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Thoughts From The Land of Frost:
Interview: Tim Truman By Alexander Ness
Howdy, Tim, and welcome to my column. Tell me about your project Dead Folks coming out the end of March ($3.50/$3.95, from Avatar Press).
TT: It's based on the short story "On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert With Dead Folks," a story that Joe R. Lansdale wrote several years ago for an anthology of zombie stories. The story was the first story by Joe that I'd ever read -- Steve Bissette turned me on to it. For a long time, Joe and I talked about doing an adaptation. It feels good to have finally gotten around to it.
Basically, the tale is about a bounty hunter, Wayne, who has been tracking down a notorious rapist and murderer named Calhoun. Wayne finally finds Calhoun, but the fact that they are living in a post-apocalyptic world where flesh-eating dead folks walk the earth sort of complicates things a bit. They run afoul of a mad prophet/scientist named Lazarus who has learned to control the dead. Lazarus has created a religion based on the time honored American values of "McMarky Mouse McBurgers" and sex in order to gather willing disciples from the living world into a huge army, augmented by his zombie slaves.
AN: How is it working with Joe, a great writer, rather than being the writer as well as artist?
TT: It's like working with my brother-- or with myself. Working with Joe is as easy as walking out the door into the back yard. We're so in sync on how to put together a story, plus there's a mutual respect going on. We've never stepped on one another's toes, never had a disagreement over how things should be done. If one of us brings up a suggestion, no one’s feelings are hurt. We always seem to know what's best for the story that we want to tell. Plus we have a southern, Scots-Irish working class sensibility that and a sense of humor that always comes out in the work without feeling forced-- because its who we are, where we come from, the people and values that we know. John Ostrander is the only other guy whom I can imagine working with as tightly and as successfully as I do with Joe.
I also have to factor in the fact that Joe and I have been through some very dramatic circumstances together (i.e. the Winter Brothers first amendment issues) that might have set two other collaborators at each other's throats. We've weathered assaults on our work by exploitative, weasel-faced Gucci shoe wearing ambulance lawyers and still stand beside our work together and our admiration for each other. I'd walk through fire for Joe and his family, and he'd do the same for me and mine. That makes for a very special relationship that goes way beyond the work.
AN: Tim, why Avatar?
TT: When I approached Avatar about doing the story, it was because I was being offered superhero work elsewhere and, at the time, it seemed as if that sort of story was all there was to be had. I'm not a superhero artist. I love the work that guys like Jack Kirby and John Buscema did in that genre, but I've been attracted more to the art and storytelling than to characters. There are exceptions of course-- Buscema's Silver Surfer, Golden's take on Batman and Spider Man, Marshall Roger's Batman, Kirby's Inhumans, Thor, Ka-Zar, Captain America, Fighting American, Fantastic Four and Challengers, Kubert and Fox's Hawkman, Colan's Iron Man and Dr. Strange. Then again, most of those characters have a really strong sci fi element/adventure/fantasy to them and I think that's what validated them to me and made me accept the fact that they wore funny costumes.
Story-wise, I've always been attracted to more adventure oriented material and undergrounds. I grew up reading the Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella magazines, undergound comics by Spain, Iron, Corben, Metzger, and Rick and Tom Veitch, watching Hammer horror films, war, westerns and biker movies, reading science fiction and fantasy paperbacks. Steranko opened my eyes to cinematic comics, and later Paul Gulacy, Mike Kaluta, Bernie Wrightson,Jeff Jones and the writings of Don McGregor and Doug Moench showed me that comics could be this incredible springboard for tales that were just as serious and plausible as anything that novel writers and film makers were doing.
National Lampoon magazine and Firesign Theater worked their ways into my already existent, warped southern sense of humor. Jefferson Airplane's politically motivated, science fiction oriented lyrics heaped more fuel on the fire. The Allman Brothers, Freddie King, and Rory Gallagher kept my brain and feet on the good southern soil. When I got to the Kubert School in the late 70's I got heavily into the work of masters like John Severin, Russ Heath, and Milt Caniff as well as a world of European comics and artists who were doing exactly what I wanted to be doing-- there was no "alternative movement" over here yet, and except for a few instances "creator owned" comics were unknown.
Anyway, when the market started to crash a bit, it forced me to remember all those influences, the stories that I like to be a part of and had originally set out to do. When I looked around, there were few reputable publishers who would offer one a chance to do non-superhero material. It's changes a bit since then, thank God, but in the meantime working with Avatar has been a good experience. At first, I was a bit reluctant-- I have some friends who'd worked with Avatar and who hadn't received their original artwork back from them, stuff like that. But William is into what he's doing, his enthusiasm showed, and I decided to trust him on this one. So far, I'm glad I did.
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AN: Any sequel on the horizon?
TT: Probably not. You have to see the last page to understand. Plus, I do not think that either Joe or I are into sequels much. The first shot we fire is always loudest. we can do something else, though. In the mean-time, there's a lot of other projects coming up in the future. As far as Joe goes, Subterranean Press has asked me to provide interior illustrations for two hardcover collections of Joe's prose stories that they're going to be producing.
Plus I still owe Joe an outline for a film script that we've talked about collaborating on.
AN: Any other projects upon your schedule?
TT: Well, Avatar would like to do some new stuff and reprint material and we're talking about that. John Ostrander and I are working on a cool illustrated book project that I'm really, really excited about. We've found a very big time book agent who wants to handle the project, so that's been really cool.
Plus, John and I will certainly have news about a very special comics project by summer (trust me, folks are going to be very excited by the announcement). I'm doing a ton of game and book illustrations, some comics short stories for various publishers-- a pretty busy schedule. I still do a lot of work for Grateful Dead Merchandising and their friends.
I'm also teaching Illustration at the Pennsylvania School of Art & Design all day on Mondays and doing either Sequential Art or Illustrative Portraiture courses for half days Wednesdays, depending on the semester. I really love teaching-- it's got me out of the studio and among people and really humanized me again. It's really pumped up my drawing style, too -- the constant inspiration has been great, and the fact that I've had to evaluate and codify everything I know illustration and story-telling has advanced my technique about ten levels.
To top all that off, the band that I play lead guitar for, the Terry Strongheart Band, is finishing up it's next CD, "Indian School," and getting ready for the our summer concert series. (for info on the Terry Strongheart Band, their CDs, and a list of concert dates and locations, write Tim at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
In other words, things are pretty busy around here.
AN: Thanks Tim!
TT: No, thank YOU, Mssr. Ness.
AN: And hey, is that [Avatar Editor-In-Chief] William Christensen? William, can I ask you something? How special is it to see the work of Joe Lansdale and Tim Truman at your company?
WC: I have been a big fan of the work Lansdale and Truman have done together, as well as their huge bodies of work done individually. As I go about getting projects from all my favorite writers, Lansdale is at the top of the list. The fact that I was able to get him re-teamed with Truman is just a dream come true! I'm thrilled with Dead Folks and looking forward to long relationships with both the creators.
Thanks to: William Christensen and Tim Truman.
Dead Folks #1 Available soon, $3.50 Regular cover - $3.95 Wrap-around special cover.
Big news again...DC Comics will now be a contributor to my column. Image Comics and Devil's Due Studio will now be contributors to my column. New England Comics join my review process. Thanks to them all for supporting my column.
CONTENTby Gia-Bao Tran. Published by DI, $3, B/W.
This book, which is not likely to be a hugely distributed work, is a vision of a future name in comics's first work. Gia-Bao Tran is artist and writer and takes the reader through a tale wherein the main character goes through a painful self searching through dream analysis as well as a much more effective means of making his dreams an effective form of self actualization.
As a first issue it is intriguing, and mostly intelligent. The art is stylistically pleasant, if not necessarily polished and for a first work it shows promise.
RELOAD #1by Warren Ellis, Paul Gulacy and Jimmy Palmiotti. Published by DC Comics/Homage, $2.95 color.
An assassin has killed the President of the United States. She disables all the abilities of the security forces to stop or track her. The Secret Service, led by Agent Chris Royal is at wits end, when Sarin Gas is used to disable the police force of Washington DC. As a first issue there is no question that this work was powerful, hard hitting and if you weren't interested, then you weren't paying close enough attention.
The writing was incredible getting details to the reader through action, dialogue and the responses of the various characters. The art was fantastic, easy to follow with the graces of Paul Gulacy's pencil and flowing inks of Jimmy Palmiotti.
Final Score: 4/4
30 DAYS OF NIGHTby Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. TPB. Published by IDW, $17.99, painted full color.
During the second half of 2002 I heard many things about this book. I had great interest in it because the premise was so awesome and I knew that I enjoyed Steve Niles's writing and Ben Templesmith's art. But I was not able to acquire the work in any form except issue #2. I refused to read that despite wanting to because I wanted issue #1. I saw it go for $30 on EBAY.Com, and I knew I was screwed, big time. So when the TPB was announced I was very happy.
And having read it was my long long road to readership worth the wait? Yes, oh yes! The story is relatively simple. Barrow Alaska is covered with 30 days of nighttime every winter and the living dead of the world prefer the night, and cannot even live in daylight. The horror facing the town is immense and only a married couple who serve the town as its police officers stand in the way of the feast of blood that the vampires have brought to the town.
The art was perfect. Templesmith is best able to depict nightmarish scenes and in this work you see a case where the artist seems born to the work. It is absolutely perfect.
And readers of previous editions of this column know that I very much like Steve Niles's work, so they shouldn't be surprised that I liked this. But I more than liked it. There is usually a humor about Niles's dark works, but in 30 DAYS Niles shows us an even more effective tool in his writer's bag of tricks. Within his very real characters, frozen milieu and dark tale, it is the love of the two main characters that makes this tale work. And a love that is a very meaningful tool in the human's response to the horrific undead assault. This is easily the best work I have read in many many months.
Final Score: 4/4
All comic publishers and creative talent are welcome to submit items to be reviewed. Send items to be considered for review to:
Alexander Ness Land of Frost Box 142 Rockford MN 55373-0142