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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with Old...In with New

Yikes...another year has passed. Figured I'd post my last blog for the year 'cause I'm not sure when I'll get to the next one. Still early in the day on New Year's Eve but I'll probably post at the last minute as I'm waiting for some potential news that might be interesting. If it doesn't come in time, ah well....just catch it next time. New Year's Eve is changing at the Reed household. It used to be a big deal for the kids but now they got friends who are much cooler than parents, of course. Just part of watching grow up but at least they'll always have the memories. But now with the kids outta the way, Jenny and I can start planning accordingly. New Year's Eve is our wedding anniversary and we really didn't do much because we had the kids. I remember one year I surprised Jenny with a show and an overnight at a ritzy hotel but although she enjoyed it, she was still disappointed about missing the evening with the kids. Well, now we won't have that problem. I did a couple of interviews the last couple of days. One is at Jazma Online which is already posted and the second was with Jennifer Contino for The Pulse over at Both are geared around the original graphic novel coming out in January, A MURDER OF SCARECROWS. One frequent question interviewers use is "what's next?". It's a valid question, of course, but sometimes not so easy to answer. I have a couple of collections forthcoming...a third Saint Germaine trade that will include some all new material. A collection of Sinergy, the journey through Hell series I did with different artists drawing each level, and then an all new graphic novel which will combine comic art with text pieces called SUBVERSIVES. (cover by Ken Meyer Jr. to the left). It's a hodge-podge of stories about traitors, spies, renegades, etc. I'm not exactly sure when it will be out but I still have to finish writing some of it but the art is pretty much finished. I think it'll be a fun book and hopefully, it'll do well as I'd like to venture into that territory a bit more. My primary focus for 2009 is to finish the novels I'm immersed in. Novels are a lot of work but I'm finding the more time I spend in them, the more it just sucks you in. I have a feeling that I may continue with novels afterwards, but I can't really determine that until I get these done. As for comics, I have a mystery that I want to do as an original graphic novel and Desperado wants another Deadworld story---whether serialized or as an original graphic novel is yet to be determined. But beyond that, I don't really have much configured for comics or graphic novels. I'm not burned out or anything but there's so much other stuff I want to do. I have the possibility of doing some science books which will likely feature some illustrations and a publisher is talking with me about doing an Evolution book in graphic novel format. That would be good as Evolution is one of the classes that I teach at the community college. I really enjoy that class and hopefully, most of my students enjoy it after they go through the course. I have to tell you, many of the students come into the class with reservations, mostly fueled by mis-information about what Evolution is. I do get offended when someone says "you don't believe in that crap, do you?"...because 1) yes, I do and 2) that is a tremendous lack of respect for what someone else believes in (although technically, one does not "believe" in evolution, just accepts the facts). I mean, if someone says God Bless You to me, should I ask them if they really believe in that crap? A little courtesy sure could go a long way. Except the Middle East, of course, as that will never change until the religious zealots who control the masses over there lose their power. Having a lot of Muslim students at one of the colleges I teach at, I find that a lot of people keep forgetting that it isn't all of Islam that is fanatical, only a very small group...about the same percentage as the wacko fundies here. So, I'm not sure what 2009 will hold as far as my writing goes. The comics market is becoming less and less a factor in my decisions and looking at the convention schedule, I'm now leaning towards skipping just about all of them. I also find myself looking much less at the message boards that deal with comics and usually only hit them once a week and often times, once I hit the first 2-3 of them,(first ones I go to are Comic Related and the Panel and Pixel) I get bored and don't bother with the rest. I used to look at Newsarama but really, how many different stories can they do on superheroes. And if you've been around long enough, it just gets repetitive. The creator names change and I'm sure they're passionate about what they're doing but it really just doesn' t matter because in a few years time, they'll be back at the same point. Maybe not exactly the same but similar enough. For some odd reason, I just have the feeling that for me, this is going to be a big year...maybe just a transition of sorts, but whatever, I just hope I come out of it better than going in and since I'm feeling pretty good about things right now, that would be really something. I hope the best for the New Year for everyone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Motor City Blues

Well, it sure was interesting about the Senate debate on whether to bail out, er, excuse me, loan the Big 3 auto companies enough money to keep them on their feet for awhile. Even in the Detroit area, it's a big debate and not an automatic "they should do it" as most people might think. Sure, it's understandable about the effect it would have on this area but a lot of people also feel that government shouldn't be involved in running businesses. However, the major point that has most people for the auto loans is the fact that since the government GAVE the financial companies 700 billion dollars, what's 15 more in a loan? Unless you're from the Detroit area, it's hard to realize what a devastating impact this would have on the area. Although other parts of the country are feeling the financial pinch, it's a full blown disaster in Detroit. Detroit is one of the largest cities in the United States...sure, it's a declining population (and amazingly so) but in land area, it may be one of the top. Detroit is 139 square miles. That means you can take the entire land areas of Manhattan, San Francisco, and Boston...and they still wouldn't add up to the physical size of Detroit. I think a lot of people forget about the incredible loss of population in Detroit. In the 1950's, the actual city of Detroit had over 2 million people (for comparison, Manhattan has 1.5 million currently). The population now is under 900,000. That means in the last 4-5 decades, Detroit has LOST 1.2 million people and each day, the population shrinks even more. Over 40% of Detroit land is completely vacant. Detroit is more than a mere ghost town, it may be the first ghost city in U.S. history. Yet, the surrounding areas around Detroit (the immediate suburbs which constitutes the "Metro" area numbers around 4.5 million and still has some of the most affluent areas in the country and most of the region is solidly middle class. But there are signs the entire region, if not the state is starting to crack under the strain of these tough economic times. The Detroit newspapers, Detroit News and Free Press, are no longer going to have home delivery every day. And the papers they put on the newsstands are going to top out at 32 pages. 32 pages? That' s not a newspaper, that's a tabloid. Switching everything to the Internet...but I for one, do not want to read my morning screen, I want the physical newspaper. The University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor is one of the great public universities in the country with some putting it at the top. However, the State, in finding ways to cut the budget is now thinking of pulling all revenues to UM and force the University to become a private school. If the auto companies go under, or bankrupt, the State will likely collapse. A lot of the tax revenues depend on the auto companies and the suppliers. Michigan is a surprise to most people who visit as they associate it with Detroit and Ann Arbor. Yes, we also have Lansing, Grand Rapids, Flint, and a few other stand alone cities but the vast majority of Michigan is small town and rural. Once you leave the city areas, Michigan is trees. I've been hearing of the demise of editorial cartoons on some message boards and the beginning rumblings of comic stores joining book stores in suffering lagging sales. It wouldn't take much to push the retail businesses out the door and of course, with the 32 page newspapers, it's highly unlikely that cartoon and comics are going to be a big concern. Borders, headquartered in Ann Arbor, is near collapse and that doesn't bode well for the book market and potential graphic novel market boom that everyone keeps waiting for. Yeah, it sucks here. There's still a lot of good things about the area. I live half way between Detroit and Ann Arbor and both downtowns are about 20-30 minutes away. I have the small town feel in walking distance yet also have the commercial road with every big box store you can think of mere minutes away including a shopping mall of 200 stores. If I drive 5-10 minutes west, I come across horse stables and cows. But the value of my house is sinking like a rock, just as it all over America. We're still not underwater but most of our neighbors would lose money by selling. So, we're staying put for awhile. Luckily, I teach at college so that is a pretty strong position as the community colleges are busting at the seams as people go back for training or new careers. The cost of universities also drives people to community colleges. My wife is a pharmacist so she's pretty secure as everyone always needs their drugs. But I know that my daughters are not looking to stay in Michigan and so I expect that I'll be spending a lot of time travelling in the future. Yet, in the Detroit area, the people are resilient (you have to be) and its still a positive Christmas season. Likely, Detroit will lead the way in donations as they always do and most people are not going to let their holidays suffer but they'll just buy fewer gifts. Last year I mentioned about the pagan rituals that became incorporated into the Christian celebration of Christmas and actually got some nasty emails. I'm not going to repeat myself here but again, ignorance reigns far too often in religion so all I can suggest to people who get offended by such talk, do some research. Getting mad about something doesn't change it. Regardless, I hope that everyone has a great holiday season. Even though I celebrate the season for different reasons than some, I still do in fact enjoy it. Whatever reason...happy holidays.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Breaking In

In one of the forums I frequently visit, I was following a thread about breaking into the business. First off, the forum was at Rantz Hoseley's Panel and Pixel site which was inspired by Warren Ellis' Engine. ( It's primarily for comic creators and often times, has interesting conversations. One of the most common themes regards breaking into the business, whether as a new voice or establishing yourself after you had your first taste of being published. I find this topic fascinating not because of the pitfalls that people face or the daunting task of standing out from the pack, but rather from the excuses that people make for NOT making it. Yes, I realize that there are some people struggling to grab that foothold and doing everything that they can to "make" it, but that's the same in every business. And just the same are those who face obstacles that seem insurmountable...and often constructed by themselves. A common question about people trying to break in is "what's the secret?". It's as if there is a magical method to get into comics. But the problem is there is more than one...there's thousands. Because for everyone that got in the business, they probably got in completely different than the person they're sitting next to at the upcoming convention. There is no easy way, no secret. You just have to prepare yourself by honing your skills, sending out submissions, or what seems to be the most successful method nowadays, publish yourself to get your work out there. What I do find confusing is what constitutes "making it". For some people, it's simply getting published. I have a professional friend who struggled to make it and when he landed a job at Marvel, he completed the assignment and felt that he had made it. But he also decided that he wanted a different career path so the work at Marvel sort of vindicated his struggles. He "made it" and walked away from it. Another person struggled for years and finally got the editors from Marvel to send him tryout pages. He kept getting short pieces to do in a specified time. He became frustrated with these endless streams of samples and even after I explained that they were likely seeing how he worked under deadline pressure, he decided that it no longer seemed fun, but rather a job and a job that he didn't particularly like. So, he left...and left comics completely after years of struggling to make it. A job at Marvel seems to be the qualifier for a lot of people. Some prefer DC and some view them equally. But realistically, there's only so many jobs at Marvel and DC that go around so not everyone is going to get them. I think newer creators are not so geared towards the Big Two as the artists and writers from 10-15 years ago. There's success with other publishers and in some ways, an even greater respect. For those people who thing making it is being able to make a living at comics, well, that's going to be a harsh reality check for most people save for the few that can actually make a good living from comics. Of course there are those who do quite well at it but generally, most people cannot make a living from just doing comics. That's true of most creative fields...most writers, artists, musicians, actors, etc. can not make a living solely on their creative craft. But for many people, that's okay. A lot of times, people just want vindication that they are "good" enough to get in the door. Opportunity and luck is often what swings the door wide open. Back to the point I started off with before my does seem that a lot of people have the wish to make it but not necessarily the desire and by desire, I mean the effort and perseverance to succeed. I see all kinds of examples of derailment...sick kids, disabled parents, financial troubles, etc. All good reasons but is that truly what is stopping people from "making it"? Far too often, these barriers are not true impediments but rather excuses in not making it. Before anyone asks, do I think I have made it? That depends. Am I a well known writer that can live solely off my writing. Nope. Sure, I've gotten some good gigs and did quite well with them. I'm not likely to make a living wage in comics and in the novel field, well, I'm just one of millions out there with a "book". But I'm content. I do what I want to do and I have plans to venture into more things that tie in with my biology teaching so I feel very comfortable with my situation. I guess that I can say I made it but certainly fans of Marvel and DC comics probably never heard of me, therefore in their eyes, I haven't. Not really sure where I intended to go with all this. It started as a response on the afore-mentioned message board that I decided to expand a bit instead of having my message truncated...but I think the point I wanted to make is that if you want to make it in this field, I think a definition (to yourself) of what making it represents and remembering that having a good reason in NOT making it doesn't change the fact that you didn't make it. Hey, just got notified about the KID'S COMIC CON coming up in June. I don't know yet if I'll be able to make it (Chelsea, MI) but they promote my Spirit of the Samurai young adult novel on the front page, so that's cool.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Planning Ahead

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 Motor City in May since it’s in my backyard. The show gets good attendance, they treat guests well, but I’d like them to shift more towards the comic side of things as it has become more of a celebrity show in recent years. I haven’t decided on the Wizard World Chicago this year and I was considering some other shows such as Mid-Ohio and Heroes Con but conventions are just so time consuming so it makes it a touch decision.

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

On Deadworld and other stuff

Just a short one to catch up on things. Deadworld and Renfield have been optioned by Framelight Productions and as soon as any concrete information comes across, I’ll be sure to post it. I refuse to get too excited as I’ve been down this path over a dozen times with various properties being optioned for film, but I have a good feeling for these guys. I get asked if I am writing the scripts but usually the scriptwriter is a part of the system so unlikely although I did do a Renfield script that is included in the proposals circulating. The action figure on King Zombie is apparently finished. Here’s a link to the entire line that it is being shipped out with. No idea of street dates or anything. The Deadworld: Slaughterhouse series had the first issue released and the second one should be coming out about 4-5 weeks after the first one so the monthly schedule will be close. A lot of times, there can be a week or two delay because of the printers and their schedules and it isn’t always when the publisher sends it in. This can happen to just about any publisher except the big two because they have enough product (some say too much) that they don’t have to rely on waiting for gang printing and the like. The Chronicles anthology should be arriving any time now as it has been at the printers for awhile. I have an original graphic novel coming out from Desperado in January called A MURDER OF SCARECROWS. Here’s a link to an advance look at it. Sorry for the quick “product placement” blog and will try to update next week.

Monday, September 8, 2008

On Starlen Baxter

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 Columbus, a one-shot biography of the famed explorer with Jack Jackson from Dark Horse.

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, Baker Street, Caliber Presents, Deadworld, and The Realm. Starlen was linked tightly with Bill Widener at the time as they were producing Nerve Magazine. They pitched me Go-Man which was a very raw and edgy look at a futuristic superhero/media star named Go-Man. At first glance, I thought it was too edgy but as soon as I got into it, I knew I wanted to do it. Go-Man was Bill Widener’s project but for the two of them, I ended up talking more to Starlen as he seemed to be the more vocal. Starlen had his own project, Mack the Knife, about a cartoon character put out to pasture and took a resemblance to Tex Avery and twisted it.

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 Columbus book with Starlen, had committed suicide due to inoperable cancer. Could be a coincidence, I don’t know and not about to speculate.

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 America was one of my favorite releases from another imprint of Caliber’s, Tome Press. It examined acts of violence in American history and was very successful for us. The first print sold out almost immediately and we had to go back to print. Even though the internet was in its infancy at that time, it was ordered frequently by the “non-comics” audience that Tome Press seemed to attract.

Starlen did the Columbus book with Jack Jackson that came out from Dark Horse and I remember he was pretty excited about it. The last time I saw Starlen was when he was living in Lexington, Kentucky. My family was heading off on a vacation and driving to Florida and we met up with him and had lunch with him and he showed us around Lexington. Like most Caliber creators, over time, I fell out of touch with him.

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 Northern Illinois University, that was just a very cool thing.

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

Summer's Over?

I can't believe it. Summer is officially over for me. I had my first class today. Man, it sure seems this semester started earlier than any I can remember. Even my students thought this was college year came sooner than expected. Even though the temp hit the low 90's, I still had the feeling summer was gone. If you're so inclined, I have an interview via podcast that's up on Comic Related. Here's the link to the podcast at Comic Related. I also mentioned last time that there was an interview in From the Tomb magazine, a leading horror mag in the U.K. The pages are up on my site here. I'm reading with some interest about the whole Robert Kirkman video in which he declares that creators should do their own books instead of Marvel and DC. I'm summarizing quite a bit here because I have not watched it but I think that the gist of it. I have no opinion on it as I haven't really thought about it but what I did find interesting were the discussions on some of the various sites regarding that and of course, they venture into a lot of other areas related to the matter. I'm always surprised at how much mis-information gets spewed out from people who really have no knowledge of what they're promoting as reality. I'm not going into specifics but just a warning that there's a lot of people who spout their wisdom as truth and they just don't have any clue to the real events. With all the hoopla about the Watchmen movie buzzing about, I decided to go back and read the graphic novel. I read it when it first came out but had not re-read it as I tend not to read books twice or watch movies more than once. I have found however, on many movies, that I like them more the second time than the first. So, maybe that was the expectation I had going into my re-visit to Watchmen. But I was strangely disappointed. I loved the fist half but the second part seemed to bog down. The whole pirate scene in the comic that the kid was reading actually started irritating me and I found the best way to handle it was to read that part in its entirety and then go back to the main comic and just ignore the Tales of the Black Freighter. Don't get me wrong, I think it was still a great book but the second time around sort of dulled the memory I had of it (whereas From Hell was completely the opposite). I also think that Watchmen will make one hell of a movie and from what I've seen so far, it appears that they're doing it right. Now all we need to do is get Fox out of the picture with their claims. It should be fun watching the fans reaction if Fox manages to screw up the release. Will fans retaliate against Fox? Keeping it short this time...after all, I got classes to prepare for. Don't forget that Slaughterhouse is still available to order and the artist, Sami Makkonen did a fantastic job on it. More information here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

On Writing and some Interviews

It’s almost two weeks now and most of the comic news sites are still running press releases and panel descriptions from San Diego. It seems that many of the releases wouldn’t get any attention otherwise…but if they were announced at San Diego, then they must be worthwhile.

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 Disneyworld, I never saw comics there. Maybe they’ve tried that route, I don’t know…but it seems so obvious. Then again, many things that seem obvious end up not being tangible for various reasons.

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 San Diego ended, I have received almost 20 submissions! I guess the excitement of the con just motivated people.

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 San Diego called “So You Want To Do A Graphic Novel." Steve does a great job in explaining the idea, so much so, that I’m grabbing a few of his lines. His thoughts echo mine so completely that I see no sense in wording it differently as he did so well on it. There’s a link at the end of the blog so you can read the whole column…well, worth reading. So, here’s what he said regarding writing graphic novels….

“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, August 6, 2008).

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.


If you’re familiar with the horror mag, FROM THE TOMB, which is a U.K. publication, the current issue (June) has a rather lengthy interview with me...8 pages worth. In addition, there is a 5-page feature on Deadworld. I think they’re available at Borders and Barnes/Noble and maybe comic stores. When I can, I’ll scan in the pages and post a PDF on my website.

I also have another interview…sort of, on Comic Village. The Village “Gossip” has a bag of 64 questions and I was asked (as were all others) 20 random questions of those 64. Check it out at Comic Village Gossip

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.


There are two Deadworld projects coming out in October so that means they’re in the Diamond Previews right now.

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 ALL NEW Deadworld stories. Although not tied into the continuity of Deadworld, they all fit in and explore some different things going on in Deadworld. Check out the previews and more information here.

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

Cons and Contracts

Just got back from vacation with the family and now playing catch-up. I had meant to post a new blog prior to leaving but you know how it goes. The trip was good as my wife, Jennifer, and 3 of our 4 daughters flew out to Las Vegas to see Jenny's folks who moved there about 10 years ago. After spending a couple of days there, we drove out to see the Grand Canyon and I was glad to see my kids really appreciated the wonder of the canyon. Did quite a bit of hiking (well, walking...not official hiking) and then we returned to Las Vegas for a day's rest before heading to Los Angeles. The kids have always wanted to see LA although I've been there about 15 times. Did much of the tourist stuff but they enjoyed just relaxing on the beach for the most part. One of my daughters wants to go to school in California and with the rising costs of everything in Michigan and the declining prospects here, it actually is about the same cost. So, we checked out the Long Beach campus and it was very nice. I think my daughter is not long for the cold winters of Michigan. Part of our trips in recent years is for us to evaluate where we want to move once all the kids are out of the house and on their own paths. Still a few years to go for that but we're getting a good idea of the different areas we might be interested in. So, far we like Colorado and North Carolina the best but there's a lot of great places around this country. I do like Ann Arbor but the winters are becoming increasingly annoying. I won't be going to San Diego this year which is nothing new since I haven't gone for a few years now. Just too insane and expensive and the time never seems right. I absolutely love that city though, and that's another contender for our post-kid home but California can be a bit pricey. One of the things I used to hate about San Diego Con was the sheer number of people who brought their portfolios there. So many were bad and even the good ones were just not suitable for Caliber. It was frustrating to look at so much stuff that just wasn't applicable (or good). I don't think the con still has the same problem mainly because of the Internet which is the vehicle mainly now to showcase work. But I did get some submissions and portfolios to review in Chicago. I really wish some people (not all, but most) would really think about what they're doing. Some hints on what to do if you're looking for work at a comic convention. 1) Don't just plop your portfolio on top of the books, prints, flyers, etc. that are on the table. Your portfolio may be vitally important to you but the published work already on the table is also important. Use some common sense. 2) I can't think of any publisher that wants to see color pinups of Marvel and DC characters as a representation of your work. Fine, you can do a pinup...but that's not comics (well, for the most part). 3) I'm always amazed at how many artists say they're only interested in doing covers. Unless you can provide mind-blowing work or have a name that will sell copies (rare), why would I use your cover over an artist who had done the entire book? 4) If you ask for a critique on your story-telling abilities, just accept it. You can think I'm an idiot and totally disregard anything I can even think I'm an asshole for not seeing the obvious. But when I start asking questions about the story because I can't tell what's happening (and often this is with art and lettered scrip), then maybe you should start thinking that there just might be something wrong with your story-telling. I'm not looking for a debate so when I say I don't get it...just accept it. If you have to explain it to me, then obviously, it isn't working. 5) No, I don't want to hear your 30 minute spiel on how great your epic series is. My mind goes blank after two minutes or 15 names of characters...whichever comes first. I can't think of anyone that ever sold something based on a rambling narrative of an idea with no artwork. 6) Business cards are really cheap now and you can even print them off on your ink jet printer. I laugh when I get a business card with the names crossed off and a new name written there along with a new phone and new email address. Yeah, reusing someone else's card really screams professional. I think people would be amazed at how often this happens. 7) Please, please, not come up to the table with your mom to handle all your discussions. I know she thinks you're wonderful but your work should stand on its own. 8) I love when someone comes up and tells me how much better they are than someone who has been producing comics for years. If you're so much better, than why aren't your books on the table. No one wants to hear an artist or writer get ragged on....especially when you don't know if I might be friends with them or not. These are just a few things that do actually happen at cons and quite often. Don't be that guy. Lots of interesting stuff going on with Wowio and Platinum. It seemed Wowio was really taking off but obviously, the model wasn't working as well as it first seemed. Not sure what is happening now. I was just about to sign up some titles with Wowio but once the Platinum deal started circulating, I held off. I'm adopting a wait and see attitude. I know Platinum gets a lot of flak but I don't know all the particulars except that perhaps some people don't read contracts too well. I've always found it surprising that so many creators think that someone should pay for their work without the publisher getting anything in return. Sure, they'll get part of the sales but unless you're a big name, it's not likely the project is worth the risk unless something else is included (usually some portion of movie rights). I totally understand those creators who do not want to give up those rights...after all, I'm also a creator. But if you want to get the work out there, you may have to include some of your "assets". Some creators will and some won't. I will on some of my properties but others I won't. I don't like the idea of how a publisher is painted in a broad stroke of scum when they offer a deal that is eagerly accepted by the creator. It always takes two sides to sign a contract. I have no idea of how Platinum operates or what is going on but I did talk with Scott Rosenberg a long time ago. We discussed bringing in the Caliber lineup to Platinum. I forget the details but obviously, it wasn't suitable so it never happened but it appears that the conditions were up front for me to decide on. With the advent of the big blockbuster comic movies (although most are superhero from the Big Two), the contracts between publishers and creators are getting quite a bit more elaborate. So, creators need to understand the specifics included in the contracts and also have to realize that both parties are getting something out of the always approach it from that point of view, break it down to what each party is getting. And if you can live with it, not just at the beginning but also in case the book takes off, then at least you know what you're getting into. There is no excuse regarding a bad either signed it or not. Another thread that I wanted to just touch on was Brian Hibbs' use of point of sale system and the revelation to him that he had some high profile titles that have actually never sold a copy in the last 12 months. The POS system has got to make life easier as when I had my stores, we took inventory every month and that was a tedious process but a necessary one. Since my stores were carrying so many foreign books, we could never take the chance on ordering an additional copy of something we already had in stock at one of the four stores. The worry about Hibbs' research and report is that it insinuates the trade paperback market is finite, not just for the comics market but perhaps also for the book market. I agree. The comics market is obviously limited because it is a specialized market that caters to a very select group. The book market has the opportunity to grow (and consequently would grow the comic market) but most of the buyers are still adhering to the Top 100 mentality. They buy the top comics in the comics market to display and my question is who buys at a book store if they can get them at a comics store? Sure, there is some cases where customers can't get to a comic store, but even in big cities, you see the bookstores carrying primarily X-Men, Spiderman, Batman, Superman and just a smattering of other titles. I have no idea if the big superheros sell that well on the book shelves and if that is the determining factor or not or are they just ordering "known" commodities? I think a couple of avenues that don't get a lot of attention is Internet retailers and direct sales. Obviously, unless someone reports on the direct sales, that information is not going to be known. But Amazon can be tracked fairly easy and I'm very surprised at just how many copies of graphic novels can move through there. Direct mail, for me anyway, is sort of a hit or miss. Usually just sell a few but sometimes will get hit with a flood of orders. I encourage sales through bookstores, comic shops, Amazon, etc. as doing orders can be a hassle. But for some people, who either can't find them elsewhere or want an autograph, it's the best way for them. With Wowio now mired in a holding pattern as far as most creators are concerned, it should be interesting to see what happens with the digital distribution system that everyone seems to be waiting for.

Monday, June 30, 2008


Figured I'd give a look at my experience at Wizard World Chicago 2008 (can't we just call it Chicago Con?) and the important thing is that it is MY experience. That means I won't have anything about any panels and the announcements that came out of that because I didn't attend any. For the pictures I have, it's primarily creators and no costumes. First off, I was set up next to Transfuzion Publishinig, a venture started by me and Rafael Nieves.

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

Had far too many brief conversations and not enough long ones so it was obviously a fairly busy con. Here's some pictures.

The Transfuzion Booth at Wizard World Chicago 2008. We went with low level signage as we were told that large displays in Artist Alley were not allowed, but quite a few people had them. I think its the trend of the future that more and more people are moving to Artist Alley because the costs of "Small Press" booths are just too much, especially at some shows where placement is horrific. I have to admit that for most of the actual booths this year, the placement was much better than last year.

I had the King Zombie prototype mask on display and that got a lot of attention and lots of people asked about the King Zombie (from Deadworld) action figure coming from Shocker Toys. The mask proved to be a great "picture spot" for kids especially.

Rafael Nieves and me. We're responsible for Transfuzion but the policy is that if you want to compliment the company, you contact me. If you want to bitch about something, it's Rafael. He may not be up to speed on that policy yet but he'll get there. I never take a good picture but usually Raf fact, some woman came up to him just to get a picture of his hair.

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.

Len Kody, had his comic, CHICAGO: 1968, the story of the Democratic National Convention on hand for people to check out.

Dan Dougherty is an artist that really deserves more attention. Nice guy who is hooking up with Raf on one of the projects that will help launch Transfuzion's excursion into all new material.

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.

Jim Calafiore got his start at Caliber and now has a good home at DC which keeps him busy. He's doing a new cover for the CAMELOT ETERNAL collection that Transfuzion will be putting out in the next few months. He said that he already started working on it. Camelot Eternal was a series he did for Caliber.

Scott Story who puts out his Johnny Saturn through his publishing company, Story Studios. He wasn't part of Mob Rules but since I see him at all the conventions I do, I figure he's worth a pix.

Overall, I thought it was a good con. I had a few boxes less leaving than I had coming in so that's always good. I never have high expectations for Wizard World as it is a superheroish convention for the most part but because of the people there, I always have a good time and it usually ends up being a trip worth taking just for other business matters.

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