Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
I was just contacted from a convention organizer about a show next year and it dawned on me that I have to start planning things for not only the upcoming convention season but my writing schedule for next summer.
As for conventions, not sure which ones I’ll be doing. It’s likely I’ll be at
The writing schedule for the summer is usually projects that I mull over and then spend the time off school to get the physical part of the writing done. I should have the Deadworld novel and the next Deadworld comic story arc done prior to that as well as completing a couple of projects in the works (a thriller and a mystery story…both original graphic novels)…so not sure what I’m moving on to next. There are a number of projects that are not related to comics that I might move towards. I love the medium of comics but it does get frustrating that the audience is limited.
Comic fans, for the most part, stay with their superhero characters and they have the right to. It’s hard to find new fans for non-superhero material but the Internet continues to show growth in exposing people to some different titles and the occasional big hit lends credence that there is a market out there…just have to find a way to tap into it. Of course, I don’t believe it’s that simple…and just because you do a story that doesn’t feature superheroes, doesn’t automatically elevate the quality. When VHS first arrived and all these foreign movies were suddenly available, there was a great interest. They were cool…cutting edge…daring…yet when you started watching many of them, well, yes there were some instant classics, but there was a lot of horrible films too. Just because its’ foreign, didn’t make it good. That sort of snob appeal hit the book market with the trade paperback fiction books. If it wasn’t mass market sized, then it was considered literary and deep…well, a lot of it was crap as well.
Once we can move past comics being solely identified with superheroes and the superheroes just become a genre within comics, I think that comics as a medium will continue. Does that mean comic shops will? I don’t know. I don’t know if the superhero expanded universe as it stands now will survive well enough to support the comic stores. I mean, you’ll always have Batman, Superman, Spiderman, etc. but I can’t see a long future for the pamphlet market as it is set up today. There likely will be specialty shops but I don’t think they’ll be reliant on superheroes as much as they are. Yes, I know stores are adjusting but when it comes right down to it, almost all comic stores, no matter how expansive they are, still rely on the core of the Marvel and DC universe for their business.
When I went into a comic shop recently, I felt like a stranger in a strange land...a foreigner. Now, I have a long history in comics and they're been a part of my life for some 20 years when I was an owner---and I was an active owner until the latter years. I knew creative teams, characters, plot lines, etc. Yet, when I was walking through the store, nothing held any interest to me. Sure, there were some characters I used to follow but I know that they've probably gone through some dramatic changes but it didn't matter. The next creative teams will just do something else to it. There are no permanent changes so it really just doesn't matter. Granted, readers of those comics likely enjoy watching the twists and turns that the characters go through and can appreciate the methods and events that push them into different directions. But when you come in and evaluate years of changes and then see the pattern of change-restoration-different change-restoration, well, it just seems all so pointless.
I think I have just moved on and I don't mean that in any condescending way that "I've grown up" and left the medium behind. It's just that I have memories of certain titles and characters and now they're no longer recognizable. Names and powers stay the same (most of the time) but their motivations, values, and personalities seem to change with the whim of every writer that comes along. Of course, costume changes give the artist some changing as well.
The problem comes from the market not letting go of these characters. They can't seem to create new characters so the old ones get re-invented over and over. Imagine if we did that in movies...every detective story is Sam Spade...all westerns featured John Wayne..., it would get monotonous. Literature is constantly re-inventing itself...we don't live and die with the exploits of Jules Verne characters or follow new re-inventions of Tarzan and the Lone Ranger to the exclusion of newer material. Yet in comics...we do.
There are many interesting titles that I come across the internet but saw very few of them here. The store's selection was Marvel-DC with a good selection of Dark Horse and Image. Some of the other publishers were represented but not too many titles. I saw none of Slave Labor, Archaia, Desperado, APE, Devil's Due...and only samplings of Dynamic Forces and IDW. None of the "alternative" press (i.e.-Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, Top Shelf)...except a graphic novel or two.
Again, this was a good store and likely supplies 98% of its customer base with exactly what they want in a store. Maybe they tried the other material as I did see some graphic novels from smaller publishers in the liquidation shelves. So, is the store to blame? When you're a retailer you quickly learn that you can promote specific titles and areas but your customer base ultimately determines your selection. Market realities don't let you decide what you carry....your customers do.
Oops, got sidetracked there. So, I plan to announce the convention season for myself shortly and hope to announce what projects I plan to embark on for next summer. In the meantime, Deadworld: Slaughterhouse is just about finished on my end, A Murder of Scarecrows original graphic novel just needs some lettering corrections, the collection of the Sinergy comic series is nearly finalized as is the third Saint Germaine graphic novel (with some new material), and I plan to get a full color graphic novel out on the life of El Cid with paintings by Wayne Reid. And look for a new book coming in the spring called Subversives, a factoid type of graphic novel.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
I just found out that Starlen Baxter is dead. I hadn’t seen any press about it on any of the comic sites which isn’t too surprising as Starlen hadn’t been active in comics for a few years. It was sad news as Starlen was a talented writer and creator and somebody I got along with quite well while he was at Caliber.
I can’t give a detailed of Starlen’s accomplishments in comics but I am familiar with his work on Nerve Magazine and of course, the work he did for Caliber which involved Mack the Knife and Suppressed: A History of Violence in America. For the Iconografix line from Caliber, he did a one shot called Channel X. He was also involved in Go-Man, also from Nerve and Caliber plus he did
I first met Starlen at my first Chicago Con as the publisher of Caliber. I had just launched the initial line which included The Crow,
Go-Man became a series from Caliber and I collected the previous material into a graphic novel which was presented in a flip book format with the collected work of Mack the Knife. Mack also came out from Caliber in a one shot. I think both may have appeared in Caliber Presents as well.
Both were, as I said, raw and edgy but I thought both were exceptional and Go-Man, as I have stated many times, was one of my favorite projects ever produced by Caliber. Go-Man got an introduction from Matt Wagner and accolades from the likes of Dave Sim, Chris Gore, Michael Zulli, Matt Howarth, Bob Schreck, and Steve Bissette.
In fact, it was during a podcast interview with Chuck Moore of Comic Related that I mentioned Go-Man that Chuck told me he knew Bill and would get us back in touch. I talked with Bill about bringing Go-Man back into a new collection and that’s when I found out that Starlen had died June 8th of this year and it was apparently listed as a suicide. Someone mentioned that it was two years to the date that artist Jack Jackson, who worked on the
After the Go-Man and Mack the Knife projects, Starlen released two other one shots through Caliber. Channel X was a one shot of his unique style dealing with monsters, both real and perceived. Suppressed: A History of Violence in
Starlen did the
So, I didn’t know him real well but got along with him as much as any other Caliber creator. A publisher and creator have a certain relationship which can be as friends but I also distinguish as a professional friend rather than personal. I’ve read some of his blog writings and knew I didn’t know him that well but I enjoyed the relationship that we had.
I don’t know why it affected me so much, as we weren’t close, but for some reason, it hit me harder than I would’ve expected. Maybe because as you get older you realize just how important life is and to end it on your own just doesn’t make a lot of sense.I don’t know…I guess I thought someone should at least acknowledge his death.
I just got word from a production company that they’re interested in signing up Renfield for a film. Of course, as with any properties being signed up, it’s hard to get too excited but I’ve always had a good feeling about Renfield in that if it found the right place, it could be a very cool movie. It’s not a blood and gore type movie so when I discuss it with someone, their approach is vital to me as then I can see if they “get” it. I still get fan letters on the book even after all this time and of course, as I mentioned before, when it was put into the curriculum at
Another project, Red Diaries, is currently in the Diamond Previews, as Image and Desperado Publishing are making it available again. This is probably one of my most re-ordered books, usually from fans of Marilyn Monroe or JFK conspiracists, so it’s good to see that it is officially relisted.
I hope to have news soon about Deadworld that should be exciting. The comic series, Slaughterhouse, is moving along at a fast clip. The first issue isn’t even due out until next month and the artist, Sami Makkonen, is already hitting the third. It looks great.
I’ve spent my summer working on a number of projects that will be released over the next few months and I’m pretty excited about them. I have A Murder of Scarecrows coming out early next year with artist Wayne Reid and deals with a smuggler in Pre-Revolutionary America. That will be an original graphic novel. Another one I have coming out is a murder mystery set during the turn of the century South (the last turn of the century, not the recent one…). An anthology of spies, traitors, rebels, etc. will also be coming out in early 2009 and there’s a action/adventure thriller that is due out in the middle of the year. Summer time is when I do most of my freelance writing but since artists work slower than I do (wonder why….), it usually ends up spacing along the entire year following.
Outside of comics, the college courses I teach always seem to be a bit over-whelming at first as I have to reign it all in at the beginning of the semester. Even though I have 15 weeks to teach it all, I have to lay it all out, including all the text reading before the semester starts so actually, when school starts, my load lessens. School has started so I expect my workload to settle down to primarily class time from now on.
The political race is now fully steamed and rolling along towards November. That means loads of half-truths and mis-representations on both sides. The whole political process nauseates me but I still vote although it seems I usually vote against someone as opposed to voting for a candidate.
That’s it for now. Remember to vote…and don’t follow blindly any one party or someone else’s belief. Look for the truth which when dealing with politicians, can be very hard, I know. But try.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I have to admit that I don’t read most of them, and by most, I mean virtually all of them. I glance at some of the headlines but that’s about it. I don’t understand what the two large companies are doing as the major cross over events are just a blur to me and I can’t even distinguish them. Obviously, since I don’t read them, I’m not going to be aware of all the ramifications but it seems to me that they sound very repetitive.
The “other” comic companies are announcing some interesting things, mainly digging up old concepts and relaunching them in comic form…which I think is a great idea. I don’t know of any other industry that seems to frown on having too much product as the comics market does. Sure, some of the ideas are surefire misses, but at least they’re trying to do something that brings a familiarity to the comics world to those folks outside of comics. And isn’t that what everyone in comics wants? To gather in the general public? The movies don’t seem to be doing it even though the comic characters are becoming household names. Watchmen seems to be an exception as the graphic novel is selling really well and the only promotion so far as been the trailer. That’s very impressive so far.
I am continually perplexed by what some people are doing…and not doing. I mentioned before that I cannot fathom that Disney is not putting out its own comic line. I know they’re licensing out some of their titles but it seems to me that they could set up a complete publishing company and really promote their titles. It seems they would sell enough in their parks but last time I went to
For that matter, I’ve always wondered why movie studios don’t automatically gobble up the comic rights for any films they do. Of course, not all films would be applicable in comics but many are. After all, if a studio is going to invest millions or tens of millions, or even 100’s of millions into a project, asking for the comic rights doesn’t seem too far out of line. They could set up a publishing house or form a liaison with a publisher to release them as comics. Then again, since so many of the big budget movies are based on comics, maybe there aren’t any rights available now.
How come Marvel and DC (Warner) don’t produce graphic novels for their films and sell them at movie theatres. Don’t you think that if you’re buying popcorn and pop (which are nearly the price of most graphic novels nowadays) that the Batman movie, for example, could’ve moved a tremendous amount of graphic novels starring Batman? Movie theatres would undoubtedly appreciate the sales. I’m sure there are some logistical problems but it seems easy enough to work out.
I mentioned last time that I was going to revamp the Caliber Comics website because even though I keep it up for reference and to direct people on how to get some of the stuff, Caliber hasn’t published anything in 7-8 years. I am always surprised on how many submissions I still get from the website and I bring this up because since
One of the most common submission types I get is from “screenwriters who want to get into comics”. First off, since they usually don’t give any credits, I have to assume their screenplays were never produced. Secondly, they have never written comics. Just makes me wonder why they think publishers would be interested? I find it funny how the labels people use vary depending on what field they’re in. Most comic writers don’t call themselves writers until they have something published. However, I see a lot of people calling themselves screenwriters even though they have never had anything produced. Kinda odd, I think.
Speaking of writing, Steven Grant in his column, Permanent Damage (on Comic Book Resources) discusses a panel he did at
“It's a short answer anyway: the way to do it is to do it. Period. Everyone's looking for "The Secret" but there ain't no secret. The way to do it is to do it, and every story, particularly if you're creating your own work from scratch and not working with an established, formulized franchise, generates its own needs. Those are the needs you have to serve. Rules are for schmucks and businessmen. A few people were looking for "the secret" to putting together a comic story/graphic novel " someone asked a question about structure, but, as someone on the panel mentioned (not me; I basically just grumbled about the word because you can have the greatest grasp of structure in history and still churn out totally crap stories " see: George Lucas) structure is something you learn, internalize and forget about. Like a lot of elements of storytelling. It's worth familiarizing yourself with them and putting them in your toolbox " less so that you know what rules to break because, let's face it, you don't have to know rules to break them, but if you don't know what's already been done you're far less likely to break the rules that to waste a lot of valuable time reinventing the wheel, and that's strictly a mug's game, know what I mean? " but the moment you let any one element, even structure, rule your life you're done.” (From Steven Grant’s Permanent Damage column,
A great summation that I endorse whole-heartedly. I get invited to a lot of discussion boards about “writing comics” and as I mentioned before, I find so many “writers” who dissect, maneuver, and analyze the method of writing that they don’t actually write.
SOME BLABBERING MOMENTS
If you’re familiar with the horror mag, FROM THE TOMB, which is a
I also have another interview…sort of, on
Next week, I believe Wednesday, August 13, a podcast interview on Comic Related will be run featuring a lengthy interview with me. Not sure how long it will be but you can check it out at Comic Related Podcasts next week...or even now as I’m sure they have others on there that you would find interesting.
Slaughterhouse is a stand alone mini-series within Deadworld. It features art by Sami Makkonen who did the Blue graphic novel with Elizabeth Genco (also by Desperado). I love this guy’s stuff and thought it made a great match for the Slaughterhouse story. Check out the website for more information and preview pages.
Deadworld Chronicles is a graphic novel anthology of
Coming in September will the the third Saint Germaine graphic novel. This one collects the entire Magus storyline plus brings in the story that ran in Negative Burn plus TWO brand new stories, one featuring Genghis Khan and the other touches on the legend of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Hope you all enjoy the rest of your summer. Please drop a comment if you have any, uh, comments.
And be sure to check out Steven Grant’s Permanent Damage column regarding writing graphic novels. It’s insightful and worth reading (as always).
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
We were part of the MOB RULES contingent which was organized by Raf as a very loose coalition of creators that would share space together. Not really a stronger alliance than that but obviously, in some ways because of the loose association, it leads to a stronger one for later. The Mob Rule had spots 4600-4616 which I believe was 9 tables in a row. There was me, Transfuzion, Nate Pride, Rafael Nieves, General Jack Cosmo Productions which was Aaron Shaps, Michael Beazley, Jim McKern, and Adam Lahners, Doug Klabuba, Juan Arevalo, Tony Maldonado, Juan Gomez, Len Kody, Rex Mundi's Eric J., Dan Doughtery, Lamorris Richmond, Stu Kerr, Ralph Griffith, and Tom Roberts. Hope I didn't leave anyone out.
I heard from some people that the show seemed slower than last year but I thought the crowds were pretty good and fairly consistent. We had a good spot so that probablyy helped. I sold a lot of books, both Transfuzion and mine, and I did see a trend for people picking up graphic novels based on the subject matter which appealed to some peripheral fans. Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft moved well as did Jack the Ripper. Zululand got a lot of interest. As usual, Renfield and Saint Germaine sold well. Deadworld is pretty much a given, of course, but it seems with each con, I move more and more of the CD collection of the first 46 issues (some 1,500 pages). I sold out on Friday but luckily, Eagle One Media was also at the show and he had brought extra stock so I got a chance to get more. But I'm just about out again and I didn't have a chance to get to their booth during the show again.
For most of the friends and creators I came across, I'll just use the pictures that were mainly shot by Nate Pride. Nate handled quite a bit of the production for Caliber and most of the books that were printed were put together by him and he also designed much of the look and logos of the books. If you go way back to the beginning of Caliber, that was me...the good stuff came when Nate took it over. Nate drove with me to the con and it seemed like old times...going back to the Caliber days. A lot of people don't realize what a good artist Nate is as he was so involved in production, he never got too many chances to show off his work, but his portfolio at the con got lots of attention and too man commission sketches he's going to have to mail some. Nate and I hung out with Rafael, Juan Arevalo, Tony Maldonado and Juan Gomez most of the time and picked up a few extras along the way. Had a great time. We were usually some of the first ones at the Hyatt bar which was the "happening" place and then we'd leave to grab dinner before going back. Later, around 11-12, is when the bar became packed. Good mix of creators and fans all intermingling together. If you go to Giordano's Pizza and get the stuffed pizza, just be aware that you will not eat more than two pieces so order accordingly. One pizza will feed four people. I forgot that and will probably do it again if I go next year.
Talked at length with Steve Leaf of Diamond Comics and I think he's a Vice President of something. If not, he should be. We talked about the old ways of the industry and the new way of it. I prefer the old and he has to prefer whatever gives him a paycheck. Good guy and just shows that you have to separate a company from the people there. Although I don't have a problem with Diamond, I know a lot of people who detest what they do...but if you remember that business is about the bottom line, I can't see how people can get so upset. Stealing a line from The Godfather, business is business, it's not personal (in most cases).
Had a brief conversation with Bob Layton and it centered on Future Comics which was his foray into publishing and going direct to stores and consumers. It didn't work out but we both agreed that it would be a vast different set of parameters in today's connected world.
Met up with Matt Anderson who does the charming White Picket Fences and got to meet some of the other creators involved with Ape Entertainment. To my surprise, Paul Daly, who did a few projects for Caliber early on, was also doing a project with Ape. We played booth tag for most of Saturday before finally hooking up together. It was good to see him and see that he's back into comics.
I also got a chance to hook up a bit with Tim Vigil who is working on some of the Frazetta book. People who weren't around in the early 90's may not remember just how big Vigil was back then. I give him some credit in helping Caliber Comics launch as his cover story on Caliber Presents #1 was our big roll out.
Chuck Moore who puts together the Comic Related website where the Transfuzion blog is hosted stopped by as he was arranging podcasts. We're going to do a longer version upcoming which will also cover the Caliber years in addition to what's new at Transfuzion and Desperado. You really should check out the site if you haven't because it's not just message boards but also blogs, news, reviews, podcasts...a great informative site at comicrelated.com.
Had far too many brief conversations and not enough long ones so it was obviously a fairly busy con. Here's some pictures.
Phil Hester is one of the nicest and most talented guys in the business. I still think his Fringe series he did with Paul Tobin for Caliber in the beginning days was one of the best things Caliber ever published. But Phil would rather work for large publishers and make lots of money. Actually Phil is one of the few "mainstream" creators that keeps a hand in the independent comics arena.
Got a chance to talk a few times with Mike Perkins. Mike did a number of things for Caliber in his early days and of course, most people know him now for Captain American and Union Jack. It was just announced that Mike will be dong the art chores for Stephen King's THE STAND. Good for him as he deserves all the success he gets. I didn't get a chance to hang with Mike too much as his schedule was unbelievably busy.
Stu Kerr of Ralph 'n Stu but Ralph Griffith was probably entrenched in the dealer's area. They're releasing the complete OZ collections via Transfuzion and relaunching Arrow Comics.
Eric J. co-creator of Rex Mundi. He ended up in Mob's Rule and we welcomed him with open arms but we forgot to tell him that he had to buy the first 16 rounds at the bar. Maybe he did hear that 'cause we could never find him at night.
Three guys that made the con so enjoyable for me. All very talented and a great bunch to hang with. Juan Gomez, Tony Maldonado, and Juan Arevalo. Damn, I hope I got them in the right order. (Just kiddin' guys). Look for their names soon on some exciting projects....
The crew from General Jack Cosmos who really know how to put together a display. Shown here are Adam Lahners and Michael Beazley.
Tom Roberts was one of the Mob Rules guys but this was the first that I met him. Lots of great pulp books but the highlight of his stuff s the gorgeous book on ALEX RAYMOND.