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Books – Dara
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Image of Igor Movie Prequel
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Image of Cory Doctorow's Futuristic Tales Of The Here And Now
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Archive for the ‘Comics biz’ Category

This might appeal to the writers in the audience: Diamond Light Source is a particle accelerator facility in England, and they’re holding a fiction contest (including flash fiction) inspired by the facility and its science. They’re calling it Light Reading.

To introduce Diamond to a wider audience we are running a short story competition, Light Reading. The rules are simple: we’re inviting you to submit a story of up to 3,000 words inspired by Diamond – the facility, the science and the people. There’s also a Flash Fiction prize for stories under 300 words. Stories can be in any genre and there is no minimum word limit. Diamond will shortlist the best of these stories, which will then be judged by an expert panel. The top three writers will receive a cash prize, and these, along with those highly commended by the judges, will be published in an anthology of short stories.

Stories should be under 3000 words, and flash fiction stories under 300. As far as I can tell, it’s open to anyone from any country. There are cash prizes, and publication opportunities, plus you retain the rights to your story. Deadline is November 30th.

Full details here.

Good luck.

“[Chris] Claremont’s mother was (is?) a pilot. Yes, he said he bought her an airplane for Christmas once. Yes, Byrne made $32,000 in royalties for Alpha Flight #1. I personally handed him the check.” –Jim Shooter

Forget about royalties, I’d venture to guess that a lot of comics pros don’t make $32K a year, period.

(Taken from this comment on his blog.)

This might of of interest to you process junkies and writers curious about how different creators handle pitches. Brian Clevinger is the writer of the well-loved indie series Atomic Robo. He was going to do a new Firestorm series for DC, before the whole thing got derailed by the big reboot. You can read his final “approved” pitch here.

Argument should be a part of their civilian relationship and their partnership as Firestorm. Each of these guys got to be Firestorm independent of the other for years. So, each one has built up his idea of how to run the show and, of course, those ideas end up conflicting a lot of the time. Ultimately, each one just wants the best of the other. But, they’re dudes, so it usually comes out wrong and they start making fun of each other.

What I’m getting around to is this. They don’t argue just to argue. They don’t snipe at each other just to get cheap shots in. They don’t talk down to one another. They tease, they mock, they complain, they argue, but it’s because they care. There’s a respect, one that most often goes unsaid, but it’s there and it informs the nature of their debate.

I’ve always liked the idea of Firestorm, and his various looks, more than the actual execution of his series. For one, he’s simply too powerful a character for my tastes. But Clevinger’s approach to the new Firestorm sounds like a solid one. Too bad he never got the chance to write it.

Newsarama has posted the logos for all 52 new titles in the DC relaunch, and I thought it would be interesting to get your perspective on which ones work and which ones dont:

Speaking strictly from a design perspective (and this is coming from a writer, not an artist or graphic designer) my favorites, in no particular order, are:

Animal Man
Static Shock

I like that (for the most part) they’re fairly straightforward, but at the same time not boring. The firestorm one, in particular, is really pleasing to my eye, despite the horrendous amount of words in the title (it’s actually 7 words long, what were they thinking!?)

Captain Atom, while it fits the character, I suppose, is a bit too much like a logo you’d see on a hypothetical syndicated TV show. So I’m kind of on the fence about it.

The Superman family of logos are all in keeping with the old logo, which while classic, is kinda meh. Ditto with the Green Lantern books.

On the Batman side, there’s some more variety, but just looking at all the repetitive bat symbols illustrates (no pun intended) the sheer number of titles in that “family.” The main Batman logo is a bit too much like the new Arkham Asylum/City video game logos, which I know was intentional but I’m not a fan of the derivative works driving the look and feel of the original. The Detective Comics one is OK, as is Batman: The Dark Knight. Batwoman, on the other hand, is keeping the same logo as the previous appearances of the character and that thing has never looked right to me. It’s distinctive, for certain, but kind of…ugly and, I don’t know, perplexing.

Bottom of the barrel, in my opinion, is Teen Titans. Talk about boring. The Wonder Woman, Voodoo, and Men of War logos also fall into this category.

So what do you guys think?

As I’ve posted here before, I’m thoroughly enjoying Jim Shooter’s blog, where he’s been posting in-depth memoirs of his days at Marvel Comics. I’m a sucker for behind the scenes stuff like this. And yes, I realize these are all his “side” of the story, but I don’t care. I’m not in it to worship or vilify him, I’m just curious about the business side of the comics biz, and even if half of what he writes about is true, it’s a very colorful and crazy industry indeed.

Anyway, I saw this bit in his most recent post, and thought it well worth sharing:

(ASIDE: Bob [Hall] also wrote, years later, a play about the beginning of the Comics Code entitled Never Bigger Than Her Head. The title comes from a bit of advice John Buscema gave students about drawing women’s breasts.)

Truer words were never spoken. Too bad the entire decade of the 90s (and most of the aughts as well) were spent in complete disregard of this simple rule.

I always enjoy seeing pitches from other writers, especially “name” ones. On his website, comedian/actor and comic book fan Patton Oswalt dusts off a couple of his rejected pitches for Batman stories.

“Arkham’s Arsenal”

WORLD WAR II. The entire planet’s fate hangs on the outcomes of massive and not-so-massive skirmishes. Guadacanal. Messina. Iwo Jima…

…and skirmishes left moldering in classified files, even today.

One such story is uncovered by an Army researcher, hunting the whereabouts of several MIA “dis-honorables”, who seemingly fell off the face of the Earth in the mid-40’s.

The 12 – known to Eyes Only researchers as “Arkham’s Arsenal” – allegedly completed a joint US/British mission deep into Germany, where they killed a number of high-ranking officials at a top-secret meeting, prior to D-Day.

These 12 were:

Read the details at the link above. And yes, it’s totally a Dirty Dozen riff. Of the two pitches, I actually like his first one, titled “J,” over this one.

(via ComicsAlliance)

It was a week that nearly broke the comic book Internet in half, gave retailers a queasy feeling, and set rabid comic fans ranting and raving across the blogosphere. And when it was all said and done, DC Comics had announced their 52 new #1 titles for the big September relaunch.

Now, instead of adding to the chorus of opinion pages and rants, I’m just going to follow up on my earlier post (The great 21st century DC Comics reboot 52 title Guess-a-palooza) where I tried to guess what all the titles would be. As you recall, 11 of them had already been announced, and quite a few more were making the rounds on the rumor mill before I put my list together. Anyway, let’s see how I did. I’ll list the official list, with commentary on how I did next to it:


  1. JLA – the first 11 titles were already a “gimme”
  2. Wonder Woman
  3. Aquaman
  4. Flash
  5. Fury of Firestorm
  6. The Savage Hawkman
  7. Green Arrow
  8. Justice League Internationsl
  9. Mister Terrific
  10. Captain Atom
  11. DC Universe Presents
  12. Green Lantern – guessed it (the GL titles were rather obvious)
  13. Green Lantern Corps – guessed it
  14. Green Lantern: The New Guardians – guessed it (I called it “a Green Lantern spin-off with all the color lanterns”)
  15. Red Lanterns – guessed it
  16. Batman – guessed it
  17. Detective Comics – guessed it
  18. Batman & Robin – missed
  19. Batman: The Dark Knight – guessed it
  20. Birds of Prey – guessed it
  21. Catwoman – missed
  22. Batwoman – guessed it
  23. Batgirl – guessed it (lots of rumors around this one, but I didn’t think DC would go there)
  24. Nightwing – guessed it
  25. Red Hood and the Outlaws – missed
  26. Batwing – missed
  27. Swamp Thing – guessed it
  28. Animal Man – missed
  29. Justice League Dark – missed (I did guess Shade the Changing man, who’s in this book, but I won’t count it)
  30. Demon Knights – missed (my guess was Viking Prince or some “fantasy series” but I’m not going to count that)
  31. Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE – missed
  32. Resurrection Man – missed
  33. I, Vampire – missed
  34. Voodoo – missed
  35. Legion Lost – missed
  36. Legion of Superheroes – guessed it
  37. Teen Titans – guessed it
  38. Static Shock – guessed it
  39. Hawk & Dove – guessed it
  40. Stormwatch – missed (I guessed WildCATS instead)
  41. Blackhawks – missed
  42. Sgt. Rock & The Men of War – guessed it
  43. All-Star Western – guessed it (I guessed Jonah Hex, which is essentially this book, so I’m counting it)
  44. Deathstroke – guessed it
  45. Grifter – guessed it
  46. OMAC – guessed it
  47. Suicide Squad – missed
  48. Blue Beetle – guessed it
  49. Superman: The Man of Tomorrow – guessed it
  50. Superboy – guessed it
  51. Supergirl – missed
  52. Action Comics – guessed it

OK, so if my math is correct, with 36 correct titles, I scored a 69% (heh heh). If we exclude the 11 titles that were already announced, my score drops down to 60%.

Books I guessed that didn’t make the official list:

  1. JSA
  2. Edge (a rumored book, but turned out to be the “banner” for a bunch of thematically-related books)
  3. Dark (see above)
  4. My Greatest Adventure (coming later in the year, but not a part of the official relaunch titles)
  5. Batman Inc. (see above)
  6. Steel
  7. Ambush Bug
  8. Shazam
  9. Trinty: Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman (I guess with them being in JLA, this is rather redundant…not that that’s stopped the Big 2 before)
  10. Batman Beyond (I bet this will return later in the year)
  11. Dr. Fate
  12. Xombi (it was getting fantastic reviews, but alas the sales were terrible, so not a big surprise)
  13. The Question (I was certain the lesbian angle would make this a sure bet)
  14. WildCATS
  15. Shade the Changing Man
  16. Viking Prince (hey, it was a wild ass guess…though i was right about them doing a fantasy series)

So there you have it.

Finally, some random thoughts:

  • The absence of Steel surprised me. Seems like a missed opportunity, especially in light of their supposed strive towards more diversity in the line
  • Swamp Thing was a no-brainer.
  • I love what Scott Snyder has been doing with batman in Detective Comics. Moving him to Batman is fine, but I can’t stand Greg Capullo’s art. Ugh.
  • Speaking of Batman, I’m a bit surprised by how Bat-heavy the Batman Family of titles are. 10 books in that line, compared to only 4 in Superman’s family.
  • No JSA? Also surprising, unless it’s coming back later in the year.
  • I, Vampire and Voodoo (especially the former) seem aimed at tweens and teens, maybe? If so, good for DC. Hope it works out for them.
  • Meet the new Teen Titans, aka Image’s Cyberforce from the 90s. Ugh.
  • 3 relaunched Wildstorm titles? Seems too much to me, but then again I never read any of those books, so clearly not my thing.
  • Rob Liefeld? Really?
  • It would have been nice to have seen another Milestone book on the list. Oh well.

In the interest of trying to say positive things, I’ll leave you with a selection of my favorite covers from the ones revealed so far:

British publisher Myriad Editions is looking for “a first graphic novel in progress, with the winner working with Myriad to complete the title.”

Entrants are asked to submit a one-page synopsis and between 15-30 pages of a graphic work in progress.

Deadline for the contest is October 1st. Judges include the awesome Bryan Talbot! The winner will be announced at the First Fictions Festival in January 2012. The novel would be considered for publication by Myriad in 2012/13. Details here.


To promote the book “The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown,” by Paul Malmont, publisher Simon & Schuster is holding a science fiction short story writing contest. The winner’s piece will be published in the book.

Finish the story begun by one of the characters in the new novel. Start your version with “The robot felt…” Finish with “In the end, the robot felt nothing. He wasn’t programmed to.” The up-to-2000 words in between are all yours…The top five finalists, selected by online voting, will be judged by the incredible Patton Oswalt, lit-agent Susan Golomb, and R/GA agency Creative Director, Dan Harvey and Malmont.

Contest ends July 4th. Detail can be found here.

(via boingboing)

OK, so if you follow any amount of superhero coverage, by now you’re probably sick and tired of reading about DC’s plan to reboot their universe and relaunch 52 new titles at issue #1 in September. Oh, and as part of the same event, they’re going to be releasing digital versions of the individual comics day-and-date, meaning you can choose to download the book on the same day it hits shops. This latter piece has been getting less press than “ZOMG they’re renumbering Action Comics back to #1!!!!,” but as Dave Uzumeri astutely points out over at Comics Alliance:

“Make no mistake, this entire endeavor is focused on the digital market. DC isn’t dumb. They know print is dying. They know they have no chance at beating Marvel in the print market, as years and years of examples have proven. Rejuvenating the characters (literally) and providing a fresh start all across the line isn’t about a quick sales bump in the direct market; it isn’t about the direct market at all. It’s so that people logging into comiXology to check out these digital DC comics they’ve heard about don’t see an issue number in the 900s after Action Comics and throw up their hands.”

Of course, anyone who has half a brain knows that all media is moving towards digital, and as much as you or I may love print books, there’s no stopping technology and progress. But then there’s Brian Michael Bendis, who tweeted this gem:

“@simps you’re also fucking the struggling retail community in the ass.”

With all due respect to Bendis, his writing skills, his successful career, and his gig as head writer and corporate cheerleader for Marvel, that’s about as unprofessional and dick-ish a thing you could say on the topic. You know, because the right thing to do is forgo new technologies and market direction, and cling to a rapidly deteriorating business model so you’ll be a nice guy in the eyes of comic retailers. Believe me, I love my comic shop and I’d be heartbroken if it went out of business (and put some good folks out of a job) but it’s not DC (or for that matter, Marvel or any other publisher) who is driving this. It’s business and technology. They change. And they change rapidly. And like any other business, you either change and adapt, or you go under.

And please, such righteous indignation from Bendis, as if Marvel doesn’t already have a digital business model as well, with plans to expand it. Grow up.

OK, but enough with the politics and inter-company mudslinging. As far as the 52 new titles go, I have to say I’m neither breathlessly excited, nor spitting mad. This stuff isn’t new, the Big Two have been doing it for a while now. Granted, this particular iteration is pretty ballsy, but for me, it’ll come down to which books have creators and/or characters and directions I like. I’ll buy the ones that appeal to me, and the fact that costumes are changing or books are being renumbered doesn’t really bother me (although, there is a part of me that feels a slight sense of loss at a book like Action Comics, which has been in continuous monthly publication for 75+ years and had just surpassed issue #900 is going to be renumbered. That’s a nice chunk of comics history gone).

Anyway, as of this writing, DC has officially revealed 11 of the 52 books. Plus, there’s plenty of rumors circulating on the others. So I thought it would be fun to come up with my guess as to what all the titles will be. When they’re all announced, I’ll go back and see how well I guessed. I’m hoping to do better than 70%, but we’ll see. So, let’s start with the known books:

Wonder Woman (surprised to see Brian Azzarello as the writer, but Cliff Chiang is a perfect artist for it, very classy style)
Flash (written by artist Francis Manapul)
Fury of Firestorm (co-written by artist Ethan Van Sciver)
The Savage Hawkman (written by artist Tony Daniel…detect a trend here?)
Green Arrow
Justice League International
Mister Terrific
Captain Atom
DC Universe Presents (an anthology book, cool)

OK, moving on, here are more titles that I’m guessing are pretty safe bets:

Teen Titans
Legion of Superheroes
(in one incarnation or another)
Jonah Hex
Birds of Prey
Action Comics
Detective Comics
Batman Incorporated
(or at least some sort of Grant Morrison Batman book)
Green Lantern
Green Lantern Corps

…previously announced books which will probably debut as part of this initiative:

(co-written by artist J.H. Williams…ok, ok, I’ll stop)
Red Lantern Corps (Peter Milligan writing)

…and rumored ones that seem pretty likely:

My Greatest Adventure
(anthology, continuing 2 of the features from the recently concluded Weird Worlds)
Edge (?)
Dark (?)
Batgirl (supposedly Barbara Gordon)
a Green Lantern spin-off with all the color lanterns
(a revived Wildstorm book)

So that’s 34 books, leaving me with 18 more to guess. Let’s see, how about:

Swamp Thing (I mean, they did just bring him back into the DCU)
Blue Beetle (possibly team-up w/ Booster Gold)
Ambush Bug (or some kind of humor book)
Sgt. Rock (or some kind of war book)
Hawk & Dove (see: Brightest Day)
another Batman book (probably the hideously-delayed but still high selling Davind Finch one)
Trinity: Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman (replacing the current Batman/Superman book)
Batman Beyond (it was doing decent sales-wise, so odds are it’ll be back)
Dr. Fate
Xombi (not a sales powerhouse, but it’s been getting rave reviews)
The Question (because one book starring a lesbian isn’t enough)
WildCATS (If the Grifter rumor is true, I’m guessing this Wildstorm book created by Jim Lee book is probably slated for a return as well)
Deathstroke the Terminator (either this, or another “villain” book, maybe Deadshot?)
Shade the Changing Man (see: Flashpoint)
Viking Prince (a wild ass guess; I’m thinking they’ll want a fantasy series for diversity of genre, but they already tried Warlord recently and it didn’t take)

So there you have it, my list of DC’s 52 titles debuting in September. I think for the most part I played it safe, although I did throw in a couple of long shots (Viking Prince? What the hell am I thinking?) By the way, feel free to play along in the comments section with your own guesses as to what the 52 titles will be.

Last year, I did my first work for DC Comics in the form of a short story in their DC Universe Holiday Special #1.

As this detailed post on the Bleeding Cool news/gossip site lays out, quite a number of former DC editors who were either publicly or privately known to have been “let go” of their jobs are actually quite gainfully employed by the DC/Warner Brother family.

Last year over in Burbank, LA, within Warner Bros, DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns put a team together that included a number of recently-made-redundant DC Comics editors. And no one talked about it.

Until now.

Titled DC Entertainment Creative Affairs, the group has a rather roving brief. Working on multimedia exploitation such as animation and live action, including DC Nation, Young Justice, Brave & Bold, Smallville’s final season (including another Geoff Johns’ episode), the Sandman TV show and other not-yet-announced projects up and running for development (including a possible animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns), it’s basically a Bullpen for a different multi-media world and a veritable West Coast Justice League Of DC Comics.

Among the group is Mike Carlin, ex-longtime senior editor at DC, and the guy who gave me my break on that Holiday Special. Mike was kind enough to give me a tour of the DC office last year when I was in New York for the NYCC show, and he was honest and professional with me during the whole process of getting my story into print. He even let me know privately about his transfer out of the publishing side of DC when it happened, since he was my main contact at the editorial offices (now that this story is public, I feel like I’m not betraying any secrets by mentioning it here). Over the last year or two, I’ve kept in contact with about half a dozen other editors at DC as well, sending them copies of my latest books, and just reminding them that I’m still out here. Well, according to the article, 2 more of those folks are no longer editors either: Adam Schlagman and Sean Ryan have both moved over to the new DC Entertainment Creative Affairs. So, yeah, most of my contact in DC editorial are gone.

To further complicate matters for new creators looking to break in, the kinds of writing gigs that in the past may have been open to folks like me (and I say may because even then, the odds were way against you, as you were competing with seasoned pros who were desperately looking for gigs as well) are now being filled with many of these same ex-editors:

And in a further twist, a number of the now-ex-editors working for this new department have been hired by Eddie Berganza to write comics involved in the Flashpoint crossover.

The upcoming Flashpoint event is a good example. The crossover comprises something on the order of 14 new mini-series and one-shots. You might think that somewhere in there, an issue or two (or maybe even a backup story) would be open to new talent. But a look at the creative teams shows that of the few not being written by DC regulars (folks like Tony bedard and Peter Tomasi), they are being written by current and former editors: Adam Schlagman on Flashpoint: Abin Sur the Green Lantern and Flashpoint: Hal Jordan, Rex Ogle on Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint, Sean Ryan on Flashpoint: Grodd of War, Pornsak Pichetshote on Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries, and Mike Carlin on Flashpoint: The Canterbury Cricket. Related to the above, a mini-series spinning out of the recently-concluded year long mega series Brightest Day, titled Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search, will be written by former Vertigo editor Jonathan Vankin.

(Aside: for another take on this topic, check out friend-of-the-ferret Caleb Mozzocco’s post What the Flashpoint creative teams tell us about DC’s strategy regarding talent on his Every Day Is Like Wednesday blog.)


I think the writing is clearly on the wall for writers like me when it comes to DC Comics.

Now, I’ve never had any illusions of writing comics for a living, nor of getting a “dream job” of writing the Batman monthly or what have you. But, I do have a connection to a lot of these characters that I’ve been reading for almost three decades now, and it’s definitely fun to “play in the DC sandbox,” as the saying goes. However, I think these days, more than at any other time, the door to that playground is firmly shut to new talent. So the choice is to keep beating my head against that wall (wait, did I just switch metaphors on you?), expending a lot of time, money, and energy in the process, or move on to other projects and opportunities.

I choose the latter.

This year, I’ve been concentrating my efforts on getting a few of my creator-owned projects off the ground. In many ways, that’s just as daunting a task as trying to “break in” to Marvel and DC, but if and when it finally does happen, the emotional rewards are much more gratifying. Already, I’m enjoying small victories. I just sold an autobiographical short story to the new Dark Horse Presents, and wrapped up another short autobio for this year’s Liberty Annual, to benefit the CBLDF. And if nothing else, the process of pitching my Persia Blues series has been a great learning experience, and a fantastic way to hone some writing skills unrelated to the actual creation of a story (those loglines and summaries are a bitch to get right!) Add to that The Unseen pitch (with artist and fellow PANELista Andy Bennett) and a couple of other in-development proposals, and I remain hopeful that at least one of my books will gain some traction this year. And of course, I continue to be involved with the PANEL group, which is my single biggest outlet for creative expression.

All of this isn’t to say that I won’t keep an eye on the industry and look for opportunities here and there, but unlike last year where I spent an inordinate amount of energy trying to play with the big boys, I’m going to be much more judicious with my time now. But as for me and DC, I think that first date may have also been the last. And you know what? I’m OK with that. I gave it my best shot, and ended up in one of their books with a story I feel proud of.

Now it’s time to dial it up to 11 on my own books.

Novelist China Miéville isn’t having much luck with his comic book pitches, it seems. First there was the whole Swamp Thing debacle, where his fresh take on the venerable horror character was apparently accepted by Vertigo, then summarily dropped when the character was “pulled back” into the DC Universe in a corporate shuffle.

And then there’s his pitch for an Iron Man spin-off, called Scrap Iron Man.

The economic crisis bites. Flinton, MI, was built on industry, and the industry’s gone, since by far the city’s dominant company took the stimulus cheque, attacked wages, outsourced more and more, then finally all, R&D and production overseas. Flinton, like so many other towns, is dying.

If you know anything about Miéville’s politics, you’ll recognize the themes of this pitch as being very much in line with them. In turning down the pitch, I honestly can’t fault Marvel for wanting to “protect” one of their biggest licensing cash cows. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves. The Iron Man comic may sell for shit, but the Iron Man “brand” is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. There’s no way Marvel would have let China turn Tony Stark into an even bigger jerk.

But damn if it wouldn’t have been an interesting read. Maybe they could have published it under the “Strange Tales” banner used for their out-of-continuity stories done by indie comix creator?

Detroit’s Metromode is featuring a series of guest blog entries by friend-of-the-ferret, and co-owner of Green Brain Comics, Dan Merritt. You can read them here.

In his first post, Dan talks a bit about dispelling the stereotypes around comic book readers. It’s a piece aimed mostly at non-insiders, so it’ll probably be familiar territory to most readers of this blog. In the second part, he covers a bit of history about Green Brain Comics, and the Detroit Market. I found this statement interesting:

Today, Detroit remains one of the biggest markets for direct market comic book stores. It’s been estimated that Detroit area comic book stores sell five million dollars’ worth of comic books, graphic novels, and miscellaneous related products annually. This doesn’t even include the mass market book store share.

It looks like he’ll have more posts coming up, in which he promises to delve deeper into the retailer realities, which is what I’m looking forward to. Check it out from time to time.

For our blog’s 8th anniversary, I invites several friends-of-the-ferret to contribute a guest column. Today, I’m going to turn the spotlight over to artist Marvin Mann (AKA mpMann), who drew two of the stories in my Lifelike graphic novel. Not only is Marvin talented, but his output is also quite prodigious, having created several full-length graphic novels. Here are just a few images from his various works:

And now, let’s turn it over to Marvin:

On the Form of Digital Comics

One of my problems with the digital display of comics is that it tends to be an effort to adapt comics designed for print first and foremost to a medium that is markedly different. Digital features lower resolution than print; and while phones and e-readers came be both landscape and portrait in orientation, computer screens are overwhelmingly landscape, while traditional print has a portrait orientation. Hand held digital devices are mostly smaller than printed books as well.

Many of these new digital publishers advertise how their applications show the comic “the way the creators intended.” And it is clear that the creators intended it for print. The result is scrolling around from panel to panel, either automatically or by hand, and popping individual panels out because they are too small to be comfortably read otherwise.

Now admittedly I’m old. The first telephone I used, you spoke to the operator and told her the number. I’m rather slow to pick up new technologies. But for me, scrolling and popping is not how you read anything, let alone comics. Your mileage may vary.

But I’m not so old that I can’t think about how to take advantage of this new tech, this new medium, and create art that is designed for it, and takes advantage of the strengths and limitations it offers. This is exciting, the beginnings of things are where innovation can begin. It will change the form of the art, just as comic books changed comics from the pace and shape they used in newspaper strips. This is a time for innovators and thinkers to re-invent and have an impact on the medium.

So I want my digital comics to be clear and readable at a glance on a screen, large or small. Especially small, because if it can be read small, it can be read larger. For Okita and the Cat, I cut a story designed for print up into tiers of 1-3 panels, each intended to represent a kind of thought or sentence or exchange in comics terms. maybe it was just a reaction shot to the previous screen. Maybe it was a back and forth, call and response. Maybe it was an entire conversation. I made the text larger than usual, because the lower resolution wouldn’t support text that was too small. But Okita wasn’t written or drawn with this in mind so there were compromises.

Each screen consists of a horizontal tier of panels, drawn at 6×9 inches. The text should be large enough to be reduced to smartphone size and still be readable. The art should be simple enough to be unconfused at that size, yet detailed enough to look good on a device like nook color with its 7 inch diagonal. (I sell these, BTW) and even on something like an iPad or your computer monitor. These tiers could then be stacked, two a page for print. That results in a 3×4 magazine aspect ratio and may not be ideal. But it is possible and is intended as a secondary usage.

These conditions drive the way the story is written. Larger text means fewer words, so the writer has to be concise and the shorter duration of each passage, means that there needs to be… well not necessarily a hook, although that remains an important story element, but the completion/resolution of a thought, an idea, the way a sentence or a paragraph completes an idea in prose.

Just as the daily comics strip calls for a different pace of storytelling than a comic book (read a big chunk of Terry and The Pirates at a sitting to see what I mean, it has a lurching pace that reads well in small daily doses, but seems odd at a sitting) so this type of presentation calls for a different pace of writing as well.

And I find that to be an exciting challenge.

Now I fully expect that over time, this plethora of new devices will shake out and standardize, and we will settle into something perhaps different from what I am attempting here. These are still early days, but late enough that we can now see that comics designed for pamphlets translate awkwardly to the small screen and we can be exercising our creativity to adapt to the possibilities before us.

-Marvin Mann

Marvin Mann’s current Publications include:

-Okita and the Cat (iTunes, Arrow Publications)
-The Lone and Level Sands (Archaia)
-Some New Kind of Slaughter (Archaia)
-Inanna’s Tears (Archaia)
-The Grave Doug Freshley (Archaia, available through Graphicly)
-L’Ange de Bastogne (Omega Comics Presents 4, from Pop Goes the Icon)

You can check out more info on his book here, and follow his blog here.

Chew is one of Image Comics’ biggest hits in recent years, thanks equally to writer John Layman’s utterly unique premise, and artist Rob Guillory’s idiosyncratic, stylized artwork. Over on his blog, Rob has posted a couple of process features, which is the kind of creative behind-the-scenes stuff that I love reading.

There’s one on how he breaks down a page of artwork.

And another one on how he digitally colors a page.

His script-to-roughs-to-pencils-to-inks process seems pretty typical. Interestingly, he also includes the amount of time he spends on each stage, and it looks like he’s easily finishing a page a day, perhaps even in under 8 hours. That’s a pretty good pace, especially when you realize that as an indy artist, he’s not making much money doing this. (Well, ok, maybe he is, given that Chew is a big hit. But “big hit” in this case still translates into ~10K copies sold a month, so it’s not like he’s pulling in 5 figures an issue.)

As a non-artist, I’ve always been fascinated by the whole computer coloring process. To my untrained eyes, it just seems so much more cumbersome and time-consuming than coloring with traditional media. Of course, I do understand the many benefits of it, from flexibility to the fact that digital files are practically required by publishers these days. Still, looking at all the steps involved makes me think “wow, all that for just one page?” To his credit, Rob does mention the fact that he uses an assistant with the more tedious prep work, and gives him credit. That’s pretty cool.

So I just sent off my first real big pitch to Vertigo this week. Needless to say, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on pitching comics these past few months, trying to pick up tips and helpful advice. Here’s a great anecdote I came across, as told by editor extraordinaire, Bob Schreck. And while it may not work again, or at a more “corportae” publishing house like Vertigo, it’s certainly quite clever:

“Steve [Seagle] was the best pitch guy ever. I still have his original pitch, in my living room, on a bookshelf. You got a rectangular, hollowed-out glass paperweight, about an inch and a half deep. Under that, in a very simple rubber-stamped typeface, is the word, ‘Look,’ stamped on the glass. Then he stamped it on the piece of paper that was really a kind of origami kind of thing, and the paper was underneath it so it was three-dimensional look to it. And then there was a rubber band, and you take off the rubber band, and you take out this piece of paper. Then, as you unfold it, it says – and I’m paraphrasing here – ‘a man.’ Unfold; ‘a woman. Unfold; ‘a gun.’ Unfold; ‘A night they’ll never forget.’ And then you unfold the whole thing and there it is, and you’re reading his pitch.”


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