I literally just got back from San Diego, a day later than I expected to. And as much as I?d like to pass out, I?ve got a column to write. So, here we go?

If you?ve never been to the San Diego Comic Con, picture a cross between ShoWest, the E3, Anime Expo and every comic convention you?ve been to. Then double it twenty times. That should give you a pretty good idea of how big the con has become. Once again, Hollywood was out in force. Some of the movie companies even dropped the pretense of genre related films in their quest to reach the coveted target audience. For example, New Line Cinema paired Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and Cellular with Blade: Trinity and LOTR: The Return of the King Extended DVD during a two hour panel on Friday. Though to be fair, at least Cellular looked interesting.

The movie and video game companies were both here in greater numbers than ever before, which led to some intriguing rumors. More on that in a bit. But first, here?s some of the news & rumors that were heard on the show floor:

Counterstrike

This year?s con seemed like a reversal of the previous SDCC, with Marvel announcing several exclusive contracts with comic creators as well as numerous upcoming projects. DC Comics was almost quiet by comparison, leaving many to wonder whether DC had any plans to counter Marvel?s latest moves.

From what I?ve heard, the answer is yes. The most popular rumor going around was that DC is in the early stages of gathering creators for a new line of books featuring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The word ?Ultimate? was never used, but the books were described as top creators telling stories ?without the constraints of continuity.? According to the rumors, some of the creators involved are already under exclusive contract with DC, with several BIG names from outside the company also onboard. It was also broadly hinted that the new line would be run through Wildstorm.

If it all goes down, expect a 2005 launch date.

This Has A ?Up, Up And Away!!? Factor of Six Out of Ten


Many Happy Returns

In other DC news, I?ve heard that Jeff Loeb will be writing a six issue Wonder Woman miniseries, with Adam Hughes providing the covers and the interior art as well. Additionally, the Geoff Johns/Adam Hughes Batman storyline is still on, but has been pushed back until after the Wonder Woman miniseries has been finished.

Also, keep an eye out for this week?s Wizard. It reportedly has a feature story on the new Justice League ongoing series, with an M & M creative team for the first arc. Long time JLA fans should be happy very soon?

This Has A ?Paradise Island? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


Panther Sighting

I?ve heard that the writer for Marvel?s upcoming Black Panther project is Reggie Hudlin. Hudlin is best known for directing the House Party movies, and has also worked on The Bernie Mac Show. He?s also working with Aaron MacGruder (Boondocks) and Kyle Baker (Why I Hate Saturn) on a graphic novel entitled Birth of a Nation.

Hudlin?s Black Panther is said to be very much in the spirit of Priest?s run with the character. John Romita Jr. is still onboard for the interior art, and the project is expected to hit in 2005.

This Has A ?Vibranium Alloy? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


Riding A Dark Horse

Dark Horse Comics made a number of announcements at San Diego. Here?s a quick run down:

  • The Incredibles will be adapted in a four issue miniseries. Story by Brad Bird and art by Richard Curtis.
  • Paul Dini?s Jingle Belle has relocated from Oni to Dark Horse. A new Jingle Belle four issue miniseries will hit in November, written by Dini and art by Jose Garibaldi and Stephanie Gladden.
  • A new Concrete miniseries is slated for December.
  • Jeremy Love (Fierce) is writing and drawing a Shadow Rock graphic novel.
  • Ron Marz and Luke Ross are reteaming for a new project: Samurai. It?s scheduled for a late 2004 release.
  • John Landis (The Blues Brothers) is developing a comic entitled Teenage Vampire.
  • Katsuya Terada?s The Monkey King will be released in March 2005.
  • Broken Saints, an online comic done in Manga/Anime style will debut in 2005.
  • And finally, April 2005 will see the release of Hipira: The Little Vampire by Katsuhiro Otomo and Shinji Kimura.

This Has A ?Maximum Diversification? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


Moviemania

Throughout the con, there were several movie producers who traveled the show floor and expressed interest in developing various comic books into film and television series. Some of it was just talk? but there were a few that went into serious negotiations. Additionally, there were least seven comic properties (both mainstream and small press) which were picked up prior to the con, with official announcements to be made in the weeks and months ahead.

This Has A ?Barbarians At The Gate? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


Game On

The video game industry had a much larger presence at this year?s con. Attending companies included Atari, Capcom, Electronic Arts, Konami, Nintendo and Sony. It?s interesting to note that their booths in San Diego were extremely scaled back versions of their E3 displays. Prior to the SDCC, several companies (most notably Atari & EA) were rumored to be dissatisfied with the E3 and the high cost that it entails. Some companies spend millions of dollars on their E3 displays. Now, with the emergence of the SDCC, video game companies can reach a wider audience without spending nearly as much they had previously. This has not gone unnoticed by the companies themselves?

And there?s already talk that some companies might skip next year?s E3 altogether.

This Has A ?Powerups To The People! ? Factor of Six Out of Ten


Zone Alert

Sony and Dreamwave are continuing the video game into comics trend with the upcoming Killzone miniseries. Dreamwave founder, Pat Lee explains:

Killzone

    is a project that we?re working with Sony on. They came to us with it, and we thought it would be a really interesting idea if we took on this new property. They?re putting it out as a video game fairly soon. We?re pretty excited, it?s the type of project that we?ve always been interested in. We?re telling a war story with a video game franchise. It?s gonna be a blast.

The video game comes out in October for Playstation 2. Sony is positioning it as the premier first-person shooter for Playstation 2. Something to compete against Halo. The first issue of the comic book comes out in November. It?s gonna be a three issue series, written by John Ney Rieber. The art is by an amazing penciler named Travel Foreman (Cla$$war). He?s an up-and-coming guy known for his realistic style, which fit perfectly for Killzone.

This Has A ?Stay on Target? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


Red Star Rising

Chris Gossett (The Red Star) recently worked on an upcoming film that may interest comic and genre fans. Gossett elaborates:

      It turns out that Richard Taylor and a few of my buddies down in New Zealand (who worked on

Lord of the Rings

      ) are fans of

The Red Star

      . And Richard told me ?If you the time, would you like to come down and work a couple of months on

King Kong

      ? It would be good to have you.? They were wonderfully respectful of our work on

The Red Star

      . Richard is someone who brought such innovation to film (as the

LotR

      visual effects supervisor) and he really appreciated our innovation in comics. So, I went down there a month before Comic Con, and had to come back. It went really well. I can?t tell you anything about

King Kong

      , all I can say is that the WETA workshop and Peter Jackson are approaching

King Kong

      with as much love, passion and attention to detail as they did the

Lord of the Rings Trilogy

    . They?re putting their full heart into it, and you know what happens when they do.

Gossett also had a few thoughts on The Red Star video game and the next trade paperback:

      I?m really happy to say that we have our first video game coming out in September for the PS2 and X-Box. We have it here at the San Diego con and a lot of people have been having a great time playing it. We?ve gotten nothing but positive feedback on the game itself. It?s a really fun first game. It?s very arcade style. A trend in video games these days is to make a really complex interface, really slow interface?

The Red Star

    features classic gameplay. It?s run and shoot. We wanted people to be able to pick it up and play. And just have fun with it. That?s what we have here.

The third Red Star trade comes out just after this show. That will collect the second volume (five issues). It?s about 160 pages long and oversized, as we?re known for. It completes the current story-arc and there?s a really nice extended sketchbook section in the back along with commentary on how we make The Red Star and our unique production process.

This Has A ?Swatting At Airplanes? Factor of Nine Out of Ten


Rich?s World

Alan Moore and Joe Quesada will appear as supporting characters in Rich Johnston?s upcoming comic project with Vicious Circle. Johnston confirmed this detail late in the show. Additionally, Vicious Circle spent a good deal of time at the con looking at prospective artists for the project.

However, there?s no word yet on if an artist has been found.

This Has A ?Tales of the Comic Book Industry? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


Explaining The Aftermath

Devil?s Due Publishing officially announced their Aftermath line of superhero titles at the start of the San Diego con. When asked about his latest publishing plans, DDP President, Josh Blaylock replied:

    The question to me is, ?Why not?? How can you not do this? Growing up, I loved superhero comics. Now, I find myself in a position where I?m one of the top ten publishers and I have an opportunity to create a whole new universe of superheroes. That said, we?ve been publishing comics a few years now, so I know the importance of not overextending yourself and not spending money on the wrong things. But I think the key to this was getting the top writers involved, so that the retailers who see the artwork and like the concepts know that the stories are going to deliver as well. The people I approached were Chuck Dixon, Marv Wolfman, Joe Casey and Ron Marz. Everyone of those guys is taking concepts that I created, which all fit into the same universe (the Aftermath universe) and then fleshing them out and developing the whole universe. They?re all in it for the long haul, and we?re all really excited about it.

The first two books, Breakdown and Defex come out in October. Defex is written by Marv Wolfman. It?s a teen superhero book, but Marv has gone to great lengths to give it a different twist than Teen Titans or X-Men. And he?s so good at doing the soap opera interaction of the characters. He really knows how to write that stuff.

Breakdown is by Chuck Dixon, and he?s just cutting loose on this thing. The concept is ?What if instead of a normal guy like Frank Castle becoming the Punisher? this guy who has his whole life go to hell? what if that happened to the Flash or Superman? An actual superhero with powers. That guy, who was probably known as a celebrity, becomes this dark vigilante.

Blade of Kumori comes out in November. That one is by Ron Marz. It?s about a modern day Samurai clan that has survived for years that?s gone beyond serving the government of their country because they feel that they are the only ones who are truly serving their country. And in certain cases, they?ll serve anywhere in the world if it?s an honorable cause. Their top agent is Kumori, who?s a superpowered agent. All of those Crouching Tiger and Street Fighter moves? she can do all that. Nobody else can, so she can just whup ass on a whole lot of people. There?s also going to be a sort of Romeo & Juliet, crossed lovers subplot knee-deep in the whole thing.

Infantry comes out in December. It?s written by Joe Casey and with a character who is the ?mystery man? of our universe. He?s fighting off threats? doing everything a superhero does. But you don?t really know what his agenda is. He obviously has some kind of military connection. Instead of following him around, we?re introduced to a normal guy? an insurance claims investigator, who?s the one secretly called in to investigate a lab, which is littered with dead bodies. Someone has escaped from there, and it?s his job to find the guy, determine his MO and try to find out his origin.




The one thing that?s really important about all of these books is that ?decompressed storytelling? is not something we want to do for this universe. If you pick up the first issue of an Aftermath book, you?ll know who the character is, what his powers are, what the concept is and you?re going to see some multi-layered characters and action. You?re going to get your money?s worth. We want people to come back for the second issues. And each book is going to stand independent of itself. It?s not like you have to read all of these, but they do exist in the same world.

This Has A ?Recompressed? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


There Are No Small Roles, Only Small Gods

Jason Rand and Juan E. Ferreyra are teaming up on Small Gods, from Image Comics. The first issue was available at the con, where Rand took the time to expand upon the premise:

Small Gods

      is, to put it simply, a world. It?s our world, but with some small, almost trivial differences? and one big one. In the world of

Small Gods

    , psychics are real. And not just the mediums you see on TV, or the oracles you call on the phone. These are people who can see the future; who can read your mind? or rip it to shreds? with their own; who can lift a book? or a car? or a mountain? just by thinking about it. And there are not just a few of them. When Small Gods begins, 1% of the world?s population demonstrates psychic abilities to some degree. That?s 63 million people. And they?re not superheroes?they?re just as ordinary as anyone else. There are psychic cops, doctors, plumbers, criminals? hey, I bet there are even psychic comic creators. And even though they?re special, they?re human and they have the same problems as anyone else. That?s why they?re ?small gods.?

Small Gods is told in a series of story arcs, with revolving cast members and changing genres. Each arc is basically stand-alone, so you can pick a story up at the start of a new arc and instantly be immersed in the setting. There are some minor links between different stories, but mostly those are just Easter Eggs for regular readers. Some characters are recurring and, of course, their history plays a part in things, but we?ll be making sure that even new readers can follow along with summaries of previous events in the comics and online, at http://www.smallgodscomic.com. As I said, the genres also change ? from drama with cop and crime facets in the first arc, to action, chase and character in the second, to espionage and dark thriller in the third and more. There should be something to everyone?s tastes in there.


We?re also trying to get backup stories done for most, if not all, of the issues. I?m taking a few more liberties with those, as I?m creating them in conjunction with the artists involved. Not only will they be Small Gods stories, but they?ll be what the artists really want to draw as well. For the first arc the backup story, drawn by a good friend and great artist of my acquaintance named Mahmud Asrar, centers on one of the minor characters from that arc. In the second arc, the majority of the backups will be drawn by Aadi Salman (Silent Hill: Dying Inside). Aadi?s stories are a series of linked vignettes fleshing out the backgrounds of the arc?s main characters. The genre Aadi chose to do that in?

Martial arts action.

When asked if there was a planned ending for Small Gods, Rand replied:

      Not yet, there isn?t. Seriously,

Small Gods

    is an ongoing comic. There are 63 million psychics in the world, so there are 63 million stories that can be told. Of course, some are going to be more interesting than others, but that still gives us a lot of scope. Right now I have the first 6 arcs written or plotted to some extent. Basically, as long as I have stories to tell, I want to keep telling them.

Small Gods #1 hits stores this Wednesday.

This Has A ?Tell Me What I?m Thinking Now? Factor of Nine Out of Ten


Alright, people. That?s gonna be it for now, but I?ll be back on Sunday. So stay cool?

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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