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Issue #151

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Issue #151
  • 114 years ago, when I was 10 years old…

    Sorry. That’s what Dustin Hoffman wheezes at the beginning of Arthur Penn’s forgotten LITTLE BIG MAN. I do a pretty good impression of it. I can’t help but remember it when I reminisce; it keeps the stupid egoism of reminiscing into perspective.

    Nonetheless.

    When I was just starting out trying to write comics, I pitched a western. A short piece, maybe six pages. A vignette. A basic western gunfight, set up very quickly, stalled for pacing, then abruptly finished, with all the HIGH NOON style nonsense trimmed out. (I hate HIGH NOON, and, yeah, I know it’s supposed to be some brave parable about McCarthyism, though you could interpret it as an anti-Commie tract if you like; for a real anti-McCarthy western, see Nicholas Ray’s JOHNNY GUITAR.) Painfully not original, unfortunately, but I had the whole layout in mind: angles, transitions, cuts. (This was before I’d much worked with artists; the idea that an artist might view the necessity of certain things differently than I did hadn’t yet occurred to me.) In other words, a matter of style. I believed I had figured out how to put impact into it via style, and this would lift the story above average. It wasn’t my take on the content that was so different, it was the intended delivery. And I really wanted to do it. I’d never played in that playground before. That alone made it all new again to me, and that couldn’t help but make it feel new to the readers, right?

    The editor I was pitching to couldn’t see it. Never did. The story was never done. Oh well. (Then, as now, there are precious few places to do westerns.)

    Two lessons to take from this.

    1) Unless you’re a well-established moneymaker, don’t ever try to sell an editor on something without suitably interesting content on the grounds you can pull it off in the style. There’s a reason why most editors want to be able to see “the hook” in most material: because it’s not good enough for you to sell it to them, they have to be able to sell it too. Coming out of nowhere and wanting to do a Batman vs. Joker story just because you’ve always wanted to do one, not so good a sales pitch. Batman vs. Joker when Joker has turned the entire population of Gotham City including Bruce Wayne into homicidally-inclined Joker look-alikes, and Batman has to do battle with his own inner Joker as well as the external one and all his duplicates, that sort of thing might get some attention. But they want the hook. You have to give them the hook, and the sooner you give it the better.

    (Of course, there’s a discussion to be had of how “hook-centric” storytelling is distorting popular culture and undermining writers and literature, but it’ll have to wait. Only practical considerations for now.)

    Probably no one who’s been in comics longer than six months needs to learn #1. #2’s what a lot of people who’ve been in the business for years, including many editors, don’t seem to get.

    #2) Just because you’ve never done it before doesn’t mean it has never been done. Being new to your experience doesn’t make it new, and it doesn’t mean anyone else will think it’s new.

    Which means a) the editor I dealt with was right, and b) when you do things like that, you limit your appreciative audience to those to whom it’s also new. The appreciative audience are the ones who’ll come back for more. The unappreciative audience are the ones who won’t. In the mid-’70s, Marvel adopted the philosophy that the audience rolled over every four years – in essence, that none of the readers from 1971 were still reading comics in 1976 – which was a strange viewpoint for a company largely being creatively controlled by a staff that had itself come up from the comics audience and stuck with the medium through thick and thin, and who were themselves usually collectors hooked into growing comics fandom. In fairness, it was hardly Marvel’s philosophy; it was how much of the industry thought, a hand-me-down from the earliest days of comics, when publishers weirdly raked in money selling tens of millions of comics per month (collectively, I mean) while presuming their audience had next to no attention span. What this meant to ’70s Marvel, then generating far more comics than the company had since the heyday of Atlas in the ’50s, was that readers wouldn’t remember, oh, TALES TO ASTONISH #63, so elements of that story could be lifted and retrofitted for this month’s story, because all the readers who’d read that story were long gone. And who knows? It might’ve been true. It might’ve worked. Except.

    Marvel comics also developed, in the ’70s, a terrible habit of late books. (Perhaps not coincidentally, this corresponded to a rising belief among incoming comics talent, and not terribly widespread before that, that comics were supposed to be a vehicle of self-expression – Art – and commercial considerations were no longer the be-all and end-all in the field.) I swear someone very perverse worked in Marvel’s production department, because it seemed that every time a reprint issue was needed as a fill-in during some serial, what they’d run would be whatever old story the current storyline most resembled. It had the effect of making Marvel look absolutely ridiculous, and led, eventually, to the policy of making sure there were new fill-in issues available for all titles (subsequently providing me with an income in the early days). Maybe their audience did roll over, but they made sure that audience read the source material anyway. I should mention the new stories were rarely straight swipes of the old ones, but they’d repeat motifs and story arcs. It was the same effect as me wanting to do a western showdown story, though everyone was thoroughly familiar with western showdowns; they read like whoever really loved the old Dr. Doom stories and couldn’t wait to do one of those classic stories themselves. Doing those stories was new to them… but it didn’t make their stories new, even if no outright theft was involved.

    And now?

    Now we’re in a business that glorifies that sort of behavior, in twisted ways. The swipe is part of our vocabulary, story swipes as much as art swipes. It’s not only expected that incoming talent will want to “put their spin” on old concepts, the mainstream companies (and many of the lesser companies) depend on it. Look at the “big summer events” this year: even the admirers of DC‘s IDENTITY CRISIS and Marvel’s “Avengers Dissembled” include in their reviews lists of all the old storylines being duplicated – and these are a couple books with terrific talents behind them. Likewise, it’s no accident Marvel followed up Grant Morrison’s visionary run on NEW X-MEN by undermining everything he’d done and essentially returning to old territory. That’s their comfort zone, and, not coincidentally, what Joss Whedon, himself no slouch as either a writer or creator, but that’s obviously what he views as the “real” X-Men. Morrison’s version went beyond familiar territory that obviated anyone’s need to do “their” take on the Lee-Kirby-Thomas-Wein-Cockrum-Claremont-Byrne version but that’s what most writers who come onto the characters seem to want to do, and Marvel, obviously, encourages it. What’s funny about this is that there will inevitably, now, be a generation that grew up reading Morrison’s version, and that’s what they’ll be out to “recapture” when their turn to write comics comes around.

    But that’s just scratching the surface. Independent comics are rife with similar things, usually masquerading them as “parody” so they can claim intellectual distance while wallowing in comfortable riffs. Various websites delight in showing where art is swiped from, but there are also some very good comics writers who regularly lift bits from movies or books or other media that they think are obscure, and they’re rarely called on it. (I don’t have to name names; you know who you are.) But nothing’s obscure anymore. It’s been a long time since comics were associated with the uneducated; my guess is a lot of people reading comics are better educated than many.

    Afflicting American comics more than anything else these days is the “Neal Adams syndrome.” I use Neal as an example not because he was ever a bad artist, but because he was nearly always a great one. Here’s a guy who not only revolutionized dynamics in comics but almost literally created a “school,” something that just doesn’t happen anymore. Through The Crusty Bunkers and Continuity Studios his tricks and his style got handed down to numerous other artists, some nearly as influential. Some were more overt Neal Adams clones; others, like Michael Golden, absorbed his lessons and applied them to his own work. Golden inspired Art Adams, who become a major influence on what would be known as “The Image Style.” There are other “spinoffs” from Neal, but what it comes down to is this: Neal’s style is now so ingrained in American comics that all his brilliant innovations are now clichés, repeated over and over and over by generations – and they’re still being repeated. And poor Neal, who’s still pretty much as good as he ever was, he now finds himself in a milieu where his natural style is so imitated, bowdlerized and commonized that when Neal draws something now, he looks like the world’s best Neal Adams tribute band. Because it can only get that good now, because we’re saturated with him whether any of us likes it or not.

    And when you get to pop culture in general, things are worse. Something I noticed several years ago was the difference between our generation and our kids’ generation when it comes to pop music: when our parents heard our music, they said, “Oh, that’s terrible, how can you even call that music?” but when we hear our kids’ music, we just say, “Y’know, it was better the first time.” We live in an era where pop culture is oversaturated on itself, so it’s easy for lifted riffs to provoke contempt over familiarity. Comics are double-trapped in that regard, since much of the non-manga audience are college students, so even the obscure academia stuff doesn’t go unrecognized, though college students are more likely to think that cool rather than clumsy.

    Some argument can be made for playing off old riffs, of course. Warren Ellis has done wonders with PLANETARY, which pretty much exists to play on old riffs. But, as a review I read recently pointed out (sorry, but I don’t recall which one), the point of the book is to take those riffs, burned out through overexposure in decade after decade of self-devouring, self-referencing media, and reinstill them with sense of wonder. That’s hard to do, and there’s some question as to whether it can be done more than once. (As with the great “decompressed” storytelling Warren used in THE AUTHORITY that inspired gobs of bad “decompressed” stories, technique and method are only useful if you’re doing them right.

  • In answer to my offhanded query last week, several people of all political stripes referred me to the appalling spectacle of the Democrats crushing dissent in Boston in much the same way the Republicans plan to do it in New York City, further blurring the lines between the two parties. Boston, the home of American protest (just ask the British), dealt with the possible specter of the disgruntled – and lord knows there are enough of them, since there are many things the Democrats aren’t addressing, and anyone who’s really even remotely “on the left” knows John Kerry is, at best, a right-of-center centrist rather than the demonic “leftist” liberal the Hand Puppet’s re-election committee is trying to paint him, only “left” if you’re already standing well to his right (but that’s no excuse to go voting Republican, since Republicans aren’t addressing those issues either) – by carving out what was basically a barbed-wire concentration camp ironically called “the Free Speech Zone.” Thus have we totally debased the concept of Free Speech, making sure it can only occur where it won’t be heard, while the attention’s on choreographed feelgood photo ops. Too bad protesters cooperated, cowed into “civility” by the threat that their negative actions might make the Hand Puppet look good by comparison if anyone actually got the idea that there wasn’t solid unity behind Kerry. The whole sordid little scene doesn’t raise my faith in a Kerry presidency.

    Meanwhile, alerts were issued for possible eventual attacks on New York, Washington and… Newark?! (That’s almost a zen riddle: if a terrorist bomb goes off in Newark, how can you tell the difference?) This wasn’t your garden variety vague terror alert, no sir! While no specific date for the attack was suggested, it was strongly emphasized that their information was very credible, and clearly demonstrated that our Office Of Homeland Security was Doing Its Job.

    What they weren’t telling us was that the “intelligence” dated back to well before 9-11, and they’ve known about it for four years. Lots of hemming and hawing when that was revealed, and they’re still insisting it’s credible just the way they keep insisting Saddam Hussein really does – or did – have weapons of masked destruction, honest! This at the time when the Hand Puppet is “acting” on Congressional recommendations following the 9-11 study by creating a central clearing house for intelligence – inside the White House. Part of the problem all along has been that the CIA has been – I can’t believe I’m saying this – too influenced by administration foreign policy objectives (it really doesn’t matter which administration); a major reason we’re in Iraq today is that the CIA, courtesy of George Tenet, tailored their “intelligence” to what the White House wanted to hear. And we have a president who prides himself on not listening to anyone outside his inner circle, which the new intelligence chief wouldn’t be part of. The president’s opponents are already accusing him of politicizing the situation, but intelligence agencies in America have always been politicized. But this only increases the cult of secrecy the current administration has instilled in the White House; having all intelligence information routed through the White House would only give them even more of the control they want over what information reaches the American public and what doesn’t. It certainly doesn’t increase the odds that information contradicting planned foreign policy objectives would get heard.

    Maybe you think I’m just some crazy leftist trying to smear the White House with that “cult of secrecy” stuff, and if that’s the case, you probably missed Attorney General John Ashcroft’s latest attempt to seal up the flow of “unauthorized” information. No, he’s not going after foreign spies. Last week, he sent out orders to the Government Printing Office’s Superintendent of Documents to order libraries to destroy some government documents now available to the public. Not illegal documents, not classified documents. These are texts of statutes covering how you and I, average Americans, can get back things the government confiscates if they investigate you. Apparently, Ashcroft thinks only law offices can be trusted with this information. For now.

    Makes you wonder just what he’s got in mind for the next four years. Nothing’s been removed from any libraries yet, but get copies of the Civil And Criminal Forfeiture Procedure, the Select Criminal Forfeiture Forms, the Select Federal Asset Forfeiture Statutes, the Asset Forfeiture And Money Laundering Resource Directory, and the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act Of 2000 while you can.

  • Back to the mailbag:

    “In your latest column you say that you don’t know why Marv Wolfman and George Perez left Marvel in the first place to go to DC, where they did NEW TEEN TITANS.

    If I recall properly (from reading fanzines at the time), I believe Marv Wolfman’s leaving Marvel had something to do with Marvel eliminating the “writer/editor” position on most of their titles, as had been the norm during the late 70s and early 80s. I remember this, because Marv was writing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN at the time, and had agreed to take over SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN as well. I was excited by this, hoping for better continuity between the two books. Shortly before this happened, however, Marvel announced the policy change, and Marv left shortly thereafter.

    As to the TITANS graphic novel, this is a graphic novel that Marv and George started a long time ago. George finished 80 pages, and then hit writer’s block on the Titans (penciller’s block?). Now, after JLA/AVENGERS, George was interested in finishing the book, and now its an official project again.”

    Ah. I didn’t think they’d begun one recently. Marv was also writing FANTASTIC FOUR around the time he left Marvel as well, and I know there was more to it than just the policy change. But I’ll leave all that to Marv to bring up, if he feels like it.

    “I’ve read about Perez’s reasons for leaving Marvel over the years in various publications, and it’s not the aborted JLA/AVENGERS ’80’s project.

    It’s been said that GP began penciling JLA and NEW TEEN TITANS for DC while still working on AVENGERS for Marvel, decided something had to give in his schedule and just happened to pick the one he had been working on the longest, which just happened to be the Marvel book.

    But when the company crossover project went sour (well-documented in David Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW #6), that was the catalyst that kept Perez from pursuing any more Marvel work as long as Jim Shooter was EIC, and eventually led to the artist signing the dotted line on a DC-exclusive contract. Had that JLA/AVENGERS project gone well, we might have seen George doing other Marvel work.

    As for the TITANS graphic novel, Wolfman & Perez are returning to finish up a project that they initiated almost 20 years ago, halted by DC for one reason or another. As a fan, I hope this leads to Wolfman gaining greater consideration for DC work.

    Speaking of writers that deserve greater consideration, was I the only one who enjoyed Martin Pasko’s take on Hal Jordan in the DC COMICS PRESENTS: GREEN LANTERN tribute? The last page did more to flesh out the character than 15 years of prior continuity collectively accomplished.”

    I haven’t seen Marty’s GL story yet. Thanks for the info on George. I vaguely recall there was also pressure on him at the time from Marvel, which wasn’t that pleased with the idea of their freelancers also working for DC, but I may be misremembering.

    “I’m confused by this comment in your latest column, especially the parts that I’ve emphasized:

    Genuine enthusiasm was everywhere, buoyed by the announced numbers of more that 100,000 ticket buyers and dampened only a little by the high humidity in San Diego this year and the convention center’s reluctance to turn up the air conditioning, exacerbated a bit by things like the fabulous giant silk-screened banners draped from the ceilings over their booth, giving an awe-inspiring view of Alex Ross’s renditions of their characters but effectively cutting off the air blowers. Oh well. The booth was still constantly hopping.

    It sounds as if Alex Ross did renditions of the con’s characters, and that the con’s booth was constantly hopping. Aren’t you talking about DC’s booth and characters, or am I missing something?”

    Yes. Fast writing, bad syntax.

    “I’m glad to hear that you had a good time at SDCC. It’s good to hear that the general mood is starting to pick up. Hey, maybe it’s about time, comics have been beaten down for a while now almost on a scale of the 1950s Seduction of the Innocent or the 1970s slump. I’m glad to hear that there have been some lessens learned from this downturn. First and foremost everyone in comics regardless of genre or publisher is in this together.

    I maintain that comics are in a good position in the new media age. We are not too big and not too small. Comics culture is small enough to keep up with fairly easily but also influential enough on other media to matter. Infighting and genre snobbery take away a critical strength of this medium. A good rule of thumb is to put the medium first and genre (superheroes, whatever else) second.”

    As a general rule, I agree with you, but it’s also a little like saying it’s more important to focus on computers than on the programs used in them. It doesn’t matter how state of the art your computer is, you’re still at the mercy of your programs; without them your computer is an expensive, technologically advanced paperweight. Likewise, we can talk about the medium of comics all we want, but for the vast majority of purchasers the medium’s always going to be inseparable from the content. But the common mindset in the comics community has always been that the reader is a precious and limited natural resource, so keeping them focused on them rather than other publishers, talent, types of comics material, whatever, is necessary. The sense coming out of San Diego is that the audience, while still a precious resource, is nowhere near as limited as we thought, and it becomes more important to get and keep them interested in anything involving comics than to force/trick/arouse/coerce them into attending to any one specific aspect of comics content. Right now we should all be menu items on the buffet; what’s important is getting them into the buffet in the first place, and once they’re in there, what they choose is up to them.

    “I read with sadness your comments about Marv Wolfman and George Perez. It’s absolutely outrageous that Marv Wolfman has trouble pitching his ideas to DC considering the debt they owe him. My question is this: Is Marv Wolfman’s problem related to not being considered contemporary to current readership or is it an ageism problem in the comic book industry?”

    That’s really the same thing, isn’t it? It’s funny; thirty years ago, “ageism” was a problem in that DC and Marvel were letting virtually no young talent in; almost everything was being written by men in their forties or older, and there was no audience complaint about it. Comics haven’t gone completely ageist yet, but they tend to pick up bad habits in imitation of Hollywood these days. There has been a not-so-silent rule of thumb in Hollywood for the past couple decades – though you can certainly find exceptions – that in order to appeal to the young (the target audience for most studio movies, and the perceived natural audience for comics) you should have the young generating the material, since “they” know what “they” like. Ageism is something a lot of comics writers have complained of in recent years, but, again, you can also find plenty of exceptions, and I know Marv’s case re:DC is somewhat more complex than that. (Again, I’ll let Marv elaborate if he wants, but I’m not going to.)

    “Just got back yesterday from LA. I called a friend of mine who currently works for Penny Farthing Press who did not attend. He asked what the mood was like there because he said it’s a pretty good indication of how the market is doing. As you did, I thought the mood was generally upbeat.

    You mentioned the ongoing relationship between comics and film. I’m pleased to see that guys like Raimi and Singer have an abiding respect for the characters and the medium. X2 was great. I liked SPIDER-MAN 2 despite it’s flaws because it delved into the heart of the relationships that created Spidey’s fandom in the first place. BATMAN BEGINS‘ director also expressed similar sentiments about his intent…

    I was gratified by Cold Cut’s efforts to do self publishing panels all four days. I went to at least half of all that and found it to be helpful and informative. Also equally helpful is Michael Lovitz’ seminars on copyright and trademark. Once you get past his flair for the dramatic , there’s a lot there to benefit from.

    The dealer’s room is like traveling across the Pacific. Like Batton Lash said, “I could come out with another issue before I could walk from one end of the dealer’s room to the other…” That said, there was a lot of eye candy to see. Like a friend of mine said at the con, “the con has gotten too big for it’s own good.” It took over an hour to get my badge in the pro line. Then you had to go over to the printer to actually get the badge. One pro threw his things down in disgust. You had to go fifteen minutes prior to the self publishing panel to even get in. I don’t know what that says about the current state of industry hopefuls, only to say it probably isn’t as easy to get in as it once was… kudus once again on the BADLANDS screenplay. You could easily hold your own with any scriptwriter in the business.”

    I appreciate that, though it’ll take more than BADLANDS before I start claiming I’m a better screenwriter than, say, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. Screenwriting is a really tough craft to be any good at, and the actual writing is only half the job. If you knew what making movies is like, it’s a wonder even bad ones get made. To do a terrific screenplay and actually get most of what you wrote on the screen is extremely rare, and I have the highest regard and awe for anyone who can manage it. I certainly haven’t been able to so far… Speaking of BATMAN BEGINS, I know a number of fans are giving it grief sight unseen, but I’ve never seen a bad movie from Christopher Nolan, and he has made at least one brilliant one (MEMENTO), so I can say that for the first time when a superhero movie comes out I’m going to be the first in line to see it.

    “I just wanted to recommend, if you haven’t seen it, the documentary CONTROL ROOM, about the al Jazeera station during the “active operation” portion of the war, or whatever Bush called it. Its not as pointed or investigative a documentary as I like, but it’s informative and since it’s more hands off, makes a good choice for people of various political persuasions to see, without having Moore polarizing the issue automatically. A good view into how the media seems to be working. It actually reassured me about journalists as people in general (if not the actual effectiveness of it right now).

    I want to mention that amongst the shifting pile of comics I feel like I have to keep around (as opposed to storage outside the small apartment) RETURN TO BIG NOTHING has remained a favorite and holds its place well on my shelves.”

    Man, is there a revival of that thing going on at the moment or something? You’re about the 12th person to bring up RETURN TO BIG NOTHING in the last two weeks, which surprises me since Marvel had it in print for a long time. Thanks. As for CONTROL ROOM, I’m aware of it but haven’t had a chance to see it. It’ll probably be dismissed anyway by many who dismissed FAHRENHEIT 9/11 since al Jazeera has been painted in the American press as being rabidly anti-American, mainly because they’re an Arab operation, and it’s a given (at least on Fox News) that Arabs all hate us irrationally…

    “You asked in Permanent Damage where the protest zones are for the convention in Boston. Courtesy of the Cryptome site:

    Tear down this wall, by James Atkinson

    Photos of the site (takes a while to load)

    As ever, it’s the manipulation of language that impresses me. These are “Free Speech Zones”, which of course means that everywhere else is not. Orwell would be proud.”

    Probably not, since Orwell, despite his sojourn in British Intelligence during WWII, was anything but an advocate for the kind of thing he wrote about in 1984. I suspect the repellant idiocy embodied in the “Free Speech Zones” in Boston would’ve made him sick. I hope they make everyone sick. There’s no excuse for it, and holding out “Beating the Hand Puppet takes precedence over anything else” is the same thing as saying “the war on terror takes precedence over American liberty.” It doesn’t, and as soon as we start accepting that, we’ve thrown the country away. And the Democrats should know better.

    “As a rule, I couldn’t disagree with your politics more (though I do enjoy your column, otherwise), but here I think we’re on the same page. A chainlink fence and barbed-wire is not a “free speech zone” (which is what the DNC incident is called), no matter what party’s convention it’s attached to.

    Anyway, I figured if you hadn’t already seen the pic of how the Dems are doing what the Republicans are planning, you should.”

    Yeah, this sort of thing goes beyond partisan politics. If Democrats and Republicans insist on acting the same bad ways, how’s anyone supposed to believe there’s really a difference between them?

    “I think you’ve got it wrong on the Democratic Convention. No, there are no surprises, but that doesn’t mean it’s not news. That’s the same trap the networks have fallen into. The Convention is an opportunity for the Party to lay out what is at stake in this election. You and I may already know that because we’re following the scene, but there are millions of voters out there who aren’t. Moreover, I’ve been watching pretty closely and I’m thereby getting a pretty good idea of John Kerry’s policy goals – albeit at a high level of abstraction. Yes, I know who the nominees are going to be, but so far this Convention (unlike the last several) is telling me why this nominee is worthwhile, and it’s doing a good job of it.”

    Really? That wasn’t what I got from the short spurts I watched. Mainly what I got is that we should vote for John Kerry because he’s not the Hand Puppet and what America needs now is Not The Hand Puppet. (While I tend to agree with that, it’s hardly what I want to see the campaign based on, though at this point it might be the most effective weapon Kerry has.) Everything else was, as you say, highly abstracted. Except for John Edwards, who was obviously put on the ticket to be the rousing figure Kerry himself is failing to be. Even if you believe everything Edwards says is a con job, it’s still effective, stirring delivery.

    “You may have already seen this, as it’s appeared on several blogs, but as yet it hasn’t appeared in any news outlet I’m aware of.

    Here’s the link to the White House website, so it seems authentic. Most of it’s pretty dull stuff, but then Bush quotes someone named Charlie Gaines (“a friend of Jesse,” apparently): ‘Blacks are gagging on the donkey but not yet ready to swallow the elephant.'”

    Ooooookay…

  • By now, my regular readers are probably sick to death of hearing about THE LAST HEROES, coming soon from Byron Preiss’ iBooks, which has been releasing a number of high quality trade paperbacks and graphic novels. THE LAST HEROES is, of course, the collection of the whole EDGE series Gil Kane and I started at Bravura Comics in the ’90s. It’s Gil’s last great co-creation before he died.

    So at San Diego, Byron, who I swear is a dead ringer for Alfred Molina – it’s like having a chat with Dr. Octopus, in his soft-spoken scientist form – says to me, “Come up with a brilliant promotional scheme for THE LAST HEROES!” And you know what? I’m tapped out. I have so much to do, and so many other things on my plate right now, that I just can’t figure it out. He has already printed up these gorgeous posters with Gil artwork – if you’re a retailer, get in touch with Byron to see how you can get one in your store because they really are eyecatching – and I don’t have the time for a tour to pimp it, but we really want to get the word out about this thing. The book’s being printed in Spain and shipped over by boat because we didn’t really want to stick a $40 price tag on it and air shipping would’ve forced that, so it’ll be available in October. So:

    This is a contest for the best, most effective idea for promoting THE LAST HEROES to as wide an audience as possible. The prizes? Well, there really aren’t any except for full credit. If you’ve ever thought comics/graphic novel marketing was where your future lies, this is your big chance to prove it. Low budget, high yield: that’s what you’re looking for. Byron, editor Steve Roman and I will choose the winner, and the runners-up will also get a mention here. (Let me know if it’s all right if I mention your idea here; I won’t if you don’t specify I can.) Put your thinking caps on, and go!

  • I want to thank everyone who pitched in on last week’s fundraiser. If you’re interested in helping out, details can be found in last week’s column in the archives (the archives’ link’s at the top of the page, and you can find out what to do at my Paper Movies website. Again, thanks very much; all of you helped get me out of a big jam.

    Boy, the last week has just brought a flood of review copies. I can’t get to them this week, but expect a reviewapalooza next week. Mainly I’ve been working on a slew of pitches in the wake of San Diego, and rewriting a screenplay.

    And, for those of you who’d love to spend your hard-earned cash on my work:

    CATWOMAN THE MOVIE AND OTHER CAT TALES, a trade paperback from DC Comics, includes a Catwoman story I did with Brad Rader, where the FBI sets a trap for her using one of Catwoman’s criminal rivals as bait.

    DAMNED: trade paperback from Cyberosia, art by Mike Zeck and Denis Rodier, coloring by Kurt Goldzung

    Crime. A parolee jumps parole to fulfill a promise to a dead cellmate, and finds himself hunted by mobsters looking for missing money he knows nothing about, in a city where he has no friends. (Cyberosia publisher Scott Brown tells me this has been doing a very brisk reorder business, so I want to thank everyone who’s buying it.)

    MORTAL SOULS: trade paperback from Avatar Press, art by Philip Xavier

    Crime/horror. A police detective tracks and kills a female serial killer, only to gain her gift of seeing her targets for what they really are: the dead, who run the world, and who hate the living.

    MY FLESH IS COOL

    : still available in three issues from Avatar Press, art by Sebastian Fiumara.

    Crime/science fiction/horror. A hitman earns his living by throwing his mind into other people’s bodies, but civilization threatens to crumble when his secrets get into the wrong hands.

    BADLANDS: trade paperback from AiT/PlanetLar Books, art by Vince Giarrano

    Crime story, set in 1963 and starring the man who really killed John Kennedy.

    BADLANDS: THE UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY: text from AiT/PlanetLar

    Screenplay version of BADLANDS, designed to ward off anyone who wants to make a movie of it.

    PUNISHER:CIRCLE OF BLOOD: trade paperback from Marvel Comics, art by Mike Zeck and John Beatty

    Crime. The original mini-series that transformed The Punisher from a minor character into a movie-franchise spawning star. Imprisoned for his killings, the Punisher fights to survive and escape, but the war he declares on organized crime once he’s out takes an unexpected turn.

    HATED AND FEARED: Best Of X-MEN UNLIMITED: trade paperback from Marvel Comics collecting a number of short X-Men stories, including two by me: a “Blob” story with art by Sean Phillips, and a “Lockheed The Dragon” story drawn by Paul Smith.

    GREEN LANTERN: TRAITOR: trade paperback from DC Comics, art by Mike Zeck, Gil Kane, Scott Kolins and Klaus Janson

    Superhero action. Three generations of Green Lanterns – the alien Abin Sur in the old west, Hal Jordan joined by the Atom in the Silver Age, and the modern Green Lantern Kyle Raynor – battle an unstoppable cyborg powered by the stars and driven by a religious calling to snuff out all life in the universe.

    FRANK MILLER’S ROBOCOP, monthly comic from Avatar Press, art by Juan Jose Ryp

    Science fiction action. The most faithful adaptation of a screenplay in history. From the version of ROBOCOP 2 that was never filmed, Frank Miller’s vision of the decaying future city of Detroit is realized for the first time, as Robocop crosses swords with a demented squadron of military police and a program-altering self-proclaimed moral watchdog, while the real police go on strike and OCP readies an even more powerful Robocop to replace him.

    I encourage the patronage of local comics shops where applicable, but don’t forget that if you can’t find what you want there, you can always shop the fine online retailers Khepri and Mars Import. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails from people wanting to know what address to send review copies to. If you continue reading down to the bottom of the column, it’s right there.

    Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail me but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it’s not trying to sell me something. IMPORTANT: Because a lot of people apparently list it in their e-address books, this account has gotten a slew of virus-laden messages lately. They’re no real threat but dealing with them eats up time I don’t really have, to the extent I can no longer accept unsolicited e-mail with attachments. If you want to send something via attachment (say, art samples) ask me first. If I say okay, then send. Unsolicited e-mail with attachments will be wiped from the server without being read. You can also leave messages for me and have discussions on other topics at my Delphi forum, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Please don’t ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.

    Those wanting to subscribe to the WHISPER e-mail newsletter should click here.

    I’m reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I’ll mention them – at Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074, so send ’em if you want ’em mentioned, since I can’t review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can’t do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.

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