About two weeks ago, at the San Diego con, I decided to head out to this year?s Wizard World Chicago Con. I?ve always been curious to see how it compares to San Diego, and this seems like a good year to go.

Unfortunately, since this is largely a last minute decision, I?ve run into a few problems along the way. Namely, finding a place to stay. The hotels that still have rooms available aren?t exactly affordable, and most of my friends are already crammed in with three to four people a room.

But I think I finally found a place. At least, I?m pretty sure that I have. Here?s hoping?

Anyway, here?s this week?s news and rumors:

Ask Jarvis

Earlier this week, Wizard announced a contest in which fans were invited to guess the lineup for Brian Bendis and David Finch?s upcoming Avengers relaunch. The clues provided were:

  1. To know her is to her is to fear her.
  2. Danny?s friend.
  3. Tobey or not Tobey
  4. He?s the member you don?t remember.
  5. Hugh could it be?

Naturally, this set off a fresh round of speculation and rumors. In response, Bendis posted the following message:

      Oh sweet Jesus will someone listen to the author of the book, for the millionth, billionth time we ARE NOT JLAing THE AVENGERS!!!

That was a rumor, denied over and over, I never said that, Marvel never said that, Rich or someone pretending they knew something said that, I said we are using the best Marvel characters, imo.

That said this is not the Secret War team, even though that would be cool, and for all you smarties, no one has guessed right.

Ahh… I feel better.

Well? let the speculation continue!

This Has A ?Great Lakes Avengers? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


Invisible Jet Cleared For Takeoff

In a message posted to his yahoo group, Adam Hughes confirmed that his next project will be a Wonder Woman six issue miniseries:

      First, let me clear the air about my next project. My

Batman

      6-issue mini is now on the back burner. DC tells me that I will DEFINITELY be able to do it after I finish my 6-issue

Wonder Woman

      miniseries.

That’s right- I’m finally doing WW interiors. I can’t say WHERE this six issue run will appear just yet, so don’t ask. What I CAN say is that I asked Geoff Johns to write it, and we’re cooking up some fun stuff. It will (hopefully) be a very archetypal WW story, one that anyone can read and you don’t have to worry about how Diana likes her eggs in the morning, as far as continuity goes. It’ll be out late next year, if all goes well. I have been assured full creative and quality control, so it SHOULDN’T be some big 6-issue compromise that I’ll have regrets about 10 years from now.

Until I start drawing THAT, I’m doing a few more Tomb Raider covers and LOTS of DCU covers.

This Has A ?Golden Lasso? Factor of Nine Out of Ten


Resigned & Reloaded

Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) recently renewed his exclusive agreement with DC for an additional three years. Earlier this week, I caught up with Azzarello for a quick Q&A:

BM: Why did you decide to re-sign with DC?

BA: Because they are allowing me to do what I want to do. Plain and simple. I want to create new work and DC wants me to create new work for them.

BM: What projects do you have lined up for your immediate future at DC?

BA: My upcoming work at DC will be 100 Bullets, Superman, and a new series called Loveless, which is a western. If I were to ask you to name three real life characters from the west, who would they be?

BM: Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and Calamity Jane.

BA: You could have said Jesse James too. It?s funny. Two out of three answers are always outlaws. Wyatt Earp is the only lawman that anyone ever mentions– and he didn’t exactly wear a white hat, if you know what I mean. It?s the outlaws that have captured our imagination.

BM: What?s Loveless about?

BA: The high concept? Bonnie and Clyde on horseback. Everybody gets their mind around that. It takes place during reconstruction in the south. The climate is one of an occupied nation. Wes and Ruth Cutter are the main characters. Wes was a Confederate soldier during the war while Ruth was left back in Missouri and had a worse go of it than Wes did. What drives them to become outlaws? Circumstances beyond their control.

BM: Will it be a finite series or ongoing?

BA: Ongoing. It?s a Vertigo regular series, which means? (it?s not gonna be a hundred issues like 100 Bullets!) But it will run a number of years, hopefully.

BM: Who is your creative collaborator on Loveless?

BA: Marcello Fruisin. I worked with him on Hellblazer for the majority of my run. Both he and I are huge fans of Spaghetti Westerns, and as I was wrapping up my Hellblazer run we talked about getting back together and doing a western. I know westerns have a hard sell reputation, but I truly believe that there’s something in the Zeitgeist that’s screaming for this genre.

BM: When is Loveless coming out?

BA: Next year some time. Probably next spring. We?re still in the character design stage, but it?s approved and it?s going to happen. I?ve been wanting to do this for two years.

BM: Are there any other creator owned projects that you have in the works?

BA: Probably a few graphic novels. There are a lot of artists I?d like to work with and artists who want to work with me. It?s just a matter of clearing our schedules so we can do it. I figure when I?m done with Superman and Lex Luthor and I just have two creator owned series going then that would be a good time to start these graphic novels.

BM: What?s happening with your Lex Luthor: Man of Steel project with Lee Bermejo?

BA: It?s going to be a six issue miniseries. The first issue is going to hit the last month of my twelve issue run (with Jim Lee) on Superman.

BM: Do you have any plans for more DC Universe comics down the line?

BA: We?ll see. I don?t have any more plans to do DCU stuff at the moment. If the time is right and I have something to say about a particular character, then yes. But just to have another book coming out? No. I don?t like to operate that way. I?m happy doing Loveless and 100 Bullets, and I?m not known for being happy. But I?m pretty happy right now. As happy as I think I can get.

This Has A ?Into The Sunset? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


Taking On The Syndicates

Scott Kurtz made waves this week, with the announcement that he intends to offer his PvP comic strip to newspapers free of charge. This would bypass the normal channels of newspaper comic distribution, and cut the syndicates like King Features and Universal Press out of the equation. When contacted, Kurtz took the time to answer a few questions about his plans:

BM: How did all this get started?

SK: It all started when I was in the fourth grade and my mom bought me the first Garfield book. I decided then and there that one day I would draw comic strips for a living. I drew them all through school and into college, for the school papers. But I was never satisfied enough with my work to submit to the syndicates. PvP started in 1998 on the web and I realized I wouldn’t need the syndicate any longer. The exposure on the net would replace the newspaper for me. I could market and license the strip’s merchandise on my own.

BM: Did Universal make the initial contact about syndication, or did you approach them?

SK: An editor at Universal and I have a mutual friend and that friend suggested to him that they should syndicate PvP. The editor said “That guy hates newspaper syndication.” and my friend said “Are you sure? I know Scott would love to see PvP in the papers.” So Universal contacted me after that.

He (the editor) was already familiar with PvP and wanted to present it to his editorial staff. So I sent him the first couple of PvP collections, which was over 200 strips I think. That’s about 5 times more than a normal syndication package. And then I waited seven weeks for them to say no, and they said no for very specific reasons.

My only interest in the Syndicates, the only thing they have to offer me, is newspaper distribution. I’m not interested in splitting merchandise, book, TV, or movie deals with them. I’m looking for a way into the papers. And this editor told me that flat out, any strip that didn’t come with ancillary rights made no business sense to them. He asked me to contact him if I had any other properties in mind and that was that.

BM: How long have you wanted PvP in newspapers?

SK: Before the syndicate ever contacted me, I’ve been researching this. I’ve been talking to syndicated cartoonists and they all say the same thing: they envy my position. And that all the syndicates would respond the same way to me. They make their money from the bigger picture. So I was talking to my business manager and friend Gary Arndt. Gary thinks outside the box. Gary told me “Screw the syndicate. Go around them. Give the strips to the paper for free. Even if you only get into 10-20 papers, the exposure and prestige would be immeasurable. First try to get the syndicates to play. But if not…try going around them.”

That just excited the HELL out of me. I was almost hoping at that point, that the syndicates would say no. This whole plan was in the works, but on a back burner to the more important business of the day and monthly deadlines. Until the announcement from Knight-Ridder. and we both decided… NOW is the time.

Our first step was research. Talking to as many syndicated cartoonists as possible, getting their experience and advice on how papers run and how editors think. and that was the most important part of the whole thing.

BM: Have you had any takers on your offer?

SK: I’ve had some of the alternative weekly papers and some tech papers already approach me, but none of the major market family papers. Which I expect will be the norm. Alternative weeklies and college papers will most likely be the first to take me up on this offer.

Right now, I’m having a lawyer write up a simple features agreement that will detail the terms by which papers can print PvP. The next step is amassing a year or two worth of strips that will be appropriate for the papers. I expect some editing will need to take place. I’ll have a set of “safe strips” that will be in a queue for papers that might, for whatever reason, not want to run a particular episode. I might even have unedited strips made available “as is” for college and alternatives.

We plan to have the whole package ready by October or November. In the meantime, I’m talking to newspaper editors and trying to forge relationships in the major markets.

BM: What’s the status of Summer Days with Frank Cho?

SK: Frank is signed exclusive with Marvel Comics for the next two years. His plate is full with all this great Marvel Universe work. But in the background, we’re working on Summer Days still. I’ll be visiting him in September and we’re going to get a lot done there. Frank is very excited about this idea and he’s already expressed to me that we should offer Summer Days to papers in the same way I plan to offer PvP.

This Has A ?Scratch Fury? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


X-Men Explosion

According to various rumors floating around, Marvel is planning to launch another round of X-Men miniseries in late 2004/early 2005. The first is the already announced Fantastic Four/X-Men mini by Pat Lee. I?ve also heard that another X-Men mini will hit shortly thereafter, which will be written by Akira Yoshida (Thor: Son of Asgard) with art by Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend.

Additionally, Tony Bedard recently said that he is working on an X-men related miniseries to be drawn by one of his ?CrossGen compatriots.? Greg Land has been at the center of early speculation, though Paul Pelletier remains a strong possibility.

This Has A ?Extraordinarily Gifted? Factor of Six Out of Ten


Scorched Earth

20th Century Fox has terminated Bryan Singer?s two year development deal after only six months. This move is largely seen as a reaction to Singer?s decision to direct the next Superman movie for Warner Brothers. Effectively, this means that Singer will probably not be involved with X-Men 3, despite his stated desire to stay on at least as a producer. Furthermore, it may jeopardize the planned release date of X-Men 3, May 5th, 2006. The film is currently without a director, without a script, and key cast members (like Hugh Jackman) are unsigned. There?s a lot of work to be done before the cameras can start rolling again. And unless Fox already has a director lined up or finds another one soon, then a 2007 release date seems more likely.

This Has A ?When Will the Phoenix Rise?? Factor of Five Out of Ten


Day of The Daleks

The BBC is reporting that an agreement has been reached with the estate of Terry Nation (Blake?s 7), which will allow the Daleks to appear in the upcoming Dr. Who revival.

This could mean we?ll have Bryan Hitch redesigned Daleks to look forward to?

This Has A ?Time and Timelord? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


Flash? AAAAAHHH!!

Alex Raymond?s classic comic strip, Flash Gordon will be returning to the silver screen under the direction of Stephen Sommers (Van Helsing), according to Variety.

Additionally, Sommers will be serving as a ?creative consultant? for a new Flash Gordon comic book series to be released through Top Cow.

Do you know who?d be a great writer/artist for a Flash Gordon comic?

Mark Schultz.

Probably won?t happen, but well worth asking for?

This Has A ?Savior of the Universe? Factor of Six Out of Ten


Smash, Rex! Smash!

Matt Peters and Bill Presing?s Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher has been garnering a great deal of attention as of late, due in large part to the Rex Steele animated short by Alex Woo. I recently had a chance to catch up with them for some background on the Rex comic and film:

BM: When did you and Bill create Rex Steele?

Matt Peters: Bill and I came up with Rex while we were in college together at Joe Kubert?s school of Graphic art in Dover, New Jersey. Basically, it started as a joke. Bill found a Super 8 camera and we tossed around the idea of filming a movie serial. We were both big fans of movie serials, talking about how silly they are and how fun they can be. So we came up with the idea of a guy who would be a Nazi Smasher, kinda like the Spy Smasher serial that came out in 40s. We toyed around with the idea and were going to cast some friends in different roles. We kept trying but we never got around to doing it. It just fell by the wayside. Later, we were given a comic assignment and Bill decided to adapt our Nazi Smasher into a comic book. And that?s where Rex Steele came from, in the illustrative process.

A couple of years later, Monkeysuit asked us if we had any ideas for comics, and that was the first time we did Rex as a comic book. We did three individual issues for Monkeysuit, and that?s what we complied together for the trade paperback, with a fourth story recently added in. Stephan DeStefano was the artist we worked with on that one.

BM: How did you guys hook up with Alex?

Bill Presing: I met Alex at a studio I was working at called Tapehouse Toons. They did the animated segments of The Lizzie McGuire Show, and I was on that show doing storyboards. Alex was interning there. He showed me his work and he was really talented. We became friends and I started mentoring him. He learned very quickly. I would teach him things about character design and he would pick it up really fast.

MP: Alex really fell in love with Bill?s sketchbook.

Alex Woo: Bill showed me his Rex drawings and I was just amazed and blown away by them.

BP: Alex was going to NYU at the time and he was already thinking about his senior thesis. He wanted to do something big and get a headstart on it. He asked me if he could do Rex Steele for his senior thesis. By then we had already done three Rex comics in Monkeysuit. He asked me if I was cool with it, and I said that I was but I warned him that it was gonna be a lot of work. But he stuck to his guns and did it.


AW: I started Rex after my sophomore year in college. I worked on that for about three years and just finished it this past February. Basically, for the first two years I was doing all the animating by myself. Once I had enough animation finished, it took a lot of people to help me clean up the animation. To color it, scan it and help paint the backgrounds.

BP: At the beginning, he would draw stuff and I would go over it. He had a hard time drawing the characters properly at the beginning. I would take what he did and redraw it, showing him how to do it. That set the rules and parameters for how to draw the characters. Pretty soon he was drawing them fine on his own without any of my help. For about a year and a half or two years he was animating at least the rough animation. The last year was where the heavy production happened.

MP: The script for the animated short was actually based on the second story I wrote for Rex, The Bosom of Terror. Alex was the one who did the screenplay and he basically used the lines directly from the comic. I worked on the film as animator, as a clean up artist and more or less helping out on anything I could when Alex found himself getting his hands full.


BM: You had some really talented voice actors in the film.

AW: Actually, my friend Dan Blank did the voices for Rex, Eval and the Narrator. He also did voices for Celebrity Death Match in college to earn extra money. I worked on his film, Shadowplay during my freshman year. That was how I met Ryan Shore. He did the score for that film and actually got some of the New York Philharmonic to record it. So, when it came time to do my score I knew I wanted a big orchestral sound. I approached him and he was really excited about doing it. He?s actually Howard Shore?s nephew and worked with him for four or five years.

BM: What?s the response to this film been like?

AW: The response to this film has been really good. It?s kind of weird. I originally only wanted to make an animated film so I could graduate. And now, we?ve been to the comic convention down in San Diego and it was met with a lot of enthusiasm. A lot of people bought the DVD and a lot of people were talking about it. The film has gotten a lot of attention from studio executives and animation studios. And I?ve gotten a couple of job offers because of it. Some places are interested in doing a direct-to-DVD feature of it. Some are interested in making it into a TV series. Nothing is set in stone, it?s all still in negotiations at different places. But it?s received a really good reception.


BM: Do you guys have any future plans for Rex Steele?

MP: We would like to do an Art of Rex book and feature some of the artwork that was used in the film as well as some of the behind the scenes artwork that we have for the comic. Hopefully, it will give fans the opportunity to see what goes into making the Rex comic and film come to life. We?ll also have more Rex stories. Bill and I have only scratched the surface of the stories we have in mind. The Bosom of Terror story is actually the first chapter of a larger story. It?s hard, when we?re both working full time jobs to find a way to do it but it?s pretty rewarding when we get that chance.

BP: The film got the comic sidetracked for a while. Now that it?s done, I?ve been thinking a lot about getting back to that story. Matt and I have started to flesh out a story that?s going be a three to four issue story arc.

You can get both the DVD and the trade paperback right now on http://www.monkeysuit.com. The trade will be in comic stores in the next couple of months. I think it?s in the next Previews. And we?re going to try to get distribution of the DVD into comic shops as well.

This Has An ?American Steele? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


Alright, people… It looks like I?m going to be at Wizard World next week. So ATR probably won?t be up until next Tuesday. So, stay cool until then.

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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