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New column: STILL/MOVEMENT

7 May

by Mike Hansen

I’ve got a new column over at The Geekiary called STILL/MOVEMENT. I’ll be posting a lot over there from now on. Hope you like it.

I accepted the invitation to join the Geekiary team because the site has a great group of people and is incredibly well-managed by site owner Angel. The site’s massive audience doesn’t hurt, either.

I’m not giving up on All Day Comics: I’ll keep this site open for other stuff. But expect much more regular posts over at the Geekiary. Hope you follow me over there and check it out.

 

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The Beat Down! page 6

15 Aug

by Mike Hansen

Writing by me, artwork by Elvin Hernandez, lettering by Amador Cisneros!

(I should mention that these are the pages produced for our limited-edition teaser comic that we debuted at Comic-Con: although they appear to form a complete sequence, several are actually cherry-picked from the full 24-page script so Elvin could choose the best pages to show off his skills in time for the Con. There’s a LOT more that we haven’t shown you yet – but hopefully we will soon.)

Click to make bigger:

The Beat Down p6 lettered inks low-res

Here’s some more of Elvin’s character-design work:

Spots & Sister Samuretta designs 150dpi

Punchy the Party Clown REV 100dpi

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San Diego Comic-Con 2013 pictures (part 3)

14 Aug

Photos by Orion Tippens

Occasional caption text by Mike Hansen

One last photo of my new comic and my huge forehead.

One more photo of my new comic and my huge forehead.

Marvel & DC artist Aaron Lopresti (also my old comics-art teacher in high school!)

Marvel & DC artist Aaron Lopresti (also my old comics-art teacher in high school!)

Photo Jul 18, 11 38 12 PM

Photo Jul 19, 5 36 11 AM

Legendary artist Adam Hughes. We need more comics from him.

Boilerplate by Paul Guinan & Anina Bennett! I once went to one of their epic Halloween parties, and am terrified that pictures may surface...

Boilerplate by Paul Guinan & Anina Bennett! I once went to one of their epic Halloween parties, and am terrified that pictures may surface…

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San Diego Comic-Con 2013 pictures (part 1)

7 Aug

Photos by Orion Tippens

Captions by Mike Hansen

It’s been two weeks since Comic-Con, and I’m still finding my feet! What an amazing time. Elvin and I had lots of interest in our comic, THE BEAT DOWN! – I’ll post more pages in a few days. In the meantime, enjoy these terrific pics from my main man Orion: A whole lot of cosplay, plus one handsome gentleman…

LOOK WHAT I MADE!

LOOK WHAT I MADE!

Photo Jul 21, 6 00 15 AM

Photo Jul 21, 5 39 19 AM

Photo Jul 20, 4 58 40 AM

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Catching Up (chunky edition) (Part 2 of 2)

1 May

by Mike Hansen

So what else has happened lately that’s worth a mention?

Gygax Magazine #1 cover

Gygax Magazine #1

A NEW MAGAZINE IS HERE! YAY

The first issue of Gygax Magazine, the spiritual (and visual) successor to the classic Dragon Magazine, was released in February. If you’re a longtime tabletop-RPG fan like me, it’s pretty great; I’ll write more about it soon.

AND AN OLD MAGAZINE IS GONE. BOO

Comics Buyer’s Guide was abruptly cancelled by its publisher, criminally at issue #1699. In its early years, CBG allowed comics fans to connect and feel that they were part of a community (much like Star Trek events did for Trekkies). I always enjoyed reading my weekly CBG in the 1990s much more than Wizard and its magazine competitors, though the strange politics dividing these publications always baffled me (and probably boiled down to the big mouths of a handful of comics “superstars” more than anything). Cofounder Maggie Thompson and longtime contributor Tony Isabella have both found new outlets for their work, so congrats to them.

MORE BOO

Two online manga sites, JManga and Square Enix’s online service, have been/are being shut down. JManga customers are screwed, as there’s no way to access the comics they paid for. Yet another example of why DRM hurts the end-users.

MORE YAY

On a related note, a modder has figured out how to run EA’s near-crippled new SimCity game without being always-online. Since two-time Worst Company In America EA has no intention of making this officially possible, I hope this demonstrates to other publishers that their customers will find a way to use their product the way they want. Here’s what users need to know to modify the game themselves.

(I hope the courts will soon recognize digital purchases as property and not licenses, allowing the first-sale doctrine to apply and allowing end-users to use and modify the content however they choose. There was that recent court decision that digital material (which can be easily copied and redistributed) cannot be resold as “used” content and doesn’t fall under the first-sale doctrine…)

EVEN MORE YAY

Speaking of the first-sale doctrine, I was happy that the Supreme Court recently ruled that publishers are not protected when third-party sellers import their product from other countries and resell it at lower prices. The idea that prices should be higher in America, whether for books or drugs or anything else, has always irritated me. Now, if only that other court ruling from a few years ago that manufacturers can set minimum prices at all can be overturned…

WTF

One of the internet’s best comics sites, Comics Alliance, was surprisingly shut down by its owner, AOL. I’ll miss the commentary and analysis. Hope its columnists find new venues quickly.

ARGH

One of my favorite cable-TV channels, G4TV, is basically dead, now that X-Play and Attack Of The Show are cancelled. Best of luck to all of the talent with finding lucrative work elsewhere. (I notice that Ninja Warrior reruns have recently returned. G4’s owner, Comcast, has no idea how to keep this channel viable, does it? Everything I’ve heard about the replacement “Esquire Network” sounds very Not For Me.)

SAD

I was sad to learn of the death of writer Robert Morales. His 2003 Captain America story, Truth: Red, White & Black, is one of Marvel’s best miniseries. His 8 Cap issues the following year were excellent, too. I just learned about his 1980s work in Heavy Metal; I definitely plan to track it down now. Alan Moore wrote a moving tribute to Morales.

GROOVY

Speaking of Moore, The Beat has been serializing a great investigative series on the history of Marvelman entitled Poisoned Chalice. While the internet is littered with comics opinions/reviews/analysis/hype (often in the name of getting a lot of traffic/clicks – obviously, I don’t care much about that!), there isn’t a lot of true comics journalism, so this series is worth celebrating.

LAME

Disney’s recent suspension/cancellation of numerous Star Wars projects and dismantling of LucasArts isn’t surprising to me. Few companies are as robust in their brand management, and Disney doesn’t want anything to distract from its marketing campaign for the new Star Wars films. (If only Warner Brothers understood how to manage its superhero brands: The cartoon versions are generally terrific (so of course they’re getting cancelled), while the comics and film versions have often suffered from top-down corporate mismanagement.)

OH SO LAME

Disney’s recent layoffs in its hand-drawn animation division did surprise me, though. Yes, the computer-animated “Paperman” short is brilliant and has a “hand-drawn” feel, but that shouldn’t mean the dismantling of the foundation of the company’s legacy. No wonder there will be a memorial service for 2-D animation at Comic-Con

TRUTHINESS

It turns out that comics bogeyman Frederic Wertham made up his not-so-scientific evidence of comics causing juvenile deliquency. Who’da thunk it?

SHARING IS CARING

Last month, a lawsuit was filed arguing that Zorro should be in the public domain, that Zorro therefore belongs to everyone, and that the property’s licensor has no right to force others to pay to use the character. I haven’t found any updates on the suit; it sounds to me like the plaintiff has a pretty strong case, despite today’s ridiculously long copyright periods.

OH, DC…

Sales on Marvel NOW titles seem to be stabilizing much faster than DC’s New 52 lineup. Both lines have brought some new readers into comics shops, so that’s a good thing; but both lines have also lost older readers, so that’s not so good. The overall industry is healthier than ever, though, so maybe it’s just superheroes?

In any case, I hope DC catches up to figuring out what the current market wants soon: of all comics publishers, few have such a high percentage of utterly disposable material as DC these days, and gimmicks like variant covers (which are still way too common), “WTF” plots, and unnecessary character deaths aren’t going to build brand loyalty (but at least universal outrage prevented the killing of Green Lantern John Stewart). DC’s properties and creators deserve better than to be in the company of crap like Bluewater and Zenescope. I really don’t think people want 52 monthly titles from DC; the titles seem to keep getting cancelled before the next rushed replacement series are ready to go…

Kudos to DC for finally pulling the announced Orson Scott Card-written Superman story. While in general I try to keep my opinions of creators and their work separate, I think it’s never a good idea to allow an active hatemonger to be associated with the world’s most recognizable Good Guy.

And now that the Before Watchmen travesty is over, here’s a very brief excerpt from a 1988 letter by Alan Moore, via Steve Bissette’s excellent blog (currently serializing a fascinating history of the prozine WaP (a.k.a. Words And Pictures) – go there to read the whole thing):

Ironically, the higher I progressed in the industry, the more of its indignities were made visible by the elevated vantage point…

It is, after all, difficult to feel cheated when earning more money than you’ve made in your life…

It’s only when you realize that DC could license a Saturday morning Rorschach cartoon series complete with Blot the Dog and two mod teenybopper sidekicks that you realize how much you don’t have. You don’t have the dignity of calling your work your own. You don’t have total control over how it is presented…

– Alan Moore, letter published in WaP! #6, copyright 1988 Alan Moore

(Hope that brings more traffic to Mr. Bissette; he’s one of comics’ most outspoken and intelligent writers on creators’ rights, and he deserves the widest possible platform.)

Death Proof The End

Catching up (Part 1)

30 Apr

by Mike Hansen

Zoe Bell I'm Okay

The last few weeks have been wonderfully busy for me, and for comics.

I moved into a new house, which is the main reason for the recent lack of posts (THIS time).

I had an incredibly successful WonderCon, establishing/re-establishing contact with a number of fellow comics pros. Now for the final push to get my new comics project going in time for Comic-Con: so I can finally share details with you. (It was easily the best WonderCon I’ve ever attended: at double the size of last year, it’s well on its way to becoming the next Comic Con.)

One of the pros I met at WonderCon was artist Rob Liefeld. I was a fan of his energetic work at Marvel and Image in the late ’80s/early ’90s. I found a few items in my collection that I scanned for Marvel’s recent X-Force Omnibus, so I decided to introduce myself to him. It turned out he was about to take a break from his booth, so I think the quick impression I gave him was as more of a fan than a fellow pro. Oh, well…

During my move, I apparently missed out on some more freelance Marvel books research. Well, maybe next time. But hey, at least the first of the books I’ve researched has finally been announced:

Venom: The Enemy Within

by Carl Potts, Ann Nocenti, Bruce Jones, Peter David, Tom Lyle, Kelley Jones, Bob McLeod, Jim Craig

After turning over a new leaf and vowing to protect the innocent, Eddie Brock and his alien symbiote stalk the streets of San Francisco looking for trouble as Venom – and boy, do they find it in these action-packed tales! It’s a veritable who’s-who of Spider-Man’s deadliest foes as Venom goes toe-to-toe with the Punisher, Juggernaut, Demogoblin, and Morbius the Living Vampire! But when Eddie Brock bonds with yet another parasitic life-form, will he succumb to madness – or can he conquer the enemy within? Plus: Venom takes on the ever-incredible Hulk, in a rare and never-before-reprinted tale written by legendary Hulk scribe Peter David!

COLLECTING: Venom : Funeral Pyre 1-3, Venom: The Madness 1-3, Venom: The Enemy Within 1-3, Incredible Hulk & Venom 1

I’m officially getting new professional comics credits! Hooray! I’M BACK, BABY.

More soon…

Toren Smith

7 Mar

by Mike Hansen

Toren Smith (drawn by Tomoko Saito)Yesterday I learned that my friend and mentor Toren Smith died on March 4th.

Toren was the founder of Studio Proteus and the godfather of English-language manga in America. I only had the opportunity to hang out with Toren a couple of times, at different conventions, but during my two years as Dark Horse’s Manga Editor we spoke almost daily. He was classy, warm, funny, and very generous with his time – even though his voice often sounded all-business or just grumpy, he was always willing to listen and offer support, wisdom, and advice; and he was always cheerful and charming in person.

Appleseed Book One #5Toren shared with me several stories of his incredible career in comics. Most of the highlights are already on Wikipedia (under entries for both Toren Smith and Studio Proteus), but here’s what everyone should know: More than anyone else, he was the reason for manga’s success in America. He was the first American (well, Canadian) to try to convince U.S. publishers to release translated manga, and sold everything to move to Japan to make that dream a reality. He was a critical part of the formation of Viz Media (impressing Hayao Miyazaki so much with his talent and passion that Miyazaki insisted on Toren’s people producing Nausicaa for America, despite Toren being cut out of Viz behind his back: I asked him why he didn’t sue the pants off them, and he replied that he’d done alright for himself without them). He was present at the start of animation powerhouse GAINAX’s success (and did voice work and had a character named after him in one of their first commercial releases). He helped start AnimeCon (later Anime Expo), the first of now dozens of annual anime/manga conventions in North America. Despite Viz locking down manga licenses at the giant Japanese publisher Shogakukan, Toren wisely used his connections and unparalleled taste to gain dozens of manga licenses from other large publishers and independent artists like Masamune Shirow and Johji Manabe. When the comics industry went through busts in the late ’80s and mid-’90s, Toren was able to keep his main business afloat by publishing popular (and often reprinted) adult manga through Fantagraphics’ Eros Comix.

Appleseed Book One #5Toren had a sharp mind for business and a sharp eye for quality. Studio Proteus was set up so it would share in the profits and English-language license rights of all of its manga. It included the best talent in U.S. manga, including brilliant author/manga expert Frederik Schodt, legendary letterer Tom Orzechowski, incredible artist (and Toren’s then-wife) Tomoko Saito, and several others. They were paid the best page rates in the industry for their seamless work.

At the time, U.S. manga titles were still being produced first as monthly issues before being collected later into book form. Monthly comics production for manga was pretty similar to regular American comics: even though the comics had already been produced in Japan, “flopped” (left-to-right reading) art sheets had to be printed, the script had to be translated, and the art and sound effects had to be touched up and re-lettered.

The Dirty Pair Biohazards TPB 2nd editionBy the time I became Manga Editor in 1999, Studio Proteus had consolidated all of its non-adult manga titles with Dark Horse (after Eclipse and Innovation couldn’t pay their bills). Along with others, I was asked by the previous Manga Editor, Rachel Penn, to help develop a new monthly manga anthology for Dark Horse: the end result was Super Manga Blast!, a 128-page title with 4-5 stories per month: Toren’s strategy was to have one “headliner” series (the first was Oh My Goddess!, one of the first manga to develop a strong female readership in America) and several lesser-known but high-quality series.

While SMB! was being developed, I took over as Manga Editor and helped oversee 4-5 titles a month. But Toren made my job easy: he personally obtained every license, oversaw every translation, and looked over every page before publication. Having the best second set of eyes in manga made my transition very easy and made each day working in comics a pleasure.

Super Manga Blast! #6Things got more difficult pretty quickly, though. SMB!’s launch suddenly doubled our workload. As Toren worked his crew harder to produce more pages, he quickly figured out that he had to bring in more talent. But working with more people had its own drawbacks, and juggling what was essentially 10 projects a month soon led to a lot of missed deadlines. Toren and I worked long hours to make the printers’ deadlines, and his instinct for knowing when to make improvements and when to let things go ensured that the books were still published on time.

A year later, Dark Horse began publishing Lone Wolf and Cub, a monthly series of 300-page volumes that doubled our workload again. It was Dark Horse’s most profitable and best-selling manga ever, so the pressure was on to get the work out on time. I was assigned an assistant (first Philip Simon, then Tim Ervin) that helped keep things moving on the Dark Horse end, but Toren was exasperated trying to find other talent that could match his high standards. Some compromises were made to keep costs down: lettering on SMB! and LW&C was done by computer, and LW&C pages were digitally scanned from printed comics.

Lone Wolf and Cub vol 1Despite the relatively small manga output, Studio Proteus got more awards and nominations than any other manga publisher. Twice I got to accept the Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material (for Blade of the Immortal, and for Lone Wolf and Cub). It should have been Toren on the stage, shaking Will Eisner’s hand: it was he who deserved to be recognized for his manga’s greatness and success; but Toren preferred to avoid public events, and the undeserving honor fell to me. I once shared a panel at Comic-Con with Toren and others (while nursing a massive hangover), and watching him smoothly handle questions with far more dignity than they often deserved served me well when I attended a couple of anime conventions as a solo panelist.

This work overload exacerbated Toren’s chronic health problems. He never shared all the details with me, and I won’t go into them here, but 2001 was a tough year. I missed several days as well due to exhaustion from the overwork, and the guilt of making Toren’s job harder on top of my own anxiety issues at the time made each day a struggle. Despite our best efforts, some of the books came out late and needed skip months to get back on schedule.

Blade of the Immortal #43It ended up being too much for me, and I left Dark Horse on September 10, 2001. Toren emailed me a thoughtful and wise note advising me to stay on positive terms with everyone, and even went out of his way to type up a letter of recommendation that opened up some doors for me. We occasionally stayed in touch, and several times Toren expressed bewilderment and fascination with manga’s explosion in popularity despite other publishers’ much lower quality standards (lower-quality art scans, amateurish computer lettering, no translated sound effects, etc.). Especially annoying was Tokyopop’s successful marketing of “unflopped” (right-to-left reading) manga as “authentic” manga, undercutting Toren’s years of necessary effort producing Americanized manga to gain a wider readership.

Oh My Goddess! Part VIII #3Despite his retirement in 2004 (after selling Studio Proteus’s publishing rights to Dark Horse) Toren’s health problems continued, and we communicated pretty rarely. He’d invited me to lunch the next time I visited San Francisco, but our schedules never quite lined up. For the most part, until last year I’d stayed out of comics in a professional capacity, and I was looking forward to sharing my progress on my own comics with Toren in a few weeks once I had some art to show off. I wanted to tell him how much his example has meant to me, as a writer and a professional, and now I won’t have the chance. There are not enough words to express my gratitude for his presence in my life and career.

Manga has had a massive impact on the modern American comics industry, and has been a huge inspiration for American creators in every field. Much of that can be credited to Toren Smith and his enthusiastic passion for an artform that, thanks to his efforts, now belongs to the world.

Studio Proteus logo

NOW I know why I’m still sick…

19 Jul

by Mike Hansen

Sarah Jean Underwood

(via Wikipedia)

Down at Comic-Con, I walked by the G4 booth right when Attack of the Show co-host Sarah Underwood was doing a signing:

That’s it, I’m mailing her a bill for my Dayquil…

Off to Comic-Con!

10 Jul

by Mike Hansen

Sorry for the lack of recent posts, folks – I’m putting together several articles and interviews that will be going up after I return from Comic-Con.

Site contributor Orion will be there, too, and will be bringing back some cool stuff to share. Can’t wait!

See you next week, everyone!

On break for a few days…

17 Jun

by Mike Hansen

I received some news that a family member has passed away, so this site won’t be updated for the next few days. New posts should resume on Thursday.

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