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26. The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 4

Here’s the fourth part of my interview with the late Steve Moore, with more to follow. The first, second, and third parts are already online, along with some explanation of how the interview came about.

Steve apologizes CU

PÓM: You mentioned that you worked with Dez Skinn at Fleetway House. How did you get on with him?

SM: It was okay at the time, though I’ve never really got on that well with men from the north of England. I’ve generally found them opinionated, pig-headed and sexist; on the other hand, I know they tend to think of us southerners as over-intellectual wimps. Both of these are completely clichéd generalisations, and I’m sure the first is no more true of all northern men than the second is of all southerners, but in my experience there seems to be a bit of a gulf in attitudes. So at Fleetway, relations with Dez were generally cordial, though occasionally a little caustic, and we weren’t actually working on the same magazine which meant we didn’t spend the whole day together. He was never someone I really wanted to actually socialise with, though. I tended to hang out with Steve Parkhouse and left all thoughts of Dez behind when I left the office.

On the other hand, my professional relationship with Dez, between writer and editor, was very close for several years and generally problem-free, and we worked together on House of Hammer, Starburst, Hulk Comic, Dr Who Weekly and, eventually, Warrior. At that point things started to go wrong, but until then he was another editor who’d accept everything I gave him with virtually no changes and we did a lot of stuff together, some of which, I like to think, was pretty good.

->PÓM: Didn’t you end up working for Dez as a freelancer, later on?


SM: Yes, I did work for Dez, but I can’t honestly remember how it came about. I’m pretty sure the first thing was House of Hammer, which was published by Thorpe & Porter (otherwise known as General Book Distribution or Top Sellers; the same outfit seems to have had a multitude of names and, as I mentioned, they’d also picked up the Brown, Watson name too). John Barraclough had ended up there after Target folded, and it’s possible he may have mentioned that he’d worked with me to Dez; but if not that it’s probable that Dez knew that both Steve Parkhouse (who also worked on HoH) and I were now freelance and, of course, we all knew each other from our days at IPC. So if Dez was looking for contributors, we would have been a natural choice. And as Dez moved on to other jobs, he just kept on offering work to the same stable of contributors, both writers and artists, that he already knew and had worked with.

–>The first issue of HoH was dated October 1976, so I’d guess we started working on it in the summer, or maybe a bit earlier. Looking back, I see that John Barraclough and Chris Lowder were mentioned as associate editors on the early issues, so it’s the same little clique that had first got together at IPC again.<--

I wrote a number of features in the early issues, despite the fact that there were far more competent film-journalists also working for the magazine, and Dez and I also took a day-trip to Elstree when Hammer were shooting To the Devil a Daughter, which meant another feature I got to write up, in issue 2. We did actually get on the set briefly, while they were filming (I only got round to watching it recently – dreadful movie), but we spent most of the time talking to special effects man Les Bowie, who took great delight in showing us how gory effects could be got with latex skin and artificial blood. A charming man who really seemed to enjoy his work.

The articles had my name on, but they weren’t so good at crediting the comic-strips, at least early on. I did quite a number of movie adaptations, where we were generally working from copies of the original scripts, plus photos; and also some of the short stories, ‘Van Helsing’s Terror Tales’.

Despite not having my name on it, I wrote the adaptation for Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires in issue 4, which, being a Hammer/Shaw Brothers co-production and a Dracula/kung fu mash-up, was an obvious one for me. It had some lovely artwork by Brian Lewis, who I was delighted to be working with, but it seemed the feeling wasn’t all that mutual: the single time I met him, he immediately complained that my scripts gave him too much to draw!

Issue 8 saw my first ‘Father Shandor, Demon Stalker’ solo story, with John Bolton artwork. Shandor had first appeared in Dracula Prince of Darkness, which we’d adapted in issue 6, though Donne Avenell wrote that (John had been the artist on that as well). I think Dez suggested the idea as a way of stretching the material, though obviously it would have been quite a while before we ran through all of Hammer’s horror films. He told me we could do the strip because, unlike in the Dracula movie where the name of the character was given in the credits as ‘Sandor’ (the correct Hungarian spelling), we’d be spelling it phonetically as ‘Shandor’, and that would make it okay. I took his word for this, though I never actually discovered what Hammer’s feelings on the matter might have been. The second story, again with John, appeared in issue 16, and a third in issue 21 … and, of course, we revived the character later for Warrior.

Other adaptations I did included Curse of the Werewolf (issue 10), Plague of the Zombies (13), One Million Years B.C. (14), The Reptile (19), Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (20, with Steve Parkhouse doing the artwork, which was nice), The Mummy (22) and Brides of Dracula (27-28). From this level of detail, you’ll gather that my copies of HoH were actually accessible! I know I did a few of the ‘Terror Tales’, but these were frequently uncredited, so it’s a bit hard for me to remember which were by me. I think I wrote three or four of those.

I’m not quite sure why the title changed from House of Hammer to House of Horror with issue 19, and then to Halls of Horror with 21, but I suspect this may have been something to do with the contract with Hammer. Effectively, the magazine folded in August 1978 with issue 23, though Dez revived it as a ‘Quality’ publication in 1982, as a companion to Warrior. By then I was no longer writing for it, though, and the Brides of Dracula adaptation was a left-over script from the original series. The magazine finally folded for the second time in 1984.

I had a fair amount of fun on HoH, as well as getting a reasonable amount of work out of it. I found script adaptation really quite easy, and we had a good bunch of artists and writers, including John Bolton, Brian Lewis, Steve Parkhouse, David Jackson and Chris Lowder, as well as some more ‘old school’ writers like Donne Avenell and Scott Goodall. And that basically set me up as one of Dez’s main writers, when he moved on to Marvel UK.<-

PÓM: Did you find it easier working on your writing away from home, or did it make any difference?

SM: Frankly, this is a question I’ve never really had cause to think about before, and since 1973 I’ve pretty much done all my writing at home anyway. And when I still had family here, they always understood that I needed to work and left me alone. So, I think the first answer would be no, it wasn’t easier working away from home. But whether it was harder I’m not really sure. When you’re 23/24 and just starting out, you’re full of energy and enthusiasm, and that carries you through an awful lot … including, I suspect, having to deal with customers while you’re typing.

PÓM: Who else did you end up writing for at this time?

SM: Actually, my memory of the period around 1973/4 is a bit fuzzy. I suspect after Target folded may have been the period when I was writing for Mirabelle, and I’m not sure how long I continued writing Tarzan for Sweden. If I’d known I was going to end up doing this interview, I would have kept all those old account books!

The next major thing to come up was the first Kung Fu Annual, based on the TV series starring David Carradine. At the time there was a big Christmas market for hardback annuals, both things like the Beano Annual and books based on popular TV shows. I got the job on the recommendation of John Barraclough, who both knew of my interest in martial arts movies and my capabilities as a writer. I don’t remember who the editor on that first book was, but the publisher was Brown, Watson Ltd., which I rather liked, because formerly they’d been behind the Digit line of paperbacks that published a lot of the SF adventures I’d read in the early 1960s, though by now the company name had been bought up and was just part of the larger Thorpe & Porter conglomerate. That first Kung Fu annual appeared in the autumn of 1974, so I would have written it in the winter of 1973/1974, as there was always a fairly large lead-up time. It was 64 pages, with comic strips, text stories and features, and I wrote the whole book for a flat fee of £200. I was told later it sold a quarter of a million copies, and there was a Dutch edition as well. Of course, no one even thought of royalties in those days, but I did get my name on the book! It was the only annual I ever did get a credit for.

By the following year, John Barraclough had taken over as editor of Brown, Watson’s annuals, working from offices in Wardour Street, and that started an association that went on until 1986. After a few years, the Babani brothers, Brian and Peter, bought out the annual department from Thorpe & Porter and set themselves up as Grandreams Ltd., with offices in Kentish Town, but John continued as editor, I continued as main writer, and the annuals continued to look exactly the same.

That was pretty much my winter work taken care of, over those dozen years, though obviously I’d frequently be writing for weeklies at the same time. I’d get a call from John around September, and he’d tell me what we were going to be doing that year for publication the following autumn, and I’d generally get between four and six annuals to do, which would keep me busy until the spring. Sometimes I wrote the entire book. I’d nearly always write all the strips and text stories, while sometimes I’d do the features, and sometimes someone else would. If he wanted to include things like puzzle pages, they were definitely by someone else! In the end, I wrote 69 annuals for John, in whole or in part, doing things like Kung Fu, Planet of the Apes, The Bionic Woman, The Fall Guy, Knightrider, Dick Turpin, Sherlock Holmes, The Dukes of Hazzard, Battlestar Galactica and even some dreadful old rubbish like Supergran.

Usually for each annual I’d be writing three 8-page scripts and three or four 2,500 word text stories, though sometimes I’d link things up as serials, and do the strip as, say four chapters of six pages each, or link the text stories. By now, John just trusted me to give him what he wanted, so I pretty much handled things the way I liked. I remember by the time we got to the fourth Kung Fu annual he called me and said something like: ‘We’ve got to do it again, but we haven’t got the budget to include any comic-strips this time, so you can just fill up the 64 pages with whatever you like.’ Like I said, John wasn’t exactly a control freak.

The money wasn’t all that great (I think it was about £10 a page for strips, though by the time it got to the 1980s, I told John I couldn’t afford to work for that any more, and got an immediate pay-rise to £15), but there was a lot of work there, which made up. Even so, it had to be done quickly to make it economical, so I was often doing a story a day … though a ‘day’ was actually lunchtime to lunchtime. After lunch I’d start thinking about a story, and if it was a strip I’d make sure that by the time I went to bed I’d sorted out the plot, broken it down into frames and usually scribbled out the dialogue; then in the morning I’d type up the script, mail it to John, and then after lunch, start the whole process again. If it was a text story, I’d just sort the plot out in the afternoon, then write the story the next morning, straight onto the typewriter in one draft with no revisions at all. If it looked like I had too much plot, the action would suddenly speed up toward the end; if too little, it’d slow down! But generally, after a couple of years, I’d got things sorted out, and knew pretty well how much plot I needed to write a 2,500 word story.

We had some decent artists on those books, though frequently fairly early in their careers, including Paul Neary, Ian Gibson, David Lloyd, David Jackson and John Hudson. And I talked John into taking some Alan Moore cartoons for the BJ and the Bear annual. Even more unlikely, when it came to the ‘History of Magic’ features for the Mr. Merlin annual, I actually persuaded him to let me illustrate them myself!

If the TV programmes were already showing, I could just watch them, or if we were doing the annuals for the second or third time, there was no problem. More often than not, though, the programmes wouldn’t start showing until after I’d written the book, so then I’d possibly be taken to a little preview theatre in Wardour Street to see an advance showing of the pilot, or sometimes the only reference I’d have to work from would be a script and some publicity photos. Fortunately, though, I seemed to have a knack for picking out the essentials of the characters and what the show was about almost instantly (and perhaps even more fortunately, I had a very easy-going editor!), so I managed to get away with it. Knightrider was one of the shows where I only saw the pilot and, as it happened, I really didn’t like the programme very much, so I couldn’t bring myself to watch it when it started on TV … but I still wrote five annuals for the show, just on the basis of the pilot.

The worst case was writing the strip adaptation of the Roger Moore James Bond movie, Octopussy, which was published as a hardback annual by Grandreams, and as a magazine in the USA by Marvel. As usual with James Bond movies, the film company were incredibly secretive, so they wouldn’t let me have any production photos, and they wouldn’t let me take the script away either. Instead I had to go into their office in central London for three or four days running and sit there alone in a private room with the script, jotting down the essentials of the plot in a notebook. And that was all I had to write the script from … but I still ended up with the film company congratulating me on the job I’d done. Paul Neary drew the strip, and I’m not sure if he got any reference either, but everyone seemed happy, so we just moved on to the next project.

So, like I said, this went on until 1986, and that autumn the phone didn’t ring, and I was busy with other stuff, so I didn’t ring either, and that was the end of it. I never heard from John again, and have no idea what happened to him, though I occasionally think it would be nice to know. But I think the TV-based annuals had pretty much passed their sell-by date by then (the previous year I’d only done one or two), so even if I’d wanted it, there probably wouldn’t have been a great deal of work to be had anyway. At some point I’ll have to read some of that stuff again, just to see if it really was any good (or otherwise) after all.

PÓM: Tell me about those movie scripts you mentioned.

SM: As I said, it came about through my knowing Roy McAree, and I’m guessing it would have been about 1976, as I’d seen a few movies scripts by then, either from adapting them for House of Hammer, which was starting up around then, or from seeing them for reference to the TV-based annuals I was writing by then. The first explosive kung fu boom was starting to blow out by then, and Roy knew what I did for a living when I wasn’t goggling at gorgeous Chinese actresses, so one day I got a call from him telling me he wanted to set up his own production company, and was looking for someone to write a script. The deal was that there’d be no money up front, but if the movie was made I’d be on a percentage and, in terms of usual movie industry rates, quite a large percentage too. As far as I recall, I think he had some sort of basic plot idea or outline, which never actually had a title. It was just referred to as ‘Snutch’, which Roy derived somehow from ‘no such’ movie, as he didn’t want to give anything away in the trade. It was intended to be a vehicle for Wang Yu, which suited me very well as he was one of my favourite Chinese actors, and was going to be set in Iran (this was obviously before the Islamic Revolution of 1979).

There are basically two types of movie script. The first is a ‘first draft’ script, which describes the action and gives the dialogue, and is what most people present when they’re trying to sell something. And then there’s the ‘shooting script’, which has all the camera directions, such as ‘pan left’ or ‘tight close up’, which is usually written much later in the development process. Roy asked me to write ‘Snutch’ as a shooting script, so I said ‘sure’ and went away and wrote it. I’d seen at least one shooting script, and in the same way as with the annuals I seem to have a facility for picking up these sort of things, so I turned it in and Roy’s partner (whose name I forget) said ‘this is great … we can just give this to some monkey and he can get on with it’ (‘some monkey’ giving you some idea of his attitude to directors) and ‘where did you learn to write scripts?’ To which I could only reply: ‘Well, I didn’t …’ They told me to get a passport and prepare to fly out to Iran to check out locations, which frankly made me a little nervous, as it wasn’t quite clear who was supposed to be going with me.

This same partner had also written a script called ‘The New Spartans’, and they then decided to go with that first, with him directing as well. They’d raised money from Germany and elsewhere, and the cast included Wang Yu, Toshiro Mifune, Harry Andrews, Britt Eklund and others of similar calibre. They got a couple of days into shooting when the Germans pulled their money out. In later years, one of my Chinese movie dealer contacts actually managed to get me a DVD of the rushes they’d shot, and frankly they were absolutely appalling, so I’m not surprised the Germans pulled the plug. But that caused the collapse of the entire enterprise, and I think Roy lost quite a lot of money. Eventually he moved to Hong Kong, where I know he produced at least one documentary about kung fu movies, and of course by then I lost contact with him. Shame. Roy was a nice man, and though I never got paid for my work, I never held it against him.

Before he left, though, and some months after ‘Snutch’ went down, he put me in touch with a gent called Paul de Savary and his Chinese partner. They’d acquired the film rights to Dan Dare, and now wanted to do an updated version which basically turned Dan into ‘James Bond in space’. They had a fairly detailed plot outline of about 30 pages, and they wanted me to turn this into a first draft script for a two-hour movie. With this kind of script you usually reckon on one single-spaced page per minute, so they wanted a 120-page script … and they wanted it written in a week. So once again I said ‘sure’ and we actually signed a contract that would give me £1500 for my week’s work, which was an enormous sum to me at the time. So I spent the next seven days doing nothing else but write and sleep, with my Mum bringing me cups of coffee and meals at my desk and, eventually, I turned up at their office on time and script in hand. A couple of days later they phoned me up and said the script was great but they’d changed their minds, and were now going to do a series of 10-minute Dan Dare TV shows instead, and they wanted to pay me £750. As you can imagine, I wasn’t greatly pleased about this, but the best advice I could get (from Roy) was that it wasn’t worth taking them to court, so I’d be better off accepting what they offered.

At some point in all this, though I’m not sure of the exact sequence, another of Roy’s producer friends offered me £200 to revise the script of his Mary Millington soft porn movie into something ‘good’, but I took one look at the script and told him that no one could make that sort of rubbish ‘good’, no matter how much he was paid, and didn’t take the job. And that concluded my involvement with the movie industry, with an understandably sour taste in my mouth. So, essentially, I’ve just refused to have anything to do with movies or TV ever since.

PÓM: Did you ever actually learn Chinese, or go visit the country?

SM: I didn’t learn the language in any formal way, though over the years I’ve come to recognise quite a number of phrases while watching movies, so long as they’re spoken in Mandarin (the national language) rather than Cantonese (the southern dialect they speak in Hong Kong). But I wouldn’t dare try to speak it, as the language is tonal, so words can be pronounced in any of four different tones, and you might have, say, forty different words pronounced ‘ming’, the only way you can tell which is the right one being the tone it’s pronounced in, and the context it appears in; so the possibility of asking for a pint of milk and unintentionally saying something like ‘My postilion has been struck by lightning’ is quite high. Not for nothing did someone once describe Chinese as ‘not so much a language as a disease’!

But I’ve always been more interested in reading the language than speaking it, and while I don’t remember an awful lot of characters, I can often pick my way through a short piece of text with the aid of a dictionary. Mind you, learning how to use a Chinese/English dictionary is a bit of an achievement in itself! Fortunately, there are now computerised dictionary programs that make life rather easier. Even so, sorting out a paragraph of Chinese would still take me quite a long time.

As for the second part of your question, like I said earlier, I’ve never been east of Dover. I’m really not much of a traveller and, while there are obviously historical sites it would be fascinating to see, modern China isn’t really what I’m interested in. What appeals to me is a romanticised, traditional China that no longer exists, if it ever did, because that romanticised version is largely coloured by tales of Daoist magicians and the heroics of wuxia fiction. Better to keep to the China in my head, I think, rather than be confronted by contemporary reality.

To be continued…

[Because the above section is, by my standards, quite short, to allow the next section to start where it needs to, I'm adding on a list of All Steve Moore's Brown Watson / Grandreams Annuals in both alphabetical and chronological order. This list was sent to me by Steve himself, and he told me it was compiled with the help of Steve Holland of Bear Alley Books.]

Brown Watson/ Grandreams Annuals with Work by Steve Moore

SYMBOLS
C = Cover
F = Features
I = Illustrations
R = Reprint
S = Strips
T = Text Stories
U = Unknown
W = Whole Book

Illustrators named where known

ALPHABETICAL LIST

BARETTA
1977 – T?, S? (I must have written something for this, or I wouldn’t have a copy! But a lot of it doesn’t read like me. Maybe one T?) (I – John Bolton)

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
1978 – T, S (F???) (John Higgins)

BIONIC WOMAN
1977 – T, S, some F (Ian Gibson)
1978 – T, S (Ian Gibson)

BJ AND THE BEAR
1981 – T, S (cartoons – Alan Moore [here])

BRING’EM BACK ALIVE
1982 – T, S

DICK TURPIN
1979 – T, S (Felix Carrion)
1980 – T, S (Felix Carrion)

DUKES OF HAZZARD
1981 – T, S
1982 – T, S (Cartoons – Alan Moore, reprinted from BJ & THE BEAR)

FALL GUY
1981 – T, S (David Lloyd)
1982 – T, S (David Lloyd)
1983 – T, S (David Lloyd)

FANTASTIC FOUR
1979 – T, F? (S = R. I – Evi DeBono)
1980 – T (S = R. I – David Lloyd)

FLASH GORDON
1977 – F (S = R. I – John Britton)

GEMINI MAN
1977 – T, S (S, I – Ian Gibson. I – John Bolton)

GRANGE HILL
1980 – S (From synopses by Phil Redmond?) (T by David Angus, from Redmond synopses) (I – John Cooper)

HULK
1979 – T, S, F? (John Higgins + R )
1980 – T, S (David Lloyd + R )
1981 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary, I – David Lloyd)
1982 – T (S = R. C, I – Paul Neary)
1983 – T (S = R. C, I – Paul Neary)
1984 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary. IU)

KARATE KID
1987 – T, S, 1F

KNIGHT RIDER
1982 – T, S (F???) (David Lloyd)
1983 – T, S (David Lloyd)
1984 – T, S (Jim Eldridge)
1985 – T, S (Jim Eldridge)
1986 – T, S (Jim Eldridge)

KUNG FU
1974 – W (S – Desmon Walduck, I – Melvyn Powell)
1975 – W (SU, I – John Bolton)
1976 – W (S – Paul Neary, I – Ian Gibson)
1977 – W (I – John Britton, John Bolton?)

LOGAN’S RUN
1978 – T, S (David Lloyd)

MANIMAL
1984 – T, S, 1F (John Higgins)

MASK
1986 – T (S = R )
1987 – T (S = R)

MAVERICK
1981 – T, S

MISSION GALACTICA
1980 – T, S (John Higgins)

MR MERLIN
1982 – T, S, some F (Mick Austin. 2F, I – Steve Moore)

NEW AVENGERS
1977 – 1 S, some F (John Bolton)
1978 – 2 T, 1 F (John Bolton + U )

OCTOPUSSY (James Bond movie adaptation)
1983 – S (Paul Neary)

PLANET OF THE APES
1975 – T, S , F (S = U. I – John Bolton)
1976 – T, S (S = John Bolton + Oliver Frey. I = John Bolton + U )
1977 – T, S (John Bolton)

THE QUEST
1977 – T?, S? (I must have written something for this, or I wouldn’t have a copy! But a lot of it doesn’t read like me.) (I – Edmond Ripoll)

SHERLOCK HOLMES & DR WATSON
1979 – T, S (Carlos Cruz)

SPIDER-MAN
1979 – T, F? (S = R. I – Evi DeBono)
1980 – T (S = R. I – David Lloyd)
1981 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary. I – David Lloyd)
1982 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary. I – Paul Neary + Mick Austin)
1983 – T (S = R. C, I – Paul Neary)
1984 – T (S = R. C, IU )
1985 – T (S = R. C, IU )

SPIDER-WOMAN
1983 – T (S = R. I – Leigh Baulch + Jerry Paris?)

STAR TREK – THE MOTION PICTURE
1979 – F (S = R)

STAR WARS
1978 – F (S = R)

SUPER GRAN
1985 – S

SUPERHEROES (Marvel)
1978 – F (S = R)

SUPERMAN & BATMAN
1976 – T (S = R. I – John Bolton)
1977 – T (S = R. I – John Britton, John Bolton)

T.J. HOOKER
1983 – T, S (John Higgins)

TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY
1982 – T, S (David Jackson)

TARZAN
1976 – T (S = R. I – John Bolton)
1977 – T (S = R. I – John Bolton)

THUNDERBIRDS 2086
1983 – T, S (John Higgins)

YOUNG MAVERICK
1979 – T, S

CHRONOLOGICAL LIST

1974 (1)
KUNG FU

1975 (2)
KUNG FU
PLANET OF THE APES

1976 (4)
KUNG FU
PLANET OF THE APES
SUPERMAN & BATMAN
TARZAN

1977 (10)
BARETTA
BIONIC WOMAN
FLASH GORDON
GEMINI MAN
KUNG FU
NEW AVENGERS
PLANET OF THE APES
The QUEST
SUPERMAN & BATMAN
TARZAN

1978 (6)
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
BIONIC WOMAN
LOGAN’S RUN
NEW AVENGERS
STAR WARS
SUPERHEROES

1979 (7)
DICK TURPIN
FANTASTIC FOUR
HULK
SHERLOCK HOMES & DR WATSON
SPIDER-MAN
STAR TREK – THE MOTION PICTURE
YOUNG MAVERICK

1980 (6)
DICK TURPIN
FANTASTIC FOUR
GRANGE HILL
HULK
MISSION GALACTICA
SPIDER-MAN

1981 (6)
BJ AND THE BEAR
DUKES OF HAZZARD
FALL GUY
HULK
MAVERICK
SPIDER-MAN

1982 (8)
BRING’EM BACK ALIVE
DUKES OF HAZZARD
FALL GUY
HULK
KNIGHT RIDER
MR MERLIN
SPIDER-MAN
TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY

1983 (8)
FALL GUY
HULK
KNIGHT RIDER
OCTOPUSSY
SPIDER-MAN
SPIDER-WOMAN
T.J. HOOKER
THUNDERBIRDS 2086

1984 (4)
HULK
KNIGHT RIDER
MANIMAL
SPIDER-MAN

1985 (3)
KNIGHT RIDER
SPIDER-MAN
SUPER GRAN

1986 (2)
KNIGHT RIDER
MASK

1987 (2)
KARATE KID
MASK

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27. SDCC ’14: Tula Lotay on Supreme, Thought Bubble, and Career

by Zachary Clemente

tula profile

Tula Lotay (aka Lisa Wood) is a comic artist hailing from the UK. Her work includes ElephantmenBodies, and the new Image book Supreme: Blue Rose with writer Warren Ellis. She also consults for the well-regarded Travelling Man comic shop and heads the annual comic arts festival Thought Bubble. I was fortunate enough to speak with Tula about her work in comics, illustration and otherwise.

Comics Beat: How has the convention been going for you so far?

Tula Lotay: It’s amazing! I was kind of expecting it to be super busy, but I wasn’t expecting to be personally busy because I don’t think anyone knows who I am as my comic’s only just come out. I wouldn’t have thought anyone would have read it but it’s gone nuts. I’ve been having signings with Image, DC, and Comicraft; every one has been full up with queues. I’ve never had that before!

CB: It’s exciting, I think. Supreme with Image has Ellis on it, who is a big name; Comicraft and Elephantmen have been around for some time, and you’re working on Bodies over at Vertigo now?

TL: Yes! It’s with Si Spencer and three other artists – Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade and Meghan Hetrick – it’s a murder mystery that spans four different time periods, the same body turns up in each one – it’s a fascinating story and that’s what really appealed to me, plus the character Maplewood who I got to draw, she’s a sassy amnesiac.

CB: What’s the time-frame for all these projects happening for you?

TL: Well, I’ve been working on Supreme since last year actually, but because of Thought Bubble organizing I had to put it on hold for two months which is unfortunate. I’m getting so much illustration work right now, but I can’t just let Thought Bubble go. I needed to make sure that it was all okay last year especially; this year the same thing worries me again but I’m hoping that more people can take on the running of the show and I can just continue to draw. Bodies was similar – I started it about three months after I started Supreme and I’m well ahead on both of those titles.

CB: You’ve been around for a while – running Thought Bubble with Travelling Man, which has been going on for seven years now?

TL: Yeah, Thought Bubble is seven years old. I’ve been with Travelling Man for maybe 11 years and I still act as a consultant for them. I was super proud to see Travelling Man short listed at the Eisners last night.

CB: How do you see your place in comics changing with the new projects you’re working on – the new way people may view you and your work?

TL: I definitely want to continue what I’m doing and make my illustration a priority – it should have been a priority years ago. But I’m doing it now and that’s great. I’d ultimately like to work on my own stories. But I felt I needed a bit more experience before putting it out there. I love that story thought and want to tell it soon. I do love working with great writers that allow me space to explore new ideas and different styles though. Working with Warren is amazing. He’s so good. I’d like to keep learning – I think there’s so much for me to learn still and I think there’s so many ways for me to channel my art so I can maybe simplify it more, tighten it. I’m quite excited about how that’s going – moving forward into the future and becoming more confident so things can be simplified.

I’m a big fan of simpler art that’s done perfectly and I think only great masters can do that, like Toth for instance, obviously I don’t think I would ever be anywhere near his skill, but that’s my goal.

CB: Toth is definitely a name thrown out as very inspiring – along with Moebius and Miyazaki. Who do you look to as inspiration for the direction you want to go?

TL: Oh, there’s so many people I’m inspired by – I’m like a kid in a candy shop wherever I go! My friends joke with me and call it “Lisa’s World of Wonder” (that’s my real name) because I get so excited about everything! With regards to art , I like looking back to a lot of Saturday Evening Post illustrations from the 50s and 60s – I’m really inspired by that kind of stuff. Bernie Fuchs, Bob Peak, Robert Fawcett, Robert McGinnis, Robert McGuire – I love all that pulpy stuff.

Growing up, massive influences that have still stuck with me were people who did more painterly art styles like Kent Williams, Bill Sienkiewicz, John J Muth, Dave McKean; so I think I sort of edge towards that style more often than the typical stuff. But still I adore Steranko, Bernet, Mazzucchelli or anyone who masters their style – I’m inspired by any great artist.

CB: I’m reminded of another artist, in career path and a bit of style; Christian Ward, currently on Ody-C with Matt Fraction.

TL: Oh yeah? How so?

CB: Mostly in style – I see a lot of dashes and touches of affection and emotion that isn’t necessarily just about the figure.

TL: I can see that! Christian’s stuff is amazing and his color is just out there – it’s so intense and just adds to his beautiful lines. So that’s a really nice comparison, thank you.

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CB: Even on the career side – he just got on with Fraction, who is a really big name right now, as is Ellis. There’s things going on there…

TL: Yeah, both British too.

CB: I wasn’t going to say it!

[General laughter set to the sounds of the very loud Star Wars display looping in the background.]

CB: Do you see your involvement in Thought Bubble lessening as your illustration picks up?

TL: I have to do that and I’ve been trying to, really. I should probably give it up completely and pass it on, but it’s a business I built from scratch seven years ago and it’s been more successful than I ever could have anticipated. As a business person – doing something like that, succeeding at it, and then just passing it on…that’s not something I can do because it’s something I’ve invested so much time, blood, sweat, and tears into. I’m still planning to continue with things and I still want to continue being Director but I think this year is going to be very telling as to how much I can actually do.

I’ve got some great people that I work with, I couldn’t do it without them. I’m managing to pass on the running of the show more and more, but one of the problems I have is that I’m not great at delegating. I have real issues with it, people are always willing to help but It can be hard to let go of something you’ve built up. But fingers crossed, this year will be okay.

CB: Why do you think Though Bubble has become such a well-regarded show?

TL: There’s definitely a reason everyone says it’s brilliant and that it’s so well-organised….. but … I don’t think I’m well-organized; I didn’t have any experience of event management when I set it up… But I think because I and so many of the people I work with care so dearly about what we’re doing – we make it work. Everyone; guests, exhibitors, and attendees must see that, shining through.

I’d like to think it’s successful because people can see that it’s put on by people who just adore the art form and, we may not always do things right, but we’ll do everything in our power to ensure everyone has a nice time. On top of that, we have the best people working in the industry – in the world – coming to our show – I think that’s kind of spiraled. The incredible talent that comes ends up leaving with quite a nice opinion of us – it gets passed around and it’s sort of snowballed.

CB: It seems like the passion shines though, as with your illustration. Jumping back to Supreme, how did the project come to be?

TL: I think it first came about when Eric Stephenson came to Thought Bubble, Richard Starkings had showed him my work. Eric really liked it and asked for a meeting and was keen for me to do something with Warren at Image. So I started chatting with Warren, since we’ve known each other for a little while. We went back and forth with ideas, talking about movies and music because we love a lot of similar things. Then Warren decided to re-work Supreme and asked if I was interested and obviously I was super interested because I love Warren’s writing.

It went on from there. Warren fed a lot of our interests into the book – a lot of sci-fi and film references – it’s kind of just an amalgamation of everything we love. I’m really happy with how it’s going.

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CB: Without giving anything away, what kind of winks, nods, or references will we see in Supreme?

TL: There’s a lot of [David] Lynch in there. Since the title is Supreme: Blue Rose, anyone who’s an avid Twin Peaks watcher will know what “Blue Rose” means. There’s some Philip K. Dick in there, little nods to Kubrick and Jacques Tourneur, mainly  sci-fi  but a little mystery and horror as well.

CB: That sounds like it would mesh really well.

TL: I hope so. The response so far has been amazing. I can’t answer all the tweets I’m getting! I’m not used to that. But it is really nice hearing people say so many positive things about Supreme - it’s blown me away, really.

CB: Do you have fears or concerns about this change in your career?

TL: Yeah, I think anybody entering into something that’s new can feel a little bit fearful of it and certainly, with creatives, it is always a worry as to whether people are going to appreciate or like what you’re doing especially when you create something you’re so passionate about.

But you’ve really got to be fearless – you’ve got to feel the fear and do it anyway.

CB: Thank you very much, Tula.

TL: Yeah, thank you!

0 Comments on SDCC ’14: Tula Lotay on Supreme, Thought Bubble, and Career as of 8/2/2014 3:02:00 PM
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28. Excited about Monstrous: Hire Power from Greg Wright & Ken Lamug

Over the last month, I’ve been working with Greg Wright on a new comic book project called “Monstrous”.

It’s got steam powered robots & monsters that span the imagination. In this pilot, we meet a little girl who has to team up with a monster for hire to avenge her father’s death. What I love about MONSTROUS, is that it has the “IT” factor that I believe will be enjoyed by young and old. It has fun moments, scary moments and head turning moments.

Sometimes I wish could just read the entire series already instead of having to create it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy working on it (trust me – it’s a blast)… it’s the fact that I have to wait on my slow butt to finish it. Ha!

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29. SDCC ’14: Michael Cho on ‘Shoplifter’ – Influence of Advertisement & Social Media

by Zachary Clemente

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Michael Cho is an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer currently residing in Toronto. He has worked with Marvel, DC, and others. His graphic novel, Shoplifter is out this September from Pantheon Books.

Comics Beat: How much is this story and these sort of emotions at this age [of the character] come from personal experience?

Michael Cho: It’s kind of hard to separate that. I think that almost all fiction is somewhat autobiographical. I didn’t go through this experience – I never worked at an ad agency and I don’t shoplift. But the emotions certainly come from that – part of the story is about being in your mid-20s and feeling like you’re sort of drifting and not going in the direction you want to get to your goals. I’m keenly aware of that because that’s what I felt like in my mid-20s – I was graduated from school, I went to art college, and I had a series of jobs but since I was outside of that structure of school where you’re told what to do, I was aware that what I wanted to do and what I was doing were two different things.

CB: I was under the impression, based on how personal the work feels, that you had worked in advertising before.

MC: No, but I am a freelance illustrator, so I’ve worked in and done assignments for advertising; and I know someone close to me who worked at an ad agency and a little bit of my inside knowledge of working in an agency comes from that. He went into the ad agency with the best of intentions and then when there was an economic downturn, their next account was cigarettes. I thought then “okay – this happens.”

CB: One of the things about Shoplifter I loved was your perspective on people in a city and your representation of advertisement in a city. Do you feel that comes from wanting to show ads as a large part of city life?

MC: Yeah, I think advertisement is ubiquitous and part of the theme of the book is the impact or influence of advertising in subtle and not so subtle ways. Whether it’s through social media or through [physical] ads, I was keenly aware when drawing it that I wanted to depict the advertising that permeates the city. Bus shelters, on the street, TV commercials – things like that; I wanted those things to be represented and be fully surrounding you at all times, so that was important for me to convey. Also, the city itself […] to be something of a character in the book; I wanted that city to be not just a background for the figures, but also to have scenes where the city itself is the character.

CB: Based on bits and pieces in the book and where you’re from, is this city Toronto?

MC: It’s based on Toronto because it’s grounded in what I know and it’s not a made-up world; Toronto is my hometown, so I tend to draw that. But it’s not actually Toronto – for instance the drawings of the subways are not Toronto subways.

CB: Those seem very New York.

MC: Yeah, they’re actually subways from Brooklyn. What it was for me is that it’s not meant to be a specific place; I never named the city – it’s meant to be any large city that that people gravitate to from smaller towns.

CB: The only way I could piece it together was during the airplane scene on TV – where the flight was coming from.

MC: That was a real event, actually. One of the reasons I included that was that I was watching broadcast coverage of an air crash that didn’t happen – it unfolded very much like it did in Shoplifter, I just changed a few bits around, but when I was watching it, all I could think was “Wow, this station really wants a disaster to happen.” Canadian media is always a little behind American media in the way it tries to sensationalize things, but in that case is it was one of those moments, and it was one of those things that had some parallels to the story.

CB: I got a sort of black and white depiction of social media in certain respects of our daily lives-

MC: In what way?

CB: Specifically in the club scene, there was a guy talking about how connected he is 24/7 and I feel that recently this is a very prevalent discussion – whether how social media affects us is “good or bad” and I feel a couple of the scenes spoke to me trying to say one or the other, but in the end I feel it said both.

MC: I definitely wasn’t trying to depict it as “bad” because I don’t think social media is bad, but I do think it has an impact and subtly influences the way we live our lives. There is a scene in there where one of the characters, says that as a result of social media, people are doing to their own lives what advertising does with products; they’re actually being pitchmen and marketers of their own lives, but that isn’t necessarily a negative. What I was trying to point out was that while we feel more connected to people, more than ever, there are moments where we are isolated, despite all this, and for all the connectivity we get – daily updates and awareness of others – people can still slip through the cracks and different kinds of walls get put up.

Vice versa, to flip that, with people whom we might not have any connection with at all, there might  be surprising connections that we may not be aware of that exist – and that’s a part of Shoplifter.

CB: That’s very thoughtful. I feel those themes were successful, considering I brought my own notions of social media and how it’s treating in fiction to the work.

MC: Yeah, I wasn’t trying to show it as negative in anyway because I don’t think you can say that about any communication medium. It’s the communication itself that may be positive or negative – but the medium itself is neutral. It’s like saying movies are bad because this one movie sucked. That’s ridiculous – you can’t blame the film stock or the process for that.

CB: This is your first full sequential story to come out?

MC: Sort of. I’ve done shorter stories – I kind of straddle all aspects of comics. I’ve drawn mainstream comic stories for Marvel and smart art jobs for DC. Chip [Kidd] and I did a nice Batman: Black & White story featuring Batman and Superman and I’ve also painted covers. I’ve also written and illustrated shorter comic pieces of my own that are sort of similar to Shoplifter in the sense that they’re just fiction – not genre-based at all and I used to put out a webcomic once a month which started out pretty short but got bigger as I got more confident at it; going from an 4-page story, to an 8-page story, to 16-page story; and I’ve had those types of stories published in some unusual places. They’ve appeared in literary magazines in Canada, and Houghton-Mifflin put out an annual anthology called The Best American Comics for which I did a story about the making of the atomic bomb which was picked by Neil Gaiman for the 2010 edition. So I’ve drawn other comics, it’s just that they’ve been outside mainstream channels.

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CB: Do you see Shoplifter as your entrance into a different part of your career – a different stage?

MC: I knew for a long time that I wanted to write and draw my own comics and graphic novels of the kind that influenced me when I was younger. In my teens, for example, when I felt like I was starting to drift away from comics, I discovered the Hernandez brothers [Jaime and Gilbert] and all the comics that came out from Fantagraphics in that era and I realized there was more to comics than I had originally thought. It opened up my mind to the idea of comics as a medium, not a genre. In some ways, I knew then that the comics I would write and draw would just be fiction and any stories I had intended to just write as prose could be comics instead.

Years later, when I was a freelance illustrator, I still knew that’s I wanted to go eventually. I wanted to be able to sign my name on a cover knowing that it was something I did completely from beginning to end myself. I set about putting together a few outlines of graphic novels I wanted to do, while also doing shorter stories, and Shoplifter was the first. There’s five somewhat interconnected stories that I want to work on as graphic novels over the next few years.

CB: Out of personal interest, when did you move from Korea?

MC: Oh, I moved here when I was about six and a half. I didn’t go to school in Korea, so my Korean is very poor; my mom and dad think I speak way better now just because I’ve started using the politeness terms. Are you Korean?

CB: On my mom’s side, yeah. She moved when she was 16 and has very fond memories of hanging out in little shops, reading until very late at night, when her father would pick her up, very upset.

MC: My vivid memories of Korea are drawing, giant robots mostly. In that era, there wasn’t much TV – it was all 6PM to 11PM, stuff like that. Since then it’s boomed and Korea’s now the high-tech capital of the world or something. I have very fond memories of that but I just never went to school there, so in some ways, English is kind of my first language. I’m in that 1.5 generation or whatever they call it.

I grew up in a town where there wasn’t as large an Asian community as Toronto, so I cultivated an “outsider” viewpoint on things and it’s been really helpful to me and I would never trade it for the world. It’s like there’s a Korean side of me and a Canadian side of me and I can relate to both, letting me see different sides of an issue; I’m very happy I have that ability.

CB: Thank you very much, Michael.

MC: Thank you.

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30. SDCC 14: Becky Cloonan, The Killjoys of Moving…

By David Nieves

Since 1999 Becky Cloonan has been breaking down doors; whether they be from moving to new places or the ones every creator has to go through to make comics for a living. I had the overwhelming  joy of sitting down with her on the SDCC show floor last week. To no one’s surprise, I found her to be every bit the –best in the world– her poignant art style suggest.

We talked a little bit about her recent move back south of the wall. Becky has a genuine zest for life that would terrify the average person thinking about uprooting themselves to new surroundings. While she deals with the same angst of “where the grocery store is, the post office… trying to figure out my place in this neighborhood,” she finds inspiration and new contributions to the projects she’s in the middle of during her journeys.

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Reflecting back on the dystopian opera that was True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys, a process that’s been over five years in the making. The original story inspired the My Chemical Romance album Danger Days: The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys which then turned back into the comic book.  Killjoy’s end result being a Mad Max story with so much heart that it makes the tears shed in the opening of Up seem like a prick from a rose throne. On the subject of if the group would ever come back to tell more stories in the Killjoy’s world, all Cloonan would say is, “never say never.” It does sound as though it will be quite sometime before that would ever happen due to Shaun Simon’s upcoming projects, Gerard Way’s new album, and her own recently announced Image book Southern Cross.

Our conversation steered towards the comic book industry in general. After starting by self publishing her own books in 1999, she’s excited by how viable self-publishing has become over the last ten years. Not only has this been a coo for creators, but she’s noticed how much its changed the readership of comics. Cloonan and Way recently signed at Meltdown Comics in L.A. she was thrilled by the fact that “the line was like 90% girls and they all had their comics to be signed.” Her thoughts about the on going hot topic women in comics; Cloonan takes a very humble approach on the matter. In her words, “As much as I feel like I don’t represent women in comics, I don’t feel like I can carry that flag cause it’s too heavy (laughs). I represent myself, but at the same time I love to encourage young girls to get into drawing comics, get into reading comics.”

Her outlook on the future of comics is as upbeat as the artist’s demeanor. Cloonan talked about how all the conversations and strides we take today will pay off ten years from now. The artist emphasized, “It’s going to be healthier, it’s going to be bigger and we’re going to see even more amazing comics.”

Listen to our entire conversation below to hear just how fabulous Becky is:

Becky Cloonan isn’t just the story of a female creator in comics. After spending some time with her you start to see that she’s the tale of a girl who wants to tell stories through a lens of her ever-evolving perspective while along the way encouraging those of us with the same fears and anxieties to pursue their passions. The industry is a much better place for having her and you just can’t say that about everyone.

If you’re one of the five people on earth who haven’t read True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys check it out in stores and through Dark Horse Comics. Becky’s new Image book Southern Cross will be available in stores this Winter.

2 Comments on SDCC 14: Becky Cloonan, The Killjoys of Moving…, last added: 8/4/2014
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31. SDCC ’14: Dysart, Kindt, Simons, and Venditti on Valiant’s Current Direction

By Alexander Jones

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Valiant is an incredibly dynamic and interesting superhero publisher that isn’t afraid to take risk after risk with their properties. Comics Beat had the opportunity to sit down with some of the brightest minds working at the comics company including Joshua Dysart (Harbinger: Armor Hunters & Harbinger: Omegas), Robert Venditti (X-O Manowar & Armor Hunters), Matt Kindt (Unity, Rai, & The Valiant), & Valiant Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons.

Comics Beat: The Valiant Universe is in a big place of transition right now with Armor Hunters. How do each of you manage to keep the tone of your own books, while still involving the individual characters in the event space? For instance, Harbinger still feels like Harbinger with or without Armor Hunters.

Joshua Dysart: I mean I just don’t read Rob’s scripts. It allows me to really keep my tone [laughs].AH_003_003

Warren Simons: They’re too intimidating for him.

Robert Venditti: You will paralyze in fear if you read my scripts.

Dysart: No, I actually think it’s because we all work together. We have a central vision and editorial team. I think that we are all valued for our voices and effort that we put in towards making these titles unique.

Venditti: It was never about we’re going to do this story, and he’s going to have to be in it. We’re going to do a story in other ways that your books are going to tie in and if so, what are your ways and let’s talk about them.

Dysart: Yeah, and you know when Rob and Warren came to me, they didn’t come to me with anything that I had to do. They were like ‘these are the parameters we have to keep in places, and there are some pieces in play here that are interesting’. That helps a lot, that’s a great way to work.

Venditti: When we came up with the premise for Armor Hunters, we were curious how these books were going to react to each other.

Dysart: And, I think that the truth of the matter is that conceivably, it would be exhausting to us and it would stretch the marketplace; but we have such a tightly integrated universe right now. We could conceivably make every storyline a crossover–it would be exhausting and terrible. I think our books could easily respond to each other right now in that way without it being forced.

Simons: I think that I have tried to make sure that the guys are all in clear and close contact with each other about what’s coming up. Rob just did a great job on the Armor Hunters: Aftermath issue, and that’s going to have and that’s going to cross into what’s happening with the Unity team. We want to make sure that nobody is stepping on one another’s toes. So that as Josh said, we are preserving their voice that we hired them for instead of forcing everyone to write a certain way.

Comics Beat: The next thing that I wanted to do was try to get a question for each of you. Rob I want to know with Armor Hunters,is Aric’s empire crippling? Or, is his time with the Visigoth people is coming to an end, or perhaps, is there a status quo shift coming up for the book? AH_AFTERMATH_001_COVER_BERNARD

Venditti: Yeah, I mean I think we have done status quo shifts almost every four issues since the series started. It’s something we have always tried to do. As far as him being a leader of the Visigoth people, when he came back with Rome, they got hit pretty badly after that fight–this is very long form story that we started with from the first issue. He comes from a group of about 40,000 people that were traveling around Europe. As he travels back to Earth with a suit of armor in the modern day and see’s what the world has become now, I think we start to see Aric evolve as a character that bears witness to the planet in a much different way now. The transition from him as being the leader of a small group of people to him being a leader of the globe. This is a global community now. Even the idea of the globe is a concept that is completely foreign to him.

Comic Beat: Now, Warren, as Valiant’s Editor-in-Chief, have your tasks changed at all?

Simons: A little bit. The company is growing, we are expanding. We just hired another Editor, Kyle Andrukiewicz.

Simons: Everything is heading in the right direction. I am still going to continue to edit and work on the books with the guys. Josh Johnson is an Editor up there working on Archer & Armstrong and The Delinquents. Associate Editor Alejandro Arbona is working on The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage, he’s just killing it, and he’s working on a bunch of other titles as well. We’re getting bigger, but I am continuing to edit many of the books that we are putting out.

Comics Beat: We just saw Bloodshot join Unity, how is that going to affect the greater team?

Kindt: Not that much really, we just have a killing machine on the team now. He’s going to come in handy I think at the end. I thought the interesting thing about having him join the ranks, was seeing his interactions with Livewire. Especially when keeping in mind the fact that she can talk to machines. She is the only person that can really stand up to X-O. Livewire can take control of his armor as well. This is especially interesting when keeping in mind that Bloodshot is a machine. Seeing them interact is going to make the comic engaging. They have tonal similarities as well. Livewire is continuing to question his humanity. Even though they are opposite in many ways, they have a lot of similarities.

Simons: The first eleven pages of Unity #10 are absolutely awesome. It’s extraordinary stuff!

Comics Beat: One of the things that I wanted to clarify for your books….

Dysart: And for Josh, I needed some clarification!

Comics Beat: So we have Armor Hunters: Harbinger, but how does it line-up with the Harbinger title proper, and Harbinger: Omegas coming up?

Dysart: The Armor Hunters: Harbinger book is primarily for the Generation Zero kids. If anyone is caught up on Harbinger, they moved from being lifelong prisoners of rising spirit to being prisoner to Harada, Now they are free. They are the protagonists of the Armor Hunters series. Their last big moment in the sun was Harbinger Wars, our last big crossover. Omegas is predominantly concerned with and Harada not necessarily that they come into contact with each other. Harbinger #25 happened, and these two series are sort of happening at the same time after Harbinger #25.

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Comics Beat: After the announcement of the Archer & Armstrong movie, how do all of you feel about the prospect of having these different Valiant characters that may be coming up on screen one day?

Simons: I think it’s great. I think that first and foremost we are a comic book publishing company; and we are really concentrating on the comics themselves and making the books as a good as possible, and not necessarily worrying about whether or not this will play into a movie, or whether or not this particular character will translate to the big screen. As you can probably confirm by reading the first 11 pages of Unity #10. [laughs] That said, I think it’s great. I think it provides us with the opportunity to expose our characters to a wider audience which is always important with a young company like ours.

Comics Beat: What new layers do X-O Manowar #0 and Unity #0 add to the mythology of both books?  UNITY_ZERO_COVER_ALLEN

Simons: You should tell them the story. It’s freaking awesome, a little bit of it.

Venditti: In the Armor Hunters X-O Manowar tie-in issues we are seeing the armor from the opponents’ perspective. We’ve gotten a lot of information about the armor recently in the X-O Manowar #0 Issues, I thought it would be a good time to focus on Aric as a character and what his origins were being a Visigoth. Which we got a sense of with X-O Manowar #1 in Rome with 402 A.D. Aric rallies armies behind him and he’s fierce, and he’s killing the Romans like crazy. What was the character like before all of that? We dealt some of that information in the earlier issues of X-O. The idea is that he is just a boy. We were all just kids at some point in our lives. We aren’t born amazing swordsman. The upcoming issue opens with a page one, panel one image of a 16 year old Aric throwing up behind a tree. Then you pull back and see that a huge battle has just taken place. All the Roman bodies are on the ground from the battle. The Visigoths are taken away to be buried, but the Romans are still there. His job, and the job of his friend Gafti, is to kill the mortally wounded Romans and put them out of their misery. Aric is struck by the violence of it, and so horrified, that he is actually throwing up. He doesn’t want his friend to see it. Like he had something bad to eat, but he doesn’t want his friend to see that he’s barfing his guts out.  It’s so horrific to him because he wasn’t born as that type of warrior. The book looks at him from that perspective. How do you get tested by battle, and how does this really hard conflict reveal things about you that you didn’t really know were even there–both for him and for Gafti?

Comics Beat: What about Unity #0?

Dysart: It starts with Livewire vomiting behind a tree.

Kindt: She is upset about everything that Aric did. (The room laughs.) Unity #0 is basically the first iteration of a super team set during WW1 lots of great parallels between that team and modern Unity. It’s interesting to see what events would happen to see making a modern Unity team necessary. I think we are going to do something interesting with the beginning and the end. We are going to do some of the inside cover stuff. There is a letter between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister that grounds the story in reality and sort of shows the politics behind getting this team together. There is also the idea of how this team is being assembled within the issue. In that era, the baseball cards were like little tobacco cards. I am going to have a little portrait of them in their backgrounds. I am going to do portrait cards for each member of the Unity team. It has information on them in the background. These are going to be giveaways for the comics.

Venditti: Are you going to put on the monkey suit?

Kindt: I used to wear a sock monkey suit.

Venditti: I have known Matt for ten years at least now. I was working for Top Shelf packing boxes for years. He was one of the creators. His first book, Pistol Whip was brand new when I started working there. Over the years, I would see him all the time at conventions as he was going through doing more books. He always did World War Two -era stories back then so he had this merchandising idea back where he created a cigarette case called Red Heine cigarettes, and the little logo was like a monkey. He had a cigarette tray that he wore around his waist, and he actually wore this to Wizard World Chicago and gave it away. The cigarette cases contained artwork. His face was cut out, but the rest of his outfit was the Big Heine monkey.

Kindt: The funny thing is, is that book is a really sad World War One story.

Comics Beat: Are any of your books tying into The Valiant?VALIANT_001_COVER_RIVERA

Simons: That’s a great question. I think that Armor Hunters will be a bit of a delineating point in the way that we, the universe operates with the giant aliens who basically have come down and attacked the earth. We have superheroes in our universe, so our response to what I have talked about with Matt and Josh with what the trajectory of the universe will be after that, I have seen a lot of it expanded with the Armor Hunters: Aftermath title that Rob is working on–Unity #12, #13, and #14 and another book with Josh that we haven’t announced yet.

Dysart: That and the world is in a really interesting place. It’s not just a mass scale invasion that happened right on the tail end of the outing of the pilot, so there’s this whole sub-group of human beings that have been manipulating markets and essentially controlling human affairs since World War II. It’s a bit of a shell shocked world–it’s not just the alien invasion, it’s not just out there anymore, it’s also in here. Everything has changed. So humanity is in a pretty frail interesting place.

Simons: How would our fictional Valiant Universe respond to something along these lines? The Valiant will be four issues, it will be in-continuity, and it will have a direct impact on the world after the story ends. It will have massive reparations for the universe.

Comics Beat: Is it safe to classify The Valiant as an event series?

Kindt: If it’s an event, it can only be classified as such because the scope is so big. It’s going to involve the entire Valiant Universe you know. So we are basically taking this small story as a mine cart that we are going to ride through the entire Valiant Universe and you are going to see everything–you are going to see it’s a great place to start if you have never read a Valiant book. You are not going to see the origin of every character, you are not going to know what Ninjak is all about; but you are going to see him, and you are going to be like that guy is awesome you know for like the little bit he is in, it’s a small story with a large scope

Simons: It will be accessible, it will be an entry point, but it will take a look at really the entire universe and wit will have bloodshot eternal warrior Armstrong, Kay, The Geomancer. They will come out of this changed for the most part.

Comics Beat: Because it is billed as a prestige format, do you think it could even last longer than the typical event if it has an era of nuance about it like something in the style of Kingdom Come?

Simons: Possibly, but we try to bill all our books like that to be honest with you. I hope Josh’s run on Harbinger is the defining run on Harbinger that’s on the shelf in 25 years. I hope the same thing about the first run of X-O or the first 12 issues of Unity. I really want all the books to feel special. We aren’t treating this one to feel more special. We want all the books to kind of have that feel that this will be the defining run. The scope of this along with Paolo’s extraordinary art that’s coming the pages just looks absolutely amazing. It will be something that will stand the test of time, but I am not walking into this project thinking that we are absolutely going to hit grand slam and that this will be on the shelves in 25 years’ time. I just want it to be as good as Unity, Harbinger, and X-O Manowar and that’s where we are starting at.

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Kindt: There are so many superhero comics on the market. What’s the point of putting another in the one world if you aren’t trying to do something different with it? Like I love coming into this universe, and I can come up with a creative way to tell the story maybe you have seen something similar, but you’re not going to see it being told this way with comics. These are things that I have never seen comics do before you know, that’s just what I love most about comics instead of just panel panel panel panel story. It’s more about what makes you think of comics as a medium you know, as much as the story.

Simons: I feel like everyone is bringing their A-game and that everyone is putting their heart into it.

Comics Beat: Thanks!

3 Comments on SDCC ’14: Dysart, Kindt, Simons, and Venditti on Valiant’s Current Direction, last added: 8/2/2014
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32. SDCC ’14: Image Dares to Give Us an All-Artist Panel (It Was Great)

by Zachary Clemente

Sometimes, it’s the smaller details that stand out most. Sure, Image Comics is pushing for changes in the comics industry and has really been an a great example of how different publication platforms bolster the climate for making comics. Sure, they’re making new programs for retailers to make it easier to manage Image’s extensive line of new comics when shelf-space is at a premium. But the fact that they put together an all-artist panel composed of a 4:3 women-to-men participants speaks volumes.

imageinnoThe features artists were Chris Burhman (Nameless), Becky Cloonan (Southern Cross), Gabriel Hardman (Invisible Republic), Sloane Leong (From Under Mountains), Amy Reeder (Rocket Girl), Tula Lotay (Supreme: Blue Rose), and Declan Shalvey (Injection).

Image Comics’ David Brothers started off with some questions about process and approach.. Burnham, working on Nameless with previous collaborator Grant Morrison found himself being stretched as he develops a working method of “strange geometry” and “super tangents” where he makes bizarre choices in representing perspective on a page. Hardman, asked about his process of storytelling, enjoys utilizing the available poetry to the limited amount of panels he’s able to use.

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Leong, collaborating with artist Marian Churchland (co-writing From Under Mountains with Claire Gibson) discussed the division of labor on the book. All of the internal art is her, while she and Churchland will work together on the covers. She then went on to touch on coloring in comics, a role she is often in.

Color depends on the art, too many comics have color because someone says “we need a color product.” – Sloane Leong

Reeder, when asked about her approach to coloring her own art on Rocket Girl, finds that her palette is very wide a single page can contain a wide variety. She draws from different influences when coloring the two time periods that are portrayed in the book, which create very different palettes.

Cloonan, who has previously self-publishers comics with her own writing and art, drawn for scripts will now be writing for Andy Belanger on their newly-announced Southern Cross. She went into the differences of roles, but ultimately iterated that it comes down to the sorts of challenges her working style will have to adapt to not being in charge of the visual narrative of the book. She will be doing all the covers however (which I am thrilled for) so it’s clear she and Belanger have a collaborative working relationship.

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Burnham and Hardman, two of the most technically-minded artist I’ve heard talk, discussed the different approaches to leading the readers’ eyes along the narrative of the page in an intuitive way – even though they approach with vastly different techniques. Burnham bounces the eye with dynamic movement, often breaking borders and panels out into a more fluid visual, mimicking the cadence of the story, while Hardman typically uses a static page layout, moving the eye panel to panel instead of using crazy compositions.

The panel was then opened up to the Q&A from the audience. A couple of younger fans asked about how the Image platform functions and what sort of work best fits with the publisher and it seemed that all the panelists were excited to discuss the ins and outs of the company’s breadth of published work and how the submission and ownership process works. Brothers, moderating, summed it up best.

We work for the creators [...] we want to do what you want to do. – David Brothers

One of the most interesting questions for the panelists was one about using photo-reference. All of the panelists had different approaches to it, some seeing it as a stage in their process, others seeing it as a sometimes-useful tool; a couple reluctantly seeing as almost “cheating.” Many credited photo reference as extremely useful for figuring out how cloth would drape and hand motion is captured – finding that portraying credible subtle movement as something worth succeeded at even through photo reference. As the topic was bounced about, critiquing the use, Shalvey had a good take on the process.

There’s a difference between reference informing the drawing and reference dictating the drawing. – Declan Shalvey

In the end, the panelists essentially agreed that reference can be a supremely useful tool, but when too heavily depended on, you just end up drawing a photo, not a panel. Additionally, the point that the drawn characters need to be viewed as “actors” and basing them directly off of photo-realistic reference undercuts the credibility of the visual acting and artistic ability.

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Lastly, an interesting question was their feeling on how people read their comics digitally, since many readers, such as ComiXology allow panel-by-panel reading. The resounded response was no – they don’t care at all. Most suggested that people are going to read they want to read and they just have to make the work speak best to all readers, digital or print.

Thanks for joining us for our Image Comics coverage! We’ll hopefully be right back at it in October for New York Comic-Con in October.

<3 – The Beat Staff.

6 Comments on SDCC ’14: Image Dares to Give Us an All-Artist Panel (It Was Great), last added: 8/2/2014
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33. Samples: Cutesy Animals

Something on the drawing board. It’s fun to take a pic and distort it!

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34. The Beat Podcasts! – SDCC ’14 Day 5: Chuck Palahnuik

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.pngLive from San Diego Comic Con, it’s More To Come! Publishers Weekly’s podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In part five of More To Come’s San Diego Comic-Con special podcast, Calvin Reid interviews award-winning author Chuck Palahnuik about his decision to write the sequel to his hit ‘Fight Club’ in comic book form, and the comics professionals who helped it happen. This has been San Diego Comic-Con 2014 from Publishers Weekly’s More To Come!

Download this episode direct here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

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35. By Its Cover (07.09.14 – 07.16.14)

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A computer crash that I still haven’t been able to get fixed has resulted in my not being as thorough this time around as I would’ve liked. I hope you’ll let me know if there were any really good indie or GN covers I missed.

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DETECTIVE COMICS #33

This is a fantastic composition. Shape of the gun and position of the figures inside already does a solid job of leading the eye from upper left to lower right, but the shifting color also helps. My one nitpick would be that the bullets at the lower left establish a ground plane that makes it seem like the gun is being fired into the ground, which I don’t think was the intent.

 

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SECRET AVENGERS #5

This is an interesting contrast of fun and quirk (the goat, and the videogame-esque composition) and dark (the blood and chalk outline). I like the exclamation point and question mark, but I’m not sure I follow what the other face balloons are trying to express (if they’re expressing anything?).

 

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RAI #3

This is a nice image, but after issue one had so many different covers of just the main character, I find myself automatically assuming I’m looking at another variant before spotting the issue number. This cover is also a great example of demonstrating flow (good and bad). The top sword does a good job of leading our eye to the logo, but then the bottom sword leads us from the logo off to whatever cover is sitting to the left of this book (and it doesn’t help that the bottom sword is brighter than the top one). One of the challenges of creating a well-designed illustration is try to figure out a way to keep the viewer’s eye bouncing around within in the image.

 

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ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #11

I’ve been loving all the All-New X-Factor covers, so I’m going to be a little more critical of this one. After the previous issue had several characters shown full-figure, I think it would’ve been good to keep changing it up. In particular, this image would be a lot more powerful if it was a close-up that only showed the gun and the character’s head (with the words “You have five minutes to comply.”) I feel like going full-figure not only removes the impact, but the pose of the villain has a very campy ’60s Batman tone (and the Dutch angle doesn’t help). Unless that was the intent?

 

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GRAYSON #1

Look at this, its a DC cover with a centered logo! They even went above and beyond and centered it vertically as well as horizontally! I’m not sure the magenta and yellow really fits the character, but I like the illustration and logo placement. Though I think the cover would’ve balanced out better if the position of the barcode and 75 Years logo were reversed (see sloppy mock-up).

 

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THE LAST FALL #1

This is a really nice image, but there are a few things holding it back. The thin strokes of the logo are so thing that it kind of hurts readability. The logo also has some major kerning issues, and the shape of that “S” looks really awkward. The logo is also placed kind of strangely, in that the logo has been designed flush left but has been placed on the right. I also kind of wanted to see the logo interact with or relate to the image on the cover in some way.

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Here’s a sloppy mock-up of how I might’ve approached it. The bar of flat color helps to frame the volcano, and placing the bar behind the character creates a more dynamic sense of depth. Having the logo contained within the bar also helps lead our eye from the logo to the figure (via the gun on the figure’s back), and then to the volcano the figure is looking at. This likely isn’t the only solution, but it’s the first one I went to.

For the font, I went with trusty Univers Thin Ultra Condensed, which has a very epic feel. It’s the font used for the logo of Aliens, the first edition of the Dark Knight Returns TPB, and the credits at the bottom of so many movie posters.


Kate Willaert is a graphic designer for Shirts.com. You can find her her art on Tumblr and her thoughts @KateWillaert. Notice any spelling errors? Leave a comment below.

3 Comments on By Its Cover (07.09.14 – 07.16.14), last added: 7/30/2014
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36. SDCC ’14: Why Saga Continues To Be The Best

by Zachary Clemente

There’s something special about Image’s book Saga. You know it, I know it, the people who voted for the Eisner awards know it – heck, my mom knows it! On Saturday of SDCC ’14, Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson sat down with co-creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples to discuss their out-of-control success of a book, winner of four Eisner awards the day previous.

It was clear that Stephenson, who also edits Saga, had a set of specific questions that he knew would be interesting topics to discuss – keeping the panel at a good pace and setting an example for the sort of questions would illicit responses beyond a yes, no, or “I can’t talk about that”. He started off asking about how the book’s production has changed in the past 18 months or so, after they wrapped their first 6 issues.

Vaughan picked this up, saying that he’s learned that his job as writer has been to get out of Staples’ way as the artist. Interesting, this is exactly the approach writer Matt Fraction has with artist David Aja, to much success. Jokingly, they said that the amount of work Staples now does is much higher while Vaughan “has just gotten lazier – that’s the evolution!” In truth, however, as they’ve becoming more comfortable and confident working with each other, Vaughan has been able to really step back to showcase Staples’ ability to visualize the narrative in such a marvelous fashion.

Stephenson got them to discuss their approach to the covers of the book and the work their design and lettering collaborator, Fonographiks (aka Steven Finch). Both Staples and Vaughan are huge fans of the aesthetic of Kubrick’s 2001 and therefore found appeal with a clean style born out of a modern and minimalist approach – a character or two on top of a single color as a constant motif. For the title logo itself, they found it extremely important for it to be subdued, wanting to steer clear of the loud logos many readers are used to seeing. Instead, they wanted the logo to have an inviting and warm sensibility, welcoming readers to pick up the issues. Vaughan went on to discuss the importance of having the comics say “Chapter” instead of “Issue” on the cover and how having full control over every aspect of the book’s design was so liberating as situations like “when an ad for a goddamn Snickers bar comes in and ruins your dramatic scene” just aren’t a reality at Image.

Though a question on many a-reader’s tongue, Stephenson asked Vaughan on his stance of killing off characters in way that has gotten his work compared to the likes of George R.R. Martin or Joss Whedon.

Do I feel bad about murdering people? – Brian K. Vaughan

Vaughan first picked up the question reminding us that characters in fiction not ever dying is a recent phenomenon, as large corporations are built on top of legacies of beloved characters and the enduring support they get from fans allows them to continue – those characters just can’t die. He then goes into how Saga is kind of a way for him address anxiousness of life, fictional or otherwise, stating that “we read this stuff to prepare us for the worst.”

We’re all going to die terribly, so read our comic book! – Brian K. Vaughan

Staples and Vaughan were keen to remind the audience that Saga is fully and truly all about Hazel and though she is just a child now, she will grow and while her parents, arguably the current protagonists, are very important now – they may not be later. With that, they revealed the cover art for the first hardcover, collecting what Vaughan and Staples consider to be the first chapter of the series – issues 1-18 or trade volumes 1-3.

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The cover, with a very prominent close-up of Hazel breastfeeding from Alana is a clear response to the backlash the book received when the first cover was revealed – showing the young couple with child to Alana’s breast. They had this to say on the subject:

Just doubling-down on our breastfeeding stance, aren’t we? – Fiona Staples

Some stores won’t even rack the first volume because the breast-feeding is controversial, but…fuck them. – Brian K. Vaughan

The panel was then opened up to Q&A from the audience. Most questions pertained to the plot, the possibilities of merchandise such as shirts, toys, plush dolls, and the alike – most of which were given expected answers of uncertainty. There will not be another run of the Lying Cat shirts, but they are not opposed to high-quality merchandise.

Additionally, when asked about their feelings of the possibility of an adaptation into another medium such as film or television Brian explained, not for the first time, that though he has worked in both other industries, he finds comics to be the vastly superior medium – though would not be opposed if they received an offer they just couldn’t say no to. Staples eagerly suggested, when queried, that the best game adaptation would be a Dungeons & Dragons styled tabletop roleplaying game to much applause.

One attendee brought up a point that’s been stewing in at least my head, which is the apparent and thorough multiculturalism represented in Saga. Vaughan honestly answered that it’s something he has to be keenly cognizant of as, when first writing the book, it took him a while to realize that “white” didn’t have to be the default. Apparently, when designing Alana, he told Staples that she shouldn’t be a red-head as “there are a glut of red-heads right now.” When she responded with “you know, she doesn’t have to be white,” he let out a defeated and embarrassed “oh…right.”

Another attendee brought up the page in issue 14, where lying cat devastated a whole readership in one day.

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While they approached this page like any other, Vaughan used this to discuss how, as a child, he found the iconic Slave Leia costume featured in Star Wars not sexy, but subjugated. His distaste for it is apparent with his wish to attempt to portray more realistic situations when war affects civilian life. I personally find this a fantastic stance on the subject and deeply appreciate that he’s coming from this sort of perspective.

Why do the robot people have dicks and stuff? – The next Attendee

The person asking this question did preface it with the fact that it was less touching. It did, however launch the duo into a discussion of soft sci-fi and how Saga is a romantic drama, wrapped in the trappings of a space epic.

Lastly, it was revealed that one of the main reasons that much of the technology in this book isn’t necessary metal spaceships and laser guns is because Staples doesn’t really enjoy drawing any of that – so Vaughan had to compensate, all for the better.

Overall, this was a Saga fan’s dream come true. Vaughan and Staples were receptive, amiable and inviting. They clearly have a spectacular rapport that’s equal parts professional and loving – they’ve put everything and more they have into this book and it clearly shows. As a fan, I’m loving it and as someone deeply invested in seeing comics grow and evolve, I’m in for the long haul. Thanks to Eric Stephenson for moderating with a charming ease, keeping the flow casual and friendly.

3 Comments on SDCC ’14: Why Saga Continues To Be The Best, last added: 7/28/2014
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37. The Beat Podcasts! – SDCC ’14 Day 4: Geof Darrow and Kinokuniya

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.pngLive from San Diego Comic Con, it’s More To Come! Publishers Weekly’s podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In part four of More To Come’s San Diego Comic-Con special podcast, Calvin Reid interviews comic artist and writer Geof Darrow about creating Shaolin Cowboy and The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. Then, he speaks with Terence Irvins, graphic novel buyer at Japan-based bookstore chain Kinokuniya about their upcoming big push into the American comics market

Listen to this episode in streaming here, download it direct here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

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38. SDCC ’14 Art of Videogames Panel

Dark Horse leads the way in transporting videogames into the comic world.

Dark Horse leads the way in transporting videogames into the comic world.

By: Nick Eskey

Art has gone hand in hand with videogames almost since the beginning. Oh yes, the earliest games were either text-based adventures, or pixilated jumbles; Not really “artistic.” But the boxes they were packaged in were usually masterpieces of fantasies. It wasn’t that developers didn’t feel games were worthy of art as part of their game play, but the technology wasn’t there. Now, with high density pixel displays and fast processors, we find ourselves capable of things never thought possible with gaming. We’ve seen some of the best games ever released in the last few years. Typically they involve large, detailed worlds and characters that people can’t help but explore.

Various artists and designers that were part of huge titles like Tomb Raider, Halo, Mass Effect, Witcher, Plants Vs. Zombies, and The Last of Us were present at San Diego Comic Con to discuss the art of the games. “We are seeing fans want to explore more of the world, more of the characters that they were introduced to.” This has led to a good number of games getting their own comic book adaption. Not necessarily retelling the game itself, but “following storylines or characters that no one had thought of before.” Both The Last of Us and Tomb Raider have comics that are set to come out sometime within the year, both being published by Dark Horse. With Tomb Raider, we are promised to follow Lara Croft after the videogame finding out more of what she is.

The Witcher will also be seeing a comic, again by Dark Horse, entitled “House of Glass.” “The series will be a standalone story. It will add to the Witcher universe, and will introduce new characters and show monsters from the Witcher 3 game.” Other games like Halo and Mass Effect will be seeing comics too. Halo: The Next 72 Hours will take place after the 4th game, following the events that happen with Master chief. For Mass Effect, it will follow the main antagonist from the last DLC from Mass Effect 3. “It’s going to be a last adventure to go on with the characters of the original Mass Effect.”

Aside from comics, there’s other mediums like art books that show the full breadth of artistry that goes into game development. “Most often we only see three quarters of the artwork that goes into a game being used. There’s also the evolution of characters… That’s why art books are so great. They give a sneak peek into what didn’t make it in… what changed.”

With comics though, publishers and artists are very concerned with not letting the fans down. Because of this, even though they are different mediums, publishers try to make sure that the artists from the games are the ones that will also be the writers for the comics. This allows the stories and characters to be as connected as possible. “Sometimes it doesn’t work [though], especially when telling a side story. It then becomes a sand box experience. Here it becomes important to work with and trust a creative team.”

Videogames have become a platform for new forms of art, and they have taken a while to get to this point. Now that fans are eager to immerse themselves more in the worlds they introduce, their presence in comics and graphic novels will grow more and more, fleshing out worlds that perhaps even their writers didn’t know would come to be.

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39. The Beat Podcasts! – SDCC ’14 Day 2: Don Rosa, Eleanor Davis, Lucy Knisley & Archie Comics

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.pngLive from San Diego Comic Con, it’s More To Come! Publishers Weekly’s podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In part two of More To Come’s San Diego Comic-Con special, Calvin Reid talks to Don Rosa about Scrooge McDuck, European fans and Carl Barks; Eleanor Davis on her new book How to Be Happy; and Lucy Knisley about her new book An Age of License. Meanwhile, Heidi MacDonald interviews Archie Comics President Mike Pellerito and sr. v-p Alex Segura about Life With Archie, dead Archie and zombie Archie. All this and more from Publishers Weekly’s More To Come!

Listen to this episode in streaming here, download it direct here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the PublishersWeekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

 

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40. SDCC 14: Aspen Comics Another “Aloha”

By David Nieves
Aspen Comics beat their own drum through the walls of Hall 9 today at SDCC. Panelsts included EIC Vince Hernandez, Beth Sotelo, Siya Oum, Jordan Gunderson, Giuseppe Cafaro, T.G Roberts, J.T Krul, Josh Reed, and Scott Lobdell. Festivities were led as usual by Frank Mastromro and Peter Steigerwald, kicking off with the traditional thunderous “aloha”.

While the company didn’t have a ton of new announcements, the panel went through much of their current offerings. *Damsels in Excess* was up first, written by Vince the book has exclusive SDCC covers that will be available through their online store in limited quantities. The Siya cover is the gorgeous and we’ll post the file in a bit.

That led into Siya talking about her book *Lola xoxo*. Her upcoming plans include a spinoff volume called “Wasteland Madam”. Afterwards an official volume 2 will be released but not solid dates were given for either book.

Peter Steigerwald’s long awaited Zoo hunters was once again teased. In Peter fashion once again “it’ll be out soon”.

Last years hit *Jirni* came back with a new volume. Writer J.T Krul promises more danger and excitement with a Conan like story in the upcoming final acts of the chapter. The collected edition for volume 1 will be available soon.

*Seven to Die* is the new Aspen novel by T.G Roberts. Her pitch for the story was a tale about a huge universe but focusing on the adventure of a girl exploring her new found mystic items.

Fathom has a Halloween comic called *Fathom: Adventures of Ernie*. A coloring book for kids, Aspen is attempting to reach out beyond their young adult audience. Like the family they are he group chimed in saying, “Vince is still trying to solve the puzzles inside.”

Soulfire and Fathom will have big plans soon to be announced for next year. But they are putting out Marvel style source books for both the properties. The books are to get readers of their newer properties who don’t pick up the flagship line an enticing blueprint of their properties.

Another one of the more popular 10 -for-10 books, *Legend of the Shadow Clan* will get a brand new volume. No new updates were given on the EA Iris movie.

Dellec volume 2 will come to retail this year. Once again Vince and Frank will be working together on the book. Shrugged also has plans to return but neither has a solid launch date.

A big announcement about the entire Aspen library will be made next month but today a deal was finalized with the digital publisher Madefire. More details need to be discussed but it looks like the entire Aspen library will get a fancy digital tratment. A Fathom mobile game is in the works. Aspen just signed a deal with a development firm to flesh out some new video games based on Aspen’s properties.

The lively audience Q&A closed their panel. Among some of the topics discussed were the company’s view of female characters. All of the panelist seemed to agree that it’s what they’re mostly known for to most people and sometimes that hurts sales among male readers. In Peter’s view male or female a good story is a good story.
One thing that we brought up was with the return of NBC’s *Heroes* would we see new digital transmedia material from the publisher or possibly bring back some of the old material. It’s a possibility but they would have to have talks with the network first.

NOTE: come back later as we’ll post all the stuff shown today later this afternoon as soon as we get it.

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41. SDCC ’14: Spider-Verse panel Recap

by Alexander Jones

This early in the morning, it’s tough to get comics fans to wake up for anything. Luckily here at San Diego Comic-Con, there was a room full of eager Spidey fans frothing at the mouth to hear more news about the upcoming Spider-Verse event over at Marvel. The event combines every single Spider-Man character (owned by Marvel) into one jam packed story. This saw multiple heroes down at the show decked out in some awesome costumes. There was an Black Cat cosplayer in the room, a Miles Morales Spider-Man, and the original Peter Parker outfit as well.Spider-Man - Spider-Verse variant cover by Skottie Young

The panelists included Dan Slott, writer of the event; Senior Editor Nick Lowe; Daredevil author Mark Waid; Superior Foes of Spider-Man author Nick Spencer; artist Humberto Ramos; and Amazing Spider-Man colorist Edgar Delgado. Nick Lowe solicited much excitement from the crowd who happy to oblige amongst some of the others. He teased that he was going to show some of the fans a video later on in the panel. Mark Waid was attempting to tease that artist Humberto Ramos was only late because he wanted to make a big entrance. This solicited even more applause from an energetic crowd.

We then got another tease at the Spider-Verse tease variant covers by Gabrielle Dell’Otto.

Another comic was shown off at the upcoming The Superior Spider-Man #32 by Slott and author Christos Gage, along with Giuseppe Camuncoli and Adam Kubert teased the Edge of Spider-Verse. Humberto Ramos then showed up to a crowd who didn’t give him any applause at first. The audience then gave him some news after the initial whimper. Lowe explained that they were not going to show us any of the art from Spider-Verse yet.

Slott elaborated on the return of Superior Spidey. He states that Spidey got caught in a time vacuum and ended up stranded in 2099, where the new comic book picks up. The audience was shown some variant Skottie Young covers that are absolutely gorgeous. The focus then naturally shifted over to Spider-Man 2099. Lowe asked the audience if they bought the title from Will Sliney and original creator of the hero; Peter David. The audience once again broke off into massive applause. The editor explained some of the premises behind the issue. Rick Leonardi was mentioned as returning to the book with Issues #4 and #5 coming in October.

Mark Waid then teased Daredevil during Original Sin, which focuses the spotlight on Matt Murdock’s mother. She had abandoned him as a child, and Matt sees her again when she has been on tough times and found her way to prison. She is on her way to Wakanda. The group teased pages from upcoming Daredevil #7. Lowe shared that the group has a terrifying story coming up entitled “Who Are The Purple Children.” Waid states that the happy-go-lucky Daredevil is now starting to lose his cool with this title.

IMG_0844Slott elaborated about the Original Sin storyline crossing into Spider-Man, which features the Spider that bit Peter has also bitten Cindy Moon. She is also known as the Spider-Bride by Ezekiel. Ezekiel served as Spidey’s mentor for a short  time. Ezekiel has been keeping Moon enslaved for a certain amount of time, and her breaking out of imprisonment is going to be a major inciting incident towards Spider-Verse.

Lowe then brought some more attention to The Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Author Nick Spencer was talking about how this comic is focusing on some of the C and D-list villains in the Marvel Universe. He teased that that the comic book series may be crawling down to a halt soon. Issue #14 shifts the character focus more towards Overdrive. Spencer noted that at times he only needs to write down a paragraph and then have artist Steve Lieber work out what the page in full is going to look like.

Edge of Spider-Verse #2 by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez was met with much fanfare, as it features the return of Gwen Stacy as an alternate Universe Spider-Man. Edge of Spider-Verse #3 is written by Gerard Way and Jake Wyatt was also met with much acclaim. Lowe stated that he has been trying to find a way to write for Marvel for some time. The musician turned comic artist has a massive following.

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In The Amazing Spider-Man Issue #7, Dan Slott teased a brand new spider-Man that he created for Spider-Verse. The Spider-UK, who has supposedly been on the Captain Britain Corps. The next issue bring in the MC2 Spider-Girl known as Mayday Parker. Slott teased that she may be in for a “rough” time.

Spider-Verse Team-Up was then announced which is a new comic shipping in November. Each issue is being written by a different author. Christos Gage, Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Dave Williams, and others will be penning the story.

The crowd was even more excited about the brand new Scarlet Spiders tale. The comic is a mini-series written by Mike Costa and drawn by Paco Diaz. The book features Ultimate Jessica Drew, Ben Reilly Spider-Man, and the Scarlet Spider. The cover teased was a variant issue drawn by long-time Ultimate Spider-Man artist Mark Bagley.

The trailer for a multi-media project was teased. Developed by Gameloft, the panel was teasing a video game entitled Spider-Man Unlimited. There are 23 playable Spider-Men in the brand new phone game. Lowe noted that each Spider-Man has different abilities, and there are going to be other villains in the title. The game is set-up like a Temple Run style format.

Whew! That is a lot of Spidey info. Spider-Verse kicks off in Amazing Spider-Man #9 in November.

 

1 Comments on SDCC ’14: Spider-Verse panel Recap, last added: 7/27/2014
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42. SDCC ’14: Avengers & X-Men: AXIS Panel Recap

by Alexander Jones

Marvel’s Avengers & X-Men: AXIS panel is officially getting underway here at San Diego Comic-Con International. Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso is hovering near the stage about to get ready. In the background there is a line of people getting ready for the show. Name placards for the panel are all lined up as follows; Senior Editor Nick Lowe, AXIS writer Rick Remender, and Executive Editor Mike Marts.

Senior Editor Nick Lowe is moderating the effort. Jordan D. White, the Editor of Deadpool made an appearance at the show as well. As soon as that was done the group jumped right into some of the new announcements from the show.Avengers_Rage_of_Ultron_Interior

All-New Captain America is given an official name and features the art of Stuart Immonen.

Remender stated that the new comic is going to have a completely different tone for this new series. He stated that having Steve and Sam working together is going to add some new dynamics to the title. A new Alex Ross cover for the book was also shown here at the show. Remender states that writing more lighthearted characters in the book adds a sense of fun to the storyline. Ian Rogers is also revealed as the new Nomad in the comic book series. It was also stated that Hydra is being built up again in a way that apparently we have not seen before. Marvel vaguely stated that they are doing something completely new with Marvel’s premiere terrorist organization.

Remender talks about how Immonen takes the story to a nearly perfect level. He was wondering “what drugs were being put in Stuart Immonen’s water supply,” as the panel were shocked that the artist was able to give such detailed work and deliver it to the publisher on time. Captain America #25 is also going to have a bit of Stuart Immonen artwork towards the back half of the title featuring the brand new incarnation of Hydra. Unfortunately this also means that Stuart Immonen is departing fan-favorite title All-New X-Men

The Avengers: Rage Of Ultron Original Graphic Novel was then announced. Rick Remender is once again writing the storyline along with artist Jerome Opena and Dean White. The new story is an in-continuity original graphic novel that has an April 2015 release date. Alonso stated in a joking manner that Jerome “is so much better than Stuart Immonen.” This event takes place in a post-AXIS environment, which “leads to some very exciting things that are coming down the line.  The under-appreciated hero known as Starfox is heading back to the surface in the brand new graphic novel. The Red Skull is also going to tie into the big Avengers & X-Men: AXIS storyline with the March to AXIS titles including Uncanny Avengers #24 and Captain America #24 which sees the final fate of Jet Black and observe what has been happening with the Red Skull.

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The panel then revealed Avengers & X-Men: AXIS Issue #1, whose first is entitled The Red Supremacy. The title contains artwork from Adam Kubert. The group shared that the Vision is being toyed with once again. He is said to play a part towards a major moment in the upcoming AXIS and Graphic Novel storylines. We are also shown the debut of the brand new Jim Cheung cover for Avengers & X-Men: AXIS #2 pencilled by Kubert again. The third issue was revealed as well, which is being drawn by Leinil Yu.

The focus then shifted over towards the AXIS: Carnage mini-series from Rick Spears and the AXIS: Hobgoblin mini-series by Kevin Shinick and Javier Rodriguez. Where the group explained that there are exciting things to come from both series. AXIS: Revolutions features writing from Dennis Hopeless and Simon Spurrier with art from Ken Lashley.

There were even more small issues that were announced including Uncanny Avengers Issue #25 and Deadpool #36. Remender and artist Daniel Acuna are covering the final issue which is born out of the conflict with Scarlet Witch and the Red Skull.

Magneto #11, Loki: Agent of Asgard #7, All-New X-Factor #15 were all also announced to tie into the event.

When the floor turned over for Question and Answers from fans, a young man named Rory dressed up like Captain America asked a question about the Fantastic Four. Alonso stated that an upcoming event storyline is going to be more focused on the team. Another fan asked about certain X-Men characters joining the Avengers, and was wondering why there is less cross pollination happening with X-Men becoming Avengers

IMG_0813-1Lowe elaborated that the X-Men is categorized in that group based on their genetics. White noted the amount of cross-over and talked about books like Danger, Longshot, Mimics, and some of the other comics’ characters that have been featured on both teams. It was announced that Brevoort was really the one that had the idea of the Onslaught motif powered by Professor Charles Xavier. Remender said at first he sort of rejected the idea, but then started to re-think it towards the past few minutes, and it all came into a notebook for him.

Remender interjected that he is trying to mix both of these separate continuities to blend together shaking up the status quo for each hero. Another fan was curious about why there is a lack of X-Men material at the show, while there are many Avengers and X-Men panels that are featured here at the show. Nicke Lowed Jokingly stated to the group, “Put the hack Brian Michael Bendis on the book.” The panel explained that fans had nothing to worry about as AXIS is going to feature a heavy amount of X-Men material. On the topic of unworthy Thor, Remender stated that he had spent hours on the phone with Aaron talking about how they can tie the storyline into AXIS.

A comic book reader asked point blank whether Cyclops was going to be killed in Avengers vs. X-Men. The panelists explained that the idea might have been “floating around in the room, but never entertained for too long. “It was also announced that Jason Aaron was the one who had actually had the idea of the female Thor.

 

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43. Illustration Samples: Karate

hl-karate 4 up samp

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44. The Retailer’s View // The Death of Archie and Selling Comics

by Brandon Schatz

On Monday, the pop culture bereft owner of my shop phoned had asked if I had ordered enough of the “death of Archie thing” that was happening. As with all comics, the news of this event had been announced well in advance. As always, calls came pouring in over the telephone lines. People wanted the comic where Archie dies. I had to explain to them that it wouldn’t be happening until July. At this point, reactions would vary from uncomfortable silence to outright indignation. One such phone customer accused me of hoarding copies to sell for a premium at a later date. I had to bite my tongue before I told them they didn’t understand the first thing about books like this.

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When books like Life With Archie #36 hit the stands, the store gets a mountain of phone calls and visitors looking to get their mitts on copies of the books in question. A sizeable chunk of these people are just popping into the medium for a visit, having heard the news on the radio or television or from a friend. Most just want to have a copy to say they have it. Some even want to read the damn thing. Inevitably, the fever dies down (usually by the weekend, with a few stragglers looking for copies weeks, months and years later) and the effects are negligible. There’s very little that will turn someone who had no interest in reading comics into a full fledged Wednesday warrior overnight. Regardless, events like this always give me hope, and usually net a small handful of new customers who didn’t know we existed, and liked the service enough to return. Almost 100% of these return customers are people who took the time to actually read the book they came into purchase, instead of stashing it away in a box that they’ll bring back to us several years down the road for All The Money. Some books make this transition easier than others, offering a smooth read with interesting bits of storytelling that dig the hooks in. I remember the Death of Captain America netting quite a few return customers, as did the Death of Johnny Storm. I doubt the Death of Archie will have the same effect – and it all comes down to the company’s lack of experience when dealing with these big events.

When you open Life With Archie #36, you’re greeted with two full pages that explain the series to date in near excruciating detail. The opening gives new readers an overview of what the book was up until this point: an exploration of two possible futures where Archie married Betty and Veronica. This, along with the information that Kevin Keller is running for Senate on a platform of gun control and gay rights is all you need to know to enjoy what follows. Instead, the recap spends time talking about all the various differences and similarities between the two realities. It even spends a paragraph detailing the time that an Evil and Good Dilton almost destroy the Archie multiverse using science. None of this information is needed, and serves only to confuse the inexperienced reader who thinks they might want to dip their toe into the medium.

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After selling comics at the shop for nearly eight years, I’ve come to realize that the best way to sell a comic is to give people as little information as possible. Have you ever sat through an hour long lecture as to why the Silver Age Legion is the best Legion? I sure have. You know what it didn’t do? Make me want to read Legion comics. In fact, it made me want to avoid them. Passion needs to be discovered, not explained – and Archie Comics failed in that this week. They did a poor job selling a book that was going to sell itself, something that could have been easily avoided with a stronger editorial hand.

The issue itself is quite good. Instead of giving new readers the same story in both realities, Paul Kupperberg and Pat & Tim Kennedy play things fast and loose with some pronouns and character placement, allowing the story to function viably in both realities, utilizing a form of brevity for the concept. It’s not high art by any means, but it’s a nice, suitable story that brings a character’s journey to a poignant end. The only failing seems to be how eager the company is to explain things that don’t need to be explained, giving the reader a jumble of information that would have been better served as a story they explored later, than explained in a blurb. That said, Archie is Archie, and will endure forever, so it’s not like people are going to be bucked off the train to Riverdale. The event continues to paint comics as a medium that is indesipherable to get into – after all, if you can’t understand what’s going on in an Archie title, what hope would you have for anything else on the stands.

Regardless, this book is going to sell. It was sold before it hit the stands, and will be a novelty for a long time to come. It’s just a shame it couldn’t sell the industry at the same time.

[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 and works on building his comic book recommendation engine over at Variant Edition. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat]

7 Comments on The Retailer’s View // The Death of Archie and Selling Comics, last added: 7/18/2014
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45. COMICS! COMICS! COMICS!

Prior to a few months ago I'd basically never read any comic before - ever. I've always enjoyed accompanying Adam to comic shops and browsing the different titles and artwork, but I'd never embraced the medium myself. I found comics difficult to read and follow - I often read the text boxes/bubbles out of order and was overwhelmed by the amount of visual information.

I'm not sure exactly what flipped the switch (I suspect my growing appetite for sci-fi stories) but this spring I decided to bite the comic bullet. I began with an adaptation of Ender's Game, Ender in Exile, because I really like the world building in Ender's Game, but was not a fan of the writing (I find Orson Scott Card often tells more than shows, undermining the emotional impact). Because comics are great for action and simplified character/dialogue, I figured by reading the comic version I could cut to the quick of the story without getting distracted by the writing. And thus began a new-found love affair with COMICS!

I'm happy to report that I am now a full-fledged comic enthusiast. I'm also downright inspired! I don't picture myself ever illustrating comics, but I admit that the writing part intrigues me. I've got a few ideas of my own floating around now, and maybe one day I'll be able to pin them down. For now, I'll stick to reading, thinking and collecting... It's all circling back to my trilogy idea. Some of what I've read below deals with similar themes and concepts. It's good to know what's already out there so I can keep crafting my story to be all the more my own. 

Below are the series I've read so far (not counting one-off single issues). I was pretty picky initially, opting only for comics in my genres of choice (sci-fi or fantasy) with impeccable artwork. My tastes are already broadening, expanding and evolving. I'm finding I like series that I didn't think I would and enjoying artwork that originally turned me off. I'm growing.

SCIENCE FICTION








































FANTASY





































OTHER







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46. Call for Submissions: cahoodaloodaling: The Animal Becomes Us

The Animal Becomes Us

Email submission deadline: September 30, 2014

Issue #14 of cahoodaloodaling—The Animal Becomes Us—is open for submissions. We’re leaving this wide open to interpretation. Consider this your open invitation to send anything from light verse about your animal companion to speculative were-animal stories. 


Submissions due 9/30/14. Guest editor TBA. Issue live 10/31/14. See more information on submitting and read past issues here.

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47. SDCC 2014: Image Announces Giant-Size Kung Fu Bible Stories

If you’re checking out the list of Image SDCC 2014 exclusives, your eye probably fell across an item that wasn’t quite like the others. Available exclusively (for now) at this year’s convention is a strange and wonderful treasury sized anthology called Giant-Size Kung Fu Bible Stories. The title sells itself, but if you’re looking for a little more information, Image is happy to provide:
PRESS RELEASE:
Giant-Size Kung Fu Bible Stories
GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES
KICKS DOWN SDCC’S DOOR
An exclusive collector’s edition you won’t want to miss
Edited by Erik Larsen (SAVAGE DRAGON) and Bruce Timm (Batman Adventures: Mad Love)—and just in time to take San Diego Comic-Con by storm—comes GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES, a deluxe limited edition collection featuring the original stories of the world’s greatest cartoonists.This treasury edition format includes seven eye-popping, mind-melting stories from Erik Larsen, Bruce Timm, Adam Warren (Empowered), Tom Scioli (GØDLAND), Ryan Ottley (INVINCIBLE), Andy Kuhn (FIREBREATHER), and Arthur Adams (Uncanny X-Men). A collection years-in-the making, readers won’t want to miss out on this amazing special collector’s issue, an Image Treasury Edition.”Bruce Timm and I love Treasury Editions! Our goal was to create the greatest Treasury Edition in the history of mankind! To do that—we rounded up an all-star cast of killer cartoonists all committed to doing all-new characters and material worthy of the format!” said co-editor Erik Larsen. “The end result was something awesome to behold!”

Co-editor Bruce Timm gushed enthusiastically after having received his copies in the mail, “Got my box of big-ass funnybooks—y’know, it’s really great—good variety of stories and art styles—and it FEELS good—well worth the money.”

A limited number of GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES will be available exclusively at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. It can be purchased at the Image Comics booth (#2729) for $20 each. Snap them up before they’re gone!

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48. SDCC: Boom! Hints new Grant Morrison Book

by Zachary Clemente

With SDCC being only a day away – Boom! Studios teased us with their 15th convention announcement on twitter:

 

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We have no inkling what the project will be as of yet, but undoubtedly we’ll hear more about it during the con. Stay tuned!

 

4 Comments on SDCC: Boom! Hints new Grant Morrison Book, last added: 7/23/2014
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49. SDCC: Ron Marz tackles a Skylanders Ongoing at IDW

by Alexander Jones

Skylanders00-cvr-5fa17The acclaimed writer Ron Marz is tackling the popular video game franchise known as Skylanders in comic book form. The comic was announced this morning from IDW on their site under the San Diego Comic-Con exclusive content. The first installment into the series known as the Skylanders #0 will be available at the show. Marz was also involved in the Skylanders SWAP Force comic from IDW. Joining him on the new series are artists David Baldeon and Mike Bowden. The new title starts in October, and is going to be an ongoing monthly series. The author stated that in the first Issue of the series, every single character from the franchise will be present. He also teased multiple protagonists in the book.

More as the story develops.

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50. SDCC: Dynamite Nabs Will Eisner’s The Spirit

Spirit_Archives_Vol_1_1.jpgby Brandon Schatz

One day before the madness of this year’s San Diego Comic Con officially begins, Dynamite has announced their future intentions for Will Eisner’s The Spirit.

Most recently, the character has been a tangental part of the DC Comics line, starting with a ongoing originally helmed by Darwyn Cooke in 2006, before moving the character over to their ill-fated First Wave line alongside pulp heroes such as Doc Savage. He also briefly appeared in a Rocketeer crossover at IDW through an agreement with DC, who still held the rights for publication at the time.

This addition to Dynamite’s line makes perfect sense, as they seem to be building quite a library of pulp heroes. The company’s predication for those heroes to interact in various mini-series should make for some interesting content down the line. As it stands, we are still waiting on news as to who will be the creative team on any new book, as well as what form such a series would take.

More on this as it develops.

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