KC Column – Episode 17: The Monchhichis Affair

by KC Carlson

Welcome to my first column at the new Westfield blog. As you can see, we’re still a little busy getting everything presentable – we’re getting all the boxes unpacked and the curtains put up and trying to figure out where the sofa will go. (No… Try over by the Cosmic Treadmill! Hey! Watch out for the – KLANNNGG! – Negative Zone portal! Oh, fiddlesticks*… Hey Greg! Annhilius is out again! Can you please round him up before he tries to eat Mapril?)
As you can see, it’s still a little chaotic here…

* actual word replaced. It’s nice here and we like it that way.

We’ve invited a few old friends to drop by the blog and share some info and stories with us, and we’re pretty sure that they’ll be along soon, as soon as we tell ‘em what the new address is. (Ooops!)

One of the cool things about being here at the Westfield blog is now we can be a little more interactive with you guys. I’ve gotten a few letters from folks since I started doing this column over a year a ago now (and a lot of Get Well Soon notes from many of you – Thanks for those!), but none were really anything I could share. Now, you can respond directly to any of our posts (see below) – so feel free to pipe up with questions, qualifications, quandaries, queries, quizzical asides, quantum physics (don’t get me started on time travel, Roger!!), or even things that don’t begin with “Q”. Heck, there’s a whole lotta letters! All we ask is that you keep things polite, because you won’t like the Westfield “Time Out” area. Trust me on this! Right, Phang?!?

Phang (from dungeon): ArrrrrOOOOOOOOOLLGHH!!!!

Good boy, Phang! When you’re done gnawing on the fanboy, I’ll get you a nice juicy Publisher…

Phang: Ooo! Ooo! Ooo! Yummmmmm……

Ambush Bug: Year None #6 cover

One thing we don’t know about is where Ambush Bug: Year None #6 is. Originally scheduled to be released last December, it has yet to be rescheduled or even resolicited. DC Universe Executive Editor Dan DiDio mentioned in a February Newsrama interview that a few changes were being made to the issue, but we’ve heard nothing about it since then. We’ve heard through the grapevine that the issue is essentially finished. So where is it? Did someone put it in a drawer and forget about it? Is it stuck in DC’s Legal Department? Was it canceled due to low sales? Does someone at DC really not like it? Did Darwyn Cooke have second thoughts about being associated with the Bug and ask for his great cover back? Does it have anything to do with the just-made-up-right-here-and-definitely-not-true rumor that DC – soon to be renamed Depressing Comics – is eliminating “the funny” from everything they publish? Is it stuck to somebody’s shoe? Did anyone think to check the wash basin? Or does it simply have something to do with Ambush Bug editor Jann Jones no longer being at DC anymore? Will Ambush Bug: Year None #6 be out before Lost wraps up in the Spring of 2010? Are the two related? Is the Bug actually Ben? Locke? Jacob? J.J. Abrams? Is he (the Bug, not Abrams) actually some long-dead philosopher? Is the truth even really out there? Will I ever stop asking stupid questions? Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Does Anybody Even Care?

Things to Look Forward To (In This Month’s Ordering Cycle):

Amazing Spider-Man #601 cover

I’m all over Amazing Spider-Man #601 and the return of Mary Jane – although I’m guessing that this story actually begins in the Mega-Sized Amazing Spider-Man #600! The reasons why:
1) Maybe they’ll finally explain – somehow – the whole WTF?! One More Day thing and then finally everybody, including my grumpy old friends (“They ruined Spider-Man! Boo Hoo!”) can be happy again and realize that the current run of the book is actually quite good. And fun! Although I have to agree that they’ve waited far too long to give readers the explanations they need/want! And this explanation better be a good one…
2) Mark Waid’s on board, which should ensure that the explanation will be a good one, because Mark‘s the go-to-guy to be simpatico with what the fans want, being a big fanboy geek himself!
3) It’s Mary Jane. Duh!
4) A quite nice cover by J. Scott Campbell (that’s also a poster, BTW), a guy who should be drawing Spider-Man stories if he wasn’t… Say, what exactly is Campbell doing these days? Anything?
5) I’m quite interested in Mary Jane’s new backstory, as represented by this cover. The once glamorous supermodel/actress has obviously fallen on hard times since her jeans are obviously quite worn and threadbare. And the poor dear is obviously so broke that she can’t even afford a t-shirt, opting instead to have a Spidey t-shirt-looking tattoo applied directly to her upper torso, because obviously no real t-shirt could be that tight. Don’t even get me started on the cover to Amazing Spidey #602.

Speaking of covers, let’s go interactive for a minute here so you can share your thoughts on alternate and incentive covers. We’re very interested in hearing from you what you think of them. Like ‘em? Hate ‘em? Collect ‘em? Ignore ‘em? You’re probably already aware of how difficult it is for Westfield to deal with all the various “extra” covers, especially since many of the publishers don’t share the actual cover artwork at the time you have to order the books, nor can we take special requests for specific covers when there is a 50/50 split on some alternate covers, although you can get the two covers as a set. So we’re not really looking for comments about how Westfield deals with the covers – although we always acknowledge them. Right now we’re just looking for your opinions on how you like them as a publishing thing and an incentive thing. I, personally, have a lot to say about this topic, but I’ll hold off on my opinions so you get the chance to sound off without me butting in first. So let us know what you think and we’ll get back to this topic at a later date.

Hmmmm… so what could Marvel’s Reborn project possibly be about? Let’s see, it has star iconography attached to it. It’s written by Ed Brubaker, best known for his extremely well-done – and long – Captain America run, especially the Death of Captain America storyline, begun three years ago. Cap’s regular book has a couple of big Anniversary Issues coming up. (#50 is already out. #600 is imminent.) Marvel’s trying to keep it a big secret (which Wizard kinda ruined). There are vague rumblings of big media things and special retailer incentive things being set up. And… hmmmm… who needs to be “Reborn” anyway? I think I’m going with… The Whizzer! That super-speedy guy from the Golden Age. Something about that Mongoose blood… Hey! Whizzer-fever ‘09! Catch it now!

Archie #600 cover

And speaking about unexpected media coverage, what about that Archie Andrews guy finally getting married? It’s all over the place! Incredible! What will be incredible is if it actually happens – will goody two-shoes company Archie Comics really let two 17-year-olds get married?! When mongoose fly! (Um… do mongoose, uh, mongeesees, Monchhichis(?) actually fly?)
(Editor’s note: Um… KC? The story takes place after they graduate college.
KC: Oh! That’s very different. Never mind.)

And hey, what major, major comic book character died recently (we think)? Batman! Big media coverage – not so much. Maybe he’s not really dead… But if he is, I’m guessing he’ll be back in Blackest Night this summer!

Speaking of DC’s big summer extravaganza, I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in Blackest Night – although with a few caveats. I’m absolutely sure that the Geoff Johns-written main storyline and the GL-related tie-ins will be, at the very least interesting, if not excellent (cross fingers). I say this because Johns has a pretty good track record (the last GL-centric event, the Sinestro Corps War, was about as good as they get) and the fact that Blackest Night was originally conceived as “just” another GL-only event, which probably means that Johns has been thinking about it for quite awhile. What’s making me nervous is that the event is being expanded into a full-blown DC Universe event, and DC hasn’t exactly been spot-on in coordinating these types of mega-events over the last few years. As somebody who’s had experience in doing both big event projects and books with huge casts of characters and multiple ongoing storylines, I think it’s fairly safe to say that the success (or failure) of these events lies in the details of the storyline and its continuity. Or as the cliché states: The devil’s in the details.

Blackest Night #2 cover

Here are a few guidelines to a successful crossover: Mega-Events are a team sport. They are no place for ego-crazed creators with the “rock star” demeanor. Or, as the other cliché states: “Check your ego at the door.” Further – and this is a harder one to say, because it is one of those “what’s going on behind the curtain?” things – Mega-Events are not art. They are all about comic book commerce. They mostly exist to sell more comics, either the Mega-Event itself or getting readers to try a new comic title (crossover) that they’ve never tried before. Although the big bugaboo here is that you do want your Mega-Event to be good – you do want to tell a great story – because good comics should sell better than bad comics. Although the most frustrating thing about comics in general is that bold-faced phrase is frequently, maddeningly not always true.

Also, to have a successful Mega-Event, everybody needs to be on the same page (albeit, grudgingly in some cases) – and everybody needs all the pages! I realize, by their very nature, most Mega-Events are filled with secrets, and most publishers and creators don’t want these secrets falling into the wrong hands. But your creators also need to feel like they’re part of the team and that they’re all working together towards something important. Realize up front that you’re not going to be able to protect all the secrets. Pick the most important ones and protect them to the end. Carefully structure your stories so that only a handful of creators absolutely need to know the most important scenes and do your best with misdirection, fibs, and outright lies to blur the other, less essential ones. Fake “dummy” scenes/scripts are your friends.

When Dan Jurgens and I were coordinating Zero Hour all those years ago, Dan spent countless hours talking to fellow writers and artists on the phone explaining fine points of the overall storyline so that everything would “match up” between the actual Zero Hour books and their crossover stories. I was doing a similar job, although I was doing it with my fellow editors, often spending more time in their offices than my own, making sure the details were as good as they could be. Both of us told the same lie over and over to people: “You’re the only one I’m telling this to, but…” and then sharing a secret. Little did they know that we were sharing the same secret with everybody, but because we were forthcoming with secrets, they trusted us and kept all the secrets – because they were all part of the team!

In addition, my incredible assistant, Mike McAvennie, spent so much time photocopying and distributing everything ZH in sight that by the end of the project, he could take apart and reassemble any photocopier in the office in less than 37 seconds. Blindfolded. In his spare time, he piloted one of the FedEx planes. He could fly the Kessel Run – and back! – in less than twelve parsecs. Big Mac made sure that everybody in the office had copies of what was happening, usually within hours of the work actually arriving, made sure everybody knew what was going on, kept all the trains running on time, solved all the really stupid problems before they got to my door, and made sure that I slept, ate, and showered (i.e. went home) occasionally. Above and beyond, my friend…

So, DC, please make sure another embarrassing “New Gods”-type mistake never happens again. Please make sure all the various parts line up properly and really, really try to ship them in the order they are supposed to be read. Please make sure that most of your crossovers have something to do with Blackest Night besides a cover blurb. And maybe this is just me, but please stop with the seemingly endless “Aftermath” stories. Sometimes the best part about a Mega-Event is that it actually ends. Don’t stay too long at the party! If you do, people will be talking about you – and not in a good way – for weeks and months to come.

Wednesday Comics

I’m also really looking forward to DC’s very experimental Wednesday Comics, although I hope its unusual format won’t be too much of a challenge for Westfield’s ace packers and shippers! (Editor’s note: It arrives from the printer folded to 7″ x 10″, so it will present no trouble at all!) The giant-size “Sunday Funnies”-style format is the brainchild of Mark Chiarello, who was also the mastermind behind the great Batman: Black and White series and the late, lamented Solo series of artist-centric books – so you gotta know that this project will be just as interesting and groundbreaking. Plus there are some great quirky characters being spotlighted (Deadman, The Demon, Kamandi) and some great (and also occasionally quirky) artists and writers, like Paul Pope on Adam Strange, Neil Gaiman and Michael Allred on Metamorpho, and Kyle Baker on Hawkman. I’m especially looking forward to the return of the great Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez on Metal Men and the legendary Joe Kubert on Sgt. Rock, written by Kubert son Adam – in that glorious large format! This is one weekly project that won’t turn “weakly.”

Okay, so the Superboy lawsuit is over – or at least resolved enough so that DC can use the name/character again. So where is Superboy Archives Volume 1?

A big shout out to Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens for the recent “guest appearance” of four unidentified people who just happen to resemble the pre-costumed Fantastic Four in Booster Gold #20. It’s a great Cold War-era story, set in the early fifties. (I almost hate to mention things like this because it seems like “fun” things like this nowadays ends up getting people in trouble.) Anyway, the story is also notable for yet another post WWII appearance of Sgt. Rock – a character who Rock’s most prolific writer, Robert Kanigher, claims died in the closing battle of the war, although that story has never been told in the comics. Giffen also used Rock in his previous short-lived version of the Suicide Squad, who also figure into (kinda) this Booster Gold story. In his SS series, Giffen played around with the idea that Rock may have not been what he appeared to be, and it’s interesting that he’s still playing around with the character in that capacity.

Ooooooo, just got a review copy of Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s The Hunter from IDW. Hope to have a review up shortly, but first (quick) impressions are that the book is stunning and will easily be one of the most talked-about projects of the year. More soon!

That’s it for this go-round! What projects are you most looking forward to this summer?

Hey, Phang! You doing okay?

Phang: Ook! Pub-lesh-er yummy!

Good! Hey, I’m heading out… Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave!

Phang: Okee dokee, bosssss…

KC Carlson doesn’t always condone the eating of publishers. Except when there’s just nothing else in the fridge. His opinions also don’t necessarily reflect those of Westfield, Westfield’s next-of-kin, or generally anybody with half a brain. Actually, he doesn’t really reflect anything at all – because he’s really the sparkly vampire o’ luv, L-U-V!


Amazing Spider-Man #601

Amazing Spider-Man #602

Archie #600

Blackest Night #2

Wednesday Comics #5

Wednesday Comics #6

Wednesday Comics #7

Wednesday Comics #8

Reborn #2

Zero Hour SC

Richard Stark’s Parker the Hunter