I?m really starting to hate my computer?

It?s crashed on me three times tonight, and I almost lost part of the column. Not a good start? Right now, it?s technically Sunday morning, and the only thing keeping me going is a megadose of caffeine. And even that?s got its limits.

So, without any further ado, here?s the latest news and rumors:

Mangamania is Running Wild

Confirming what many suspected, DC Comics officially jumped into the manga race earlier this week, with an announcement for it?s upcoming CMX imprint. According to the press release, the first three titles (Madara, Mekakushi No Kuni, and Eroika Yori Ai Wo Komete) will be released in October, with more titles to come in the following months. In other news, Marvel also appears to have manga-related plans. Anime on DVD is reporting that Clamp (a group of three high profile manga creators) may be working on a project for Marvel. If true, this could have a better chance of reaching the Tokyopop crowd than some of Marvel?s previous attempts.

So, why are the ?Big Two? publishers making new forays into manga? Why, for increased revenue, of course. Compared to traditional superhero comics, manga has a younger and more broad-based audience. An audience which spent almost $100 million dollars on manga in 2003 alone. Marvel and DC would be foolish if they didn?t at least try to tap into that. And frankly, it?s something they should have done years ago.

But better late than never.

This Has A ?Whatcha Gonna Do??!?? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


Animated Dude

For the last sixteen years, Steve ?The Dude? Rude has been laboring to translate his collaboration with Mike Baron, Nexus, into an animated series. In a little over three weeks, at the San Diego Comic Con, his latest Nexus animation attempt will debut in the form of a two-minute promo DVD. Rude recently took the time to answer a few questions regarding the project:

BM: What was the genesis of your Nexus animated series proposal?

SR: It came about when I moved to California. And I suddenly realized that I wanted to see my Nexus characters move. It was also in my head that I was living in the same place that had produced all of my favorite cartoon shows. I knew a lot of people from the various animation studios around Los Angeles. They were all comic book fans. So, I got to know them and I spent a lot of time hanging out with friends at Hanna Barbara. It was just great to be there. I kind of soaked it in, the whole atmosphere, the history of the place and the things that led to me up to being here. It was really a thrilling experience? And it was kind of a natural occurrence that I?d want to get together with people that were interested and grew up with the same things that I loved in animation and see if we could make the characters from Nexus move. That?s literally what I was thinking, because I saw so clearly how they would move and what the music would be like because I had the blueprint from the shows that I grew up with in my head.

We gave it a shot and produced a minute and a half of animation that came out of my living room. That version was completed way back in 1991. We premiered it at the San Diego Comic Convention that year. We also premiered the new DVD (version) at the con last year in rough form.

BM: You?ve been trying to get a Nexus animated series off the ground for years. In the past, how close have you come to that goal?

SR: Well, once I completed the animation I was basically shell-shocked. It took so much out of me to complete this thing that I thought, ?I?m just going to relax and see what happens. I?m gonna go to different studios and I?m gonna entertain offers?set up pitch meetings?? And that?s what I did. I spent the next six years going in and out of various pitch meetings with people. That actually continued up until 2000-2001 with Sony. And at that point, after all of those years doing it (obviously, I?m leaving a lot of details out) I realized I didn?t like pitch meetings and I didn?t like the people I was pitching too. I didn?t like any of them. None of them were sincere, none of them were real to me and none of them were going to communicate with me on a level that didn?t involve some kind of political maneuvering (studio related). I just realized that I wanted no part of that. I didn?t want to have any part of the big studios; I didn?t want to have any part of the small studios. Unless I could get it the way I wanted, I had no interest in doing the show. Even though it took me a long time to realize that, I?m glad I finally did. Because I could just relax and not feel any pressure. I actually couldn?t care less if some studio picks it up, unless they?re the right studio (and the chances of that happening are so small?). Studios, by their nature are not very kind entities. They?re business entities, and that automatically puts them at odds with me.

BM: How much did your current animation test (for the DVD) end up costing?

SR: I say about $20,000, but Jaynelle [Rude] says about $50,000. Who knows? She may be right, if you consider all the years I spent working on this thing without bringing any actual money in for it. But you know; I don?t pay attention to those things. And she does, so she?s probably more accurate about that.

BM: Did you handle the animation by yourself?

SR: No. I tried to at the beginning, but I just didn?t have the animation experience to pull off movement fluidly. So, I smartly enlisted the help of some top animators that were also Nexus fans at the various feature studios around Los Angeles. Dreamworks and Disney, places like that?I assembled a bunch of guys and I gave them layouts to work from. And I would go in there (the studios) at night, and we would try to animate these characters. It was just a matter of me standing over their shoulders and saying, ?Okay, this is how I want them to move.? We would do a couple of passes. Then I would take the very rough animation the animators gave me (after all, they just were there to make it move right) and then I would put the characters on model and polish it. Which is a very hard thing in of itself, actually.

BM: Besides the animation promo, what else is going to be on the DVD?

SR: There?s a project a friend and I put together about six years ago, that?s basically how I do Nexus the comic book. Just talking about various aspects of what it takes to put a comic together ?the Steve Rude way.? There?s commentary by me and (Mike) Baron. In the Nexus animation there?s no actual voices. It?s just music, sound effects and animation. We?re also including copy of the Nexus series bible (shrunk down to fit in the DVD case), with characters that are going to show up, villains, and so on?


The Nexus Animated Promo DVD will be available at the San Diego Con and online. Preorders can be placed here.

This Has A ?Restless Dreams? Factor of Nine Out of Ten


Spirits of War

Mark Texeira?s upcoming Pscythe two-issue miniseries is a bit of a departure from the typical Image comic. Both issues clock in at 40 pages, which includes a 16 page backup feature of Jordan Raskin?s Industry of War. When contacted, Texeira elaborated on the premise of Psycthe:

    Following the end of Lucifer?s war, his legions of fallen angels were banished to Hell to suffer an eternity for their actions. For one of those fallen, it?s suffering is about to end. Pscythe, once one of the most powerful angelic entities, is being granted a chance at redemption. To do so, it must inhabit the sub-consciousness of a human vessel in order to understand and appreciate the lessons on earth that it did not learn in the past. Without her knowledge, Angela, a novice bounty hunter, is chosen to be that vessel, placing her in the middle of a spiritual struggle for Pscythe?s allegiance.

Pscythe is an ongoing series of mini-series. I plan on continuing the story as 5 issue 22-page story arcs, once a year every year. I?m working on the 3 issue follow up to the two issue mini-series right now and plan to have all 5 issues finished by 2005 (crossing fingers). I also plan to continue doing small work for hire jobs throughout the industry in between so you?ll see my work in lots of places this year.

Texeira also passed along a few preview pages:

      I plan to keep

Pscythe

      in black and white. I?ve always loved the

Batman Black & White

      series and have always loved great noir films like Bogart’s

Maltese Falcon

      . Not to mention, Frank Millers

Sin City

      , and

Stray Bullets

      , which has set a standard I hope to follow. I?m painting the story in gray tones sort of like how I approached the

Black Panther

    work I did for Marvel (only without the computer color on top).

According to both creators, Pscythe and Industry of War are completely unrelated stories, despite being packaged together. Raskin also had a few additional things to say about his half of the book:

      In a nutshell,

Industry of War

    follows a pair of undercover military agents charged with the responsibility of hunting down missing malfunctioning bio-symbiotic weaponry, which was created for the foot soldier. Unfortunately, these things have mistakenly gotten into the hands of the general public. All hell breaks loose when the agents discover the latest weapon on their retrieval list was programmed with an assassination mission during the first gulf war, just prior to it being shelved for it’s malfunctioning design. To make matters worse, the weapon is mistakenly found by a “reformed” ex-gang member recently released from prison. The agents must track him down and discover the details of the assassination plot, all while protecting the conspiracy of the weapons from the media spotlight. There’s actually more to it than this, but I don’t want to reveal everything here. At the core of the story is tug of war morality play

There are 3 essential main characters in this story. First, we have our two retrieval officers, James Vansanto and Michael Landry. Both are experienced military and dedicated to their job. They truly believe they’re doing this for the right reasons, which is to prevent the deaths of innocents. But there are other forces at work, which they will have to confront throughout the story. Then there’s our anti-hero, Eddie Vierra. A former gang member just paroled from prison looking to get his life straight when he accidentally stumbles across the weapon system Vansanto and Landry are looking for. This poor guy’s life is about to be turned upside down like you can’t imagine and it’s going to affect everyone around him in the worst way possible.

When asked if Industry of War would get it?s own book, Jordan replied:

      Yep! About a month or two (tops) following the end of the mini-series,

Industry of War

    will jump out into it?s own title from Image. The Eddie Vierra story arc is based on a completed screenplay written by myself and my co-writer, Andrew Lelling. I?m not sure how many issues it will run or in what format just yet because I?m adapting it as I go. I plan on having Act 1 (80 pages) finished by the San Diego convention where I will be previewing the art in Artist Alley. This is an intense story and I’m giving it a cinematic moody noir look with a touch of Manga technique. I’ve been getting a decent response to it so far. Hopefully that will continue.

The first issue of Pscythe will be out in September. For more on Pscythe and Industry of War, check out http://www.marktexeira.com/ and http://www.jordanraskin.com.

This Has A ?Growth Industry? Factor of Nine Out of Ten


Web of Intrigue: Redux

A recent story at CBR may have uncovered why the Spider-Man 2 video game was absent from last month?s E3 trade show. The article states, ?The main story line for the game is very similar to the movie. This is the reason why details of the game have been so strictly guarded since it was announced.?

As an explanation, it does fit. But I just don?t see the need for secrecy here. The trailers have already given away most of the key plot points. And if you?ve ever read a Spider-Man comic, seen the first movie or any of the animated series then you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the second film.

It?s not exactly the mystery of Keyser S?ze.

This Has A ?Mister Kobayashi? Factor of Six Out of Ten


Fappo!

Seen recently at Millarworld:




These are part of a series of ?re-mixed? Spider-Man newspaper strips. Most of the remaining strips aren?t work safe, and are probably offensive? but having been warned, you can find them here.

This Has An ?Is That Your Spider-Sense Tingling, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


The Milkman Always Rings Twice

Joe Casey (Wildcats 3.0) and Steve Parkhouse (2000AD) have teamed up for The Milkman Murders, a new horror miniseries from Dark Horse Comics. When asked for his thoughts on the series, Casey replied:

    It’s about the darkness that pervades the suburban American lifestyle and how that darkness affects a “normal” housewife named Barbara Vale.

The characters are? a typical American family. A mom, a dad, a daughter, a son. Their motivations are the same as any of us. To live a happy life and deny the bad stuff. Of course, some things can’t be denied… The father’s a drug addict, the daughter is sleeping with the high school gym teacher, the son is a sadistic little fuck who hunts neighborhood pets and skins them in the Vale’s basement.

The book is about Barbara’s reaction to the chaos around her. At first, she’s in such deep denial about how bad things are, she’s like a rubber band that’s been pulled too tight. Eventually, it snaps.


I grew up in the ‘burbs, so it wasn’t difficult to find inspiration. I never went so far as what some of the characters do in this book, but I certainly witnessed some freaky stuff. There’s a lot of dysfunction out there, even in the most unlikely of places. I wanted to delve into that and see what I could dig up. I think that’s what good horror stories do best.

It’s more of an honest examination of the decay of the American family. We’ve come a long way from the days of Leave It To Beaver and this book reflects that, admittedly in a very extreme way.

The Milkman Murders is a four-issue miniseries. The first issue hits in July.

This Has A ?Cleaver Licking Good? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


By Imperial Decree

Robert Kirkman?s involvement with the new Youngblood: Imperial miniseries was confirmed in the latest issue of Previews. When asked about it on his message board, Kirkman replied:

    Red handed.

This is going to be SOOOOO cool. Don’t worry.

Later in the thread, Kirkman revealed that Marat Mychaels will be the artist on Youngblood: Imperial issues 1 through 12. Rob Liefeld will draw the zero issue, to be released in September.

This Has A ?Badrock Cafe? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


The Once & Former Future?

There?s a rumor going around that Future Comics has dissolved, with most of its employees either already with new jobs or actively seeking them. Furthermore, their http://www.futurecomicsonline.com website is no longer online, and inquiring emails have not been returned. Has yet another comic company gone under?

Could be?

This Has A ?Retroactive? Factor of Six Out of Ten


MOCCA

Just a reminder for our readers in New York: this Thursday, Neal Adams and Clifford Meth are co-hosting The Dave Cockrum Benefit Art Exhibition at The Museum of Cartoon and Comic Art . All of the original artwork from The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute will be on display.

The event runs from 7-9pm, with a $3 cover charge (which will go towards the Cockrums and the Museum). For more information, call 212-254-3511


One last thing before I?m gone? I?ll be out of town next weekend, which means there won?t be an ATR. So enjoy Free Comic Book Day, and have a Happy 4th of July.

Later,
Blair

PS If anyone has any rumors, stories or news to share, please email me at blairm@silverbulletcomicbooks.com Thanks to everyone who has been sending stuff in. It?s greatly appreciated.


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