Comic Wire

Thu, December 28th, 2000 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

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STATE OF THE (APE) NATION:

HOW HEALTHY IS GORILLA?

[Superstar]It's been a bumpy ride for the Gorilla Comics imprint.

When it was initially announced in November 1999, Gorilla was to be a creator-owned haven for some of today's most popular superhero creators turned partners in the new imprint: Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, George Prez, Barry Kitson, Joe Kelly, Mike Wieringo, Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett, and was to be underwritten by a major comic book Web site much like CBR.

A year later, though, eHero.com remains stillborn, and without financing for the books, Kelly had to drop out before his first title was even formally announced. In recent months, Waid, signed an exclusive contract with CrossGen Comics, casting the long-term future of his "Empire" in doubt. And just last week, he was followed to CrossGen by Prez.

What that means for "Crimson Plague" by Prez is yet unknown. "With all the problems that Gorilla has had, it's been a tough haul," he told the Comic Wire last week.

So what does all this mean for the future of Gorilla Comics? One partner, who is staying put, said it's wrong to characterize the imprint as being unhealthy.

"Gorilla can't actually be 'healthy' or 'unhealthy,' in the traditional sense, because Gorilla's not really a company in the traditional sense," Busiek told the Comic Wire on Sunday. "We intended to be one when we started out, but since our backer never actually produced any financing and we wound up walking away from him and funding the operation ourselves, we never wound up building a traditional business structure -- each ape or ape-creative-team has been responsible for their own finances.

"Accordingly, each ape does whatever he wants to and can afford, and we make our decisions solo. If any of the apes decide they don't want to, or can't afford to, keep going, that doesn't affect any of the other apes -- there are no dues, no common charges. So we're kind of banded together as an idea, as an approach, but we're an alliance more than a company.

"Thus, Gorilla doesn't make decisions about 'dropping books' -- each of the creators does that solo. And if someone decides to go do work-for-hire for a while, so they can build up a war chest to do something else self-financed -- as the 'Tellos' guys have, with Mike [Wieringo] doing a Superman book while he and Todd [Dezago] launch 'Tales of Tellos' with other artists -- that's entirely their call. And if one of the apes should stop publishing through Gorilla for a while, it doesn't mean they can't come back and do something else later -- just as Stuart [Immonen] and I haven't had anything out since October, but we've got 'Superstar: As Seen on TV' on the horizon.

"What each of the apes will do, I can't say -- for my part, and Stuart's part, we've finished 'Shockrockets' first mini, and are doing 'Superstar: As Seen on TV,' just as announced. After that, we've talked about a variety of projects -- including more Shockrockets, more Superstar, a Shockrockets TPB and other ideas, but we're not ready to schedule or announce anything at the moment.

"That's all I know for sure. If someone like Mark (to pick a handy example) decides it's in his best interests to sign up with CrossGen, then that's a decision he's free to make, and nothing any of the other apes would try to prevent him from doing. Conversely, that doesn't prevent any of the others from doing anything under the ape-logo that they choose to."

NEW FACES FOR THE ANCIENT GALLERY

JOHNS GIVES "THE FLASH" NEW FOES

[Flash #169]When Geoff Johns landed the writing assignment on DC Comics' "The Flash," he at first didn't want to talk about it, other than acknowledging that he had, in fact, been given the job of filling outgoing writer Mark Waid's running shoes.

In the home stretch on his first long story arc, Johns is now breathing a bit easier.

"'The Flash' has been going incredibly well," Johns told the Comic Wire on Sunday. "The reactions so far have been great for the most part but I'm anxious to get into January -- and the beginning of my run with new artist Scott Kolins. Originally, I was planning on doing six issues of 'The Flash' - hence the six-part Wonderland story -- but it stretched into a monthly gig. I'm viewing 'Wonderland' as a transition arc to our take on the 'Flash.'"

"Wonderland" ends in issue #169, on sale this week.

"Throughout the next year we'll be focusing on Keystone, Wally and his new supporting cast -- as well as rebuilding Flash's rogues gallery. Updating the classics and adding to them."

In addition to the monthly book, and this summer's annual, Johns also has another "Flash" project on the way.

"The Flash: Iron Heights' is a one-shot coming out in June," he said. "Ethan Van Sciver is penciling -- and it's unbelievable. It's going to set the tone and stage for the next year of 'Flash.' We'll be introducing several new rogues, there'll be a twist for Linda and a lot of other surprises."

After "Wonderland" concludes, Wally West will be coming face to face with a creepy cult that's obsessed with him in his role as the Flash -- and his crazy ex-girlfriend, the magnetic-powered Magenta, whom fans may remember from her appearances in "New Titans." That's a vein Johns says he's willing to tap for future stories.

"They are a big part of Wally's past but the connections aren't that prominent. In this year's 'Flash' annual we'll be re-introducing a Titan. If things go well he may be guest-starring fairly often."

WHY BENDIS DIDN'T DO HIS HOMEWORK

[Brian Bendis]
Brian Bendis
College students and comic creators know the truth about winter holidays: You work all the way through.

Not Brian Michael Bendis, though, who got a sign from a higher power to take the day off on Wednesday.

"I am totally snowed in and could get stuff done," the "Ultimate Spider-Man" writer posted on his message board Wednesday, "But...

"And I swear on my DVD collection this is true ...

"When UPS came with my comics, I ran across my studio to get to the door, and my Eisner [award], which is up high on a shelf and out of view, fell, for the first time, and whacked me on the top of my head. With the metal part!

"I have a welt.

"And it kinda freaked me out. It's like a bad sign or something.

"So I am going to clean my studio ..."

(Hey, Will Eisner counts as a higher power.)

BRIDE OF THE COMIC BRIEF

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

  • 'Desperate Times' sells out and Diamond reorders

  • Viz Publishing solicitations for items shipping April, 2001

  • Perez Gallery donates to American Diabetes Association

  • Avatar Press products shipping March, 2001

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