Tagged: Steve Niles

Mike Gold’s Top 9 of 2012

It’s the end of the year, so it’s time for still another mindless list of favorites – maintaining a cloying, egotistical annual tradition throughout the media. Once again, here are my self-imposed rules: I’m only listing series that either were ongoing or ran more than six issues, I’m not listing graphic novels or reprints as both compete under different criteria, I’m not covering Internet-only projects as I’d be yanking the rug out from under my pal Glenn Hauman, and I’m listing only nine because tied for tenth place would be about two dozen other titles and I’ve only got so much bandwidth. Besides, “nine” is snarky and when it comes to reality, I am one snarky sumbytch – but only for a living. On Earth-Prime, I’m really a sweet, kind, understanding guy.

Having said all that, let’s open that hermetically sealed jar on the porch of Funk and Wagnalls and start.

1. Manhattan Projects. If I had to write a Top 9 of the Third Millennium list, I’d be hard pressed not to include this title. It’s compelling, it’s different, it’s unpredictable and it’s brilliantly executed by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra. It turns out the scientists and the military leaders behind the creation and the execution of the Atomic Bomb had a lot more in mind than just nuking Japan… a lot more. And their plans run decades longer than World War II. Based largely upon real-life individuals who are too dead to litigate, each person seems to have his own motivations, his own ideas for execution, and his own long-range plan for how to develop the future. Yet the story never gets bogged down in political posturing or self-amusing cuteness – the latter being a real temptation for many creators. Each issue gives us the impression there’s more than meets the eye; each successive issue proves there most certainly was. If the History Channel spun off a Paranoia Network, Manhattan Projects would be its raison d’être.

2. Hawkeye. If you’ll pardon the pun, Hawkeye has never been more than a second-string character. An interesting guy with an involving backstory and enough sexual relationships to almost fill a Howard Chaykin mini-series, this series tells us what Clint Barton does when he’s not being an Avenger or a S.H.I.E.L.D. camp follower. It turns out Clint leads a normal-looking life that gets interfered with by people who think Avengers should be Avengers 24/7. He’s also got a thing going with the Young Avenger who was briefly Hawkeye. Matt Fraction and David Aja bring forth perhaps the most human interpretation of a Marvel character in a long, long while. Hawkeye might be second-string, but Clint Barton most certainly is not.

3. Captain Marvel. Another second-string character. Despite some absolutely first-rate stories (I’m quite partial to Jim Starlin’s stuff, as well as anything Gene Colan or Gil Kane ever put pencil to paper), the guy/doll never came close to the heritage of its namesake. This may have changed. A true role model for younger female readers and a very military character who uniquely humanizes the armed forces, Carol Danvers finally soars under writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Dexter Soy – both as a superhero and as a human being. DeConnick doesn’t qualify as “new” talent, but this certainly is a breakthrough series that establishes her as a truly major player… as it does Marvel’s Captain Marvel.

4. Creator-Owned Heroes. Anthology comics are a drag upon the direct sales racket. They almost never succeed. I don’t know why; there’s usually as much story in each individual chapter as there is in a standard full-length comic. I admire anybody who choses to give it a whirl (hi, there, honorary mention Mike Richardson and company for Dark Horse Presents!), and I really liked Creator-Owned Comics. Yep, liked. It’s gone with next month’s eighth issue. But this one was a lot more than an anthology comic: it had feature articles, how-to pieces, and swell interviews. The work of Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Steve Niles, Steve Bunche and a cast of dozens (including swell folks like Phil Noto and Darwin Cooke), there wasn’t a clinker in the bunch. I wouldn’t mind seeing follow-ups on any of the series featured in this title, although I must give a particular nod to Jimmy and Justin’s Killswitch, a take on modern contract killers, and on Steve’s work in general. This is no light praise: I’m not a big fan of horror stories because most of them have been done before and redone a thousand times after that. Niles is quite the exception.

5. Batman Beyond Unlimited. Okay, this is a printed collection of three weekly online titles: Batman Beyond, Justice League Beyond, and Superman Beyond. But it comes out every month in a sweet monthly double-length printed comic, so it meets my capricious criteria. Based upon the animated DC Universe (as in, the weekly series Batman Beyond and Justice League, and to a lesser extent others), these stories are solid, fun, and relatively free of the angst that has overwhelmed the so-called real DCU stories. Yeah, kids can enjoy them. So can the rest of the established comics audience. Pull the stick out of your ass; there’s more to superhero comics than OCD heroes and death and predictable resurrection. These folks have just about the best take on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters than anybody since Jack Kirby. That’s because Jack remembered comics are supposed to be entertaining. Honorable mention: Ame-Comi Girls. It’s based on a stupid (but successful) merchandising idea but it’s just as much fun as anything being published today.

6. Batgirl. O.K. The real story here is that DC Comics mindlessly offed writer Gail Simone from this series only to restore her within a week or so after serious (and occasionally, ah, overly dramatic) protest from both the readership and the creative community. But there was good reason: Gail took a character who was in an impossible situation and, against all tradition, put her back in the costume without resorting to ret-con or reboot, which have been the handmaidens of the New 52. She brought Barbara Gordon back to action with all the doubts, insecurities and vulnerabilities one would expect a person in her position to have, and she does so in a compelling way exercising all of her very considerable talent. This title thrives despite being engulfed in two back-to-back mega-non-events that overwhelmed and undermined all of the Batman titles.

7. Orchid. I praised this one last year; it comes to an end with issue 12 next month. That’s because writer/creator/musician/activist Nightwatchman Tom Morello has a day job and the young Wobblie still has a lot of rabble to rouse. Orchid is a true revolutionary comic book wherein a growing gaggle of the downtrodden stand up for themselves against all odds and unite to defeat the omnipresent oppressor. Tom manages to do this without resorting to obvious parallels to real-life oppressors, although the environment he creates will be recognizable to anybody who thinks there just might be something wrong with Fox “News.” But this is a comic book site and not the place for (most of) my social/political rants (cough cough). Orchid succeeds and thrives as a story with identifiable, compelling characters and situations and a story that kicks ass with the energy and verve one would expect from a rock’n’roller like Morello.

8. Revival. A somewhat apocalyptic tale about people who come back from the dead in the fairly isolated city of Wausau Wisconsin (I’ve been there several times; it is a city and it is indeed fairly isolated). But they aren’t zombies. Most are quite affable. It’s the rest of the population that’s got a problem. The latest output from Tim Seeley and my landsman Mike Norton, two enormously gifted talents. Somewhere above I noted how Steve Niles is able to raise well above the predictable crap and that is equally true here: the story and formula is typical, but the execution is compelling. That I’ve been a big fan of Norton’s is no surprise to my friends in Chicago.

9. Nowhere Men. I’ve got to thank my ComicMix brother Marc Alan Fishman for this one. Admittedly, it’s only two issues old and it has its flaws – long prose insertions almost always bring the pace of visual storytelling to a grinding halt – but the concept and execution of this series far exceeds this drawback. Written by Eric Stephenson and drawn by Nate Bellegarde and Jordie Bellaire, the catch phrase here is “Science Is The New Rock ‘N’ Roll.” Four guys start up a science-for-the-people company and that’s cool, but twenty years later some have taken it too seriously, others not seriously enough, and things got a little out of hand. Sadly, I’m not certain who understands that, other than the reader and one of the major characters. Science is the new rock’n’roll, and exploring that as a cultural phenomenon makes for a great story – and a solid companion to Manhattan Projects.

Non-Self-Publisher of the Year: For some reason, I’m surprised to say it’s Image Comics. They’ve been publishing many of the most innovative titles around – four of the above nine – all creator-owned, without going after licensed properties like a crack-whore at a kneepad sale.

No offense meant to either publishers or crack-whores; I said I’m really a sweet, kind, understanding guy.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Mike Gold Can Count To 32!

I used to provoke this asinine debate – one of a great many – that if we refer to comics published circa 1943 to 1950 as 52-pagers, we should refer to contemporary comics as 36-pagers. I always got pushback from my fellow fanboys; consistency is in the mind of the beholders, hobgoblins that we may be.

Well, finally, decades after I threw in the towel, this debate has been resolved. And not in my favor.

This physically came to my attention in the form of an advance copy of IDW’s Frankenstein Alive, Alive! It’s by Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson, which is some amazing pedigree. Of course, Bernie has been known for his efforts with the Frankenstein Monster since well before his first name grew that extra E, and Steve has been l’enfant terrible of horror-themed comics for the past decade. Both earned their high reputations the hard way: they worked for it. Joining the two is sort of like taking bits and pieces of two gifted bodies and stitching them together.

Hence, Frankenstein Alive, Alive! It is at least as brilliant as we have every right to expect. You’ll probably just gawk at the art for a couple hours, but the joy is totally revisited once you realize you’re actually supposed to read the thing. It comes out next week. If you want it early, get yourself your own column.

But that’s not my point… which is why I can get away with such a short review. After reading Frankenstein Alive, Alive!, I had the uncanny feeling something was missing. No, not my brain, Igor. I went back and counted the pages.

32. Not 36 counting the cover. 32 total. The cover was there because you can’t publish a pamphlet starting with page two, but it had what we in the publishing racket call a “self-cover.” That means there’s no four-page addition on higher quality paper surrounding the interior. It’s all of the same stock, all printed at once without the additional collating and binding step and it saves a bit on shipping costs, saving the publisher money. The story page count is 19 pages, a tad short but there’s plenty of groovy supplemental material.

So I checked another IDW book set for the same week’s release: John Byrne’s Trio #1. I haven’t read it yet, so you won’t have to suffer from another half-assed semi-review. But it, too, is 32 pages total.  We get 20 pages of story here, but there’s advertising material in the back.

So, are we being short-changed? Well, maybe a tiny bit. For $3.99 we should get more than 19 or 20 pages of story. Otherwise, no, not in the least.

The thing is, self-cover comics have been quietly creeping up on the racks for a while now. I prefer to read comics on my iPad, so it took the power of a Niles/Wrightson collaboration to make be return to the traditional stapled way of life. I can hardly fault publishers for this effort, given the higher quality of paper stock generally used these days.

But it is a bit of a sea change, one of the last before the 36… sorry, 32 page comics pamphlet disappears into the digital ozone. And that saddens me, ever so slightly.

Whoops. I got over it.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil Waves The Flag!


MIKE GOLD: Steve Niles’ Courageous Act

gold-column-art-120104-150x112-9029409If you you’re inclined to keep an eye out, heroes pop up like Kleenex. Steve Niles just made the cut.

At the 2010 Baltimore Comic-Con Harvey Awards dinner, Mark Waid offered a courageous keynote address which offered a simple message: digital comics are here to stay, there is an international bootlegging community and we as creators and industry doyens must learn to deal with it. For this, Mark was roundly booed, hassled and harassed by his peers. Astonishingly, one of his tormentors was the otherwise quite gentlemanly Sergio Aragonés.

I don’t recall if Steve Niles was at the dinner, but if not, it’s likely he heard about it. Suggesting that any acknowledgement of those who pirate comics is akin to taking a dump on the bible. This is true throughout the media: records (yeah, it’s okay to call them “records;” look it up), movies and teevee shows, even books. And you thought nobody was reading.

The media industry’s response to this has been to advocate passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act, a.k.a. SOPA. Simply put, SOPA allows any intellectual property (IP) owner to legally compel any Internet Service Provider (a.k.a. ISP; we’re shooting for the entire alphabet this week) to kick off any website suspected of copyright infringement.

Well, here’s a clue for you. Well over 99% of the websites on the Internet infringe copyrights and trademarks. Pick-ups of news items, graphics used to illustrate anything, sound bytes and even some You Tube links – they are all infringing upon somebody’s IP. You rip off the Superman logo font because you’re artistic and just being cute? Well, that logo is a registered trademark, and you are now Lex Luthor.

So Steve, bless his 30 Days of Night heart, took a stand. “SOPA does more than go after so-called ‘piracy’ websites,” said he. “SOPA takes away all due process, shuts down any site it deems to be against the law without trial, without notification, without due process… Nobody seems to give a shit, or either they’re scared. Either way, very disappointing. I guess when it affects them they’ll get mad… I know folks are scared to speak out because a lot of us work for these companies, but we have to fight. Too much is at stake.”

He tweeted all these comments; I got them from our pals at Digital Spy, except they asterisked “shit.” We here at ComicMix are beneath that.

Here’s some facts. Every time somebody unlawfully downloads IP – and note I said “unlawfully” because it is unlawful – the media racket sees that as a lost sale. This is overwhelming bullshit. People sample, people are curious, people’s friends make a recommendation and said people check ‘em out. There’s plenty of stuff that you’d check out before laying down your plastic sight unseen. The actual number of downloads that defraud the owner (which is usually not the creator) is a fraction of the total. These downloads are still illegal, but IP moguls should pull the stick out of their ass and tell the truth when they are babbling about how much bootlegging is costing them. They are liars.

There are a great many services that allow you to legally purchase IP, and the largest of these is Apple’s iTunes, which offers music, television, movies, books, magazines, newspapers, software (a.k.a. “apps”) and probably jpg’s of papyrus scrolls. As of around October 2011 – the date varies by category – iTunes has sold over 16 billion songs, about one half-billion movies, videos and teevee shows, some 20 billion apps, and Crom knows how many books, magazines and newspapers.

Here’s the rub: in each and every one of these approximately 40,000,000,000 cases, the purchaser could have downloaded the damn thing for free. In most cases, it is far easier to illegally cop a boot than it is to purchase one. Let’s start with the fact that you don’t need to have a credit card or room left on your credit limit to procure your illegal bootie.

So. 40 billion downloads from just one – the biggest one – online merchant in a world that only houses seven billion people. That’s an average of four and one-half perfectly legal downloads for each and every person, including babies in the Amazon who don’t even have access to Amazon.

Hey! People are inherently good. Go know!

Of course SOPA is being supported by all the big IP companies, including Disney (Marvel) and Time Warner (DC). If only they were so moral about how they treat their creative talent, without whom both companies would constitute another real estate bust.

On the other side: Facebook, Google, Twitter and Wikipedia, the latter of which threatens to disappear should SOPA pass. Then students will actually have to do research, and we can’t have that.

Also standing proudly on the other side: Steve Niles. Good for you, pal.

Good grief. Now Mark Evanier is going to hate me.

Thursday: Dennis O’Neil

DC Showcase Debuts with The Spectre

DC Showcase Debuts with The Spectre

While everyone is getting excited at the prospect of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths in just a few weeks, little has been revealed about the bonus feature.

Today, Warner Premiere revealed the first glimpse into the new line of DC Showcase shorts. Debuting with the Spectre, DC Showcase puts the spotlight on favorite characters from throughout the DC archives in short-form tales.

For those, just tuning in, the Spectre focuses on a detective story with an ethereal twist, featuring the otherworldly character originally introduced by DC Comics in 1940. The short is written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and directed by Joaquim Dos Santos (G.I Joe: Resolute). The voice cast is led by Gary Cole (Entourage) as the title character and Alyssa Milano (Charmed) as Aimee Brenner. The Spectre was a creation Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily and remains a major player throughout the DC Universe.

Future DC Showcase titles include, no surprise here, Jonah Hex (written by Joe Lansdale).

Special effects wizard Drew Flynn gets spooked inside his own personal house of horrors.

A bit of romantic history flows between Detective Corrigan and Aimee Brenner in The Spectre. Gary Cole and Alyssa Milano provide the voices of Detective Corrigan and Aimee Brenner, respectively.


ComicMix Six: Comic Book Folks to #FollowFriday on Twitter

ComicMix Six: Comic Book Folks to #FollowFriday on Twitter

It’s #followfriday on Twitter, and these are some of the comics folks you should be following if you aren’t already doing so…

  1. Warren Ellis – If you’ve ever read anything by him, especially The Authority, Planetary, or Transmetropolitan, it probably won’t surprise you
    to learn how angry he can get on his Twitter. What will surprise you—and
    probably make you laugh–is how flowery his language can get when he’s on a
    tirade. Oh, and he also has a lot of really interesting links to share and
    interesting insights on the medium to discuss. Besides, who else do you know
    that’ll greet you every morning with “Good morning, sinners?” http://www.twitter.com/WarrenEllis

  2. Ben Templesmith – Possibly the handsomest man in comics, Ben
    Templesmith is the Australian-born artist behind Fell (with Warren Ellis) and
    several Steve Niles projects, most famously 30 Days Of Night. His Twitter feed
    is chock-full of goodies, including insights as to the life of a professional
    artist, many interesting links, and a healthy dose of political opinion, if
    that’s your thing. He’s still one of the friendliest folks around, too—almost
    seven thousand followers, and he’ll often still take the time to answer a quick
    question from you here and there. http://www.twitter.com/Templesmith

  3. Bryan Lee O’Malley – The mastermind behind the Scott Pilgrim
    series hates just about everything on the Internet and doesn’t mind saying so.
    That said, following him is really the best way to get news about the upcoming
    Edgar Wright-helmed movie adaptation. Basically, if BLO doesn’t say it, it’s
    not official—regardless of what Matt Fraction (www.twitter.com/MattFraction)
    might suggest. http://www.twitter.com/Radiomaru

  4. Brian Michael Bendis – His Twitter feed might be the only
    thing the New Avengers scribe has written in the last five years that didn’t
    somehow involve Luke Cage or Spider-Woman. What it does include is Bendis’s
    take on just about everything going on in the comic book world, along with
    reposted links to just about everything Bendis-related going on in the world.
    As an added bonus, you’ll get a new appreciation for comic book editors once
    you see how bad his grammar and punctuation is. http://www.twitter.com/BRIANMBENDIS

  5. Gail Simone — If Twitter gave out a prize for “crazy
    mysterious,” this Wonder Woman writer would surely win it several times over.
    Until recently, apart from the occasional fake flamewar with Mark Waid (http://www.twitter.com/MarkWaid),
    she mostly appeared, gave an assignment—for example, “TODAY’S ASSIGNMENT:  Fictional convention panels that SHOULD
    exist, but never, EVER EVER EVER will” or 
    “Today’s Assignment: Tweets as sent by participants during epic comic
    stories. What did they twitter to friends as it all went down?” —and then vanish
    again until the next time. Now, she tweets more regularly, if only to tease Geoff
    Johns about Blackest Night. http://www.twitter.com/GailSimone

  6. ComicMix — Okay, seriously, if you’re not
    reading our Twitter feed, what the heck are you waiting for? http://www.twitter.com/ComicMix
Green Directing ‘Freaks of the Heartland’

Green Directing ‘Freaks of the Heartland’

Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green has been tapped to direct Freaks of the Heartland, an adaptation of the Dark Horse graphic novel from Steve Niles and Greg Ruth, for Overture Films. The screenplay was written by Peter Sattler and Geoff Davey. Green will produce alongside Dark Horse Entertainment president Mike Richardson, with Steve Niles executive producing.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the 2004 limited series centers on "the horrible secret of a rural Middle American town involves Trevor Owen’s attempts to protect his ‘monster’ of a 6-year-old younger brother and Gristlewood Valley’s other ‘freaks’ from their parents’ worst instincts."

Overture Films is currently developing other genre movies Pandorum and a remake of George A. Romero’s The Crazies. Their most recent release was the Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro starring Righteous Kill.

Freaks of the Heartland is the second of Steve Niles’ graphic novels to be adapted for film. 30 Days of Night, arguably Niles’ most commonly known work, was released in 2007 by director David Slade. Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston and Ben Foster starred in the film.

Zune Arts: Looks Great, Doesn’t Work

Zune Arts: Looks Great, Doesn’t Work

Zune Arts, the creative wing of Microsoft’s Zune team, has debuted its Lost Ones comic, which is available free online and will later be available in printed form.

I went over to Zune’s Web site to check it out, and it’s quite a fancy operation, but there’s one major problem: You can’t actually read the comic.

Sure, you can pull it up and see the pages (it’s written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Gary Panter and others). But you can’t read them. They’re too small.

And maybe this was just my computer or me being the resident luddite, but when I used the zoom function it made the pages so blurry it was even more impossible to read. Call me crazy, but I think the days of everyone reading comics on their cell phone is not just around the corner.

Oh, and if you’re curious why there’s no art with this story, it’s because that function of Zune’s site also wasn’t working. At least they have fancy videos about making the comic…

IDW Acquires Blue Dream Studios

IDW Publishing is best known for its gory horror comics and sci fi adaptations. Which made this morning’s news that the company had purchased an up-and-coming comics studio known for its all-ages fare seem a bit strange.

In a press release, IDW President Ted Adams and Blue Dream publisher Scott Christian Sava announced the new arrangement.

"I know Scott had offers from many publishers and I’m thrilled that he chose IDW as the home for Blue Dream Studios," Adams said. "I love the books he’s created, and I look forward to helping him reach an even bigger audience."

Blue Dream is likely best known for The Dreamland Chronicles, Sava’s online fantasy comic that’s become a fan favorite, drawing some 4 million readers and earning awards. The story is all computer illustrated, and has also been released in book form.

Though only recently entered into the comics world, Blue Dream has had a fair amount of success, with Disney acquiring the rights to the Pet Robots series and MTV buying the rights to another, Hyperactive. The deal with IDW is most likely seen as an opportunity for Blue Dream books to expand into the print market, where IDW already has a distributor.

According to the release, IDW sees the move as a chance to expand into the all-ages market. Apparently, Steve Niles doesn’t go over too well with the preschool crowd.

Steve Niles and Mark Waid on ‘Cthulhu Tales’

Steve Niles and Mark Waid on ‘Cthulhu Tales’

Comic readers looking for a monthly fix of slimy, tentacled horror from the inky blackness, it appears that your search is over.

Boom! Studios has decided to take its former Cthulhu Tales one-shots the monthly route beginning in March, providing a regular fix of Lovecraftian horror for aficianadoes of the Ancient Ones’ dark shenanigans.

CBR spoke to Boom! Editor-in-Chief Mark Waid about the new ongoing anthology series, which will launch with a set of stories by Steve Niles and continue with an ever-changing cast of writers and artists.

Here, Niles explains one of his upcoming contributions to the series:

“The new one that I’m writing right now is going to get much stranger,” continued Niles. “This new one I’m working on is very, very weird. If I were the artist on these things — I’m sitting here working on a story, there’s a body on a slab in a morgue, and basically the world of the Ancient Ones is inside the body, so when it bursts out, we’re going to have this corpse with a room full of tentacle. Man, if I was the artist I’d have so much fun drawing that."

And isn’t that the real appeal of Lovecraftian horror? It makes you want to simultaneously clap your hands and clutch your stomach against the sudden wave of nausea.

Good times.


30 Days of Steve Niles!

30 Days of Steve Niles!

ComicMix Radio kicks off the week with a visit from 30 Days Of Night creator Steve Niles who fills us in on his reaction to the how his project looked on the big screen as well as his new series at DC… plus updates on:

• Comic creators turning up on Numb3rs

• The TV season posts its first causality, but Bionic Woman and Journeyman get new leases on life,

• And our full rundown of this week’s long box full of new comics and DVDs including a new Batman-based mini series from DC, DVD Special Editions of The Shining and 2001 and no less than three more zombie variants from Marvel.

If that doesn’t make you Press The Button – what will?