which you took over writing for him a bit over halfway through its run. What I don’t remember is if he appeared before or after you were writing. So, can you set me straight, and tell me how you ended up taking over the writing of the strip?
SM: What happened was that by the summer of 1980, Alan was winding down his Roscoe Moscow strip, and decided he was going to do The Stars my Degradation, a story pretty much set in the same world as Three-Eyes McGurk (so I guess he must have enjoyed his stint on that … we were actually still drawing McGurk at the time). This sounded good to me, and then a couple of weeks later he phoned me up and asked if he could use Pressbutton in the strip. Well, I wasn’t envisaging using Pressbutton again (he was dead, after all, and I didn’t imagine I’d do any more underground strips) so I said of course he could, and he could use McGurk and any of the other material that he wanted as well. This obviously meant that the Stars material was placed earlier in Pressbutton’s life, and when we eventually did the ‘straight’ version in Warrior, that was set earlier still … so he kind of lived his life backwards. Pressbutton first appeared in the fifth instalment of Stars, and it was Alan who gave him the forename ‘Axel’ … I’d never even thought about a forename for him before that.
There were 100 episodes of Stars and a couple of Christmas specials, before it concluded in early 1983, by which time Alan was very busy with a lot of other stuff and was struggling to find time for it. So he asked me write the last third of the series (my first episode was 62), which I was more than happy to do (I was also writing Laser-Eraser & Pressbutton for Warrior by then, so there’s an awful lot of overlapping going on here). I think Alan was getting £45 a week for writing and drawing it, and he offered me £10 for the script, so I said sure and started scripting them in batches of four or five episodes each.
->PÓM: I note that you’re also doing this interview in sets of questions, rather than one question at a time. So, is this the way you like to work, doing things in lots, rather than a piece at a time?
SM: Umm … I’m making this up as I go along, Pádraig! I’ll do it any way it comes!<-
SM: Alan had given me a very rough idea of where he imagined the story-arc going, which was pretty much a ‘back-of-an-envelope’ size synopsis, and after that I just let myself loose and tried to make it as crazy as possible. One of the things Alan had been doing with earlier episodes of the strip was parodying things like The X-Men … but I’m really not interested in parody, so I wanted to make it more of a comedy-adventure in the style of McGurk. And once again, I was challenging Alan to draw all kinds of weird shit, like rubber Episcopalians and battles between newts and Amazons and, of course, the Immolato Tomato … so I was having lots and lots of fun and Alan was probably starting to think this was a really bad idea. And we were trying to get away with as much as we could, of course, which meant the strip was frequently censored, sometimes quite crudely, with whole frames deleted, which we weren’t very pleased about.
->PÓM: What sort of things were they censoring the strips for? I’d have though that the editorial imperatives at Sounds at that time would have been quite relaxed.
SM: We just had too much sexual content for them. Alan had something of a tendency to draw penises everywhere, which usually ended up with ‘censored’ labels stuck over them, and they were obviously less interested in showing acts of sexual congress than we were. There was one occasion where Alan had decided to render the episode in pencil and they simply rubbed out a scene they didn’t like. I should point out that this had been going on before I started writing the strip as well, but I admit it got worse when I took over … but when the story moved to ‘Gomorrah’s World’, on the planet Depravity, what can one expect?<-
SM: Sounds also managed to lose one entire episode, though as this was only about Pressbutton and Harry the Hooper practising before their final showdown, probably no one noticed … except me, and I still had the script, of course.
->PÓM: Are we likely to ever see the script for that episode that Sounds lost? And is there any chance Alan could be talked into drawing it?
SM: I’ve scanned the script, and also the full script for an episode where they deleted a couple of frames entirely. The reason the scans start part way down the page is because I was writing these in batches, rather than starting a new script on a new page. We’ve no objection to these scripts being put online, but I think I can say that the chances of Alan drawing the missing script are pretty close to absolute zero.<-
[Sorry for the quality of these, folks, but this as good as I have them, I’m afraid.]
PÓM: But you were just scripting now, rather than contributing to the art?
SM: The only other art involvement I had was with the special ‘Christmas on Depravity’ story that we did in December 1981, which was just before I took over scripting the strip. The script was mainly by Alan, though we’d discussed the story when he’d been down to visit previously, and there are one or two of my gags in there. It was also the one that ‘reunited’ Axel and Mysta Mystralis, even though they hadn’t actually appeared in Warrior by this point.
It was a four-page story, and thus the equivalent of eight normal half-page episodes, and it had a second-colour overlay on every page. It was due for delivery on a Monday shortly before Christmas, and Alan turned up at my place on the Friday with about half the strip drawn and none of the colour overlays done; I’m not even sure if he’d actually scripted absolutely everything. So we basically just worked through the weekend on it, with Alan drawing the foregrounds and myself contributing bits of background, often on the colour overlays, where we were just drawing in black ink on tissue-paper overlays. So I was tracing pictures of Japanese monsters, the interior of blood vessels, rains of carrots and anything else I could think of. It was basically work, fall asleep and then work again, but Alan left on the Monday morning to take a finished job into the Sounds office, and I went back to bed. The only trouble was, we’d been told that the overlay would be red on the first and fourth page and blue on the second and third, so we designed the overlays with those colours in mind. Of course, it came out with the colours reversed and, worse than that, the tissue-overlays had actually shrunk under the hot lamps in the scanning process, so everything was out of register, too! We were not amazingly happy about this. But those are the sort of things where you look back and think ‘did we actually do that?’
->PÓM: You did at one stage interview yourself in the guise of Pedro Henry, for Warrior. How did that come about?
SM: Dez wanted to do a series of text fe
By Matt O’Keefe
There’s no one doing as pure a form of worldbuilding as indy fantasy comic Cartozia Tales. Not only does it have a map that it intends to explore every part of (unlike the majority of fantasy stories that leave most of their maps untouched), it has a rotating list of creators who take turns furthering the adventures of characters created by their peers. The world of the characters and Cartozia itself is expanded every issue with charming short stories by some very talented cartoonists. It fills a lot of voids in the mainstream comic book market today as a black-and-white fantasy that can be read by kids but doesn’t talk down to them. I interviewed the man running the show, Isaac Cates, to learn more about the inner workings of the fantastic, ambitious Cartozia Tales.
The map of Cartozia.
How did Cartozia Tales come together?
If you mean “where did the idea come from,” it was mostly developed from three sources:
1. An experimental world-building “jam” that I’d tried a few years earlier, using the same format where cartoonists move to a different part of the map in each issue. That was a really fun project, but it was sort of doomed because no one could give it priority.
2. A series of books that I really love, the Dungeon comics by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim, that just always make me want to create a shared fantasy world every time I read them.
3. My sense that there aren’t nearly as many smart, engaging all-ages fantasy comics as there ought to be.
I figured that to make the “map-jam” idea work, to justify printing enough copies that I could afford to pay the contributors enough to get the stories off the back burner from time to time, we’d need a substantial audience — and kids (and grown-ups) who like magic and odd creatures are a pretty big audience of readers.
After I’d put those three things together in my head, I spent maybe a month trying to dissuade myself from doing it, because I knew it would involve a huge commitment of time from me. But I couldn’t let it go, because I kept thinking that it might turn out amazing. And, thank goodness, Cartozia Tales has been more awesome than I could have hoped.
How did you connect with the wonderful contributors to Cartozia Tales?
That’s actually a long and cool story. Gathering the group of core contributors — the people without which there would be no Cartozia Tales, because we’re inventing the world and its stories together — was sort of like the first act of Seven Samurai or Magnificent Seven. I recruited people I knew were good storytellers, with different but compatible drawing styles, most of whom hadn’t worked together before.
I’ve been friends with Sarah Becan for a long time, since meeting her and reading her comics at some SPX many years ago; I’ve known Shawn Cheng for even longer (he was a student of mine when he was in college, back in 2001); Mike Wenthe and I have been collaborating on comics for like thirteen years. Once they all said they wanted to do this thing, I was pretty sure I’d be able to gather a good group.
I’ve been exchanging weird formalist experimental comics with Tom Motley for almost as long as I’ve been making comics. Lupi McGinty and our secret eighth core cartoonist Caitlin Lehman are both people I met online during the “Animal Alphabet” Tumblr project, and they were both people that I really wanted to collaborate with based on what they’d done there. I knew Jen Vaughn from her CCS days (and from conventions). I tracked down Lucy Bellwood on someone else’s recommendation, and invited her in after reading a couple of her minicomics. And that completed the core group.
As for the guest artists and cover artists, it was mostly a matter of asking my most high-profile friends, like Dylan Horrocks and Jon Lewis, first — then letting their participation embolden me to ask people I don’t know quite as well. A lot of people said no, but a lot of other people were willing to pitch in, given that there’s a sort of mission for the project (smart comics for kids) and the page-count commitment isn’t very high.
It takes a lot of faith for someone to leave a character they created in another creator’s hands. Has that been hard for the writers and artists of this series, including yourself?
You know, I think we see it kind of the opposite way. I mean, we all have that faith in each other, I think, and mostly we are really eager to see what everyone else will do with our characters. I know I’ve been really blown away with the things the other cartoonists have done with Minnaig (the otter-girl) and Ibbacod (the heron-headed incantor), two characters that Mike Wenthe and I created together. I really love to see other cartoonists “recognize” or “get” the characters, and the other cartoonists help me understand the characters better.
Think of it like this: If you have cool toys, you want to share them with your friends. Maybe your toys are special to you, but if the person you’re sharing with is really your friend, then you have to trust them to play nice.
Can you walk me through the process of creating and sharing a character?
Here is the way we came up with Wick the Wind-Up man:
First, during the early planning stages for the first issue, Shawn Cheng suggested that there might be wind-up men in Cartozia:
Then I suggested that Mike Wenthe and I might use a wind-up man in among the characters we were including on the image that wound up on the back cover of the first issue. Some of the other characters in that image (Ottie the phibbit, Reshii, Blip, Lila, Tierce and Gandria) were from stories that we had already seen; we just needed a short creature to be in front.
These are my “thumbnails” (a doodle, really) for the image:
… and this is how the little wind-up man wound up looking in Mike’s completed inks, which I would color later.
Around the time we finished this image, Dylan Horrocks gave me an outline for his story in issue 1, which featured a wind-up man named Wick. Dylan didn’t have a design in mind for Wick yet, so I sent him the drawing Mike and I had done, and suggested he might do something like that.
That’s why Mike and Shawn get co-creator credits when Dylan introduces Wick in the first story, though Wick’s personality in that story is totally Dylan’s doing.
In the next issue, when Lupi McGinty drew Wick, she gave him what has become his signature catch-phrase, “Oh, Cogs!” …
Though it’s only in the moment when Kevin Cannon repeats the line that it really becomes a catchphrase:
… And a little later Mike and I added the detail that wind-up men, like some other robots, have storage compartments, though we don’t know yet what Wick is or isn’t carrying. (The drawing here is Caitlin Lehman from my thumbnails on a script Mike and I worked out together.)
Wick’s personality has been sort of gradually evolving as we’ve taken turns writing him, though most of it is in place when Dylan writes him: talky, oddly formal, willing to sacrifice everything for Taco (the servant girl who wound him up). I can guess now that he (and, probably, those other wind-up men) will have something to do with deposing Prince Malo and restoring the true prince of Neenorra to the throne, though of course when Dylan finished his first story there was no necessity that Wick and Taco would even appear again.
It’s a big part of the fun of working on this book: you add what you can to the creation of a character or a place or a story, then hand that work in progress to someone else who takes it a little farther, expands it a little more, makes it a little more complete.
I was talking to some people last week about the way Cartozia Tales gives you the same character drawn by a bunch of different hands, and I think it actually makes the character seem more real — as if there has to be some objective entity that all the different cartoonists are referring to, and you as reader are sort of triangulating the actual character through a series of versions.
Back cover of Issue 6. Art by Mica and Myla Hendricks
You make it a goal to challenge kids instead of making content that’s easily digestible. I love that; the opposite seems like a big reason some all-ages comics don’t catch on.
Yeah. When I was a kid, I could always tell when a book or a show was simplified because it was pitched at kids, and it bothered me. I felt condescended to. I would always rather read something I don’t totally understand, instead of being pandered to, and I think a lot of kids enjoy the challenge of slightly complex reading.
At comics conventions, what I tell parents is that we use big words, but not bad words.
It’s actually pretty easy to tell interesting and compelling stories without getting into “adult” levels of violence or sexuality — you just have to make the stories about some other aspect of our emotional lives. Curiosity about the world, social acceptance, friendship, justice … none of those require gore or strong language or anything else a parent wouldn’t want to explain to his or her kids.
How wide-reaching was the Cartozia fanbase before the Kickstarter? After?
We had about a hundred subscribers before we launched the Kickstarter; now I think we have about five hundred, plus another hundred or so who have subscribed for PDF delivery.
That’s enough to keep us in the black for about one more issue, maybe two. But, fingers crossed, we’ll get enough new subscribers in the coming months to keep me from going into debt before we reach issue 10.
The breakdown of where the money from the Kickstarter went.
What happens if you fall into the red?
If I don’t have working capital for the last few issues, I’ll have to eliminate some of the extras—no more map inserts or paper dolls— and I’d print fewer copies so it’s really mostly going to subscribers. I’ll still pay the artists and put the book out. It might hurt me financially, but that’s the risk I took when I signed up for this thing.
An unfortunate stumbling block for a lot of Kickstarters during the fulfillment stage is that things cost more than the runners of the campaigns expected. Have you experienced anything like that for Cartozia?
International shipping is just absurdly expensive, and the rates have gone up since our Kickstarter campaign. Regular domestic postage is a little more expensive, too, and our print shop is charging me a little more now because the price of paper has gone up. But mostly what I mis-estimated was time.
Cartozia Tales #5 is now available to order. Art by Eleanor Davis.
I didn’t realize this until preparing for this article because the release of Cartozia has seemed pretty dependable, but your original goal was to release all ten issues by September. Have you had any backlash for not being able to meet that goal?
There are like one or two backers who have complained, but I think everyone is still happy to get it at the pace we’ve been managing, which is about one book every two or three months. Some backers might like to get updates from me more often, but I bet there are even more who would prefer that I not fill their inbox with gradual updates.
When you gather up the first six issues, it’s definitely a good stack of reading (about 250 fairly dense pages). Plus there are the various bonus books. I was just at a convention, and people looking at the whole full table would ask me how long we’d been putting out Cartozia Tales; when I said “a little over a year,” they seemed pretty stunned.
What’s your audience like? Is there a lot of enthusiasm there?
I don’t get to see a lot of the audience in person, but I can tell you that the kids who subscribe are often seriously into the book, which is exactly what I had hoped. I mean, when I have met some of these kids they have just sort of gushed about their favorite characters, and the places on the map that we haven’t explored yet, and the things they’re wondering about upcoming issues.
The core contributors to Cartozia Tales: Shawn Cheng, Jen Vaughn, Mike Wenthe, Sarah Becan, Tom Motley, Lupi McGinty, Lucy Bellwood and Issac Cates.
Who’s your youngest reader? Oldest?
I know at least one five-year-old is really into it, because Mica Hendricks collaborated with her daughter on a really fun drawing of Minnaig and Wick for the back cover of issue 6.
I think we’ve got a lot of readers between ages seven and fifteen, but we’ve also got a lot of grown-up readers who are enjoying the book just as much. There are parents who read the book to kids who are too young to read; there are probably also some grandparents who enjoy the book on the same terms, but I haven’t heard from them yet.
Back cover of Cartozia Tales #1. Art by Mike Wenthe.
Is there any one thing you want people to know about Cartozia other than the information that I’ll include in the opening paragraph?
One of the things I’m loving about it as the books grows is that Cartozia itself feels like a coherent world — full of strange things, as any fantasy world would be, but unified by tone and oddball imagination in a way I didn’t exactly anticipate. Everyone involved is imagining stuff in his or her own way, and there are a lot of different flavors of influence making up our world, but they all make sense together. Partly that’s because everyone is so generous about collaborating carefully with each other. It’s really like a shared world, and not like a world where each balkanized fiefdom runs by its own logic. I think it’s one of the most satisfying things about the experience of reading the book: you feel like you’re visiting someplace that’s personal and idiosyncratic, but it also belongs to a bunch of different people.
You can sample Cartozia comics and subscribe to the series at its online shop.
Matt O’Keefe is a writer for hire of comics, comics journalism and even things mostly unrelated to comics. Visit his blog to see his current musings and his portfolio to view his previous work.
2014 is swiftly drawing to a close. In the midst of making sure my shelves will weather the upcoming Christmas season, I’ll be placing my final orders for the last dribs and drabs of product that will grace the new comic book shelves through to the end of this year. Most of the year’s events have drawn to a close, save Spider-Verse and Axis which sees Marvel through this quarter of the year. Two weeks ago, I made the mistake of thinking that I would have time to relax before having to stress about the next incoming ordering monstrosity.
I should really know better at this point.
Oh, honeycomb, won’t you be my baby, well, honeycomb, be my own.
Acknowledging that moving cross country and restaffing an editorial department might be distracting for its staff, DC officially announced it’s two month fill-in event today, CONVERGENCE. The event will replace the New 52 line-up for two months, April and May of 2015, with a framing 9-issue mini-series, starting with a zero issue, and spinning into 40 two part mini series.
--from The Beat’s coverage of Convergence.
Which is to say, at some point over the past year, DC decided to marry the twin hells of ordering weekly comics and scuttling their entire regularly scheduled ongoings for a month or two in a bid to drive me to an early grave. Or they took a look at what their production schedule would look like with an upcoming move across country and thought they might want to alleviate the stress on their staff. I honestly prefer the version where it’s somehow all about me, because I write diatribes on the internet and I am very hard done by.
Elsewhere, Marvel had been releasing several teaser images displaying interesting takes on previously ran stories, all with the promise of something big in the summer of 2015. As we found out on Friday, this was all in service of their upcoming return to Secret Wars. While details are still pretty vague on the Marvel front, they seem to be pushing an angle that would see their line drastically altered while all of this plays out, promising sweeping crossovers not only in their comic book line, but various forms of other media. What this means has yet to be seen, but in my nightmares, I picture a world burning as I try to punch in numbers for several reality-shifted titles for several months.
Admittedly, these are early days, and what we know about both events amounts to very little. While DC has been very specific about formats, they’re playing fast and loose with concepts. Marvel, on the other hand, has provided a bunch of concepts, but no shape or format. Attempting to parse a plan of attack for either at this point would be something akin to a group of blind men trying to figure out what an elephant looks like, so I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to go over some best case scenarios and build the shape that I’d like the events to take from a retail standpoint over the span of two articles (because you guys – there’s a lot to talk about). Some of this might be a little dry (and ultimately pointless in the face of decisions that have already been made), but providing a guide to what retailers are looking for in events such as these can’t hurt.
Of the two, Convergence is being built as a necessity, more than something extravagant. Even if the concept was born out of creative decisions, the execution is all business, marrying the need for DC to pump out enough books to fill out their budgets while simultaneously alleviating editorial and creative pressures during the big move. As such, it’s already on the back foot, appearing as though it’s a fill-in event, something that is decidedly not their main line of books in any way, shape or form. If they don’t tackle this perception in the marketing, April and May might be a couple of DC’s worst months as many opt out of the two months of content.
One of the things the company should have done right off the bat, is get a name to help out with the main series. While I’m sure the new-to-comics writer Jeff King is a remarkable talent, if I walk up to my customers and tell them who is operating at the core of this event, I will inevitably be met with a “who?” from most parties. The inclusion of Dan Jurgens and Scott Lobdell as event consultants does offer a bit of name recognition, but not the kind that’s going to sell books. Again, talented as they may be, I haven’t been able to get those writers to move the dial up on any books that I’m selling, and when you are building two months worth of content, you need to be able to attach an element of interest to the creative, even if the creator in question is only consulting and helps bang out plot points.
An illustration of this point can be found in the sales of DC’s three weekly titles. Batman: Eternal is scripted by a rotating team of solid writers with superstar Batman writer Scott Snyder providing some plot work, sharing the workload with James Tynion IV. That book sells like gangbusters. Meanwhile, New 52: Future’s End launched with a free first issue, and a cracker jack creative team attached, but nobody who pushes into the stratosphere. The weekly Earth Two book is operating under similar conditions, and was sold as a sister title to the main Earth Two book. There is almost no reason for someone who isn’t already following Earth Two to follow the weekly, and my sales are definitely reflecting that. Had their been a more recognizable writer at the core, and had the marketing been something a bit deeper than do you like Earth Two, things would be quite different.
Jeff King should be paired with someone like… say, Warren Ellis. Or Grant Morrison. Or – dipping into the impossible for a second – Alan Moore. If this event has really been long in the planning, hiring a “get” to even just sit quietly in the corner of one or two Skype meetings in order to give more of a push would do wonders for the core – and if the core is strong, the books spinning outward will be all the better for it.
Going out from there, the announced slate of 40 two-part minis can and should be entirely self sustaining. DC should take great pains to let people know that there is zero knowledge required to check out both the main Convergence series and the minis that surround it. That’s how I’m going to sell things. While I know that Convergence is spinning out from the events of Superman: Doomed, Future’s End and Earth Two: World’s End, I’d never place that baggage on the event, unless it is earned. If DC puts out a product that pulls to heavily on prior knowledge, I might as well gather up almost every copy I’ve ordered of Convergence and set fire to it to keep warm. Nobody likes feeling like they don’t know what’s going on, and while it’s easy to wave a hand dismissively and say “they can catch up”, that’s a sure fire way to nab some pretty anemic sales. With so many entertainment options out there, both within the industry and without, “complication” is not a selling point, it’s a reason to jump ship. The less connective tissue the better.
As for the content of the two-part minis, DC should definitely be using the two months as an opportunity to truly get creative. If I had my druthers, about 25% of the books would feature regular creative teams being let loose. Let folks like Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello and Jeff Lemire and Gail Simone loose on your multiverse with a license to say or do anything. The other books? Run completely wild with surprising concepts and creators. Run it like Marvel’s recent Edge of Spider-Verse mini-series, handing out a framework and stepping back to see what unfurls. Becky Cloonan, Brandon Fletcher and Camerson Stewart have already proven they can spark some interest, let them all punch through two issues of something unique. Dig around near and far, and grab from all walks. Would Los Bros Hernadez be interested in something? How about folks like Rick Spears or Ales Kot? What about Bryan Lee O’Malley? Turn off the house style, and really make the month interesting. Get new readers coming to your line, instead of producing the same old, same old. Business as usual combined with a glorified fill-in event will only lead to disinterest, and I can guarantee the company isn’t expecting much from this line of books, so my not take a few massive risks? Who in their right mind would blame you given the fact that you’re moving across country while it’s happening?
Now, launching out from there, regardless of what the company attempts in the two months, the line should look quite different. Keep what’s been working, and otherwise, shake up the line. If this is done in tandem with an interest line-up of books during Convergance, the company will be able to drum up some vague interest, and capitalize on it completely when they double down and per some of the strange infiltrate their line.
Whatever happens, I can guarantee sales will give a fairly accurate representation for the amount of hustle the company is putting into producing the line. It will all be about perception, as retailers are going to be naturally wary of a line that doesn’t include Batman, the book by which all sales are literally measured.
TO BE CONTINUED…
On Wednesday, I’ll tackle what is known about Secret Wars, and how Marvel could potentially structure it to get the biggest bang for their buck. Until then, please comment with your thoughts below. I’m contemplating running this as a three parter, ending with your input on Friday, but that’s really up to you folks.
[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]
In the world wide web there’s a lot that goes unnoticed, even in more niche industries like comics. For the last few years artist Gannon Beck, along with various writers, has been telling tales of the Spaces Corps, a guild reminiscent of the Green Lantern Corps at DC or the Nova Corps at Marvel. What separates it from those is its authenticity in depicting actual military life, thanks in large part to Beck’s time in the Marines. The zero issue is currently funding its print run on Kickstarter while the third issue is going strong as a webcomic. I talked with Gannon Beck about the evolution Space Corps from how it started to what’s coming next.
What was your background in comics before Space Corps?
In high school I did comics with a friend. We did them for fun, but looking back, I have to say that those comics projects were instrumental in developing my illustration ability. We also did a few gag strips—one strip about aliens that crash landed on earth that we tried unsuccessfully to get syndicated, and another strip called The Big Gap that was about a retired Marine living with his grandson. We did The Big Gap as a webcomic for a few years. It eventually petered out, but it was fun and helped hone our writing and drawing skills. It’s actually really hard to write captivating strips in four panels. I like the long form format of comic books much better; however, because of how we set up the grid for Space Corps, which is 4 x 4 panels, I can smuggle a daily strip style of writing into the pages.
You explain well how Space Corps got started on the Kickstarter page, but how did you connect with your other collaborators on the project?
Joey Groah was the instigator. Joey heard about an art class that I taught every week at the local comic book shop and stopped by to introduce himself. He was already a member of Comics Experience and introduced me to a bunch of people on the workshop. He also introduced me to his childhood friend and writer, Bryan Richmond. Especially at the beginning of my time at Comics Experience, I did a bunch of short stories with various writers. The collaboration with Bryan led to Space Corps and stories just kept erupting from it. Rather than fight it, we just went with it.
You’re a very capable writer, so why did you collaborate with other writers for Space Corps #0 and beyond?
There is no question that Space Corps wouldn’t be the same, and wouldn’t be as good, had I tried to do it on my own. In a creative collaboration like ours, the ideas spark off of each other to form new ideas and concepts.
Take issue 3, for instance. In coming up with the characters in that issue, it was Bryan and I throwing ideas back and forth that made them what they are. Once those characters inserted themselves into the story structure, it took on a life of its own. Once you place a character like Sheg into a boot camp environment, there is a logic as to what that story alchemy is going to be. It was important to me to do an issue on boot camp because it’s one of those touchstone military experiences that all military people share. The idea of Sheg as a character, however, started with Bryan. Even though we’re only half way through the issue, try to imagine the story without Sheg. For that matter, try to imagine the story without Cazarez, who also started with Bryan. I can’t do it. It just wouldn’t be the same story.
I love the story we’re telling, and I love the characters. I also love the process of working these things out with Bryan. We’re having a good time doing this, and I think that shows up in the work as well.
Rewards from the ‘Space Corps’ Kickstarter.
How have you been promoting Space Corps the webcomic and, more recently, Space Corps the Kickstarter?
For the most part, it has been social media and conventions. It’s a looong road, though. It can take a long time to build an audience.
Recently we’ve been experimenting with breaking up the pages into dailies. The 16 panel grid lends itself to that really well. We post the dailies on Facebook and Twitter, and that has increased engagement a lot. In the documentary, Stripped, Bill Watterson talked about how when daily newspapers were thriving, comic strips became a part of people’s daily routine—a part of their ritual. Breaking the pages into dailies is our attempt to get back to that.
All of this is ironic. The first comic books were just repackaged daily strips from newspapers. Eventually, publishers started commissioning new material, and the form evolved. Now, with the internet and people’s limited attention spans, we’re reverse engineering the comics page to get back to where it all started—the daily strip.
The point is to make it easy to keep up with—give people bite-sized chunks. Even though we read strips like Calvin and Hobbes in collected volumes, the way people initially fell in love with it was in tiny bits at a time. So that’s why we want you to be able to read Space Corps from the comfort of your own feed.
Is that a smart marketing move? We’ll see, but that’s the thinking behind it.
The military community is known for being an especially supportive one. Has your background played a role in the success of the campaign so far?
It has helped, for sure. People who have been around the military really have supported the comic. Not only veterans like it but their families as well. It feels really good when I put a thought in Deven’s head and a whole bunch of veterans say they’ve had the same thoughts. The first page of issue #3 when Deven is thinking about how to get through the day, for instance, particularly seemed to hit home.
The cultural authenticity in Space Corps is very important to both Bryan and me. When we get it right, people in the military will see a little of themselves and those they serve with in the story. In turn, they’ve been among our biggest supporters.
Aside from the military audience, there are comic book people who really like it as well. That’s been such a boost to us to get all the encouragement we have from people we meet at cons and on the Comics Experience. It gives us the confidence to think maybe we’re not entirely crazy for thinking this is good. Because we’re producing pages without pay, the encouragement we get from both the military and the creative community really helps. We don’t take it for granted at all and are so appreciative for those who have taken a chance on it and liked it.
Kickstarters for single issues are difficult because with shipping you have to charge a high price for one comic. You’re offering the print copy of Space Corps #0 for $8, which is cheaper than some I’ve seen. Still, are you getting any blowback on the cost?
It doesn’t seem to be the case. Sure, we would probably get more if we had a 120 page volume we were offering, but it would also be more expensive to print, so we would need more money. With crowdfunding, it has as much or more to do with helping the endeavor than it does getting the cool thing. At least that’s how I feel about it when I’m supporting someone’s campaign. Don’t get me wrong, I want the thing, but it’s more than that; I want the thing to exist, and I’m willing to pay a little more to help it exist.
When people give us $8 to cover the shipping, I think it’s because of a “help-get-it-off-the-ground” kind of thinking. They know they are helping us bring this into the world. They become a part of the art creation, not just the consumption.
Buttons Gannon designed as a stretch goal for the ‘Space Corps’ Kickstarter.
Do you have stretch marks in mind if you exceed your goal?
We do. The first stretch goal will be a challenge coin. Military units routinely get challenge coins with their unit logo on them. We think it would be cool to do one for Capt Brockett’s unit, the one Deven will end up attached to. If we reach that, we’ll see if we can come up with something else. We really can’t dangle things like, “If you give us more money, we’ll give you more Space Corps,” because more Space Corps is coming no matter what. Bryan and I are committed to telling these stories.
What do you want out of this Kickstarter, other than funding?
Other than funding, the marketing Kickstarter provides is helpful. We want to keep growing our audience. We’re proud of the work, and we think a lot more people, military and civilians alike, would like it if they just read it. If more people have read Space Corps because of the Kickstarter, then that’s a success in addition to the funding.
It doesn’t look like we’ll go ridiculously over our Kickstarter goal, so none of this money is going to go to Bryan, Joey and me. If we go over the amount we’re asking for, it’s going to go into printing more books. The more books we can get into circulation, the more people have a chance to fall in love with the characters. At this stage of the project, that’s our focus.
An example of a sketch cover reward offered by the Kickstarter.
The subsequent issues of Space Corps are gray wash, not color. Is that how you’ll print them?
We treat the short stories differently than the ongoing series. After issue #0 we really want to break the series off into two different series. One series will just contain 8 page short stories like we saw in issue #0. I’m not even sure that we know what we want to call the short story series. With the short stories, though, we can be expansive– go forwards or backwards in time to tell a story. I can get experimental with the art and work with other creators. A lot of writers have expressed interest in writing Space Corps short stories, and I think it’s a great idea. Most of those, if not all, will be in color.
The main story, which is more linear than the short stories, is a part of a grand structure. The gray tones are important because, even though it’s science fiction, we intentionally want to invoke a connection with WW2 and WW1. Most photos and film we see of those periods are in black and white, so by using gray tones, we can tap into those motifs thematically and emotionally. I experimented with different styles, even water color in the way Matt Kindt works on MIND MGMT, but thematically gray tones made more sense.
I also want the main series to look hand drawn. I love looking at combat art, and most work done by combat artists tends to be gestural. I want the readers to be aware they are looking at something that is drawn by hand.
A recent page of ‘Space Corps’ utilizing a 16-panel grid.
I’m really excited to see future issues hit publication, because you really open up your work. I’m astounded with how effortless you make a 16-panel page look. I can’t imagine asking for that panel count from an artist, but you co-write this so you must enjoy them.
Thanks. It’s a function of knowing how to use the grid. Because we want to make each issue about something, even if it’s a part of a larger arc, we sometimes need to have high panel counts. Sometimes we’ll fit 2 to 3 pages of story onto a single page. A strict grid used with strict rules helps organize the information in a way that make it work. I can easily use repetition and contrast in the layout in a way that makes the reader pause or shift gears on a page when I want them to.
You’re in the midst of Issue 3 of Space Corps as a webcomic. When does the first arc end?
The first arc ends in issue 6. In the first three issues, we wanted you to get a feel for who Deven is before he joins the Space Corps. The internment camp, leaving home, and boot camp are all important stories. They give context to Deven’s evolution as a person as he deals with becoming a cog in the machinery of war. In issues 4, 5, and 6 the situation is going to get exponentially more harrowing for Deven. If you’ve been loving it so far, you are in for a ride.
After that, what’s next for Space Corps?
After the first arc, we need to figure out what the second arc will be. We’ve got plenty of ideas, and it’s just a matter of narrowing it down and picking the next story we want to tell. Ultimately we’ll pick the strongest and most logical story to tell after issue #6.
It’s possible we may find a publisher for the first arc, but if not, we’ll Kickstart the trade.
Beyond even the first and second arcs, we know where the story is headed, and we’ve got tent poles of the story figured out along the way—at least in broad terms. Whether it takes 20 issues to get to the end or 70 issues, we don’t know. It’s way more than six, though.
What have you been working on recently other than Space Corps?
As far as comics, I’m doing the layouts for Past the Last Mountain with Paul Allor and Louie Joyce. It’s been a ton of fun.
I also do some parody comics for kicks. I’ve done a Batman parody with my friend, Troy McDevitt, where Batman is interviewing a new Robin because he goes through so many. Troy and I also did a Star Wars parody about how the Death Star was so poorly designed they only included one bathroom. The whole story is about Emperor Palpatine hogging the bathroom. Troy and I have known each other since we were teenagers and these stories come about from us cracking each other up making jokes. I do the parody comics very loose, just to get the jokes out of my system. I don’t spend a ton of time on them but they’re fun.
What are your short term goals as a comic book creator?
Just to keep getting better at the craft and figuring out ways to increase production on the cheap. There is nothing really sexy about it. I read everything I can. I see what’s working for other creators, and when I see a process or tool that’s interesting, I try it out to see if it works for me.
How about long term? Where do you want to be in [x] years?
Space Corps is it for the foreseeable future. It’s going to take years to get this story out. I’m not opposed to work-for-hire on small projects, but I’ve never viewed Space Corps as a stepping-stone to work-for-hire. Space Corps is what I want to do.
For me, Space Corps more than just a cool science fiction story. It’s a vehicle to help process a lifetime spent around the military. Military service has been a family affair. The heaviest fighting seen in my family, and possibly in all of history, was on Tarawa and Iwo Jima, where my grandfather served as a Sea Bee. It’s why Cpl Hive is full of bees. He is an homage to my grandfather. In a larger sense, though, the world has grown up in the wake of WW2. I’ve grown especially aware of how we’re still affected by the ripples of the war. I’ve lived in Japan both as child and an adult as a part of the treaty signed at the end of the war. I lived in Berlin at the end of high school, surrounded by a wall erected in the aftermath of how Germany was divided when the Third Reich fell. That gave me a front row seat to the end of the cold war when the wall fell. I stood on the wall, shoulder to shoulder with East and West Germans, the night freedom took hold of all of Germany.
WW2 isn’t the only historical inspiration for Space Corps. That said, even Vietnam, Korea, and the wars in the Gulf have to be looked at a little through the lens of WW2. WW2 brought on the nuclear age. Also during WW2, America reflexively emerged as a world military power that has remained unrivaled until this day. The military we have today is a result of the military that was built during the 40s. We had a strong military in place for the conflicts in Korea and later, Vietnam. Caught in the current of history, my dad fought and was wounded in Vietnam. Two of my uncles fought in Vietnam as well, one who was killed in combat, leaving behind his pregnant wife.
My older brother was the first to join out of my family in my generation. He joined the Marine infantry and was in one of the first units into Kuwait during the first Gulf War.
My own military experience, while unremarkable, helps give me insights I wouldn’t otherwise have. While my brother was liberating Kuwait, I was in boot camp. The cease fire was called days before I graduated from Parris Island, and I enjoyed a hero’s welcome on boot leave for doing nothing. The nation reflexively and consciously made sure it treated veterans better than it had after Vietnam. As a result, I received the free sodas and thanks my brother earned. In March of 1991, while I got to soak it up, he was still living in a shallow hole in the desert. Whereas I got to witness the cold war break down in Berlin as a bystander, I helped monitor its end doing intelligence work in the Marines. In Korea I stood on the DMZ and listened to both countries blast propaganda on loudspeakers like quarrelling children. The contrast of standing on a demarcation of oppression as it dissolved, like it did in Berlin, and standing on one that was still festering, like in Korea, was stark to say the least.
When out of the Marines, as a volunteer, I helped high schoolers get in shape for boot camp. As a result, I’ve met the kids in my community as they signed up for service in the midst of two wars. I’ve seen the mix of pride and apprehension on their parents’ faces as they said their good-byes, knowing their children would likely end up in a warzone.
Then there is the logo work I do for the military, which has given me yet another perspective. Through the most recent wars I’ve talked almost daily with the men and women doing the fighting. For over a decade I’ve collaborated with Marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors about artwork that best captures how they view themselves. I’ve done over 2000 of these designs —each and every one of the logos a collaboration with the unit. The resulting art is a record of the mindset of warfighters as they prepare for and fight wars.
War is the most serious of human endeavors. The stakes couldn’t be higher for civilizations and the individuals who wage it. Space Corps is a way to get at themes and topics related to war that we don’t think about maybe as often as we should. Lurking in Space Corps are a lot of stories I need to explore. In comics, my long-term goal is to keep telling this story.
By David Nieves
As humongous and “earth shattering” as event comics can be they usually aren’t the endgame a publisher has in mind. The payoff usually lies in what comes after, whether it’s in the form of another event or a new series. Unfortunately for Marvel the pattern that’s developed is a stale event followed by a great series; one example that comes to mind was Dark Avengers coming after the Secret Invasion event. Marvel’s latest case, AXIS, while convoluted at times, has set the stage for Tom Taylor to play on the other side of the big two field with Superior Iron Man.
Taylor never did get to write a nice Superman for DC, and it appears that he won’t get a chance to pen stand-up Tony Stark either. That’s far from a bad thing. Superior Iron Man is about exploring an ultra narcissistic Tony Stark after his personality turn in the pages of AXIS. Stark’s new found god complex has him release a new version of Extremis on the population of San Francisco. This shell head isn’t out for philanthropy; instead he’s set to capitalize on the public’s newfound seduction with perfection. Once you see who Tony is put on a collision course with at the end of the book you’ll definitely want to keep this on your must read list. New readers worried about having missed Iron Man’s turn in the pages of AXIS have two paths about their dilemma. We’re told at the beginning of the book that Tony Stark’s personality was altered by the battle with Red Onslaught. If you can accept that fact at face value there’s no need to go back and read AXIS because it has very little to do with the progression in these pages. However, it’s easy to see why some will want to go back and see the events that led up to Stark’s turn.
Another face making his Marvel debut is artist Yildiray Cinar. He brings his hardline realism to the pages of the book just as poignantly as he did for DC. It’s minimalistic and guides the story to that strength by using a small number of panels on the pages that don’t feature Stark and then ramping up when Tony hits the scene. You won’t see tons of hyper detail found in Iron Man stories of this modern era, but Cinar manages to illustrate the unique dark tone of Superior Iron Man on a solid level.
Superior Iron Man is a fantastic start. Tom Taylor shows he’s a master at plotting a story and hooking readers from the get go. This series looks to explore a Tony Stark unbound by the chains of ethics. If you were worried this would be some kind of carbon copy of Superior Spider-Man’s narrative, rest assured it isn’t. Instead of a villains journey; we’re on a ride to explore the existential struggle of not Tony’s demons of insecurity but his super ego gone astray, which could prove to be more dangerous for everyone. In a week full of great comics, Superior Iron Man stands out as a must read.
View Next 25 Posts
It’s the return of The Beat’s weekly look at comics on Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) and bits of retail process that doesn’t merit a full column. The last time I tried to write one of these, I ended up staring at the screen as it blurred at 2am the night before I got married. That column never went up because it was clearly the product of jitters and hardly made a lick of sense. Oh, by the way, I got married, you guys. So there’s that.
Yesterday, Image announced a neat initiative that will see several of their books get The Wicked + The Divine variant covers in December, the first few of which are on this week’s FOC.
There’s a certain amount of genus involved in this campaign. First off, the rabid following Gillen and McKelvie have fostered over the years are going to eat these two up. In doing so, you’re going to see a fair amount of people expressing interest in a few titles that they might not have checked out before. That’s pretty cool. Add to that the fact that all of the titles receiving this treatment are either new #1s, or starting points for new arcs, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic cross-marketing opportunity that would be pretty hard to screw up.
Now let’s talk about how they screwed this up.
Instead of offering the variants as 50/50 style “order whatever you want” variants, Image is placing a 1 for 15 qualifier on the books, which means retailers will only be able to order a single copy for every 15 copies on the stands. Qualified variants such as that always stick in my craw. I’m not a big fan of variants in general (a longer column for another day), but I can at least get behind variants that you can order without qualification. That says you’re offering another variety for a reader to sample, letting them choose what cover they’d like. That, I understand. Qualified variants, on the other hand, are the dirt worst. They’re a dirty manipulation of the whole “supply and demand” market designed for cheap, easy money, both for publishers and retailers alike. If a retailer wants a bigger supply, they will have to order more copies. In order to cover the cost of those copies (many of which won’t sell), they will charge a premium for that cover. And hey, even if they don’t need to charge a premium to cover the costs of extra copies, they’ll probably mark it up because of the low supply, and the high demand.
When publishers do this, they are saying they value the collectors market more than they value the readers market – or at the very least, they’re willing to exploit broken parts of the system in order to achieve some short term gain. Unlike when Marvel and DC pump out anywhere from 13 to 52 different variants for a single series, I do believe that Image’s intent here is to get more eyeballs onto some well deserving books. Retailers ordering for these variants are going to pump up their numbers in order to match a perceived demand. More product is released to the market, and people aren’t so hard done by to find copies when the print run dries up. The problem is this: in search of a quick buck, there will be several retailers who over order. Some of them will even know better, but can’t help themselves. As a result, there will be copies of these titles that languish, unsold until they’re blown out the door at a loss – and if there’s two things you don’t want for your line of comics, it’s an attachment to the idea of “lost sales”. Why should a retailer order deep on future issues of Shutter or Bitch Planet if you have unsold copies? Wouldn’t it just be easier to order for files, and drink in the cash? Overstock always makes a retailer itchy, and an itchy retailer is going to react by cutting back on your book, either consciously or subconsciously. Either option is not good.
These variants should be offered like most Image variants – as an “order whatever you want”. The result will be a far more accurate representation of people who actually read the titles, and people who are checking it out due to the cover gimmick in question. Having more Wicked and Divine covers out there means that their fans have easier access to the covers they want – which might, in turn, make a collector of The Wicked + The Divine a reader of something else. That’s the goal. Readers over collectors. Long term gain over fast money. Honestly, this shouldn’t have to be said. But hey, let’s hear someone else say it.
Everybody moans about variants, but here’s the honest to goodness truth:
You stop ordering variants; we’ll stop making them.
They are only produced to shore up market share, that’s it and that’s all, and when used in conjunction with quantity-based incentives, they don’t sell more comics, they just result in stacks of unsold books that send the wrong message to your customers about the titles, your stores, and our industry.
That type of marketing is built on short-term sales goals that do little to grow and sustain readership, and it’s a trick that’s been done to death in other industries, to diminishing returns.
-Eric Stephenson at ComicsPro’s annual membership meeting, February 2014
The “you” he’s referring to is retailers. Honestly, I shouldn’t order these variants. I know better, and apparently Image knows better – or at least their publisher does.
That said, I’ve already placed my orders for them. They knew I was going to. That’s why they did it. We all know it’s a dumb idea, but no one can help themselves. And we wonder why the industry is plagued with short-term planning problems.
Speaking of variants, Marvel just announced a brand new kind of variant that’s sure to give some collectors a really bad itching sensation just below the skin. Here’s the press release:
This January – the small hero with the big time heroics is ready for his shot in ANT-MAN #1, the new ongoing series from critically acclaimed creators Nick Spencer (Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Avengers World) and Ramon Rosanas (Night of the Living Deadpool). But first, Marvel is proud to present your first look at the exclusive ANT-MAN #1 Shrinking Variant – available only in comic shops!
Kissy the face
From blockbuster artist Ed McGuinness – each ANT-MAN #1 Shrinking Variant is completely unique. Individually numbered, each cover features Ant-Man at a different size – small, large and everything in between. Fans lucky enough to get their hands on this highly collectable variant cover will own a unique piece of history, as no two variants are alike!
“This is completely unlike any cover we’ve ever attempted,” says Marvel SVP Sales & Marketing David Gabriel. “We’ve even had to utilize new technologies to make it happen. Each variant is completely unique. Each and every cover will feature a different sized Ant-Man. No two are identical!”
Scott Lang is ready to turn it all around in this brand new ongoing series. Sure he’s never been the world’s greatest super hero. Most people don’t even think he’s been the best Ant-Man – and the last guy created Ultron and joined the Masters of Evil, so that’s really saying something. But that’s all about to change. New city. New outlook. New Scott.
Be there for Scott Lang’s brand new day and don’t miss your chance to get your hands on this truly unique, one-of-a-kind variant before they’re gone for good! This time, nothing’s going to stop the astonishing Ant-Man! Be there when he returns to comic shops with the can’t miss ANT-MAN #1 Shrinking Variant comes exclusively to comic shops this January.
It’s a neat idea, one that would have been a good idea for the regular cover. Unfortunately, this isn’t for the main cover. If retailers want to get some copies of this special cover in the store, they’re going to have to exceed 150% of their orders for Hawkeye vs. Deadpool #1, a fact the press release neglects to mention. After all, why spoil a goodwill press release with the trials of actually obtaining the covers?
It will be interesting to see how demand goes for this variant, and what retailers will end up pricing them at. In my experience, “exceed XXX% and order whatever you want” variants don’t go for much more than cover price, so are hard to justify if you’re looking to cover the cost of unsold regular editions. I know I’m not going to try to order the variant – the math doesn’t work out even slightly – but regardless, I’m curious as to how this experiment will turn out.
The final order cut-off list has been a little crazy lately as printing deadlines start to jut up against each other during the mad rush to get things to the printer before things shut down for the holidays. Dark Horse started condensing their schedule last week, and Marvel has two weeks of product listed for this week, including the 7th and 8th issues of Axis. Ah, condensed shipping. You’re a special kind of hell.
A note: you might remember me talking about the Guardians of the Galaxy Annual in my first FOC column months ago. Well, after missing it’s original August shipping date by a mile, it’s reappeared on the FOC list for shipping on December 10th. Harsh, considering the fact that it would have been nice to have something that said Guardians of the Galaxy #1 on the shelves right after the movie hit, but when you hire Frank Cho to draw a thing, you kind of know what you’re getting. I mean, you’d almost have to at this point, wouldn’t you? Gorgeous art, horrendous deadline skills. Anyway, my orders dropped from chunky movie cross-promotion numbers, to something quite a bit smaller. Sure, I might get the odd Christmas sale from it, but I don’t expect what I could have gotten off that movie.
Otherwise, there’s nothing too exciting or noteworthy to really talk about on this week’s FOC. Marvel’s winding down their big event, and DC is holding their breath as they walk into Convergence.
That said, people who are enjoying The Fade Out should tell their comic shops to try and bring in the collection of Hit. It was a wonderful 50s noir series that Boom! Studios put out this year that featured a compelling story by Bryce Carlson and stunning art by Vanessa R. Del Ray – who will soon be working with Grant Morrison on a new book for Black Mask Comics.
TO BE CONTINUED…
That will wrap things up for this week. The Retailer’s View will return on Monday with my promised look at what retailers are looking for from Marvel’s big Secret Wars event this summer. In the meantime, you can head off and read my thoughts on DC’s Convergence series. Until next time…