Once in a while, when I go into the comics shop to snag my weekly pile, there will be something on the shelf that catches totally unaware. On Oct. 2, I was delighted to discover the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Liberty Annual 2013 (published by Image Comics). Given that all the proceeds from the book (previewed here at CBR) benefit the CBLDF, I wanted to interview Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie, who directed the project. While I had his attention, I couldn’t pass up the chance to discuss some of the Dark Horse line as well.
Tim O’Shea: While seemingly an obvious question, I still think it worth asking: Why is it so important to you to volunteer your time for a project like the CBLDF Liberty Annual?
Scott Allie: Free speech is a near and dear cause, for me and for Dark Horse, and it’s still an uphill battle for comics. There are preconceptions about this art form that invite attacks, and we need to work to defend against that. I want creators and publishers to be free to put out what they want to put out, and for retailers to sell it without fear of prosecution, for readers to travel with their books without fear of incarceration. The CBLDF isn’t just about raising money in court cases. They’re about educating the population about the art form we love, and I want to be a part of that.
Abe Sapien had a rough 2012, having spent much of the year in a coma. But 2013 doesn’t look to be any easier for the B.P.R.D. agent — as it’s set to be both dark and terrible.
“He’d spent some time out of action as a field agent, and then got back involved in time to see Liz Sherman ignite the center of the world, releasing monsters and all sorts of other problems across the surface of the earth,” Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie said about Abe’s activities pre-coma. “He and the rest of the B.P.R.D. crew launched into action, fighting monsters all over, and eventually Abe was taken out by a young psychic girl during a mission in Texas. Since Abe’s been in the coma, in a life-support cocoon, his body has been changing …”
His story will continue with Abe Sapien: The Dark and Terrible, a new series written by Mike Mignola and Allie and illustrated by Sebastian Fiumara (Loki, Mystery in Space). Debuting April 3, the comic is the first issue of a “maxi-series” that will follow Abe as he travels across America, on the run from the B.P.R.D., as monsters continue to wreak havoc on the country — and as his own body continues to change in frightening ways.
I spoke with co-writer Allie about this new chapter in Abe’s story, and what it’s like to collaborate with Mignola.
Comics strips | An original 1986 Sunday installment of Calvin and Hobbes, drawn and hand-colored by Bill Watterson, has sold at auction for $203,150. The piece had been owned by Adam@Home and Red and Rover cartoonist Brian Basset, who exchanged original comics with Watterson in 1986. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Best of the year | The Top Ten lists are coming thick and fast now. Michael Cavna counts down his favorites of the year, which include Chris Ware’s Building Stories, Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, and Matt Dembicki’s Washington, D.C.-focused anthology, District Comics. [The Washington Post]
Best of the year | … and George Gene Gustines weighs in with his list. [The New York Times]
In a recent superhero comic, the artist introduced a character who was notable for his small stature. Nowhere in the first 20-odd-page issue did you see him clearly in scale next to normal-sized characters that demonstrated he was small. This was covered in passing in the dialogue. That’s bad comics. If you were telling this story over a campfire, one of the first things you’d say is that this guy was very short; you might make it specific, with a comparison. In comics, the art should do that for you. Something about a picture painting a thousand words. Visual info should be conveyed visually.
– Dark Horse editor Scott Allie, not referring to the specific panel above, but talking about the same thing.
Allie writes at length about the importance of visual storytelling to comics. He uses lots of examples, both positive and negative, but one of my favorites is when he points at some Alan Moore comics to prove that it doesn’t matter how talented the writer is. If the artist doesn’t convey the right information, the comic’s going to suck.
This isn’t to say that the art is more important than the writing. That’s not true, and neither is the reverse. What’s true is that art and words BOTH have to do their parts to make a good comic.
Publishing | Dark Horse editor Scott Allie explains the publisher’s plan to start numbering B.P.R.D. sequentially, starting with #100, rather than as “an ongoing series of miniseries”: “The reason to make the change was in part how many times [San Francisco retailer and industry pundit] Brian Hibbs told me, ‘Well, really B.P.R.D. is an ongoing…’ And he’s right. Another part of the reason is that as we’ve moved into doing more short stories — two- or three-issue stories — we get those new issue #1′s too often. You do new #1′s to give readers jumping on points, but when they’re coming so quickly it becomes more confusing than anything else. Depending on how retailers rack, you could have two or three B.P.R.D. #1′s on the shelf at a time, and it’s hard for readers or retailer to know what to read next. So while I know it will cause a little confusion to suddenly have #100 out there, a few months down the road it’ll make everything simpler.” [Comics Alliance]
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.
Webcomics | Philip Hofer, the creator of the ComicPress WordPress theme used by many webcomics artists, discusses that and his new WordPress product, Comic Easel. [The Webcomic Beacon]
Creators | Peter Bagge talks about his comics and his relationship with Robert Crumb as both a contributor to and editor of Crumb’s anthology Weirdo: “With the style of work that I do, I like it to look on the surface like it’s shallow and stupid, but when you read it, the context is really sweet; [Crumb] saw that right away. I remember telling him ‘I have some story ideas, using fictional characters that are stand-ins for me, and I’m remembering things that are embarrassing and hard to write about. Even though I’m hiding behind a fictional character, I’m nervous talking about embarrassing events from my past. I’m a little bit afraid. He said ‘Those are exactly the stories you need to tell, especially if it won’t go away, and are always in the back of your head.’” [Graphic NYC]
Creators | Daniel Kalder looks at the state of French comics tradition following the death last month of Jean Giraud, the influential artist widely known as Moebius, and finds it’s in the capable hands of David B (“one of the most sophisticated cartoonists in the world”) and Nicolas de Crecy (“the ‘mad genius’ of French comics”). [The Guardian]
Creators | Tom Spurgeon talks to Michael Cho about what sounds like a really interesting project, his book Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes: “Because I don’t have an affinity for drawing a pastoral landscape. [laughs] You know what I mean? I’ve never lived in that environment, so I can’t draw that thing with confidence. When I close my eyes I don’t visualize that with any confidence. But a city is something I’m surrounded with constantly. With alleyways and lane ways and how light poles connect up to transformer towers which have extra leads leading down to the basement apartment. I can see that when I close my eyes, you know?” [The Comics Reporter]
When Editor Scott Allie told Comic Book Resources that Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 would take Buffy’s story “back to human issues … some of the biggest issues anyone can face,” fans knew he was alluding to her mysterious pregnancy. But with Issue 6, in stores today, the Slayer deals with her new situation head on, answering a question readers have been debating since last issue’s big revelation.
Spoiler warning: The following addresses a major plot point from Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 #6.
Following the teaser they sent out last week, Dark Horse Comics has announced five new B.P.R.D. titles that’ll be released next year and will “shake the organization to its very core.”
Here’s the line-up:
- First up, in February comes B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Long Death, written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, with art by James Harren (Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest, Heralds). A team is sent to the deadly woods from New World to investigate a new series of disappearances, but they discover more than just the monster responsible, as loyalties are questioned and tensions mount!
- March will see the release of B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror, written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie, with art by Jason Latour (Wolverine, Scalped) and an all-new cover by Becky Cloonan. This chilling two-issue series brings a B.P.R.D. crew into the grips of a backwoods vampire clan hiding out in a Gothic southern home.
- Next, in May comes B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Transformation of J. H. O’Donnell, pairing Mike Mignola with Scott Allie again for the discovery of what drove the Bureau’s expert on ancient foes to near madness after a mission with Hellboy 24 years earlier. This supernatural thrill ride features art by B.P.R.D. newcomer Max Fiumara (Amazing Spider-Man) and a cover by Becky Cloonan.
- That same month features the return of the regular B.P.R.D. team of Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Tyler Crook, with B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Devil’s Engine. The Zinco Corporation again rears its ugly head after a devastating earthquake, pitting Devon and Fenix in an uneasy alliance against bat-faced monsters and the evil empire’s other mad-science experiments! Additionally, this new series will feature covers by former Hellboy artist Duncan Fegredo.
- Finally, Cameron Stewart returns to the B.P.R.D. universe in June with B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Exorcism. In this story we learn more about Ashley Strode’s evolution as an agent after she meets up with a familiar face for a series of exorcisms in a rural Indiana town. Mike Mignola and Cameron Stewart team up to share writing duties, with pencils by Cameron and covers by Viktor Kalvachev.
“Let’s break some stuff that can’t be fixed. Let’s turn some corners where there’s no going back,” said Mike Mignola in a press release. “In both Hellboy and B.P.R.D., we’re saying, ‘Well, once we do this—once we round this corner—that’s it!’ It’s not like, ‘Oh, Batman, different costume.’ We’re doing stuff where there’s no way to fix it. That is the new reality in our world. You’re REALLY going to see that in 2012.”
Earlier this year Jim Gibbons, publicity coordinator for Dark Horse Comics, made the jump from the publicity side of the business to the creative, as he became an assistant editor for the publisher. Old habits are hard to break, though, so when he emailed me recently to suggest a few possible interview subjects he’s been working with in his new role, I thought I’d see if he’d be interested in answering a few questions about his new job.
We spoke with Gibbons, who is also a Wizard Magazine alum, about his move to Dark Horse back in 2009, so catching up with him again about his new role seems to bring everything full circle. My thanks to Jim for agreeing to answer my questions.
JK: When did you start working for Dark Horse, and what were you hired to do?
Jim: I was hired on as a publicity coordinator in 2009. In fact, Sean T. Collins interviewed me about being hired by Dark Horse for Robot 6 way back when! As a publicity coordinator, I was responsible for arranging stories (interviews, previews, artists process pieces, etc) with a number of different online outlets and just generally doing everything in my power to get coverage for Dark Horse projects both big and small. I was (Still am!) a massive comics fan, so making it my business to learn the ins and outs of numerous different comics and graphic novels in order to promote them properly was a pretty fun way to make a living. At a certain point, putting in a lot of effort to increase the amounts of online publicity Dark Horse was getting on top of my passion for these projects and comics in general gained me some recognition by folks like Dark Horse president/publisher/head honcho Mike Richardson, VP of marketing Micha Herschman, senior managing editor Scott Allie, editor Sierra Hahn and my old boss, the director of publicity, Jeremy Atkins and the prospect of moving over to editorial was put on the table. (A big, big thank you to those fine folks, by the way! Especially Scott Allie and Sierra Hahn—many, many thanks!) I excitedly confirmed I’d love to move to the editorial department and when the stars aligned, I was transitioned from one dream job to the next!
“The legacy of his artistic storytelling and abilities played a key role in cementing the enduring popularity of characters like Daredevil, Iron Man, Howard the Duck, Blade and Dr. Strange, and garnered him praise and fans the world over,” columnist George Khoury said in an obituary on Comic Book Resources this morning.
In lieu of flowers, Colan’s friend Clifford Meth is asking folks to contribute to a scholarship being set up in Colan’s name for The Kubert School. Details on how to donate can be found on Meth’s blog.
Fellow creators, fans and friends of Gene Colan are sharing memories. Here are a few; as always, click through to see the entirety of what they have to say about one of comics’ legendary artists:
Clifford Meth: “I knew this day would come but it came too quickly. It’s been a rare pleasure working with Gene. He knew who he was—how valuable his contributions to the world of comic art have been—how prized it remains by so many. Yet he never felt less than grateful to anyone who’d even read a single panel that he’d drawn. Until he was too weak to hold a pencil, he put his whole kishkes into everything he drew—whether it was a $5000 commission or a small drawing for someone’s child. And he was never satisfied with his artwork but always eager to learn a little more, do a little better, try something new. At 84.”
The Monday before Halloween, as well as the Monday before the release of the Beasts of Burden/Hellboy one-shot (Set for release this Wednesday from Dark Horse), was the ideal time for an interview with writer/artist Jill Thompson. October has been busy for Dark Horse and Thompson, given that earlier in the month the publisher released the new hardcover Scary Godmother collection of the four “Eisner Award-winning, fully painted children’s books … (Scary Godmother, Revenge of Jimmy, The Mystery Date, and The Boo Flu)”. The prospect of new Scary Godmother was a great topic to cover with Thompson, as well as learning her thoughts on how she creates certain tales and how organic the creative process is for her. Thanks to Dark Horse’s Jim Gibbons for arranging this interview, and I offer a great deal of gratitude to Thompson for this discussion.
Tim O’Shea: How satisfying is it to have all of the fully-painted Scary Godmother stories repackaged into one book? You considered teaming with different publishers to collect the stories, but what factors motivated you to go with Dark Horse?
Jill Thompson: Well, the original books, published by Sirius Entertainment had been out of print for a long while and I was very anxious to find a way to get them back out to the reading public. Since there are two animated specials in seasonal rotation on the Cartoon Network I knew there were a great many new fans I could introduce or reintroduce to the original material. I’m so happy that the book is back in print and available at comic shops and bookstores and online.
As mentioned earlier this week on CBR, Dark Horse has released the January edition of MySpace Dark Horse Presents a little bit early. New stories by Mark Crilley, Scott Allie and Kevin McGovern, Jill Thompson and David Malki! all went live a little earlier today.
“We’re putting this one online early–usually MDHP goes up the first Wednesday of the month, but because of Diamond cutting off the shipment of new books on the final Wednesday in December, we thought it would be cool to deliver some comics ourselves on December 30,” Allie told CBR. “I wish it did something for the retailers that are missing a week’s revenue–a crucial week’s revenue–but at least readers will have 26 new pages of comics.”
You know him as the Dark Horse senior managing editor who’s got his hands all over the venerable Portland publisher’s horror line, from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy-verse to The Goon to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to titles he himself has written, like The Devil’s Footprints and the Robert E. Howard adaptation Solomon Kane. But Scott Allie’s expertise in the world of weird has not gone unnoticed outside the comics sphere: He’s a regular (well, slightly less than regular — let’s say “recurring”) columnist at the horror news site Dread Central.
His latest column articulates his preferences in no uncertain term, taking swipes at the “nihilism” of horror films like Wolf Creek and Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake and praising the sleazy heart and soul of knowing romps through the genre like Tim Seeley’s comic Hack/Slash. If you’re a horror fan, any column that contains sentences like “When I saw the new Friday the 13th, I was glad to see nudity back in horror films” is worth reading and arguing over, so do check it and the rest of the archives out.