Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What I'm Reading

Hey gang. Just wanted to do a quick rundown of what I've been reading lately. While I'm still doing monthly titles, I've scaled back the amount I'm reading considerably. Going for quality over quantity, I guess you'd say. I suppose I'm suffering from event fatigue, but I just can't be bothered to keep up with Blackest Night or Siege right now. I've even scaled back the amount of Bat-books I'm reading to two; Batman & Robin and Detective Comics.

I've been reading a lot of collections lately. Mainly stuff that I hadn't got around to yet but had been curious about for a while. Chief amongst those titles is James Robinson's Starman. I'm shocked it's taken me this long to read this series. I'm about halfway through his run on the book and it's absolutely blowing me away. I'm so impressed with it that I'm having a hard time reconciling the James Robinson I know now (Cry For Justice is one of the worst things I've ever read) with the James Robinson who created Jack Knight. It hardly seems like its the same man. His grasp of Golden Age and Silver Age tropes and his decidedly human take on the world of superheroes is refreshing and inspiring even now. He fully inhabits each and every character with original voice and in Jack Knight and The Shade, creates two of the most enigmatic and engaging characters I've ever read. If you can write a character so well that I, as a writer, salivate over the idea of writing that same character, then you've done well. (If you're wondering, the character I'm talking about is The Shade. Egads, what a badass he is.)

I just finished the first two volumes of Brian Wood's Northlanders. It's hard to say, "This is the best book at Vertigo," because there are some really great books coming out of that imprint right now. Still, Northlanders has to be considered in that conversation. It takes the gritty, visceral crime drama of something like Scalped and marries it to the playful historical interpretation of a series like Deadwood to create a series wholly unique in the world of comics. Wood's exploration of one of, if not the most pivotal moments in history is an absolute must read. (CLICHE ALERT!)

I also just finished The Escapists by Brian K. Vaughan, a man who is quickly rising to the top of my creative influences list. The Escapists, if you're unfamiliar, is something of a sequel to Michael Chabon's excellent The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay. The book deals with a group of young creators purchasing the rights to the Joe Kavalier and Sammy Klay character, The Escapist. These young creators then embark on a story of sacrifice, creation, love and loss that both twists and uplifts the heart at the same time. The Escapists reads like a guide on what to expect when trying to break into the comic book industry and is essential reading for any creator trying to do just that.

Last but certainly not least, I'm brushing up on my Jeff Parker in anticipation of the interview I have coming up with him sometime in the near future. I'm finishing up Agents of Atlas (phenomenal) then moving on to Mysterius and Interman. Parker is truly one of the nicest and most talented guys in comics and his continued success will be nothing but a boon for the industry. His playful utilization of old pulp tropes turns the medium on its ear while still being as reverent as possible. Agents of Atlas is truly great stuff and is the Marvel equivalent of great DC titles like Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier and James Robinson's The Golden Age. If you haven't checked out Jeff Parker then you're seriously missing out.

That's what's on the pile for now. What are my fellow nerds consuming right now? Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An Interesting Idea

This article by Erik Larsen appeared on Comic Book Resources this week and I think it warrants some discussion. I won't recount the entire article here, but the gist is, Larsen believes a combination of the delivery methods of Japanese manga and European books such as 2000 A.D. could offer a way to sustain the direct market into the future. We all know that digital is the wave of the future, but what is the transition between the crest of that wave and the fall of the current one? Do we simply limp along with the direct market functioning as is, or would it behoove the industry to explore another option to make print a more viable method of delivery as we transition into a more digital format? It's a topic worthy of some discussion.

In his piece, Larsen argues that weekly or bi-weekly anthologies by the Big Two (Marvel, DC) featuring an entire family of characters, printed with more care and better materials than the current monthly titles and featuring a $5.95 price point would be more appealing to chain bookstores and newsstands and would therefore be more capable of building a large and sustained audience of new readers. Like I said, I won't plagiarize his entire article. I want you to read it and form your own opinions. But it does bear taking note of. One of the most interesting aspects of his theory is the room it would give less successful titles to grow, given that they would be tacked on to more successful books. For instance, Jeff Parker's Agents of Atlas might have a much larger audience and therefore would still be being published today if it were grafted onto the back of a larger Avengers anthology each week.

Where I think the delivery method could work extremely well is in comics for children and young adults. Anyone who knows me thinks that the way Marvel and DC run their kids lines leaves a lot to be desired. While there is some merit to certain books in those lines, for the most part they're just a mish-mash of one-off stories and licensed properties. While they're fun for kids who are already relatively familiar with the characters, they do little to build involved, ongoing storylines and therefore do little to build a young new audience. Without a sizable group of young people interested in these iconic stories, comics will continue to become a medium largely geared toward men aged 18-35. If you're in that age group, you get some great books, but there's not a lot for anyone on the edges these days. Not, at least, from the Big Two.

But consider if Larsen's ideas were implemented in the kids comics lines. What if you had an anthology each week, say in the vein of the WB's successful Animated Series, that featured the entire Batman family. You get a Batman feature, a Nightwing feature, a Batgirl feature, so on, so forth, each with its own ongoing story. Plus, in a format like that, you could easily cross the titles over without feeling like you were just fleecing the fans for all they were worth. Which, lets be honest, is how we all feel at times when we hear the announcement of another "big event." I'm not sure about you, but I think if you gave kids a nicely bound, 64-page Superman comic with ALL the Super-family involved and asked them just $5.95 for it, you'd have kids forking over that lawnmowing money for comics for the first time in years.

Perhaps its just wishful thinking on my part, but like I said before, it bears consideration.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What I'm Working On

Hello fearless readers. Just here to give you an update on the different things I'm working on right now. I got that position with Broken Frontier so you'll see a lot of links to content over there here at the blog pretty soon. I'll be blogging for them as well as doing spot interviews with creators and other industry types about breaking news in the comic world. Fear not, for Surfing the Bleed will continue with the same mission statement as always. I'll still be doing some reviews, talking to creators about breaking in, and throwing the occasional rant in as well.

My first assignment for Broken Frontier was an interview with Emerald City Comic-Con organizer Jim Demonakos. I enjoyed coming up with the questions for Jim, though I must admit to an ulterior motive. Some of the questions were definitely aimed at getting to the heart of what it takes to build a successful con, partially because I'm quite interested in doing the very same thing here in Nashville. Think what you will, but we actually have a good comic culture in and around the city and the relative proximity of Nashville to other major Eastern and Midwestern cities makes it an ideal location for a comic convention. We have a small convention each year, but really it's just an excuse for Eric Powell to go sign some autographs. It's not going to draw anyone from out of town.

I've got a couple of irons in the fire as far as my projects are concerned as well. Over the past two weeks I have met two possible collaborators who are very enthusiastic about the prospect of working with me. I've tasked one with coming up with character designs for the Wendigo project which I hope to someday pitch to BOOM! and the other with Aces Wild, my pulp adventure send-up. Neither one of them has worked in comics before but they are both talented illustrators with a love of the medium, so hopefully with the right guidance things will work out swimmingly.

I have to say I'm extremely excited about the prospect of working on Aces. It's the project I've been sitting on the longest and one that's very dear to my heart. It's one of the only good things to come out of a pretty toxic relationship from my past and I'm glad to be working on it again. If you've read the blog you also know that I'm a huge fan of the old pulp stories and to be adding my own take to that rich tapestry is very exciting. I hope that it works out.

In other news, I had another phone conversation with a certain editor at DC about a set of young adult novels I'm pitching to their licensed publishing division. Given that things are extremely tentative right now and are still in their infancy, I'd rather not go into any more detail. Just know that this guy is in my corner and may be the nicest man in the entire comics industry, which is saying a lot. If we can get it done we will.

As I said in my previous post, you can also expect some new interviews in the new year, including cartoonist extraordinaire Danielle Corsetto and Agents of Atlas writer Jeff Parker.

Currently I'm working on fleshing out the history of my superhero world so I'm going to get back to that. I hope all of your projects and your lives are going well so far in the new year!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I'm Back!

As those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook probably know by now, my crappy old laptop finally kicked the bucket. Luckily I had the only stuff on it of importance backed up, so I didn't lose too much. I have a nice, new laptop with the ever-so-streamlined joy that is Windows 7 and I'm back on the creative horse.

The other reason I've remained absent of late is my attempt to get used to my new schedule. I've started working again, as a barback and door guy, at a bar here in the neighborhood. I like the job, but the overnight schedule has taken some getting used to. Couple that with the fact that I had to cover a bunch of extra shifts so the other barback could go home to Cali for the holidays and you have a recipe for creative ennui.

But fear not reader, as I have some exciting new prospects lined up for the new year. I'm on the brink of accepting a job doing interviews and feature writing for an up and coming comics site, I've got upcoming interviews with the Agents of Atlas and Thunderbolts writer Jeff Parker, cartoonist Danielle Corsetto, lead singer of Art Brut Eddie Argos and a special guest that I'm not entirely at liberty to talk about yet.

On top of that I'm working on a couple of pitches, one of which involves an editor who is the nicest man in comics and a story centered around the lost years of my favorite character of all time.

2009 was a heck of a year for me. I made great strides in my career, I found a job that I like, I got married. Here's to 2010 being the next great step forward. Happy New Year!