Tagged: Fred Van Lente

Creative Conversation: Brandon Montclare

Welcome to a Creative Conversation with comics scribe Brandon Montclare. Today we’ll dish on currently captivating run on Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, his controversial essential reads for newbies to comics, and some of his insane journey from intern, to editor, to writer. Along the way we’ll make pit stops at Tokyo Pop, DC Comics, Vertigo, and discuss some tips for new writers wanting to break into the comic book industry. And of course, we’ll get Brandon’s take on whose faces would be on his personal Mt. Rushmore of comics. Agree? Disagree? Let’s start the process…

MK: I am ready to have our next Creative Conversation with the current co-scribe of Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, THE Brandon Montclare. Thanks for joining me today, sir. Kind of just to ease in, get a little bit of background, do you remember the first comic you purchased, or the first one that stuck with you?

BM: Yeah, no, I never have and people ask me all the time. I’ve thought about it and I’ve thought, okay let me try to reconstruct that “what was my first comic” and truth be told it was Savage Sword of Conan. And I was a little kid, and we had the direct market but about a million stuff you would see on the newsstand and Savage Sword of Conan being magazine size either just by luck of where I lived or because of the actual distribution I couldn’t tell you. It was a little more common.

MK: Do you miss the magazine format?

BM: Yes, very much so. And they were kind of old, kind of before my time even though Savage Sword of Conan lasted for a million years and I was reading it all throughout. But it would  have been “Savage Sword somewhere in the early hundreds and I actually, okay, so I had this one and this was earliest, and you go online to find it. And then I said, “Okay, I know Spider-Man with the black costume was around that time” and Daredevil, I know the covers. Was Marvel Team-Up, I was joking earlier about Starfox before but there was this Marvel Star Fox, this Marvel Team-Up was a book I had and I can’t find anything online about it.

MK: But you know it existed because you owned that comic.

BM: Well yes, because I said I had that and I saw that cover a hundred times. You know what that means? So, and then I should remember what the numbers are and everything else but I don’t. So…

MK: I’m terrible with remembering numbers. I’m like you, I can remember the cover, I can remember the story, but the actual issue number, I’m just not wired that way.

BM: Yeah but I have brothers who are four years older than me. Two of them, they’re twins of each other and there were comic books around and my grandfather, he was a big reader of magazines in general but also comic books and everything else. Because he spent many years at sea. He worked on, for Exxon, he worked on ships, he was an engineer. So it was kind of part of his personality where he would, even though he at that point working was up at Albert Einstein Hospital up in the Bronx, but he kind of still had that mentality where it was, “You’re in port so go buy a bunch of stuff and then take it back to your little room on the ship” so to speak. So he would buy comics and magazines and everything else like that. And the comics at least would filter down.

MK: That’s incredible. The generational passing of the stories. I mean, it’s one of those really special things about comics though.

BM: Yeah, and I don’t know that he even grew up on comics. It was just something where he would, you’d be at sea for a couple of months so he would go and he would just take Time magazine and he would take all the comics, too. And like I said he was a big reader. So there were always piles around. What the first one is I don’t know. But Savage Sword of Conan was a favorite.

MK: Were there any other series growing up that stick with you?

BM: Yeah, you know it was probably a year or two after my, quote-unquote, “first comic” that I was into collecting. I was in grade school, right, so it’s not like you have money to be a real collector but it starts with maybe the issues that you missed that you want to have. I think you’re influenced back then in the 80’s, mid-80’s, with all the advertisements in the books were for back issues. You know what I mean? And collectors are all, “Oh, I want this, that and the other thing.” Oddly enough I don’t know if it was because of Conan or not but Groo was one of my favorite books. That was probably the first run of comics I had. But then there was a lot of Marvel stuff. I liked Spider-Man, all the titles they had like, three titles, right? Web of Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, and Amazing Spider-Man. I was in full swing when all that pre-Image stuff came out. When like McFarlane Spider-Man and Jim Lee’s X-Men and everything else. But, yeah, so I was a big fan, Mostly Marvel. Some DC also, I liked Green Lantern along with Batman.

MK: So you’re collecting comics as a kid. And you’ve had probably one of the most unique journeys that I can think of, as far as how many different boxes in the comics world you can check off having done. Can you tell people a little bit about your journey.

BM: I mean, I guess I’ve done it all. I was in junior high, so, I don’t know-seventh grade, and selling at local conventions. I grew up near enough to New York City. My father grew up in Manhattan and, uh, but my parents were divorced so, I shouldn’t say that, my father lived in Manhattan. I grew up in Westchester. But even Westchester had a bunch of comic stores. New York had a monthly comic convention. So, since I was eleven or twelve, I was selling every month at the Grady Stern conventions. You know, buying and selling. Making a little bit of money. Then, at nineteen, I opened up a comic book shop. And this would have been in the crash of the early-mid 90’s. So…

MK: So you’re timing was perfect.

BM: Well, I don’t think as a nineteen year-old I could have opened, I did open a shop. I should say there was a shop going out of business and I took over half of it. Which was Alternate Realities up in Scarsdale. Which I always proudly said, “still going strong” but not anymore. They closed up about a year ago.

MK: But it’s a legendary comic shop. If you know comic book stores, you know about Alternate Realities. And they had that documentary on it and everything.

BM: Yeah, yeah yeah! So I was a former employee but, so, yeah, worked at cons, worked at retail, at nineteen it was very cool to be a comic shop owner. In my mid-20’s, I personally didn’t feel it was that cool anymore (laughs). And it was a lot of work, you know. I mean you’re working more than eighty hours a week.

MK: People don’t realize the hours that goes into running a comic book shop.

BM: Yeah, definitely. So, I was married, well I still am married, my wife at the time, and still my wife (laughs) so I have no idea why I’m phrasing it that way.

MK: Congratulations (laughs).

BM: Yeah, there you go. She was relocating for school, she has a Ph. D in chemistry. We’re basically fire and ice on the formal education scale. But she was doing a post-doctorate in California, Cal Tech. It was supposed to be eighteen months, wound up being two and a half years. I’d sold most of my interest in the store. I went back to school. And as part of that I got an internship working at Tokyo Pop. In editorial. Tokyo Pop, infamous, maybe more than famous. They did translations of manga. That was kind of their bread and butter. They had a lot of money coming in and always trying to expand the business. People would literally call up the office or contact the office and say, “Oh, we want to do a cartoon of Fruits Basketor “We want to take Sailor Moon and put her on a lunch box.” Tokyo Pop only had a license to do reprints, right? They didn’t have any merchandising rights. So, the Powers That Be, who were a bunch of lunatics, said “We should start creating comics in the manga style, with creators, and that way we have properties that we can license off.” And they had a bit of a controversy with some of the deals that they gave to creators and I’m not saying that stuff was weird over at Tokyo Pop. A lot of good people worked there, too.

MK: How long were you at Tokyo Pop?

BM: I was there probably a little bit more than a year. It seems like a long time because you’re young. But I was an intern and then they hired me as like a freelance editor. Which only meant that [I] kind of had reduced hours which was fine because, as I said, I’d gone back to school.

MK: So you were editing manga for Tokyo Pop while you were also going to school.

BM: Yes.

MK: That’s the best side gig ever.

BM: (Laughs) It’s, well, it’s complicated because you don’t know what you’re going to do with life. You know, my wife has a Ph. D in chemistry so her kind of goal and the plan always was to find an academic position. Tenure track someplace. Which luckily wound up being back in New York, she’s at NYU. But it could have been anywhere. So it’s like, “Oh, I’ll go back to school, I’ll do something, and we’ll see.” I was a terrible student in high school. And my first phase of college. But when I went back I became a very good student. So we had no idea though [whether] we would wind up in College Station, Texas A&M or you might wind up at Syracuse, right, not necessarily the biggest cities in the world. And I had done some writing also for Tokyo Pop. But I wasn’t really thinking of that. So, like I said, I was doing my thing at Tokyo Pop and a lot of these type of businesses have a structure. You know interns would become a freelance editor like me then maybe they would offer you a staff position. And I got offered a staff position right when things were looking like they were about to get bad. So I was one of the, I hate to say rats leaving a sinking ship BUT ended up locating back to New York anyway.

MK: When you got back to New York where did you land?

BM: At DC Comics. I was lucky, I got, well I should say I was offered from Marvel and at DC Comics to be an assistant editor and maybe because I was overqualified more than I was just super brilliant. But both those places were getting hundreds of applications. But I worked for Bob Schreck over at DC Comics. And the reason I took DC, even though I was reading more Marvel stuff growing up was the opportunity to work with Schrek on All-Star Superman and All-Star Batman, with Paul Pope on Batman: Year 100

MK: Just, little known titles that probably no one’s ever heard of (laughs).

BM: And that was stuff and for a short time, when I knew that I was coming in and Bob was transitioning out of it just the regular Bat-office. I didn’t want to miss out on that opportunity. Because I loved editing. I had done some freelance writing, and a lot of people have a goal of becoming a freelance writer. It wasn’t my goal. I loved editing. A lot of me wishes I could still do it.

MK: What was one of the most rewarding aspects about editing and what was one of the most challenging aspects?

BM: The reward was completely, it’s like, when you’re a kid you want to be an artist, you want to be a writer, whatever you want to do, you want to be the creator. But when you think about it, [being an editor] it’s the ultimate fan position. I mean, I’m a writer, if I’m working on two or three books, which would be a lot for me, but even if you’re the most prolific writer working on four books-

MK: Oh, you mean Jeff Lemire? (Chuckles)

BM: Yeah, there you go (laughs). Maybe more than four, I worked with Jeff, I was the first editor on Sweet Tooth. And that came later. So, you get to work with all these guys, you get to work with a bunch of, you know what I mean, you get to work with artists and writers. And by that point I was into a lot of new people. I mean I gave Shane Davis some of his first jobs, Amy Reeder her first job, Sean Murphy, I kind of worked on his early stuff. Also got to work with Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, Michael Kaluta.

MK: You get to work with your heroes and help maybe create some new heroes in the process.

BM: Yeah, so it was like amazing to be an editor. What are the challenges? Generally it’s a nine to five job. Given the opportunity to work freelance there’s that, you don’t have to go to the office everyday. But the challenge at DC was, and it wasn’t unfair, but it’s just kind of the reality of that work, is you’re low man on the totem pole. You’ve got to wait your turn. I had gotten a few books that had gotten approved that I had a hundred percent put together myself. There’s a China Mieville Swamp Thing that never came out…That’s not a secret, it got absorbed back into DC and this was later, towards the end of me being there, it was New 52 spinning out where it was, “Oh, we’re going to bring him downstairs.” And that was a Scott Snyder book. So China had written, I think, it might have been the full scripts on the first ten issues. They certainly had the outlines so they made good by him for his work.

MK: That’s one of those situations I’m always amazed by. It’s learning how many scripts have been written for characters by major creators that’ll never see the light of day. And you’re wondering how it just stays in a drawer.

BM: Yeah, there’s an issue eleven of All-Star Batman that was never drawn. And it was kind of like a standalone Joker story. So there’s a Frank Miller script that was never drawn. And I think part of the reason was, and with good intentions, that Frank and Jim Lee would come back one day, maybe condense it to give it an ending. You know what I mean? That thing was paced for four hundred million issues

MK: If Marvel finally got out Captain America: White and David Lapham finished the initial run on Stray Bullets, I still can have hope for All-Star Batman & Robin.

BM: Yeah, but thinking about that script, if Jim Lee’s only got time to draw one issue then every six issues you’d have to restructure it so that’s something but there’s stuff like that. So at the end of DC I was doing too many books, uh, more than they would let me as an Associate Editor. And at that time Paul [Levitz] had stepped down and there was kind of an interim, they didn’t name the Dan DiDio, Jim Lee double-headed publisher so, it was time to go. So I said, “Okay, I’m not going to give away books that I singlehandedly put together just because I have too many books.”

MK: How did you find the transition from being an editor to being a writer? Did you feel more prepared?

BM: Well, I had done some writing before. At one point you’re mystified by it where you don’t even know how this comes together. It’s probably a lot easier now than it was ten or so years ago because of the internet. I mean obviously the internet was around ten years ago but maybe it’s easier to get scripts and talk with creators with social media kind of demystifying it. So I think a lot of it is that. [As an editor] you’re familiar with scripts, you’re familiar with artists. You know more what does work, what doesn’t work. And if you have a good head on the shoulders coming out of editorial maybe even if you’re not the best writer – And I’m not saying I’m the best writer or the worst or anything else – but I did the stupidest thing imaginable. I left on very good terms, everybody loves me over at DC. I didn’t want to be the guy, because I’d taken so much pride in editing, and a lot of people use that as a stepping stone and are upfront about it, and that’s totally cool. But I loved editing so much, I didn’t want to be the guy that was even perceived as using editing to take a stepping stone to writing. That was half of it. The other half says, “Hey, since I’m going freelance writing, why don’t you give me a couple of books?” I didn’t want to make other people feel like they had to humor me. So my first gig was kind of a cold gig at Marvel. I mean nothing’s cold because everybody knows everybody. But my first gig was at Marvel having no connection to them as a publisher. Like anybody else I had a couple of short things that nobody remembers. The first thing I did wasn’t the first thing that got printed. The first was an eight page back up, it was in Hulk, it was with Korg, who was The Thing, Ben Grimm looking alien from Journey into Mystery #83, the first appearance of Thor. Which Greg [Pak] had been hocking and then brought into continuity. And it’s funny because, in comics, people think, “Oh, I’m going to pitch Hawkman. And it’s going to be such a good idea that they’re going to give me my gig and it’s going to be Hawkman.” Or, “I’ve got the best pitch for Spider-Man and Black Cat, I’m gonna pitch that and they’re going to give me that book.” What happens often, and it’s probably the first half dozen gigs you’re going to get is that an editor likes your stuff and they groom it for you. So they say, “Hey, Brandon, we’re doing eight page back ups for all the supporting characters in Hulk. Do you want to do Korg? Because nobody’s doing Korg.” My answer was literally, “Korg, that’s fantastic! A hundred percent. That’s my favorite.” I had to go look up for Korg was (laughs).

MK: When someone offers you a job, you take the job.

BM: Yeah!

MK: It’s like, “yes, sir, I can build that submarine for you! When’s that check in the mail?”

BM: Absolutely. And I got Simon Bisley to do it since I worked with him when he was on Hellblazer. I was the guy that said let’s put him on covers. Which isn’t a brilliant move. Right? I mean Simon certainly had done covers before he’d done any for me. But-

MK: Still a good get.

BM: Yeah. What came out first but that I wrote second was, there was a crossover called Chaos War, which was with Hercules and there was a bad guy in that called the Chaos King. And I got to do the Chaos King one-shot and it wound up being over-sized…They wanted to feature the bad guy who had to speak in haiku? In all appearances. And I said, “Well that’s fine if he’s like the mysterious guy,” cause he had this God-like power cosmic level. So I said, “Well, that’s fine if he’s the guy behind the star that Hercules hears, he can hear it in haiku. But if you want to have an actual story with him, how often does he have to talk in haiku?” I sent that letter in. And it’s technically my second gig so I’m trying to be very nice saying, “What if I, I’ll give him a voice obviously that fits a cosmic entity but maybe I can just punctuate it with haiku. Like maybe he’ll start in a different voice and then when makes a big point he’ll do it in haiku.” I wondered if we could get away with that and I got a response that said, “No, he always speaks in haiku.” So I had to make a thirty page story with a guy speaking in haiku. Luckily, he’s a cosmic entity so I broke it up so that it was different people bouncing it off of him. But, when the actual, if Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak are reading, they should cover their eyes right now, because when Chaos War came out, Chaos King, he wasn’t talking in haiku in every scene. So it’s like, “Thanks, thanks a lot.” (laughs) They tried that for a day and decided “not.”

MK: And it was your day.

BM: Exactly.

MK: When you were an editor and you were getting a pitch, were there certain things you looked for fundamentally? In terms of formatting or the types of pitches? What advice would you give to someone writing their first pitch?

BM: Unfortunately, editors are different…You want to tailor something to an editor and you want to tailor it to your strengths. I always try to not get hung up on format. I always thought it was crazy, you’d say, “Give me a pitch in the form you think is strongest” but the editor wants it a certain way. So, some editors will give out, if not an outline, “Here’s the pitch that I got that’s the perfect form, use this.” And sometimes that’s the demands of the publisher they’re at because it has to cycle through certain things. But, obviously you want to keep it short. Because these things happen in stages. A lot of places can’t take unsolicited pitches anyway. So you have to have a relationship. A lot of the gigs are going to come in. I did have to give a pitch on the story of what Korg was going to do (laughs). I mean it was eight pages so it probably didn’t take me too long. This is the least sexy answer. You’re probably going to be in a relationship with them if you’re pitching anything now. And they’ll tell you what they need. But personally, shorter is always better. Because things will change so much anyway. And if you have something you believe in, think of it this way, your editor believes in you but if you got the assistant, like I was, he’s got to convince a lot of people above him. You almost don’t want to have too much information in it because that generates more questions.

MK: The more information you give, the more opportunities you’re giving someone to poke holes in it and you’re not necessarily in the room to talk it through.

BM: Exactly. So you don’t want to get too married to your pitch. The process of rewriting and going through the team it’s going to be so different anyway. To me, you want to sell yourself. Because the editor’s going to have an easier time selling the talent than the pitch.

MK: See, that’s brilliant. That’s, brilliant. I don’t know what you mean that’s not a sexy answer.

BM: Well people want a formula. And that, you’ll be forgiven for being a little bit overenthusiastic, you hope (laughs). Because everyone’s excited and everyone in comics was the person who at one point wanted to be in comics. So hopefully they’re forgiving.

MK: Also, if you catch them on a bad day…

BM: It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. And some people will be jerks, that’s going to happen, to0. But you know, you have to make it happen.

MK: Switching gears a bit, and thank you again for very generously taking the time to do this. Your Mount. Rushmore of comics, who would go on there?

BM: I read the first installment and I was thinking about this question. So, for me, all I could think about was who should be on the actual Mount Rushmore of comics. And then I realized, well, I have to also make this somewhat controversial. Alright. So that I thought of and then I forgot everyone. Well, first you got to put Stan Lee. Because Stan Lee doesn’t get enough credit. Well, okay he gets a lot of credit, but people ask, “Oh, does he deserve so much credit?” I’m a big fan of Stan Lee. I don’t know about his business dealings. I don’t know about his personal dealings…I’m sure he’s taken credit from a lot o people. But he’s kind of the guy that made comics what it is, I think. And not by his writing and maybe not by his editorial acumen, maybe it is, I don’t know, but just by being the hawker. Neal Adams has to be on there. Frank Miller has to be on there. Neal Adams because just such an influential artist but also did more for creators rights which I also think translates to in a lot of ways creative freedom and people being able to do their best work, which I think more than everybody else combined. Frank Miller because he did everything in my mind. He was a writer, he was an artist, jumped into Hollywood and was able to sell himself there. Well, if you put Stan Lee on there I guess you have to put Jack Kirby on. And then I think about wanting to create controversy and then people are going to think I hate Jack Kirby, I love Jack Kirby. I do a Kirby book! So I’d almost throw Todd McFarlane on there just to drive people crazy. And I say that completely seriously though.

MK: McFarlane revolutionized the business. You can’t argue that. Whether you think it was for the better or worse, or what you think of what he’s become now and what he was then. But you can’t deny his contribution.

BM: He was a popular artist and people [still] dig his stuff. And not for an artist but for his contribution to the business. So my personal Mount Rushmore is, I’ll give you four guys I like and it’ll change down the road. I’m a big Sergio Aragones fan, and these are just guys who influenced me and I like. I’m a big Larry Stroman fan because Alien Legion was the first book I really liked. And that stuff totally holds up now…Amy Reeder and Frank Quitely on there, too. I worked with them, too.

MK: I might put Amy Reeder in the top five of everything. And I hope she’s going to read this.

BM: She is a world class artist that I’ve gotten to work with a lot. Having sat next to her at dozens of conventions, the list of people that seek her out to tell her, “How do you do that, you’re amazing?” From Bill Sienkiewicz, to Frank Quitely, to Adam Hughes or lots of artists in between. I mean, she’s that good.

MK: And you guys have worked together, on Madame Xanadu you were an editor, you selected her for a competition at Tokyo Pop-

BM: That’s true.

MK: And then you’ve got Rocket Girl that you created together. And now you’ve got Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. What makes you the yin to each other’s yang?

BM: It’s just cause it works. Friendship and working with friends, I think, is underrated. I hired Amy, I gave her her first gig at Tokyo Pop. It was a contest. And she won it fair and square, I was the judge on one of them. We would take the top ten entries and make a little anthology out of them. I thought she was really talented. I was then leaving Tokyo Pop si I never got to stick around and work with her directly. I always wanted to work with her so I got her the Madame Xanadu gig at Vertigo. Which was a lot of fun to work on. And you know, as an editor you take a lot of credit for hiring somebody but they’ve got to make you look good. If I put her in the batter’s box, she’s got to hit out of the park or at least try to get on base and she hit it out of the park again and again and again. We had a really good relationship And when she was a little bit burnt out after Batwoman and leaving DC it was, let’s just do a quick project I don’t even want to think about it. Which became the Halloween Even one-shot which was very successful. And then we said, “Hey, we should do more of this.” So we tried something longer which was Rocket Girl. We decided we’d do five issues and see how it does. Who knew ten issues would take four years. In a way it hasn’t been a tremendous amount of pages but some of that is it takes a lot of time for Amy to do what she does.

MK: Sure, comics can take a long time to make.

BM: So Rocket Girl was a lot of fun. Rocket Girl opened the door to Moon Girl literarlly when Marvel said, “We want you to do something at Marvel like you guys do with Rocket Girl.” Amy wasn’t sure if she’d be able to draw that but she’s a great writer. And really doesn’t get enough credit for it.

MK: You had already seen her chops as a writer.

BM: Yeah, so we’ve co-written for Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, this is not a secret, she’s leaving with issue nineteen. And she did her part, she also did covers and designs. Amy can pick up the phone and call ten different publishers and get twenty different offers for covers. It was for her because Rocket Girl wasn’t coming out on the shelf as often so if she was going to do a cover, she should do one on something she was writing. Then it became a comfort level, her not growing up on the Marvel and DC stuff, working with me.

MK: Okay, now for the few people reading this that haven’t read Moon Girl yet, how would you describe the title?

BM: Well, it’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Devil Dinosaur is an old Kirby dinsoaur that went out eating other dinosaurs and sometimes some cave men. Marvel came to us and said, “Hey, give us some ideas of what you can do.” And we wanted some obscure characters so it started with Devil Dinosaur but when it went to Moon Girl, she gave us something creatively to get excited for. So if you look at my files on computer it went from Devil Dinosaur, to Devil Dinosaur and Moon Girl, to Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Whereas it is really, with all due to respect to Devil Dinosaur it’s really a book about Moon Girl. She is a nine year-old super smart engineer, inventor, scientist, who doesn’t get any recognition. She’s still in public school and doesn’t get why the world around her isn’t respecting how smart she is. Over the course of now eighteen issues going strong, Marvel, and this is an idea we pitched to them that they picked up on, Marvel has named her the smartest person in the Marvel Universe. But she’s still a kid, she still has challenges of getting along in the world. And Devil Dinosaur has become a buddy comedy, where maybe it’s her with the least smartest person in the Marvel Universe. But it’s a person who doesn’t judge her, that’s very faithful, that she can rely in, and in her entire life she hasn’t had that. And they form a bond.

MK: Right now, in recognition of her new status, she’s in the midst of the story arc, “The Smartest There Is” that’s getting ready to wrap up. She’s rubbed shoulders with X-Men, Hulk, Doctor Strange, can you give our readers a tease of what to expect from the final chapter of this epic adventure?

BM: Yeah, sure. What’s coming up is, this was really a coming out party for Moon Girl. It’s one thing to say she’s the smartest person, it’s another thing to show it. So how do you show it? With someone that’s always been isolated let’s show her meet all the heavy hitters. It was Hulk and then Thing, and then Iron Heart, and Dr. Strange, and most recently the X-Men. Issue eighteen is called, “Full Moon” and it’s a battle royale versus a mysterious Doctor Doom that doesn’t seem to match any of the other Doctor Dooms in Marvel right now. It will also have a pretty big reveal of Moon Girl’s powers, that she switches brains with Devil Dinosaur and some other cool stuff coming up. It’s been kind of the opening trilogy, I mean it is the third arc. But issues one through eighteen is in a lot of ways the first arc. And it’s going to kind of leave her, where she started as a nobody, now she’ll have a defined place in the Marvel Universe. The next arc after that will actually take a step back and just focuses on Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. I don’t want to spoil it too much but there’s a secret mission they have to do.

MK: No spoilers, I hate spoilers. If people want the secrets revealed they should come down to Forbidden Planet and pick up what is, I say unabashedly, one of the best books from the House of Ideas.

BM: That’s right.

MK: Okay, last questions. For someone who maybe has never read a comic book before. If you were running a store today and somebody walked in, what five stories would you tell them to read?

BM: Okay, I worked in a store and all my reads are wrong! I say, don’t read Watchmen, that’s something people should read later, it’s too confusing but people read Watchmen and love it. I say, “Sandman’s great but start with the second trade.” Which they actually used to do (laughs). But people seem to just want it all. And it’s funny having worked on both All-Star Superman and All-Star Batman & Robin, another fire and ice, All-Star Superman is great, and it won all the awards, but All-Star Batman & Robin might be a little more, accessible? I don’t know, do you have to love and be familiar with comics to read All-Star Superman? I do not know. But, Saga, you can pick it up and read it right away. So that’s number one. I think, Dark Knight Returns doesn’t get enough credit, because people always want to try to get cute and say, “Oh, you should do Year One instead.” Year One’s a perfectly good story but I’m going to put that classic on there. See I got to be contrary and do all weird stuff.

MK: Do it! You got three more.

BM: Daytripper, which I edited. I worked on a lot of great books, some of which I was just lucky enough to be sitting there when Bob Schreck landed them or Karen Burger landed them. Daytripper might be the best thing I ever worked on. And I think everyone can read it. It’s got an interesting form, it shows you what comics can do.

MK: I agree.

BM: I teach a class, too, so I should be a little bit more up on this stuff. You know, keeping it new also, Ms. Marvel, I think is as good as advertised and it’s a great book. And for the last one, because it’s obscure but great, Dial H For Hero by China Mieville and that’ll bring us full circle. I don’t know if those are essential but those are five oddball ones. Ask me again in five minutes, I’ll give you five new ones.  

 

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Graphic Spotlight – WEIRD DETECTIVE: THE STARS ARE WRONG

Cthulu crime stalks the streets of New York in this cosmic horror mini-series!

There’s been a pattern, some might classify it as a plague, of crimes committed in the Big Apple that defy logic. They’re too weird and bizarre for the average detective to unravel without having to believe in the extraordinary. Fortunately, Detective Sebastian Greene isn’t your average detective. He’s fighting against these unspeakable terrors that lurk in the shadows from beyond space and time. The reason he can take on these beings who want to usher in the unimaginable evil, the Old Ones, is because he’s one of them. After all, who better to catch a monster than one of their own?

New York Time’s best-selling author, Fred Van Lente (Generation Zero, Conan the Avenger, Marvel Zombies), and artist Guiu Vilanova (Conan the Avenger) are on the case for Weird Detective, a Lovecraftian mystery tale!

It’s part cop procedural, part H.P. Lovecraft terror, and completely compelling. If you love mystery, sci-fi, horror, and classic pulp, then this weird tale is just what the coroner ordered. This collection has every issue of the mini-series that brings Fred Van Lente’s penchant for air-tight plots filled with unexpected turns back to darken your book shelves. Just remember this one thing: Buyer beware…

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If I told you half the things I’ve heard about Today’s Daily Deals You’d Probably Short-Circuit

Make Comics Like the Pros… One of the year’s best-selling tutorial books, by Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente- two of the most prolific comics writers working today! ($23) $7.99

Jabba the Hutt Star Wars Black Hasbro

Star Wars Black Jabba the Hutt… Han, ma boo-kee, buy this fantastic Black series deluxe Jabba for 46% off regular retail. There WILL be a bargain! ($50) $26.99

Metallica Nothing Else Matters Graphic Novel… ($20) $7.99

Uglydoll DC Comics Babo as Superman… ($20) $7.99

*Forbidden Planet’s DAILY DEALS are updated every morning. Prices are valid in-store til the shop concludes its business day (10pm or 12am, depending on the day) and online for roughly 24 hours. Prices are valid while in-stock supply lasts.

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Fred Van Lente and Pere Perez Archer and Armstrong Signing

Archer-And-Armstrong-AgainWEBWriter Fred Van Lente and Artist Pere Perez will be joining us on October 1st at 6pm to celebrate their run on Archer & Armstrong! Number 25 marks an anniversary issue with an all-star studded cast of creators joining Van Lente and Perez on the book, for what is sure to be an awesomely bombastic issue. Don’t miss your chance to get it signed by its awesomely bombastic creative team.

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Sci-fi summer school

To organize your thoughts, to give yourself new ideas, and to think about things a different way, I often try to give myself some thematic perameteres to work in. Often those themes don’t stick because they’re dumb, or don’t actually make sense to people other than myself. But today I made themes and decided to leave them.

What are some writing tips you have?! What themes did you notice this week?! Hunt someone down in the store and aggressively tell him or her your thoughts!

This week’s comics are, dyna-miiiiite!

Magnus: Robot Fighter #3-Fred Van Lente turns it up when he pits human hunter Leeja Clarke against the hostile robots of the future. Her introduction is solid pulp, but her fighting prowess is completely real. She’s punching her way up in life, using her own flesh and blood to take down our hero human. If you thought fighting maleficent metal miscreants was going to be Russell Magnus’s biggest challenge, you thought wrong. (But it was a good effort. I mean, it makes sense to assume that his hardest opponents would be robots. But you’re still wrong. Don’t beat yourself up over it though.)

Solar: Man of the Atom #2-With confusion over who is REALLY the new Solar that was left in the wake of #1, I have to say, if you are confused, why do you care?! It’s a pretty solid character trait of first issues to leave a cliffhanger with the audience going “omg what’s going to happen?!?! So crazy!!” but some people just seemed bummed that solar might not be who they thought he was going to be. But this comic is so good I really have to wonder again, why does it matter?! So the mantel of a solar reboot is being passed to someone else, if it’s written as well as Barbiere probably writes his grocery lists, the new Solar will be sure to impress all audiences. Try on some super science with this spectacular new series!

Flash Gordon #2-Evan Shaner is drawing the ever-loving crap out of Jeff Parker’s take on Flash Gordon. The man from Earth is doing a not so great job at keeping his identity when attempting to save an alien race from being transformed into minions of the nefarious Ming. Classic humor and new adventures make this story just generally fun to read, but the amazing art team kills at making this book fun just to look at. The team will continue hopping through time and space in their overarching quest to defeat Ming the Merciless, and prevent the invasion of Earth.

Game on, with Hick-mon….? I’m so embarrassed now

Manhattan Projects Vol. 4-Just buy it! It’s a part of my top 5 fav series! I don’t want to keep telling you to read it! (yes I do)

East of West #12-War is imminent in the best western, high sci-flyin, cryptic apocalyptic, adventure you cowpoke folk ever did read. But the effort swelling to change the course of the war-horse is the greatest quest for Death’s theistic compatriots.

Firsts and lasts

MPH #1-Mark Millaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar has a gotten tired of violence and is instead writing a new book about self-discovery through meditation. Just kidding. This book is about DRUGS, and MONEY, and going really FAST! When two friends realize that a new street drug will give you super speed abilities, they use it to do anything but help others. Obviously something like that will only get them into trouble; but that’s the least of their worries as long as they’re having fun and stacking cheddar. Coming to you from Mark Millar and Duncan Fegredo. I expect a bunch of speed lines.

 Dark horse Presents #36-The series is ending! (only not really) We’ll never see it again! (it’ll be back in July) Nothing will ever be the same! (it will be in a different format though). Full scoop, the current version of DHP you know and love, mainly that it’s 80 pages of awesome, will be going on a diet and getting a little slimmer to fit into a more cost effective model, coming out sometime in July. But that doesn’t mean they skimped on creators for the final (this version) issue. In this corner, we have Mike Mignola! Stan Sakai! And JAIME HERNANDEZ! + a bunch of others. They’ll be wrapping some stories up, starting some new ones, and giving you all around great tales for a great price.

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Free Comic Book Day is One Week Away

Free Comic Book Day 2014 will soon be upon us, next Sturday 5/3 to be precise, and Forbidden Planet NYC (832 Broadway bet. 12th & 13th St. 212-473-1576) will be celebrating in style.

NOT ONLY will we be giving thousands and thousands of comics away (absolutely, positively FREE of charge) starting at 9am, NOT ONLY will all comics, graphic novels and manga be on sale at 15% off the entire day, but we’ll also be hosting two signings with superstar creators!

FredVanLente_JoeMulvey_FPNYC_signing

Fred has two free books coming out that day- Project Black Sky & Defend Comics– and Joe’s got the FCBD edition of Scam from Comixtribe to sign for you.

As with every Free Comic Book Day, we distribute bags of free books on a first come, first served basis. Get here early, boys and girls!

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February 5th Signing Just Got Better

Red-Light-PropertyWEB

By now everybody know that we have a signing this coming Wednesday with Dan Goldman for his new collection Red Light Properties, but we just sweetened the pot. Not only will we have Mr. Goldman here in the flesh at 7 p.m. to sign his beautiful new book, we are also STK630462going to have FRED VAN LENTE and PERE PEREZ on hand to sign copies of Archer and Armstrong # 0.2014! Yes, somehow we made Wednesdays even better.

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TRY SOMETHING NEW CHAPTER 6: Have Won Their First Victory.

So one of my co-workers today told me that they have no idea what it means when I write “RIYL” in my column. I guess I just thought that was something everyone knew. Seems not to be the case. This is like when I try and talk to my friends about… most of the things I try and talk to my friends about really. Blank stares. A sea of blank stares. An endless, bottomless, oppressive ocean of blank stares. Now I put my actual readership of this column at about 8 people split between the blog and the newsletter. One of those people is my dad for some reason. One is Forbidden Planet’s tech-wizard/dancing machine Tyler, who gently informed me “I only read it because I have to.” Then he thoughtfully added, “Stop mentioning me in your column.” No. Anyway, I now wonder if any of my 6 other readers have understood why every book recommendation ends with a series of letters and a list of other books. Is my writing that disjointed that when I lapse into code and nonsense nobody bats an eye? Either way RIYL stands for “Recommended If You Like.” It’s an acronym. TRY SOMETHING NEW has just taken it’s first step towards becoming educationalish.

Fun Fact: The word “acronym” is, in fact, an acronym. What is a.c.r.o.n.y.m. an a.c.r.o.n.y.m. for? Well you will have to use g.o.o.g.l.e. to find out the answer to that one. On with the show!

Bionic Man Vs Bionic Woman #1

BIONIC MAN VS. BIONIC WOMAN #1. I don’t know anything about this book. Didn’t read it. Didn’t read the BIONIC WOMAN comics that came before it. Didn’t read the BIONIC MAN comics that came before it. Never watched the TV shows those comics are based on. So why am I recommending this book? It was written by a man named Keith Champagne. That is the best, most badass name in all of comics. This guy must get invited to every party in the world. People probably offer him money to sleep with them. I bet Keith Champagne could kill a man on live tv and never be arrested. I bet he owns a submarine. He probably wouldn’t need a spacesuit on the moon. I feel like I got pregnant just talking about him. You know, I used to think Dennis Hopeless was the best name in comics. Boy was I wrong. Go buy Keith Champagne’s book so he gets more writing gigs and we can talk about him more.

R.I.Y.L: I have no idea. Running in slow motion? Track suits? People with robot parts? Men and women fighting each other? No. Recommended if you like Keith Champagne. R.I.Y.L.K.C.

Black Beetle #1 (of 4)

BLACK BEETLE: NO WAY OUT #1 is out this week. Why are there two different comics with color coded beetles as the main character? Because humans as a species are all really close to running out of ideas. That doesn’t change the fact that Black Beetle is a very fun new series from superstar artist and sometimes writer Francesco Francavilla. With an art style that is most at home doing stylish and action packed noir stores, Mr. Francavilla has written a character that easily plays to his strengths. This pulp detective/superhero character has appeared in a few short stories in DARK HORSE PRESENTS that were collected as BLACK BEETLE #0, but now he heads out on his first longer case. If you have no exposure to this Black Beetle yet No Way Out #1 is a great place to jump on. Keith Champagne would want you to.

RIYL: Pulp stuff like THE SHADOW, THE ROCKETEER, or THE SPIDER, new superheroes who feel like old superheroes.

Harbinger (Ongoing) TP VOL 01 Omega Rising

HARBINGER vol 1. OMEGA RISING. I am a big supporter of Valiant. They took a bunch of dead properties that only a few diehard fans cared about and brought them back to life in a big way last year. Rather than going out and spending a ton of money on big names who would do rush jobs on their properties, Valiant spent wisely. They got not the biggest names, but some of the best names, to thoughtfully and carefully bring their books to life. ARCHER & ARMSTRONG, X-O MANOWAR, & BLOODSHOT were some of the best superhero titles released last year, with writers like Fred Van Lente (HERCULES, COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF COMICS), Robert Venditti (SURROGATES, THE HOMELAND DIRECTIVE), Duane Swierczynski (PUNISHER, CABLE), (if they were smart they would hire Keith Champagne) making a smart and coherent universe for these characters. Fun, nice looking, and a good starting points without alienating old fans, the relaunch was well planned across the board. But the book that got me most excited, the book that shot my interest through the roof, was HARBINGER. Like a dark and cynical, yet compassionate take on the X-Men, Harbinger is the story of a superpowered teen who must learn to control his powers while others seek to use him for their own gains. This idea should be intriguing for any fan of capes comics, but I cared because Valiant went out and hired Joshua Dysart. Far from a household name but he should be, Mr. Dysart is probably best known for his run on SWAMP THING or writing the Neil Young comic that I didn’t read. But Mr. Dysart also wrote my favorite comic of the last 5 years, one of my favorite stories of all time actually, UNKNOWN SOLDIER. If you haven’t read UNKNOWN SOLDIER you are missing out on one of the great graphic narratives of our lifetime. I use a lot of hyperbole in this column but I kind of think that last sentence was true. It is hard for me to put into words how compelling and beautiful UNKNOWN SOLDIER is. HARBINGER, while no UNKNOWN SOLIDER, is however one of the best superhero setups we have seen in a long time and a reason to visit comic shops every month. Valiant are continuing their wonderful commitment to get people excited about their books by making this collection of the first 5 issues only $10. They are challenging you not to read it, daring you to continue to read the same old stuff when there is newer, better, and cheaper. Don’t let Valiant make you look like an idiot. Buy HARBINGER vol. 1 today. Or this week at least.

RIYL: The more personal X-MEN stories, MORNING GLORIES, or RISING STARS.

One Trick Rip Off Deep Cuts HC

ONE TRICK RIP-OFF. Paul Pope is one of those artists who has reached a level of success which means he doesn’t have to put out a lot of work and it only increases peoples excitement. There are a few folks operating in this class now; Geoff Darrow, Ashley Wood, Darwyn Cooke, Charles Burns, folks like that. Paul Pope definitely leads the pack though. Sure they do things here and there from time to time, a shirt, a magazine cover, a short story, but a new book is a cause for serious celebration and excitement. Well Paul Pope has a new book this week. ONE TRICK RIP-OFF. And here’s the thing. It’s not even a new book and I am disturbingly excited. Originally it was published as short stories in DARK HORSE PRESENTS and later collected in the mid 90’s, but this is the first time this story has been printed in color, and the first time it has been available at an affordable price in more than a decade. Containing the whole story, plus over 150 pages of other shorts, art, and rarities from Mr. Pope, this book is a no-brainer for people who want to study the work of one of the pioneers of modern comic visuals. Mr. Pope is a true badass in the comics world today and he rarely sticks his head out long enough for us to get work from him. Also, not as cool a name as Keith Champagne, but Paul Pope is a pretty awesome guy name. Grab this one while you can.

R.I.Y.L: Great art that is also really cool. Cooler than you or me.

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0 My!

Boy, do I feel like a complete Zero…would really hit the spot right about now! HA HA! See, DC is putting out multiple “Number 0” issues of their comics this week, so I was doing a word play on “zero” meaning both “nothing” and as a digit for numeration.

Geez, Spider-Man makes zingers look easy. Comedy is hard. Sometimes you go to the joke crib in your mind to find the dang thing empty.

ZERO PERCENT

Action Comics #0, Detective Comics #0, Earth 2 #0, Animal Man #0, Swamp Thing #0, the list goes on and on. “#0” comics were a fad started in the 90’s for finding a special way to tell prequel tales to comics which had been running for decades. Some of these DC books haven’t even hit a years worth of publishing, and already they’re getting prequel stories.

Dial H For Hero” is getting a special #0 comic this week, too?! I’m used to zombies, gamma-radiated super beings and alien invasions, but this is just plain weird.

I suppose it makes a certain kind of sense. All of these titles are reboots, so the prequels will set up how their origins may have been reshaped and reformed. MAYBE, for example, we will learn that Batman’s parents weren’t gunned down in an alley by a criminal, spiraling his life off into a trajectory of revenge on crime. Maybe this time he’s just a violent jerk who likes punching people in weird, fetishistic costumes.

KER-POW!

The first issue of Extermination slipped by me, but Extermination #2 hits the shelves this week and I’ll have a chance to pick up on what I missed. The premise is groovy; Aliens have taken over the world and the superheroes and the super villains must put aside their differences to try and win the Earth back. This would have made a swell DC Elseworlds story, if all of current DC continuity wasn’t already one long running, though fun, Elseworlds story.

GOOD GUYS

Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos are a two-fisted dervish of hard hitting awesome on Amazing Spider-Man, and they’re introducing a new character to the Marvel U in this week’s Amazing Spider-Man #693! Continue reading

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Mister Pretzelplyx

Aspiring comic book creators, such as myself, can often feel small and insignificant next to the wide array of talents on display in this week’s new release comics. Regular titles such as Amazing Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, and even Aquaman are top-notch reads from great writers and talents!

Another example; Dark Horse Presents #12, will have a new Aliens story from Chew writer John Layman and drawn by Mr. Sam “The MaxxKieth, as WELL as classic space adventure from Steve Rude’s Nexus. THAT sort of all-star line up can make a cartoonist feel two inches tall.

Which is exactly how I feel, but not for that reason. My self-confidence is fine, My evil arch nemesis slipped a shrink serum into my drink. That’s right: I’VE SHRUNK MYSELF! HALP!

RULE OF THUMB

I’m the size of pretzel rod, and ironically, I was wearing a pretzel rod costume while I began this experiment…I do my best writing in my pretzel rod costume. I also do my best writing at my local bar, where some patron (undoubtedly working for my arch villain) slipped me the micro-molecular micky! I’m hiding amongst a bunch of OTHER pretzel rods, hoping to camouflage myself until the effects wear off.

Till then I shall continue to text in my column. Deadlines are deadlines. What were we talking about? OH YEAH: talent!

DC has Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Batman: Dark Victory out in an Absolute Edition this week. This team of shining talent turned out some classic Bat-yarns! The Long Halloween (available in paperback, absolute, or any other edition you might want) and Dark Victory are the books I’d point too should anyone ask what inspired The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan’s big budget Bat-flick from 2008, as well as the Batman video games of late which have titillated and enthralled.

The Loeb/Sale team is one of the most successful Bat-teams of all time, and I should know; I’ve read this next book:

The Comic Book History of Comics, Fred Van Lente (W), Ryan Dunlavey (A), IDW

The complete history of comics, from ancient times to the thoroughly modern, told in comic book form by comic book professionals! Fred Van “Marvel Zombies” Lente and Ryan “Action Philosophers” Dunlavey dispel misconceptions, clear up the cobwebs and shine light on true genius as they chart comics’ ups and downs with humor, detail, and self-referential brilliance!

If you like comics but don’t know anything about them, read this book! If you THINK you know what you’re doing, read this book and learn why you’ve been so painfully wrong this whole time…you stupid wrong jerk. Continue reading

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Graphic Canon Event at The Rubin Museum

To do/experience in NYC this Wednesday, May 23rd…

Size constraints on the Daily Planet and/or your screen probably morph the above image into something Selma or Patty Bouvier might use to screw with you at the DMV, so here’s the above in plain text:

Wednesday May 23, 2012 @ 7:00 PM
Price: $12.00
Member Price: $10.80

Student Rush: $5

5pm-7pm: Himalayan Happy Hour in the café
6:00pm: Pre-program book signing with Graphic Canon contributors
6:15pm: Pre-program tour of the comics exhibition Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet in Comics
7:00pm: Book Launch in the theater
8:30pm: Book signing with artists and editor.

Come early for Himalayan Happy Hour and join Graphic Canoncontributors Peter Kuper, Valerie Schrag, Shawn Cheng, Fred Van Lente, Rebecca Migdal, Sandy Jimenez, and Brendan Leach for a pre-program book signing in the café followed by a presentation and discussion of The Graphic Canon in the theater with artists Molly Crabapple, Sanya Glisic and Gareth Hinds and editor Russ Kick.

Ticket includes pre-program tour of the comics exhibition Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet in Comics and a book signing with the editor and artists after the program.

Artists Molly Crabapple, Sanya Glisic and Gareth Hinds join Editor Russ Kick for the launch of The Graphic Canon, a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind trilogy that brings classic literatures of the world together with legendary graphic artists and illustrators. Called the “graphic publishing literary event of the year” (Publishers WeeklyVolume 1: From The Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeareto Dangerous Liaisons takes us on a visual tour from the earliest literature through the end of the 1700s. It features, The Tibetan Book of the Deadreimagined by Sanya Glisic, Molly Crabapple’s version of Dangerous Liaisons, Gareth Hinds’ watercolor telling of The Odyssey, as well as Hamlet, The Divine Comedy, The Arabian Nights, Tale of Genji, The Canterbury Tales, The Tao te ChingGulliver’s Travels, Don Quixote, Candide, an Incan play, a Native American folktale, works by renowned artists Will Eisner and Robert Crumb and much, much more.

Edited by Russ Kick, The Graphic Canon is an extraordinary collection that will continue with Volume 2: Kubla Khan to the Bronte Sisters to The Picture of Dorian Gray (August 2012), and Volume 3: From Heart of Darkness to Hemingway to Infinite Jest (October 2012).  The entire trilogy features over 189 works of literature visualized by more than 130 illustrators and artists. Most of the works are specially commissioned for this book; some rarely seen before.

Here’s the link to the book on fpnyc.com.  And even if you can’t make it that night, do try to get to the Museum to ogle their fine exhibition Hero, Yeti, Villain: Tibet in Comics before the end of its run on June 11th.

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Happy 70th birthday, Marvel!

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Should I bust out that walker, old man? Nah, I’m just kidding.  You’ve only got 40 years, and 356 days on me. Congratulations.  Regardless, why this is a special occasion for me is I’ve followed X-Men comics since literally 1986.

My first memory is an ad with Wolverine that had a banner over it saying “Serious?” and I thought that was the character’s name.  Soon after, somehow, my parents bought me a poster of Wolverine slashing with blood streaked claws.  To say this was inappropriate for a six year old to have is just putting it mildly.  However, I’ve been hooked on Marvel, and especially X-Men comics, ever since.

(Insert Beatles music here) So today is your birthday, so happy birthday to you.  In celebration Marvel is having parties everywhere.  Here are some of the parties happening  at participating Barnes and Nobles around the country:

NYC
SPECIAL GUESTS IRON MAN AND SPIDER-MAN

150 E 86TH Street
New York, NY

Joe Quesada
Chris Claremont
Greg Pak
Klaus Janson
Fred Van Lente

ATLANTA
SPECIAL GUEST WOLVERINE

2900 Peachtree Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30305

Daniel Way
Paul Jenkins
Mark Bagley

LA
SPECIAL GUEST HULK

The Grove at Farmer’s Market
189 Grove Drive Suite K 30
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Jeph Loeb
Craig Kyle
Chris Yost
Mark Waid

PORTLAND
SPECIAL GUEST ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN

Clackamas Towne Center
12000 SE 82nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97266

Brian Michael Bendis
Jeff Parker
Rick Remender

SEATTLE
SPECIAL GUEST CAPTAIN AMERICA

2675 NE University Village Street
Seattle, WA 98105

Ed Brubaker

Clayton Crain

I’ll be making it to the NYC party, because I really have no excuse, its about four blocks from my apartment.

Hey, readers: pipe up and let us know what are some of your first Marvel memories?

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