Tagged: Dark Horse

Michael Davis: Off The Hook

Marvel Now! A new beginning for the Marvel Universe!

Those words are the title and tag line for Marvel’s latest universe direction and marketing approach. Seems a bit like the DC reboot to me, I could be wrong. I was… once.

Full discloser. I don’t spend a great deal of time following the comic book industry. That is to say I don’t make it a point to go to comic book websites, publishers websites or any of the zillion forums where people talk about what goes on in the industry. So, I don’t know how much press or hype surrounds the Marvel Now agenda. If I’m late to the party it’s because I simply don’t pay attention to press or hype.

Given the stuff I’ve been able to pull off in my career you may find it strange that I don’t follow the industry closely at all. I won’t bore you with my résumé but trust me, it’s impressive. I’m mostly clueless as to trends or news in the industry and I plan to stay that way. My way of doing business works best for me if I’m not influenced by what or who is hot.

As an example just about every mainstream publisher does comics these days. I put Simon & Schuster in the comic book business…in 1996. One of the reasons I was able to do that deal was because I don’t pay attention to trends, I pay attention to the idea and where would be the beat place to exploit that idea.

Disco was a trend, Hip-Hop was a movement created by ignoring what was popular at the time and which music now dominates the planet?

Here’s a hint, KC and The Sunshine band are not represented.

I visit ComicMix a few times a week but just to read the columns; any news I get is because I see something on the site that just screams to be read. ComicMix is how I learned about the DC reboot, Before Watchmen and Marvel Now.

Incidentally, I thought I would hate Before Watchmen and love the DC reboot. I actually like some of the Watchmen books and the DC reboot was for the most part cool, but did I love it?


Regardless of what I thought of the books I knew and I said the reboot would be a success and it was, big time. I was sure it would be effective because of the buildup which, after I was aware of the reboot, I noticed everywhere and the originality of the concept didn’t hurt either.

But, here’s the thing, it wasn’t original, far from it. That particular kind of event has been being done for – all DC did was changed the “hook.”

Marvel is not ripping off DC vis-à-vis a universe reset; they are following DC with a new hook for their books.

I write for television as well as mainstream publishers. Here’s a little of what I’ve learned as a television creator.

Very few things are new.

Consider these classic TV shows: Father Knows Best, Eight is Enough, The Partridge Family, The Brady Bunch, Charles in Charge, Home Improvement, Modern Family, The New Normal, The Cosby Show.

All of the above are based on the same premise essentially they are the same show, to produce a “new” idea the creators simply changed the hook.

The Cosby Show was pitched like this, “it’s Father Knows Best except the family is black.” They changed the hook. Now you can take any of the above shows and do the same thing.

Some require changing more than one hook but you get the idea.

The Partridge Family is the Brady Bunch except they sing. Home Improvement is The Cosby Show except the family is white. Etc, etc, etc.

Marvel Now is DC’s new 52 except it’s Marvel…Now!

Look, redoing comic book universes is not new. Publishers have been doing it for decades on a smaller scale usually just rebooting a character. DC and Marvel did universe overhauls in the 80s and have been doing it ever since. DC with the Crisis series and Marvel with Secret Wars.

DC came out of Crisis with one earth and Marvel came out of Secret Wars with a black Spider-man, sort off.

DC’s New 52 was a brilliant move because they changed the hook on everything. Universe overhauls staring with a mini-series or one title were always implied to span the entire universe but DC went ahead and said it out loud and kept saying it so the age old universe overhaul was now something bold, new and that seemed to never have been done before.


Because of the way DC presented it. You call something “new” enough times and even if you have seen it a million times after a while you start believing the hype.

I have no dog in the fight between the New 52 and Marvel Now. Neither company is writing me a check these days so speaking as just a fan I hope the Marvel Now stuff is great.

A lot of people are going to think Marvel ripped off DC with this idea, they didn’t. The idea is not new. Rather or not Marvel was motivated by the success of the New 52 I’m sure that played a part in it but that is just par for the course in comics and in a few years it will happen again on some level.

Meantime, Dark Horse, Image and IDW are not thinking about “universe overhauls,” they are thinking about original content. Those publishers are doing some great work, or as we say in the hood, those publishers are off the hook.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Wants You Off Your Ass



Artwork © Jamie Chase
Artwork © Jamie Chase

Sequential Pulp Comics has released the title and credits page for the upcoming THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES graphic novel, coming your way this February from Sequential Pulp/Dark Horse Comics. Reserve your copy today!

Written by Martin Powell and illustrated by Jamie Chase, The Hound of the Baskervilles is based on the classic Sherlock Holmes mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is published by Sequential Pulp/Dark Horse Comics to be released on February 20, 2013 for the retail price of $12.99.

John Ostrander: Pros At Cons

Once again I didn’t make it to the NYCC but I’ve been to umpty-bum comic book conventions over the years, both as a fan and a professional, and I’ve learned one or two things along the way. Being a pro (especially if you’re a guest at the con) and being a fan are two very different experiences. I always regard being a guest at a con as a working weekend and it can, in fact, be more tiring for me than going as a fan.

My first job is giving any fan that comes up to my table a good experience. These are people who buy my books and that fact keeps me employed. I may be tired, I may be stressed, there may be any number of things bothering me but none of that matters. The Con promoter has paid my way with the expectations that my name may help draw more paying customers and that the paying customers will enjoy themselves well enough at the Con to want to come again next year. I’m part of that equation. It’s part of my job as a professional.

I also want to create more fans. I greet people who pass by, try to engage them in conversation, try to interest them in what I do. If I have something to sell, I have a quick spiel to give passers-by an idea of what’s there. Folks at neighboring tables soon learn to tune me out because it can get repetitive. My Mary has noted that I have developed a “Con persona” – an aspect of myself that I trot out at Cons. I call upon my theater and acting background to “play” a version of myself. It’s an authentic version of me but it’s meant to give those I meet a good experience of me, no matter how I may be feeling. That’s important. They deserve it. It also creates positive word of mouth.

That’s not to say I’m above goofing around. At one Star Wars Convention, there were lots of people in costume, some playing characters I created. That’s always interesting – meeting real life versions of characters that had existed only in my head. I have to admit I pay closer attention to those cosplaying Darth Talon. For those who don’t know the character, suffice it to say that it’s sexy female in a brief costume and lots of body paint. One such young lady was posing in front of the Dark Horse booth and she sure could wear that body paint. I sidled up to her during a pause in the snapshots, smiled, and told her, “I’m your Daddy.”

She gave me a look and said, “Excuse me?” I then hastily explained that I was one of the two creators of the character she was cosplaying. Then she smiled and said, “Oh, you’re so cute!” Which, translated, means, “Look at you! Old enough to be my grandfather and you’re flirting with me! That’s so cute!”

Yeah. Cute. Swell.

On the other hand, I can’t complain too much. I met the two big loves of my life – Kimbery Yale and Mary Mitchell – at conventions. Kim was at a big combined Doctor Who/Comic Convention in Chicago during one sweltering summer. I was trying to get the rights to do a Doctor Who live action play and was talking with the show’s producer, John Nathan Turner, and Terry Nation, one of the legendary writers for the show and creator of the Daleks. This young woman accompanied Mr. Nation. She had a slight accent and I assumed she was his secretary or some such. Turns out she was working security for Mr. Nation, she was local, and her name was Kim Yale.

The other woman was, of course, My Mary – Mary Mitchell. I’ve told the story elsewhere of how we met; she came down to Chicago and the Con to show her portfolio and chose to show it to me. The reason she chose me was that she saw me playing with some young, shy kids at my table, trying to draw them out, and she thought if I was kind to them I might be kind to her. I wasn’t kind; I was enthusiastic. Before she knew it, this madman had her portfolio and was dragging her around to all sorts of people insisting she get work. The funny thing is that she didn’t really know who I was when she approached me; she just knew I was nice to children.

I was and I am. Those kids may be readers some day and they might become my readers. Also, the parents who are towing them around the Convention floor are appreciative if you’re nice to their kids. I even discouraged some children from reading some of my work, like GrimJack, if I feel they’re a little young for the material. I’d prefer to steer them towards good comics for their age group even if I had nothing to do with them. Parents appreciate that and some have even written me thank you letters. All part of that good Con experience.

I’ve also learned to be careful naming favorites or least faves of my work before fans. I once, on a panel, named my least fave book in a given series, going so far as to state that, if I could, I’d buy all the copies of it and destroy them. I thought I was being clever. One fan in the front row had a wounded expression and said, “But that was my favorite issue!” So I don’t do that anymore.

I also try to be open. At one Con I was having a quick lunch from the food at the venue. I was sitting at a table by myself when a fan approached me. She and some other fans were sitting at another table and recognized me and wondered if I would care to join them. While I don’t mind eating by myself, I said “yes” and we all had a very good time.

I do have fun at Conventions and it gives me a chance go see old friends – mostly pros – and make some new ones. For me, however, they are working weekends. Writing is solitary work but there is that social aspect, the selling of yourself and your work, and for me being a professional means making sure the fans are happy.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Art: Jamie Chase

Sequential Pulp Comics has shared a grisly glimpse into the nightmarish inner world of Pellucidar, as conceived by artist Jamie Chase for the upcoming graphic novel of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic sci-fi adventure, AT THE EARTH’S CORE.

At The Earth’s Core is written by Martin Powell with artwork by Jamie Chase. This project is authorized by ERB, Inc., and published by Sequential Pulp/Dark Horse Comics.

You can learn more about Sequential Pulp Comics at www.SequentialPulpComics.com.
You can learn more about Dark Horse Comics at www.darkhorse.com.

Martha Thomases: Attack of the Con Brain!

People with cancer describe a phenomenon they call “chemo brain,” a side effect of the tumor-killing drugs that also destroys their short-term memory. I would like to coin another term.

Con brain!

Con brain is what happens to an otherwise mature adult after several days spent in the company of a hundred thousand comic and pop culture fans enclosed in a relatively small space for a comic book convention.

My experience started out simply enough. My friend, Vivek Tiwary, was on a panel at Jim Hanley’s Universe on “A Celebration of Pop Music Comics”, and he wanted me there, since I helped him to get the deal for his graphic novel with Dark Horse. The panel included friendly faces like David Gallaher and Jamal Igle. To my surprise, it also included Punk Magazine editor John Holmstrom, whom I’ve known for decades and who, in my opinion, is the most ripped-off person in comics and graphic design (a bold statement, I know, and too long an explanation for this column. Ask me later). Both Vivek and John gave me shout-outs, proving that I am the most important person in the rock’n’roll/comics intersection.

The next day, I went to the Javits Center early for a meeting. As it turned out, the hall was closed to anyone but exhibitors until later in the afternoon, but I know how to stride in with a group like I belong, so that wasn’t an issue. Everything went swimmingly. Alas, I made the mistake of leaving the hall, and had to use my hard-won knowledge of the building’s labyrinthine tunnels and hallways to get back in.

By the time the show actually opened, things quickly got so crowded and noisy that I couldn’t hear any of the people with whom I was walking, nor could I see where I was going. I went home, put a cat on my lap, and chilled.

On Friday, I had the most surrealistic experience of the show. I attend a bereavement support group that meets near 34th Street. When it was over, I walked to the center, going past Herald Square and Macy’s, Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, and large swaths of Manhattan with office buildings. And, interspersed with tourists, people with jobs on their lunch hour, and the normal New York horde, were people in costumes heading west. If anybody but me thought it was odd to see anime characters and guys with capes and masks walking down the street, they kept it to themselves.

From then on, all is a fog. I saw more people I like (including Walter Simonson, whom I might have hugged a little bit too long). I got hit in the face with more backpacks. I ruined more pictures by walking between the photographer and the subjects, because, I’m sorry, but just because you are in costume doesn’t mean you get to take up an entire aisle.

Still, I noticed a few things. It seemed to me that almost half the attendees were female, a huge change since I started going to these things. I don’t know if shows like The Big Bang Theory have reassured girls that they can handle geek culture, or if there are simply more of us out of the closet, but it’s a much better feeling from my first shows, when women would confide in me that they were followed into the bathroom by guys who couldn’t believe they were really girls at such an event.

Perhaps as a result, there were fewer artists in Artists Alley promoting characters with gigantic breasts and other impossible tricks of anatomy. I only remember one, whose super heroine had breasts started just under her clavicle and ended at her armpit. I mean, I like a little uplift, but, you know, ouch.

By the end of the show I sounded like every character in every action movie ever made, muttering “I’m getting too old for this shit.” I’m starting to feel that, as a short older person, I need to be lifted up on a chair and taken around the rooms carried by four shirtless body-builders, like a sultan from a Bob Hope sketch.

Still, I was moved by this story on the Bleeding Cool website, comparing four days at a comics convention to a religious experience. I envy those of you who get to experience this for the first time.

It’s a treasure. Don’t bury it.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman




APRIL 26-28TH, 2013

Pulp Ark 2013, the Official New Pulp Creators’ Conference/Convention in its third year announced today its Three Guests of Honor for the Third year of the convention to be held in Springdale, AR.

“Pulp,” Tommy Hancock, Pulp Ark Organizer and Partner in Pro Se Productions, the company sponsoring Pulp Ark, “is a marvelous, massively diverse field…a style that has transcended its origins in the early 20th Century in cheaply printed magazines and found its way into every medium available to modern fans.  Classic characters and stories are finding new life with readers and enthusiasts today and new tales centered around original characters are exploding onto the scene as well.  This year, Pulp Ark 2013 will celebrate the variety that is Pulp in many ways.   Our Three Guests of Honor most definitely reflect both the differences and the common denominators in Pulp, both classic and new, both originals of today and inspirations of yesteryear.   I am extremely proud to announce that Joe Devito, Martin Powell, and Paul Bishop will be the Guests of Honor for Pulp Ark 2013 this year!”

Martin Powell has been a professional writer since 1986. He received early critical praise with the Eisner Award nominated Sherlock Holmes/Count Dracula graphic novel, Scarlet in Gaslight, which has remained in print for more than twenty-five years.

Powell has since written hundreds of stories in numerous genres, including mystery, science fiction, horror, and humor, and has been published by Disney, Marvel, DC, Moonstone, Wild Cat Books, and Sequential Pulp/Dark Horse Comics, among others, working with such popular characters as Superman, Batman, Tarzan, Lee Falk’s The Phantom, Frankenstein, The Spider, Kolchak the Night Stalker, The Avenger, and more.

He also a prolific author of many acclaimed children’s books, and is the creator of The Halloween Legion. His The Tall Tale of Paul Bunyan won the coveted Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for Best Graphic Novel of 2010.

Martin lives in Saint Paul, MN.

Joe DeVito was born on March 16, 1957 in New York City. He graduated with honors from Parsons School of Design in 1981 and studied at the Art Students League in New York City.

Over the years DeVito has painted many of the most recognizable Pop Culture and Pulp icons, including King Kong, Tarzan, Doc Savage, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, MAD magazine’s Alfred E. Newman and various characters in World of Warcraft, with a decided emphasis in his illustration on dinosaurs, Action Adventure, SF and Fantasy. He has illustrated hundreds of book and magazine covers, painted several notable posters and numerous trading cards for the major comic book and gaming houses, and created concept and character design for the film and television industries.

In 3D, DeVito sculpted the official 100th Anniversary statue of Tarzan of the Apes for the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate, The Cooper Kong for the Merian C. Cooper Estate, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman for Chronicle Book’s Masterpiece Editions, several other notable Pop and Pulp characters. Additional sculpting work ranges from scientifically accurate dinosaurs, a multitude of collectibles for the Bradford Exchange in a variety of genres, to larger-than-life statues and the award trophy for the influential art annual SPECTRUM.

An avid writer, Joe is also the co-author (with Brad Strickland) of two novels, which he illustrated as well. The first, KONG: King of Skull Island (DH Press) was published in  2004. The second book, Merian C. Cooper’s KING KONG, was published by St. Martin’s Griffin, in 2005. He has also contributed many essays and articles to such collected works as Kong Unbound: The Cultural Impact, Pop Mythos, and Scientific Plausibility of a Cinematic Legend and Do Androids Artists Paint In Oils When They Dream?in Pixel or Paint: The Digital Divide In Illustration Art.

2012 saw the release of Kindle and iBook versions of KONG: King of Skull Island that were accompanied by Part 1 of a cutting edge app version of the book. With the property in full development as a motion picture, other plans include the release of Part 2 of the interactive Kong book app, the beginning of a KONG: King of Skull Island YA series and Kong collectibles for the Cooper Estate.

Presently DeVito is painting covers for The All NewWild Adventures of Doc Savage (written by Will Murray), while also finishing the screenplay and developing imagery for his newest creation, a faction world of truly epic proportions tentatively titled The Primordials.

FB: Joe DeVito-DeVito Artworks

Paul Bishop is a thirty-five year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department whose career included a three year tour as an interrogator with his department’s Anti-Terrorist Division and over twenty-five years’ experience in the investigation of sex crimes. For the past eight years, his various Special Assaults Units have consistently produced the highest number of detective initiated arrests and highest crime clearance rate in the city. Twice honored as Detective of the Year, Paul also received the Quality and Productivity Commission Award from the City of Los Angeles.

As a nationally recognized interrogator, Paul co-starred with his professional partner, bestselling author and prosecutor, Mary Hanlon Stone, as the regular interrogators and driving force behind the ABC reality show Take The Money And Run from producer Jerry Bruckheimer.  Based on his expertise in the area of deception detection, Paul continues to work privately conducting interview and interrogation seminars for law enforcement agencies, military entities, and human resource organizations.

Paul has had twelve novels published, including Hot Pursuit, Deep Water, Penalty Shot, Suspicious Minds, the short story collection Running Wylde, and five novels in his L.A.P.D. Detective Fey Croaker series – Croaker: Kill Me Again, Croaker: Grave Sins, Croaker: Tequila Mockingbird, Croaker: Chalk Whispers, and Croaker: Pattern of Behavior.  All his novels have recently been released in e-book format. 

Paul has also written feature film scripts and numerous episodic scripts for television, including such shows as Diagnosis: Murder, LA Dragnet, The New Detectives, and Navy Seals: The Untold Stories

Paul is currently writing and editing the monthly Fight Card series, 25,000 word e-novels, designed to be read in one or two sittings, inspired by the fight pulps of the ’30s and ’40s – such as Fight Stories Magazine – and Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted boxing tales featuring Sailor Steve Costigan.  His latest entry, Fight Card: Swamp Walloper (written as Jack Tunney) will premiere at the 2013 Pulp Ark convention.   He can be found blogging at www.bishsbeat.blogspot.com  and followed via twitter@bishsbeat.  A full list of his novels  is available at http://tinyurl.com/7x8xo5k

“These three,” Hancock stated, “represent a huge variety within Pulp today, but they all also show the commonalities of what Pulp is.  And as far as mediums, everything from books to comics to television to sculpture to painting and more is represented by these fantastic Guests.   It’s a privilege for Pulp Ark to have them as its centerpiece in 2013.”

Pulp Ark is a Writer’s Conference/Convention focused on ‘Pulp’ fiction.  Although defined narrowly by many, Pulp Ark promotes Pulp Fiction as multi genre multi medium storytelling that typically involves action, adventure, larger than life heroes and villains, and a strong focus on both plot and characterization.  “Pulp,” Hancock said, “began as a medium in which many great writers told a lot of wonderful stories and readers could pick ’em up a 100 or more pages at a time for a dime.  Although it’s no longer that necessarily, the sensibilities of Pulp storytelling, the style, the methodology, all the stuff fans have remembered and enjoyed for over 80 years about those kinds of tales, all of that is still around and available from all sorts of authors, artists, performers and companies.  That is what Pulp Ark is all about.”

Pulp Ark 2013 will be held in Springdale, Arkansas April 26-28, 2013 at the Holiday Inn Springdale Hotel and Convention Center in Springdale, Arkansas, 1500 South 48th Street, phone number- 1-479-751-8300.  For a peek at the venue, click HERE!

SPECIAL PRICES UNTIL JANUARY 1ST, 2013!  Any and all who plan to attend Pulp Ark 2013 and want to get the Discounted Room Rate MUST reserve a room or rooms by January 1st, 2013 to take advantage of the Special Pulp Ark rate of $84.00 a night.  To reserver your room online, please click HERE!  

PULP ARK 2013-Springdale, Arkansas!  For further information, go to www.prosepulp.com or contact Hancock at 870-834-4022 and/or proseproductions@earthlink.net.  Expect more Pulp Ark Announcements VERY SOON!


Dark Horse Comics has released their pulpy offerings coming in January 2013. Comic book shops and bookstores are pre-ordering these titles now to be in store in January. If you want your local shop to carry these titles, please let them know now.

Joe Gill (W), Sam J. Glanzman (P/I), Bill Montes (P), and Ernie Bache (I)

A classic run of Tarzan comics, reprinted for the first time! In the 1960s, believing Tarzan to have fallen into the public domain, Charlton Comics enlisted Joe Gill (Flash Gordon, House of Mystery) and Sam Glanzman (Hercules, Our Army at War) to create a new comics version of the Lord of the Jungle. Only four issues were produced before Charlton was forced to end the series, and much of the original print runs were destroyed. Collects Chalton’s Jungle Tales of Tarzan #1–#4. Includes never-before-seen Tarzan comic strips by Glanzman and historical essays by Roger Broughton!

112 pages, $29.99 (limited edition, signed, $59.99), in stores on March 20.

Francesco Francavilla (W/A/Cover)

Black Beetle’s investigation of two local mob bosses is interrupted when a mysterious explosion murders them and a pub full of gangsters–taking out most of Colt City’s organized crime in one fell swoop. Who could pull off such a coup, and what danger might that murderous bomber do to Colt City and Black Beetle?

32 pages, $3.99, in stores on Jan. 16.

Jim Owsley (Christopher Priest) (W), John Buscema (P), Ernie Chan (P/I), Bob Camp (I), George Roussos (C), and Steven Mellor (C)

Conan and his companions pursue a grand treasure through lands beset by civil war, murderous cults, and demonic horrors. And while the mighty Cimmerian will–and does!–spit in the very face of death itself, he and his comrades discover that not all treasures are of gold and precious gems. Collects Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian #174–#181 and Conan the Barbarian Annual #10.

232 pages, $18.99, in stores on March 20.

Brian Wood (W), Declan Shalvey (A), Dave Stewart (C), and Massimo Carnevale (Cover)

Unable to obtain a cure for the deadly illness afflicting Belit and the crew of the Tigress, Conan feels the fear of loss for the first time. With no hope and a broken heart, the Cimmerian is horrified at how appealing he finds Belit’s order to abandon the ship and his queen! The haunting conclusion of “The Death”!

32 pages, $3.50, in stores on Jan. 16.

Dick Wood (W), Lev Gleason (W), Rudy Palais (A), Charles Biro (A), Bob Q. Siegel (A), Richard “Dick” Briefer (A), R. W. Hall (A), Art Gates (A), Art Mann (A), and Alan Mandel (A)

Crime Does Not Pay–the true-crime comic that enjoyed massive circulation throughout the forties and fifties–was a hit with readers. Issues #34-#37 of this visceral, provocative series are now collected into one fine, head-walloping hardcover.

264 pages, $49.99, in stores on March 13.

Steve Niles (W), Christopher Mitten (A), Michelle Madsen (C), and Justin Erickson (Cover)

Cal has always wanted the Feds to focus on vampires, and now they are, one in particular–Eben Olemaun, now on a quest to bring mankind to its knees. But the FBI is up to more than tracking down Eben. Will Cal and Alice figure it out before it kills them both?

32 pages, $3.99, in stores on Jan. 30.

NUMBER 13 #2
Robert Love (W/A/Cover), David Walker (W), Dana Shukartsi (I), and Brennan Wagner (C)

Number 13 struggles to regain his memory and the purpose of his existence, while the manipulative Mother Goose seeks to control his power. She’s not prepared for the forces of the Professor, Number 13’s sinister creator. No one is safe in the battle to control Number 13–a battle that will determine the fate of a future world.

32 pages, $3.99, in stores on Jan. 23.

Peter Lenkov (W), Jeremy Barlow (W), Tony Parker (A), Michelle Madsen (C), and Dave Wilkins (Cover)

For newly recruited R.I.P.D. officer Roy Pulsipher and his senior Puritan partner Crispin Mather, the train that awaits them is their only hope of reaching the City and saving Creation, but climbing aboard means also aligning with a dark enemy and renouncing their very beliefs . . . forcing a choice that could doom their souls forever! Prequel to the upcoming feature film starring Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges!

32 pages, $3.50, in stores on Jan. 30.

Peter Lenkov (W), Lucas Marangon (P), Randy Emberlin (I), Dave Nestelle (C), and Dave Wilkins (Cover)

Welcome to the Rest In Peace Department–the devoted, yet dead, officers of divine law enforcement. Nick Cruz was gunned down in the line of duty at the height of his personal and professional life. Now he’s traded a hundred years of service to the R.I.P.D. in exchange for a shot at solving his own murder. Collects the original four-issue miniseries.

104 pages, $12.99, in stores on March 20.

For a full listing of Dark Horse’s January Releases, visit them at www.darkhorse.com.

Scott Allie, Dark Horse Editor-In-Chief

Scott Allie becomes Dark Horse Comics Editor-In-Chief

Scott Allie, Dark Horse Editor-In-ChiefDark Horse Comics has announced that Scott Allie has been promoted to editor in chief. Allie, who celebrated his eighteenth year with the company last month, made his mark at Dark Horse quickly when he began editing Mike Mignola’s [[[Hellboy]]] only a month after joining the Editorial department. Since that time, he has gone on to both write and edit some of the company’s top-selling books, including [[[Buffy the Vampire Slayer]]] and cult favorites like The Goon, and he continues to collaborate with Mignola, including co-writing the upcoming series B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Abyss of Time.

He has shepherded multiple projects with names outside the comics industry, such as Lance Henriksen with [[[To Hell You Ride]]] and Gerard Way with The Umbrella Academy. Along with Dark Horse’s director of public relations, Jeremy Atkins, and recently appointed VP of Marketing, Matt Parkinson, Allie helped to develop and edit the company’s first foray into digital publishing with the critically acclaimed anthology MySpace Dark Horse Presents. Most recently, he engineered a three-month publishing initiative that showcases some of the company’s best horror titles and introduces new miniseries by top-tier talent.

“I’ve worked with Scott, day in and day out, for more than fifteen years now. In all that time he’s talked me off any number to cliffs, kept me going, kept me focused and organized (as much as anyone could), and, quite simply, made it possible for me to produce the best work of my career,” said Mike Mignola. “He’s been everything I could ever want in an editor and I cannot imagine a better choice at Dark Horse for editor in chief. Congratulations, Scott—you more than deserve it.”

“I’m delighted and relieved to hear that my great collaborator Scott Allie has been made editor in chief, because, to be perfectly honest, I thought he already was,” said Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon.

“I’m very excited about this promotion for Scott. The position has been his goal for some time now and he’s worked very hard to achieve it,” said Dark Horse’s president and founder, Mike Richardson. “It has been very rewarding to watch Scott’s evolution as an editor over his eighteen years with the company and I look forward to working with him in his new role to make Dark Horse the best comics company in the world.”

“The first Dark Horse book I ever picked up was the DHP fifth-anniversary issue with the first chapter of Sin City. Now I’ve spent most of my adult life here, and every day it still feels new,” said Scott Allie. “I’m grateful to be at the core of what Mike Richardson’s created, working with him and Randy Stradley and an incredible list of people I admire inside and outside Dark Horse.”

Emily S. Whitten, In Conversation with Dean Haspiel

Dean Haspiel strikes me as a creator who’s constantly growing. He’s an artist, he’s a writer, he’s won an Emmy for TV design work, and in the last year he’s started up a new project, Trip City, a “Brooklyn-filtered literary arts salon” with an eclectic mix of comics, stories, realism, sci-fi, and more. Now, don’t get me wrong – I obviously love superhero comics, and the people who create them, but I also love creators who can and do cross genres and try new things. Dean is clearly one of these.

While Dean is perhaps best known for his work with Harvey Pekar (e. g. American Splendor and The Quitter) and for his “last romantic anti-hero” Billy Dogma, his current project that’s caught my attention is Trip City, via the sample booklet Dean shared with me at Baltimore Comic Con. While there’s no denying I am hooked on the Internet and social media, I am admittedly also one of those people who still generally prefers reading a paper book when it comes to fiction and creative works; which means that having a paper selection of Trip City’s offerings to lure me to the content on the web is a smooth (and effective) move.

The booklet is a combination of short stories and comics from a variety of creators, and runs the gamut from tales of relationship heartbreak or zombie science to a whimsical “missed connection” ad. It’s definitely a “something for everyone” kind of collection, and while not every selection may strike every reader’s fancy, they’re all quality work (and I, personally, enjoyed them). The best part, of course, is that if you want to read more, you can easily hop over to the site, which hosts a large and varied collection of content, as well as a regular podcast [http://welcometotripcity.com/category/podcast/]. I’m definitely going to spend some time over there, I can tell.

Another cool thing about Dean is that he’s a natural storyteller and born conversationalist. This made for a fun interview when I chatted with him at Baltimore Comic Con. Read on to hear what he had to say!

Emily: Walt Simonson’s work on Thor was just honored at the Harvey Awards. I know you’ve worked with Walt. Tell me about working with him; and did you have some work in the award-winning collection?

Dean: In 1985, I was a senior in high school, at what was Music and Art, which got married to Art and Design and became LaGuardia High School in Manhattan; so I was in the first graduating class of LaGuardia High School. I had befriended Larry O’Neil, Denny O’Neil’s son, who was in school with me, and he would get wind from his father of when some of the local artists might need assistance. Larry went on to become a filmmaker; but at one point during our initial friendship he wanted to be a cartoonist, and he got a gig working for Howard Chaykin on American Flagg! Howard Chaykin shared a studio called Upstart Studios with Walter Simonson. At one point Frank Miller was in that studio, and Jim Starlin…it was this amazing studio. The studio at the time was Howard, Walter and Jim Sherman.

Down the hall, Bill Sienkiewicz set up a studio with Denys Cowan, and Michael Davis (fellow ComicMix columnist!), who was part of creating Milestone Media. Bill Sienkiewicz was looking for an assistant, and I got that gig. So I would work with Bill, and sometimes he wouldn’t be there but I’d come in anyway; so then I’d work in Upstart with those guys, until eventually I became a second assistant for Howard Chaykin. Larry and I both worked on his monthly book. While there, we got friendly with Walter, who would sometimes use me as an assistant as well, and if you know his run on Thor, at one point, Thor becomes a frog; which was so absurd that Walt was a little worried that it wouldn’t fly – but it totally flew. I remember that distinctly because I remember working on some of those stories. My artwork of that time would be more prevalent in Chaykin’s American Flagg!, because I actually drew the backgrounds with Larry on that book; but I did work with Walter.

The way Walter worked (and this was before Photoshop) was that he would do these amazing thumbnail layouts that he always wanted to try to keep the energy of, because when you initially draw something, that’s almost like the best version of that art; because after that you start to finesse it, and sometimes you can cripple it by overdrawing or over-rendering it, or tightening it up too much. And Walter’s style has a loosey-goosey kind of line and he does a beautiful thing with a crow quill pen and brush; so part of my job as his assistant was to take his thumbnail layouts, and use this machine called an Artograph to blow them up onto boards that he would then fully pencil or ink.

Knowing what he was trying to capture was actually harder to work on because you’re trying to be in his arm and his mind, and take his scribbles, and enlarge them onto the projector-sized paper; and I didn’t have the faculty for that. Not only was I not as good an artist as I hope I am today, but also you’re trying to draw like someone else, which is hard. And then of course he would mostly erase it and go on and do his own version. But it was very good training; and also I would fill in the blacks and erase pages and things like that.

But: yes, I did work on some of those famous Thors, and Walt is like a mentor to me. Because another thing that happens, when you work with guys like this for a year, is that it’s the best kind of school. It’s not like, “here’s how you draw a panel, or a page, or rule it” – you do it by example. You do it because you’re around people and you’re getting that energy, and you learn – that’s the only way really to learn these things. He and Howard Chaykin have been mentors to me since 1985. And he’s pulled pranks on me and stuff like that.

Emily: Oh, give us an example!

Dean: Here’s a famous prank. I kind of made a joke at the Harveys about the fact that some of the stuff I learned in their studio was about Warren Zevon and Van Morrison and the writing of Jim Thompson; and they’re the ones who introduced me to Akira, by Katsuhiro Otomo. Because at the time I was like, “It’s 1985, I’m into hip hop; I’m into Prince, I’m listening to what kids listen to.” And in the studio they had this record player, and they were always playing Van Morrison and Warren Zevon and this kind of rockabilly music, and I was like, “I don’t want to listen to this stuff, whatever.” At the time, okay? Now I’m older, I can appreciate it. So they allowed me and Larry to play one record each, and I was way into Prince, so I brought in a 45 of “Little Red Corvette.” So once in awhile they’d allow us to play our song, to be democratic.

One day while working with Howard and Larry on American Flagg!, Howard encourages me, “Hey Dean, why don’t you play that song you like? Play your Prince song.” So I put it on, and it starts playing, and I go back to my seat and I’m drawing. Suddenly I hear Walter’s chair slam against the floor, and he gets up, and he’s huffing and puffing. He’s really upset; and he’s like, “I fucking hate this song, this is bullshit.” And I’m thinking, “Oh my God, what’s happening?? This was sanctioned, why am I not allowed to play it?” And then he goes over to the record player, and I look up at him, and I see this raging – he looked like a monster; and if you know Walt Simonson, he’s the nicest guy in comics ever. I didn’t know who this was, and I got so scared, I turned away. I hear him yelling again about how he hates the song, and he takes the record needle, and he scratches it across the entire song, and I’m just hearing this ripping sound, and I actually start to get sick, and he takes it in his hands, and crumples the vinyl, and I’m thinking, “I’m dead,” or it’s not happening; like I go into shock.

And Walt says, “Dean, I have something for you.” And I’m thinking, “I don’t want anything!” I don’t know what’s going to happen next. And he brings over his portfolio, and he pulls out a 12-inch version of “Little Red Corvette”! And at one point I’d looked at Larry O’Neil and Howard Chaykin, and their faces were pressed against their art tables, because they were trying to stifle laughter, but I didn’t know that at the time. I thought they were afraid and cowering as well. And then everyone starts laughing; and I’m having heart palpitations – I want to vomit; but the thing that was cool was that it made me feel like I was part of the gang. You pull a prank on someone like that, and it means they’re okay, they’ve been green lit in a way…But the collector in me is a little pissed off that that 45 got destroyed!

Emily: Hah! I bet. Now, you’ve also worked with Harvey Pekar; tell me about that.

Dean: It took me awhile to finally do something with him. I would send him samples, and I think he thought I was probably too mainstream, because he wouldn’t react. I actually wrote and drew a two-page comic about it, called The American Dilemma, which I published. It was basically about me sending him my artwork, and feeling like by the fact that he didn’t respond, I was going through a scenario of paranoia about how he was rejecting me; so I published that, to show I could create an auto-biographical story about me and my feelings. It was with other comics that are auto-bio, which I did with Josh Neufeld. It was called Keyhole, and again: nothing. So now I’m publishing things about him and he’s not responding to that either; and I was kind of getting a little pissed off, to be frank.

Then a couple of years later I get a phone call from a guy who I thought was pretending to be Harvey Pekar and pulling a prank on me (because now I’ve had pranks in my life thanks to Walt Simonson!). So he says, “Hey, do you want to do a one-page comic?” And I’m like, “Is this really Harvey Pekar?” I’m starting to question him and who he is. And he says, “Come on man, don’t you want to make some bread?” And I’m like, “Now he’s lying; this guy is a bad Pekar; talking in his lingo and stuff.” And finally he tells me to fuck off and hangs up the phone. And I’m thinking, “How is that a funny prank, if it ends like that? Where’s the prank part?” So I start realizing, “Holy crap, that was probably Harvey Pekar.” And this was before caller ID. So I called up Josh Neufeld, and first of all I thought he’d been the caller, but he says, “No man, what are you talking about?” and then I tell him what happened, and he’s like, “That was Harvey!” So I said, “…can I please get his phone number, and I’ll call him back?”

I call him back, get him on the phone and apologize, and he says to me, “What can I do to prove to you that I’m really me?” And I say, “Can you give me that job that you’re offering?” And he did, and it started this relationship. At one point, I had only done one- or five-page stories with him, and then I’d been an assistant to a film producer named Ted Hope, and I knew Ted was a comics fan, because I’d see a lot of his comics and I would file his comics at times. Ted had a couple of scripts, and one of them was a defunct American Splendor script. So it occurred to me; I’ve worked with Harvey; it would be great to make an American Splendor movie; and I suggested it to Ted, who said, “I would love to try to do that.” So I said “I’ll talk to Harvey and hook you guys up to have a phone conversation.” They did, and a year-and-a-half later, it won the Best Picture at the Sundance Film Festival.

Because of that, Harvey wanted to thank me by doing something more substantial together, and that’s where The Quitter arrived. I’d pitched it to Vertigo; they wanted to start branching out and doing more indie stuff and autobiographical. So we did The Quitter together; and then I brought American Splendor over, because it had been at Dark Horse for awhile, but it wasn’t doing well, or they couldn’t produce or market it right. It was always a hard comic to sell anyway; it’s a particular kind of franchise. It’s not superheroes, it’s about a grumpy guy writing about the mundane things in life; like how much of a fan base can you have? You can hear about it, but does that mean you went and bought it? It’s a Catch-22. So I got two miniseries’ at Vertigo of American Splendor, that became collections, and we did a couple of other little things, and then unfortunately he passed away. He was a great guy to work with. As much as he had his curmudgeonly persona, he was a sweetheart; a mensch. He always looked out for his artists, and he was just a great guy.

Emily: You’ve done a lot of really cool things. What are you working on now?

Dean: Recently I drew Godzilla Legends #5 for IDW. I just drew a Mars Attacks Christmas story for the Mars Attacks holiday special, coming out in October; I wrote and drew a 12-page story for that, which takes place in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I’m doing a couple of little things right now, and I’m also working on the second season of The Five-Dimensional Adventures of Dirk Davies, a webcomic with Ben McCool over at Shifty Look. Namco Bandai is working with different houses to produce these comics at Shifty Look. We worked with Cryptozoic; they also produced The Lookouts which Ben just did, which is a new comic.

I’ve been doing Trip City, where I’ve been curating and creating content; it’s a Brooklyn-filtered literary arts salon online. We also have these paper curated anthologies just to give people a taste of what is online. It’s prose, some comics, multimedia and a bunch of other stuff. I have other things I want to flex, other things I want to do; not just draw comics. I was recently at Yaddo, which is a writers’/artists’ retreat in Saratoga Springs, NY, where I completed a feature-length screenplay, the first part of a novel, and a new comic book idea in 24 days.

I’ve been itching to do this stuff, and I had it in the back of my mind, so I went into the woods in a cabin, and did this and walked the dog. It’s the best thing – you should try it! I recommend it to anyone who can afford to do a retreat like that. I just did a print version of The Last Romantic Antihero, which is also up at Trip City; but believe it or not, even if you give it away online, some people will only read it if you put it in their hand or create a different kind of delivery system. So I’m testing the waters with that.

Emily: What do you think today are the most effective ways to reach people with new material?

Dean: I think using the DIY tools that have been given to us, like Twitter and Facebook, is good. We’re all still figuring out how to navigate that, and when is it too much, or not enough – how and when to use it. Figure out a destination point where you put your stuff up, where you can link to something that’s all yours. Also, be communal. You can’t just be me-me-me-me; because after awhile, people get bored of that and who cares? So share what you like, show up to the party. Be informed, be aware. Luckily, I like a lot of other things much more than what I do. I love other people’s stuff, and promote that; and I don’t waste my time hating stuff. I hate stuff; but I’m not going to publish and promote that I hate something. That’s a waste of time. I sometimes feel like the Internet is made for hate, and I’m like, no, no, no; use it for good. So that’s what I promote.

Emily: There are always people looking to break in, or for tips on what to do in the industry to get noticed. Things have changed a lot from year-to-year. What would you tell people today?

Dean: Use the Internet. If you’re not Alan Moore… Listen, no one’s standing in line knocking on my door; I’ve got to let people know what I’m doing. What’s great about putting even ten images up with your name and a contact is that it works as a 24-7, 365 resume. It’s working for you while you sleep. You may get someone knocking on your door from that. And as important as it is to have something up that shows off your wares, also show up to the party and be part of the community. Find your people. You’re not going to love everybody, you’re not going to like everybody, and not everybody’s going to like you; but find your people, truck with your gang, and luckily you can do it virtually. You can do it from your basement or home.

Emily: I’ve heard some artists say DeviantArt is a good place to showcase work; if you don’t have your own website, do you think that’s an effective place? What do you think is helpful?

Dean: This will show my age a little bit. I don’t have a DeviantArt and I don’t have a Tumblr; and I hear about Tumblr and DeviantArt all the time. If I’m hearing about it – and I hear some of my favorite artists do get a lot of work through their DeviantArt pages – then it sounds like it’s probably a good idea to have that. You don’t have to have your own website. You’re part of a community when you’re on DeviantArt and Tumblr, as with Facebook and Twitter. You can curate who you know, and keep a public presence so people can stumble upon you. The key, though, is to respond to other people’s work; comment; spark a dialogue. Yes, I understand that it’s another job sometimes; but if you’re trying to engender work and get people to know you, you’ve got to get to know other people. That’s the only way it works.

Emily: A sentiment I totally agree with. Thanks, Dean, for sharing some amazing stories and your outlook with us!

Everyone, go check out Dean’s work and the new content over at Trip City. And until next time, readers: Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis Does Ralph Ellison

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Plays With Icons


Review: Aces Weekly – Today’s Newest Future

I like anthology comics. For one thing, that’s how the comic book medium started – single-character comics didn’t really start until about six years down the road. For another, the anthology format reinvented comics with 2000AD back in the mid-1970s. Today, the anthology format is all but gone, with the notable – and highly laudable – exception of Dark Horse Presents, Creator-Owned Comics and a handful of others.

I like electronic publishing in general and electronic comics publishing in specific. I am a well-known advocate of the movement, at least in my own mind. Well before e-comics became real, I had a debate with my pal and oft-time co-conspirator Mark Wheatley, one of the most innovative and hardest-working people in the known universe. Mark advocated the potential of e-comics expanding the medium by incorporating effects that would move the medium past the boundaries imposed by print. Whereas I agreed with that position, I maintained that such additions move comic books into… something else. Not bad, not good – that depends on content. But nonetheless… something else.

Since then we’ve had various and sundry incursions into the multimedia comics world, the best known being “motion comics.” Interesting, but short of scintillating. But this is a nascent form in need of development, innovation and coddling.

Then my pal David Lloyd (Kickback, Night Raven, Doctor Who, V For Vendetta, Espers, Hellblazer, Wasteland … jeez, this guy has done a lot and, yeah, I’ve got a lot of pals who make great comics; what of it?) decided to combine the anthology concept of the past with the computer magic of an hour-and-a-half ago.

And by “an hour-and-a-half ago,” I mean that almost literally. His new title, Aces Weekly, debuted yesterday.

You’ve probably read about it in all sorts of places. I was lucky enough to get a head’s-up during last month’s Baltimore Comic-Con; Mark Wheatley showed me the first hundred pages of “Return Of The Human,” the series he’s doing with may pal (yeah, yeah) J.C. Vaughn. And I was left panting.

In addition to David, Mark and J.C., Aces Weekly offers us the talent of (take a deep breath) Kyle Baker, David Hitchcock, Herb Trimpe, David Leach, Billy Tucci, Bill Sienkiewicz, Marc Hempel, James Hudnall, Steve Bissette, Val Mayerick, Henry Flint, Dan Christensen, Dave Hine, Colleen Doran, and a lot of others of similar high caliber. No, not all are in the first issue: it’s a weekly, and as one story ends another begins, and the talent recovers.

Aces Weekly costs $9.99 per seven-issue subscription – the anthology is published in seven issue “volumes,” which is a clever idea. It’s online-only, all the material is original, and once you buy it you can read it wherever and whenever you have web access. It’s all creator-owned and, evidently, creators aren’t overly burdened by control-freak editors like me.

Check it out at www.acesweekly.co.uk. No matter how cynical you may be, have your credit card ready.

Oh, yeah. It says up there in the headline “review,” so here’s my review:

I’m jealous as hell.