Comic Wire

Thu, December 21st, 2000 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

"THIS IS WHERE I NEED TO GO NOW"

GEORGE PÉREZ ON CROSSGEN MOVE

Note to would-be suitors of George Pérez: The full court press works with him.

[CrossGen]After all, that's how CrossGen Comics got him to go from handling the art on a few issues of "CrossGen Chronicles" to signing an exclusive contract with the company, as was announced earlier this week. (See CBR's Comic Brief for CrossGen's press release on the topic.)

"I was sort of overwhelmed by all the effort," Pérez told the Comic Wire on Wednesday. "I hope I'm worth it! ... My wife's comment was 'good god, they really want you!'"

CrossGen initially contacted the legendary artist before their first comic was even published. But it took one of his partners at the Gorilla imprint coming on board to convince him to give them a closer look.

"If they can win a skeptic like Mark [Waid] over, I should investigate this a little more," Pérez said. Waid joined CrossGen's staff as their third staff writer earlier this year, although he won't be fully exclusive with the company until his run writing DC Comics' "JLA" comes to an end.

Like Waid, Pérez doesn't exactly have to go begging for freelance assignments from the major companies. But CrossGen was offering something that they weren't.

"Despite the fact of being able to get a lot of work -- lord knows I have no problem as far as work being offered -- because of concerns of my health, as well as my age creeping up ... I have to start worrying about my future.

"The great thing about working with CrossGen is they do things like profit-sharing and being able to build up money for retirement."

The company is bending some of their rules for the artist: While he already lives in Florida, he won't be relocating from his home in Orlando to the company's studios outside Tampa, as is the norm. Pérez is a diabetic, and has special needs that made him reluctant to pick up stakes and move across the state -- much less commute two-and-a-half hours each way daily.

"The more they understood, the more they were willing to listen to what some of the problems were and were willing to work around them, the more I realized that this is not normal at Marvel and DC, since with them, the knowledge is always there that, first and foremost, I was just another freelancer."

Of course, he'd heard some of this before.

"Since I'd had experience with other companies that had backing initially, before going bust later on, I was a little anxious at first."

[Crimson Plague]The Gorilla Comics imprint initially was to be funded by a full-service comic Web site. When that never materialized, the creator-owned comics like Waid's "Empire" and Pérez's "Crimson Plague" suddenly became much more tricky propositions, with the creators fronting the money for the production and publication of the books.

"Crimson Plague" is "a nice labor of love," he said, "But it's not making me any money I'm going to retire on."

Waid reportedly has the ability to do more "Empire" in an exception to his exclusivity clause, and Pérez likewise has the right to do a JLA/Avengers crossover book if DC and Marvel (and their respective parent companies) ever get all their legal ducks in a row. But as for "Crimson Plague," Pérez doesn't know what its future is at this point.

"I'll make an announcement soon. I'm still weighing [the decision]," he said. "With all the problems that Gorilla has had, it's been a tough haul."

He will be talking to his Gorilla partners and the models for "Crimson Plague" (who normally would be buying plane tickets and planning summer convention appearances early in the new year) before making the decision.

"There will be a decision on that in the next couple of weeks."

Much more definite, though, is him tackling a genre he's done relatively little with. After years making his mark on superhero comics for DC and Marvel, Pérez says fantasy comics offer him a chance to grow as an artist.

"After drawing my first issue for CrossGen," -- "CrossGen Chronicles" #2 -- "I really liked it. That Ron Marz, he's going to kill me! And it looks like Barbara Kesel's going to try the same thing," he laughed. "I'm drawing things I don't normally get a call to do. My first issue, I had to draw armadas in battle at sea. ... The more I want to curse the writer, the more I improve as an artist."

Pérez is just starting work on "CrossGen Chronicles" #3, which will flesh out the history of the story in "Meridian."

Before his exclusivity contract kicks in, though, DC Comics fans will see Pérez returning to one of his old haunts one more time, when he pitches in on the next major story arc in "Wonder Woman." Pérez, who relaunched comicdom's most famous female superhero as a writer-artist, is co-plotting with that title's new writer-artist double threat, Phil Jimenez.

"He basically just wanted to do a story with me involved. I basically think he's giving me too much credit. A lot of it, I'm not familiar with Wonder Woman and her pantheon since I've been gone," Pérez said. "I've been more of a kibitzer. I once made a suggestion that basically turned Phil around, and that scared me. I thought 'wow, what power!'"

Contrary to some earlier reports, Pérez is staying out of the scripting end of things.

"I don't feel that I should be filtering his words at this point. And he already has an editor on that book."

Returning home to Paradise Island more than 100 issues after he left "is kind of a thrill," he said, "Even in the more peripheral capacity that I am. ... That leaves 'Fantastic Four' for books I haven't touched since I left."

Make that ongoing books: "I sincerely doubt they'll bring back 'Man-Wolf' or 'Logan's Run.' ... Or 'Sons of the Tiger,'" he laughed.

But for now, Pérez is thinking about the future with CrossGen.

"This is where I need to go now. The industry is suffering, no doubt about it. In addition to taking care of me and my own, there was also CrossGen's desire to create a new crop of talent, with people like me as inspiration or," he laughed, "Tribal elders, I guess.

"When I'm gone, there will be an extra legacy beyond the printed page. ... When I started working in comics, and I used to live near enough to Marvel's offices that I would visit maybe once or twice a week ... I would get invaluable advice. ... All these people would tell me what I was doing wrong, as well as what I was doing right. ... Now that we're such a scattered industry ... it's a nice return, a nice throwback. ... When I visited the CrossGen studios, THAT was how I imagined a comic book studio when I was a child."

TOM DeFALCO MOVES OUT OF THE HOUSE OF IDEAS

[Spider-Girl]Once upon a time, a number of Marvel Comics artists left the confines of the House of Ideas to form their own company, Image Comics.

A decade later, a former Marvel editor-in-chief is joining them at Image.

"The bottom line is that I've been working for Marvel for many years, and there were a lot of changes there at Marvel in the last bunch of years," Tom DeFalco told the Comic Wire on Wednesday. "For assorted reasons, I thought it was time for me to start moving on, and go in other directions. You know, luckily since I exist on many planes of reality," he laughed, "Everything has been working out great for me. To my utter surprise, I discovered that my first love is still my true love, which is comics. I felt that if I still wanted to do comics, I had to find another home. To my surprise and utter delight, Jim Valentino at Image welcomed me with open arms. That probably has a lot to do with the other parts of crew; they've got a lot of talent and I'm just riding on their coattails."

The crew DeFalco is arriving with include artist Ron Lim, with whom DeFalco is collaborating on "The Man" and artist Ron Frenz, with whom he's collaborating on "Mr. Right."

This doesn't mean he'll be abandoning his own little corner (and era) of the Marvel Universe, "Spider-Girl."

"'Spider-Girl' is kind of what reminded me of how much I love doing comics. The MC2 books have been such a joy to do. 'Spider-Girl' has become such a labor of love, that I consider that ... to be honest, writing 'Spider-Girl' is my reward at the end of the week. It's my intention to stay on 'Spider-Girl' as long as Marvel allows me to remain on 'Spider-Girl.'"

"Spider-Girl" is also the only surviving MC2 title out of five other books DeFalco wrote that also focused on a near-future Marvel Universe where the children of today's heroes would be taking over the roles. While it would be easy to say that it's the ties to one of comics' classic characters -- "Spider-Girl" features the daughter of Peter and MJ Parker, along with the grandson of the original Green Goblin and even the son of Peter Parker's clone, Ben Reilly -- that's made it a success, the other MC2 books boasted equally prestigious pedigrees. But "Fantastic Five," "A-Next" (the next generation of Avengers), "Wild Thing" (the daughter of Wolverine) and "J2" (the son of perennial X-Men foe Juggernaut) couldn't capitalize on what one might assume would be the built-in audience for each.

"On the one hand, 'J2,' I don't think that fit in anybody's definition of an X-book," DeFalco said. "'J2' we were aiming at an audience that the comic book market doesn't service any more. The funny thing about it, the people who liked 'J2' really liked 'J2.' In many regards, I look at 'J2' as a big success. It only lasted 12 issues, but I have a hunch that 20 years from now, when collectors are looking up the books they remember with fondness, 'J2,' 'A-Next' and 'Fantastic Five' will be among them."

The books also were a success in another regard, DeFalco said, given that the cancellations were handed down while the books were still selling in the top 20 direct market books sold each month.

"I think the people canceling the books were basing their decisions on how they thought they would sell."

DeFalco also is happy with "Spider-Girl" being a "guilty pleasure" for its fans.

"We're never anyone's favorite book. And I can understand that. We're just one of these little havens of fun."

The transition from Marvel Comics writer to Marvel editor-in-chief to Marvel writer and finally to freelancer working for companies other than Marvel was more natural than one might expect, and DeFalco harbors no lingering desires to return to the head office.

"I've always thought of myself as a writer. When I went on-staff at Marvel, I thought 'I'm a freelancer masquerading as a staff person,'" DeFalco said. "When I was asked to be editor-in-chief, I felt that I would have the opportunity to mold the company into the sort of place that a freelancer would want to work at.

"I always assumed that being editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics was a lot like coaching a football team. As long as you're on a winning streak, you're the man! You get a couple of bad seasons, and you're out. Luckily, I had a bunch of good seasons, but I never thought it'd be something that I'd be there forever [doing that]. I always assumed that, one day, I'd be back living off my -- well, I still call it a typewriter, even through I haven't used a typewriter in 20 years.

"When it was time to move on, I was happy to move on. The industry these days is in pretty sad shape ... staying home and writing is a lot more fun."

"AVENGERS," MARVEL KNIGHTS TRADES IN 2001

[Spider-Man Torment]New Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada has been making a lot of noise about the company gearing up its trade paperback program in 2001.

"Definitely!" Ben Abernathy, the man in charge of Marvel's trade paperback program, told the Comic Wire on Wednesday. "We're going back to press with a number of books that have been out of print for a while, like Spider-Man: Torment for instance, as well as a slew of books. It's gonna be great!"

Some of Marvel's plans for new trade paperbacks have already gotten a bit confused out in the wilds of the Internet.

"Here's the Avengers scoop: In January, fans will get the 'Avengers Forever' collection, in March, we see the arrival of the 'Essential Avengers' volume 3, and April is when we hit the main Avengers month: the first collection will be replacing the erroneous claim that we made that we were collecting volume 3 issues 1-12, this book, titled 'Supreme Justice,' will instead collect 'Avengers' 5-7, the 1998 Annual and the relevant issues of the 'Live Kree Or Die' arc ('Iron Man' #7, 'Captain America' #8 and 'Quicksilver' #10). This decision was made because 'The Morgan Conquest,' which collects 'Avengers' 1-4, is still in print! Then, also that month, we see the Collection of 'Avengers: Ultron Unlimited.' This will collect the Wizard 'Avengers' #0, and issues 19-22. It's gonna be a sweet book! There is a tentatively-planned collection for the next batch of Avengers, roughly 8-15 or so, but nothing yet scheduled!"

Marvel will also be venturing further afield with their reprints, bringing out paperbacks of some of their most acclaimed books in recent years.

"To give you a rough idea of a few we've got coming up: the Ennis/Dillon Punisher, a Marvel Knights Black Widow book, the Walter Simonson Visionaries, Ultimate Spider-Man and X-Men, some new Essentials, and the next two Frank Miller Daredevil volumes, and MANY more! It's going to be a really great year for Marvel. We have a diverse publishing schedule coming up, with lots of great material either going back to press or being reprinted for the first time."

DEZAGO TALKS "TELLOS" 2001

[Tellos]With the publication of "Tellos" #10, Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo have wrapped up their first story on their creator-owned fantasy book. And that leaves writer Dezago with mixed emotions.

"Excited because we've gotten to the big reveal, and, if our mail says anything, we definitely surprised a LOT of Readers!" Dezago told the Comic Wire on Monday. "This is the conclusion that Mike and I had planned since day one and it's great that we were able to tell the story the way we wanted! And if you thought THAT was a surprise, wait 'til ya see what's coming in the next arc!

"Sad, I think, because, due to the state of the industry/comics market, though. Sales on the book have been very respectable, we just can't afford to do 'Tellos' on a regular basis (Mike and I paid for 'Tellos' #8 and 9 out of our own pockets ...). We need to take a break and make some money on some other projects so that we can finance our future story arcs."

While the financial trials was an education in the nitty-gritty of comics publishing that neither Dezago or artist Mike Weiringo likely wanted to learn, the story itself wasn't damaged in the process.

"Mike and I have certainly learned a LOT about the business end of producing your own comic, and everything that's involved in the sales and distribution of comics today. But, storywise, and conceptually, it's pretty much what we had originally set out to do. We're both pretty pleased with it."

"Tellos" originally debuted in a market that looked as though it were seeing a new boom in fantasy comics. Many of the comics that started around the same time have dropped off the map, but Dezago still thinks that comic readers are hungry for fantasy stories.

"I think that comics readers are excited about all kinds of stories, regardless of genre, that they're looking for a good solid story illustrated by someone who understands the art of storytelling! I myself, am eager to embrace absolutely any comic book story that's told well! Fantasy, Horror, SF, Humor, Suspense, Superheroes ... Let's Celebrate them all!"

The first major "Tellos" tie-in -- a statue of dashing pirate Serra -- has arrived in comic shops, and more loot is on the way, Dezago said.

"The Tellos action figures are due in April! They've been tweaked several times over and finally approved and they look great! The set consists of Serra, Jarek, Koj, and a FrogSoldier, and if sales are good a second set will contain, Malesur, Hawke, Rikk, and maybe one of the Bounty Hunters ... We've also got plans for a 'Tellos' T-Shirt to be made available soon! Oh, and the first 'Tellos' trade paperback comes out in February, collecting the first five issues as well as the Prelude and the Prologue!"

As for the future of the heroes of "Tellos," life won't be getting any easier, now that their evil foe has been overthrown.

"Oh, did you think Malesur was evil?" Dezago said. "You ain't seen evil yet!"

HOLIDAYS WITH THE COMIC BRIEF

Here's what's news (and press releases) in CBR's newly expanded Comic Brief since the last edition of the Comic Wire:

  • Sunnydale's got a boogeyman, but that's just the start of Buffy's problems!

  • Usagi Yojimbo: Demon Mask collection and limited hardcover in March

  • Chaos! Comics April 2001 Product Listings

  • Chris Oarr appointed manager at DC Comics

  • Preview: 'Batman' #587

  • Lady Death ... Alive!

  • Ken Lashley, Artist of "The 10th Muse," to Illustrate 'Jade' series

  • George Pérez Signs Exclusive Agreement with CrossGen

Remember: When someone tells you that no comic news happens in December, you tell them they need to be reading CBR's Comic Brief!

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