Archive for August, 2010

Baltimore Bound

I’ll be at the Baltimore Comic Con this weekend, Aug. 28-29. While I always have a great time at shows like Orlando’s MegaCon and Seattle’s Emerald City (both of which I’ll be attending in March, 2011), I love the Baltimore Con. It’s a two-day show, which is much appreciated. It’s held in the inner harbor area of Baltimore, a beautiful spot. Promoter Marc Nathan and his army of volunteers, led by Brad Tree, do an all-around awesome job.

But the thing I love most about Baltimore is that it’s a COMIC show. No retired wrestlers, no C-list TV has-beens, no aging Playboy centerfolds hawking pictures taken 20 years ago. It’s all about the comics, and because of that, Baltimore consistently has one of the best guest lists of any show. This year is no different, with a huge list, including Geoff Johns, Frank Cho, Walt Simonson, Jim Starlin, Bernie Wrightson, Todd McFarlane and a hundred others. Go to the con website for the complete guest list:

I’ll be set up at the Top Cow booth, along with publisher Filip Sablik and my Magdalena artistic partner, Nelson Blake 2nd. I don’t have a set signing schedule, but chances are I’ll spend a good portion of each day at the booth. If I’m not there, ask someone at the booth to track me down via phone.

The Top Cow panel will be held 1 p.m. Saturday in Room 308, with me, Filip and Nelson dishing on all things Top Cow. Nelson and I might also discuss our beloved New York Giants, who are playing the Ravens in a pre-season game a few miles away on Saturday Night. This year’s con exclusive is the sold-out Velocity #1, with a new Michael Broussard cover. Michael and Kenneth Rocafort were both originally scheduled to be at the show, but had to bow out due to deadline considerations. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.

Hope some of you can be at the show. To me, Baltimore Con is one of the best reminders about why we love comics in the first place.



Starlin and Desperado

I recently wrote the foreword for The Art of Jim Starlin: A Life in Words & Pictures, which is being published by Desperado, through its partnership with IDW. It’s a whopper, checking in at 328 pages, filled with Starlin art both familiar and previously unseen. Jim’s the one who asked me to provide the foreword, and I was pleased and honored to do so.

The rest of the text is by Jim himself, presenting an honest account of his life and career, with no punches pulled. So it’s not merely an art book. It’s a pretty fascinating read, with the kind of behind-the-scenes tales everybody craves.

One of the previously unseen pieces is the one you see below. This is the piece Jim did a number of years ago for my wedding invitation, a piece inspired by the great illustrator Charles Dana Gibson. I’m guessing not too many people can say they had a Jim Starlin original as their wedding invite.

Desperado publisher Joe Pruett was kind enough to allow me to reprint the complete foreword here. The book should be in stores at the end of September, priced at $49.99 for the regular edition (featuring a Breed cover) and $79.99 for the limited signed/numbered edition of 250 copies (featuring a Dreadstar cover). Definitely worth the price, hope you pick it up.



"Frozen moments in time."

That’s how Jim Starlin described sequential storytelling to me when he was showing me the ropes of writing a comic. In a larger sense, that’s what this book is, a collection of frozen moments in time, images encapsulating a storytelling career matched only by a very few. Most art books are just that: a collection of images that chronicle an artistic career. But there’s more than that here. These images are in service of the stories Jim Starlin has told over four decades, things like Warlock and The Death of Captain Marvel and Dreadstar and many more, stories that are inimitably “Starlin” in both concept and execution.

I’m pretty sure my first exposure to Jim’s work was the classic end to his first Warlock saga, Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2. In 1977, I didn’t even know that such things as comic shops existed. I was a spinner-rack kid, haunting supermarkets and convenience stores for whatever gems they might hold. Distribution was spotty, so getting my hands on consecutive issues of anything wasn’t always a guarantee. But I was lucky enough to end up with both the Avengers Annual and Marvel Two-in-One Annual, and they made a hell of an impression on me. That story was certainly one of things that fired my imagination and made me want to tell stories.

There are still images from those issues indelibly imprinted in my mind: Thanos yanking Pip the Troll off the ground by his arm; the Avengers leaping down into battle, directly at the reader; Ben Grimm swallowing his cigar when he’s spooked by Spider-man. More than anything, though, I remember what happened: our hero, Adam Warlock, died. And then he came back from the afterlife and turned Thanos to stone. What’s more … I even felt kind of bad for the villain. This was stuff that just didn’t happen in comics. This was something different.

This volume absolutely shows “something different” is a hallmark of Jim’s career, as both an artist and a writer. Pushing boundaries, in both content (since when did superheroes die of cancer?) and form (fully-painted pages, embracing the digital revolution, even switching to prose novels). We all owe Jim a debt for being the iconoclast he is. All comics pros owe Jim a debt for essentially hammering out the incentive agreement in comics that allows us to share in the publishing success of our work and make a comfortable living. And I personally owe Jim for my career.

Jim was the one who took me by the hand and led me into comics. I won’t belabor this foreword by recounting the whole tale again. Suffice to say that my life would be very different had I never met Jim Starlin. Very different, and likely not for the better. One time Jim asked me, “Are you ever sorry I got you into this?” He meant writing comics, living the life of a freelancer. Of course I told him no, that I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But he just as well could have meant blowing my 11-year-old mind with those two long-ago Annuals, and setting me on the unlikely path of becoming a writer, and being able to count Jim Starlin among my closest friends.

I said this was a book of images in service of stories. But not just the stories of heroes and villains that Jim has served up so magnificently over his career. These images also serve to spawn our stories: our memories of where and when we first encountered them, what they meant to us then, and the lasting effect they have on us now. That’s the mark of a true artist, in every sense of the word.

Media at Midtown

Midtown Comics is easily one of my favorite stores, and the guys there have gone out of their way to do me any number of solids. So whenever an opportunity to do a signing at Midtown comes up, I’m more than happy. The video below was shot at the recent Artifacts #1 signing. The interviewer is Zoe Gulliksen, who did a pretty awesome job considering it was her first interview ever. Zoe, Thor Parker and everyone else at the store went out of their way to make my daughter, who was along for the trip, feel welcome. So thanks to them, and to everybody who showed up for the signing.

You need flash to see the above YouTube video. If for some reason you can’t see the above embedded video player or it doesn’t work, try this

Signing in Albany on Saturday

I’ll be appearing at Earthworld Comics in Albany, NY this Saturday, August 7, for an Artifacts #1 release party. The signing is from noon to 4 p.m., though to be perfectly honest, I could be a few minutes late, as my kids have their league championship swim meet the same day.

The signing is to celebrate Artifacts #1, but of course I’ll sign whatever else you’ve got. Maybe you can badger some spoilers for the series out of me. I’m told there will be a costumed Magdalena on hand for photos, and presumably, impaling demons. I’m also told Earthworld’s quarter bins have been restocked, and let’s face it, there’s nothing cooler than finding a stack of sweet comics for 25 cents apiece.

Earthworld is located at 537 Central Ave. in Albany. The website is more information. Hope to see you on Saturday.

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Everyday is like Sunday

No secret I’m a big Tarzan fan, right? Love Tarzan, love John Carter of Mars, would love to write those characters. So when my old artistic collaborator Tom Grindberg got in touch a few months ago, wondering if I would script a few Tarzan Sunday- type pages, I of course said yes.

Tom worked with me on issues of Silver Surfer, Green LanternSecret Defenders (yikes!) and a Thor Annual (which is the only issue of my unfortunate Thor run I can even bear to look at). Tom and I were actually supposed to take over Thor as the regular team for my second year on the book. Tom came up and stayed at our house for a summer weekend. We worked out a year of storylines, and Tom generated a bunch of sketches and a new logo. I was looking forward to it a great deal. But the editor couldn’t decide what direction he wanted, flip-flopping between “put him in space” and “put him on Earth” and “put him in Asgard.” When another (and in my opinion, lesser) artist was assigned to the title, I decided it was time for me to go, rather than try to make lemonade out of lemons. In some future posts, I’ll show off Tom’s many designs for what we had planned on Thor.

Move mouse over image to zoom the portion
Zoomed Image

The Tarzan pages I wrote for Tom were really meant as a showcase for his talents. What you see above is the first of two pages, imagined in Sunday-style strip, rather than traditional comic pages. My script is below, sans any narrative captions, which I figured I could add if the pages ever got printed somewhere. The reproduction here isn’t great, but you can at least roll over the art for a more detailed look. Really beautiful work by Tom, and I love that he hand-lettered that wonderful, distinctive Tarzan logo.

Hope this isn’t as close as I come to writing Tarzan again. But if it is, I’m pretty satisfied with the results. I’ll run the following page whenever Tom finishes it.





PANEL 1: We start off with a shot that sets our scene. This is an expansive shot showing the beauty of the African landscape. We’re looking at a river’s edge, where numerous animals are drinking on the shore: antelope, zebras, African elephants, a few giraffes stand nearby. It’s the quintessential scene of Africa.

PANEL 2: Suddenly, the water’s surface is violently broken by Tarzan and a huge crocodile engaged in a death struggle. Tarzan has his knife in hand, trying to bring it to bear, while his other arm tries to hold the jaws of the croc shut. The animals that had been drinking are spooked at this sudden violence. Make this a large panel.

PANEL 3: Our angle here is underwater as the savage battle continues. Tarzan and the croc are underwater, the croc trying to death roll while Tarzan plunges his knife into the creature.

PANEL 4: Our angle is still underwater. The dead croc is drifting away in the water, a streamer of blood floating from it through the water. Bloodied and exhausted, Tarzan is swimming away. Maybe angle this so that Tarzan is swimming toward us, giving us a good look at him, while the croc drafts away.

PANEL 5: The exhausted Tarzan crawls onto the river bank. However, waiting there for him are four or five of the brutish warriors from Opar, their spears all pointed toward Tarzan. The exhausted Tarzan is in no shape to fight them. These are not traditional African tribesmen, as far as I remember, but more like brutish beast-men. Some background:

Comic Geek Speak Podcast on Artifacts #1

As I mentioned in the Artifacts #1 review scorecard, the excellent Comic Geek Speak podcasts are undertaking a series of shows dedicated to the Artifacts event series. The plan is for the guys to discuss the issues as they are released, so this inaugural episode takes on issue #1. Chris Partin, from Image Addiction, joins the conversation, and then my pal Filip Sablik, who also happens to be Top Cow‘s publisher, also stops by. Enjoy.

Listen to the podcast

In case the above embedded player doesn’t work for you or you’d like to download the mp3 of the podcast, here’s the link to the original post on Comic Geek Speak:

Samurai: Heaven and Earth, vol. 1 & 2 review

One of my best Twitter followers, Brian Rose, offered up the following review of my creator-owned Samurai: Heaven and Earth volumes. It was such a nice piece, I wanted to share it with everybody. Thanks, Brian.


Samurai: Heaven and Earth, vol. 1 & 2 review

By Brian Rose

Following Ron on Twitter, I knew he wrote a plethora of superhero stories and I asked him what stories he felt were his strongest, or personal favorite, of anything he’s written. Surprisingly, he tweeted back that he had a strong connection and was quite proud of what he had done with his Samurai saga. Armed with this recommendation, I had been seeking out any readable editions of this story.
Having found BOTH volumes in a local bookstore, I decided to make at least the first volume my night’s reading, and give it a run for my money.

Here I now sit, two hours after cracking open the cover, ready with my feedback after having made it through both volumes in a devouring and hungered pace.

For the first volume, I went into with no expectations, since this is a character of whom I have no precursory knowledge, nor personal investment in, other than the cover price I paid.

For the first pages, I found myself slow to dip into the pool that was the story. However, it didn’t take long to find the emotion all these characters shared, and the realism the fantastic pencils and superb coloring the artists of the book wielded, much like the samurai protagonist wielded his sword, and more importantly, like the love he wielded for his hand maiden. All these elements created a perfect marriage with Marz’s superb storytelling, creating an organic, enthralling, involving and dramatic tale that had perfect doses of humor.

Some of the best story moments came when he introduced his antagonist(s), keeping the reader guessing as to whose motives could be trusted. I greatly enjoyed the banter of the Three Musketeers in the story, and while they were strong supporting characters, I felt their cameo was perfect and not drawn out. In Ron’s capable hands I could see this troupe sustaining their own adventure series! Their humor kept the pace of the story going, and made me eager for more of their involvement. The final ha-ha at the end,as Shiro rides off, made me laugh out loud in a way I rarely do with comics – a surprising enjoyment I took away from the first volume.

The second volume of the saga kept the amazing line work and storytelling, however the change in colorists actually affected me a small bit. I found the previous volume’s colorist to be an amazing talent not often seen in comics. He gave the images a painted realism that gave the characters a pulse beneath their sketched and drawn framework. While the second volume’s colorists were far from terrible, Jason Keith knocked it out of the park the first time around.

Still, the story in the second volume brought me right back into the amazing saga laid out in the first volume. Marz really took it to another level in part two. Where part one was the setup, part two felt like this was where he said “Okay, now that you’ve just walked the stairs, here we’re really going to get on the ride.”

The antagonist in the first volume was a right old jackass that I was growing to hate; but here, he was developed into the most complete fucker of all villainy to ever grace a comic page. I really came to hate him, and was glad to watch him suffer. It made me cheer with glee as Shiro just kept giving a whooping to everything that got in his way. What was marvelous was that he did it with a strong sense of realism; Shiro’s abilities were established in perfectly-timed flashback vignettes that showed him developing into the machine and soldier he was, as he decimated leagues of madmen and henchmen.

Shiro fought through the final obstacles that stood in his way, to finally live the remainder of his life with his love. She was, by the way, an equally strong character, not in anyone’s shadow, and filled with heart and desire to fight her way out of any situation, and not let anything stand in the way of helping herself and Shiro achieve everlasting peace.

Seeing the villainous Spaniard get struck down was a cathartic joy, watching as he finally had his blood spilled in the sand. At the point of showing our hero and his love ride off into the proverbial sunset, Marz’s storytelling made yet one more twist, reminding this reader that Ron is truly an asshole, and that I will definitely be reading the next issue he puts out. This was an amazing saga, worthy of getting a theatrical treatment.

The story was artfully brought to a wonderful close, but Marz had to go and give us hints at the end, as that hand lifted from the sand, straining for vengeful life, making us, the readers, beg for more. Please … MORE!

Samurai : Heaven and Earth vol 1 Amazon Listing

Samurai : Heaven and Earth vol 2 Amazon Listing

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