Tagged: Jack Kirby

What’s Old Is New Again in X-Men Blue #1

Marvel wants to give you the blues, but in a good way.

Last week we had something old in X-Men Gold #1, with the veterans of the currently in-continuity corner of the Marvel Universe. I dare say, if you’ve read that single issue yet that they also gave you something borrowed (e.g. the name of the central villain). This week Marvel wants to bring you something new and something blue, in X-Men Blue #1. How successful are they? That’s for you, dear readers, to decide.

The time-displaced X-Men originals are launching a new chapter of their own adventures. If you’ve been looking to see the classic X-Men team of the Lee and Kirby kicking bad guys in the face front and center here’s your opportunity. Marvel Girl leads Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, and Angel in this first issue establishing old and new threats to the original Fab Five. However, how will this team of old school X-Men deal with their new mentor, their formerly sword enemy, Magneto! If you’ve been following the Master of Magnetism’s journey over the last few years you get a sense that there’re going to be a lot of clashes right from the get-go. Will this team be broken before it can truly function together?

In the wake of Inhumans Vs. X-Men, this is going to be the team you lean on for a note of  nostalgia and, Marvel seems to hope, a way to bring younger readers a taste of something that feels fresh. Since retro’s a thing that I’m told’s mostly “in” these days, this would appear to be Marvel’s way of reaching out to that demographic. Can you put a new shine on a classic line up? Will there be enough new and enough familiar in a perfect recipe of easy to digest comic adventures? We’re going to find out this New Comic Book Day when X-Men Blue #1 hits shelves.

Cullen Bunn is no stranger to Magneto or tackling complex villains and delicate group dynamics. Will he, along with explosive artists Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni, bring us the next renaissance of X-Men stories? We have to read to find out.

 

 

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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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Highlights

This is BAD. This is worse then the time I was kidnapped by Mermen and forced to fight in gladiatorial combat against swordfish, narwhals and squid. This is worse than the time I was freakishly teleported to outer space to take part in humiliating intergalactic Fraternity hazing rituals for posh alien jerks. Dare I say it, this is worse than every second of my birth. YES I remember it.

What has gotten me so irked? THIS ARTICLE I JUST WROTE! See if you can spot the mistake I made:

UNKIEDEV’S LIST OF MOST NEEDED REPRINTS:

Since that INCREDIBLE Flex Mentallo HC collection that you SIMPLY must own, it has occurred to this humble, charming, courageous, startlingly handsome, and above all humble author that there are certain books I intended to buy once they were collected which have never been collected. Ain’t that a kick in the teeth?

Here is a handy guide to stuff you can’t own, and a few recommendations to make you feel better about that.

4. Jason vs. Leatherface, Topps Comics, Nancy Collins (W)

In 1996, Freddy vs Jason was a pipe-dream smack-down that jaded fans figured would never happen. The very notion of Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash (from Wildstorm and Dynamite .. .DEFINITELY worth getting!) would have exploded a 90’s mullethead quicker than Coke and pop-rocks!

The best we could have hoped for was THIS Topps comic, Jason vs. Leatherface, in which Mr. Voorhees makes brief frienemies with The “Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s” Leatherface.

Is it good? No, not really…and it’s damn expensive! Single issues can go for as high as $20! Oh, won’t some white knight gallop in and buy up all the rights to these two comic book franchises and reprint this damn book so I can be disappointed all over again? Continue reading

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Watchmen 2: Watchpets

By Unkiedev

The internet, Comic Book’s hotter, younger brother, is flapping its gums all over the place about a reported (and only rumored) Watchmen prequel comic book series to be published at DC helmed by the steady hand of Darwyn Cooke.

There are as many questions to ask here as there are cyanide capsules in Adrian Veidt’s purple sports coat pocket…ya’ know, for tying up loose ends. CAN they do this, HOW will they do this, SHOULD they do this, and even HOW CAN they do this? What will Alan Moore say?

Don’t worry about Alan. Alan is comfortable, respected, wealthy, cynical, and will never, ever set his eyeballs on these pages. Worry about the guy in the hot seat here. Worry about Darwyn.

DC: THE NEW FRONTIER, Darwyn Cooke (W/A), DC

Darwyn Cooke is a great illustrator and writer who studied under Bruce Timm during the first Animated Batman show, though rose to prominence with his extremely readable graphic novel DC: The New Frontier. Set in post war America, New Frontier is essentially an Elseworld story to bridge the gap between the Golden and Silver age DC comic book worlds, though with more emphasis on drama, alienation, and historical context.

It looked great and it read great. DC ultimately loved it so much that they gave it the Absolute treatment: collecting it (as well as additional material) into a lovely, gigantic hard bound edition. DC then adapted it into the well received direct-to-DVD movie of the same name.

To say it stood on the shoulders of giants would be extremely kind. A more honest assesment would be to describe it as a pop culture mash-up of THE GOLDEN AGE; the dark but kick ass 1993 DC comic by James Robinson (W) and Paul Smith (A); and JLA: The Nail by Alan Davis. BOTH of these comics are SENSATIONAL, not to be missed comic books one should check out immediately! Continue reading

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Hurricane Reboot.

By Chris Troy

I like Jack Kirby as much as the next guy, but I really don’t feel the need for New York to be experiencing Kamandi: The Last Boy (available in an omnibus) -like conditions. The store will be closing at 2pm on Saturday, and chances are it won’t be open on Sunday because,  as you well know, a hurricane is going down.  With any luck it won’t be as bad as the media is making it out to be and all will be well come Monday sans some MTA nonsense. Just keep some important supplies on hand and make sure you keep your eyes and ears in tune to the news.

Anywho, enough of me repeating what’s probably been said on twitter, time to talk toys.

Flashpoint is concluding this week and apparently it’s a big thing, as it’s leading into a reboot which I’ve only mentioned half a dozen time on this blog ever since it’s been announced.  I’ve pretty much skipped buying/reading the entire mini-series because I don’t give a toss about Barry Allen or Geoff John’s obsession with the silver age meets “grim dark’, as well as the dozen various tie-in mini series (To be fair, I’ve heard from several trust-worthy sources that both the Batman and Frankenstein minis were solid). However the new Justice League also drops on the same day, which will be the first book set in the new DC Universe, and features Jim Lee on art duties. This is very much a big deal, as the 40 page book is the 1st time Lee’s done interior art since I believe “All Star Batman & Robin“, which if I remember correctly, took forever to come out and is currently on hiatus while Frank Miller continues to profit from his madness elsewhere. Either way, both book should be available come Wednesday at Midnight (That’s Tuesday night leading into Wednesday for those who always get that mixed up.) for about $4 a pop for all interested parties.

The thing that’s impressed me most about Flashpoint is that DC Direct managed to get the tie-in toy line out on shelves while the event was still going on (let alone on time!). This 4 figure set is based on the artwork of Flashpoint artist Andy Kubert, and continues the trend of having at least one Batman figure in it (Spoilers: To be fair it’s not Bruce this time around, but Thomas. Meaning once again DC has ignored the Dick Grayson Batman). Aside from Bat-Dad, there’s Barry Allen (I remain the jaded fan and refuse to refer to anyone other than Wally West as the Flash), a heavily armored  Wonder Woman with a sword, and Mega Man. Er, I mean Cyborg. All joking aside, Cyborg is probably the best figure in set, and the Kubert redesign is really good in my opinion, much better than that what he looks like pre or post reboot. You know the drill, $20 for each and I’m fairly certain most of them will be on the shelves when the store reopens. Be safe out there East Coast, and if you see any sharks swimming down your streets, assume the worse and that the Fantastic 4 will be by shortly to stop Namor.

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I Zombie Volume 1

I hope everyone is excited as I am about I Zombie volume 1 Dead To The World hitting shelves this Wednesday.

Ok, it’s about a zombie, so I obviously don’t have to sell you on it (face it kid we know you love dem zombies) but at least let me tell you a little about  the talent behind this comic.  It’s Written by Chris Roberson who’s Cinderella From Fabletown With Love was an instant hit, and illustrated by comic God,  Mike Allred!  Mike’s art is like a cross between the most psychedelic Jack Kirby stuff and the most beautiful classic Disney animation.  You might also be familiar with a little book he does called Madman! I’m saying it in print so it goes on record, I believe that his Superman Madman Hullabaloo is one of the best comics ever created, and I’m not even a big Superman fan.

So get yourself a copy of I Zombie, you will not be disappointed.

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What State Is The Comic Industry In?

Three things have happened, and where they intersect is a fascinating statement on our beloved institution, the comic book. The first is innocent enough:

1. FREE COMIC BOOK DAY COMICS HAVE BEEN ANNOUNCED.

Many titles have been announced for 2011’s Free Comic Book Day on May 7th, including a new revamp of Richie Rich, a Geronimo Stilton comic book, Kung Fu Panda, Avatar the Last Airbender and more. Two things to notice is: These are all licensed properties and these are all KIDS titles.

Comic books have slowly slipped from a creative, economic business to a low profit, marketing offshoot. If you have a TV show or videogame you let a company pay you money to make comic books about it. It widens your brand recognition, potentially brings in new audiences and hopefully brings you a cool profit you don’t have to work for.

Free Comic Book Day is always about the kids, as it’s the hope of Retailers that children will want to come back next week to read more of their favorite stories and become loyal customers. At the same time, the bulk of these comics are stories and characters kids are well familiar with. Continue reading

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How to Create Cool Comic Book Characters

Comic books are all the rage, and tomorrow’s star of the printed page will be the next big thing on the silver screen! Yep, Hollywood money is whipping up every able-bodied creator into a creative tizzy. WHO will create the next Iron Man, Batman and Jonah Hex so that they can be watered down into unrecognizable action figure grade silhouettes of themselves for a feckless public to mass consume?

Maybe YOU!

But classic comic book characters like Constantine, The Mystery Men and Tank Girl don’t just bubble up out of the ground like some sort of addictive, mind controlling white food substitute, they (unfortunately) have to be thought up in the minds of human beings, those rotten jerks.

“Ah dangit!” you weakly bleat. “I’m barely a human being as it is. How the heck am I supposed to come up with a new comic book character with warmth, foibles and features…especially when I only want to do so to enjoy the contemporary financial windfall that comic books are (supposedly) enjoying?”

Well, the real question, sir or madam is “Do you want a little cheese to go with that whine?”

Never fear, peasants. Unkiedev is here to tell you what to think. Follow these simple steps and you too can create legendary comic book characters! Continue reading

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Who are the X-Men?

Stan Lee had many astonishing insights as to what would sell comic books, not the least of which was to pander to his audience.

“If my merry band of Marvel marchers are nothing more than lily livered teenage freakazoids,” He must have thought, “Then I’ll make half the heroes in the pantheon of Marvel teenage milksops, too!”

This notion worked brilliantly with the bookish Peter Parker in the pages of Spider-Man, worked so-so with hot head roast-master Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four and slightly less brilliantly in the pages of The Hulk where the tremendous jade giant was shackled with annoying teen sidekick Rick Jones.

Nowhere was the “protagonist as teenage outcast” more successful than in the pages of the X-Men.

STRANGE TALES

The X-Men were intended as an antithesis to the handsome, muscle-bound heroes of the golden age. Just as Lee and Kirby had done on the Fantastic Four, the X-men were created with internal struggles, awkward family dynamics and the strangest gimmick of all: they were all (supposed to be) ugly, freakish mutants unable to fit into society.

To audiences used to Superman and Shazam the X-Men must have looked far out. Angel was a thin teen with a frail body to support his massive wings, not the oiled up Hawkman of DC’s Justice League. Cyclops was Jimmy Stewart with a weird, one-eyed visor. The Beast was an overdeveloped muscle-bound ape more akin to gorilla than man. Iceman at this time looked more like a snowman.

They looked different and so they were shunned. THIS comic book reading teenagers could get behind! Continue reading

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Jack Kirby’s Estate prepares to sue Disney/Marvel.

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Comics Rumormonger-In-Chief, Rich Johnston reports that holders of Jack Kirby’s Estate are preparing to sue Disney in reaction to the Mouse House’s acquisition of Marvel.

The legal action Kirby’s Estate has taken is serving notice that the blockbuster deal terminates copyright of all of Kirby’s creations with Marvel. Those creations being pretty obvious: the Fantastic Four, Captain America, The X-Men, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and, well, you get the idea.

The Estate is using the same group of lawyers as the Siegels, Toberoff & Associates, who I would say has been fairly successful.  Though Johnston, theorizes that if the lawsuit goes the family’s way the effects of it won’t be felt until 2014, when the Kirby’s could enter in negotiations to discuss the further use of the characters Jack worked on. Including all movie properties involving them.  Which always struck me whenever Stan Lee would get an executive producer credit for his movies and Kirby did not.

Kirby has fought for years over the rights for his original creations, which he signed away when he was younger. One of those battles, was co-creating a series with Steve Gerber called Destroyer Duck to benefit Gerber’s legal fight with Marvel with regards to Howard the Duck.

Currently, Dynamite is preparing to publish a series of “Kirbyverse” books that the Estate has okay’d, featuring characters that Mr. Kirby worked on independently from Marvel and DC.

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Call Me Stupid

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture – it’s a really stupid thing to want to do.” -Elvis Costello

An anonymous email received in response to last week’s column- wherein I recalled the laughable early 90s art of Rob Liefeld with reverent regards to the schlocky comic stories purveyed at the time, that nevertheless entertained and titillated my imagination, called me out on my apparent disregard for the artists’ efforts. Also his dynamic influence, his success, and his congeniality (none of which did Icall into question, for the record). To paraphrase the gentleman’s missive, for space and language’s sake, “Who the hell do you think you are? What do you know about comics? Have you ever done one yourself? What did Liefeld ever do to you?”

Said email left me flummoxed, frankly. I felt I’d written nothing snarky or vile enough to warrant a disgruntled reader. Aside from pointing out a few gaffes, I was nothing but complimentary and affectionately nostalgic for those dopey books.

As to my credibility in writing about comics, the awesome thing is I get paid for discussing them- I don’t even need to have a license to write about or sell this stuff! It puts food in my kitty-cats’ tummies, and rock and roll in my soul. You and I may not see eye to eye on some things, dear readers, but please keep in mind that most of what appears in these pages is largely informed OPINION, and rarely critique. And there’s very little on this sphere that’ll stop me from discussing this material with you kids. That being said, my email address will conclude this article if any of you punks out there would like to tussle. Or hug via words, whatever the case may be.

No one ever said I could even touch the rim, but that never stopped me from entering the dunk contest.  Let’s put on our Superman outfits and jump from the free-throw line, shall we?

Notable New Releases Week of 3/12/08

Jack Kirby King of the Comics HC It’s finally here (so quit buggin’ me)! The long-delayed hardcover retrospective of Jack “King” Kirby’s artwork from publisher Abrams is in stock and EGADS is it an eyegasm! It’s 224pgs. of bodaciousness! If the over-used and abused term “Know Your Roots” should meaningfully be applied to anything in this jumbled up universe it should apply to this man’s integral contributions to the comics form. No. Integral is too small of a word in this instance, really. It is no stretch to state that without Mr. Kirby’s creations and talent, comics as we know them would not exist. You’d be pursuing your art and entertainments in some other medium, and I’d be writing about tires or gutting fish right now.

Serenity: Better Days #1- Not to diminish the show, nor the comics, nor anything else you like about Buffy, but you can keep it. My Joss Whedon fandom to this point has, for the most part, been Firefly exclusive. The erstwhile television show’s been off the airwaves for a few years now, and I felt its cinematic continuation, Serenity, left much to be desired. Happy happy joy joy, then, that Dark Horse Comics, who does licensed storytelling right, is publishing new adventures in Whedon’s SF/Western series, written by the creator himself!

Justice League International HC Volume 1- Were there a Holy Trinity of a comic book creative team in the 80s it would be Frank Miller, “Uncle” Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley on The Dark Knight Returns. If there were a second, it would be Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire’s classic run on Justice League. This book collects issues #1-7. Better tie your ass to your pelvis. (You know, cuz you’re gonna laugh it off.)

Barefoot Gen Vol. 5 TP- From the publisher… “Cartoonist Keiji Nakazawa was seven years-old and living in Hiroshima in the early days of August 1945 when the city was destroyed by an atomic bomb. Begun in the mid-70s, his Barefoot Gen series of comics is one of the most heavy-duty manga out there; revelatory, thought provoking, very deep, baby. Volume One begins shortly before the bomb was dropped, and ends on the day of the bombing itself. Volume Two, The Day After, tells the story of the day after the atomic bomb was dropped. Volume 3 picks up the story with Gen, his mother and his baby brother searching for a place to rest in the bomb’s aftermath. Volume Four resumes nine days after the bomb, as Gen and his mother continue to struggle for food, shelter, and water amid chaos and vast human suffering. In this new reprint, Gen becomes entangled with black market gangs and faces an internal struggle of honor, ethics, and duty to resolve his and his family’s problems.”

My mother used to tell me I’d never get by on my good looks.
Guess she was wrong.
JEFF
jeff(AT)fpnyc.com

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