Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
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.
I have to admit, I was surprised to learn that Rob Liefeld’s relaunched Extreme Studios line had received attention on the online news magazine Slate, and reading the article itself, I realized why: It presumes Liefeld has done something he actually hasn’t. Writing about the transformation of Prophet, Glory and Bloodstrike at the hands of Brandon Graham, Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell et al., David Weigel says that Liefeld “open-sourced” the characters, noting that “every copyright holder should be this generous, and this clever.”
Of course, this isn’t what happened; Liefeld still owns the characters, and Graham, Keatinge, Campbell and everyone else is working for him in much the same way other creators have worked for Todd McFarlane on Spawn, Marc Silvestri on his various Top Cow characters, or even Marvel and DC for decades now. It’s not really “open source” comics at all, because there’s still an “official” centralized canon version of the characters, and the material isn’t available for free for all to use as they wish. But reading the misconception made me wonder: What if Liefeld had open-sourced the characters?
Creators | For Slate’s “Doers” feature — “People who accomplish great things, and how they do it” — David Wiegel spotlights Rob Liefeld’s decision to revive his Extreme Studios line by handing over the properties to creators like Brandon Graham, Joe Keatinge and Tim Seeley. Acknowledging his critics prefer these new versions of Glory, Prophet and Bloodstrike to his originals, Liefeld tells the website, ““The internet snark has zero effect on me. I was there 20 years ago, I’m out there on the convention circuit, I experience the real and tangible enthusiasm for me and my work. You can’t rewrite the history books, you can’t eliminate the impact of my work and my characters. […] Rob Liefeld is to today as Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan are to my kids.” [Slate.com]
Passings | Paul Gravett pays tribute to the late British writer and critic Les Coleman. [Paul Gravett]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald reports that shareholders of Platinum Studios held a conference call Wednesday, with President Chris Beall sending a letter to founder Scott Rosenberg suspending him indefinitely as the company’s chief executive officer. Rich Johnston posted the press release announcing the call, and some of the topics on the agenda were fairly jaw-dropping. [The Beat]
Publishing | Andrews McMeel Publishing and Universal UClick (which are different divisions of the same company) are collaborating on a new line of digital comics, Udig, which collects themed newspaper strips into short e-books (the one I checked had 55 comics) for $2.99 each. [Good E-Reader]
Creators | Michael Cavna talks to cartoonist Richard Thompson in-depth about his Parkinson’s disease, its effect on his cartooning, and the brain surgery he had this year to combat it, and shows the cartoon Thompson drew during the surgery. The story includes an update on how Thompson has been doing since the surgery and interviews with other cartoonists, including a rare comment from Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, about Thompson’s work and his struggle against the illness. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, whose offices were firebombed in 2011 after it published cartoons mocking Mohammed, has released a comic-book biography of the Muslim prophet. Editor Stephane Charbonnier, who has lived under police protection since the magazine first published the cartoons, says the biography is a properly researched educational work edited by Muslims: “I don’t think higher Muslim minds could find anything inappropriate.” [AFP]
Yesterday Image Comics released two new books by Brandon Graham.
One was Prophet #30, the latest issue of the critically acclaimed sci-fi/fantasy series based on a resuscitated and reimagined Rob Liefeld-created property. Graham writes Prophet, and only very occasionally draws parts of it, while the lion’s share of the illustration duties has fallen to a rotating cast of talented artists, including Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple and Giannis Milonogiannis. Despite that it’s not all his in the way most of his other comics work has been, it has brought a lot of attention to the talented young creator, and kept his name and work in the reading audience’s mind in a way more occasionally published graphic novels just can’t do.
The other book was Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1, which is both written and drawn by Graham, and isn’t based on a Rob Liefeld-created property. This one is all Graham’s and, in that respect, is probably a better example of what the next work from the guy who did King City is – it’s Graham’s latest comics work, and his truest follow up to King City.
But the characters, their world and their story have been around for quite a while now, traveling on an orbit that takes them from inside Graham’s mind and imagination out into the public eye, and back again; while the lines on these pages might be newer, aspects of Multiple Warheads pre-dates Graham’s Prophet work and at least large chunks of his King City.
Retailing | The Manchester, Connecticut, comics store Buried Under Comics will reopen with a new name, A Hero’s Journey, and a new owner, April Kenney. A friend of previous owner Brian Kozicki, who died unexpectedly last month, Kenney arranged to purchase the store from Kozicki’s family. [Patch.com]
Retailing | Toronto retailer Silver Snail has moved from its longtime location on Queen Street to Yonge Street. [CityNews]
Publishing | Brian Smith, the DC Comics associate editor publicly ridiculed by Rob Liefeld last month, has announced his departure from the company, apparently under amicable circumstances. Nonetheless, Liefeld took a parting shot on Twitter. [Blog@Newsarama]
This week Image Comics released the first trade paperback for Glory, on the heels of the collection of Prophet, two parts of one of the publisher’s more interesting ventures this year: the revival of older, Rob Liefeld-created characters and properties by some of comics’ most creative and individual voices, artists whose style couldn’t be further from Liefeld’s (although, like Liefeld’s, are perhaps just as instantly recognizable) .
The Liefeld-by-others aspect was pushed by the publisher as something of a Marvel-esque gimmick with these books (and their companion titles Supreme and Youngblood), numbering the first issues not with #1’s, but by picking up the numbering wherever it left off, so that the first issue of the new Prophet, for example, was Prophet #21, and the new Glory began with Glory #23.
In a sign of just how successful the books have been (creatively, if not financially; I ‘m only speaking to the former and ignoring the latter in this column), it’s worth noting that these trades are titled Prophet Vol. 1: Remission and Glory Vol. 1: The Once and Future Destroyer. That is, now Image is selling them as their own stories with their own beginnings, and have moved past the gimmick.
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!”
The Twitter tirade unleashed by Rob Liefeld last week when he announced his abrupt departure from three DC Comics titles boiled over this weekend as the outspoken creator took aim at Batman writer Scott Snyder and Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort.
On Wednesday Liefeld, who had been writing and penciling Deathstroke and plotting Grifter and The Savage Hawkman, criticized DC for what he described as ‘massive indecision, last minute and I mean LAST minute changes that alter everything” and “editor pissing contests,” singling out Associate Editor Brian Smith as “a little bitch” and “a big dick.”
Snyder, among other creators, came to Smith’s defense on Twitter, writing that, “from my small experience with him, [Smith] has been a great guy to work with. To be fair, I know absolutely nothing of what went on on Rob’s books (Rob has always been really supportive of me and Jeff and others). But I’d feel bad, having worked with Smitty on N.O.T.O. [“Night of the Owls”] and now Joker, […] if I didn’t say that he’s been a stand-up guy to deal with. Again, nothing against anyone, just deal w/Smitty every week now, and I’d feel bad not saying.”
About that time Liefeld tweeted to his followers, “It’s not you. It never has been. It’s Batman.” That apparently triggered a direct-message exchange with Snyder that Liefeld later made public, first by copying the writer’s private comment, “I can assure you Batman doesn’t sell the way it does because it’s Batman. It sells that way because of me and Greg [Capullo],” and then by posting screencaps (below).
“After that Twitter flame-out, I can’t say I’d be in a hurry to get onto that train.”
— Tom Brevoort, Marvel senior vice president and executive editor, responding to a question on Formspring about whether, following Rob Liefeld’s abrupt exit from DC Comics, there’s a chance the creator could return to the House of Ideas.
Brevoort is, of course, referring to the flurry of tweets that began early Wednesday with Liefeld announcing he had walked off Deathstroke, Grifter and The Savage Hawkman because of “massive indecision, last minute and I mean LAST minute changes that alter everything” and “editor pissing contests.” The tirade, which included Liefeld referring to an editor as “a little bitch” and “a big dick,” and giving his name, has continued through this morning.
Rob Liefeld, who teased last month on the heels of Grant Morrison that he too would be leaving DC Comics soon, announced his abrupt departure this morning with a flurry of tweets criticizing his editors and the handling of the New 52. Although he’s listed in the solicitations for Deathstroke, Grifter and The Savage Hawkman through November, the writer/artist states that next month’s zero issues will be his last.
“Officially got off the DC52 treadmill this morning,” he wrote, adding, “I believe in what DC is doing, but had to preserve my sanity. I walked off all 3 books. Can’t wait to see any attempts to spin. I have every email.”
Liefeld was among the original creators when DC launched the New 52 a year ago, penciling and later also writing Hawk & Dove before moving in May to Deathstroke (writing and penciling), The Savage Hawkman and Grifter (plotting both).
“This is the 4th time I quit in the last 4 months. This time it will stick,” he wrote from a theater, where he was watching The Expendables 2. “Never thought the Image section of my book would be topped. This last year was a humdinger. The DC52 chapters will go top all of it. […] Reasons are the same as everyone’s that you hear. I lasted a few months longer than I thought possible. Massive indecision, last minute and I mean LAST minute changes that alter everything. Editor pissing contests… No thxnjs. Last week my editor said ‘early on we had a lot of indie talent that weren’t used to re-writes and changes … made it hard.’ Uh, no, it’s you.”
Liefeld is only the latest creator to exit DC’s New 52 titles amid complaints of a relaunch plagued behind the scenes by disorganization and indecision. Notably, George Perez expressed his frustration over the repeated rewrites and lack of creative freedom that he contends led to his run on Superman being cut short.
“Don’t look for any tell all interview with me,” Liefeld added. “Just follow this feed. … the best stuff has not been shared — not even close!”
Before Rob Liefeld hired Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell to relaunch Glory, my knowledge about the character was limited to her being some sort of Wonder Woman analog. Because I never had a desire to see Liefeld’s version of Wonder Woman, I’d always ignored the character and her series. However, it was impossible to ignore Campbell’s designs for her, even if I hadn’t been writing a blog series on comics named after and starring female superheroes.
I’m embarrassed to say I was unfamiliar with Keatinge’s work before Glory, but I liked Campbell’s Shadoweyes a lot and especially loved how buff his Glory was in the promo art. She’s feminine, but she’s body-builder feminine, with shoulders and upper arms that would make the Hulk think twice about tussling with her. Under Campbell’s pen, her ridiculously long hair (a product of her ‘90s origins) makes her look alien and purposely strange instead of just goofy and dated. It’s even cooler in the comic when she braids those Medusa-like tresses into pigtails that look like they could be used as weapons themselves. Glory is attractive, but weirdly so and her looks are at the bottom of the priority list not only for herself, but also for Keatinge, Campbell and the entire cast of the series.
What’s at the top is characterization, though it’s slow burning; sometimes maddeningly so. Not knowing anything about Glory before the relaunch with Issue 23, I’m not sure how much of her background is Keatinge, how much is Liefeld, and how much is from previous writers Jo Duffy and Alan Moore. But Keatinge takes what sounds like a typical origin for early-Image characters — Glory is the hybrid child of an Amazon and a demon; born to cement an alliance between the warring races — and gives it some serious emotional weight.
Keatinge and Campbell present Glory as a dangerously unpredictable warrior who serves her own agenda instead of the one chosen for her by her parents (who never really saw eye-to-eye on what they wanted her to accomplish anyway). Glory has noble goals and a desire to protect the people of her adopted Earth, but she’s also a victim of her demonic heritage and can be as much a danger to her allies as to the invading monsters that are trying to drag her back towards her destiny. She’s thoroughly alien both in appearance and action.
Sorry, Rob Liefeld and Mark Millar.
I’m tempted not to explain that, and just leave this week’s column there, but I think there may be a word-count issue to deal with if I did. Also, it needs some explanation, I think, because it’s more to do with my prejudices and faults than anything else, and it’s always good to air those kinds of things publicly, he lied.
Here’s the thing: I was reading the Ed Brubaker interview with Tom Spurgeon from this weekend — if you haven’t, you really should, because it’s wonderful stuff — and when I got to Brubaker explaining his reasons for leaving Captain America after nine years, I had one of those, “Oh, there’s that other shoe dropping” moments. “Partly, it’s the beginning a shift from work-for-hire to books I own, instead,” he said. “I hit a point with the work-for-hire stuff where I was starting to feel burned out on it. Like my tank is nearing empty on superhero comics, basically. It’s been a great job, and I think I found ways to bring my voice to it, but I have a lot of other things I want to do as a writer, too, so I’m going to try that for a while instead.”
In the comics boom of the mid-’90s, a number of new creators burst onto the scene. Dan Fraga was hired fresh out of high school in 1991 to draw for Rob Liefeld’s line of comics at the then-newly launched Image Comics. He disappeared from the comic shelves around the turn of the century, but now he’s popping up in the most unlikely of places: directing a television show for comedian Ricky Gervais.
To jog your memory, Fraga made his comics debut in the pages of Youngblood, and went on to do his own creator-owned work like Black Flag and Gear Station as well as work for the Big Two on everything from What If? to Superman. But in 2000 Fraga segued out of comics to become a storyboard artist for films like Transporter 2 and the second Fantastic Four movie. In 2010 a gig doing storyboards for an MTV series called The Hard Times of RJ Berger led to the producers expanding his role to direct animated scenes for the show. That in turn got him the offer to direct Ricky Gervais’ self-titled animated show based on his pre-recorded podcasts.
“While the show is from preexisting podcasts, Ricky worked with us to make sure that what we did coincided with what he wanted for the show,” Fraga said in an interview with Examiner.com. “He was a fun guy to work with and had great notes.”
In addition to directing this show, Fraga says that he’s working on a pilot for Adult Swim as well as a novel. You can catch up to Fraga and his work over at his blog, FragaBoom!