Comic-Con Thursday

2009AnnualFinalCoverI must be the easiest sell the self publishers at the Con floor have ever seen. I filled up 3 bags of goodies today. I also lost count of how many of my cards I handed out, but I have a soft spot for self publishers. It takes guts to put your time and money into putting your own heartfelt art out there for the world to see. I respect that, and there’s some real talent to be seen. Most of the creators were people I was unfamiliar with and they were all willing to have a chat with this man with the strange accent. A few people were familiar with Broken Frontier, which was great and I even got invited to a few press parties and got freebies for review. Ah, percs of the ‘job.’

I visited a few panels today as well. The guys from Tripwire Magazine were up first with their free danishes and witty banter. On the panel were Kody Chamberlain, U.S editor Andy Grossberg, UK Editor-In-Chief Joel Meadows and everybody’s favourite comics columnist Rich Johnson, formerly of CBR and now of Bleeding Cool. It was a casual and somewhat meandering discussion which included, but was not limited to how Twitter is killing English, companies clothing the homeless as sponsors, the merits of facing graphic novels face out or spine out on the shelf and how monthly comics are similar to singles, while TPBs are albums. It’s obvious that the guys from Tripwire love comics and are glad to see Hollywood making non-superhero films, and gaining credibility as an art form. They see being dropped by Diamond as a hurdle not a disaster and are focused on spotlighting the diversity of sequential art. Their 2009 Annual is available at the Con and you can see a preview here.

the surrogatesNext up was the Top Shelf panel. These guys put out some seriosuly good stuff, and I was glad to discover that I wasn’t the only one who discovered the wonders of spandex free stories via one of their books. After the obligatory technical difficulties publisher Chris Staros gave a visual rundown of the company’s 12 year history. Fun Fact: Top Shelf was originally the name of an early anthology series. Moderated by PR guy Leigh Walton, the guests included Robert Venditti, writer of The Surrogates, Far Arden creator Kevin Cannon and Nate Powell of Swallow Me Whole fame. Staros mentioned that although they are known for their high-end mature books such as From Hell and Blankets, their all-ages line is turning heads too, thanks to series like Owly, Korgi and James Kochalka’s stuff.

Things became more interesting when the creators revealed their artistic backgrounds. It’s well known that Venditti started in Top Shelf’s mail room (according to Leigh, he’s “a demon with a tape gun”) and now his first book is a movie starring Bruce Willis! Surrogates comes out on September 25, and the great trailer was shown.

Powell mentioned that he’d been self publishing since 1992 and back then had made a list of 25 people in the biz who he admired. Staros and co-publisher Brett Warnock were pretty much the only ones who responded and critiqued his work. Powell also mentioned that although he does have an autistic older brother, Swallow Me Whole was more influenced by his own grandmother, who after being diagnosed with cancer began painting and then in the last few months of her life experienced delusions. Powell lifted a lot of her dialogue in his book from those experiences.

Staros mentioned that although many of the Shelf’s creators’ works are very literary that they could give most fanboys a run for their money in a superhero quiz. He also seems genuinely inspired by Top Shelf’s success and critical praise and revealed that at Christmas time their orders go up, as fans buy their fave books as presents for others, which is always a good sign.

My final panel was the one focused on The Clockwork Girl, Arcana’s widely praised all-ages OGN, in which a trailer for the CG film was shown,which is in the works now. It looks very impressive.

Tomorrow’s another busy day. So much to see and buy.

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Underworld Director Tackles Shrapnel

Len Wiseman, the man behind the latest Die Hard and the Underworld films is tackling the film adaptation of Radical’s sci-fi epic, Shrapnel. Press release below.

Shrapnel #1Radical Publishing is proud to announce that Len Wiseman, director of Live Free or Die Hard and co-creator, director and producer of the Underworld franchise has signed on to develop and direct the motion picture adaption of Radical Publishing’s Shrapnel.

Co-created by Zombie Studios’ CEO Mark Long and science fiction novelist Nick Sagan, Shrapnel is an epic 3-part miniseries that unfolds in a dystopian future in which imperialism has laid siege to the Solar System and Venus stands as the last free colony of humanity. Caught in the middle of this interplanetary war is Samantha “Sam” Vijaya, a soldier in self-imposed exile recovering from her service in the military. When the battle once again crashes into Sam’s life, she must choose to either remain on the sidelines and watch a colony’s destruction, or risk her physical and psychological well-being to intervene. The first story arc revolves around Venus, while the second arc rages across Mars and the final climax carries over onto Earth itself.

“I’m really drawn to the reluctant-hero story.” said Wiseman, who noted that the last hero he directed, John McClaine in Live Free or Die Hard, fit that archetypal mold.

“Shrapnel is a story about making choices and rising to the occasion.” stated Radical’s President and Publisher Barry Levine. “I enjoyed it so much that I made this Radical’s biggest commitment to date. Len was my top choice for adapting this perfect balance of action and drama and I’m glad to have him on board.”

Developed as a live action film with possible 3-D approach, Shrapnel will be produced by Barry Levine, Len Wiseman and Mark Gordon with Radical’s Executive Vice-President Jesse Berger, Mark Long and Josh McLaughlin of Gordon Co. attached as executive producers. A video game version of Shrapnel, developed by Zombie Studios, is set for release in the near future.

Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising Trade Paperback, which collects the first miniseries of the Shrapnel universe, goes on sale August 19th.

Green Lantern: First Flight Preview

DC’s latest animated film debuts on July 28 on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand, and below is a sneak peek at the film, starring Hal Jordan and Sinestro. Looks good.

Preview Night At Comic-Con 2009

I didn’t go to Preview night last year as I arrived on the Wednesday from Perth and was far too wrecked. This year I came a day early, so went to the traditional Wednesday night opener. The first thing I noticed was the wait for the shuttle bus. What should’ve been 30 minutes turned into a 2 hour sojourn, but everyone in the queue was chatty and patient. It was rush hour after all, and the trip back was far quicker. The line to pick up the badge was extremely shorter than last year and I hardly stood there for more than a few minutes.

The crowds were almost as packed as they will be tomorrow, and not every exhibitor was open, but it was a good chance to grab a bunch of freebies, though I could’ve taken  a lot more, but I don’t have any use for oversized bags, posters, flyers or comics I won’t read. Marvel’s display was impressive, with 4 Iron Man movie suits including the slightly changed version from next year’s sequel. Rob Liefeld and the exclusive Green Lantern figures had the longest queues. Tyrese Gibson was signing copies of his new Image series, Mayhem! and wasn’t letting anyone take photos. DC had a playable demo of the upcoming Batman: Arkham Asylum. New trailers for Imagi’s CG Astro Boy and Gatchaman (otherwise known as G-Force) films were amazing and elicited a few excited whoops from watching Gen Xers. James Cameron’s new film Avatar was prominent, with a life size model of what looks like Ripley’s Hangar suit from Aliens, and a few action figures.

I also talked to the duo from new fanboy musical group Kirby Krackle, but there’s much more to see in the next 4 days.

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Comic-Con kicks off today with the Preview Night, and the free shuttle bus that travels to the cavernous Convention Centre every few minutes is right outside my hotel!

I woke up at 4am local time so flicked through the 30 channels and landed on Aliens vs Predator: Requiem. It’s not any better at 4am. Then I had the first of my many complimentary breakfasts, which today included a scone, some cereal, a mini pizza, a muffin, a bagel and two coffees. Yeah, I was hungry. Apart from the locals in their polo shirts talking on their phones or working on their laptops I saw a fellow Con attendee. They’re everywhere in this city now, and the Con was a cover feature in today’s USA Today. The chap I talked to was a rather large fellow, and brought 3 costumes with him of Captain America (Isaiah Bradley), Falcon and Black Panther. I then went for a walk around town for about an hour, bought some food, a six pack of Dr. Pepper and some shorts as it’s hot here. I also talked to a cab driver who couldn’t understand me, and took some photos of my room and various points of interest around downtown San Diego, which included the ever present Comic-Con banners and a yellow fire hydrant, just like in Shelbyville! Spooky.

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The Art Of Top Cow Preview Part 5

And this concludes our daily sneak peek at the 352 page gallery that is The Art of Top Cow coffee table book. The book is out now. If you want to induce drooling, it’s worth grabbing.

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Free Anime Episodes

From the generous folks at Madman Entertainment comes a few more series from their on-line Screening Room. Info below.

Gurren LagannFollowing the successful launch of Screening Room +, Madman announces further series’ now available for streaming online.

Screening Room + (www.madman.com.au/videos) launched in early April, 2009, debuting with premiere episodes of FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD, and has already grown to stream tens of thousands of episodes and regularly garners hundreds of daily viewers.

Madman now proudly presents all 26 episodes of HIS AND HERS CIRCUMSTANCES, a fan-favourite romance from the director of NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. All 26 episodes are currently online and available for an 8-week season only.

Coming late July is Studio Gainax’s GURREN LAGANN and the highly anticipated GUNADAM 00 – two of the most popular and sought after upcoming anime series. 

Both series will stream episodes prior to their release on DVD. Go here for all free episodes.

Punisher R.I.P

On sale on August 19 is Punisher#8 written by Rick Remender and art by Tan Eng Huat (Doom Patrol). It’s described by Marvel like this: 

Dark Reign The List brings the most dramatic changes ever to Punisher! Dark Wolverine faces off against Frank Castle and the Punisher’s (after)life is altered forever! Beginning with Punisher #8, don’t miss four special Rest In Pieces Variants, all clues to the startling changes ahead for the Punisher! 

And if that doesn’t perplex and excite you, check out the John Romita Jr. promo below.

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The Eagle Has Landed

After 4 airports and over 20 hours in the air I have hit San Diego and my new hotel. Free internet and cable, and it’s right across from the gym, not that I’ll be using it. Through passing via the time/space continuum I have now arrived earlier than when I left. 

The flight from Sydney to L.A didn’t seem like 14 hours, thanks to the in-flight entertainment and surprisingly lengthy periods of napping. For amusement I chose Paul Blart: Mall Cop and multiple episodes of Thank God You’re Here and 30 Rock from the small screen before me. Sweet. I also sat next two very welcoming fellow Aussies; both veterans of the TV industry who are premiering their film, Resistance at Comic-Con. It sounds awesome, and their years of travelling world-wide also aided me in my glances of confusion at the crowded chaos of LAX. A pretty good start to the Con. Now I must sleep, before it officially starts tomorrow.

Mass Effect Comic

Mass Effect was a pretty good sci-fi game for the XBOX 360. Now fans can celebrate, as both a sequel and a comic is in the works. Press release below.

EA AND DARK HORSE COMICS BLAST OFF WITH MASS EFFECT COMIC SERIES

Sci-Fi Comic Prequel Bridges Heroic conclusion of Mass Effect and Mysterious Beginning of Mass Effect 2

BioWare™, a studio of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS) and Dark Horse Comics today announced a new comic book series based on Mass Effect™, the blockbuster sci-fi action videogame that IGN.com rated the #1 Xbox 360™ game of all time. In Mass Effect: Redemption, the story takes readers through the treacherous events leading up to Mass Effect 2 which opens with galactic hero Commander Shepard having mysteriously gone missing and left to fight for survival. What unfolds next will expose readers to new locations, aliens and extended storyline in the Mass Effect universe. Mass Effect: Redemption is scheduled to launch in January 6, 2010.

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The Mass Effect: Redemption story is written by Lead Writer Mac Walters at BioWare. Walters is the script writer behind Mass Effect 2. He brings unique insight to the Mass Effect comic and nuance of the world within. The comic is scripted by John Jackson Miller (Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, The Invincible Iron Man) and drawn by Omar Francia (Star Wars Legacy). This first four-part series explores the exotic and dangerous future Milky Way of Mass Effect, revealing previously unseen locations, aliens, and enemies of this rich science fiction landscape.

Mac Walters and Omar Francia will be autographing a Comic-con exclusive Mass Effect signing card at the Dark Horse booth (#2615) on July 24th at 4:00pm – 5:00pm at Comic-Con International 2009 in San Diego, CA.

“Fans of Mass Effect are going to be pleasantly shocked by the events in these comics,” says Mac Walters. “We worked very closely with Dark Horse to make sure this story was built in to the Mass Effect 2 arc, right from the ground up. Reading the series won’t just add to your experience of the universe, it will change the way you look at Mass Effect 2… and beyond.”

“Those familiar with Mass Effect are aware that it offers one of the deepest and most compelling universes in the history of space adventure,” says Dark Horse President and Publisher Mike Richardson. “We have a long history of successfully adapting properties such as Aliens, Star Wars, and Serenity into comics, and we feel that Mass Effect has tremendous potential with regard to graphic storytelling.”

The narrative in Mass Effect: Redemption picks up just as Commander Shepard disappears and is left without the support of the crew on the Normandy in the lawless Terminus Systems. Shepard must fight for survival, and will be assisted by close companion, Dr. Liara T’Soni, to come home alive. This story is sure to be a must-read for fans looking to fill the gap between the first and second game.

Mass Effect: Redemption issue 1 hits comic shop shelves in January 6, 2010.

Mass Effect 2 is scheduled for release on Xbox 360 and PC in early 2010. Follow us on Twitter or for more information about BioWare please visit their official site.

The Art Of Top Cow Preview Part 4

Below are a few pages from The Art of Top Cow, that’s being released tomorrow.

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Comic-Con 09-Here I Come!

Yep, it’s a year already. I’ll be leaving in a few hours to go to the biggest pop culture event in all of geekdom, San Diego Comic-Con for my second year. It’s all rather exciting. I’m staying at a better hotel, I have swanky new ‘business’ cards and I even know people this time, thanks to writing for Broken Frontier and Extra Sequential. A lot can change in a year. I’ll be updating regularly (assuming I can use the internet easily) and will post photos and various hip happenings over the next week and a bit. Now it’s time for 22 hours in the air. Oh boy.

Comic-Con 2009

Watchmen Director’s Cut DVD Review

Watchmen Director's Cut DVDI remember seeing Nite Owl’s ship, and the excellent repeating trailer, on display at last year’s Comic-Con and here we are a year later. The film adaptation of DC’s classic 12 issue maxi-series has come and gone and has excited and perplexed many. I loved the film on the big screen. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. Sure, it wasn’t exactly a precisely faithful take but like Sin City before it, it showed the world that comics can be deep and mature. Hollywood had been trying to make the landmark story into a cinematic epic for the last twenty years, but it wasn’t until director Zack Snyder made 300 and proved himself worthy of the Watchmen helm.

Snyder’s brave choices are immediately obvious. The 1985 setting, the profanity, the brutal violence. It’s all there and it works and there’s even more swearing, lewdness and blood splattering in this Director’s Cut. There’s always an undercurrent of menace in this dark world where superheroes, or “masks” are outlawed, and the casting is almost perfect, particularly Jackie Earle Haley as Rorshach. His gruff narration and moving ink blot mask are exactly what I’d imagined when reading the comic. Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) is the only one with actual superpowers, though the other members of The Watchmen (The Comedian, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias) fight like superhumans. His glowing blue naughty bits may unsurprisingly be too much for some but it fits with Snyder’s overall vision. It ain’t always a subtle film. The sound and special effects are suitably fantastic, though the song choices don’t always work. Watchmen doesn’t look kindly on America and it believes heroes can kill villains. It’s not the typical superhero tale, and that’s what has made Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ masterpiece stand the test of time and be lauded as the best that comics has to offer.

The Director’s Cut includes an extra 24 minutes, meaning the film is now just over 3 hours long. Obviously if you didn’t like the film at the cinema a few more scenes won’t change your mind, but those scenes, and primarily the extra content will serve to cement fans’ love of the film. The additional scenes are enjoyable, but not necessary to the film’s narrative. They include a brief look at the kid reading the Tales of the Black Freighter comic that runs in the original series (and was made into an excellent animated film), Silk Spectre II being interrogated by government agents about Dr. Manhattan’s whereabouts and President Nixon and his advisers discussing the possibility of nuclear war. A gang’s attempted home invasion of Hollis Mason’s (the original Nite Owl) home is by far the best new scene.

On the second disc there’s a music video for Desolation Row by My Chemical Romance, 11 short video journals chronicling the film’s production and a very impressive doco on the power of the source material and why it was such a wake up call to the sequential art medium. This doco includes great art from Gibbons as well as interviews with the cast and other creators, including former DC President Jenette Kahn, colourist John Higgins, editor writer Len Wein, and singer Gerard Way. It shows the visual history of the project  and is a must for those who don’t understand what all the fuss about this book is. Curiously there’s no sign of the rumoured Black Freighter segments being integrated into the film, but I think it’s better enjoyed alone anyway.

There’s simply no denying the power of this film and it is one I enjoyed watching or rather, experiencing, again. It’s available on DVD, Blu-Ray and on iTunes now.

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The Art Of Top Cow Preview Part 3

Here’s a third look at the coffee table tome showcasing some of the great art from Top Cow over the years. The Art of Top Cow is released on July 22.

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