Welcome to the weblog of the writers and artists of Ferret Press (a publisher of fine comix) and PANEL (a Columbus, Ohio comic creators collaborative.) Here you will find our musings on comics, art, the creative process, politics, the web, and life.
I’ve been a fan of John Byrne since I was in the fourth grade, stumbling on his X-Men while it was still an obscure book that had just gone monthly. I’ve followed his work all the way up to the present day, despite missteps like Spider-Man: Chapter One and Doom Patrol. I’ve dismissed anecdotes about his irascible personality as irrelevant to his actual comic work, and enjoyed series’ such as Lab Rats (which was cancelled before issue #1 even hit the stands) and Superman/Batman: Generations (which I considered to be as good as his FF run). I’ve even forgiven him phoning in the art on IDW’s FX since it has the potential to be the kind of goofy retro-superhero book I miss.
I was walking past the magazine rack at work the other night when I noticed the new WWE Kids magazine-- a wrestling mag for 8-year olds, as if all the other wrestling mags weren’t for 8-year olds. The magazine comes with a few pages of comics, and I noticed a disturbingly familiar art style on the front. Yep, John Byrne is contributing a serialized, one page color comic, “The Hardys in Space.”
My longtime favorite artist has become Fat Elvis; get him his white jumpsuit and a one way ticket to Vegas. I’ll still pick up the Gary Seven series that’s coming next, but I’ll probably play Also Sprach Zarathustra when I start reading.
So around late spring of last year, I contacted several of my favorite comics creators to let them know about my webcomic Lifelike, and that it was going to be collected and published as a graphic novel. I was looking for comments, critiques, and advice on promoting my book. I also asked them politely if they read and enjoyed the comic, would they be interested in providing a positive review quote I could use on the back of the book.
A couple of days ago, I received this card in the mail from Neil Gaiman!
So I got an e-mail today from Sergio Charro Melo, which from his e-mail address looks to be writing me from Brazil. One Babelfish translation later, I get this:
"Good afternoon, I call Sergio and am part of a cultural group Treble call. We create and give a force for who we make amateur art, any amateur art. We have some scripts of quadrinhos for presentation, we also have people that they draw that they could be presented the vocês. Our bigger work is a RPG book that we finish to write in the passed year, work this that started in 2002. This book is part of a universe all, that it can generate many other titulos, and is certain that it would please the RPG players, therefore the research and devotion for its creation was very hard and laborious. It would like to know as we can present these works the vocês and who knows, to be able to work together. I am in I wait it of a return. Grateful"
Ferret Press is so big, people all over the world want to work with me!
On slate.com today is an essay on the new "Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which will go by the happy acronym AFIRM. According to DOD's news service, AFIRM will "harness stem cell research and technology … to reconstruct new skin, muscles and tendons, and even ears, noses and fingers.'"
The author says that restoring muscle fibers is a possibility, and then possibly augmentation? The military already encourages soldiers to get Lasik. How far are we from genetically augmented super-soldiers?
From Newsweek comes this story of "The 99", a comic book series by Kuwaiti psychologist and entrepreneur Naif Al-Mutawa. His company, Teshkeel, is the distributor of Marvel and DC comics in the Middle East
The writer of the article says "The 99" might create new folk heroes for the Islamic world -- ones not named bin Laden.
"The essential conflict in the story is an X-Men-like rivalry between Dr. Ramzi, who wants to gather together the Noor Stones and their bearers to do good, and Mughal, who wants to gather them together for, ahem, world domination.
But comic books are "likely to be a lot more helpful than our bullets and bombs in attracting young people away from jihadi cool," says Atran. They might even help convince Washington that "knowledge is the true base of power." But maybe that's hoping for too much."
Sometime around 1992 my brother and I wandered into Stache’s to catch the instrumental band Shadowy Men From a Shadowy Planet, most widely known for the theme from The Kids in the Hall. The Canadian trio was touring as the opening act for a band we’d never before heard of, but we wanted to see them enough that it was deemed safe to pony up our five bucks to catch the show. It turned out to be one of the wisest investments I’ve ever made, because after the Shadowy Men finished up their set, The Fleshtones took the stage and tore the roof off of Dan Dougan’s venerable nightclub with their relentlessly driving garage/punk/1960’s-soul hybrid which they have labeled “Super-Rock.” Before the first song’s final chords had died down I had discovered the favorite live band I would be fanatically following for many years to come.
I saw a lot of bands at Stache’s over the next few years; Buddy Guy, Mojo Nixon, Johnny Copeland, Dick Dale and a gazillion others I can’t remember. The Fleshtones are the band I personally associate with my time spent in the club, as they were frequent visitors, touring relentlessly since forming in the late ‘70’s New York punk scene without ever having the benefit of actually becoming famous. One of my fondest memories is the final Saturday night the club was open before the wrecking ball came, as the ‘Shtones closed their show with a song from their Laboratory of Sound album called We’ll Never Forget. When Dougan folded up his tent and even Little Brothers went away, I was afraid I’d never get the chance to see Peter, Keith, Ken and Bill again.
Lucky for me and a bar full of culture lovers this past Saturday, Café Bourbon Street did us the public service of bringing the Fleshtones back to Columbus.
Back in the day, I would have rolled out of bed around noon, put on my most recently-clean shirt, called off work and grabbed breakfast at Chateau Blanc before showing up at the club in time for the sound check. These days it’s a little more difficult; wrangling a sitter for the kids, working third shift the night before so I could get the night off, then hitting the club at 8:00 for fear of a sellout crowd (having missed Commander Cody a few weeks before) in order to wait for a triple bill show whose first act didn’t hit the stage until 11:00 turned out to be a bit of an endurance test as I close in on my fourth decade. It was well worth it, though, as one of the band members looked about the bar as they were setting up and said the place had “kind of a Stache’s vibe.”
Then came the Super-Rock. I referred above to the band “taking the stage,” which is a bit of an oversimplification. The fellas work the entire bar, frequently charging through the crowd with their instruments blazing power chords. Minutes after I was ruminating on the poor sight lines my seat provided, guitarist Keith Streng pushed me out of my chair to stand on our table while bassist Ken Fox towered over us at our neighboring seats and all was remedied. Further into the show while the band performed the song Push Up Man, Streng and singer Peter Zaremba cleared a space in the middle of the barroom floor and forced patrons to, well, do push ups. I was fortunately spared the personal humiliation of being drafted for that event. As the set came to a close (“wound down” would be the wrong term to use; the Fleshtones were driving a train with no brakes right up until closing time) the three band members not held down by a set of drums took another tour of the crowded floor and ran into Dan Dougan himself. Dan was hauled up onto the stage to introduce the encore as I got all misty eyed with nostalgia.
Yet another of the best shows I’ve ever seen, from the greatest live band in all the cosmos. I’m playing my favorite ‘Shtones album, Powerstance, to death on my MP3 player, as well as their latest, Take A Good Look. I highly recommend both, and encourage anyone to catch the band when they come back around. Here’s a look at them courtesy of Youtube, playing with guest vocalist and diminutive French super-rocker Tony Truant:
I got enough cool stuff at Gem City to keep the WBM going for some time, but I’ve had this one on deck for a while so I’ll first resume my posts with:
Marvel Feature #11
This book blew my mind when I was a kid. That’s the Thing and the Hulk, right? They’re both good guys. But wait… they’re fighting each other in this issue? Holy cow, the good guys are fighting each other in this issue! And that’s the Thing and the Hulk… they’re both really strong guys! I don’t know who would win, but that would be one heck of a fight!
Okay, so time has taught us that the Hulk will beat the stuffing out of the Thing every time they have a fair fight, all the way back to their first tango in FF #25. This appearance was only their third or fourth such meeting, however, and it was a time when there was a significant turnover in the readership from year to year, so it was still something of a novelty to have these two goliaths pummeling each other. As you might gather, it was my first exposure to that wildest of concepts, the superhero battle, so this comic holds a special place in my heart.
This was the Thing’s first ever team-up book; a couple issues like this were successful enough to launch his own title, Marvel Two-In-One, a few months later. Writer Len Wein and artists Starlin & Sinnot did young Craig the following wonderful service back in 1973:
These are the panels wherein I first learned the secret origin of the Fantastic Four. This was the primer for that vital part of my education as I was first getting to know these characters and the strange world they occupied, like the comic book equivalent of a first grade history lesson about George Washington. How important is that in the grand scheme of things? Well, over three decades later I’m writing about comics on this blog, so I guess you might say it ruined my life.
(pardon the erratic image quality while I’m tinkering with a new printer/copier/scanner)
The plot is pretty simple: old FF villain Kurrgo, Master of Planet X, has gotten together with the Leader and placed a bet: each will pick a champion to battle on their behalf and the winner gets all the scientific knowledge of the loser. The thing is transported to a ghost town somewhere out west where the leader briefs him on the situation: he must get past the Hulk in order to deactivate an Ultrex Bomb, or all THREE BILLION souls on Earth will perish. (Has it only been three and ½ decades? My, we’ve been fruitful…)
But who cares about the plot? Here’s what we came for: The Hulk’s appearance here scared the bejeezus out of me when I first saw it.
Oh, god. This is wonderful. Here’s some more:
Starlin does a great job of using the props the ghost town setting has to offer as the battle rages along.
Mere words cannot describe my love for this comic. Here’s how it ends: the Thing manages to wreck the bomb, only to discover it’s a fake. The bet between the villains gets called off when it is revealed that Kurrgo is cheating by augmenting the Thing’s strength-- not that that seemed to help too much. The two protagonists get to trash a giant robot, then a spaceship blows up. The Thing is left to start walking towards home from the desert as the Hulk bounds away over the horizon.
Thanks, Len and Jim, for ruining my life with your wonderful comic.
Comic Related has started to post up pics from Sunday's Gem City. I never saw this couple in the Indy room. Cosplayers have arrived at Gem City. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It was bound to happen.
We all got to chat up the CR guy. Kinda neat that someone's covering some of the smaller shows as well as the big ones.
Yesterday was the third annual Gem City Comic Convention in Dayton, Ohio at Wright State University. As always, Gem City is the most comfortable convention there is as guests are treated to cushy, executive-style office chairs. The independent creators’ room is in a conference room off the main dealers’ room. The show has gotten bigger and bigger each year. While the dealers’ room has always been hopping, what started as about ten creators in a small room, has turned into a couple of dozen small-press creators showing their wares. Out in the solarium/hallway is a great mix of old-time professionals (Marv Wolfman) and newer artists (Billy Tan).
PANEL represented at the show. Andy Bennett was a featured guest out in the solarium. Dara Naraghi, Tom Williams, Craig Bogart, and I kicked it in the independent creators’ room where, according to a disembodied voice over the PA, “the cutting edge of comics was occurring.” Molly Durst wasn’t set up to sell comics, but was there (and scored a sweet set of fuzzy dice, polyhedron style). Luckily, we got there early to set up since the tables, for some reason, are first-come, first serve. While it wasn’t a problem for the most part, there were some creators who showed up later after the tables were all taken; they were forced to take hastily set up tables shoved in the middle of the room. Maybe next year, the indie room will end up being two rooms.
There seemed to be a decent amount of traffic for a Sunday show on the nicest weather day of the year so far. There were the normal lulls in traffic at the beginning and end of the day. But while there were a lot of people in the room, it didn’t seem like many people were actually looking at the books, and they definitely weren’t buying.
I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, but sales were way down, especially compared to the last two Gem City shows. Even people who were familiar with the PANEL books and had bought them before didn’t pick up the new anthologies. In fact, if it wasn’t for Matt Feazell buying three Class of 2006 books for a dollar (and trading a Cynical Man for my Pyramid Story), I would have been totally skunked on the show. I blame the economy. We need to have another show after the economic stimulus checks come through.
Having said that, I did have a good time at the show. I was able to make a good bit of progress on a freelance editing job, so I technically didn’t lose money on the show. It is always good to sit down and chat with the PANEL guys, and the show is only about 45 minutes from my house. The big pile of comics that Craig got from Bell, Book and Comic were fun to look through.
Even though my sales were low, I’m not ready to give up comics, just rethink some strategy.
No Bankies for the convention, but here are a few quotes:
Dara: “Are we going to Chipotle for lunch?” trying to continue a PANEL con tradition, but we didn’t know where the nearest one was.
Young kid: “Is this appropriate?” while pointing at Craig’s newest Ineffables comic.
Sean: “What Sandman are you drawing, the Gaiman version or the gas mask version?” Craig (with contempt): “The Ditko Sandman.”
Here's Brent's previously seen splash page in glorious color!
I'm still loving this...
Dara asked me on the way to Gem City how much script I have written for the series; I told him I had none! As I wrote earlier, we're doing this retro-Marvel style, with me providing short chapter summaries that he'll illustrate and I'll follow with script. Below is my plot for chapter three.
Mister Liberty, Human Tank, Dunkirk Spirit and Code Talker have traveled to the Belorussian town of Novugrudek, having been sent to find a scientist their intelligence reports is being sought after by the Nazis. After a couple scenes of them avoiding Nazi patrols which are rounding up Jews, we see in flashback them getting their assignment in England from Churchill’s advisor (the same one seen in chapter one). Scene shifts back to present, where we see the nameless scientist being discovered in a safe house by a Nazi patrol. The Quartet intercedes and routes the Nazis (HT demonstrates in some fashion that his strength has increased recently), but before they can move on with their charge, a ragtag group of machine gun-toting individuals surrounds them.
Scene shifts to Colonel Styx and a group of Nazi soldiers; he is overseeing the search for the scientist, and is visiting a safe house they know he has been at in recent days. He is visibly displeased with his troops’ progress; to expedite matters, he gestures at a soldier and the man undergoes a gruesome transformation into a creature dubbed a “Bloodhound” (or the German translation thereof). Styx smiles as the newly created man-beast starts tracking the scientist.
ML, HT, CT & DS are led through the dense forest surrounding the town until they come to a hidden community of Jews living in the woods. The group’s leaders, the Bielski brothers (Tuvia, Zus, and Asael), give a tour of this thriving hidden community, boasting a synagogue, bathhouse, a theatre, and camouflaged dugouts built into the ground to provide shelter for their population of nearly one thousand. The Bielskis explain their mission to send fighting men into the ghettos to rescue Jews and provide them a safe haven in the surrounding forests, right under the Nazi’s noses.
Their tour is interrupted by the Bloodhound and a unit of German soldiers, who realize they have made a far greater discovery than they originally sought. The Nazis turn and race back into the woods to report to Styx what they have found; ML, HT, CT and DS, as well as the Bielskis, all get steely glares and resolve that the Nazis must not be allowed to report back. The chase is on!
(To Be Continued.)
Brent can turn that into 10-15 pages as he sees fit. I'm trying to incorporate lesser known true-life historical figures or events into the background of the sci-fi superhero story I have running over the ten chapters. The Bielski brothers and their hidden community described above are based in fact.
This chapter might be trimmed down a bit; it's a little crowded with characters, but each one has a need to be there. I'm hoping that spreading the story over two chapters will help, but I'll need input from Brent in order to decide, so this might not be the final version.
Sorry for the late notice, but tomorrow it the Gem City Comic Convention. A bunch of members of PANEL will be there. It is a great convention on the Wright State University campus in Dayton, Ohio. If you are around, stop by and say hi.
Comic Book Resources rolled out their new look and it's pretty sharp. My Tori editor, Rantz Hoseley talks with CBR about Comic Book Tattoo, Tori Amos, life and living it. New preview pages are up as well. Off to the left is the new cover art for it. Comic Book Tattoo is slated for release this summer.
I would quibble with putting sports geeks so low on the list; sadly, they command more social clout than the writer believes. Also, I would argue that people who actually make indie comics are slightly above regular comic book fans. That could just be wishful thinking.
According to this, I'm around the middle of the pack.
This question came up at the Ogre the other day -- are Furries considered an official part of the geek spectrum now? I don't think I've seen them listed on other geek hierarchies.
I once submitted a Star Trek script ... does that make me a fanfic writer? I promise I did not put myself in it.