Author: Christopher Toia

SDCC Interview: Mike Mignola on the Hellboy Universe

Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy has certainly been a star in the comics scene for some years but the spotlight must be shining a little brighter now that his franchise  includes two hit movies.  We were lucky to get a chance to talk to him briefly at the show this year about the future of his book, the impact of the movies on his own storytelling, and the difficulties of letting go of the art chores on the book.

“If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I don’t know what’s going to happen to the book,” said Mignola about the notion of passing the book off to other creators.  He said he couldn’t imagine letting go of the character the way Todd McFarlane has let other people work on his most popular creation, Spawn.

When asked if, given that, it was hard to stop being the artist on the book, Mignola said it was at first — but he really likes the look of the book these days and he’s fond of the work Duncan Fegredo has done for the book.  “Besides,” said Mignola, “if I was still doing the art it would take forever.”

Readers of Hellboy are undoubtedly aware of the way Mignola uses real-world mythology, so we asked him what we should be brushing up on for his upcoming books.  He said they were going to be doing a take on some British mythology and that the content would be similar to the second film in a few ways.

We also asked if he was concerned that Guillermo del Toro’s film franchise seems to be building to a very different conclusion than his comics are. “The only thing that worries me is that the third movie will come out too soon,” said Mignola. Adding that he had a very firm plan for the comics and that this plan might take 15 years to be realized in the comics.

SDCC: Legion of Superheroes Panel

At a convention known for its fans’ devotion and passion, Legion of Superheroes devotees are truly in a league of their own.

Throughout Saturday’s “Legion of Superheroes Panel,” fans from across the globe shared their personal connections to the DC superteam with panelists, Paul Levitz, Mike Grell, Keith Giffen, Colleen Doran, Geoff Johns, Tom Bierbaum, and Mary Bierbaum, as well as questions about the varying specifics of a series that has one of the broadest mythos of any in the comic universe.

Being such a beloved series, its no surprise that many in attendance were extremely concerned about the future of the series. Johns let out a minor spoiler, revealing part of Una’s character arc: “You turn the page and she’s multiplied into like a hundred of her and she says ‘I don’t know how I ever got anything done with just three of me,'” he added. “She’s going to be called ‘Duplicate Damsel’.”

Continuing, Legion of Three Worlds writer Johns certainly tried to ease any fears that his run would be lacking anyone’s favorite character, asserting that George Perez, “wants to draw every Legionnaire ever.” Unfortunately, the Superpets will not be making an appearance.

A question about the lack of African-American representation in classic Legion stories drew muffled sighs from the more senior members of the panel. Levitz responded by saying, “I think it’s important to look at the broader context, that’s the way things were being done in comics in ’67 or ’68.”

Levitz went on to say that the Teen Titans were going to introduce the first black superhero, however DC ardently opposed this move and redrew the character as a white character. Allegedly the creative team was blacklisted for a year.

“[There was] a certain trepidation that they wouldn’t do it right,” Mike Grell said, and then added his own anecdote about the trouble he had adding a black Legionnaire, “It was a story about a Science Policeman who makes a mistake at the beginning of the story, and corrects the mistake and becomes a hero by the end of the story… My editor said, ‘No you can’t do that, they’ll send letters.'”

Fortunately, Grell was not completely cowed by DC’s demands, “As my silent protest, I very mildly redrew the character, and sure enough we got letters saying, ‘Hey, that’s a brother painted pink.'”

All of the panelists had numerous fond memories of working with The Legion of Superheroes, and no dearth of appreciation for the fans, but perhaps Levitz summed it up best when he said, “We got to play with some really cool toys, and the only reason we got to play with them was because you guys kept coming around and saying, ‘Go ahead, have fun with them.'”

SDCC: Joss Whedon and the Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog Panel

At San Diego Comic-Con’s Doctor Horrible panel, Joss Whedon and company used the opportunity to make a few announcements regarding the future of the Doctor Horrible franchise, as well as a surprise bit of information on the return of a popular character in the Buffy: Season Eight comics.

The big announcement of the panel was the development of a fourth act of the Doctor Horrible saga somewhere on the horizon. While they wait for Act IV, fans of Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog can expect the release of the soundtrack on iTunes in “a couple weeks.” In addition, for the planned DVD fans will be invited to submit their own three-minute video applications for admittance to the Evil League of Evil, the show’s writers will decide on the best 10 and include them as a special feature.

In news not related to the topic of the panel, Joss Whedon announced that fan favorite character Oz will be returning in the Buffy: Season Eight comics.

Featuring Horrible director and writer Joss Whedon, actors, Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, Nathan Fillion, and Simon Helberg, as well as co-creators and writers, Jed Whedon, Zach Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen, if nothing else the panel served to confirm suspicions that Joss probably has the best job in the world.


SDCC: EW’s “Visionaries” Panel

When Entertainment Weekly assembles seven of the most powerful men (and woman) in all of comics, obviously some massive news bombs are going to get dropped.

“Yes, I read comic books in the bath,” Grant Morrison announced, shocking the assembled fans and setting the blogosphere ablaze.

Okay, so there was little in the way of truly newsworthy information disseminated by the esteemed panel of Jim Lee, John Cassaday, Matt Fraction, Mike Mignola, Robert Kirkman, Colleen Doran, and Grant Morrison. However, there’s something immensely satisfying about sharing an hour of time with some of the most creative individuals in the comic book world (and frankly, beyond). It’s the kind of panel that reminds a guy why he reads comics in the first place, because these guys work their hardest and embody the philosophy John Cassaday put forth, “There’ll be limitations in whatever you do, so you might as well go for it.”

Also, these people are really, really funny.

A topic that is nearly omnipresent at this year’s ‘Con, the specter of the film industry looming large over the conference, was addressed by the panel, with many attendees asking questions about the increasingly symbiotic relationship between film and comics.

“I see a lot of storytelling techniques in TV being effected by comics,” Lee commented, pointing out that the comic book has become so successful that mainstream has no choice but to adapt some of its devices. However, not everyone on the panel was as excited by the increasingly close relationship between comics and movies,

“I see people applying film rules to comic book visuals, let’s do the comic and then let someone else do the film,” Mike Mignola said, keenly aware of the difference between comics and film. Human quote machine Grant Morrison added, “Hollywood is more formulaic, comics allow you to break those rules.”

All of the panelists expressed some dread at the lure of comic to film adaptations limiting the ambitions of up-and-coming creators. However they all reasserted that this is a life they pursued not for money, but because its the only calling they ever felt, “I really can’t imagine doing anything else… everyone up here ha a compulsion,” Colleen Doran said.

Following the theme of creative expression, Jim Lee and newly minted partner at Image Comics Robert Kirkman were asked how that will effect their craft, “Once you’ve done all that stuff, it’s kind of hard to just go back to a table and just sit there drawing,” Lee said. Adding that there’s a liberation that comes with his executive status. As for Kirkman, “So far, it’s just making a few extra phone calls.”

SDCC: Stan Lee and Grant Morrison Panel

Thursday morning at San Diego Comic Con, the marquee comics panel was Virgin Comics’  discussion featuring Stan Lee and Grant Morrison.

Before the discussion started, a brief video was screened showcasing Morrison’s MBX, a new motion capture cartoon that retells an ancient Indian Myth.

“I think today there’s an obsession with war,” Morrison said, as he explained that although MBX is a 10,000 year old Indian Myth, it will function as a lens through which to explore many of today’s pressing global issues.

The discussion was moderated by Sharad Devarajan, the CEO and publisher of Virgin Comics.

Morrison is known for being charismatic and engaging during discussions like this, but it was almost startling the degree to which Stan Lee’s presence overshadowed Morrison’s. Throughout  the panel Morrison gave due deference to the gravity of Lee’s body of work.


SDCC: Superman: Man of Tomorrow panel

DC Comics ran their first panel of the show on Thursday morning with DC: Superman: Man of Tomorrow.  The panel was moderated by editor Matt Idelson and featured writers Geoff Johns, James Robinson, and Sterling Gates along with artists Jamal Igle and Renato Guedes (who was provided with a translator, yet never spoke).

Johns kicked off the panel by asking how many in the crowd were reading Action Comics to a strong, but noticeably short of unanimous, ovation.  He then continued to explain that what they’re trying to do right now in the books is to create a cohesive universe for Superman so they can “start telling big excellent stories”.

As an example of a big excellent story Johns went on to explain the upcoming “New Krypton” story arc.  Coming out of the current Brainiac story Kandor will be restored to full size on Earth.  “100,000 Kryptonians come to Earth and say, cool this is New Krypton, and Superman’s like, ‘no it ain’t.’” said Johns.

The panel then turned towards the role of Supergirl in the upcoming stories. Gates expressed a desire to turn the book from a “B”-list title to a more marquee title.  Igle said of Gates’ first issue, “I was surprised at how good his script was.  I had to go back and read it twice.”

Johns went on to discuss the return of Cat Grant to the Superman titles and the relationship between her and Supergirl.  He said that one of the first thing she would do is publish an article called “Why the World Doesn’t Need a Supergirl.”  It was later revealed that this article would make up the first page of Gates’ run on Supergirl.




At last weekend’s Gencon 2007 it was clear that almost no one is launching a game without a popular license attached. In a market defined by Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering it can often seem like those are the only two games left that crafted their own setting.

Upper Deck Entertainment is the poster child for the modern game company. Their strongest selling game is Yu-Gi-Oh, a game that they don’t even design on their own; they get most of their cards from the Japanese company that invented it. Their newest hot game is the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, which is, of course, based on the ludicrously popular computer game. I got a chance to demo it and the game mechanics seem to be one part Magic, one part Alderac Entertainment Group’s Warlord.

The marketing for this game is brilliant though; some fantastically rare cards unlock unique items in the computer games to show off to people there. In addition, every con attendee got a starter pack of the game when they checked-in for the weekend giving them access to potentially thousands of new customers. Even after the demo they gave me, my free pack remains unopened.

Also at the Upper Deck booth I got a chance to check out the Vs. card game, a game featuring heroes and villains from DC and Marvel comics. The demo decks were out of their recently released Hellboy set. This may have been a mistake because their booth was decked out in huge Alex Ross paintings of DC and Marvel characters. I was set to see Superman take on the Hulk, not Hellboy versus Rasputin.

The game uses a scaling resource system that is becoming increasingly standard in the industry, one more resource each turn almost regardless of what’s in your hand. So, having a character that cost the maximum amount you could spend in a turn was important. I knew the game was lost when on my sixth turn I had to settle for a second turn and fourth turn characters while my opponent got a massive sixth turn guy capable of dealing massive damage to my guys without any fear of retaliation. This seems to lend itself to a game that is all but over before any iconic characters could hit the field. This was a disappointment because any card game that could dedicate an entire set to the Green Lantern Corps and another to the Legion of Superheroes clearly knows what kind of comic game I want to play.


Halo ActionClix Coming Soon

Halo 2 launched to the single biggest day in entertainment history grossing $125 million and, with the third game’s release rapidly approaching, the Halo franchise is looking to extend their dominance to the miniatures market with Halo ActionClix.

Launching in September, Halo ActionClix is changing many of the rules from Wizkids’ other ‘Clix games to make game play more like the video game.  Players can switch weapons mid combat, for example, if you were playing a figure of MasterChief with a sniper rifle and decided that the best weapon for the situation was, in fact, the shotgun you could spend an action to swap out one figure for the other.  Another feature more like a video-game is that figures do not stay dead, rather they will respawn at pre-determined points on the map.

Halo ActionClix also features exclusive Halo 3 preview content.  Figures from the initial set will be from the upcoming game; in many instances this will be gamers’ first glimpse at these characters.

The game launches this September with four- and five-figure booster packs and the Hunter Combat Pack Starter Set.  Subsequent releases will be vehicle packs and an expansion focusing on Halo 3 in earnest, all by the end of the year.

Potter’s Fields

Potter’s Fields

I was never very interested in reading the Harry Potter books. I found the movies enjoyable but that interest never made me want to read the books. The cries of outrage I heard from hardcore fans after seeing the movies didn’t help matters much.

If reading these books made them enjoy the movies less, why should I bother? I kept this up for quite a bit until July 15th, six days before the release of book seven, when I decided I was going to get through the first six before Amazon delivered my mother’s copy on the 21st.

The time constraint this imposed was a daunting one. 3,341 pages in a little over six days was, I thought, an impossible task. What I didn’t know was that these books read like drinking water. There is nothing to make these a hard read as long as you are quick on learning the lingo of the series, the non-made-up words are all simple, and these are children’s books after all. I went through the first three books in just under two days and actually had to take breaks in the latter half of the week so I wouldn’t finish too soon. In one of these breaks I went to see the new Harry potter film in 3-D; I would like to recommend that wholeheartedly, the 3-D effect looks great, it’s a different experience entirely. I finished Half-Blood Prince late Friday night and went to bed eagerly awaiting the mail the next day.

I’ll only cover the last book briefly, as it seems that everyone everywhere is discussing it always. The last book arrived at 11 in the morning and I was finished 14 hours later. Anyone who complains that that ending was ruined for them has clearly never read any other book as that was about the only way this series can end and still be remotely satisfying. Rowling is a very good writer when she’s on but I doubt even she would have the chutzpah to let evil triumph over good. I also feel like she sells out Snape, by far her most interesting character, to give him this overwhelmingly noble motive. Love after all is the most powerful thing in the Harry Potter mythos. It removes any trace of ambiguity in his action.

Reading the books in short order let me get into the books in a consistent headspace. I didn’t grow with Harry; Harry lived the entire interesting part of his life in a matter of days. J.K. Rowling, too, for that matter. You can see her rise from unknown to richest woman in England as her books progress from the first, when she is quite clearly cramped by space constraints to Order of the Phoenix which is a bloated mess of decompressed narrative.

And you thought that could only be used to describe Brian Michael Bendis.

An iPhone Odyssey: My voyage to technological supremacy

(An editorial note: ComicMixers have no doubt noticed our intrepid crew tends to share certain fannish predilections. Among these is a lust for Apple technology. No less than five of us either ordered or purchased iPhones the day the thing came out. This is the first review; we’ll probably be referencing our experiences in the future. Now we can easily text message each other while getting our Doctor Who fix.)

I decided last week that I needed to have an iPhone. The hype had finally gotten to me, the slick GUI, the web features, all of it. This was further enhanced by my awful experiences dealing with Verizon Wireless and my Motorola RAZR breaking during normal use more than once.

It was no surprise that I reached to Apple in a time of need. Every computer I have ever used on a consistent basis has been an Apple from my parents’ Macintosh SE back in the late 80s to my current MacBook Pro. The thing I believe sets Apple apart from other companies is the concern they have for user experience. This is reflected everywhere from their more elegant operating system to their excellent customer service. The only serious problem I ever had with Apple was my parents’ Power Mac 8100, which had a power supply problem they were unable to diagnose, and plagued the machine for over a year.

The Internet was abuzz with rumors and speculation about how difficult or not difficult it would be to get an iPhone on the first day. I firmly believed I could wait at either Apple Store location in Manhattan and get an iPhone with no problem. However, I thought that waiting outside all day in the heat would be decidedly unpleasant. I turned my attention to Garden City’s Roosevelt Field Mall. It’s an upscale mall with an Apple Store and is the tenth largest mall in the country in terms of space. Certainly they would have room to enclose the line in comfortable air conditioning.

I could not have been more wrong. Standing in line at Roosevelt Field was largely a nightmare. The line was entirely outside on their southern parking garage structure with the overwhelming majority of the line on the top level of the structure, exposed to the elements. The heat and sun exposure got to me, leaving me with moderate sunburn; I was far from alone in that. To treat customers lined up to purchase a $500 item like that is ridiculous. They had space inside and they refused to use it to accommodate us. Mall security defended themselves by saying this was the same way they treated people lining up for the Playstation 3 but those lines were overwhelmingly eBay scalpers.

At 6 PM the lines were gradually let into the store and by 7 I was on my way back to Manhattan with an 8 GB iPhone. The Apple Store had plenty and I believe that one can still walk into any Apple Store in the area and buy one as we speak. Was it stupid to wait in line all afternoon for a product with a seemingly low scarcity factor? Probably, but sometimes it’s fun to be the first person you know to have something cool. I was ready to activate my phone through iTunes and be on my way.

Activation was, unfortunately, another arduous process. The AT&T server seemingly buckled under the strain of all the Mac addicts and stories of long struggles to activate were prevalent. It took my phone nine hours to activate. The iPhone will do nothing until activated so I had a $600 brick until 6:30 Saturday morning.

At that point I could use all of its fantastic abilities except for receiving calls. I was playing around with all of the wonderful iPhone features but every time someone called me I had to dig around in my bag for my old RAZR to answer the call. My number was not transferred to my iPhone until about 11:30 AM Sunday. It’s unclear whether this was a problem with AT&T or Verizon, but it was another inconvenience in a weekend filled with them. Everyone but Apple really screwed up this process and I can’t help but wonder if Apple doesn’t need to be more vigilant in choosing their partners including the malls they choose to put stores in and their cell phone network.

The iPhone, incidentally, is wonderful once it works. I urge everyone in need of a device that does all these things to go buy one as soon as possible. I hear they’re still plentiful at Apple retail locations, although AT&T owned stores by and large sold out Friday night.