After a long internship under Blair Marnell and Jason Brice, it?s finally my turn to take the mantle at ATR. I feel like Tim Drake when he finally got to put the costume on (except my predecessor wasn?t killed off by the readers via a 1-900 number).

I have some cool tidbits lined up for the next few weeks, so lets get the ball rolling?

The Dark Squire Returns

Everyone by now has heard that DC had planned on killing Nightwing during Infinite Crisis; luckily our favorite boy wonder was spared as the powers that be curbed their bloodlust, and gave Dick Grayson a second chance at life. The original plan was to have Jason Todd replace Dick Grayson in the ongoing Nightwing series written by Bruce Jones.

With Grayson surviving, this plan was scuttled and both Dick and Jason ended up appearing in the Nightwing monthly. Unfortunately, the OYL relaunch was met with less enthusiasm than expected and DC is now looking for a new creative team and direction for the title.

Marv Wolfman and Dan Jurgens are onboard for a 4-issue arc, but this is just a stopgap until the new permanent team starts on the title. I heard that Stuart Moore and Phil Jimenez had an approved pitch and script in production, but they were pulled off without explanation, possibly due to Bob Schreck moving from the Bat-office to Vertigo.

So it seems like the original boy wonder is in search of a creative team (personally, aside from the rumored Moore/Jimenez collaboration which sounds great, I would love to see Chuck Dixon back onboard as the writer on this series).

This Has A ?Bring Back The George Perez Era Disco Costume And Everything Will Be Fine? Factor Of Seven Out Of Ten

Byrned Out

Comicdom?s favorite curmudgeon, John Byrne, has been tapped as one of the pencillers for the new DC universe horror anthology Tales of the Unexpected. The series will feature rotating artists, and Byrne will pencil a few of the Spectre stories featured in the series.

DC was not pleased after Byrne pulled out as the penciller of one of the Superman Returns tie-in books plotted by Bryan Signer. So don?t expect to see Byrne as the writer on any new DC projects soon, in fact, his role will be limited to that of an artist on limited runs or fill in issues. Issue 6, at the latest, will finish his tenure as penciller of the new Atom series.

This Has A ?How To Make Friends And Influence People? Factor Of Seven Out Of Ten

Tease Me, Please Me

Some teasers for various upcoming series were posted on various sites these last few days that caught me eye:

A teaser image for Brian K. Vaughn?s Dr. Strange mini series with art by Marcos Martin (, the cover to Teen Titans #40 posted by Geoff Johns (, and a sample sketch from new Desolation Jones artist Daniel Zezelj (

This Has A ?There Goes My Budget? Factor Of Ten Out Of Ten

All I Know Is That He Has A Creepy Voice

One of Alan Moore?s last projects for ABC/Wildstorm will be the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Black Dossier graphic novel which is scheduled to arrive in stores October 2007.

One item that was reported here and here when the project was first announced was that it would contain either a CD or an LP recorded by M. Moore himself as part of the overall story.

However, now that the DC solicits are out, there is no mention of the CD or LP.

So, is this a case of DC holding back on the CD for release later (say in an Absolute Edition), another misunderstanding that will probably further enrage M. Moore (his disputes with DC are well documented), or a simple creative change of plans?

If anyone has any information on this, ATR readers would like to know.

This Has A ?Don?t Piss Off The Magus? Factor Of Eight Out Of Ten

Detective Comics

It seems that quite a few publishers have been pursuing the Veronica Mars license (including among others Oni Press), but all potential deals have been scuttled by Warner Brothers.

The odd thing about this is that DC comics (owned by Warner Brothers) has no plans to produce a Veronica Mars comic. This is a shame because I believe that a Veronica Mars comic or trade would have mainstream appeal and would sell well in comic stores and bookstores.

This Has A ?Can Someone Solve This Mystery?? Factor Of Eight Out Of Ten

They Don?t Make ?Em Like They Used To

Cobb: Off the Leash is a 3 issue limited series from IDW written by Beau Smith with art by Eduardo Barretto. The first issue is already out, and I highly recommend it to those readers who loved old school action yarns (like me).

Series writer, and toughest man in comics (sorry M. Dixon), Beau Smith took some time out to talk to ATR:

ATR: So tell our readers about yourself? You’ve held many jobs in the industry. What are you mainly doing know?

BEAU: I live in West Virginia and have all my sin-filled life. I was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. Went all through school there and through College at Marshall University. Moved to Ceredo, West Virginia about 19 years ago. Small town just outside of Huntington. Population is around 5,000. Give or take a dog or two.

I had pretty much a cross between ?Leave It To Beaver and Malcom In The Middle? kind a family life. A couple of brothers, a sister. Mom & Dad, various dogs. Very rough and tumble kinda bunch. The kind you didn’t mess with, physically or verbally. My dad, Roger “Big Rog” Smith, was a kinda Hoss Cartwright kinda guy. Big and tough, but everyone knew him and loved him. My mom is a saint of course, but can be as cranky as a sailor on a long leave in a dry town.

I learned early that ya respect others and demand the same in return. Family, friends, trust and loyalty always come first. Without it, you’re not much of a man.

My years from 6th grade through college could be summed up as not very politically correct. It was the last of the times when you could get rowdy without killing anybody or doing hard time .I’ve always had a distaste for people that cannot hold their drink and annoy me and others around them. Manners are very important when in a beer joint. Growin? up I did the usual stuff… dating, sports, goofin? off. I was pretty happy with things. No drugs or anything like that.In fact, we used to hunt down the pot heads and paint sniffers and work em?over a little with these bamboo poles we had. It was our own ?Just Say No? program long before Nancy Regan thought of it. I guess I was a prototype ?Mr. T.? during that time.

Of course, that was a long time ago. Times and people have changed as I said. Unlike a lot of folks that ya read about, I had a real happy, fun childhood in the ’60s. The ’70s. They were the last of the un-PC days, I was lucky to have done the things I did and not be in jail now.

As far as working in the comic book business, with the help of Tim Truman and Chuck Dixon, I came in on the writing side of comics in 1985 with Beau LaDuke?s Tips For Real Men in the back of Truman?s SCOUT comic at Eclipse Comics. He gave me a tip in 1986 that they were looking for sales manager. Since I was in sales and marketing, plus knew the comic book business Eclipse Publisher Dean Mullaney hired me. I worked there until 1994 as their VP of Sales and Marketing. From there I was VP of Sales and Marketing for Image Comics, Todd McFarlane Productions & McFarlane Toys and IDW Publishing. I continued to write comics all that time. I?ve written well over 100 titles such as Guy Gardner: Warrior, Star Wars, The Tenth, The Black Terror, Green Lantern Quarterly, Batman/Wildcat, Catwoman/Wildcat as well as my own creator owned books like Wynonna Earp, Parts Unknown and Cobb: Off The Leash.

I?ve written and continue to write entertainment and business columns. In the past I?ve written for Wizard Magazine, Entertainment Retailing, Comic Book Business, Westfield Comics, Sketch Magazine and I am currently writing my Busted Knuckles column weekly for Silver Bullet and I have a monthly column I do for the Comics Buyer?s Guide called ?Dottin? The Eyes.?

For the last year I?ve been a freelance writer and still do some freelance marketing in entertainment and comics.

ATR: Tell us about Cobb: Off the Leash. What?s it about? What can readers expect from this series? What influenced you (movies, tv, comics) when writing this series?

BEAU: Some people are born to do certain things better than anybody else, sometimes it’s because they ‘re driven to be the best by their own motivation. These people work hard to become the goal they have set for themselves. With other people it’s different. They do it because it’s hardwired within them. Something they can’t quite explain. Something they can’t deny no matter how hard they try. It’s an instinct, a natural reflex. A way of life.

That’s the way it is with Frank Cobb.

Ever since he can remember, he has had the urge, the desire to protect. Like breathing, he can’t stop it. He can’t live without it. Although from time to time he has tried to hold his breath, in the end he has to inhale his desire for protection or he feels he will die. From as early as defending the weaker kid on the playground, being an All American fullback in college protecting the quarterback, a soldier defending his country against the enemy all the way to being a level one Secret Service agent protecting the president of the United States. Frank Cobb has always been a protector. Cobb has always had a special way for being able to see danger before it comes. He can smell it before it enters the room. More times than not he can stop an attack before it blooms into an act of violence.

It’s his gift. It’s also his curse.

In Off The Leash, Cobb is a former Level One Secret Service Agent that for the last few years has been ?under the radar? or ?off the grid? as listed in government documents. When his aimless ways and an act of violence land him in jail, his former government contacts suggest that it?s time that Cobb?s special protective skills were put to a more productive use. Those protective skills will be needed to save a very important informant from a very sadistic Russian Mafia with connections to an even more dangerous terrorist cell. This mini-series follows Cobb on this fast paced mission without time for rules. Cobb is a three issue series with 22 pages of story in each issue. ?Off The Leash? lends to a couple of things. First Cobb is no longer with the Secret Service and on his own, hence, he is ?off the leash? from the restraints of the service and government.

Cobb goes against all comic book and movie typecasting of tough guys that have come before. You won?t see any panic, screaming, out of control moments. His cool and composure is his greatest weapon. There will be no stock Punisher and Batman actions in Cobb. You also won?t see the standard comic book fight scenes. All hand to hand combat and firefights are all based on real life and how it?s really done.

When the action and danger starts, Cobb is at home. He almost has a tranquil grace about him when this happens. Everything is thought out. All situations are taken in and processed within seconds in his mind. Cobb has been like this since he was born. It?s hardwired in his DNA. It?s a natural instinct. He is the one person you want to back you when the bullets and the fists start to fly.

I have worked and researched the Secret Service and the Russian Mafia for many years. I?ve read stacks of books, interviewed reporters and law enforcement folks, talked with experts on the Russian organized crime before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. Last year I came across some really informative papers on the relationship and ties of former Soviet Union military and organized crime. I?ve inserted so much of that into this series.

I want to show a side of the Secret Service that not many have covered before. I want paint a new fresh coat on the house of tough guys. It?s been too long since we?ve had one in comics that was good because he trained well and does it because it?s the right thing to do. That seems to have been forgotten. Most feel that you have to show the good guy with a psychotic bend to him. I disagree. You can be violent and have a truck load of action without being a nut sack. It?s my hope that Cobb will prove that.

As far as other research, I am applying all my years and knowledge of boxing into Cobb. Eduardo and I have done our best to avoid any stock comic book fight scenes with haymakers and telegraphed punches. We have done extensive research on MMA (Mised Martial Arts) fighting, military defense, floor fighting, submission fighting, true street fighting and other more exotic forms of hand to hand combat for this series. There will be no copycat stuff lifted from John Woo, Tarantino and other action films as so many comic books have done in recent years. We want to not only bring a new slant to the action, we also want to give the reader a new way of looking at camera angles and still be based in a true sense of old school story telling. I use the term Old School as the highest compliment. Too many have forgotten the craft of comic book story telling. They?ve gotten lazy. It is not an easy thing to do. That?s why I knew that Eduardo was the right artist for this project. He is truly a master craftsman. I wanted Cobb to be hand made and custom built. Eduardo has done that and more.

A far as influences, in film I lean heavy on the kind of characters that Steve McQueen, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Kenneth Tobey, Richard Boone, played. Films were the hero did the right thing and didn?t feel he had to be questioned about it. It was right and that was it. He didn?t have to have hidden angst or crawl into a bottle to forget. They knew someone hade to step up. They weren?t gonna wait first to see if there was anyone else in line. Films such as The Magnificent Seven, Uncommon Valor and The Wild Bunch showed that even men with human flaws can still stand and do what?s right.

The Fargo series of books by John Benteen were a major influence forme as were the Louis La?mour books. There was always that wonderful core of doing what was right that drove even the hardest men. Like the Robert Parker Spenser books and the Reacher novels by Lee Child, Cobb is also a likeable hero. That is the major thing missing in comic book heroes today. Everyone is so constipated.
Comic book influences go back to the 50?s when there were loads of tough guy books like Little Al Of The Secret Service, Danger (Great Don Heck art) Crime Clinic and Sky Pilot The Fighting Missionary of the Yukon. These were great books that not too many folks know about. They filled me with wide eyed excitement when I discovered them.

ATR: After this mini series is done can readers look forward to more stories about Cobb?

BEAU: On my end?Yep! I?m sorry to say that it all depends on sales. Publishers don?t make comics for charity. They have to see a profit to cover the risks they take. It is a business first. That?s the reason I?ve been so relentless in my promotion of Cobb: Off The Leash. I know it?s good and I want to be able to push it hard knowing that the readers will enjoy it and get their money?s worth of entertainment. No brag, just fact, I think pound for pound, Cobb: Off The Leash is the best comic book series put out this year. Maybe in the last five years. It?s not something that is like Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore would do. They are good at what they do best. I don?t think I could ever write a Sandman or a V For Vendetta. I wouldn?t want to. As wonderful as they may be it?s not the kind of material that interests me personally. Just as they may not find Cobb their cup of tea, (They are British after all. They all drink tea, right?) I can lay manly odds that in turn they couldn?t write Cobb like I do.

So I hope readers out there find, buy and read Cobb: Off The Leash. Not only will they give an opportunity to write more, but they will also be widening the genre base of comics as a whole. That?s good for everyone.

ATR: Any other projects you’d like to plug/promote? What else do you have coming up?

BEAU: I am currently doing a werewolf/western prose story for Moonstone Comics as well as a Phantom prose story. I am working a new Wynonna Earp series called The Yeti Wars. I am also still throwing pitches out there and looking for more freelance writing work. The search for more work continues! I?m the easiest guy in pop culture to get a hold of. Folks can find me at my website and email me at

This Has A ?Flying Fist? Factor Of Ten Out Of Ten

Special thanks to Jason and Blair for helping me get my start on ATR, Beau Smith for taking the time to answer my questions, to all my buddies at and Imwan for their support, and to Mike Storniolo and Al Voyatzis for sending stuff in.

In true socialist Canadian fashion, despite this being my first day on the job, I?ve already decided to take a vacation for the next two weeks, Jason has some cool guest columns lined up and ill be back on July 30th as your regular purveyor of Rage!

About The Author