Pre-Order “Nailbiter” #1

I’m editing this awesome new series, and pre-ordering is the only way to ensure that we get a chance to tell the full story. So, if you’d be so kind, let your retailer know you want copies of #1, or just subscribe to the whole thing. We’ll keep you hooked…

For more info check out my tumblr post, where Josh and I both talk more about the series.

NB_preorder

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“Bushido” – Get Your Digital On

“Bushido: The Way of the Warrior” #1 cover

If you want the gist on “Bushido” without any filler, you can get it here. If you want the backstory, you can get it below.

Long before “Netherworld” was ever a glimmer in anyone’s eye — or a comic on anyone’s shelf — I was talking about books with Heroes and Villains Entertainment. They offered me my first gig immediately after I left Top Cow… and I turned it down. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could do it, or that I didn’t need the money (see: The Freelancer’s Dilemma), I just didn’t connect with the material in the way I felt I needed to in order to deliver the book they deserved. They were passionate about the world they created, and I could see it’s value, I just couldn’t find that hook that made it personal for me, and something I’d be able to properly write. So I passed. There were no hard feelings, but I felt an immediate wave (and paralyzing fear) following the passing up of real American moneys.

HVE wasn’t phased though. They understood my position and knew we’d find something else to work on. And thus came a little book about a gaijin samurai fighting off a horde of invading vampires in feudal Japan. It was called “Bushido: Way of the Warrior,” and it was all set to be the second (or third) book I collaborated on with Bryan Edward Hill. We went back and forth a few times on story notes, had a pretty good idea of the overall structure and were all ready to start — and then were told to pump the brakes. First for a short while, then a long while. Then it became “We don’t know when this will start up, but it will eventually.” Hungry freelancers that we were, Bryan and I began talking to HVE about what else we could right for them. The one line for “Netherworld,” then featuring a different plot and title but plenty of the same themes, struck us as a good fit and that moved forward pretty quickly.

Around the time we were finishing “Netherworld,” I got a call that “Bushido” was finally ready to roll. But things had changed. Partially spurred by the success of “7 Days From Hell” and his spec screenplay based on it, and partially because he’s that good a writer, Bryan was busy in Hollywood. Writing specs, taking directing meetings and getting hired to re-write the “Just Cause” film adaptation — among other projects that I can’t divulge. He didn’t have time to take on a comic series, so he gave his blessing for me to tackle “Bushido” solo. And thus my first solo miniseries was born (I’ve written plenty of things solo, but this is the first published miniseries, which makes it a landmark of sorts).

I wrote the first issue in January, 2012. It took a while to get everyone’s brain wrapped around the story again as well as coordinating between HVE and Top Cow, who edits as well as publishes the series. We hired Studio Hive to illustrate the five-issue series in March of the same year and started seeing some killer painted pages. But… painted work takes time. A lot of time. For a while I didn’t think the series would ever finish.

But…

…wait for it…

It’s finally here! And I don’t mean in a “It’s on the schedule soon” here, I mean actually-buy-it-right-this-second-if-you-have-the-internet here. Top Cow and HVE decided to release the series digitally starting today. You can purchase #1 for $1, and the remaining issues should be out monthly or even a little faster than that. So what are you waiting for? It’s just $1. It’s less than laundry, and no one likes laundry…

I am a HUGE proponent of digital comics. I believe in them for their ability to put comics in the hands of anyone with an internet connection and a screen. I believe in their potential to expand the comic format with what we’re seeing on projects like Mark Waid’s Thrillbent titles (and what I’m hearing about DC’s digital-first “Batman ’66”). I also think the potential lower price point (I wish they were all $0.99) has the potential to expand the audience by making books an impulse buy again — you can’t call a 20-page book at $3.99 that you can only get in a specialty store an impulse buy. And there’s the space issue. Digital comics take up space on your hard drive and in your brain. There’s no bags, boards, boxes and — let’s face it — stacks of comics lying around taking up space in your home. There’s no running out of space when your collection gets too big. There’s just megabytes to purchase, and digital space is slim. I’d wage my own digital battles, but Mark Waid is smarter than me, and much more eloquent, and I have a hard time arguing against any of what he’s said at digital to this point. So I won’t belabor the point any further (for now).

Those who love print comics are also in for a special treat. Top Cow will be publishing “Bushido” in October, and there’s more. It’s coming out weekly. All the vampire-samurai you can handle every week in October. I’ve never done a weekly release (if I’m honest, my books have rarely shipped monthly) so I’m excited to see how this plays out and be able to see how people react to the story in almost real-time. It’s kind of the opposite of how long it took the book to go from idea to comic (my first mention of it via e-mail was in January 2010). If you’re a print person (Hi, Mom!), be sure to pre-order the book from your local retailer. It’s in the October-shipping Previews catalog right now from Top Cow/Image Comics.

Check out a pretty substantial preview of #1 here — or just buy it for only $1 here. And don’t forget comiXology now offers subscriptions, so they can let you know via e-mail that your new issues of “Bushido” are ready and waiting for you. Be sure to let me know what you think.

***

You’ll notice the blog looks a little different. I got tired of the old theme, which I’ve never messed with outside of updating the header since I started the site. Not sure if this new theme will stick, but then again I don’t blog much… If you run into any readability issues let me know.

I finished my pilot a while ago. I think I planned to do some major post about finally getting to the finish line, but I didn’t. I wasn’t all that happy when I finished. Don’t get me wrong — clearing that hurdle was a major step. But I didn’t like the work. I knew it marked the beginning of a long journey, not the end. I wasn’t all that happy to tell you, “I just wrote one of the all-time worst pilots!” Because it’s not very good. I’m being hyperbolic, but it’s not very good. No one makes decisions the way they should, the promise of the premise is almost entirely unclear, and there are too many dialogue heavy scenes that do nothing but info dump exposition. And they’re not that well-dialogued.

I’ve actually fallen out of my writing rhythm due to irregular/poor sleep over the last couple weeks while I’ve been slowly working on some paying work and trying to break the outline for the pilot I originally planned to write before this one. I want to get the loose outline finished (it’s already longer than any outline I did for this one) just so I know where to start when I eventually write it, but I’ll get back to the original pilot soon. It needs a good revision before anyone but the one person I sent it to (as proof of finishing) can read it and give me feedback before it gets halfway decent following the third draft.

Like I said, it’s a beginning, not an end.

A Little Homework Goes a Long Way

One of the things I wish I had emphasized more — every sentence, in fact — at the seminar Joshua Hale Fialkov and I taught last weekend is how important planning is when making comics. There are so many things to consider, so many moving parts, and so many thing that can (and will) go wrong that without proper planning you’re in for a nightmare.   And that’s just creatively…

I have a bug up my ass about logo design (and design in general).  I know this. More often than not, I don’t blog unless I’m up in arms about something, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, completely despondent and uninspired.  Well, today I have to put a buddy on blast.

Tyler Kirkham, who I worked with on waaaay more books than any artist other Stjepan Sejic during my tenure at Top Cow (both on TC titles and on the books we packaged for Marvel), has a new book on Kickstarter called “The Monarchy.” I first saw the page when the campaign went live and thought, “something about that looks familiar.” I saw him post about it again today and it all clicked.

“The Monarchy” logo is basically the logo from Top Cow’s “The Magdalena.” I think Aspen’s Peter Steigerwald designed the original, but don’t quote me on that. I pulled up a Maggie image and sure enough, the case could be made for trademark infringement based on the logo. It’s… really close.  But that’s not all. The title sounded funny in my brain today. Wasn’t there already a “Monarchy” comic book?

Turns out, yes. Wildstorm published a “The Monarchy” title that spun out of the second year of “The Authority” and ran for 12 issues from 2001-2002. I think I may have even read it, back when I was catching up on all that goodness. (Remember Warren Ellis’ then totally under-the-radar run on “Stormwatch” that introduced The Authority? Stellar, stellar stuff.) And don’t think I’m not noticing yet again some similar elements in the book’s logo to Kirkham’s “The Monarchy” logo.

Look, I’m not saying anyone gets sued here. And I know Tyler and Mandy McMurray, the book’s co-creator, and they’re good, honest people. Either they didn’t realize what they were doing or did it intentionally as an homage with no ill will or infringement intended. But knowing that it could become an issue… why risk it.  Certainly with regards to the title, why not do a quick ™ search with the USPTO and see if they’re in the clear (and if they have, and they are, forget I said anything).

If you’re doing creator-owned and self-published books, you have enough on your plate. But forgetting that you need to make sure you’re doing something wholly original that doesn’t infringe upon someone else’s marks is part of that game. There are few things worse than spending your time and effort completing something and not being able to put it out or getting held up in a lengthy legal battle.

To bring this all home, I urge all you DIY creators out there to think. And when you’re thinking, brainstorm all the things that might go wrong and figure out ways to cover your ass with proper scheduling, foresight, and probably consulting a lawyer. Or at least Google, Search Engine at Law.

“Before Watchmen’s” Muddled Branding

When DC unveiled their new “Peel” logo, my first thought was, “How the hell did they miss the boat on the New 52 relaunch?”  The relaunch was announced in May, and it seems creators began getting approached in February and March (and likely earlier) to pitch for books.  So why was a new logo not planned to go to press in September instead of announcing it 5 months after the relaunch, and debuting it in print a total of 7 months after.

Even more disturbing in my mind, from a corporate identity standpoint, is the release of the “New 52” hardcover, a $150 tome featuring all 52 new #1s from DC’s relaunched universe, with the old DC “Swoosh” logo.  It’s one thing to say this is calculated to keep DC getting buzz in the media, and in that sense I get it.  Press, like everything else, is cyclical, and you have to keep feeding to stay alive.  But… the first major salvo in your “This is what DC Comics is about today” war has your old logo on it and you’ve been planning this initiative for at minimum 8 months, and likely closer to a year out.

But back to the matter at hand. This morning DC made perhaps their biggest, and certainly boldest, announcement since the news of the relaunch.  After years of rumors and speculation, DC will release prequels based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ 1986 classic “Watchmen.”  “Before Watchmen” has some seriously amazing talent involved, and I hold out high hopes for the books and their success.

I’m not arguing the merits of this publishing decision.  I never begrudge anyone who wants to print money, and it’s not like they put schlubs on the book with no reverence for the original story and creators.  I’m curious as to who is editing the books, but I trust DC has their top guy[s] on it.  At the end of the day, when “Before Watchmen” has come and gone, I’d wager that the books will be better than most are expecting, and those who take a chance on them will end up enjoying and possibly loving them.  Still others will scream blasphemy and hate them at every turn, despite never turning a page and giving them a shot. That’s what the Internet is for, after all. Remember, just like a movie adaptation, the original “Watchmen” exists much as it has for more than 25 years.  It’s there whenever you want to read it, and DC can never change that.  That story is what it is, these are just new stories for those who want to read them.

What does surprise me is the logo used on the covers released today.  DC Comics unveiled several alterations to their new logo based on various characters or lines of books, and the reaction by many was, “Oh, well those are cooler than the plain logo.” Many graphic designers have been quick to point out that in practice logo variants are seldom used because of deadlines and other factors, but the fact remains that DC was at least considering alternate applications of the “Peel.”

This is the cover released by DC for Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s “Before Watchmen: Rorschach” book.

The logo in the upper left corner looks an awful lot like… a yellow version of the new DC logo. But wait — didn’t DC already show off a “Watchmen” variant of their new logo? Yes. Shouldn’t DC’s biggest announcement of 2012 showcase their logo and revamped corporate identity in the best possible light?

Much better. It better serves both the new DC Comics brand, and that of “Watchmen.” Hell, including the “Watchmen” variant in your logo mock-ups pretty much confirmed this was happening, so why not go all in. There are a million reasons for this. This isn’t the final cover — where’s the price, issue number, bar code, etc. This is just a promo image. The list goes on and on. But I’m a firm believer in putting your best foot forward.

DC has made a number of great decisions in the last nine months to a year, and they’ll likely keep it up. But I’ll continue to call them out, as well as anyone else that needs it, if I feel they’re not doing everything they can to move themselves and this industry as a whole forward.  If you love comics, you have to put that love in action and do everything you can to make sure the industry not only survives, but thrives.

I’m looking forward to “Before Watchmen.” I just hope that DC uses the right logo so I know they have their heads fully in the game.

Yesterday Was Big

Big news day for comics yesterday.  Axel Alonso was named Marvel Editor-in-Chief, and Tom Brevoort also received a promotion.

This is huge news.  Not only had Joe Quesada been at the E-i-C game for more than a decade, he’s done a great job.  From his days at Marvel Knights with Jimmy Palmiotti, he’s really helped to usher in both an influx of talent and a renewed dedication to quality storytelling at Marvel.  The comics giant went from very low to all-time highs, in the publishing space and obviously in Hollywood.  While his tenure isn’t perfect (and how could it be at a company that size, and given that this is comics), it’s a high-water mark for modern comics publishing.  Oh, and let’s not forget that he’s the one that hired Axel away from Vertigo.

Axel is one of my favorite editors in comics (along with Will Dennis at Vertigo).  I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with him and talking craft, and I still take what he told me about his approach to the process to heart every time I’m embarking on a new project.  He knows his shit, he’s great at sniffing out talent and he has an unbelievable story sense.  Not to say Joe Q doesn’t have this same skill set, but his editorial oeuvre was more limited when he took over the helm.  Axel has an amazing track record, and this is the most excited I’ve been about anything out of Marvel in some time.

Of course, lost in the hustle and bustle of Marvel’s big, unexpected news was DC’s efforts this week.  They’ve officially launched their “Holding the Line at $2.99” marketing campaign, will re-instate letters columns in their books, and will collect the much-ballyhooed Flex Mentallo from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely in a deluxe edition later this year.  Now, none of these announcements are as big as Marvel naming a new head honcho (and they didn’t get nearly the same response when they named Bob Harras to the same position, but they have the DiDio/Johns/Lee triumvirate as the more public and vocal face of the company), but it sets the tone for 2011.

There seemed to have been, especially over the last year or so, a relaxation from Marvel and DC.  They weren’t making big announcements outside of their Hollywood plans, and their books weren’t taking the world by storm.  Something was lost from the early days of the Jemas/Quesada Marvel reign and how DC stepped up to the plate to try and knock them down at every turn.  I guess you can call it complacency.  The best way to shake it up is to bring in new blood, and while most of this blood is just shifted, we’re talking about good changes for both companies.

I’m excited to see the product coming out of both, and even more excited at the prospect of writing for each company in a changed landscape.  I think by the end of the year (no changes in comics happen overnight), we’re going to see some very new, very different and very exciting offerings and moves by both companies.  It’s a bad time to be in publishing, but it might just be a good time to be in comics.

I Don’t Go to the Comic Shop

I don’t go to the comic shop, and I’m not sure if this post is going to make sense or have people calling me an asshole.  Either way, I’m trying to make that first sentence not true anymore.  To do it, I need your help.

I’ve lived in LA going on 7 years now, and I’ve never had my own comic shop out here.  For about the first five years I had my shop in Atlanta, Great Escape, shipping books out to me every 4-8 weeks.  They gave me a solid discount and I never had any problems getting anything I had forgotten to put on my pull list.  It would have been easier to find a local shop, or maybe even cheaper to find an Internet-only retailer, but I’m a creature of habit.  Until I wasn’t.

When I made the transition to freelance two years ago, I stopped buying new comics.  I quit, cold turkey.  It was easier than I expected.  I suddenly had more money, and the piles with various years (in the case of some titles – Punisher Max, Fables, others I’ve forgotten) worth of books stopped growing.  And this isn’t even counting the Image comps I got while working at Top Cow (I’ll read Proof in its entirety at some point…). I quit for financial reasons, and because there was little chance of me ever catching up on everything, especially if there was still an influx of new material.  So I quit.

I’d still read new stuff from time-to-time.  Stuff friends or other pros would give me. Free issues on news sites.  All of my actual comic-purchasing shifted to trades.  Even then, it was pretty much limited to Vertigo stuff or whatever Jason Aaron was writing.  Previews aside, I’ve lost touch with the new.  I have my finger on the pulse of things based on conversations with other pros and industry insiders (and twitter), but I’m not really giving anything a fair shake.

I grew up reading mainly Marvel books.  I grew up reading mainly superhero books.  But I’m bored by so many of them these days, and the constant slew of events did nothing to change my mind.  It made it easy to stay gone.  The last event that lived up the hype?  I couldn’t tell you.  I read Brightest Day #0… It was more accessible than I expected, but it didn’t really connect with me on any real levels.  Not to say it’s bad, just not for me.  It didn’t get me back in the shop.

A few weeks ago I heard a story about a creative meeting with a bunch of top-tier talent at one of the Big 2 publishers.  One of the biggest writers in comics stopped the meeting and made every go to the local comic shop.  Apparently he said that the second they don’t go to the comic shop for New Comics Day every Wednesday is the day they’ve lost touch with their industry.  The merits of the statement (if accurate, since I wasn’t there) could be argued, but there’s definitely something to what he said.  It got me thinking, at the very least.

I don’t go to the comic shop.  I want to.  I miss new comics that aren’t written by The Great Bearded One (and no, not Alan Moore).  I miss finishing a book and not knowing if I could actually wait four weeks (or more) to see what happened next.  I’m looking at you Y: The Last Man. Image seems to be doing a great job of putting out new, exciting books of late, and I tip my hat to them.  But for all the love, I couldn’t tell you what Skullkickers is about.  I’m sure it’s good, but none of the marketing (and I’ve personally posted some of the PR) has really told me anything other than that it’s beloved and has awesome cover design.

Woe is me, right?  No, I’m just bitching with no solution in sight.  The wait-for-the-trade mentality, the same one that causes people to skip TV shows only to buy them later on DVD (while shows like Terriers go unwatched and are swiftly canceled), is the biggest problem facing the entertainment industry right now.  Bigger than piracy in my mind.  Why stick around for the long haul when you can be patient (a virtue if ever there was one) and save money and time, all while getting to consume your media in one fell swoop, and with added collectibility at that.

The purpose of this post is two-fold, I suppose.

1) As creators, we must do a better job of galvanizing readers/viewers to support projects from the get-go.  We need to bring back must-read/must-watch entertainment.  Someone like me – both a fan and a creator – cannot be given the choice to quit comics or wait for later.  We have to excite me (and those like me) so that they get their asses to the comic shop every Wednesday, and don’t wait until shows are off the air to discover them.  (Marketing plays just as big a role in this as anyone else, so I’m placing blame on everyone in the process here.)

2) I need to know what to read.  Jason Aaron is my dude, and I’ll read him until he puts down the pen.  Vertigo’s lineup is always a step-above, and at some point I’ll actually get into Hellboy.  DC’s best book is Jonah Hex by Palmiotti/Gray, and it’s the least “DC” book they publish.  What about the stuff I don’t know about?  Too much of the 2010 “Best Of” lists were stuff I already knew about and had no interest in.  What’s coming up that’s going to get my engine going?  What have I missed?

I’ll go to a comic shop this week and buy a new comic, my first new, non-collected book since I bought a copy of Sweets #1 off Kody Chamberlain at SDCC.  But I need to know there’s something I’d be missing out on if I didn’t go.  I need your help.  Please leave a comment and let me know what I should be reading.  Best suggestion gets a purchase and a future post on this here blogamajiggy.

7 DAYS FROM HELL – The Skinny on Pilot Season Voting

Pilot Season voting is open. 5 books enter, 1 book walks out a winner. The competition is fierce, as it always is. One week into the competition, the early lead belongs to the Hill/Levin/Noto/Stelfreeze-driven 7 DAYS FROM HELL. 39 MINUTES is nipping at its heels though, and the promo is ramping up for all of the books. Now is not the time to rest on laurels.

The winner of the popular vote lives to see another day in the form of a new series.  The losers go to that comic book graveyard in the sky (or more accurately someone’s basement). The voting is unlimited, meaning that anyone can vote as often as they want for the entire month. The most votes decides the victor. Vote early, vote often.

This book needs to continue. It’s been reverse engineered to work for both the short haul (a Pilot Season one-shot) and the long haul (a series). The idea is to give you the hottest book possible month in and month out. Character. Style. Action. Substance.

7 DAYS FROM HELL makes violence sexy again, courtesy of Phil Noto and Brian Stelfreeze, the only artists we ever considered approaching for the project.  If it were a rap song, it would be a banger, but with lyrics by Talib Kweli. Like we told you in the book, “If most comics are soda pop, we’d like to think this is scotch over ice. Single malt. Hold it up to the light and watch the amber glow in your glass.”

I will not let you down. Bryan will not let you down. 7 DAYS FROM HELL will not let you down. For these reasons and more, it needs your votes this month.

Vote early. Vote often. Vote 7 DAYS FROM HELL @ tiny.cc/vote7DAYS

More promo and behind-the-scenes stuff coming your way in the coming days, but today we present a history (from my perspective) of the book’s journey to your local comic shop.

How it Came to Be

7 DAYS FROM HELL began life as a pitch to me as an editor from a writer I’d only known a couple of months and spoken to maybe half a dozen times. In a time before Hill/Levin, there was just Bryan Edward Hill, writer of things I hadn’t read and friend of Nelson Blake II. He asked if he could pitch me something, and it was hot fire. So hot that I wanted to do it having never read a word outside of emails that this dude had written.

He began sending me samples of his work, and I was hooked. He immediately became one of my favorite writers.  We approved the book for Pilot Season 2009, an initiative that was later replaced by the still in-progress Kirkman/Silvestri Pilot Season.  Time went by and I was no longer editing, and Bryan found his book shelved indefinitely, as had that entire Pilot Season slate. We were developing and co-writing other projects together at the time, and Bryan eventually asked me to come on board as co-writer of 7 DAYS FROM HELL.  I’d like to say I brought something amazing to the table, but Bryan’s concept had it all to begin with. It was a 10, and I tried to push it toward an 11.

When Filip asked us if we’d still be interested in having the book be part of Pilot Season earlier this year, we didn’t hesitate. We didn’t ask who else was involved or what other concepts were out there.  We just went back to work, made our script tighter and hotter and got Noto and Stelfreeze to do the heavy lifting. We would not be denied.

The voting doesn’t scare us. We trust you. We trust that you’ll make the right decision not just for this Pilot Season competition, but for the future of comics as well. What do you want from your comics? More of the same? Movie pitches disguised as comics? Or books so hot they’ll melt your fingers when you read them?  We’re giving you the latter because we already know what you want.

You just need to remind Top Cow and the other publishers. Vote for 7 DAYS FROM HELL as often as your fingers and your Internet connection allows you. Help us promote the book and the voting. We’ll worry about delivering the goods. You only need to worry about a world where quality comics don’t get their shot at the title.

Hill/Levin are here now.

We will not lose.

TGIM – “Firebreather” Movie

I’m a huge fan of “Firebreather,” the Image Comics series from Phil Hester, Andy Kuhn and Bill Crabtree. It’s a great book, and next month it will be receiving the animated movie treatment from the fine folks at Cartoon Network. I don’t talk about the things I really enjoy here or on twitter as much as I talk about what’s bugging me or letting me down. Our pal Firebreather never lets me down.

They’ve just released a teaser trailer for the movie, and while I can spot some immediate changes, it looks like a pretty cool adaptation. You can check out the teaser at the movie’s official site.

For those that want to know what the book’s all about, you can catch up with the first two trade paperback collections here and here. There’s also a new miniseries coming out in December from the old gang, “Firebreather: Holmgang.” You can check out a 4-page preview on CBR and pre-order the book from your LCS. Still not convinced? Check out the “Firebreather vs. Dragon Prince” book next month. Two dragon-ish teens from the combos of Hester/Kuhn and Marz/Johnson/Moder collide. Literally. The one-shot is 120 pages, contains origins and first issues for both heroes, and is a steal at $7.99.

Be about it.