Comic Wire

Tue, July 6th, 1999 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

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MILLAR'S 'RED SON' RISES IN 1999

Truth, justice and the Marxist way?

Although DC Comics' "The Nail" Justice League Elseworlds miniseries is the hot mini-series of the moment, in early 1999, it looks likely that title will belong to Mark Millar's "Red Son" Superman Elseworlds story.

Elseworlds, similar to Marvel Comics' "What If?" concept, place DC characters in alternate settings and situations. "The Nail" imagines a world where Superman never became a superhero. Without his influence, the public distrusts and fears superheroes, with disastrous consequences.

Millar's "Red Son" imagines a world where the infant Kal-El's rocket lands not in Smallville, Kansas, but in the U.S.S.R. instead.

"The basic idea came to me when I was a wee boy and I read 'Superman' #300," Millar wrote in an interview with Comic Wire. 'Superman' #300 "is a story set in the year 2001 when Kal-El's rocket lands in the middle of neutral seas between the Soviets and the Americans. It's a race between the super-powers to see who gets there first and, as you might expect, the Yanks get him, but I always wondered how things might have turned out if the Soviets had raised him. Now I'm finally getting to tell the story I've been thinking about all those years."

When the Elseworlds books first sprang to life, inspired by the success of "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" and "Batman: Gotham by Gaslight," only Batman books seemed to be embraced by critics and fans. In recent months, however, numerous Elseworlds featuring Superman or some derivation thereof have been announced or appeared, including "The Nail," "The Dark Side" (featuring a Kal-El raised on Apokolips), and two "Elseworld's Finest," one by John Francis "Chronos" Moore featuring "pulp" versions of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, and a forthcoming one featuring a world with only Supergirl and Batgirl, without their male counterparts.

To Millar, this all makes perfect sense:

"I LOVE Batman, but have ALWAYS preferred Superman. The two characters enjoy a rotating affection in the public imagination and have done since they first appeared. Superman was big in the 30s, 50s and 70s whereas Batman cut the mustard in the alternate years when society wasn't undergoing so many big upheavals and people wanted a HUMAN hero. Now, with the global economy on the verge of collapse and lotsa mad geezers with nuclear bombs, we want Superman again. It's really that simple, as far as I'm concerned."

Fans waiting on "Red Son" can pick up get Millar on Superman every month in "The Superman Adventures."

"Brainiac issues (out now) are followed by a Parasite story in ish 24, a team up between Superman and Batgirl in ish 25 (featuring my best EVER splash page) and a SUPERBOY issue set 13 years ago in Smallville in ish 26. I'm really keen to hear what people make of this stuff. The Luthor and Darkseid issues which follow are some of the hardest-hitting material we've seen in the Superman books ever. This is really powerful, dramatic stuff. I'm writing these stories for me ... not writing down for kids. Younger readers are smarter than a lot of writers give them credit for. I was a smart kid and I wouldn't have bought something which was anything less than one hundred per cent.

'WATCHMAN' CREATOR RETURNS WITH SCIENCE FICTION EPIC

DC Comics is hoping that there's room for at least one more summer blockbuster mixing science fiction and disaster movie scenarios, laden with computer-generated special effects.

DC's Helix imprint still has some life left in it. Although the science fiction comics line hasn't taken off like the Vertigo imprint it emulates, and its most-prominent title, Warren Ellis' "Transmetropolitan" has, in fact, jumped over to the Vertigo camp, the line looks ready to get a shot in the arm with the arrival of "The Dome" this month.

Computer-generated comics have been around, in one form or another, for almost a decade. But "The Dome" brings the concept into the 1990s, with modern computer-created art techniques and possibly the most reliable "special effect" in the comics industry: a heavy hitter at the creative helm, in this case, Dave "The Watchmen" Gibbons.

The book is not only being created with 3-D drawing software by artist Angus McKie, but is a computer-driven operation from start-to-finish.

"I wrote a script and drew a 'storyboard layouts' on the computer, using Photoshop. Angus then set up characters and settings using Poser, Bryce and 3D Studio software. He added lettering using Freehand and composited and finished the renderings back in Photoshop," Gibbons told the Comic Wire.

As for the story itself, "it's a kind of special effects science fiction blockbuster." Following the detonation of a "quantum bomb" in the Pacific Ocean, an alien artifact is discovered at ground zero. The consequences of the bomb threaten to destroy the world as we know it.

More information about "The Dome," including samples of the artwork, are available

at http://www.dccomics.com/helix/domepreview/index.htm.

Finally, Gibbons doesn't mind the very real possibility that "The Watchmen," the DC maxi-series he created with Alan Moore in the 1980s, will very probably be the way he'll be remembered: "I have no complaints about WATCHMEN. It's done me nothing but good and is by no means a burden!"

WORKS BY 'OBSCENE' CARTOONIST AUCTIONED ONLINE

Mike Diana's comic books are precisely the type your parents worry about.

In 1995, Diana was convicted on obscenity charges in Florida. The material in question was his independent comic, "Boiled Angel," which the prosecution said could appeal to or inspire serial killers. Diana was required to pay a $3,000 fine, undergo psychological counseling, have no contact with children 18 or younger, perform 1,248 hours of community service, take a journalism ethics course, and during a three year probationary period, his home was open to police inspection at any time, without advance warning or warrant, to determine if Diana possessed, or was creating, "obscene material."

Diana, whose conviction was upheld on appeal and whose case was not taken up by the Supreme Court, was the first American cartoonist convicted of obscenity.

To help pay his legal fees and fines, Diana will be auctioning off comics

and other works of original art online. The auction, at http://www.testicle.com/mdauc.html,

obviously contains content that may offend some readers.

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