When you go to your local store (or digital provider) you’ll find that nearly all of the comics are lettered using a computer. That’s obvious, right? But there are a relative few creators who still prefer, and advocate, hand-lettering to digital methods, and one of those is Image Comics co-founder and Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen.
With very few exceptions, every issue of his Savage Dragon series for the past 20 years has been hand-lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, Tom Orzechowski or Larsen himself. But recently on Twitter, Larsen began talking about a switch to digital lettering — and for those attuned to the craft, that’s something major. So we asked him for more information.
“In this case it was simply timing,” Larsen told ROBOT 6. “Tom Orzechowski was booked.”
While that might seem trivial, the central point Larsen had is that the time involved — inked pages are shipped to the letterer and then shipped back once lettering is complete — was adding a significant wrinkle to Savage Dragon‘s production schedule. With digital inking, you can send the files to the letterer in a matter of minutes (depending on your scanner and Internet bandwidth), with the production time for a letterer drastically reduced by the use of a computer.
If you’ve been wondering how Rob Liefeld has been occupying his time since walking off three DC Comics series, scorching the earth around him as he left, the answer, at least in part, is Bloodstrike #34. However, he also found three days to transform a portion of his memoir into a 100-page screenplay about the formation of Image Comics. Of course.
The outspoken creator provided DreamMovieCast with excerpts from the project, tentatively titled Icons, which unlike Manti Te’o's dead girlfriend, is not a hoax. Or, rather iCons, as Liefeld clarified on Twitter. “Small ‘i’ dubble meaning,” he wrote.
Erik Larsen will end his run on the relaunched Supreme in October with an oversized Issue 68, saying, “I have a million things of my own I want to do and I can’t do everything. Something had to give.”
The Image Comics founder picked up the reins of the series in April with Issue 63 as part of the resurrection of Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios, illustrating an unused script from Alan Moore’s late-1990s run and then writing the subsequent issues and providing layouts for artist Cory Hamscher.
Although Supreme #68 was solicited as a standard-sized issue Larsen explained on Twitter that it now will be an 80-page giant — “I can do more cool shit that way” — that includes solo stories for Squeak, Sister Supreme and Lion-Headed Supreme.
“The idea is to fully set the stage for whatever follows,” he wrote. “To say: this is the world — these are the players. Make no mistake, I had a ball on Supreme and [Liefeld] has been extremely supportive and hands off. He’s let me run wild with it.”
Asked who will replace him, Larsen replied, “I don’t know and if I did — I shouldn’t the be guy announcing it.”
Liefeld added, “Erik has my favorite run on Supreme to date. He informed me before Comic-Con that he was finishing his run. Can’t wait for the trade!”
Now available On Demand, the documentary Comic Book Independents by director Chris Brandt receives wider distribution at an interesting time. In the midst of a migration of comic book creators from work-for-hire to creator-owned projects, and just as a renewed discussion about creator rights gains momentum, this documentary offers fascinating insight on what it means to go it alone in comics.
It’s not your usual comics documentary, and if you’re a creative type yourself, or are interested by those who are, you’ll probably find yourself inspired. Framed by information from cognitive psychologist Dr. James Kaufman, the human process of creativity as it is realized in comics is broken down and explored by some of the art form’s most interesting thinkers and voices.
Since the dawn of the medium, comic books largely have been the creation of writers and artists working hand-in-hand to produce the characters, stories, titles and universes you follow each week. Recently, however, lawsuits by comic creators against publishers — and sometimes other creators — have raised the question of where, when and how a comic is truly created. Are they the product of the writer, with the artist simply tasked to illustrate the story based on instructions laid out in a script or outline? Or is it a communal effort, with writer and artist both providing unique contributions to the creation of the character and setting, each serving as a storyteller in the planning, coordination and draftsmanship of the actual comic pages? In recent years, comics have become a writer-centric medium, for better or worse, but artists continue to play a crucial, if sometimes overlooked, role in the design of characters and transformation of the writer’s scripts into, you know, comics.
In an interview with ICv2.com, Howard Chaykin relayed a story about how an unnamed writer views an artist’s contribution as “absolutely nothing to do with the creative process in comics.” “I am of the belief that the artist does 50 percent of the ‘writing’ in comic books,” said Chaykin, who’s worked as a writer and artist for decades. “I think the guy is plum crazy. It staggered me in its limited understanding of what comic books are about.”
“Some really good people are working on Before Watchmen and it saddens me to see that. I won’t be supporting it in any way. I just can’t. And in all honesty — I can’t help but feel a little bit less for every creator who works on these books. Have you no decency?”
– Erik Larsen, wading into the continuing controversy surrounding DC Comics’ sprawling prequels
to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
It’s a week of familiar faces for me this time around. If I had $15, it’d go on Action Comics #8 (DC, $3.99), which completes Grant Morrison’s first story arc on the title — even though we’ve already had the second one; thanks, fill-ins! — as well as Supreme #63 (Image, $2.99), with Erik Larsen illustrating the final Alan Moore script for Rob Liefeld’s Superman knock-off (I’d love to see a well-done collection of all of these issues one day, now that the Moore run is completed). Also on tap, the final issue of OMAC (#8, DC, $2.99) and the long-awaited return of Busiek, Ross and Herbert’s Kirby: Genesis (#6, Dynamite, $3.99), because a man needs as much well-done Jack Kirby-inspired comics as possible, goshdarnit.
If I had $30, I’d add Hulk #50 (Marvel, $3.99) to once again celebrate what Jeff Parker had managed to do with a book and concept that, by all rights, should’ve disappeared a long time ago. (In all honesty, I much prefer the Red Hulk to the classic version these days, and it’s all Parker’s doing, along with his various artistic compatriots on the title.) Everyone who isn’t reading it: This is a jumping-on point issue! Try it and see if you don’t love it, too. And, despite the unevenness of earlier issues, Matt Fraction’s Casanova: Avarita #3 (Marvel, $4.99) is also a must-read; I really didn’t like the first issue, but loved the second. We’ll see where the book goes next.
Should I be splurging, then this week the splurge is on Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe HC (DC/Vertigo, $22.99). One of my favorite comics of all time, I’m likely going to end up getting this over-sized, recolored reprint just because I genuinely can’t resist the optimistic, hopeful tone of the book and its love of superheroes.
Artist Paul Maybury‘s latest collaboration (with writers Johnny Zito and Tony Trov), D.O.G.S. of Mars, is poised to be released on May 2 by Image. This 120-page/$15.99 story, pitting Captain Zoe and the Mars Base Bowie crew (at Earth’s first Martian colony) against nocturnal monsters, marked Maybury’s return to long-form work since 2008′s Aqua Leung (and was originally released digitally by Comixology in 2011). We discuss it–and he was kind enough to share some preview pages (as well as video showing his process inking some of the pages). After you read this interview, be sure to check out the interview that my Robot 6 boss, JK Parkin, did with the creative team, back in January 2011.
Tim O’Shea: This project originated on Comixology back in January 2011–was it always important to you to see it released in the traditional sense (via Image) or would you have been fine if it had remained as a digital release only?
Paul Maybury: It was definitely a personal goal of mine. I think Comixology is a great format, but it’s definitely hard to stand out under the creator-owned section. There had been talk about going with another publisher that was cautiously approaching the idea, but wasn’t completely sold. Somewhere around the release of issue three I decided to send a pdf copy out to a few trusted people and one of them was Erik Larsen over at Image. I wasn’t really looking to get it published over there, but Erik really took the time to set me back up with Stephenson, who I hadn’t spoken to in a few years. In the end it feels pretty comfortable as Image has been publishing my work here and there since the Belle and Sebastian anthology back in 2004.
Legal | The attorney for Marc Toberoff, the lawyer representing the Siegel and Shuster families in the bitter battle over the rights to Superman, argued last week before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that Warner Bros. shouldn’t be granted access to sensitive documents stolen from Toberoff’s office and delivered anonymously to the studio in 2008. A federal magistrate judge ruled in May 2011 that Toberoff waived privilege to the documents when he turned over the files in response to a grand jury subpoena issued in the investigation of the theft. An attached cover letter, dubbed the “Superman-Marc Toberoff Timeline,” was determined in 2009 not to be covered by privilege, and become the basis for the studio’s lawsuit against the attorney, in which it claims he acted improperly to convince the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to seek to reclaim the original copyright to the Man of Steel. Warner Bros. also alleges that Toberoff schemed to secure for himself “a majority and controlling financial stake” in the Superman rights. [Courthouse News Service]
Legal | Former Judge Dredd artist Brett Ewins was arraigned Thursday on charges of grievous bodily harm with intent following an incident last month in which he allegedly attacked police officers with a knife when they responded to a public-disturbance call. The 56-year-old Ewins, who reportedly has a history of mental-health issues, was remanded into custody pending a Feb. 17 preliminary hearing. [Ealing Gazette]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics, books and other things we’ve read this week. Today our special guest is Jason Green.
Jason Green is the editor of comics coverage for the St. Louis-based pop culture website PLAYBACK:stl, and a writer and editor for the comics collective Ink and Drink Comics, whose fourth release (a Western anthology titled Off the Wagon) will debut at this year’s C2E2.
To see what Jason and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
“By that logic I should change my name to Eric Larson. Geoff Johns should change his name to Jeff Johns since everybody spells it that way anyway.”
– Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen, responding to the news that, after 40 years of dancing around Marvel’s trademark by using titles like Shazam and The Power of Shazam, DC Comics is officially changing Captain Marvel’s name to … Shazam. Geoff Johns explained the decision was made, in part, because “everybody thinks he’s called Shazam already, outside of comics.”
A couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking about the holidays and comics. More exactly, I started wondering what some creators might say if i asked them for their favorite comics-related memory. As I got into contact with some creators, they did not have a favorite story per se, but those recollections were definitely memorable. Bottom line, these storytellers not surprisingly had some great stories to share. My holiday memory is an odd one, as a kid in the 1970s reading the Doonesbury comic strip where Rev. Scott Sloan had opening remarks before the Christmas pageant, where he noted that the part of the Baby Jesus would be played by a 40-watt light bulb. A lifelong Doonesbury fan, there are few strips that have made me laugh longer than that one. Told you it was an odd one. Now on to the storytellers with far better tales. My thanks to everyone that responded. Once you’ve read them all, please be sure to chime in with your most memorable comics-related holiday recollection in the comments section.
Every Christmas, comics would show up in my stocking. They’d be rolled up, which I’m sure breaks the heart of every collector out there, but it didn’t bother me much. Comics were for reading. For some reason, my mother thought I liked Thor. I wasn’t a Thor guy, except when he was hanging out in the Avengers. I was, and still am, a Captain America super-fan. How could my Mom not know this? But every year I’d get a couple more Thor comics.
Fast-forward 35 years. I’m the official stocking-stuffer in the household. My wife is the queen of holiday organization, but the stocking assignment has always been mine, primarily because it’s the kind of job you can give to a procrastinator. I can run out on Christmas Eve and grab everything I need: gum, iTunes gift cards, candy bars, extra batteries… and comics. See, my son is 15, and he IS a Thor guy, so I usually try to round up something Asgardian for him, as well as a something with Atomic Robo or Axe Cop. I don’t understand the clothing my daughter is asking for (an “infinity scarf” sounds like something Dr. Who would wear), but by gum, I do know my son’s taste in comics.
Image Comics has released a digital version of the Extreme Preview book that was available at the New York Comic Con last weekend, and thanks to the embed feature offered by Graphicly, you can read it right here. It can also be downloaded via ComiXology, Graphicly, iVerse and Diamond Digital.
The preview book offers a look at Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s Prophet, Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell’s Glory; Alan Moore, Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher’s Supreme; Tim Seeley and Francheco Gaston’s Bloodstrike; and John McLaughlin, Jon Malin and Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood. The first comic from the revived Extreme, Prophet #21, arrives Jan. 18.
Never one to shy away from politics or controversy, Erik Larsen will bring Osama bin Laden back from the dead as an irradiated giant green monster in October’s Savage Dragon #177.
It seems that after the body of the al-Qaida founder was dropped into the ocean from the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, it came into contact with radiation, bringing the terrorist to life and transforming him into a literal monster — Godzilla-like, even — hellbent on destroying America. Unless Dragon’s children Malcolm and Angel can stop him.
“Radiation is the cure-all. You get some of that stuff and life is good. In the real world, you get diarrhea and your hair falls out. But in comics — boom! — you’re brought right back to life,” Larsen tells USA Today. “”There’s not really going to be anybody going, ‘Whoa, don’t hit him!’ He’s kind of a (jerk), let’s throw that out there.”
Savage Dragon has famously featured appearances by Hitler, former presidents George W. Bush and George Bush, candidate Barack Obama, President Obama, and even God and the Devil. But is five months a little too soon to bring back bin Laden? Larsen fully expects some criticism.
“It’s not like this is ancient history and we’re looking at pictures and most of the people are dead and gone,” he tells the newspaper. “This guy did evil crap recently.”
Publishing | Marvel’s Fear Itself #1 topped Diamond Comic Distributors’ April charts with an estimated 128,595 copies, the highest monthly sales for a comic since X-Men #1 surpassed 140,000 copies nine months ago. Retail news and analysis site ICv2 sees the strong debut of that crossover and the performance of DC’s Flashpoint prequels as signs “that this summer’s big events may be able to reverse the downward sales trend in the first quarter of 2011.”
Retailing | The bankrupt Borders Group reportedly has been unable to find a buyer for its entire business, which could signal the end of the second-largest book chain in the United States. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in February, and is closing about one-third of its locations. [Detroit Free Press]