Tagged: Jim Shooter

Ed Catto: It’s a Small World, After All

I like crowds. I like big noisy events. State fairs? Love ‘em. Black Friday shopping days? I’m there. Live music with tiny crowded dance floors? Sounds good to me. San Diego Comic Con? Yeah, baby. Ditto The New York Comic Con.

But on the other hand, when I’m thinking about Geek Culture and comic conventions, I find that I also enjoy small comic conventions. There’s a certain charm, an aura of creativity and a sense of community that embraces you in a unique way that you won’t find at NYC’s Javits Center.

I had to cancel out of this past weekend’s WonderCon in Anaheim, California. That was a drag as I was looking forward to being a panelist on Rik Offenberger’s Marketing/PR panel. But I haven’t been on a convention hiatus; lately, I have been busy finding and attending them. For consecutive weekends, I attended conventions in two Central New York – The Liverpool Comic Show and The Ithacon. Both were ‘small’ cons, but they both had a lot of charm.

Vanguard’s J. David Spurlock was in rare form at the Liverpool Comic Show, but isn’t he always? And after drooling over a couple of the books he publishes, The Frazetta Sketchbook and Wally Wood: Strange Worlds of Science Fiction, I broke down and snagged them both. He also shared a Wally Wood story with my wife Kathe and I. Who knew Wally Wood lived in the Syracuse area for part of his creative life?

In fact, Kathe was charmed by Jack Robinson, who was friends with Wood. Robinson was exhibiting right next to Vanguard. He’s a strong artist in his own right, and Kathe bought a couple of Bettie Page prints from him.

It was nice to see ComiXology’s Chip Mosher make an appearance at the local show. Catching up with him was filled with a lot of smiles and laughs, as always.

Ithacon hosted some impressive guests. But they always have. Over the years, fans have had the pleasure of meeting so many fantastic creators at this show: Walt Simonson, Murphy Anderson, Frank Miller, John Byrne, Al Milgrom, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman and so many more.

Tom Peyer’s always been a favorite creator and I was so glad he was at Ithacon this year. I appreciate the unique way he mashes up his strong devotion to Silver Age comics with his subversively hilarious wit. His current comic, Aftershock’s Captain Kid is a winner and if you’re not reading it, you’re missing out.

There was another amazing part of Ithacon. Jim Shooter and Roger Stern, longtime pros and longtime pals, hosted a unique panel, where they reminisced about the days when Shooter first came to Marvel, joining Stern who was already on staff. It was a wildly entertaining hour full of great stories and behind the scene insights, all wrapped up in good natured fun. Fans deep into Bronze Age history loved this, but, due to the charisma of these two gents, even casual fans enjoyed it. The room was SRO the whole time.

It’s always cool to see the local talent. Joe Orsak, who created the long-running Captain ‘Cuse, (a local Sunday newspaper superhero who fought villains each week, like his foe Lake Effect), was at the Powercon. The always enthusiastic Jim Brenneman, from nearby Marcellus, also displayed his upbeat and friendly artwork at Ithacon.

Pulp Nouveau Comix is a great comic shop in downtown Canandaigua, NY, and the owner, Mark, was at the Liverpool show. I love his store and it has that Joe Dirt/mullet strategy: “All Business Up Front, Party in the Back.” The back room of this “Curiosity Shoppe”-style store is filled with fantastic treasures.

And like all comic conventions, there were quite a few treasures to be found including:

  • Hulk vs. Superman by Roger Stern and Steve Rude. I have my copy of this prestige format comic/graphic novel ‘around here somewhere’ but I was so happy to find this at Ithacon. You see, my nephew Alexander recently asked, “Who’s stronger, Superman or the Hulk?” And when I send this to him, he’ll see!
  • Somerset Holmes: The Graphic Novel by Bruce Jones, April Campbell and Brent Anderson. What a wonderful adventure this one is. I enjoyed the comics long ago, and the story-behind-the-story is one of those cautionary Hollywood tales that has always stuck with me.
  • The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. I discovered the 1946 New York City Board of Education version of this publication, where they used illustrations from students of NYC’s famous School of Industrial Arts. So this book has what I believe to be Alex Toth’s and Joe Orlando’s first professionally published illustrations!

Many of you know that I’m hard at work on this summer’s Syracuse Salt City Comic-Con. It’s a midsize show that will be punching above its weight class. We’re planning some very cool things and have an amazing guest roster. More on this in the months to come, but I think come June, I might have to walk back “It’s a Small World After All.” I might be saying “Bigger is Better.”

 

 

 

 

Ed Catto: Valiant Efforts

wizard7The creative process has two cruel extremes. On the one hand, you might be involved with something big and exciting, like a Hollywood movie or a Broadway show, but everyone involved has to work closely with so many other people. Your creative vision, even for the director, may seem like an endless battle of compromises.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re creating something where there are no collaborators to work with, like a page of an artist’s sketchbook, you don’t have those concerns. You can do whatever you want. Of course, there won’t be any marketing budget or distribution plan in place. It’s likely that not as many people will be exposed to your work.

When I was in marketing for Oreo cookies, I thought I’d be more like the creative visionary moving the brand forward, but the job actually had much more in common with the Hollywood or Broadway creative process.

eternal-warrior39-coverAs a brand manager on Oreo cookies, the crown jewel of Nabisco, it seemed that everyone at all levels was very involved in every marketing effort. Advertising, promotions, line extensions – so many different layers of management were involved. Collaboration was the name of the game. A marketer with an entrepreneurial streak often had to subjugate those urges in lieu of corporate diplomacy for the greater good.

But a few times I got the opportunity to express my creative vision practically unencumbered.

There was a big Disneyland tie-in partnership I was leading. There were many parts to this program, including a grand prize of trip to Disneyland and a commercial with Keri Russell. In addition, Disney Adventures Magazine offered Oreo six ad pages. We didn’t have any current print ads then, and the ad agency wasn’t interested in creating new creative. But as Disney Adventures Magazine was very comics focused, you know I had an idea or two for these ads.

bs14I reached out to some of my new friends at that time – the then-fledging publisher Valiant Comics. They were the new kids on the block, and for early 90s fandom, they were white-hot for collectors (and speculators). I worked with Seymour Miles and Don Perlin to develop comic pages to promote Oreo. We featured a family called The Dunkin’s who would dunk their Oreos into milk. It was great fun and very well received.

For me, one fantastic side effect of this program was getting to know the entrepreneurial folks of Valiant Comics. It was a place of excitement and optimism, and as a lifelong comics fan, it was a treat to have a ringside seat during this publisher’s growth spurt.

There’s been a lot written about those early days, but for me it was all very positive. I got to know Jim Shooter, Jim Massarsky and Fred Pierce.

During that time, longtime comics artist Don Perlin was enjoying a wonderful second act. All of sudden, with comics like Bloodshot debuting, he was a sought-after artist at conventions and fans would wait in long lines for his autograph. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer fella.

armaleNow it’s years later, and Valiant has been reborn as a new Valiant. It’s run by people with a big vision and big hearts. And Fred Pierce is back again for his second tour of duty as Valiant’s publisher.

Valiant re-debuted almost five years ago, and soon their output will surpass the original. I thought it was time to sit down with them and find out just exactly what they’re trying to do, why they are working so hard, and what to expect in the future.

Next week, I’ll let you know what they said. And in the meantime, treat yourself to an Oreo or two.

Mike Gold: A Simple Twist Of Fate

Doctor Fate 1

For the past several weeks my friend and comrade Paul Levitz has taken to the so-called social media to promote his brand-new comic book, Doctor Fate.

Of course, this is his right and more power to him. But I don’t recall Paul doing so much promotion for his work during a writing career that goes back to when he was a small child. Now that he’s well into being a small adult, I’m taking this effort as a sign of his pride and enthusiasm for his latest project. I would have read this book anyway as the lead character has long been a favorite, but I really wanted to see why he’s so enthusiastic this time around and so the book took the top position on my week’s reading pile.

Doctor Fate 2Doctor Fate #1 is capped by an interesting and unusual mosaic-pattern cover, drawn by interior artist Sonny Liew in DC’s newer, looser style. If the idea of the cover being drawn by the interior artist confuses you, there’s a variant cover available if you can wrestle it from your retailer. I stared at it for a while, found the hidden bunny rabbit head, and moved inside.

The story is a continuation from the Sneak Peak giveaway made available last month, although if you haven’t read that and you’re not interested in reading it on DC’s website, that’s cool. The story makes perfect sense without it. It is properly apocalyptic, with Anubis, the jackal-headed Egyptian Lord of Dead with the Greek name, preparing his own personal sequel to the big wet Noah Event. Only one young Brooklynite of Egyptian heritage can save the day – or so we presume; it’s a continued story and not a mini-series – and he wants no part of it. He’s about to start pre-med classes and he’s got a girl friend or something. But… dare I say it… Fate has other plans.

I’ll admit I was disappointed that they fussed with the traditional Doctor Fate costume. This did not come as a surprise as I actually pay some attention to the New New Fifty-Two as I eagerly await the inevitable Newer Still New New Fifty-Two reboot. But, who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and we’ll see some sort of return of what I find to be one of the most interesting and distinctive superhero costumes of the past 75 years. Right now, we get the helmet – to be sure – and the amulet, which seems to have been stolen straight out of Tony Stark’s chest. Not to worry; Tony’s got plenty more.

Paul is one of those writers who carefully plots out the inter-relationship of each story element. This is what made him a superlative Legion of Super-Heroes scribe, a trait he shared with his predecessor, Jim Shooter. It’s clear that he put a lot of effort into this story: damn near every I is dotted, every T is crossed, and the tale is properly nuanced – not an easy trick in a story that, otherwise, could suffer from originitis. To me, it seems Paul is playing to the strengths of his collaborator, the aforementioned Sonny Liew.

Liew has a fluidity of style that makes the story move at a brisk pace. A veteran of Vertigo and Marvel and sundry indy projects, I am told the two met at a toy fair in Singapore. Sonny went to school there. He also went to school in Cambridge, England and Providence, Rhode Island. He’s quite the bon vivant. He’s also one of the best storytellers I’ve seen in a decade.

Doctor Fate #1 places the oft-revived hero on the top shelf of current mainstream superhero comics, right where, my inner fanboy screams, he belongs. I hope DC waits a long, long while before the next reboot.

 

Titan Merchandise gets in on Captain Action Action

New York, N.Y. (September 17, 2012) – Titan Merchandise, a leading international licensee of pop culture icons and Captain Action Enterprises, licensors of the popular Captain Action line, have teamed up to produce a series of T-shirts, mugs, I.D. holders and more.  These products will be on sale internationally in late 2012.

Captain Action is based on the action figure created in 1966 by Stan Weston for Ideal Toys and sold internationally. The hero came equipped with a wardrobe of costumes allowing him to become many different heroes such as Batman, The Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet and many more. In 1967, Captain Action proved so popular that the line was expanded to include a sidekick, Action Boy and a blue skinned alien foe with bug eyes, the nefarious Dr. Evil.  The following year, DC Comics licensed the character from Ideal and published five issues of Captain Action featuring industry luminaries such as Jim Shooter, Wally Wood and Gil Kane.

The line has experienced as strong resurgence, complete with an all-new toy line that debuted earlier this year.

“I’ve been a massive fan of Captain Action since my late 60s childhood in the North West of England” said Titan director Andrew Sumner.  “Back then, my grandfather kept me supplied with a steady diet of US comic books and I was filled with excitement every time I read a Captain Action advertisement in the back pages, I would have done ANYTHING to own the action figure. Stan Weston’s costume design blew my mind, which was blown even further when I picked up Jim Shooter and Wally Wood’s first issue of the DC comic. By the time Gil Kane and Wally Wood’s classic, way-ahead-of-its-time issue five rolled around, I was hooked for life! It’s our absolute pleasure to be working with the awesome team at Captain Action Enterprises on such an iconic, brilliantly-designed property.”

“We’ve been big fans of all Titan’s products and are proud to be part of their line-up, “ said Ed Catto of Captain Action Enterprises. “From Doctor Who to Star Trek to the classic Hammer horror movies – Titan’s products always seems to be top-notch in quality and lovingly created.”

Current plans call for the first wave to include a distressed T-shirt with the Captain Action logo, a coffee mug and an I.D. holder.

The new products will debut at New York Comic Con at the Javits Center from October 11 to 14, 2012.

Happy 35th Anniversary, Star Wars– thanks for saving the comic book industry!

A long time ago… 35 years, to be precise… what were you doing?

On May 25th, 1977, theaters across the country premiered a little film that you might have heard of… and thereby saved the comic book industry. After the Star Wars comic came out, Marvel sold millions of copies, going back to press for numerous reprintings and outselling Marvel’s best-selling title Amazing Spider-Man by a factor of five.

So thank you, George Lucas, Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin, for that six issue miniseries that staved off the Marvel Implosion.

For more information, read Jim Shooter’s take on how Roy Thomas saved Marvel, and the more detailed history at io9.

Valiant’s Bloodshot Hollywood Bound

Valiant Entertainment has been stirring things up as they prepare to relaunch their moribund line of characters in May. Now word has hit that Jeff Wadlow has sold a spec script for a Bloodshot film to be produced by Columbia Pictures.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Wadlow, best known for the film Prey, came up with the notion for the movie and tracked down the rights holders, Jason Kothari and Dinesh Shamdasani, convincing them he was the right man to tackle the property. The script has been kicking around Hollywood since 2008 and was even considered for the developing comic line although that appears to have been abandoned. In March 2010, X-Men First Class director Matthew Vaughn was attached to direct a version of Bloodshot that may or may not have included Wadlow’s script. Wadlow, though, has been paid $450,000 for the spec script and that could swell to $1 million should the movie actually go before the cameras.

Original Films will produce the film for Columbia with Neal H. Moritz set to executive produce. In the announcement, Hannah Minghella, Columbia president of production, said, “The Bloodshot character has been a fan favorite for nearly two decades, selling approximately 7 million comic books globally. Because there have been more than 1,500 pages of storylines published, there is a rich legacy to draw from as we develop the screenplay.  Neal is one of the best action producers working today and we know he is the right filmmaker to take on this potential franchise.”

Moritz is no stranger to comics and pop culture icons, having most recently worked on the remakes of 21 Jump Street and Total Recall for Columbia, and adapting Dark Horse Comics’ R.I.P.D. for Universal.

Meantime, Brett Ratner was announced to be directing an adaptation of Valiant’s Harbinger in 2008 as he sought a franchise he could call his own. Since then, there has been nary a peep from Valiant or Ratner on the property’s development.

Valiant, founded in 1989 by Jim Shooter, will return after a decade’s absence with X-O Man of War in May. Former Marvel editor Warren Simons has been carefully assembling creative teams with a slow roll out apparently mapped for 2012 and beyond.

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Make Mine Valiant

So, I’ve spent the last few weeks ranting and raving about DC. And face it, there’s still plenty there to mine. From their recent canning of six titles and announcing six more (none of which I think will last a year) to their recently leaked ”sticker logo”… I could have a field day continuing to bash and dash. But alas, I grow weary of being hypocritical. I bitch and moan about them a ton, yet the majority of the cash flowing out of my pocket to frivolity generally concerns a majority of DC books, and related merchandise. So, for now, I’m waving a white flag, and turning my gaze elsewhere. Somewhere dashing, daring, and dare I say… Valiant.

On May 2nd, Valiant Comics will be reborn. Their flagship title, X-O Manowar, will hit the shelves. I will admit freely to you all that I know nothing of the Valiant universe. Let’s quickly Wikipedia that, for those in a similar boat. Wow, what a story! In 1989, Jim Shooter, one of the Allman Brothers crew, and some other financiers tried to buy up Marvel. They didn’t get it. Thus Valiant was born! They got a few heavy-hitters, and released a line of books. In 1994, they got dumped by their initial investors, scooped up by then-important video game creator Acclaim, and died a slow and boring death as their continuity-heavy line became too heavy a load to bear. Legal battles and the like kept things grounded for a while, but as you’ll now note: it’s all been solved, and the line will reconvene with Free Comic Book Day 2012. And due largely to some lackluster books by DC, and Marvel’s Next-Big-Waste of Time, I’m at a loss for why I shouldn’t take this as a sign to give Valiant a shot.

A recent press release for the budding brand hyped the announcement of the creative team for X-O. Surrogates scribe Robert Venditti and Conan artist Cary Nord will unite to bring us a tale of a time-lost ancient warrior given amazing future technology and plopped on the populace in 2012. Color me intrigued. I happen to love the Surrogates original graphic novel, and sneak peaks at the pencils of Nord show me that the book will look amazing to boot.

But this leads me to the bigger question. What is Valiant’s battle plan? Will they rise up and be a contender with the Big Two? I doubt it. The marketplace is crowded as it is. Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Dynamite, Avatar, and Boom! all struggle to keep a cohesive line. Face it, each of those aforementioned second stringers all have one or two big fish, and then spread themselves thin on bargain-bin fodder from licensed properties that appeal to the niche audiences. Well… the niche of this niche, if you get my drift.

Mind you, I’m not trying to poop on the parade, I’m just wary for any “line launch” in a continually crowded comic rack. And a subsequent Google search doesn’t even have the company site at #1 in the rankings. What appears to be a company website is just a form with “Notify Me!” on it. Bad mojo my friends.

Let us consider Boom! Studios’ Stan Lee line, launched in 2010. Four books with solid concepts released very close to one another. The critics didn’t quite rave about any of them, and I rarely hear anyone discuss them at the shop when I pop in on new comic book day. Valiant certainly has picked a good time to strike, but I’m hoping it’s done more intelligently. Case in point?

Boom’s other cash cow, the Irredeemable universe. Launched as a single amazing comic, smartly spun off into a single other title that has refrained for years before crossing directly into one another. Join that to a solid base of fans consistently purchasing the book due to high standards of art teams and consistent writing… and you have something worth copying. While I myself have recently stopped my subscription to Irredeemable, I don’t knock those still following on. It’s the kind of model I hope Valiant is paying close attention to.

Ultimately, X-O Manowar‘s release got me genuinely excited for a new title to latch on to. With a strong creative team announced, and DC and Marvel knee-deep in their own crapulence, Valiant stands to gain a following again. If they stick to releasing solid books, refrain from event-driven releases, and put their books out on time… I see no reason why they won’t stick around for a long while.

Also, they should hire Unshaven Comics.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MINDY NEWELL: Paging Dr. House

This past Tuesday, August 30 to be exact, the New York Times ran an article by Dave Itzkoff about the “new” DC reboot. It was called “Heroes Take Flight, Again.”

It’s an interesting article. And its tone is that of a penultimate eulogy. To quote Itzkoff, “Within the DC universe, this new status quo is the result of efforts by the fleet-footed Flash to alter the course of history. But in the real world it is a last-ditch plan to counteract years of declining sales throughout the comics business.”

It’s rather like an episode of House, isn’t it? He wants to try a risky, dangerous, could-kill-the-patient-instead-of-saving-him treatment and everybody around him either has an opinion or just wants to avoid the whole subject. Cuddy is worried about the lawyers and the reputation of Princeton-Plainsboro Medical Center. Wilson is busy psychoanalyzing his friend’s penchant for walking on the edge. Foreman objects mostly because he didn’t think of it first. Chase, having forsaken the medical principle of “first do no harm” a few seasons ago when he killed a dictator who was under his care, pretty much shrugs his shoulders. Cameron is too busy in the ER to get very involved, other than to shake her long blonde hair and hot tush in House’s face and say, “you’re just gonna do what you want anyway.” Taub is caught between his Torah – he who saves a single life, it is as if he has saved the whole world – and probably causing the patient even more suffering if the treatment is allowed, and “Thirteen,” facing eventual horrible death herself thanks to the Huntington’s Disease that stalks her, thinks House is right, because she sees herself in the patient, and she wants to live.

I remember when I first heard of Crisis on Infinite Earths. I was upset. I didn’t understand why DC had to go messing with my childhood. But under the able hands of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, it was, frankly, a thrilling story. To me, when Marv and George killed Supergirl – and I’m still mightily pissed off about that! – that was it, man, I knew this was going to be a classic.

The only trouble was, it started off a wave of “mega-reboots” over at DC that sounded like “good business” at the time. And now, after some 30 years, only seems to make me, and everybody else, yawn.

Infinite Crisis. Final Crisis. Crisis, My Ass. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Tell me something I don’t know.

‘Cause most of these reboots, start-overs, begin-agains are so obviously an attempt to “save the life of the patient” that it’s insulting to the reader. Jim Shooter is quoted in the Times article as saying “This whole attitude of, ‘Oh, go ahead, start over, reboot,’ people get tired of that…as storytellers, I don’t know where we wandered off to.” I totally agree with him.

S-T-O-R-Y. A narrative. An account. A tale, yarn, legend, fairy-tale, chronicle. Something that stays with you. That for whatever reason strikes a resonant chord within.

Was The Lord of the Rings a business decision? Was Grapes of Wrath? A Tale of Two Cities? The Three Musketeers? Alice in Wonderland? The Man in the Iron Mask? Peter Pan? If I keep on going this will be a column about the Book-of-the-Month club.

I’m hoping this works for DC. I’m hoping the company doesn’t stay alive just to feed the licensees. I’m hoping that I’m thrilled again.

I’m hoping that Dr. Gregory House can pull another miracle out of his misanthropic hat.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

Reviews from the 86th Floor: Barry Reese reviews The Phantom: KGB Noir – The Hammer

THE PHANTOM: KGB NOIR – THE HAMMER
Written by Mike Bullock
Art by Fernando Peniche
ISBN 978-1933076805

This black-and-white trade collects the six issue limited series and also includes artist sketches and liner notes from the author. As Mike Bullock mentions in his notes, this series was changed midstream in length and I think that contributes to the breakneck pace that this has — it starts with action and never lets up. While this gives it all a movie serial kind of feel, it does make it kind of hard to get into the heads of the villains: they feel very shallow and more character types than people. But the artwork is fetching and the story has a lot of exciting action sequences so it all adds up to a great summer action flick kind of ambiance. It’s fun to see the Phantom in a different setting, too, though I do kind of miss Diana and the kids — but with the pacing of this story, there’s no room for them. One thing that struck me was that there’s no explanation of who or what the Phantom is — it didn’t deter me, since I love the Phantom and realize that most people who would buy this probably do, too. But I do believe in Jim Shooter’s axiom that every issue is somebody’s first and that you should always manage to explain a character’s motivations, etc. in some manner — but, again, with the pacing here, there was little to no time for reflection. Is this the best Phantom story I’ve seen from Mike Bullock? No. But it’s still a great, fun read and comes highly recommended to diehard Phantom fans. If you’re new to the character, I wouldn’t start here since there’s little in the way of “classic” lore but if you’re familiar with the hero and want something a bit different, this could fit the bill.

Archer, Armstrong & Shooter

Archer, Armstrong & Shooter

One of my favorite superhero buddy teams is coming back — well, sort of. The recently resurrected Valiant Entertainment  has been busy publishing hardcover collected editions of their Shooter-era original titles (in other words, not the Gold Key licensed stuff like Doctor Solar and Turok), each with an original story.

Third up is Archer and Armstrong, created by Jim Shooter and Don Perlin with input from Valiant stalwarts such as Bob Layton and Barry Windsor-Smith. The first volume reprints issues #0 through #6 and includes an original origin story by Jim and artists Sal Velluto and Bob Almond – all under a new cover by Michael Golden.

Archer and Armstrong Volume One is expected to ship September 24, 2008.