Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Theres Nothing Progressive about Prog #1,440

Britain's premier sci-fi comic 2000 AD, in association with leading pen manufacturer STABILO, is looking for the next generation of comic artists, and so is launching a nationwide competition to find the best new talent in the country.

The brief is simple – design a new villain for future lawman Judge Dredd. If you're familiar with the Mega-City cop's adventures in 2000 AD every week, then you'll know he's faced a great number of foes in his twenty-eight-year history, such as Judge Death, Mean Machine Angel and the assassin Orlok, amongst all manner of aliens, cyborgs and mutants. But now we want you to come up with a brandnew nemesis that will test Dredd to the limit!

Could be interesting, but the fact that they are asking a comic artist to create a character is a pretty fucking backwards way of thinking for the industry in this day and age. The reason the industry is doing so well nowadays is the emphasis on the story and writing, COMBINED with fantastic art. The industry collapsed as it became all style and no substance in the 90's, its possibly this backwards way of thinking that has caused 2000AD to lag behind the times.
If you look at the majority of creators who have left that book for brighter futures in the American industry, they have pretty much all been writers, very few artists. Although i'm sure a lot of people could put me right on that.

What happened to 2000AD? Should they cancel it and start again? Is its failing popularity due to the fact that it is telling futuristic sci-fi fantasy stories set 5 years ago?
As we looked forward to the future and the advent of the 21st Century, the fascination with the number 2000 grew, like all the companies that sprang up at the time with 2000 as a post-fix, such as Banburys "Club Fitness 2000". Since that time though, the number has lacked its appeal and people/companies still associated with that number seem (if only recognised at a sub-conscious level) to be stuck in the past..
If 2000AD truly prides itself as being a book looking ahead to the fantastical future, surely a relaunch with the title 3000AD might be just the thing they need.

Back to Comics - on and on and on...

Well, I think this blog peaked about two months ago with a readership of something like 5 people, its been downhill ever since. No complaining though, I continue undeterred as this is more for me and my thoughts than anything else (until Sam returns and we get the whole back and forth thing going again: Sam The Man is busy doing other things in the Big Smoke, but will return as and when work schedule permits I hope).

Wanting to break into the comics industry is -as with so many things in life - somewhat of an oxymoron. No-one wants to hire an unpublished writer, which somewhat limits ones opportunities to get published. The answer is: self publish. This is all well and good for a comic author, but if you are like me and you have less artistic ability than a mid-seizure epileptic who has run out of Temazepam, than you are going to need to find someone to handle the art chores.
This can really help speed things up if aforementioned artist has already broken into the industry, but if he hasn't, then all you are is a team of unproven commodities.

Finding the right artist for the right project is an art form unto itself; would Preacher have worked with John Bryne on art duties? Would anyone have bought Bite Club (not that many did) if the cover was adorned with the masterful strokes of Rob Liefelds pencil?
Thankfully on this front I am fairly lucky, I happen to know a few very good artists, two of which are extremely talented (albeit slow in one case) and unpublished. Now although earlier I said this can be a disadvantage, in the case of these two artists its definitely advantageous, as they can be considered to be a visual secret weapon for anyone's pitches, so impressive is their work.

There are a few projects that I have on the go at the minute with various artists, but with a few of them its a case of waiting for the art to come back. I will happily write a first issue and a plot outline for an artist / project, but I refuse to sit down and write a 50 issue epic if there is no guarantee that anything is going to happen with the finished project. Anymore than a couple of issues worth of material for a project that has no final destination is just a waste of time and resources. Lets face it, if you were an editor at Marvel, Ait/PlanetLAR or 2000AD and someone sent you through a 50 issue epic, there is no way you would have time to read it, you would probably pass for smaller, contained pitch with a few pages of sample script and artwork.
The main reason why its so hard to get noticed as an unpublished comics creator is quite simply this: most wannabe comic creators aren't very good. It remains to be seen if I fit into this group or not. I am not trying to have a superiority complex here, and there is some very good fan fiction out there, but there is also a lot of arse too, heck, there is an awful lot of arse that actually MAKES it to print.

Now, as I stated earlier, I cannot draw, not even if a bus full of promiscuous college girls was hanging in the balance. For this reason I am incredibly jealous of people like Bendis, Brian Wood and Willingham who broke into the industry drawing their own stuff (apparently Morrison is a deft hand with a pencil too), only to eventually stop the artwork and concentrate on the writing front.
So what can a writer do whom has no artistic ability?
I have spent the last few years reading as much as I can, not classic Byrne or Stan Lee, but people like Huxley, Orwell, Iain Banks, Thompson, Hemingway...
The reason for this is simple: If you only read comics as your creative research, you may bring one or two new and original stories to the field, but pretty soon your work will start to look very insular and inbred, this often happens when writers fall back on writing stories which reference stories they wrote (Claremont is a sucker for this) for nothing more than a pay check (more on this later).
By studying the form and structure of storytelling in detail and experiencing different forms and styles of writing in many different genres, you will learn far more than you would from reading a bunch of X-Men. This is in no way besmirching comics as literature, if anything its expanding upon the idea of comics as a legitimate form of storytelling, because any new idea about form or structure imported from a different genre will help push forward the credibility of comics. Some people might call this plagiarism, but there is a school of thought that every story no matter how diverse can be boiled down to one of seven simple story structures.
The tactics Brian K Vaughn employed were different, and in some ways extreme, he took as many disparate jobs as he could, such as working in a nut-house, he also took training as a Police Officer to learn about correct procedure. This harkens back to the old saying: Write what you know.

Coming back to an earlier point: You have to question the integrity of the industry creators who write comics purely to pay their mortgage. This is why, if I ever become a comic creator, I don't want it to be my only form of income. If you look at a writer like Brian Wood, he is an awesome writer but only seems to write when he has a story to tell or something new to say, this is what makes me scour the AiT/PlanetLAR every month for signs of new work from the man, I know it will be original, entertaining and have a point.
(Of course, this is not a slur on the people who do this for a living and do it well, more power to them, I just don't think I would like to get to the point where I resent comics as I am struggling to think of a story to tell.)

Hopefully, this is going to be the year I make the big push and get something published, I feel better about the stuff I am writing now than I ever have before in a way that makes me very glad I never tried to push into the industry earlier, before I was ready. I have my sights set on getting a variety of works published through a few different companies, so fingers crossed, and, of course, if anything does come about, this blog will be the first to know.

Ignoring my earlier advice, if you really want to get into the comics industry as a writer, it might help to change your name to Brian.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Next Generation of Consoles

The PS3 - because we like boomarangs and we own the rights to the Spider-man movie font (and we're a little shaken by the X-box Xenon 360 thing).

Impressively, the X-Box 360 is the cover story of the latest issue of Time Magazine, a well written article full of interesting points, very informative and quite educated about the state of the industry and the average video game player.

Yeah, I am not just comic books, I like otherforms of storytelling too and video games is an underused method. You'd see the link if you knew how many comic writers also write video games.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Meet the New Superman, Same as the Old Superman - thankfully.

Pete Says:
So I read all my comics last night and I must say I loved Action Comics. It was a really traditional style Superman story and Bryne's art was amazing. He has really got his style with a modern twist down and it really works. I think that the creative teams we have on the Superman books now are far better than the "relaunch" last year.

Sid says:
Pete is the biggest Superman fan I know, with a better Supes tattoo than Jon Bon - true fact. His comments got me thinking, which is always dangerous. What will the new creative teams be like with no new costume, no "edgy" revamp or long hair gimmicks?

It might be a little early to say. Gail Simone has proven herself as a very competent writer over the last few years and although Brynes name has become synonymous with dogshit, the vast majority of his recent past work has been somewhat marred by his less than able writing skills. But there is no doubt that Action Comis will be recieved a lot better without Chuck "The Internet Hates Me" Austen (I like his stuff - sorry, he did put the Action back into Action Comics and there were some great Superboy moments, the best in Superman since E=MC2's run).
"Adventures of" will stumble along much the same as the last year I feel, two good issues, one bad - this is how Rucka seems to operate on every ongoing title with the exception of Q&C. Don't know why.

Then we have the unknown comodity: Superman; while it will certainly be better than Azzarellos recent efforts on the mainstays of the DCU - (Lex, Supes, Batman, Deathblow???) and the artwork by Ed Benes will certainly make the book well worth reading (although I'd rather see him draw WW - no offense to Rags, few people draw fit bitches while still telling a great narrative story quite like Ed Benes, and I really like Rags Supes, has a little of that Routh naivette I feel) - Mark Verheiden is, at least to me, somewhat of an unknown quantity.

The best thing about the Superman relaunch is DC are employing KISS as a policy. No, not Ace Frehley and co.. Keep It Simple Stupid. The Superman group is looking very streamlined right now with only 3 monthly titles and the Superman / Batman crossover. this isnt too much for people to purchase in the event of a title crossover - such as in July - where the Supes titles cross into Wonder Woman. And the brand name looks to be kept just as strong with the creative team going onto the forthcoming Supergirl ongoing, pushing Churchill into the A-list of Comic Creators - but thats another debate.
This simple, no-fuss policy is something DC would be wise to employ in mid 2006 as opposed to flooding the market with a glut of movie tie-ins, adaptions and cash-ins. The real movie cash-in is from ticket sales, merchandise and a healthy - preferably numbered - trade paperback selection, this is where the newcomers flock.


Did a little digging on Mark Verheiden, turns out he works for a little known show called Smallville, so that probably qualifies him to write Superman, although I'm sure some puritans (read: people whom are afraid of change) would use that fact against him. Did people use this to advertise the book? If not, why not???


Pete Says:
A back to basics approach is definitely what the Superman books needed. I don't want to be reading about a Superman who questions himself so much and has to see a priest about it. I don't want a Superman who created a "Metropia" so that earth doesn't suffer the same fate as Krypton. What I want is more stuff at the Daily Planet, more Perry, more Jimmy, more Superman in Metropolis. Its all simple stuff but simple stuff that works so well. Gail Simone looks to understand this as does Mark Verheiden.

Online there are the first few pages of Verheiden's Superman and its fantastic. Lois and Jimmy held captive and Superman coming to their rescue. Add this to the stunning visuals by Ed Benes and you have yourself a winner. There is one panel of Superman flying at speed across the ocean, it right out of a movie, it works so damn well. While I have only seen a 3 or 4 preview pages I am sold on this book, I think it will be great and just what is needed for comics flagship character.

As far as Mark Verheiden's past on Smallville being used to advertise the book, it really hasn't been done outside of the internet and then you have to look for it. There are been a couple of interviews with Ed Benes where he has mentioned it and a few sites like have made note but that's it. I'm sure it would of been in DC's best interests to push this a little more that they have.

Sid says:
Okay, just read my preview copy of Superman #217.

Its good. Very very good. It follows on and expands upon a few of Azzarellos ideas so the last year of Superman doesn't feel like a complete waste. Superman is the best I have seen him since Kingdom Come, complex, caring and always trying to do more for the world around him. Ed Benes artwork is great, a little busy in places but this is a complaint I have of the industry as a whole (too much background and foreground detail everywhere, can sometimes detract from the comic).
this could be the best Superman, although its early days and I don't want to jinx it.
It also ties in to OMAC, which is soemthing else I think DC neglected to mention in their advertising.
DC is great and for my money the third best comic company at the moment (after AiT / PlanetLAR and Image Central), but they still have a few things to learn from Marvels House of M campaign, we've had a load of checklists in free, to give away to customers - thats marketing. Maybe DC thinks good comics will sell themselves.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Something Clever and witty to be filled in later.

I found myself in London at the weekend (again). I went into a Comic Shop, to meet a Wrestler, to get a Metal album signed. 3 of my favourite interests / hobbies / passsions all rolled together into one place. All it was missing was some topless dancers playing with video games and/or Transformers and my life would have peaked.

I was, of course, in Forbidden Planet. I hate Forbidden Planet. It is a soulless, profit-driven, consumer hellhole. It almost makes me wish for the days when comics were for reclusive losers (which of course is silly and completely against everything I have been trying to acheieve over the last 10 years in my job), because at least then the people staffing comic shops have passion and a spark of joy left in their otherwise insular lives.
You could spend an hour walking around the upstairs of Shaftesbury Avenues FP, without ever stumbling onto the fact that they sell comics. "Comics! We keep them downstairs, what do you think we are, a comic shop?"
And even then if you turn left upon venturing downwards you get swamped by books, DVDs and a host of other overpriced things dissasociated from the world of comics.
Still, lovely selection of toys, models and action figures at over the top prices, you could just go to a Woolworths or Toys'r'us and find the items for 1/2 the price, but where would be the fun of that.
Fair play to FP for their comendable selection of graphics and tpbs, but where the fuck are the back issues????? And why are most of the Tpbs damaged? And why does the Manga section smell of BO?

Just round the corner, up the street a bit and opposite the Astoria (venue of choice), there is a doorway. Its small and unassuming and looks more like the venue for one of Gaimans secret markets, but when you venture within, there is a glorious comic shop called Orbital / Orbiter Comics (I forget which, sorry!).
Its selection of Tpbs is a little limited, but all the obvious picks are there and I am sure they can order in anything that isn't in stock. There is a healthy selection of back issues, lots of recent stock and a few nice oddities, such as new import Transformers, posters and original Judge Dredd strip artwork.
And the staff will talk to you.

Check it out.

So the question I put to you: What makes a good comic Shop great?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Eclectic Lethargy

Its undeniable that some of the true greats from throughout history are people who gave themselves - body and soul - to their passion, and indeed it will be these types of people who will be remembered from out time.
Beethoven and Trent Reznor with music. People who study the art of making film in the finest detail like Hitchcock. The guys who created Halo 2 (who made it into the Time 100 Most important People list) who were working 18 hour days for a lot of the last three months. People like Bret Hart, who (and some might consider it to be a low-brow form of entertainment) was a wrestler, was born into wrestling and gave the majority of his life to being a wrestler. Presidential Candidates giving up months/years of their lives - and money - just for people to invariably talk about what a shitty job they did.
These people are utterly dedicated to the one facet of their lives they have decided they are best at / enjoy the most / are the most likely to excel in, and they dedicate themselves to suceeding.

Well done to them I say.
Boring Bastards!

Yeah sure, I don't know any of the people I have listed as examples above and some of my comments may be somewhat ignorant (what the heck do I know about Beethoven?) as I don't know what these people do in their leisure time, but if you stop examaning the detail you may even see the bigger picture, which now follows.

I couldn't do what these people and others do, dedicate my life solely to one interest. Before I die, I want to have done a little of everything I love. I want at least one comic published, maybe even a book. I would like to be involved in a movie at some point, acting / directing / creative consultant. Maybe help write a song (although I cannot sing or play instruemnts for shit). An action figure based on me would be sweet. Maybe dabble in politics for a while. Have a wrestling match in MSG, NY. Travel a lot.

I wish I could dedicate my all to one interest, maybe then I could suceed, make some real money and buy that car I've always wanted. But I'm sorry I can't. I would much rather enjoy this life, experiencing a little chunk of each of my somewhat eclectic interests.

I really can't remember whose quote this is, fairly sure it was an important American, I seem to think politician or actor (or both!?!, the Line Begins to Blur), but the spirit is more important than the specifics.
When asked what he would do different if he could go back and re-live his life, he said: "I would take ten minutes out for myself. To look around."

Well excuse me for a while. I'm going to take a look around.