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A View From The Cheap Seats:
Old Home Week: Creator Updates By Rich Watson
Here's something I've wanted to do for awhile now. Over the two and a half years I've been doing this column, I've written about a number of different creators, both known and unknown. This week I thought I'd check in with some of them and find out what they've been up to lately. For you newcomers, this'll give you some idea of the kinds of people I like to write about.
Multiple Eisner Award-nominated writer Jim Ottaviani is halfway done with his next science-related graphic novel - and at over 300 pages, his biggest - Suspended in Language, a biography of quantum physician Niels Bohr. Leland Purvis is the main artist, in addition to contributions from The Interman's Jeff Parker, Steve Leialoha, Linda Medley, Roger Langridge, and Jay Hosler. It'll be in black & white and color (the color part will be a mini-comic included with the book), and will be told with both traditional comics storytelling and Larry Gonick-like illustrated captions.
"Bohr is the father of quantum physics," said Ottaviani in describing the book. "[He] hobnobbed with kings, prime ministers, and presidents, founded the institute where the World Wide Web was born, etc. You know, the usual stuff. In short, he was one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century. Einstein looked up to him, the Nazis tried to capture him, and Winston Churchill considered him a very dangerous man. With the attention Bohr has received as a result of the Tony Award-winning play (and later PBS/BBC production) of Copenhagen, the time is ripe for a dramatic presentation of Bohr's remarkable life. Danger, intrigue, and (as I alluded to) the secret origin of the World Wide Web await!"
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Raven's Children creator Layla Lawlor has relaunched, under her own name, her website, which combines both Raven-related stuff and material from her online strip Kismet, part of the all-female online comics site girlamatic.com. According to her press release, the Kismet section includes a gallery page and a new story taken from a mini-comic she created while travelling back to her native Alaska recently. Meanwhile, Raven has been getting a bit more positive press, from the likes of Savant and Wizard Edge. The first trade paperback, Shadow of the Snow Fox, is still available, so see for yourself what all the talk's about.
Tellos artist Thor Badendyck has updated his website, including a bio page and samples of new stories. "I always have stories of my own waiting in the wings. One (a thriller) is actually previewed on my site. Another is a graphic novel/mini-series that I was a few months away from publishing at the time of my accident. I could publish the first couple of issues any time but, having no idea how long it would take to do the rest, working in the style I established for it, I thought it'd be best to wait. So, that's what I'll be working on this fall and winter, although I'll also be looking for a self-contained free lance project (where someone else can do all the writing and the publishing! Phew)." The quadriplegic cartoonist said that physical therapy has continued to take up a lot of his time as well, though he did get to go see X2 and Hulk.
Tales From the Bog creator Marcus Lusk has put up the first new Bog short story at his website, a Cosmo and Harold story. More stories will follow, and back issues will be available to purchase there as well.
Day Prize winner Tom Williams has updated his site with preview pages for his latest Gustav Phillips story in the next Crash Comics, which he promises will be a great jumping-on point for new readers. In addition, he has a supplementary site, DrawRobot, which currently has a gallery of his artwork, with more to follow.
Soap Lady creator Renee French has continued into the realm of children's books with Tinka, done under the pen name Rainy Dohaney. "It's about a cupcake sized sheep who in the end, discovers that it's okay to be different. An old story, but one I always like. Tinka is much lighter than The Soap Lady and for younger kids (and adults who enjoy picture books of course), where The Soap Lady was for kids from 7-10-ish. There are some similarities in the soft rolling hill surroundings and in the fact that the main character is an outcast, though Tinka has a happier, bedtime reading ending. So far the reaction to the book has been really positive, especially from the kids." The Rainy Dohaney site also previews images from a forthcoming book called Woolyman.
Meanwhile, her next graphic novel, The Ticking, is proceeding nicely. "Jordan Crane is going to be designing the book and I'm really into the story right now. The book is all pencilled and I'm in the process of making the finished drawings… It doesn't have an exact release date yet, as I've not finished the book yet."
As previously mentioned, Amy Unbounded creator Rachel Hartman had her first child, a boy, last month. According to her recap of the event on the Sequential Tart message boards, she forewent any painkillers, relying instead on controlled breathing and the lyrics of Frank Zappa. "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes" was apparently a particular favorite. Make of this what you will.
And last, but by no means least, Golden Age cartoonist Hilda Terry just celebrated her 89th birthday last month. She is continuing to gather historical records for what she calls her "Cemetery in Cyberspace," a central archive to preserve the works of creative people from all walks of life. In addition, she has been setting up sites for the New York City historical houses of her 8 Henderson Place Foundation and has begun preparing a retrospective exhibition of her late husband Greg D'Alessio's work, which would include CDs and videos of his traveling show of anti-Axis cartoon illustrations, done during World War II. The target date for this is September 2004.
Plus, there's one thing she wanted to clear up from the original article I wrote about her, in regard to her early days as an artist. "I sketched the wrestlers and others in action… by getting in early. I liked the wrestlers because they held their poses a little longer - their action poses. [That's] how I got so good at drawing action. Had a front row seat sometimes, but that's the closest I ever got to any of them. None of them ever posed for me. Only a few even noticed me. I think that merits a postscript correction, because drawing from life - [I]action[/I] - is the best advice I could give a budding artist. I did that from the beginning when I played with my brother and his friends. Being a year and a half older, bigger and faster than any of them, they let me play, which is also important to get the [I]feel[/I] of action."
BACK FROM THE CON:
Items from the San Diego Con of interest to me, and perhaps, to you as well:
...CrossGen DVDs. When I first heard the description for these things, I immediately thought of those old Marvel animated shows that did very little animating. (But they had the coolest theme songs, though.) Then I saw the Sojourn trailer at CG's website, which is apparently an indicator for how the DVDs will look, and the difference, to say the least, is lightyears apart. I hope to get a chance to see these when they come out, but honestly, I'm still uncertain how well they can compete with DragonBall Z and Spongebob Squarepants and all the other cartoons. Still, it is something unique, a new way to attract interest in comics, which is what we've come to expect by now from CrossGen.
On the official CG message boards, Jim Stikeleather, CG's chief technical officer, went into further detail about the long-term goals of the DVDs in relation to the paper comics. "There are three costs to creating a comic book - general business overhead, creative (writers, pencillers, colorists, lettering), and direct physical costs (printing, paper, distribution, shipping, etc.). If you can get the same material in another form which reaches a different market, then you can amortize the first two sets of costs against more units. If we sell 10,000 DVDs of Meridian in a month, then we cut those first two costs when applied to the comic book. So the electronic forms 'help' the printed forms by reducing their costs." He added that CG's decision to pursue DVDs was fueled by the fact that entertainment and technology companies either couldn't or wouldn't do anything similar. CG hopes to have tech businesses eventually build off of their prototypes in cooperation with them. I have read that CG hopes to also use the DVDs as literacy education tools, and if I were them, I'd play that aspect up a lot.
...Newsarama has a nice wrap-up of the CG news from San Diego, including news on the new book Abadazad, written by Broken Frontier's Mike Bullock.
...Paul Gulacy replacing Cameron Stewart on Catwoman. Hard to interpret this as anything other than a Hail Mary attempt to bring in readers, although Ed Brubaker did state on the Catwoman forum at the official DC message boards that Stewart chose to leave. A lot of the online fans simply did not take to the "animated" styles of Messrs. Cooke, Rader, Pulido and Stewart, which I cannot understand. Why is it acceptable when Bruce Timm draws Batman that way but not here? Gulacy is a solid veteran artist; I've nothing against him, but man, I hope the stories aren't affected much.
...Oni graphic novel-a-rama. As Jamie Rich told me at MOCCA last month, Oni's got lots and lots planned, and it's good to see. I recently bought the trade to Skinwalker and was quite impressed with the writing of Nunzio DeFillipis and Christina Weir, so I made sure to get their latest effort, Maria's Wedding. It's a delightful little character study about family; well worth picking up. It's great to know that there's more to come from the duo, as well as from writers like Antony Johnston, who's proving his versatility.
...Musicians Courtney Love and Rob Zombie making comics! The Pulse article was unclear about what exactly Mrs. Kurt Cobain will be doing for this new manga book of hers - full-script writing, plots, or merely character outlines and story ideas? As for Zombie, we were debating at the CrossGen forum at CBR whether or not his horror anthology skirted too closely to mature readers - and whether this had an effect on CG's image as a family-friendly company. My argument is that since the Zombie book is part of the CGE division (specifically MV Creations), it's considered an autonomous branch that isn't as strictly beholden to CG's rules. And if it were too raunchy, in all likelihood CG wouldn't even publish it.
...Steven Seagle back at Vertigo. He may not get much love writing Superman, but for my money, he can continue to write Vertigo titles as long as they'll have him, and both Superman: It's a Bird and especially Vertical, both sound intriguing and different.
...David Hahn at Vertigo: good thing. David Hahn on a book with Howard Chaykin: bad thing. I'm sorry, but Chaykin bores the living hell out of me. I've tried to like his books - American Century, a few Vertigo minis, but I cannot understand his appeal at all. It's a shame, too, since I'm glad to see more stuff from Hahn outside of Private Beach. Oh well.
So did I ever tell you about the summer I spent in Spain? This was ten years ago this month, in 1993, a year which had a whole lot of landmark moments, some of which I've already talked about. I was about to finish my junior year in college, and I had gotten a letter from school advertising a summer art program in Europe, with classes in different countries, including a painting class in Barcelona. I looked at the letter once and tossed it aside, thinking I'd never be able to afford it, so why bother? Later, my mother came across the letter and said she'd be willing to foot the bill for it if I was interested in going. That was all I needed to hear. There were 25 other people in my class and the overwhelming majority of them were older than me, but as it turned out, most of them were only "old" in the physical sense - and there were enough people there close enough to my age (21 at the time) that any age difference was negligible. We stayed in a hotel just off the Ramblas, the hip and trendy street that attracts the most tourists. The painting class was held in this really old stone building, with a courtyard. We had three different teachers, one per week, and class was for about four hours in the morning. Then we had the rest of the day to ourselves. We would sit around in this huge studio (I recall it had an arched ceiling), set up our easels and our workspaces, and paint. I didn't do anything particularly fantastic - a few watercolor vignettes and an oil painting or two. I did do at least one outdoor landscape on my own time. I drew more than anything else.
There's plenty to see and do in and around Barcelona, and we saw as much as possible. There was the Picasso Museum in the old town section; the Sagrada Familia, the unfinished cathedral designed by the radical architect Gaudi; Parc Guell, a park designed in the style of Gaudi; Montjuic, one of two mountains framing the city, that has a ancient castle there; Figueras, a small town that has a museum devoted to Dali; Montserrat, a mountain range outside the city famous for its cathedral with a Madonna sculpture carved in obsidian; and lots more. And the things we did… There was the night a bunch of us went looking for a flamenco bar (and how we ended up haggling over the cover charge). There was the Sonic Youth concert I went to, held in a tiny, smoke-filled club (my shirt reeked of sweat and cigarette smoke afterwards and I didn't think I'd ever get it clean again!). There was the local girl that these two guys in our group fought over - one of whom was already married! There was another guy who ran off with two local girls for a couple of days at their beach house. There was my hunt for some Spanish-language comics (I got a couple of graphic novels and a Jim Lee X-Men translated in Spanish). There was the older local guy who tried to hit on me (!) when I went club-hopping. There was our preoccupation with the Tour de France, which was going on at the time (though I recall being more interested in Wimbledon). There was the dirt-cheap Pakistani restaurant some of us frequented regularly (I think I only went once). There was the constant quibbling over dinner checks at the tapas bars we'd go to for dinner.
Overall, I had an absolutely wonderful time, and one day I hope to travel outside of the country again - Ireland, maybe, or Italy. Now that my passport's expired, it's kind of a shame that I only got to use it once!