Comic Wire

Mon, June 4th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

KIERON DWYER -- YEAH, THE STARBUCKS GUY --

TAKES ON MARVEL'S AVENGERS

[The Avengers]
enlarge
So, George Prez is gone, off to the wilds of Florida. And now Alan Davis has left, too, leaving Marvel Comics' "Avengers" in the hands of penciller ... Kieron Dwyer? The guy who got into the fight with Starbucks? How did that happen?

"I had to fight Alan Davis to the death in a gladiator style face-off," Dwyer told the Comic Wire on Saturday. "It was grueling, but not as much so as facing all the Prez and Davis fans who were initially peeved at the news that I was coming aboard! Sheesh! A lot of the wary ones seem to have been appeased by the promo art, thankfully. It's going to be a fun assignment and I look forward to working with Kurt on the book for a nice long time. Unless Alan rises from the dead to take me on!

"Seriously, though, it came down to [series writer Kurt Busiek] asking me. How could I say no?"

The reaction of those fans is likely due to the fact that at this point, Dwyer is best known for his (considerably) outside of the mainstream work like "Lowest Comic Denominator."

"It's funny that I've been doing LCD and 'Black Heart Billy' (with Rick Remender) and largely NOT doing mainstream work long enough that there are plenty of folks who only know me from LCD. It's weird, given the fact that I've worked pretty steadily for 14 years in this business and been associated with books that sold tens of thousands of copies and beyond, and I've only sold a few thousand copies total of my self-published work, but now people are concerned that I can't handle an assignment like 'The Avengers!' It will be my pleasure to prove them wrong.

"As for my alternative comics friends feeling betrayed by my return to the mainstream, I doubt it will factor in. I think some of them were suspicious of me when I started doing LCD, but folks on both sides of the fence in this business are largely really good people who all want the same thing: a solid industry built on quality product. The industry may still be pretty shaky and uncertain these days, but I really feel the quality and content of the books has never been better, overall."

Just because he's a veteran of the mainstream, that doesn't mean Dwyer is up on every twitch of current continuity in "The Avengers."

"Honestly, no. I have been so preoccupied working on non-comics projects for the last year or so that I've barely made it into a comic shop to see anything that's being done these days. I get comps from DC, but that's it for my exposure to the medium. I've spent the last 9 months on Swing Town, a 12-episode animated series I co-created and produced with my studiomates Rick and John Estes for wildbrain.com. In fact, when Kurt initially offered me the Avengers gig, I said no, because I thought that we were going to have another project at wildbrain when Swing Town wrapped up. Then the whole Internet thing went kablooey and they changed their tune. Now we don't even know when or where Swing Town will air and it's completely finished! (There is a preview for the show on wildbrain's site) It's pretty frustrating, to put it mildly. At least with (most) comics, you can count on the thing coming out within a few months of drawing it, and that factored into my decision to take the book.

"But I wouldn't have simply taken any monthly assignment, I want to make that very clear. The Avengers is a top book and features great characters, stalwarts of the Marvel universe, with great history behind them, and that appealed to me greatly. Furthermore, Kurt and I have talked about working together for years and never seemed to get a chance. I'm very flattered and gratified that he and [editor Tom Brevoort] felt that I would work well on the book. I certainly hope so."

Dwyer will be jumping in at the deep end with "issue 48, I believe. Right in the middle of the current Kang storyline. I've not seen Manuel Garcia's work on the interim issues, but I've got all of Alan's issues in Xerox form (his pencils are amazing and both inspiring and daunting to follow), and I'm eager to get into the fray. I won't have a plot or script from Kurt until July sometime, so I'll just have to chomp at the bit a little while longer! In the meantime, though, I do have a script from Kurt for one of the 'Power Company' one-shots he's writing for DC. It features Batman and Flash versus a character from their past (I don't know if it's a secret, so I'll keep it mum for now), and I'll be penciling and inking that while I wait for the Avengers gig to begin."

Dwyer is a good match for the equally spoiler-phobic Busiek. Asked what readers can expect to see in his first issue of the book: "Drawings."

As for the whole Dwyer vs. Starbucks thing -- Dwyer came up with a "Consumer Whore" logo that satirized the Starbucks logo, which failed to amuse the company -- it's over.

"It's settled, but I'm afraid it's as muddy and sour-tasting as their coffee. I am not able to discuss the actual terms of the settlement, but the judge's injunction order in the case is part of the public record for anyone curious enough to seek it out. There's info on my site at www.lcdcomic.com (check the GREED links), or at suedbystarbucks.com (currently directs to the LCD site but will eventually be a separate site devoted specifically to the case and its implications).

"Basically, they were able to bully me into agreeing to not do or say certain things and certain specific combinations of things that they find offensive. Very simply, they have endless resources and I have precious few, so they win. That's how civil law works in this country, as a judge confirmed for me in private discussion. It's pathetic. It's a very bizarre and ultimately disappointing thing to deal with the law and our system of 'justice' here in the real world after so many years working in the comics field with our very simplistic and fantastical concepts of good and evil. It's really quite different. Not nearly as colorful or interesting out here, honestly.

"I do urge people to boycott Starbucks and their products. Our only real power or voice in this corporate driven culture is with our spending dollar, and that's a fact. At least think about what you buy before you do. That's better than the blind consumerism most of us practice (myself included). Sermon over."

BILL MORRISON BEATS THE BONGOS,

TALKS SIMPSONS COMICS, 'ROSWELL'

[Homer]
Page from the upcoming Treehouse of Horror #7
Art by Troy Nixey and color by Dave Stewart
When it comes to the Simpsons' cartoon show, surprise guest stars have become something of the order of the day. But this August, comic book fans of the Bongo Comics' Simpsons books get a taste themselves, when Garth Ennis and John McCrea take on the Springfield crew in their own inimitable style.

"At Bongo we're fans of various comic creators in the industry," Bongo head Bill Morrison told the Comic Wire on Friday, "And when it comes time to plan the next issue of 'Treehouse of Horror' we throw names around of people we'd like to work with. A couple of years ago Garth Ennis' name came up. I believe he was approached by Terry Delegeane (Bongo's managing editor) a few years back, but for whatever reason he wasn't available at the time.

"Because the Simpsons books are very popular in Germany, I was over there on a tour last year. During a convention at Essen, Ennis and McCrea were in attendance and the three of us had dinner together one night after the convention. We had a great time and the topic of conversation turned to the Simpsons and pretty much stayed there. I felt this was the perfect time to ask Garth and John if they would be interested in doing a story and they were just thrilled with the offer. They hesitated at first to say yes because they weren't certain they could pull it off, but I assured them it would be fine. I said 'Just keep in mind it's a code approved book!'

"What Garth came up with is a wild 'Aliens'-inspired story. He did a fantastic job! You can tell that he's a fan of the show because he captured the voices and personalities of the characters beautifully. But it's also got his own personal style with lots of gore.

"I gave John complete freedom to do whatever he wants visually on his story. I'm sure you'll recognize the characters, but I think it will be in his style."

Most Bongo Comics hew closely to the television style -- "Archie" veteran Dan DeCarlo's work looks like, well, the Simpsons when he's doing work for Bongo -- but that's not always the case on "Treehouse of Horror."

"Before we invited Geoff Darrow to contribute a piece to 'Treehouse of Horror' #4, we hadn't allowed artists to draw their stories, only write them. We had writer/artists like Evan Dorkin, Mike Allred and Jeff Smith write stories for us, but they didn't do the art. We had a mandate then to keep the characters 'on model' so they would look like they do on the TV show.

"When Geoff agreed to do the pin-up, he wanted to make sure they were on model, but I told him I don't think that's what people want, and it wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to see the Simpsons as done by Geoff Darrow, with his style very evident. I knew it was risky, but I felt for a two page pin-up if someone gets upset that it's not entirely accurate I'm willing to take the hit.

[Stan Sakai THOH]
Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo) provides the artwork from this page of Treehouse of Horror #7
"People loved it so much that when it came time to do the next issue we went whole hog and invited writers as well as writer/artists and let them do their own thing visually. You haven't really seen the Simpsons until you've seen them done by Sergio [Aragones]!"

This isn't a good and happy time for comics, saleswise, and while the Simpsons television show is still a monster hit, the comics are subject to the same market forces all the others are.

"Bongo sales slumped right along with everybody else, but not quite as low," Morrison said. "We do fine in the American market, but where we do a booming business is in Europe, Mexico and Australia. Germany is the biggest market for us, bigger than the United States. Last time I checked, we were still the #2 comic in Germany, second only to Disney."

As with the Disney comics, there's a tendency for the uninitiated to write them off as simply kids' books, despite the very logical reason why they shouldn't, according to Morrison.

"Most people think of the Simpsons as a kids comics, yet when they view the TV show they think of it as a program for adults as well as kids. I think adults read our comics because they like the TV show. However, if we had come out with these comics without the benefit of a show it would just be viewed as an oddity and would have taken a long time to build an audience.

"The show is our model for these books. We try to make 'Simpsons' and 'Futurama' as close to the TV show as we can get and hope that the adult viewers will pick us up. The nature of those shows is that while they may look like they're made for kids, they're really not written for kids. If you look at our comics they mirror the shows pretty closely, although we do have to stay within the boundaries of the comics code, but with Marvel's latest move that may all change," Morrison laughed.

"Most people assume a comic based on a TV show is kind of lame. They feel that if the creators of the TV show aren't working on the comic it's not going to be any good. People tend to lump the Simpsons comics in with that group, but that's not the case with Bongo. Our comics are more like creator-owned comics than licensed comics since the creator, Matt Groening, owns the company. He has control over what we do and makes sure that the comics are extensions of the TV shows."

[Roswell]Speaking of creator-owned, Morrison's own series, "Roswell, the Little Green Man," has been put on a back burner of late.

"I just sat down with some of the people at Bongo yesterday to discuss this. I have been getting a lot of requests lately, asking me when the next issue of 'Roswell' is going to come out. It's really been a burr under my saddle lately. So, I'm going to start delegating more of the editorial control and art direction to other people at Bongo to free up more of my time. I'm a bit of a control freak so it was a difficult decision. But in the interest of 'Roswell' I had to do it.

"I've been writing a new story and now it looks like I'll have time to sit down at the drawing board and start drawing. It'll have the same team. Nathan Kane is on board to color and I assume Tim Harkins will be on board for lettering.

"This next story will play out over four or five issues. The first will come out sometime early next year. I don't want to put anything out there until most of it is finished. I want to make sure the books get out there in fairly quick succession without much lag time between issues.

I'll start the numbering over and might slightly retitle the book. In the time since I started the book the name 'Roswell' has become so much a part of the pop culture, with shows like [UPN teen alien drama] 'Roswell' gaining popularity, that I think my title gets a bit lost in all that. I might play up 'Little Green Man' a bit more so than 'Roswell,' but haven't really decided yet."

The new "Roswell" likely won't be the last non-Simpsons project Bongo publishes: "We're working on a series with Paul Dini and just waiting for the final signatures on the contracts. It's a fairly adult take on funny animals as only Paul could do it!"

Morrison also has another project in the works, the superhero parody "Heroes Anonymous." The project has been in the works for a while now.

"We hit some snags and had some problems getting artwork done on the first issue, but the art is nearly finished on issue 1 now. And artwork is in progress on the third issue, but we don't want to release the first issue until we have three in the can. It's going to be a six-issue mini published bi-monthly. Basically, it's about a support group for heroes.

"The original artist on Heroes Anonymous was AJ Jothikumar and he did a fantastic job, but he had some health problems and was having trouble meeting deadlines. There was a real amicable split. He's been replaced by a talented young lady name Pia Guerra. I believe she's done a few things for Paradox Press's Factoid Books and may be in line to do something for the Buffy series for Dark Horse. She's currently working on the Gay Avenger story in the third issue. issue, #1, written by my co-creator Scott M. Gimple features the character Attaboy, a grown-up teen-age sidekick who's now working at a convenience store because he never had an education. The issue I'm working on now, #2, features a character named Beelzubella. She's your basic spawn of Satan who's become a born again Christian."

As for Simpsons-related Bongo works, there's still plenty of that on the way:

"There's a new quarterly Radioactive Man series written by Batton Lash. Batton's having a blast with this. We set RM up so that you can skip around through comics history. The first issue he did was #100, with a publication date of 1962. Then we skipped to the early '70s and did an early Marvel style issue. Then back to the '60s to do an issue with art by Dan DeCarlo with a script tailored specifically for him. The latest issue we're on is #4 from 1953 and it reflects the style of that era. Back in the early '50s hero comics weren't doing so well so a lot of super-heroes comics incorporated elements of horror and comedy into their books to increase sales, and #4 is very much like that.

"The coolest thing about this issue is we have legendary artist Murphy Anderson doing inks on one of the stories penciled by Mike DeCarlo.

"We're also working on a number of Simpsons books for Harper Collins and a brand new trading card series!"

'DENNIS THE MENACE' CREATOR KETCHAM DEAD AT 81

Hank Ketcham, creator of Dennis the Menace, died Friday at his home in Pebble Beach, California from heart disease and cancer. He was 81.

While the Dennis the Menace character has appeared on television, a musical and in his own movie, the character is best-known as the star of a single-panel gag strip in more than 1,000 newspapers worldwide.

In contrast to the preternaturally wise and mature children in the late Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" strip, Dennis the Menace is a manic 5 year-old half Tom Sawyer and half Huck Finn and the bane of his middle aged neighbor.

Whereas "Peanuts" ceased to have any new strips after Schulz's death, Ketcham had already passed the baton on the strip in 1994, and the strip is expected to continue.

COMIC BRIEF HARBOR

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

  • Top Cow, TNT and eBay Team Up for Charity Campaign Set to Raise Money for American Cancer Society

  • Comic shop owners duke it out in upcoming Lions Gate film

  • Bongo Comics Solicitations for September, 2001

  • Artist Tan Eng Huat signs exclusive agreement with DC Comics

  • CrossGen completes one full year of on-time shipping

  • This month at Top Shelf

And last time in the Comic Wire:

  • Scott Kurtz Makes Comic Shops His New "PvP" Arena

  • Mike Deodato Shows Off the Harder Edges of "Witches"

AND FINALLY ...

A special thanks to the big man, Jonah Weiland.

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