Michael Uslan, writer of Justice INC #3, talks with Nancy Collins about her Vampirella: Prelude to Shadows one shot, both on sale Oct. 22
MICHAEL USLAN: Where does Vampirella fit into the world of today’s women … or does she?
NANCY COLLINS: Despite her costume, Vampirella actually has a lot in common with today’s women. She is constantly being underestimated by those who can’t see beyond her physical beauty, is dedicated to making a life and identity for herself outside her family, and yet manages to have a sense of humor.
MU: Who would win in:
A. Wonder Woman vs. Vampirella
B. Bionic Woman vs. Vampirella
C. Red Sonja vs. Vampirella
D. Batgirl vs. Vampirella
NC: Well, given that Vampirella has the vampire’s power to hypnotize humans, she’d probably be able to put the whammy on the Bionic Woman, Red Sonja and Batgirl. Wonder Woman would probably be a tough match-up, since she’s an Amazon, as opposed to a human. I wouldn’t want to have to call that one.
MU: What is your typical writing process like? Do you begin with a detailed outline? How closely do you communicate with the artist during the process? What percentage of your creative process per issue is writing and what percentage is thinking?
NC: Yes, I have a fairly detailed outline, broken down into pages. I’ve communicated with Patrick a few times, but for the most part all I do is provide images of certain locations, clothing and props I’ve mentioned in the script. I’d say the creative process is 60% thinking and 40% writing.
MU: Describe the audience you’re writing for.
NC: I don’t write “for” audiences. I just tell stories I would have liked to read before I became a professional writer.
MU: Did you feel a need to read every Vampi story ever made before first writing this character? Why or why not?
NC: Hell, no. In fact, Dynamite editorial did not want me to. I researched the character online to figure out what changes had been made to her origins and supporting cast. I used that information to decide what to use and what to ignore in my take on the character. Continuity in comics is important, but often it ends up being the tail that wags the dog. I want to tell stories that propel the character forward while acknowledging the past, but not being slavishly tied to it.
For more on Vampirella: Prelude to Shadows, click here.
Jay Spence, writer of the Bad Kitty one shot, talks with Peter Milligan about Terminal Hero #3, both on sale now.
Jay Spence: What made you choose Terminal Hero as a title and how does it personally “translate” for you?
Peter Milligan: I think it’s risky having such a potentially depressing word as “terminal” in the title but it was important. Rory — the story’s hero — gets told he has terminal cancer right at the beginning and it’s this that drives the story. And I liked the idea of using the “hero”. Hero is a much bandied about word — especially in America, and I think it’s often misused. Rory does emerge as a kind of hero, but very different from the kind of hero that comics usually portray.
JS: How long does it typically take you to build an original project like this from first outline to the complete first draft of issue #1? Do you usually focus on one story at a time or do you tend to split your time among several projects in different stages of completion?
PM: It’s impossible to say. There’s no set time. A story usually has what you might call a “pre-history”: an idea, a passing notion, or maybe something that angers or happens to me. That could happen a long time before you get around to using those initial thoughts or feelings. But once it has coalesced into a story idea I’m pretty quick. If I’m starting a new story I try to have some concentrated effort. But the nature of writing is that one tends to be working on a few things at the same time. Sometimes it’s about finding a good period of time so you can do some serious thinking and mapping out.
JS: As a comic writer, do you feel you’re typically very thorough and exact with describing the action and framing from panel-to-panel or do you tend to be more vague and allow the artist to translate the details on their own?
PM: Talking to other writers and artists, I think I probably veer more towards the exact description of panels and pages. I do have an idea of how I want the page to look and read. But I’m always happy for artists to be creative — so long as they’re doing it to better tell the story, and not just for the sake of it.
JS: On most projects, what do you feel is the biggest challenge for you when working with the editor/artist to proof and adjust the art before it’s final?
PM: Sometimes the biggest challenge is time. As you know, if one person is a little late, for whatever reason, that can ripple down the chain.
For more on Terminal Hero, click here.]]>
Mark Rahner, writer of the Twilight Zone: Lost Tales one-shot, talks with Joshua Hale Fialkov about The Devilers #4, both on sale Oct. 15
Mark Rahner: I guess a series called “The Existentialists” doesn’t sound as exciting. (Still, don’t you steal that.) But why’s it important to have a skeptic in the mix?
Joshua Hale Fialkov: Part of it was just making sure that all sides were being shown, and, to poke a bit of fun at my own kind, in the atheists. George is all of the worst tendencies of atheists in a lot of ways. But, at the same time, he represents the idea of humanism. That if you act with love it doesn’t matter what you believe.
MR: As someone with a background in philosophy, I’m especially curious how the idea for The Devilers came to you.
JHF: It started as an idea that the guys at Dynamite were kicking around, and, I think after seeing how I handled morality and heaven and hell in I, Vampire they handed it over. I got to do something I’ve always loved about movies like The Exorcist and The Omen in that it mythologizes religion, turning it into a fictive universe.
MR: The main character’s an Irish priest. Can you explain his power – which is fairly well manifested by this issue?
JHF: Ah, the Demon’s Head. Probably my favorite piece of the book is that Malcolm can absorb demons and becomes a sort of super hybrid demon hulk. So, he becomes this powerful, uncontrollable abomination of satanic energy, but, theoretically channeled for good.
MR: I hear certain people can get just a little upset over depictions of the Prophet Mohammed. So you’re putting him in the comic a lot, right?
JHF: He’s doing backflips in issue 3, right? Part of what we’re doing is trying to not actually be offensive so much as using the religion as a jumping off point for the myth.
MR: What about this issue shows that all bets are off?
JHF: I love issue 4 just because it shows a missing piece of the puzzle that we’ve been dancing around the whole time. What happens to our ‘hero’ in this one is going to define the end game that’s fastly approaching.
MR: Since it’s difficult for me to ask non-spoiler questions about where the series is going, I’ll go the Amy Goodman route: Talk about where this series is going.
JHF: The apocalypse, of course.
MR: I’m a sucker for anything from Hammer’s The Devil Rides Out to The Exorcist to the ‘90s Brimstone TV series to The Conjuring. Do you have any favorite Satan/demon/possession movies?
JHF: I love Devil Rides Out and To the Devil a Daughter particularly. I’m doing my best channeling of those movies right here.
MR: What else is happening with you as a young mogul with various properties in development?
JHF: Let’s see … We’ve got The Bunker and The Life After from Oni Press kicking along, and Punks from Image which just came out, and the second issue is on its way. And a few more ‘seekrit’ projects on the way.
For more of The Devilers, click here.]]>
Michael Moreci: So, Duane, crime is obviously in your wheelhouse (and you do it so well). What made you bring Ex-Con to the comic space, as opposed to making it a novel?
Duane Swierczynski: Ex-Con started as a basic idea (a parolee leaves jail owing a brutal crime boss a favor) that Dynamite asked me to develop into a mini-series. So it was always meant to be a comic. But Ex-Con‘s influences were very much from the novel and movie portions of my brain — hardboiled Gold Medal paperbacks, 1980s crime flicks set in L.A., Jim Thompson’s grifter tales, late night Cinemax thrillers, David Goodis’s sordid love triangles. It easily could have been a pulp novel except for one thing: Cody Pomeray’s weird “gift,” which would have been tricky to do in prose. Plus, you really want to see 1980s L.A. in all of its garish glory. Artist Keith Burns rendered all of it beautifully. He was the best creative partner I could have asked for.
MM: As you know, I’ve worked with Keith Burns, artist on Ex-Con, in the past. He definitely has a very specific — and amazing – aesthetic, especially in the way he tackles the layout of a page. Did you find yourself writing toward his art at any point?
DS: Oh, absolutely. Especially as the series went on, I had a lot of giddy fun thinking, “Heh heh heh, I can’t wait to see what Keith will do with this one…” Fortunately, the Atlantic Ocean separates us, so it’s not so easy for him to show up and strangle me.
MM: I thought issue #1 was a tremendous start to the series–can you tease what’s in store for the series?
DS: Thanks, Mike — I really appreciate that. As for the rest of the series … well, part of the fun of a story like Ex-Con is to take a character and see how far you can push him. I think by issue #3 we’re pushing him across a very specific moral line, and by #4 we’re pushing him out of the country. God knows where he’ll end up in #5.
MM: Speaking of crime and it being in your wheelhouse, I’m curious as to how you attack the development of an idea. You’ve covered a lot of ground in your different works, yet you always make each new story fresh and original. How do you go about finding that unique angle that separates your projects, like you’ve done with Ex-Con?
DS: At the plotting/development stage, I have only one rule: come up with a story that I’ll be genuinely excited to write. Honestly, that’s it. If I’m not twitching with anticipation, then there’s no way I can expect a reader to be. A lot of the thrill, for me, is covering new ground (new genres, new situations, new locations) and pushing myself out of my comfort zones.
MM: Any plans for more original crime comics in the near(ish) future?
DS: In fact, there is — I’m very close to finalizing a deal on a creator-owned comic project that I’ve been working on for quite a few years now. But it’s too soon to say anything about it right now. I know, I’m a horrible tease.
For more on Ex-Con #2, click here.]]>
Dynamite Entertainment’s next trip into the Chaos! Comics line will be with Chaos: Smiley the Psychotic Button. Written by Mike Raicht (Dark Shadows) and featuring artwork by Juanan Antonio (Dungeons & Dragons), this 48-page one-shot special explores the origin of Smiley — the demonic entity affixed to the chest of Evil Ernie. The one-shot will featuring cover artwork by Chaos! artist Mirka Andolfo.
The Smiley one-shot answers the question: Just how terrifying could the origin of Evil Ernie’s peculiar decorative accessory be? When the answer involves Lucifer, mass murder, the struggle for control over Hell, and the tastiest meat patties that your hard-earned 99 cents can afford, the term “terrifying” may not actually be descriptive enough. In addition to the fear-fraught core story, this special double-sized comic includes a back-up story wherein Heaven attempts to counter Smiley’s blasphemous existence on Earth with the creation of its own powerful trinket: the Holy Pizazzinator.
Chaos: Smiley the Psychotic Button will be solicited in the November Previews catalog and slated for release in January 2015.
Nancy Collins, writer of Vampirella, talks with Christina Blanch about The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood #1, both came out this week.
Nancy Collins: So, Christina, after using comic books as teaching aids as part of CAPE (Comics Association of Professionals and Educators), how does it feel to actually be writing one? Is this your first comic book gig?
Christina Blanch: It’s amazing. One of the reasons that I decided to write a comic book is because I call myself a comics scholar and ‘analyze’ comics and have my students create comics. I figured that the experience would be good for me in my area of study. And it’s amazing. I am having such a great time writing this story. It’s amazing how sometimes the characters go a completely different direction than you intended. Sometimes I will get done writing a scene and say to myself, “Wow, what a jerky thing to say!” then I realize, oh wait, I wrote that.
NC: Wasn’t this originally designed as a web-series?
CB: This is still a web series. It debuted on Thrillbent.com over a year ago and is still going strong. We are on a short break right now to let Chee catch up as he has a lot of other commitments, but we should return on the web shortly! I really enjoyed, well, learned a lot anyway, from converting the series from the web to the printed page. I literally cut and paste a lot of it! It’s like arts and crafts night around here when it’s time to do the conversion!
NC: How did The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood end up at Dynamite?
CB: When I started getting invited to conventions, I realized that I did not really have anything to sign except some promotional material. So, my editor and I put together an ‘ashcan’ copy of Wormwood to take to conventions to sell and sign. When Nick from Dynamite saw it, he asked why we printed them and I explained. He told me that he thought I had taken it to Image and when he found out I hadn’t, he asked to print it. Chee, Chris, Troy and I were thrilled. Dynamite is really taking some chances right now on interesting things, and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.
NC: How much of a collaboration is there between the two of you? How do you split up the writing chores? And how much input does your artist, Chee, have in the storytelling process?
CB: Chris and I have outlined the entire series and we take turns writing the scripts. I always ‘edit’ the scripts after either of us writes one and makes comments so that it has a consistent tone. Then we send it to our Thrillbent editor Mark Waid who then sends it to Chee who does some sort of witchcraft on it. When Chee sends it, every time he sends a new installment, it’s amazing and magical. He is so important to the story telling. I always say that Chee makes Chris and me look good. He’s amazing. Some people are great artists and some are great storytellers, well, he’s both. The book wouldn’t be the same without him.
NC: The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood seems to be more in the tradition of the old ‘crime comics’ of the 1940s, combined with contemporary noir ala Breaking Bad and OZ. Where did the idea for the series come from?
CB: My co-writer Chris Carr and I both taught in prison. We always joke that we met in prison. When the teaching program was canceled, we got together for coffee and talked about writing a book about all of our prison experiences and stories. I suggested a comic as I was really interested in what Thrillbent.com has announced they were doing. It seemed like perfect timing, so we pitched it and they liked it. Back to the question, many of the stories told in the book are based on real ones that we experienced or were told by our students. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
NC: Can you tell us a little more about who the main players are in the series, and what readers can expect in upcoming issues?
CB: The main players are Charlie Wormwood, just a normal guy who teaches in prison, his wife Michelle, who we’ll get to know more about, and their son Jr. who is sick with some illness that they can’t quite put their finger on. In prison we meet Barnum, who leads Charlie down the wrong path, Liz, his co-worker in prison, and a lot of other shady and fun characters. Outside prison, you have yet to meet Big Rob and Twitchy, two of my favorite characters. They were only going to be in one issue, but I loved the characters so much I made them recurring.
NC: Do you have any other upcoming projects you’d like to let your fans know about?
CB: I am working on a few things. I have a story coming up in the next issue of Aw Yeah Comics that is quite different from Charlie Wormwood. I am also working on a series called Resolute Bay with my artist Patrick Yurick that’s all about archaeology, science fiction, science fact, and yes, there are dinosaurs. It’s going to be awesome!
For more on the Damnation Of Charlie Wormwood, click here.]]>
Coming off of Justice Inc by Michael Uslan, Dynamite Entertainment is giving each the Shadow, Doc Savage and The Avenger their own special one shot. Mark Rahner is handling Richard Benson and Byron Brewer talked with the writer about the special and the history of the character.
BYRON BREWER: Mark, not a lot of folks know the Avenger as opposed to, say, Doc Savage or the Shadow. Tell us a little about this pulp-era character.
Mark Rahner: He’s more obscure, but was always more interesting to me. The Avenger debuted in 1939 – the same year as Batman. In some ways, he’s similar. In others, he’s even more grim and obsessed, with no soft alter ego.
Here’s some Avenger 101:
Richard Benson was a rich industrialist and adventurer whose wife and daughter were killed by criminal scum. The trauma of the loss turned his skin and hair white, leaving the flesh of his face malleable, so that he can mold it to impersonate people. He’s not a big guy – 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds – but he’s remarkably strong and athletic. His dead, expressionless face and icy eyes, should make for a look that’s as unsettling as it is cool.
Benson uses a variety of then-futuristic gadgets, along with his best friends, “Ike” the knife and “Mike” the gun. Ike is hollow-handled for throwing. Mike is a streamlined .22 pistol he uses to “crease” skulls instead of killing. Think of how annoying getting “creased” would be.
He’s got a diverse crew of memorable characters – especially for the ’30s and ’40s – whose lives have all been scarred by crime. They’re completely devoted to him.
BB: So how did this special come into being? Was it something you pitched?
Mark Rahner: I had mentioned the character from time to time as a natural fit in Dynamite’s roster – if not a glaring omission from it! I chimed in with some background info about him. There’ve been assorted fits and starts with The Avenger and Justice Inc. in comics over the decades, and I really wanted Dynamite to have the definitive, satisfying one, like they’ve done with other pulp characters.
BB: Michael Uslan recently wrote the Justice Inc. series which featured the Avenger, Doc Savage and the Shadow. Does this special spin off from there, or is it totally self-contained?
Mark Rahner: Totally self-contained, with no other guest-heroes. Benson is The Man here. “The Television Killers” hews closely to the original novels and his origin.
BB: So tell us a little about this special.
Mark Rahner: It’s 1939, and a new device called “television” has been introduced to the public at the incredible (retro) futuristic World’s Fair in New York! The Avenger and his crew must figure out and stop whatever’s turning people into berserk flesh-eaters. At the same time, a new client comes to Justice Inc. for help: singer Billie Holiday. She’s scheduled to sing her controversial new song, “Strange Fruit” on an early television broadcast, and a gang of racist killers will do anything to keep her out of America’s living rooms. It’s a big 48-pager, so Benson needed two cases at once.
BB: Any hints at the big-bad here?
Mark Rahner: There’s the gang-leader, named Even, who wants to kill Bille – and anyone who helps her. There’s another to be discovered as Benson unravels the grisly mystery of the zombified New Yorkers – and one rip-roaring confrontation in a bizarre setting.
BB: Were you a fan of the Avenger, or even familiar with him before this project?
Mark Rahner: Since childhood. I think the 1972 paperback reprints were some of the first books I ever read. Other kids start on the classics. I went for the pulps. Each one of those covers is iconic. Later, I hoarded most of the original pulp magazines. I loved revisiting them as an adult so much that I had to be torn away from them to start writing.
BB: How did you enjoy working with artist Edu Menna?
Mark Rahner: Edu illustrated stories in both of my TWILIGHT ZONE specials. Once you see the knockout work he did on “Cold Calculation” in the new volume called “Lost Tales,” you’ll be dying to see what he does with The Avenger.
BB: Hey! And famed singer Billie Holiday is in this! Do any research about this great star?
Mark Rahner: I’m a chronic over-researcher, from my years as a reporter. But spending time researching someone you’re already into barely counts as work. She had a rough life, her habits with self-medication and men didn’t make it any easier, and she died young. She was also tough, living in an era when black people in America had to endure what, to a lot of us now, is an unimaginable amount of disrespect. And here’s some smart alec trivia: Dynamite wanted a holiday story – so I gave them Billie Holiday!]]>
Another special spinning out of Justice Inc will be a one-shot for The Shadow written by Michael Moreci. The writer has plans on doing a very different and unique Shadow story and Byron Brewer got to ask him about it.
BYRON BREWER: Michael, the Shadow is really one of Dynamite’s signature characters. He certainly has a lot of print projects during this 10th anniversary of the company. What makes this 48-page special stand out, in your mind (besides you wrote it, lol).
MICHAEL MORECI: I can’t remember any story—and maybe I’m wrong—that didn’t center around The Shadow. Which makes sense—he is the star of his universe. But, he also has a rich world that he inhabits with a ton of colorful characters to play with and mythology to explore, sort of like Batman. That’s what makes this story a little different; it has all the elements you’d expect from a Shadow story—pulpy fun, mystery, suspense, adventure—but executed through the supporting characters. If you’re a fan of the history, this will be a really cool issue to check out.
BB: The spotlight is on the agents here. I like that. Who will we see? Margo, Cliff, Jericho? Who else?
MM: We’ve got Miles in there as well! Jericho and Cliff make a fun duo to write, and it was a blast being able to pair Miles and Margo.
BB: So, no Shadow at all?
MM: Oh, he’s in there, I couldn’t resist. I may or may not ever be able to write Shadow again (which has been a dream of mine, along with Doc Savage), so I had to at least include him a little bit. He does play a role, but it’s his agents’ story.
BB: Tell us a little about the story.
MM: Without giving any spoilers, the story centers on a mysterious crime syndicate that has the city in a death grip. No one, not even The Shadow, knows who is behind this crime ring. Circumstances give the Shadow’s trusted agents the opportunity to step up and play a leading role rather than follow the Shadow. With the syndicate plotting a major heist and its villainous leader plotting his final move to take over the city, the agents have to use all their skills to keep the city—and the world—safe. It has humor, action, crime, everything you’d expect.
BB: Any special inspiration from former Shadow tales or other media inspire this tale?
MM: Nothing specific, no. When I got the assignment, I went and re-read a bunch of classic Shadow stories, in comics and prose (including Ennis’s awesome story from Dynamite), and I even re-watched The Shadow Alec Baldwin movie—which I still thing is pretty great. I’m really glad I did, because it help me capture that Shadow feel, mixing the pulp noir and pulp adventure traditions. I think the latter, the adventure part, has gotten lost at times in favor of straight crime. It was good to be reminded of how much fun The Shadow can be, especially his supporting cast.
BB: I take it this will be one of those great globe-trotting tales. Where are you taking us?
MM: Well, of course we’ll be hitting the mean streets of New York, but our characters will also find adventure in a mysterious mountain in China…
BB: How successful was Anthony Marques in translating your story to the comic book page?
MM: Anthony is terrific; we’ve been wanting to team up on a project for awhile now, and it’s been a blast to collaborate with him. He shares my passion for this universe, and it shows on the page; his work is loose and fun and really nailing the look and feel I had hoped for. I think Shadow fans are going to love what he’s bringing to the table.
BB: What is it about pulp characters like the Shadow that makes them so enjoyable to write for today’s comics scribes?
MM: You know, I’m not sure. There’s a lot of reasons, and I’m sure every creator who works on these characters can cite something different. For one thing, personally, I grew up on the pulps. They were always around, so I have a deep-seeded fondness for the worlds of The Shadow, Doc Savage, Phantom, etc. And those worlds are the foundations for so much of what exists in comics today, without question.
What it comes down to, for me—regardless of nostalgia—is the strength of these characters. There’s a reason they’ve last this long—they’re amazing. They are so rich and fun and thrilling, so smart and heroic and cool. Being able to contribute to this tradition is a unique pleasure, and I can’t wait for readers to check out this story!]]>
The issue is written by Nancy...]]>
Vampirella #5 is coming out this week and we’ve got the process art for three pages done by Patrick Berkenkotter. A lot of times we get these pieces and it goes from pencils to colors, but here we get to see an inking stage.
The issue is written by Nancy A. Collins and has a cover by Terry Dodson and a variant by Jenny Frison.
For more information on Vampirella #5, click here.