H, I’m Brian Wood. I started my week of guest-blogging last week from Lucca, Italy, which was a weird way to start. I was in a fantastic mood, but I was posting from the hotel at 3am after something like 19 hours of being up and on the go. Plus I was drunk. So I wasn’t as focused or as organized as I probably should have been. I make no apologies, though, because I had the best excuse in the world. So here is a round-up of some various topics and updates, and I make no claims to the focus and organization of this column either.
As I said, Lucca was really something else. I have a greater appreciation for comics, and I came back with a drive to improve my craft like never before in my life. I was sitting at these portfolio reviews every day, and these artists would come in and blow my mind, one by one. How do you review or advise an artist who drops a stack of hardcovers in front of you and says these are his most recent half dozen books for the French and Italian markets. My translator would lean in and whisper “this next guy is really famous.” The work was perfect. Literally. I had nothing else to say. I needed to learn Italian for “your work? It’s perfect.” I WANTED to tell him to forget about America, forget about working for DC Comics. How bad could he really need it? What, illustrating a book by Jodorowsky is less preferable than a random fill-in on some DCU book? Shit, I’d trade places with him in a SECOND. We should all be so lucky.
After a dozen or so encounters like that (and the entire four days walking around the show), I started to wonder why this was as it was. Why was the talent so extraordinarily high there in Italy? What’s in the water? Not to dis my American peers (like comparing apples and oranges), but I’ve walked through artists alley’s at cons and done portfolio reviews before. I went to one of the top American art schools. Yet a good 80% of what I saw at Lucca blew everyone else out of the water. Is it a superior work ethic? Is it their inspiration? Riccardo Burchielli and Davide Gianfelice, my artists on DMZ and Northlanders, gifted me several volumes of classic Italian comics masters, so I could understand who inspired them. Magnus, Toppi, Mastantuono… its really quite superb. So is THAT it? Am I just so in love that I can only see the good?
I’m not leading up to some great revelation, because I haven’t figured it out yet myself. I feel like I’ve just walked out of Fort Knox with armloads of gold, though, with the samples I took from those portfolio reviews. Between myself and my editor at Vertigo, Will Dennis, I think we got Italia locked down in terms of fresh talent. Coming soon to a Vertigo series near you! (actually, I sent quite a few of them to editors I know. heads-up James, Rob, Sierra, Axel)
Wait.. oh yeah, it changed my life. Italy, specifically the comics scene, is full of the warmest, kindest people I’ve ever met. No phonies, no manipulators, no assholes… just authentic and sincere people. I felt more at home than I ever expected to. It was like a part of my life was missing and I never knew it.
Also this week:
My latest on the estimated sales charts released and analyzed each month. I’m called their harshest critic and I’m apparently very angry about them. It’s hard to be angry at numbers – numbers are just numbers. Put really simply for those who haven’t been following my comments (nearly all of you, I bet), these top 100 and top 300 sales charts are just full of incomplete data that gets misrepresented, intentionally and unintentionally, as gospel in the subsequent analysis. And that’s what makes me angry, if angry is even the right word. Anyway, yeah, these sales numbers are the only sales numbers we got and I, like everyone else, wish publishers would release accurate ones. If we’re going to have analysis, even snarky analysis, it might as well be based on fact, not fiction. Right now, I think whatever entertainment value is gained from them is not worth the damage they can cause. Some don’t agree, but putting it out there with at least a perceived air of authority that Book X is “sure to be canceled soon” or “on its last legs” or whatever isn’t doing anyone any favors, especially that book and the people involved, when none of us really know how well its doing. Even in a best case scenario, what do one-liners like that really contribute to the discussion anyway? Anything meaningful? Hello?
Good wishes to Ryan Kelly, who I believe is having a second surgery on his kidneys today, removing a stone that’s gone undiagnosed and giving him constant pain for years. And subsequently, our book LOCAL runs later and later, something both Ryan and I feel horrible about. If there was a prize for the book most besieged by near constant setbacks, calamities, family stresses and births of babies, it would be LOCAL. We have one issue to go.
SCALPED – I once said it was “perfect comics” (huh, just like the Italians!) and I meant it. Jason Aaron makes it look effortless. Even though I KNOW it’s not, all too well, he makes me believe it is, that his writing tumbles out of his head easily and beautiful on the first draft. It’s such a pleasure to read, all bad and dirty and nasty and sexy with dialogue like razors… and the art (ah, the art!)… Will Dennis, our mutual editor, wrote in an “On The Ledge” that you can see the dirt under the fingernails of the characters. Well, you can’t ACTUALLY see the dirt, but the art is so well executed that it makes you imagine you can. Why this isn’t a major, major seller is beyond me, especially with the logline “The Sopranos on an Indian reservation.” Anyway, as if anyone should need further convincing, Jason’ll give you your money back if you don’t like it.
You heard it here first: Kristian Donaldson, my SUPERMARKET collaborator, and I have a videogame project being shopped around and possibly purchased as of this morning. More on that soon, I hope. The game is loosely based off a sequel to our book we decided not to do.
Over the rest of the month, I’ll bring you more previews, some peeks at the creative process on the covers I draw, some short interviews, and more random round-ups like this here. If anyone has specific questions for me, email firstname.lastname@example.org and make it obvious in the subject line that its a question for blog@newsarama and I’ll answer them here if I can.
Northlanders #1 – out 12/5 and monthly (preview)
DMZ #25 – out next week, and monthly (now in Spanish!)
Local – see above
Fight For Tomorrow – my first Vertigo series from 2002, collected at last. Six issue mini about underground street fighters in Chinatown. It’s a love story, in its own way. When it was coming out it went wayyy under most people’s radar, so I’m happy it’s back again. January. Art by Denys Cowan and Kent Williams, cover by Jo Chen.
DMZ Vol. 4 “Friendly Fire” – March, according to Amazon. Best DMZ story? Certainly my favorite. Inspired by an (horrible) interview on 60 Minutes with the US Soldiers who killed a bunch of civilians in their homes in Haditha, Iraq. Sgt. John Ford writes the intro.
The New York Four – Minx book with Ryan Kelly on art. No, this didn’t help make LOCAL late, believe it or not. We’ve been working on this book for well over a year, and Ryan started drawing it when his gig on Lucifer ended.
The Local Collection – we’re starting to talk about this. If all goes well I think it’ll be out late spring.
Demo – Becky and I got the rights back and an official announcement of a new publisher is coming soon. It’ll probably reappear in late spring as well, better than ever.
Danijel Zezelj is drawing DMZ #25, the standalone issue about Wilson, the Chinatown mafia leader with an army of “grandsons”. Behold: