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.
If the economy doesn't do these guys in (and eventually I get a house), I am so getting a couple of walls or rooms done with this wallpaper. Since I've never bought wallpaper in my life, I have no idea how reasonable this stuff is. Still some pretty cool designs. Personal favorites are Flower of Love, Tunnel Vision and Celestial Dragon.
What sparked this was a link to Dan Funderburgh's site, who has some nice designs of his own. Love the Death from Above design he did for Hellz Bellz. Sadly a custom job.
I've seen some artists silkscreen designs right onto the walls for installations. Something I might do.
So Columbus' weekly Alive newspaper did an interview with me in their "Alive & Unedited" section this week. You can read it here.
I feel like I must make a small clarification about the last quote in the article, though. It has me saying "Comic books are really just soap operas for adolescent boys and, I guess, pseudo-men." Unfortunately, that was taken a bit out of context. I was talking about the convoluted and inaccessible continuity of most mainstream superhero comics (as I was properly quoted at the beginning of the article with "The mainstream superhero stuff can be so incomprehensible..."), and specifically about the X-Men books when I made the "soap opera" statement. Just didn't want anyone to think I'm hatin' on comics. Hell, even when it comes to the "underwear perverts", I'm an adolescent boy at heart. I read Hawkman, fer Pete's sake.
Continuing our new feature, every weekend I'll be posting a comic book cover featuring an often silly comic book crossover. Today's versus pits Heroes vs. Hitler!
Golden age superheroes in WWII action...let me guess, it's by Roy Thomas? Yep, sure enough. I think most of these characters were either public domain characters, or fan-created. In any case, I dig "The Eye". Unfortunately he has many weaknesses: a sharp stick, running with scissors, BB guns, sandstorms, etc.
(Disclaimer: Hamster Press is in now way related to, a subsidiary of, or a sister corporation to Ferret Press. Hamsters are rodents, ferrets are not. That is all.)
...every time I see Obama on screen or hear him freezing something Bush concocted, I do a fist pump in the air. Which is the opposite reaction I had every time the Bush/Cheney hydra came on screen. I hope this isn't a gag but Obama made a reference to the Savage Sword of Conan #24 during his first cabinet meeting. I think I just had a nerd-gasm. I know Craig or Brent might faint after this.
We just had the dog fixed yesterday, and the vet’s instructions included limiting her physical activity for the next seven days. That’s a tall order in a house with a 3-year old and a 1-year old. The poor beast is going to have to spend most of the next week in a cage, let out for a brief spell in the evenings when the kids are asleep and quick trips to the back yard.
She seems to be making the best of the situation, though; she put up a nice Raquel Welch poster on the back of her cage, against the wall. Not sure where she got it.
Hey, Columbus' own Bob Corby gets interviewed over at The Pulse. He talks about the Oh, Comics! anthology, the small press scene here, and much more.
"THE PULSE: Wow, so you've been at this for 20 years! What was the independent scene like when you began Oh, Comics!?
CORBY: I started sending mini-comics out in the late 80's to anybody willing to trade with me. Mostly to small pressers with reviews in Tim Corrigan's Small Press Comics Explosion. It was a pretty isolated experience back then. I did finally start to see some local guys with listings after awhile. Local people like Michael N. Neno, Mike Toth and also regional people like Jim Pack, Larry Blake, Larry Nibert, Ian Shires and Allen Freeman. That's one of the reasons I started Oh,Comics (or Ohio Comics) was because there seemed to be so many people doing the same thing I was attempting alone. "
A while back while I was still employed, the store where I worked did a donations drive for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our contact was a regular customer who was from a military family and had connections at Rickenbacker. I approached her with the notion of sending comics printed from my Marvel DVD-Roms on a weekly basis so those people trapped in the desert could have a subscription of sorts rolling in for some much needed escapism. She passed the message along to someone at the base who thought it was a great idea, but then she developed some form of family crisis and moved, and I quit my job, so I had no idea who to contact.
My recent foray into Facebook put me in touch with an old friend who was in the military and had just returned from a deployment himself. I ran the idea by him and he directed me to www.anysoldier.com, a site listing military personnel who serve as contacts to get general care packages distributed to their specific units. The site has a searchable database listing items that troops need or have requested; I entered “comic books” and was amazed to get a bazillion hits from troops who need their funny books to pass the time.
Of course, I was in total disagreement with the fool who made the decision to send our military into an unnecessary war; but having known a couple people now who have returned, I have a great deal of sympathy and respect for those who are trying to stay alive out there because they decided at some point they wanted to do something good, only to be let down by their leaders. The specific contact I found was a chaplain who spent half his introductory post talking about how much he missed his comic books. So, starting this week a unit in Iraq will start receiving weekly deliveries of old Marvel comics, fresh off my printer. I’ll rotate titles every other week to get some semblance of variety, and I’ve picked a few of my favorite runs with some of the more recognizable characters.
Amazing Spider-Man (beginning with issue #112): the beginning of the era that hooked me on comics and defined this character for me, with plot threads stretching out over about thirty issues. After a few issues of character introductions, we dive into the death of Gwen Stacy, the introduction of the Punisher, and the original clone series. After a little Romita and Kane, the stories are in the capable hands of my personal #1 spider-artist, Ross Andru.
The Avengers (beginning with issue #267): Stern/Buscema! The first few issues build up to the New Masters of Evil story, which is second only to the Kree/Skrull war for the title of best Avengers story ever. These guys (along with Macchio and Simonson) kept the standards up on this series for an impossibly long run.
Iron Man (beginning with issue #117): I still say he’s not Marvel’s most compelling character, but everyone should be familiar with him by now, and this era was the best it ever got. Michelinie and Romita jr. had a ridiculously long run, created a great supporting cast and had a rogues’ gallery comparable to Barry Allen’s (I mean that in a good way) lining up to get easily shellacked by Iron Man.
Uncanny X-Men (beginning with issue #109): really, do I need to explain this? Claremont/Byrne, the Savage Land, Dark Phoenix, Alpha Flight, Days of Future Past? A no-brainer.
Hopefully I won’t have to send these out for too long and these guys can find their own LCS. Until then, anyone with some comics to spare should check out the site above; plenty of people out there would love to read them.
This weekend, we look at an unusual Spider-man crossover comic, Spider-man vs. The Prodigy:
I'm a little sketchy on the details. I mean, sure, The Prodigy is a psychedelic rave/punk/electronic/industrial/hardcore band with a frontman that easily resembles a comic book villain:
...but I'm still unclear what their beef is with everyone's favorite wallcrawler. Or maybe Peter Parker started the static because he's just not down with the full frontal nudity and massive drug use in the video for "Smack My Bitch Up".
Oh wait, it's not that Prodigy? Oh. Well, um, never mind then.
Because you demanded it! Here is the tragic tale of the Duke of Oil!
When we first meet Earl J. Dukeston, he's a Texas-sized Texas oilman visiting Markovia's offshore drilling platform, Station Markovia. Markovia's Dr. Helga Jace has discovered a way to extract oil from oil tar with 96.32 percent efficiency -- and extract gold from seawater. Suck on that, Martian Manhunter.
Dukeston has a number of affectations, including calling the brilliant scientist "Helgie." He's folksy. You betcha.
Inevitably, he attempts to steal the technology, and finds out that Station Markovia is really a front for the Outsiders. Along the way, we reveal his origin:
After suffering a near-fatal oil rig accident, the Duke's brain is recovered by a group of evil scientists called Skull. They promise to clone him a new body, but for now his brain is encased in a cyborg shell. He has to do their evil scientific bidding.
He stands off the whole team for about 20 pages, turning their own headquarters against them. Along the way he sheds parts of his human form, becoming this:
Looker notices she can't pick up his brainwaves, and later the whole team manages to open up his brain case. There's nothing there! He's all robot! The evil scientists have been lying to him! Realizing he has become an Outer Limits-style sci-fi plot twist, he throws himself into the Pacific Ocean.
This is the part where your brain starts to hurt. Why the deception? Why didn't Skull just build a robot? Why not get a volunteer? Isn't the DC Universe chock-full of people willing to sacrifice their physical forms for a powerful robot body? Did they need the brain engrams of specifically a Texas oilman?
So that's the Duke of Oil: A fairly powerful villain, a ridiculous backstory, a dollop of pathos, a small metaphor on the environment, and a bad pun. One-dimensional villain? Oh, no. This guy's an onion.
The Comics Reporter posted an open letter from Dan Vado to Diamond. Diamond is raising it's sales bar to a point that will affect pretty much all small press publishers: from Slave Labor to Oni Press. Effectively dropping a lot of them from distro and a spot in Previews. It may come to a shock to many indie comics fans, indie comics are a hard sell. Personally I think it's due to an unresponsive DM that doesn't know how to sell them, coupled with a lack of any real marketing push from publishers who are lucky enough to skate by. Word of mouth can only get you so far. I will be the first to admit that there is an abundant amount of steaming crap out there. It's like that with every media though: books, music, film, etc. The DM's roof was leaky and this was bound to happen eventually.
I've always appreciated Vado's bluntness in regards to the industry. Despite this news being a bit hard to take. Something I think that impeded success for small press was the shear glut of it when you look through Previews. I'd hate to see the cut off happen to publishers like Oni or SLG. Good or craptacular, it was in there. It does sound like Vado is entertaining being a distributor for those publishers slighted by Diamond's new cut-off policy.
Friend of the Ferret, Cleveland resident, kick-ass indie artist, and all-around cool guy John G is offering a collection of his band poster work. The set contain 53 posters printed on cardstock, in a variety of sizes. Yours for $50, plus $10 for shipping.
This weekend, we take a stroll down memory lane to the wacky world of mid-90s indy comics, for a crossover event that nobody demanded:
If memory serves me right, both characters were initially published by Hall of Heroes, which was run by high school kids. CyberFrog was the creation of then 19 year old Ethan Van Sciver, who of course went on to find fame and fortune working on DC's Flash and Green Lantern characters. Creed was created by 17 year old Trent Kaniuga, who apparently is doing video game design for World of Warcraft and Diablo 3.
So there you go, a bit of worthless 90s indy comics trivia, courtesy of the guy who remembers the most useless things.
So yesterday Tom posted the link to that new blog Covered where artists take a stab at re-drawing or re-interpreting (it's not clear which)comic book covers. Some of the covers are from classics like Uncle Scrooge, some are from hipster-ironic tongue-very-firmly-planted-in-cheek classics like Secret Wars. Big surprise that Jeffrey Brown did that one.
Anyway, I mentioned that I wasn't too impressed with the 2 covers I had seen, and after looking at Johnny Ryan's Uncle Scrooge cover, a dreadfully dull paint by the numbers affair, I'm still not. Yet the idea does have much promise, and I wanted to share an artist who did a series of similar drawings.
I don't know a whole lot about Mark Todd and there does seem to be the typical gallery / artist statement claptrap on his site, but he did some really interesting re-interpretations of some classic Marvel comics. Click on that link above to see them all, but here are my favorites compared to the originals. First, my favorite, The Invincible Iron Man #2...
...and the original...
Next, The Mighty Thor #151...
...and the original...
And finally Amazing Spider-Man #53...
...and the original...
There's some good stuff on his site. Check it out. And let us know what this mystery project is, Dara!
So, since Craig asked, I got curious and I did some searching to see if I could find this vaunted Duke of Oil character. I found a cover which reprints Batman and the Outsiders #7 (I think) and this is supposed to be the Duke on the cover. He just looks like a cheap Terminator! Tony, WTF?
The past couple of weeks I was a guest on 2 different radio shows talking about the Terminator Salvation prequel series. You can listen to both programs online:
I was a guest on Fictional Frontiers with Sohaib Awan, "a weekly one-hour journey through the comic, novel, film, and television universes" which airs Sundays on WNJC 1360 AM, Philadelphia, PA. Click here for the Sunday, January 11 show.
Leave Geo-Force Alone! Villains make the man (or don't)
Batman was the Outsiders' original mentor, but one of the lessons he failed to teach the team was: You're only as good as the villains you fight. The big obstacle to Geo-Force becoming a B-lister is his strength of schedule.
The original Outsiders only fought two members of Batman's inestimable rogue's gallery, and they were Firefly and Maxie Zeus. At least arrange a bout with Calendar Man, Bats.
To make matters worse, Mike W. Barr had a real thing for pun-related villains in those days. Geo-Force found himself up against the Force of July, the Duke of Oil, Madame Ovary, Agent Orange, the Nuclear Family, and this unfortunate fashion victim here:
But still, he managed to get some licks in on some quality opponents. Like Soviet super-soldiers ...
... Vampires ...
... And he had an unusually strong outing against Superman.
But, of course, he failed to defeat his greatest nemesis: Free Willy.
But, like I say, this was early in his career.
Next time: It's the last "Leave Geo-Force Alone" post, and in it we find a new way forward for the Markovian Marvel. Be Here! It'll be good!
As I was reading Craig’s latest intriguing Way Back Machine column, I started thinking about the comics, books, and even art that filled my youth and proved to be so instrumental in shaping my own tastes and preferences. So with all deference to Craig, who started it all, I thought it would be fun to share some of what I remember from my own early years as a wee boy.
Before starting, it’s important to note that I will turn 40 years old this summer. That means that I was born in the 60s, or 1969 to be precise, and my formative years were the decade of the 70s. Additionally, my parents were, for lack of a better term, filthy hippies and even though they eventually moved on to well-paying white collar jobs in computer science and nursing respectively, my childhood was spent in a home suffused with billows of incense smoke, macramé art and Tolkien posters on the walls, bookshelves stuffed with fantasy paperbacks from the 60s, and a constant soundtrack of prog rock classics like “Tales From Topographic Oceans,” “Brain Salad Surgery” and “In The Court Of The Crimson King” ringing in the background. In a lot of ways, the deliriously weird fantasy art of the 60s and 70s was instrumental in shaping my perceptions of art and illustration, for good or for ill.
Having a father who was strangely fond of fantasy, science fiction, animation, and even comics, proved to be a boon in my early years. There wasn’t much available back then, although I do remember a few odd issues of Heavy Metal laying around in the late 70s, and in spite of the abundance of breasts I was permitted to read them. Go figure.
But one of the gems that I remember most fondly from my childhood was Philippe Druillet’s graphic novel Yragael-Urm. Druillet was French, and helped found both Les Humanoides Associes and the original Metal Hurlant magazine in 1975, alongside legends like Moebius. But he had already been doing comics for a number of years, and his epic Yragael-Urm, inspired almost equally by Druillet’s love of Michael Moorcock’s Elric and a healthy appreciation for Lovecraft’s tales of Cthulhu, was incendiary to my young eyes.
Yragael-Urm was published in Europe in 1974 and didn’t make it to the U.S. until 1978, which is just around the time I remember seeing it. It must have been a shoddy translation because I read that thing about 30 or 40 times over the years and it never made much sense at all. But the art! My God, the art was enough to keep me going! In retrospect, I think that one of the things I liked the most about the graphic novel was that the art told the story. There was no overreliance on narrative, no foolish insistence on things like character development and snappy dialogue. No. Instead, there was page after page of mind-meltingly wonderful fantastic visuals depicting the mighty warrior Yragael-Urm and his bizarre multi-pronged sword…
Incredibly vast and bizarre castles which seemed to morph into bodies and faces and screaming mouths, all cast starkly against nightmarish backdrops of almost hallucinatory colors…
Bizarre alien landscapes, things I could barely wrap my 10 year old brain around like the bizarre nightscape below, pale towers glowing faintly against a skyscape of colossal drifting cubes…
But what struck me most, what has stayed with me all of my life, is the way Druillet approached page design and layout. Of course back then, I just thought they were really cool pictures. But the idea of telling a story with pictures has always been very dear to me. And to look at these pages as an adult, and see the suggestions of a powerful and epic narrative freed from the crushingly dull constraints of the dictates of how panels are SUPPOSED to flow…well, this kind of thing still thrills me…
Perhaps it’s not comics in their purest sense, and perhaps some of you have nothing but ridicule for this kind of thing. I’m looking at you, Goins. But to me, this is pure gold. These are pages, panels, whatever, that you can look at for hours and hours, again and again, and never get tired of seeing them. These are sagas that depend as much on you, the reader and your imagination, as they do upon the artist creating them. I can see how in almost subconscious ways I’ve tried to emulate some of this kind of thing in my own comics. I would also guess that artists like Walt Simonson, another dear favorite of mine, were also fans of Druillet. I can see a lot of Druillet’s influence in the way Simonson lays out some of his more design-heavy and Baroque pages, especially in the amazing Orion series he did a while back.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this peek at the life of Matt as a wee boy. I’m poking around a lot on the internet now, looking for more works by the artists that thrilled me when I was young. Oh, and if anyone out there either owns any Druillet they could let me borrow, or has any leads on how I could track down some more, I’d be much obliged. I’d love to read Yragael-Urm again, and I’ve heard a lot about his Lone-Sloane stuff too.
I may have mentioned before: there was a brief spell when at about the age of 14 I decided to become a serious young man and gave up collecting comics. It was only a year or so later that I wandered back into Groveport’s newly opened, hole-in-the-wall comic shop, but I credit a handful of titles for sucking me back into the joyful habit of reading these four-color funny books: Flaming Carrot, Simonson & Buscema’s Thor, and The Bozz Chronicles by David Michelinie and Bret Blevins.
Bozz was a product of Marvel’s mid-1980’s Epic Comics line. This was one of those everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of series’, featuring a Victorian England filled with aliens, demons, and time travelers-- like a Sherlock Holmes detective story with Doctor Who monster weirdness and a Wild Wild West-style steampunk sensibility (others may be familiar with these concepts when they were done by Waid and Guice under the name Ruse). How influential was this series on my own creations? Well, my first ever, best-left-forgotten self published series was an old west tale with a gambler, an Indian sorcerer, and a tough barmaid battling aliens and time travelers, and the character dynamics of this series even peek through the panels of The Ineffables.
Here’s the setup: a prostitute named Amanda Flynn stumbles across a bipolar alien known only as Bozz who is stranded on our planet. Recognizing the usefulness of his keen intellect and space borne powers as a means of keeping herself off the streets, she establishes the detective agency of “Boswell and Flynn” in order to keep his mind engaged with interesting puzzles so he doesn’t descend into depression and kill himself. Along the way they pick up Salem Hawkshaw, a salty American barroom brawler who hangs around in case they need any heads busted. Six great issues of bizarre retro-futuristic adventures followed before the series was cancelled because I was apparently the only person reading it.
In this issue, Bozz & Flynn are engaged to investigate a series of demon sightings plaguing an area of London. The case revolves around two brothers born into wealth, one of whom has been disinherited for leaving his family to make his own way in life (in an occult bookstore, no less). The wealthy brother feels he has wasted his life in indolence, so when his prodigal sibling returns with an occult artifact, he begins experimenting with it as a means to make something of himself. The artifact was actually a trap from the other brother who wished to get his rightful share of the family fortune; it causes the spells the user experiments with to backfire with gruesome results.
Physical deformities and demonic manifestations still fall short of killing someone to get their estate, so when the detectives expose the situation, the scheming brother steps in to close the deal personally, only to have Bozz’s array of bizarre alien powers block his efforts. The villain kills himself in the final confrontation, leaving Bozz to make the sort of moral observation that only the objective outsider in this sort of story is able to do.
Reading these issues after literally decades, I hadn't realized just how much I took away from them. Credit where credit's due, this series is as big a personal influence for me as anything Lee and Kirby did.
Straight from the horse's mouth, the horse in this case being DC Universe Executive Editor Dan Didio:
"What’s the process for finding new talent to bring in to DC these days? With Marvel, the line seems pretty clear – they seem to be pulling a lot from accomplished independent creators as well as screenwriters that are part of the extended Marvel “circle.” With DC, how do you go about that?
DD: I receive over 300 comics a month, so I’m flipping through those, hearing what and who’s getting buzz, I’m getting e-mails on a consistent basis. The bottom line is that I don’t take unsolicited material. I only look at published materially, really, to see whether or not there’s strength there. And also – most importantly – to think that it’s just me, that is erroneous. I have a full editorial staff who are constantly out there looking for new talent. Every one of our editors is empowered, and makes it a priority in their job to go out there and find new talent to bring into the mix. We’re always trying to freshen the pot while also trying to keep our strong producers producing.
The hard part is really the venues where we can try them out. That’s what’s so wonderful about our Holiday Specials or our one shots or miniseries tied to events, because they allow us to get new faces into the mix where there may not be an opening in the line otherwise. Don’t get me wrong – we do a lot of inventory material as well, but if you have faith in someone, you want to throw them into the deep end of the pool as quickly as possible. Case in point – Andrew Krysberg. He did a great job for us on Justice League Classified, a great job on Batman: Confidential, so now he’s the writer on Green Arrow/Black Canary and from there, Superman: World of New Krypton."
Late with these-- we spent the week after the holiday moving, a grueling, brutal ordeal I hope we never have to do again. On the plus side, I now have an incredibly sweet studio/comic den. Maybe I'll post some pics once everything's in order.
My Xmas fund drive ended with an odd alignment of cosmic forces that brought me two unrelated requests for Fin Fang Foom! Here they are, along with a third draft I made in my quest for purple-trunked perfection.
The fine folks at Comic Book Resources have a nice little article up about Archibald Chases the Dragon. Yours truly and artist Grant Bond talk about the origins of the book, and other zany topics.
"It's for mature audiences, especially those who appreciate great artwork, a unique and skewed storytelling perspective, and a book unlike any on the stands right now. I know that's a bold claim, but I'm serious. Take a look at the Archibald preview pages, then go down to your local comic shop and see if you can spot another book like this one. Also, if you're a fan of opium dens from the olden days, you'll dig this book. I'm just saying."
Hey kids, run out to your favorite LCS (Local Comics Shop) and pick up a copy of Archibald Chases the Dragon, from the good folks at Image Comics. It's created and drawn by the talented Grant Bond, written by yours truly, and also features a one-page backup strip by PANELista Tom Williams.
"Archibald takes the classic animation of Fleischer Studios and kicks it out a moving car in the middle of Roman Polanski's Chinatown."
Reminder: this here comic is only for mature readers (sorry kids!)
Welcome to a new weekly feature on the mightly Ferret Press/PANEL blog: Weekend Versus. Every weekend, I'll be posting a comic book cover featuring a crossover. It may feature famous characters, or it may not. But it will always showcase someone versus someone else! Because we all know conflict is at the heart of good drama.
This weekend's inaugural cover pits the king of vampires against wild jungle women. That's right, only in comics!
No, I don't know why Dracula looks more like a troll or ogre than a vampire. And no, I'm not sure how that lead jungle woman's belt is held up...it looks like it's connected to her pierced navel. Or something. Nevertheless, the fight is on. My money's on the jungle girls because they have sharp, pointy sticks.