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Interview with ZOMBIE RANCH creators Clint & Dawn Wolf!

27 Mar

by Mike Hansen

2010-04-06-issue2-version2The zombie genre has exploded in the last few years thanks to the success of The Walking Dead and hit movies like 28 Days Later and the Dawn Of The Dead remake, but the concept as envisioned by creator/director George A. Romero has had plenty of bad stories and ripoffs and surprisingly few stories that stretch the concept into new directions (such as Max Brooks’s fantastic Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z).

ZOMBIE RANCH is a terrific, long-running serialized webcomic from creators Clint & Dawn Wolf that places the modern zombie in an entirely new venue: the American desert of the future, with Big Brother-like “reality show” floating cameras recording the story’s events. Following in the classic Romero tradition of focusing on the survivors (not the monsters) and commenting on modern society, what sets Zombie Ranch apart is that its story starts long after a zombie apocalypse has ended. The mark of a good story is having it start as late as possible, and this ballsy approach has paid off: After its launch in September 2009, ZR has found a dedicated following, thanks to its clear and entertaining storytelling, a deceptively simple “animation cel”-style of artwork, regular updates, and frequent west-coast convention appearances. Over the last few months, I exchanged an email Q&A with the Wolfs. Enjoy (and as always, CLICK to make the artwork bigger):

2009-11-04-06_donthurtthemmuchWhat made you want to do a webcomic?

DAWN: I’d been doing an occasional webcomic strip called Bits of Nothing for years, but I always wanted to draw an actual story comic. I had a lot of false starts with other writers, including a comic that almost went to print but got rejected. Clint and I had been married for a long time but he’d never really tried to write anything for me, but then I drew that picture and it really fired him up. It was shortly after I’d been taking some web design and comic design classes, too, so I thought it would be neat to go with the web.

CLINT: Webcomics are the ultimate self-starter scenario. If you’ve got a story to tell and the passion and patience to see it through, it’s an unequaled way to connect with the widest possible audience at the lowest possible cost. Also, you don’t need to impress anyone with a resume, just with your output.

2009-12-09-pg11_nothinbutmeatHow did you come up with Zombie Ranch?

CLINT: Dawn drew a crazy picture at 3 A.M., and the rest is history. It might not have gone anywhere had she answered me that her shotgun-totin’ cowgirl was a zombie hunter rather than a zombie “rancher,” but once that happened, the idea ate into my brain as surely as if a hungry ghoul had gotten hold of me. I’d say another big piece of the concept came from the modern trend of dangerous-job reality shows such as “Deadliest Catch,” to the point I already mentioned it in the comic itself. The gal wearing a belly shirt started me thinking of setting it in the future instead of the past, and in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse that had come and gone. You just didn’t see too many stories exploring how things might be ten or twenty years down the road, when all the running and screaming was over.

2010-01-06-13_firstimpressionsI don’t know how much where we live influenced the theme so much as the fact that the concept started with Cowgirl-Ranch-Zombies, and two of those three concepts are pretty solidly “Western.” It doesn’t hurt that Dawn grew up on a farm out in the desert, so she has insights on how things might go from day to day.

DAWN: Some of the pieces I draw that get the biggest responses are the ones I do in the wee hours of the night after Clint’s gone to bed and I’m left alone with my weird ideas. I wanted to do something different than the usual “zombie-hunting” art and decided she would be a rancher. Clint thought that was a really neat idea, and then we ended up selling the original at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con Art Show for the most I’ve ever sold a piece, and there was a bid war. So we figured we might be onto something.

2009-09-25-onthezombieranchSo how do you explain Zombie Ranch to someone who’s never read it or heard of it before?

CLINT: The simplest answer would be “Cowboys & Zombies”, but we’re not the first to come up with that idea. Plus that falls pretty short of communicating the details I think make our story unique. Usually I’ll start by telling people that this is set many years after the apocalypse has come and gone, and people survived and adapted and rebuilt, and not only that, discovered a way to profit off the new reality of the walking dead. Then I tell them that Zombie Ranch is about the daily lives of the men & women who wrangle those undead for a living.

Continue reading

MADEFIRE interview with Liam Sharp and Dave Gibbons

15 Nov

by Orion Tippens

All DAY Comics

Liam Sharp and Dave Gibbons #2

Liam Sharp and Dave Gibbons (photo by Orion Tippens)

Inventive storytelling and motion comics: The two come together perfectly though Madefire, a magnificent motion-comics app for all current Apple iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch).

Through the Madefire app, users may download and read the finest in motion comics. Through finger-swiping and perhaps good headphones, viewers enter strange new worlds of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Unlike normal digital-comic scans, the viewer takes in enhanced effects and creative transitions that break traditional panel boundaries. For those accepting of this new and creative style, awesomeness awaits you!

Behind the scenes of Madefire are two legendary UK comics artists: Liam Sharp and David Gibbons. Their involvement and building of Madefire have brought the comics standard to motion comics at a respectable and accessible level to comics fans. They both have worked for decades for all of the major companies out there, both in the US and UK. Now they bring their gold standards to new levels in this brave new digital world.

I had the good fortune of meeting Liam and Dave at the Madefire booth at the San Diego Comic Con. We had an enlightening conversation on the philosophy of motion comics and the development of Madefire. Below is our exchange:

ADC: Hello. For our readers at All Day Comics and comics enthusiasts, please introduce yourselves.

Liam Sharp:  Hello, my name is Liam Sharp, I am the CCO of Madefire Comics.

Dave Gibbons:  I am Dave Gibbons; I am a comic-book writer and artist. I am working on a couple of projects for Madefire and taking an active part in the development of the platform.

ADC: For Madefire Comics, what are your current projects?

Dave Gibbons: The book that I am doing for Madefire is called The Treatment. It’s set in the future, where there are certain areas in a city controlled by the police because things are bad. There are these freelance police called the Treatment, who treat the ills of society. In order to finance it, it’s being broadcast on live TV as a reality show. It’s like COPS, but you can get killed on live TV.

Liam Sharp: The story I’m doing – actually, I’m working on two of them. I’m writing with Ben Wolstenhome, the other founder. I’m writing his book (Mono) and providing some amazing illustrations. He’s new to the industry, and I think for a first-time storyteller he’s doing an amazing job. The story I’m writing and drawing myself, with Christine McCormack who is co-authoring, is called Captain Stone is Missing. It’s probably my opus, a story I’ve been wanting to do for the last twenty years. It’s really exciting.

ADC: For readers not familiar with Madefire comics’ presentation as a motion comic, how does it differ from the “normal” digital-transferred comics and print comics out there?

Dave Gibbons: As for most other digital comics, those are Continue reading

Jim Mahfood TV interview

29 Jul

by Mike Hansen

Jim Mahfood, American comic book creator.

Jim Mahfood, American comic book creator. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last month, G4’s Attack of the Show interviewed the awesome Jim Mahfood (Stupid Comics, Clerks, Tank Girl, Grrl Scouts, Marijuanaman, Generation X, etc.) – I haven’t seen anyone else link to it, so I am. WordPress won’t let me embed it (because it uses old embedding codes, or something), so check it out here.

Mahfood had a limited Tank Girl sketchbook minicomic at Tr!ckster this year, but it was a bit too pricey for me at the time. Maybe next year…

Neil Gaiman’s first interview?

26 Jul

by Mike Hansen

English writer Neil Gaiman. Taken at the 2007 ...

English writer Neil Gaiman. Taken at the 2007 Scream Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Village Voice found a 1968 BBC interview with 7-year-old Neil Gaiman about Scientology. Thought this was interesting enough to share.

They do point out that

Gaiman these days prefers not to talk about his Scientology past. His father, David, died in 2009. In 2010 Neil told the New Yorker that he’s no longer a church member.

So just think of this as a tiny glimpse of a moment from a very talented author’s childhood. Like this interview with 5-year-old Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day…

(thanks to Orion for the heads-up!)

The videos that shook the comics world, Part 2: Q&A with John Ferrier!

27 May

by Mike Hansen

In my opinion, not enough comics sites offer the perspective of the comics fans. Sure, there are plenty of sites offering “scoops” on upcoming comics (especially from the handful of big Direct-Market publishers), but the world of comics is a lot bigger than that: one just has to go to any comics convention to see how passionate every creator and consumer of comics can be. I’ve always believed that there’s an audience for anything, no matter how many folks may ignore or deride something: heck, even Sci-Fi (SyFy?) original movies have their own sincere, hardcore following.

Every comics fan has their own reasons for buying and reading comics, whether for entertainment value, artistic worth, collectibility, etc. But with the decline in independent comics shops, and the vast areas of the U.S. lacking even a single brick-and-mortar store (my entire county has one), the “talking comics” aspect of being a fan isn’t what it once was. Online message boards are a great way to touch base with fellow fans, but even those have their limitations when it comes to in-depth fan conversations. The comics industry really needs its own Ain’t It Cool News (though that site does have some great comics posts, like the League of @$Holes reviews!). I hope that some of these posts on All Day Comics can help steer us towards that. I’d love to hear what you readers think, so send an email or post a comment: Despite what some publishers would have you believe, your opinion matters!

Kris Shaw’s hardcover-comparison videos and crusade to Make Comics Better couldn’t have been made without the help of his partner-in-crime, fellow comics fan John Ferrier. I talked with John to get the view from the other side of the camera:

John Ferrier

John Ferrier

Tell me about how you became a comics fan, and a fan of collected editions. Any particular examples that hooked you? Was it your first comic, or was it a more gradual evolutionary process?

Very gradual for me. I was more of a baseball-card collector when I was a kid. My first comic experience was when my family went up north (where Michiganders go on vacation) to a cottage and I ran into the local party store. On the magazine rack was a Nightcrawler #1 that I picked up, from 1985, I think. But baseball cards were my only love, so I didn’t buy any more until the late ’80s: I picked up the first 7 Star Wars comics from a local comic shop. After that, I dabbled a little in the boom of the early ’90s as I let go of my love for baseball cards. I found comics were more fun to collect, since the baseball card market was getting way out of control, making it less fun to collect. My favorite back then was Battle Angel Alita.

Almost a decade later, I went into a Barnes and Noble and saw the softcover Spider-Man Masterworks: Then it was all over. I loved the idea of the collected edition. I’ve always wanted to read Spider-Man from the beginning, but it was never realistic to buy the originals. I met Kris a couple years after that. I had a couple shelves’ worth of books at the time. He showed me what else was available out there; I really had no idea. Because of him, now I have more books than I’ll ever be able to read!

My wife is a HUGE Battle Angel Alita fan. I’ve barely read it, since I’ve still got so many comics of my own to catch up on. She’s got a huge manga collection, but it hardly overlaps with mine – most of my manga is from Dark Horse (since I used to be the Manga Editor there), and most of hers is Viz/Del Rey/TokyoPop. Are you into any other manga?

I was mostly into Anime back then. I have a ton of DVDs from back then. I do have almost all of the Ranma 1/2 graphic novels!

Me, too! That’s one of my all-time favorites. So are you as frustrated as we are about James Cameron taking forever to make a Battle Angel movie?

Yes. I doubt it will ever happen. If it does, I think it should be CG.

It’s interesting that both you and Kris got hooked on comics thanks to the first Spider-Man Masterworks volume. (I actually just got a copy of the softcover a few weeks ago!) I wonder how many comics have that kind of power to create a lifelong love of comics like that. (For me, it was early-’80s X-Men comics that finally hooked me.) It seems to me that there’s some material that should always be available in one format or another – given how old the comics audience is these days, I think we need more books like that to bring in new readers. What do you think?

Spider-Man Masterworks vol 1

The comic that made a collector out of John (and Kris).

That’s a tricky question. The market is dwindling for comic buyers every month. Barnes and Noble is still around, and that’s where I discovered the Masterworks. It got me buying collected editions. But since Borders is gone, how much longer can Barnes and Noble last as a place to discover new books? I rarely go into a bookstore anymore. I already spend most of my money online for books each week, for usually around 40% off with free shipping. Here’s an example: Circuit City went out of business; now Best Buy is struggling. A lot of people are using stores as showrooms and going home and buying items online. I do. So, do I think there should always be a softcover volume 1 Spider-man Masterworks available? Yes. Though I also believe that there are very few books you can do that with, too.

My Continue reading

The videos that shook the comics world, Part 1: Q&A with Comics Fan-lebrity, Kris Shaw!

26 May

by Mike Hansen

Kris Shaw photo

Kris Shaw

A lot of comics publishers say they listen their fans, but sometimes it takes extra effort for fan input to be addressed. Frustrated by the quality of recent books published by DC Comics, Kris Shaw didn’t just complain in comment threads on comics sites and message boards (though he did that, too): He decided to make a series of YouTube videos to show the comics world his concerns. The first video got publicized by the megapopular comics rumor site Bleeding Cool, then another, and another. Even DC Comics head honcho Dan DiDio was forced to respond online to the videos’ popularity. (All five videos are embedded below.)

Comics needs more fans like Kris. Not only does he put his money where his mouth is by refusing to continue buying books that don’t live up to his standards, but he spreads the word and sticks to his guns in his self-described “crusade.”

I emailed Kris and his fellow comics fan and partner in video-making, John “Ferjo” Ferrier, a few weeks ago to ask about the videos. What followed was a great, wide-ranging discussion about being a comics reader, the role of comics fans and how they can influence the publishing process, and the responsibilities of publishers to their readership. Kris doesn’t hold back: he was happy to let me know how his input has improved not just DC’s books, but Marvel‘s as well!

Here’s my conversation with Kris; my interview with John will be up shortly.

So, to start with, Kris, tell me about how you became a comics fan.

I guess I started out being a comic fan the same way everyone else in my generation did: by having a comic book given to me. My Aunt bought me Amazing Spider-Man #165. I was 3(?). I have no recollection of the story, only the cover. The first comic books that I remember actively flipping through were Star Wars #4-6, the Whitman 3-pack reprints. But it wasn’t until 1983 that I began my collection in earnest. Like many other trips to Farmer Jack (a defunct Michigan supermarket chain), my Mom would buy me one of those Whitman Marvel 3-packs. This one had Amazing Spider-Man #239, Thor #330, and Daredevil #196. I read all of those issues repeatedly that day, over and over. It was at this point that I decided that I wanted to collect comic books, that day.

How did you become a fan of collected editions? Any particular examples that hooked you (of comics and/or collected editions)? Was it a more gradual evolutionary process?

This is easier to answer. I obsessively gobbled up Marvel and some independents all through the ’80s, although I was like 98% Marvel. I started becoming disillusioned with comic books in 1989. Crossovers and the influx of the new regime of artists didn’t sit well with me. I began dropping titles as 1989 wore on, until I was only making one trip to the comic shop per month. I was buying ASM still, and maybe Spectacular Spider-Man and one or two other things by this point. As the ’80s gave way 1990, I was essentially all but done. I remember getting excited about a new Spider-Man title that summer, and did pick up Spider-Man #1 by Todd McFarlane, but that was it. I was done.

Spider-Man #1, later renamed "Peter Parke...

Spider-Man #1 (2nd printing) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I heard rumblings now and then about comics, but I was repulsed by how popular they had become. I sat out the entire Image boom. It was akin to the disgust that I would feel after Metallica sold out for the black album…a total betrayal, and the people that once made fun of me for liking something were now the first in line for it. I should have felt vindicated, but I didn’t. I wanted as far away from it as possible.

Fast forward a few years, and I found myself missing comic books. I was early for a doctor’s appointment (this would be 1997, maybe 1998?) and there was a comic shop a couple of blocks over so I went there and looked around. I stumbled upon Marvel Masterworks Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1. I bought it, and I loved it. Comic books were for nerds, see, but this was a book…with comic books inside of it! I was still in the closet about my love of comic books. I am sure that you remember, Mike, that long before the mainstream acceptance that we see today, the hobby was like a leper colony. “Cool” people wanted nothing to do with it in the ’80s. I was in my mid-20s and pursuing a pretty active social life and really couldn’t be bothered with this sort of thing, so I guess that I forgot about that Masterwork. Until…

I got married in October of 2003. When we bought our house, I was moving all of my junk in, and was going through boxes of books, and there it was. That Marvel Masterwork. I pulled it out and re-read it, only this time it was like a junkie relapsing. I was in. If this was wrong, then I no longer wanted to be right. I was online by this point, so it was much easier to find answers about these books. I quickly scooped up ASM vols. 2 and 3, and Uncanny X-Men Vols. 1-3. I then discovered that Marvel was rolling out reissues. I picked up ASM vol. 5 the day it was (re)released in March of 2004, etc. Then I started buying Essentials. Then collections of modern Spider-Man, X-Men…then older collections…then out-of-print collections…Avengers…crossovers…G.I. Joe…Dark Horse’s Marvel Star Wars reprints, Titan UK’s Marvel Transformers TPBs…it was really a downhill snowball, until I arrived where I am at today.

So, exactly how hardcore a comics collector are you? I get the impression that you buy a LOT of collected editions.

Yes, I am a pretty hardcore comic collector, at least in my opinion. I buy 10-15+ collected editions a month. It’s all relative, though. Some folks by one or two a month and their jaws would drop at that statement, while I know of other people who buy every single title that Marvel puts out every month plus back issues, so it’s all relative. I know that my wife thinks that I buy enough these days!

How many collected editions do you have? (I think I’m at around 2000, not enough of which I’ve read in full!)

I have exactly 866 as of this moment, 6:33 PM, Friday, April 27, 2012. Ha! I prune my collection several times a year. I would have an additional 300 or so books if I didn’t do that. I get rid of books that disappoint me, and sometimes even ones that I read and enjoyed but know that I will never want to read them again. This is done because of space. I have a small house.

How did your wife feel about your rediscovery of a rather expensive habit right after you got married? Did the “allowance” have to kick in right away?

This is a funny story. When I got back in, it was just those few Amazing Spider-Man and Uncanny X-Men Masterworks. There were only 6 more that I needed, a fact which I am reminded of every so often. She had no idea that it would mushroom into this, and honestly, neither did I. Who could have foreseen this glorious golden age of collected editions that we have been fortunate enough to experience in the last decade? Not I, said the fly!

The allowance system kicked in almost immediately. I came home with a stack of books, and my wife was like, “I want a dishwasher and you are spending money on books??” We had a sit-down talk, and came up with a mutually beneficial, equitable allowance. There are special exceptions, i.e. birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Father’s Day, Flag Day…OK, I made that last one up. In all seriousness, it headed off a lot of arguments, and we never argue about money. She is concerned about space and if I’m ever going to actually read these things, but that’s another matter entirely. My backlog is over 200 books.

You’ve mentioned to me in the past how you helped influence some changes in Marvel collected editions. How did this happen? (Was it your regular posts on the Marvel Masterworks fan site?) What was it about the books that concerned you? What changes did you suggest, and how did Marvel react to your ideas, in your opinion?

Well, it wasn’t just me, there were a few of us complaining. Yes, the Marvel Masterworks fan site, and its message boards, were largely responsible for the improvements that the Masterworks have experienced over the last few years. If you remember, those 2002-2004 “ReMasterworks” pretty much sucked. Sure, they had sewn binding, but the super-glossy paper, gradient shaded coloring, and obliterated linework marred the experience for many of us. Even though Cory Sedlmeier was at the helm at the relaunch, he was still honing his craft. The guy has taken the program and made it what it is today, and his restoration has such a reputation for purism that he’s practically a brand name. People now want books that have “the Cory treatment.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Marvel continued the relaunch with the first new volume, Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 6, in the spring of 2004. It had dropped lines, but the color palette was pretty faithful. It still had the super-glossy paper. Cory, Mark Beazely, and David Gabriel all used to post pretty often at the boards, so we fans had the ear of Marvel at the time. Many of the projects that we have enjoyed from Marvel (Complete Onslaught, Complete Age of Apocalypse, Power Pack Classic, etc.) were wishes granted to us during David Gabriel’s now-defunct Q&A threads. Those were the days! Imagine, being laughed at for suggesting a Morbius Omnibus. It happened to me. I did suggest those three books listed above. Whether or not those were already in the pipeline or if they thought it was a good idea and went with it, I can’t say.

So yeah, Marvel interacted with us on the board. First, Marvel upgraded the paper stock. They referred to it as the “Marvelmatic” paper, and it was a dull matte-finish coated stock. I loved it. The 2004 Masterworks had glued binding, but they laid flat, so most people didn’t care at the time. The “Marvelmatic” paper books (see X-Men Vol. 6, Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 8, Fantastic Four Vol. 10, etc. for examples) had terrible, glued “mousetrap” binding [that would snap the books shut like a mousetrap, instead of lay flat]. It was at this point that the natives on the boards became restless.

People started demanding sewn binding. There was a poll on the board to see if people would support a $5 increase for sewn binding, and of course it won by a landslide. So we waited…and finally, the first book with sewn binding arrived: Atlas Era Heroes Vol. 1. It was stiff and didn’t lay flat. I was devastated. $5 extra for this? We stormed the board with pitchforks and torches. Then we started getting glue clumps. It was horrible, like the printer glued the book binding, and then ran threads through it. Then came the “glued-on” dustjacket era, when the dustjackets were literally glued to the cover. You had to peel them off, and then clean off the residue. If you’re lucky, you can find one still sealed and experience the “joy” for yourself. (Atlas Era Heroes Vol. 2 has one for sure.)

It was at this point that I wrote a letter to Marvel. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I addressed all of the points mentioned above. I also griped about the glued binding in the Omnibus books. Fantastic Four Omnibus Vol. 2 had perforated glued binding and was awful. The book wouldn’t lay flat, and at that price point [$99.99] I felt that it should. The first printing of Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 also sucks, and should be avoided at all costs. I was very concerned that these large 800-1088 page books would fall apart without sewn binding. The very first Omnibus books, Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 and Fantastic Four Vol. 1, had glued binding, but for some reason lay perfectly flat. Also, they have the greatest collected-edition paper ever. It was a dull matte finish coated stock, with a creamy, off-white color similar to mint condition late ’70s pulp paper. Godlike. Unfortunately, the printer discontinued the stock, according to Mark Beazely back when he posted on the boards.

I believe that I sent out a second letter to Marvel, but am not 100% sure. In any case, myself and a few other super-anal-retentive board members were griping about the quality problems, and finally, finally, Marvel responded: production was moving to China. While I was sad because production was moving out of America, the uptick in quality was undeniable. It was at this point that the Marvel Masterworks surpassed the DC Archives in terms of quality production, restoration, etc. The binding was the final piece of the puzzle. This was Fall 2008. The Omnibus books’ production also moved to China. So while it was not just me who griped, I was probably among the squeakier wheels. I can’t take credit for the changes made to these books, as I don’t work at Marvel or anything. I was just a fan with a big mouth who wrote a letter or two and spent too much time on a message board.

What specifically led you to taking the time and effort (and money – those books aren’t cheap!) to produce your Marvel/DC comparison videos?

Well, that’s the thing that started me on that road. They are expensive books, you know? As you know, I voice my opinions about the quality of these books on the Masterworks Message Board. I was getting a perplexing amount of static from people whenever I would comment about DC’s decontented products, be it the lack of shrinkwrap, the toilet paper used in those Kirby Omnibus books, or the mousetrap binding found in most of their hardcovers these days. People would argue, in my opinion, for the sake of argument, and my guess is that many of them had never even seen a Marvel Omnibus in person. It is painfully obvious to anyone that owns both how inferior the DC ones were. Why wouldn’t more people gripe about them?

One board member, FiveYearsLater, really got the ball rolling. He took the pictures of DC’s New 52 Omnibus, and its obvious shortcomings. Folks were still defending these inferior products. I had reached my point. I was tired of telling people what could be better about these books…it was time to show them.

I did that first Marvel vs. DC Omnibus video in a pretty bitter frame of mind, as you can tell. I had started a Facebook page for the cause, and I posted the video. It was very, very grassroots, maybe two dozen or so supporters. On a whim, I emailed my video to Bleeding Cool. I must give huge, huge props to Rich Johnston for running with this story. If not for his doing that, this would still be a very grassroots, underground campaign and wouldn’t have had the teeth or the traction to get as far as it did. I seriously can’t thank him enough, you know?

Dan DiDio video FB response

Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC Comics, responds.

I was floored when the video actually reached Dan DiDio and when he responded that they were looking into it, beginning with the New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 2 in April.

(The second video, comparing DC to two more publishers’ high-end hardcovers.)

Remember, this was back in January. I was completely unprepared for some of the feedback that I received from people, both on the Bleeding Cool forums and on YouTube’s user comments. I was accused of rigging the video by breaking the binding in the Marvel book to make it lay that flat, to being a company shill for Marvel, to using trick photography to make the Green Lantern book snap shut like that. That’s what made me do the second Marvel vs. DC Omnibus video, which shows me unwrapping The Avengers Omnibus. Of course, I compared it to the same Green Lantern Omnibus Vol. 2, so that didn’t go over too well with some folks.

I was prepared when doing the third one. I learned my mistakes from the first two, from the presentation, to language used, to having my good friend Ferjo Byroy (a.k.a. John Ferrier) doing the unwrapping. Everyone was pretty pleased with that one.

Again, major, major thanks to Rich and Bleeding Cool. DC actually made strides to improve their books. They switched from glued to sewn binding, and while it is still quite a bit stiffer than the Marvel books, I believe that if DC continues working with their vendors that they will get it right. Marvel had some growing pains when they switched to sewn binding, so we’ll have to be patient as they work the bugs out. I hope that it doesn’t take too long. I applaud their efforts to make things right. I will continue offering constructive criticism and praise the improvements as they happen. I feel like I fought the good fight for the benefit of everyone.

(the latest video: Victory?)

In your last video (of the Spirit World hardcover), you seem pretty pleased with DC’s work. What do you think about DC’s recent improvements in its collected editions? Are these isolated incidents, or are you seeing a general change in approach?

Well, the NTT Omnibus Vol. 2 was a step in the right direction, but Spirit World blew me away. It could be an isolated incident, as it is technically a new format for DC. I don’t know if you noticed from the video, but it had a screen-printed image on the cover with no dustjacket. I can’t recall DC ever doing that before, but I could be wrong. The paper grade is also new for DC. The dimensions of the book are different, too. All of these are changes for the better, in my opinion.

I feel that we may be seeing a change in their approach. DC might be realizing that they are losing out on the goodwill that they had for years just to save a few pennies on a book. Penny-wise, pound-foolish. In these economic times, people are selective about what they spend their discretionary income on. DC was likely thinking about ways to keep MSRPs low, but at the end of the day, someone who is spending $50-100 on a book is less likely to do so if that product is shoddier than the earlier releases at that price point.

In my experience, DC isn’t nearly as communicative with its fans than other publishers. Marvel has Q&As on various comics websites, and (as you’ve said) people who work on Marvel collected editions post on message boards; IDW and Dark Horse have staff members posting on their sites’ boards; many Image creators and most self-publishers tend to be pretty open and direct with fans – while DC seems to only issue any statements about its releases to retailers, often at the last minute (for example, the notice that a solicited issue of New Teen Titans was omitted from the second Omnibus for inclusion in a later volume). Do you have any opinion about this?

(DC’s notice to retailers, after the book was solicited and put on sale:)

CONTENT UPDATE FOR THE NEW TEEN TITANS OMNIBUS VOL. 2 HC

Please note that THE NEW TEEN TITANS #38, originally solicited to appear in THE NEW TEEN TITANS OMNIBUS VOL. 2 HC (DEC110292), instead will appear in THE NEW TEEN TITANS OMNIBUS VOL. 3, along with other issues in the same storyline.

DC’s gag order policy needs to go, if for no other reason than to give the fans a sense of mattering to the company. DC does refer to their Direct-Market partners all the time. Well, who shops at the direct market? The fans! I do believe that DC has moles on message boards, though, even in an unofficial capacity.

The New Teen Titans product update was a joke. You do those before you go to press on a product, not after it is released, people have bought it, and are screaming bloody murder about it. It’s just another example at how out of touch DC is with the 21st century fanbase.

Although direct-market retailers are technically the publishers’ customers, the readers are the ones who have the most influence on what retailers are preordering. As an outspoken fan and heavy-duty comics spender, how do you see your role in all this going forward?

Cropped version of image, Dan DiDio at San Die...

Even Dan DiDio had to respond to these videos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My role is simple: I buy quality products, and if any company doesn’t want to provide that, then my wallet and I will go elsewhere. There is no shortage of comic-book companies producing high-end hardcovers that meet the production values that I hold so dear. Where this comes in is in the preorder. I stopped preordering DC hardcovers outside of Archives a while back when it was clear that they were de-contenting their products. If the next few releases are following the path recently laid out (i.e. a renewed commitment to quality production values, binding), then I may once again start preordering. I take a wait-and-see approach with all of their books as of this moment. I did not preorder Spirit World; I only bought it after I read positive reviews online.

Preorder numbers are everything in this game. Look at what happened to the Night Force book: It was cancelled twice, first in hardcover, then in softcover. All because of low preorders. I did my part, I preordered it both times in the solicitation cycle, so all I can do is shrug my shoulders. If enough people get fed up with DC (or any publisher) making shoddy products, then they will stop preordering, and retailers will stop preordering, and before you know it, there will be no more books.

From the frequency of your comics reviews on your blog, I think it’s safe to say that you buy and read a LOT of comics. From a quality standpoint, what makes a good comic, in your opinion? How does the presentation of the material affect your enjoyment of it?

I buy too many books, but don’t read enough of them. I am constantly bouncing between five books at once. It’s just how I roll. The things that make a good comic, in my opinion, are good writing, artwork, and coloring. I imagine that that is what makes a good comic for everyone. It’s all subjective. People love [Brian] Bendis’ writing, for example, but I’d rather read something by Ed Brubaker or from Avatar Press. If it is Marvel, it better not piss on the core of the character’s essence. If people go through radical personality changes for the sake of a few story arcs, that serves neither the story nor the character; it serves the writer’s ego. I show no mercy for that type of crap in my blog.

Good material can transcend shoddy presentation, but if you slap it between two hardbacks and try to pass it off as a “deluxe” edition, then it better measure up. I am a total snob when it comes to this sort of thing. Nice paper stock, sewn binding, linework and colors authentic to the original issues…those are the sweet spots for me. Your mileage may vary, as I am admittedly on the extreme end on the anal-retentive scale. A well-made hardcover can elevate the reading experience for me. I enjoy counting the signature stitches as I read.

You’re clearly very passionate about collected editions – what factors go into your decision whether to buy a book or not?

I love comprehensive, completist-minded books like the Marvel Masterworks and Dark Horse Archives. I want it all. Throw in the kitchen sink! I love the stuff that Jeph York* has done with the Marvel books, with the extras in those X-Men Jim Lee Omnibus books being ridiculously awesome. The effort and personal expense he went to collect all of the bric-a-brac was crazy. Good crazy, I might add.

I have no problem preordering any Marvel hardcovers, like Omnibuses or OHCs. I know that they will have sewn binding and be good, quality products. I hope to be able to say that about DC in the near future, too. Their Archives are great, of course, but their other collections…I mean, I don’t get it. They leave covers out, omit issues. Stuff like that is infuriating to people like me who are, by and large, the target audience for the high-end books. No one who just saw the new Batman movie is going to walk into a Barnes and Noble, see a $50 hardcover on the shelf, and buy it. Not a chance. These books appeal to us OCD-suffering connoisseurs, so they should make them appeal to us.

That Marshall Rogers Batman hardcover is a great example. They left out the beginning of the arc because it had Walt Simonson artwork. So what? It was necessary to include it as part of the reading experience. Marvel will do that. By and large, those artist-centric collections don’t work, unless you have Frank Miller Daredevil or something like that, with a huge run of issues to go with.

For non-Big Two books, I will often buy the first issue, or Ferjo will, and we share them. I call this research, because dropping $15-20 on an unknown property can become painfully expensive. I used to do that, and then get 10 pages in and realize that the book sucks. I don’t have the time or money to do that anymore. Or another thing that I will do is if I see the collected edition’s solicitation, I will go to a comic shop and flip through the floppies. If the artwork looks decent, or if it has a writer whose work I consistently enjoy, those are the types of things that will get me to plunk down my cash.

I am also a major-league sucker for Golden Age material, particularly pre-Code horror. Those PS Artbooks are beautiful. I’ll buy almost anything ’30s-’50s if it is in color.

In your opinion, which publishers are doing the best job with their output? Which are doing the worst job?

Marvel and Dark Horse are consistently good, both in restoration and presentation. DC can be brilliant or awful, depending. Why they insist on doing things like omitting the * [footnote] boxes, letting Neal Adams redraw classic material, things like that, I’ll never understand. PS Artbooks are beautiful, Fantagraphics always does top-quality products. IDW can do good stuff, although their Marvel G.I. Joe trades have been pretty crappy. They would’ve been better off scanning the floppies. Image doesn’t do vintage collections, but I am usually happy with their hardcovers.

Okay, here are a couple of final “fannish” questions: As a hardcore consumer of high-end comics collected editions, tell me your all-time top 10 favorite comics to read.

The first 129 issues of Amazing Spider-Man are genius. Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita, Sr., and Gil Kane. ‘Nuff said.

The All-New, All-Different X-Men: Claremont and Cockrum, then Claremont and Byrne…those issues are great. I’ve read GS 1/ UXM 94-143 dozens of times over the years. They never get old.

EC Comics. These are possibly the best comic books ever made. Art for the sake of art, way better than it had to be for the era. Great, great stuff.

Golden Age Wonder Woman. I have only been into this for a year or so, having discovered first the Chronicles, then scooping up the Archives. Love it.

Bronze Age Marvel horror. Werewolf By Night, Morbius, Frankenstein Monster, Man-Thing, Tales of the Zombie…these are great. I will not rest until they are all made available in deluxe, high end hardcovers.

Y: The Last Man. What a great series this was. I love the ending, and how it ends with questions rather than answers.

Ex Machina- Another Brian K. Vaughn title, this was another awesome page-turner.

Alpha Flight. I loved this, even if Byrne and fandom at large did not.

Elfquest. I discovered this in ’85, when Marvel did it under their Epic imprint. Great stuff that doesn’t get enough props.

Power Pack. The original run by Louise Simonson and June Brigman was wonderful. Why hasn’t Disney retooled this as a Pixar film? Why? Why??

What about your all-time top 10 collected editions based on the total package?

Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus Vol. 1 (2nd printing)- The entire Stan Lee/ Steve Ditko run in one handy, 10-pound package.

The Harvey Horrors/ ACG books from PS Artbooks. Nice scans, and the issues are complete. I mean really complete, ads and all.

Creepy and Eerie Archives- I love these. The paper grade seems to change from time to time, with some volumes being shinier than others, but I love that they include the ads, too.

The softcover Marvel Masterworks- I have been picking up the stray titles, like Dr. Strange and Daredevil, and I love the paper used in these books. Plus, there seems to be some flex to them, so they rest in one hand like a giant periodical. Wonderful.

The EC Archives- There aren’t enough of these, in my opinion. They should be cranking these out quarterly at the very least.

Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol. 1- The first printing has the greatest paper that I have ever seen, a dull matte finish in a creamy, off white color reminiscent of high grade Bronze Age pulp paper.

DC Archives- While the restoration on the earl volumes was bit, er, rustic by today’s standards, they are still decent books. Nice paper, sewn binding…they make it all the more frustrating that their Omnibus books were so substandard.

Marvel Masterworks (2009-on)- I will never upgrade these. I have replaced many of my older ones with either Omnibus HCs or newer printings, but these are definitive.

Dark Horse Omnibus TPBs- I love these chunky little books. They have a generous page count at a good price point, and are in color. Love it!

Thanks to Kris for a great interview. Check out his blog, Junk Food for Thought, for maddeningly daily reviews of comics, graphic novels, and rock ‘n’ roll!

(Bonus: here are three online interviews with Marvel Masterworks editor Cory Sedlmeier, from 2003, 2005, and 2008 – enjoy!)

* A note to readers: I’ll be posting an interview with Marvel’s Jeph York in the next few days – keep your eyes peeled!

Quote of the Day: J. Michael Straczynski on BEFORE WATCHMEN

17 Apr

by Mike Hansen

Cover of "Spider-Man: One More Day"

Cover of Spider-Man: One More Day

Actually, TWO quotes, from the same event:

“On an emotional level, I get it. What is interesting is that in a conversation with the pissed off people, you have to chase the logic tree. ‘DC doesn’t have the rights to do this.’ Actually, they do. ‘Alan Moore doesn’t like it.’ Well, Alan Moore is a genius, but he has been abusing characters in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen like having Mr. Hyde anally rape Invisible Man to death which Robert Louis Stevenson wouldn’t have approved of.”

“Did Alan Moore get screwed on his contract? Of course. Lots of people get screwed, but we still have Spider-Man and lots of other heroes.”

J. Michael Straczynski at C2E2’s Before Watchmen panel

Just a few questions for JMS…

– So it’s cool for a publisher to rip off the creators of a comic, including lasting works of greatness like Watchmen and Spider-Man, as long as everybody gets screwed? Or as long as you get to work on it, whether or not the creator approves of the project?

– What’s it like working for a publisher that you know screws over your fellow creators? Is it not your problem, as long as you get paid?

– Imagine if the publisher of Rising Stars and Midnight Nation, your acclaimed works that you created and own, found a contractual loophole that allowed them to publish new material without your permission or control, while you’re alive and the work remains under copyright (not that Image Comics would ever do that). How would you feel about that? Do you think it might feel worse than having your acclaimed run on Amazing Spider-Man end with a completely rewritten final story without your say or control?

Enjoy sleeping on your big bed made of money, sir.

ADC Interview: the creators of PENGUINS VS. POSSOMS!

14 Apr

by Orion Tippens

Penguins vs Possoms cover 1Did you know that penguins and possums are sworn enemies in a secret world war? Of whom did I learn of this?

Enter Sebastian Kadlecik and John Bring, the creative duo behind the indie print and webcomic, Penguins Vs. Possums. As the title says, this story concerns the bitter rivalry between the two, in an epic (and violent) struggle for species supremacy. Along the way, we have much action, drama, and perhaps a little romance.

This unique story is in good hands, as the creators deliver the details as best the audience should enjoy – as a home-brewed black and white indie comic, but with all the grandeur one could find in an issue of (insert overrated mainstream pop title).

Last year, I had the good fortune of meeting the duo in the Artist Alley of the 2011 Long Beach Comic Convention. On their small table, fresh copies of Penguins Vs. Possums are revealed in print. They welcomed my curiosity, with much enthusiasm and words on this fun concept. I also recorded a conversation, that was a bit short as I finally continued our discussion after the last WonderCon in Anaheim.

The results was some cool insight on their creative work. Further in, something also special; words detailing the mindset and process of the conception and processing of the epic feud. All, of which I now share in the following interview:

ADC: What creative work do you do on Penguins Vs. Possums?

John: We both wrote it, together. I drew the majority of the comic. Sebastian drew the cover, a few pages in the comic and the pinups in the back.

Penguin armory

Gettin' ready for WAR

ADC: Where are you from?

John: Born in Jacksonville, Florida, but grew up in a little town called Valdosta, Georgia. I moved to California about 7 years ago.

Sebastian: I’m originally from San Jose, CA. I left the Bay Area and came out to LA about 6 years ago.

ADC: Are you both now operating in Southern California?

Sebastian: Yup, both living in Southern California now and it’s our base of operations for all things JBSK.

John: Yes, live and work in Burbank.

ADC: How did you two originally meet?

Sebastian: We originally met at work. We were working on a TV show, him in production and me in production accounting and we sat next to each other in the bullpen. We realized each of us had a love for drawing and comic books and it was like being in 3rd or 4th grade all over again!

John: We had a mutual friend in the office who encouraged us to show off each other’s drawing work. After seeing that Sebastian was an exceptional artist, I felt I had to up my game. I had drawn a few pages of a comic book (which was just for portfolio purposes), and had fallen out of it a bit to work on filmmaking pursuits. After meeting Sebastian, though, I started breaking the pages out at work and it went from there. It didn’t take long before we had to work on something together, and EPIC was born out of that. Penguins Vs. Possums wasn’t far behind.

ADC: How did the Penguins Vs. Possums concept come about between you two?

Sebastian: I had the original idea for Penguins VS. Possums back when Continue reading

MUST-READ: massive Alan Moore interview on Before Watchmen and much more (with COMMENTARY)

13 Mar

by Mike Hansen

Cover art for the 1987 U.S. (right) and U.K. (...

One of the best books you'll ever read. (Image via Wikipedia)

DUDE. A few comics sites and fan boards are already quoting from this, but it really has to be read in full.

Drop everything and CLICK HERE NOW.

Alan Moore has the balls to stick to his guns and tell the truth as he sees it about comics. A lot of fanboys and professionals (who are mostly fanboys) are going to hate him for this, but I loooooove it. Personally, I agree with a lot of what he says. Not all, but so what? He’s got my respect for telling it like he sees it. (And even if he was batshit crazy and spitting nonsense, like some clueless folks try to suggest, his work changed EVERYTHING, and that speaks for itself. Respect is due)

A few important bits, to get you to click over if you haven’t already:

…Yes, I still get a little bit of the money that I consider myself to be owed for these things.  But, it’s not really the money that’s the principle.  It’s the fact that I was lied to.  It’s the fact that the reason they offered us Watchmen was that they’d seen what I could do with their regular comics.  They could see that I was capable of moving them to a new area that comics had not ventured into before.  So, they offered us Watchmen and it worked out very, very well for them.  They were able to suddenly claim that all of their comics were “graphic novels” now–that they were seriously committed to a progressive comics medium that could produce works of art and literature.  But, that is never what they were concerned with.  It was always purely to do with commerce.

Man, the number of actual “graphic novels” that DC has published since Watchmen is probably less than 5% of its total output. It’s almost all serialized, unending bits of stories strung together. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if it’s done right.

But, I resolved that I didn’t want to work for DC Comics ever again–or their subsidiaries.  This worked fine for a number of years until Continue reading

Interview with AXE COP artist Ethan Nicolle!

7 Mar

UPDATE: Welcome, all of you Axe Cop fans! Since so many of you are new to this site, I just want to say Welcome, and if you like the site feel free to Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @AllDayComics – thanks for stopping by!

(Mike here – this interview was conducted WAY back on October 29 at the Long Beach Comic and Horror Convention. Due to various difficulties, it’s just getting posted now. We thought it was still worth posting because – it’s AXE COP, so it’s awesome! – and Volume 3 is coming out soon (click the preorder link below the interview). Hope you like…)

Axe Cop artist Ethan Nicolle at his booth (photo by Orion Tippens)

Axe Cop artist Ethan Nicolle at his booth (photo by Orion Tippens)

Interview by Orion Tippens

I love Axe Cop, so much, that I have considered naming my firstborn, Axe Cop. That is how much I love Axe Cop.

And if you have not, perhaps you should visit axecop.com and understand the joys of this brilliant webcomic. Or even better, check out the first trade paperback Axe Cop: Volume 1 collection published via Dark Horse Comics, all the early strips with Ethan’s fun commentary added on the side.

Axe Cop, in short, is the brilliant product of a five-year-old’s (now seven) imaginative mind (Malachai Nicolle), brought to life by the sequential art of his 29-year-old brother (Ethan Nicolle). We meet a superhero with powerful sock arms, a flying dinosaur with gatling arms, an optic blastic dog, ninjas on the moon, a man-baby, a uni-baby, and so much more.  We as readers who enjoy such work, and laugh, love this fresh and ever-changing world centered around our awesome protagonist. He, who is Axe Cop, the mustached, axe-wielding lawman of justice with secret attacks, and well defined (and often lethal) style of fighting evil.

So imagine my delight, when I had the chance to personally meet the artist of Axe Cop, Ethan Nicolle, at the Long Beach Comic Con in Los Angeles. Ethan was alone, promoting Axe Cop and his newest self-published work, Bearmageddon. Malachai was elsewhere, tending to a book signing. Here, from the show’s artist alley section, is a transcript of a wonderful yet brief interview:

ALL DAY COMICS: Hello, Ethan Nicolle.

ETHAN NICOLLE: Hello.

(During this point, there was a nearby live Star Wars live roleplaying event going on, so please if you will..imagine the Star Wars: Episode I Duel of the Fates music track playing in the background)

ADC: With Malachai’s schooling and state of adolescence, the creative process must be unconventional, perhaps challenging in the production of Axe Cop. In working with Malachai, where and how often do you meet in planning new material?

Continue reading

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