Friday, July 31, 2009

Marvel Pets TPB in October

If you missed the Marvel Pets Handbook - and I know from the numbers that a lot of you did - you need to pick this up come October:



And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes were unaware of a threat greater than all of them could handle. And on that day, a teleporting puppy scoured the world to assemble a team of animals to fight the foes no single beast could withstand! Strap on your collar and hop on-board the adventures of LOCKJAW, LOCKHEED, REDWING, HAIRBALL, and an all-new FROG THOR! Written by Eisner-nominee CHRIS ELIOPOULOS with art by fan-favorite IG GUARA.Collecting LOCKJAW AND THE PET AVENGERS #1-4, TALES OF THE PET AVENGERS digital comic and the MARVEL PETS HANDBOOK. 176 PGS./All Ages ...$24.99 ISBN: 978-0-7851-4271-3

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Meeting Jim Steranko

Paraphrased from an actual event.

6:45 PM, Saturday day night of the San Diego Comic Con. The exhibit hall was getting ready to shut down and I was wandering aimlessly, trying to figure out my evening plans. Wandering through the booths I saw a table with four men seated behind it and no one standing opposite. A sign on the table read "STERANKO."

I paused. Jim Steranko? I hadn't planned on meeting him. Was he really there? Why wasn't there a line-up? What was this table? What on Earth could I ask him to sign? I moved closer to the table and examined their products, hoping to find something to buy. It was the table of Vanguard publications and as I made my selection (a print of the Shadow slightly larger than a postcard; has there ever been a better Shadow artist than Steranko?), another fan stepped up to have Steranko autograph his Nick Furys.

As I watched Steranko sign the books I saw that he used a black Sharpie and that it was his only autograph pen. The Shadow card had heavy black areas on it. I pulled out my silver Sharpie from my bag, the same Sharpie I'd used to autograph handbooks at my occasional signings.

I should mention that I try not to bring up my status as a Marvel handbook writer when I meet creators. Often, I don't see why they should care unless we've had prior communication. Unless I see an opening to mention it in conversation, it doesn't come up.

When my turn came I offered the silver Sharpie to Steranko. He took it up happily and as he wrote he remarked "it works great." I replied that it was my autograph pen - that I wrote for the Marvel handbooks. I also complimented him on his Nick Fury work.

As Steranko finished up the signature he didn't let the mention of Marvel pass him by. He had a story to tell. By now, another fan had appeared to seek an autograph. He asked the new arrival, "Do you mind hearing a very sad story?" The fan replied, "No, I would love to hear it." A pause. "That came out wrong."

Steranko told me about a conversation he had with Marvel Licensing. He had called them up to see if they would be interested in helping the Jack Kirby Estate. The response? "Who's Jack Kirby?" Then Steranko remembered, "First I told them who I was and they didn't know me. But then they didn't know Kirby either. Now, I'm a minor architect in Marvel's history, but Kirby? They didn't know him."

It was indeed a sad story, but I feared that by identifying myself as a Marvel employee, I may have given him the wrong impression. "Well, that's Marvel Licensing," I replied, "I have nothing to do with the office - I'm just a freelancer."

Steranko began another story. By now, more fans had begun to gather, each hanging on his every word. He pointed out the recent return of Captain America, a character he had drawn in the past in one of the all-time best-regarded Captain America stories. "But no one asked me to be involved."

Steranko wanted to be involved? I wished the editors had known this. "Yes, they had a few past Captain America creators involved - Roger Stern, Mark Waid, Joe Simon --"

"...Yeah, and Joe's a friend of mine. But no one asked me."

All I could voice was an observation: "They must not have realized you wanted to be involved."

He went on. "I have a painting of Captain America which no one has ever seen. It's not finished yet, but it is the most perfect portrait of Captain America. Now, much of my work has been homaged..."

"Delicately put." I interjected.

"...Or, shall I say, ripped off." he continued. "And once this painting gets out, it will be ripped off by everyone because it captures the character perfectly. Now, Michael," he pressed his finger into my chest. "This painting would make you cry. Because it is that beautiful."

I couldn't mouth much more than "I believe you." and expressed a desire to see the painting.

I won't forget this conversation soon. And I certainly do look for the day when the painting is completed and released.

My hero, Ron Lim

Ron Lim has been one of my favorite artists for a very long time. I've followed his work on books including Psi-Force, Silver Surfer, Captain America, Spider-Man Unlimited, Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, Infinity Crusade, J2, Wild Thing, Avengers Next, Fantastic Five, Cable/Deadpool and Skaar: Son of Hulk. It was a definite pleasure to have Lim's art grace the cover of the Marvel Legacy: the 1990s Handbook our crew put together a while back and when we wound up with extra money in the budget for last year's All-New Iron Manual, I was thrilled when my editor suggested Ron Lim for additional character art.

San Diego International Comic Con 2009 means many things to me; one of them is that I finally met Lim in person. I introduced myself as the head writer of the Iron Manual book and he said he was glad to meet a collaborator. Do you know what that means to me?

Well, my good friend and co-writer on the handbooks Mike Fichera certainly doesn't. Somehow, the allure of Lim's work has evaded him. In fact, he often lashes out against Lim's art. Mike is a brilliant engineer, fine writer and a decent artist in his own right, but his one failing as a human being is his hard-hearted assessment of Lim's ability.

I chatted up Lim about his past work. He mentioned how pleased he was to draw the Silver Surfer again recently in the pages of Skaar and I opined he drew him as brilliantly as in the 90s. I brought up the Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War and Lim beat me to the punch by recalling how little he cared for the third installment Infinity Crusade; he said it wasn't his best art and didn't pretend to understand what the story was about; that spared me from having to bring it up. I brought a copy of X-Men 2099#1 for him to sign and he was visibly delighted to see it. When I brought up Nightwatch he laughed at the memories it drudged up, telling me how painful it was; I asked him about the alteration to the character's costume on Nightwatch#1's cover and wondered if it had to do with Todd McFarlane's lawyers, but Lim didn't recall the circumstances.

Speaking of McFarlane, I told Lim how back in the day when McFarlane, Liefeld and Lee were considered the greatest talents of the industry, he was the greatest in my eyes. He laughed at that, but it was true - as a teenager, I considered him a superstar easily the equal (or better) of the Image founders.

Lim offered me a free sketch; who could I choose but Captain America, the hero whose book was my first regular exposure to Lim's art. When I came to pick up the art I reminded Lim that he had made his debut on the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Deluxe Edition back in the 80s; I mentioned it as a bridge to my own work and he thought that was neat. Although I only meant to visit SDCC once in my lifetime, Lim did his best to persuade me to return; I think he could tell I was having a great time.

Lim's next project will be a Hercules mini-series alongside Bob Layton. I will be there. Mike Fichera will be out drowning kittens.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My San Diego Comic Con experience

I'll have a few other things to blog about the con, but as my first time to see SDCC, I was awfully happy; from the Thursday to the Saturday, each day seemed to be better than the previous. My personal highlights were:


  • Collected some autographs from Brent Anderson and Bill Sienkiewicz!
  • I met Ron Lim; more about that in a later post.
  • I bought a copy of Stan Freberg's autobiography, It Only Hurts When I Laugh. I had tried to buy it off last month but Amazon cancelled the order after two weeks after deciding it wasn't in stock after all. Thank goodness it worked out this way because it meant I could get it autographed by Freberg himself!
  • I had Scott Kolins & Aaron Lopresti autograph the Marvel handbooks they'd done covers for.
  • I attended the Marvel: X-Men panel which was okay.
  • I attended the Gold & Silver Age Creator panel which was very interesting but the guests had to be constantly reminded to speak into the microphones; when I could hear them, I heard some interesting tales. Jerry Robinson carried himself nicely.
  • I attended a panel on Graphic Novels in Libraries which turned out to be different than what was on the label. It was a panel about using graphic novels in library programming which was a little interesting but not relevant to my own work.


  • Visited Steve Lieber to collect an ashcan of Underground#1; luckily Jeff Parker had blogged about it.
  • I met two posters I knew from the message boards: Rad Chipmunk & Evil G:DR.
  • I also met Chad Anderson, one of my co-writers from the handbooks. It turns out that he's a terrific being in person and we had a great time visiting.
  • The That 70's Panel was one of the best panels of the weekend; I knew I wouldn't be able to attend Doug Moench's own panel the following day so it meant a lot to me to see him in person and witness how quick-witted he was; he and Marv Wolfman dominated a fair bit of the panel with their lively recollections and at one point Moench brought down the house with two words: "Jim Shooter." Gene Colan was late arriving but it was nice to see the enthusiastic response he elicited from the crowd.
  • I attended the Cup o' Joe panel which had that neat Marvelman news, though no one seems sure how big the news really is.
  • I wanted to attend the Rifftrax panel but the line was ridiculous; disheartened, I walked into another hall just to sit down and found myself attending a Peter Jackson/James Cameron panel. How does that figure?
  • The Eisner Awards were not exactly the Academy Awards in terms of spectacle, but I was pleased to see several of my picks win and Jeff Smith & Terry Moore were great presenters. The highlight of the evening was easily Russ Heath accepting his induction to the Eisner Hall of Fame by saying (paraphrased): "I'm glad to be alive to accept this." With just those words he got off the stage to a thunderous standing ovation.


  • I went to Russ Heath to congratulate him on his award; he was perplexed at the response to his "speech" the previous evening but recalled one person telling him it was memorable because it was short and funny. I bought a print from him.
  • I went to the Marvel: Dark Reign panel and met up with Rad, G:DR, Chad and another handbook writer, Anthony Flamini. This worked out brilliantly and allowed Anthony, Chad and I to dish on the handbook experience with each other over lunch later. The panel itself was overshadowed by a single young fan, Christian, who won our hearts and minds by flooring Quesada with statements like as "Norman Osborn, you're not the man--Obama is!"
  • I went to the Ray Bradbury panel and ducked in on the last minutes of the Green Lantern panel to ensure I had a seat. Geoff Johns closed the Green Lantern panel by leading the audience in the Green Lantern oath. It turns out, I know it by heart. This may not sound like a big deal coming from a huge comic book fan, but as someone with maybe two Green Lantern comics in my possession, it did surprise me.
  • Ray Bradbury was simply wonderful; he didn't say much (his agent did most of the talking), but I hung on each of his words. His passion for life and art amazed me.
  • Bradbury was followed immediately by the Human Target panel which included a preview of the show's pilot. It's not bad, but Jackie Earle Haley is too interesting to be a minor character and it can't be good that so many people like him more than the star. The same room held the special Watchmen: Director's Cut about 2 hours later. About the only way I could have seen it would have been to stay in the room but I forfeited it so that I could catch up with people on the exhibit floor. And so...
  • With only minutes left in the day I met Jim Steranko. More on this later.

Overall, I had considered SDCC to be something I should do once in my life but the experience had me pondering a return visit. There was no doubt in Ron Lim's mind: "You'll be back." he said repeatedly. Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Two handbooks in stores tomorrow

Tomorrow sees the release of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z Vol.9; I blogged the solicitation here.

Tomorrow also sees the release of Thor & Hercules: Encyclopedia Mythologica. I only helped proof this book, which is written by my pal Anthony Flamini. It's not in the usual handbook format and offers a wealth of information on how the gods of myth are depicted in the Marvel Universe. Original artwork too!

And as I type this, I'm moving out the door to San Diego...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I read a manga; and I liked it.

But before I talk about the manga, I need to discuss my history as an NES video game player. It's relevant, really.

The NES was my family's video game console of choice growing up (virtually our only video game option at that) and being in a small town we took whatever games we could get. When the rental stores put their used games on sale, we often picked through their stock. This was how my brother Jonathan came to present my Mom with the game Top Secret Episode, starring Golgo 13.

I don't know how much Mom played the game, but Jonathan and I certainly worked at it. I haven't found any speed runs for this game, but the video below should give you some idea of how difficult it was:

Back at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo this year, I dug out a copy of Golgo 13: the Impossible Hit. By then I had heard that Golgo 13 was originally a manga character but this was the first evidence of his comic book career I had found.

It's a black & white book sized like a normal comic and told left to right (the North American way). I was interested to note that this comic was released to coincide with Top Secret Episode. In this story, sniper supreme Golgo 13 assassinates a man and gets away with it - not because he's good at covering his tracks, the police discern that he did it - because the shot was taken from so far away and with so much wind resistance that no jury could be convinced it was possible.

Golgo 13 has been published in Japan since 1969 but the only real attempt at collecting his works was a 13 volume collection from Viz which began in 2006. Rather than start at the beginning, it assembles a "best of" Golgo 13. These are told right to left (the Japanese way) in the traditional manga size.

Volume 1 ("Supergun") features two stories: the lengthy story "Supergun" from 1997 and the shorter tale "Hit and Run" from 1979. In "Supergun," Iraq has constructed a "vengeance weapon" not unlike those Hitler demanded during WW2. This cannon can fire a payload to a target a continent away and evidence suggests the USA will be the target. Knowing that they will likely get only one with their cannon, the Pentagon is particularly worried at what the payload might carry to make the shot worthwhile. Golgo 13 is hired to travel incognito through Iraq, find the gun and take it out. Although I think the story spends too long in Washington depicting the government and military shuddering at the prospects of the weapon, the Golgo 13 mateiral - in particular the final showdown - is a great action thriller.

As to "Hit and Run": a policeman's fiancee is killed by a hit & run driver who also happens to be a local crimelord. Having exhausted his legal options, the cop makes an unorthodox decision to get his fiancee's killer: he hires Golgo 13. Or does he...?

I'd really meant to try out manga for some time now but I didn't have any interest in most properties. I've watched a fair bit of anime but I'm not particularly interested in seeing the manga versions for any of the anime I've seen. Golgo 13 looks to be fine manga and I hope to collect the other 12 Viz books in the near future.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Are you a John Ostrander fan?

I know I am. John Ostrander's Suicide Squad is among my favorite comic books and I also enjoyed his Deadshot limited series, the Manhunter series he co-wrote with his wife Kim Yale and the late 90s Heroes for Hire comic he did for Marvel which had a wonderful sense of humour. I even enjoyed his run on Firestorm and that one didn't go over well with the hardcore Firestorm fans. Among his significant contributions to DC Comics was building up Deadshot to one of DC's top tier villains and repositioning Barbara Gordon into the cyber-heroine Oracle.

John Ostrander has glaucoma and being a comic book professional, he's not exactly swimming with money. Fortunately, Comix4Sight has been established to generate donations to help him pay his bills and save his sight; if you consider yourself an Ostrander fan, you would do well to aid him. I know I will.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

This wednesday's comics includes...Wednesday Comics!

I'm not really a fan of the DC Universe. It seems to be that many of the DC Universe books assume that their audience are heavily invested in the ongoing saga of the DC Universe. Me, I'm heavily invested in the ongoing saga of the Marvel Universe (they pay me to be) so I can't find it in my heart to make room for another shared universe. When I want something different from Marvel's output I look just about anywhere (Vertigo, Wildstorm, Boom!, SLG, Image, Dark Horse, Adhouse) except the DC Universe.

But every now and then, DC does something that I can't ignore. Wednesday Comics is such a project. Along with a fine assortment of creators (Kurt Busiek, Kyle Baker, Mike Allred, Neil Gaiman, Brian Azzarello, Ryan Sook, Paul Pope, Walter Simonson), Wednesday Comics has a fascinating format - it's designed as a series of one-page strips featuring 15 different characters and creative teams. The book itself is fashioned after a newspaper comic section. To wit:

Each of the stories is told as a serial, just as they would be done in a newspaper comics section. Because most of these stripes have to introduce their cast and conflict (some of them don't manage to introduce one or the other) it will take some time to see just how good Wednesday Comics will be; based on this first installment there was one outstanding strip and one underwhelming strip.

The outstanding strip was Metamorpho, which I did not expect. In a single page Metamorpho's cast is introduced and the hero completes an in-progress quest for a giant pearl, fighting off a shark along the way. Then Metamorpho's next adventure is set up. It's refreshing to have so much action and plot in so little space, it breezes by more pleasantly than some of the strips.

The underwhelming strip is Teen Titans. It opens with an odd montage of Teen Titans past and present (for some reason Wonder Girl is depicted three times, twice in the same costume). Then the current Teen Titans - still looking like a montage - fight a mystery man named Trident, who is also the narrator. He stabs one of them through the chest. None of the Titans are introduced by name, which you would think would be a priority. The concept behind the team is barely touched on - Trident calls them "sidekicks of the world's greatest heroes" then goes on about how they're like a family. Only, Trident considers himself a hero and seems to consider the Titans, uh, not-heroes? He thinks he's doing some good by trying to kill the Titans. I'm sure there's a story behind this but it doesn't seem that interesting. I think that this strip - like so much of the DC Universe I ignore - takes it for granted that the audience knows and cares about the Teen Titans.

I think what will draw many people to this project is the opportunity to see some fantastic artwork blown up to immense sizes. Hopefully the stories will be worth coming back for too.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

More Marvel Pets matter in September

Last solicitation for a while, I promise:



The Falcon, the Two-Gun Kid and many another will tell you: A hero's best friend is his animal sidekick! A teleporting dog, a winged horse, a bouncing cat...and lookit the cute puppies! All part of the Marvel Universe animal kingdom showcased in this offbeat collection! Lockheed gone solo! The origin of Zabu! The Super-Apes triumphant! Magic; super-science; and squirrels, squirrels, squirrels! Featuring rarely seen early work by Fabian Nicieza, Greg Pak and other present-day Marvel headliners! Collecting material from THING #4, CAPTAIN AMERICA #220, KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #14-15, X-MEN UNLIMITED #43, MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #72, SPEEDBALL #6, MARVEL TALES #100, MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #8, AMAZING FANTASY #15, FANTASTIC FOUR #94, NEW DEFENDERS #150, NEW MUTANTS ANNUAL #4, FRANKLIN RICHARDS: HAPPY FRANKSGIVING, NEW WARRIORS #2 and JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #57. 208 PGS./ Rated A ...$24.99 ISBN: 978-0-7851-3966-9

This isn't actually one of my books, but I did help select some of the contents. I recommend it, particularly for those Zabu origin stories by Gil Kane!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Who owns Barack Obama?

Obama-mania has birthed some unusual projects in the comic book industry, most famously a biography from IDW, a team-up with Spider-Man from Marvel Comics, meeting Savage Dragon and Youngblood from Image and...well, DC Comics aren't in touch with the real world.

But now Devil's Due Publishing is in the mix with their new mini-series Barack the Barbarian. On the surface, this sounds like an obvious idea (Obama is a self-identified Conan fan) and a horrible idea. But I bought Barack the Barbarian#1 on the strength of its writer, Larry Hama (GI Joe, Bucky O'Hare), not just a one-time Conan writer/editor but also a pretty good humour writer. I don't know how well Barack the Barbarian will sustain itself as a mini-series, but the first issue takes a one-joke premise and gets at least one funny joke per page.

However, the indica of issue one contains what we might term a dangerous slip of the tongue:

The key phrase is "Any similarities to persons living or dead is purely coincidental."


...Random happenstance?

...Separated at birth?


No, there's only one possible way to interpret the indica of Barack the Barbarian#1: Devil's Due Publishing is the rightful owner of John McCain, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, Dick Chaney, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

I mean, look no further than this month's Drafted one-shot, also from DDP:

DDP has a valuable commodity in Obama and they're quick to farm him out to their entire line. I'm sure he's due to appear in Hack/Slash shortly. But by giving away their ownership of Obama in the indica, they've effectively unmasked themselves as the true power behind the throne, the movers and shakers controlling the leaders of both US political parties, rendering them more powerful than the Illuminati, Elders of Zion, the Black Hand and the New World Order combined! Heed the stride of Devil's Due's boots for where they move, so moves their nation!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Because the market has a scarcity of Wolverine material...

...We're collecting some of it in September:



Four Wolverine handbooks packed into one collection make this the definitive resource to the world of Wolverine! He may be in an acre of comics each month, but this is the only place to get the real score! Featuring some of the Canucklehead's best allies – including Gambit, Maverick, Tyger Tiger and X-Force! And along for the ride are villains – the likes of Blob, Daken, Deadpool, Mastermind, Orphan Maker, Donald Pierce, the Purifiers, Sabretooth and S'ym. Everything you need to know about Hollywood’s favorite mutant is here in one collection! Collecting WOLVERINE: WEAPON X FILES and WOLVERINE ENCYCLOPEDIA #1-3. 224 PGS./Rated T+ ...$24.99 ISBN: 978-0-7851-4240-9

I think it's worth pointing out - because the solicit doesn't get into it - that Wolverine Encyclopedia#3 has not been officially published before, as the publication was abandoned after issue #2. So, from a certain perspective this book contains all-new material!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What day is it after Canada Day?

New Official Index to the Marvel Universe Day, natch! Issue #7 came out today and I blogged the solicitation here.