I really can’t understate how influential Wizard was to me as a budding comics fan. I’d been going to the comic shop for a few years by the time I discovered the mag at a mall book store. I started out reading Superman and Batman comics and added other DC comics because I knew about them from the house ads, but it wasn’t until Wizard that I really began to learn more about comics as a whole. I’ve always been pretty risk-averse and budget conscious, so it took an extra push to spend my limited funds on something new. With Wizard, I found a group of writers who opened up my world to all sorts of new books I’d never heard of including, but not limited to Hellblazer and The Goon, both of which I’m writing about here today!
Back when I was still at ToyFare, I got a pretty epic box of books including the first two volumes of Dark Horse’s Creepy Archives reprints. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that they’ve been sitting in my closet pretty much ever since. I might have pulled volume one out a few times, but never really dove in properly until this year. Not only was I excited to get into these stories as part of the Ambitious Halloween Reading List, but I was also able to make some money off of it by working on a fun list over at Topless Robot called The 10 Best Stores from the Early Days of Creepy.
I talked about some of the history over there, but basically, back in the mid 60s Warren Publishing figuratively picked up the mantle of EC Comics and rekindled quality horror anthology comics with books like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Many of the old school EC guys came over and did art while most of the stories in this volume were written by editor Archie Goodwin. After reading a few EC collections, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Creepy, but I’m glad to say I had a wonderful time reading these stories.
The big problem I had with the Tales From The Crypt and Weird Science books I’ve read is that, while the art is often amazing, the stories are hokey, boring or built in such a way that the twist ending is just so obvious it’s not even entertaining. I was worried that the Creepy tales would be along those lines and was delighted to find that that wasn’t the case.
In fact, this book had some incredibly unique stories that I’ve never seen anywhere else which is really saying something. In that regard, these stories reminded me of The Twilight Zone because there was such a variety of stories being told, which is all the more impressive when you think that one guy was writing most of them.
But, the real eye-opening aspect of this book was introducing me to some classic comic book artists that I’m not very familiar with. Classic guys like Al Williamson, Jack Davis, Angelo Torres and Joe Orlando came in ready to rock as did Frank Frazetta whose gnarly style fits perfectly with those vets (not that he was any rookie by this point, but you get my meaning). The one artist that really blew me away, though, was Gray Morrow. His work has such depth and quality to it that you almost wonder if these were more modern stories slid into these others from the mid 60s. I’m so intrigued by him that I want to check out books like Orion and Space: 1999, which both happen to be on my Amazon Wish List if anyone wants to get me a little something.
Anyway, as you can tell, I’m pretty darn far away from reviewing these supposedly Halloween-themed books in a timely fashion, but I’m enjoying this mix of books still and will continue on until I find myself distracted by something else. I’m partway through the Wally Wood book and about a third of the way through The Fall right now, so maybe I’ll actually finish this one out before the end of the year (but probably not).
Several years ago I started writing a pretty lengthy post about my brief time as a big-time X-Men fan. I never finished it, but am incorporating some of the ideas into this Trade Post. I loved the 90s cartoon, but that only ever read into me picking up the Fatal Attractions trade as one of the first collections I ever purchased. I also tried getting into the X-world around the time that Grant Morrison took over, but funds grew limited as did my attention span so that went out the window. Then I got a job at Wizard in the research department and wound up covering the X-Men beat for about a year. This might have stemmed from the fact that I’d interviewed Mike Carey for Newsarama about his impending Vampirella take-over between my Wizard internship and actually working at the mag. Anyway, I was the go-to guy talking to Carey about X-Men, the editors and lots of other folks. When you cover things like this extensively you feel the need to keep up on the books because, one, you will probably have to cover them again in the next few months and two, you’re curious to see how it turned out.
At this point which was after the mutant-limiting 198 even with Scarlet Witch, Ed Brubaker — who I dug as the writer on Captain America — took over Uncanny X-Men and Mike Carey was doing X-Men. I’ll get into some of the ancillary titles I also really enjoyed like Cable/Deadpool and New X-Men when I can get my hands on more of those trades, but I figured it’d be fun to go back and read the first years’ worth of both these books, starting with Bru’s Rise And Fall Of The Shi’Ar Empire story. This was one that a lot of people I knew weren’t that into and, if memory serves, it did feel kind of slow when coming out in single issues — this is a pretty epic story spanning 12 issues — but when you read it all together it has that concise nature that I love in his writing.
This story spins directly out of Brubaker’s Deadly Genesis miniseries which revealed that Professor X sent a brand new team of mutants to try and save the original X-Men before he put together the international group made famous in Giant Sized X-Men #1. Most of them died, but two — the third Summers brother now called Vulcan and a super adapter named Darwin — survived. Vulcan flew off into space to get revenge on the Shi’Ar who killed his mother and enslaved him. This prompts Prof. X — who’s not having a great time as all his dark secrets are finding the light of day — to put a team together and go after his one time student. Said group includes Havok, Polaris, Nightcrawler, Darwin, Rachel Summers and Warpath (who I did a fun Wizard Insider on and actually got really excited about as a different take on the Wolverine idea). They head into space, but the trip winds up taking a long time because Vulcan is destroying all the jump gates and winds up actually falling for Deathbird and becoming part of the Shi’Ar royal family.
There’s a lot more going on in the book, which also introduces Korvus, a Shi’Ar citizen locked up because his family line was touched by the Phoenix force long ago and a portion resides in a gigantic, anime-style sword that only he can heft. Oh, plus Skrulls, the Imperial Guard and the Starjammers all play important parts. There’s so much going on that the book actually feels like a really solid TV season with a few departures — every three or four issues Vulcan takes the spotlight in issues drawn by Clayton Henry to give regular artist Billy Tan a bit of a breather.
Not being the biggest X-fan in the world, I must say that I felt it was pretty easy to slide right into this story. I put X-Men up there with the Legion of Super-Heroes when it comes to figuring out how characters related to one another, so it can be daunting wading into a story like this, but Brubaker handles these ancient relationships in such a way that he gives you enough information to understand what’s happening without getting deep into continuity porn. I know very little about, say, the Havok/Polaris relationship or Rachel Summers’ backstory, but I was never confused by the elements being presented to me in this story.
I really enjoyed this trade and a big part of that is the big, bold artwork by Billy Tan. Henry does some fun fill-in issues, but there’s a clear difference in style with his looser pencils showing off how tight and clean Tan’s can be. They both create large, heroic looking figures, though, which unites the stories. I’m also going to give huge props to the ink and coloring team of Danny Miki (mostly) and Frank D’Armata. I remember around this time being really impressed with the house inking/coloring style that Marvel seemed to be fostering in a lot of their books. While not necessarily uniform, I felt like a lot of different books had a somewhat similar feel thanks to a dark-ish, yet bold tone. I don’t have either of them yet, but I’d like to get my hands on Deadly Genesis and The Extremists which bridges the gap between Rise and the Messiah Complex crossover, which I’m a huge fan of.
I’m going to say right off that bat that I wound up talking to Mike Carey quite a bit in my time at Wizard and grew to really enjoy those talks. He’s a very cool guy with a deep love of all things X-Men and comics whose enthusiasm always comes through. I will also say that I had a bit of a harder time reading his X-Men book because of a lack of familiarity with a few of the characters. The idea behind his book is that, in a post-198 world, Rogue will lead a team of mutants not connected to the school who go out and deal with problems. Her crew included Iceman, Mystique, Cannonball, Sabertooth (kinda), Cable (kinda), Lady Mastermind and Sentinel. Most of my confusion — both during my initial reading and the more recent one — came from a pre-occupation of who those latter two characters were. It’s not like Carey put a lot of importance on their backstory, but being almost completely unfamiliar with them and their abilities was distracting. It’s like knowing everyone at a party except for two people and becoming obsessed with who they are. I should have just looked them up on Wiki, but that info should also have probably been in the story.
Speaking of the stories, you’ve got a couple doozies here. First off, there’s a new kind of mutant who were created and evolved on a battleship who have woken up and want to take out the X-Men. They’re so tough that they scared the poop out of Sabertooth who makes his way to the X-Mansion in an attempt to take advantage of the locale’s mutant refuge. He’s kept captive for a while, but is also used as a weapon during various missions. This group of X-Men also finds themselves on the hunt for an evil scientist named Pan who can absorb and use mutant powers like Rogue, but for longer periods of time. He was experimenting on Lady Mastermind and Sentinel which is how they found their way into the story. Oh and they also help fix Northstar who was turned into a psycho killer in Mark Millar’s run on Wolverine. I like that Carey went with new villains because it adds to the sandbox while also allowing him to work within a far more limited cast of mutant bad guys.
While I did have some trouble with understanding a few of the characters, I really enjoyed getting to know some of the others better. Rogue is super-rad in this book, taking charge, kicking ass and taking names. She goes through a lot too, which toughens her up even more, something she probably didn’t need, but gets worked with in later stories. I also liked seeing the weird relationship between Iceman and Mystique. Carey also does some really interesting things with Iceman’s powers that I got a kick out of. Then you’ve got Cannonball who played well off of Cable, the two having moved on a bit from the younger hero’s hero worship of the other. There’s a bit of a sadness that runs through these stories that infects these characters, all of which makes sense when you contextualize it against the fact that their very species is at risk of extinction.
And, of course, you can’t talk about this book without talking about the artists. I love Mark Brooks and his contribution as the artist on the annual is exactly what I think of when I think of superhero comic books. But since this is a darker comic, Chris Bachalo and Humberto Ramos’ styles fit better. Both retain their unique looks, but also feel like part of the same cloth. Bachalo has a crazy, erratic-ness that fits with the idea of a new species popping up to take over for mutants while Ramos’ freneticism fits his story. I will say that sometimes, their sketchy nature makes some of the panels hard to read, but overall I like the effect of their art on the story. Like with the above book, there’s a much shorter trade between this one and Messiah Complex that I want to get my hands on, plus Carey wrote the back-ups that made up the Endangered Species collection. I’d like to get those in the ol’ collection as well to see how they all play together. After that? Well, I remember X-Men Legacy getting a little too in-depth when it came to X-Men history which isn’t really my bag.
I haven’t read the Panels on Pages Wizard Alumni Where Are They Now interviews featuring Ben Morse, Chris Ward, Jim Gibbons, Brian Cunningham and Rick Marshall just yet because it looks pretty long, but I did skim it and yes, I did get mentioned and do appear in a photo or two, so it’s worth looking at.
Speaking of Wizard buddies, Josh Wigler has loosed himself upon the world of freelance again! I assume this will mean fewer jobs for myself, but he’s a good dude, so that’s okay.
One last plug for my friends, but world renowned toy animator and my number one walking-around-NYC-post-NYCC companion Alex Kropinak now has a blog. Go read it, fool!
There’s an “Avengers of horror” in the works starring Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, Mr. Hyde and seven other horror icons. Could be interesting. (via THR)
Justin Timberlake’s records have never been as appealing to me as his SNL hosting gigs, but Jody Rosen’s Rolling Stone review of his new album The 20/20 Experience sounds more up my alley.
I love me some eboy. His cityscapes are amazing and somewhere in the depths of my ToyFare-acquired toy collection I have a Hugh Hefner figure based on his artwork as well as a poster. I literally said, “Whoooaaaa,” when I saw this cruise ship image of his. Super neat!
Jack White talked to Rolling Stone about new solo tracks, new Dead Weather and the rad sounding blue Reissue series from Third Man Records. Give it a look.
THR says that Kurt Sutter of Sons of Anarchy fame is creating a horror/timetravel series at FX called Lucas Stand. I haven’t seen SOA yet, but have only heard good things. This sounds like an interesting concept and FX hasn’t steered my wrong yet, so I’ll give it a watch if it actually happens.
THR also made a list of 15 interesting bits of information discussed by the Big Bang Theory cast and creators at Paley Fest. There’s some fun stuff in there for fans.
I’m actually kind of happy these days when I see Mondo posters I’m not into because I know I probably wouldn’t be able to get one and don’t have the scratch to spend on one anyway. However, this Beetlejuice one by Ken Taylor as shown over on Bad Ass Digest is spectacular.
Sylvester Stallone tweeted that he wants more humor in Expendables 3. Not sure how I feel about that considering the hackie jokes were the worst part of 2. I’m still in, though, even more so if Jackie Chan’s involved. (via Collider)
Have you tried Nicolas Cage Roulette? It’s a website you can go to with many Nic Cage faces. You click whether you want it to chose any movie from the actor’s filmography (at least what’s on Netflix Instant) or just the action movies. I tried “All” four times and got Face/Off twice, Season of the Witch and Adaptation. Fun stuff!
An album of Elvis Costello recording with The Roots sounds rad. Maybe THAT record will get me to finally get back to writing Supergroup Showcases. (via Rolling Stone)
IDW’s collection of Silver Age Superman comic strips looks pretty neat. Looks like they’re also doing Batman and Wonder Woman strips. I didn’t even know there WAS a WW comic strip! (via Robot 6)
I’ve had this Boing Boing link about 22 Pixar storytelling rules saved for a while, but only recently read through them. It’s interesting how many of them I wound up following in my recent comic script.
This Toledo Blade article about some of the fancier restaurants from my home town’s past was incredibly interesting.
Esquire‘s right, Dubai’s weird you guys.
Ron Marz’s latest Shelf Life column over on CBR is about his one experience with comic writing stage fright, but he also talks about some behind the scenes stuff when it came to DC Versus Marvel and Amalgam, two ideas that captured my imagination when I was kid.
My buddy Jim Gibbons reposted this rad piece of Star Wars Mike Mignola art over on his Pizza Party! Tumblr. So rad.
On average, the best part about reading random Valiant comics for my (mostly) weekly The Box column here on the blog has been seeing random ads from the early days of Wizard. These are from a few years before I got into the magazine, but if you’re unfamiliar with it’s history, Wizard covered a lot of Valiant and Image stuff in the early days because they were all coming up at around the same time. So, while it might have been harder to get DC or Marvel on the phone, there was lots of back and forth between the younger companies and the growing mag. So, it comes as no surprise seeing a full page ad in 1993’s Magnus Robot Fighter #21 nor is it surprising to see the “Especially Valiant” tag on the ad. If you want to see how strong the Wizard/Valiant connection was compare the mastheads from the first few years of Valiant comic books and Wizard issues from let’s say about 8 or 9 years ago.
I wanted to like TBS’ new sitcom Men At Work. First and foremost, That 70s Show is one of my all time favorite shows, so I’ve got an existing affinity for star Danny Masterson. It seemed like TBS wanted me to not like the show, though, because they INUNDATED viewers with commercials for the show and still do. I still tuned in for the first episode to see what the show was actually all about and got interested again when it turned out that the titular work in question happened to be a magazine. As some of you know, I used to work at a magazine so there’s another connection.
Unfortunately, though, the show just isn’t that good. I’ve seen three episodes by now (all three that are out there, I think) and I honestly laughed maybe once or twice per episode. Those particular jokes were pretty funny or came out of nowhere (or maybe they were only funny compared to everything else I was watching straight faced while the audience laughed). The problem I had with the first episode was that it all felt like a retread. Milo (Masterson) gets dumped by his girlfriend right away and his awesome bros try to make him feel better by going out to the bar and getting him laid. Meanwhile, the geeky girlfriended guy Neal struggles with trying to figure out how to do dirty talk with his girl. If you haven’t seen these plots one million times, I don’t know what shows you’ve been watching. Most of the jokes just felt tired and old and boring.
The other problem I had with the show is that two of the characters seem exactly the same, actually everyone but Neal is pretty much the same. Milo, Gibbs and Tyler are all rich, vapid, boring, cool dudes who hang out in bars, have devils threesomes and laugh at each other when they want to talk about feelings and emotions, Neal’s their geeky friend who’s just not as slick, but is essentially the same otherwise. What could have easily been an honest look at male friendships in a dying industry instead turns into awesome people doing awesome things and having problems you most likely can not related to. Worst of all? It’s not funny or new or original. I could watch really funny vapid people do stuff all day, but watching boring vapid people? I’m good.
Regular readers will remember that I read and didn’t really get 1993’s Archer & Armstrong #17 from Valiant a few weeks back. Before tossing it in the get rid of pile, I went through and snapped a few pictures like this one for the 27th issue of Wizard. I was still a few years away from discovering the magazine at that point, but I do remember seeing this Jim Lee Wildcats cover in books and around the office. Interviews with Alan Moore and Travis Charest? Sounds like a pretty solid issue, actually. Plus I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on a Mortal Kombat arcade cabinet.
Always with the writing, like this CBR piece about Jonathan Hickman’s Secret, America’s Got Powers with Bryan Hitch and Jonathan Ross, Kurtis Wiebe’s Grim Leaper, David Hine’s The Darkness and Nathan Edmondson’s Dancer.
I also covered the Wondercon announcements for Dark Avengers and Hulk for Marvel.com. Check out Sketch Attack where my pal Rickey did a Lobo/OMAC mash-up!Speaking of sketchblogs, do yourself a favor and check out The Cat Made Me Do It. This Doctor Who pieces is a favorite.
Over on his blog, Jim Rugg remembers the indie comics covered in Wizard first in Palmer’s Picks and later Secret Stash. I used to get art for the latter and was introduced to lots of interesting concepts by the former.
I don’t know how I stumbled on Samurai Pizza Cats as a youngin’, but I sure did like it. Can’t wait to watch it again on DVD. (via Topless Robot)By now you guys know that I’m a pretty big Planet Of The Apes fan and will most likely post any art based on the series that I find. This one by Scott C that was shown at Mondo’s SXSW gallery is amazing. I want a print.
I wish this Geek Dad interview would have gotten a little bit more into the writing process of Adventure Time and it’s awesomeness, but it sure was a fun read.
Wired also had a really cool interview with Michael Chabon on writing the John Carter script and being a fan and writer of genre fiction.
I kept this Rolling Stone Black Keys story in my Read It Later for a long time. It’s four pages, but totally worth the read if you’re a fan of the band.
It struck me recently that my last few Adventures In Freelancing columns have not only been infrequent, but also pretty negative. Taking The Good With The Bad was about my insecurities regarding expired contracts, Learning To Accept Workless Days is pretty self explanatory but also about how not working can result in some work and my wife told me that 5 Things I Miss About Working In An Office made her feel bad for me, though that wasn’t my intent. I plan on being positive with today’s post.
Anyone who pays attention to the self serving links I post in the semi-regular Casting Internets will notice that I’m still writing for Marvel.com and doing the occasional list for Topless Robot, but posts for UGO.com and Maxim.com have ceased to exist. Also, ToyFare, the magazine I had been writing a good chunk of ceased publication. That’s the way things work in the freelance biz. I sound pretty casual about such things now, but I was not happy when it happened (hence the almost three month gap between AIFs). I worried incessantly that I wasn’t helping out enough when it came to finances. I made peace with my wife making more money than me a long time ago when she was bringing in more green as a temp than I ever did in my various professions. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to help as much as possible. Hell, we had a kid on the way and don’t want to live in this condo forever. Was it finally time to ditch this crazy dream and get a job at the Post Office?
Thankfully that didn’t come to pass. As it turned out, some people I knew and some I didn’t know were going through some changes of their own. All that shifting created an opening at Comic Book Resources. They needed a writer and as it turned out, I am in fact a writer. It also helped that I’m good friends with one of the editors there. Never let it be said that who you know is not important. Almost all the gigs I have right now are thanks to friends and former colleagues, plus, I hope, some degree of talent on my part. Anyway, I wound up getting a pretty darn fun gig as the Image Comics contact. There were some growing pains as I got used to their style, but I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of things. Better yet I like the job itself because the people working on these books have a lot of enthusiasm and are doing really fun and interesting comics that I feel good telling the internet about.
In a weird reversal of fortune from a few months prior, I was contacted about a few more jobs. One I can’t really talk about yet because I’m not sure if it’s happening or how it will work. The other though is for the next evolution of ToyFare now known as Wizard World, a digital magazine. I started off doing some feature work for them, but now I’m essentially the freelance toy editor. It’s like working for ToyFare again, but without having to get on a train or drive 45 minutes every day.
I’ve talked to a few family members who own their businesses about the ups and downs that come with them. They all say that it’s important to remember that there will be another up during the downs, though it’s sometimes hard to remember. Of course, being the pessimist I am, I worried that all my contacts would dry up, my lack of gigs would look bad for potential future jobs and I would become a has-been in this fickle market. Hopefully next time things take a down swing I’ll remember this. We’ll see. Anyway, I’m going to enjoy this high point while it lasts and continue to work on my own projects on the side. Onwards and upwards!
I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I’m now a regular writer for CBR. My first piece went up on Friday, announcing Image’s Deadlands comics!
The first issue of Wizard World is up and I’m in it! Check out the interview I did with Todd McFarlane and Robert Kirkman about the Walking Dead toy line.
Also, peep this week’s Crossovers We Want To See at MTV Geek featuring the First Wave characters and Green Hornet.
Something called PaleyFest is having a Freaks & Geeks (amazing) and Undeclared (pretty fun) reunion. I want to own this poster. (via /Film)
Whoa, Quiet Earth says there’s a different, R-rated version of Cyborg out there with a rock score? Holy nards, I am in! If you want one, you can email the director at curnantpictures AT SYMBOL gmail.com.
Wired‘s post about 10 Kinect hacks makes me wish I was better at hacking things. The closest I’ve ever gotten is memorizing the movie of the same name.
Even though Beau Smith‘s latest column is about guns, his mention of his grandfather and father running a jukebox and arcade game business makes me want to talk to him about that.
I just listened to Jeff Goldsmith‘s final Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast. I never once read the mag, but I loved the interviews he’d do with various screenwriters. Hopefully he’s on to bigger and better. Good luck Jeff!