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Issue #139

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Issue #139
  • Trying a little experiment this week. I’m doing something you’re not really supposed to do in comics.

    A few months back I came up with a title for a series. Good title. Real good title. A semi-pithy topical pun that evokes a doubletake and a smile. (I know. I’ve tested it.) The problem with coming up with titles first, though, is then you’ve got to figure out a concept to fit it. Which is doubly hard with this sort of title, which conjures a specific type of material (in this case, superheroes) and a specific approach. I came up with a few different ideas, even successfully interested a publisher in one of them but never pursued it. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t focused enough, and it just wasn’t the right concept for the title.

    Over the weekend, the perfect concept suddenly hit me. Simple, focused, straightforward, good twist, incorporating every expectation inherent in the title. Hitting several of my hot buttons as well. Lots of latitude for big, crowd-pleasing disaster movie action. Commercial, if any superhero concept is commercial these days. I’m surprised Warren Ellis didn’t think of it first. Sorry I can’t go into details, but you know how these things are. You’ll find out soon enough. Hopefully. Wrote up the premise in a concise pitch in no time.

    That’s where the fun really begins.

    Pitching comics is no fun, particularly these days. There’s an art to the pitch that I’ve never really mastered – as in movies, it’s not unusual for great pitches to make lousy products, though, as in movies, sometimes a great pitch turns into great product. There’s a time factor as well.

    Problem is: editors don’t respond quickly to pitches anymore. I’m not pointing fingers, because most editors are buried in work – not to mention underpaid – already. They barely have time to respond to pitches they solicit, let alone pitches that come out of the blue. According to many of my fellow freelancers – and I’ve been victimized by this myself – it’s far from unusual for editors to not only bury a requested pitch in a drawer but never mention it again. Other times, too many other times to be comfortable, it’s common for a pitch to sit for months before being read.

    Which, when you’re trying to get something off the ground ASAP, becomes an issue. Particularly if you’re interested in getting paid while you do it. Wait for an editor’s response for months and, if the answer’s no, you’re staring down the barrel of months more with the next editor, and the next after that, and years are suddenly gone and, as Shakespeare put it, enterprises of great pith and moment turn awry and lose the name of action. Beyond the sheer inertia of waiting and waiting, there are limited to inspiration. There’s this biochemistry that goes on when an idea you really like hits you, an urge to grab as much of that spontaneity on the page as possible. As I’ve mentioned before, spontaneity is energy. Energy can cover a variety of sins in comics, but nothing can cover no energy, and it’s not terribly surprising that, as “the system” has increasingly become a part of comics, with the gatekeepers, the committees and the micromanagers, sales have dropped. More and more, the way “mainstream” comics are put together in this country now sucks whatever passes for energy right out of them, and it’s hard to believe the readers (or, more to the point, former readers) don’t react to that, even if they don’t know that’s what they’re reacting to.

    Like I said, the title is topical. Not, at this point, that it’ll ever lose significance (though there’s always the possibility someone else will come up with the same title (that has happened to me more than once and it’s always dead frustrating)) but, if used sometime around now, it’d have the most impact. It’s the sort of title newspapers would lock onto and movie studios would want on marquees. To get it done ASAP requires either self-publishing (not possible at the moment, I’m afraid) or somehow circumventing the system.

    So I decided to experiment with taboo-breaking.

    There are things you’re not supposed to do in pitching. One of these is the “simultaneous submission,” a holdover taboo from book publishing. That’s sending the same pitch or product to different potential publishers at the same time. It’s supposed to be unprofessional. Maybe it is. It’s been my experience that, when someone at a company (comics, books, media, etc.) talks about “unprofessional” behavior that can’t remotely be construed as an ethics violation, it usually means “doesn’t benefit the company.” Mainly, it puts companies in direct competition with each other, like an auction in Hollywood. (Ask Jeff Parker about the virtue of that.) You’re not supposed to do it. You’re supposed to do things the nice way.

    People often ask me how I would have ended the PUNISHER MINI-SERIES had I written the final issue. Fact is, the plot on that issue was all mine. The dialogue would’ve been different, with a different emphasis. Readers may recall it ends with the Punisher, all shot up, crosses a bridge from his enemy’s estate on foot, heading for medical attention before he bleeds out. Femme fatale Angela, enraged to see him alive (suggesting her lover isn’t), tries to run him down with a car. She loses control when he shoots out the windshield and ends up crashing through a guard rail and balancing on the bridge’s edge, a precipice yawning beneath her. She begs for the Punisher to save her. Like any hero would.

    I wanted to drive home the point that the Punisher wasn’t a hero. He’d have two choices: save her and bleed out, or save himself and leave her to the mercy of fate.

    In my version, as he walks away, his last words in the story would have been, “Right now I haven’t got the time.”

    Right now, I haven’t got the time.

    So. Simultaneous submissions. Hit as many editors and publishers as possible in as short a time as possible. Why not? Who’s it going to hurt?

    The other thing about pitches is that different editors want different things. Way back when I used to write “Choose your own adventure” type books, I dealt with a couple of very nice women who wanted both long adventures and many many endings in a relatively few pages. These weren’t stupid people. They were very bright, very savvy businesswomen. And they just couldn’t get it through their heads that mathematically, in the allotted pages, you could have either long threads or many endings, but you couldn’t have both. Mathematically. It wasn’t a creative choice, it was a literary fact. But the other (in their minds more dominant) fact was: they wanted both.

    More and more I find editors want a simple, easy to read one page pitch with: a detailed premise; detailed character sketches of all major and main supporting characters; a detailed outline of the first story arc, and (if it’s an ongoing series) notes toward future story arcs. Maybe if the pitch is in three point type I can understand why editors want all this – if they like the idea, they’ll need it to sell the idea to their boss – but, space limitations aside, this sort of thing is often a surfeit of information: too much too soon. Information’s great, but too much of it crammed into a small space is confusing. A popular theory about superhero comics is that the readership is down because the backstories are too convoluted and confusing. So how did companies decide to deal with this apparent flaw? Make sure all readers are brought up to speed by cramming as much of the backstory as possible into as small a space as possible, reducing vast sweeps of plot and character to bare facts. If something’s convoluted to begin with, you don’t leave it whole but compress it! You strip it down to the barest amount of information needed to get the basic concept, and once they’ve got that, then you start giving them additional information, when they’ve got a framework for processing it. Add in information as necessary and it might not make the idea any less stupid, but the convolution will vanish.

    Same thing with pitches. Why aren’t we pitching the basic idea first? And worrying about the details later? If they don’t like the basic concept, all the details and development in the world aren’t going to matter.

    Pitches are mined with booby traps. Artists, for example. Companies and editors can get very picky about the artists (and writers) they want to work with, for various reasons. For such an apparently pissant field, the depth of internal politics is astounding. Tack the wrong artist to a pitch and you end up in one of two situations: either a company walks away or you have to tell the artist his services aren’t required. Neither are desirable.

    Not that I don’t have a wonderful pool of artists to choose from, but this is the sort of thing that should be discussed with a company, not imposed on them.

    So this is the experiment: a one page concept pitch, without plot, character details or artist attached, simultaneously sent to multiple venues, spotlighting the title and an idea that gives full vent to standard superhero elements but does something new with them.

    Check back in a few weeks to see how it goes.

  • Since I’m in the bowels of the creative process this week (hell, son, there’s more pitches, a script and what’s left of a screenplay to finish as well), we’ll cut straight to letters:

    “Regarding your comment on the blossoming of talent on what were – essentially – midrange DC books with all the blandness that comes with that… I’ve noticed it’s been more the artists who did well. A good example is Jim Cheung who was existing on third-rate Marvel (MAVERICK, anyone?) and blowing all his deadlines. The combination of a strict office environment and being surrounded by other artists obviously had an effect on – not just him, but others too. I’m sure having your boss looking over your shoulder is far better than slumped over your desk at home if you require added timekeeping incentive. It hasn’t really had the same boost for writers [at Crossgen] as most of the more well-known (Chuck Dixon, Mark Waid) didn’t last long and there time was only notable because they were unable to write the straight super-heroics they’re renowned for and had to write in new genres.

    While I’m here, I may as well pimp Ninth Art‘s revamp. No more Friday updates, now everything goes up on Monday. We have a new core team writing all the weekly comics forecasts, and a rotating essay slot.”

    Chuck’s still working for Crossgen, isn’t he? To the extent anyone’s still working for Crossgen, I mean. I don’t know if I’d say he was ever renowned for straight superheroic comics. Action heroes, sure. Superheroes? I realize I’m splitting hairs, but…

    “As soon as I read the sentence “…in a rut…” I thought “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or, as you said a few paragraphs earlier, “what works works.”

    It’s satisfying to get this column with regularity. My comic-reading habits change every few months, but this column I can always count on. I’m not looking for a big format change. Where else can I get a weekly dose of comics, television, and political commentary all in a free, convenient package? Written by a smart, lively writer?

    You already have changed the format, just with that scary double-image of you, the word balloon thing, and the artist of the week.

    A few times a year you take a break to talk about that computer convention, or a con you go to. Those seem like appropriate format changes. I have no problem with you following your formula indefinitely because comics, tv, and politics are going to keep changing. Or they’re going to endlessly cycle back and forth as they always have and only the smallest of net glacial shifts will register over a large period of time, but week to week it’s always a different combination. Is CrossGen the same story of the comics start-up that couldn’t that we’ve heard for the last 25 years? Yes and no. I read every week because of your thoughts on the yes and the no.

    By the way, why don’t you ever cite your reader mail? I’m sure some readers, or at least new readers are confused by the format of SDG-text in regular margins and reader mail in narrow margins alternating between italics and non-italics. If you were to tie off a reader quote with a symbol or a location

    “Cambridge, MA” it might delineate who’s who a little better.”

    That’s probably true, but I originally started the anonymous letter format because I was getting so many e-mails saying “If you run this, please don’t use my name” that I realized many people are more comfortable with expressing themselves anonymously. I don’t really care who you are anyway, just what you have to say. Anyone who really wants to identify themselves can pop on over to the Permanent Damage Message Board or the Graphic Violence forum and do that. Maybe I’ll start rotating print colors for different letters…

    “Because he took a big sloppy dump all over a friend of mine who criticized his work, I care about the Micah Wright lie.

    Throwing the “I was a Ranger, so shut up!” thing in my friend’s face was really the least of it. (Starting a response to a critic with “Hey there Man-****” sort of sets the tone…) I agree with you that Wright doesn’t represent the antiwar movement. It’s his unprofessional behavior and his zeal in using the Big Lie as a weapon against his critics that turned me on him.”

    I can understand that.

    “I’m saddened to read of your indifference to Micah Wright’s lying. Why are his lies, meant to advance his image and career, less offensive than what you believe to be President Bush’s fabrications of his military service to do the same? There are some of us who believe lying is wrong. Period. Whether it is by a sitting President or a fiction writer. If there is a bit of outrage in the chat rooms, it may be coming from some who respect and have served their country… even when they did not necessarily agree with the existing leadership and policies of the time. I agree with you that there are much bigger issues facing the American Public today. Still, I resent what this fellow did.”

    Lying is wrong. I don’t remember saying it wasn’t. I don’t have any problem with anyone calling Micah on it, particularly real Rangers. But it’s still a matter of proportion. Lying by a man who holds the fate of millions in his hands daily, who can send a large chunk of the population off to war, and who’s in a position to manipulate the press and other information and propaganda outlets to bolster and maintain his grip on power is still far more serious than lying by someone, like Micah, who’s basically powerless to hurt anyone but himself. It’s not a matter of one being “Wright” and the other being wrong, it’s a matter of proportion. Lying is wrong (not that that seems to stop anyone) but proportion still matters.

    “Just finished reading your current Permanent Damage and when you mentioned the column going “stale” I figured what the hell and thought I’d send you my input on it.

    See, I’m a product of the ’90s comic boom and have very little up-front experience with your comics work. On your command I bought MY FLESH IS COOL (haven’t read it yet – sorry) and due to the PUNISHER movie I read the first issue of that mini-series you did back in the fourteenth century. I say all this just to give you an idea of where I’m coming from. I don’t hate Rob Liefeld or Jim Lee or any of those other ‘kewl’ artists because I think their work has fun energy to them. Nor do I dislike (in fact, in most cases, I enjoy even more) artists like Sean Phillips or Igor Kordey and find enjoyment with them for simply being different – amongst many other variables.

    But I digress. Your column is fun and easily readable; divided into sections I can easily skip over or skim through if less interested; easily marked with red highlight is a good choice. And your opinions are valued. But you know what I miss some? I miss what you did awhile back when you used the column for a sort of brain-ejaculation. You know, that variation of the Clampets’ BEVERLY HILLBILLIES horror story you did. That was incredibly fun and a nice step to the right from the usual.

    In a recent column you also talked about how you thought a lot of writers (of columns) talked about what they were going to achieve without just ‘doing’ it. You’re right and you certainly jump right in every week. So I guess what I’d like to see more of is the following:

    – Maybe a little more on the anecdotes. Stories are fun.

    – I subscribe to this newsletter that Warren Ellis sends out periodically called Bad Signal (actually, I get about thirty a day for some reason) and in it he throws out insane ideas or just some interesting tidbits/facts/whatever. Maybe a little bit more of that would be fun.

    Obviously, I’m just talking about you “funnin'” up the column when it’s perfectly fine as it is. I enjoy it every Wednesday (I’ve gotta, since I get my new comics and forego them to read this). Maybe if you mentioned actual comments and gave some personal criticism it’d be fun too. You know, what’s your take on Grant Morrison’s NEW X-MEN run? Why is Marv Wolfman’s ROBO DOJO the start of a new untapped genre? Whatever. Just some comic-related stuff. And it’s not that you don’t usually mention these things – you certainly do – I guess I’m just saying that maybe you should mention them more often.”

    I’d love to go over things like ROBO DOJO or Morrison’s NEW X-MEN run, but I haven’t read them, for the most part. Due to time/money logistics, I almost never see what’s not sent to me, and I can’t believe I’ll be on, oh, Marvel’s comp list anytime soon. Just the way it is.

    “Good analysis of the Crossgen collapse, but one other point worth noting: the company rightly attempted to find readers in ignored genres, but then offered the readers nothing new in those genres. Fantasy fans who picked up SCION (and I’m speaking as a UK fantasy author here) were appalled that it was a mish-mash of the worst clichés of the genre. RAVE HOUSE is every trope of the gothic romance fiction piled into one book.

    If you expect to attract fans of a genre you need to realize they’re intelligent people who want something new in their area, and are fully educated on what’s been done to death. Simply saying it’s fantasy, or horror, or whatever is not enough.”

    Good point.

    “You charge that Israel is the main stumbling block between the US and good relations with the Muslim world in your April 21 column.

    How do you explain that America’s first military expeditions outside the western hemisphere 200 years ago were to fight Arabs, that is, the Barbary pirates, who controlled Tripoli, Algiers, and other North African ports?

    The fact is that what you say is the State Department and CIA line. In fact, these two government agencies have been encouraging the Arabs against Israel for more than 50 years. The US long subsidized the price of oil paid to Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, using the gimmick of the Foreign Tax Credit, which allowed the oil companies to write off most of what they paid to Saudi Arabia, et cetera, against their corporate income tax. Check it out in John Blair’s book, THE CONTROL OF OIL, and other such sources.

    The fact is that the CIA helped put Abdul-Nasser in power in Egypt and helped train PLO terrorists. Further, Bin Laden too got help from the CIA when they were collaborating against the Russians in Afghanistan. When Carter was president, US policy was to help Khomeini take over Iran.”

    As with many apparently paradoxical foreign policies by this country, most of that’s a yes and no situation. Carter’s official policy was to aid Khomeini’s rebellion against Iran, because it was pretty obvious the Shah’s reign was coming to a nasty close, and by “helping” we theoretically were putting ourselves in a protected position after power changed hands. But that didn’t stop us from continuing to help the Shah’s secret police, and it might have worked anyway had Carter not given into power brokers (mainly the Kissinger crew) and allowed the Shah into the USA after the rebellion. That was the equivalent of flipping a big bird at the Iranians, who wanted the Shah back to stand trial, and that’s what triggered the Embassy takeover. The CIA and the State Department have often worked to counterpurposes overseas, not just in Muslim countries. They helped put Nassar in power mainly to keep the Soviets from having too much influence over him, and Nassar’s great skill was in playing the superpowers against each other. There are a lot of games played over there, but none of that changes our longstanding commitment to Israel, which, in the eyes of the Muslim world, has turned into a reflexive rubberstamping of anything Israel does. The Barbary Pirates, by the way, were from all over, not simply Muslim or Arab lands, and bought their safety from the states they were based in. Our defeat of the Barbary pirates helped open Northern Africa to European colonization in the 19th century. But I’m not sure what your point is besides we’ve done a lot of mucking around in Muslim lands, for all kinds of reasons.

    “I was reading Cahill’s “Why the Greek Matter”, and since it was written after 1970, I wasn’t surprised to see mention of homosexuality in a scholarly text. But the exact context was still amusing. While skimming the bibliography, this caught my eye:

    “Campagni d’amore: Da Ganimede a Batman: Identia e mito nelle omosessualita maschili”

    Yes, that Batman. The English version is “Men in Love: Male Homosexualities from Ganymede to Batman”, by Vittorio Lingiardi.

    From the Greeks to Batman by way of an Italian. What a world we live in.

    And here I always thought it was by way of Charles Moulton…

    “Anyone who says we lost Vietnam because the administration wouldn’t let the military take the gloves off just can’t count. We killed gobs of the Vietnamese people in every way imaginable except for nuclear weapons, and that didn’t make one bit of difference. Tactical solution never solve strategic problems. This was true for Lee in 1865, for Kaiser William II in 1917, for us in Vietnam, and unfortunately today in Iraq as well. Moreover, the administration sure as hell won’t take the gloves off now. (Seen a tank in the news lately over there? Ever seen one in Afghanistan?) The 1st Cav just deployed without 75% of their tanks, so why they would push that line at all is a mystery to me.”

    I think the refusal to employ nuclear weapons on North Vietnam (we now know Nixon was going to, and Kissinger actually proved his presence of value for once by talking him out of it with the reasonable certainty it would trigger a third world war) is the main rationale for that belief.

    “I think that what is happening to Wright is unfortunate. He had something of a promising future but he self-destructed, that’s really too bad.”

    Yeah, I thought Micah had the makings of a pretty good writer. On the other hand, he did bring it on himself.

  • Back when Jessica Lynch was “rescued” (despite the vain efforts of Iraqi hospital workers to return her), a conservative friend of mine (yes, I do have them) gloated that the antiwar clique might as well pack their bags and slink off into the night, because never mind the rhetoric, here was the pure blonde reason we were fighting in Iraq summarized in one image that would convince the American people of the rightness of our mission there, and all the arguments against the war just weren’t going to stack up against that. He may have been right, but there really wasn’t much time to verify it, since Saddam’s forces caved not too long after that, and, hoorah! The war was over. We know that because the Hand Puppet told us so, and we can trust our leaders because we’re Americans.

    By my friend’s logic, we may as well get out of Iraq now. Right now. We’ve lost.

    As repellent as the Iraqi prisoner torture photos are, their backstory and our government’s duplicitous responses are more repellent. Over and over, the administration repeats the lie that this is an isolated incident with no official sanction, while the Hand Puppet wrings his hands and promises swift judgment on the perpetrators and Secretary Of Defense Rumsfeld “takes responsibility” (was that ever more than a manly catchphrase to give the appearance of action while doing nothing?) and everyone claims ignorance. (In the Hand Puppet’s case, that’s almost easy to swallow, given his habit – he has proudly talked about it many times – of refusing to get information from anyone but his handpicked coterie; if this is true, I’m surprised he knows about it even now.) But, as with the investigation into 9-11 that the White House is still obstructing in every way open to them, the question again surfaces: who knew what when?

    Despite the Hand Puppet’s condemnations, it’s not like America is any stranger to torture. It may never have been all that predominant in the USA (though certainly there was a time it was deemed to be a viable tool of law enforcement, as long as it didn’t get out of hand and nobody made a stink about it, and it’s not uncommon for TV and movies to cry about how the “authorities’ hands are tied,” which suggests there’s a place for brutality in American life; and various reports now indicate many of our prisons here either turn a blind eye to epidemic prisoner-on-prisoner torture and rape, or quietly encourage it, emboldened by codes of silence among both prisoners and guards), but at least since the 1950s the CIA and military intelligence have exported it, teaching advanced torture techniques (including “psychological torture” like using taboos of specific cultures to humiliate and intimidate their citizens) to armies and police the world over to bypass any “official” bans on American agents committing torture: train someone else to do it, oversee the interrogations and keep your hands legally clean. Torture was a common intelligence tool in Vietnam, obviously very helpful in winning the war there. Since 9-11, torture has been bandied as a necessary weapon against “the terrorists” by parties as diverse as Attorney General John Ashcroft and alleged civil libertarian Allan Dershowitz, obviously caught up in the spirit of the time. Despite torture’s renowned uselessness as an intelligence tool. It’s traditionally terrible for getting useful information, but excellent for getting your victim to say whatever you want them to say. Which is only really useful if you want a rationalization for plans of action already chosen, like TV cops who kick doors in and fabricate probable cause excuses. Then there’s the example of the Guantanamo Bay terrorist holding camp, which the administration tried cutting off (like the prison in Iraq where victims were humiliated and tortured – and torture is always about humiliation) outside inspection. Which is usually a decent tipoff: you don’t keep humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross out of prisons where you have nothing to hide.

    So who knew what when? How could it be an isolated, unsanctioned operation nobody knew about when the Red Cross complained about it months ago? When the Army’s own inspector wrote up a 53 page report filled with details? When CBS had the story and the Pentagon prevailed on them to withhold it because the story would hinder the war effort? (Disturbingly, CBS did – until Seymour Hersh started writing about it in the New Yorker and footage and photos showed up on Arab TV, and if they’d waited any longer the story would’ve been worthless to CBS. Rather (no pun intended) than coming off as the heroes of the story that the network’s now trying to paint itself, the implication is that, had it not broken elsewhere, CBS would never have run the story, and that in itself is pretty disgusting.) So a TV network knew. The Pentagon knew (and, therefore, Rumsfeld, whose story keeps changing, knew, and he either didn’t tell the Hand Puppet, which is bad, or he did, which is worse) obviously before CBS did. Was it an isolated incident? Plenty of stories have come out, both before and after the revelations of the photos, of American soldiers abusing Iraqi citizens, on the streets and at checkpoints. (One report has a squad of American soldiers stopping an elderly woman, making her get down on all fours, saddling her, then riding her around like a pony.) Seymour Hersh, in a conversation with Bill Reilly (hardly a mouthpiece for the left), talked about more revelations are on the way (Rumsfeld has said the same thing, trying to suggest it just means more photos) and how the situation is much more widespread, as well as how many American soldiers never heard of the Geneva convention, how this material is getting out partly because the soldiers who take the pictures and videotapes are selling them for profit, how there were two prior investigations into Abu Ghraib prison that the military classified, one of which recommended using torture, under the eye of military intelligence.

    Which is exactly what Gen. Karpinski, who ran the prison, said was what happened. “Intelligence” (she didn’t specify whether DIA or CIA, though a general this morning implicated the CIA) was running the show, ordering soldiers to “soften up” Iraqi “detainees” for interrogation particularly by sexually humiliating them. (Hersh also warns of upcoming disturbing footage from the area where Iraqi women were being “detained,” and the area where young boys were being detained.) A question I haven’t heard anyone asking, though, is: how are we training our soldiers, anyway? Is it really possible that the six or seven sociopaths in the military all ended up on the same detail? How could you even get six or seven soldiers together and not have even one of them believe that torturing and humiliating prisoners was wrong? Unless there’s a much more serious problem at hand.

    So expect things to get messier. Much messier. No wonder this administration has been openly hostile to a standing international war crimes tribunal. Expect more stories of Iraqis being pulled off the streets and imprisoned with not much provocation, when they had nothing to do with anti-American action or terrorists. (After the report came out, the military started flushing hundreds of “detainees” out of the system, with Rumsfeld kindly offering to pay off their families with even more of our money currently not budgeted for the war in Iraq.) And more tales of Iraqis settling old scores by denouncing their enemies to military authorities who rounded up and interrogated “the suspects” without corroborating evidence. Expect less and less Iraqi cooperation with American authorities and expect absolutely no respect from anyone for any America-supported government installed on our watch in Iraq.

    Rumsfeld is right when he says this is going to damage us in the region for the next forty or more years (which, unnervingly, sounds like he expects us to be there for the next forty or more years). How much more damage is possible?

    How long before we admit we already lost?

  • Sorry the column’s short this week; tons of things to do (like discussions with the editors who’ve already contacted me about The Project Above). Before we go, though: the traditional recap of what I’ve currently got available out there. Go spend some money on me. Thanks. (And remember, as Howard Chaykin so nicely pointed out once, I’m a cheap date.)

    Finished the new ROBOCOP mini for Avatar over the weekend, plus a Robo-short story, though I’m not sure what the venue is. Some dark and vivid projects on the horizon over there for the end of this week. In the meantime:

    Speaking of Avatar, I’m told they’re resoliciting the entire run of MY FLESH IS COOL this month. If you missed it the first time out, take this chance to bug your retailer for it. Among a slew of hot reviews, my favorites were from COMICS INTERNATIONAL, which had this to say:

    MY FLESH IS COOL 1

    by Grant and Fiumara

    An experimental drug enables Evan Knox to work as a highly paid assassin and troublemaker who can take over other people’s bodies. He can get to anyone, anywhere, without detection. He does whatever he wants, and uses other people in a ruthlessly instrumental way. The catch is this: what if everyone could get their hands on the drug? Both script and art are adult and gritty. This comic is cool. 8 [of 10]

    MY FLESH IS COOL 2

    Evan Knox comes round to discover his worst fears have been realised. The drug ‘go’ is being sold on the street, and society is crumbling across America. Steven Grant’s story takes a bold leap here: from a ‘cool’ thriller with the wish-fulfillment fantasy of taking over other people’s bodies, we’ve moved on to the nightmare scenario where the hero’s powers are no longer unique. What was gritty is now apocalyptic. 8

    MY FLESH IS COOL 3

    This excellent miniseries concludes in the same vein of nudity and violence established in parts one and two, with the outcome decided by a competition to see who’s the most ruthless son of a bitch. Even given the desperate and grotesque situation readers have seen unfold, the final episode still holds some shocks and surprises. 8

    Do I really have to tell you to order it? (Sorry about the hardcore hype, but if I don’t do it, who’s going to?)

    As I mentioned last week, IBooks will be publishing the complete EDGE sometime this summer, while DC’s including my CATWOMAN story in an upcoming trade collection due out around the time of the Halle Berry CATWOMAN movie. Keep your eyes open when you read PREVIEWS.

    While you’re at it, order:

    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.

    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.

    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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