Comic Wire

Thu, April 5th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

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SCI-FI AUTHOR DAVID BRIN EXPLORES COMIC BOOK FRONTIER WITH STAR TREK GRAPHIC NOVEL

In an era where many comic book writers are trying to establish themselves as names in screenwriting or fiction, David Brin is a big name science fiction novelist and science writer making the jump in the other direction.

DC Comics announced last weekend that Brin's first comic book project, the original hardcover Star Trek: The Next Generation graphic novel, "Forgiveness," with art by Scott Hampton, would be released this fall.

"Every classic Star Trek tale has several levels," Brin told the Comic Wire on Monday. "Action, stirring heroics, a perspective on 'strange new worlds,' plus the pleasure of finding out just a little more about one of the most lavishly detailed and carefully developed science fiction universes ever. That can be a tough challenge for a writer ... and a fascinating one!

"In 'Forgiveness' we learn how some of our favorite future-technologies -- the transporters and holodecks that give Trek much of its fascination -- got their start in the mid 21st Century, just a short distance down the road from today. The inventor of teleportation, caught in a web of betrayal, gets 'beamed' into space toward a dangerous rendezvous three hundred years in his future ...

"... as the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise tensely prepares for an encounter that may erupt in new waves of interstellar war, when the Federation can least afford it. What they don't need right now is a distraction -- or another crisis.

"People might be interested in an added note about this story. The basic premise occurred to me first in ... 1966! As a teenager watching the original series with Spock, Kirk and the lot, I had this nifty 'what if ...' moment. I even wrote it down, the way a lot of us do when an idea seems so cool that it would be a shame not to see something done with it -- someday.

"Who would have figured that 'someday' would come 35 years later! That in 2001, of all years, I'd finally get a chance to share it with thousands of other fans who share my affection for fun, optimistic and ever-changing Trek.

"It just goes to show you -- always set aside a place in the corner of your heart. A place to hold onto dreams, even those you've officially outgrown.

"Never give up! And never surrender, eh?"

And while Brin is hardly a stranger to science fiction -- his novels are some of the most-acclaimed of the past two decades -- he is new to comics. Mostly.

"I was rather stunned and honored, some years ago, to receive an Inkpot Award, though my connection with comics seemed rather tenuous to me! Sometimes I give a little story consult to friends in the biz -- often when it comes to plot logic or portraying the way science works. Those pals must have thought I was more helpful and useful than I expected! (I did it for pizza and beer, frankly.)

"I've done some comic-related things with Steve Jackson Games and wrote the background scenario for the Dreamcast game, Ecco the Dolphin. But yes, it's mostly been books and movies for me. Aside from the science, that is.

"Not that I agree that comics are 'small potatoes' at all! Some of the most vivid literary moments I remember were conveyed in mixtures of both words and lively color. When I lived in France I saw how seriously graphic novels can be taken. That era could come here, too. I'll be glad if I can push away a few crumbling bricks in the ghetto wall and help the real pros show what this art form can do."

Brin's science fiction generally falls into the hard science end of the sci-fi spectrum, the opposite end of where most critics place the "Star Trek" franchise." So why write in a universe that's often had a damn the photon torpedoes approach to the science that Brin so prizes?

"Because Star Trek represents one of the rare attempts to portray our descendants as the sort of people we'd want them to be, not brainless twits rushing around in space-fighters, blasting everything in sight with no more wisdom than Launcelot or Achilles.

"Oh, you can see why future folk are so often portrayed as idiots -- it helps keep an adventure plot rolling along! The heroes are always solitary knights, feeling and never thinking. And never relying on their comrades in a skilled team effort, even though THAT is the real key to adventure -- teamwork and using the brain just as much as you use your romantic heart.

"Maybe it has to do with the different ways that people use the ship metaphor. Some sci-fi series emphasize teeny little fighter craft, imitating the maneuvers of World War II spitfires, solitary knights of the sky! But the Enterprise is a big naval vessel, like its namesake of that same war. Just as brave, but much farther from home, having to deal with problems that are far more complex than simple shoot-n-run. And no one hero towers above the others like a god. The captain is merely the best, not some super-being. Even a humble deck-hand in engineering can have a turn saving everybody aboard. As an American, I like that.

"But above all, in Trek, you can actually imagine the Enterprise crew as your great-great-grandchildren, and be kind of proud that they're smart and good ... and bold enough to get into lots of trouble anyway!"

As for the near-term future, Brin is eyeing other comic book prospects.

"Several great possibilities. I have a parallel universe in which the Nazis found an awful ally and are still fighting us ... getting ready to invade Canada. It's kind of dark and scary, but the heroes may surprise and inspire you.

"Ideas keep rolling in all the time. I blame it on a short circuit in my mouth caused by bad dental fillings, way back in the sixties. I keep picking up these darned hyperband radio stations from Dimension X! I don't mind the flashes of inspiration, or the strange notions and eerie vistas that suddenly zap in. But sometimes one of my teeth flips over to this goll-darned Venus n' Western station that drives me crazy and I wish it'd just stop!"

SPIDER-GIRL'S FANS UN-CANCEL COMIC

[Spider-Girl]"Spider-Girl" has defied the odds again.

As soon as Marvel Comics announced the title would be spinning out of a well-received issue of "What If?," there were those who predicted the book was dead on arrival. When the other books of the MC-2 line that, like "Spider-Girl," showed the children of today's Marvel Universe characters donning their own costumes, got the axe, the naysayers turned their eyes towards "Spider-Girl" again, waiting for a cancellation notice.

And when at last it looked like the book was well and truly cancelled, the conventional wisdom said that the efforts to save the title were doomed to failure.

Once again, the conventional wisdom about "Spider-Girl" is wrong.

At a morning press conference on Wednesday, editor-in-chief Joe Quesada announced that the title had received a stay of execution. It wasn't that the e-mails and letters pouring in over the decision were necessarily more numerous than other books had received -- Quesada estimated he had received more than 500 e-mails and message board postings on a thread he started at the Marvel Web site -- but the nature of them. Instead of being angry or bitter, the readers showed a "genuine affection" for the title and the character.

But not every title that creates a stir when canceled gets a second chance: Marvel head Bill Jemas didn't mince words in regards to "X-Men: The Hidden Years:" "When you have 'The Hidden Years,' there was nothing to say, and it's one thing to sell X-thousand copies, it's another thing to be the worst selling 'X-Men' book in history."

In other press conference news, Quesada said to expect news of a talent search, possibly to take place during convention season, to be announced soon. Marvel's forthcoming mature line has received an apparently credible proposal for a manga-influenced weekly comic that will be receiving a three month trial run. And a comic book series based on the "X-Men: Evolution" animated series is under consideration, having received not one, but two competing pitches from different creative teams.

YOU CAN'T KEEP A GOOD CLONE DOWN:
IS GOODWIN'S MANHUNTER BACK?

[Manhunter]When DC Comics published "Manhunter: The Collected Edition" in the summer of 1999, the collected Archie Goodwin/Walter Simonson saga of the assassin clones of the late Paul Kirk featured a new story, one plotted by Goodwin but not scripted before his death. The story, which remained dialogue-free, showed that perhaps not all of the clones of the original Manhunter had been destroyed.

Leap forward to the spring of 2001. When DC Comics showed off their coming books at last weekend's retailer event in Texas, they included a cover image from Kurt Busiek's forthcoming monthly series "The Power Company." As he told the Comic Wire on Monday, he has plans to "dust off and polish up" some of the less-active characters in the DC Universe. The image by series artist Tom Grummett that the company displayed features a character who is a virtual clone of the late (repeatedly so) Paul Kirk.

So, is Busiek bringing back Manhunter, a character many creators have chosen to stay away from, as he was the creation of the much-beloved Goodwin?

"We're not saying, as yet," Busiek told the Comic Wire on Monday. "You'll know in January ..."

Busiek did admit to being a Manhunter fan, though: "Oh sure. Big time.

"All I'll say is that we ran our plans past Walt, and he thought it over for a week and then gave us his blessing. I wouldn't touch that name, that costume or that history otherwise ..."

EX-X-ARTIST PAQUETTE LANDS AT VERTIGO

[Yanick Paquette]
Yanick Paquette
Artist Yanick Paquette has worked for DC Comics on "Wonder Woman," and then Marvel Comics on "Gambit." Fans wanting to pick up his upcoming work will be going back to Marvel's Distinguished Competition this year.

"Last year, when I quit 'Gambit,' I mentioned to CBR it might be my last monthly assignment for a while," Paquette told the Comic Wire on Monday. "To me, putting out 22 pages a month was a form suicide, both artistically and personally. Frustrated for not having the time to draw like I wanted or living a somehow normal life, I needed to find an alternative to monthly. Some people thought I was giving up on comics, but HEY! Come on. I LOVE comics!

"So after 'Man of Steel' #117, an eight page story in the upcoming 'Superman Secret files: WAR' and a 'Transmetropolitan' piece, I might have just found what I'm looking for.

DC/Vertigo editor "Tony Bedard gave me a bunch of 'Codename: Knockout.' In fact, I'll pencil at least six of the 12 first issues, Louis Small handling the other like announced. I'll start at #4 and than #7 and so on. So, not a real monthly which gives me time to breathe and take other projects as well. ... But I guess the best thing is I'm getting inked by MARK FARMER! And so, a dream come true at last."

COMIC BRIEF OF ARABIA

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

  • Wildstorm relaunches Web site

  • Phil Jimenez extends exclusive contract with DC

As for last time in the Comic Wire:

  • Power Play: Busiek's Monthly DC Superteam with a Difference

  • Dean Motter Goes Back to the Future in 'Electropolis'

  • "The Red Star" Returns with Paperback-Exclusive Web Content

AND FINALLY ...

A special thanks to Augie DeBlieck.

Augie also just filed his 200th edition of Pipeline last week. No small feat in the ephemeral world of online comics journalism. In the words of "Hee-Haw," SAAAAAAAAA-LUTE.

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