Welcome to the final 2003 edition of All the Rage. I’m Alan David Doane, and if you haven’t heard of me, let me say that I am truly thrilled to be revisiting Silver Bullet Comics after three years away. It’s like something out of Joseph Campbell, except I have even less power to grant boons than I did three years ago. I currently write the ADD Blog, updated daily with links, reviews, and an utter and complete lack of corporate fuckery. John Byrne and his fans tremble in fear at my skillful, enlightened invective, but you have nothing to fear. Stop by and say, “hi.”
If you’ve been around the internet for a while, you may recall I was one of the early contributors to SBC, contributing and editing news and reviews and writing a weekly opinion column. I even created the “Bullet Ratings” for the Line of Fire reviews. Damn, I miss this place. When I look back on those days, I can’t believe how much work SBC’s Big Kahuna Jason Brice was able to get out of me. I’m older now, and either lazier or busier, depending on whether you ask me or my wife.
In any event, I want to offer my sincere thanks to both Jason and Markisan for letting me take ATR out of 2003. It’s an honour to be asked to write a column I’ve enjoyed for years, and I hope I don’t let you down. In that spirit, let’s start with…
What Rich Won’t Tell You
See, I’m new at this rumour stuff. I mean, I’ve broken a comics news story or two over the past few years, but writing All the Rage, even just this one, end-of-the-year column, is new territory for me. We all know about the rumour barrier, and you should definitely keep it in mind when reading this week’s column, but what do I do when people I trust give me tidbits like this?
You didn’t hear it from me, but Joss Whedon is the guy set to write New X-Men.
This is a story that Rich Johnston — whose column I enjoy every week, just like you — has claimed to know for some time now. Why would he not let people know that the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is going to step into the footsteps of the wildly popular Grant Morrison?
Well, he has to do a column the week after he reveals this news. He’ll need more rumours, and presumably for whatever reason, Marvel wants this kept under wraps for now. I can believe this, as I’ve been on the receiving end of their outraged wrath when I had the temerity to reveal information that one of their creators sent me in a press release without asking for Marvel’s permission first. So I know they’re sensitive about such information as:
Joss Whedon is the guy set to write New X-Men.
So when I receive such information — and I’ll admit it, I loved Buffy, I want to still like Angel, and I thought Fray was one of the better actiony-type comic books of the past few years — but when I receive such information, man, I am torn. Is it true? The person who told me this is a top-level writer highly sought after by American comics publishers. This person knows everybody, is liked by everybody, and for whatever reason has always been kind to me and likes my blog. And this person wanted to share a scoop with me:
Joss Whedon is the guy set to write New X-Men.
So I say to this person, this longtime pro who I have come to trust, “How sure are you?”
I heard its him and [John] Cassaday. Again, not from me. But it’s solid.
Solid. As in, already set. Locked in place. It is, in a way, as if it already happened. Or, is it?
I poked around some more. Sure, this is a rumour column, but even so this is fairly big news among people interested in this sort of thing, and it merits investigation. So I poked. I received confirmation from not one, not two, but three industry figures, all of whom I trust implicitly. Apparently, this is the worst kept secret in comics.
But as long as it’s only common knowledge within the comics industry, that’s apparently okay.
What I’ve learned is that neither Marvel nor Joss Whedon want this news to become public knowledge outside the industry. I’m told that Whedon’s existing TV contracts forbid him to sign the type of deal with Marvel that he’s apparently agreed to, and the fear within Marvel is that if Whedon’s deal goes public, his New X-Men run will be aborted before it begins.
I’ve further heard that Marvel is hoping the Whedon/Cassaday New X-Men will sell in the neighbourhood of 300,000 copies per month, which would obviously make both Marvel and superhero-oriented retailers happier than pigs in shit. While some that I’ve talked to dispute the figure, it does seem likely that the combination of Whedon’s name and the popularity of the franchise would do very well indeed, for however long he stayed on the book. And there’s no question Cassaday’s artwork would shine — his two-issue X-Men/Alpha Flight mini-series was beautifully drawn even that early in his career, and perhaps a decent run on New X-Men would serve to erase memories of the sickeningly awful Captain America that John Ney Reiber wrote for Cassaday to draw.
My conclusion, after a week of investigating this, is that it’s true. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday are set to work together on the title that Grant Morrison reinvented, New X-Men.
Quick note from Markisan: Sorry to jump in here, Alan, but I couldn’t resist adding my two cents. In an upcoming interview with Ambidexterous columnist Brandon Thomas, Marvel EIC Joe Quesada says he had the new X-Men writer lined up two hours after Grant Morrison signed an exclusive with DC, and has held off on the announcement.
I’ve also heard Cassaday’s decision to illustrate New X-Men means Planetary will suffer long delays? again. According to my source, the official word from DC/Wildstorm will be that Cassaday can somehow fit Planetary in between X-pages. But everyone else in the real world knows John C. can only do one book a month. So look for the series to be put on standby for a second time.
Ironically, Joss Whedon has mentioned that Planetary is one of his favorite comic books. Thanks to Chap for the info.
This Has A “Yeah, But When, And For How Long?” Factor Of Seven Out Of Ten
A New Superhero Era
If you’re bored with corporate superhero icons — and obviously, even most of the creators servicing those worn-out old trademarks are — you might be interested to know that some of the most gifted and unique names in alternative comics are working on their own superhero stuff. James Kochalka, Dan Clowes, and Jeffrey Brown are some of the names I am hearing in relation to this project. The good news is that these guys aren’t bothering with Marvel or DC books either, but rather creating their own original superheroes. Come on, who wouldn’t want to see a Black Nylon ongoing series? And frankly, Marvel really blew it when it turned down James Kochalka’s proposal to take over Incredible Hulk a couple of years back. Track down the Hulk Annual Kochalka contributed a story to a couple of years ago to see how his was the best handling of the character since Stan and Jack. Seriously.
This Has A “Superheroes That Won’t Suck” Factor Of Nine Out Of Ten
Formerly Known as Mostly DC Creators
Anyone who’s enjoyed DC’s Formerly Known as the Justice League series these past few months has reason to be excited. Not only is a followup DC series a distinct possibility, but I hear that Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire are planning a series for Marvel as well. Whether they’ll get away with the same wacky hijinks when crafting the tales of the misery-soaked Marvel Universe remains to be seen, but hey, they’ve published a funny funnybook by Peter Bagge, and I bet someone, somewhere thought Rawhide Kid was funny. Ron Zimmerman’s mom, I am looking right at YOU.
This Has A “Take That, Dan Didio!” Factor Of Nine Out Of Ten
Fixing An Affront to the Franchise
I’m told DC really wants to publish an Ed Brubaker and Trevor Hairsine incarnation of The Authority. I don’t think it comes as a surprise that the publisher would be looking around for stronger talents to bolster what was once the most dynamic and interesting title in the corporate publishing structure. The most recent version of the title has been varying shades of awful, and it’s virtually certain that unless things change and change drastically, those two gorgeous Absolute Authority slipcased hardcovers will never be joined by a Volume Three.
If DC were smart, they’d look backward a little and give the Absolute treatment to the dozens of issues of Warren Ellis’s Stormwatch with artists such as Bryan Hitch and Tom Raney. There’s more excitement and drama on any one page of those issues (originally published by Image) than there is in every issue of the godawful current Authority combined. As to Brubaker and Hairsine, DC really seems determined to shoehorn Bru into roles he isn’t ideally suited for sometimes, but his Authority would have to be better than we’ve seen since Millar and Quitely’s brief, glorious follow up to the Ellis and Hitch era. Hairsine has proven he can ape Hitch, but the mere fact that DC wants him indicates that they still don’t see what needs to be done to make The Authority viable again — a total move away from what’s been done before. Imagine Dan Clowes’s Jack Hawksmoor or James Kochalka doing The Doctor. Never happen, I know. Brubaker could probably pull it off, Hairsine, eh, not so much. In any case, I want more goddamned Sleeper from Brubaker, and anything that takes him away from those duties is a waste of time.
However, given last week Markisan announced that Trevor Hairsine would definitely not be the new Authority artist (information sourced via a third party), all is not lost.
This Has A “Sod Off, I Want A Better Comic Book” Factor Of Seven Out Of Ten
Hard Times for Miller’s Batman
Opinions were divided over Frank Miller’s DK2, so DC is taking a bit of a different tack on Miller’s future Batman project. Instead of the Prestige Format mini followed by collected editions, look for Miller’s new Batman series Batman vs. The Terrorists to be all black and white. It’s projected as a 200-page hardcover for that will see the light of day whenever Miller finishes it. BVTT should be virtually bulletproof from the criticism that dogged DK2, since the price point will keep away casual browsers, and the black and white format will greatly appeal to hardcore Miller fans, as well as Batman fans who’ve accustomed themselves to that look through the black and white backup stories in Gotham Knights and the two Batman Black and White collections.
This Has A “DK2 Was Funny But You Don’t Get It!” Factor Of Eight Out Of Ten
Unlikely Team Up, Likely Hit
Mark Millar and John Romita JR are rumoured to be working together on…something. Millarworld’s star is definitely on the rise, with huge and apparently unexpected sales for Wanted, Millar’s “Watchmen with Evildoers” published through Image’s Top Cow imprint. (Retailers who read my blog knew back in October that Wanted was a surefire hit). In addition to being a top-notch action comic, Wanted is also probably Top Cow’s most literate and uninsulting comic ever, which may come as something of a surprise to those only peripherally aware of Millar and his work. As to this new, Top Secret project with Romita Jr. (look for an announcement in sometime in February), I’m told it will attract a diverse audience interested in at least two popular genres, and serve to reinvent not only a longtime character from one of the major publishers, but could have a lasting impact on one of the most significant franchises in corporate comics. This one will definitely be one to watch.
This Has A “I Wish I Could Tell You How Great This Book Is Gonna Be” Factor Of Ten Out Of Ten
Millar Grist for Censors
Speaking of Millar, Did Mark Millar unintentionally help bring down the A&F Quarterly magazine? A quote from Millar’s interview in what would come to be Abercrombie & Fitch’s final issue of their nudity-filled magazine/catalog was used prominently by conservative Christian groups, who lobbied successfully for the Quarterly’s discontinuation. At www.stopaf.org readers were given the following quote, taken from Millar’s description of his upcoming “Ultimate Jesus” comic, Chosen, on their front page:
“My idea is you have the Old Testament, the New Testament, and this is the Final Testament. This is a thing about Jesus coming back as a 12-year-old kid? pontificating whether or not he should masturbate?.”
Millar, interviewed by X-Men and X2 producer Tom DeSanto, was the latest in a long line of comics creators profiled in the Quarterly thanks to comics-loving staffers Sean T. Collins (assistant editor) and Savas Abadsidis (editor) (other noted industry professionals included Joe Quesada, Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, Paul Pope, Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller, Will Eisner, Todd McFarlane, Brian Bendis, Stan Lee and others). The Quarterly’s coverage had been gearing up for interviews with Blankets author Craig Thompson and Diary of a Teenage Girl creator Phoebe Gloeckner. Those pieces would have appeared in the now-cancelled Spring Break issue.
This Has A “Jesus Hates Comics — Apparently” Factor Of Six Out Of Six Hundred And Sixty Six
Cartoon Journalist Decries Cartoony Cartooning
It’s long been a truism among online comics commentators that Mike Sangiacomo is one of the most clueless and frankly worthless columnists. His writing at Newsarama is usually gushing, wrongheaded and off-base, and his embarassing, months-long series of columns about his laughable “Epic Journey” was made all the more unintentionally funny by dint of the fact that everyone but Mike himself knew all along that Epic was never going to come to pass as promised, and that his Phantom Jack proposal would never, ever be published by Marvel.
Unfortunately, it now will be published by Image, but that’s neither here nor there. What is of interest is Sangiacomo’s recent meltdown at Newsarama, wherein he revealed his received truth that the almost universally-acclaimed Pop Noir visual style of DC’s Catwoman (begun on the title by Darwyn Cooke — inspired by the late Mike Parobeck and Bruce Timm — and continued until recently by such folks as Cameron Stewart, Brad Rader, Javier Pulido), was, in fact, no goddamned good at all:
For example, we have “regular” artists on comics and then we have artists on comics meant for kids like “Powerpuff Girls” and the Justice League and Batman books based on the cartoon shows. It is less detailed, features exaggerated physical characteristics and is simply, simpler. This is not a bad thing, just a different thing. We are saying that the art based on the cartoon shows is less than the “regular” work. So, if we agree that these comics based on cartoons are simpler than we have established an art level. Up here, the “regular” artists are for more discerning readers and down here, the animated stuff is for…others.
Over and above being maddeningly presumptuous and condescending (who is this “we” he speaks of?), Sangiacomo must have been taken aback by the quick and angry response to his ridiculous assertions:
So, Mike, you’re basically saying that Alex Toth — and those inspired by him — are less accomplished than the “detail” that artists like Gulacy or Jim Lee put into their work. Forgive for this coming off like an insult, but honestly, that is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard in regards to comic art.
I was honestly surprised to see so many intelligent responses to Sangiacomo’s criminally stupid column, but the evidence is there for itself in the full Newsarama thread.
Also of possible interest is the re-written version of the column at some dickhead’s blog. One unnamed comics pro’s take on the revised edition: “Yup. Says it for me.” It’s not yet known what the ultimate impact of this incident will be in regard to Sangiacomo’s continuing at Newsarama, but big changes are said to be afoot for the once-respected comics “news” site in any case: the site is losing its major sponsor and may soon be in need of a new home.
This Has A “Clueless Tool” Factor Of Ten Out Of Ten
Where is Ware?
Two of the most exciting and beautiful comics releases of 2003 were Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library Datebook published by Drawn and Quarterly and Quimby the Mouse, published by Fantagraphics. Readers of Ware’s sublimely magnificent Acme Novelty Library series have been wondering where the long-awaited next issue is. Here’s Fantagraphics muckity-muck Kim Thompson, from the Comics Journal message board:
“The next Chris Ware project is a 64-page Acme Novelty Library which will require significant re-working and re-formatting of existing CHICAGO READER “Rusty Brown” strips and we’re waiting to schedule it until Chris has got that well underway. We’re hoping for the Fall of 2004 but we don’t plan to rush Chris — if we all end up more comfortable with a 2005 release date that’s what it’ll be. For what it’s worth, Chris has already got the basic material for ACME #16, #17, and #18 done and serialized in the READER.”
Ware fans, take note of that last sentence. That is indeed fabulous news.
This Has A “So That’s Where Ware Is!” Factor Of Eight Out Of Ten
Clone Saga 2004?
Secret Belated Santa tells me that someone attending WizardWorld Chicago brought up the idea of an Ultimate Clone Saga to someone in a position to do something about it in the Ultimate Universe. The response was a laugh, of course, but the idea clearly was a provocative one. This Marvel writer was said to only be half joking when he said, “I wonder what we could do with that?” It seems likely readers will see an Ultimate Clone Saga someday. In the meantime, Nu Marvel can see how the old one went so horribly wrong by reading one of my favourite columns of all time, Life of Reilly, Andrew Goletz and former Marvel editor Glenn Greenberg’s year-long look back at one of the most intriguingly disastrous storylines ever to appear in superhero comics.
This Has A “Ben Reilly Is Probably My Favourite Character Of All-Time” Factor Of Six Out Of Ten
Predictions for the New Year
Since this is the final All the Rage of 2003, and since I am such a universally respected and visionary commentator in regard to the comics industry, it would be criminal of me not to share with you my predictions for the year ahead in funnybooks. Here, then, are my thoughts on where things will go in the 12 months ahead:
- Manga will continue to grow and expand into new and previously unexpected readerships. Now’s the time when retailers will go two ways — the visionary, forward-thinking comics shops will continue to welcome in new readers, genres and formats, while backward superhero fetishists (who essentially maintain their shops in order to get “free comics” featuring their favourite zombies like the Alan Scott Green Lantern and the shambling, undead Paul Jenkins Spectacular Spider-Man) will seriously begin to suffer the pains of their willful ignorance and defiance of logic. As a result, it’s likely many comics readers will have to start looking elsewhere for their comics, as the superhero-oriented shops begin to die off, and yes, it will be a painful time for the industry, but it’s a cull that has been needed for over a decade, and in the end, the artform will be vastly better off for it.
- Image will continue, but will cut back on unwanted and unneeded #1s in favour of more certain hits, stuff with a built-in audience, like just about everything by Robert Kirkman. CrossGen titles will make a massive influx into the quarter bins of comics shops around the country in 2004, as retailers clear out stock they were forced to carry in order to be a part of a CrossGen marketing program. Unwanted copies of Edge and Forge will be used for kindling by starving survivors after the alien invasion leaves humanity in ruins in late November, 2004. Traumatized children will be heard to exclaim “Mommy, what’s a Compendia?” in this post-apocalyptic nightmare world.
- Oh, and everything Dan Buckley and Paul Levitz think up will be utter shit. Best to have some safe predictions in here somewhere.
That’s it for the final All the Rage of 2003. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read here, stop by and see me at the ADD Blog. And I hope that you’ll remember to support truly good comics in the year to come. If there’s one thing I believe about comics, it’s that the artform should speak to the heart and engage the mind. Comics should fire your passions and tickle your funnybone and make you glad you’re alive. Comics should rock your fucking world and leave you breathless with their astonishing insight into what it is to be human, alive, and aware. If the comics you’re reading aren’t all those things, find something better to do with your money. Support comics that give back to you as a human being, and stop buying everything else. The comics industry will be a better thing.
My thanks once again to Jason Brice and Markisan Naso for letting me hijack the column this last week of the year, and my sincere hope that you have a peaceful and prosperous 2004.
Alan David Doane