Ordinarily, this is where I would put a spoiler warning for the latest issue of The Avengers, But Wizard beat us to the punch this time.

Regardless, Craig Johnson has the rest of the details in his advance preview of Avengers #503. So if you can?t wait until Wednesday and just have to know which Avenger is ?the big bad? and why they?ve betrayed the team? then click here.

Just don?t say I didn?t warn you.

Whedonesque

As advertised, Joss Whedon addressed the recurring rumors of his involvement in X-Men 3 during last weekend?s High Stakes 2004 fundraiser:

    I did promise I would say whether or not I’m going to be directing the third X-Men movie, and the answer is, I’m sorry to say, no.

Later, during the conference call, Whedon added:

      Ultimately, the fact that I’m writing the X-Men every month in the

Astonishing X-Men

    [Marvel comic] and that I have the best artists in comic books working with me is getting my ‘X’ fix on just fine. I’m writing a screenplay of my own right now, and it’ll be nice to work on something that wasn’t created by me or anybody else many years ago.

In related news, Whedon has closed his production company, Mutant Enemy and opted out of his TV development deal with Twentieth Century Fox. Needless to say, this is a surprising move, considering that Whedon had only one year left on his deal, which was initially worth 20 million dollars. It?s unknown exactly how much money Whedon is leaving on the table, but it?s bound to be a substantial amount. Whedon explained his decision to Variety:

    I spent a lot of time trying to think what my next series would be. I couldn’t think of anything. When that happens, it generally means something is just not working. I didn’t feel like I could come up with anything that the networks would want.

Whedon?s departure won?t affect his film projects (including the upcoming Serenity) and it?s possible that he?ll return to TV at some point. But that seems unlikely to occur in the near future. Conceivably, his reduced commitments could give him the chance to stay on Astonishing X-Men beyond issue 12 (which he has expressed interest in doing) while still actively pursing his feature film career.

However, Whedon?s continued tenure on AXM is strictly conjecture at this point.

This Has An ?Ord and Tell? Factor of Five Out of Ten


Superbuddies

There?s a rumor going around that the Formerly Known As The Justice League sequel might not see print, due to Kevin Maguire?s commitments to an upcoming Marvel project with his FKATJL collaborators, J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen. According to the rumor, the Marvel project is keeping Maguire too busy to finish the FKATJL sequel. However, I?ve been asking around, and I?ve got some good news and bad news. The good news is that Maguire is said to be much closer to finishing the FKATJL sequel than previously believed. The bad news is that it probably won?t come out until late 2005 at the earliest, depending on what DC has lined up for JLA Classified, following Grant Morrison?s arc.

This Has A ?BWAH-HA-HA-HA!!? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


Land of The Dead

The Walking Dead has been one of Image Comics? biggest success stories of the last year. Sales for both the monthly series and the trade paperback have been steadily climbing, with a healthy demand for back issues as well. When asked for his thoughts on the series, TWD creator, Robert Kirkman had this to say:

The Walking Dead

    is a horrific tale of survival in a world overrun by zombies. It focuses on a small town cop, Rick Grimes and his wife and son as they try to rebuild the life they once knew if a vastly different world.

Rick is a very optimistic, almost naive guy. He’s really not the ideal hero to have in these situations, but he’s so dedicated and driven that he seems to stay alive almost by luck. He’s also burdened by the fact that he has his wife and child to protect. He’s a complicated guy.

Obviously the Romero films are a big influence on the zombie stuff in the book. The rest of it is really just people talking. Little bits here and there are pulled from my life or people I know/knew… to a very small degree.

Sales-wise the book continues to kick all kinds of ass. Our second trade had pre-order numbers on par with the Ultimate Fantastic Four V1 TPB. And we sold 15,000 copies of the first trade in four months and had to go to a second printing. The single issues are climbing the sales charts every month, and have been since issue 2. This is the hottest book I’ve ever been attached to thus far. I have no complaints what-so-ever. I’m having a blast. The sales stuff always makes me feel like a greedy bastard, but really… it’s just about me getting to continue the story, that’s all that’s important to me.

When asked about the artistic switch from Tony Moore to Charlie Adlard, Kirkman replied:

    Tony and Charlie both do a great job portraying the characters emotions and expressions, as well as drawing some mighty cool zombies, Tony especially?I think that guy kills people and keeps them in his basement for reference. Charlie, I think, adds an additional layer of mood and eeriness that Tony wasn’t really bringing to the plate. This book just keeps getting darker and darker and I think Charlie came on the book at the right time for that. I think Charlie’s stuff makes the book seem more “serious” somehow. Both artists do a great job, though. Tony’s covers are spectacular and Charlie blows me away with every issue he turns in.

Issue 12 and 13 are at the printer right now. Charlie just turned in 14 yesterday… so while we had a SMALL hiccup in the schedule we’re back on track now… and after the printer catches up we should be on schedule from here on out. Issues 13-18 (our third arc) features our first murder mystery as our heroes explore their new home. It should be a lot of fun. If you’ve liked the book so far–I think I’ve got the coolest stuff so far planned for 13-18. This arc definitely has the best cliffhangers in the book so far.

This Has A ?Sweet Zombie Jesus!? Factor of Nine Out of Ten


Sky Fire

Chris Blythe (2000AD) and Steve Parkhouse (The BoJeffries Saga) have been generating a great deal of buzz lately for their self-published graphic novel, Angel Fire. The story has garnered raves from early reviews and there is also interest in their choice of distribution. Completely sidestepping comic stores, Angel Fire will only be available for purchase online, to fans in the US, the UK and around the world. Earlier this week, I caught up with Blythe for a quick Q&A:

Blair Marnell: Why did you decide to stay away from traditional distribution venues for Angel Fire?

Chris Blythe: Because things need to change. It’s not a healthy industry. In fact, there isn’t an industry in the UK. We have 2000AD, which is great – but nothing beyond that. If you go through existing channels, through established distributors and comic stores, you end up with no profit. It just isn’t worth it for a limited-run project. A lot of comics are bought through Amazon.com so it seems a natural progression to harness the Net more effectively. Although it’s no use as a publishing tool, it’s fantastic for marketing and selling. We’ve spent months building awareness for this book, and it seems to have worked. We’ve got a great website, where you can read a preview and download some really cool trailers. It’s been marketed like a movie, or a DVD, there’ll even be a ‘Making of Angel Fire’ that you can access on-line after you’ve bought the book. We’re distributing it ourselves – once you’ve made a secure purchase, we pack ’em and ship ’em from our own homes. Modern technology allows you to do that. The business tools are available, and it’s cost-effective.

I’d much rather buy directly from the creators, knowing that the money from the book was going where it should.

BM: How long have you been working with Steve?

CB: We’ve worked together on a dizzying array of projects over the past 5 years. I run a little illustration studio called Deadalus, and Steve produced some drawings for series of schoolbooks for me. We never looked back, collaborating on everything from comics, to body language books, to MacBeth!

Steve encouraged me to get into writing. He’s an award-winning writer in his own right, so I jumped at the chance to have such a mentor. I wrote several short stories for 2000AD to cut my teeth, and then started on Angel Fire.

I teamed up with Steve, firstly he’s one of the best artists in the industry, and secondly he shares my dismay at the state of mainstream comics. We wanted to produce something with some weight to it. Something that challenges the readers not patronizes them. I’ve always loved horror stories, but I was keen to avoid the ‘Let’s look in the cupboard where the growling is coming from…’ mentality that permeates the genre. I wanted to populate the story with believable characters, who make believable decisions, and figure things out as the reader does. I had fun setting up cliche situations, and then avoiding them so the reader wouldn’t be able to predict the outcome. Angel Fire is an old school horror. It’s about what you don’t see, rather than an effects laden monster-book. So far it’s scared the socks of a fair few critics.

Steve worked on the pencils and inks for two and half years in his spare time, and it’s now being colored by me. We both relished trying new things, and we’ve both turned out career-defining work for this book.

BM: What?s the story about?

CB: Angel Fire is a tale of greed, corruption and a chance of redemption. It centers on a corporate asset-stripper in London; John Dury who is so blinded by the promise of fortune that he can’t see his own life disintegrating. After a particularly profitable coup, John is rewarded with the latest designer drug to hit the city; Angel Fire.

John’s descend into addiction tears his life apart. After personal tragedy strikes, he moves to his wife’s ancestral home in New Torridon, Scotland in an attempt to shake his personal demons loose. He soon discovers that Torridon has its own black past, a past that is linked to the horror that has haunted him from the shadows since he left London.

The story stemmed from seeing a documentary about addiction. A man described his attempted over-dose as an escape to a better place. I started to wonder how things could get so bad that you would begin to think like that. What would drive a person to that edge? It’s about falling into the abyss, and whether you can crawl out.

The drive to produce Angel Fire came from wanting to do something different in comics. We wanted to do something for ourselves, and self-publishing was always the plan. As Steve put it, ‘I wanted to put my soul into a project, and keep it at the end.’ We’ve both experienced appalling behavior in the industry – from not being paid, to not getting royalties, to not getting artwork back. Angel Fire is about experimenting, not just with the storytelling, but in how a book can be produced, marketed and distributed.

BM: What has the response to Angel Fire been like?

CB: Astounding. It hasn’t been released yet but the preview copy has had nothing but glowing reviews. It seems a lot of critics have been waiting for something like this, and have said as much. One reviewer read it four-times, back to back. That’s gratifying. It’s designed to stay with you, and bring you back. The buzz is really building in the UK, and hopefully it’ll spread to the States and beyond. We’re getting hits on the website from Australia, Portugal, Brazil – all over. Of course critical acclaim doesn’t guarantee sales, but its another hurdle cleared. There have been a lot of hurdles…

BM: How can fans in the US and the UK purchase Angel Fire?

CB: Go to: http://www.shatteredframes.com/angelfire

Click on Purchase.

We were going to use Pay Pal, but they’ve had trouble recently and crashed for 5 days. So, at the eleventh hour we’ve found ourselves using a more traditional secure credit card company. It’s just another hurdle, and another challenge, and another expense! It’s part of the fun of going it alone!

We’re hoping to be able to take orders on October 31st, Halloween. We may run a day or two over, so bookmark us and come back if we’re not quite ready. Every order is monumentally important to us!

This Has A ?12 Steps? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


Nights in Whitechapel

David Hitchcock?s Whitechapel Freak is set for a US release later this year, thanks to Full Circle Publications. Additionally, the new edition of WF will feature a cover by Simon Bisley and will be seen in color for the first time, courtesy of Philippe Gaulier. FCP Publisher, Simon Reed elaborates:

    David Hitchcock has a distinct ability to convey a storyboard with interesting angles and characterization that fit the Victorian era. The story in itself is unique and tells a strong line on prejudice as well as the conflict that ensues from it. You are also enveloped in the world of the ripper brought down into the grimy cobbled streets amidst shrouded fog following the plight of the prostitute?s life. The detail of buildings and backgrounds is breathtaking adding more to the environment. The original newspaper format was an excellent idea and I wanted to take this into the mainstream comic book format to reach a wider audience.

I remember the conversation with Simon Bisley asking him to do the cover and when I brought the Whitechapel project to him, he said “this is great artwork with a definite Corben influence and feel. I think the characters look great and would be happy to do a cover.”

I felt that color would attract more readers but was concerned that David’s art would be affected. I met Philippe Gaulier at a show where he showed me his portfolio and also being an artist himself felt he would understand David’s work. He had worked on a Jekyl and Hyde videogame doing textures and understood atmosphere and mood and was simply the best coloring I have seen in a long time. I signed him up straight away and he was immediately snatched up to do The Hitchhiker?s Guide to the Galaxy and is now working on Captain Scarlet working with Gerry Anderson. I showed the first pages to David and he was thrilled with the level of detail Philippe could bring to his art. Philippe is now finishing off Springheeled Jack #1 of a 3 part series also by David Hitchcock. Preview art can be viewed for all the new work at http://www.fcp.cc.

Whitechapel Freak will make its US debut this December.

This Has A ?4 Out of 5 Ripperologists Can?t Be Wrong? Factor of Nine Out of Ten


All Along The Watchtower

Toonzone is reporting that Justice League Unlimited has been given the greenlight for a third season, with an official announcement from Cartoon Network to be made soon. Additionally, there may be direct-to-DVD Batman animated films based on both the classic Paul Dini/Bruce Timm series and The Batman, which is the current series on The WB.

This Has A ?Dark Knight Detective? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


The Marvel Slate

Buried within the Marvel 2004 third quarter report were some revealing tidbits on their upcoming Hollywood plans, including the first four of Marvel?s animated direct-to-DVD features under their eight pic deal with Lions Gate. The previously announced Avengers flick (based on The Ultimates), will be followed by a sequel. Iron Man and The Hulk are also slated to get solo animated features.

While the report also listed the expected film sequels for both the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises, it?s interesting to note that the already completed Man-Thing live action feature film isn?t mentioned at all?

This Has A ?Nexus of Realities? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


The Fantastics

Here are some sketches of the FF by Cliff Rathburn from his upcoming Fantastic Four: Foes miniseries with Robert Kirkman.

Enjoy.


Congratulations to Jason Hughes (better known to ATR readers as J.Hues) and Kelly Barr, who are getting married next weekend. Good luck and best wishes.

That?s all for this week?

Happy Halloween!

Later,
Blair

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


About The Author