Archive for August, 2007
Steve Niles, writer of 30 Days Of Night. Photo by Tim Bradstreet.
Steve Niles is surprisingly cheerful for a man with blood slowly dripping out of his arm.
The acclaimed horror novelist and comic book scribe is such a busy man these days he even has to double up his newspaper interviews with his medical appointments (he’s healthy as a horse, by the way).
The biggest thing on the 42-year-old’s plate — ahead of writing Criminal Macabre for Dark Horse Comics, Bad Planet for Image Comics and the highly anticipated new book, Simon Dark, for DC Comics — is the impending release of the film 30 Days Of Night, based on a comic book, and screenplay, by Niles.
“I really is just the thrill of my life,” he says of the film.
“[Producer] Sam Raimi and [director] David Slade did more than justice to the comic. It’s faithful to the comic and it’s a really solid horror movie.”
The appeal of the story — which revolves around a group of people trying to survive after vampires invade an Alaskan town where the sun goes down for one month — comes from a different take on its villains, according to the creator.
“[Films like] Underworld and Blade have really humanized vampires and made them action heroes, while [novelist] Anne Rice has made them sympathetic romance characters and what we really set out to do in 30 Days Of Night is to make vampires scary again,” Niles says.
“We stripped away all that humanity and just made it so all they see when they look at a human is food — nothing more.”
Having the film arrive in theatres in October is also a strange twist of fate, according to the writer.
“I pitched it around when I got to Hollywood about 10 or 11 years ago and got no’s across the board,” says Niles, who’ll be a guest at this weekend’s Rue Morgue Festival of Fear (www.rue-morgue.com/festival.php) as part of Fan Expo Canada at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
“Then when [publisher] IDW started, my friend Ted Adams called at said ‘Well, we really can’t pay any money, but if you have any ideas for comics, let me know.’ I literally just sent him my failed movie pitch list and he called back and said ‘Hey, this one about vampires in Alaska looks pretty good.’”
Things heated up quickly after the comic, drawn by gifted Australian artist Ben Templesmith, began to take shape, Niles says.
“We started doing the comic and the day the ad came out we started getting calls from the studios — from the very same people who had turned it down,” he says with a laugh.
Back on the comic book front, Niles said he’s very excited about the upcoming release of Simon Dark, which features a creator-owned character that resides in DC Comics’ infamous Gotham City
“It’s a take on the Frankenstein mythology,” Niles explains. “It’s a boy who’s only 17-years-old who’s living in a burned-out church and doesn’t know who he is — all he knows is that he’s made up of other people.
“The story is about him finding out who he is, who made him and what this world is that he’s been introduced to.”
• 30 Days Of Night arrives in theatres on Oct. 19, but a live-action prequel written by Niles called 30 Days Of Night: Blood Trails will begin on www.fearnet.com in September.
Award-winning writer Paul Dini.
They’ve been the secret architects behind some of your favourite TV shows for years.
From cult classics like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel to such recent hits as Lost and Heroes, veteran comic book creators have been writing the adventures on your tube every week.
“If you’re writing comics and doing it well, it shows that you have a visual sense and you can really figure out how to make things look dramatic,” says Paul Dini, an Emmy Award-winning TV writer and producer, who is also a prolific and successful comic book creator.
“I would say it makes an excellent calling card for someone looking to get into movies or film.”
Some notable crossover creators include: Ben Edlund, creator of The Tick and longtime writer for Buffy and Angel; Jeph Loeb, who’s known for writing the acclaimed epic Batman: The Long Halloween as well as working on the breakout hit, Heroes; Brian K. Vaughan, the award-winning co-creator of Y: The Last Man, also a staff writer on Lost; and Dini, one of the main men behind Batman: The Animated Series and piles of other award-winning cartoon projects. He also did a two-year stint on Lost before becoming the current writer of Detective Comics.
The reason comic creators are getting scooped up by Hollywood is simply a love of the medium, says Dini, a featured guest at this weekend’s annual Fan Expo Canada (www.fanexpocanada.com) at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
“I think a lot of it is that the producers who are doing TV now either grew up reading comics as fans of the books themselves or wanting to write comics,” he says. “So when they look around for writers, they choose writers whose work they like in different mediums.”
Dini’s life has been a hectic one since leaving Lost, as he’s taken on penning Batman’s monthly adventures in Detective as well as becoming head writer of DC Comics’ hot new weekly series, Countdown.
“I’ve been living with it for almost a year now and I’ve enjoyed it since the moment it started,” Dini says of Countdown, a prequel series for DC’s highly anticipated 2008 crossover event, Final Crisis.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s satisfying to see it come out and it’s great to hear fans are reading it and enjoying it.”
As for his preference between working on comics and on TV shows, Dini says it’s no contest.
“Between the two of them, for creativity, I prefer comics because you can generally do what you want,” he says, “and if I’m dealing with my own characters then the sky’s the limit.”
August 20, 2007 | Trades
Harvey Comics Classics Vol. 1: Casper The Friendly Ghost
Leslie Cabarga, Jerry Beck
Dark Horse Books
$19.95 US (Paperback)
**** 1/2 (out of five)
Show me a longtime comic book fan over the age of 25 (or maybe 30) and I’ll show you a person who likely spent a good chunk of their childhood reading one or more of the following: Archie, Richie Rich and Casper, The Friendly Ghost.
For many, the innocent adventures of these iconic characters were a simple distraction on a lazy summer afternoon or a way to while away the time on long car trips, but for some of us they were the doorway into a much wider world of comics that lay beyond.
The adventures of Richie, the poor little rich boy who craved a life of adventure, Casper, whose appearance made it difficult for him to make friends, and Archie, who displayed remarkable ineptitude when it came to dealing with the opposite sex, were easily identifiable for young readers and their multitude of monthly books sold like hotcakes.
By the mid-to-late 1980s, though, the readership of comics began to change more and more and with edgy adult-themed books on the rise, these more whimsical series were shoved to the back burner — and in the case of Casper and Richie, put away for good.
Until now, that is.
Editor Leslie Cabarga has taken some of the best of Casper’s adventures — over 100, from his first one in 1949 to some all-time classics in the mid-60s — and represents them in one glorious package. All of his ghostly pals are there, too: From Wendy, The Good Little Witch to Spooky, The Tuff Little Ghost, Nightmare the horse and the Ghostly Trio.
These Harvey Comics Classics — beginning with Casper and continuing later this year with Richie’s first volume — feature fantastic art, wonderful characters and are a much-overdue tribute to a simpler time.
August 20, 2007 | Trades
Batman: Ego And Other Tails
Darwyn Cooke, Paul Grist, Bill Wray, Tim Sale
$29.99/$24.99 US (Hardcover)
**** 1/2 (out of five)
Darwyn Cooke says Batman is his all-time favourite comic book character.
The noted Canadian writer/illustrator of the Eisner and Joe Shuster award-winning series DC: The New Frontier and monthly comic, The Spirit, has a special gift for spinning yarns about the Dark Knight and now all the ones he’s done so far are available in one handsome package.
Ego And Other Tails features, obviously, Ego, Cooke’s first Batman story which sees the hero faced up against a villain he never dreamed possible: Himself. Other highlights in this collection include the gritty and glorious Selina’s Big Score, a Catwoman tale full of crooks and double-crosses and some shorter stories from the Batman In Black And White series and DC’s tremendous artist profile series, Solo.
Fans of this former Torontonian, now near-Haligonian won’t want to miss this one.
August 20, 2007 | Trades
American Virgin Vol. 2: Going Down
Steven T. Seagle, Becky Cloonan, Ryan Kelly
$17.99/$14.99 US (Paperback)
**** (out of five)
Adam Chamberlain’s life just keeps getting weirder and weirder.
The teenaged Christian youth minister and virginity advocate had his world torn apart when his fiancee, Beth, was brutally beheaded after being kidnapped while doing Peace Corps work in Africa.
After bending some of his morals in tracking down one of the men responsible, Adam witnessed the man’s suicide, however the desire to catch the man who wielded the blade that killed Beth still burns inside him.
The trail of the killer takes Adam, along with his black sheep sister, Cyndi, to Melbourne, coincidently where a major Christian speakers event is being held. But to get to the man he’s looking for, will Adam test his moral code even further by infiltrating a gay sex club — in costume? And what will his followers think if he gets caught?
Written by Steven Seagle (It’s A Bird…) and drawn by Becky Cloonan (Demo), American Virgin continues to be one of the most thought-provoking and astute books on the racks.
August 20, 2007 | Trades
Paul Jenkins’ Sidekick
Paul Jenkins, Chris Moreno
$16.99 US (Paperback)
**** (out of five)
Superior Boy is the greatest sidekick of all time.
No, wait, make that The Stoat. No, Bling! No, Pony!
Oh, to heck with it, they’re all the same dude, anyways.
Such is the plight of Eddie Edison, mild-mannered (OK, so maybe not so much) pizza delivery boy by day, and Mister Excellent’s able assistant Superior Boy by night.
When his boss refuses to cut him in for any of the wads of cash he’s raking in using Superior Boy’s likeness on T-shirts, action figures, etc., Eddie decides to find a new gig and offers his services to three other local heroes: The Night Judge, Brother Commando and Justice Princess – using a different costume and alias to appeal to each one.
The only problem is that they all like the idea of having a sidekick and all hire him.
Now Eddie’s got to juggle four jobs (five if you count the pizza man thing), four costumes and four severely peculiar heroes, each with their own odd affectation.
Meanwhile, a fifth hero, the Hobo, had tipped Eddie off to a major crime about to go down. Can he get any of his bosses to stop thinking of themselves for long enough to save the city from certain doom?
Paul Jenkins’ Sidekick is a frigging riot — a genuine gut buster — full of sensational satire and fabulous filth and anyone looking for a laugh ought to grab a copy ASAP.
August 20, 2007 | Trades
52 Vol. 2
Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen
$23.99/$19.99 US (Paperback)
*** 1/2 (out of five)
Who would have thought a year without DC’s big three — Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — would have been so interesting?
Instead of these familiar faces, readers of the grand and sweeping weekly series 52 got to know the likes of former Gotham cop Renee Montoya and her new friend, Charlie, A.K.A. The Question; ex-villain Black Adam and his newfound love, Isis; John Henry Irons, A.K.A. Steel, and his niece Natasha; Adam Strange, Starfire and Animal Man — all lost in space together; and scores of other lesser known heroes and villains.
While all of these characters grew on us, perhaps the moment you knew this book was something awesome was with one classic phrase: Archbishop Lobo of the First Celestial Church of the Triple Fish-God.
The return of one of the toughest hombres in the DC Universe, who was now an interstellar holy man, is just friggin’ genius.
Moments like this, along with shockers like the massacre of the new Justice League, the death of a Booster Gold and the deepening mystery of the identity of the new hero, Supernova, are all packed into this second essential collection of 52.
August 20, 2007 | Comics
The Flash #231
Mark Waid, Daniel Acuna
**** 1/2 (out of five)
The Flash is back and wow… just wow.
Just to bring those out of the loop up to speed, Wally West, A.K.A. The Flash, disappeared along with his wife and twin babies during the events of 2006’s Infinite Crisis. With Wally gone, Bart Allen, the hero formerly known as Kid Flash, took up the mantle and donned the red suit to battle crime.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go very well for Bart and he died in a battle with the Flash’s longtime enemies, The Rogues.
At just the same moment, the Legion Of Super-Heroes time-travelled to our time from the 30th century and used their science to bring Wally and his family — including two now-tween-aged twins — home.
As The Flash’s monthly adventures pick up from where they left off, Wally is back in his beloved Keystone City fighting to protect its citizens, alongside two powerful new heroes — whom he can send to their room if they misbehave!
Mark Waid, one of the two best Flash writers of all time, makes a triumphant return to the series, along with talented newcomer Daniel Acuna (Green Lantern) in one of the landmark books of the year.
Fans of the DC Universe dare not miss this one.
August 20, 2007 | Comics
Booster Gold #1
Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund
**** (out of five)
The biggest weasel in the DC Universe gets his own monthly series?
Oh the injustice!
While Booster Gold did redeem himself with his heroism during the Infinite Crisis and by helping save the day during the weekly series, 52, he’s still a bit of a pariah in the eyes of some of his fellow heroes.
It certainly doesn’t help that Booster’s actions are almost always about blatant self-promotion, fame and money. But when the all-new Justice League give him a one-week tryout window — to prove he’s about helping people, not just himself — he’s determined to prove his detractors wrong.
Then Rip Hunter shows up.
The time-travelling hero offers Booster an even bigger chance to do good — to save the universe over and over again — with just one hitch: he’d have to do so in the shadows and continue letting everyone think he’s a self-centred jerk.
Can Booster swallow his pride to save the world?
Geoff Johns (Green Lantern, Justice Society Of America) teams with New Line Cinema executive producer Jeff Katz (Snakes On A Plane) to pen Booster’s impressive return to monthly comics. Drawn by veteran Dan Jurgens, who happens to be Booster’s creator, this new series looks like it could be one of the main threads weaving the DCU together leading up to next year’s Final Crisis.
Canadian creator, Seth.
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival hits the city this weekend packed with a veritable who’s who of top cartoonists — both from Canada and abroad.
Headlining this event is the on-stage reuniting of longtime Toronto comic book icons Joe Matt, Chester Brown and Seth.
Just ahead of his get-together, Seth (yes, just Seth) took time out to speak with JPK about why TCAF is important, the many projects he’s got on the go and why it’s so much fun to torture Joe Matt.
JPK: Tell me about the significance of having Chet, Joe and yourself reunited on stage.
Seth: “We were close friends and working artists together for a long time, maybe 10 years, in Toronto. Then Joe moved away to Los Angeles and I moved to Guelph and it’s just been a long time since we spent any significant time together.
“Even though there’s a stage event of getting together, the nicest part is for us just to be together after a quite a bit of time.”
JPK: Joe recently published Spent, a collection of some issues of his comic, Peepshow, and the friendship between the three of you is a large element. Is the story an accurate reflection of your relationship with one another?
Seth: “It’s accurate in some sense and in others it’s not — which is one of the things we hope to take him to task for when we see him. Rereading the book myself, I was reminded of how inaccurate it actually was.
“You can’t really argue with someone’s interpretation of how they see you. I come off much more significantly mean than, well, my wife might think, but the truth is I was probably a lot meaner to Joe than I was to anyone else.
“When you read something like that you realize that you’re kind of a puppet for the other person’s opinions. A lot of the stuff in there where I say ‘this is nothing like me’ I think ‘well, this is exactly like Joe’. Because it’s just an opportunity for Joe to get someone else to say the things that he can’t have himself saying in every panel.
“But it’s a funny book, though. You can’t get too angry.”
JPK: What’s your impression of this weekend’s third biennial Toronto Comics Arts Festival?
Seth: “I think it’s a really good event for Toronto. I think it’s nice to actually get away from the idea of the comic book convention, per se, which generally have been focused on collecting. What’s nice about TCAF is that it’s really focused more on the art form. It gives people an opportunity to come out and see comics, not purely from that collecting sort of angle, and promotes it as an art form that is coming into its own finally.”
JPK: Do you enjoy getting the chance to meet your fans and hear their feedback?
Seth: “I’m not one of those people who really enjoys meeting the public. I’m comfortable with it, since I’ve done enough of it over the years now, but it’s just too hard to have a meaningful conversation with someone who’s coming up to have a book signed.
“I tend to be the type of person who’s happy to just sit in the studio alone at home.”
JPK: What do you expect from your stage appearance on Saturday night?
Seth: “I think we’re counting, on some degree, on being able to have an actual conversation.
“Chet and I have sat down and done a bit of talking about what kind of direction it might go. We certainly want to put Joe on the spot in some manner or other. He seems just sort of to demand that kind of behaviour from you.
“We’re going to focus on Joe, primarily, since he’s the one coming through town with a new book. We want to give him a chance to really talk about what his artistic choices were — and then hopefully we’ll tear him to pieces over it.” *laughs*
JPK: I understand you’re currently working on a project for the New York Times?
Seth: “I finished that up now and I’m working on expanding it into a book.”
JPK: Is that what you’re primarily working on right now?
Seth: “It’s one of a couple of things I’m working on. Right now I’m working on finishing up my next issue of my Palookaville comic which is continuing on a story called Clyde Fans, which I’ve been working on for years. I’m hoping on getting a couple more of those out within the calendar year.
“As soon as that’s done I’m back to what I was just talking about, which is George Sprott. That’ll take me probably a couple of months, to get that together into a book.
“At the same time as that I’m working on a collection for [Canadian publisher] Drawn & Quarterly on Doug Wright. It’s going to be a two-volume series on his life’s work.
“He was an amazing cartoonist. I collected his work and studied him for about 10 years at least, as a collector, planning this book series, but then when it actually got underway we actually tracked down his family and went into the archives where he has donated all his work and it really was an eye opener to see the amount of work and the quality of work he did in his life.
“I think it’s going to be an impressive series for Canadians to see, too, because I don’t think we have much of a sense of the history of cartooning here in Canada.”
JPK: And, of course, you’re still working away on the design for Fantagraphics’ Peanuts collections?
Seth: “Oh yeah. There’s one out now and I’ll have to start work on another in a couple of months — it’s going like clockwork. I can pretty much gauge where my life is going just by whether or not I’m working on one of those books or not.
“I enjoy working on it, but I’m looking forward to that day [eight years from now] when I can put volume 25 on the shelf and be done.”