Open Your Mouth: Issue #36

Thu, February 19th, 2004 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
J. Torres, Columnist

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OYM THREE-IN-ONE

It's another OYM three-in-one column! This week we have an update on Dave Cockrum's health and news about the latest addition to the already stellar line-up of talent contributing to his tribute book. Plus, I interview my buddy Steve McNiven, a.k.a. the former artists of CrossGen's "Meridian", a.k.a. the current artist of Marvel Knights' "4." And last but not least, some fan mail with Comic Book Idol related questions …

UPDATE: ALAN MOORE JOINS DAVE COCKRUM TRIBUTE BOOK

I received this press release from Clifford Meth of Aardwolf Publishing on the same day we posted last week's column so I was unable to include it then. Apologies to all involved! In case you may have missed seeing the PR elsewhere online this past week, here it is:

Alan Moore Joins Dave Cockrum Tribute

"Dave Cockrum was doing great things in comics when few great things could be found," Alan Moore told Clifford Meth, editor of the forthcoming THE UNCANNY DAVE COCKRUM TRIBUTE. "I'm delighted to be part of this."

Moore joins an unusual assembly of comics legends in this landmark tribute book. Aardwolf Publishing is assembling the portfolio to directly benefit the Cockrums, who are suffering from Dave's continued hospitalization.

THE UNCANNY DAVE COCKRUM TRIBUTE includes a parade of industry legends who have donated unpublished art and new writings. In addition to Moore, contributors include Neal Adams, Bob Almond, Murphy Anderson, Sergio Aragones, Terry Austin, Dick Ayers, Mark Bagley, Charles Barnett, Al Bigley, David Boswell, Rich Buckler, Travis Charist, Chris Claremont, Gene Colan, Peter David, Alan Davis, Diane Duane, Harlan Ellison, Steve Englehart, Mark Evanier, Neil Gaiman, Ron Garney, Mike Grell, Tony Isabella, Dan Jurgens, Bill Messner-Loebs, Steve Lieber, Stan Lee, Pablo Marcus, Bob McLeod, Jerry Ordway, Tom Palmer, Mike Pascale, George Perez, John Romita, Joe Rubinstein, Marie Severin, Dave Sim, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Mark Texeira, Roy Thomas, Herb Trimpe, Sal Velluto, Lee Weeks, Len Wein, and Marv Wolfman.

While Cockrum's condition has improved somewhat, he is still hospitalized with neither income, medical insurance, nor royalties from the characters he created for Marvel. Initially stricken with a severe case of double pneumonia, as well as a bacterial infection in his lungs and his blood, Cockrum continues to suffer from complications. He is being cared for at the Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital in New York.

Cockrum made his professional debut in 1973 on DC's Legion of Superheroes and became one of the last members of Marvel's legendary Bullpen where he revamped the then-canceled Uncanny X-Men. The characters he personally designed include Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, Mystique, Phoenix, ThunderBird, The StarJammers, and The Futurians.

To pre-order the tribute book or for more information, please visit:

http://www.aardwolfpublishing.com/PR/help_dave_cockrum.htm

To contact Clifford Meth, please write to:

To contact Clifford Meth, please write to: thecliffordmethod@yahoo.com

ONE OF "4"


Pencil art to "4" #1
cover by Steve McNiven

I've known Steve McNiven for several years now. We've even threatened to collaborate with each other on a few occasions, but things never seemed to quite work out. A lot of other things have worked out rather nicely for Steve, though. His rise through the comic book ranks has seen him going from aspiring artist living in Toronto to being recruited to join the CrossGen bullpen in Florida where he first apprenticed under Brandon Peterson and eventually graduated to full-time penciller on "Meridian" until he finally decided to return to his hometown of Halifax where he now telecommutes to New York as the artist of Marvel Knights' "4." Yep, he's come a long way, baby. So, this old friend thought it was time to chat with Steve about his new Marvel assignment and get him to open his mouth before he got too big for us little people…

TORRES: You got your start in comics working within the CrossGen studio system, but now you're working from home. Which do you like better?

MCNIVEN: At this time in my life working from home offers more positives than studio life. I get to spend more time with my four-year-old daughter, which is of paramount importance to me, my time is flexible and my commute is ridiculously short. CrossGen was a terrific opportunity for me and I learned a hell of a lot from being around other professional artists, but when the time came, it felt right to move on.

TORRES: Are there aspects of the studio setting that you miss? Anything you're happy not to have to deal with any longer?

MCNIVEN: By the time I was getting ready to leave the studio, CG expanded in staff and the place was getting crowded. I very much enjoy not having the distraction of a couple of dozen people (including myself) taking five-minute breaks during the day and wandering around chatting it up. I do miss the back and forth with other artists. It truly is the best way to learn. I would imagine that at some point I wouldn't mind sharing a studio with some fellow comic book creators, but for the moment I'm really enjoying the freedom my little studio offers me.

TORRES: Now, before CrossGen and Florida you used to live in Toronto where there's a pretty active comic community, what's the scene like in Halifax where you live now?

MCNIVEN: I gotta come clean and say that I haven't been very good about circulating within the comic scene in the city. I'm sure that there is a great one out there by what I've been hearing when I frequent the best comic store in the country, Strange Adventures. But this is the place where I grew up and I have an amazing group of friends out here as well as family and they keep me pretty busy when I'm not holed up in my studio with the FF.

Pencil art from "4" #2, page 7
TORRES: You also used to teach art in Toronto, do you miss being in the classroom at all? Miss being with the kids? And I mean that in the most non-Michael Jackson way possible...

MCNIVEN: I miss it a lot. You get hooked on the adrenaline rush of the class performance, the thrill of successful communication and the feeling that you are making a difference in someone's life. At some point I'd like to get back to the classroom to teach the art of comic illustration. It generally is shunned by most fine art institutions and that kind of narrow thinking needs to be addressed.

TORRES: All right, enough with your past. Let's talk about the present. Right now, there are two FF books on the stands, including one with Waid and Wieringo at the helm, and another with Bendis and Kubert. I honestly don't see a lot of people picking up all three FF books so in a sense you're competing for buyers here. Why should people pick "4" instead of or in addition to the other FF books? Did I mention that those books are being done by Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo, Brian Bendis, and Adam Kubert?

MCNIVEN: Thank God that the idea of "competing for buyers" is not on my mind when I am actually working on a book. It is a monumental waste of time. I have a drive towards getting better, earning some respect from my peers and hopefully entertaining people in some fashion with a well done bit of storytelling, but I'll leave the competing for buyers stuff to the guys who run the company. I just try to do the best work that I can do, team up with other like-minded individuals and enjoy the hell out of drawing comics. And yes, I can hear the cynics saying "come on, you know he has to be worried, look at how much he's going on about this topic, he'd be a fool if he didn't worry about sales." Those are the same people who tell you that you can never break into the industry, that it is a doomed art form and so on. Just ignore them folks.

TORRES: Sure, but you also ignored the most important part of my question: Why should people pick up "4"?

MCNIVEN: Hmm... didn't seem like that was the thrust of the question, but if you want a song and dance as to why you should pick it up then you've come to the wrong house. I'm no salesman. Pick it up at the store, if it looks like you might like it, go for it.

TORRES: Okay, let me put it this way: What makes "4" different from the other FF books out there now?

MCNIVEN: Different artists, different writer. Different stories. I'd say a more down to earth style of story, but the current arc that I'm working on has aliens and horror stylings so it is a bit misleading to sum it up like that.

TORRES: All right, can you tell us about the first story arc then?

MCNIVEN: The first arc deals with the FF and their sudden loss of their money and property and how they cope. It has some wonderful stuff layered into it so it is a bit harder to sum up as it would be if the plot all tied into them fighting some galactic invasion fleet or the villain du jour.

TORRES: Well, I think I can sum up the first issue in one way and say that it's some of the best art I've seen from you. I think you and (inker Mark) Morales and (colorist Morry) Hollowell make a great team.

MCNIVEN: Thanks!

Pencil art from "4" #2, page 14
TORRES: How closely are you working together? Do you wish you were working in the same room with them all day like you did with your collaborators at CrossGen?

TORRES: The three of us are in regular touch with one another, but I prefer to give everyone their space so working together side by side like at CrossGen wouldn't be all that beneficial. I'm not the "team leader" type of guy when it comes to creating art. I just do the best work I can do and hope that everyone else follows suit. And it worked for this book! Besides, if we were all in the same room we'd get nothing done! I have known Morry for some years now, having worked with him at CrossGen. They were fools to let him get away, but their loss is my gain. He's a hell of a lot of fun to work with and it's great just to step back and watch him do his thing. Mark Morales I have never met in person, but he is a consummate professional and he saves my butt every day! Again, another case of sit back and enjoy the ride!

TORRES: What about the writer? Very little is known about him in comic circles. You've worked with some "seasoned vets" in the past, so what's it like working with someone who's new to the medium? What can you tell us about Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa?

MCNIVEN: Roberto is an amazing writer, completely original in his approach and execution yet he has such a good grasp of the technical side of laying it out for the artist that if I didn't know better I'd have to say that he had been writing comics for decades.

TORRES: Did I mention that I also dug the cover? You're doing all the covers on this series, right? And can we tell the folks about the other cover assignments you're doing for Marvel?

MCNIVEN: I got used to doing my own covers at Crossgen so I thought it was really cool of Marvel to let me do them for "4! " I'm also hard at work on covers for a new series, "District X," but I can't talk much about that one yet. Oh yeah, I also got the chance to do a cover featuring a certain web slinger which was sooo much fun!

Speaking of covers, be sure to check out next week's column for more from Steve McNiven, "4" and other OYM exclusives.

"4" #1 is in stores now and #2 goes on sale Wednesday, February 25th.

OPEN YOUR MAILBAG

Some "fan mail" recently received at OYM Central via the InterWeb…

Hey, J. --

Comic Book Idol addict here... I'm wondering what the other CBIdol finalists have been up to. An article updating us on their paths would be really great...

Jonesin' for the next CBI,

Aldo Alvarez

And here's one of about a dozen that asks the same question…

Mr. Torres!

When the heck is Comic Book Idol 2 happening?! You've dropped hints that it's coming so what about a date? I'm preparing my portfolio samples now!

"Gizmo"

To answer two-in-one: We're working on it. On both. A "Where are they Now?" type ditty involving the other CBI contestants as well as preparations for CBI2. The contestants update will probably happen the week before the preliminary round of CBI2. When that round kicks off, however, is still up in the air. It will be earlier than it was last year, though. As in sooner than later. Please stay tuned!

Next week: Steve Gerber, Brian Hurtt, the Micronauts, zombies, an upside down flying crotch shot and more!

Meanwhile, drop by the OYM forum why doncha?

Thank you for your attention.

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