Exploring the comics universe April 20 2010
From Comic to Movie
Mark Millar & John Romita Jr Kick @ss Fixing The World
Jonathan Hickman on S.H.I.E.L.D. Exhibition
Paul gravett & the Moomin family
Who Was that Masked Man? the Green Hornet!
Editorial by Frederik Hautain
his is it! No, we’re not attempting a faux Michael Jackson impression, but we can’t suppress a certain amount of enthusiasm while lifting the curtain on our first issue of The Frontiersman.
2 5 14 20 Weekly Focus Will the ‘First Wave’ Be the Last?
Spotlight on this week’s releases
The Frontiersman is your weekly digital companion piece to the main Broken Frontier website. On BF proper, you will still get your daily fix of news, previews, reviews, columns, blog posts and a healthy amount of discussion, still quite a mouthful of content. Our sweet in-depth features on the other hand are now neatly packaged in digital form, allowing you to enjoy them at your own pace, away from the breakneck track meet that is the daily world wide web.
Hold On To Your Butts! Mark Millar & John Romita, Jr. Are Out Kicking Ass
Jonathan Hickman: Ascension of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Tove Jansson’s Dreamworld: an interview with Paul Gravett
Subsequent issues will be available for download every Tuesday, right before the comics week kicks off in earnest on Wednesday. And that’s perfect, because every installment of The Frontiersman storms out of the gates with a spotlight on all of the can’t-miss reads you just have to pick up while you go pick up your weekly stash at your local comic shop.
After that, all bets are off with our mix of interviews and articles on the best the comics industry has to offer. In typical Broken Frontier fashion, we’ll attract your attention to both the mainstream and independent corners of the comics universe and dabble in broader comics culture every once in a while.
Power Girl: A New Beginning
History The Green Hornet
Exclusive Preview The Light #2 by Nathan Edmondson & Brett Weldele
The thrusters are on, so buckle up, because we’re taking off!
Send your comments to email@example.com. For advertising information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For a list of contributors, visit www.brokenfrontier.com/the-staff. Visit www.brokenfrontier.com for more comics commentary, news and reviews. The Frontiersman is © 2010 Broken Frontier. All images, photos & text is © their respective copyright holders. The Frontiersman is designed by Bart Croonenborghs. Unauthorized reproduction of any of its contents is prohibited by law. Any statemens made, expressed or implied in The Frontiersman are solely those of columnists or persons being interviewed and do not represent the editorial position of the publisher, who does not accept responsibility for such statements.
Will the ‘First Wave’ Be the Last? by William Gatevackes
C is using the “First Wave” event to try and give The Spirit another shot at a lasting ongoing series. But will this time be any different than the last? For DC, starting up a new series starring the Spirit must have seemed like a “can’t lose” proposition. Will Eisner’s most famous creation held a legendary status amongst creators and fans. His original incarnation ran for over 640 weekly issues from 1940 to 1952 as a newspaper supplement, and is now currently housed in a line of popular “Archive” hardcover collections of the original series by DC. The revamped Spirit series did start off well. Darwyn Cooke took the reins and while not doing a complete copy of Eisner’s work, kept true to the, pardon the pun, spirit of the original. Cooke had a vision and enormous talent and created a modern version of the Spirit that could stand up to Eisner’s original. But, all good things must come to an end and once Cooke left the title after issue #12, the series quickly went into a downward spiral. Darwyn Cooke was replaced by the writing tandem of Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragonés and artist Mike Ploog. All three are legendary names in comic book history. While I liked Evanier and Aragonés’ writing on the title, it was an abrupt change from Cooke’s. Their take was more humorous and whimisical while still being true to Eisner’s original, but it was a jarring change from Cooke’s hip noir based style. Ploog lasted just one issue before being replaced first by Paul Smith and then by a rotating crew of virtual unknowns on art. This hampered the ability of the series to get a distinct visual style and acted as a 4
detriment to the writers’ storytelling. As is usual in books with this much creative upheaval, sales started to plummet. Later on in the run, stunt creators were brought in to try to improve sales. Michael Uslan was brought in with the thinking that as a producer of the Spirit film, he’d bring in more readers. Unfortunately, the film turned out to be a disaster and any improvement was negligible. Dean Motter and Michael Avon Oeming gave their best efforts and Ploog even returned to close out the book, but it was too little and too late to stave off cancellation. Luckily, DC still has faith in The Spirit, shown by the start of a new series this week. They are trying to give this new incarnation a better shot by doing something the first go round only teased at—tying it into a larger universe where it can interact with other DC characters. Before Darwyn Cooke’s first issue came out, the Spirit co-starred in a one-shot special with Batman. This set up an unfulfilled expectation that the Spirit would be interacting with members of the mainstream DC Universe. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. While the Spirit will not be interacting with the mainstream DC Universe this time, he will be sharing the pages with some DC characters. He has been brought in to the new pulp-influenced world of the “First Wave” universe and has already come face-to-face with the Blackhawks in the First Wave miniseries. This version of the Spirit will probably be a little further away from the last incarnation DC offered us. But maybe that will not matter if fans appreciate the legendary character rubbing shoulders with Batman and Doc Savage. Will this time be a long-lasting success for the Spirit? Let’s hope so.
weekly top comics
by William Gatevackes & Frederik Hautain
Foiled If you read books and are a fan of fantasy and adventure, then the name Jane Yolen will probably ring a bell. For decades, Yolen’s been writing fiction that both young and old readers can enjoy. She has won multiple high-profile awards for her extensive body of work, which includes Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? Mike Cavallaro breathes visual life into Yolen’s original depiction of a young girl named Aliera, who desires only to one day take home the Olympic gold medal in fencing. But will a new boy at school spoil her dreams? Jane Yolen (W), Mike Cavallaro (A), First Second, $15.99. Graphic Novel.
Archie #608 For some people, Archie putting a lip lock on anyone other than Betty and Veronica would have them up in arms. But who Archie is kissing this week could cause even more controversy. The woman he is smooching is African-American Josie and the Pussycats member Valerie Brown. The world has come a long way in accepting interracial relationships, but there are still enough close-minded people out there that might get upset by this cover. Kudos to Archie Comics for not letting this stop them. Perhaps this issue will strike a blow for greater acceptance of love in its many forms. Of course, it will take a lot more for Betty and Veronica fans to calm down. Dan Parent (W), Bill Galvan (A), Archie Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.
Crossed: Family Values #1 Garth Ennis passes on the torch of his shocking horror tale to David Lapham. Lapham’s latest outings – the canceled-way-too-soon and the recently-launched Sparta USA – are critical darlings, so readers should have high hopes for his take on Ennis’ horror book and upcoming feature film. In Crossed, people get infected by a virus that urges them to act out their darkest dreams and inflict nightmares on others, leading to a lot of rape, murder, and all-out violence. Family Values centers on the Pratt family, who live an idyllic live on their horse ranch in North Carolina, but things are about to get bad… real fast. David Lapham (W), Javier Barreno (A), Avatar Press, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.
Magdalena #1 Magdalena is back with a new ongoing series by Top Cow architect Ron Marz. Over the last couple of years, Marz has taken a stab at most of the Cow’s supernaturalpowered characters, including Witchblade, Darkness, and Angelus. Now, the writer adds Magdalena to his arsenal. The wielder of the Spear of Destiny and the ultimate (and sexy) defender of the Catholic Church is called upon to prevent Armageddon. Is she up to the task? Ron Marz (W), Nelson Blake II (A), Image Comics/Top Cow, $3.99. Ongoing Series.
Shinjuku At long last, legendary Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano is releasing a fully original book for Dark Horse. On Shinjuku, named after one of Tokyo’s 23 wards, Amano teams with filmmaker Mink to tell the story of bounty hunter Daniel Legend, who must prevent the war between the demonic and criminal underworlds from spinning out of control, thereby threatening reality itself. This story of destiny, danger, and hard-boiled sorcery is sure to blow your socks off – if only for Amano’s beautifully painted artwork on display in oversized hardcover format.
Christopher “Mink” Morrison (W), Yoshitaka Amano (A), Dark Horse, $24.99. Graphic Novel.
DV8: Gods and Monsters #1 DV8 was one of the most popular Wildstorm titles of the 1990s, running for 32 issues after spinning off from Gen13 and featuring creators such as Warren Ellis, Tom Raney and Humberto Ramos. The antiheroes are returning to comics this week, being brought to you by one of the hottest indie and Vertigo scribes around: Brian Wood. The writer of DMZ, Local, and Demo brings the team back with a tale involving a mystery as to where they have been since their last series. Apparently, they have been living in a prehistorical world where they were treated as gods. DC is advertising this series as an “amazing and tragic story unlike anything set in the Wildstorm Universe before.” With Wood at the helm, how can it be anything but? Brian Wood (W), Rebekah Isaacs (A), DC/Wildstorm Comics, $2.99. 8-Issue Miniseries.
Firestar #1 Firestar is one of those rare Marvel characters to not make her first appearance in a comic book. The character made her debut in the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends Saturday morning cartoon series in 1981. And if the producers were able to get the rights to the Human Torch like they originally wanted, then she might not even have existed at all. The character was brought into comics with 1985’s Uncanny X-Men #193 and immediately received her own miniseries soon after. She has gone on to appear in New Warriors and Avengers and will soon be a part of Marvel’s Young Allies series. This Women of Marvel-themed one-shot will give fans a refresher on the character in time for her return. Sean McKeever (W), Emma Rios (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.
Hold On To Your Butts! Mark Millar & John Romita, Jr. Are Out Kicking Ass by Tyler Chin-Tanner
hen I was about to meet Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., Titan Books’ PR officer told me to expect Millar to be exhausted. “He flew to Glasgow yesterday to see his daughter and flew back this morning,” she said. “He’s only had about 90 minutes of sleep.”
If Millar was tired, I never would have guessed it when the door opened and the room sprang to life with the energy of two friends reunited, excited to take on another opportunity to promote their comic and movie property, Kick-Ass. Perhaps this energy came from the satisfaction of finally being where they were meant to be. John Romita, Jr., who’s been illustrating the industry’s 7
top heroes for more than three decades, has more than moved out of his father’s shadow. Mark Millar first made a name for himself with relatively unknown characters before being handed the reigns to Marvel’s biggest event comics. And now, the mainstream stalwarts are steering the ship of their own creatorowned project as it makes the leap from comic to silver screen. They were more than happy to sit down with me to discuss how Kick-Ass is redefining superhero movies and how come the comic continues to sell extremely well despite its crudeness (the hardcover collection hit the 100,000 sales mark last week). BROKEN FRONTIER: In Titan’s companion book, Kick-Ass: Creating The Comic, Making The Movie, you said that KickAss would redefine superhero movies in the way that Pulp Fiction did for its genre. How do you see it doing that? MARK MILLAR: Once something like Pulp Fiction has pushed the genre to it’s limits, the next movie can’t just turn the dial back down. I expect Kick-Ass to do the same. We’ve shown what would happen if a high school student tried to become a 8
superhero, when you combine superheroes with real life. There’s no more putting Spider-Man back in high school and having it be that innocent storyline. Back in the day, Spider-Man was pushing the boundaries for what superheroes were. When John’s dad was drawing Spider-Man, he was the definitive artist on Spider-Man for his time. Then Johnny here became that definitive Spider-Man artist for the next generation. And then he went from that to the next step in the genre with Kick-Ass. So we can draw a direct line in the evolution of the superhero from John’s dad’s Spider-Man, to Johnny’s, to Kick-Ass. JOHN ROMITA JR: So my son is going to have to draw the next step in the superhero genre. MM: He’s going to have to take over KickAss from you and draw that for the next generation, then he’ll move from that to the next level of superhero, whatever that’ll be at that time. BF: Mark, how did you come to choose John for this project? MM: Oh, Johnny and I have been friends
for years. We worked on Wolverine together, the Enemy of the State storyline. I always knew that KickAss was for John. When I was coming up with the story, it came to me in my head in John’s style. Even if he hadn’t been ready to do it yet, I would have waited a year, two, whatever it would have taken for him to do it. Johnny’s the Martin Scorsese of comics.
BF: So you haven’t opened it yet? JRJR: No, I refuse to drink it. That’s to keep - it’ll be a well-aged bottle of whiskey. [Laughs] MM: For a writer, its no big deal to go a year without pay on a project because you can do other projects along the way, for Johnny, he had to do this for free because we didn’t get paid to do this. But it worked out great on the back end.
JRJR: Working on Mark’s Wolverine script and being asked to draw visuals on such a large scale, I had never been challenged to draw like that before. When I was I would call Mark up working on it, I would call Mark up and ask, “Okay, so what are and ask, “Okay, so what we trying to say with this panel? are we trying to say with this What’s the symbolism we’re trying to convey?” And he would panel? What’s the symbolism just say, “Who cares? Just make we’re trying to convey?” And he it look awesome.”
BF: How has going through the process of developing a creatorowned book different for you guys from simply teaming up on a work-for-hire book?
MM: When we first started working on the book, we didn’t know if would just say, “Who cares? Just anyone would publish it. I sent it As important as artistic integrity out to Image Comics and Marvel make it look awesome.” and all that is to me when I draw, and their deals were comparable this idea of drawing comics with but what made up our minds was large-scale visuals that would wow the reader was talking to retailers and they said there was a glass what I wanted to draw. ceiling on Image titles. Retailers will never order that But the real thing that did it for me, because I would much from Image, some not at all. have to work on this project without any kind of pay for a year, was Mark sent me this bottle of whiskey JRJR: And everyone at Marvel are all a bunch of before I ever set pencil to paper. It came in the mail pals, so it was nice to keep everything in that same only about this big. I still have it. I’m going to hold onto atmosphere. it because him sending it to me like that, I thought this was a man I want to be in business with. MM: Yeah, John’s been working there for years, so 9
JRJR: And what’s the name of the new villain in it? going from Marvel to Icon just seemed to make sense. It was a bit of a thank you for all the money we’ve made them in the past. JRJR: But you have to have quality. If it had been garbage, they wouldn’t have published it.
MM: Motherf****er. Yeah, I can’t imagine trying to get that to pass through Marvel for the first series. But with creator-owned books, you sort of know going in that they’re going to be R-rated. BF: Speaking of second-guessing people’s reactions, were you ever concerned that people might react negatively to a book about white heroes coming in constant opposition with ethnic characters; the black and Hispanic hoodlums, the “Puerto Ricans”?
MM: They gave us a really good deal. We just paid a little for distribution fees and we When you’re going to got all the money coming in and the rights. I don’t think Marvel do a book that’s this real, realized they were giving us such you can’t afford to play games a good deal because they didn’t know Kick-Ass would end up with what color to make each outselling even Wolverine.
person and who should be good and who should be bad. You do what’s real.
But before that, Marvel wasn’t too sure what they thought of it. They didn’t like the name. They never said they wouldn’t publish it, because of course they would, but they asked us to think about the name. They were worried that many retailers in the Midwest wouldn’t order it just because of the name.
MM: Look, I grew up in Glasgow (Scotland) where there weren’t any different colors or ethnicities. We were all just ginger and pasty. So if I write in a script that someone is Mexican or whatever, it’s only because it’s what seems appropriate for the story.
BF: Did that end up happening? Did some stores not order it because of the name?
JRJR: There was a reviewer who wrote that Mark’s script was racist, saying the thugs are all black. At first, I wasn’t’ going to say anything but then I thought, no I’m not going to let this guy call my writer a racist. I wrote the guy and told him what I thought. By the end, the guy was apologizing to me. What he said was that maybe racist was the wrong word to use.
MM: [Shakes his head] Never was an issue. You should never try and second-guess what people’s reactions are going to be. I do the book I want to do. I want to make the book that I would want to read. And now the sequel’s going to be called Balls to the Wall Marvel wouldn’t have appreciated that title before it showed that it would sell. [Laughs]
When I sat down to do this story, I saw that this was coming from Mark’s own life experience and I wanted to do the same. I wanted to bring a piece of my past into it as well. Everything you see in there, the scenes and the buildings, come from my old neighborhood in Queens, New York. And that’s just New York – you get ethnic thugs and multi-colored villains.
You know (directed at me because I’m from New York) from walking around the city, any day any crime could be committed by a white guy as easily as a black guy. I made the decision to color the guys the way that I did. Don’t blame Mark if you’re going to call him a racist – blame me if you’re going to do that. Most of the time, the script didn’t even call for a person of a specific color. I made those decisions and I did it based on my experiences.
denominator. It’s vulgar and crass – all the things that appeal to guys like us. For years, I was trying to do what I thought other people wanted and I had almost given up until Authority (Mark’s breakthrough book with Wildstorm – ed.).
When you’re going to do a book that’s this real, you can’t afford to play games with what color to make each person and who should be good and who should be bad. You do what’s real.
MM: No, to me, that would just be evolution in reverse. While writing, I shouldn’t think about what would look good in a movie. My job is to do my best to focus on making a good comic.
MM: Sometimes it’s just better to put it out there, go head on into the issue rather than try to avoid it. If you look at the history of comics, most of the supervillains have been white. In a way, it’s unfair how many white guys have been used as villains.
JRJR: I am a little intimidated now. Before, I didn’t have anybody looking over my shoulder. No one cared what I was drawing. Now I’ve got people looking over my shoulder – they’re out there checking to see and I have to pay a little more attention to detail because people care now. They’re invested in these characters and they want to make sure the level stays up there. These people know quality and that’s a testament to Mark’s idea.
BF: Which turned out to be more realistic, the comic or the movie? MM: They both did it in different ways. In the comic, we went over the top more than the movie does. We just wanted to do something that we both wanted to do. We actually thought it was un-filmable. The movie rights were actually sold before the comic came out, but we were working on it for a year before that. And at first, Matthew Vaughn, the director, couldn’t get any of the studios to pick it up, but he made it anyway, and in the end, when all the studios wanted it, what they all said they liked most about it was exactly what they said they didn’t like about it before. JRJR: I knew ever since the first issue that this would have a cult following, but I had no idea it would be this big. But I knew it would be a cult book. MM: Because of all the violence and curse words. No one ever went broke aiming for the lowest common
BF: Moving on to the second volume, was there anything from the movie, either changed or added, that you might now use in the next arc?
MM: There was the different twist on Big Daddy’s origin that just worked better in the sequence of the comic to have that extra twist in there, but in the movie, it would have just thrown everything off, so it had to go. But he’s dead now, so I don’t really have to worry about that difference. We do have to make Hit-Girl older in the second series because Chloe (the actress who plays her) is going to be older, so we’ll have to reflect that in the next comic. Kick-Ass is in theatres now. The comic is sold wherever ass-kicking comics are sold. It is also available on iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and PSP.
Jonathan Hickman Ascension of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Kris Bather
onathan Hickman is one of those creators whose work in the medium of sequential art not only brings the art form to daring new heights, he has also reached the stage where his name alone guarantees interest in his next exciting project. Like David Mack, Brian Michael Bendis and a handful of others, his surname on a cover means a quality piece of fiction that breaks forth from the edges of the page.
Four a spin reminiscent of its name, Hickman is now adding a third string to his bow for the House of Ideas. S.H.I.E.L.D. was announced last November with secretive steps, but a huge amount of curiosity. This month’s instantly sold-out debut issue already signaled this will be another ambitious project, as Hickman takes the concept of humanity’s defense against Galactus and other extraterrestrial threats, while blending in historical figures and putting the notion of the polymath - a multi-talented person of high intellectual ability - as its thematic core. That blending of a rich fantasy tale with an exaggerated sense of reality is just one of the reasons that will set S.H.I.E.L.D. apart.
Hickman’s breakthrough work, The Nightly News, was instrumental in opening up the eyes of a friend of mine who never really gave much regard to comics before. That response is widespread and is what put him on the map of both critics and fans. In the last few years since the experimental and Eisner Awardwinning News hit, Hickman has focused on bringing his own brand of high concept tales to the fore, as both writer/artist in the time traversing epic Pax Romana, and more recently as a writer for Marvel.
Of course, real life figures popping up in Marvel comics is nothing new. Everyone from The Beatles to Jay Leno to Barack Obama have shown up over the years, but S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking a different approach, as anyone who’s seen artist Dustin Weaver’s interpretation of Leonardo Da Vinci as an Indiana Jones-like adventure man can attest. However, Hickman admits that he chose such real life figures with care. “The role that we came up with was that everyone should be a polymath,” Hickman admits, “a Renaissance man. Isaac Newton, Ben Franklin and people like that. We didn’t stick entirely to that role, but we
After launching Secret Warriors and giving Fantastic 12
did a pretty good job of doing that. Imhotep was the first polymath. Some Chinese guys, a bunch of guys from the Middle East. Clearly that’s the one area of the world that’s the high note of all academic and intellectual pursuits, and then, you know, a lot of Renaissance and turn of the century science guys.”
that. Some characters receded into the background and some came to the forefront and we made up some new characters. So, you know, it’s a big stew.” And part of that stew is Nick Fury, albeit Anyone who’s read S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 has undoubtedly a small part. Hickman noted the appearance of famed astronomer Galileo admits, “Obviously we Galilei amongst the proceedings. The inclusion of are concerned that historical figures doesn’t necessarily mean historical some people are going accuracy however. This is a Marvel comic after all, as to pick this book up Hickman explains. “You don’t want it to be slavish to and say, “Where’s Nick being historically accurate. I mean, this is fiction. You Fury?” and all that kind of stuff, but want to tell a good story, not to it’s going to take have to be completely accurate people an issue If you’re talking about most and the other thing is not to fall or two to find Democrats and Republicans, in love with it becoming a science their feet firmly or history class. You don’t want in the story and you’re talking about people that grounded to make the point of the book I hope they’re understanding believe in a liberal democracy, showing people how much you about it. It might bite us in the know about certain points in ass that we called it S.H.I.E.L.D. and they turned on each other history. , but why not? We’re just going to because they had no true have to wait and see.” “I did the research and there were ideological enemy anymore. a couple of historic characters Whenever the word ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ that we were very interested in is mentioned in context of the exploring, but that led to other things through the Marvel Universe, the eyepatched superspy invariably creative process and everything kind of grew out of comes to mind, but Hickman assures Fury fans that 13
“we’ll see him in like, issue 5 or 6, but not a lot. ideologies and political feelings into their work. He’s not a primary character, but there’s a tiny little “My opinion is that those things are usually lesser smidge of Nick Fury in there. There’s a tiny bit of works, whereas stuff like Steranko’s was not only S.H.I.E.L.D in there, and I know that’s confusing Cold War commentary but also a love letter to the because of the title and all that, but a lot of that genre. That stuff came first so it was pure. From an was driven by legal. That’s just the sausage-making ideological perspective it was certainly a more solid process of getting a property up off the ground at piece of writing and art and it’s just a better kind Marvel. All the S.H.I.E.L.D stuff is maybe 5-10% of the of comic. I would say that Secret Warriors right now book. Everything else is all-new, is really more a book about the all-cool stuff. The point of this nostalgia of the simplicity of book is not to put S.H.I.E.L.D equally drawn lines.” Humans are inherently back on the map. That’s not the explorers and discoverers goal of the series at all, but we’ll The current volatile political show how all of that kind of ties climate means that for a lot of and another thing that’s together.” people, the grass was greener kind of bad about what’s going on in “the good old days,” when Secret Warriors is Fury’s stomping in the world right now is that we men wore hats inside, people ground, melding as it does aspects looked out for their neighbors, need that outlet badly. of heroes in training and political and the deliverers of news and military machinations. It’s were respected authoritarians, also the book where Hickman can even if the news they delivered stretch a different set of writing muscles and perhaps usually involved the spectre of war. “You could argue target a different audience. “If you’re interested in that though the world may have been in a more all that kind of ideological positioning, really Secret technically dangerous position because the people on Warriors is the natural continuation of the S.H.I.E.L.D/ both sides could’ve destroyed the planet—and there’s Nick Fury global spy junk. That’s really where that’s something to be said for the purity of government going on.” sponsored conflict because the damage was always limited on both sides—you could also say that there’s Of course, wherever you have stories of war and something really, really good for the nation’s state secret military watchdog organizations, the people when you have a clearly defined enemy. If you look behind the tales can often bring their own ideological at stuff that’s going on in the United States right now interests to play, but Hickman is not interested in you have two tribes of people that believe in liberal turning the longbox into a soap box. “Sometimes democracy. the ideology of the writer is something that can’t be overcome and certainly in some S.H.I.E.L.D books “Taking away the fringe elements on both sides—if and Nick Fury books over the years, it’s been obvious you’re talking about most Democrats and Republicans, that some writers have been writing their personal you’re talking about people that believe in a liberal 14
Nick Fury in Secret Warriors democracy, and they turned on each other because they had no true ideological enemy anymore. So in a lot of ways Secret Warriors is kind of a love letter to simpler times. [Laughs].”
those who only look after number one while ignoring the bigger picture. “Humans are inherently explorers and discoverers and another thing that’s kind of bad about what’s going on in the world right now is that we need that outlet badly,” he muses.
Some of the aforementioned “cool stuff” is the sheer scope of the series, as it delves “What’s the next great frontier? into human history and jets across What are we moving on to? We’ve different eras with abandon, from turned inward and that’s always a ancient Egypt to the 1950s. “I bad period. Look at any period in started in Egypt because it’s really history, at any time that society the dawn of modern civilization,” turns inward and thinks that the Hickman reasons. “You can make an thing that we need is to spend argument that it’s not, but you can time being insular are always make a more valid argument that dark periods for humanity, but it is, where we truly started doing we always come out of it. There’s the things that separated us from always another hill that we need to being just citizens of the planet to go over, another frontier, another being the dominant force of the thing to be explored and it’s kind planet. It was really the birth of a of in our nature to do that. Some lot of stuff that led to that. Another great man, somewhere at some reason we start there is that we point in time is going to take the had the first recorded example of next step in a new direction and a polymath there. It was the first it’s going to inspire us.” time that we had interdisciplinary excellence, which is kind of one of Quick to answer that he’s not the points of the story. We don’t pessimistic but hopeful in our do that much anymore. We don’t collective exploratory nature he produce people that are great at a admits that he has a good outlet lot of things.” for those feelings, “I write an issue of Fantastic Four when I’m A teaser image for S.H.I.E.L.D. Hickman believes that those who really in that mood.” Being in a strive to better the world, rather good mood is something Hickman than just themselves, are the world’s true heroes, is getting used to, as he’s enjoying his dream job and as history often proves. Something the scribe is all admits, “I’m happier than I’ve ever been. For the too aware of is the inherent and potential greatness first time in my life I’m doing something that I truly of humanity and he’s not shy in sharing his disdain at love.” 15
Tove jansson’s dreamworld an interview with paul gravett
by Bart Croonenborghs
aul Gravett is one of comicdom’s most notorious figures. Ever at the forefront of the field, he has put together international exhibitions and written many books celebrating the comic art of the United Kingdom and the United States. Where creativity meets adventure, Paul is curating the most famous creation of Tove Jansson: the carefree Moomin family in Brussels, Belgium. BROKEN FRONTIER: How did the international combination of British countryman Paul Gravett, the Finnish Moomin family and the location of the Comics Centre in Brussels come about? PAUL GRAVETT: Like many people, my first exposures to the Moomins were via the animated cartoons on television and reading one or two of Tove Jansson’s storybooks. I was totally unaware of the comic strips 16
until my fine Finnish friend Juhani Tolvanen asked me to help him research them for his history of the Moomin strips. I scoured the microfilm archives of the London Evening News for him and dug up how the strip was pre-promoted through the newspaper. From there I tracked down the one and only English hardback reprint, from 1957. This rediscovery was the real revelation for me. BF: The Moomin are immensely popular with a very broad demographic. What lies at the essence of their widespread appeal? GRAVETT: I think their appeal is that they can be enjoyed and understood on several levels by the young and by older readers too. They have subtle psychological depth as well as folklore fantasy. And above all they demonstrate how unpredictable and fascinating people can be and how very different characters can accommodate each other. It’s a celebration of difference, even eccentricity,
As part of The World of Tove Jansson section, visitors can watch the Moomin Memories documentary. and getting along. A good allegory for today’s world really.
to Tove herself, for example. I want a time machine to go back and rescue them!
BF: The Moomin family and especially Tove Jansson herself have a fascinating and long history. How difficult was it summarizing everything within the limited framework of the exhibition?
BF: The exhibition also shows some rare sheets of ink drawings that seem to be synopsis of Moomin storylines. How did they resurface? GRAVETT: We’ve been extra-ordinarily lucky hearing from Moomin Characters, still a family company run by Sophia Jansson, who had discovered these synopsis ink drawings. Talking with Juhani Tolvanen, I learned that he had gone through all of Tove’s comicsrelated materials and not found them. It seems they had been filed instead with her other general papers and no-one had noticed them until quite recently. They were not in the best of shape, on faded, browning tracing paper and with glue stains on some corners. Luckily, they have been expertly restored and we can show 12 of the 40 or so that were found for the first time, a world exclusive!
GRAVETT: The exhibition does narrow its focus primarily onto Tove Jansson’s comic strip work, in particular her initial Moomin strips in Ny Tid in 194748, only two years after creating the characters in 1945, and then her 7-year contract with the Evening News from 1952-59, the strips reprinted so beautifully by Drawn & Quarterly. A bigger exhibition could still explore her non-comics work more deeply, show more of her paintings and her substantial cartooning career, and of course go on to look at the 15 years of Moomin strips by her brother Lars and the subsequent comics being produced to this day. There are plans afoot for another, bigger Moomins exhibition, so perhaps we will get to see some of this. BF: Since Associated Newspapers destroyed the artwork of the Moomin family’s most famous comic adventures in 1954, was securing the surviving pencil work and painted illustrations of Tove Jansson a difficult chore? GRAVETT: No, all thanks to the amazing help of the Tove Jansson Moomin archives in Moominvalley at the Tampere Art Museum in Finland. Luckily, Tove preserved all her pencil sketches, gluing them onto sheets of paper next to the printed proofs. It’s not ideal, though, because the glue she used is not stable, but they are being looked after and conserved very well. I think it is a scandal that the philistine syndicate in London managed to destroy all of her amazing original drawings. It shows how little regard or respect these businesses had for what was in their hands. If only they could have simply returned them
BF: Charles Sutton played a major part in developing the second volume of the Moomin comics, utilizing the joie-devivre of the Moomin to “satirise the socalled civilised way of life” as you put it. How come he never even has a byline in the comic volumes or that he seems largely ignored in his contributions? GRAVETT: Good point. Charles Sutton did play a crucial role but kept out of the spotlight and maintained a modest profile. I didn’t find any photos of him, for example. As a vital instigator, correspondent and 17
mentor in some ways for Tove Jansson, Sutton is like quite a few editorial people in comics who can have a significant impact on a creator’s approach and success and yet remain largely unacknowledged. BF: How do you think the Moomin have influenced the current generation of cartoonists? In terms of style Jeff Smith’s Bone and Annette Tison and Talus Taylor’s Barbapapa immediately spring to mind, but do you think there are others? GRAVETT: It’s interesting to explore this angle of her legacy and influence, which could also supplement an eventual bigger Moomins/Tove Jansson exhibition. I know that British artist-writer Glenn Dakin was and is a huge Moomin fan and Dakin in turn has influenced Americans like John Porcellino of King Cat, for example. I can see Jansson too in Joann Sfar’s artwork, so I wonder if she influenced him as well. BF: After she retired the Moomin, Jansson started to focus on her adult novels which also seem to tap into that feeling of despondency and belonging. They are largely unknown to the American audience though, so could you tell us a bit more about them and maybe share some pointers? GRAVETT: Both The Summer Book and The Winter Book are great places to start if you want to explore Tove Jansson’s writing beyond the Moomins. I think her writing for adults still has that crystal-sharp clarity and deceptive simplicity of her earlier writing. Sort Of books are issuing more of her later fiction now. I would thoroughly recommend Fair Play, her last novel from 1989. I reviewed it for The Independent newspaper here: “These seventeen interwoven vignettes unfold
‘a life of work, delight and consternation’ shared by two women, partners and companions. Though rooted in Jansson’s own relationship with the graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä, this portrait of a couple transcends autobiography to disclose the creativity of living and loving day by day, weathering irritations, jealousies and artistic struggles through a blend of fairness and playfulness, from which the book gets its title.” Sort Of are bringing out The Deceiver later this year, and at long last A Dangerous Journey, one of her beautifully illustrated picture books. BF: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Paul and good luck with the exhibition and other upcoming projects. GRAVETT: Thanks a lot, Bart. Right now I’m cocurating another dream exhibition, Jack Kirby: The House That Jack Built, with New York connoisseur Dan Nadel of Picture Box fame. We get to showcase over 120 amazing pages of original Kirby artwork to be shown as part of the Fumetto Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland, filling an entire former Picasso Museum, Am-Rhyn Haus, for just ten days, May 1-9. Seriously, I don’t think there has ever been a bigger or better public showing of Kirby’s genius than this! In London this summer I’m also co-curating a bicentennial celebration of comics from Argentina and transforming The Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park into four floors of “Hypercomics” with, all being well, Adam Dant, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Dave McKean and Warren Pleece. The latest info is always on my site, www.paulgravett.com. Tove Jansson’s Dreamworld at the Belgian Comic Strip Center runs from march 2 to august 29, 2010
The first appearances of Moomin On Screen open the exhibition with the familiar animated adaptations. The first appearances of the Moomin troll are shown in the background on the right.
by Tony Josepf
Lacks Girl Power
ook up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a... blonde stereotype? DC’s first collection of Power Girl’s latest ongoing series, Power Girl: A New Beginning, has blasted onto shelves. While the series has its fun moments, it mostly comes off as a superpowered blonde joke. Superman’s alternate universe cousin has long been one of the most shallow female characters within the DC Universe; it is unfortunate that this new series does little to change this fact. In this day and age, when female comic readers have increased dramatically since Power Girl was first introduced 34 years ago, it’s sad that the character hasn’t evolved into something more than a typical teenage male fantasy. Kara Zor-L first landed in the Pre-Crisis DC Universe from Earth-Two in 1976, and since then she has been a staple in the DC continuity and has long been a member of the JSA. Her new solo series is based in New York City, an oft-overlooked locale in the DCU. The first story arc, which focuses on an attack on Manhattan by the Ultra-Humanite, is really quite epic and satisfying while the action is going on. The second arc features space heiresses 20
that have come to Earth to party (think Paris and Nicole from space). This “party girl” story is a bit of a yawner and failed to hold my attention very long, and the insipid girl’s-movie-night subplot doesn’t really help matters any. Power Girl works best when Kara is out being a superhero, but the comic starts to fall apart as soon as she dons her secret identity. Power Girl’s uncostumed moments are pretty boring diversions into the life of Karen Starr, her bombshell secret identity (yes, all you voyeurs out there, we do see her change into costume several times. Where is a phone booth when you need it?). Power Girl has some great action-filled moments but in some issues cat-washing, apartment hunting and breast-ogling far outweigh its um... endowments.
The cover to Power Girl: A New Beginning by Amanda Conner
It’s kind of funny that while Power Girl claims to be a defender against sexism, more than a few jokes and situations reek of semimisogyny. I was sick of all the “Power Girl has a large chest” jokes that litter the pages of this comic by the first
issue. Even though these situations are approached with a lighthearted manner, its hard to imagine this comic being enjoyed completely comfortably by fangirls, much less a casual female reader. Every male character approaches Power Girl as a sex object first and as a superhero second, and this is also true while she is in the Karen Starr persona. Obviously this comic was written with undersexed teenage males in mind, which isn’t a bad thing as long as you’re under 18 and never had a girlfriend, or fondly recall those days in the past (I sure as hell don’t). Writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are sure trying hard to create a drama-comedy-action triple hybrid, but their use of dated and recycled stereotypes sabotages their mission. Artist Amanda Conner is really the shining star of the Power Girl creative team, her art is solid and very consistent,
but she recently annouced that she will be leaving the series after issue twelve. Can’t say I blame her, I’d get tired of drawing Power Girl’s ample bust too. Power Girl is a little short on girl power. It’s much more early ‘90s Caitlin Fairchild than liberated woman Buffy Summers. For a comic book that is supposed to be fun, there are really some seriously insensitive and honestly disrespectful moments. You really have to question if lines like “Wanna put you in a fridge” and some of the more unfortunate 9/11 references were made in good taste. Some things in the past should stay in the past, and some comics on the shelf should stay on the shelf. The Power Girl: A New Beginning trade paperback is on sale now from DC Comics priced $17.99.
Who Was that Masked Man? It was the Green Hornet!
true hero never stays down. That must be true, because after going through more publishing trials and tribulations than many of his superpowered compadres, the Green Hornet is back stronger than ever. Some characters created in the 1930s have gone down in history as an integral part of American folklore, their names known even by those who’ve never been thrilled by their adventures. Superman is one, Batman another, and the Lone Ranger possibly a third. Whether the Green Hornet fits into the same category is a matter for debate, but he certainly has the right pedigree! Curiously though, the Green Hornet has never enjoyed quite the same level of success as his contemporaries… Buzzing from Radio into Comics Originally created as the star of a radio show in 1936, the Green Hornet was the alter ego of one Britt Reid, a newspaper publisher – what is it about crime fighters and newspapers, anyway? – who spent his off hours cruising the city in search of evildoers alongside his Asian manservant, Kato in a car named Black Beauty. His precise motivation for doing this was somewhat unclear, but in the Thirties it seemed no particular motivation was generally required for following this particular career, and Britt may have been influenced by family tradition. The Green Hornet was created by radio producer George W. Trendle and writer Fran Striker, who was also the creator of another famous masked man, the Lone Ranger. The radio show ran for almost 16 years – from January 21, 1936 through December 5, 1952 – but the Hornet had already branched out into other 22
by Tony Ingram
mediums long before his original show bit the dust. He made his comics debut in a series published by Holyoake/Helnit Publishing in December of 1940, the same year that the first of two Green Hornet movie serials appeared. Apparently authored by Fran Striker, ‘Green Hornet Comics’ lasted just six issues, but Harvey Comics subsequently acquired the rights and revived it with issue #7. The series ran for just 47 issues before being cancelled in 1949 and went through a couple of minor title changes along the way, first to ‘Green Hornet Fights Crime’ (with #34) and then to ‘Green Hornet, Racket Buster’ (with #44). Harvey also used him in a handful of appearances in other titles during that time. He showed up in the one-shot ‘War Victory Comics’ in 1942, and later in ‘All New Comics’ #13 and 14 in 1946, but whichever way you look at it, the Hornet was scarcely high profile. He was even less high profile when, in 1953, Dell Comics used him just once, in Four Color #496, a puzzling move given that the radio series had ceased production at the end of the previous year! The Hornet was no quitter, though: in 1966, he burst back into the limelight with his own TV show, starring Van Williams as the Hornet and an up and coming young actor named Bruce Lee as Kato. The show was inspired by the success of the Batman series, of course, and Van and Bruce guest-starred on the Batman show itself as the Hornet and Kato, prompting a confused Robin to ask Batman “Why are those guys dressed so funny?”. Unlike Batman, the show was played dead straight and knowing a good prospect for a tie-in when they saw it, Gold Key comics launched a new Green Hornet series that same year. It lasted three issues, though the TV series itself didn’t do much better, with just one season. By 1967,
The Green Hornet was originally created as The Hornet, but his name was changed so the character was easier to trademark? It was originally established that Dan Reid, Britt’s father, was the nephew of John Reid, the man behind the Ranger’s mask, making the Hornet the Lone Ranger’s great-nephew? Later changes of ownership in the 1950s necessitated this family relationship being quietly dropped, or at least not explicitly referenced again? Kato’s nationality was originally seemingly Japanese but was later stated as Filipino after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?
the unlucky Mr. Reid was dropped off the pop culture map once more. You Can’t Weed Out a Hornet’s Nest Some characters, though, just refuse to lie down and die and a mere 22 years after his last appearance, the Green Hornet returned to the world of comics in 1989, in a brand new series from NOW Comics, initially written by Ron Fortier and drawn by Jeff Butler. The book gave the Hornet a considerably more fleshed out back story which used pretty much all his previous incarnations to make him a ‘legacy’ hero. Supposedly, the original Britt Reid had indeed been active in the 1930s and 40s, but he is shown in a flashback story as having been eventually killed by the mob, while the TV version from the sixties (!) was in fact Britt Reid II, the nephew of the original. The ‘current’ Green Hornet in this continuity was Paul Reid, nephew of Britt II, who had retired following a heart attack. Paul had himself inherited the role from his older brother Alan, killed on his first mission. NOW also took the controversial decision to replace Kato with his younger sister, Mishi Kato, but this move was greeted with horror by the Hornet’s owners, who demanded her removal. Mishi departed the strip in #11, replaced by Hayashi, who had supposedly retired from adventuring out of guilt after failing to prevent Alan Reid’s death. The first NOW Comics Green Hornet series ran only 14 issues, but in 1991 a second series appeared which ran for a further 40 until 1995. The final storyline of that book introduced a new, fourth version of Kato, grandson of the original. NOW also produced several spin-off limited series featuring previous and even
future Green Hornets, and two Kato limited series. Unfortunately, NOW collapsed in 1995 just before a third Kato series was due to be released, and the Hornet returned to comic book limbo yet again. A Dynamite Future And now, he’s back. Dynamite Entertainment acquired the rights to the Hornet in early 2009, and the green garbed crime crusher has returned, this time with writer Kevin Smith at the helm. The new Green Hornet series has seemingly abandoned the continuity of the NOW Comics series, instead adapting the script of Smith’s abortive Green Hornet movie. Yet, it’s clear the concept of the Hornet as a ‘legacy’ character has been retained. In last month’s debut issue – beautifully rendered by Phil Hester and Jonathan Lau – the story opens decades ago with Britt Reid and Kato deciding to retire, their work seemingly done, and then shifts to the present day where we encounter Britt’s wastrel son and namesake. I think we can see where this is going… Meanwhile, Green Hornet: Year One takes us back to the 1930s to explore the legacy of the Hornet, as we meet the original Britt and Kato and see how they became heroes, courtesy of Matt Wagner and Aaron Campbell in an innovative and gripping period piece. The question, of course, is: can Kevin, Matt and Co make a success of one of the longest serving heroes in publishing history, who has nonetheless so far had one of the least successful careers? Let’s hope so. Because if anyone deserves to finally get a break, it’s the Green Hornet… if only to reward his persistence. 23
BOOM! You look at the
light and explode by Frederik Hautain In eight words, that’s the premise of The Light, a mysterious new comic in which a father and his daughter try to survive in a world where everybody who encounters The Light simply vaporizes. Coyle (the father) and Avery (his daughter) managed to stay alive in last week’s first issue, but the cliffhanger left many comic fans on the edge of their seats. To whet your appetite just a little bit, The Frontiersman presents the first look at The Light #2, scheduled for a May 12 release. Nathan Edmondson (W), Brett Weldele (A), Image Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.
The CreatorS Nathan Edmondson A relatively new name on the comics scene, Edmondson modernized the Greek myth of Castor & Pollux in his debut project, Olympus for Image Comics. The Light is his second comic book to see publication. Next to The Light, Edmondson also has a project in the works with artist Tommy Lee Edwards of Turf fame, scheduled for the second half of this year. Brett Weldele Weldele is the artist co-responsible for one of the best dystopian comics in recent memory, The Surrogates. In 2009, the successful Top Shelf comic was turned into a feature film starring Bruce Willis – sporting blond hair, oh the horror – and was followed up by a second volume, The Surrogates: Flesh & Bone. Other notable Weldele work includes Couscous Express and Julius.
The Frontiersman launches with a star-studded issue! For starters, we’ve got Mark Millar and John Romita Jr doing their Kick-Ass thing, let...