Friday, June 29, 2007

July 18th

Promises to be a hell of a day. I've got two comics out on the same day. The Highwaymen #2, and we'll see if the great reviews for No. 1 will translate to sales, and Monster Attack Network, the original graphic novel from AiT/PlanetLar. If you liked the high-octane pitter-patter of Highwaymen, you're perfectly primed for MAN.

And then, a week later, we're in San Diego, signing both books like madmen taking out mortgages.

Crazy times, man. Ka-razy.

The Voodoo Child

There ought to be a Jimi Hendrix movie. Really. There's just no excuse. Yes, I know all about the music clearance problems, and the headache with the Hendrix estate, with the squabbling family members who can't get on the same page. But they should just get over themselves and work it out.

Movies are about a great many things, but when we look back on them, what we remember are the moments. The pearls along the string of story that beg not to be forgotten. The moments are the memory anchors, the things we hold on to that remind us how good a film was. The trench run in Star Wars. The fingernails on the blackboard in Jaws. The jewelry case snapping in Pretty Woman. The spontaneous invention of "What'd I Say" in Ray. The cropduster attack in North by Northwest. The "whistle" in Road Warrior. The food fight in Animal House.

And, by God, the Jimi Hendrix story is overflowing with those moments. Playing rhythm guitar for Little Richard, Sam Cooke, and other Chitlin Circuit acts. Impressing Keith Richards' girlfriend, who introduced him to Chas Chandler. Meeting Eric Clapton in London. Covering "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" days after it was released—live, with Paul McCartney and George Harrison in attendence. Blowing the doors off of the Monterey Pop festival and lighting the guitar on fire. Opening for The Monkees. The studio albums. "All Along the Watchtower." Drugs...lots and lots of drugs. The breakup of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Woodstock and "The Star Spangled Banner," the greatest protest performance ever. Legal woes. An apocryphal kidnapping. The ladies. The overdose.

Is that a fucking movie, or what? A blaze of glory, famous faces, genius derailed, and the best popular music ever made.

Jesus Christ...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Variety...the Spice of Reviews

From Tom McLean at Variety...

The Highwaymen #1 (Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman, writers; Lee Garbett, artist; Wildstorm; 32 pages; color, $2.99) is a satisfying chunk of action fiction. Story set in the future sees a “I’m-too-old-for-this-shit” cop-like agents called back to duty by a message from a past president to find a long-lost “package” and deliver it to the Centers for Disease Control. Of course, the package is a person, who’s most likely in Mexico. The plot at this point is less important than the action. The centerpiece of this issue is a chase involving a bus that manages the trick of being well-staged and very cool without pushing the boundaries of believability too much (aside, that is, from the idea that there are buses in Scottsdale, Ariz.) Serious and tough, this is a cool book. Grade: B+

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Signing

Went better than I could've expected, given that I expected that I'd be sitting there, next to a bevy of cooler-than-thou indie cartoonists, watching people blithely pass by my little pile of Highwaymens.

But the indie dudes could not have been nicer. Nick Bertozzi, who seemed to be the big draw, was signing copies of his Houdini book as well as The Salon. He also contributed to Syncopated #3, the book he did with the other signers (signees? signors?), who were also swell. So swell, they invited me to play a game of Pictionary as the signing was winding down.

(Hint: If you're a writer, don't play Pictionary with people who draw for a living. You will always lose.)

Turns out, Nick is a good friend of an old coworker of mine, and we hit it off like dudes who are friends with the same guy and, as such, have been tacitly vouched for.

But a good handful of EW coworkers came out to show their love, as well as an ex-coworker (hi, Nancy!), and my l'il brother, Eric—who bought three copies all by his lonesome. Because he's cool like that. Went out for beer and deep-fried food afterwards and read my own comic on the train-ride home.

There were 16 copies of The Highwaymen in front of me when I sat down and, over the course of the two hours, they had to replenish me. Which I'd like to think is a good sign.

Now We're Just Getting Ridiculous

This, from Brian K-Fucking Vaughan, who calls Highwaymen #1 one of his top picks:

"This new Wildstorm mature readers miniseries from Entertainment Weekly's Marc Bernardin is a perfect example of one of my favorite action sub-genres, Badass Old Geezers With Huge Guns."

Again, that's Brian (Y: The Last Man/Ex Machina/Doctor Strange/The Escapists/Pride of Baghdad) Vaughan.

I Just Had a Fangasm

It's the name of a site, silly...and they dig on the Highwaymen, too:

"The Highwaymen" No. 1 (DC/Wildstorm): Remember the Highwaymen, that country group from the ‘80s made up of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson? This has nothing to do with them. But the stars are an old bunch and they make their own sweet music ... of the explosive variety. One of the best new titles this year, "The Highwaymen" might as well be Warren Ellis reimagining "Lethal Weapon," as two 60-something former special operatives - a black Mississippi native and a white British MI-5 agent - reunite in a future time (we know it’s the future because there’s mention of the year 2021, the president is an Asian woman and the shoutout "Holla at yer boy!" is antiquated). A theft leads to the delivery of a message from a dead president to his pair of Highwaymen - guys who saved media moguls' daughters from cults and took out terrorist cells with an anthrax attack back in the day - and kicks off a race to find a mystery girl in Mexico. The Highwaymen are out to resolve the mistake made by their former boss, but the current government would like to use this result of a secret program for their own nefarious goals. If the action doesn’t hook you, the Murtaugh-Riggs witty banter will keep you salivating for the second issue.

Can I just say...

The fact that Highwaymen is being compared to Planetary, 100 Bullets, and Human Target (let alone 24, Mission Impossible, and the late-and-lamented Drive) is kinda freaking me out.

Ah-ha! Review Revenge!

Another good 'un, from Justin Eger at Silver Bullet Comics:

"The first issue of a series should do one thing and one thing alone: make you want to read the next issue. I don’t care what else goes on, I don’t care who is involved and what they’re doing or why, if you can’t get me to pick up the next issue, you’ve completely failed. I don’t care if you’ve got the coolest plot on earth, you still need to get me involved before the end of 22 pages or you can go to hell.

If that was all Highwaymen did, hell, it’d be worth the read. However, the book exceeds where most new books tend to fail and makes sure that you not only want to read the second issue, you enjoy the entire ride through the first one, enough that you’ll both remember the plot by the time issue two comes out, but also enough that, even if you didn’t, you’d read it again just for that rush that comes with a new find.

And speaking of rushes, people, get on board the bus now, because brother, it ain’t slowing down to let your sorry ass decide. And that’s both a reference to the quality and the story… how often do you get that? It’s a book that makes you think fast and doesn’t care if you can’t keep up. People, it’s a book about fast-talking, fast-thinking, fast-acting couriers with a job to do. If it’s not fast, then it’s nothing.

When the book was solicited as a pair of old-school couriers getting back in the game, I could see the potential. Mix the ill-fated Drive with some Jack Bauer action and you’ve got an idea that can kick some serious butt. However, in this day and age, the book could have become a victim just as easily. Thankfully, writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freemen didn’t just have a good idea, they had a lot of good ideas, and that makes the book work from the first page on out. Toss in some cool stunts and plenty of really funny talking, not just witty banter, and you’ve got some cool stuff.

And, hey, it’s got Bill Clinton in it. Sure, he’s dead in the book, but it gives you the impression that Slick Willy could have been a much cooler president that we ever thought possible. That alone is interesting enough to carry a book, but the fact that it’s only a minor part of the plot makes you realize just how much detail that the writers put into this before it ever even saw print. Good stuff.

Adding to the mix is artist Lee Garbett, who paces out the story provided by the writers in a kinetic and ultimately appealing way. Lots of driving, lots of shooting, some Mission: Impossible style opening sequences and a couple particularly brutal executions on the parts of parties both good and bad move with a pace that makes you feel like you’re right there in the thick of the action. It feels like you’re watching a good television show or movie, hence my earlier references to Drive and 24.

Maybe that’s something important here, too: The ‘feel’ of the book. Rarely does something click on all levels, but it does happen. When it does, there’s a feel to it. 100 Bullets felt that way, and so did Human Target, two other books that play with the idea of covert operations mixed with furious action and gunplay. The only difference here is that, really, main characters McQueen and Monroe aren’t as morally ambiguous as those other characters. They’re in this for the right reasons, and that’s something they’ve both missed in retirement: doing something just because it’s the right thing to do. That’s a refreshing take that even a few superhero books could do with a dash of.

The fact that they’ll be in a Mustang next issue just adds icing to the cake.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

It was Bound To Happen...

The first bad review for Highwaymen #1, from Comic Book Galaxy:

The Highwaymen #1 -- Perhaps sensing what a creative loss it is for the excellent series Planetary to be mostly over (writer Warren Ellis says the final issue is written, but it's allegedly a PS to the already-concluded main story), Wildstorm inflicts this shoddy effort upon the world.

Conspiracies abound and a droll old guy in a white suit leads an effort to uncover the hidden BS that will be far less interesting than anything Ellis cooks up for the final issue of his far superior series. Highwayman guy in white suit, I knew Elijah Snow; you, sir, are no Elijah Snow.

An image here or there echoes Frank Quitely -- the lumpy visage of President Bill Clinton looks swiped straight from Quitely's first issue of The Authority, but for the most part the art here is rubbery and unimpressive and as dull as the story. Check out the fourth page from the end's final panel for the most blatant Planetary nod.

I found nothing to like about this first issue at all, from the generic cover art to the painfully forced "banter" between Elijah -- I mean, the white-suited Highwayman, and his reluctant partner. It all takes place in the future, at the request of long-dead President Bubba via video file, and it all has been done far better before. Save yourself the three bucks and re-read any random issue of Planetary, or even Planet Terry. You'll thank me.


I'm posting this because, despite my strongest protestations, I have something of a journalistic integrity. The strangest thing? That didn't hurt nearly as bad as I thought it would. Because I am from particularly hardy stock.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Review #3

A rather longish rundown from A Comic A Day. Here are some snippets:

Just as the first ten minutes of a film make or break an audience's attention, the opening sequence of this inaugural issue, which I read in the comics shop, sold this issue for me....
Yes. I will pick up the next chapter, and since the WildStorm website identifies this issue as one of five, if it maintains this outing's level of intrigue I'll undoubtedly remain aboard until the very end. The parallels with Ex Machina are striking to me, since my regret fueled this purchase in the first place; just as Vaughn's series is about a former hero that ventures into politics, The Highwaymen is about a pair of retired transporters in the year 2021 that reluctantly reunite to complete one more mission for President Clinton, whose pre-taped video is a call from beyond the grave to find a woman, presumably a "defcon dangerous" test subject from a defunct government project. The sending of this message was triggered by the special agent's theft at the beginning of this issue, and just as her bosses killed her for the security oversight, they seem equally dead set on defeating this book's namesake before they dig too deep. Everyone is still fairly ambiguous in their identity and significance, but the combination of Die Hard-like action and The Manchurian Candidate political conspiracy are enough to pull me in.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Review #2

From Comic Book Resources where we are, apparently, #1 on the Buy Pile.


Highwaymen #1 (Wildstorm/DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
From the very first page, the best adjective for this comic book is "gripping." Like the first issue of the lauded Warren Ellis mini "Red," plans within plans trigger plans within plans, and the old guard left machinery in place -- in the form of people, here -- to make sure that old business stayed historical. The lead characters -- I. McQueen (solicit copy calls him "Alistair," but if it ain't in the comic ... oh, and he dresses like he's the Third Man from "Planetary") and Able Monroe (nicknamed "Speed" in the solicits ... don't just trust, check it out yourself) -- work together with the kind of practiced ease and sniping amiability that can only come from years of experience, and the characterization on the two of them is top notch given the close quarters available for it. Their opposite number -- Jacob Sterne, the deputy director for the US Department of Clandestine Services "a few years after tomorrow" (nicely put) -- is more of a stock type from Central Casting, a straightlaced and brutal bureaucrat who you could see meeting Norman Osborn for lunch. The entire package, however, is thrilling and well worth checking out, with clear and solid visual depictions and storytelling from Lee Garbett with Johnny Rench's flawless coloring helping things stand out even more. A fantastic debut which has many interesting possibilities.


Wanna hear me mumble and stumble my way through a Highwaymen interview? Then make with the clickety-clickety over to

Our First Honest-to-God Review

From Comic Pants:

Randy Lander Read and Thought:

Highwaymen #1 of 5
Writers: Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman
Artist: Lee Garbett
Company: DC/Wildstorm

I have a fondness for buddy movies and action movies, and it’s clear from reading Highwaymen #1 that Bernardin and Freeman do as well. Highwaymen has it all, from the old pros pulled in for “one last job” to shadowy government bad guys to a stunning action chase wherein our heroes deal a smart, satisfying beatdown to better equipped, better informed pursuers. The flavor of the writing is a mixture of solid action tropes like you’d expect from Chuck Dixon, but with a touch of wit and character you’d see in a Warren Ellis comic. The story is full of great banter, nice touches of sci-fi futurism and a couple of clever/funny references to modern-day politics, but the biggest draw is definitely the action. An opening heist scene sets the stage, the car chase between the reunited protagonists on a city bus is brilliant, and Lee Garbett carries it all off nicely, with an art style reminiscent of J. Scott Campbell and Frank Quitely.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Comic out today. Can't get sphincter to stop clenching.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


And out of the shit. The siege is over, and I'm on vacation. As well-earned a vacation as a fella working in publishing--and not sword-fishing, or bounty hunting, or oil-fire-putting-outing--can get.

Oh, and The Highwaymen #1 is out tomorrow. And I'll be signing at Jim Hanley's Universe in Manhattan to celebrate. (And, by "celebrate" I mean sitting behind a desk watching the people pass by while I lamely hold out copies, begging them to buy.)

Back later with more, but just sending up the A-OK flare now.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

'Great' Ideas: Addendum

A Thundercats live-action movie will probably suck--or look like Cats: The Musical but with more swords and less singing--but at least I kind of liked the cartoon.

Still, far less than inspired. Unless we're talking inspired lunacy. In that case, totally touched in the bloody head.

Me and the Not Being Here

Things have been absolutely, positively fucknuts at work for the past week, and will be for the next week. I'm writing the cover story for the issue on stands next Friday (The 25 Greatest Action Movies of All Time) and co-editing the massive 65-page cover package for the following issue. And then I've got a week off to put my brain back together.

I'm not sure what day it is. I don't seem to be in the office, so that must mean that it's either a weekend, or that embolism has finally erupted.

I'll peek in when I can, but feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A coupla more 'Highwaymen' hits

Look, ma! More interviews!

Here's one on

And another on Broken Frontier.

Oh, and if you're in the NYC metropolitan area on June 20th, come on down to Jim Hanley's Universe (on 33rd Street, right across from the Empire State Building), where I'll be signing copies of The Highwaymen #1...and whatever body parts get put in front of me.

Yes, even those. Because I will do anything to hawk my wares, including sign yours.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Quite nervous, in fact. In 17 days, the first issue of the Highwaymen will hit stands. And readers. And, despite the many assurances to the contrary—to a person, everyone who's read it thus far really likes it—I'm still sort of petrified.

And it's not the idea of strangers reading my work. I've written hundreds of pieces for Entertainment Weekly, feature stories, reviews, essays, you name it. And our circulation is something like 3.6 million eyeballs per issue. So I've put myself out there before.

But this is different. This is the first time that a story I've told is being released into the Wild. This is unzipping my fly and allowing myself to be judged. And its not a little unsettling. And drafty.