What’s SHOOT THE MESSENGER?
Well, AICN COMICS: SHOOT THE MESSENGER is your weekly one stop shop for comic book -EWS. What’s comic book –EWS? Well, it’s our hodge podge of everything not reviews here at AICN Comics. Sure you can find out the @$$Holes’ critical opinions of your favorite books every Wednesday at AICN Comics. But here, you’ll find special reports such as previews, interviews, special features, and occasionally news gathered here from our online brethren at Newsarama, CBR, Wizard, etc. Sure those guys are the best at reporting news as it breaks. Click on the links for the original stories. This column cuts the crap to run down all the vital information for those of you who don’t follow it as it comes in, and serves it all up with that special ingredient of @$$y goodness.
WINNERS OF THE TALISMAN CONTEST!
Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with the winners for last week’s THE TALISMAN Contest from Del Ray Comics. The below winners will be receiving a copy of THE TALISMAN #0 autographed by Stephen king and Peter Straub. Congrats to the following winners...
SGT Troy Daniels
Dawn Toledo Walsh
Thanks again to all who entered!
Humphrey Lee chats with
AJ Lieberman on COWBOY NINJA VIKING!
Hey all. Humphrey Lee here to follow up a review of the new Image Shadowline book COWBOY NINJA VIKING (found here) with a little Question and Answers session with its writer, AJ Lieberman. So please join us as I do a little probing on just how a book like CNV came into being.
AJ LIEBERMAN (AJL): Well, somewhere in there I also did an 8 month run of Martian Manhunter. The DC stuff, of course, was great. Worked with Bob Schreck and Matt Idelson. But as fun as it is working with these iconic characters after a while you get the itch to play in a sand box of your own devising. Or at least I did.
HUMPHREY LEE (HL): Alright, let’s kick this off with a simple question: where the hell have you been? I joked around with it a little in my review of COWBOY NINJA VIKING #1, talking about how “tt’s always fun to see someone re-emerge in comics” and I honestly have not seen your name on anything since GOTHAM KNIGHTS and your Hush tales. So what have you been up to?
So I decided to make a concious effort to take some time to only work on creator-owned books which takes some logistical planning. And by “logistical planning” I mean “cash hoarding” since I knew I wasn’t going to be seeing a page rate anytime soon.
HL: To go with this, looking over at Riley’s material now, how did he end up on this project?AJ: Riley and I have known each other for a while. We tried getting something up and running a few years back, before Proof, but it never happened. I’ve been a fan of Riley’s work for a long while. We tried a few other things that never went anywhere. To me, the look of this book, maybe more than most, is tied directly to who the main character is. And Riley’s manic style is perfect for the book’s tone.
HL: How did CNV come to be?AJ: Riley and I had been bouncing ideas, not so much ideas as character types, locations. Riley wanted to do something with a dystopian-near-future setting, which I also like. So when the character started coming together it was with that kind of locale in mind. I wrote several versions of this but none ever felt right.
HL: One would kind of assume, on the surface anyway, that in a time in pop-culture when everyone is obsessed with stuff like Pirates and Ninjas and Sparkly Vampires that a book like this would either be a “cash in” of sorts, or at least a direct commentary on this kind of “phenomenon” I guess you could call it. But reading the book itself it really isn’t. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek, yes, but mostly it’s just an action book with a premise that’s kind of geek savvy. So was it supposed to be any of these things, none of these things, or am I just talking out my ass here?AJ: You might be talking out your ass, but maybe just a little. One of the things that surprised me the most was how so many people assumed, upon hearing the title, it was a conscious effort to do, as you say, a mash up of these pop-culture-geek-chic characters. And of course anyone reading it now would see it’s pretty far from a mash up.
I wish I could take credit for thinking I was doing some sort of meta–story-commentary about this phenomenon but I can’t. Jonathan Hickman would probably be good for that.
I came to The Umbrella Academy really late. Like it had already been put out as a trade late. But I remember reading it and I was particularly taken with the first 5 pages – just how “silly” it was but how they presented everything in a totally serious way. Everything that book is, is set up in those first 5 pages.
And coming off my stuff with DC I knew I wanted to write something lighter… or something that was going to let me have a bit more fun. I personally believe that comedy and drama are not mutually exclusive themes.
Anyway, I wrote a few versions based on this dystopian setting but realized I was forcing Duncan, who at this point was more like a second cousin twice removed to the Duncan we have today, into this stylized world. The ideas were far more…intense. Finally, I realized the character was the concept. It was that simple. I actually said it out loud. Once I had that, I was quickly able to develop the tone and style I thought would work which is what we have today.
HL: How does one pitch a book like this? I have to know. Do you just walk into an editor’s office and slap a script down on the table and say “It’s called COWBOY NINJA VIKING, you know you fucking want it!!” or did this one take some time and maneuvering?AJ: The pitch was interesting.
First off, it was originally called VIKING NINJA COWBOY. And once we had the tone and look and finished pages (which Riley colored like SPEED RACER, they were absolutely cool looking) we sent it out and to Shadowline’s credit they pretty much responded very, very fast (except to the color scheme). It showed us they really wanted it.
Of course, getting the pitch just right is another story…
HL: So before the first issue even hit there was an announcement that this book is going to now be ongoing. Was there always a plan for this book to continue if it was successful, like if the first mini did well there’d be another one, or was this just an answer to a really good pre-order number?AJ: Well, I think Shadowline has it right. They usually say, “we’ll do 4 and see what happens.” No one (publisher or creative team) wants to put out a book no one is buying. So 4 is a good number to gauge reaction. With CNV we talked doing 8 over a year, and because of Proof, we were going to take a break between the two arcs of 4. But once the advance buzz started and initial orders started coming in, we were bowled over by the reception and realized we had to re-evaluate the game plan. So I guess the answer to your question is: a little bit of both.
HL: Did you already have a “saga” or whatever laid out for the CNV, or are you just getting to play with this property more now because of fan response?AJ: God, I wish I had a saga mapped out. It would save me so much friggin’ stress but I don’t seem to write that way. I’m in the camp that says 25% of a script should, in some way, come from “happy accidents”. As an example, a few of the pitch pages ended up NOT making it into Book #1 because once I started laying out the story, I realized they no longer fit. Which meant we needed new pages, which meant Riley got pissed. I’m a big re-writer. So, as Clayton and I go over balloon placement I’m able to tweak or re-write stuff with the finished art work in hand.
I like to work from an outline but inevitably it always changes. I’ll write a line of dialogue that makes me think of something and then before I know it, half my outline is trashed. Until I wrote the line where Ghislain admits that the government kinda-sorta thinks the Triplets are already dead I hadn’t planned for that but it kinda made you realize why Ghislain was so anxious to get Ammo back and allowed for a great tension to develop between he and Duncan. Like I said, happy accidents.
HL: And lastly, to bring this home, is there already a finite plan for the adventures of the CNV, or are you guys just going to run it until you feel it has gone its course?AJ: I’ll tell you this. Riley and I are very, very serious about not wanting to crap this book out. As bizarre and weird and funny as it is we both treat its success as a very precious thing. The most important thing Riley and I have in common is that we are both our own biggest critics and know how much effort it took to get these first 5 books the exact way we wanted them. We’re both perfectionists in the worst possible way.
Aaaaaand there we go. The book itself is pretty damn awesome, and its writer is a pretty good chap as well. That’s all the more reason for the uninitiated to give it a shot. If you need more prodding, though, come back on Wednesday where I will be giving another write up on the third issue where we’ll see whether or not the quality is holding up. I have no instance of doubt in my head it will turn out to be as fun, energetic and as good-looking as it has been thus far.Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a Blogger Account where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
Elston Gunn talks with Robert Tinnell
On DEMONS OF SHERWOOD!
Hello. Elston Gunn here.
ROBERT TINNELL (RT): I'm not sure he's ever really released his grip, if you think about it. He's certainly a powerfully recurrent figure in pop culture. But at the moment, I guess given the fact we're emerging from what some may call a “robber baron” age wherein we rewarded incompetents and thieves who perpetrated generational theft - well, maybe Robin Hood represents a fantasy figure who somehow manages to somewhat level the playing field. Although I would stress that was not what was informing us as we created the story. We were more interested in seeing where the characters would be years down the road and how they would deal with a variety of problems.
If you're looking for last-minute gifts in the form of graphic novels, you may want to take a look at DEMONS OF SHERWOOD, which IDW released last week. Writer Robert Tinnell and artist Bo Hampton's new angle on the legend visits Robin Hood ten years after restoring Richard to the throne, only to find his lonely drunken ass letting himself go and having to rescue Marian from a witch-hunter. The comic made its debut at ComicMix, who delivered Tinnell's EZ STREETS and LONE JUSTICE: CRASH! (both illustrated by Mark Wheatley).
Tinnell took time to answer some questions for AICN about SHERWOOD, inspirations and a little about his movie adaptation of THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.
ELSTON GUNN (EG): Interesting coincidence that the trailer for Ridley Scott's ROBIN HOOD debuts the same week IDW releases DEMONS OF SHERWOOD. What is it about Robin Hood, do you think, that captures the contemporary zeitgeist?
EG: What inspired your take on the character?RT: Bo and I were both intrigued, as I said before, by the notion of “ten years after.” The one thing we all do consistently is age. And ultimately age takes its toll. And imagine, if you will, how one would live their life after the great events of his life were concluded? I remember a formerly huge actor said to me once - “You try being the biggest movie star in the world for years - and then not.” Life beyond the fame, the notoriety, the sense-of-purpose that defined you - when all of that stopped you would no doubt be affected the change. Couple that with a break-up with your supposed soul-mate and - hell, can you blame Robin for slipping into drink?
EG: Did you have any reservations about introducing a supernatural element to such a well-known and centuries-old mythology? Do you look at it any differently than writing a new story around Dracula or Frankenstein?RT: Actually, our biggest concerns were making sure it fit into history. Now, I have to laugh when I say that - I mean, once you introduce the sorts of supernatural events we do in this story, you have to ask yourself, “Is it really that important that we are slaves to historical fact?” And I guess the answer ended up being that if we make an effort to create a an accurate world it will help inform the story and give us parameters and even introduce interesting plot points. All of which occurred. But I cannot lie - Bo is a far better researcher than I am. I'm more interested in the ways characters respond to situations - thank God, he's crazy enough to spend hours researching chain mail!
I didn't really answer that first question, did I? We did not have reservations about the supernatural. We were interested - and I'm not sure if anyone will ever pick up on this - but we were sort of hoping that at least a few of the demons encountered in Sherwood were the precursors of creatures that would emerge in European folklore. Not sure we were successful - but it was a point of departure.
As far as being different than writing a story starring, say, Dracula, I'd say there is no difference. I plead guilty - happily - to the fact I love revisiting a number of iconic characters and placing them in new situations. And I know Bo feels the same way…
EG: Did you immerse yourself in Robin Hood lore to prepare for this? How about historical research?RT: As I said before, Bo is the master researcher. I did just enough to make sure we were in an era wherein Robin could co-exist with an early witch-hunter - but Bo buried me. He's quite diligent.
EG: You worked with Bo Hampton a few years ago on SIGHT UNSEEN. How did you meet and what is it about his work that keeps you wanting to collaborate with him?RT: We first met in Philly at a con, I think. And we kind of hit it off. He read something - maybe The Black Forest, maybe The Wicked West - I don't remember which - and he called and said he had this idea - which was Sight Unseen and offered me the chance to collaborate. I don't know why he works with me - he's so freakin' talented he could just go it alone. But we like working together. He comes up with these wonderful concepts - and then asks me to come play with him. Who can refuse? We love working together - and he thinks like I do - very cinematically. Bo could absolutely direct a film and do a great job with it. No question in my mind.
EG: For a period story like this, how much detail and direction do you give Hampton when it comes to details, such as costumes, for example?RT: His attention to detail insures that I could get away with saying nothing and it would still look marvelous. We draw on so many of the same inspirations - Mario Bava, Hammer Films, Argento, Fulci, British TV from the '60's - all kinds of stuff - and obviously we are both fans of comics. So we have developed quite a shorthand. One of us can reference a scene from a movie or the way someone laid out a page from a Warren black and white from 1973 and the other is like: “Oh, I got you.” And we tend to “cast” our characters while scripting so Bo knows where to go when bringing them to life. I do tend to fixate a bit on the stories' geography. For example, with Sight Unseen many of the events that occurred were very specific to the layout of the house and grounds of the main location - an old haunted house called The Birches. So I drew a map and scanned it and sent it to Bo. And that way we were on the same page quite literally. We did the same thing somewhat with Sherwood - mainly because we had to make certain they could realistically get to Salisbury Plain in a reasonable amount of time.
EG: What kind of advice do you have for aspiring comic writers who are trying to find the right balance between providing the right amount of detail and giving the artist enough freedom to do what they do best?RT: Honestly, my artists appreciate the detail I give them (Mark Wheatley would tell you that means no detail), but in the end they do what they want. I'm a slave to their genius!
EG: It was recently announced Brad Anderson is attached to direct an adaptation of your graphic novel (co-written by Todd Livingston, art by Micah Farritor) THE LIVING AND THE DEAD. What can you tell us about this project?RT: I loved doing the graphic novel, loved writing the script and am now loving doing a small rewrite to incorporate Brad's notes. Todd and I should be finished by this Tuesday or so - I almost hate to let it go. Brad was not demanding - it was more a case of him leading us along, trying to find some new moments that enhanced the story - and then just backed off and let us go. Where we ended up, while not physically extensive, led Todd and I into some really great new territory. The film is now even scarier, more disturbing than ever and our villain has become way more shaded - and menacing. And I know Brad's going to do a fantastic job directing the film.
EG: What's next in terms of comics for you?RT: Bo and I are teaming up on TORN, a werewolf GN for Dark Horse - coming out in 2011.
The rest of my ComicMix stuff is coming out from IDW in 2010 - not new, certainly, but I'm eager to see the stuff in print - especially EZ STREET.
Neil Vokes and I are putting together another monster rally - imagine if Hammer Films had brought all their monsters together for one story - it's called Flesh and Blood - and I'm hoping that Neil is drawing even as I'm typing this! Adrian Salmon and I are bringing back our Terry Sharp character, although most likely as an online daily. We love the character and the world and have been away from him for too long - mainly as we both are so tied up with other commitments. This way at least we can keep him in the public eye. Mark Wheatley and I are talking about taking a crack at something with a science fiction angle. Lots to do - and that's just in comics. Don't get me started on my other obligations.