Marvel

In Stores This Week

I’m almost certain this is a first for me: this week I have four issues from four different publishers being released on the same day. Not everything was written at the same time, of course, but in a quirk of the schedule, everything is hitting stories on July 30. Here’s a rundown:

From Marvel, 100th Anniversary Guardians of the Galaxy #1, written by me and Andy Lanning, with art by Gustavo Duarte and color by Edgar Delgado. The story takes place 100 years in the future, with an all-new, all-different Guardians team, and amazing art by Gustavo.

Preview here:
http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=22769

From DC Comics, Adventures of Superman #15, written by me, with art by Evan “Doc” Shaner and color by Matt Wilson. The issue collects the three-part digital story from earlier this year, which is honestly one of my favorite projects ever, thanks to the chance to write Superman, and the pitch-perfect work of Doc and Matt. Short version: it’s Superman meets “the Iron Giant.”

Preview here:
http://www.comicosity.com/exclusive-preview-adventures-of-superman-15/

From Top Cow/Image, Witchblade #177, written by me with art by Laura Braga and color by Betsy Gonia. Witchblade bearer Sara Pezzini makes a return trip to New York City to uncover some buried secrets. The issue marks Laura Braga’s return to the title after a one-issue break.

Preview Link: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=22718

From Dynamite Comics, The Shadow Over Innsmouth one-shot, written by me with art by Ivan Rodriguez, color by Inlight Studios and cover by Matthew Dow Smith. I’ve always wanted to write a story featuring the Shadow, and I got my chance by combing the classic pulp hero with H.P. Lovecraft’s infamous coastal town. It’s such an obvious combination, I’m stunned no one beat me to it.

Preview here:
http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=22779

Cheers,

Ron


In Stores This Week

A collection containing some of my earliest work hits stores this week in the Infinity Gauntlet Aftermath TPB. In addition to a number of my early Silver Surfer issues, it also contains some Warlock and the Infinity Watch issues, and a few Doctor Strange tales.

The collection includes Silver Surfer #60-#66, and some other odds and ends that I penned, most of which are drawn by Ron Lim, the first artistic partner I ever had. It’s interesting for me to look back at this material. Yes, some of it’s pretty awkward, with all the hallmarks of a writer trying to learn his craft. But there’s also exuberance, which hopefully makes up for some of the shortcomings.

I also had two releases out last week, one a short story and the other a trade paperback collection. The short story is in Skullkickers #24 from Image Comics, a “Before Skullkickers”-themed anthology showing the series characters in earlier days. Series creator Jim Zub asked me to contribute a story starring Kusia, and I was more than happy to drag in my pal Stjepan Sejic for art duties.

Truth be told, the entire seven-page story took four days to create. One for me to write it, two for Stjepan to digitally paint it, and a few hours on day four to letter it. Yes, Stjepan drew and colored the entire story in two days. Because he’s a beast. I’m still stunned.

The other release is the Progeny trade paperback from Top Cow, collecting the recent storyline that ran through Artifacts, Witchblade and Darkness. My contribution to the collection is Artifacts #25-#26, which bookend the storyline of the Top Cow Universe’s Artifacts bearers confronting Jackie Estacado, master of the Darkness. The entire story was very much a collaborative effort, with David Hine setting the direction and Tim Seeley and I following along.


A Jones for Indiana




I love Indiana Jones. Probably even more than Star Wars. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is my favorite movie, ever. To this day, I remember the day that “Raiders” was released in theaters – June 12, 1981. It was the same day that the original “Clash of the Titans” was released. My friends and I wanted to see both, and there was great debate over which to see on opening night. The decision, ultimately, was “Clash” because we figured Ray Harryhausen monsters were a pretty safe bet, but this “Raiders” movie was an unknown, except for starring Han Solo.

(A brief aside: Harrison Ford has a home in the same town in which I live. He’s not seen here very often, but he’s been known to fly into the local airstrip, get a cup of coffee at the diner across the street, and then head for his place. So … pretty cool.)

Anyway, on Friday night, at the Mayfair Twin theater in Kingston, NY, we went to see “Clash” and enjoyed it well enough for a movie with Harry Hamlin in a skirt. Saturday night we lined up for the early show of “Raiders” … and I was transfixed. It was all familiar, but I had never seen anything like it. It was fantastic, with a dose of the supernatural, but it was all believable because the main character – Indy – bled and sweated and strove and even failed. The pace was so break-neck that I would’ve sworn the whole thing went by in mere minutes. It was as much of a transformative experience for me as seeing the original “Star Wars” four years before. The film ended, with the Ark essentially lost again in a vast warehouse, and my friends and I left the theater. We got right back in line, and saw it again immediately.

I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to the Indiana Jones comics Marvel published. I wasn’t paying attention to comics in general at the time. A few movies later, the license passed to Dark Horse, by which time I was reading comics again. Eventually I was writing them, including some “Star Wars” comics, which led me to inquire about tackling some Indiana Jones stories. Still hasn’t happened, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

I bugged Dave Land, my editor at Dark Horse, on a regular basis about doing an Indiana Jones series, mini-series or even a one-shot. But with Indy seemingly in retirement, there was no traction to get something going, the theory being that if there wasn’t a movie to boost interest, there wouldn’t be enough of an audience for a comic to make financial sense.

Then the rumors of a fourth Indy film started to sound more real. So my Samurai: Heaven and Earth compatriot Luke Ross – also a big Indy fan – and I put together the pages you see here. I wrote this three-page sequence, and as you can plainly see, Luke did a truly amazing job on the art. The pages feature Indy in the Himalayas, relieving Nazis of a Tibetan treasure, with an Asian femme fatale as his sidekick. And, since the setting was Tibet, we simply had to include a yeti.

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 3 (With snow fx)

The nugget of the story was inspired by something I’d seen on the National Geographic channel, detailing German expeditions into Tibet in 1938-1939, led by an SS officer and zoologist named Ernst Shafer. There’s some evidence that Shafer’s purpose, or at least one of them, was a search for the purported roots of the Aryan race. You can read more about the historical expedition here .

The sample pages were successful in that they landed Luke the gig of drawing the adaptation of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” There was an additional mini, “Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods,” after the adaptation (my buddy Bart Sears ended up filling in on some of the art), as well as a few animated-style “Adventures” editions. But that’s been about it in terms of new Indy material. If nothing else, we got Omnibus editions reprinting the previous Dark Horse and Marvel comics.

I hope these pages aren’t the total of my dalliance with Indiana Jones in comics. But even if they are, I’m pretty pleased with them.

Cheers,

Ron


The Lunch Bunch

Thursday I was able to attend a lunch that gathered a lot of the comic pros who live within an hour’s drive or so. Doing the job we do, most of spend a lot of hours at home, without the kind of social interaction that most people with, uh, real jobs take for granted. So the chance to get together and swap stories is a welcome one.

I was the relative young punk at the table, with only two decades in comics under my belt. Clockwise from bottom left in the photo: cartoonist Fred Hembeck; Fred’s wife Lynn Moss; inker Bob Wiacek; legendary Kirby/FF inker Joe Sinnott; inker Terry Austin; me; inker Dan Green (in cowboy hat and shades); that’s writer-artist Jim Starlin’s bald head peeking out; Mark Sinnott (Joe’s son); writer-artist Walter Simonson; Silver Age artist Ramona Fradon; penciler Joe Staton; and writer Todd Dezago.

I’m fortunate enough to be able to call these people friends, and especially fortunate to be able to get together with them. We don’t do it often enough. I gave Walter a copy of Magdalena #1, the Ryan Sook cover of which was inspired by Walter’s iconic Thor #337 cover. Joe Sinnott shared some (literal) war stories. Starlin and I discussed the intro I’m going to write for his art book, which will be released by Desperado later this year. Fred revealed he’s going to be throwing out the first pitch at a Class A minor-league ballgame in July, and Fred, Mark and I commiserated about the Mets (as usual).

Walter related some stories of teaching at the School of Visual Arts, and also told a tale of Jim Shooter having John Romita, Sr. redraw a Thor head on one of Walter’s covers, because Shooter deemed the original Thor head not handsome enough. Mark Gruenwald, the editor on Thor, waited until Shooter was out of the office, got Tom DeFalco to okay Walter’s original cover, and sent the book off to press. Grueny was a clever fellow.

After a few hours, the gathering split up and everybody went their separate ways, most headed to their home studios to get back to work. But the afternoon was yet another reminder of how fortunate I am to be working in this business.

Cheers,

Ron


Doctor Strangefate by Georges Jeanty

<<< Parallax


(DOCTOR STRANGEFATE by Georges Jeanty)

As I wrote in an earlier post, the Marvel vs. DC project was fun. But the real treat, to my mind anyway, was the Amalgam line of books, which combined various Marvel and DC characters and concepts. All the basic concepts, like Dark Claw (Batman and Wolverine) and Super-Soldier (Superman and Captain America), were already in place from our first meeting. I got my pick of the litter, which for me was obvious: Doctor Strangefate, a mash-up of two of my favorite characters, Doctors Strange and Fate (with Charles Xavier under the mask).

The issue is still one of my favorite projects ever, for the subject matter and especially for the brilliant art team of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (pencils), Kevin Nowlan (inks) and Matt Hollingsworth (color). I recently came across some copies of Garcia-Lopez’s initial design work for the series, which I’ll post with future blog pieces.

Cheers,
Ron

THE J-FILES are a series of images created by Georges Jeanty (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER/DarkHorse) for my first pass at having a website.


Silver Surfer by Georges Jeanty

<<< Kyle Rayner


( SILVER SURFER by Georges Jeanty )

Writing Silver Surfer was my first regular gig in comics, my first monthly assignment, all courtesy of Jim Starlin, who ushered me into Marvel and handed me the reins of the book. As my first regular gig, it was definitely on-the-job training. I haven’t looked at any of those issues in quite a while, but I suspect the writing is a mix of enthusiasm and crude technique.

Whenever I do a signing, I still see a fair amount of Surfer issues, especially the ones with Ron Lim. As much as Kyle is associated with me, Surfer is easily in the number two slot. I think I’ve written more Surfer stories than anyone, including Stan Lee, which kind of blows my mind.

Cheers,

Ron

THE J-FILES are a series of images created by Georges Jeanty (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER/DarkHorse) for my first pass at having a website.


Magdalena graces Albany

Had a great time at Sunday’s Albany Comic Con. Caught up with old friends, made some new friends, and signed books from Silver Surfer to Green Lantern right up to Magdalena #1. The GL-centric panel with my buddy Joe Staton was a lot of fun, as we compared notes about our respective runs, and “our” respective Green Lanterns. David Pepose of Newsarama was in attendance, so there should be a report on the panel online sometime this week. David Pepose of Newsarama, who was in attendance, has posted a report on the panel.

The end of the GL panel was interrupted by the local chapter of the 501st Legion, who strode into the room to bestow Honorary Membership upon me. More on that in a post later this week, but suffice to say I was very flattered and pleased. It’s not every day you get a laser-etched plaque handed to you by a Stormtrooper in full armor.

I also got to meet the real Kyle Rayner at the show. He’s 4 years old. His mom and dad brought him by, and I have to admit, I was pretty stunned that someone thought enough of our everyman GL to actually give their child his name (“Kyle Rayner” is his first name and middle name). How cool is that?

The other highlight of the show was a cosplayer named Jen Wicks who wore a kick-ass Magdalena outfit all day. She posed for photos, including this one with me, as well as a group shot of me, Terry Austin and Matthew Dow Smith (who of course provided the art for the con exclusive cover of Magdalena #1). Yes, I know I need a haircut.


One of the nicest things about the Albany Con is the burgeoning local and semi-local comics community that’s developing around it. I’ve known guys like Terry Austin, Matt Smith, Todd Dezago, Joe Staton, Fred Hembeck and Lee Moder (who made it to the conn all the way from Pittsburgh) for years. But it’s been great to meet or reconnect with other creators like Dave Rodriguez, Nick Tapalansky, Saurav Mohapatra, Paul Harding, Declan Shalvey and the Timony Brothers, as well as critics/journalists including CBR’s Tim Callahan and Newsarama’s David Pepose. Virtually all the guests who attend the show end up wanting to come back, so I expect many of them will return for the fall show, which is scheduled for Sunday, October 24. Hopefully the guest list will include a few surprises. As always, you can watch the Albany Con MySpace and Twitter feed for updates.

Cheers,

Ron

P.S.
Saurav Mohapatra also posted some photos he took during the conn on his blog.


What might have been

Marvel vs. DC

I don’t think I’m really telling stories out of school here, since the project was well over a decade ago. Last week I mentioned on my Twitter stream how much affection I have for the work of artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, one of the true masters of the medium. I also mentioned that Jose was actually offered the DC half of the art duties of Marvel vs. DC (or, depending on your point of view, DC vs. Marvel), the crossover project that I co-wrote with Peter David back in the mid-’90s. According to the account I heard, Jose turned down the project because he wasn’t terribly interested in drawing a big superhero slugfest.

Batman vs. HulkIt was a disappointment, of course, because no other artist more symbolizes DC (at least in my mind) than Jose. In addition to his long list of credits in the DC Universe, Jose has done a wealth of art that’s been used as the basis for DC merchandising, including the Superman fleece blanket in my office, and a number of statues on my shelves. Jose is the “DC guy” to a lot of people, even if they don’t realize it’s his art. As far as I know, Joe has never drawn Marvel characters beyond his Batman vs. Hulk crossover in the ’70s.

So with Jose out, the job was offered to Dan Jurgens, another artist who has a rep as a “DC guy” even though he’s done a chunk of work for Marvel as well. Dan is also one of my closer friends in comics, and serves as the commissioner of a fantasy football league I play in. Dan accepted, and we were off and running.

Punisher vs. BatmanWell, halfway, at least, since Marvel had not confirmed its own art team. The first choice for the gig was John Romita Jr., who symbolized Marvel in much the same way that Jose was emblematic of DC. And, like Jose, John Jr. had never drawn DC’s characters outside of the Punisher/Batman crossover. But John turned down the job. So too did Andy Kubert and Adam Kubert. I’m not sure who else, if anyone, was asked. But it seemed curious that Marvel’s editor on the project, Mark Gruenwald, could not get a Marvel artist to commit to what was going to be a high-profile, high-selling project. I eventually heard that other factions within Marvel editorial were not as enthused at the prospect of a DC crossover, and actively discouraged Marvel’s top-drawer art talent from participating (the idea being that it was more beneficial for Marvel to have the likes of John Jr. or Andy or Adam drawing Marvel books, not spending time on a crossover). Now, bear in mind that’s something I was told by someone involved, but not something I can confirm with any direct evidence.

The choice eventually passed to Italian artist Claudio Castellini, with whom I had worked on a Silver Surfer special titled Dangerous Artifacts, which is still one of the most gorgeous art jobs I’ve ever been associated with. A brief aside here, if you’ll indulge me: Dangerous Artifacts was originally intended to be produced as a lavish hardcover, with both black-and-white and color versions available. But that never happened, which is a story I’ll tell in a future post.

Marvel vs. DCIn any event, despite producing gorgeous work, Claudio probably wasn’t an ideal choice in terms of commercial appeal, because he wasn’t much of a known commodity. Claudio also wasn’t a speed demon, due to his meticulous style of working. But he accepted the job, and did fine work on the project. In retrospect, his Buscema-influenced style really does have a Marvel flavor.

When Marvel vs. DC began, it was secret enough that a great many people at either company didn’t even know it existed. Our initial meeting was in Mark Gruenwald’s uptown apartment, so that loose lips in the offices wouldn’t leak the project. The initial idea on the table, which I wasn’t overly enthused about, was that Peter and I would alternate writing eight-page sequences throughout the four-issue story. I felt like Peter and I are different enough writers that alternating sequences would be an exercise in pulling in different directions. But I was willing to be a good soldier and give it a try. Marvel vs. DC

I wrote the opening eight pages, Peter then wrote the next eight, I wrote the following eight, and so on, until we completed issue #1. The result was … less than ideal. To my eye, the story varied pretty wildly in tone, and it wasn’t an issue I was particularly happy with. When the script was turned in to DC’s Mike Carlin, who was supervising issue #1, the reception was less than enthusiastic as well. It was quickly decided – like, in a few hours – to scrap the script entirely, and have the writers alternate entire issues rather than sequences.

Marvel vs. DC was ultimately a great deal of fun to work on. It was a popcorn-type project, with superhero slugfests and fan-service moments. I mean, when fan votes dictate the outcomes of fights within the story, you know the job is to write a crowd-pleaser, not a work of great literature. If I have one regret, it’s that we didn’t have twice the number of pages to tell our story.

But I still wonder what it might have looked like had, say, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and John Romita Jr. signed on for the art.

Cheers,

Ron


Don’t wait, you might not get another chance

Dick GiordanoI didn’t know Dick Giordano. It’s possible I was introduced to him once, but I don’t think so. By the time I had migrated from Marvel to DC earlier in my career, Dick had already left staff. But without Dick’s contributions as an artist, editor and executive , the comic industry would not be what it is today. When Dick passed away over the weekend at age 77, this business lost one of its giants, one of its true gentlemen. That would be the case if he was judged merely on his artistic accomplishments, which are rightfully legendary. But Dick’s editorial contributions at Charlton, Continuity Associates and DC Comics are also worthy of landmark status. His stint as DC’s executive editor (1983-1993) coincided with one of the most fertile and exciting periods in the history of comics. I always think of 1986 as the year that comics grew up.

I didn’t know Dick, but I know a laundry list of people who knew him well. And not one of them ever had a disparaging word to say about Dick. He mentored a generation of inkers, including Terry Austin, Klaus Janson, Joe Rubenstein, Bob Layton and Al Milgrom. He steered DC’s ship during a decade of unprecedented creative accomplishment. And he was a hell of a nice guy.

I think comics as a whole tend to forget previous generations, both the work and the people. It brings to mind the true story of a Marvel editor, a number of years ago, who had no idea who Al Williamson was, and wanted him to send in samples of his inks. Comics should never forget guys like Dick Giordano, because comics can never have enough guys like Dick Giordano.

Dick’s passing prompted me to think about an experience I had – or didn’t have – early in my career. This was at one of the first San Diego conventions I attended, back when it was not yet the monster it is now, back when the con was still mostly about comics (if you can imagine that). I can’t remember the specific year, 1992 or 1993. I was writing Silver Surfer, the first monthly I’d been handed. I ran into my editor, Craig Anderson, in one of the aisles – yes, back then you could actually walk through the aisles at the con. He told me he’d just come from seeing Jack Kirby, who was set up at his own booth a few aisles over. Craig offered to take me over to Jack and introduce me. But I demurred, telling Craig I’d make it over that way later in the day. In truth, I was hesitant to bother the great man. I thought he’d probably had people pestering him all day, and I didn’t want to add to it just so I could tell him how his work had inspired me. I knew he’d heard it all before, tens of thousands of times. I didn’t want to impose upon Kirby, just so I could thank him for all he’d created, which was very literally allowing me to have a job at that point.

For that reason, and maybe also because I didn’t want to seem like another awkward fan in front of Jack Kirby, Jack KirbyI never made it over to his booth. It was the last chance I’d ever get to do so. Jack died in 1994. So all the things I wanted to say to him were left unsaid. That’s easily my biggest regret in two decades of writing comics.

I didn’t get a chance to say thanks to Dick Giordano either. I’d like to make sure that doesn’t happen with any of the other creators upon whose shoulders I stand. And I’d urge you to do the same. The next time you have a chance to tell someone what their work has meant to you, make sure you do it. It might be the last chance you get.

Cheers,

Ron


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