Comic Wire

Mon, June 25th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

A TALENT DESERVING OF WIDER RECOGNITION:

SCOTT MILLS OF 'BIG CLAY POT'

If you know Scott Mills now, it's probably because of his book, "Big Clay Pot," a coming of age story set in medieval Japan.

"'Big Clay' Pot is the ultimate historical love story for the graphic novel world," Mills told the Comic Wire last week. "It's a comedy, it's a drama, it's a love story. What sets it apart from most comics is the self-inclusive format (no one has to search shops or cons for other chapters), and its setting. Lots of research went into the time period and location. I wanted to get the environments, flora, and fauna as accurate as possible short of an actual trip to Japan. What sets it apart from other historical novels is its minimalist graphic approach. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from so-called 'non comics readers' who seemed to enjoy reading a comic that wasn't superheroes or the like."

But next month, at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Mills might well have his profile raised quite a bit, as he has been nominated for the Eisner award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition.

"It's all quite flattering. I hope it means that I'm doing something right!"

Perhaps the best-known winner of the Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition award is Brian Michael Bendis, who went from doing black and white crime comics to writing Marvel Comics' Spider-Man. If the award (or even just the nomination) get him that sort of mainstream attention, Mills is likely to avail himself of the opportunities that arise.

"Well, I would love to keep writing and drawing comics, regardless of the genre or audience. Certainly, I'd like to gain more readers and continue to explore different genres. Crime, superhero, fantasy, war, comedy ... it's all fair game. I'd especially like to script some superhero books. I've got some wild ideas for Kirby-esque, crazy-cosmic stories for the Fantastic Four and the JLA, so time will tell."

Mills already has his next project chosen and well underway.

"'Trench' is my second full-length project for Top Shelf Productions. It's an historical graphic novel set in France and England during the first World War. Ten times as much research went into this project than 'Big Clay Pot,' and I hope the excitement and energy I've felt while working on it show in the final product ... it's a killer book!"

A visit to Mills' Web site will show that he's got a number of projects in various stages of completion. Choosing to finish up "Trench" first was a no-brainer, he said.

"Well, 'Trench' is my top priority right now, since I've signed a contract to finish it ... but it's actually a few pages away from completion. As a relative newcomer to the comics world, I also spend a lot of time submitting books, strips, and proposals to every publisher I have a mailing address for."

Mills got a big boost when he landed a Xeric Grant for comic creators trying to break into the industry. Of course, getting it wasn't as much help for him as what he did to land the award.

"When I tackled the 'Cells' project, I tried to stay very focused ... I don't know, it was partly an exercise in telling a complete story with a beginning/middle/end and actually FINISHING it. No continuations or side projects with the same characters were floating around in my mind. It was also an exercise in setting and consistent light-source for me. The Xeric thing was an after-thought. Just as I finished Cells, I decided to try for the grant and realized I only had a day or two until the deadline at the time. Luckily, I made it, and the rest is history! Seriously, though, winning the grant was a great help. It got me a lot of much-needed attention, and got me noticed by Top Shelf."

As to whether or not he'll be accepting another award come July, Mills is a little dubious.

"I'm not sure ... I'm a fan and friend of Alex [Robinson, interviewed in the last edition of the Comic Wire], who I think will win. Otherwise, I'm not really familiar with the other nominees. Actually, I probably don't read as many comics as I should. I never go to comic stores, so I don't always know what's going on ... I might as well live in a cave! When I'm in San Diego I plan to track down these people and see what they're working on."

BENDIS ANNOUNCES 'ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM-UP' LINE-UP

[Brian Bendis]
Brian Michael Bendis
Sure, sure, you're enjoying Mike Allred's work on Iron Man in Marvel Comics' "Ultimate Marvel Team-Up," but you want more. You want to know what's coming next month, the month after, and 15 months in the future. Luckily for you, series writer Brian Michael Bendis is the kind of guy who likes talking about such things.

And that he did Sunday, on his message board:

"WELCOME TO A BIG ASS ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM UP UPDATE.

"The following artists and characters teams are confirmed and on the schedule.

"6-8 Bill Sienkiewicz: featuring the Punisher, Daredevil and Spider-Man (a big crime comic)

"9 - Jim Mahfood featuring Spider-Man/the Fantastic Four (this is a comedy issue and even his layouts are funny).

"10 - Jon Totleben featuring Spider-Man/Man Thing and the origin of the Lizard (this is a horror issue).

"11- 12 Rick Mays, with layouts, cover and a special sequence illustrated by David Mack. Featuring Spider-Man/Shang Chi, master of kung fu.

"13- Chynna Clugston Major featuring Spider-Man/Ultimate X-Men (Yeah, you heard me. Chynna and the X-Men. This is not what you expect and I think it'll be a buzz book)

"14-15 Dan Brereton (Inker to be announced) featuring Spider-Man/Blade (and a lot of the Marvel monsters)

16- 17 Ted McKeever featuring a Spider-Man/Dr. Strange (how cool does that sound?)

"18 - John Romita Sr. featuring a Spider-Man/Elektra story (Did I say Romita Sr. is drawing Elektra? Yes, I did!)

"19 - Michael Avon Oeming featuring a Spider-Man/Captain America story."

I CAN'T AVOID CONTROVERSY!
'PENNY ARCADE' TAKES ON SCOTT MCCLOUD

Scott McCloud][
Scott McCloud
You probably remember Scott McCloud's "Zot Online" here at CBR. (If not, go read it now. We'll wait until you get back.)

The strip was an example of McCloud putting his reinvisioning of comics into action -- McCloud is the author of "Understanding Comics" and "Reinventing Comics," after all. But while the success or failure of his designed-for-the-Web comic is simply a matter for readers and critics, some of his other ideas, as expressed by his "I Can't Stop Thinking" column-cum-strip at The Comic Reader's Web site is drawing very public fire from another online comics creator.

Friday's edition of "Penny Arcade" took square aim at McCloud and his vision of a micropayments-funded online comics world: "When you live in a world of fantasy, ANYTHING is possible! Why EXPLAIN yourself, when you can just use MAGIC?"

Series creator Jerry "Tyco" Holkins explained the strip thus on the "Penny Arcade" site: "Today's strip is basically a parody of this page and the self-proclaimed Lord of Comics Scott McCloud I. People have recommended his work to me on several occasions, both 'Understanding Comics' and the more recent 'Reinventing Comics.' I immediately felt a profound sense of gratitude to Mr. McCloud. I mean, here was this guy, taking time out to speak for all of us who write comics! Okay, so it wasn't gratitude - it was anger. Anger! Anger at his Sermons from the Mount, at his surreal and otherworldly dissertations, and anger at his condescension, even to those who operate in his own context. His newest episode of 'I Can't Stop Thinking' is actually the sequel to an old one - they're very similar, in that they both consist of a congealed rhetoric with absolutely zilch in the way of solid mechanisms or conclusions. Well, unless you count 'Artists Should Get Money' - Now that's bold! It's not like you could just jump out the gate with a micropayments system in place, that's nonsense. How can people find out about you, how can your concept spread in the viral way that is the Internet's strength, when people have to ante up for what is essentially an unknown quantity? For someone like Scott McCloud, somebody who is already established in realspace media, that scheme might work - but if this mechanism is chiefly of use to those already enfranchised, that takes his inspiring manifesto down a couple pegs. I consider myself to be, at my core, and idealist - are you surprised? But this guy's take on human nature is spun from pure fancy. He imagines that other people - in fact, that everyone - would gladly pay for things if given the chance to do so. That is demonstrably, empirically false - most especially so on the Internet, and most damningly so where content is concerned. But the final strike against his assertions is the most telling: that for all his pirouette, for all his flash and show, the very foundation of his argument namely, the sub-dollar transactions called micropayments - do not exist. They are not real. Yes, we have facsimiles of these that operate now (you can see them on the left), but they are not elegant, they incur significant charges, and they are not available to many, many readers because, for whatever reason, they are not able to perform credit transactions. The most basic research eludes Mr. McCloud, who is quite satisfied with profits garnered in true and tested markets, who is quite satisfied with the adulation of the press and the pundit. You go ahead and stick to the store shelves, pal - and don't mind us out here in the trenches. We were revolutionizing and reinvigorating comics long before you decided to Reinvent them."

DC SUPERHEROES KNOW JACK

Fans of DC Comics' Justice League who can't wait for the forthcoming animated cartoon can get a little animated DC superhero action right now at Jack in the Box.

The fast food chain currently has nine toy superheroes in their kids' meals, all done in the animated style, each with some sort of animated action. The figures include:

  • Wonder Woman

  • Superman

  • Batman

  • Captain Marvel (Shazam!)

  • Hawkman

  • Steel

  • Batgirl

  • Robin

  • Supergirl

COMIC/BRIEF

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

  • Creator of The Crow Takes On Sword-and-Sorcery in Savages

  • CrossGen Comics hires new writer

  • Joss Whedon's Fray sells-out, goes back for second printing

  • Wolfman, Wein sell comic book to Hollywood
  • Astronauts in Trouble TPB printing error creates collectible?

    And last time in the Comic Wire:

    • Storyteller: Delano on State of the 'Outlaw Nation'

    • A Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition: Alex Robin

    • Gaiman Opens Official Web Site

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