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!
“The Hipsters don’t know what to do when I draw feet. It confuses them.”
– Rob Liefeld, following the release of DC Comics’ solicitations for July, which include his covers for
The Savage Hawkman #11, Deathstroke #11, and Grifter #11. Characters’ feet are visible in all three images.
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.
The next phase of the New 52 begins in May, as six new titles debut and Rob Liefeld carves out his own niche with a handful of others. My first impressions of the Next Six remain largely positive, but we’ll get into that in a bit.
SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (GOLDEN AGE EDITION)
Basically, what we know about Earth-2 so far is that it has its own (multi-generational) version of the Trinity, it’s home to Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and probably Ted Grant, and at some point Darkseid invades. This does not mean that everyone who first appeared during the Golden Age still did. Indeed, we can suppose that, because the New-52 Huntress is apparently in her early 30s (at most, I’m guessing), that would make her parents at least 50-ish and probably closer to 60 or even 70. Thus, the Earth-2 Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle could have become Batman and Catwoman anywhere from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. It’s a significant change from the original Earth-Two, where Helena Wayne was born in the early 1950s and became the Huntress in the late ’70s.
Rob Liefeld said on Twitter that after four issues, his collaboration with writer Robert Kirkman, The Infinite, “is over.”
“Unfortunately creative differences have sunk The Infinite. It’s over,” he said, noting in another post that he and Kirkman’s Skybound imprint disagreed on an inker Liefeld was using for half of issue #5.
“Artistically, I’ll continue to seek out talented collaborators to work with that keeps me energized for the next 25 years,” he said, adding, “For 10 years all my printed work was printed from my pencils. Now I’m re-discovering the appeal of working with a variety of inkers.”
Word about The Infinite ending follows the news that another Liefeld book, DC’s Hawk & Dove, is also coming to an end. But despite that, Liefeld still has a pretty full plate, as he will start working on three other DC Comics in May, and his Extreme Studios properties continue to relaunch from a variety of creators.
Controversial artist Rob Liefeld — and by “controversial” I mean people tend to either love his work or hate it — seems to be in one of the most productive phases of his recent career, drawing a monthly book for five consecutive issues, and about to take the reins as both writer and artist.
And the Liefeld-created Extreme Studios properties have returned to Image Comics, which is launching continuations of several of the books as part of an ambitious resurrection of Liefeld’s early-’90s characters.
And here’s the weird thing — the two aren’t connected.
Liefeld’s monthly book is DC’s current volume of Hawk and Dove*, a perennial lower-tier property conceived by artist Steve Ditko in the late 1960s. One of Liefeld’s first big breaks was a penciling gig on a Hawk and Dove series in the late ’80s, and DC has kept the characters around in one book or another almost ever since.
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This year marks the 20th anniversary of Image Comics, the company formed by a group of artists who left the security of work-for-hire comics to create and own their own comics. It’s been 20 years of ups and downs, but one thing that has remained consistent is a focus on creator-owned work.
With 2011 in the history books and their big anniversary kicking off with the first Image Expo, a new ad campaign and high-profile series by big-name creators like Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer and many more, I thought it was a good time to chat with Publisher Eric Stephenson about the state of the company, the year that was, their upcoming plans and anything else he was willing to talk about. My thanks to Eric for taking the time to answer my questions.
JK Parkin: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Eric. Incidentally, another feature we’re running as a part of our anniversary bash is one where we asked various comic industry folks about what they’re looking forward to in 2012. I got one back yesterday where the answer was basically “everything from Image Comics.” I find that interesting, because there’s a lot of diversity in Image’s line and although I think you guys probably publish something for every kind of taste, I wouldn’t think that every title would appeal to every comic reader. And yet I also find myself checking out at least the first issue of everything you guys have done lately. So from your perspective, what’s the unifying factor (or factors) right now among your titles, if there is one?
Stephenson: I think the main thing is that we’re moving forward and creating new things. We’re not content to just recycle the same old ideas month in and month out and then market it all as brand new. If this was another publisher, we’d be debuting our latest spin-off of The Walking Dead in March, but instead, we’re launching a new series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, a new series by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, a new series by Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz, and so on. For 20 years, Image has put its faith in creative people, and it’s the power of their imagination that links all our titles together, now more than ever.
I’ve been friendly with Joe Keatinge dating back to his days managing PR & marketing for Image Comics. When it was revealed back in October that Extreme Studios was relaunching the line–with Keatinge writing Glory (with Ross Campbell on art), I started generating questions for an interview. In addition to discussing Glory (which relaunches with Glory #23 on February 15, 2012), Keatinge opens up about Hell Yeah (Image), his creator-owned collaboration with artist/co-creator Andre Szymanowicz that premieres on March 7, 2012, as well as another upcoming 2012 project, Brutal, in collaboration with artist Frank Cho. My thanks to Keatinge for this email interview. After reading this piece, be sure to check out CBR’s Joe Keatinge coverage for more insight into the busy writer’s upcoming work.
Tim O’Shea: Did Rob Liefeld approach you to work on the Glory relaunch? Was Ross Campbell already committed to the project when you joined?
Joe Keatinge: While Rob was certainly involved with the process, I was actually approached by Image Comics Publisher and Extreme Editor, Eric Stephenson, almost a year ago now. At the time they had nailed down the idea of the line and I believe a couple of the other books may have had writers, but it was still in the very early stages. After that was the process of giving a quick pitch, which was virtually instantaneous to Eric asking if I wanted to do it, to developing a longer pitch, to Eric and I bringing Brandon Graham on board for Prophet, to discussing Glory with Brandon, to Brandon suggesting Ross Campbell, to seeing Ross’ amazing work and me asking him if he wanted to come on board. He did a few samples which blew away both Eric and Rob. We’ve been working on it ever since.