Comic Wire

Mon, February 26th, 2001 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

WHO LOVES YA, BABY?

LAYMAN GETS FUNKY IN FRISCO WITH 'BAY CITY JIVE'

[Bay City Jive]
Bay City Jive #1 Preview

Here's one thing you can say with certainty about DC/WildStorm's "Bay City Jive": There's not a lot of books covering the same ground.

"The long version?" series writer John Layman told the Comic Wire on Friday. "I'd say it's my tribute to '70s cop shows and the Late Late Show I used to stay up and sneak a peek at when I was a kid. I'm talking '70s Late Late Show, when there were three networks instead of 200, and if you had a second TV in the house it was black and white. This was back when you'd turn on the TV at 1:30 in the morning and two channels would be showing color bars and playing the 'Star Spangled Banner' and the third channel would have some funky old cop movie. This is that funky old cop movie.

"Or, you could describe it like it's been described around the office, which is 'Shaft meets Dirty Harry meets Big Trouble in Little China with a touch of Bruce Lee and Streets of San Francisco.'"

For many people -- and perhaps especially those who lived through them -- the 1970s were a somewhat embarrassing era, when the English-speaking world seemed hell-bent on being as campy as possible. "Bay City Jive," set squarely in the pop culture version of the 1970s, will feature some of these cultural eccentricities, but they won't be what the miniseries is about.

"I think far too many period pieces, particularly those set in the '70s, fall into a trap of supposing funky slang and outdated fashion is hysterically funny in itself, and that the key is to pile it on. I'm not a big fan of retro/nostalgia/kitsch humor, so I even surprised myself by coming up with this project.

"However, while some slang and bad fashion will certainly be present, the period was chosen more for the fact that there are so many classic TV cop icons and analogues to choose from. In this case, it's the streetwise, funky do-right, ladykiller tough-guy, and the crusty, 'got no time for punks' San Fran vigilante detective.

"But the potential seems nearly limitless. Yes, this 'Bay City Jive' mini-series is completely self-contained as a 3-issue mini. In the event a legion of comic books fans rises up and demands more, I wanted to leave a door open to explore more movie cop analogs, whether it is the bald, lollipop-sucking detective, the fat, wheelchair-bound defense attorney, the motorcycle-riding highway patrol buddies, the trio of jiggly beauties working for a rich mystery man -- even the grandmotherly New Englander who finds some poor chump murdered every time she turns around.

"(Yeah, I realize some of these aren't strictly '70s TV, but you get the point.)"

And while commentators are always, yes, commenting on the fact that the median age of comic readers has been going up, much of WildStorm's core readership wasn't alive in the 1970s or, if they were, they weren't paying attention to much that defines the '70s beyond "Romper Room" or perhaps a John Denver/Muppets television special. Layman says being able to remember the 1970s is not required to read "Bay City Jive."

"I don't think there is any one target age, but the target audience would be anybody looking for something fun and a bit different. I've spent a lot of time in the library researching the specific date of the story (Jan 1st and 2nd, 1976) and I think anybody ancient enough to actually remember that time period may find a few 'Easter eggs,' but knowledge of that period is in no way requisite for enjoyment of the story."

Layman is joined on the three issue miniseries by a long-time friend.

"I'm ecstatic with the art. I put this together with my old pal Jason Johnson in mind, to play to his strengths as an artist. There's not a single page he's done that I haven't been 100 percent in love with. He brings everything I call for in the script to the page -- what more can a writer ask for? -- and then adds to it with all these kooky, unexpected extras. I really think Jason is a great talent, a expressive and impressive storyteller, and people who aren't familiar with his stuff will be clamoring to see more of him.

"(And I should add the book also includes inker Sean Parsons and 'Authority' and 'Planetary'-pinch-hit colorist David Baron, which should add up to a pretty impressive package.)"

"Bay City Jive" #1 is scheduled for release in June.

At this point, WildStorm readers know Layman as an editor of some of the line's most popular comics, and that's probably going to remain how he's best-known for the foreseeable future, he says.

"I've always got some weird creative iron in the fire, whether that's writing a comic, or a short story or a screenplay or the occasional newspaper article. But I'm a glacially slow creative writer. Editing 'The Authority' is a full-time job in itself. Not to mention all those other comics. And my unnatural obsession with my neighbor's cat ('Sparky Junior') which eats up most of my at-home time. I would absolutely love to do more comic book writing, but I don't see myself doing anything too regularly. Would I like to return for more 'Bay City Jive?' Gawd, yes."

Speaking of those books Layman edits ...

"Hey, you tricked me! I thought this interview was about 'Bay City Jive.' Anyway, 'Planetary' is moving along. Issue #14 will be out pretty soon, and 'Batman/Planetary' is coming along. From what I've seen of it, I'd say it's going to be worth the wait, but I can hear people grousing and grumbling even as I type this."

As the editor of "The Authority," Layman's had more than his fair share of drama recently, with the sudden departure of artist Frank Quitely and the subsequent decision to insert a new storyline by Tom Peyer and Dustin Nguyen in the middle of the ongoing storyline by Mark Millar to give replacement artist Art Adams time to catch up. And to top it all off, the first Peyer/Nguyen issue has been delayed until June to allow them to get their story done.

"Well, it's fair to say that nobody is happy about the wait between #22 and #23, but I think now that people are getting some idea of what the story is going to be they have come around and are giving us the benefit of the doubt. You know, Tom Peyer was hand-picked to do this by Mark Millar and reading his scripts I can see why. He's got this brilliant nasty sense of humor and his scripts often have me laughing out loud at the same time I'm wincing at what these terrible new 'heroes' are up to.

"The art is going to blow everybody away. Dustin's is a tremendous new artist who improves with every page. How he juggles his penciling career with his acting on 'VIP' is inspiring. Rich Friend's ink are gorgeous, and regular colorist David Baron will be on hand to work his usual magic. Yeah, I think once June rolls around people are going to be very pleased."

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SOCKING IT TO THE KIDS:

MILLIONAIRE TO DO 'SOCK MONKEY' CHILDRENS BOOK

[Sock Monkey]You just can't keep a good monkey down.

Starting March 1, fans of Tony Millionaire's "Sock Monkey" will be able to get their fix in a new way, via Flash cartoons on publisher Dark Horse's Web site.

"Dark Horse, you know, they do a lot of film and TV production," Millionaire told the Comic Wire Saturday, at a signing at Los Angeles' Meltdown comic shop. The Flash cartoon serves as a proof of concept vehicle to shop around to various film and television production companies. "Originally, it was for Web animation [sites], but that's not happening."

Of course, while "Sock Monkey" features the misadventures of stuffed animals in lovingly detailed Victorian houses, said misadventures include lots of alcohol abuse, setting things (often said houses) on fire, and even lobotomizing their enemies. Is this really ready-for-Saturday-morning fare?

"I think I can keep the integrity of it," Millionaire said, "I don't know if you call it toning it down."

In fact, Millionaire is already planning on doing a more kid-friendly "Sock Monkey" product: This fall, he'll be doing a new trade paperback through Dark Horse. But it won't be a comic, but an actual children's book, with illustrated text and the rest.

Since the beginning, "Sock Monkey" has existed in sort of a limbo between adult's and children's comics, he said.

"There's always been a problem of when you do stuff that looks like it's for kids, but really isn't. ... Mommies are scared of it, and adults don't want to get something that looks like it's for kids. So we're kind of stuck in the middle."

None of that kept Millionaire from winning last year's Eisner award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition. And while he says there were other nominees who deserve wider recognition themselves, he's not in a hurry to hand it off to them.

"Awards are awards -- whatever that means -- but I gotta tell you, I loved getting it."

Related Information
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Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition: Tony Millionaire of 'Sock Monkey'


PREVIEW: Sock Monkey Vol.3, #1

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LIVE LIKE A SUICIDE:

GIFFEN ANNOUNCES NEW 'SUICIDE SQUAD' PROJECT

[JLA Annual #4]
The new Suicide Squad appeared in this Justice League Annual from 1990 which featured the creation of Justice League Antarctica.
Keith Giffen fans have been forced to become a patient lot in the past decade, as the periods between his projects have grown as the writer has moved into other forms of media. This summer, though, it looks like he'll be returning to comics, with a revival of DC Comics' "Suicide Squad."

The news was posted Saturday morning to The Daily Dispatch, the news list for the Keith Giffen Resource Page:

"Believe it or not, the Suicide Squad will be returning to monthly comics in 2001 courtesy of DC Comics' Annual event and someone who is no stranger to DC or team books, Keith Giffen," site administrator Mike Josic wrote in the posting. "Giffen, who helped redefine team books for the DC/Wildstorm in the late 80s, has signed on as the regular writer of the book, and tells me that an artist has officially signed on to the project as well, although at the time of this writing his name remains unknown. I am told that the artist is a relative newcomer and has done some recent work on the Superman line of books, which leads me to believe that a strong list of maybes would include Eric Canete, Duncan Rouleau and Lee Bermejo (which, by the way, is pure unadulterated speculation on my part). The new direction the creative team will be taking will be a fresh beginning for the Suicide Squad, as a concept, a team and a series. 'We're startin' from scratch,' says Giffen. 'A brand new take on it.'

"The 'brand new take' will see Giffen introduce a Mission: Impossible-like element to the series, and no set base of operations like the previous teams Belle Reeve headquarters. The book will showcase a rotating, mobile team of operatives with a greater capacity to respond to crisis situations quickly and effectively. Brand new characters will also be introduced in the series, although many of them will be long-time residents of the DCU, with the first and most noticeable change being the team's leader. Amanda Waller, who had been in charge of the Squad since the 'Legends' mini-series of several years ago, will no longer be involved with the team in any capacity that I am aware of. Her position will instead be taken up by a former member of the newly elected president's cabinet, Frank Rock.

"Ol' Sgt. Rock will find himself joined by another member of the legendary Easy DC/Wildstorm, the now wheelchair-bound Bulldozer, as well as two new characters of Giffen's creation. 'Modem is the ultimate cyber hacker with a very snotty Hercule Poirot attitude and there is also a woman named Havanna, who will be the Latin fireball stereotype. She's declared Wednesdays as Spanish Day and will only speak Spanish which drives everyone else crazy.'

"The humor that marked Giffen's five year run on the Justice League books will be returning, to a certain degree, in the pages of the new Suicide Squad. The first team of sacrificial lambs will consist of none other than the old members of the Injustice League, otherwise known as Justice League Antarctica. 'The book will definitely be leavened with humor,' claims Giffen. 'I find that the best humor comes from dire situations.' And there are few situations more dire than the entire team being wiped out while fulfilling their objectives (I did say this was the Suicide Squad, right?). And for fans now fretting over the fates of Major Disaster and his crew of misfits, Giffen reassures me that they will all go in a blaze of glory, possibly earning the respect they desired so much in life through their deaths."

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A FEW COMIC BRIEFS MORE

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

  • One-Armed Carl: Randomized Comics Thrills

  • Preview: "Enemy Ace: War In Heaven" #1

  • Viz Publishing solicitations for product shipping June, 2001

  • CHAOS! Comics solicitations for product shipping June, 2001

  • Preview: "JLA: Black Baptism" #1

  • Cartoon Network announces new shows, Justice League

And for those of you who might have missed it, last time, in the Comic Wire:

  • Simone, Hernandez Come Out with Guns Blazing in 'Killer Princesses'

  • Scott Kolins Sets the Pace in 'The Flash'

  • Windsor-Smith Returns to Marvel

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