Comic Wire

Thu, November 9th, 2000 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

VINI, VIDI, VICI

MILLAR, QUITELY QUIT 'THE AUTHORITY'

[The Authority]Leaving destruction in their wake, Mark Millar announced early Thursday morning that he and Frank Quitely will be leaving DC/Wildstorm's 'The Authority' next spring.

"Well, it's been an Internet rumor for months, but I'd just like to confirm that Frank Quitely and I are indeed wrapping up our year-long run on 'The Authority' with #25," Millar said in a statement released to the online press. "Our third and final arc, 'Brave New World,' begins in #22 this December and caps what must surely have been the most creatively-rewarding and critically-acclaimed series either of us have ever been involved with.

"Just as Warren [Ellis] and Bryan [Hitch] threw every big and crazy superhero idea they ever had into the first 12 issues, Frank and I agreed from day one that our run would be equally finite. The huge jump in sales and the unprecedented media attention made it very tempting to hang around a little longer than planned, but we decided to stick to our principles and pass along the torch while the audience was clapping loudest. At the moment, the details of the new creative team have still to be finalized, but I'm delighted to say that DC Comics and Wildstorm are on the verge of signing up our two big recommendations."

According to Diamond Comics Distributors, "The Authority" #20 was ranked #51 in initial orders.

"All I can say for now is that the writer is the geezer behind what must surely be my favorite comic at the moment and the art is being handled by someone who is, quite simply, the best story-teller in the business. Trust me when I say that this book will be in very capable hands next year and this is more than just hyperbole. This is still going to be a bloody great book."

But if Millar's run involved destruction that, if possible, upped the ante from that in the previous run by Ellis and Hitch, he made sure that his departure from the book couldn't be accused of following a scorched earth policy.

"Anyway, I'll say my proper goodbyes in the lettercol of our final issue, but I'd just like to say thanks to Rachelle Brissenden, John Layman, Scott Dunbier, John Nee, Jim Lee, DC Comics and all my mates on the boards at www.wildstorm.com for making this past year a truly exceptional one for Frank and I. Thanks also to Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison who's behind-the-scenes scheming landed us this book in the first place. In the meantime, I'd like to invite everyone along to the regular Millar Chat on the Wildstorm boards tonight at 5:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and hope you all look forward to our very best and very last arc starting in 'The Authority' #22. This is the story we just couldn't top so you know it's going to be at least worth having a flick through in the comic-store.

"As for future plans, Frank and I are keeping mum for the moment, but details of a major new initiative will be announced in due course. We're still sticking with superheroes, but want to take them to the NEXT level and are in serious discussions with Wildstorm about a new, creator-owned thing aimed at Mature Readers which would be as distinct from our 'Authority' run as this book was from my work on 'Superman Adventures.' Again, details will be available once contracts are signed, but trust me when I say that this isn't going to be like anything you've ever read before."

MARVEL MAKES IT OFFICIAL:

MORRISON, CASEY X-MEN WRITERS

Rumors circulating through the creative community for some weeks now have been proven accurate: Joe Casey is indeed joining Grant Morrison as the writer of the other core X-Men book, Marvel announced on Wednesday.

[Joe Quesada]
Joe Quesada
"He and Grant Morrison will be bringing you the finest in X-Men entertainment," Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada said.

As for why Casey and Morrison are a good fit together, "For lack of a better word, he's a sick bastard," Quesada said. "And I think he thinks along the same terms as Mr. Morrison."

Plans currently call for the two X-Men titles to be more or less independent of each other.

Which writer will be getting which book, though, was not announced, nor were artists announced during the twice-monthly telephone press conference on Wednesday.

The much-heralded return of writer Chris Claremont to the X-books hasn't truly ended with his departure from "Uncanny X-Men" and "X-Men": Claremont and artist Salvador LaRocca would be the creative team of a new ongoing monthly comic.

"Essentially, it's Chris going crazy in the X-Men universe that he helped create," Quesada said. "He'll have his own team and his own agenda. … It's a chance for him to spread his wings without worrying about … continuity."

All three writers begin their new assignments in May. It's probable that current X-books will be getting the axe around the same time.

"At this point, we're not ready to announce what's being cancelled and what's not being cancelled," Quesada said. "We haven't decided ourselves."

[Bill Jemas]
Bill Jemas
"A lot of our content is very, very good for who it's targeted towards. But so much of it is targeted at the same people," Marvel president Bill Jemas said. "It's not that we don't want to have a full publishing list … we don't want to have a list that's duplicative."

If that sounds like a familiar refrain (albeit one using the word "duplicative"), it should be: "That's a response to a loud, clear, 10 year message from fans," Jemas said.

Still, Jemas says they're cognizant that cutting a book that once was read by 200,000 and is now down to 40,000 circulation, "what you really do is you stick the knife in the ribs of the most loyal fans. … [hurting] the diehards who are still reading [and] who stuck with it no matter what."

Diehards take heart: Characters losing their own books are almost certainly not just vanishing like a New Orleans mutant thief in the night.

"If, theoretically, the Gambit book might go away, that would have more to do with one of the X-Men authors wanting to tell a big story with that character in the main books," Jemas said.

But even as Marvel trims its monthly X-titles, the mutant menace will remain a presence on comic racks, but these books will be created with an eye towards trade paperback sales.

"Sometime in 2001, after the main launch … you'll see a series of miniseries featuring the key characters from the main books," Quesada said. "Each of them going to the core aspect of these characters."

The five characters specifically mentioned as getting their own miniseries were Storm, Rogue, Cyclops, Nightcrawler and Angel.

The X-Men's popularity in other mediums was also discussed Wednesday, with Jemas announcing that the new X-Men cartoon show had been renewed, with work on new episodes beginning immediately. Fans can also look forward to comic tie-ins on expanded X-Men movie DVD next year, possibly the Marvel.Comics Ultimate material from the Marvel.com Web site.

Regular Comic Wire readers will remember that it wasn't so long ago that the powers that be (or, rather, were) were shaking up the second-tier of X-Men titles earlier this year. Is this going to become a regular ritual on the titles?

"I think it's always good to shake things up," Quesada said. "Something we need to do as a company is to constantly look at what we're doing as a company, seeing what works and what doesn't work.

"We feel a lot of the books say the same thing. … It just happens to be different outfits and different artists."

That's changing, Quesada said.

"It's extremely liberating for the head of the company to come in and say 'it's OK, you don't just have to do superheroes.'"

Quesada suggested an announcement is probably coming in December about a new Marvel imprint.

And in other news, Your Man @ Marvel spoke up briefly at the press conference, saying that he expected to have an interview with Tom Brevoort up at the Marvel.com site on Friday about the future of "Thor," "Avengers" and "Captain Marvel."

SAM KIETH RETURNS TO SQUARE ZERO


PREVIEW: 'ZERO GIRL' #1

Warning: Adult language in the following story.

[Zero Girl]
Zero Girl #1 Preview
Sam Kieth was there at the beginning, one of the first wave of artists to jump ship from Marvel Comics and head over to the fledgling Image Comics line. But while his counterparts were doing very commercial superhero books like "Spawn," "The Savage Dragon" and "Wildcats," Kieth created a quirky series that included a uniform-wearing "superhero," but was more about the relationship between a freelance social worker and her evil sorcerer father.

And then one day, "The Maxx" was gone.

"The plotlines were wandering, I said what I had to say, and I felt like I had to take a break," Kieth told the Comic Wire on Wednesday evening. "I made a bad movie," he laughed, "Made several shorts."

But not, Sam Kieth is returning to comics. He dipped his toe in the waters earlier this year with "Sam Stories: Legs." But in December, he returns to longer former stories with a very quirky, very Kieth tale: "Zero Girl."

Readers of Kieth's "The Maxx" will find the weirder elements of "Zero Girl" feel very familiar. Which isn't surprising, as at least one of the bits -- objects coming to life -- is an idea he originally came up with for "The Maxx."

And, of course, there's the rather unique worldview of the protagonist, Amy, who believes that circles are good, squares are bad and that she can talk with insects.

"It's funny, this story seems much more normal to me," Kieth said. And he may have a point: In "The Maxx," it was eventually revealed that the homeless superhero inside the big purple suit was a dead rabbit. "It's like being inside the looking glass, looking from inside. I keep thinking people are going to be impressed with how much normal this story is."

Part of the normalcy Kieth sees in "Zero Girl" may come from the fact that this story hits a little closer to home than others he's told.

"I just wanted to come back and do something … something a little more personal. Not that I'm picking up teenage girls," he laughed. In "Zero Girl," there's are unrequited romantic feelings between Amy and her high school guidance counselor. "It's actually the reverse of me and my wife's situation. I met her at a very early age. There's a 15 year age difference between us. I wanted to explore that."

The miniseries also features a female-centered cast of Amy and a gang of girl bullies at her high school.

"When I write these characters, these girls, I'm basically just writing about boys, but I don't have the guts to write about boys," Kieth said. "Someday I'll have to write about boys, but that would hit too close to home."

Both "Zero Girl" and Amy herself draw much of their power from her emotional pain.

"Typical Sam Kieth situation! Everything's shame and humiliation."

Amy's superpowers come from her drawing on past, present and even future emotional pain, although sometimes she doesn't even grasp the significance of the (future) memories she draws upon.

"The most powerful thing she can draw on is this coaster with blood on it," Kieth said. "She can't figure out what happened. … Did someone attack her with a coaster?"

Amy's mysteries will be explored in a five issue DC/Homage miniseries starting in December. Kieth is just now finishing the art on the final issue.

"I think it's a really good ending. And most people say 'you know, that could be really good. If you don't fuck it up.'"

Fans of Kieth's work won't have to wait too long for his next project after "Zero Girl." After several years away while trying to break into the movie industry, including working on a Roger Corman film, he's got a full plate of comic work before him.

"When I went to New York, I basically went to go talk to small film places, I came back with two years of comic work," Kieth said. "All these guys I know are in positions of power."

Among those guys he knows is Joe Quesada, Marvel Comics' new editor-in-chief.

Kieth is currently talking to Marvel about doing a Hulk project and is one of the artist signed up to handle an arc on the new Ultimate Marvel line's team-up book written by Brian Michael Bendis.

Bendis "named a bunch of options, and I said 'what about Daredevil?'" Kieth said. "We'll find out how badly I massacre Daredevil."

Kieth doesn't see doing these more commercial projects as turning his back on more personal work.

"The reason that Erik Larsen comes back and does these [mainstream] characters at the same time as he does his own stories is that he grew up with these guys," Kieth said. "If I was going to do comics for the money, I sure wouldn't do it now."

Kieth is also talking to DC/Wildstorm about another miniseries, and to DC/Vertigo editor Karen Berger about a project that he'd write but not draw. Of course, she came back, asking him to draw it anyway.

"I felt like a girl where they wanted me for my body and not my mind."

The Vertigo miniseries is called "Dr. Z."

"I'm really excited about the possibility of writing about something and not drawing it. What a surprise, it's about husbands and wives. And a giant lobster."

And as for that big purple homeless guy/superhero/bunny rabbit?

"Eventually, I'll probably get back to 'The Maxx,' but I ain't gonna get anywhere near it until the time is right. I really respect Matt Wagner for being able to stay away from 'Mage' until he was ready. … I don't have to worry about competing with myself, since I was never Jim Lee or Todd McFarlane to begin with.

"The bottom line is that I've still got something to prove. … I feel like there's a lot that I haven't done."

'DIAMOND IS A MONOPOLY'

ROZANSKI ON DIAMOND INVESTIGATION'S END

This week, the Department of Justice ended its investigation into possible monopolistic practices by Diamond Comics without finding cause to press criminal charges.

But while Diamond may officially be off the hook, one of the company's most outspoken critics still believes them to be engaged in monopolistic practices.

"Certainly, Diamond is a monopoly when it comes to supplying the majority of the comics to the Direct Market," Chuck Rozanski, the owner of Mile High Comics, told the Comic Wire on Wednesday. "But some monopolies are allowed if they create good, rather than harm."

And the company may not be out of the woods, Rozanski said.

"Diamond has to be very careful in all its future dealings. The fact that it has been allowed to engage in a benevolent monopoly does not protect Diamond, or [owner] Steve Geppi, if future actions are taken that are to the detriment of comics retailers, or publishers."

THE COMIC BRIEF IN BRIEF

While Americans in the real world wondered about who their president-elect would be, in the DC Comics universe, Lex Luthor won the election. Superman editor Eddie Berganza told the Comic Wire how and why Superman's arch foe became the president of the United States and what it means for Superman and the DCU. You can read the story here.

And for those of you who don't check it daily -- for shame! -- here's our usual the round-up of CBR's Comic Brief since the last edition of the Comic Wire:

  • DoJ concludes investigation of Diamond Comic Distributors, not monopoly

  • WB Network to air teen Richie Rich show

  • Radio Comix solicitations for items shipping February 2001

  • Viz Publishing's solicitations for items shipping February 2001

  • Mainstream press writes about CrossGen

AND FINALLY …

In the Monday edition of the Comic Wire, DC/Vertigo editor Will Dennis was mistakenly referred to as "Will Benes."

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