Comic Wire

Thu, January 18th, 2001 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

HUMBERTO RAMOS GOES 'OUT THERE'

[Crimson]Humberto Ramos fans should prepare to change gears.

Fans of his DC/WildStorm series "Crimson" are already bracing for the end of the that book; issue #24 will bring the supernatural saga to a close in February. The book's not cancelled, though, it's simply time to bring it to a close.

"From the very beginning, 'Crimson' has had a storyline to tell," Ramos told the Comic Wire on Monday. "We had the introduction of the characters and developed [them] and their stories, and there was a climax and an ending, with one that matches each of their own search. ... #24 was a good issue to end, so we could have four straight paperbacks with six issues each."

Of course, there's probably one more "Crimson" story left to tell: The long ago announced "Crimson: St. George" special by Ben Raab should be coming out in 2001, Ramos said, although an artist for the book hasn't yet been decided upon.

"That will be the last thing of the 'Crimson' comic book that will appear" other than forthcoming statues and trading cards, he said.

So why bring the book to an end? Ramos made his name working for DC Comics who have only ended a few non-cancelled books in recent memory, "Sandman" and "Chronos" amongst them. Why not give into the impulse (pardon the expression) to keep the book running as long as it was profitable?

"I'm a fan, I'm a comic book reader before I even dreamt of becoming a comic book artist. I remember the first issue that I read of 'Spider-Man' was when I was 8 and I can still go to the comic book store and still read 'Spider-Man' ... As a guy who was a pretty hardcore fan of Spidey, I always said that I would like to see the end of some storylines. Like, right now, I don't know what the hell that happened with his daughter ... or the thing that happened with Aunt May, which is a pretty bad joke. I would like to see a story that has a beginning and an end."

And sometimes, Ramos said, stepping away from a project that's run its course, is best for the creator, too.

"We couldn't have a movie like 'Saving Private Ryan' or 'Schindler's List' if we didn't have 'Goonies' or 'Jaws,'" he said. "As a so-called-artist, I have an obligation to grow. ... I don't go to the movies to see 'Jaws 34,' I want to see the new stuff from Steven Spielberg. ... I'm not saying that other people are wrong. But for me, as a comic book fan ... I would like to give people that thing I never got when I was a kid."

And it's not like "Crimson" is vanishing, in any case.

"With 'Crimson' is done, and the four trade paperbacks are out" by the end of 2001, "Five years from now, maybe somebody goes 'I remember this book called 'Crimson' that was pretty cool, why don't I give it a try?' There are four paperbacks that contain the beginning, middle and ending."

[Out There]Ramos won't be gone from the stands long: His next ongoing series, "Out There," starts soon after.

The series has "nothing to do at all with 'Crimson,'" he said. "This is a lighter book. Our goal, at least, is to get a younger audience than 'Crimson.'"

The title is less violent than the sometimes gory "Crimson," but it's also different in other ways.

"I want to feel like this could be a book for both girls and boys. I think this is another huge mistake I feel [the industry has] committed ... comic books should be for girls and boys, and not just be a boy thing."

The title shares a genre with television shows "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Roswell," mixing teenagers in with science fiction elements and the paranormal, along with sitcom-style relationships and character development.

"Hopefully we'll be able to give something a little different from what we've seen," Ramos said. "I'm not saying I don't love superhero comic books -- that's why I'm doing what I'm doing -- but I would like to be able to deliver something just a little bit different, to show people that we can do different stuff."

Ramos is already working on the comic now.

"It will be out in late May. We want -- and this is very important to us -- we want to be at least three, or four if possible, three issues ahead. We don't want people to believe that Cliffhanger still has the problems with the deadlines."

The reputation for late books has hung over the imprint since before WildStorm was purchased by DC Comics, with the much-seen "Danger Girl" promise "guaranteed on-time, guaranteed kick-ass" tag line coming back to haunt both Jeff Scott Campbell's "Danger Girl" and Joe Madureira's "BattleChasers."

For the most part, "Crimson" avoided any problems with delays. Ramos says the book missed ship dates a few times "but we tried at least to have the book out once a month. When DC came on board, it became a little different, and we skipped a couple months."

Why "Crimson" kept chugging along on something close to schedule, with issue #24 of the book coming out shortly after the other two original Cliffhanger books have just gotten out their seventh issues, is something Ramos has thought about.

"I really like Joe and Jeff, and I really love their work, and we were friends a long time before Cliffhanger," Ramos said. "Maybe -- and this is just a maybe, just my opinion, OK? -- I had this thing with 'Impulse.' I never got a book that was so, so, so, so hot, like Joe had 'X-Men' and Jeff had 'Gen13.' My one strength to compete with them was my dedication to the work. I think the three of us put our best on the table. Joe with the anime style and Jeff drawing girls and that. My strength, I feel, was being a hard worker. So, you know, I think we made a commitment with our abilities, and at the very end, we put them out.

"Unfortunately ... some of the things that we requested as fans at the very end come against us. ... I remember when 'BattleChasers' and 'Danger Girl' first came out, the people at conventions started asking them 'when do the toys come out? Will there be movies soon?' And, well, that's the result. ... Jeff, he had those high quality toys that came out, and the Playstation videogame. I don't know that people understand how much time you have to put in to a product to make it come out like that. ... I'm not saying they did it wrong or bad, just that's the way it happens."

Ramos is also working for DC's historic rival, doing covers for "Peter Parker: Spider-Man" starting in April, when J. Michael Straczynski takes over as writer. (Ramos' Cliffhanger co-founder Campbell will be doing covers for "Amazing Spider-Man" starting in April as well.)

"I would love to do the insides, but I really can't do it without doing 'Out There,' which really should be my main interest at this point," Ramos said. "For example, this book will be about teenagers, so I have to go to clothing stores, check out what's new, what's hip, whatever, and because of that, I don't have the time to do Spider-Man and 'Out There.'

"I love Spider-Man, it's the really character I love the best, talking about superheroes. Secondly, [editor Axel Alonso] called me to ask me, and I felt very flattered. ... Several years ago, they offered me the book, when Dan Jurgens left ['Sensational Spider-Man']. ... For some personal reasons, I couldn't agree to do it. To be honest with you, I never thought there would be another chance to do it. Now, well, things have changed inside Marvel.

"Maybe in the future, I could do something inside the pages."

And Ramos has at least two more books coming from WildStorm this year.

He's developing -- but not doing the art on -- the suspense thriller miniseries "Kamikaze," which will be set against the backdrop of extreme sports. The six issue series will feature comic newcomers and should be in stores this summer.

Late this year, Ramos will be changing gears fairly dramatically, with "Revelations." The six issue miniseries will feature Ramos' non-inked pencils -- a technique that will show up first on the cover of "Crimson" #24 -- and tells the story of a conspiracy inside the Vatican to kill the Pope.

"I don't know if I'm able to do it right, like how [Mike] Mignola could do it, but I want to try and show people I can do other stuff.

"This is something we need to do, as creators. ... telling stories that we care about. We could always go and work for any big superhero book, and do good money, and be famous even, or popular. But I don't know, at least to me, it became time to me to do something I really care about. We're not doing it for the money, we're doing it because we believe, we care about what we're doing in the book."

POWERS/MADMAN CROSSOVER IN NEW ONI SPECIAL

Readers of Brian Michael Bendis' "Powers" series have already seen Mike Allred's Madman show up in the police series. This June, the Powers detectives will cross paths with him again -- only this time, they'll be investigating the death of Madman.

"Who Killed Madman?" will be a 10 page story in Oni Press' 2001 edition of the "Oni Press Color Special," the company announced Wednesday.

"When we decided to do a second 'Oni Press Color Special,' we knew we had to outdo last year's book," Oni editor in chief Jamie S. Rich said in a company press release. "We were proud of the way the first book came together, but why do it if you're just going to repeat yourself? So, we looked at the known Oni associates who weren't involved last summer, and Bendis immediately popped to mind."

Oni has previously published Bendis' "Fortune & Glory."

"This is almost going to be a parody of ourselves," Bendis is quoted as saying. "Powers" artist "Mike Oeming and I want to approach it like if Don Rickles was writing a cop show, or if 'Mad' magazine was spoofing the industry. Allred and all the other creators who are loaning us their toys know that the interrogations of their characters are going to read more like a celebrity roast than your standard good cop-bad cop browbeating."

Among the characters mentioned in the release are David Mack's Kabuki, Judd Winick's Barry Ween, Matt Wagner's Kevin Matchstick from "Mage," the characters from "Red Star" and Dan Brereton's Nocturnals.

"The actual culprit is going to remain a closely guarded secret," Bendis said, "but trust me, what we have lined up is certainly going to match the level of this event."

'BATMAN BEYOND' SEQUEL DEBUTS NEXT WEEKEND

While the fate of the current Batman animated series remains somewhat uncertain, "The Zeta Project," a spin-off of "Batman Beyond," will make its debut later this month.

The series -- which will appear on the WB network at 10:30 a.m. EST/ 9:30 a.m. PST -- follows the saga of fugitive military robot Zeta and Ro, his scrappy streetwise companion.

Zeta has previously appeared in an episode of "Batman Beyond." Fans of that series have weathered cancellation/no cancellation news in the past months, while work on Warner Brothers' next animated superhero series, starring the Justice League of America, has already begun.

COMIC BRIEF: LORD OF THE JUNGLE

Here's what's news (and press releases) in CBR's Comic Brief, in the final few days of the Clinton presidency:

  • Marvel moves into monster truck circuit

  • Image overships "Double Image" #1, "Area 52" #1

  • Preview: "Usagi Yojimbo" #45

AND FINALLY ...

Monday's story on Marvel PR man Bill Rosemann's response to Robert Weinberg's comments on how "Cable" was marketed during Weinberg's tenure as a writer on the series was updated Tuesday with Weinberg's response to Rosemann's response. (Whew. Got all that?)

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