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Conversing on Comics with Ron Perazza

For the past 18 years, Ron Perazza has worked in and around the comics industry in virtually every facet of the medium. He’s best known for spearheading DC Comics’ first major foray into original webcomics content with the celebrated but sadly defunct Zuda initiative, but now he’s in a different place — but still doing what he’s always done: pushing to get comics in front of as many people as possible.

After working for 12 years at DC and briefly at digital-comics platform comiXology, Perazza is  pushing innovation in comics formats and delivery systems as a consultant for others and with his own initiatives. One of those is Comic Book Think Tank, an idea incubator of sorts for Perazza and collaborator Daniel Govar to examine and execute comics in a digital world. Their first release was the comic Relaunch, with more planned. I talked with Perazza about the future, and what led him down the path to where he is today.

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Comics A.M. | Brett Ewins out of jail; Ali Farzat continues to fight

Brett Ewins

Creators | Former 2000AD artist Brett Ewins has been freed on bail after a judge reduced his charge to assult. Ewins, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was accused of stabbing a police officer in a January altercation that left the 56-year-old artist hospitalized in serious condition. Because Ewins has already served nine months, part of it in a hospital (where he was in a coma), it’s unlikely he’ll have to go back behind bars. [Sex, Drugs, & Comic Books]

Creators | Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat, who escaped to Kuwait after the Syrian security police beat him and broke his hands, is now living in Egypt and continuing to draw cartoons supporting the Syrian revolution. “Fear has been defeated in Syria when the people marched 19 months ago against tyranny,” he said. “I began to directly draw people in power including Assad and his government officials, to break the barrier of fear, that chronic fear that Syrians suffered from for 50 years.” [Reuters]

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Rise again: Alexovich, Rausch on the return of Eldritch!

Eldritch #1

Back in April of 2010, writer Aaron Alexovich and artist Drew Rausch’s Eldritch! battled nine other webcomics to win the monthly competition held by DC Comics’ Zuda imprint. It was a hard-fought battle, and Eldritch! would ultimately earn the distinction of becoming the last Zuda winner, as DC shut down the competitions and ultimately the entire imprint soon after.

Eldritch! never had the opportunity to begin its run on the Zuda site, but that didn’t stop Rausch and Alexovich from pushing forward. A little more than a year after their victory, their comic is finally being released by the duo in various digital formats, including through Graphicly, comiXology and via the comic’s website.

The duo was kind enough to answer a few questions about and share some artwork from the new book. You can see even a longer preview on their site.

JK: Let’s start with a question about how this project initially came together. What made you guys decide to enter the monthly Zuda contest? And how did you guys know each other before all of this?

Drew: I was aware of Aaron’s existence from reading Serenity Rose way back when it was in single issues. I remember thinking “Man, this guy can write!” Seriously, each issue was a sequential novel. And I liked that. It had substance, wit and charm what with the “spooky” cute art. Eventually, I ended up asking Aaron to do a pin up for the second volume of my creator book Sullengrey. He and I just started chatting after that and found we both had a lot of similar tastes.

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Last Zuda winner comes back to life

Eldritch #1

Last year Drew Rausch and Aaron Alexovich’s Eldritch! was the winner of the final Zuda webcomics competition, but before the strip could begin its run, DC Comics shut down the site and imprint.

That might have slowed Rausch and Alexovich down, but it certainly didn’t stop them, as they plan to release Eldritch! “to every digital device known to God, Man, and Shoggoth alike, including your desktop, iPad/iPod/iPhone, Android, Nook, Kindle, and eNecronomicon (pending).” That includes Graphicly and comiXology, as well as directly from their website as a PDF.

The comic will debut on June 15 for 99 cents, and the first nine pages are available to preview now ontheir website.

You can find the press release, which is kind of a fun one as far as press releases go, after the jump.

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Zito, Trov and Maybury blast off for D.O.G.S. of Mars

from D.O.G.S. of Mars

Johnny Zito and Tony Trov, writers of Black Cherry Bombshells and Moon Girl, along with Christian Weiser and artist Paul Maybury (Aqua Leung, Party Bear), are teaming up with High Treason Pictures to tell the story of Zoe, “the swashbuckling captain of Earth’s first Martian colony. Isolated on the farthest frontier of civilization, order breaks down when unfamiliar hostiles invade. Zoe faces mutiny, death and dishonor; she must sacrifice her humanity if she hopes to survive.”

I spoke with Paul, Johnny and Tony about the new project, D.O.G.S. of Mars, due later this month. Like Zito and Trov’s Moon Girl, the comic will be released digitally via comiXology, with plans for a film down the line. Thanks to Paul for an exclusive look at some pages from the project; for more, check out this video he created.

JK: What is D.O.G.S. of Mars about?

Johnny: It’s about astronauts marooned on Mars and hunted by monsters. It’s like Lord of The Flies and Star Trek.

Paul: So far it’s about surviving as far as I know. This might sound stupid but I haven’t read the script past what I’ve drawn. This is less an action packed Monster book than a study of the character’s humanity in my opinion. I know roughly that characters die, but it’s more interesting to draw them scene to scene not knowing their fates. I feel like this creates an honesty and an interest in each character as I draw them that I might not have if I know they happen to be a throw away character that gets killed three pages later. Like I said, that probably sounds pretty stupid.

Tony: We like to describe the project as being in the genre of space-ploitation.

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Mike Jasper and Niki Smith chart a new course for In Maps and Legends

Mike Jasper and Niki Smith hit the big time when their comic In Maps and Legends won the Zuda competition in November 2009, but shortly after the comic started its run, DC took down the whole site, leaving many of the creators without a platform. Jasper and Smith took the plunge into self-publishing, relaunching the comic on multiple platforms, including Kindle, Wowio, LongBox, Drive Thru Comics, and iTunes. You can get the comic on your computer, iPhone, iPad, or Droid. With the third issue due out on December 1, I checked in with them to see how things were going.

Brigid: First of all, the most important question in an interview like this is: What is the comic about?

Mike: In Maps & Legends is about a young woman caught between this world and another, and her attempts to save them both. It starts off as a contemporary fantasy, as our hero Kaitlin Grayson and her friends get caught in the web of a mysterious man named Bartamus who shows up at Kait’s place one night. Bartamus tells Kait she’s the only one who can save his dying world. As you can guess from the title, cartography, history, and stories play a key role in the unfolding mystery of our comic.

Brigid: How long do you plan it to be?

Mike: This first story arc is ten issues. I can see a lot more stories in this series, but we’re starting with this arc to see if it sparks interest in readers who’d like to read more.
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Talking Comics with Tim | Steve Ellis

High Moon

High Moon

All this month, the creative team of High Moon has been celebrating its third anniversary of entertaining folks. Robot 666 is joining in the celebratory fun today by interviewing artist Steve Ellis. In this email info exchange we delve into the series moving away from ZUDA and growing its audiences through different digital platforms. While he was unable to go into details, I think fans of High Moon will be happy to learn there will some more Western horror in the High Moon creative team’s future.

If you’ve not read High Moon, at their blog the creators posted where to find High Moon: “The first three chapters of High Moon were collected last October by DC Comics. You can order the print collection through your local area comic book shopAmazonBarnes & Noble, or Borders.

The entire series is also available digitally through Comixology’ Comics or DC Comics apps for the iPhone and iPad Operating System. You can also download the issues from here – and read them on your computer or import them them into your ipad or iphone. The first issue is free — and every additional issue is just 99 cents!

And finally, for those of you savvy comic reading gamers our there — HIGH MOON is also available through the DIGITAL COMICS store on the Playstation Network for your PSP.”

Added bonus at the end of this interview, instead of answering a question, Ellis asks the readers a question.

Tim O’Shea: This month marks the third anniversary of High Moon. Looking back at the past three years, what have been some of the high points for you?

Steve Ellis: The first high point was meeting David at NYCC and starting the whole process of collaboration and building the working friendship that we’ve built. The rewards of working in comics come in different forms, but the collaborative process is one of the greatest parts of it.

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Now read this: Kevin Colden’s Strangle/Switch

Before his I Rule the Night strip was picked up by the now-defunct Zuda Comics, Kevin Colden entered a strip called Strange/Switch for consideration into the competition. It was about “a schizophrenic musician named Geoff finds a guitar that gives him the power to kill people and was essentially a take on Faust,” but it never went anywhere.

With the launch of a new art blog, Colden has posted the eight-page story; go check it out.

David Gallaher talks werewolves, Westerns, Winter Guard and webcomics

Writer David Gallaher has been at the forefront of digital comics. For years he worked on the fringes of American comics, only to become an overnight success of sorts by winning the inaugural Zuda Comics competition with High Moon (with collaborator Steve Ellis), and then being hand-picked to launch the app from digital comics distributor comiXology with an ongoing series, Box 13. Both titles have seen multiple volumes online and opened the door for Gallaher to come full circle back to print comics with the first volumes of each in print and new work commissioned by Marvel.

Gallaher occupies a unique role as a creator whose popularity is based primarily on his online comics output, with his print work coming to catch up. The writer has a long history with the online work, going back to interning at Marvel’s interactive department in the late 1990s and being a advertising copywriter for several years. While his comics come out on the bleeding edge of comics formats, his instincts owe more to comics’ pulpy roots.

Chris Arrant: Let’s do an easy one, first – what are you working on today?

David Gallaher: This morning, I’m laying out the rest of Box 13: The Pandora Process, which is being illustrated by Steve Ellis and is being published digitally by comiXology. Steve and I also have another project we’re working on that we’re really excited about. It’s got what I refer to as the “new project smell.” Like  High Moon, it plays to our pulp roots – and I think it’ll be equally as vast.

And at some point this week, we’ll start our preparation for the New York Comic Con and discuss what’s next for High Moon.

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DC Entertainment plans to move or fire 80 employees amid restructuring

DC Entertainment

As many as 80 employees will be fired or relocated in the restructuring of DC Entertainment that will see part of the company’s operations move from New York City to Burbank, Calif., according to a notice filed Wednesday with the New York State Department of Labor and reported by Bloomberg.

That amounts to nearly a third of DC’s estimated 250 employees. The filing doesn’t specify how many of those positions will be firings, and how many will be moved cross-country. The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that about 20 percent of the company’s staff “will lose their jobs as part of the shift,” a statement challenged by DC.

A Warner Bros. spokesman wouldn’t comment to Bloomberg on the specifics of the layoffs.

Announced on Tuesday, the reorganization leaves DC’s comics-publishing division in New York City while relocating the company’s administrative and digital and multimedia operations — including, presumably, the WildStorm offices now based in La Jolla, Calif. — to a Warner Bros.-managed property in Burbank. It was subsequently revealed that the WildStorm and Zuda imprints will close as part of the shakeup.

The labor department filing states that layoffs will begin on Dec. 27, and continue through Aug. 27, 2011, presumably the date when the move is expected to be complete.

DC executives are in the process of meeting individually with staff members to discuss their positions. “… There’s a spectrum of things that are happening for various employees – there are promotions, there are offers of relocation and unfortunately there are some layoffs to come,” DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson told Comic Book Resources on Tuesday. “Until that’s all sorted and people have had time to consider their individual opportunities and we confirm all that, which will take us a few weeks, we aren’t going to be able to discuss specifics.”

The latest DC Entertainment shakeups: What we know

DC Comics

DC Entertainment’s twin announcements on Tuesday — the division of operations between Burbank and New York, and the end of the WildStorm and Zuda imprints — was followed by a round of interviews that provides us with a fairly good picture of what the moves mean. Here’s what we know:

DC Entertainment’s “bi-coastal realignment strategy”: Despite the silly corporate-speak, this aspect of the DC announcements is, at least on the surface, the simplest to break down. The company’s operations related to business/administration, as well as multimedia and digital content, will relocate to “a Warner Bros.-managed property” in Burbank, Calif., while the publishing division will remain in New York City. The move is expected to be complete by the end of next year.

From there, however, the details get a little murky. Although the initial press release specifically mentions “consumer products” will be part of the move, neither DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson nor DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee would say whether that was a reference to DC Direct, DC Comics’ collectibles division.

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DC Entertainment moving to L.A.; DC Comics staying in NYC; WildStorm and Zuda shutting down

Ending a year of industry speculation and acute employee anxiety, DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson announced today that the company’s multimedia business operations — including feature films, television, digital media, video games and consumer products — and its administrative wing will be relocating to Burbank, California, home of parent company Warner Bros. Entertainment. DC Comics, DC Entertainment’s publishing division, will remain in New York City.

Meanwhile, in a separate post on DC’s Source blog, DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee announced the company will cease to publish comics under the WildStorm banner as of December. The imprint’s WildStorm Universe titles will end (though its characters are promised to return), its licensed and kids’ titles will instead be released as part of DC proper, and its editorial team will be restructured and folded into the Burbank-based DC Comics Digital wing. Finally, the struggling Zuda imprint, which already saw its foundational website shuttered in July, will cease to exist after this week, its future titles to be released under the DC banner.

Stay tuned to Comic Book Resources and Robot 6 for much more on these developments.

Dean Haspiel talks Cuba, Deadpool, Woodgod and missing Harvey

Photographed by Seth Kushner

This has been a year of ups and downs for Dean Haspiel.

He’s riding high after last week’s win at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. He, along with the crew of the HBO series Bored To Death, won for outstanding main title design, and Haspiel returned to his native New York City to continue the promotional blitz for his upcoming graphic novel Cuba: My Revolution with artist and family friend Inverna Lockpez. He just had a short feature published in Marvel’s Deadpool #1000 and has more work on the way for the House of Ideas. But this was also the year his friend and longtime collaborator Harvey Pekar passed away.

Throughout it all, Haspiel has become one of the strongest independent voices of comics (or “comix,” as he would say). His years of networking and socializing in the New York City comics scene came to fruition in 2006 with the inception of the ACT-I-VATE collective, resulting in several series making the jump from web to print in IDW Publishing’s ACT-I-VATE Primer. He continues to be a driving force in webcomics, with the third installment of his semi-autobiographical series Street Code just out from Zuda‘s newly transplanted home on Apple’s mobile-phone platform.

Today, he has a girlfriend, a studio full of friends dubbed DEEP6, a Sept. 15 signing at Midtown Comics, and new work appearing later this month in the second season of Bored To Death. On a recent morning, I talked to Dean by phone before he rode his bike to his nearby studio.

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From the bin: Webcomickers’ take on DC’s finest

Last night, cartoonists Cameron Stewart and Ramon Perez posted interesting information and images about some failed pitches for DC Comics. According to both Stewart and Perez, DC had approach them and “a handful of other webcomics creators” to dream up some concepts for webcomics featuring DC superhero characters for possible inclusion on DC’s Zuda website. Here’s what they came up with:

Zatanna pitch by Cameron Stewart

Cameron said that “After a lot of thought I settled on Zatanna, in a kind of Buffy/Twilight-style story aimed at teen girls.”

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In Maps and Legends returns from Zuda limbo

Mike Jasper and Niki Smith won the November 2009 Zuda competition with their comic In Maps and Legends, and the comic started running there in May, but it came to an abrupt end when the site was shut down in July. But it’s coming back! Jasper and Smith will relaunch In Maps and Legends on a variety of different platforms on September 1, and more are coming.

All the details are here, but briefly, the comic will be available as a downloadable PDF from several distributors as well as on Kindle, and a dedicated website will go live on Sept. 1.

They are currently negotiating with ComiXology, Robot Comics (distributors for Droid phones), Graphic.ly, and Wowio, which covers a lot of bases. It sounds like a complicated process, but good for them for making their comic available on every possible platform—it will be interesting to see which one works the best for them.

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