Comic Wire

Mon, April 23rd, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

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GHOST RIDER BACK IN THE FAST LANE

[Ghost Rider]Marvel Comics fans who have been missing their dose of heavy metal thunder should keep their summer free, when the leaner and meaner Ghost Rider roars back into comic shops.

The six issue miniseries features Johnny Blaze as Ghost Rider, and doesn't address the situation with the other Ghost Rider, Danny Ketch. Writer Devin Grayson told WonderCon attendees on Saturday that the six issue miniseries doesn't have room for the "dense" continuity of Ghost Rider.

"I'm much more interested in biker culture than past continuity," Grayson said. "There's a throwing off of control in biker culture and with Ghost Rider."

Likewise, the June miniseries -- which could act as a springboard to a new ongoing series, if reader reaction is enthusiastic enough -- has a new villain, Gunmetal Gray.

Of course, given that Blaze has little say in his transformation into Ghost Rider, "in a way, Ghost Rider is the main antagonist of the series," Grayson said.

While "Ghost Rider" has never been hearts and rainbows, this time around, Grayson and artist Trent Kaniuga say that they're kicking the character into overdrive.

"I sort of imagine him like a wild beast, a powerhouse. He's a wild man," Kaniuga said. "You might soil your pants, looking at this Ghost Rider."

"This is Marvel Knights. They said jack it up," Grayson said. "The trick is how you have this guy be out of control and violent and still kind of like him."

The miniseries will also feature much more of a biker feel than some incarnations of the concept.

"I actually have a bit of a past with this community. It was great to go back to them," Grayson said. While comic fans' interest in the character has waxed and waned over the years, bikers have always embraced him, she said. "Part of my goal was to give him back to these people who had loved and nurtured him so long."

That sort of feel is also present in the film version of "Ghost Rider," currently in pre-production, David Goyer told WonderCon attendees. The "JSA" and "Starman" co-writer scripted "Blade" and is the screenwriter and executive producer of the "Ghost Rider" film.

As for who will be the cinematic Johnny Blaze, "Nicholas Cage is circling the drain," Goyer said. "He hasn't signed yet."

The $80 million film will go before cameras this summer, barring an actor's strike, for a 2003 release. The R-rated film will feature a non-speaking Ghost Rider who only manifests at night.

Goyer said the producers are currently looking at different computer effects firms for how they'd create the iconic flaming skull of Ghost Rider.

Los Angeles area "Ghost Rider" fans take note: Kaniuga will be at the downtown Golden Apple store signing the new issue of "Wizard," which features a preview of the first several pages of the miniseries. "Wizard" readers should also be on the lookout for a 1/2 issue offer in the magazine in the near future, Grayson told fans on Saturday.

FROM KIRBY TO 'KAVALIER & CLAY:'

MICHAEL CHABON'S COMIC BOOK ODYSSEY

[Kavalier & Clay]Last week, Michael Chabon became a Pulitzer prize-winning novelist.

But the road to "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" -- which tells the tale of two Golden Age comic creators -- began when he was just a boy, first discovering the larger than life work of Jack Kirby.

"I've never made a secret of the fact that I am and always have been a huge Jack Kirby fan," Chabon said Friday at WonderCon in Oakland, Ca.

But, as with many adult comic readers, it wasn't a continuous line from Michael Chabon, boy comic fan, to Michael Chabon, adult comic fan.

"I definitely went away and came back," Chabon said. As a teenager he "consumed them voraciously" before giving them up in his mid-teens. "I think I changed some. Comics changed some. They started to get expensive."

He ended up selling all his comics, except for his box of Kirby comics. When moving, he reopened the box for the first time in years, and was struck by the smell of the books and the vivid memories it brought back.

"There's something in this box that's moving me," he recalled thinking, "And maybe there's a book in there."

The path to the Pulitzer prize-winning novel wasn't immediately obvious, though.

"I just had begun to write about these vaguely Siegel and Schusterish figures," he said. "But then I said, no, there's more I can do with this."

So "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" became a story, in part, about the immigrant experience in America.

He also interviewed comic book creators from the Golden Age, including Will Eisner, Gil Kane, Dick Ayers, Martin Modell and Stan Lee.

"What I was most interested in ... were answers to questions like 'how did you meet girls? Where did you go on dates with them?'" he said. "'Did you listen to music while you worked?' ... 'Did you smoke while you worked?'"

It was all an attempt to make his depiction of the comic industry of that era as authentic as possible.

"I remember that Stan Lee said it had been years since anybody had asked him about riding the bus, and he remembered this cheap date he'd had, just riding on the open second floor of the double decker bus going up 5th Avenue with his girl."

Chabon's previous novel, "Wonder Boys," was made into a critically acclaimed film starring Michael Douglas. "Kavalier & Clay" is already headed to the silver screen, with the film rights sold and Chabon's first draft of the screenplay completed.

"I've had a relatively simple time seeing what didn't belong in the movie," he said. "The hard part is putting in the movie-ness. ... What about the nuance you lost by cutting that out? That's what has to be replaced. But that's fun, that's writing."

Of course, the movie won't be exactly the same as the book, but don't look for Chabon to be greatly offended by that.

"I don't have these tender feelings about my books being made into movies," he said. "It's OK with me if someone wants to take my book and totally change it. It doesn't change the book. Well, as long as they pay me," he chuckled.

He's also two chapters into his next novel, which will be a children's book for ages 8 to 12, called "Summerland."

"It's kind of a fantasy novel of the type that I liked as a kid," Chabon said. "You could say that I'm trying to do with American folklore what Lloyd Alexander did with Welsh mythology" in his "Prydain Chronicles" series.

Chabon is a comic reader once more -- the recommended reading list on his site includes Dan Clowes' "Ghost World" -- but it's a different world than he recalls from his own boyhood.

"I have to cover my kid's face half the time when we enter a comic book store," he said. "Comic books are much more aimed at older readers and adult readers than they were."

At home, Chabon and his son read lots of reprints, including DC Comics' Legion of Super-Heroes Archives.

"It's fun for me, because those comic books are absolutely insane," he said.

Finally, as a true comic book fan, Chabon has an opinion about who would win a fight between Superman and Thor: "I'd give the nod to Thor, personally, since he's got that hammer."

'HAWKMAN' ONGOING TAKES FLIGHT FROM 'JSA'

This spring, readers of DC Comics' "JSA" series are seeing the return of the poster boy for why continuity is now a dirty word with so many comic creators and fans, Hawkman.

The character, who was more or less dropped into obscurity by the company once his background and identity became hopelessly confused, will actually be getting his own new monthly series, now that "JSA" writers David Goyer and Geoff Johns found a way to deal with the Gordian Knot of his most recent depictions.

"I think we found a way to keep the bulk of everything, and ignored a few stupid things," Goyer said at a "JSA" panel Saturday at WonderCon.

Part of the upshot of the way the writers are bringing him back in "JSA" is that he'll be more accessible to new readers.

"The Hawkman series is definitely a start from scratch thing," said Johns, who will be writing "Hawkman." Former "Hourman" artist Rags Morales is handling penciling chores.

No matter how much of a mess the character was, it was inevitable that he would come back, eventually, according to "JSA" and "Hawkman" editor Peter Tomasi.

"There's always been a groundswell of people wanting to know, 'hey, when's Hawkman coming back?'" Tomasi said. "At DC, we wanted to let the dust settle."

Originally, Hawkman's return was to be part of a "JSA"/"JLA" crossover, but when that couldn't be arranged, it was moved into just the "JSA" book.

"I think it turned out better without the JLA," Johns said. "It allowed us to focus on Hawkman."

"Hawkman" may not be the last "JSA" spin-off fans see: Goyer and Johns have an idea for another book for possible publication next year.

In the meantime, "JSA" will continue to change and evolve, the creators said on Saturday. The team's make-up will continue to be tweaked, with members coming and going, with sort of a reserve status. Don't look for the new Spectre to show up any time soon, after his recent appearance in the book.

"The problem with the Spectre on an ongoing basis is he's so powerful," Goyer said.

"It was the same thing with Hourman," Johns said. "We'd sit down to do an issue and say 'OK, how do we get rid of Hourman or disable his powers?'"

Do look for the return of Obsidian again, eventually. The troubled son of Alan Scott will feature in Johns' and Goyer's final story arc -- which will also feature the return of Mordru -- around issue #50.

Before all that, though, look for a new member to join around issue #31.

The first superhero team is now in one of its most successful eras.

"I take a lot of pride that the current 'JSA' now outsells Superman," Goyer said. "The challenge for me has been to bring in new readers."

DC/WILDSTORM WONDERCON ROUND-UP

While fans flocked to WonderCon in higher numbers than last year, the Oakland, Ca. convention was marked by a light industry presence, with DC Comics the only major publisher in attendance.

That meant the company dominated the panels over the weekend, where the following was learned:

  • A supporting character from Metropolis will become a permanent resident of Gotham City this year, "Detective Comics" writer Greg Rucka said on Friday.

  • "Planetary" fans shouldn't hold their breath for the Batman/Planetary crossover book, according to editor Scott Dunbier. The book "will not be coming out any time real soon," he said Saturday. Artist John Cassaday "is going to devote himself to the art chores on the main book. The book should come out sometime in the next year."

  • "Promethea" readers who liked the recent Tarot card issue aren't alone in enjoying it. According to series artist J. H. Williams, writer Alan Moore has expressed an interest in possibly releasing a full deck of Promethea Tarot cards in the future.

COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL BUYS WONDERCON

[WonderCon]In the worst-kept WonderCon secret since last year's worst-kept secret (which was a little something about Frank Miller doing a sequel to "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns"), Comic-Con International announced Sunday that it was acquiring WonderCon.

This adds another comic convention of note to CCI's stable. The non-profit already runs Comic-Con International in San Diego, Pro/Con and the Alternative Press Expo.

CCI is taking a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to the convention at the moment.

"The show seems to work fine," CCI spokesman David Glanzer told the Comic Wire on Saturday. "Anything that seems to make a well-oiled machine work better, we're certainly going to try."

Current WonderCon partners Joe Field and Mike Friedrich will be staying on as consultants, Glanzer said.

"Before we decided to do this show, we talked to our staff, to see if they could handle it," Glanzer said. "And they all said, unanimously, 'great.'"

The buyout shouldn't be taken as a sign that the 15 year old convention is in any trouble, he said.

"My understanding is that [Field and Friedrich] had other interests they wanted to pursue. ... It's a handful for a couple of people," Glanzer said. "I think they've done a fine job. We want to do as fine a job or bring it up to the next level."

BROADCAST COMIC BRIEF

Here's what's news and press releases in CBR's Comic Brief:

  • Stan Lee helps sell some comics on Home Shopping Network tonight

  • Dean Haspiel finds his Opposable Thumbs in July 2001 Alternative Comics release

  • This Month at Top Shelf

  • Marvel names interim Avengers penciller, preview

  • Humanoids Publishing Solicitations for product shipping July, 2001

  • Top Shelf Productions solicitations for product shipping August, 2001

As for last time in the Comic Wire:

  • Michael Chabon Wins Pulitzer Prize for Novel About Golden Age of Comics

  • Gorilla Goes Extinct

  • Medley Leaves Cartoon Books for Self-Publishing

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