INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
In what could possibly be considered a Robot 6/ACT-I-VATE crossover, our own Michael May and artist Simon Roy contribute a story to the Panels for Primates project. And as all the stories feature primates of some sort, it was only natural that May and Roy’s comic, “It’s Never as Simple as it Seems,” would feature Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs.
Our work here is done …
There’s something very attractive about the classic pulp heroes. As cool as superpowers can be, there’s a reason that Batman’s the most popular superhero on the planet and a huge part of that is that he’s a (relatively) normal guy. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.
What I find interesting is this entire pulp heritage that he’s heir to. We don’t have time to dig into why Batman’s more popular than Doc Savage, the Shadow, and the Spider, but it would be fascinating to pull that apart and look at it sometime. For now, let’s concentrate on the similarities. There’s this huge catalog of characters that share some extremely close similarities with the Dark Knight (many of whom predate him in creation) and yet we don’t hear much about them anymore.
Moonstone’s trying to change that with their Return of the Originals event and that makes me happy. I’m also happy about DC’s whole First Wave thing (or was until that previous post) that I’m finally going to get to read when the first collection comes out in a couple of months, but Moonstone’s effort is even wider spread. They’re reintroducing a ton of characters to comics that I’ve heard about most of my life, but until now have never read a single adventure of. One of the most intriguing is The Spider.
Catching up on our monthly trips through Previews looking for good, new, adventure comics.
The Man from RIVERDALE – I enjoyed that issue of Betty and Veronica Spectacular where they were catsuit-wearing super-spies. In fact, I’ve been wanting more like it ever since. And here we are.
Veronica #206 – And here we are again, with promises of still more super-spy action in next month’s Betty. Anyone who says that Archie comics are the same story over and over again clearly isn’t paying attention.
The Girl and the Gorilla – Talking gorillas are always cool, but the preview for this looks absolutely charming.
Planet of the Apes #1 – I’d forgotten how much I love and miss these movies until I saw the cover for this issue. I’m not only getting it; it’s sending me to Amazon for a little DVD shopping too.
Mickey Mouse #307 – I don’t know if Boom’s changed something about their Mickey Mouse books or if I’m just now paying attention, but four of them caught my eye this month. In this one, Mickey and Goofy go on jungle safari. I love nothing if not a good jungle story and it’s been a long time since I’ve read any kind of Mickey comic.
Time for another (belated) trip through Previews looking for good, new adventure comics.
Johnny Hiro, Volume 1 – I missed Johnny’s giant-lizard and ronin adventures when they came out in single issues. Don’t want to make that mistake with the collection.
Cyclops – The scifi plot sounds interesting, but it’s the storytelling team behind The Killer that’s the real draw.
Wulf #1 – I’ve never read any of the old Atlas Comics books, so I’m not really hooked by just that. I do like barbarian comics though and one of my favorites was that What If issue where Conan comes to the future, becomes a gang lord, and meets Captain America. Not that I’m expecting this to be exactly like that, but it reminds me of it. And it’s by Steve Niles and Nat Jones. I love it when those guys work together and can’t imagine a better concept for them than a gritty, barbarian-in-modern-New-York comic.
There’s some disagreement about where it started, but it couldn’t have been much earlier than Steve Niles’ blog post, which is where I first heard about it. Some credit Eric Powell and it’s true that this is a drum that he’s been beating for a while now. As has Robert Kirkman and others. But Niles’ post last week called for specific action (that doesn’t necessarily require walking away from well-paying corporate gigs) and inspired a flurry of opinions and commentary about supporting creator-owned comics and what that really means. Readers and creators alike have been talking so excitedly about it that some have called it a revolution. But is that really what it is? And if so, a revolution of what? Since most of the books this column covers are creator-owned, these are good questions to try to answer here.
When Kevin quoted Niles’ post for Robot 6, he pulled this piece of it: “Can I say something I’ve wanted to say for a long time? If you like something, tell your friends. If you love it, tell the world. But if you hate something, just throw it away, don’t buy it again and move on. We spend way too much time tearing shit down. I just want to try the other direction for a while.”
The commentary on that quote was split between defensive and supportive. “I don’t get that logic,” wrote one person. “That’s like going to see a movie and finding out it’s really, really horrible. Then you hear that a dozen of your friends are going to see that same movie. Wouldn’t you want to warn them about what they are about to endure, the time they will waste, the money they will lose, etc, etc?”
Bluewater sent out a press release last week to announce that Morningside Entertainment has optioned the film rights to Bluewater’s Sinbad: Rogue of Mars comic from 2007. There are several interesting things about that.
According to the press release, Morningside has optioned the comic in order to adapt it into a feature film for 2012. Not a reboot, the movie is intended to be an extension of the Sinbad films that started with 1958’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and continued into the ‘70s with The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.
The release went on to quote Executive Producer Barry Schneer as saying that Rogue of Mars would be the first film in a new trilogy. “I’m thrilled to continue the amazing legacy my uncle, Charles Schneer began with 7th Voyage and to bring to the screen the Sinbad movie that he and Ray Harryhausen never got to make.”
Since Bluewater published Sinbad: Rogue of Mars as part of its Ray Harryhausen Presents line of comics, I started wondering how this fit together and who owned the rights to what. I assumed that Morningside already owned at least a portion of the rights to the Sinbad films. Since Rogue of Mars was based on those movies, why would Morningside need to option the story from a comic book company that had bought the license from them in the first place? What exactly was Morningside optioning? And how does Ray Harryhausen himself fit into all of this?
Night Animals (cover is probably NSFW)
Written and Illustrated by Brecht Evens
Top Shelf; $7.95 (Shipping in March)
When Brecht Evens describes his new work as “a walk on the Where the Wild Things Are side,” he’s not exaggerating. Night Animals contains two stories, each of which follows a normal person into a fantasy world that comments on his and her real-life situation. The second one, “Bad Friends” is especially (and intentionally) reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s most famous book, complete with homemade crown and a wild rumpus in the woods with fierce, wonderful creatures.
But the similarities end right there. Night Animals is no children’s book. From the graphic details in the visuals to the dark, oppressive themes, this is a book for grown-ups. Or – especially in the case of “Bad Friends” – well-adjusted teens at least.
Since this is a column about big-concept, adventure comics, I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to talk about the Silver Age, especially as DC did it. A lot of fans, myself included, point to DC’s Silver Age as something we want to see more of: angst-free characters facing bold concepts in stories that don’t take more than an issue or two to tell and don’t crossover into other series. A lot of older fans grew up at least at the tail end of the Silver Age, so we recall those comics as the kind we enjoyed when we were kids. And if we enjoyed them, then our kids might too. For that reason, the Silver Age sometimes becomes a rallying point for grown up fans who wish their children had good superhero comics to read. But, was it really everything we remember it as?
I’ve been going through DC’s Showcase Presents Aquaman volumes recently and just finished the second one, which takes me through the birth of Aquababy. The reason for this is that I’m fascinated by Aquaman’s reputation as a lame character. I’ve been trying to unravel it on my own blog for a while now and have found numerous examples of industry professionals who love Aquaman and defend his concept. By all rights, he should be an awesome character. So why does the world at large give him such a hard time? The only way to find out was to stop reading what other people think and visit his stories for myself. I don’t know that I’m any closer to my answer about Aquaman, but I have learned one important, broader lesson. The Silver Age kind of sucked.
It’s not just Aquaman’s solo series. I’ve been reading Silver Age Justice League stuff too as well as odd issues of World’s Finest and Brave and the Bold. And though I’m focusing on DC, this isn’t just their trouble. Try reading all the way through Essential Ant Man sometime. I dare you. The problems I have with Aquaman’s series apply to the early adventures of (Gi)Ant Man and the Wasp as well.
Written and Illustrated by Charles Burns
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
I’m sure I’ve used that quote before when talking about serialized comics. One nice thing about trade-waiting is that you tend to get complete stories and I’ve grown used to that. And like being used to it. To the point that when Pantheon sent me a copy of Charles Burns’ X’ed Out, I didn’t read it right away because I knew it was only the first chapter in a continuing saga. The instinct to hold off until it was done kicked in right away and I put it on my shelf unread. And then all the accolades started pouring out of my computer screen.
When Chris Mautner told me it was his favorite comic of the year, I finally caved. Chris and I don’t have exactly the same tastes, but they cross over enough that when I realized I had his #1 pick for 2010 just sitting there unread – and it’s pretty short – I figured I’d end the year with it. What could it hurt?
Little did I know. The bastards.
The Unsinkable Walker Bean
Written and Illustrated by Aaron Renier
First Second; $13.99
As popular as pirates are, you’d think there’d be more comics featuring them. Certainly there’ve been some good ones over the years. Isaac the Pirate and Polly and the Pirates immediately come to mind, but the most recent of those is more than two years old. And even then, that’s not a lot of pirate comics for a time when Jack Sparrow was the hottest thing going at the box office. Since then, there’s been what? Boom! did a nice one-shot called Pirate Tales about four years ago and there was also Galveston, a pirate-Western mash-up by the same publisher, in 2008. That’s not a lot, but maybe I’m missing some. Let me know in the comments. It’s hard to believe that we haven’t even had a licensed Pirates of the Caribbean comic yet (outside of some short stories in the old Disney Adventures Magazine). That sounds like a no-brainer.
One reason for the shortage of pirate comics may be that it’s damn hard, apparently, to write an original pirate story. I interviewed Chuck Dixon about it back when he was promoting CrossGen’s El Cazador. When I asked him how we end up with so many bad pirate stories, he said that the problem is not having a story in the first place, but relying on a string of clichés and hoping that’ll suffice. As anyone who’s seen Cutthroat Island or that Walter Matthau movie will tell you, that’s true. You need a lot more than just peg legs, buried treasure, and a character who talks like Robert Newton.
Aaron Renier’s doing his part though. The Unsinkable Walker Bean is as original as it is swashbuckling and adventurous. It’s the story of a young boy named Walker Bean who’s never been to sea, but comes from an ocean-faring family. In fact, his father and grandfather both serve in the navy of the fictional country they belong to.
FX2: The Lost Land
Written by Wayne Osborne; Illustrated by Uko Smith
In FX2, Wayne Osborne takes analogues to various superheroes and other adventurous characters and archetypes and then mashes them into a story so packed that it may just include the kitchen sink as well. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that, but I suspect that readers will have mixed feelings about it. I certainly waffled about it a few times.
If we re-replace the FX characters with the ones they’re standing in for, the story’s about Green Lantern and Spider-Man’s attempt to rescue a bunch of high school kids from the Mole Man. The villain has appeared from the ground in the middle of a football game and taken his captives back into the Earth. Among the kidnap victims is Mary Jane Watson, who’s transformed by Tyrannus into the Hulk (she becomes too dumb and uses the word “smash” too much to be a She-Hulk analogue).
The characters don’t stay in the caves forever though. When the Hulk disappears, the heroes follow her to the Savage Land where they meet up with Ka-Zar and learn the horrifying truth about what the bad guys are really up to. There’s far more at stake than the lives of a few kids.
Time again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for fun, new adventure comics!
Muppet Sherlock Holmes – Because I’ve mentioned every other Sherlock Holmes comic in Previews for the last year. And because it’s the Muppets.
Swiss Family Robinson – I love the Disney movie. Maybe I’ll like this adaptation of the classic, island adventure novel too.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Jekyll/Hyde adaptations succeed or fail on the depiction of Hyde. I’m not totally convinced that Campfire’s the company to present a truly horrific Hyde, but it’s worth checking into.
King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel#1 – I’m disappointed that Dark Horse is skipping so far ahead in Conan’s career. I’d like to think that this is just a one-off mini-series, but their pronouncement that “a thrilling new era begins” makes me wonder. Still, I do like the King Conan era, so as long as they’re not completely abandoning the plan to chronicle his earlier careers, no harm I guess.
Brian Clevinger first came to my attention with Atomic Robo and I’ve been a big fan ever since. Anyone who writes dialogue like “I beat them with my violence” is aces with me.
Of course, by the time Atomic Robo came to town, Clevinger was already a familiar name to fans of his award-winning webcomic 8-Bit Theater. And he’s becoming known to even more folks with his Marvel work. He wrote the back-up stories for World War Hulks: Wolverine vs. Captain America as well as the mini-series that features a space trucker and the line, “Doom does not mop”: Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet. And starting next month, he’ll be writing the WWII adventures of Captain America in Captain America: The Fighting Avenger.
Let’s get to know him:
Q: Who’s your personal hero?
A: My grandfather is an obvious choice. My parents too. They’re good people.
Q: What’s your morning routine?
A: First Charlie wakes me up 10 seconds before my alarm goes off. It looks like this. Then my alarm goes off. Then I feed the damn cats, start some coffee, check my email, skim Twitter, poke at a couple websites, and get to work.
Time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new adventure comics.
Flash Gordon: Mercy Wars #0 – Ardden’s releasing what was formerly an exclusive comic for NYCC 2008. This has already been included in the Mercy Wars collection, but if you like the periodical format and didn’t make it to New York two years ago, here you go.
FreakAngels, Volume 5 - I really need to get on the ball and start checking these out.
Jules Vernes’ A Journey to the Center of the Earth and Jules Vernes’ 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – I’m not a big Verne fan, but I always like looking at adaptations of his novels, because they often correct some of the things I don’t like about his work.
The Hound of the Baskervilles – I am a big Doyle fan, so I like Holmes adaptations for a whole other set of reasons. Baskervilles is one of my favorites, because I always like to see if the artist can make the moor as spooky a place as I imagine it to be.
When we were over at Newsarama, I used to do these creator profile pieces that were a lot of fun. They were fun for me at least, because I always came away from them with an insight into some of my favorite creators that I never got from the typical project-oriented interviews. I mean, where else are you going to learn about a writer’s work-out routine or an artist’s favorite shirt?
So, once a month I’d like to use this space for a different kind of look at the creators of the fun kinds of comics we usually talk about here. I hope you’ll dig it as much as I do.
First up is Kelly Sue DeConnick who got started in the biz translating manga for VIZ and Tokyopop before doing some Image anthologies (most of which featured robots) and 30 Days of Night: Eben & Stella for IDW. Nowadays, of course, you’ll find her name all over Marvel comics in anthologies like Age of Heroes and Girl Comics and one-shots like Sif and Rescue. You may have also noticed that Osborn, her first mini-series for Marvel, just launched today.
Let’s get to know her:
Q: Who’s your personal hero?
A: Man. After far more deliberation that I really should cop to, I’m going to go with Laurenn McCubbin. There are about a bazillion ways to interpret “personal hero.” I’m going with the person from whom I think I have the most to learn, the person I wish I were more like.
Laurenn’s exceptionally courageous and open-minded, two areas where I think I could be improved. More impressive still, she has the extraordinary willingness to be wrong. Do you know what I mean by that? Laurenn is one of the few people you’ll ever meet who will go into an argument with you willing to change her mind. She doesn’t seem to have her ego wrapped up in any of that. You don’t really realize how rare that is until you meet someone like her. I think it’s tremendously evolved.
I suck at being wrong. I’m embarrassed by it.
Good thing it happens so very rarely.