Archive for June, 2010

Fast Girls and Winged Warriors

Get thee to a comic store today! Angelus #4 and Velocity #1 both appear in shops today. If you didn’t catch the previews for each, you can still do so. The Velocity preview is here

And the Angelus preview is here.

There also a Velocity interview with me, by Josh Wigler, at CBR here.

Velocity is the payoff to the character’s win in Top Cow’s first Pilot Season contest. I didn’t write that Pilot Season one-shot, and Kenneth Rocafort didn’t draw it. “Creative differences” led to the departure of that creative team from the ensuing mini-series. Eventually, the assignment was offered to me, and then Kenneth’s schedule opened up enough for him to sign on. I’m really pleased with the finished product, thanks to Kenneth’s amazing work. And it gets even better. Trust me, there’s a spread in issue #2 that is just stunning.

The critical reaction to Velocity has been very gratifying thus far. I set out to tell an accessible superhero story – a fun story – that wasn’t mired in continuity or over-the-top, get-your-heart-ripped-out violence. If the reviews are any indication, we at least got close to that mark. A sampling:

  1. Graphic Policy:
  2. iFanboy:
  3. Newsarama:
  4. Battlemouth:
  5. Multiversity Comics:
  6. ComicNews:
  7. Player Affinity:
  8. First Comics News:
  9. Ideology of Madness:
  10. Hollywood Jesus:
  11. Geekvine:
  12. Quarter Bin:
  13. League of Comic Geeks:
  14. CBR:
  15. Broken Frointier:
  16. Newsarama/Best Shots Rapid Reviews:
  17. True Believer :
  18. Comic Attack :
  19. Comics Bulletin:
  20. Comic Related:
  21. Newsarama’s Best Shots … Again :
  22. Comic Vine :
  23. Panels on Pages :



Angelus #4 Preview

Brian & Bruce

Check out this video of Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem signing “No Surrender” with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, from Bruce’s new Hyde Park DVD. I’ve written about Gaslight recently, and anybody who knows me, or maybe follows me on Twitter, knows of my fascination with and admiration for Springsteen. My college girlfriend introduced me to Springsteen’s music, as well as Stephen King’s writing, two debts I can never repay. Obviously both men are consummate storytellers, most often choosing to chronicle average lives.

More than just a great song, this video intrigues me from the standpoint of watching Brian’s joyous face as he gets to perform with one of his musical influences, maybe even one of his idols. There are moments in life that tell you what you’re doing is right, that you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing. This performance seems to me to be one of them.

I had that kind of moment when I got to work with Jim Starlin, Bernie Wrightson and Walter Simonson on respective projects. With Jim, it was a Green Lantern issue and a Hellboy: Weird Tales story. With Bernie, Batman vs. Aliens and the still-unpublished Batman-Solomon Grundy story. With Walter, an issue of The Path. Those jobs will always mean the world to me.



Signed “Shinku”

A few of you have used the “Contact” button here to drop me a line about obtaining a copy of the Shinku ashcan I put together. Shinku, in case you missed it earlier, is a new project by me and artist Lee Moder, a vampire tale set in contemporary Japan. The ashcan contains nine story pages, plus a sketchbook section by Lee.

Westfield Comics, which has a mail-order catalog as well as a brick-and-mortar store, is carrying the Shinku ashcan at the discounted prices of $2/copy. All copies will be signed by me. Shinku contains graphic violence and nudity, so fair warning if you think your delicate sensibilities will be offended by such things. The link to order is here

I can also report that Shinku has a publisher, and an interesting new wrinkle, both of which we’ll announcing at the San Diego Comic Con. Stay tuned…



Princely art by Rocafort

When I flew into San Diego last year for the annual ordeal known as Comic Con, a friend of mine (who lives in San Diego) picked me up at the airport so I’d be spared the line at the taxi stand. Arriving at roughly the same time were artist Kenneth Rocafort and his sister Jessica, who were in San Diego for the first time ever, and had been routed from their native Puerto Rico to Philadelphia and finally to San Diego. So I’d arranged to pick them up as well, and give them a ride to our hotel.

After a few cell calls, we found Kenneth and Jessica at a neighboring terminal. But before even loading their luggage into the car, Kenneth handed me a large envelope. Inside was the original for the piece of art you see here, a pin-up for my Dragon Prince creator-owned project that Top Cow had published. I was stunned, to say the least, both by Kenneth’s generosity and the sheer awesomeness of the piece. Kenneth had offered to do a Dragon Prince piece at the Baltimore Con the previous year, but I figured it’d just be a quickie in my sketchbook at some point. I certainly didn’t expect … this.

When we publish the Dragon Prince collection, this will definitely be in it, along with unseen art by series artist Lee Moder (including an unpublished cover) and co-creator Jeff Johnson. Also, there will be some more Dragon Prince news announced within the next month or so.

As for Kenneth, he and I are of course collaborating on the Velocity mini-series right now. Issue #1 will be in stores on June 30, and if I do say so, Kenneth has drawn an amazing-looking issue. He’s an absolute joy to work with, and I sincerely hope our work on Velocity is just the first of many projects together. You can check out Kenneth’s blog here.


Admiring the “Sunset”

Yesterday I showed off the planned cover for issue #1 of Russian Sunset by Bart Sears and Mike Atiyeh. Today, it’s the cover for issue #2, by Luke Ross, my artistic partner on Samurai: Heaven and Earth.

After we kicked around the concept, Luke produced the three roughs you see above. We ended up picking the one with more of an iconic/propaganda composition, reflecting Russian proletarian art. Luke rendered the cover in his tonal pencil style, the same style he employs for Samurai: Heaven and Earth. The tonal style is more painstaking and time-consuming than simply penciling to be inked, but I think the results speak for themselves.

Colorist pal Rob Schwager then dropped in the flat red background.

The other planned covers for Russian Sunset were to have been by Cully Hamner, Brian Stelfreeze and Darryl Banks. And at some point, maybe they still will be.



“Russian” Translation

A few years ago, a creator-owned project of mine called Russian Sunset was announced at Desperado Press. It was a five-issue crime/espionage story about an enforcer for the Russian Mob, drawn by a talented Serbian artist named Mirko Colak. Short version, we completed the entire first issue, but the project didn’t come out due to a number of factors that I won’t go into. It just didn’t work out. I’m still friends with Joe Pruett of Desperado, and I’m sure in the future we’ll work together on something (in addition to the foreword I’m writing for the Jim Starlin art book that Joe is publishing). Mirko is presently drawing albums for French publishers, and hopefully we’ll get to collaborate again.

Russian Sunset itself landed at Top Cow, with a different artist attached, but not too long before we were going to begin anew on the series, the artist accepted a DC exclusive. No hard feelings at all, it was the right thing for him to do. But it put the series back into limbo, where it presently resides. At some point, though, I fully intend to get it up and running again. I’m thoroughly enjoying all the work-for-hire gigs I’m doing – Witchblade, Magdalena, Angelus, Velocity, Artifacts and a few other things that are still under wraps. But there’s nothing like working on creator-owned projects. You’ll be seeing a few more of them from me in the future.

In the meantime, here’s the original cover to Russian Sunset #1, pencils and inks by Bart Sears, color by Mike Atiyeh. Come back tomorrow for a look at two versions of the Luke Ross cover to issue #2.


Pearl Jamming

Something to entertain you while I’m buried under deadlines for a few more days. The Gaslight Anthem was on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night, and played “Boxer” from the new album, “American Slang.” Great album, but you knew I was going to say that anyway. As a web-only bonus for the show, Gaslight covered Pearl Jam’s “State of Love and Trust.” Check it out.

the original video and the late night with jimmy fallon blog post

This might only be of interest to me, but Jimmy Fallon and my wife went to the same high school a few years apart.



Samurai: Update

I’ve received a number of questions about the fate of Samurai: Heaven and Earth, more specifically the planned third volume of the series, by me and Luke Ross. The most recent question came from Mike Steinberg, so for Mike and everybody else who asked, here’s the deal:

Luke and I would love to get back to Volume 3, and at this point, it’s a matter of our schedules matching up. The first issue of Volume 3 is written and waiting, and Luke has completed all the covers for the five issues. You see two of the covers here, both colored by Dan Jackson. As the covers make pretty obvious, the next series moves the setting to the Caribbean, placing Shiro in the midst of a cutthroat pirate crew that features characters both historical and literary.

Luke is presently under exclusive contract to Marvel, which led to Luke’s work on Captain America and Amazing Spider-man, among other assignments. But we both intend to get back to “our baby” as soon as Luke’s schedule allows. Luke and I even have a couple of other projects – one a creator-owned story about a Brazilian folk hero, the other featuring a favorite superhero – that we plan to get to at some point.

In the meantime, we appreciate your interest, and we appreciate your patience. The story of Shiro and Yoshiko is not yet over.



Writing by Gaslight

So we’ve already established that on Wednesday you’re gonna run off to the comic shop and pick up Magdalena #2 and Witchblade TPB Vol. 7, right? But there’s something else you need to go pick up today: “American Slang,” the new album by The Gaslight Anthem, which is my favorite band in a long time. Should be your favorite band too.

I write with music on. Always. I’m actually writing this with music on. I need the background noise. For whatever reason, my concentration goes to hell when there’s silence; my mind fixates on the quiet, instead of drifting off to some creative place. So there’s always music, and I’m always searching for more music that will inspire.

Troy Peteri, who was a letterer at CrossGen and now letters everything from Top Cow, shares much the same musical taste that I have. We both worship at the shrine of Springsteen and the temple of U2, as well as the church of the Clash. I think we both ended up discovering The Gaslight Anthem at about the same time, and trading notes with each other. I think my first exposure was a short video of Gaslight’s Brian Fallon covering Springtseen’s “Backstreets.” Loved it. Had to find out more about this guy and his band, which led to picking up “The ’59 Sound,” the then-current album. It was like a record cut by the bastard sons of Springsteen and Petty and Joe Strummer, playing songs about real people living real lives. Songs about broken dreams and bittersweet memories and a glimmer of hope on a dark highway.

The songs tell stories, which has always been my favorite kind of music. The songs breathe life into characters who feel real, which is what any storyteller (me included) wants to do. I’m more interested in the lives of ordinary people, rather than extraordinary ones. That’s probably why Kyle Rayner held more interest for me than Hal Jordan. Not that I didn’t like Hal’s character; I did and I do. But I’m more drawn to the “regular guy,” not the fearless test pilot. There are a lot of regular guys populating The Gaslight Anthem’s songs.

The ’59 Sound” has taken its place among my favorite albums. “American Slang” will most likely do the same. But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can listen to “American Slang” in its entirety on NPR here.

You can also listen to The Gaslight Anthem’s terrific set at last weekend’s Bonnaroo Festival on NPR here.

Check ’em out. If you like what I do, I think you’ll like what they do.


Witchblade Vol. 7 TPB preview

Along with Magdalena #2, in stores this Wednesday is Witchblade vol 7 TPB, the new volume in the Witchblade trade paperback series. This one has been a long time in coming, as Top Cow catches up on its TPB program. Since the trades are printed in China – for reasons of both cost and quality– the process takes a few months from start to finish. Top Cow managing editor and all-around awesome fellow Phil Smith put together the material and designed the book, and we all proofed it numerous times before the files were sent to China for printing. Once the entire run is printed, it’s shipped via literal slow boat back the U.S. and then the distributor gets it into stores.

Vol. 7 contains issues #121-#124 of Witchblade, the lead story from Witchblade Annual #1 (which I didn’t write), as well as the 16-page Free Comic Book Day story (which I did write) that’s previewed here. The FCBD story introduces the Gretch character, a journalist for an alternative newspaper who figures in the three-part “Crown Heights” storyline featured in this volume. Each page of the FCBD story is formatted in a 16-panel grid, the same format Frank Miller used The Dark Knight Returns, a story that influences me to this day.

“Crown Heights” is inspired in large part by a photo essay I saw in the New York Times a few years ago, which provided a window into the Lubavitch Jewish sect in Brooklyn. I find those kinds of cloistered societies fascinating anyway, but add n the visual component of the black clothing and fedoras, and I had to use it as a setting for a story. There’s another photo essay, along with a feature and a video, on the Chabad-Lubavitch Jews on the National Geographic site.

Vol. 7 has an intro by Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis, touching on Jewish mysticism, as well as a cover gallery, sketchbook section by Stjepan Sejic, and a scriptbook by me, featuring my complete script and Stjepan’s layouts for issue #121.

The Vol. 8 trade, with the “War of the Witchblades” storyline and an intro by Jim Starlin, is already buttoned up and headed off to press.



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