DC News & Views 01.13.04

Lee Greets The End, Fans’ E-mails With Aplomb

Last week on Newsarama, Matt Brady was gracious enough to allow me to take over some of the programming and I called in some markers with some friends to get what I hope were some interesting interviews. In the process, I learned a lot about what Matt and other online journalists have to do each and every day and how much work it really is. I had anticipated and allotted perhaps a 1/10 of the amount of time it finally took per interview but I do have to admit, it was a bit of a rush, putting it all together and getting it to Matt by the wire for uploading onto the net.

There are several people who worked behind the scenes to make it happen. Obviously Matt did an incredible amount of work on what should have been his week off and his wife did the graphic for the event as well. Patty Jeres of DC was the one who organized the event from DC’s end and was supportive throughout, even when it started getting silly. Then of course, were the interviewees themselves who took the time for the interviews and dug through their harddrives and photo collections to give us images we may not normally have seen.

The goal was to give readers a glimpse behind the curtain and hear what creators, executives and editors had to say about their jobs, their work, and the state of the comics industry. And to make it as low-key and informal as possible. I know I had a blast despite the hours it consumed and hope to do it again some day…er, some year. It was gratifying to get so many questions sent via email, so as promised, here are some answers to some of the queries.

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Can you believe I used aplomb in my headline? God, my pretentiousness is just so tasty.

And now to harp on one of my favorite themes: Mr. Cassidy, Mr. Ellis, I know I am but one man. I know neither of you has met me or is likely to. I know you are both artists and should very rarely take any sort of guidance from a mere fan like myself. But please, I beseech you both, avoid any but the smallest delays when it comes to Planetary. For most of its run, Planetary has been a top book for me. I remember that during its initial run (up until the long dry spell that was ended with the release of the Batman crossover one-shot) it was the book I was always anxiously anticipating each month and that I would pore over it more than once within the first week I got it. A few issues into the grand return, I feel that magic returning. Some things are absolutely unavoidable and I get that. But please, do what you can to maintain the schedule and, hopefully, the magic.

Here endeth my groveling.


From “Rags” To Plum DC Assignments

Some of you may remember artist Rags Morales from DC Comic’s “Black Condor.” More of you may remember him from Valiant Comics’ “Geomancer.” You’re probably more familiar with his recent work on DC’s “Hourman” and “Hawkman” series.
But make no mistake; you will know the name and the art after DC’s “Identity Crisis” event this summer.

CBR

Oh, the shame I feel at that title pun…it is nearly crippling. However, for you, the fans, I will press on through my disgrace.

I will say now, unabashedly, that Rags is so excellent. Like the 8 other people that bought it, I thought his work on Hourman was beautiful. Even when the ending of the book felt rushed, Rags’s art was still beautiful to behold.

This means yet another reason to look forward to DC’s return to crossovers. Isn’t looking forward to DC crossovers like violating some sort of commandment of comics? Well, then color me a sinner, a cautious sinner, but a sinner nonetheless.


Azzarello Has The Audacity to Speak In Clipped Phrases to the All-Powerful Wizard of Wildstorm

Like many of the characters he brings to life, Brian Azzarello speaks in clipped phrases, measuring his words, levels of meaning behind the lengthy, intermittent pauses. Combined with a steely gaze, he can be an intimidating man to meet and talk to. But get him talking about the work and he opens up. Well, as much as Brian can open up.

His writing on 100 Bullets and Hellblazer has won him critical praise and nearly every industry award one can think of. Sgt. Rock: Between Hell and a Hard Place, his most recent work written for living legend artist Joe Kubert redefined the war comic and reignited interest in a long dormant character.

But he has made a name for himself, like his characters, working on the edge, writing mostly stories about down and out characters looking for redemption or resolution; stories which explore the vast gray regions between black and white, right and wrong.

Newsarama

This is easily my favorite of the Jim Lee interviews for Newsarama. It is fun and comfortable, but does not feel cloying or generic or simply a nonstop PR exercise. Azzarello is just taciturn enough to lend a little bite to it and the throwaway line about Lee’s artwork being his first disappointment with an artist since becoming a writer was genius.

It is also insanely frustrating as Lee brings up an intriguing path of questioning, Azzarello’s original proposal for Superman and DC’s reaction. Then, seemingly, he abandons it. Now real explanation of DC’s internal reaction (beyond “surprise”) and no information on how the first draft translated into the final product that we will see monthly starting in April. It is shame as DC has been famously protective (or overprotective) of Superman and it would be a unique perspective to see how one provides a new take (possibly a radical one) and survives the process as opposed to the perspective of Morrison, Waid, and the other ill-fated creators who’s proposal ended up rejected by DC a few years ago. What made the difference? Was it a willingness to play ball or is DC more willing to take risks now? Did Azzarello’s proposal simply hold more merit? And so on.

Oh well, I suppose it is not really my place to comment on the interview itself, just the news. In that spirit, man, isn’t that Lex Luthor/Superman image most excellent?


Berjemo Talks That Other Superman Title

Many fans know that Brian Azzarello and I are taking over the reins on Superman in April. What still kind of quiet is the other Superman book Brian is writing, focusing more on all things Superman, from the viewpoint of Lex Luthor.

To be released this summer, the project is tentatively called Lex Luthor: Man of Steel and rejoins Brian Azzarello with multi-talented artistic dynamo Lee Bermejo bringing the Man of Steel title, albeit with realigned focus back into the Superman family of titles. Superman editor Eddie Berganza also had Lee redesign the look and feel of Metropolis to prep the entire line for the changes which begin this April.
Newsarama

My excitement for this title has been pretty well documented in an earlier edition of News and Views, available for your consumption here.
So instead of restating it, allow me to instead choose my favorite questions from this interview:

What I find ironic is that at the time back in the ’90s, I remember other pros, mostly older ones, bemoaning the fate and future of the art form once all the little kids reading Image Comics got to be the age to become pros themselves. That the next generation would be so messed up, that their story sense, their art styles, their approach to comics would be so influenced and derivative of the “Image House Style” that the future of comics was doomed. But the exact opposite has happened. I think every generation wants to find a different take on what they loved as kids without losing the love and passion for the material. When I look at your work, I don’t see any hint that you were “touched” by the Image revolution. Can you speak of how your tastes and influences changed over the years and why?

And

Over the years, I have seen your art style evolve and mature. How do you think it’s changed? Every artist goes through phases…the first being when they first break in and think they are a lot better than they actually are. Then if they hit the second stage where they realize that they are a lot worse than they thought and are motivated (out of fear, humbleness, desire for redemption?) to improve. Phase three involves distilling all one’s previous influences and teachings/learning from phase two into a style that is wholly one’s own. Phase four involves a lot of wax on, wax off mumbo jumbo. Phase five is either success (hopefully) or a realization that you should have gone to medical school like your parents wanted you to. Phase six is always the same: bitterness mixed with a heavy dose of nostalgia and a penchant for hard booze. Phase seven: Haranguing fans on message boards for liking your old stuff. So Lee, where do you think you are chart? Or are you off the charts, man?

The first thing that is so great about these questions is that they are insanely long. Trust me, I have written some dozy of run-on sentences in my day. I have written paragraphs that have stretched as far as the eye could see. But man, I only dreamed of writing interview questions this long. The first is particularly fun because the actual question has almost nothing to do with Lee’s (that being Jim Lee, Not Lee Berjemo) rarely lengthy introduction to the question.

However, the real reason I dig these question so much is that it allows me to say, “Now, Mr. Lee, what creator could you possibly be hinting at in those questions,” in a very conspiratorial and winking tone that gives me the air of being an insider without having to bother with actually, you know, knowing anything.


Morrison, The Glasgow Connection, and The Racist Master of Kung Fu

Robbie Morrison is fairly new to most of the American comic book scene, having written a smattering of projects and anthologies for Dark Horse, Marvel before taking the helm of WildStorm’s Authority. Longtime British fans know him from his scintillating scripts for Judge Dredd and co-creating Nikolai Dante with Simon Fraser, and Blackheart with Frank Quitely for 2000AD, the comics publisher in England where virtually every British creator cut their teeth.

Robbie writes some of the meanest comics around but is in person, a very affable, easy going creator who can drink Tequila with the best of ’em. It was a pleasure getting to meet him and his lovely, charming girlfriend Debbie at last year’s Bristol Comic Fair where we hung out ’til the wee hours of the morning. Luckily, he still remembered me from that night and graciously agreed to participate in today’s spotlight on European creators…

Newsarama

Poor Robbie Morrison. That whole thing about Master of Kung Fu truly sucks. I mean, imagine being at one of your first conventions all flush with love of comics and enjoying being a success at your vocation of choice. A fan rises and calls out, “Mr. Stevens, what were some of your earliest favorite titles?”

“Well, beyond your Spider-Man’s and your Batman’s I was always a huge Daredevil fan. And I dug Darkhawk as a kid,” you respond, loving that you are getting the “favorite comic growing up” question.

Then random creative peer steals the spotlight and declares, “Darkhawk?! That title was offensive to police officers, single mothers, and alien symbiotes bonded to humans living on desert islands after being convinced that they had killed their greatest enemy. It was all so stereotypical.” (And, yes, I did just toss everything I remember about Darkhawk into one glorious sentence there).

Not only did you just have your thunder stolen from you and were basically being accused of being prejudice through association, but some guy has just crapped upon one of your fondest childhood memories. Crazy uncool.


How Bludhaven Gets Its Shadows and Grime: Owens on Inks

At age 25, Andy Owens realized it was time to put up or shut up and began to seriously pursue a career in comics as an inker. Although there was a lot of struggling those early days, the artist established himself by working with Marvel, Top Cow, and DC on an eclectic mix of projects, before settling down to work on Bludhaven’s main man, Nightwing. He works with artist Patrick Zircher to bring the world of Dick Grayson to life and is gearing up for the upcoming Richard Dragon DC series. And to think … if he enjoyed his major of Law Enforcement, this never may have happened.

The Pulse

In truth, I don’t feel entirely competent in debating or discussing Owens’ ability. Like many comic book fans, I expect, it is far easier for me to notice lousy inkers than good ones. Thus, the fact that I have never seen fit to hurl obscenities at Owens work speaks well for him.

While I know what inking is in the abstract, going over the penciller’s art to add definition, shading, texture, etc I find it difficult to translate that information into any accurate critique of the work. For example, I love Klaus Janson, but I figure he owes most of that to his association with Daredevil rather than any sort of slavish following I have developed to his inking.

All that having been said, although I cannot critique Owens with any level of intelligence, the article is a solid interview with an inker who is clearly what he aspires to be, a professional. His advice to those looking to pursue inking as a career path is spot on and could very easily be applied to any of the other employment opportunities in any creative field.

I also pause to applaud him for going for it. To buckle down at 25 and give up much of a semblance of a typical life for 8-15 hours worth of being crouched over an art table could not be an easy decision to arrive at.

Ahh, but I am giving away the good parts. Go read the interview to appreciate the journey for yourself.


DC Mixes It Up A Bit, Signs a Creator to An Exclusive Contract

José Luis García-López, one of the most respected artists in comics, has extended his exclusive contract with DC for one year. García-López’s art appeared recently in ON THE ROAD TO PERDITION BOOK ONE: OASIS (STAR18213) and HAWKMAN #18.

Newsarama
The Pulse
CBR
Comics Continuum
and
ComiXtreme

I am kind of running out of ways to compliment DC’s good business sense in signing talented creators to exclusive contracts. Also, by now, my whining about exclusive contracts hurting my good time is pretty old hat. So, congrats Mr. Garcia-Lopez and I bid you all adieu.