Author: Van Jensen

Michigan Comic Shop Owner Shot in Robbery

Michigan Comic Shop Owner Shot in Robbery

Until not too long ago, I worked for a newspaper as a police reporter, filing stories about homicides and then covering comic books in my free time. Thankfully, the worlds of real violence and superhero battles never intersected.

For the owner of Apparitions Comics and Books in Kentwood, MIch., violence became all too real Friday night, when police say a man went into the store, demanded money from David Pirkola, 56, then shot Pirkola and fled. The Grand Rapids Press has the full story.

First, best wishes to Pirkola for a speedy recovery. He’s listed in critical but stable condition.

One heartening aspect of this terrible news is the response from the comic book community, including owners of competing shops:

[Stephen] Jahner, who owns Capital City Collectibles in Lansing, said Pirkola enjoys role-playing games and is well known in comic circles for his devotion to the store.

He said he was informed of the shooting from another Apparitions employee, and together they will try to keep the shop open until Pirkola recovers.

Other Grand Rapids comic store owners said they were shocked to hear about the shooting.

"Comic-book store owners tend to have an affinity for each other," said Kirby Tardy, owner of Tardy’s Collector’s Corner, 2009 Eastern Ave. SE.

"It’s a tough business, and it takes a lot of love to keep it going."

Mekhi Phifer to Star in ‘Hunter’s Moon’ Film

Mekhi Phifer, who stars in ER, has signed on to appear in an upcoming comic movie adaptation, according to Reuters.

Phifer will take the lead role in Hunter’s Moon, which originally appeared as a five-issue series that came out last year. It features a father and son who go on a hunting trip to a rural area and become framed in a theft.

The series, which also touches on racial issues, was written by James L. White. White wrote the screenplay for Ray, the biopic of Ray Charles. No word if he’s adapting the script on Hunter’s Moon.

Hunter’s Moon was published by BOOM! Studios, which is producing the film.

Frank Miller: Comics ‘Strip-Mined’ by Movies

The Los Angeles Times just had a story about the boom in comics-to-film. In a recent six-week stretch, some 22 comics properties were optioned, the paper reported.

That includes Locke & Key, the supernatural thriller by Joe Hill for IDW (cover at right). While this is great news for many and illustrates the growing popularity of comics, not everyone is looking at the boom with rose-colored glasses.

"It’s accelerating because right now it’s fashion," says Frank Miller, who created the graphic novels behind "Sin City" and "300," and whose early-’80s series "Ronin," about a reincarnated samurai battling evil in a futuristic New York, is being adapted by Joby Harold ("Awake") for Warner Bros. "I think we can expect it to calm down. Comic books have always been this vast mountain range that gets strip-mined and left behind."

The main point of the story, though, is that one reason so many comics are adapted is that comics and graphic novels are substantially easier to read than screenplays. Miller calls screenplays the "single [worst] story form" and "unreadable."

The Weekly Haul: Reviews for April 24, 2008

This week in comics was all over the map, a schizophrenic jumble of thrills, idiocy, fun and pulp. The good books were great, and the bad ones were terrible. At the very least, it was entertaining from start to finish.

Book of the Week: The Mice Templar #4 — After the third issue of this series came out a couple months back, I wrote that while it was a good read, I was still waiting for the story to diverge from the rote fantasy plot. Writer Bryan J.L. Glass sent me a note saying just wait for issue #4, when things take a big turn.

Sure enough, the latest issue marks the point when The Mice Templar went from good to great. This isn’t just a fantasy tale featuring mice, it’s an intricately detailed epic and one of the best stories on comics shelves today.

In issue #4, Karic and Pilot continue their journey, with Karic showing both his potential as a great Templar and his youthful uncertainty. As they go along, Glass draws readers deeper into the massive mythos he has created, a back story that is mysterious but not confused. The issue ends with a too-good-to-spoil moment of "nothing will ever be the same." My only complaint is having to wait two months for the next issue.

Lastly, Mike Oeming’s art on this series improves with every issue, and it started out strong. He manages to make scenes of fighting mice into tense, dramatic moments, and his watercolor work in the concluding pages expands on the perceptions of what comic book art can be.

The Runners Up:

The Mighty Avengers #12 — Those of us who bailed out on the end of the horrifically delayed Secret War finally have an answer to the question of "Where the hell did Nick Fury go?" In this potboiler of an issue, Brian Michael Bendis diverges from the boring Mighty team to trace Fury’s movements while in exile, starting with the one-eyed wonder finding out about the Skrull infiltration.

From there, a paranoid Fury pushes forward as covertly as possible, investigating anyone and everyone to determine who the Skrulls are. The issue ends with an exhausted and uncertain Fury standing before a wall of photos of heroes, some marked as Skrulls. The issue follows in tone the great Gene Hackman thriller The Conversation, and is perhaps the best Secret Invasion lead-in yet.

Fall of Cthulhu #11 — This Lovecraftian tale from BOOM! Studios has been up and down over the first storylines, but the latest (The Gray Man) starts off like a perfect blend of Lovecraft’s stories and an old issue from EC Comics. A mysterious girl — you know trouble’s brewing when her nickname is Lucifer — is pulled into a sheriff’s office, and the authorities struggle to figure out how she’s connected to all the recent trouble in Arkham.

Michael Alan Nelson’s script work because he perfectly sets up the sheriff and his deputies in the role of the unknowing everymen who’ve stumbled into some ugliness far beyond their comprehension. This is a genuinely creepy book.


Interview: Joshua Dysart on ‘B.P.R.D.: 1946’

One of this year’s big additions to the Hellboy universe has been the series BPRD: 1946, which puts the spotlight on Trevor Bruttenholm as he investigates the occult legacy of the Third Reich.

I recently caught up with series co-writer Joshua Dysart to talk about BPRD, working with Mike Mignola and Dysart’s strange journey into comics writing. Dysart also touched on the wealth of other projects he’s working on, including one based on musician Neil Young’s life and music.

COMICMIX: How did you end up working on BPRD: 1946 and being so closely involved with the Hellboy books for Dark Horse? 

JOSHUA DYSART: It was kind of a long and winding road, as these things mostly are. I first met Mignola and [Editor] Scott Allie in Dallas, Texas at the first Wizard World there in 2004. We hung out by the pool table in the bar together and just talked. Our aesthetic was very similar. About six to eight months later, Scott got me the job on the Van Helsing comic. Which, despite its source material, I’m still really proud of. When Mike was moving out to Los Angeles he showed interest in finding a local writer to work with. Scott mentioned my name. Then Mike went out to a local comic book shop and the owner, a close personal friend of mine, recommended me. We set up a luncheon date and I was terribly, terribly nervous. But I did my little song and dance and it worked out. That was late in 2006.

CMix: That has to be a little intimidating to go pitch yourself to somebody like Mignola.

JD: I was late to the meeting as well, by the way. I ride a bicycle everywhere and at the time didn’t have a cellphone. So on top of being terribly intimidated, I was late with no way to contact him. I thought for sure that being without a cellphone and a car was not going to bode well for me as a professional. But it turned out that Mike didn’t have a car or a cellphone either, and I think there was a sense of a shared value system in this — like two Luddites finding each other amongst the Blackberry/BMW wasteland of Santa Monica, CA. But all the way around it was a pretty terrifying thing, the notion of the meeting.

But in the end, it was fine. Mike is so enthusiastic about his creation — and as a reader, so am I — so I was put at ease very quickly. I don’t think he even noticed I was late.

The advice I got from Scott Allie before the meeting was, "Don’t act like such a fucking hippie."


Charges Against Gordon Lee Dropped

A few months back, retailer Gordon Lee escaped prosecution when a mistrial was declared in the case against him for distributing obscene material. Today comes word the case won’t be brought again.

The legal battle began in 2004 after an employee at Lee’s comic book store accidentally gave a minor a sampler book containing a scene of Nick Bertozzi’s The Salon, which included a naked Pablo Picasso.

The first trial against Lee, who was supported by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, was thrown out after the prosecuting attorney disobeyed the judge’s instructions. The Rome News-Tribune offers this on the latest development:

The case filed against local comic book store owner Gordon Lee has been dismissed, according to Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson.

Patterson said the case was dismissed after the district attorney met with Lee’s counsel and decided that a measure other than prosecution could be taken in resolving the case.

“He did a written apology to the victims in the case,” said Patterson.

‘Farscape’ Comics on the Way

‘Farscape’ Comics on the Way

In the past few months, BOOM! Studios has had a spate of comics picked up for movie adaptations, but now that flow of comics-to-screen is reversing course. The publisher just announced a deal with the Jim Henson Company to create multiple four-issue series adapted from the sci fi TV show Farscape.

The show ran for four seasons before an abrupt cancellation, and the new comics look to expand on the untold parts of the story, according to the press release sent over from BOOM. The creative team hasn’t been announced, and the art at right is preliminary.

"Farscape took science fiction television to a new level and ushered in a whole host of shows that wouldn’t have been possible without Farscape‘s pioneering. As a long-time ‘Scaper’, I am incredibly excited to mine the dense universe of Farscape for new stories and adventures in comic book form," said BOOM! Marketing and Sales Director, Chip Mosher. "I watched the show as it came out, I bought the DVDs the day they hit the shelves, and I can’t frelling wait to publish these comics!"

The Farscape comic book series will be taking advantage of the upcoming webisodes to be produced by The Jim Henson Company in association with RHI Entertainment for SCIFI.COM. The webisode series will re-unite Farscape executive producer Brian Henson with creator Rockne S. O’Bannon.

Captain America Creator Joe Simon: ‘We Wuz Robbed’

Speaking to The New York Times, Captain America co-creator Joe Simon reflected on the character and his struggle to gain some of the rights to the Captain America franchise. Simon will be one of the speakers at this weekend’s New York Comic Con.

Simon and Jack Kirby ended up leaving the franchise after fighting with publisher Martin Freeman over royalties, and they ended up at Detective Comics. Simon recalled that skirmish:

“We always felt ‘we wuz robbed,’ as Joe Jacobs, the boxing promoter, used to say,” Mr. Simon said of his dispute over the ownership of Captain America, which he settled out of court with Marvel in 2003. He said his royalties for merchandising and licensing use of the hero now help pay his legal bills from the case.

But copyright was not on Mr. Simon’s mind when he was conceiving Captain America. He didn’t even begin with the hero. “Villains were the whole thing,” he said. And there was no better foil than Hitler. Who better to take him on than a supersoldier draped in the American flag?

(via Doomkopf)

Review: ‘The Un-Men’ and ‘Faker’

In a bit of a strange coincidence, Vertigo has two new collections out this week that both prominently feature futuristic science and genetic manipulation. The books couldn’t be more different, though, with The Un-Men ($9.99) shining a freaky spotlight on some minor Swamp Thing characters and Faker ($14.99) taking a more serious look at the intersection of intelligence of the natural and artificial varieties.

Let’s look at [[[The Un-Men]]] first, if for no other reason than it being the better of the two books. Writer John Whalen takes the largely forgotten mutated monsters and carves a perfect little niche for them – Aberrance, a town of genetic weirdos.

Without ever becoming self-serious, the story explores the rift that’s formed between those in charge of Aberrance and the lower class of freaks. When one of the protesters turns up dead, a federal agent (an albino, which makes him the normal guy) steps in to investigate. Wackiness ensues.

While the murder mystery never takes on any import, the book sludges along with constant splashes of the bizarre and disgusting, each chapter managing to out-freak the last. It’s spiced with some catchy dialogue, such as, “Rome wasn’t sacked in a day.”

The big conclusion doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and the art is a bit too ordinary for the subject matter, but The Un-Men is still one of the most entertaining and creative new series from last year.


The Weekly Haul: Reviews for April 17, 2008

This past week in comics wasn’t anything too special, with DC essentially laying an egg. Luckily a handful of independents rose to the occasion, and Marvel had some strong offerings, including a big surprise for best of the week. On that note…

Book of the Week: Ghost Rider #22 — Any time a comic is so good I have to read it three times before I can move onto the next book, it’s a lock for the top spot. This is darn close to a perfect issue from the first page, which starts off brilliantly ("I’ll never forget the first time I saw a dead body").

Jason Aaron continues the story of Johnny Blaze searching for answers from the angel who turned him into Ghost Rider, a quest that has led him onto a highway filled with evil, cannibalistic demons. It’s an epic fight, overloaded with crazy elements in the way of Quentin Tarantino (yet less self-obsessed).

In addition to the demons, there are evil gun-toting nurses on motorcycles and a still-living cannibal slowly feasting on a deputy. Aaron slowly pulls all of these elements together, leaving off just as they’re all about to literally collide. Oh, and did I mention it also has the line of the week? "The day I can’t catch a dead horse… is the day I give up and rot."

Lastly, I have to give a ton of credit to Roland Boschi for his art. It’s kinetic and loose in the way of Leinil Yu, though not as busy. Combined with Dan Brown’s colors, it makes for some of the best superhero art on the rack.

Runners Up:

X-Factor #30 — I promise this high ranking isn’t just to placate the great Peter David, who took serious umbrage with my review of She-Hulk #27. No, the latest issue of X-Factor (like most of the run) is worthy of serious praise on its own merits. Arcade’s plans for destroying the team, and all of Mutant Town, play out with expected brilliant insanity, and the weakened X-Factor can barely keep their heads above water (or remaining on their shoulders).

In the previous run of this series, one thing David did exceptionally well was crafting great stories without ever bringing in stock villains. Here, he brings in a stock villain but does it in keeping with the series’ tone. Beyond that, the last page is one of the best I’ve ever seen, with an emotional stomach punch that humanizes one of the Purifiers and a true "Hey, May!" cliffhanger.

Fear Agent #20 — The best of a good crop of small-press titles. I’ve always heard this series praised for its goofy sci-fi plots and fun elements, but this issue is one long emotional swan dive that’s surprisingly touching. Rick Remender intertwines his characters’ harsh pasts with their bleak futures to explain their confused ambitions. A very small story in the grand scheme of things, but a very well done one at that.