Marvel News & Views

PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKES:

Just in case you’re wondering, due to time constraints I will no longer be writing the Thursday Anti-News Reports in Wrestling. Aw. Yeah, get over it. I shall still pop up now and again as part of Ross’ Weekly Pulse, however. In fact, I already have done and you should all read the strange results. Check it out; he is the Booster Gold to my Blue Beetle.

So now I am going to be 100% well and truly caught in the Nexus, which is a rather fine place to be caught. In fact, it’s Nexalicious. It’s so good that androids dream about this website rather than electronic sheep. I’m not really sure what’s up with the random Blade Runner references either, but I think it might be a reflex to return to something a bit more masculine after my incredibly effeminate day yesterday, where I watched 13 Going On 30 and then listened to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection. Now I think I want to marry Jennifer Garner. She is just the sweetest sight I’ve ever seen.

Hey, everybody likes at least one Madonna song, whether they’ll admit to it or not. I know you do, Will.

A quick check of IMDB reveals that Jennifer Garner is “currently dating Alias co-star Michael Vartan.” Ah, I am fate’s fickle bitch once more…

I have no idea why I am talking about so much crap. It could be because Daron isn’t around to annoy on IM. It’s probably because the amount of news to get through this week is quite daunting. We’ve got a ridiculous number of previews, the latest Marvel movie happenings, all the various bits and piece from throughout the week, and apparently there was some big show on at the weekend that I need to cover too. Sigh…

Let’s start with the easy stuff – the charts!


DIAMOND SALES CHART – JULY 2004:

Top 20 Marvel Comics:

Here are the 20 best-selling Marvel titles for the month of July. The numbers in parentheses are, as follows – the book’s position on the overall Diamond chart, the book’s position on the overall Diamond chart the previous month, and the book’s index number. If you don’t know what an index number is then count yourself very lucky. Where the book had multiple issues released in the previous month, the “previous position” number given will be for the last issue to be released.

01/ Astonishing X-Men #3 (4, 3, 187.41)
02/ Avengers #500 (5, 24, 153.01)
03/ Ultimate Spider-Man #62 (6, 5, 143.37)
04/ Uncanny X-Men #446 (7, 8, 140.47)
05/ Ultimate X-Men #49 (8, 12, 135.56)
06/ X-Men #159 (9, 9, 134.97)
07/ Ultimate Fantastic Four #9 (10, 10, 134.62)
08/ Amazing Spider-Man #510 (11, 13, 122.78)
09/ Spider-Man #4 (12, 15, 109.39)
10/ Wolverine #17 (14, 19, 96.47)
11/ Supreme Power #11 (18, N/A, 91.28)
12/ Excalibur #3 (19, 22, 83.65)
13/ Venom vs. Carnage #1 (20, N/A, 82.28)
14/ New X-Men #3 (21, 23, 80.12)
15/ Daredevil #62 (23, 25, 76.69)
16/ Spectacular Spider-Man #17 (25, 28, 74.37)
17/ Rogue #1 (26, N/A, 73.49)
18/ Fantastic Four #516 (27, 29, 70.38)
19/ Fantastic Four #515 (28, 29, 70.19)
20/ Punisher #9 (30, 31, 67.92)

A few notes…

With the exception of Astonishing X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man making room for DC’s holy trinity of angst, melodrama and quality (Superman, Superman/Batman and Identity Crisis respectively), practically all of Marvel’s books have either made small gains or remained constant in the charts over the past month. Naturally, Avengers has made the biggest leap as Brian Michael Bendis’ self-styled Disassembled epic finally starts properly, even though it’s been flooding the rest of the Marvel Universe titles for what feels like an eternity now. The biggest disappointment probably has to be JMS’ Sins Past in ASM and Mark Milla’s Spider-Man title. For the amount of hype Marvel have thrown at these big-name titles, backed by the domino effect of the recent Spider-Man 2 movie, the fact that they are still being outsold by a number of X-Men titles that very much follow the “same old, same old” routine rather than playing for shock value or hitting the emotional self-destruct button of the character is probably rather confusing for Quesada. Then again, there is no accounting for taste. I mean, look at how well Venom vs. Carnage did. It managed to outsell such critically lauded fan favourites as Waid’s Fantastic Four, Ennis’ Punisher and Bendis’ Daredevil! For the love of all that is good, first Alien vs. Predator hits big at the box office, now this? Quit encouraging them! Don’t you realise it’s only a matter of time before a symbiote comes back to Spectacular Spider-Man now? Hasn’t that poor book suffered enough???

Top 10 Graphic Novels/TPBs:

01/ Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures vol. 1 (DARK HORSE)
02/ Batman: Hush vol. 1 (DC)
03/ Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 10 – Hollywood (MARVEL)
04/ Twisted Toyfare Theatre vol. 4 (WIZARD)
05/ Ultimate Fantastic Four vol. 1 – Fantastic (MARVEL)
06/ Samurai Executioner vol. 1 (DARK HORSE)
07/ Crisis on Multiple Earths vol. 3 (DC)
08/ 100 Bullets vol. 7 – Samurai (DC)
09/ Berserk vol. 4 (DARK HORSE)
10/ Green Lantern/Green Arrow vol. 2 (DC)

A few notes…

Hey, people are still buying Hush. DAMMIT, PIERS! More seriously, there is a surprising lack of Marvel books in the top ten. It kind of invalidates my theory that the inability to keep readers hooked onto any new title or creative run was simply that more and more people had become aware of the rapid turn-around in trade packaging and were beginning to choose to wait for that format instead. Of course, this could still very well be the case but it just so happens that more people wanted to read the DC and Dark Horse material this time around…

Market Share:

Marvel Comics – 34.39% dollar share (down from 37.25%), 41.01% unit share (up from 40.56%)
DC Comics – 32.04% dollar share (up from 28.02%), 35.57% unit share (up from 26.21%)

In other words this was a perfectly average month for Marvel and a really rather good month for DC. It’s all good, baby.


NEWS & VIEWS:

Unless specifically noted otherwise, all the below information on Wizard World can be found at any good comic website, such as CBR, The Pulse, Newsarama, Millarworld or our very own lovely report courtesy of Daron & Chris

What’s An Avenger, Anyway?:
As you will no doubt have heard by now, Brian Michael Bendis’ line-up for the New Avengers title starting immediately after the mammoth Disassembled storyline comes to an end has been revealed. It is none other than Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Luke Cage, Wolverine, The Sentry and one yet-to-be-identified character. In the words of the writer himself, “this book has always been about change and evolvement and new ideas and all throughout the history, it’s been about big change. It’s like facing the modern world. We’re gonna express that with some new characters and some new dynamics and some old dynamics. And what you see up on the screen is just a hint at what we can do. And execution is 95 percent of it, so you might be surprised by what you’re going to see.” Oh Brian, you so crazy… Don’t you know that we Marvel fans fear change? See Morrison, Grant and Claremont, Chris for further details on that front.

The new member most likely to have fans scratching their heads and e-mailing the Marvel Handbook for explanations is The Sentry. In a nutshell, he is Bob Reynolds, a man who was the first ever superhero in the Marvel Universe. He pre-dated even the Fantastic Fou’s fateful voyage into space, yet his mind was erased and he forgot all about his powers (while the public at large also forgot all about him) until the evil entity known as The Void threatened the Earth. This was all written in a quite wonderful series from the Inhumans creative team of Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee, which is available as a trade. Bendis apparently called Jenkins to get clearance to use him before proceeding with the story. “I said, ‘He’s a really fascinating character. Can I take him for a spin? And he went, ‘Yes, finally! I was waiting for someone to pick him up.’ He is the most powerful hero in the Marvel Universe and is scared to leave his house. He’s very, very interesting.”

Spider-Woman is an interesting pick. To clarify, we are talking about the Jessica Drew version of the character who was, as far as I am aware, last seen in Bendis’ Alias series, helping Jessica Jones to rescue the youngest Spider-Woman, Mattie Franklin, from the clutches of a quite disgusting drug peddler. I’m not really sure why Bendis wants to draw attention to yet another female spin on the Spider-Man character in addition to the irrepressible Spider-Girl series, being given a new lease of life in Marvel Age digest format, and the new Amazing Fantasy title, but at least he has some experience of writing her. Plus, as he says, “ She releases a pheromone that makes anyone in the room attracted to her. She doesn’t know she’s doing and they don’t know that’s what’s happening. And look at all those guys!” The really interesting part of this is going to be seeing how Drew interacts with Peter Parker and exactly what this has to do with events going on in the rest of the Spider-Man titles. We’ve already heard that Bendis’ The Pulse will connect to events happening in Mark Milla’s Spider-Man… Does this mean that the fate of Aunt May has something to do with the rather strange idea of Parker becoming a fully-fledged member of a team that he really doesn’t care for all that much? Or does the explanation lie with the strange woman in Spectacular Spider-Man that is confusingly trying to turn him into an insect? The intrigue is building…

Luke Cage. ‘Nuff said, really. This guy is a major dude and, after chillin’ in the background of several other Bendis titles over the past few years, it’s excellent to see him get bumped up to the forefront of a major title like this. He’s definitely got to be the best of the new bunch by a mile.

Obviously, the news that Wolverine will be joining yet another team has been met with the usual howls of despair and random fanboy screams of “Time to be evil!!!“ One of the main sticking points would appear to be the nonsensical idea of getting one of those gosh darn pesky mutants onto the Avengers roster, particularly such a notoriously violent one who is more likely to shred you in two than listen to the chain of command. Well, our very own James Hatton had the rather brilliant idea of turning this into a riff on the Captain America/Weapon X program notion that was introduced during Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. That would certainly be a justifiable reason for Cap to tolerate someone like Logan hanging around Avengers Mansion as he tries to uncover the truth about what happened to the pair of them in the past, particularly if one of their major adversaries had anything to do with the recent attacks on them all. Plus, as the original Avengers stories with The Hulk showed us, having a rampaging maniac on the team allows for some quite interesting storytelling possibilities. Nothing has changed on that front either, as The Ultimates showed us with, once again, The Hulk. To quote Bendis, “that sounds like good drama.” And anyway, if you have just bore witness to several of your closest friends being killed or having their lives turned upside down, wouldn’t you be pretty damn grateful to have a fighter like Wolverine on your side?? I know that I would. Sure, we can make the usual argument about having him on too many books but then that is as pointless as going outside and arguing with the grass for being green.

Finally, we’re going to have Captain America and Iron Man as the resident “leaders” of the team. It’s good to see some characters who definitely have an A-list name but are stuck with a distinctly B-list status begin to get a bit of attention for once. You certainly can’t get much more attention than Ed Brubaker and Warren Ellis respectively, who will be writing the two characters when their titles are re-launched in November.

Avengers fans can also look forward to having a far greater choice in the post-Disassembled months. The main title, which Bendis assures us will see a “tragic, heroic and big death“ in issue #502, draws to a close with the double-sized Avengers Finale in November, with a cover by Neal Adams. According to Bendis, “It’s like the last episode of M*A*S*H, where every character gets to have their moment and say a proper goodbye to the Avengers as we’ve known them. Many, many big artists are doing a chapter, and it all comes together with a final chapter drawn by George Perez. [We] were very happy to have an Avengers tribute with Neil Adams on one end and George Perez on the other.” Even if you don’t care for this “Bendisized” line-up, which will be facing off against the likes of the Wrecking Crew, the Masters of Evil and the U-Foes, you will still have more other options, including…

Eart’s Mightiest Heroes, a biweekly, eight-issue mini-series by Joe Casey and Scott Kolins, looking at the very first time the Avengers were assembled…

Marvel Universe Book of the Dead will hit the stands in November and include those who have perished as a result of Disassembled. I’m going to suggest we start a Lazarus Pool on the Nexus to see which one of the characters included in this book is resurrected first. My money’s on Thor… If he dies, that is… Shit…

New Thunderbolts by Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza and Tom Grummett…

Young Avengers by Allan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung, which is going to be Cheung’s breakthrough book according to Quesada, who is immensely looking forward to this one (“The team is nothing like what people think it is“). The first two issues will plug the gap between the old and new Avengers series before all the books end up on the same timeline, whatever that is worth nowadays.

New Warriors and an Ant-Man series are due out in 2005…

Of course, the big question that I want answered is whether or not any of this is going to happen as a result of events in Bendis’ Secret War?

Bendis, Quesada & Daredevil vs. Wayne, Levitz & Batman:
The second biggest piece of Marvel news to come out from Wizard World was rather unpredictable to say the least, but it was certainly entertaining in a thoroughly silly fashion. Bendis (yes, again) had been promising people on his message board that he would be making a rather delicate and thoroughly unendorsed by Marvel statement at the con regarding a quite controversial topic. To everybody’s surprise, this topic turned out to be the potential of a Batman/Daredevil crossover. In his own words then…

It actually started about a year ago ‘ [Mike] Oeming and I had put together the idea to do a Batman/Daredevil story – just a fun little one. I came to Marvel, and I think it was just around when JLA/Avengers coming out, which was clearly going to be a big hit, so I thought that if there ever was a time when this kind of thing would do well, this would be it. Marvel was supportive of the idea, but felt it wasn’t the right time. I kind of forgot about it, for a while.

Then in San Diego, Ed Brubaker and I started spitballing, and we came up with some really fun stuff, and stuff that actually affects the books – plus you’d get cool stuff like Batman vs. Bullseye and Catwoman vs. Elektra – just some really fun stuff. So Brubaker told me that we had to get it rolling, and I agreed. We went over to DC’s booth, and we spoke with Matt Idelson, who liked it, and wanted to move it up the ladder; and then we talked to [Batman Group Editor] Bob Schreck, and he thought it sounded great, and wanted to move it up the ladder. Marvel said yes across the board as well.

Then, over at DC, they took it to Paul Levitz, and he said no. He said he wasn’t interested in working with Marvel because of his feelings towards Joe.

In my opinion, I was a little confused by that, because it didn’t seem logical. I called Mr. Levitz – who I have a lot of respect for, let me get that out up front – personally, just to see if what I was told was true, and it was – he was saying no due to a professional problem he has with Joe. I put it to him that I didn’t think it was our place to let those things stand in the way of a book that retailers would really have a lot of luck with, since it looked like on paper, this project would do really well. We had some awesome artists lined up, and it was really coming from a good creative place. It’s also something that readers would really get into in a big way as well.

And he told me no. That’s his prerogative, and I respect that. And I also want to say that me talking about this publicly isn’t in any way a diss to him, or me trying to attack him, it’s just that I really philosophically disagree with the decision, and want to know if I can maybe, by talking about it publicly get the retail community, and maybe the online community of readers to get behind this, and try to get him to change his mind.

I think the one mistake that’s being made here is that these are all of our characters – they “belong” to all of us, and if there’s something that we all want to see, you kind of have to say yes. So what I’m doing is trying to start a grass roots movement to get this book made.

There are so many reasons books don’t get made – legal reasons, and logistic reasons for example, both of which are valid, but this doesn’t seem to have any of those reasons behind it. We’d even come up with a situation where Paul wouldn’t have to talk to, or deal with Joe or whatever he’d like, and I’m not going to get into that part of it, because that’s none of my business, but there’s a situation where this could be made where no one gets upset or hurt.

What kills us is that this is such a good idea for a story – and we’re standing in front of a wall that shouldn’t be there. I know that some people are going to read this, and they’re going to think that this is some kind of stunt, that we’re about to announce the book, but I’m telling you, this book does not exist – this book is not happening. I’m trying to get it off the ground. I’ve tried everything I could on my end, and I have no other recourse but to go public in an attempt to get people behind me to get this made.

In the long-term, I also want to see fences mended and a community where things like this should be able to happen as often as they could. If other people have these ideas, they should be able to be allowed to come to fruition – there’s no reason that they shouldn’t happen. There’s only one guy who doesn’t want this to happen, and it doesn’t seem fair.

While we were on the phone, Paul reminded me that he was one of the editors on the very first Superman/Spider-Man crossover, so I think he wanted to tell me that he understood where my brain was at, creatively, but all that did was kind of frustrate me more, because I then knew that he knew how cool something like this could be. I’m hoping to remind him of that, that coolness.

I know Paul’s going to be mad when he reads this, and I’m not trying to make him mad. But I can only say again and again, this is not an attack on him at all – if anything, I gave them an opportunity to have me write Batman while I’m under contract with Marvel. Everyone at DC editorial went dreamy-eyed at the idea of it, and then we came up against this wall. If anything, everyone was going to get the best of both worlds with this.

And I know, there will be ramifications of me doing this, and I do have a little buffer in that Iâ’m signed on with Marvel for quite a while, so hopefully all will be forgiven in time – but maybe not – you never know. But I’m putting the project before career here – that’s how frustrated I am by it being stopped like this.

I also need to point out that Ed has nothing to do with me going public with this – so I hope no one throws him under the bus with me. As we envisioned it, Ed would do the DC side, and I would do the Marvel version. We also had an interesting idea where each issue would take place in a different time period in continuity, so we could build in a real relationship between the characters that kept building over time, with Batman and Daredevil meeting again and again in the six different time periods that we’d come up with.

That’s all this is about – I could write this right now – but I can’t.

I’m hoping that the larger retailers, the one that have the ear of DC and need, or want to see a high ticket item that they can sell call up DC or express to Paul Levitz that they’d like to see this product out, and to please service them, as they’re DC’s customers. This is a book that could put a lot of cash in retaile’s hands, and it frustrates me that we can’t deliver it.

I’m hoping that fans are loud enough on the message boards, as they’re wont to do, or even in writing e-mails to DC ‘ I believe nearly everyone’s e-mail at DC is available. I’d like to see the Batman editors deluged with e-mails, enough to shake everyone out of things being stalled like they are, and so that fences can start to be mended between the two companies, so we can do this project – and if something else comes down the line, do another project. People shouldn’t be fighting – there’s no reason for it, but even if they are, it shouldn’t stand in the way of good comics.

And finally, trust me – if I knew any other way to get this done that was behind the scenes, I would do it. If this doesn’t happen, I’m out here, embarrassing myself with my inability to get this started – but I don’t really care. I’d rather try and say that I tried everything, rather than just lying down and accepting that this won’t happen.

And I don’t think that anyone at DC who is reading this should take this as anything but enthusiasm from me and for my desire to do this. If anything, I hope it makes them reconsider the thought process, and we can all find a way to make this happen. I hope that somehow the politics can be pushed aside and just look at the enthusiasm of the creator, and the love for the characters, and figure out a way to do it. I know they can.”

Memo to Bendis and, by proxy, to Brubaker – if you truly have an entertaining story to tell with Daredevil and a Batman type character then there is absolutely no reason why you cannot just tell it purely within the confines of Marvel. All you need is someone to step into Bruce Wayne’s shoes. Someone like Nighthawk, for example. Hell, you don’t even need to stick to Marvel. You could quite easily make this a creator-controlled project and run it in the Icon imprint. No fuss, no muss.

Memo to Bendis and Bendis alone – whining and moaning about this in public is not the best way to get something like this done. You mentioned JLA/Avengers in your speech. For my money, this was the one and only DC/Marvel crossover that has been any good and it took about 20 years to come to fruition. The creative teams involved where determined to see it happened yet realised that, for many various reasons frustratingly out of their control, it would not happen overnight. It took time, patience, perseverance and an overwhelming love for the characters involved to eventually be in a position where the sweet fruits could be enjoyed by all. They didn’t concoct a half-baked idea over a few drinking sessions; get miffed when they ran into the first hurdle, then start bitching about it to anyone who would listen. In doing so, you have quite simply made that first hurdle bigger than it already was and come out of this looking like quite the childish prat. At a time when many of the same diehard fans you might have been able to count on for support are currently growing weary of your style in light of the big changes coming to their beloved Avengers, this was not a good idea.

Now, let’s hear from some of the other main players in this little game of childish misbehaviour…

First of all, here’s what DC’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Bob Wayne, had to say:

It was mentioned at this panel that DC had turned down a Batman/Daredevil crossover, and that DC didn’t want to publish it. In the course of the conversation between Brian and me, it was clarified that actually DC would love to be able to co-publishing various projects with Marvel, but we’re looking for a change in Marvel’s management team prior to going ahead with any new projects. I certainly wouldn’t want to argue with Brian. It seems that Brian would be a very astute observer. Again, we’d love to do a crossover with Marvel, but we’ll have to wait until there’s a change in management“

Wayne had also spoken out from the audience during Bendis’ statement. In the heat of the moment the remarks became a shade less professional, including this little exchange between the two…

WAYNE: “We’re down to one person we want to see gone from Marvel, there used to be two. If you could speed up getting [Quesada] out the door…Did Micah Wright write this up for you?“

BENDIS: “I don’t know Micah Wright – you work with him. There’s no reason for this. You’re just mad that Joe’s kicking your ass.”

WAYNE: “That’s not the core type of problem… but the type of interview in the New York Observer [is].”

The aforementioned interview saw Quesada speak in a thoroughly unprofessional, quite inexplicable and possibly inebriated manner back in April 2002. This is one example of why certain members of DC’s management may be quite unhappy at the behaviour of certain members of Marvel’s management. Thanks to The Beat for the link.

What the f*ck is DC anyway? They’d be better off calling it AOL Comics. At least people know what AOL is. I mean, they have Batman and Superman, and they don’t know what to do with them. That’s like being a porn star with the biggest dick and you can’t get it up. What the f*ck?“

Quesada also commented on the controversy at Wizard World by saying…

Regardless of what they say, there’s history between both companies. We’re more than open and willing to do this. It would be a very easy excuse for me to say that we’d be willing to do this, but won’t until DC’s management changes. But this isn’t about us at the top – this is about the fans, this is about the retailers. This is about not putting money into retaile’s pockets. This is about books that fans would love to read. Brian has told me the story of the crossover, and quite frankly, it’s one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard for this kind of story. Really, any excuse not to do this is really limp.”

Thankfully, as the dust settled it seemed that some sense finally made it back into the head of Bendis. He has since posted the following statement on his message board, apologising for what he inadvertently kicked off over the weekend…

For those who care I just have a couple of things to say about what went on at my panel at Chicago con.

I regret the whole thing. Can’t say it any simpler that that. What I intended was to start a grass roots campaign to get the proposed Batman/ DD book off the ground, not to create a wrestle mania circus.

I apologize to everyone involved at DC comics. It was wrong for me to try and do this without your involvement. My frustration with the current climate between the companies pushed me to make what I feel now was the wrong choice.

For those of you who think this was a marketing stunt. There is no book so there is nothing to market. This was not a stunt. This book does not exist and probably never will under current conditions. I do not need nor do I want this type of publicity.

For the record, I do not know and had never met Bob Wayne from DC comics. I have never spoken with him on the phone. I was genuinely surprised by his involvement in my panel and while I greatly admire his blunt honesty that day it did take the panel into places I would never have gone. Things were said in the debate that I was not going to say out loud and the tone of the panel, by the nature of crowd reaction turned very circus like. In fact, for those who know me, I am the polar opposite of a wrestling guy and have never pulled a stunt like that in my life. And I can almost guarantee that I never will again.

I will say that the conversation between us on stage was probably one of the most honest conversations I have ever seen on a panel. Most panels being “rah rah” panels, this was a lively debate about the mechanics “behind the curtain” those looking for a show certainly got one but I felt like shit afterwards and it only escalated as the weekend continued.

There was one thing in particular I said during the debate that I instantly wished I could take back. I wished I could grab the words out of the air and pull them back. And that was the line about DC being mad about Joe kicking their ass every month. I truly regret saying that immature line. I am not a professional public speaker; in fact, I spend 99 percent on my life not speaking but writing. And my inexperience at public speaking is to blame.

I am in no way calling for or supporting any kind of ban on DC comics. Some of my very favorite comics and creators work at DC comics and I purchase dozens of them every month and will continue to do so.

All I was and am hoping for was some retailer and reader support in getting this big book going. I sincerely appreciate all those who got behind me on this and hope that one day we will get to do this story.”

The moral of the story? Do not spend too much time with Joe Quesada. It is bad for your health.

To remind yourself of why we even care about Brian Michael Bendis and his tremendous talents in the first place, check out this link at The Pulse, which tells you about his “Write’s Write” workshop at the con. Sadly it has been overshadowed by the rather strange spat between upper levels of DC/Marvel management, but let’s just remember that Bendis is a bloody good writer. Pick up a copy of his Ultimate Spider-Man Scriptbook while you are at it. It’s full of useful hints, tips, background info and, most importantly, inspiration. Check it out!

Blade: Vegetable Medley:
The countdown to the December 10th release of the third and possibly final Blade movie continues… or it would if anybody were actually counting down, so I guess it’s more accurate to say that time is passing towards its inevitable release… Anyway, if you want to check out some spoilers then head over to Superhero Hype for a couple of test screening reviews, one positive and one negative. While you’re at it, check out the official message board. It’s quite something. Ryan Reynolds discusses the possibility of a Nightstalkers spin-off movie and reveals his workout routine, while David Goyer is more concerned with determining what type of vegetable he is, what his favourite colour is, and what the best type of cereal is. Truly these are the mysteries that plague us all through life.

Comix Experience vs. Marvel:
The Pulse has an interesting story up, involving one comic retailer, Brian Hibbs of Comix Experience, filing a Class Action lawsuit against Marvel Comics. His complaint was that Marvel was not honouring their return policy for late books or books with content altered from their solicitation information. That was two years ago and, in December 2003; a Conditional Settlement was announced in the following press release.

The basic agreement is that Marvel is going to issue a credit (representing a percentage of the retailer’s purchase price) to those comic book retailers who purchased “Late Issues” (issues that were delivered more than 30 days after the solicited time period) or “Different Issues” (issues whose editorial content differed materially from the solicited content) during the period commencing January 1, 1998 and ending March 31, 2003.

“Late Issues”, if the conditional settlement is accepted, would be given a 24 % credit, while “Different Issues” would be a 17.5% credit. The parties have already reviewed all of the Marvel records and determined which issues constitute “Late” and “Different” issues. It will not be necessary for anyone who participates in the proposed Settlement to return any comics.”

You see? They could use this as their new advertising slogan. “Marvel Comics – We’re Not Entirely Evil!!!“

The Order Of The Jean:
At the X-Men: Reloaded panel on Wizard World this Sunday, Marvel confirmed that not only are they going to keep flogging the dead horse that is the word “reload” all over our sorry asses, but that they will be bringing back Dark Phoenix in a five-issue mini-series in February 2005 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the character. As opposed to the big ball of nothing they did for the 40th anniversary of the X-Men themselves, I guess. Oh wait, we got X-Force back. Yay!

Anyway, before you all start bitching about how Jean should not be brought back, how nobody can stay buried anymore, yadda, yadda, yadda, whatever, let’s just take a minute to realise that Jean is the one Marvel character that should return from the dead. For crying out loud, look up the meaning of the word ‘phoenix’ if you don’t agree. The book will be drawn by Greg Land and written by newcomer Greg Pak, with whom you can read an interview here. A little taster of what we can expect from this title…

I can’t give away too much about the content of the story; in particular, I don’t want to imply one way or the other what kind of role Jean Grey does or doesn’t play in the book, but certainly the Phoenix Force is a central character for us. And the character of the Phoenix Force has two great things going for it/her. First, the nature of her powers means she has the potential to go completely out of control with enormously high-stakes consequences. She’s always at risk of losing her soul – and destroying the galaxy in the process. That’s a distinct difference from a character like Superman, who has tremendous powers but never really seems likely to lose control, or a character like Wolverine, who may indeed be at risk of losing control but isn’t likely to destroy the world in the process. The concept of the Phoenix may be the greatest single comic book exploration of the terrible potential for destruction inherent in a mere human, no matter how good, possessing superhuman powers. So that’s great material to work with. Second, the Phoenix’s history with Jean Grey gives her an incredibly rich personal and emotional back story. The love story with Scott Summers is great material – and indeed is central to what makes this story worth telling.”

Diamond vs. Marvel:
After sticking with Client Distribution Services (CDS) for two years, Marvel is returning to Diamond for book distribution once more and Newsarama has the details. Strangely, they were with Diamond for comic distribution all along and only used CDS – and previously LPC – for book distribution. In a move of logic so glaringly obvious it smacks you on both cheeks before stealing your lunch money and giving you a wedgie, having both services handled by the one company will save them money. Still, it’s good to see that Diamond do apparently know what they are doing when it comes to handling bookstores. Except when they have to deal with the ones in Edinburgh, Scotland it would seem. Then I guess they have to take a detour through Narnia or something and get lost along the way. Stupid wardrobe.

Dreamwave vs. Marvel:
Newsarama also have an update on the forthcoming Fantastic Four/X-Men mini-series that starts in December and sees Dreamwave’s President, co-founder and all-round top dog artist Pat Lee team up with Akira Yoshida, up-and-coming writer of Elektra: The Hand and Thor: Son of Asgard, to tackle the two Marvel properties. He has had a lot of chances to draw some covers for various Marvel titles, most notably the Marvel 2099 and X-Men Unlimited books, and will get the chance to see what he can do with an entire series soon enough. The preview pic certainly looks good (except for the rather dubious, Liefeld-esque Wolverine and Cyclops’ Duff-Man strike-a-pose pose) but… is The Thing smoking? Because that would be the coolest damn thing in the world. Yeah, I know, smoking is bad, m’kay, but screw it – The Thing smoking is cool!

Strange… Doctor Strange:
Newsarama has an interview with J. Michael Straczynski about the upcoming Strange mini-series, which has been a long time coming. Lord knows I had to sit through many a trifle boring issue of Amazing Spider-Man to get here. Thankfully, JMS does acknowledge that Dr. Strange is seen as “old hat” and this is one of the main points of this series – to reinvent not necessarily the character, but the perspective and the expectations bestowed on him by the audience. To paraphrase JMS – anything Neo could do in The Matrix, Strange can do in the Marvel Universe. Yet people think Neo “hip”. He has his work cut out for him, but obviously he holds a great deal of affection for the character and will be assisted in his task by Supreme Universe compadre Samm Barnes. If you enjoyed the aforementioned mystical issues of Amazing Spider-Man, then I would certainly recommend checking this one out. Hell, you may as well check it out if you have the cash to spare too as JMS is a writer well worth hedging your bets on.

Aw, She’s So CUTE!:
With Jennifer Burnside’s Elektra spin-off scheduled for a January 14th release, with the trailer due to be released alongside Fox’s Taxi, directed by Tim Story, who is now also directing the Fantastic Four movie. Elektra and Taxi are also both going to have scores by one Christophe Beck, whose previous work includes several episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bring It On and, um, Garfield. Layers within layers… Anyway, apparently the directo’s cut of Daredevil will be released on November 30th just in time for the spin-off and the Christmas rush. It will probably include the missing Coolio subplot, but I wouldn’t bet on it explaining just how a blind man could mark out a “DD” symbol in gasoline on a subway station platform, why nobody but Joe Pantoliano could smell it, and why he would even want to do it in the first place. Oh, and back to Story’s FF movie for a minute. Apparently they will be filming at 300 Low Level Road, Vancouver between August 2nd and November 12th and have a big ol’ Brooklyn Bridge set on the site. Check it out if you are in the area. Thanks to Superhero Hype for the information.

Hulk No Let Time Fly:
After all the conspiracy theories have come and gone, and after stopping off for a quick bit of rough and tumble with The Thing (smoking?) in the desert, the Hulk returns battered and bruised into the loving arms of Peter David this January for the six-issue Hulk: Tempus Fugit mini-series. Newsarama speaks to the man himself, who confirms that yes, he was offered the chance for an Ultimate Hulk series but turned it down because he was primarily perturbed by the characte’s premise, which had already been set up by Mark Millar in The Ultimates. However, at Quesada’s insistence, David eventually agreed to bring his story idea into the 616 universe for a stand-alone mini. Little did he know that by the time it seen the light of day it would in fact be the only Hulk book on the market after Jones’ arc ate itself. Still, fans of the big green machine shouldn’t give up hope for the future of their favourite smashing beast. He is rumoured to play a vital part in Disassembled and might just get his book back sooner than you think, according to David…

I’ll tell you what: I should be writing issue #5 right around the time we see what the orders are like for issue #1. If the news is positive, then I’ll start laying some groundwork. If it’s not, hey, we’re done in six, so long and thanks for all the fish.”

Spider-Girl! Yes, THAT One!:
Take it away, Tom DeFalco:

No title is safe in today’s comic book market, it’s a constant struggle for survival and that’s okay as far as I’m concerned. The Spider-Girl team and I strive to do our best work each and every month. We can’t afford to waste issues. We try to tell a complete story in every issue – a story that will be accessible and intriguing to a new reader and also satisfying to our established fans. Spider-Girl is a fun, little, friendly neighbourhood comic book that will remind you why you first fell in love with super-hero comics. She’s a real hero in this age of anti-heroes.”

And people wonder the fans of this title are so passionate and dedicated towards its survival? Well, maybe because it happens to be made by the very same type of people? It’s writing from the soul, not writing from the committee and it makes all the difference in the world. I wish Amazing Fantasy all the best of luck, just as DeFalco does at the above link, but I can’t deny that I would much rather see May Day continue to have her day instead. Meanwhile, over on Comics Continuum, penciller Patrick Olliffe discussed inking his own pencils for a guest-stint soon: “it’s a self-contained issue. The Dragon King character makes a return. It’s been a while since I was the regular artist and it’s nice to touch base.”

Thorwatch:
According to CBR, Neil Gaiman is busy beavering away on his latest novel, Anansi Boys before embarking on his second Marvel project to follow up the best-selling 1602 series. At Wizard World, Quesada confirmed that there will not be an issue #86 of Thor and that people “will not believe” what they are going to do with him. Well, Joe, I would believe that you would kill him off in Disassembled, have Loki revealed to be the culprit behind it all, keep the fans happy with Son of Asgard for now, tie it all into the strange events of Young Avengers, then string that one out until Neil can be officially signed, sealed and delivered as yours to reboot the character with even more gusto than Kevin Smith gave to Daredevil at the birth of Marvel Knights, in which case I hope it all pays off for you. Then again, I may be way off base. Here is Neil Gaiman with some equally confusing words…

Marvel project #2, at the end of the day, will be whatever they want it to be and I don’t mind. I have to finish ‘Anansi Boys’ first. It’s a bit weird to hear that you’re definitely doing X or definitely doing Y or definitely Zed. I know some of the things that are happening with Thor spin-offs from conversations that I had six months ago with Joe, where I said, ‘If I did do Thor I would want to do X, Y and Zed.’ And Joe came back to me and said, ‘Look if you don’t get to do Thor can we do X, Y, and Zed with another person?’ I said, ‘Oh God, yes.’ They were just ideas. I’m not territorial about them and they’re fun ideas and they were ways that I probably would have done Thor. I might just say sod it and do the Purple Man mini-series.”

What If What If Returned And Nobody Read It?:
Check out the following link to read in-depth information about the return of What If to the ranks of Marvel. I’m just going to give you a little taster of what sort of stories you can expect to see when this title returns in a special ‘fifth week’ event in December:

What if Karen Paige had Lived? written by Brian Michael Bendis & Kevin Smith (I know!), drawn by Alex Maleev, cover by Joe Quesada

What if Jessica Jones had Joined the Avengers? written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by Michael Gaydos

What if Magneto had Formed the X-Men with Professor X? written by Chris Claremont, drawn by Cully Hamner, cover by Jim Cheung

Wha-huh? humour issue featuring Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Garth Ennis, Mark Waid, Robert Kirkman, Jim Mahfood and more. Stories are rumoured to include What if Stan Lee wrote Ultimate Spider-Man and What if Kevin Smith Finished his Books?

What if General Ross had Become the Hulk? written by Peter David, drawn by Andrea Divito, cover by Gary Frank

What if Aunt May had Died Instead of Uncle Ben? written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Cameron Stewart

What if Victor von Doom had become the Thing? written by Karl Kesel, drawn by Paul Smith

Several Other Brief Bits Of Marvellous Information:

I am rapidly running out of time, so let’s do this quickly…

– X-23 will see her mini-series arrive in January, further upping the ante on the number of X-books available. It will be written by Craig Kyle, who originally wrote the episode of X-Men: Evolution that introduced her yet was hampered by the all-ages rating of the cartoon.

– Brian K. Vaughan will be on Ultimate X-Men for the foreseeable future. VAUGHAN!!! Alan Davis will also be allowed to sleep now and again, with Oliviel Coipel as his new stand-in. Bryan Singer is still “slated” to do an arc at some point, but I wouldn’t hold your breath…

– Mark Milla’s Wolverine is going to piss off a lot of the rest of the Marvel Universe as he embarks on quite the little killing spree. That must be in the new job description for the Avengers. Millar has also been drafted in to do a bit of screenplay work for David Goye’s Deadpool movie.

– The Hellfire Club are returning in 2005.

– Warren Ellis and Steve McNiven will release Ultimate Secret, the second part of the Ultimate Nightmare trilogy, next year.

– Letters pages may be used, but only at the discretion of each individual editor. In other words – stop writing such bloody awful letters, you heathens.

– The Supreme Universe and the 1602 world will be explored further at some point in the future, but they are not in any rush to get there and will take their time and wait for the most opportune story pitches.

– There will be no Origin 2.

– Stan Lee will write Spider-Man: The End with an as-yet-unconfirmed artist joining him.

– Quesada has written up to issue #7 of NYX, at which point the series will be cancelled. I mean, “reviewed as to whether to continue.” Suck!


PREVIEWS:

Daredevil #63

Comics Continuum provides a 4-page preview of The Widow part 3 of 4, on sale this Wednesday. Written by Bendis and complete with loveably scratchy art and cover from Alex Maleev, this introduces a new enemy to Matt Murdock’s life – Quinn. Well, unless he has already been introduced. I wouldn’t know on account of following this run in HC format. It’s cost-effective, it’s far more durable, it’s immeasurably more satisfying to place the book on the shelf than the comic in the bag, and it’s shiny. There can be no argument, really. Still, I look forward to finding out what the hell is going on here at some point. I may even check out the upcoming Black Widow mini too as it looks quite intriguing.

Elektra: The Hand #1

CBR has the goods as far as Jennifer Garne’s, um, I mean, Elektra’s upcoming new mini-series, written by new favourite Akira Yoshida with pencils by Christian Gossett and a cover by Bill Sienkiewicz. It hits the stands next month but you can check out a silent six-page preview at the above link. It’s a pity they couldn’t get Sienkiewicz to do the interior art as well. I don’t have any particularly strong complaints about Gossett’s work, but Sienkiewicz’s style would have made for a far more vivid piece of story-telling about inner-turmoil in a ninja clan from feudal Japan. This just looks like it has been deliberately simplified to work better in the inevitable Marvel Age digest collection. Perhaps when that day comes I will pick it up…

Exiles #51

Back to Comics Continuum we go for a peek at the latest issue of everyone’s favourite time-travelling mutants. This is The Big M part 2 of 2, written by Toney Bedard with interior art and cover by Mizuki Sakakibara. Intriguingly enough, this issue seems to have a lot to do with the Mystique/Destiny dynamic, which last week we discussed possibly having a major impact on the Quiet Man storyline over in Mystique. Not that I expect this issue to have anything to do with what may or may not come to pass in McKeeve’s book, I just wanted to talk about a series that I actually know something about instead of getting confused by more time travel stories. Ugh… time travel… X-Men… shouldn’t that be outlawed by now?

Fantastic Four #517

This is a Disassembled tie-in (we’re not allowed to say “cross-over” anymore) as the Quesada/Bendis/Buckley hype juggernaut rolls ever onwards, flattening another title in its path. I can understand using the tie-in premise to help out books like Iron Man, but why intrude on a title that has been gathering praise left, right and centre thanks to Mark Waid’s fine work? We sure are going a long, long route just to get some characters that Bendis likes onto the Avengers roster. It certainly would have just been a lot easier on everybody to have just pitched his New Avengers arc as a kind of ‘fille’ run while the permanent team was off-world or something. And if the rumours do come to fruition and Loki is revealed as the main villain behind all of this then, well, so what? They may well kill Thor off, they almost certainly will cancel his series, but unless they come up with the comic industry’s equivalent of finding a cure for cancer and manage to get Neil Gaiman to do what they want him to do, and then still nobody will care about the character when his series is re-launched. But yeah, Iron Man is drunk, Spider-Man is turning into an insect and not a spider, and the Fantastic Four here find Manhattan cut off from the rest of the world. At least there’s a funny scene involving Thing dressing up as the Human Torch for Halloween…

New X-Men #4

Once again, Comics Continuum has the ubiquitous 4-page preview, this time of the DeFilippis/Weir/Johnson team’s latest issue, on sale this Wednesday. It’s part 4 of 6 of the Choosing Sides arc and it looks as familiar, warm and comfortable as your bed when you collapse into it on a cold, dark, wet and windy winte’s night with a headache and a temperature heralding a nasty bout of the flu. None of the characters have convinced me that they are going to have much staying power in the grand scheme of things, but time shall tell, time shall tell…

Nightcrawler #1

Over at ComiX-Fan, you can check out a non-coloured, non-lettered preview of the fuzzy one’s upcoming solo book, due to be released on the 22nd September and, thankfully, completely devoid of any Chuck Austen credits. Sadly, they seem to be exploring the demon/angel theological aspect that Austen rather spectacularly cocked up, but then that had to be addressed before the character could be taken in any kind of direction at all. The jury remains out on what the book will actually be like, but the pencilling and inking from Darick Robertson is quite sublime. Hopefully it will not be wasted on a story as flat and uninspired as so many of these X-Men spin-offs seem to end up being. Speaking of which…

Rogue #2

Would anybody really be adverse to Marvel pulling a great big retcon and replacing this version of Rogue with the Anna Paquin version from the movies? The lingering memory of Paquin’s charming performance is the only rational explanation that I can think of for the first issue of this series charting as high as it did (#26), so look for a quite substantial drop-off in sales of this issue as it begins to dawn on people that the two are practically incompatible with one another. In fact, the Anna Paquin Rogue would be more at home in NYX but nobody seems to have known what the hell the story is there. As for the story here… Well, it includes the line “…This girl’s going rogue…”Ã¢â‚¬ËœNuff said, really.

Wolverine #16

It’s Greg Rucka’s penultimate Wolverine issue and it’s coming to you soon… very soon. You all should know by now if you are interested in buying this issue as it is part 6 of 7 of the Return of the Native arc. Likewise, you all should know by now if you are interested in reading a book that sees Wolverine and Sabretooth going at it once again. If you are then – HEY! – good for you. I’m not.

X-Men #160

First of all – cool cover. Now, a few buzz words that may influence your opinion of this comic – “written by Chuck Austen” and “the return of Xorn.” I have no idea if this Xorn has anything to do with Grant Morrison’s Xorn or Chris Claremont’s Magneto or Grant Morrison’s Magneto or Excalibur or anything like that. I don’t greatly care at this point. I’m just going to point out that Austen will be leaving the title shortly to be replaced by Peter Milligan. If you didn’t think that was a good thing before now, then read the rather ignorant and kinda racist anti-Chinese jibes in this preview for further evidence. Bring on the Millimeister!

X-Men: The End: Book One: Dreamers & Demons #2

You just have to admire the unapologetic pretentiousness of a title that contains three colons for three subtitles and compares itself to Lord of the Rings in the solicitation text just because it happens to be a trilogy. Anyway, according to this preview when the end comes, Scott and Emma will still be together and will have kids. Emma will also moan about the lack of privacy in the company of telepaths, which is just such an inane statement that I have decided to add Claremont to my “People I Must Bash Upside The Head With A Feather Duster” list. Do you realise that by the time you collect all 18 unessential issues of this series you could have bought 18 essential issues of Mystique? I just wanted to point that out…


RANDOM BITS OF POO:

Chris reviews Spider-Girl #77 and is clamouring for more Marvel Age digests, baby!!

Tim reviews Ultimate X-Men #50 and do you know what that means? VAUGHAN!

Paul reviews Runaways #17 in the form of a Billy Joel song. Have you no shame??

Dave reviews X-Statix #25, the penultimate issue… sniff…

Do you want to see Spider-Man reviewing Crayola crayons? Who wouldn’t??! Rides up the crotch.

Terminators in Hats. Not only does it combine two of my favourite aspects of life, but it is a wonderful pitch for the fourth movie.

The New York Times talks about comic books in a – gasp! – respectful tone. Oh yes, they are learning. One day our differences shall be resolved and we shall live together in blissful harmony.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out Newsarama’s look at the upcoming Marvel Age Team-Up book. No, not the Robert Kirkman Marvel Team-Up but the one intended for the younger audiences that retells the classic stories, written by Todd Dezago. I’m not too thrilled by the confusing names either (MATU & MTU?) but the thought of having two Team-Up titles is rather pleasing.


END CREDITS:

This column has been brought to you in conjunction with…

Madonna’s Immaculate Collection

Pearl Jam’s Benaroya Hall bootleg

AOL IM: KingKongBurnside

Iain Burnside is currently rushing to meet a deadline that has already passed please don’t yell Daron not again not after last time what are you doing no no please I’m sorry for the LOVE OF GOD NO ARGHHH….