Marvel Comics

The Gender Inbalance of Comics

House of Night #1 (cover art by Jenny Frison)

House of Night #1 (cover art by Jenny Frison)

The issue of gender in comics has been getting a lot of attention over the last few months. One of the recurring criticisms is the lack of female creators. The grassroots anthology Womanthology proves that there is an abundance of very talented comic book creators ready and willing to work, and that there is a very enthusiastic audience ready and willing to pay for such material. And yet most comics publishers still have a significant minority of female creators. Or in some cases, none whatsoever.

To get a better understanding, I’ve taken a look at nearly 25 comic book publishers and the products they are planning to release this November.

The only publishers that have an even split or majority of female credits are manga publishers Viz Media, Yen Press, Go Manga/Seven Seas, and Digital Manga Publishing. Publishers with a more literary or alternative focus, such as Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly, have 1/3 female creators. Of the major comic book publishers, proportionally Dark Horse probably has the best female representation, but still a minority. Despite criticism leveled against DC Comics for the lack of women creators in their New 52 marketing blitz, they are not the worst of the larger publishers. Archie Comics surprisingly has only one female writer.

Jenny Frison appears to be the busiest with 7 credits, mostly for cover art, such as the image here.

What does all of this prove? Manga captured a greater female readership for a reason. It’s a lesson that the rest of comics could stand to learn, just as it was learned by the producers of the sitcom Community. Despite all of the numbers, it’s not a quota. Hitting an exact 50% or more really isn’t the goal or the point. The idea is that if you want to speak to a demographic, you hire that demographic. And it works.

This doesn’t mean that men can’t produce work that appeals to women or that they shouldn’t be hired. There are plenty of examples and reasons why that doesn’t hold water. There are enough comics (and jobs) for everyone, especially if more people are reading comics because of the increased diversity.

And of course the other lesson is that real diversity and experimentation often happens first outside of structured publishers. That’s why there are so many fantastic female creators making web-comics with varying levels of financial success. The establishment will eventually catch up.

For a great look at how the industry got to this disparity, see this excellent Comics Alliance article. And for some great solutions, read Shaenon K. Garrity’s column at Comixology.

Click through if you want all of the nitty-gritty numbers. Corrections welcome. (more…)

Marvel Comics and the Elusive Minority Demographic

Miles Morales is Spider-Man

Miles Morales is Spider-Man (art by Sara Pichelli)

While DC Comics is working through a gender controversy, Marvel Comics has taken a step forward in representing racial minorities in their super-hero comic books. On Tuesday it was announced in USA Today that Spider-Man would now be a half-black, half-Hispanic teen named Miles Morales (right).

The story is not being told in Marvel’s flagship Amazing Spider-Man (where Peter Parker is still swinging through New York City, white as ever), but instead in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, which starts with a new issue #1 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli (yes DC, a woman!) in September. The Ultimate Comics imprint is set in a younger alternate universe, apart from the bulk of Marvel’s comics. Since the licensability of Marvel’s big characters, which date back to the 1960s and ’70s (and some to 1939), is dutifully protected in Marvel’s main line of comics, the Ultimate Universe allows creators just a bit more leeway. This is easily the best example of that leeway, and could be a refreshing signal of things to come for that imprint.

The first appearance of Miles Morales as Spider-Man is in the just-released Ultimate Comics Fallout #4, which itself spun out of the recent “Death of Spider-Man” story.

Bendis told USA Today, “Even though there’s some amazing African-American and minority characters bouncing around in all the superhero universes, it’s still crazy lopsided.”

He’s right, but this helps. Of course there have been plenty of foolish reactions, from anonymous internet posters trying not to sound too racist to Glenn Beck‘s weird conspiracy theory. Fortunately, cooler heads prevail, and have been celebrating what was unthinkable even five years ago. Why unthinkable? Because comic books with black leads have historically been a tough sell. The Black Panther, comics’ first headlining black hero, has had intermittent series since his debut in 1966. Todd McFarlane’s Spawn is the only comic book series to star a black or African-American in the starring role to last so long (although Al Simmons was replaced with the white Jim Downing last year). Heidi MacDonald at The Beat explores this issue and more in this well-written piece.

Comic-Con Wrap-Up: Digital

Foxtrot by Bill Amend notes the limitations of the iPad (originally published 3/21/2010)

Digital comics are gaining momentum as more people enjoy the convenience of downloading comics onto their tablet device and/or phone, and/or read them on their browser while they’re already at their computer. July has already seen a lot of announcements and Comic-Con, as expected, had a ton more. Here are the highlights:

  • Digital comics sales have doubled for the first six months of 2011, according to industry white papers presented by ICv2 Publisher and CEO Milton Griepp. Digital sales were estimated at less than one million in 2009, somewhere between $6 and $8 million in 2010, and will likely double that amount by the end of 2011. Despite fears of losing print readers to digital, the report states there’s little evidence to suggest a significant level of overlap between buyers in the two markets. Much of the growth is led by the strength of the iPad, with a lot of potential still expected from the Android and e-readers like the Kindle and Nook. Digital sales on PSP have mostly collapsed, likely due to a massive hacking incident on the Sony PlayStation network in April that resulted in the service being shut down for nearly a month and the compromise of millions of their users’ personal data. New additions to the PSP Digital Comics Store were discontinued earlier this month, although the program may get relaunched when Sony releases the PlayStation Vita, expected toward the end of the year. (ICv2)
  • Marvel Comics will begin transitioning to simultaneous print and digital releases (instead of waiting months to release the digital versions of their print comics) starting with this week’s Amazing Spider-Man #666, which kicks off the “Spider-Island” summer event, and the current X-Men event Schism. The Spider-Man family of titles will be released the same day and date in comic book stores and through web and mobile devices. Uncanny X-Men #1 and Wolverine & the X-Men #1 will follow in October and November. Marvel, the comics industry’s number one publisher, will look for more opportunities as titles hit good jumping-on points. (ICv2)
  • VizManga.com has launched from the largest US publisher of Manga, Viz Media. The site syncs with their iOS and Android apps, so manga bought at one can be read on the others. There is a 40% sale going until July 31 and the first chapter of each manga is available for free. There are currently over 40 series and over 300 volumes available, with more added each week. (Robot 6)
  • A collection of 39 Japanese publishers will launch JManga, a web portal to read manga online and interact with creators and fans, in August. Popular manga like One Piece and Naruto are expected to be part of the line-up, as well as more obscure titles that have never been licensed for US release. The cooperative initiative is intended to reverse shrinking sales that publishers feel are due to importing lag time, piracy, and the closing of Borders. (Anime News Network)
  • Top Shelf entered the digital space by launching over 70 graphic novels on the Comics+ app by iVerse Media. According to this interview with Robot 6, they want to have everything in their library that they can release digitally to be available by the end of the summer. They will also be launching on other digital distributors soon and will have their own apps, one for Top Shelf’s entire line and a Kids Club app for their all-ages material. They also have some books on the Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Google eBookstore. (Top Shelf)
  • Panelfly will be relaunching their app as Panelfly Prime and Panelfly Plus beginning in early August. The two apps will enhance the now-standard comics reader experience with videos, news and social media integration within the comic, an experience they’re pitching as SuperMedia. Their recently released Burn Notice digital comic is a template for what they’re building. (Comic Book Resources)
  • Graphicly is adding bonus features and other enhancements to digital comics. Similar to DVD bonus features, the first batch includes audio commentary tracks by creators and trailers, with more to come. (The Couch)
  • LucasFilm OK’ed the digital release of Star Wars comics, so the Dark Horse Digital Store now has tons of Star Wars comics, with more to be added every week. Dark Horse Comics has been publishing Star Wars comics for 20 years now. Part of the release includes Marvel Comics’ 1977 adaptation of the original movie Stars Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. (Dark Horse)
  • Manga publisher Square Enix is running a special sale on their online reader site. If you “like” their Facebook page or got a special URL at Comic-Con, you can get the first volume of any of their 15 series (including Fullmetal Alchemist) for free. Books are usually priced at $5.99. The deal is good until August 10. (Robot 6)

Web and Digital Comics dominate Harvey Awards nominations

Gutters by Ryan Sohmer, Lar deSouza, et al.

The prestigious Harvey Awards have released their 2011 nominees for excellence in the comics industry. Named after the influential cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, founder of MAD Magazine, the Harvey Awards are the only comics industry award both nominated and selected by comic book creators, those who write, draw, ink, letter, color, design, edit and/or otherwise help create comics.

This year showed an unprecedented number of nominations from web comics and digital comics, with a total of eight different works getting recognized in multiple categories. Most significantly is the showing from Gutters, which is nominated for a startling six nominations, more than any other single creator or comics work whether in print or not. The web comic that satirizes the comics industry appears to have won a significant number of fans within the industry, as it has been nominated for Best New Series, Special Award for Humor in Comics, Best Online Comics Work, Best Writer (Ryan Sohmer), Best Artist (Ed Ryzowski), and Best Colorist (Ed Ryzowski).

The digital comic Box 13, originally released through ComiXology, also had a decent showing, with two nominations: Best Letterer (Scott Brown) and Best Inker (Steve Ellis). Comfort Love and Adam Withers also received two nominations, one for Most Promising New Talent for their web-comic Rainbow in the Dark, and one for Best Anthology for their Uniques Tales.

The remaining Best Online Comics Work category had the following nominations: Guns of Shadow Valley by David Wachter and James Andrew Clark; Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton; La Morté Sisters by Tony Trov, Johnny Zito and Christine Larsen; and PvP by Scott Kurtz, who will be the Master of Ceremonies at the award show at the Baltimore Comic-Con in August.

Last year’s Harvey Awards only saw 3 categories outside of the Best Online Comics Work category nominate digital and/or web comics. The Best Online Comics Work category was added to the Harvey Awards in 2006.

Harvey Awards (1988-present)

On the print side of thing, this year’s Harvey Awards gave five nominations to Darwyn Cooke and his adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit. Writer Joshua Hale Fialkov won four nominations for his work in Echoes with artist Rashan Ekedal and Tumor with artist Noel Tuazon. Tumor is nominated for Best Graphic Album Previously Published; it was originally published digitally on the Kindle in 2009. Artist Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets: New Stories) and Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee each had three nominations, with an additional nomination each for The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death, edited by Todd Hignite, and Langridge for his writing on The Muppet Show comic book series.

IDW Publishing raked in 16 nominations, more than any other publisher. Marvel Comics brought in 13, including 1 from their Icon imprint. DC Comics and Image Comics both obtained 11 nominations each with their respective Vertigo and Top Cow imprints bringing in more than half.

Complete list of Harvey Comics 2011 nominations.

Happy Fourth of July

Happy Independence Day, America! Not bad for 235 years old.

During World War II, there were tons of patriotic superheroes popping up. The first was The Shield but Marvel’s Captain America was the big hit that brought the parade of copy cats and twists on the theme. The first issue of Captain America Comics famously featured Cap slugging Adolf Hitler months before the US officially entered the war. Although there had been plenty of tactical and policy support from the US, a lot of Americans were against getting involved. The American propaganda machine was revving up to win support for active participation, and the use of a real world villain like Adolf Hitler in the still-young superhero comic was unique. Comic books had never taken such an overt political stance on current events. The comic was a huge hit and soon the original hits Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel were following Captain America’s lead. Within months, every superhero ever was a dyed-in-the-wool patriot, even characters who had no reason to fight so passionately on behalf of the United States, like the undersea hero Namor the Sub-Mariner.

Here’s a parade of some of the flag-themed heroes during those times. Happy Fourth!

The Shield (created by Harry Shorten and Irv Norving; first published by MLJ Magazines, January 1940)

Captain America (created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; first published by Timely Comics, March 1941)

The American Crusader (created by Max Plaisted, first published by Standard Comics, August 1941)

The Flag (created by Aaron Wyn (?); first published by Ace Publications, October 1941)

Fighting Yank (created by Richard Hughes and Jon Blummer; first published by Nedor Comics, September 1941)

Miss America (created by Otto Binder and Al Gabriele; first published by Timely Comics, November 1943

(Pics provided by ComicBookDB.com and Comics.org.)

Random Observations of Amazing Fantasy #15 – The Origin of Spider-Man

Amazing Fantasy #15 by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (click to read issue at Marvel.com)

I closely re-read Amazing Fantasy #15 recently, as reprinted in Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. This is the very first appearance of the amazing Spider-Man, as he appeared in the final issue of a weird little anthology previously titled Amazing Adult Fantasy.

Cover dated August 1962, the issue was plotted by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, scripted by Stan Lee, illustrated by Steve Ditko, probably colored by Stan Goldberg, and lettered by Art Simek. The cover was illustrated by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and colored by Stan Goldberg. In this reprint edition, art and color reconstruction was done by Michael Kelleher and Kellustration.

A lot has been written about this issue but I’d like to just post some of the random thoughts that popped into my head as I was reading this. A lot of it silly and trivial but not all of it and I don’t see many people specifically pointing this stuff out too often. If you’ve got a copy of the issue, follow along at home. It’s a fun issue and a great origin story told in a compact 11 pages. They really don’t make ’em like this anymore. You can buy the Marvel Masterworks reprint on Amazon or read the issue online at Marvel.com.

Random Observations:

Cover:

  • How did I ever not notice those big thick white motion lines on the cover?
  • I always thought it was funny that one of the cover blurbs was announcing a special message from the editor. As though this is an exciting sales pitch to people browsing the comic book section of the newsstands. Never mind the stories, this comic has a letter!

Part 1:

  • Page 1: Spider Man, Spider-Man, Spiderman – which is it?! (YES, IT MATTERS!!!) It would actually take a couple of issues of Amazing Spider-Man before they settled on the middle one.
  • Page 2: “Wheatcakes”? That sounds kinda gross. Or maybe just really bland.
  • Page 3: Scientists are just as obnoxious as the high school cool kids crowd, it turns out.
  • Page 3: The radioactive spider-bite caused Peter’s fingertips to turn yellow for a while?
  • Page 3: His tingling spider-sense does not go off here or in this issue at all.
  • Page 4-5: Crusher Hogan enjoys his work. That is the happiest wrestler I’ve ever seen.
  • Page 5: What is Peter using for his first mask? Fishnets maybe?
  • Page 5-6: Nameless TV producer has an awesome hat.
  • Page 6: Did they really have majors in high school in the early ’60s?
  • Page 6: I’m going to pretend that a prototype for his web fluid was being made in the earlier scene of Peter with a teacher in the school science lab. Because him just whipping it up on his own in an afternoon is too much for me. (And yet I’m totally fine accepting that a spider bite causes someone to stick to walls. I’m not saying these observations make any sense.)
  • Page 6: Maybe Peter also minored in home ec so he could make his costume.

Part 2:

  • Page 7: Quiet on the set, Mr. Camera Man! Geez. And get back behind the camera.
  • Page 7: I’m not real clear what Spider-Man’s stunt is here. Webbing a candle that’s sitting on a pendulum?
  • Page 7: Now the TV producer from the previous scene is yelling cut as though he’s the director?! I assume this isn’t the set of The Ed Sullivan Show, as mentioned on the previous page, because this production is a mess. Is there even an actual director on set?
  • Page 8: Yes that’s right. A high-speed express elevator for a TV studio in the 1960s. Totally standard.
  • Page 8: After being rejected by the kids at high school and his scientist “friends,” Peter declares his sole loyalty to his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, the only people he feels has ever cared about him. “I’ll see to it that they’re always happy, but the rest of the world can go hang for all I care!” This after they give him a new microscope he’s wanted, so maybe a tad materialistic of him but they are very loving elsewhere. He’ll soon discover that this kind of petty isolationism comes with a price.
  • Page 8-9: I wonder if the police officer in the TV studio is related to the police officer outside his house days later. Brother maybe?
  • Page 9: Speaking of that cop, nice tact there. “Bad news, son – your uncle has been shot – murdered!” And then proceeds to tell Peter precisely where to go to exact revenge from the burglar. So fired. (No actually, it looks like he whisks himself off to the warehouse for the story’s climax, where he is revealed to be the captain and commanding officer on the scene. Or the brothers are triplets.)
  • This is really an overall note for the whole issue, but Steve Ditko draws the most awesome and unique faces. Every character, no matter how minor, has their own personality. Even the older police officer and security guard, while similar looking, have different eye brows and profiles.
  • Page 10: Spider-Man’s first night time web-slinging! Whee!
  • Page 11: In times of great stress, Peter Parker’s pupils become so pronounced, they can be seen through his mask. Like the glowing fingers, another side effect of the irradiated spider bite that faded away. Naturally.
  • Page 11: Captain Fired is about to order his men to rush the warehouse, where the burglar would have surely gone down in a blaze of glory, taking as many police officers as he could shoot with him. Interesting that Spider-Man probably saved the lives of several police officers, but with the emotional state he’s in he’s probably never realized that.
  • Page 11: “… with great power there must also come — great responsibility!” This phrase eventually becomes the guiding principle of Peter’s life. It’s later credited to Uncle Ben, but he never actually says it in this story. It’s also worth noting the dash, and the “must also”, both usually left out when quoted today.

Announcement from the Editor:

  • Page 12: The story has always been that Spider-Man appeared in this issue because they knew it was the final issue of Amazing Fantasy, so there wasn’t much risk to try out a new character. But this editorial letter to the readers makes it clear that when this issue went to press, they thought there would be more issues of the series. The new editorial policy, which includes a change of format and a slight title change from Amazing Adult Fantasy, is laid out. And “Spiderman” will appear every month. Stan Lee has told the story that he tells in his introduction to Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 tons of times. He’s also admitted to having a terrible memory and re-telling stories that sound good but may not even be true. Turns out this is one of them.
  • Page 12: It’s also neat that they would have a scorecard of which stories in each issue of Amazing (Adult) Fantasy were most liked. (The comic was an anthology, so multiple stories appeared in each issue.) It’s amazing that they had 300 votes for the favorite story from the previous issue. 300+ fans were involved enough to mail letters and this was a comic on the verge of cancellation. It’s not specified, but the stories are from Amazing Adult Fantasy #12 due to the lag time from mailing and printing.
  • Page 12: If you want to read the scorecard winner, the 3-page story “Something Fantastic” from Amazing Adult Fantasy #12 was included in the 2005 collection Marvel Visionaries: Steve Ditko. [Amazon link]

Have any observations, random or otherwise? Questions about the issue? Post them below!

Interview: Stan Goldberg

Archie Marries... (click to buy from publisher Abrams ComicArts)

Speaking with comics artist Stan Goldberg was an honor, and I’m very grateful for his generosity with his time. I definitely did not expect this to go 45 minutes but he had a lot to share, and it’s worth it to hear him talk about all of this. His love for his work comes across quickly. He really loves what he does. It’s clear that this is a man still enjoying and exploring his craft and the process of storytelling despite already being a master at it.

I was also struck with how unfortunate it is for someone who has lived and breathed the Archie characters for the last 40 years, who has been the artist on their most commercially successful and buzz worthy books (for good reason), now finds himself with some uncertainty. Fortunately he’s still immensely talented. His abilities not only haven’t diminished, but may be stronger than ever. And he remained classy throughout, with not a bad word to say about his former employers. Already plans are in the works for the next phase of his career, and that to me is exciting. With over 60 years in the biz, he still has a lot of creativity to give.

Here’s the audio of our interview:

MP3 Download

Here’s a breakdown of what he talked about:

  • His 40-year career with Archie Comics, characters he clearly loves and respects, and his recent departure from the company.
  • Creating the color designs for Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four (the Thing is colored like “a wrinkled orange”), the Hulk (his pants were meant to be magenta, not purple), and the rest of the Marvel Comics universe, including the villains like Dr. Doom.
  • Being asked by Marvel to draw the Fantastic Four 50 years after coloring the first issue in 1961.
  • His work being reprinted in prestige hard cover books: Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg [Amazon link] and Archie Marries… [Amazon link]
  • Being mentored by Stan Lee the art director in the ’50s
  • Using the Marvel Method for Millie the Model
  • Creating Kathy the Teenage Tornado (reprint this, Marvel!)
  • On the comics industry during the Senate hearings of the 1950s and the industry’s response: “It almost destroyed the whole industry.” He says the Comics Code Authority, the industry’s content watchdog, went overboard: “They made some corrections, but I guess they had to show what they were then getting paid for.” Marvel even lost their distributor for a time, which resulted in Stan having to go freelance.
  • His work on Millie the Model influencing women in fashion design and magazines like Cosmopolitan, McCall’s and others.
  • Collaborating with Michael Uslan on last year’s “Archie Marries…” story starting in Archie #600, which sold 50% better than Marvel & DC comic books at the time. His pure penciled artwork for the covers of those six issues was reprinted in IDW’s recent Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg
  • The story of the surprise debut of Archie Meets Punisher and the plans for a sequel that never came to be.
  • And perhaps most exciting of all… teasing a future project he’s creating with a writer.

Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg (click to buy from publisher IDW)

(Also a cameo by my cat Cleo climbing up the back of my chair if you listen carefully. I should also apologize for the volume disparity between his voice and mine. Fortunately once we get started, it’s mostly him. Ah the joys of technology. I’ll try to work that out for the next interview.)

FF #1 variant cover by Goldberg (50th Anniversary of Fantastic Four #1, Marvel Comics)

Comic Book Improvisation

The Defenders: From the Vault - improvised comic book making (Marvel Comics)

This is something I’d like to explore more. As you might’ve noticed, I do a lot of performing with an improv comedy group called the Magic Meathands. We do shows with no script. We just make it up as we go.

And it turns out, sometimes in creating comic books, creators also have to make it up without a script.

A little back story: Monthly comic books tend to have regular creative teams but sometimes those teams fall behind schedule and the book can’t come out every month. So comics publishers will occasionally hire other creators to produce an inventory story for just in case. It’s basically filler material, but they can be fun stories and it buys the regular creative team more time. It’s a bit of a gamble because sometimes they end up paying for a story that never gets used.

And that’s exactly what happened in 2001. Marvel Comics was publishing a superhero comic called The Defenders. It reunited the Incredible Hulk, the Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange and Namor the Sub-Mariner (right), misfits all who had originally assembled under that name in the early 1970s. This new comic book series was written by Kurt Busiek (Astro City, Avengers/JLA) and Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon, Amazing Spider-Man) and drawn by Larsen and Klaus Janson (Daredevil, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns). Their editor Tom Brevoort (now Senior Vice President of Publishing) hired writer Fabian Nicieza (X-Men, New Warriors) and artist Mark Bagley (Ultimate Spider-Man, New Warriors) to create an inventory story. The two did so, collected their checks, and went on with their lives. It turns out the story was never needed, so the finished art pages were filed away.

Flash forward to today where Marvel is going through old desk drawers and publishing whatever looks ready, and up pops this lost Defenders story. Only problem is it was never scripted, which means the pages have no words on them. And apparently no one saved a copy of Fabian’s original plot outline or script. Well, surely Fabian wouldn’t mind scripting the pages now. He would surely do it except he’s under an exclusive contract with DC Comics. So, Marvel decided to hire another writer to do the scripting.

(Re-)enter: Kurt Busiek. Since the two know each other, Kurt asked Fabian for his original files to help in scripting. Bad news: Fabian lost everything in a computer crash years ago and has no idea what the story was originally about. Kurt also checked with Mark to see if he could remember anything. No such luck.

So Kurt is left with 22 pages of characters silently running around, talking, fighting, flying, leaping, punching, surfing, magicking, swimming, and who knows what else with no idea of why.

What to do? What else? Improvise.

From Kurt’s website:

So I look over the art, and Mark Bagley did indeed do a very nice job. And he’s a good enough storyteller that I can piece together an outline of what the story must be, at least in the basics. But the bits where explanations happen, where the texture and detail go that make it more than just a simple structure?

Haven’t a clue.

So I have to come up with a story to fit the art. A new story. One that might bear some resemblance to what Fabian intended, at least at the big structural moments, but other than that, it’s wide open.

And as I keep looking through the art, I get an idea. A pretty demented idea, really, based on one cryptic panel late in the book (You’ll know it when you see it. The script for that panel is “HTNN–!”). But it’s an idea that, demented as it is, won’t go away. And actually, I’m thinking, it could be kinda fun…

I tell Fabian the idea, mostly as a joke. But he laughs, and says that it sounds like a hoot, and it might even be better than whatever his original story was.

Like with live improv theater, Kurt has to accept what has been presented to him by his “scene partner” Mark Bagley. He has to say “Yes, everything here is happening, and…”. Nothing can be ignored, dropped or explained away. Then he has to build up from there, filling out the world Mark has drawn, adding details like location, plot revelations, opinions and reactions from the characters, and more. And as he goes through the pages, he’ll find a rhythm with Mark’s artwork where his new plot will seem to set up what happens in the art and vice versa. Of course, what makes it even more tricky is that Kurt is working with a very stubborn scene partner. Mark’s art is already set in stone. It’s like a stubborn scene partner determined to get their idea and agenda on the stage regardless of what else is going on. And the only thing Kurt can do is to stay open, “listen” for the smallest clue, take everything as a gift, embrace each visual idea with gusto and see where that takes him. If Kurt stays open, all of the pieces should come together to create something brand new that would never have existed in any other situation.

I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes out. The Defenders: From the Marvel Vault #1 will be released by Marvel Comics this summer, July 13.

DEFENDERS: FROM THE MARVEL VAULT #1

Written by FABIAN NICIEZA & KURT BUSIEK
Pencils & Cover by MARK BAGLEY

A Marvel Masterpiece from deep inside the treasure vaults can now be told! The original team of Doctor Strange, The Hulk, Silver Surfer and Namor are together again for a hidden adventure! But why was this tale lost? What happens in other dimensions stays in other dimensions, so what unspeakable secrets of the The Defenders are to be revealed? Find out at last in these pages with the illustrious words of Kurt Busiek (THE DEFENDERS, MARVELS) and the incomparable artwork of artist Mark Bagley (ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN)!

32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99

(Via Robot 6)

Looking at the Eisners: Nominees for Best Short Story

The 2011 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards released their nominees for excellence in comic books for the previous year last Friday. A panel of 6 judges made up of professionals throughout the industry selected the nominees. People throughout the industry will now begin voting on the nominees. Winners will be announced at the award show put on at this summer’s huge Comic-Con International convention in San Diego. The Eisners are basically the comic book equivalent of the film industry’s Academy Awards, TV’s Emmy Awards, music’s Grammy Awards, and theater’s Tony Awards, so it deserves a closer look.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be breaking down the nominees in each category, providing context and background info, and I’ll also give you a link to Amazon and other sites so you can buy your own copy, if possible. I can’t read everything, so lots of this stuff passed by me or is on my way-too-high to-read pile, so I’m going to avoid saying what “should” win. (I’m also pretty bad at predicting award show winners, so I’m not going to bother embarrassing myself.) Please feel free to post your predictions, preferences, opinions, or questions.

Today we’re taking a look at the nominees for the Best Short Story category, kind of the equivalent of the Oscar for Best Short Film.

Best Short Story

Take a closer look with the click through: (more…)

Honoring Comic Book Creators #whiletheylive

Tom Brevoort removes his hat to pay tribute

Following the sudden death of writer Dwayne McDuffie last month, Marvel Comics Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort has begun a touching weekly ritual on Twitter. Every Wednesday afternoon, he selects a member of the comics creative community to honor while they are still alive to enjoy the praise. Using the hashtag #whiletheylive, Brevoort encourages everyone on Twitter to join in the tribute by sharing personal memories of the creator and their work.

“The idea, quite simply, is rather than waiting for a member of our community to keel over before we say nice things, we instead do it while they’re still alive, and can appreciate the outpouring of love,” Brevoort tweeted last month to kick off the first #whiletheylive Wednesday.

That first week focused on artist Gene Colan, who worked on Iron Man, Captain America and other classic Marvel comics of the 1960s. Colan has had health problems but continues to work to this day. Yesterday’s #whiletheylive recipient was writer/editor Jim Shooter, who was editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics from 1978 to 1987, and later editor-in-chief and creative architect of the fondly remembered (and recently resurrected) Valiant Comics. Others are artist Neal Adams (known for visually stunning runs on comics such as DC ComicsBatman in the 1970s), John Byrne (writer/artist known for historic runs on The Uncanny X-Men, The Man of Steel and others), writer/editor Denny O’Neil (known for his trendsetting work on Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow and other DC Comics), and artist Russ Heath (known for the Playboy comic strip Little Annie Fanny and countless war comics for DC Comics in the 1950s).

You don’t often see an outpouring of support and community like this in other industries, especially when there isn’t some kind of marketing push or uncontrollable event (like a death) behind it. All too often we take for granted the treasures that are still with us, and it’s about time we let them know how much they mean to us. It’s a wonderful gesture that I hope Brevoort and others continue. I also think it’s a wonderful ongoing tribute to Dwayne McDuffie, who didn’t get nearly enough credit and praise for his contributions to the industry while he was alive.