I?m sure most of you have been following the Mark Millar/Harry Knowles Superman bet. I mean, you can?t miss it. That story is all over the place. And it?s not even really about whether Jim Caviezel has been cast as Superman. It?s more about the bragging rights than anything else. Who gets to step forward and say they were right all along?

At least the money at stake will be going to a worthy cause. But I?ve got to hand it to Millar. Week after week, he gets his name out there. This may be the most mainstream press attention he?s received since the Eminem/Wanted film rumors.

Who says you can?t buy publicity like this?

He?s only out $1,000 if he?s wrong?

Staying in Smallville

Of course, the Superman rumors alone could fill an entire column. But some stand out more than others. A recent interview at Blue Tights Adventure Network with Smallville Consulting Producer, Jeff Loeb may shed some light on the Tom Welling as Superman rumors:

    It would be great to have Tom play Superman in the movie — it’s the perfect transition. But that would push the movie back two years since we’re planning through Season 6 at least and that’s not going to happen. They’ll find someone great — they always do!

This Has A ?Farm Life? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


Assault on Precinct X

For the last few years, NixonVison?s X-Assault has been one of the most popular fan-created X-Men related games available online. At least it was, until a few days ago when the following announcement was made at the NixonVision website:

X-Assault: The End?

      Yes, True Believers, the rumors are true. Marvel Comics has informed us that if we release

X-Assault v0.96

    (or any other X-Assault, for that matter), they will bring legal action against us for thousands of dollars. Which we don’t have.

X-Assault lead designer and NixonVision chief, James Lemoine took the time to answer a few questions about this turn of events:

Blair Marnell: When did Marvel send you the cease-and-desist, and what was the reasoning behind their decision?

James Lemoine: We received the letter from Marvel’s Legal division on August 19 – ironically enough, I received it in my email just as I was typing up the fourth and final X-A Designer Diary for SBC. The reasoning given was pretty much what you’d expect, with phrases like “blatant infringement on Marvel’s intellectual property rights.” The primary argument seemed to be that Marvel own the rights to these characters we use in X-Assault (the X-Men, Spider-Man, Deadpool, the Avengers, the Hulk, et. al.), and they never authorized us to create a huge fan project using their characters. None of which we’re really arguing, because it’s true – we don’t claim ownership of any of the characters, obviously. We’d just hope that since it’s a non-profit project, and since X-Assault has demonstrably worked in increasing Marvel’s sales to at least some degree, that they’d give us some slack the way they do other internet fan sites.

There’s also a bit in the letter about “unfair competition” and how we’re liable for any damages incurred by Marvel or third parties. This was the part that left us scratching our heads a bit – we aren’t sure exactly how a small, free fan project… one that promotes Marvel Comics… could be competing with Marvel Comics. And we highly, highly doubt that any of X-Assault‘s players are going to pass up the Spider-Man 2 Playstation game or X-Men Legends to play more X-Assault. One’s a short fan-produced tribute strategy/trivia challenge; the others are big-budget bleeding-edge technology action extravaganzas. I know I’ll be checking out X-Men Legends, regardless of how much X-Assault I play.

BM: How long has Marvel been aware of X-Assault?

JL: Marvel’s been aware of X-Assault since at least November of 2001, when we sent them an application to become a part of their Official Fan Site program (we never received a reply). And in December of 2001, Marvel themselves gave us the boost that really gave us our big break – the old Cinescape X-Fan had just done an interview with us about the rising popularity of the game, and Marvel prominently linked to it from the front page of Marvel.Com, as part of their “Marvel Buzz” section. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the majority of our long-time players first came to us through that link on Marvel.Com.

BM: Why do you think Marvel choose to act now?

JL: I wish I could say I had a clue – I’ve heard some people theorize that it has to do with the upcoming release of X-Men Legends, but that doesn’t make much sense to me because (1) we never heard anything from Marvel when other major X-Men games were released, and (2) X-Assault is so different from any professional video game (not saying it’s better or worse, just different) that we can’t honestly see anybody choosing one over the other, exclusively. If I had to take a guess, I’d say that this happened now because X-Assault has more fans than it’s ever had and we’re getting more press now than we ever have… apparently enough so that certain people finally noticed.

BM: I understand you tried to refute their claims on a point-by-point basis. What was their response?

JL: Pretty much what you’d expect – they said that they’re not arguing the points we made, but it’s all immaterial – they own the rights to these characters, we don’t, so they can stop us. And they chose to stop us.

BM: What can fans do to get Marvel to get a reprieve for X-Assault? What future plans do you have for your team?

JL: We’re hoping to get approval to release X-Assault so we can finish the entire twelve-chapter storyline we’ve got planned. We’ve asked anybody who’s ever played X-Assault, anybody who’s suggested ideas for it, and/or anybody who’d just plain like to see what a bunch of Marvel fans come up with next, to write letters to Marvel asking them to give X-Assault a chance, to let us keep promoting their comics for them. We’ve received tons of e-mails over the past few weeks from players who said that they dropped all their Marvel comics a long time ago, but X-Assault got them interested in the characters again and convinced them to resubscribe. This is the kind of thing we’d like Marvel to hear. We don’t really want fans to write angry e-mails to Marvel – that won’t do anybody any good.

We’re asking for something more along the lines of the successful “Save Spider-Girl” campaigns: send Marvel a respectful letter and convince them that X-Assault is just a fan-produced tribute that helps them sell more books.

Marvel’s final decision will be where the future of X-Assault is decided. We’ve got a nearly complete version of X-Assault v0.96 sitting on our hard drives right now, one that we’re really very proud of, complete with all kinds of new story twists, playable characters, guest appearances, and fan-submitted ideas. We’ve worked very hard in pretty much all of our free time over the past few months producing this new X-Assault, and there’s nothing we’d like more than to be able to release it (free!).

Other than that, we’re looking at another possible (non-comics-related) free Flash game, and we’ve been asked to provide scripting and audio for a series of online animated shorts.

This Has A ?Mutant Massacre? Factor of Nine Out of Ten


Tales of Wonder

Earlier this week, an item that appeared on George Perez? fan site sparked some speculation regarding his next DC project:

    Here’s a little tease about George’s next project – Phil Jimenez writes, Jose Garcia-Lopez pencils and Perez inks… something. George wouldn’t go into any more detail, and I think he wants DC to make the official announcement, but I thought you might want the heads up.

The project in question is likely the Troia miniseries Jimenez has been asking for since he signed his DC exclusive contract. Donna Troy is reportedly one of his favorite characters, and he?s been looking to ?right a wrong? since she was killed off a while back.

As for Perez, his participation in this project shouldn?t preclude his work on The New Teen Titans: Games, which was announced last year. Games will reunite Perez with his original Titans collaborator, Marv Wolfman.

This Has A ?Life After Death? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


Crisis Revisited

Speaking of Wolfman, a recent post on his website revealed that he has a Crisis related project in the works, possibly for next year?s 20th anniversary:

      I’m hard at work on the

Crisis

    novel and will probably not be posting much for the next two weeks. Check in once, maybe twice to see if there’s any updates. I’ll come back in force in late September once the novel is done. If I do this again, and I most likely will because I’ve been enjoying the last few weeks of writing very much, I’ve got to figure out how Peter David does these things so quickly.

This Has An ?Infinite Earths? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


Expatriated

Jason LaTour, the writer/artist of 4 Seats Left (an online comic which now runs as a backup in Invincible) is currently working with B. Clay Moore (Hawaiian Dick) on The Expatriate, which will be released next year from Image Comics. When contacted, LaTour was willing to take a few questions about his upcoming project:

Blair Marnell: How did you and Clay come together on this?

Jason LaTour: Well, I was a big fan of the original Hawaiian Dick series. I’m a big fan of mystery fiction, noir genre stuff and when I saw it on the shelves I was just blown away. I mean here were two guys that just got it. So anyway, I was surfing the net and ran across a post Clay had made on a message board saying that he was looking for an artist on a WW2 superhero book (which became Battle Hymn). I emailed him and included a few pieces from an Invaders pitch I was writing/drawing and he really liked them. Unfortunately he had an artist already lined up, but that opened up the lines of correspondence.

The more we talked the more we kind of realized that we had some similar sensibilities in terms of the stuff we like, movies, books, and comics in particular. I normally am very wary of working with writers, given that a lot of them just don’t get the term “collaboration” and I prefer to write my own stuff. But with Clay I was just a fan of his work and when he approached me with this concept it just seemed cater made for me.

BM: So, what?s The Expatriate about?

JL: The best way for me to describe it to you is that it’s in many ways a throw back to old television series like The Fugitive. It’s the story of a guy named Jack Dexter who is on the run from our government, he’s seen a few things he shouldn’t have and as a result is a wanted man. So naturally he goes on the run and we kind of follow his adventures through the countries he runs to. The series is set in the early 60’s, Kennedy era/height of the cold war, making it a bit easier for Jack to stay on the lamb given the absence of technology. But what’s really interesting is that despite it’s early setting it kind of parallels things going on today like the Patriot Act and the sometimes very real loss of rights. Jack however just decides to take his fate into his own hands, something I think you’ll see he’s very capable of.

Jack’s a man on the run. Wanted Dead or Alive. Chased by two government agents who very much want to bring him in. I hate to go into too much depth about him considering that we want to sort of keep his origins a bit mysterious for now. But in my mind he’s a throw back to a simpler era. A man with a really genuine heart and goals who is sort of thrown into this do or die situation. I think you’ll see that his desire to do the right thing more times than not kind of makes things worse for him given that he really should be worrying about his own neck.

BM: How would describe your artistic approach on this project?

JL: One of the great things about this project is that for the first time since I started seriously drawing comics, I’m working without the fear of impressing an editor. And luckily I have a strong collaborator in Clay, someone who is willing to take suggestions and give me the leeway to play around. So with these pages my intent was to use what Clay gave me, which are these amazingly terse and to the point scripts, and expound on them. To sort of play around and give them as cinematic of a quality as I possibly could.

Taking this page for an example… I wanted to not simply copy what Clay put down, I wanted to keep the essence of what he intended but I also wanted to add my own touches. I’m a member of the ?less is more? school of thought. However, one of the keys to this scene was showing the brutality of these two agents. So you can see that I kind of took the approach of showing the violence off panel in two shots. I wanted the “direction” to sort of fit the style of the comic we’re making, which is kind of a noir-esque take but at the same time I wanted to really show how brutal these guys are. So I opted for the big violent head shot in the middle panel, I just felt that it was necessary to convey the violence of these guys.

The point is that I think as an artist, you really have to think about the best way to tell the story. You are essentially the “director” (as cliche’ as that analogy is when used in reference to comics) and the writer is the writer/producer.

BM: Is The Expatriate a miniseries or GN?

JL: I think right now, the plan is to release it as a series of graphic novels. Maybe two or so a year. Kind of in the sense of how a series of novels or movies would come out. It’s the story of Jack Dexter and his adventures. Adventures that will more than likely span the globe. This first one is set in the Caribbean, from there it could be the Far East, Africa, who knows? The possibilities are pretty endless.

I think we’re shooting for a 2005 release date, probably in the spring. But I wouldn’t promise my first born on it or anything. Hell, I’m an artist, time to us is pretty selective.

BM: I heard you might have something to show at the Baltimore Con next week.

JL: Yeah, I have about 17 pages of the book done as of now. So I plan to have those on hand, ready and available for people to actively peruse. I can’t stress enough how much fun this project has been, and I think that shows in the work. This is the most fun I’ve had drawing a “serious” story ever. Clay is really hitting on all cylinders with this one, and I think if you’re a big fan of Hawaiian Dick, you’ll definitely love this story!

This Has A ?Secret Agent Man? Factor of Nine Out of Ten


The Story of A Hurricane

Phil Noto (Beautiful Killer) missed this year?s Wizard World Chicago Convention due to Hurricane Charley hitting his home state of Florida. Noto?s house reportedly escaped damage, though the loss of power and phone lines left some fans concerned for his safety.

Finally, Noto posted the following message on his Yahoo Group last Friday:

    Hey everybody!

Thanks for all the concern and the kind words. They were very nice to read.

Well… just got done packing up my studio for a second time. (Hurricane) Frances should hit here around Sunday morning. Lived in Florida all my life and had one very weak hurricane in ’86, now two monsters in 3 weeks. I think it’s time for a move 🙂

I’m still planning on being in Baltimore (unless the airport blows away) It’ll be nice to have A/C, hot showers and cold drinks by then. If the phone lines are still up, I’ll make a post Monday, with an all-clear signal 🙂 If all communication’s down then I will see you in Baltimore!

Have a great weekend!

This Has A ?Perfect Storm? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


A Hero?s Work?

Comic artist Joe Abraham is about to make a big splash, by teaming with Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis (Formerly Known As the Justice League) on Hero Squared, their new project from Atomeka Press. Earlier this week, I caught up with Abraham for a quick Q&A:

Blair Marnell: Tell me about Hero Squared.

Joe Abraham: First, let me say that my describing what it’s about won’t be nearly as interesting as telling you how fantastically Keith and Marc are tackling this project. For anyone who loved their work on Justice League, as I did, this book is going to be a total blast. And for those who haven’t read Keith and Marc’s JL stuff, they’ll love it anyway. I promise.

But on to the premise:

Imagine you’re living your mundane and aimless life, dating a girl who’s really cuter than you deserve, when you discover that there’s another “you” out there from a parallel universe–and this “you” is that Earth’s greatest and most powerful superhero, who’s been exiled to this dimension from his ravaged universe by his greatest arch-nemesis.

His arch-nemesis follows him over, mayhem ensues, you guys team up and become roommates, and he may or may not try to steal your girlfriend.

BM: Sounds dicey.

JA: Yup. It’s kind of like a buddy comedy where guy teams up with–himself. Most people have enough self-loathing that a situation like that might cause a lot of tension. But a lot of the comedy springs from the relationship between Milo (the “ordinary” guy) and his parallel-universe self, Captain Valor.

BM: Captain Valor?! Why does he calls himself Captain Valor?

JA: He was gonna call himself “Dark Annihilator,” but his agent said that it would limit his marketability.

BM: I think he could pull it off?

JA: Heh? Well, he is his world?s big boy scout… and how much more boy scout can you get then with a name like Captain Valor? Whereas Milo is the guy who could be you or me. He’s a good guy, an intelligent and talented guy, but for some reason, he’s let most of his potential go untapped and let his opportunities to make more of himself pass him by. He could do great things, if he could just get off his ass.

And a lot of interesting dynamics are found when Milo is forced to face, embodied in Captain Valor, the potential he’s squandered.

Beyond the basic premise, though, the book is just a lot of fun, and has a wonderful blend of drama, slam-bang action, solid characterization, and utter lunacy that Giffen and DeMatteis are loved for.

BM: Have you worked on any comics prior to Hero Squared?

JA: Before Hero Squared, I did the artwork for Hellhounds, published by Image Comics. That?s how I met Ross Richie (Atomeka Publisher) and Keith. They saw my work on Hellhounds, decided they wanted me for Hero Squared, and somehow managed to track me down. I’ve gotta mention that Keith and Marc are heroes to me. I’ve admired their work, separately and collaboratively, since I was a kid. I don’t know that I’ve even told them this, but I was fanatical about their Justice League work. I loved that book so much–all of my school notebooks were littered with pictures I’d drawn of Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner, J’onn, and the rest of the JLI crew. It was by far my favorite comic I was collecting at the time.

I had been speaking with one of my best friends just a couple weeks prior to Keith contacting me, telling him what an utter dream it’d be to work with Giffen and DeMatteis on a project. A couple of weeks later, as I’m walking down the street, and I get a call on my cell phone:

    “Hi, Joe, this is Keith Giffen, and I was wondering if you’d like to draw a book that Marc DeMatteis and I are writing.”

(This is the abridged version.)

I thought it was a prank my friend was pulling on me; I almost hung up on Keith! But he managed to convince me it was him, and here we are.

I’m having a total blast on the book–One of the reasons I enjoy working with Keith and Marc so much is that they give me so much to work with. I really enjoy drawing facial expressions, and subtle nuances, and I really get to run the gamut with the drama, pathos, and, of course humor that they give me to work with. And I also get to draw big guys in capes punching stuff.

Rock on.

I really do believe that people who enjoyed their work on JLI and FKATJL, and anyone who loves fun, adventure, humor, and solid characterization are really gonna have a blast reading Hero Squared

BM: When is Hero Squared X-tra Sized Special coming out? And are there any plans for more Hero Squared installments?

JA: Hero Squared X-tra Sized Special comes out in November. Plans for more Hero Squared depend on how well the readers respond to it. That is, with their hard-earned greenbacks. But if it does well, and people want to read it, we want to do it.

Just give us an excuse to do more.

This Has A ?Super-Hero Diet? Factor of Nine Out of Ten


The Seventh Sign

Video game company and former comic publisher, Acclaim went under this week. Instead of filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy (which would allow for restructuring), the company opted for Chapter 7. This means that the company will be dissolved and its assets sold to pay off as much debt as possible.

There is already interest from other video game publishers regarding some of Acclaim?s recently finished games, like The Red Star, which could easily be picked up and released. The fate of their unfinished games (which may include 100 Bullets) is unclear. Another developer would have to be brought in to finish them, which may not be as enticing for potential suitors.

When the eventual sale of assets does take place, the video game franchises are expected to draw the most attention. However, there are several comic properties that may draw interest as well, including Shadowman, X0 Manowar and Quantum & Woody. The most recent example of a similar situation occurred last year, when the Chaos properties (minus Lady Death) were sold for $50,000. Given the length of time the Acclaim/Valiant comics have been out of print, that library of characters (if they are in fact, sold together) could conceivably sell at a much lower price.

Any publishers looking to pick up these long dormant comics may have a golden opportunity here?

This Has A ?Harbinger of Things To Come? Factor of Six Out of Ten


Must Be 4:20

Ann Nocenti, the former writer of Daredevil and a variety of other comics (she?s currently on Batman & Catwoman: Trail of the Gun) recently took on a new position: editor-at-large for High Times, the long running and well-known pro-marijuana magazine.

You can find her editorial profile here.

This Has A ?Dave?s Not Here? Man? Factor of Seven Out of Ten


Telling Fables

Bill Willingham recently updated his website with news about his upcoming projects, which may include a Fables TV series:

      Yes, we all know it?s become something of a tradition for fans of any given funnybook series to do a fantasy casting of a movie based on said series. A good deal of such fantasy casting has already occurred, and continues to occur, in various

Fables

      related threads. Of course, such activities could only be encouraged by the (in hindsight) premature revelation last year that

Fables

      has indeed been optioned for a movie. Well, without admitting to anything whatsoever, maybe you?d better switch from casting your fantasy

Fables

      movie, to casting your fantasy

Fables

    TV series. No, I won?t be taking any questions about this subject.

Willingham also had some news regarding the Fables OGN:

    …which means Original (hardback, in this case) Graphic Novel.

It?s still too far in the future to reveal too many details, except that the title is either going to be One Thousand and One Nights of Snow, or One Thousand and One Nights of Snowfall. I keep going back and forth on which version appeals to me the most. All things considered, it?s probably not a vital distinction. Most of you already know that Charles Vess, Mark Wheatley and James Jean have been signed to illustrate some of the stories. Other artists are being coaxed, enticed, romanced, hunted, pressured and blackmailed, even as we speak. We?ll announce more of them as they accumulate, like a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.

This Has A ?Big Bad Wolf? Factor of Eight Out of Ten


Return of The King

Phil Hall, the originator of the comics rumor column, has restarted Movers & Shakers as a blog. And he?s already uncovered some potential problems for next month?s Bristol Con. Also of interest was an item about a possible Moon Knight miniseries by Brian Bendis.

You can find his most recent updates here.

This Has A ?Britain?s Answer to The Beat!? Factor of Nine Out of Ten


And that?s all for this week. See you in seven.

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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