Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Videos Galore!

I'm currently editing the Jason Latour and Jonathan Hickman videos I took at this past weekend's Baltimore Comic-Con. The Latour video should be up first thing in the morning and the Hickman video will follow shortly after that. Until then, tide yourselves over with the new trailer for Stan Lee's Soldier Zero, due out in October from BOOM! Studios.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Slightly Out of Date Yet Still Awesome Interview With: JEFF PARKER

Jeff Parker is the writer of Marvel's Atlas and Thunderbolts and is about to take over writing duties on Hulk as well. His style hearkens back to an earlier age of comics storytelling, when action and adventure were the order of the day and heroes weren't always the primary colored tight-dwellers we know today. He took a minute to sit down with Surfing the Bleed before this weekend's Baltimore Comic-Con and talked about his books, his process and his experience breaking into the industry.

Surfing the Bleed: Hello Jeff. Welcome to Surfing the Bleed. Thanks for taking the time to hang out with us today.

You seem to have a significant knowledge of the medium and its history. Does that stem from a love of comics as a child and was it always your goal to become part of the industry?

Jeff Parker: Before the internet made finding out about comics crazily easy, it was pretty difficult to learn how the books were made and about the personalities behind them. When Stan Lee would write his Bullpen Bulletins or Bob Rozakis would do his Ask the Answer Man for DC's books, they'd mention the creators and it would be a rare glimpse into these names as actual people instead of representing a particular art style. Then I found Comics Scene magazine, and eventually The Comics Journal, and I sucked up that info like a sponge. I devoured any history of Hal Foster or Milton Caniff I came across.

Do you remember the first comic you truly loved and how it affected your perception of the industry and your own personal goals?

Jeff Parker: Probably the Fawcett Dennis the Menace books. I didn't connect it to any goals at the time- I was 5, but I could tell I liked some artist better than all the others (it was Al Wiseman). I think at some point you look at comics purely by character; these are Superman books- and then you hit the level where certain ones matter more: these are CURT SWAN Superman books. And you know a creator is making the difference. Then hopefully you're on the path to following the creators instead, because that will yield more satisfaction for you as a reader.

You majored in English Lit, changing from your original goals to receive a degree in illustration. You cite the realization that you wouldn't be able to do the sort of illustration you wanted to do in the program you were enrolled in. Were you hoping for an education geared more toward a career in comics and how was that program holding you back?

Jeff Parker: Yes. I hid out in college for a good long time. I went to East Carolina University, first as an art major and then realized that like most modern art programs it was gallery focused, not as much illustration as I had hoped for. There were good teachers in the program. But I really got into my English classes thanks to some excellent professors. And since that was constant reading of story, it ended up helping me enormously- of course, I didn't know that later I would do so much writing. Many of my English teachers enjoyed comics and didn't feel the need to deride them like many art teachers did. Or at least, I lucked out and didn't get the teachers who would have scoffed at them.

What was your first work in the industry and how was the experience of breaking in during those early days of your career?

Jeff Parker: I did some stuff for free, like everyone usually has to at the beginning. I drew a story that artist Nathan Masengill wrote adapting Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince, that was in a Caliber Comics book. Soon I got a job drawing a fill-in issue of Vampirella that never got printed because they went to a different format, but I got paid and that was exciting. A little later I got a couple issues of Wonder Woman to draw- a lot of people got to essentially audition at DC by drawing an issue of that. I finally got regular assignments from Malibu Comics when Hank Kanalz opened some samples of mine where I'd drawn the Fantastic Four. That put me on the book Solitaire with Gerry Jones writing.

Often times, it seems it is easier for an illustrator to break into the industry than someone who is only trying to make their way as a writer. Do you feel that your skills as an illustrator made it easier for you to break in?

Jeff Parker: That's true, but a loaded statement. "It's easier to break in as an artist, so go spend a decade or two learning how to draw, compose and do graphic storytelling. Then it's easy!" So it's a little silly for young writers to complain about how it's easier for editors to evaluate and hire an artist- it's a hell of a lot of work to even draw a story badly. But it is true that almost no one will read your script. No one has time to read your script, you have to find a way on your own to get it drawn. And that usually means Pay An Artist. If you think that's unfair, consider how much time you just shortcut by not having to learn to draw, and you'll feel better. Or look at all the much deeper investment almost anyone else has to make establishing themselves in another career. It's not like you had to pay your way through medical school.

Most of what you've written has been in the Action/Adventure vein. Your book Interman was a marriage of superhero tropes and Ludlum-style suspense, Agents of Atlas (now simply Atlas) feels a lot like an old pulp novel, similar in theme and style to the Doc Savage tales of old. Are you very familiar with those old pulp books and how big an influence were those early action/adventure stories on you as a writer?

Jeff Parker: Yes, back to college, when I started finding reprints of comic strips like Terry and the Pirates and Captain Easy, I was very happy. I essentially write everything more or less in the vein of those genres. Even when I'm writing an X-Men story, I'm thinking of them as adventurers, not mutants or superheroes. Probably the most clear homage recently I've done to that stuff is the new Gorilla-Man miniseries with artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo.

When you made your path into the industry, was it always your intention to sort of revisit that style of adventure storytelling and update it for a modern comics audience?

Jeff Parker: I don't know that I did it consciously, I think I just write to entertain myself first and everything else just follows. But I do generally try to poke away that idea that high adventure can only take place in the 1930s, there's no reason in 2010 you can't embrace that kind of traveling story of discovery.

Between X-Men First Class, Atlas and all the Atlas tie-ins, Marvel has given you the go ahead to write what feels at times like a living history of the Marvel Universe. You're really telling the stories that exist between the panels of some classic Marvel moments. How does it feel being the architect of that secret history?

Jeff Parker: I did get to do a fair amount of that too with World War Hulks when they let me write the villain collective The Intelligencia (and yes, I know how it's supposed to be spelled. I don't remember why we decided to alter it). That stuff is fun to pull off, but can be pretty difficult, trying not to change continuity. I prefer writing something I don't have to check with others on, like ATLAS.

You're part of the new guard at Marvel that includes creators such as Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron and Rick Remender. How does it feel being on the crest of such a powerful creative wave? Is there a big sense of community amongst the Marvel creative teams and do you guys draw a lot of inspiration from one another?

Jeff Parker: I certainly like those guys and read their books. We don't sit around a huge table and push action figures around like generals, though we probably should. And I don't know how much everyone is on some level competing, but I know I feel I can never just phone a story in when others are doing such excellent work. I wouldn't anyway, really. It helps that so many of us live in Portland and often see each other at parties. To get more involved I should probably play X-Box games.

You did some time on Marvel's kids-oriented line, Marvel Adventures. How important do you think it is that the big publishers make an effort to reach that younger audience with quality material? And, in your opinion, do you think that the industry is doing enough to try and hook new readers and create a next generation of fans for our work?

Jeff Parker: I think it's ALL-important. Anytime this subject comes up, you get the same answers "Hey, there's Bone..." Really we should have a hard time listing all the kid-friendly books, there should be so many. No other industry lets the young market get away as much as we do, most entertainment tries furiously to cater to them. Just because some approaches haven't worked in the past isn't an excuse to not keep trying.

Considering you are both a writer and an illustrator, you likely have a unique perspective on the collaborative process necessary to create comics. What advice can you give creators from both sides of the equation on how to best work together to create a successful finished product?

Jeff Parker: Writers, even if you can't draw, try laying out your pages with stick figures and make sure you're asking for things that work. Remember that it takes about ten times as long to draw the thing as it does to write it.

Artists, do whatever is in the interest of telling the kind of story this is, don't force it into what you'd rather draw. Pay close attention to acting, bringing a character alive is everything.

Both of you- write back and forth a lot and do some give and take. You can make this a collaboration that breathes instead of a mere assignment.

Can you speak a bit about your own scripting process? Do you like to maintain a particular amount of control over the process or do you tend to leave things more open-ended for your collaborator?

Jeff Parker: I mainly have certain things I need to happen to keep the tone and direction of the story, and I leave a lot of room for the artists to be themselves- I hope. I have a fairly sparse descriptive style in explaining the scene. I like to chime in at layout stage, not to be a control freak, but to help keep things on message before it becomes too labor intensive for an artist to make changes. As an artist I prefer that too- ask me to make changes while we're in rough pencil, not later!

Does your process ever shift depending on the artist you work with? For instance, you’ve worked with a lot of different artists at various points in your career, but it seems of late that your most frequent collaborator is Gabriel Hardman. Given your level of comfort with Gabriel, do you give him more breathing room than you might with another artist?

Jeff Parker: Oh yes. I for instance won't write a tech-heavy script if working with an artist who doesn't draw that stuff easily. If I suspect an artist likes drawing animals, it will suddenly become a zoo of a story. Gabe can draw anything, anywhere, any way it needs to be done. All he cares about is that the story is intriguing. So yes, he gets maybe more breathing room than most, largely because the editors also trust him explicitly. We turn into a bunch of fans when his pages come in.

Lastly, what advice can you give new creators on their own path into the industry?

Jeff Parker: Don't try to second guess readers, what you think will sell or what the next big thing is. That's a cynical approach, and one thing readers can sense above all is sincerity. They can tell when you believe in what you're doing, and they'll respond to that by joining in with you. So please yourself first. Don't ever think "well my work is at least as good as Creator X and they hire him..." that won't get you anywhere. Set sights very high, too high. You'd rather fall short of something amazing than some average work you see a million of.

Here's a big one- don't try to start off with an epic. I don't know how many grand trilogies I've known that were to be coming out from talented people with lots of potential, and of course we've never seen any of these. Keep your first works short and achievable. Don't put the light at the end of the tunnel years away, put it weeks away. That's the way these kind of goals are met. I assure you, I am right on that!

Thanks Jeff! Best of luck with all your projects in the coming year!

Jeff Parker: Thanks Brett. Hey, what took you so long with this interview?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baltimore Comic-Con Creator Profiles, Cont.

Below are more profiles for creators I'm looking for to meeting at next weekend's Baltimore Comic-Con

Francesco Francavilla - I first found out about Francesco Francavilla from my friend Evan Shaner, who is a member of the awesome Comic Twart blog with Francesco. I was immediately floored by the man's talent. His ability to perfectly capture the feel of old pulp pin-ups while still remaining wholly original is wildly impressive. While all the Twarters are unparalleled talents, its Francesco's additions each week that I look most forward to. Now it's come to our attention that he'll be pencilling the Commissioner Gordon co-feature in Detective Comics, which excites me to no end. I am looking forward to meeting the man and hopefully getting a sketch. What will I ask him to draw? Any damn thing he wants to.

Tony Harris - Tony Harris is one of the most popular and respected artists in the medium of comics. The regular artist on Brian K. Vaughan's Ex Machina and James Robinson's (maybe the best superhero series ever), Harris has cemented his place in history as one of the best. I'm hoping he'll have a little time to step away from the table and discuss the ending of Ex Machina, his time working with Robinson on Starman and where he sees his career going from here.

The day is almost upon us! Keep checking back with Surfing the Bleed for updates from the convention floor, the barroom floor and hopefully, NOT the bathroom floor.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Baltimore Comic-Con: Panel Preview!

I'm going to make this one pretty simple. Below are descriptions of the panels I'm most looking forward to seeing at next weekend's Baltimore Comic-Con.


ROOM 307

1:00 - 2:00 PM - Spotlight on Thor

Marvel is giving the con-goers a Thor spotlight in anticipation of the blockbuster film set to drop next year. The panel features the creative talent behind the Thunder God's exploits both past and present, including, but not limited to, the great Walter Simonson. Simonson's Thor stories are some of my favorite comics ever. Last year at Baltimore I had the chance to meet Mr. Simonson and he was one of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Having the chance to hear him discuss his addition to the Thor legacy will be a real treat for this longtime fan.

ROOM 308

11:00 - 12:00 PM - comiXology and the Future of Digital Comics

comiXology has positioned themselves as the industry's leading force in the growing world of digital comic distribution and collecting. In this panel, comiXology's CEO, David Steinberger, will be discussing the company's rise to success, their plans for future digital comics initiatives and his opinions on what the future of the industry might look like with the advances in digitial delivery. Digital distribution is here and it's here to stay, so it's important that those of us working in the industry and those of us covering the industry are as educated as we can be about where comics is headed in this new digital age. I, for one, am looking very forward to this discussion.

3:00 - 4:00 PM - Mondo Marvel

Marvel Comics' executive editor Tom Breevort joins Jonathan Hickman (yes) and Jeff Parker (oh hell yes) to discuss the current creative direction of Marvel Comics and to tease some things we can look forward to in the near future. I've really been digging Marvel lately and they've overtaken DC in number of pulls each week in my hold box, so I'm definitely looking forward to it. Add to it the fact that Hickman is rocking it these days and the chance we'll get some more Hulk info out of Jeff Parker and you've got a panel well worth spending an hour on.


ROOM 307

1:00 - 2:00 PM - Comics Rewind: The 1980s

Last year this panel was a spotlight on the 1970s and it was the best time that my friends and I had the entire show. This year the panel shifts to the 1980s, but with a similar focus. Mark Waid moderates as Louise and Walter Simonson, Marv Wolfman, Timothy Truman, Matt Wagner and John Workman relate stories about working in the comics industry during the 1980s. This is one of the most entertaining, free-form panels of the weekend and if it's anything like last year's 70s version, the stories should be VERY entertaining.

3:00 - 4:00 PM - Paul Pope vs. Bob Schreck

Paul Pope sits down with his longtime editor, Bob Schreck, and talks about, well, about just how awesome he is. What more do you need?

ROOM 308

1:00 PM - Costume Contest

The panels close down for the con and the costume contest winners are announced. It should be a great time to watch all the various contestants in their geek finery competing for a bevy of prizes. I imagine we'll see more than a few Scott Pilgrims this year, probably some Kick Ass characters (oy vey) and more than a fair share of Predators. Whatever the turnout it should be a really great time and a good way to close out the show before we all grab up a bunch of 75% off back issues and make our way to the bars.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Baltimore Comic-Con Preview: Round Two

One of the best aspects of the Baltimore Comic-Con is the amount of facetime it offers attendees with the various guests. Unlike shows such as San Diego and New York, Baltimore has a more laid back, comics-centric vibe. Creators aren't dropped into a panel then sped away to the next major mutlimedia event faster than you can say BAMF! At Baltimore Comic-Con, the opportunity to engage your favorite creators in meaningful conversation or to get feedback about your portfolio is better than just about any other show in the business. With that in mind, I'm going to run down some of the guests I'm most excited about meeting this year.

Howard Chaykin - A 30+ year veteran of the industry, Chaykin is one of the most respected (and controversial) creators in the business. To this day, his art remains some of the most striking and visually interesting artwork in the industry. Chaykin's name alone is enough to get me to shell out my hard earned coin and his runs on G.I. Joe and his own American Flagg set the industry high watermark for bad ass storytelling.

Mark Chiarello - Painter, illustrator and editor extraordinaire Mark Chiarello has been the brain behind some of the most interesting projects in DC history. He created the incredible Batman: Black & White series, was the editor of the acclaimed series Solo and most recently he was the man behind the excellent Wednesday Comics. I know that writers and editors are, at times, the worst of enemies, but personally, I can't wait to meet Mark Chiarello. The first thing he'd probably say is, "Less commas!"

Amanda Conner - To dismiss Amanda Conner as just, "Jimmy Palmiotti's Wife," would be a serious mistake. Sure, being married to one of the industry's most respected creators doesn't hurt her profile, but Conner's success is all her own. Conner's artwork is some of my favorite in the business. Her style, full of fun, bright renditions of iconic heroes, is immediately resonant with a large audience. Amanda Conner's Power Girl is the kind of comic you could drop into a casual reader's hands if you were trying to get them interested in comics and her Supergirl strip in Wednesday Comics was perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire project. Maybe I'll try and steal an interview (or just geek out and get some books signed).

I'll be back tomorrow with more profiles of creators I'm looking forward to meeting this year. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What I'm Looking Forward To: Baltimore Comic-Con Edition

Over the next few days I'll be posting a collection of the panels, guests and exclusives I'm most excited about experiencing at this year's Baltimore Comic-Con. Baltimore was one of two cons I attended last year, the other being NYCC, and I had a blast. Not only did I meet a number of creators I've had a great deal of respect for over my years of comic fandom, I also made a handful of contacts that have turned out to be fruitful over the last ten months. I'm very excited about going into this year's BCC with a slightly higher profile in the industry and seeing just what I can accomplish this time around.

My first look at this year's Baltimore Comic-Con will start with a rundown of some of the exclusive events they've put together for fans this year. Exclusive workshops, contests and giveaways are a great way to drum up interest for a convention and the guys behind Baltimore have come up with some great ones this year.

Klaus Janson & Howard Chaykin's Artist Workshop - Industry mainstays Klaus Janson and Howard Chaykin have been giving an artist's seminar for Marvel Comics for years now. The workshop gives artists on the verge of breaking in a chance to pick the brains of two of the greats while learning valuable tools for surviving in the comics industry. Recently, Janson and Chaykin took their show on the road and were met with success at the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design. This year, the two legends of the field will offer their seminar at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Entry into the event is $75 and will take place on Saturday 28th between the hours of 1 and 4 PM with a peer review session afterward. To apply for the seminar, call host store Cards, Comics & Collectibles at 410-526-7410.

Second Annual Costume Contest - The Baltimore Comic-Con will also be hosting their second annual costume contest this year. A follow-up to last year's inaugural contest, which saw a much larger turn out than promoters expected, this year's contest has some incredible prizes, including a $1000 grand prize for best overall costume. Are you intimidated by the skill and devotion of hardened cosplayers? Well, have no fear, because Baltimore Comic-Con is offering contests in both the Pro and Amateur categories. So throw on those trenchcoats and muss up that hair all you wannabe Constantines, pull on those fishnets and singlets all you saucy Black Canaries, it's time to party!

That's just a couple of the things I'm looking forward to at this year's Baltimore Comic-Con, but there's plenty more to come. Check back to Surfing the Bleed over the next few days for more about which guests I'm looking forward to seeing, which panels I'll be attending and which bars I'll be thrown out of!

Friday, August 13, 2010

How I Became the Bomb's Jon Burr Reviews Last Week's Comics! (A title for this segment, my kingdom for a title!)

Ahoy, there, reader! In a bit of a switch from last week’s post, wherein I reviewed only a handful of titles, I’ve decided to give shorter reviews of a larger number of comics. If this is not your preferred method, feel free to comment. Perhaps I’ll return to my previous, more specialised style.

Sally forth, shall we?

Things I read that weren’t bad:

Time Bomb #1
Who am I to resist a cover featuring a Steranko-esque Black Ops team set against a backdrop featuring Jet Propulsion Lab-era rocketry and a Nazi skeleton? Well done, Radical Publishing. Not only did you suck me in with the cover, but you gave me the nostalgia-evoking team of Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Paul Gulacy.

Action Comics #891
Mr. Mind serves as our guide through Lex Luthor’s power fantasies. Read that sentence again. Now remind yourself that Mr. Mind is a giant anthropomorphic worm with the power to invade and control minds. Now go buy this fucking comic.

Secret Warriors #18
Just when I think Jonathan Hickman can’t make me enjoy this series any more, he inserts Macross-esque air battles into this bittersweet arc, entitled “The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos.” Now hear this, Hickman: If Dum Dum dies, you’ll soon follow. The Cheung covers always blow me away, as well.

Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #3
Perhaps a step down from the first two issues, but I’m not about to tell you that anything featuring the Tom Strong-verse and Chris Sprouse is not good. Plus, NAZIS!

Avengers Prime #2
Bendis doing his best Simonson and Alan Davis being Alan Davis. I’ll take it. I still think Mister Mind was my favorite surprise comic appearance this week, but this book featured a close second. Your only hint: This guy didn’t NEED pants. Yet he most certainly wore pants.

Sweet Tooth #12
Visually splendid, as always, but the more Jeff Lemire reveals in his slow-moving tale, the less I care. The mystique of this title is disappearing for me, but I still revel in Lemire’s layout and line.

I have heard tell ‘round internet ways that many are finding this book incomprehensible. They point to this book, along with 1602 and the Earth X titles - failed experiments, to be sure - as examples that any attempt to place Marvel into a bigger, all-encompassing mythology will fail. To those naysayers I say this: BAH! JUST BUY IT FOR DUSTIN WEAVER’S ART. I am enjoying this book and its last page reveals very much, thus far. We’ll see if it reaches its goals.

Doom Patrol #13
The best comics are the ones that send you scampering to your longbox or, these days, Wikipedia. Keith Giffen has given Rita “Elasti-Woman” Farr a bit of the ol’ Alan Moore Swamp Thing treatment, completely re-imagining her and upsetting the status quo in the span of just one issue. With just 22 pages, Giffen had me scampering for my back issues and looking up bits of DP history. The man loves these characters and refuses to let any of them remain stagnant. Even Rita Farr.

Daredevil: Black & White #1
Briefly, I’ll get my opinions on the issue as a whole out of the way: two neatly scripted tales with some fantastic art, followed by a prose piece with more wonderful illustration. This is a good comic, certainly, but eclipsing that was the discovery of Jason Latour, the artist of the first story. His dynamic style found a way to be tight and loose at the same time, omitting lines here, placing a truly bold stroke there. Latour is a very exciting find, as his work - intentionally, I’m guessing - was evocative of, simultaneously, the great DD artists of days gone by. Mazzucchelli, Miller, Sienkiewicz, Romita the younger; they were all in there, but within his own unique work.

Things I read that weren’t so good:

The Rage of Thor
This comic wasn’t poorly written, nor was the art horrendous. However, this read like a bad pastiche of Conan and Northlanders. If I need to envision lamentations of the womenfolk or to ponder the whims of Crom, I’ll crack open a Cimmerian tale or pick up Brian Wood’s latest Viking yarn.

The Invincible Iron Man #28
Well, we’re back to regular covers for good, it seems. ‘Twas a noble experiment, Mssrs. Fraction and Larocca. Now stop aping Warren Ellis and do your own thing. If I wanted Iron Man as The Authority, I’d pick up something from the Ultimate line.

Supergod #4
As much as I have enjoyed Warren Ellis’ previous takes on the folly of creating ubermensch - No Hero and Black Summer - this book has been a rambling mess and is rather dull. Ellis made his points with the aforementioned series, and I’m not really sure what he has left to say on the matter.

Amazing Spider-Man #639
Bollocks to this. ASM was doing quite nicely for itself for quite sometime there. In strolls Quesada with his “One Moment In Time” non-event and, lo and behold, the streak hath ended. Ah, well. I guess I’ll step over this, not unlike if I were to encounter shit on the sidewalk.

Jonah Hex #58
Know Jordi Bernet, know peace. No Jordi Bernet, no peace. The artist on this book, Giancarlo Caracuzzo is not series regular Bernet, but he’s not the reason this book falters. Gray and Palmiotti, the writers and, usually, masters of the single issue story, just simply lose control of their twisting tale. The narrative device is a neat one, letting the actual bullets fired serve as storytellers, but the writers get too caught up in their double crosses and coincidences to write a cogent and compelling issue. Don’t give up on this book, for it’s usually a paragon of the medium.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Superman on the Subway

This has nothing to do with breaking into comics and little to do with comics at all. Still, it's too cool and strange to keep hidden away from you guys. Check out the link below (the images are legion and would take far too long to load if I posted them all here).

Vintage Japanese Subway Posters