THE FUTURE IS NOW
One of the most exciting aspects of my job as both a comic retailer and as a columnist is that I'm privy to previews of books weeks and sometimes even half a year in advance. Oh sure, I'm well aware that there are many others out there who do as well, I'm far from the first or the only one to get to take a peek at these things before they're released to the public, but that doesn't make it any less exciting to get to know what to keep my eyes on once the release dates roll around.
For a life-long comic reader like myself that's a pretty neat thing, to have the opportunity to gaze into the crystal ball and get a look at things to come. Pretty fucking neat! To me it doesn't really matter if I get to see what's coming up in next week's issue of "Iron Man" or get to hear some inside info on "Crisis 2: Electric Boogaloo" (or whatever they're calling it) or if it's a preview of next summer's "Little Scrowlie" from Slave Labor or if it's some book I've never heard of before from some creator who just popped up on the scene and is trying to find someone to publish their book. In each of those cases I dig checking out advance previews and samples. And in that I am certainly not alone...
Because everyone likes to get a glimpse of the future.
It was with this in mind that I decided to tailor the Isotope's "Welcome to the Bay Area" event for Image Comics into the infinitely more exciting "Look into the future of Image Comics" event that jam-packed my shop and sent comic fans home with visions of Image comics dancing in their heads.
Image Central is going through something of a reawakening of late and it's hard not to get caught up in the momentum. More and more I'm seeing books published under the banner of "the big I" that rev up my comics enthusiasm and get my customers adding new titles to their pull-lists. It's nice to see this shot in the arm getting good books out onto the shelves and as the months tick by, you can see by the Image solicitations that the rejuvenation of line is a top priority to those at the healm.
Although I'd be a hell of a lot happier and have a hell of a lot more spending money if their books came out on a more regular basis (few things kill my enthusiasm and sales more than having to wait six months between issues), but whatta ya gonna do? I don't know of one case where crying about late comics has done anything except induce ulcers and bad feelings, so while the fact remains that I would sell more of their comics if they came out more regularly, I'm still pretty damn happy with what I get. And check it out, no fucking ulcer either!
I like a hell of a lot of the books Image is publishing right now, as a fan and a retailer. Jay Faerber and Andres Ponce's "Firebirds" was a slamming superhero romp. "The Ride" is perpetually well-loved by my customers and staff for its unabashed dedication to hot lead, squealing tires, and utter destruction from a variety of creative teams. The distinctive "PvP" stands tall with some of the most rabid fans in the business. "Small Gods," "Ultra" and "NYC Mech" represent some very solid debuts from some hot new creative teams who I'm sure are going to be giving us more great entertainment in the years to come. "Hawaiian Dick" remains a favorite with my staff and I (long-time Comic Pimp readers will remember me championing this glorious book until my face went blue and my fingers bled). The always controversial "Wanted" was a whole hell of a lot of shit-talking filthy fun and a truly beautiful looking book that I quite enjoyed despite a flipping of the bird to readers in the last issue. "Walking Dead" and "Invincible" are both utterly great reads and books I sincerely look forward to reading, stocking and selling month in and month out. Eric Shanower's "Age of Bronze" doesn't come out very often, but when it does that thing brings tears of pure bliss to my eyes when it does. And the return of two of my favorite pseudo-superhero comics ever "Flaming Carrot" and "normalman" feel like a personal gift from the comic book gods above (thank you, Image Comics for helping to put those two books back on store shelves). And that's just getting started on the line!
Things are happening at Image, my friends, things are happening. I hear it each week from one of my Wednesday regulars, Joe Keatinge, who just happens to be the Image Inventory Controller, "We're not afraid of change. The Image Central line is changing for the better. 2005 is all about cutting the fat and focusing on books that are going to rock readers worlds. 'Cos they're so hot, man!" And I've got to admit, it's not all hype from the company-man either, Image has some exciting books on the not-so distant horizon.
And that's what we're going to talk about today, a few of those books that you'll definitely want to tell your retailer to make sure to order for you. If your shop doesn't do more than make a lack-luster effort to give new titles from Image shelf space, make sure you pre-order 'em. Or shop someplace else that will, because we're talking about some very exceptional and unique books you probably don't want to miss out on.
Paul Harmon's "Mora" is particularly gloriously sexy. This is the newest book that you ought to be buying to blow your non-comic reading friends minds and using it to help you score with members of the opposite sex (or same if you'd rather).
Perhaps what makes "Mora" so delicious is in part due to the powerful and emotionally-charged artwork, that creator Paul Harmon brings to the table. "Mora" manages to evoke in grown men and women the wonder and fear that any good Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, complete with magic and brutality, might have elicited from them as a child. This is one truly special book and anyone who lets this one pass them by is doing disservice to themselves as a comic reader.
Here's a few pages to whet your appetite:
Read about this new series on CBR here.
"Mora" hits store shelves this Wednesday, February 2nd. Pick it up or have your retailer reorder it with this Diamond code: DEC04 1536
Put down the $2.95. You won't regret it.
And sitting on your local comic shop's store shelves right this minute is "Amazing Joy Buzzards" a rock-and-roll rollercoaster ride that thrusts its dirty pig snout in the back stage pass world of surreal pop-star glory, the Hollywood money-making machine, and giant killer robotics run amok. I have no idea how, but series creators Mark Andrew Smith and Dan Hipp effortlessly combine the sensibilities of Jaime "Tank Girl" Hewlett, Andy "Firebreather" Khun, Jim "Grrl Scouts" Mahfood, and the uttlerly stylish genius of Bill "Go-Man" Widener into an amphetamine overload of an indy rock comic. What you'll find is a terrific first issue loaded with style and sex appeal, "Amazing Joy Buzzards" blasts off the page with the overdrive pedal duct-taped to the studio floor and the amp turned up to volumes only Motorhead would dare use.
"Amazing Joy Buzzards" can be re-ordered with this code: OCT04 1503
And that's just scratching the surface of the cool books Image has coming down the pike for you in 2005.
But even with the host of kick ass comics coming down the Image pipeline no single creator stood as far part from the pack in my eyes as Rick Remender. Yes, you read that right, Rick Remender. Known primarily for his inking work and for quirky underground scenester books like "Black Heart Billy" and "Doll and Creature," Rick's been around the industry for a long time, and let's face it, he hasn't really made a whole heck of a lot of impact.
But that's all about to change.
2005 is the year Mister Remender breaks out and makes a name for himself doing the kind of comics hungry comic readers have been waiting for someone to get off their ass and do. The kind of books that drop your jaw on the floor, put a boot up your backside, and make you damn happy you still read funnybooks. How do I know? Because while I was setting up my Image event I got to see one hell of a lot of Rick's upcoming work from various companies...
And the best part is that I get to share my enthusiasm for what he's got coming up with you. Want to see what knocked me on my ass and made me want to pay much closer attention to Rick's career? Keep reading. Want to know why I decided to devote so much of my column to someone who might not even be on your radar yet? Keep reading. Want to talk to the man himself and hear what he's got to say about deep meaningful shit like creativity, death, spirituality, and of course, comic books? Here we go...
With no less than three Image comics waiting at the starting gate, Rick Remender is poised to become one of those comic-creating mainstays I like to keep my eye on. And so will you. If you haven't already, direct your browser over to CBR's "Sea of Red" preview with Remender and Kieron Dwyer and read all about the first of Rick's Image projects... or just drool over the beautiful "Sea of Red" artwork here:
"Sea of Red" order code: JAN05 1615
Rick's second Image title out the gate blew my mind as much as the first one did, and made folks stand up and pay attention at my recent Image party thanks to the full-color previews we adorned the Isotope's walls with. We're talking "Strange Girl" the book that floored yours truly, dazzled Blair Marnell, and got Graeme McMillan's head nodding with approval.
I got a chance to talk with Remender about "Strange Girl," what the book is about, where he found the team, and what it means to live in a world God has forsaken. Readers be warned, Remender is an unfiltered live-wire who pulls no punches. You never know what crazy shit he may say!
Comic Pimp: Rick, let's talk about "Strange Girl" your new on-going series from Image Comics with Eric Nguyen and Joelle Comtois. When you first mentioned "Strange Girl" to me you referred to it as a mutant combination of "Tank Girl" and "Doctor Strange," which appeals to my tastes in a big, big way. Tell me and my readers what "Strange Girl" is all about, and what they can expect out of it.
Rick Remender: I'm going to give you the traditional overview thing here, I'm just that lazy.
The Rapture has occurred and God has collected all who worship him by any name, leaving a small population of the faithless behind. With the Earth now unprotected by God, the demonic citizens of Hell flood into our world and enslave the remaining human population. Seven years after the Rapture, a beautiful occultist and a runt demon embark on a road trip to the last open gateway to heaven, in hopes of befriending God and escaping hell on earth.
Basically after saving the life of a runt demon named Bloato, bar tender, occultist, and all around arse kicker, Bethany Black, unwittingly discovers that God means to soon return for the second Rapture when he will wipe the Earth clean of everything. With the end of the world coming, Bethany and Bloato set out to find the last doorway left into heaven and plead for admission. Equal parts "Tank Girl" and "Doctor Strange" Bethany Black is the unlikely last hope for a population of humans-- with no reason to hope.
How was that? You need to read it in the voice of the guy who does the trailers for all those bad summer block busters and it really pops.
Comic Pimp: (laugh) Yeah, that sounds damn good! So bringing all this to technicolor life is the amazing Eric Nguyen and Joelle Comtois. I don't mean to gush like a rabid fan-boy but I'll say it right now, that Eric Nguyen is fucking amazing! Where the hell did you find him?
Rick Remender: "Strange Girl" was actually something I was doing with Cory "Invincible" Walker for a bit. Cory had to pull back from his heavy work load and take some time off from comics though. So I went hunting for the right team to take over. I had a hard time finding the right artist, at one point I gave up on the book. Then my manager Ford Gilmore told me he had the perfect guy for the book and he introduced me to Eric Nguyen. Eric does work for Wildstorm and DC but he has never really been given the attention he deserves...
Comic Pimp: What? That's crazy talk! Eric Nguyen is just incredible! He's like the fucking second coming of Josh Middleton or something!
Rick Remender: Well that's all going to change! Eric's art speaks for itself and with colorist Joelle Comtois he's going to turn everyone's head. You're right he's really the next big thing. He's just that good.
Comic Pimp: Damn right! Nguyen is without a doubt a superstar, and Joelle Comtois's coloring really makes the pages pop. You should see how the "Strange Girl" preview pages I'm hanging on the Isotope's walls are stopping people dead in their tracks. In an industry where writers are perpetually looking for artists to bring their visions to life, you've gotta tell me Mister Remender, just what is your secret? What are you doing that nobody else is to find such awesome talents as these?
Rick Remender: Well, it doesn't hurt that I make my living as an artist and a writer. I've been working in animation, comics and video games for about ten years now and you meet a lot of people. When you meet up with other creative types who you share common tastes with you eventually talk about projects. That's how I've put together most of my new projects, I tell an artist fiend about an idea and if they are stoked on it we pitch it. Or in the case of my creator owned book "Salt of the Earth" with writer Mark Rickettes and inker Hilary Barta, Mark pitched his idea to me. It's just an orgy of creative energy with the juices of inspiration jetting all over the face of comics...
Comic Pimp: (cough)!
Rick Remender: Sorry.
I actually didn't become an artist 'till I was about 20. I had a bit of a drug/partying problem that kept my calendar pretty full up to that age. When I was 20 I got my shit together and decided I wanted a job where all I had to do was sit back and write stories and draw pretty pictures. No one told me that it would be this much work though. I really feel cheated by the imaginary people who never warned me about a career in writing and illustration. I call these imaginary people "The Fuckers" and if they are reading this they had better keep hiding. A cleansing rain will pour down one day and it will wash them and their best friend's right down the drain, making the world safe for babies and Jesus.
Comic Pimp: (laugh) Can't wait for that cleansing rain, baby! Well, you've gotta be proud of the team you've assembled and the amazing work they're doing, but of course, they wouldn't be on board if your script wasn't smoking...
Rick Remender: Flatterer!
Comic Pimp: ... and I know you've got a high action, black humor, hellspawn epic on your hands here. In particular I like the post-rapture-apocalypse aspect of "Strange Girl," that really interests me. Especially the age-old question, who gets chosen to ascend to Heaven and who gets left behind? Are we talking a kindly benevolent New Testament God here or a hell-fire and brimstone God straight out of the Old Testament?
Rick Remender: That's a great question, however I need to be careful not to divulge too much because it sort of build to the climax at the end of the first story. I think, in general, human's perception of an ethical and pious life is one of sacrifice. I agree that in order to be selfless and compassionate sacrifice is a component and, in moderation, a noble one. It seems to me as if some people take this too far and feel guilty for having rompous fun or just feeling happy. These are the people who believe in a God that considers masturbation evil (I mean if it weren't for masturbation think about all the people I would have raped when I was single during an off couple of months, the numbers would be staggering. I rape fans at conventions to this day and I'm happily married! I mean I don't rape everyone who come up to me at a show, but like one in five get raped for sure. It's to be expected. But I digress…). I can't buy that God is so concerned with humans every action or thought. But I wrote "Strange Girl" from the standpoint of, shit, what if God was that retarded?
Comic Pimp: Hoo-boy!
Rick Remender: In "Strange Girl," God is portrayed much like he is in issue #45 of the Old Testament (you remember the cover blurb read 'In this issue a first born son dies!'), if humanity refuses as a whole to be free spirited and happy then maybe God behaves accordingly. Maybe God is who we want him to be and maybe we are all masochistic, neurotic, fuck ups who want to be given a rule book for life, denied pleasure and made to feel guilty. Maybe.
Comic Pimp: So, the people who are left behind after the Rapture are all murderers, thieves, drug abusers, con artists, bigots, adulterers, assholes, and those who listen to the wrong heavy metal bands then?
Rick Remender: Well that's the funny thing. There is plenty of human waste left behind, but there are also many normal, ethical, people with strong centered moral compasses left behind as well. The frustration for many of these people is that many of them don't know why they were left behind; Bethany is one of those people. There are groups of humans in the Nevada waste lands (oh, yeah the demons tossed around a few nukes when they showed up) and this group of people have become insane religious zealots who follow the word of the bible to the T. As you can imagine they are a pretty whacky and fun group as Bethany will learn a few issues into the series.
Comic Pimp: I'm feeling a little bit of a "Preacher" vibe...
Rick Remender: You bet you are.
Comic Pimp: "Strange Girl" definitely walks the line on what some folks deem touchy issues. Anytime you deal with the subject of God and the Devil you're bound to run into some controversy. While "Strange Girl" is obviously a work of fiction, and also a really clever way to reinterpret traditional post-apocalyptic futures, do you anticipate any backlash from those who don't care for your interpretation of the holy rapture and God himself?
Rick Remender: Well, if a reader has a ridged and narrow point of view about religion they should not read my books...
Comic Pimp: (laugh)!
Rick Remender: ... I don't want anyone to feel that they are going to potentially endanger their soul by reading a comic book. However, if it matters I am using this story to examine some hypocrisies perpetrated by the agnostic and the religious. I do think there is a good story here with a real thought provoking conclusion and I try to stay middle of the fence pointing out silliness on both sides. If that sounds bad to you, go read something safe that conforms strictly to your world view without challenging your belief system. Or buy the book and make a big stink about it with your church group and help my sales. Either way!
Comic Pimp: That sales technique sure as hell worked for Marylin Manson (laugh)! Well now that we've sufficiently kicked the hornet's nest around the red-hot topics of religion, hypocrisy, rape, the end of the world, and "the fuckers"... let's switch gears a little.
I've found the music I listen to really helps me write The Comic Pimp each week. You've got some pretty damn good taste in tunes, what do you put on the stereo to get you writing?
Rick Remender: I have a hard time listening to anything with lyrics or anything amped up when I write so I have an mp3 mix on my computer that has mostly mellow Indie and/or instrumental stuff. The mix is made up of bands like Mogwai, Mazzy Star, My Bloody Valentine, Elliot Smith, The Phantom Surfers, early Cure stuff, The Smiths, TV on the Radio, Yo La Tengo, Beck, Belle and Sebastian, David Bowie, I have some instrumental Devo CD I got off of Kieron, Gary Numan, Pulp, stuff in that vein.
Comic Pimp: Oh yeah, that Devo E-Z Listening Disc definitely helped me through my first six weeks!
Rick Remender: My regular music time is spent on a lot of post punk or new Indie. I'm listening to a lot of new bands like The French Kicks, The Libertines, The Arcade Fire, The Hot Snakes, Network, Rilo Kiley, Ambulance LTD, Sleater-Kinney, The Walkmen, Trail of Dead lot of good new stuff coming out these days.
Comic Pimp: Other than the bands you're spinning, tell me what else makes a book like "Strange Girl" happen. What are your major influences for this post-Godpopalyptic road-trip?
Rick Remender: Well, I've made it clear I like "Doctor Strange" and "Tank Girl" and this book is without question influenced by those two titles. I also like strong female characters that seem real. Not some overly heroic mutant with the ability to hurl a gallon of pudding with her foot so she dedicates her life to fighting, but a human girl with weaknesses and frailty and fears finding a way to overcome. The world I set her in came to me a few days later during a conversation with a friend.
Comic Pimp: Stories about normal people who just so happen to be in way over their head are always interesting. It's the human condition I guess.
Rick Remender: Yeah.
Comic Pimp: So anyone who has read "Black Heart Billy" or "Doll & Creature" or even this very interview knows you've got a pretty wicked sense of humor, Rick, and you've certainly got some of the gut-burstingly funniest life stories I've ever heard. But "Strange Girl" has a particularly dark edge to it, what with the end of the world and all. Is the black humor so completely dark and serious that we're not going to be treated to some of your trademark self-aware absurd humor?
Rick Remender: I'm incapable of not writing in some humor in anything I do. I've tried I really have, but when anything or any story takes itself too seriously, I'm done with it. As a reader I need to know the writer is self aware, and maybe so are the characters. I'd love to read an issue of Wolverine where he busts a one liner to a new enemy and the dude immediately busts his gut laughing at what a silly turd Logan sounds like.
Comic Pimp: (laugh)! That would rock!
Rick Remender: People as well, I fucking hate self-important people who take themselves too seriously to see the humor in their own bullshit. Like I need to go out and get a photo of myself either top lit of bottom lit in a dark room looking with deep contemplation into the void to be a serious writer. It's the loved ones of these people who should be blamed for hearing this idea and not stopping it. Am I alone in wanting to go back in time to the day one of these people went into "Jennies Family Photography" and request the "dark and broody" press shot and they beat the life out of them with a photograph of George Lucas pined onto a aluminum baseball bat?
Comic Pimp: (laugh)!
Rick Remender: To me, you're a lost cause if you like the idea that your favorite writers are pretentious and brooding geniuses who can't smile for a photo or write a joke. It's all completely fucking ridiculous! Life, ego, drama, it's a laugh and it's a short and temporary. Laugh at that!
Comic Pimp: I couldn't agree with you more. It's one thing to take your work and your impact on the world around you seriously, but that doesn't mean you have to be a douchebag about it.
Rick Remender: Exactly. So when I see a good place to throw in a funny line or add a funny scenario I do. In "Strange Girl" the real comic relief is her sidekick the runt demon Bloato.
Comic Pimp: Yeah, tell me about Bloato!
Rick Remender: Bloato is a mix breed demon and hence none to popular with the secularized demon population of Earth. There are three major races of Demons that fight for dominance over the Earth and they are blue, black, and red. All distinct and very weary of one another. Bloato, a mixed breed, is welcomed no where and falls in with a young human slave, our hero Bethany. I think the best way to deal with a character who has dealt with great prejudice is to have them overcome it using humor. It's hard to not respect someone who laughs off a slur or insult.
Comic Pimp: Yeah, the more I know about "Strange Girl" the more I like it. Bloato definitely sounds up my alley and I'm sure readers will get a kick out of a foul-mouthed pint-sized demon too (laugh)!
Rick Remender: Who wouldn't?
Comic Pimp: With "Strange Girl" and your other upcoming projects it really looks like you're really hitting your stride in the industry. Regular readers of CBR will have already seen the big feature on "Sea of Red," the on-going pirate-vampire book you're doing with one of the best in the biz right now, Mister Kieron Dwyer.
Rick Remender: People are going to like that one!
Comic Pimp: Oh yeah, definitely! With "Sea of Red" hitting in March, "Strange Girl" in June, a book from IDW on it's way, and what is sure to be a huge book from Dark Horse that we can't talk about right now coming up, not to mention "Fear Agent," your collaboration with Tony Moore from Image, all in the works.... That adds up to a pretty fucking incredible year!
How does it feel to know that after eight years in the business 2005 is the year you break out?
Rick Remender: Shit, don't call it a come back, I've been here for years (laugh)!
Comic Pimp: Knock 'em out, Rick!
Rick Remender: It's awesome to have all of these projects come together at the same time and people's reactions so far have been unanimously positive. It's also important to me that, in the immortal words of Sid Viscous and Frank Sinatra, I did it my way. I had to spend a couple of years inking mainstream comics and doing animation for TV commercials to keep the money coming in, but I spent what little free time I had to write seven scripts. Of those seven five are comics in production and the other two have been optioned for film. It's difficult to keep the faith when you're working that hard on something with no guarantee. It's gratifying to have it all come together.
Comic Pimp: Your 2005 is off to one hell of a start and from where I'm sitting, it all looks damn, damn good. Give yourself a pat on the back, man! Any parting words of wisdom you'd like to leave my readers with?
Rick Remender: If it itches, scratch it.
And there you go, dear Comic Pimp readers, a candid no-holds barred conversation with comic iconoclast Rick Remender. If Rick's gift of gab and outspoken attitude aren't enough to convince you to keep your eyes peeled for "Strange Girl" when it debuts from Image Comics this June... I leave you with four more preview pages of "Strange Girl" for you to drool over.
During the course of this column I mentioned the huge Image Comic bash I hosted this last week at the comic shop utopia which I run. What I didn't mention was that we premiered nearly fifty pages of art from up-coming Image comics, including "Avigon,""Sea of Red" and "Strange Girl," pre-launched both "Amazing Joy Buzzards" and "Mora," gave away hundreds of ashcan preview copies of "Hero Camp" and Todd Nauck's new "Wild Guard" series and got to watch Paul Harmon, Kieron Dwyer, Mark Englert, and Erik Larsen sketch like madmen for their fans.
Needless to say we all had a damn good time.
If your Internet provider thinks it is burly enough to handle the connection overload that will assuredly result from all the photos that have been uploaded from this event, point your browser to the Image Comics forums to see the Isotope's official photos, including a creator cheat sheet.
Over on MillarWorld, Mindy's posted unofficial fan photos.
Thanks to all who attended, and to the creators who helped us throw one hell of a party. You guys rock!
Until next week....
James Sime is the proprietor of San Francisco's Isotope the comic book lounge. He likes Giovanno suits and is thinking about having a Meyers and Tonic right about now.