Monday, August 28, 2017

A Flight of Heroes HAWKWORLD Interview and a new TPB

HAWKWORLD was a vibrant reboot of the character of Hawkman, with a new take on an old character, to make his present story more powerful and relevant to the audience of the 1980s.  It was similar in aim to Man of Steel by John Byrne, Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, George Perez's Wonder Woman, Mike Grell's Green Arrow Long Bow Hunters, here was a new and yet familiar character to meet, again.  Timothy Truman's 3 issue series was every bit as good as the others mentioned above, and it was followed by an ongoing monthly series written by John Ostrander, art by Graham Nolan, and watched over with an cowriter/editorial view, by Timothy Truman.

This is an interview with Truman and Nolan, and by the end of the piece there is a notice about a hopefully upcoming TPB in 2018.






ME: I loved Hawkworld. Did you have the project in mind and pitched it, or did DC say, hey, umm, we really like your stuff, would you consider doing...?

Timothy Truman: Thanks, Alex. I'm really proud of the work that (inker) Quique Alcatena and I did on the miniseries.

Mike Gold,  the editor, contacted me, as I recall. I can't remember whether or not it was to work on a Hawkman reboot, specifically, or if he just asked me whether or not I'd consider doing a Prestige series for DC.  I had been doing creator owned projects at the time, working exclusively with the independent publishers-- First, Eclipse, Pacific, a few things for Dark Horse. I was a bit of a snob in that regard. I wanted to support the indies and all the advances they'd made in regards to creator's rights. I also liked the artistic freedom that working with the independents allowed me. So I was originally reluctant to accept the offer.

The things that finally swung me were the facts that, to keep in pace wit the things that the indie publishers were offering artists and writers, mainstream publishers like DC and Marvel had adopted more creator-friendly publishing policies. Also, in the mid-1980's, I'd befriended classic Hawkman writer Gardner F. Fox. Before Gar died, we'd actually talked about pitching DC a new Hawkman series. Gar wanted to do a very Edgar Rice Burroughs/John Carter of Mars take on the character-- something very fantasy or space opera oriented. Unfortunately, I'd been too busy at the time to pursue such a project. When I finally found time to consider the project, Gar passed away. (In fact, he died the very night that I was composing a letter to him, asking him if he'd still be interested in doing something together.)

So when Mike approached me, Gar's original proposal to me once again popped into my mind.  He hadn't given me any details about plot specifics or anything but it seemed like a cool way to pay tribute to him. So I told Mike that I'd be willing to give it a try. I worked up a pitch and he he and the folks at DC really liked it. I must say that getting the European Haxtur Award for "Best Miniseries" the year it appeared was one of the proudest moments of my life.

ME: I have heard criticisms of the piece that making Hawkman thereafter a crusader for the poor seemed like a cliché.  Is that a point you worried about afterward?

TT: Ha! No, not in the least. Actually, I hadn't heard that one.  I don't really keep up with fan chatter like that. Seems rather strange, though. I thought that's one of the things that superheroes were supposed to do. Part of their original mission statement, you know? Go figure.

ME: To me, having someone overcome addiction and rise above a world view that was toxic meant the person was himself morally poor but chose to evolve and change that.


TT: Thanks. Those are pretty much the key components of the story for the Prestige miniseries -- to create this personal arc for Katar. He begins as an idealist-- a historian who worships the old legends of the ancient Thanagarian hero, Kalmoran.  He becomes a cop to do good, but starts seeing the ugly truth about the society that he's protecting. He learns that things like the Kalmoran stories are just handy myths used to justify those ugly truths. Gets depressed, takes drugs to cope, goes through a downfall that takes him straight to the bottom of life. How he climbs back up through that is how he becomes a hero. It's part of his journey, his personal evolution. At the time, I had pretty much given up reading fiction and had dived face-first into hard core studies of early American history. I was into the deep stuff-- rare first-hand accounts & primary source material that were really shattering a lot of the things that I'd been told since I was a kid. So Hawkworld drew on a lot of that. Of course a few years later I got to put these investigations to use in a more direct manner with my graphic novel Wilderness: the True Story of Simon Girty.

ME: Your work Hawkworld both redefined and refined the character from the Silver age.  It was adopted and the series Hawkworld, (crazy coincidence?) came out. As a result of the monthly series, some people became confused about the timeline and worried over continuity. When you were creating the 3-issue Prestige series, did that come up from DC, or were you just doing your creative thang and all of the editorial machinations happened afterward?

TT: Originally, I was only concerned with the 3-issue series. That was my only concern. I wanted to to stand alone, like a single SF novel or something. A good, solid space opera adventure story , but with some meat on its bones. That's how I worked, even on things like my Scout series-- to take the approach that each project was actually a single novel with pictures.

However, the miniseries was extremely successful. So as you might imagine, DC wanted to take advantage of that and launch it as a regular series. They wanted me to write and draw it, but I had my sights on other projects. I'd done what I wanted to do with the character via the miniseries and I wanted to move on to other things that I was eager to get into-- mainly Wilderness.  However, they wanted me to be involved in some way.  So I suggested they get John Ostrander to do the monthly and put in the recommendation that they look into Graham Nolan as the artist, as I'd worked with him on the Prowler backup stories at Eclipse. I told them that I'd help John co-plot the series, but I actually served as more of a consultant.

I detected a problem right off the bat with the continuity, though. The story I'd told in the original 3-issue series was intended to have taken place years and years before the  then-current DC continuity. The prestige stories was an expansion and elaboration on the old original, initial Gar Fox and Joe Kubert Silver Age stories that had been set on Thanagar. I had that notion form the start. If it had been played that way, I believe things would have been fine. But it was the age of the "Year One" DC series, you know? DC wanted the new monthly series to take up where the Prestige had left off and have Katar and Shayera come to earth during the then-current continuity. I have a notoriously short attention span, so, like I say, I was eager to move on with my own projects. So I was like, "Sure, it's your property, do what you want. Have a blast." As a result (though through no fault of John Ostrander), things got  bit muddled, continuity-wise. That's what DC wanted, though. And John and his wife Kim Yale certainly did some great stories.

ME: When you were aboard the series Hawkworld as a Editorial/Guiding hand, how much actual input did you offer?

TT: Less than I should have, and certainly less than was fair to John. He'd send me the plot for each issue, we'd have ten minute conversations on the phone each month and that was about it. I was really bad about things like that in the old days. When I was done with something, I didn't like to think about it again. My ADHD had me totally, hyper-focusing on the next project, 1000%. That's the only way I things done.

ME: Would you do a Hawkworld series using the same format if offered?


TT: I'd have to think really hard about it. It might be fun, sure, and I've learned to never count anything out. However, I'm 61 now, so I'm trying to get back to the original motivations that got me into the comics industry in the first place-- mainly getting back to doing my own stuff, via projects like Scout: Marauder, which Ben and I hope to launch soon via Kickstarter and a companion "behind the scenes" page at Patreon.com. Thanks, Timothy Truman.

For updates about Timothy's work, check out his website, www.timothytruman.com or visit his Facebook page.


GRAHAM NOLAN was the artist for the regular series of Hawkworld, and it was a wonderful run of work he did.  I asked him a number of questions to give an idea of the time he was on the book.

ME: I've really been a fan of your art work.  How did you enter the
industry?

GN: I had two class assignments at the Kubert School published in DC Comics: New Talent Showcase. It so happens the editor, Sal Amendola was my instructor at the school.

What was your first work?

GN: New Talent Showcase

ME: I know you did some Airboy, some Power of the Atom, and even my beloved Doom Patrol before doing a run on Hawkworld.  Was it the first book you really got to show your stuff?

GN: No, I think The Prowler for Eclipse comics was where I got to “show my stuff”. As with Hawkworld I did full art on that series. But Hawkworld was the biggest profile book I had worked on up till then.

ME: There were complaints about Hawkworld, perhaps not loud ones, that making a hero of Katar Hol who overcame drug addiction and a toxic attitude of entitlement to now fight for the poor and unloved, that he was being an example of the White man's burden, or Noblese Oblige. Did you think anything about his motives or how it was playing to readers, or was it just work?


GN: It was a job. I didn’t have any story input.

ME: Some people became confused about the timeline of Hawkworld, as in, was this in the present, hey we thought the prestige format series it was his origin, why start over from here?   Did any of this change or affect any of your work?  If so how so?

We didn’t start over. The monthly was a continuation of the Prestige Series and it was set in the then current continuity.

ME: I didn't mean or even say that I thought it, but I absolutely heard other people say it, just sayin'...

Did your work on the series require added research, were you trying to not deviate from Tim's template?  Did you enjoy drawing these characters?

I usually do a lot of research for every project I take on. Tim had really set the groundwork in his series so what I tried to do was capture the “feel” of the prestige series without aping it. I wanted to add my natural sense for a more dynamic style of visual storytelling.

ME: How was working with John Ostrander and Tim?  Were there ever stories that weren't a meeting of the minds?

Tim and John are great and talented guys. John’s stories leaned heavily to the political left while my leanings are to the right so there were many stories that I didn’t agree with. But I wasn’t getting paid for my story input so I did my best to make John’s stories as exciting as possible regardless of what I thought of the subject matter.

Would you return to a Hawkworld series if offered?  And please give the readers here an update of your work...

DC has returned Katar Hol to his traditional Hawkman role so I don’t see that happening.

I’m currently working on BANE: CONQUEST for DC Comics with my pal, Chuck Dixon. I also have a humor strip called SUNSHINE STATE (http://www.gocomics.com/sunshine-state) that updates every Monday so subscribe to it…it’s FREE!

THE ANNOUNCEMENT


DC Comics originally announced that in 2018 a tpb of the first 8 issues of the Hawkworld ongoing series will be released.   I've noticed some changes on the AMAZON listing, so it is perhaps going through a reschedule or a quirk in the system.  (How the hell do I know?)

Here is the publisher description...

Hawkworld Book One: The Byth Saga

A new edition of the classic title that reinvented Hawkman for the 1990s.

In this classic comics series from the 1990s, writer/artist Timothy Truman reinvented Hawkman as a brutal member of a distant planet's police force.

HAWKWORLD follows wealthy Katar Hol as he questions his role in Thanagarian society, joins the police force, is betrayed and disgraced, and then finally finds his purpose as Hawkman.

Collects HAWKWORLD #1-8, HAWKWORLD ANNUAL #1.


The AMAZON pre order link now says release date 2035, for when it will come out, I sure hope that isn't a really deep pre order schedule.  But again, there has been some change in the info, so, when exactly it happens, I don't know, I do know, I'll be happy to see it happen.

KIRBY! 100 big ass years old!



Today marks the 100th birthday of Jack "KING" Kirby, Master of pencils, inks, typewriter, creator of heroes, gods, villains, and heralds.  When I grew up, yes so very very long ago, in small town Wisconsin, I was alone in my appreciation for the King's work.  It wasn't due to his work, it was about the way that kids looked at comics at the time, the availability of comics, and the lack of a local fandom.  I am not, NOT saying a thing about him, his work, or fans in general.  I AM saying that for me, it was a glorious experience later in life to meet folks who did greatly enjoy his work.  The internet has made the world smaller, in very good ways.  I deeply love Kirby.  His works made my brain happy.

JACK KIRBY is, was, and will always be the KING OF COMIC BOOKS. 
 











Monday, August 21, 2017

TPBs that need to be: Jamie Delano Edition

COMMENTARY
By Alex Ness
August 21, 2017

(Click on images to make them larger, they are beautiful)

As I've openly stated, I like Jamie Delano and Jamie Delano's writing.  I am not unbiased with this entry.  I have read all of the available comics by Jamie.  So, I think, I am not without a certain expertise regarding this.

These three series deserve to be captured in tpb form.


GHOSTDANCING is a vision of an outsider looking at the American history of the West, and finding it rich in racism, colonial appropriation, and mythic depth.  Divine or semi divine Native Americans enter the cryptic fifth world, one that has no flaws, one that evokes heaven.  A shaman named snake steals your attention, as does the titular drug called Ghostdancing.  We can find paradise, the fifth world, it will only cost you your soul!  The Richard Case art goes along beautifully with the powerful, provocative writing.

NARCOPOLIS 

Narcopolis is a futuristic dystopia. 
In this frightful new world, you are encouraged to use drugs and pleasure to take life's edge away.  Why worry, when you can medicate the truth away?  This work evokes Clockwork Orange, Brave New World and is better or equal to any of the best works from Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, or Neil Gaiman.  Delano creates new words, new sorts of paradigms, all the while entertaining the reader.

RAWBONE

When the popular template of a pirate appeared after Johnny Depp and company's Pirates of the Caribbean they were neither dangerous or scary.  They were exciting and naughty.  You can read this series and tell yourself, Delano clearly knows what the pirates were about, and it wasn't lark or teen adventure.  It was about human predators hunting prey in the oceans.  This work features a dangerous and beautiful lead role female, and while I would not suggest it is all ages, it is worthy of being read and critically considered.  The title, RAWBONE is so very apt, the story takes apart any happy go lucky myths you have, at the same time as making the reader uncomfortable, because he is wondering what the hell is going to happen next.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Past Publisher's works considered, or something

FUTURE? What the...

I wrote a couple large review columns back when this company was alive, and had three different review/interview columns on different comic book sites.  Both of those large columns never saw the light of day.  One of the columns was for a retailer.  The owner of that said no thank you.  I asked why, and it was about his belief that Future was not a publisher but a distributor and such and, by extension a competitor for the dollars.  (Rightly or wrongly...)  On the other two website hosts for columns, there were two other reactions.  On one the owner of the site said he didn't like the three creative people who formed and work through Future Comics.  On the last one the site said this comic company is similar to a basement room publishing mini comics.  And at the time I wasn't using my own site or blogspot, and had no place for those columns.

This is all said to be certain that, I've read the work, and considered it from a number of different angles.  I met the talents on the book, and decided to give them my best consideration.  But, both fate and frustration interrupted my intentions.

Bob Layton, David Michelinie and Dick Giordano formed the core of the company.  They chose to attempt to challenge the distribution domination of Diamond Distribution.  By going to this they were trying to get more money, control their production numbers, and aim at making the most bang for their buck.  That didn't work much.  I do not presume to know what worked or not, for them, but they did put out 4 works that they should be proud of, whether or not I enjoyed them, particularly.

When my reviews didn't get through editorial oversight, I sent the two sets of issues I had to people who I knew would get review offers and occasionally get in print/web.  Both sent me emails back saying "I think this stuff feels like 1980".  Neither did the reviews promised, nor did the company benefit from my efforts.  I regret that, but, I didn't keep things I didn't review, and I tried to help them otherwise.  Sadly, they did hard works, probably lost money, and kept trying, and failed to enter the world of comics as a permanent member.

METALLIX by Michelinie, Layton and Ron Lim.

This series had an interesting premise.  An adventure team who took turns using a smart metal, that could assume a variety of abilities.  But, the manner of writing and depiction did not strike me at all as much interesting as it was competent.  As such, it was hard to see the company as being "new" or the Future of comics.  However, if you'd never read anything prior to these, I think that they'd be enjoyed.  Metallix was well drawn, and well written, but didn't strike my taste button.  However, I was perhaps not the target market.


Deathmask was well written and illustrated.  The concept of a vigilante who used his powers to bring justice was enjoyable.  I liked each issue, and while I'd honestly not consider the book a favorite, it was very much worth the money per issue.  Deathmask had a gun and a secret weapon of quantum science, used to punish his enemies. I think Future tried hard to put effort and quality into their work, and it showed on each of their works.  This book was particularly fun.


I don't know the sales numbers, but my guess would be that FREEMIND was the top seller at Future Comics.  The concept was the best of all the books from Future.  The lead character was a person considered invalided by birth defects, who is able to transfer his intellect into a android form, and able to use every facet of human intellect and more. 


I've never read the work PEACEKEEPER, but I absolutely saw images from the art inside.  It was nice to look at.  It made me hope for a run that never was. 


FUTURE worked with IDW publishing to release a Graphic collection of COLONY, the final work of Dick Giordano.  It is well done and a fitting finale for such a talented industry creator.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The American, Hero, Criminal or an innocent man on the run?

Introducing THE AMERICAN.  Fresh from the US Reagan years, he kicks ass to save the day.  Oh, wait that was 30 some years ago.

Every time when I stared at the news the last 6 months, with accusations from each side, subterfuge across the globe, and dissent, I thought, wow, this world is way more F'ked up than when the American came out.  The American comic series is even more accurate now.

Reading the first issue of the series I turned, looked at my best friend, visiting from Indiana, and said, I am not sure, but that was perhaps the best comic I have ever read.  It is both artistically good, and intellectually savvy.

This interview is with two of the creative talents from the book.  First we chat with Mark Verheiden, the author and creator, followed secondly by artist Grant Miehm, who did work I rather deeply admired.


To what extent is the concept used for the series both prescient and better applied today than when it came out decades ago? I remember reading it and thinking holy shit, this makes perfect use of media inflation, government subterfuge and manufactured events, how very powerful. And yet, it doesn't even seem so fictional now, after so many years of bullshittery.

MarkV:
I have to admit, the political world has become even more absurd than even I could have imagined back in 1986. In the age of Trump I’m not sure how outlandish the idea of a manufactured hero/leader would feel today. Anyhow, it’s for others to decide if the series was prescient, but I don’t think the premise feels outdated, except maybe for some of the pop culture references. Boy George is still a thing, right?

Have you heard any fans preferring a straight forward character of The American, without the delicious curves and out of the ordinary rug pulled out? As such does it speak of the character being solid prior to the ironic tale, or does it mean the reader doesn't get the deeper levels of the story?

MarkV: I don’t think anyone ever asked for a “straight-ahead hero” version of The American. But it’s not like I was flooded with fan mail back in the day (which was pre-email). What I do hope is that The American as a character can stand on his own, and not require an intimate knowledge of other patriotic heroes. There is certainly a bit of satire in the basic set-up of the story, but I’m not satirizing any specific characters, just the idea of manufactured heroism.

Do you have any new stories for the "character" or have you finished your work with it?

MarkV: I’m a big believer in always moving forward and not looking back, so if you had asked me a month ago, I would have said I didn’t have anything planned. But I actually (and literally) just dreamed up an idea for an American mini-series, so… who knows. I’m still friends with the folks at Dark Horse and we’ve discussed bringing the big guy back from time to time, but I’ve been pretty busy on other fronts.

Did you conceive of the character thinking about characters such as Captain America, Fighting American, Star Spangled Kid, Patriot, The Eagle... or, were the characters of the day more ironic, less "patriotic" and he was more of the day? And, since Grant Miehm is a portion of this interview, what special qualities did he bring to the run?

MarkV:  I’ve always been a big fan of Captain America, so of course that was rattling somewhere in the ol’ brain pan, but honestly The American was more born from my fascination with Col. Oliver North and the then current Iran-Contra affair. That brouhaha seems almost quaint 30+ years later, but the way North was lionized by some for his illegal acts just hit a chord. I’ve also always been struck by America’s thirst for heroes, whether it’s sports, military, movie-stars or whatever. We like to build ‘em up then tear them down.

Grant was in the daunting position of following up on Chris Warner, who came up with the physical look of the character and set the visual template for the series. To his credit. Grant jumped in and grabbed the reins with enthusiasm and great skill, making it his own. Kid America never looked seedier! Anyhow, I doff my chapeau in his talented direction, we did some fun books together.

Would you be open to a movie made of the comic, and if so, a single movie, or a Netflix sort of limited series...?

MarkV:  Funny story there, we actually set The American up at Warner Bros. with producer Joel Silver way back in 1989, and that became my first studio screenplay. Unfortunately, like a lot of things, it was never made, but yes -- if the right situation came along, I think it would be fun to see Hough and Cyber-Ike and the ‘Merican on the big screen.

AND ARTIST GRANT MIEHM

When illustrating the American what is the most important aspect of that work?  Does the complicated history of The American reduce the need to make it an iconic image?  Or does the iconic aspect of the character never change?

GrantM: I’d say the iconic aspect doesn’t change, Alex.  With ‘The American’, one of my major thoughts was that while the character engages in some questionable behavior – Issue # 7 is a good example – he must still remain that same iconic hero who is making a mistake, and not one turning away from what’s good or right, no matter what happens.

Is your being Canadian helpful or not a consideration for your concept of the character?


GrantM: It’s not really a consideration for me.  Those things may be a factor from time to time in the story, but I’m interested in visualizing the actions of the characters based on the dynamics of the plot more than anything else.

Did Mark Verheiden do anything different as writer that surprised you? If you were to describe his style what would you describe it as?

GrantM:  Mark did many things I found quite engaging.  For example:  Hough’s alcohol abuse has a lasting effect, and isn’t ignored when inconvenient.  Mark incorporated that sort of idea to great effect to make the story a very real thing – he’s a realist, and creates a totally believable story. That might be an appropriate phrase for me to use in describing Mark’s writing. And of course, Mark’s work has many other excellent aspects, as well. I was really blessed to have worked with him.

Does the American stand next to Captain America, Fighting American, Star Spangled Kid, Patriot, The Eagle... or does his ironic and temporary service as a hero / tool of the Government make his less heroic?

GrantM:  I saw the American as being somewhere between those two poles.  I thought he was more the man searching for himself in complicated circumstances, and not necessarily trying to find his place in those circumstances, either.  Being a hero was something I felt he was prepared to admit he might not be in the long run, although it never came to that during my time on the book.  The American’s attempts to face himself – that’s what made him a hero to me.

Was the use of comics from the past as a commentary and way to tell the back story more fun to do than a typical story?

GrantM:  Yes.  Absolutely.  The back story of ‘The American’ was very thorough and detailed.  It fit seamlessly into the continuity.  That helped tremendously in making it a great assignment, and a great series to contribute to.  And one, I might add, that I’m very proud to have been a part of.


Thank you to Mark and Grant for their time.

Look for more work from Mark and Dark Horse comic collections with his American Omnibus, Aliens hardcovers, and Predator Omnibus editions.

Look for more from Grant, who is currently writing, designing and providing the art and color work for 'Scouts In Action' and its companion features in Boys' Life magazine as he has, since the late 90s, - seen by over 4 million readers every month.  As well, the American Omnibus, Green Arrow V5, numerous kindle editions of his comic work with DC, especially his work on Manhunter and the Impact titles.