Tagged: Brian Michael Bendis

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Trades vs. Monthlies – An Unpopular Stance

It seems when I write pieces here on ComicMix that are good-natured and optimistic, no one cares. When I get hot and bothered (and make sweeping declarations that demand debate), you get excited. So, you want riled up? You got it!

I think the comic book industry as a whole would be better off if it went digital for all monthly titles, and only printed graphic novels.

Settle down, settle down. You’ll have a chance to put me in my place in the comment section. Or you can skip my argument completely, and just go down to the bottom of the page, and start the flame war. Either way, my ego gets fed.

Let’s face it. Making a comic book every month isn’t easy. If it was, Justice League wouldn’t be two weeks late. But wasn’t there a big hard-and-fast rule in place stating no book would be delivered late, lest the creative team be removed for one that could keep up? Well I guess that only applies to talent who don’t exclusively work for the parent company, and have “Chief” on their business cards. But I digress.

Most comic books these days are “written for the trade.” Almost every cape on the racks today get four to six issues of a singular plot-line that crescendos into a final epic conclusion. Then, if we’re lucky, a one-shot to settle things down to the status quo. And the cycle repeats. In the case of other books (Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man comes to mind) these arcs could last up to a year or even longer. This means that every month you get a bite of the candy bar. Wouldn’t it be nice to just eat the whole damned thing all at once? In an medium where the end product is sum of many parts, having all those parts only stands to make the whole piece better.

Brian Michael Bendis may physically have a disease preventing him from writing a book that isn’t deconstructed. And frankly, who disagrees that he works best in the bigger picture? I won’t ever buy singular issues of Ultimate Spider-Man. It’s too good in trade. The same goes for many other books I happen to get (or borrow with frequency); Invincible, The Sandman, Astro City, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Fables… need I go on? In all of those cases, and so many more, collecting a book into a longer format makes for a more enjoyable experience. And when a trade it released, there is no waiting for that next chapter. I know there’s a massive caveat to that one folks, but I think the point is clear enough.

But Marc, you plea… If the industry went straight-to-trade, comic book shops would simply close up and die. Because right now, most comic book stores I know are so swamped with business they don’t even carry trades. Or action figures. Or magic cards. Or D+D. Or host local bands. Or have organized book clubs. The fact is, store owners lose more money stocking their shelves with every monthly book that comes out, and subsequently not sell them, then do they on carrying trades. One store in particular, Challengers Comics + Conversations in Chicago, told Unshaven Comics that they would only carry our book when it became a trade.

When I was told this by the very cool owner, my eyebrow raised. “We do far more business in trades than we do in monthlies man, sorry.” They even have a “Library” subscription where so many dollars a month guarantees you access to shelves of trades to “check out.” If I were a commuter and lived anywhere near the store, I’d be on that like Michael Davis on an Asian GoGo Dancer. My point being that brick and mortar stores could augment their current offerings and not lose their leases.

Monthly books allow fans to “sample” a title before committing to it. And those who follow along with my reviews (over on Michael Davis World, plug plug plug) know that recently I’ve committed to a “two bad issues in a row means I drop the title” policy. Thus far, that means I’ve dropped JLI, Red Lanterns, Green Lanterns: New Guardians, The Fury of Firestorm, and Irredeemable. If my dream came true, wouldn’t that mean I would stand to lose more money buying a multi-issue trade for a series I’d be unhappy with? I’m willing to eat crow on that one. To a point. You see, in the cases of all those books I listed, they all suffered from the same problems.

Predictable plots hampered by a repetitious narrative structure, or incoherent direction on the whole. As an example, Fury of Firestorm(s?) issue to issue took the same plot point (Danger! Transformation! Hitting!) and regurgitated it three times in a row. Through the fatigue, it becomes clear; the entire first arc takes place over one or two nights. Read as a whole though, the pacing wouldn’t be as troublesome to me. And in the case of JLI, where the plot was as by-the-books as you could get… I would contest that taken in 1 large chunk, it’s far easier to enjoy the staple “assemble the team and fight the giant evil” plotline when it’s not broken up into six parts. Especially when it fights for my attention with better-written monthlies like Batman, Action Comics, or Fantastic Four.

It’s a big argument, one that I hypocritically don’t even support on the other side of the aisle. Unshaven Comics made the decision to release issues in lieu of trades. But that, as Alton Brown would say, is for another show. I’d like to think I’ve given you enough to mull over. So, go ahead my bubbalas. Talk amongst yourselves. I’m getting a little verklempt. Trades vs. Monthlies… Discuss!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

Disney XD Launches Marvel Universe Block on April 1

Disney XD will launch Marvel Universe, a dedicated Marvel programming block, with the new series Ultimate Spider-Man as its centerpiece, on SUNDAY, APRIL 1, it was announced today by Gary Marsh, President and Chief Creative Officer, Disney Channels Worldwide at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, California. Marvel Universe on Disney XD will be the ultimate place for fans to find exclusive Marvel content, including new animated short-form series, live-action interstitials and the series return of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.  The block will be home to Marvel’s biggest superstars, such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America and many more to introduce dynamic stories of action, adventure and heroism to a whole new generation.

Marsh said, “Iconic Marvel heroes and villains and stories with core values of accomplishment, discovery and growth make Marvel Universe a perfect complement to Disney XD and a destination for parents and kids to experience together.” (more…)

Review: “Avengers” #19

Review: “Avengers” #19

imageCR Review: Avengers #19
Creators: Brian Michael Bendis, Daniel Acuna
Publishing Information: Marvel Comics, comic book, 40 pages, November 2011, $3.99

Perhaps the oddest thing about the Avengers property becoming Marvel’s flagship title the last few years is that there’s no underlying concept involved in its execution. It’s Marvel’s biggest superheroes (and some of its stronger supporting characters) teaming up to take on various super-baddie threats… and that’s really about it, as far as I can tell. It’s not a family, it’s not a community, it’s not a certain way of doing things; it’s everybody the fans think are cool put into the same room. In a similar vein, the writer Brian Michael Bendis recently announcing the conclusion of his run with that property surprised only in that there’s little in the way of a dramatic arc — at least not one I can see, from several steps back — that would indicate he was close to wrapping up whatever personal, creative business he might have brought to the series several years ago. In most ways that count, the defining characteristics of this comic book series lies in how it resists past signifiers. For all that it defines the current superhero mainstream, Avengers is one contrary comic book.


It’s Women of Wonder Weekend!


In October 2006-2010, five annual Wonder Woman Day events raised over $110,000 for Domestic Violence programs in Portland, Oregon and Flemington, NJ. The five-year combination of auctions of over 1,100 original art pieces, plus collectibles, autograph signings, and photo opportunities garnered spectacular turnouts and four Portland Mayoral Proclamations.

This year, the event will take on a new name and an expanded mission! On October 30, 2011, the new Women of Wonder Day — again as a part of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month — will take place, returning to Excalibur Books in Portland, Oregon, and Comic Fusion in Flemington, New Jersey, as well as at Heroes and Fantasies in San Antonio, Texas.

This year’s contributions for auction include not only artwork featuring heroines from the world of comics — Wonder Woman, She-Hulk, Storm, Michonne from The Walking Dead, Leetah from ElfQuest — but also from the world of media as well, including Lisbeth Salander, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hermione Granger, and others. Plus, TV series such as Glee, Nikita, The Big Bang Theory, Castle, and Chuck have donated special items as well.

The all-ages events will include artists and writers signing autographs at each event, as well as costumed characters with whom you can take photos. And in Portland, white-hot writer Brian Michael Bendis is auctioning off a role in one of his upcoming comics. Other contributors include Lar DeSouza, Dan Parent, David Lloyd, Gilbert Hernandez, Nicola Scott, Wendy Pini, Yldiray Cinar, David Mack, Ethan Van Sciver, Jamal Igle, Katie Cook, Michael Golden, Neil Vokes, Terry Moore, Ben Dunn, Billy Tucci, Bob Layton, Charlie Adlard, Don Kramer, Doug Mahnke, Humberto Ramos, Jeff Moy, Joe Benitez, Phil Hester, Scott McDaniel, Stephane Roux, Patton Oswalt, Robin Williams, Rick Riordan, and of course, Lynda Carter.

Details about the three events follow:



Math. Ugh. Hate it. Too real world for me. Unyielding, unforgiving, no sense of humor, and numbers don’t talk to me the way words do. My brain isn’t wired for it. However, numbers are a part of comics and comic book writing.

Certainly there are the important numbers regarding sales, but they also figure into telling a story. Let’s go through some of them. First number: the number of pages. Right now, your monthly comic book is 22 pages long. Let’s say you’ve been asked to do a fill-in story or a complete in one story for a given book. There are certain space limitations you need to take into account.

How many panels are in a page? Well, your first page is usually the splash page which means one big panel. This page also usually has the title of the story and the credits box for the creators. Here’s some rules of thumb for the other pages: when there’s a lot of action, you use fewer panels per page. If it’s a talk scene, you can have more. I generally figure that it will average out to five panels a page. The splash page is one panel so you have 21 pages times five panels. We do the match and the whole thing totals 106 panels in which to tell your story.

There are also limits to how much you can put in a panel. This includes speech balloons, thought balloons, captions, and sound effects, if you have them. You don’t want to crowd the art. I generally figure the limit of all of the above is three per panel.

Nor can you do that every single panel. If you do that, you have a wall of words and the reader usually will just ignore it and go on to the next page that hopefully has less verbiage. The exception to this rule is Brian Michael Bendis and, trust me, unless you are in fact Brian Michael Bendis, you’re not Brian Michael Bendis.

There are also limits to how much you can put into each word balloon, thought balloon, or caption. Again, I use a rule of thumb and it’s based on my font type and size. I tend to use Geneva 14 point (my eyes aren’t great and that’s what I can most easily see). So I figure the maximum is three typed lines per balloon or caption. Again, you can’t do that with every panel or you’ll wind up with the Wall of Words that gets ignored. Again, the Bendis Exception applies.

So, being generous, let’s say you average about 1.5 balloons/captions per panel. Do the math. If you have 106 panels per issue, that comes out to 159 balloons/captions with which to tell your story. That’s it. 21 pages, 106 panels, 159 balloons/captions in all. That’s plot, plot twists, characterization, theme, and snappy banter. Ladies and germs, that’s not a lot of space.

There’s a bit more math with telling a story as well. Each panel should have one clear definable action per panel. Batman leaps but he does not leap, land, spin, and hit the Joker in one panel. Asking your artist to draw that is grounds for justifiable homicide. I’m kidding. Your artist won’t kill you; he/she will simply ignore your instructions and find a way to make it work. But they will hate you… with justification.

You can have a secondary character do something in the panel as well but you can’t do that a lot unless your artist is George Pérez who will add more action if you haven’t. The Pérez Exception is the artist corollary to the Bendis Exception.

And you have to do all this without making it seem crowded or rushed.

That’s the mathematical reality to writing a single issue comic book, kids. If you’re doing an arc, then you multiply by the number of issues. The number of issues you’re allowed will depend on the price point (again, a number) the company figures the public will pay. It’s usually four or five issues. So, for an arc, you can multiply the above totals by those numbers. Still not a lot of space. Finally, there are deadlines, which are another set of numbers, namely the date by which it’s all due. Violate that at your peril.

And that, as our friends in the newspaper trade were wont to say, is -30-.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: “Super-heroines,” Get Back In The Kitchen!

So after a few weeks of daydreaming and being all cutesy-wootsie, I figure it’s about time I stir the pot a little. Let me get behind this wire mesh wall, force field, and don some protective gear. There. Safe and secure. Ahem…

Marvel’s female superheroes suck.

Don’t believe me? OK. Name the first few Marvel superheroes that come to mind. I’ll give you a minute. Who did you say…Spider-Man? Thor? Captain America? How about Iron Man? Hmm. No double X chromosomes there. The last big event to revolve around a woman? Oh yeah! House of M. The one where Marvel showed that a chick who ain’t barefoot and preggers goes crazy and resets the universe at will. Now there’s a feather in a feminists’ cap.

When I say “important women of Marvel,” aren’t they are always the yin to the yang of a more powerful man? Pepper Potts. Sorry Matt Fraction, you can put a repulsor in her chest, you can give her a code name, but she’s still just Tony’s secretary. Mary Jane Watson-Parker-Watson-by-way-of-a-retcon? Face it tiger, she’s just there to fall off buildings. Maria Hill? Nick Fury’s assprint hadn’t even cooled off before she was ousted back down to who-cares-ville. And when we open the discussion to those ladies who carry the hero badge? It doesn’t get any better.

Sue Storm, the matriarch of the Future Foundation. The soul of the Fantastic Four. Completely boring and useless without her husband. The best writers of Sue have always pegged her as a strong and independent woman. But take her away from Reed, Ben, or the children and the only bullet point left on her resume is part-time booty call for Namor.

Black Widow: slut with guns. How about Ms. Marvel? I’ll be completely honest. I don’t know a thing about her. Best I could tell? She was brought in because Marvel has no Wonder Woman, so they threw her on the Avengers. Beyond that I assume they keep her around because cute girls can show off their butts by cosplaying as her. What of the X-Men? Well, Jean Grey has died only 17 times, and has changed names to various permutations of “Phoenix,” all to what effect? She’s Cyclop’s gal. She maybe did Wolvie in a closet while Slim was waxing his car. And in the Ultimate Universe, maybe she did Charles too.

Let’s not forget Storm. She was married off to Black Panther so they could make super-black-babies that will invariably land on some future iteration of the X-Avengers. Not because they’ll be well written mind you… but they will add that “affirmative action” flavor John Stewart was used for back in the JLA.

I say this obviously not just to be cranky. I openly yell to the heavens for someone to come in and make the women matter again. Joss Whedon put Kitty Pride and the White Queen front and center in his amazing run on Astonishing X-Men. More than that, he made them more than worthless eye-candy in butt floss. He gave them dimension, and class. They weren’t in peril for perils’ sake.

Given Whedon’s pedigree for good female characterization, it didn’t come as a surprise. Whedon aside, other Marvel writers certainly have the know-how. Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathon Hickman are all amazing writers who know the ins and out of nuance. They’ve each made the females in their books (yes that includes Pepper in the aforementioned Iron Man series) very potent. But my gripe remains the same.

It’s not enough to write a woman as powerful, smart, and put-together. It’s the act of writing them as such that they are more than decoration. Throughout Marvel’s recent history, it’s been a literal boys-club. Civil War? Captain America and Iron Man fighting in the sandbox. Secret War? An excuse to make Norman Osbourn king of the playground – until sales dipped, and people stopped caring. And now we have Fear Itself, which as far as I can tell is only an excuse to half-kill Thor, and dress everyone up in Tron-stripes.

I yearn just once to have a female character in any of these situations stand up and set the world straight. Not to say it’s happened in the DC ever… but I actually believe Marvel has the smarts to actually do it. In this day and age where the DCnU turns Starfire and Catwoman into sultry sluts with no character trait beyond their cup size… I look to the House of Ideas to set the industry right.

When DC was making up Kryptonite and the color yellow the ultimate weapons against its heroes, Marvel figured out that debt, responsibility, and a guilty conscience was far better. Let us hope that in the coming times, they take the next step and realize that women are more than tits and tiny costumes. They are the fairer sex, the stronger characters, and perhaps the last untouched resource for superior fiction.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

ComicMix’s Bob Greenberger Chronicles Career of Howard Chaykin

Legendary for what he has done on the page and infamous for what he has said off it, Howard Chaykin ranks among the superstars of modern comics. In [[[The Art of Howard Chaykin]]], written by Robert Greenberger, go behind the scenes with the creator whose pioneering works include American Flagg!, The Shadow, Batman, New Avengers, Dominic Fortune, Black Kiss and more. Experience the stories of Howard Chaykin’s life as only he can tell them. Filled with no-holds-barred perspective from his longtime friends and colleagues, and featuring an extensive selection of artwork from throughout his career, including many never-before-published pieces from Chaykin’s own archives, The Art of Howard Chaykin takes readers on an in-depth journey from the 1970s to today with one of the medium’s great storytellers.

“Big thanks to everybody at Dynamite for the incredibly flattering job they’ve done, making me look good in this volume,” stated Howard Chaykin.  “Since I’m always willing to mistake attention for affection, I’m basking in the love.”

“At a time when many fresh new art styles while gracing the pages of comics, there was a boldness to Howard Chaykin’s figures that set him apart,” states The Art of Howard Chaykin writer Robert Greenberger. “He carved his own path, first as an artist, then as a writer exploring the limits of what can be done in graphic arts, informed by the great illustrators that came before him. Like his work, the man is larger-than-life filled with provocative observations that are always informed and defensible. Getting to know him has never been less than fascinating and getting to write his story was an opportunity to learn more about what him tick.”

“Howard Chaykin is a good friend and is an unparalleled creator in the comics medium,” says Dynamite President and Publisher Nick Barrucci!  “We made sure to pull out all the stops to make this the definitive guide for Chaykin fanatics everywhere.  Also, having a Brian Michael Bendis forward and afterward by Walter Simonson is just icing on the cake!”

JOHN OSTRANDER: Hacking Up Letter Balls

JOHN OSTRANDER: Hacking Up Letter Balls

I wrote last time about digital comics and I realize there was another big question for me as we cross the digital Rubicon into this brave new world: will there be letter columns?

Now you might point out to me, “John, most comics don’t have letter columns now.” I’ve always felt that was a mistake. In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons for the decline of comics, if not of the entire Western Civilization as we know it. My first work in comics appeared in a letter column. During the Overlord saga in Thor, I pretty much figured out who the mysterious Overlord really was. (I think it was Odin or some manifestation of Odin or something.) I even was awarded a Mighty Marvel No-Prize for my efforts, which was supposed to be for service above and beyond the call of duty to Marvel before they cheapened it for giving it out to every slob who wrote in and said, “Make Mine Marvel!” and yes it still burns me today that they did that but never mind. (For those of you who are interested, the No-Prize consisted of a an envelope mailed to you that clearly stamped “No Prize” on the front. You opened the envelope and it was empty – there was no prize! That was the gag. My first reaction was that somebody slipped up and forgotten to include my No-Prize in the envelope. I did eventually get the joke. I’m not always real swift but I get there.)

I had a better letter published in a Savage Sword Of Conan.  One story had Conan betrayed by his female companion and he snarled at her, “Waitress!” Of course, they meant to say “Traitress!” Obviously, an error no one caught but my letter tried to prove that it wasn’t an error but a nice bit of characterization, showing that Conan obviously had bad experiences with female serving staff; thus, the worst thing he could call the wench was “Waitress!” I remember my closing line was, “After all, have you ever seen the big Cimmerian lug tip?!” I figured the letter was clever enough to make the letter column, and it did.


Jason Patric Signed to Star in “Powers”

Jason Patric appears to have nabbed the lead in the FX adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming’s Powers. Initially, Kyle Chandler was rumored in March to be eyed for the part of Christian Walker but the news of Patric’s signing broke late last night.

Patric would be partnered with British star Lucy Punch, playing Deena Pilgrim, in the pilot which Bendis said should be shooting over the summer. At present, FX has not confirmed its interest beyond the pilot, which Bendis wrote before being rewritten by “Chick” Eglee.

Previously cast was Charles S. Dutton, playing Captain Cross, head of the Homicide Division where Walker and Pilgrim work. Also in the cast is 11-year-old Bailee Madison (Just Go With It.), playing Calista, a girl raised by her stepdad Eagle, a man with powers. She will come to live with Pilgrim after Eagle’s wife is murdered and the stepfather vanishes.

Powers was launched in 2000 from Image Comics where is earned the Eisner Award for Best New Series in 2001. Bendis subsequently won Eisners in 2002 and 2003 as Best Writer. By 2004, Bendis’ value to Marvel was such that they created the Icon imprint for creator-owned material with Powers being the first series to launch under that umbrella.

The book has evolved slowly through the years now publishing its third volume, which launched in November 2009, with just seven issues published since then given the creator’s other obligations. (more…)

FX producing ‘Powers’ pilot

FX producing ‘Powers’ pilot

Powers (comics)

Image via Wikipedia

FX has ordered a pilot episode for a series based on Powers, the comic series from Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming.

The network’s SVP of public relations made the announcement yesterday on Twitter. Bendis himself twittered:

Powers pilot was just greenlit by FX! it’s official! your window of reading Powers while it was still cool is running out :)

The potential series is a co-production between FX Productions and Sony, and the pilot episode will be scripted by Charles Eglee, who has bonafides in both mysteries and cop shows (executive producer of The Shield and Dexter and the creator of Murder One) and comics and SF (exec producer of The Walking Dead and creator of Dark Angel).

Powers follows a pair of detectives as they investigate a number of murders in a superpowered world. The creator-owned series was launched by Image Comics in 2000, before moving over to Marvel’s Icon imprint in 2004. A television series has been rumored for years, and was known to be Eglee’s next project after leaving The Walking Dead months ago.

Bendis writes too much stuff for Marvel to list, while Oeming is known for Hammer Of The Gods with Mark Wheatley for ComicMix, as well as Mice Templar, Thor, Alpha Flight, Bluntman and Chronic, Hellboy, Catwoman, and Quixote. Congrats to both of them.