Comic Wire

Thu, June 28th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

'WHAT'S MORE COMMERCIAL THAN THE BIBLE?'

KYLE BAKER DOES IT OLD TESTAMENT STYLE

PREVIEW: 'KING DAVID'

[King David]
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So, Kyle Baker's next big comic work -- "King David," coming this December from DC Comics -- is a Bible story.

Somehow, Baker makes it sound a bit more interesting than it was in Sunday school:

"A virtuous farm boy with superhuman powers slays a monster, wins a princess, battles an evil king, and rescues the Lost Ark Of The Covenant," Baker told the Comic Wire on Tuesday. "Basically, 'Star Wars' and 'Indiana Jones' combined."

With a book -- or two, depending on how you measure such things -- full of classic stories, why King David? Baker has his reasons.

"A partial list:

"A rags-to riches story of a shepherd boy who becomes a king.

"A boy fights and beheads a monster. The boy also fights and kills a lion and a bear.

"A powerful villain, King Saul.

"Dozens of chases, dozens of battles. Cliffhanger upon cliffhanger as David escapes from peril after peril. Thousands of severed limbs and dismembered corpses!

"Gorgeous women!

"An adulterous affair!

"King David plots to kill his lover's husband!

"SEX, VIOLENCE, CHASES, AND GOD! ALL EYEBALL-MELTING PSYCHEDELIC BAKERCOLOR!"

DC has begun showing bits and pieces of the work at comic conventions, and the Biblical tale looks, well, kinda slapstick.

"It's pretty much the same stuff I usually do. It's got some funny parts, some scary parts, some sad parts, action, romance.

"One thing I'd like to mention is that I'm not changing anything drastically from the original Bible story. Usually, when the Bible is adapted to another form like movies or children's books, it gets rewritten in an attempt to make it more commercial. I ask you, what's more commercial than the Bible?

"Personally, I feel cheated when I see a movie like 'Prince Of Egypt' and my favorite characters have been removed or changed (Aaron). Or when the action scenes are deliberately presented in the least scary way possible (the plagues). Or when characters' human flaws are removed to make them presumably more palatable to the audience (Moses' self-doubt, his doubt of God, Moses murdering the Egyptian and hiding the body). It weakens the story, rendering it pointless.

"A lot of the big entertainment corporations are worried about offending people, and that why they make these changes. Or they worry about scaring children. That's ridiculous. Like most people, I heard Bible stories when I was a very young child. They scared me, but they didn't ruin my life! If anything, they enriched my life and taught me valuable lessons which have made me successful as an adult.

"Bible stories are great because they are about people who are HUMAN, just like you and me. THAT'S THE POINT! They have strengths and flaws. When people are good, they are rewarded with success. When people are bad, they are punished in some spectacular gruesome way.

"David was as human as anybody. The main thread that runs through all of my work is that my characters are just like you and me. Whether the character is a woman, man, criminal, suicidal, rich, poor, the reader is able to sympathize with the character because the character is somehow just like all of us."

For those who know Baker's name best for his "Letitia Lerner, Superman's Babysitter!" story, Baker's over it. The story was deemed inappropriate for publication after it had already been printed and almost the entire run of DC's "Elseworlds Finest" 80 Page Giant #1 was pulped.

"There was no fiasco. I did a job, I got paid, the job wasn't published. In my looooong career, I have done plenty of jobs like that. It comes with the territory. I've written movies that weren't produced, done animation character designs and advertising illustrations which get changed or discarded, and magazine illustrations which weren't published. But I get paid for the work. Once the client pays me for the work, they can do what they want with it. I do this for the money.

"Every creative professional knows the situation. The actual work of mine which gets published or filmed is a small fraction of the work I've actually produced. And of all the work I do, I get paid for about half of it. For example, when I want to do a book, I usually write up two or three short story 'pitches,' and do some sample illustrations to show what the character will look like. Then I take these stories and art into meetings and try to sell a book. The publisher buys ONE of the stories. The stuff I didn't sell goes in my file cabinet. Or on Kylebaker.com."

Baker was quoted in the press after that as saying the situation wouldn't be happening again.

"As far as the Superman situation," Baker said, "People assumed from the quote I meant I wouldn't work for DC again. I just meant that the corporate communication problems that led to the book being destroyed wouldn't be repeated. I've done plenty of work for DC since then, including 'Batman,' 'Tom Strong,' 'Gen 13,' Splash Brannigan, and 'I Die at Midnight.' So far, they've all been published. Today I'm drawing Superman, written by Stan Lee. It's all a matter of everybody within the organization being informed so that a comic book doesn't get made that is ultimately destroyed.

"The Superman's Babysitter story is being published in 'Bizarro Comics,' which DC feels is more appropriate, and since they own Superman and they own the story DC has the right to do what they want with it.

"I've worked with DC and Paul Levitz for years. The relationship has only improved over time. I have complete creative control over my graphic novels. When I work on a DC character like Batman, I respect the fact that it is not my character, and that DC has the right to decide how they want their characters portrayed. If I ever hired someone to do a 'Cowboy Wally' comic, I would insist on them drawing and writing it exactly the way I want. And if I didn't like what the cartoonist did with my character, I wouldn't allow the work to be published. Is that wrong?"

Finally, other than "King David," Baker has one big production he's working on, and has been for some time.

"I'm putting together an anthology of 20 years worth of cartoons which haven't been reprinted. Stuff from magazines, comics, and the Web. Plus some of that unseen art in my file cabinet. I still have no title for the book. Watch for it later this year."

HERNANDEZ AND SIMONE KILL ONLINE,

SIMONE PLAYS 'NIGHT NURSE'

[Killer Princesses]And to think, it all started in CBR's chat room.

Comic creator Lea Hernandez and CBR's resident smart ass Gail Simone were trading quips, when they decided to focus all that energy into doing a comic together. And thus "Killer Princesses" was born. (The complete story was in a previous edition of the Comic Wire.)

For those who don't want to wait until this winter for Oni Press to release the miniseries featuring the debutante assassins, Hernandez and Simone have produced an online Killer Princesses strip running for the next few weeks at Oni's Web site.

They've had a few more months to develop the characters and miniseries, although Simone says they've got bigger plans in store to make sure "Killer Princesses" is a big hit next winter.

"Our plan to dominate the field is proceeding as planned," Simone told the Comic Wire on Wednesday. "Next step: nerve gas in the air conditioners at the San Diego Con. Take THAT, assembled creators!

"So far, I'm working on the final script for the mini-series, Lea's doing the best art of her career, Laura DePuy is coloring the covers ... it's a jolly holiday all the way around."

"The progression for me is I'm getting not only more and more comfortable with our girls, but I'm really finding working with Gail to be one of the best experiences I've had professionally," Hernandez said. "Her scripts inspire me. They're funny as hell, and this makes me want to draw even funnier to make what she's done better!

"We're still looking at a December launch as a three-issue mini-series," Simone said. "We're also doing four exclusive online strips at onipress.com, and the first printed KP page will appear, I think next week, in the 'Oni Color Special' #2, which everyone should get, because the line-up of creators is great."

Since the project was first announced, the three not-so-bright former in-crowd turned hired killers -- Faith, Hope and Charity -- have solidified in the minds of their creators.

"I just know them better," Hernandez said. "I know how they stand, gesture, what they're thinking. Gail and I both know now, for example, that no matter what Charity does, it makes perfect sense to her. In the Charity-verse, all is going exactly as it should go."

"And Faith is very intensely in the moment, but she can't sustain it for any length of time," Simone said. "She's the most obsessive. Hope thinks she's quite a bit smarter than she actually is."

"Hope seems smart because she says the fewest dumb things!" Hernandez said.

"For me, they've been solidified since Lea's first sketch," Simone said. "She just nailed them. They're all three dim, but each is unique in their lack of brilliance.

"As odd as the surface premise might seem, the book actually has a lot to say about entitlement and the abuse of power."

As for the forthcoming Killer Princesses story, both creators were somewhat reticent.

"I can say this about it," Simone said, "Laura is a hero to both Lea and me, and she volunteered to be involved. And I'm already nuts about Lea's work. It's sort of sad, the way I have copies of it by my bedside, next to my computer, and on the table in my living room. I wrote the whole series with Lea's first sketch taped up by my monitor. Because of Lea's art, people are gonna fall in love with these girls, even though they're a bad influence."

"I am nuts about Gail, but she won't come sit by my bedside," Hernandez said.

"That's cause Lea doesn't bathe."

"It doesn't rain much here."

"Killer Princesses" won't be the last time comic readers get Simone's skewed outlook on things. She's getting her first big break with one of the big two publishers bringing back a fairly tarnished comic property, "Night Nurse," as a four issue miniseries "for Marvel Comics' new mature imprint, MAX," Simone said.

"The original idea, which has mushroomed into something even more bizarre, was from [editor in chief] Joe Quesada himself. Joe's got a great sense of humor, and made it clear that he wanted the full use of the black humor center of my brain -- not something that could be watered-down to fit on a Slurpee cup.

"Although, hey, a Slurpee cup!

"Stuart Moore is the editor, continuing my unbroken string of undeserved good fortune."

As for when comic readers can expect to see it on shelves, "that's being worked out to make it easier on the artist we're hoping for, and no, I'm not telling. But it's someone GREAT."

And once again, Simone's high profile at CBR paid off for her.

"Joe Quesada is apparently a long-time reader of my YABS column here at CBR, and he asked me to pitch for it ... I feel incredibly lucky. I love horror, I love comedy, and I love white shoes. It's perfect for me."

In the year 2001, many comic readers know "Night Nurse" only as a punch line by Warren Ellis. There's not much more to the original book, though, in Simone's mind: It was "sort of an odd early '70s romance comic."

The new Simone-ized version will be "very black humor, starring a nurse at a hospital primarily designed to treat occult maladies and monstrous patients. It's a fun B-movie with some perverse twists."

By this point, though, Simone's on her third comic book company, and is able to contrast working at Marvel with work for Oni and Bongo Comics.

"No one says 'D'oh!'

"Actually, so far, all three have been great to work for. I think very highly of all the editors I work with. Marvel is in this tremendously exciting stage where things seem possible that were unimaginable a few years ago.

"Fan scrutiny of everything Marvel does is pretty intense, though."

DISCUSS!

SCOTT MCCLOUD RESPONDS TO 'PENNY ARCADE'

Scott McCloud][
Scott McCloud
Warning: Adult language in the following story.

Scott McCloud is used to riling people up. As the author of "Understanding Comics" and "Reinventing Comics," he's been telling people what they don't want to hear for years. Usually it's that the old ways of doing things are dead, and that being comfortable with the status quo is supporting artistic and financial stagnation.

Last week, McCloud started getting hit with bricks thrown from his side of the barricades.

The anger starting bubbling up on message boards, where McCloud was accused of ignoring the more traditional of online cartoonists, and -- as reported in the last edition of the Comic Wire -- it culminated in him being attacked for being too much of a dreamer in an edition of the Penny Arcade strip.

Not surprisingly for a man who's been advocating the Web before many fully understood what it was, McCloud responded by putting up a Web page to address the hostile views of recent days, including talking directly to "Tycho," the writer of "Penny Arcade:"

"Goddamn it, Tycho -- why the fuck do we have to be enemies?

"Neither of us is making a living at this. Both of us need 'day jobs.' Maybe both of us have families (I don't know anything about you personally and unlike you I'm ready to admit that). I'm offering one solution to the exact problem you describe and your only response is to kick me in the teeth for it in front of thousands of people!

"Well I'm not kicking back. In this whole response, you'll notice I haven't once attacked you personally. Why? Because the idea of a feud between online comics artists over something like this is beyond pointless -- it's suicide.

"You want a debate. Fine. Any idea that comes along should be subjected to every test we have. But this isn't how ideas get tested, Tycho. This is how ideas get buried."

A TALENT DESERVING OF WIDER RECOGNITION:

MIKE BRENNAN OF 'ELECTRIC GIRL'

[Electic Girl]
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It's that old story: A girl, her dog and the invisible gremlin who makes her life far more interesting than she perhaps wants it to be.

Well, it's an old story to those familiar with Mike Brennan's "Electric Girl," including regular Comic Wire and Loose Cannon readers.

And if Brennan wins the Eisner award he's nominated for at this July's Eisner Awards at Comic-Con International in San Diego -- Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition -- it might be a story everyone's familiar with.

The nomination comes at the end of a year where Brennan's profile has risen dramatically. And that was no accident.

"In a word, marketing," Brennan told the Comic Wire last week. "I've been doing the 'Electric Girl' comic book for several years now and it was just this past winter when I realized that I needed to do more to promote the book. I forgot that just creating a comic book doesn't automatically equate sales.

"I started doing banner advertisements on several sites promoting my next book (EG#7), as well as attending more comic conventions. I had several people tell me that the ad banners are what attracted them to the web site and ultimately, to purchase the trade."

Of course, there's a difference between marketing and getting nominated for one of the industry's most prestigious awards.

"I submitted my work to the Eisner judges after much encouragement from several friends. I didn't expect anything to come of it, but I'm flattered that the judges thought enough of my work to nominate me.

"I had already planned to go to San Diego this year as I've had a booth there for the past two years."

Win or lose, though, Brennan's got work to do:

"What's next? Well, I'm finishing 'Electric Girl' #7 as we 'speak.' It will be out in time for San Diego. It took me a little longer to complete than I had originally planned, but I think most fans will find it worth the wait. Then, I'll have EG8 coming out this fall. For anyone who wants to see a sample of my work, I have several stories posted on the Electric Girl Web site. But, they can always try the trade paperback if they hate reading on-line!"

PLANET OF THE COMIC BRIEF

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

  • Chaos! Comics solicitations for product shipping October, 2001

  • NBM Re-Releases 'The 101 Best Graphic Novels'

  • Michael W. Kaluta's art featured in new art book

  • CrossGen Comics now available in Spain

  • Scott McDaniel and Ed McGuiness renew exclusives with DC

  • Weapon-X Flash trailer now available at Marvel.com

  • Marvel releases Thor Plot for Marvel New Talent Search

And last time in the Comic Wire:

  • A Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition: Scott Mills of "Big Clay Pot"

  • Bendis Announces "Ultimate Marvel Team-Up" Line-Up

  • "Penny Arcade" Takes on Scott McCloud

  • DC Superheroes Know Jack

AND FINALLY ...

A special thanks to the sickly Augie De Blieck. Take plenty of fluids and don't listen to any talk radio.

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