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Friday, August 31, 2007

And then there were three

After last night’s elimination of Parthenon on “Who Wants To Be a Superhero?,” the gang of aspiring superheroes is down to three: the Defuser, Hygena and Hyper-Strike. Interestingly (well, interesting to me, anyway), the trio greatly resembles last season’s final threesome, Major Victory, Fat Momma and Feedback, the ultimate winner. There’s the dedicated older hero, the homemaker and the earnest young guy who reveres superheroes. So if the show continues to follow the same road as last year, Hyper-Strike will emerge as winner. We’ll find out next week on the finale.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The "Countdown" continues

Another week, another issue of DC’s “Countdown.”

I hate to jump on the anti-“Countdown” bandwagon, but I can’t say that I’m really digging this weekly series. I was intrigued by “52,” its predecessor, but I’m mostly bored by “Countdown.”

Like “52,” there are many characters and plots to follow in “Countdown.” In “52,” though, some threads would be lost for a while while other stories gained pages and steam. In “Countdown,” the formula seems to be to spend a few pages each issue with each plot. And as a result, things just seem to be plodding along on many fronts. I also can’t get excited about one of the “A” plots, the threat to DC’s multiverse. DC went on fine during the many years the multiverse was a forgotten concept, so what do I care if it is in jeopardy again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

KJA on "The Last Days of Krypton"

I talked with local writer Kevin J. Anderson today about his upcoming novel, “The Last Days of Krypton.”

I asked how he tackled the book, since there have been so many versions of Krypton not just in the comics, but in movies and on TV. He said he was pretty much given a clean slate from DC and, instead of trying to tie together contradictory histories and visions, he just plucked out the main elements to build on: the romance of Jor-El and Lara, the evil of General Zod and so on.

For the true comic book fan, he brought in bits from elsewhere in the DC Universe for the book. But there was one that DC said “no” to.

“I wanted to bring in the Green Lantern Corps, but they eventually vetoed that because it was throwing too many things into the book,” Anderson said.

Look for more on “The Last Days of Krypton” in a future Comics Fan.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Spidey facing "One More Day"

Things just keep getting darker for Peter Parker. “Amazing Spider-Man” No. 543, out this week, finds Peter breaking the law repeatedly in his efforts to protect Aunt May, who has been shot, and Mary Jane.

Coming up is the “One More Day” story arc by J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada, which will wrap up JMS’s years on Spidey. My curiosity is certainly aroused. Will Aunt May die? Will Peter send Mary Jane away to keep her safe? In the old it’s-darkest-before-the-dawn category, some readers are speculating that Peter’s world will brighten soon, maybe with a turn back of the clock. We’ll see.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Reagan back in pictures

I received a review copy today of a book that might be of special interest in this Republican stronghold of Colorado Springs: “Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography.” Published by Hill and Wang, “Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography” is written by comics pro Andrew Helfer and illustrated by Steve Buccellato and Joe Staton. A quick scan shows not to expect a rave review of the Reagan years. Look for its release next month.

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Smallville," season seven - and eight?

I talked today to Alfred Gough, co-creator and executive producer of TV’s “Smallville,” about the upcoming seventh season.

Filming of the season’s fourth episode is under way, Gough said, with guest star Dean Cain (“Lois & Clark”) as a bad guy. A few episodes down the road, Helen Slater, who played the Girl of Steel in the 1984 “Supergirl,” will guest-star.

“Over the course of the series, we’ve always tried to bring pepole in who have been in other incarnations of Superman,” Gough noted. One of those, of course, was Christopher Reeve, who played scientist Virgil Swann.

Last year, on the eve of season six, Gough told me that season seven would likely be the end of “Smallville.” Now that season seven is almost here, he’s not ready to call it quits. “Ideally, we would like to go eight seasons and call it a day,” he said.

The well-dressed superhero

I haven’t been blogging about the latest season of “Who Wants To Be a Superhero?,” probably because I don't want to admit I'm watching. It is, after all, remarkably silly and hardly reflects well on comic-book fans, particularly those enthralled with costumed heroes. Best to look at it as just a good-hearted goof.

I did enjoy last night’s challenge: Our poor heroes had to beg passers-by for clothing. Tops? Not so hard?.Pants? A little tougher to convince people to part with. But did the heroes have to take their orders from an Esurance cartoon figure? Arrgghh.

So who’s going to win? Defuser is too bossy, Hygena too goofy. I’m thinking Hyper-Strike.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Field in Comic Book Challenge narrows to three

Platinum Studios' Comic Book Challenge is down to three finalists, which means it's time to vote:

SAN ANTONIO and LOS ANGELES, Aug. 15, 2007 — AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) and Platinum Studios, Inc. have announced that three aspiring comic book creators on the cusp of winning a coveted multimedia development and publishing deal have just one more hurdle to go — an online public vote — as the last phase begins of the second annual Platinum Studios’ Comic Book Challenge, presented by AT&T and sponsored by AT&T Universal Card.

The finalists are: Jorge Vega from Brockton, Mass., for “Gunplay;” Shawn Granger from La Verne, Calif., for “Grey Shades;” and Josiah Grahn from Richmond, Ky., for “Banana Barry.”

Through midnight on Sunday, Aug. 26, fans can check out the comic creators and their concepts, view live pitch footage and cast ballots for their favorite new comic book idea on the AT&T blue room (www.attblueroom.com) to determine which of the three finalists will walk away the winner.

This is the finalists’ last obstacle in their bid to break into the comic book industry by winning the contest. The challenge has included an open call for submissions, from which 50 entrants were selected to advance; a pitch to industry experts, who narrowed the field from 50 entrants to 10; and an initial online public vote that whittled the field from 10 entrants to three.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Alex Ross returns to Marvel

I’m a huge Alex Ross fan, so this is one series I’ll definitely be getting next year. After you read the release today from Marvel, below, head over to Newsarama for an interview with Ross that sheds more light on the project.

Marvel Comics is proud to announce that industry legend Alex Ross — who broke new ground with his seminal "Marvels" limited series — will return to Marvel Comics in 2008 with a brand-new project, “Avengers/Invaders.” Set in current continuity and featuring Marvel’s mightiest heroes from the past and present like never before, this 12-issue limited series will reunite the award-winning writing team of Alex Ross and Jim Krueger (Earth X, Universe X) for their first Marvel project in over five years! Ross will also provide covers for all 12 issues, in addition to character designs for the series, which will be penciled by fan-favorite Steve Sadowski.

“It’s great to have Alex back at Marvel,” said Publisher and President Dan Buckley. “His passion and talent have brought our industry some of its most memorable stories in recent times, changing the very face of comics. With Avengers/Invaders, Alex is mixing the past with the present to create a story unlike anything seen before, which will reverberate through the Marvel Universe for years to come.”

Series editor Tom Brevoort explained, “Avengers/Invaders is a sweeping, epic story with a human core that will unite the greatest heroes of the Marvel Universe’s present with the greatest heroes of its past.”

“It means something more to the world today, and that’s of course why we’re taking this confusing thing of the return of Captain America, that essentially is truly the return of Captain America, not in the way you would have expected,” revealed Ross of the series. “A lot of rich, creative room comes from that being opened up to us.”

Marvel, Dabel Brothers split

So, what to make of this? Seems kind of sudden. Also seems that Marvel came out on top in the deal at the end. Or maybe it just signals a new direction for Dabel Brothers.

New York, NY - Marvel Entertainment, Inc. and Dabel Brothers Productions, LLC announced today that they are mutually ending their publishing relationship. In 2006, Marvel and Dabel Brothers signed an agreement for Marvel to market, print and distribute several limited and ongoing series, in addition to some other dynamic new properties. Founded in 2001, the Dabel Brothers have specialized in creating comic books and graphic novels based on the works of best-selling authors’ series such as Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter; George R. R. Martin’s Hedge Knight; and Orson Scott Card’s Tales Of Alvin Maker and others.

Marvel Entertainment, Inc. President and Publisher Dan Buckley explained, "We have great respect for the Dabel Brothers’ business and the relationships they have generated. Our partnership has been an exciting experience for both companies. We wish the Dabels well in their future publishing endeavors and hope to work with them again, should the opportunity present itself.”

“Working with Marvel was a dream come true for all of us, and we enjoyed the opportunity to learn from the comic book industry’s market leader,” said Ernst Dabel, President of Dabel Brothers Productions. “We’re looking forward to applying those lessons to our business as we resume our status as a self-publisher, and we plan to continue producing top-quality adaptations of best-selling science fiction, fantasy, horror and thriller novels by popular authors.

Going forward, Marvel will continue to publish "Anita Blake Vampire Hunter" by Laurell K. Hamilton; the "Hedge Knight" series by George RR Martin; "Tales of Alvin Maker and Wyrms" by Orson Scott Card; "Magician Apprentice" by Raymond Feist; "Lords of Avalon" by Kinley MacGregor; and "Highwayman" by R.A. Salvatore. Dabel Brothers Productions will begin work on its next wave of books, slated for release in early 2008.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Take me out to the ballgame

Baseball and comics, together again. Or maybe for the first time. Triple-A Baseball and Marvel Entertainment have teamed up to create an exclusive baseball-themed comic featuring Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four and the Hulk. The book will be handed out by all 30 Triple-A teams in August — including to the first 5,000 fans at the Sky Sox game Sunday afternoon against Tacoma.

From the press release:

The “Triple-A Baseball Heroes” comic book sees Marvel’s legendary Super Hero family the Fantastic Four and their children, Franklin and Valeria, enjoy a day off at the ballpark for an exciting game between the International and Pacific Coast leagues. Peter Parker (Spider-Man) is also making a day of it with Aunt May and hoping to get in a few photos for the Daily Bugle as well. Additionally, billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is on hand to throw out the first pitch. Seeing the excitement of the fans and the potential financial windfall, Stark also considers making an investment in the League; however, fans, players and heroes all get more excitement than they bargained for when the villainous Sandman appears and the Incredible Hulk is there to tag him out!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

TV Guide visits Comic-Con

I spent an hour the other night watching a special on the TV Guide Channel titled “Comic-Con: Sci-Fi Unleashed.” It’s amazing how much mainstream coverage the San Diego Comic-Con got this year; all the wire services were there, it seems, and Entertainment Weekly devoted several pages to it. The big news isn’t comics, exactly: The focus has been more on the Comic-Con as a pop-culture hub and a must-stop for Hollywood types. Still, anything that brings favorable attention to the world of comics is a good thing.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The end of an era

Aww, what a tease. Marvel sent out this image today, the cover to “Amazing Spider-Man” No. 545, accompanied only by the words, “The end of an era.”

Is it the end for Peter Parker and Mary Jane? Editor-in-chief Joe Quesada has long said that their marriage was a mistake, and it’s true that it’s harder to put Peter in the put-upon, sad-sack category when he’s married to the super-hot Mary Jane. But what are you going to do? Kill her? Divorce them? Turn back the clock with some lame magic trick or whatever? And whose glove is that, anyway?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Feeling dizzy? It's Vertigo!

It’s my Vertigo week. Late yesterday I talked with Percy Carey, who chronicles his rise through hip-hop — and the ups and downs of an often-violent life — in an upcoming graphic novel for Vertigo, DC’s mature reader imprint. This morning, I chatted with Jason Aaron, writer of the ongoing “Scalped” series for Vertigo.

It’s a big month for Aaron. The first “Scalped” trade paperback just came out. He’s also the writer on this month’s double-sized issue of “Wolverine” No. 56 for Marvel and a “Ripclaw” one-shot for Top Cow.

August is a big month for Carey, as well: He’s got a new album coming out, “The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man.” Look for his graphic novel, “Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm,” in early September. And look for Comics Fan columns on both of these creators.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Doctor Strange faces the music

“World War Hulk” No. 3 is out this week, and it’s another rock ‘em, sock ‘em issue. This time, its Doctor Strange’s turn to face the Hulk’s wrath. Bruce Banner also makes a brief but moving appearance.

Look for an interview with “Hulk” writer Greg Pak in Sunday’s Comics Fan.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A reason to use snail mail

Have you bought your Marvel Super Heroes stamps from the Post Office yet? Last year, the U.S. Postal Service issued commemorative stamps featuring DC heroes; now the Marvel set has been released. I bought two sheets today: Ten stamps on each sheet of 20 are portraits of individual Marvel characters: Captain America, Elektra, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Sub-Mariner, The Incredible Hulk, The Thing and Wolverine. The other 10 depict individual comic book covers.