Comic Wire

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

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

YOU'RE IN JIM LEE'S COMIC NOW:

EVERQUEST GOES FOUR COLOR

[Everquest: Aradune]
enlarge

At any given moment, people are playing "EverQuest" in numbers that comic publishers would kill for.

Sounds like somebody ought to try and get dedicated EverQuest fans -- the massively multiplayer online fantasy roleplaying game is nicknamed "EverCrack" for a reason -- into comics, no?

Oddly enough, someone is: Jim Lee of DC/WildStorm.

"It'll probably be one shots, self-contained stories," Lee told the Comic Wire on Wednesday. "I don't know if we'll see miniseries at this point."

Look for the first EverQuest one-shot from WildStorm in December.

"I'm going to draw and co-plot, co-write or whatever, with Brad McQuaid, one of the guys who came up with EQ," Lee said "We're doing the first story together."

Fans of the game know that the world has a fairly detailed background, signature characters -- including the ubiquitous and bare-midriffed Fironia Vie on the packages for the game and its expansions -- and a story line that's revealed to players in bits and pieces.

"It actually is a story that coincides" with the game storyline, Lee said of the first one-shot. "It's backstory dealing with the discovery of the island of Kunark and sort of explains why all these various races within the world of Norrath hate each other."

While WildStorm has done books tied into computer games before, the new WildStorm/EverQuest collaboration had a much more organic beginning: Lee plays EverQuest.

"A long time ago, [the creators of the game] had a get together for the people who played the game. … I just introduced myself, and it turned out that they were fans of comic books. We just hit it off. … This is just when the game first came out.

"The game took off, and I'd met with them periodically about other stuff. … I did a drawing of one of the characters, just for kicks, and they saw it and said 'how about doing a comic book?' And I said 'that's what I was thinking.'

"I'm a big fantasy fan. I used to play D&D as a kid, and I read the fantasy novels. … We're trying to do more fantasy projects, given that's a genre that isn't fully explored" in comics.

Of course, between the actual in-game depictions and the very well-known painted versions of the characters, Lee's version of Norrath will be running up against some established ideas of what the world and characters are supposed to look like.

"I'm doing a pretty loose style, and let the colorist [Guy Major] do a lot of rendering, to make it look a lot like the game," Lee said.

While Lee has been a fan of the game since it first went online, fellow adventurers in Norrath likely have no idea he's moving amongst them.

"I play a character that can heal. There's a lot of characters that can heal," he laughed. Just because he wants to be anonymous, though, don't think he's kept a low profile: "If you're on [the Druzzil Ro server], you've definitely heard me," he laughed again.

Lee has laid out about a third of the as-yet untitled 48 page one-shot, "but it follows the quest of Fironia Vie, and why the elves went to Kunark.

"There will definitely be stories that expand on the mythology created, but I'd also like to do new stories," Lee said. "The first project sort of deals with the mythology, of the lore, I guess, but I think there's also room for the smaller stories."

Whatever the future holds for EverQuest comics from Wildstorm, for now, Lee's just happy to be bringing his two worlds together.

"It really came out of a desire of Brad and my wanting to do a comic book together. Him being a comic fan and me being a fan of their game it was like, cool, here's a chance to do both."

RETURN TO FANTASY ISLAND:

JEFF NICHOLSON'S 'COLONIA' RETURNS

[Colonia #6]
Colonia #6 Preview
This June, when "Colonia" #6 arrives in stores, there may be one or two comic readers who don't know what the book is about, given that it's been 18 months since the critically acclaimed comic last appeared.

Basically, it's the story of a boy from our world who ends up in a strange fantasy world populated by talking ducks, pirates and more.

"I have a string of descriptors I tend to throw out," creator Jeff Nicholson told the Comic Wire on Tuesday. "Alternative history, adventure, piracy, surreal, all-ages ...

If one were to sit down and come up with a comic that will get noticed, "all-ages alternative history pirate comic" isn't the first concept that springs to mind.

"Well, I think I was inspired by some of the books out there in the '90s. 'Bone,' 'Castle Waiting,' 'Replacement God' and the like. But none of those genres exactly made me want to follow in those footsteps. They are very European in the setting, you know?

"I've always loved pre-U.S. American history, and the age of exploration and colonization. When I pictured this arena as a setting for mystery and fantasy, I just had to do it. It seemed untapped! Also, as a history buff, I wanted to weave in a lot of historical reference; more so than the typical medieval comic that has no real geography. The geography of Colonia is very exciting to me because it is so based in reality, even though it is fairly invisible at this stage."

One won't find elves or knights in shining armor in "Colonia," but the presence of, say, men made out of fish puts the book firmly into the realm of fantasy literature.

"I'm definitely not a card-carrying fantasy fan. Except for the afore-mentioned '90s comics, I really never liked fantasy, unless I go way back to reading Tolkien as a kid or something. My attraction is more to the surreal, but a friendly kind of surreal. Not a completely baffling surrealism."

Of course, Nicholson also uses a lot of real world research in creating his fantasy islands.

"Adarro really is based on an old Phoenician man-of-fish relief. But to me that image was too obscure and delightful to be mainstream 'fantasy.' And the historical roots made it more attractive to me than if it came out of my own head. Likewise, everyone is really drawn to the character."

And the positive response to the book hasn't been limited to just Adarro.

"'Colonia' has outsold all my past works unless you go back to the mid-eighties boom. But unfortunately it hasn't pulled in kids. I think really the audience is about half nostalgic comics fans aged 30-40 and half hip experimental fans aged 16-30. There just isn't the outlet for kids. I've seen kids gravitate to my table at conventions and have the parents rush them along with their own agenda. I've done a lot of research into the newstand market, and it would take a very fat bankroll to put Colonia into the dwindling newstand market that exists to see if it would indeed reach kids.

"But that was my dream. To get letters from kids like the ones I used to write to my heroes like Jack Kirby. The connection just isn't there anymore, unless DC, who is the only example I can think of, wanted to experiment with Colonia in Wal-Marts or something like that. Again, it's big money."

And speaking of big money, if you don't recall seeing "Colonia" on the comic racks for a long, long time, it's not your imagination.

"Unfortunately, the comics market has reduced a lot of top-notch folks to a 'one or two issues a year' schedule, due to the fact that the income just isn't there. I had a big bi-monthly push with 'Colonia' #3-5, which ended with my taking an overly demanding day-job. I've finally just quit that job, so although 'Colonia' #6 comes an embarrassing 1 1/2 years after 'Colonia' #5, I will be able to put out at least one issue per year, or more.

"I know that is pitiful, but it is better than burning out and leaving comics forever, which has happened to a good many of my friends in the business. I'm looking at the big picture, and will complete the 'Colonia' story no matter how long it takes.

"The beauty of the internet is that I can always be located. So it will always be easy to see where I'm at over at coloniapress.com, and I always answer my e-mails."

CRY HAVOC, AND LET SLIP THE GODS OF WAR:

'ORION' MIXES IT UP IN 'OUR WORLDS AT WAR'

This summer, DC Comics is throwing aliens at planet Earth in a star-spanning war.

When it comes to warlike aliens, Jack Kirby broke the mold when he created Orion of the New Gods, now the star of his own monthly comic. So how will "Orion," the comic, tie into the "Our Worlds at War" summer event?

"Sort of," series writer/artist Walter Simonson told fans on DC's official Orion message board last week. "There are a few things happening in the OWAW cross-over that have an impact on (or are impacted by!) stuff in 'Orion.' It isn't a lot (although one of the things especially is sort of cool -- you'll see the foreshadowing of that next issue) but we've arranged it so you can read 'Orion,' you can read the Superman books, you can read them in concert, and I think any way you read them will work.

"I'm reluctant to say any more because I don't want to give anything away but OWAW has given me a chance to do what turned out to be one of my favorite backups, the one in 'Orion' #13. It's not that it's such a fabulous story exactly -- it's more like a series of events -- but it was a lot of fun to write and a lot of fun to draw. I got to use a different narrator's 'voice' and that was fun too."

While it has its devoted fans, "Orion" hasn't been a runaway hit by any measure. So far, though, Simonson isn't worrying about the book getting the axe.

"I haven't any idea how this is going to work out. I do think that DC will let me run through at least 24 issues. I presume that somewhere between now and issue 24, they're look at the book and the sales and decide whether or not they want to continue. But nobody's mentioned cancellation to me and I'm just plugging away."

RIO COMIC BRIEF

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:

  • Marvel Comics wins Prism Awards

  • "Green Arrow" #1 goes back to press for third printing

  • CrossGen overships "Crux" #1

  • 2000 Eisner Award nominees by category

  • Eisner nominations announced, diverse group represented

  • Preview: "Star Wars: Jedi vs. Sith" #1

  • Preview: "Codename: Knockout" #0

  • Preview: "7 Guys of Justice" #6

  • "DC Universe Magic Handbook" takes superhero roleplaying To mystic frontiers

As for last time in the Comic Wire:

  • Brubaker on "Dead Boy Detectives"

  • DeFalco "Stunned" by Spider-Girl's Un-Cancellation

  • Paquette Gets Another Offer He Cannot Refuse

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