Tagged: Stan Lee

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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Troy’s Toys, but with Comics: Triple X Edition

Obviously yes, I am still experimenting with titles for this thing.

Amazing_X-Men_-1Amazing X-men #1

Jason Aaron/Ed McGuinness

Marvel, $3.99, 20 pages

I’ll admit, I’m a little late to this party, mostly because I initially overlooked this title last week. I’m already pulling a ton (2) X-titles on monthly basis, so I figured I could trade wait Amazing. But then I got a free digital code for it, and decided to check it out, because free is great.

With that explained, let’s me start off with saying the Ed McGuinness‘ art is PERFECT in this book. His style, a mixture of classic John Byrne and 90s Capcom, really captures the script well, the character looks iconic and fresh. Also his BAMFS are super cute. The strong inks and colors only improve it, and Amazing is already on par with it’s sister books, which says a lot given the talent attached to those books. It’s nice to see Ed given a chance to work with a writer I really dig, sorry not sorry Jeph Loeb.

Veteran X-writer Jason Aaron‘s script is also flawless, mixing action and comedy for a perfect first issue. Bringing back a beloved fan-favorite character like Nightcrawler is no simple task, but these creators definitely meet and surpass those expectations. With Wolverine and the X-men ending in a few months, Amazing X-men is positioning itself quite well as the heir to the most dynamic X-book on the stands.

 

All-New_X-Men_Vol_1_18_TextlessAll New X-men #18

Brian Michael Bendis/ Stuart Immonen

Marvel, $3.99, 20 pages

Kitty Pryde and the original X-men find themselves in a new school, new uniforms and new classmates this week in ANXM. Fresh from Battle of the Atom, Benis and Immonen use this issue to set up the new status quo, as the X-kids deal with the insanity that’s gone down  over the last few months. This also means an insane amount of drama and a ton of dialogue, which is to be expected from a Bendis-penned X-book.

Stuart Immonen is probably my favorite artist working at Marvel at the moment, as the level of talent he brings to this book is crazy. He’s tasked with drawing an insane amount of X-men, and each of them are unique (well except 2 of the triplets, which is kind of the point) and dynamic, despite most of the issue involved mutants standing around and talking. The new uniforms, something my wife described as Power Rangers-esque, are really neat, although  would have preferred to see Jean in White and Gold instead of White and Green. Apparently I’m a costume fashion snob.

 

Brian Bendis’ script is a very by the numbers talking-heads-Bendis script. Which isn’t a bad thing mind you, as the title is coming off a crossover and needs some time to breathe. It’s just something we see a lot from Bendis. Regardless of what my snark may imply, it’s a cute issue to start off year 2 of ANXM, and I’m excited for the new issue dropping in a few short weeks.

portrait_incredible (2)X-Men Gold

Chris Claremont, Bob McLeod, Stan Lee, Louise and Walter Simonson, Roy Thomas, Pat Ollife, Len Wein, Fabian Nicieza, Salvador Larroca

Marvel, $5.99, 60 pages

X-men Gold is a one shot in honor of the X-men’s 50th Anniversary, and is basically classic X-men continuity porn.

Let me be honest, if you haven’t read a X-men book before Grant Morrison started writing for the franchise in 2001, this is not the book for you. The “newest” story in this book canon-wise is a Fatal Attractions tie-in/Onslaught prequel. Which kids, are events that happened in the mid 90s. It’s definitely a old-school throwback, and at times, not even a good one, at it comes across a tad sexist and racist depending on the story. And it’s worth noting that at least 14 of the 60 pages are previews for Amazing and All-New X-men. It’s not for everyone, and even the intended audience may have some problems with this one.

detail (1)Superior Foes of Spider-Man #5

Nick Spencer/Steve Lieber

Marvel $2.99, 20 pages

This book is perfection.

It really is! Everything from the cover to the last page is great, without a misstep in site. Spencer and Lieber’s formula is no different than the one BKV and Fiona Staples use over in Saga; start off awesome, and end with a crazy, shocking (no pun intended) cliffhanger. I don’t think I’ve read a heist in comics before this insane, nor hilarious. And the intro for this issue is CRAZY tense, and kind of gross, but in a good way.  This book is a blessing, and it’s gone from great to can’t miss in the span of 5 issues. This book is up there with Hawkeye and Daredevil in terms of quality, something I know I’ve said a number of times before, and will continue to say until sales and morale improves. I mean c’mon it’s like Forever Evil, only no I suppose not come to think of it, and actually good!

 

NEXT WEEK! SEX CRIMINALS, PROBABLY ANOTHER X-MEN BOOK, AND OH BOY, DAREDEVIL!

 

 

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Steven-Charles Jaffe Visited Us

Steven-Charles Jaffe, the writer of Motel Hell and producer of a slew of terrific movies (Near Dark! Time After Time!), stopped by the shop for some graphic novels.  He’s out and about, promoting Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird a new film he directed that’s opening at the IFC Center here in New York today.

“Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird is an insightful profile of the legendary cartoonist. For over fifty years, Gahan Wilson has been known for his ghoulish, twisted visions that combine horrific elements with comedy, as well as political and ecological cartoons. His cartoons have appeared in Playboy Magazine, The New Yorker, National Lampoon, The New York Times, Colliers, and Look. Wilson sees monsters and irony in ordinary, everyday situations and turns them into explosive cartoons. The documentary takes an intimate look at Wilson’s bizarre and personal inspirations, the inner workings of the cartoon world, and how his quirky creations have profoundly affected legions of fans, including some surprising celebrities. In addition to Wilson’s art, the film features interviews with Stephen Colbert, Stan Lee, Bill Maher, Randy Newman, Guillermo Del Toro, Neil Gaiman, Roz Chast, Lewis Black, Hugh M. Hefner, David Remnick, Peter Straub, Nicholas Meyer and more. As Wilson recounts his life and work, Born Dead, Still Weird reveals the genius of this icon of the cartoon world, who was drawing monsters before he could read or write as a way of coping with growing up with alcoholic parents during the Depression. The documentary also captures a behind-the-scenes look into the challenging life of professional cartoonists.”

Matt D and I are big fans of these flicks but Matt got to take the pics.

Steven_Charles _Jaffe_MattD_ForbiddenPlanet

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10 Things I Learned About Heroescon

Around this time last year, I got a (possibly drunk) tweet from a friend, a North Carolina local, yelling at me for not being at Heroescon. I sited that I couldn’t attend due to cost/other commitments, but if the show was interesting enough, I’d make an attempt to go. Word of mouth, promises of the best BBQ and an exciting guest list won me over quickly, so instead of attending Dragon*Con this year, I flew down to NC to give Heroescon a shot. Here’s 10 things I’ve discovered from attending the show, and some photos of my experience. Spoiler warning: I really liked it.

10) Heroescon con is a LEGIT comics convention. That much is obvious, but by legit I mean the guests/artists in the alley are STRICTLY comics professionals. No wrestlers/voice actors/b-list celebrities. Which is refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool when Reed Pop! snags an Avengers or Doctor Who related guest for NYCC or C2E2, but I rather talk scripts with Matt Fraction, then try to awkwardly ignore former wrestle Virgil for the hundredth time. Dude has not aged gracefully.

9) It is fairly impossibly to eat healthy in Charlotte, which sucks if you’re a vegan/vegetarian. But it’s also way easier/cheaper to score food in and around the convention center. Also Bonjangles was a place I may have eaten at every day of the con, and still have zero regrets about because their chicken and biscuits are amazing. I’ve also not checked my weight upon return from NC, fearing the results.

8) “You may not touch Stan Lee, but Stan may touch you.” The first part was was actually said to those who signed up for photos/autographs with the living legend, but the later was a unspoken truth. At least according to several of my female friends who met Stan the Man on Saturday. However his behavior was more amusing than offensive, which is nice to see, as he’s been married for several decades, and I would like to see it stay that way.

7) Speaking of men behaving badly, the rumors of Southern Gentlemen are greatly exaggerated. While I was the appointed purse/swag carrier for my friend cosplaying Black Widow, I noticed several men “sniping” photos of her. “Sniping” is the term where photos are taken of a cosplayer, usually from behind, without their constant, as said photos are usually of the girl’s back end. Believe it or not, cosplayers WILL poses for photos 9 out of 10 times when asked (not of their asses though). Also please, don’t ask any stupid questions. It’s awkward as hell when you come up to me and ask “Did you LET her out of the house dressed like that”, when “she” isn’t my wife, and this is the year 2012, where that sort of crap isn’t tolerated.

6) Using that to segway into a cosplay discussion, it’s worth noting that the number of cosplayers at the convention was quite small compared to some of the bigger shows I’ve been to. Although amongst the dozens of Black Widows, Hawkeyes, and Harley Quinns, there were some more obscure characters, like Clea (Doctor Strange’s ex), Ray Palmer, and Madam Viper. I have several friends from the Superhero Costuming Forum who invited me along for their photoshoot. The event brought out about 50 cosplayers in total, which is small compared to what they usually get at say Dragon*Con. Still, there’s some solid stuff in there, which is always nice to see. Feel free to guess where I am in the photo.

5) The type of panels you’ll see at Heroescon vary greatly from the ones you see at SDCC or NYCC. No one is plugging the “New 52” or “AvX” there. No, you’ll get Marv Wolfman and George Perez discussing their legendary “Teen Titans” run, the Immonens sharing stories on how they worked together. And Matt Fraction discussing his work on “Thor” and “Iron Man” with the likes of Bob Layton and Walt Simonson. Also a “War Rocket Ajax” podcast recording with Matt Wilson and a slightly hung over Chris Sims, in which Ponies, board games and Jason Stratham were all topics of discussion. Continue reading

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NYCBM Tickets available at FP NOW!

Starting today buy your tickets for Mike Carbo’s New York Comic Book Marketplace at Forbidden Planet!

It’s a one-day Marvel tribute show with tons of artists, creators, dealers and stars appearing!  Not to mention a chance to meet the one, the only… Stan Lee.

Mike Carbo’s New York Comic Book Marketplace

Saturday March 31

10AM to 7PM

$10 Admission

$50 Meet Stan Lee

All going down at the Penn Plaza Pavilion

401 7th Ave @ 33rd St.

www.nycbm.com

See you there Merry Marketplace patrons!

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Matt Jones Multiverse

Fans of Wolverine, Stephen Hawking and Black Flag make sure to mark your calendar’s for Matt Jones Multiverse!

Matt is a good friend of mine (and a great customer for that matter) and this is his first solo art exhibit at the Freight + Volume gallery so I want everyone to make an effort to check it out.   Observing his art is like taking a trip into the Twilight Zone, if it was created by Stan Lee.  When I first met Matt his enthusiasm for comics and honest personality made him one of my favorite new faces to see in the shop.  He’s a total Wolverine nut and we have a mutual love of Black Flag so it was an instant friendship.

Matt Jones is now represented by Freight + Volume in New York.

MULTIVERSE, his debut solo exhibition with the gallery, opens March 31, 2011 with a reception-celebration from 6-8PM that night. MULTIVERSE runs through May 7, 2011.

FREIGHT + VOLUME
530 W. 24th St.
New York, NY
10011
PHONE: 212 691 7700

If you stop by FP we are giving away some pretty sweet posters for the show (while supplies last, obviously) so come on down and pick one up.

Oh, and go to the show… bub!

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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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New Manga Releases: Enter The Fray

By Mat K.

Well, as I’m sure everyone in the city has experienced this week, it has been Satan’s armpit in New York City, hot and humid as all hell. Fortunately, as a small consolation, there is a few bits of awesome coming out. And what is most odd about this week, it isn’t dominated by any one publisher for once. It usually seems like they give each other space and a chance once a month to put out as much as they can, but relatively speaking, everyone is entering the fray. There is even a new book coming out from Vertical (the guys who bring you most of Osamu Tezuka‘s books these days).

Chi’s Sweet Home is the new Vertical book by Kanata Konami. And yes, this is a cute one, though also full of adventure and drama. How could a book about a lost kitten not be? That’s right, Chi is a mischievous new born kitten who, while on a leisurely stroll with her family, finds herself lost. Separated from the warmth and protection of her mother, the confused kitten becomes distraught. When Chi feels all hope is lost, she is found in a park by a young boy named Yohei. The little kitty is soon under the protection and care of Yohei’s family – the Yamadas. And kitty isn’t the only one with a little bit of a problem. The Yamadas have taken in a cat when their lease explicitly states pets are not allowed in their building! Continue reading

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Pic Parade

Let’s explore some corners of Geekdom from the last few days through pictures, shall we?

HBO Picks up A Game of Thrones (pilot + 9 episodes)
HBO Picks up A Game of Thrones (pilot + 9 episodes)
spideywailingwallpurim
Mr. Spidderman at the Wailing Wall during Purim.

Nick Simmons, son of KISS Gene, frontman plagiarizes Bleach manga, among others in Incarnate his comic from Radical Publishing.
Nick Simmons, son of KISS frontman Gene, plagiarizes Bleach manga, among others, in Incarnate #1, his comic from Radical Publishing. Amidst the uproar he released a gem of a statement: “This was simply meant as an homage to artists I respect… certain fundamental imagery is common to all Manga… I am certainly sorry if anyone was offended or upset by what they perceive to be the similarity between my work and the work of artists that I admire.” What a maroon.

Don't call it a comeback. That guy's been here for years. DC's Just Imagine Stan Lee, anyone? SHUDDER.
Don’t call it a comeback. That guy’s been here for years. DC’s Just Imagine Stan Lee, anyone? SHUDDER.

J.H. Williams III signing at FPNYC 2/28. Great guy. Great day.
J.H. Williams III signing at FPNYC 2/28. Great guy. Great day.

Marvel published a hardcover of their superlative Srange Tales anthology comics from Summer 2009.
Marvel published a hardcover of their superlative Strange Tales anthology comics from Summer 2009. Featuring original work from the likes of  Peter Bagge, Paul Pope, Junko Mizuno, Stan Sakai, Dash Shaw, Matt Kindt and more, the book design is as sexy as the creator lineup is unbelievably talented.

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Back to School

by Jeff Ayers

“Bring us a pitcher of beer every seven minutes until somebody passes out.  And then bring one every ten minutes.”

This past Saturday I was struck by a sudden, sharp, and sobering realization, with lasting ramifications for the next nine months or so.  Y’see, my lady and I had brunch at Petite Abeille in sleepy Tribeca, checked out the Moscow Cats Theatre (featuring 35 cats, 5 clowns, death defying balancing acts and acrobatics, and yes, I’m comfortable admitting that, and yes, moms and dads should take your progeny and everybody you know to see this asap) and braved the amassed hordes of the Canal Street subway to head back uptown for a stroll before my closing shift at the FP.  All on what normally would be a calm, bucolic late summer afternoon in my beloved East Village.  Friendly confines and all that.

The neighborhood was steeped in a kind of pandemonium.

From Houston to 14th, from Ave. B to Broadway, the area surrounding our store was abuzz with so much activity and cacophony so as to only, perhaps, be rivalled by the beach scene in Apocalypse Now.

Now sometimes I can be pretty dense, so I didn’t notice til much later that I’d passed dozens of families carrying furniture, computers, mini-fridges and other such accoutrements on every block.  Didn’t notice the sudden influx of 18-24 year-olds in the neighborhood. Nor the copious amount of hello and farewell hugs. And why the hell we were selling so many posters?  Only later, at work, did it dawn on me…  Of course!  It’s Back to School!

Whether it be NYU, SVA, Pratt, Columbia, New School, Cooper Union, whatever… Welcome back, ladies and gents.  Welcome here, freshmen.  If this is your first visit to the store or FPNYC on the web, know that Forbidden Planet is one of the premiere sellers of comics, collectibles, and Science Fiction stores in the world and has been since 1981.  We ain’t going anywhere, your college student ID nabs you 10% OFF everything in the store [ed. note: we no longer offer this at FP], and we’re in the most happenin’ location in the city.  We also offer a snazzy subscription service for comics, wherein we’ll hold your books for you until you dig up the scratch to buy them.

And sell posters for your dorm.

And that goes for the rest of ya!

New Release Highlights:

Halo Uprising #1- The Eisner Award-winning team of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist extraordinaire Alex Maleev (Daredevil- 2001-2006) pull a “Dude, we’re gettin’ the band back together!”  for a sequel story to video gaming’s biggest franchise of the early 21st Century, Halo.

Ultimate Spider-Man 100 Project TP– brought to you by The Hero Initiative, a deserving non-profit that bails out comic creators in need; creators who can’t pay medical bills, buy groceries, what have you.  This book collects the fruits of one of the organization’s most creative and successful fund-raising endeavors- a print run of 100 blank-covered Ultimate Spider-Man #100, wherein prominent creators of today would draw their take version of old webhead. Sold as one of a kind collectibles online and at New York Comic-Con and Wizard World Chicago- for up to $6700 apiece- this fabulous, limited artbook collects all 100 covers, featuring Mark Bagley, J. Scott Campbell, Frank Cho, Neil Gaiman, Adam and Andy Kubert, George Pérez, Joe Quesada, John Romita Sr. and Jr., Frank Quitely, JG Jones, and dozens more and features a forward by Stan Lee, who is by no means a creator in need.  Just sayin.

I’m a Lebowski You’re a Lebowski: Life The Big Lebowski and What Have You–  The ultimate fan’s guide to the Coen Brothers cult phenomenon “The Big Lebowski,” with a Foreword by the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges.  I’ve waited for this book for nearly a decade, convinced that no such thing would ever be released.  But thanks to the film’s insatiable fanbase, of which I am an unashamed and rabid member, goodies such as this book and and events like Lebowski Fest (the Star Trek Convention of the 21st Century) are possible. “If you will it, dude, it is no dream.”

Bunnies & Bees– by Mark Ryden.  Beautiful boxed portfolio from Ryden features thirteen 8″ x 10″ prints from the Bunnies & Bees gallery show.  Images include all the paintings, plus some details and drawings from the show. It is a limited numbered edition of 10,000, and includes a certificate of authenticity in addition.  Also in stock: Fushigi Circus, a survey of 55 of Ryden’s most impressive works from past to present.

And to all you wide-eyed freshmen? All you new New Yorkers? My sincerest welcome once again! I hope you enjoy your stay in our fantastic City! Just leave some polite room on the crowded streets for us “townies,” okay? And walk, bike, or use mass transit.

“Now that’s what I call Marine Biology!”
-Jeffy

jeff(AT)fpnyc.com

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