Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Year in Review

2007.

Professionally, a monster of a year. The first comics work I've ever done hit the shelves within a month of each other—both in time for SDCC, and both getting terrific reviews.

THE HIGHWAYMEN had been sitting on my hard drive for nigh on 8 years before making it out. And, despite criminally low sales for a DC book, it's getting collected into a trade next March. (Ahem, order code DEC070283.)

MONSTER ATTACK NETWORK survived release date shifts, artist crumbles, and hard drive meltdowns to sell out in San Diego and actually make a Best of 2007 list.

And we've got enough stuff in the pipeline—and the relationships to, hopefully, generate more—to keep us busy for 2008. Some Big Two work, some indie work, a webcomic and, lit-agent-discovery willing, a major publishing house OGN.

Personally, the second most challenging on record. I will say this: Autism will find new and interesting ways to kick you in the soul every chance it gets.

So, here's to 2008.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Favorite Sentence of the Month

This one, which came at the end of a Variety piece about John Singleton's eventual A-Team movie:

"Story has been given a modern twist by involving oil tycoons and laser technology."

How modern is it? It's oil tycoon modern. You know, because there have never been any old movies featuring oil tycoons. Hell, the word tycoon invalidates any claim of modernity.

And when you refer to it as "laser technology," it sounds so, I don't know, Real Genius.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Best Of!

That's right, baby! Monster Attack Network made a Best of 2007 list. Check the specs:

"No book this year gave me a bigger nerdgasm than Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman’s MONSTER ATTACK NETWORK (AiT/PlanetLar). An island where giant monsters attack all the time? Bitchin’! A special police force dedicated to diverting the monsters and rebuilding in their wake? Fuggin’A! That’s totally what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’m not one to pant like a dog for sequels in any medium, but this book? It needs one. Right. Fucking. Now."

Marc Mason (who I now am totally in love with, and not just because he spells his name correctly) is not, for the record, in my employ. But he does, as the kids say, "get it."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Possibilities Are Endless

I've got some friends who are new dads, and I envy them. Not the pre-dawn bottle raids and the never-ending supply of fresh shit. I'm glad to be past that, into the realm of potty training and pre-Christmas bicycle building and personalities and, from one of them, conversation.

I just miss that golden, magical period when the world was still on the horizon. When everything was possible. When they were nothing but raw, boundless potential. When everything was...fine.

Sorry. It was a tough night.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What Is Best In Life?

I've been watching movies for a good portion of my life. As have we all, I'm sure. And in that time, I've figured out for myself what works for me in a film and what doesn't. And I've boiled it down to a pretty simple list of three things that a film must have for me to like it. Said movie doesn't have to have all three, but at least one will suffice.

And they are:
1: Explosions
2: Gratuitous nudity
3: Lasers
3a: Ninjas are the lasers of feudal Japan. (Otherwise known as the Last Samurai amendment.)

Now, have I liked films that didn't have any of the above? Yes, but, they had to work extra hard to get over the no-explosions-nudity-lasers hump. And have I seen shitty movies that have had all three, and in abundance? Damned skippy. (Flesh Gordon, I'm looking at you.)

But that's my code of cinematic conduct, and it hasn't failed me yet.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Don't Call It A Comeback

Or, if you really want to, you can. I don't mind.

I'm back from a relatively well-earned 10 days off. (I say "relatively" because I'm well aware that my day job does not involve the lifting of heavy things or hours of exposure to the elements.) And while I was off, I learned a few things.

1) There need to be more meals that one can serve stuffing with. I don't care what it does to my gut, stuffing is a universal good.

2) Superman: Doomsday was pretty good. Even if I kinda hated the facial design. Supes looked about 20 years older than he should've. But there was a beat there—when Lois Lane goes to Martha Kent's house and breaks down in tears because these are the only two people who know that Clark Kent is dead, too, and they can only share this grief with each other—that was as affected as anything I've seen in a long while.

3) All movies should be in 3-D. After seeing Beowulf in Manhattan, I became convinced that every film should be as tastefully —which I quite liked—at the big IMAXimmersive. Of course, I know not every filmmaker who will eventually work in 3-D will be as talented as Robert Zemeckis and will resort to lots of goosing the audience tricks. But as far as giving you something you absolutely can't get at home? Can't be beat.

4) All videogames should be as bad-ass as Assassin's Creed. Play it, and you'll agree. Smart, fast, and vast. Even if it does end with a blatant hook for a sequel.

5) Serenity's a pretty good little movie. But you already knew that.

6) I hate my car dealership. Here's why: Because the loaner car they gave me is too nice. I've got a '96 Audi, see. And when it goes bust, I take it to the Audi dealership for service. (Apparently, your neighborhood mechanic has no idea what to do with an up-market Volkswagen.) They needed to hold my car for a few extra days, so they gave me a loaner. A 2008 A4. When the service manager gave me the keys, he told me, "Okay, you're gonna hate me, because you're gonna have to give this back to me in a couple of days, by which time you'll have already fallen in love with it." And he's 100% right. Fucker.

So, that, if you can put it all together, is pretty much what I did with my Thanksgiving vacation: watch movies, play videogames, eat like Mongul raiders were coming to town, and drive a car I can't afford.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Highwaymen: Was It Really That Bad?

In a shocking twist, The Highwaymen #1 was voted (part of) the Worst Comics of 2007 by Alan David Doane.

And I quote: "The creators of this exercise in generic tedium were shocked when the title was canceled after a handful of issues. I sure as hell wasn't."

Now, every bloke is entitled to his opinion and, as one who has worked closely with professional critics for most of his career, I know that a critic must be allowed to express viewpoints that run contrary to an overwhelming tide of popular sentiment. (Granted, The Highwaymen was never "popular," except among those rare few who sampled and, by and large, enjoyed what they got. "Beloved" is the word I'm gonna use. Because this is my keyboard.)

And, as much as I'm inclined to discount Mr. Doane's statement outright for its glaring factual inaccuracy—I, and many others, have explained that we solicited a five-issue mini and Wildstorm published a five-issue mini; The Highwaymen was never canceled—I'm just going to say this:

Of all the comics published over the course of 2007, could this really have been one of the worst? Really? I understand if people didn't like it, if they didn't respond to what we were going for, or plum didn't have a good time while reading it...but does it really fail on every level one can aspire to when creating comics? Is it illegible? Unreadable? Insulting to the readers' collective intelligence?

Or is it morally reprehensible, my usual barometer for giving something an F? Filled with hate and bile and misogyny?

I don't think so. Granted, I'm biased. But I still think I'm right.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Highwaymen: An Update

Even though we're not going to be telling any more McQueen/Monroe stories for the forseeable future, you haven't seen the last of The Highwaymen.

Come next March, you'll see a shiny new Highwaymen trade paperback on shelves. Woo-hoo!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Strike

Given my apparent lack of topics worth expounding upon, it was suggested that I write about the WGA strike.

No, but thanks, though.

See, I'm not in the guild. Would like to be at some point, sure. But not yet. So this strike—while I agree wholeheartedly with the matter, if not the manner of the proceedings (both sides could've avoided it, if they really wanted to...and I don't mean by the writers caving)—doesn't affect me personally. I know a few people on strike, and feel for them in their time of future uncertainty, but it's not kicking me in the nards daily.

Besides, the strike is being covered, from lots of different bloggery angles, and covered well, so I've nothing useful to add to the discussion.

Except to say that, even though it pains me, I'm not catching up with missed shows online. That's the extent of what I can do...so I'm doing it.

Jeff Vader

Because it's funny. And I've got nothing else to say.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Really?


Ebony magazine. Michael Jackson. Oh-kay. I guess Used-to-be-Ebony-But-Freaked-the-Fuck-Out-and-is-Now-Mostly-Ivory magazine had already booked it's November cover.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Here's the Thing...

I'm running out of things to say. I am. I'm not pretending to be a journalistic endeavor, like The Beat or Blog@Newsarama or The Comics Journal. And this isn't a review site, since even if no one else holds me to it, I've got enough respect for the conflict of interest to refrain from doing that. (Not to mention the fact that pissing off publishers I might want to work with by reviewing their shitty books is a big ass conflict of self-interest.)

And with the new dayjob at EW.com, writing for their Popwatch blog and doing all kinds of lists and stuff, the things that might've found it's way here is paying the bills over there.

I'm not an expert in very much. A journeyman in a few things, sure, but not a professional whiz at anything. I've already taken you inside the depth of my experience as a would-be screenwriter, and let you ride along on my summer of comic-book deflowering. Sure, there are a bunch of other things in the works, but they're just that, in the works. Can't talk about them for a good long while. (And I can't take you inside the high-stakes world of magazine journalism...it's a line I can't cross.) And while I have opened the door just a teensy bit on my life as a father raising an autistic daughter, that door will have to remain where it is. For the time being. Not everything is for public consumption.

I guess all of this is to say that I'm at a bit of a turning point with this here blog. Not sure where to go from here. I've got some ideas, but time is proving a rare commodity.

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hulu test

NBC's new video hub is sorta-live, so let's see if this works:



EDIT: It seems to be working just fine, and they fact that they're letting me embed the entire pilot episode of Airwolf is kind of ridiculous.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I've Been Tagged, Apparently


First time for everything, I suppose. Here's the deal, as presented to me by Ken Lowery's Ringwood:

There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, “The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is…”. Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:

You can leave them exactly as is.

You can delete any one question

You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change “The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is…” to “The best time travel novel in Westerns is…”, or “The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is…”, or “The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is…”.

You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form “The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is…”.

You must have at least one question in your set, or you’ve gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you’re not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions.

Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

The initial statements/questions:

My parent is: NONE.

1. The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is…The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers.
2. The best romantic movie in historical fiction is…Cold Mountain.
3. The best sexy song in rock is…Gloria, by Patti Smith.

My parent is: Ringwood. Here's his stuff.

1. The best epic song (over six minutes in length) in rock is... "November Rain," Guns N' Roses. C'mon, "Hey Jude" and "Freebird" (but only when it's over the last minutes of The Devil's Rejects!) are a bit obvious.
2. (Mockumentary = deleted. Quite the dead end, that.)
3. (the mutant) The best End of the World concept album in Science Fiction is... Year Zero, by Nine Inch Nails. Considering how extensively Trent Reznor and co. built their world, calling it a mere concept album may not be enough. It's a staggeringly thorough and compelling piece of fiction.

Okay, so here are my answers:

1. The best epic song (over six minutes in length) in rock is... "Layla," by Derek and the Dominos. (I almost went "Since I've Been Loving You," by Zeppelin, but I changed my mind. For no good reason.)
2. (the mutant) The best pure sci-fi TV show concept is... The Six-Million Dollar Man. (Seriously. The ways that idea could be exploited is ridiculous...and it's ridiculous that Bionic Woman isn't a thousand times better, given the fertility of the idea.)
3. (the new one) The most formidable superheroine in comics is... The X-Men's Storm. (Especially after Claremont stripped her of her powers, forcing her to learn hand-to-hand combat as well as battlefield strategy. And then she got her powers back. Positively bad-ass.)

Now, for the people I'm tagging:

Adam Freeman. Cowriter on The Highwaymen and Monster Attack Network.
Joshua Hale Fialkov. Elk's Run. Postcards. All-around gentleman. Newlywed.
Neil Kleid. Brownsville. Ninety Candles. Bon vivant. Renaissance Man.

Friday, October 19, 2007

More Love for the Finale

From the San Antonio Express News' René A. Guzman:

"This has been by far the best limited series of the year and the only thing wrong with this last issue is that it has to end. Highwaymen has been more about humor and action than emotion, but you actually get a bit more of the latter in this issue. I say a bit because it delivers the former in grand style. Kudos to Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman for a rollicking read and to Lee Garbett for the kind of sharp but fun art perfect for the tale. Buy all the issues now, or at least mark your calendar the millisecond you find news of the impending trade."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sometimes, I Just Don't Understand America


I was watching an episode of Bones the other day. Which I like. No problems with the show itself. This particular episode was about the murder of some dude who was into "pony play." Which, if you didn't watch that particular episode of Real Sex, involves men and women who pretend to be horses and riders. They wear bits and saddles and the whole shebang. And then, they have sex.

Anyway, the episode opened with a dead body found in the woods. Dessicated skin, maggots crawling around gooey eye sockets, amputated feet. Then, Bones and her team start the investigation, which includes cutting open the stomach to see what the deceased ate last (answer: hay).

In other words, the most disgusting things you can imagine seeing were on Fox at 8:00pm. Family hour.

How did we get to the point where we're willing to tolerate, nay, encourage (through viewership) seeing the retch-inducing inner workings of the human body after it's been violated—and people freak out over the sight of an exposed nipple? How is seeing the unadorned interior of the body more acceptable than seeing its unadorned exterior? How is the feeling of disgust better than the feeling of arousal? Really, what's worse for your kid to watch: people having sex or people committing murder? Which would you rather they emulate? And if the question is one of morality—and you know who I'm talking to—which is the worse sin?

Again, no problems with Bones. Or CSI or Crossing Jordan or any of those gross-out procedurals. Just a problem with us. What the fuck is wrong with this country?

And That's All Folks...

Highwaymen #5 was on stands yesterday, and with that comes an end to our first mainstream comics series. It saddens me, a bit, to note that we won't get to tell any more stories with these dudes—not unless there's some crazy twist of fate and #5 sells, like, 20,000 copies. But that won't happen, so I'll just take some solace in knowing that we did a pretty good job, our first time out, and that the people who did read the book seem to have dug it.

To wit:

IGN's Richard George says, "This series has been a great deal of fun. There have been a couple points where I felt the momentum dragged a bit, but overall Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman have delivered a fast-paced action story that didn't insult the reader.

Being the last issue of the mini-series, things wrap up fairly well. I won't say everything is happy by the last page, but there's no way you'll feel cheated or dragged along to some unannounced sequel. This one is done in five, folks. Bernardin and Freeman do leave room for future installments however, and I certainly wouldn't mind that.

If you haven't read this series, it's basically some sort of mixture of old buddy cop movies like Lethal Weapon or perhaps Die Hard 3. You could probably throw films like Speed in there to some degree as well...and a bit of James Bond. That's basically all there is to it. This is a love letter to all of those classic action films, featuring great chemistry and gripping action. I was impressed with how familiar these heroes felt, though I'd pin that on the fact that this is very much an homage. But it doesn't feel too derivative either. If you skipped this, and don't want to hunt for back issues, pick up the trade. You won't regret it."

And here's CBR's Hannibal Tabu: " What a way to go—Monroe and McQueen are still blowing stuff up and tossing around bon mots as they fight their way towards fulfilling their mandate, as the last member of a black ops government project learns how to stand up for herself. This is a great last reel to an action movie, and even in its confrontations the chatter is kept concise and smart. Fast moving, smartly conceived and well executed (the part with the rope is especially fun on rereads)."

Monday, October 08, 2007

Highwaymen #5 Preview

The final issue is out next Wednesday, Oct. 17th, but here's the first three pages—ganked from Wizard. (Shhh.)





Get Thee To A Pitchery

So, as I said, I was in Los Angeles last week. (Or maybe the week before last...can't remember.) I was out to do some Hollywood pitching. Keen readers of the blog will know what we were pitching...shouldn't take a genius to put two-and-two together.

The pitches went well, I think. Everyone said they went well, and that's really all I've got to go on. Since this is the first time I was "in the room" with the express purpose of selling people on ideas, I've got no real frame of reference.

But the pitch process is a ludicrous one. We're writers, right? And we write. We've spent long hours hammering away at a keyboard, grafting fragments of ideas so they resemble a coherent story. That's what we do.

So if someone wants to see if an idea has enough meat on its bones to justify spending millions of dollars on to make a movie, if they can't read a script, they want a pitch. Which is fine. Totally understandable.

What I don't really understand is why that pitch needs to be delivered verbally. Why we needed to spend weeks writing a pitch that hit all the right notes, laced in all the character arcs and emotional beats, and hit the action sequences in a non-exhaustive manner—only to then have to memorize the whole thing so we could deliver it in an 18-minute monologue. (Or, since there was two of us, a duologue.)

Why couldn't we just email them the pitch?

I get that, in the days of the old studio system, people like Jack Warner were shepherding hundreds of movie ideas at a time, and wouldn't have time to read hundreds of proposals for new projects. So he'd ask for the "pitch." "Okay, these two lovers ended their relationship badly. He fucked off to Morocco to open a bar. She joined the French Resistance. Sorry, forgot: Nazis. And she needs travel papers, and only he can get them. Thing is, she's in love with another dude. Sad, sweet, darkly funny. And it'll end in an airport...maybe."

But today? No reason why we couldn't email them a document they could read in less time it takes us to pitch, and wouldn't suffer from nervousness, brain-farts, or mysterious chest colds. We're writers. We write. We're best when we write. (Except for those of us who used to be stand-up comedians, and know how to work a room like a motherfucker. P.S.: Thanks for the tips, John.)

I get that they want to meet you, and make sure you smell like a person who showers regularly, and don't have a third eye, or extra digits. But couldn't that happen after they read the pitch?

It just seems to me that it's another example of Hollywood's vise-like grip on nostalgia. This is the way it is done because it's the way it's always been done. Same reason every script has got to be written in 12pt courier. If it isn't, readers won't read past page one, and it'll die at the bottom of a recycling bin, even if it is the second coming of Casablanca. (And this, despite the fact that no one writes on a Smith Corona manual typewriter anymore. We just have to pretend we do.)

So, yeah, we pitched, and we did well. Things are "happening." But I can't say that I had an erg of fun doing it. Because this process isn't set up to be fun. But I'm damn glad I did it.

Lag Time

It's been something of a crazy couple of weeks. In LA the last week of September, and then, as soon as I got back into the office, I found myself doing a completely different job. (Which is a pseudo-direct result of my week in LA.) I'm now working for EW.com, editing a bit, and writing a whole lot more. I've still got my fingers in the stew that is "paper EW," but I've got a whole lot of learning to do. Which is one of the reasons I took this new gig, the learning.

Reminds me of an interview Harrison Ford gave to Letterman a coupla years back. Ford told Dave that he was learning to fly a plane. When Dave asked him why he'd do that, Ford replied: "Because it had been a very long time since I learned how to do anything new."

So that's what's been swallowing my time. But whenever I feel bad about not blogging for a while, I just turn to good ol' Josh Friedman...who hasn't filed a new post since New Year's Day.

So there.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Don't Go Away, Renee

Was watching the premiere of Life the other day. You know, the NBC genre show with a British actor playing an American? Sorry, let me be more specific: the cop hour with Band of Brothers' Damian Lewis as a wrongfully imprisoned police officer who's out of the hoosegow and back on the force as a detective. (Not to be confused with Bionic Woman, starring Michelle Ryan, or Journeyman, starring Kevin McKidd—apparently, some casting director summered in the UK.)

So, our hero—who's so indelible I don't remember his name—is saddled with a partner. A sullen Latina who drinks too much, is muy promiscuous, has a father who won't talk to her, and might have had something to do with her dead partner.

In other words, she's Renee Montoya from Gotham Central, minus the homosexuality. And, since I think we can all agree that being gay is just one element of one's psychological makeup—and not even the most important—she's Renee Montoya.

=


I always wondered why no one moved on a Gotham Central TV show. Seems tailor-made. You've got a recognizable subject matter (inner-city police precinct), terrific characterization (the aformentioned Montoya is but one of a stellar cast), and the patina of newfangled glitz without ever having to show Batman if you don't want to. Or, you treat him the way he should be but never is: as a creature of shadow, who you never entirely see, but the spectre of whom hangs over everything.

I was told a few years ago that A) the powers that be wanted to save all the Bat-heat for the then-nascent Batman Begins and that B) Birds of Prey scared everyone off.

Which, honestly, is too bad.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Heresy


Let me just get it out. I'll bet that no one, 15 years ago or so, would've listened to Nirvana's Nevermind and thought to themselves, "You know who's gonna emerge as one of America's last great rock stars? The fucking drummer."

But, seriously, Dave Grohl is the genuine goddamn article. I've had Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace on a loop for the last four days. It's a beautiful album: hard when it's supposed to be, soft when it wants to be and—here's where the heresy truly comes in—I think Grohl's a better songwriter than Cobain was. Yes, he had more time to mature and ferment, and his doesn't seem to be a life of harsh torment. (And, yes, Courtney Love is nowhere near him.)

You watch the Foos in concert and he is everything a frontman oughta be: passionate, frenzied, and willing to shred his voice to tatters every night. Honestly, I can't think of a band I'd want to see live more than the Foo Fighters. The hardest working bar-band in show business. And when he's not banging away at the guitar, he's playing drums on other folks' albums. (Can you imagine being the drummer in the Foos? Knowing full well that your boss can do your job way better than you can?)

Every drummer pounding away in a shitty high-school band ought to have a temple to Grohl in their closet: he has shown you the way.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Great Moments in Fatherhood

I'm flipping channels this morning, and I come across the first Star Wars (Episode IV, which will forever be known as "the first Star Wars"), right about the part where we first see the Death Star, floating in space. My three-year-old son, Luc, looks at the TV and says "That's a moon."

And I get to say, "That's no moon...that's a space station."

It all comes around.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Out of the Box

I'm going back to Cali, y'all. (I simply cannot resist a little LL plug. A weakness, I know.)

Heading out on Monday, back on Friday. Pitchery is afoot. If I can, I'll keep you updated. But you know how these things go.

So, be good, for goodness sake. And I'll see you when I see you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Casting to Type

Working, as I do, at the magazine where I work (wow, that's a nonsensical phrase, but I'm gonna keep it in there anyway) for the last 12 years, I've seen a lot of magazine covers. A lot. We're a weekly, after all. Somewhere around 500 issues, give or take.

And when I saw the mockups for the cover of this week's issue...


...two things crossed my mind:

1) It's good to see an Asian face on our cover. There aren't a lot of occasions for us to do that, seeing as there isn't a multitude of Asian movie/TV stars. We cover the business, and it's not our fault if the business doesn't give Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indian, or Taiwanese actors much work. (Yes, I'm sure I left out a whole host of eses. I know. Sorry, thespians on Surinam.) The last time we had Asians and nothing but Asians on the cover was an Oscar Race Begins issue, with Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. So, yay for diversity.

2) Masi Oka will have James Gandolfini's career, but with less awards. By that, I mean to say that he'll do great work as one overwhelmingly ethnic character—and never move beyond that. I think Gandolfini probably came to terms with that. Could be what was behind the salary renegotiations: "If I'm never gonna get to do work this good again, I wanna get paid." And everything we've seen him in where he's not playing a mobster has been underwhelming: The Mexican, The Last Castle, All the King's Men. Granted, those movies sucked but, more importantly, you didn't buy him in them. That's the problem with creating an iconic, enduring character: you can never escape it. Will Masi be able to get out from under Hiro's shadow? Would you want to see him playing, I dunno, the romantic lead, or the smart tech dude in a heist thriller, or the gay best friend? He might be able to do all of those, and do them well, but I think we'll always see him squishing his eyes, shouting "Yataaai!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Big Question: Clarification

It seems, in tracking what's become the news story of the cycle—and, apparently, it's a slow cycle if The Highwaymen not selling can spur such discussion—people have misinterpreted the events to draw the conclusion that Wildstorm cancelled the book. Which is not the case.

We were engaged to do a five-issue miniseries. Which is exactly what we wrote, what Lee Garbett drew, and what Wildstorm is publishing. Were there conversations about possibly continuing the series beyond those five issues? Absolutely. But doing so was always contingent on sales.

Wildstorm solicited five issues of The Highwaymen, and that's precisely what, to steal liberally from Tina Fey, our dozens and dozens of readers will get.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Big Question: Part Deux

A lot of people have chimed in, both here and on Heidi MacDonald's The Beat, with their theories as to why The Highwaymen didn't sell.

To sum up:
  • No one wants to try anything new, so new characters by new creators...nuh-uh.
  • Wildstorm, as a brand, doesn't inspire consumers to buy anymore.
  • The wait-for-the-trade mentality + hatred of the miniseries format = no floppy love.
  • The retailer incentive for issue #1 didn't extend to issue #2.
  • The cover for issue #1 didn't stand out.
  • Readers didn't respond to the concept.
Most of those I'll concede, with the exception of the last two. I liked the cover for issue #1 and while the design might've been a little conventional, I'd have thought the name-brandness of Brian Stelfreeze would've made up the difference. And, anecdotal and empirical evidence both point to readers absolutely responding to the concept. And to the execution. I guess we were laboring under the misguided theory that "good will out."

Maybe, finally, the answer to the "why" is: The market just isn't set up to support a book like this because, ultimately, the readers don't want a book like this. If they did, there'd be more of them. There'd be more romance books, and more action books, and more war books, and more straight sci-fi books, and more police procedural books. I'd say it was as myopic as TV, but then you'd have to posit a TV landscape where there were only sitcoms set in a bar.

But the market, with the rarest of exceptions (e.g., Y: The Last Man, Criminal, Walking Dead, Fell, Casanova, etc.), wants superheroes and only superheroes. Especially superheroes they already know. And especially if there's a possibility that they're zombies.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Big Question

Given the news of the post below, a fella could ask himself, "Why?"

Not, "Why isn't Wildstorm going to do another arc worth of Highwaymen stories." I know why. Because it didn't sell. We moved a hair under 10,000 copies of issue #1. At the time, we were told that was as good a number as one could expect for a book about two characters no one had ever heard of, created by three guys no one had ever heard of.

But issue #2 took a 40% dive—which would be fine if we were a movie; that's considered a pretty good hold in week two. However, we're not a movie. And it's not enough to warrant doing more. I get that.

So, the question is, "Why didn't it sell?"

Did we not spread the word adequately? I'd like to think we did. We did oodles of press, interviews with anyone who asked. Had pieces up on Wizard.com, Newsarama, CBR, Silver Bullet, IGN, and Broken Frontier. Some mainstream press, too, in EW and a couple of news syndicates, which got us into a whole host of regional papers. We did in-store signings and convention appearances, a couple of podcast interviews to boot. DC gave the first issue the better part of a page in Previews, and seeded house ads throughout the bulk of its books the month before it came out. It's possible we could've done more—a cross-country tour would've been nice, but not in the cards...and we all can't have Warren's internet presence, not overnight—but we didn't let it stumble out there without any support at all.

Was The Highwaymen simply a bad comic? I'd almost say that's a more important concern, except for the fact that there are tons of shitty books that do/did better than ours. So quality does not insure sales. But, judging by the overwhelmingly positive response we've gotten from almost every critic who's reviewed it, quality was not our problem.

Was it the subject matter? Were potential readers turned off by the cast, a pair of old dudes, one white and one black? Was ageism or racism a factor? No way to be sure. Though, we've been told, in pitching other books, that black characters just don't sell. Even Blade, with three hit movies behind him, can't keep ongoing-series hope alive.

Can a good action-adventure book that received a decent PR launch about a pair of racially diverse seniors who aren't superheroes fly in today's market? I guess that's the $64,000 question.

And I guess we got our answer.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Word From the Mountain

From the Jim Lee panel at the Baltimore Comic-Con, via Newsarama:

"The Highwaymen will conclude its arc and then end, Lee said, noting that the series was a great read but hasn’t performed well sales-wise. After the series is over, Lee said that they’ll be working with the creators again."

Well, there you have it. We're glad we got to tell the story we set out to tell. If you find us at a convention bar one of these years, we'll tell you what would've happened...if you buy us beer. And nachos. Definitely nachos.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

If You Thought I Gave Up on the Pimpery...

Johnny Bacardi digs himself some Highwaymen #3:

HIGHWAYMEN #3: Wonder of wonders, we actually get some explanations and answers in only the third chapter, something which flies in the face of normal shoot-em-up comics/movies/TV series of this ilk. Livelier than last issue, to boot, oddly enough, with fewer improbable stunts. I think this one is going to be all right. B+

Wither 'TV Guide'

The news that TV Guide may be shutting down its print edition doesn't come as a surprise to me. What does surprise me is that it took this long.

I have no ill will towards TV Guide; I've got friends that work there. The front of that magazine still reads pretty well. But that's just it: what about the rest of the magazine? The listings?

Well, in this day and age, the listings are useless. The kind of people who desperately want to know what's on and when are the kind of folks that already have cable or satellite TV. And those services come with an on-screen guide, to tell you what's on and when. If the box you're interested in watching gives you the information you want, why would anyone look away from said box to get that information?

I guess that marketplace reality has finally set in. And there no way to support a TV-based magazine these days. Too narrow of a focus. That's what the web is for. TV Guide should've got in bed with TiVo a few years ago...

So I guess it's farewell TV Guide. The me from 1986 will miss you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

20 Better Ways for Owen Wilson to Kill Himself

20. Buy a really expensive car and wrap it around a tree.
19. Skydive without a parachute.
18. Run with the bulls.
17. Donkey show.
16. Head to the 20th Century Fox props room, grab the sandwich board that Bruce Willis wore in Die Hard 3 ("I hate niggers"), and take a stroll around Compton.
15. Take a stroll around Compton.
14. Head to, say, Botswana and have unprotected sex with all of its prostitutes.
13. Move into a Penthouse at The Palms in Vegas, run up as much of a gambling debt as humanly possible, and wait for the mob to come and collect, Smokin' Aces-style.
12. Solo piranha-fishing trip down the Amazon.
11. Firing squad in some Central American squalor-country.
10. Go hot-air ballooning with a box of cigars.
9. Tiger pit.
8. Kumite.
7. Climb Everest. And then jump off.
6. Pinch Mike Tyson's ass.
5. Enlist.
4. Home-made matter collider.
3. Fight club.
2. Strapped to the front bumper of the Lord Humongous' post-apocalyptic dune buggy.
1. Shotgun to the face, Cobain-style.

At the very least, all of them are more becoming of a young movie star. And they bespeak a man who lived life as a man. They weren't kidding when they said that the only men left in Hollywood are teenage girls. At least they flame out in entertaining ways. Sad, but entertaining.

Why am I so glib about this? Why don't I respect his wishes to leave him alone so he can cope with his pain? Because fuck him and his pain. What on Earth could have left him so bereft? Did Kate Hudson leave him? C'mon, dude...she's Kate Hudson, what did you expect her to do? Is his career not on track? I can list thousands of character actors who are currently demeaning themselves in new and interesting ways to get on an episode of fucking Reba.

How is his life so hard that there's no making it better? He's handsome and rich. There's nothing you can't get out of by being handsome and rich. Check yourself into resort-rehab. Go on a ridiculous spending spree. Bankroll a shitty movie your brother can direct. Call McConaughey and go on a Texas-boy Winnebago trip. Kill a Tijuana hooker.

Whatever it takes, get over it. Move on. Don't be such a goddamn pussy. If a single mother can leave her studio apartment with bars on the window, drop off her kid with substandard child-care, take a subway two hours to her first job emptying trash cans at a law firm, pull down a night shift at a diner where the regulars think a boob-brush comes with the coffee, and go over her older kid's homework before getting three hours of sleep, and waking up to do it all again—if people can do that without calling it quits...

No, I don't have any sympathy. No, he doesn't know pain.

EDIT: I've been told to add 21. Get into comics.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

We got "Fresh Ink"!

A little love from the G4 network's resident comics doyenne, Blair Butler. (She gets to The Highwaymen #3 right after Black Adam.)

DOWNLOAD FRESH INK HERE

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Freaks Come Out on the 8:05am


There I was, sitting like a good commuter on the train this morning, listening to my iPod. I've taken to buying stand-up comedy albums and funneling them in there. I've already become bored of the 3,200 songs in my library, and don't want to get so involved as to listen to an audiobook. I prefer my books on papyrus. Rolling papyrus.

So I'm listening to Patton Oswalt's second CD, and he launches into this bit about Robert Evans doing the voiceover for these ESPN radio spots. And each one gets progressively dirtier. This train, mind you, is standing room only. I was lucky enough to get a seat, but I'm crammed in with people right next to me, and people standing above me. No one's talking, as we've all tacitly agreed, even with friends and loved ones, not to speak and instead give our brains time to boot up.

The whole time, I've got my arms crossed, and my fingers pressing on the bridge of my nose, trying to stifle the laughs that are starting to build.

And he gets to this passage, where he describes Loretta Swit's pubic hair as large enough to hide a VCR, and I lose my shit. In the cacophonous silence of that metal tube, the sound of my laughter echoed for what felt like a minute.

Of course, I can't tell anyone what I'm laughing at. Because that would be wrong.

And, apparently, you can't cover that kind of outburst by raising a clenched fist to your mouth and pretending it was a hi-LAR-ious cough.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ain't It Cool News Weighs in

On Monster Attack Network:

This book is a bit of a change from the other books I have read from Ait/Planet Lar, but it shares the same attention to fine storytelling. This drama set in a world where giant monsters attack on a frequent basis was a fun yarn. The blasé way the main characters do battle with these big beasts was thoroughly entertaining to witness. The art is loose and I have to admit, at times, I was a bit at a loss as to what was happening in some of the tighter panels, but when artist Nima Sorat pulls back in the large panels, they are quite a sight to behold. There is a real VENTURE BROTHERS feel to this comic with overly-muscular men and sultry babes battling giant things science and nature shouldn’t have spawned. There’s a lot of fun in between the covers of this book and it’s a welcome change from some of the more serious or fact-based books from Ait/Planet Lar. —Ambush Bug

By the way...

Despite all that highfalutin racio-sequential-art examination of the previous post, I'd have loved to write a totally blaxploitation Black Lightning: Year One book.

If only so I could write the sentence: "Now that's one crazy electric nigger!"

(Which, of course, would never have seen print. But I'd have gotten to write it.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Heroic Creation Myths

Walk with me for a bit.

Bruce Wayne + Asian vacation = Batman
Lamont Cranston + Asian vacation = The Shadow
Stephen Strange + Asian vacation = Doctor Strange

Now, I know that a good deal of this is a by-product of the era (apparently, there was a great deal of cultural fascination with the Far East pre-WWII), as well as some wanton plagiarism (in the same way that Doc Savage was the Man of Bronze and Superman was the Man of Steel). I guess uniqueness wasn't valued all that highly when creating pulp heroes.

And I was almost thinking that white heroes were the only ones with such a firmly encoded origin—but when you look at black or native american heroes, they've got the same ticks.

Jefferson Pierce + ghetto = Black Lightning
Luke Cage + ghetto = Power Man
John Proudstar + reservation + Vietnam = Thunderbird
Forge + reservation + Vietnam = er, Forge

There are, apparently, no black heroes not from the Hood and no Native American heroes not born on a reservation. While those locales can be defining elements, they're not exclusive. John Proudstar couldn't have been from Santa Fe? Luke Cage couldn't have been raised in the rural south? He couldn't have been the child of freedom riders? Sure, you get your odd men out like Black Panther, ruler of an African Kingdom, or Storm, goddess of the African plains, or Blade (wait...a vampire hunter from the ghetto), every now and again, but they're the exceptions, not the rules.

And, jeez, try finding an Asian character not adept in the martial arts (I'll give you Jubilee, find another one). Maybe that's not entirely fair. I've been combing through the Marvel Universe and pretty much every character is "an expert in various forms of martial arts."

Maybe the get-rich scheme inside the Marvel world is to open a friggin' dojo. In the hood.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Some Newsarama MAN love

Check the technique (scroll a bit):

Monster Attack Network Graphic Novel (AiTPlanetLar Reviewed by Tim Janson): Ever wonder who gets to clean up all the damage crated by the giant monsters in those Japanese monster films? Who rebuilds the cities and infrastructure? Well, it’s the Monster Attack Network. This new graphic novel from AiT Planet Lar shows just how the men and women of the Monster Attack Network deal with giant monster attacks. The setting is the South Pacific island of Lapuatu. Nate Klinger is the group’s leader and we first see Nate coming to the aid of residents who are trapped in their building during one of those attacks. All buildings are built to have special escape chutes to be used when some great beast rises out of the pacific to attack the island. For the residents, it’s as if they live in tornado alley…giant monster attacks are just something they live with. The Team gets a new employee, Lana Barnes who Nate suspects has some secrets in her past that she is trying to hide. Funny thing is, ever since Lana, and an unscrupulous land developer have shown up on the island, the monster attacks have increased in their frequency as well as their intensity. Nate smells something bad and it’s not the stench of rotting monster bodies. For fans of Godzilla films and the like, Monster Attack Network is a blast. Loaded with action and sarcastic humor, this is a wildly entertaining book. The dialog is razor sharp and the black and white art by Sorat is lush and expressive. Giant Monsters have not been this fun in a long time!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Everything's Coming Up Redheads

Two more for the casting rondelay:


Lauren Ambrose, and


Megan Fox (who may come off a tad too slutty).

It has, also, been pointed out that in the coif-tech future we're living in, hair color is infinitely malleable. But while this "film" still exists only in our heads, let's keep it pure.

EDIT: Adding Laura Prepon—thanks, Alex!—who was a much hotter Donna as a redhead:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stupid Lindsey


I wish that Lindsay Lohan wasn't such a goddamned train wreck. Yes, I feel bad and all, and "what a shame that her parents didn't do what parents are supposed to do and keep their children from fucking up their lives."

But, honestly, she'd have made a great Grace Anderson for the inevitable (if I keep saying it, maybe it'll come true) Highwaymen movie. She's young, a redhead, and can actually act. The list of redheads who fit that bill is, sadly, very short. Isla Fisher. Alyson Hannigan.



Who else, because after that I'm drawing a blank?

EDIT: Now that I think about it, Alyson Hannigan is probably too old. Grace is a college student and Ms. Hannigan (Alyson if you're nasty) is around 32. Though, she plays young pretty well. This, I say, as if we're actually casting the movie.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Strange, Hollow Sadness

Found out today that comics artist Mike Wieringo died over the weekend. Massive heart attack, apparently. 44 years old. I've never met the man, but we sorta crossed paths a few years ago, back when we were looking for artists for Monster Attack Network. He was one of the first guys that Larry thought of, and we'd have been thrilled to have him.

If the email he sent back to Larry is any indication, he was a hell of a guy to know:
And so, all that goes to say that I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to work on the MONSTER ISLE project. And I probably wouldn't have had the time, in any case. But I have to say that I'm incredibly flattered that I'm the first person that Marc thought of....! When I get some free time, I'm going to settle down and read the script... I'm sure it's a hoot.
Kept his sketch-a-day blog bookmarked. He was one of those artists I came across that I was hoping to, eventually, get to work with. And to have a drink with.

Alas.

Friday, August 10, 2007

News Flash: San Diego 2008

The Hyatt, the Marriott, and the Omni hotels are already booked. For an event that's 11 months and two weeks away.

Scored a room at the Hilton...for twice what we paid for our room this year.

Holy crap. We'd better have something to push.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

If they ever make a Stones movie...


this dude (Jemaine Clement, from Flight of the Conchords) should play Mick Jagger.

See?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Girls Next Door


I was at a birthday party over the weekend, held at a home in a chi-chi gated community. This party was for a grown up, so there were no children present. Just lots of booze and white people. (And me.)

At some point, after the very expensive wine was flowing for a while, the DJ threw on a little 50 Cent, "In Da Club." And, to a woman, every thirtysomething suburban housewife there completely lost their shit. Once the choruses of "Go shorty, its your birfday" died down, Akon's "Smack That" came on...and these SUV-driving, brood-ferrying ladies proceeded to spank each other like porn stars.

Power to 'em...I just missed the pop-cultural moment when Caucasian women on the cusp of middle age decided to go buck-wild for hip-hop.

By the time the party was over everyone, and I mean everyone, had been in the pool. With their clothes on. (Yes, including me.)

There's some freaky shit going on behind those gates, I tell you whut.

There's a M.A.N. Stuck in the Pipeline

Augie De Blieck over at Comic Book Resources' Pipeline weighs in:

"Dialogue is important to comics, in much the same way as sound is important to a good movie.

Let's see if I can explain what seems like something that's so obvious. I plugged in the DVD for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN the other night to see how it looked on my relatively new television set. It looked fine, but I didn't feel it. There was something missing that took a lot of the impact away from that harrowing early scene on the beach. It was the sound. Listening to it in stereo as opposed to 5.1 surround sound makes everything feel flat. If you can't hear the bullet buzzing past your ears, then you're not getting the full effect.

In high concept comics, the thrill is in seeing how a crazy idea can be executed. Whether it's pirates stuck in the modern world, or Zombies fighting Robots, or a Robot and an Angel learning life lessons from each other, you're sucked into the comic from an always-farcical sounding pitch. The crazier, the better. The plot is important. The art is important. And the dialogue needs to match that level of energy.

MONSTER ATTACK NETWORK has all of that in spades. The new original graphic novel from AiT/PlanetLar is the story of an organization much like Marvel's Damage Control, entrusted to protect a Pacific island from the monsters the humans cohabitate the island with, and then clean up any of their messes afterwards. The pitch from Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman is killer, the kind of thing to spaek any comic reader's imagination. The art from newcomer Nima Sorat is a true discovery. I know nothing about Sorat, but the art looks like something a fashion design artist might render, complete with wonderful gray tones and a thick brush strokes. There's movement in every panel. While you could make an argument in a couple of spots that some storytelling suffers for it, there's always enough there that you get the gist, can follow the story, and have a good time without stumbling.

On top of it all, though, Bernardin and Freeman didn't skimp on the dialogue. It would have been very easy for them to let the art tell the story and NOT add that extra spark. They didn't. There's great rapid-fire banter and one-liners throughout the book, all without dragging the book down. Characters are best defined by their actions, true, but you can learn a lot about them from dialogue that cleverly expresses their personality as much as their action. The authors never get lost in expository dialogue, or conversations that last too long. Nothing has a chance to overstay its welcome in this book, as it just moves too fast, and that's a good thing. This is an action comic about men fighting monsters. You don't need to weigh it down with expository dialogue. You don't need to deeply explore the monsters' motivations. (You see how well that did for the HULK movie.)

MONSTER ATTACK NETWORK is the best offering from AiT/PlanetLar, I think, in some time. It's snappy, fast-paced, high-concept, and oodles of fun. It's available today for a mere thirteen of your hard earned greenbacks."

Monday, August 06, 2007

Embarrassing Geekery

I left out this story out of my pre-San Diego LA wonderfulness recounting, partly because I'm so damned ashamed of myself. If I had a geek membership card, I'd have to turn it in.

I was meeting my friend Phil* for dinner in Glendale which boasts a terrific little downtown area as well as, according to Phil, the home base to a bevy of Armenian mobsters, all with horrible driving skills. We left said friend's house, drove a couple of blocks to a parking spot—hey, it's LA—and walked to the Tiki-style steakhouse that Phil enticed me with.

As we were walking, Phil points to a storefront. There were a couple of random paperbacks on risers in the window, with drapes concealing the store's interior. The glass doors were blacked out, so we couldn't see inside. "This is one of the last great sci-fi bookstores," Phil tells me. "If you want, we could take a quick walk through." I dig me some sci-fi, and I'm a sucker for buying books I'll probably never get around to reading, so I agree. The ravenous beef hunger can hold for a few minutes.

We open the door and, right there in the vestibule, is a small crowd of people. Maybe 25. And they're looking dead at us, as if we interrupted some cabal meeting. Which, it turns out, we did.

Because right to our left, sitting next to each other at a small folding table facing the crowd with their backs to the windows, was Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen. In case you don't know—and, if you're reading this blog, I'm probably pointing out scripture to the choir—these two gentlemen, the two Rays of sci-fi/fantasy, are responsible for many a warped childhood.

Bradbury is a titan of science fiction literature, having written Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, etc. And Harryhausen is the stop-motion wizard behind Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, 20 Million Miles to Earth, One Million Years B.C., and so on.

These guys were holding forth, like preachers in the Church of Christ Science Fiction, and we just stumbled into it. Cool, right?

Yeah, but we were hungry. So hungry, we tracked down the manager—who was so jazzed that she had these two legends in her store—and asked her to let us out the back door. Because we didn't want to look like the dicks we so clearly were by walking past the Rays to head back out the front door.

As we walked to the steakhouse, we couldn't even look at each other, the shame was so thick between us. So, whomever is the Secretary of the Geek Society, you can come and collect my membership card whenever you're ready.

* His name has been changed, so as to not tarnish his own good geek reputation.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Bacardi M.A.N.

From The Johnny Bacardi Show:

"Hey, somebody got their Japanese giant monster movie in their romantic comedy! Moonlighting meets Gammera the Invincible and perhaps Marvel's old '80s series Damage Control as we get the adventures of a group of men and women who deal with crises involving oversized behemoths, who tend to level cities at the drop of a hat. We center on Nate Klinger, head of our particular branch, and the new recruit, a gorgeous young lady from the island nation of Lapuatu. They meet cute, fight creatures, bicker, and have a little bit of the old in-out in-out until the frequency of monster attacks causes suspicion to fall on a visiting industrialist...and perhaps even the new recruit as well. A wise man once said, "Creativity is the art of disguising your sources", and while there are many sides to this we've all seen before, they're presented in such a breezy, fast-paced fashion that one is inclined not to care and just go along for the rollercoaster ride. Between this and The Highwaymen, I believe Bernardin and Freeman are looking like rookies of the year as far as giving us entertaining comics so far. Sorat's art reminds, as so many these days seem to, Paul Pope or a looser Becky Cloonan—in fact, he's often too loose and coherence is often sacrificed at the altar of swooshy speed lines and exaggerated anatomy during the course of the story. It's a problem, but not a big one, and I expect him to get better as time goes on. Inoshiro Honda would be proud, I'd bet. A-"

Facing Poker

I have this theory—which, when I told my wife about, shocked her for its uncharacteristic-of-me superstition—about card games. And by card games, I mean Blackjack and Poker. (I don't play anything else. I thought about playing baccarat once, when I was in Monte Carlo, but they kept yelling at me in French, so I beggared off.)

The theory goes something like: There is but one well from which all cards come. And don't pull from the well if you don't have to.

I play online poker every now and again. Never for money, because I know myself and know that that way lies madness and brokeness. Just for fun, because I like poker and don't get to play with real people all that often. I've also got a stupid little poker app on my cell phone, for those times when I'm standing on the long train ride into Manhattan and don't feel like maneuvering a book. Same with blackjack: computer & cell. Whoopie.

Last night, I was invited to play in a poker game; first time with these bunch of guys. All strangers, save the ringleader, who I'd been email-friendly with for a couple of years but never actually met. My wife asked if I'd been practicing in anticipation of the event. And that's when I hit her with my theory. And she hit me with her something that tasted like a mixture of incredulity and scorn.

I won't play fake cards if I'm in the near future hoping to eventually catch real ones. I was going to need all the good hands I could get, and I didn't want to waste them for nothing.

And it paid off. Once you take away my $100 buy-in, I walked away with $1515. Which is the most I've ever won gambling anywhere.

Don't ever laugh at my theory.

(But I am so fucking tired.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Newsarama Follow Up

In which I respond to JK Parkin's thoughtful, tender questions:

JK: When you look back at San Diego 2007, what memory do you think will stand out more than others? (Besides what you mentioned above, of course …)
MB: Aside from taking a whiz next to the sheriff from Eureka and having Lucy Lawless flip me the bird in front of 6,000 people? It was sitting down at the DC booth for our first signing. DC’s Con wizard Fletcher Chu Fong disappeared into his Bag of Holding and pulled out a couple of cardboard name placards that had our names on ‘em and the Wildstorm logo: “Marc Bernardin. The Highwaymen.” It felt like we weren’t crashing the party anymore…we’d been invited.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Things I Learned in San Diego, 2007 Edition

For this year, at least, Star Trek is dead
Yes, J.J. Abrams unleashed his Spock on the masses and all was right in the world. But I didn’t see a single Klingon on the floor. I heard rumors of one, but no actual visual confirmation. I saw three Starfleet officers…and one Hogwarts student with a shoulder-mounted Tribble, the poor man’s owl. Just last year, Star Trek was a thriving fan community, and it’s members came out in droves to represent. This year, I saw more Ghostbusters than emisaries from the Final Frontier.

Women are amazing
Okay, I already knew this. But this con put things into sharper relief. As a guy, I know full well that there are things that I will do—begrudgingly—for my wife that I have no interest in doing. She knows this and after 13 years together, she’s pretty good about not asking me to, say, follow her through Saks while she shops and I hold her bag. Because I would go and grumble through the whole Bataan death march experience. I saw women on the convention floor who clearly didn’t attend of their own volition, who were pleasantly taking in the sights and ignoring the smells. (And you can immediately tell the women who are not “into it.” They look, somehow, more optimistic. Maybe because they didn't know what to expect and are surprised by everything they see.) When we were signing at the DC booth, a woman came up and asked Brian Stelfreeze for a sketch; not for her, for her boyfriend. He was, you see, attending a panel of some sort and she volunteered to collect sketches for him. Now try and picture your average male citizen, getting swatches from dress designers at a bridal convention, while the missus-to-be is watching a floral demonstration. Ye gods, you are amazing creatures. And you almost always smell good.

In Two Years' Time, There Will Be No More Male Pedi-cab Drivers
In my incredibly un-scientific recounting, about 70% of San Diego Comic-Con attendees are male. I'm sure some of them were gay—the numbers are large enough for a statistical sample—but most are dudes that, even if they have left their parents' basement (and I'm being glib here, I know), still like to gaze at the female form. So, given this demographic, who do you think got more passengers for their pedi-cabs: the swarthy young immigrant fellas OR the tanned, toned, twentysomething immigrant women? I saw rows of those dudes, idling by the train crossing, while a watermelon-thighed Sharapova look-alike hauled Red Squadron up Harbor Drive. Natural selection, baby. Survival of the species.

Mary McDonnell is the sweetest person alive
I moderated the Battlestar Galactica panel on Saturday. Seeing as my bar of success was not vomiting on any of the cast, I declared it a win. But Mary (we’re now on a first-name basis and, if its okay with my wife, she’s gonna come live with us) tried to soothe my nerves beforehand, and when it was over, she gave me a hug and a “Well done.” And when I ran into her at the EW/Sci-Fi Channel party, she stopped to talk for 20 minutes when she absolutely didn’t have to. A wonderful person. And absolutely, positively, drop-dead gorgeous. (Don’t get me wrong, the other Women of Battlestar were perfectly gracious—except for Lucy Lawless, who flipped me the bird in front of 6,000 people. In all fairness, it was after I introduced her as a man.)

Terrence Howard would dominate my obit
I'm pretty sure he was on my plane, flying back to New York. And I realized that if this plane went down, the news story would read: “Oscar-nominated actor perishes in a plane crash; 150 others also dead.” I’m one of "the others." Just so you know.

Comics is Hard Work
I was behind the AiT/Planet Lar booth for a total of 6 hours over the course of 4 days, selling copies of Monster Attack Network. And it was brain-thuddingly exhausting, hard-selling our book to people who, allegedly, are at the show to buy comics. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a small press vendor, strapped to a table all day, every day. No wonder the bar at the Hyatt is so packed. I’d want to numb the pain, too.

What a difference a year makes
Last year, we’d locked the Highwaymen deal, but no one else knew that. The book wasn't announced until the New York show this past February. We were just guys rolling through the hall, same as thousands of other creators, talking about the book that was coming…but we had nothing to show. This year, everything was out: Two issues of Highwaymen, and the M.A.N. graphic novel. And they’ve all gotten glowing reviews. And now, people who wouldn’t give us the time of day last year were taking us to lunch.

Pay it Forward
God, I hated that movie.

But seriously
I’ve made a few friends in this industry, some of them after giving their books some love in EW. I did so because they did good work and, for me, the mission at EW was to expose people to the best that comics had to offer. And now that I’m in the same boat they are, they’re introducing me to people that can help me out. They don’t have to do that. But they do anyway. I suppose you could call it returning a favor, but I just think these are good folks. I appreciate everything they do. And I hope they know that.

And Now, Finally, the Best M.A.N. Review EVAR

From some dude named Iain Jackson, who totally nails it:

"Picture a lovely, tropical isle. The balmy breezes blow, tourists plague the natives, and all is right with the world.

Enter the giant worm. Takes the top off a few buildings, rampages a little here and there. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just another day on Lapuatu. But thanks to the Monster Attack Network (or M.A.N.), the rampaging is limited, fewer tops of buildings get done in, and the monster eventually gets led back to the sea, or the hole in the ground, or wherever, because that's Just What MAN does.

The main characters are Nathaniel Klinger, lead field agent and operations manager for the Monster Attack Network, and Lana Barnes, newbie agent who may have a Deep Dark Secret. Zeke (whose last name I don't believe we find out) is Nate's best friend and fellow agent... and black. And gay. (That last detail doesn't come out until late in the book, at which point my love of the tragically heterosexual writing team was locked in stone.) There is, of course, a villain (aside from the monsters) as well. There's inappropriate sex! (Alas, not involving Zeke. Next time, maybe.) There's angst! There's drama! There's giant flying microbats and giant robots! And here and there, we see snippets from the MAN Manual, with cheery little anime-ish figures saying things like, "From time to time, you will need equipment not available at MAN headquarters. Every business' charter includes a clause stating that they must, when presented with due cause by a MAN operative, place any requested equipment/personnel at said operative's disposal. They won't want to do this. But it's the cost of doing business on Lapuatu. Tell them to suck it up." (This is followed immediately by a scene in which Zeke commandeers a van and does indeed tell someone to "suck it up.")

The writing and art are well matched -- mostly -- and both very good. Nima Sorat's artwork is wonderfully expressive, and does a great job of showing character and feeling. Unfortunately, it isn't the best for showing clear action scenes, which is a problem in a book that's almost nonstop action. Most of the time, it works out OK, but there are some scenes, especially when the various creatures are crashing into the built world around them, where all you can do is scratch your head and wonder what exactly just happened. The writing also has this weird moment at the very end, which is wonderfully inspirational, and hits exactly the right emotional note ... and ten seconds after you close the book, you realize that it's absolutely and completely wrong, but in a weirdly right way. Given what we've been told about the characters involved, it simply shouldn't happen; certainly not without a lot of angst and agita, at least some of which we should have seen or heard about. But ... it feels like the right ending, so you kind of don't mind.

I really really really want there to be another one of these. Perhaps a Monster Attack Network annual! Something to look for every summer! (Plus, if there's another one, maybe next time, Zeke can be the one having the terribly inappropriate sex. One can but dream...)

Highly highly recommended. Go. Buy. NOW. You will read and read again. Really."

Viva 'Las Vegas Weekly'

Whose J. Caleb Mozzocco says:

"Nate Klinger is the chief of the Monster Attack Network, a highly trained team of first-responders who specialize in evacuation and rescue in the face of giant monster attacks, which happen more frequently on the island of Lapuatu than in the Toho film company’s catalog.

You’ll notice Monster Attack Network acronyms quite nicely into MAN, and that’s just what Nate is—a manly, all-man, man of a man. Built like a barrel-chested Bruce Timm superhero design, this two-fisted man of action may be the star of co-writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman’s debut graphic novel, but the book itself isn’t about manliness as much as monsterliness.

The creators, and the characters, love their giant monsters, and the philosophy of MAN is that monsters are something to adjust to, not hunt down and kill—“No different than California,” Nate says of the monsters. “Their palm trees come with earthquakes and fires.”

Lapuatu’s palm trees come with a Godzilla-like Gygax, a giant slug monster, a giant Rodan-like bat, a giant octopus and more, and the arrival of a mysterious woman and a sinister industrialist escalates the MAN vs. monster dynamic into an all-out-war.

It’s a little like a half-dozen Japanese kaiju flicks, with all the boring (i.e. non-monster) scenes cut out, and the rubber monster suits replaced with state-of-the-art special effects. Only better."

More M.A.N. Love

From Bill Sherman at Blogcritics:

"Recently, Starz Action channel played host to a quartet of nineties era Godzilla movies (Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah, Vs. Mechagodzilla, Vs. Space Gorilla, Vs. Destroyah), introduced by Steve Van Zandt in an affected accent. Over six hours of building tromping action. Yeah, I set the recorder for it.

I'm thinking, though, that at least one of the minds behind the new graphic novel Monster Attack Network (AiT/Planet Lar) was sitting at home and marathon-viewing these babies the day they first aired. Clearly, these are people who appreciate the beauties of a big ol' monster foot coming down on some fleeing unfortunates.

Written by Highwaymen team Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman—and drawn with a heavy predilection for the big black brush stroke by new-to-me Nima Sorat—M.A.N. is a comic book tribute to monster rampage movies. Set on the wealthy tropical isle of Lapuatu, the book follows the workings of a group of men and women hired to fend off the island's periodic monster attacks, a fairly regular occurrence that island inhabitants see as part of the price for living in a global economic powerhouse.

Where the monsters come from is never explained, nor does it need to be. It's the Monster Attack Network's job to chase off each attacking creature (rarely, we're told, killing 'em), then rebuild ("And repave. And re-upholster. And re-spackle. And re-wallpaper") each trashed-out area. From the very first monster attack depicted—a flying beastie named Gygax that we only get to see as a shadow and a giant eye peering into an office building—it's clear M.A.N. has found a need and filled it.

The book's two main characters are Nate Klinger, a hypermuscled block of a man who is M.A.N.'s operations manager, and Lana Barnes, a shapely exotic beauty and new M.A.N. hire who, it is obvious to both Nate and us, is hiding a secret or two of her own (for one thing, though her name's plainly Anglo, she quickly has to own up to being Lapuata born).

Klinger is aptly described by another character as built for "standing on top of a wall, pushing herd animals onto Saxon invaders." Though relatively new to the monster attack biz, Lana proves equally capable, hopping on top of an attacking giant slug to ride it out of the city, for instance, without once having her fulsome breasts pop out of her improbable dress. Nate has his odd tingling suspicions about the lady, but obviously these two heroically shaped figures are meant to work together.

The plot of M.A.N., such as it is, revolves on a sudden increase in island monster attacks that naturally proves to be human instigated. Soon as the story's maniacal mastermind is introduced, readers'll immediately suss much of what he's up, and, to Bernardin & Freeman's credit, they don't work overtime to mask this fact. They know what we wanna see—more giant monster attacks, not a lotta talky pages filling us in the villain's motivation.

And giant monster attacks is what we get, right down to the inevitable "mecha" monster assault by the bad guy in a giant robot. "Now that's one [expletive] with too much money," Zeke, the profanely amusing second-in-command observes. In stories like this, plot mechanics are largely secondary to the specifics of fight and flight in the face of monstrous stomping doom.

That noted, our two scripters prove as adept with snappy word balloons as they have in their current Wildstorm Highwaymen series, even if they do stint somewhat when it comes to fleshing out the secondaries. Sorat's stylized gray-scaled art blends both Jack Kirby and Mike Mignola with the somewhat more weighted art of a Paul Pope, though at times it's a little too loose and choppy to get the job down. When the giant slug crashes into a theatre showing a monster flick, for instance, it's not always clear how the sequence is supposed to work, particularly when Sorat cuts to two moviegoers blissfully unaware that the monster attack's taking place.

Still, the large panel of a humongous Harryhausen-esque cephalopod perched atop a skyscraper is as engagingly out-there as any of the giant monster comics Stan Lee & King Kirby used to serve up back in Marvel's pre-superhero days—which is as it should be. Gotta love them four (or is it five?) tentacled giant cephalopods..."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Oh, yeah...the Con

Is going well. I'm not gonna write all that much about it, as I'm writing a piece for EW about my first con as a professional creator, and I don't wanna steal material from myself.

But, we've met some good people, caught up with some great people, and all but sold out of every copy of Monster Attack Network that Larry Young drove down from San Francisco to San Diego.

We just wanted to save him having to repack.

I Barely Believe It Myself

So, when I returned the smashed up Mustang to the Dollar Rent-a-Car people, they asked me, when picking up the replacement if I wanted the insurance. You know, the same $15/day insurance that allows you to wrap their cars around a phone pole with nary a worry in the world. The same insurance I declined the first time.

Of course, I said no. "I haven't been in an accident in 15 years...what are the odds that it'll happen twice in three days?"

It happened twice in three days. Literally, on my way to return the second car.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I'm Not Fabulous

You know how I know this? Because I'm in LA, staying that the alledegly fabulous Mondrian Hotel, home to the Skybar, glamorous pool scene, and Korova Milk Bar-style rooms, and I'm on the verge of "can't stand it."

I got to my hotel last night at about 11:30pm, after ramming my rental car into the ass-end of an Infiniti SUV because I was busy counting the street numbers to find the Mondrian. Which, as it turns out, doesn't have a number. Or a sign saying, you know, "Mondrian here, turn right/left." After exchanging information with the lovely young actor who I rear-ended (I can crack wise with the gay jokes, too, you know), I pulled my now-sad Mustang into the valet—who looked at me like a car-jacker—and checked in.

Given that it was, according to my internal clock, 3:00am, and I'd flown 3,000 miles, I just wanted to crawl into bed and give up. But, sadly, sleeping wasn't on the agenda, seeing as seven floors below, the party at the Skybar was raging. Thump-thump-thump-thump went the music. I actually—in a move cribbed from Andy Capp, I think—put another pillow over my own head to fall asleep.

I sitcom-snuffled myself out.

And, I'm typing all of this while sitting in an uncomfortable chair at a desk with the word "THINK" inscribed on the wall directly in my eyeline.

I fucking hate fabulous.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Off to the Races

Heading out to the West Coast, y'all. I'll be in touch when I can, and I'll see you when I see you.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Will Someone Stop Me...

...from procrastinating? Please? I've gotta write this review of 300 before the end of the day, and I'm finding anything, everything to do instead.

That cursor is just sitting there in a recessed window...taunting me.

My Dad's Hands

My father's an accountant. Which means that, while he was never one for hard labor—its from him I get the credo "Why should I [insert home-repair task here] and fuck it up when I can pay someone to do it right?"—he still worked with his hands. He was a number-cruncher before people used computers to do everything, and all of his work involved a desktop Texas Instruments calculator and a mechanical pencil.

Every tax return, every ledger entry was done the old-fashioned way: with his fingers to the grindstone. And I remember, when I was growing up, looking at his hands as he would help me with my math homework. (I'm now jealous of his having a skill that could be readily employed to help a kid out; my skill set, honed by years of on-the-job journalism training, is blunt at best. I don't know, as Captain Kirk would say, why things work in a sentence. I just know that they do. When my kids come to me with their English homework, I'll be reduced to "This is the way it sounds the rightest. Don't ask questions. Go.")

Anyway, his hands were corded with veins, souvenirs of long hours of penmanship. That feeling you used to get in college, when you had to take a day's worth of notes at lectures? Times a hundred. I used to wonder if my hands would ever look like that. Like they'd earned it.

I was in the backyard over the weekend, inflating a big rubber pool for the knuckleheads, er, my kids. My lovable, knuckleheaded kids. (Of course, I was using an electric pump: see credo, above.) But this thing took forever: big pool, pussy pump. And I had to hold the pump nozzle into the little air nipple thingie for about an hour, during which time I notice that my own hands had developed those same crazy veins.

They say that, in time, we become our parents. It's true. What they don't tell you is that it sneaks up on you.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

PCS on MAN

Those two guys, from just below, the ones who sorta split on Highwaymen #2? Here's their take on Monster Attack Network:

"Brendan: This book is what AiT/PlanetLar does best. With one part stoic lead, one part mysterious beauty, and about a hundred parts super gigantor chaos monsters you get the blockbuster that is Monster Attack Network. The concept is simple; huge monsters arise and destroy the island of Lapuatu, and M.A.N. rebuilds. When this happens once every month or so, it isn’t a problem. When it starts happening damn near everyday… well, that would be spoiling it.

The story doesn’t give us any more than we need to enjoy ourselves. It has all the banter and action one would expect from a story about fighting monsters. The only trip up comes in the art. Nima Sorat has a unique style and vision for the book, and the characters manage to be familiar while remaining original. When we do see the monsters they are as horrific and awesome as they were when you were ten. The problems arise when the style overwhelms the narrative, and when the lack of consistency between pages impedes the transitions. The opening action sequence takes the knowledge that there are monsters for granted, and fails to give us that one big establishing shot. It evens out towards the end, progressively getting better.

Don’t think too much about this one. You’ll love it.

Adan: This is Marc Bernadin and Adam Freeman doing crazy shit again. This time, instead of blowing things up with guns and cars, though, they do it with huge freakin’ monsters! Nate and company at MAN (I just love calling it that) save the island nation of Lapuatu from the rampaging monsters they coexist with. Coexist, you ask. Yes, coexist. These monsters are usually peaceful, but sometimes they throw a tantrum and MAN has to step in to corral them back to safety while saving humans and fixing the damage. They try very hard not to kill the monsters, as they are also the rightful inhabitants of the island.

Bernadin and Freeman write in so many action sequences, it’s unfortunate they didn’t get a better artist. Nima Sorat is good when the story is slow and relaxed: tender moments between colleagues, conversations with bad guys, dudes sitting in front of banks of computer screens. But once the scene calls for action, the inks get all muddied up and I can’t tell what the hell is going on. Maybe MAN 2 will have an artist with a better sense of space and moving forms.

Other than that, though, good stuff. These two guys are really impressing the hell out of me."