The Ferret’s Tale

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From my pal Nat Gertler, head honcho at About Comics, home to an eclectic and fascinating selection of comics and other material, comes some pretty terrific news.
Robert Mayer, the author of the brilliant Superfolks, has a new novel out. I haven’t read it yet myself, but I’m eager to get to it—everything I’ve read by Mayer has been terrific, and Superfolks was a revelation, over time changing my outlook on both superheroes and on writing, and making it possible for me to write Marvels, Astro City, Superman: Secret Identity and more.
Here’s Nat’s press release:

Robert Mayer, the acclaimed author whose Superfolks changed the course of superhero fiction, has just released The Ferret’s Tale, a serious, dramatic, psychological novel told from the point of view of a ferret named Cleo.
Ezra Wroth is a man of today, a master of science but facing his own mortality, struggling with an array of uncertainties. His children are adults with more exuberance than wisdom, his own past holds dark secrets, and the world around him has plans for him he cannot imagine. Into his life comes Cleo, a ferret who understands him better than he understands himself… or is what is happening not quite what it seems?
The Ferret’s Tale is a story of the human struggle, of love and war, sorrow and joy, death and renewal, faith and doubt. That’s probably more than readers expect from a book narrated by a ferret… but then, they probably also don’t expect the robots in such a book, nor the Nazis.
Mayer has written for Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, GQ, and more. Best-selling author John Grisham called his The Dreams of Ada “a fascinating book, a wonderful reminder of how good true-crime writing can be.” Mayer lives in New Mexico with his tapestry-weaving wife, La Donna, and their people-loving pit bull.
This novel is the first effort of Combustoica, a new non-comics project of About Comics, a decade-old publishing and packaging firm. About Comics was the publisher who returned Superfolks to print after decades off the shelves (the book is now in print from St. Martin’s Press). Further books from Mayer and other authors are in the works from Combustoica.
The Ferret’s Tale is available for immediate downloading via the Kindle ($4.99), and the paperback edition ($14.99, ISBN: 978-1456358976) as well as editions for other ebook devices can be ordered through Combustoica.com. The paperback is also available through Amazon and will soon be available through other online bookstores.

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About Comics is a specialty publishing and packaging company with more than a decade in the field. Founded by writer Nat Gertler, About has published everything from totally blank comic books to books of work by mainstream best-seller Charles Schulz and comic shop favorites like Kurt Busiek and Gail Simone. About Comics packaging services have arranged for original material or for reprint rights for a broad range of clients.

Clicky links for ordering are up there in the press release. I urge you to give The Ferret’s Tale a look.

Through the Mail Slot

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I had a wonderful time at the Mid-Ohio Comic Con this past weekend, hanging out with friends, chatting with fans, and signing what I conservatively estimate as nine tons of Avengers, Astro City, JLA/Avengers, Superman, Trinity and other such comics. And I’m not sure I’ve ever signed that many hardcovers in one place. I hadn’t been to Mid-Ohio in close to ten years, and I think some of you were saving up…
[I also bought comics…or, uh, comic. Having recently read G-Man: Cape Crisis by Chris Giarrusso, I bought a copy of the first volume, G-Man: Learning to Fly, from him, and enjoyed it just as much as I did the second one. A delightful all-ages book, check it out.]
But after three days (counting travel) of very little sleep, hotel bed, jet lag, cramped airplane seats, tight connections and a memorably-vile Cheez Whiz omelette (no, I’m not kidding. Why, Hampton Inn & Suites, why?!), I am stiff, sore, exhausted and broken today.
So what am I gonna do? Answer blog mail, that’s what I’m gonna do!
From KERRY:

I know you are a busy man and get requests like this daily, but your talent is worth the try. I was wondering if you have any writing tips or time to read some of a novel I am working on. I admire your talent and have met you at several comic shows across the USA. Each time you have been more than gracious to sign books and spend time with me.
If you don’t have the time I completely understand.
Alas, Kerry, I don’t have the time. Plus, even if I did, I don’t read unsold fiction for legal reasons. On top of that, I don’t much enjoy doing critiques, and don’t think I’m terribly good at it, so it’s not something I want to spend my time on—and then, of course, there’s the fact that I’m just some guy. I can’t sell your novel for you, or even introduce you to editors. You’re far better off showing your work to people who can actually buy it. If nothing else, when they say, “I liked this bit,” or “I think you should change that bit,” they’re saying it as the representative of a publisher, while I might be telling you to change exactly the bits that an editor might fall in love with and offer you a contract over.
That said, my best advice on writing and breaking in can be found at:
On Writing for Comics
Breaking In Without Rules
These may not be terribly useful to you, since they’re more about comics than anything else. But, well, that’s the only field I’ve done enough professional writing in to be considered any sort of authority.
Good luck with it!
From ERIC:

I want to create the awareness of comic in Ghana and some part of Africa. We can strike a deal on that.
No, sorry, I don’t think we can.
But it’s all right with me. I’m sure Ghana and parts of Africa could use more awareness of comics.
From ALBERT:

I just wanted to say that I have been a big fan of yours since I first discovered Astro City #1 back in 1995. To date, you are probably the only writer I look for specifically at the comic book stores. Thank you for all of the great writing. I just picked up your new Dracula series and I can’t wait to read it this weekend.
Hope you liked it!
From ELI:

I bought Robert Mayer’s Superfolks on your recommendation a few years ago and I just got around to reading it now. Thanks so much. I’ve already read most of the books that came after it, so reading the inspiration was fascinating. Some of the jokes fell flat, but the story still stands up. I was surprised when I found out how they were sapping Brinkley’s powers, didn’t see it coming. I also thought the descriptions of his feeling towards Pamela and Peggy were excellent.
Thanks very much.
Very glad to hear you enjoyed it, sir. It’s a terrific book.
From NIKKO:

I’m working on a complete Astro City collection for my own personal satisfaction and I was wondering if you could tell me if I’m missing anything. So far I’ve got every issue, including the 3-D variant of “Welcome to Astro City,” the 1/2 issue that came with a Wizard magazine, and the Visitor’s Guide. Just recently I picked up the Samaritan and Confessor “action” figures and I have most of the trades (and I know which of those I don’t have). Is there anything else? Some special variant I’m not aware of? Some promotional issue or rare figurine/t-shirt/beer koozie? I’d appreciate any help you could give me. Thanks!
Now I’m racking my brains, on a day when my brains don’t want to rack very well…
There was a variant cover to vol. 2 #1, and of course the Wildstorm edition of the Wizard #1/2 issue. And there were some promo posters here and there. Graphitti Designs did three (I think it was three) different T-shirts, and at least one refrigerator magnet set. And someone did a print of one of Alex’s covers—I want to say it was of vol. 1 #2, but considering the day, I wouldn’t want to trust me on that.
If I’m missing anything, someone let me know, either here or over on the message board, okay?
From JOHN:

I have a very serious question to ask you as a longtime comics fan. This is concerning a story you wrote circa 1986: The Legend of Wonder Woman issues 1-4 for DC comics.
My question is: Did you intend this story to be a tribute of sorts to the silver age (Earth-1) Wonder Woman, even though the art by Trina Robbins clearly has it as a Golden Age style, given the events of Crisis 12, where Diana (Earth-1) had been devolved and her history was reversed as well?
The reason i ask this is because I’m trying to support my claim that although the artwork is in the Golden Age style by Robbins, the story itself focused on the recently devolved Earth-1 Diana by the Anti-Monitor in Crisis, and as a result affected the surviving Earth-1 Amazons and Hippolyta her mother, who by the end of the story were turned into stars by Aphrodite, since she wanted to be spared the pain of forgetting she ever had a daughter (since the Earth-2 Diana had already been given her reward of being allowed to live the rest of her life alongside her husband, the Earth-2 Steve Trevor, on Mt. Olympus, by the Greek Gods, as seen in Crisis 12).
I’m not sure how much of that I can straighten out, but:
The Legend of Wonder Woman series has a framing sequence set during the final events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and that part, at least, was definitely supposed to be about the Earth-One Wonder Woman. The reason she appears on the splash of LoWW #1 as a statue, after being turned into formless clay in Crisis was editorial miscommunication—we’d been told she’d been turned into a clay statue, and started our story before that final Crisis issue was drawn.
The flashback story we told about Wonder Woman and bratty young Suzie, on an adventure involving Atomia of the Atom Galaxy and Solala and Leila from the Land of Mirrors—I have to say, I can’t remember at this point. The comics are somewhere in the basement, and it’d take forever to dig them up and check.
The real purpose of the Legend of Wonder Woman mini-series, though, was a legal one. Back then, DC’s deal with the Marston Estate was that if DC didn’t publish at least four issues of a series headlining Wonder Woman a year (and by “headlining,” that meant as the lead character, not in a team book), the rights would revert. When it became clear that the post-Crisis Wonder Woman revival wasn’t going to be ready to launch as quickly as DC would like, they needed to publish something headlining Wonder Woman to maintain the rights, and tapped Trina and me to do it.
The adventure we told was an artistic tribute to the post-WWII era of Wonder Woman, which was the era Trina had grown up on, and wanted to use as a strong influence. Atomia debuted in 1947, and Solala and Leila in 1948. Could the Silver Age Wonder Woman have met them? Sure, why not? It’s not as if Batman and Superman’s villains weren’t often duplicated in both Earth-One and Earth-Two. And Bob Kanigher did do a rehash of the Atomia story in the 1970s, but I don’t recall at this point which Wonder Woman that was supposed to have happened to.
Sorry if that’s not the answer you were looking for. But I really like that approach to Wonder Woman’s world—a world of fantasy kingdoms and fairy-tale concepts, of exotic, fanciful wonder, in contrast to the (somewhat, at least) harder-edged and pulpy crime/SF worlds of most of the male heroes. I’d love to see a modern-day take on that kind of thing.
I will note that we had to give Wonder Woman the double-W insignia instead of the classic eagle insignia, even though the story was set before she adopted that symbol, because, well, DC told us we had to. So we did.
From JACK:

I am a freshman English major at Kent State in Ohio. First off, I am a big fan of your work, specifically your work on Marvels, and your run on Avengers. I’m sure you get letters like this all the time so I’ll try and be brief. I want to be a writer. Specifically, I want to write comic books. I understand the career field for comic writers is highly competitive, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I was wondering if you had any tips/suggestions a budding writer like myself could use. I’m fairly clueless as how to break into the field. Thank you for your time, and your advice.
My best advice is at the links in the response to Kerry, above.
Plus, I’d recommend a few books: Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels with Peter David by, uh, Peter David, Alan Moore’s Writing For Comics Volume 1, by, um, Alan Moore, and The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Denny O’Neil. I haven’t read the David or O’Neil books, and I think I read the Moore as a two-part article in The Comics Journal years ago, but all three gentlemen know their stuff.
And then there’s Scott McCloud’s books, Understanding Comics, Making Comics and Reinventing Comics, which are all worth a read.
From my old friend LOU MOUGIN:

Kurt: Enjoyed the “Comics as a Mass Medium” article. You brought out some interesting bits there with the need for “lowbrow” or “middlebrow” culture to carry the medium…like Nik Cohn said, the Art Movie may be the upper-crust stuff, but it takes Hollywood to create the myth.
One thing that seems to get ignored in this is the importance of crossovers with entertainment that kids (or even adults) follow faithfully. Sure, the author of Kavalier and Klay is right in that not enough step-on titles for kids are being produced, and not distributed where kids can get them. But one thing he’s missing is this: when I was a kid, long before VCRs or DVDs or Blu-Rays were out of the realm of Buck Rogersish stuff, if I wanted to see Huckleberry Hound, I had to wait a whole week for the cartoon to come on again. But if I wanted to read Huckleberry Hound, I could take out a Dell comic featuring him and his supporting cast and read it anytime I liked. Those Dell tie-in titles got a lot of us hooked on comics.
Similarly, if you went to a movie back then, you saw it one time (maybe twice, if you were lucky, addicted, and had enough spending cash). But if it was adapted into a comic, and lots of them were, you could revisit Son of Flubber or Mary Poppins any time you opened up the comic.
This got me hooked on comics, and provided a first step, from which I eventually graduated to DC, then to Marvel. Without them, I wouldn’t have become a dyed-in-the-whatever comic book nut.
Don’t know if this hasn’t been considered, but it should have been.
Makes sense, Lou, though that’s another thing we’ve seen change over time. Nowadays, if you want to see, say, Hannah Montana, and it’s not on right now, there are those VCRs and DVDs and such. So spin-off comics have competition they didn’t used to, often from the original material.
But that doesn’t stop comics publishers from publishing The Muppet Show and Transformers and G.I. Joe and assorted other titles, which offer the reader more of what they like from TV and the movies. And in the time since I wrote that essay, we’ve seen more non-superhero titles that are still strong genre titles—one of which, The Walking Dead, is making a splash on TV, too.
Is that the answer? Well, no, there’s no one answer. But it’s a piece, I’d say.
From LARRY:

Just wondering if and when you’ll be returning to the DCU and, if so, what project(s)? I liked Trinity (although I was disappointed that Space Ranger wasn’t, in fact, Space Ranger) and most of what you’d done before that in the DCU. And seeing which writers are returning to the DCU now and in the near future, I was hoping to see your name on credits too. Thanks and I hope you are feeling well.
The only DC character I’m currently working on, Larry, is Batman, sort of, in the Batman: Creature of the Night project I’m doing with John Paul Leon. And that’s a follow-up to Superman: Secret Identity, and isn’t the Batman of the DCU.
After doing JLA/Avengers and Trinity (and before that, Avengers, Avengers Forever and others), I seem to have gotten the big universes “out of my system,” at least for now, and am happier working on books of my own creation, like Astro City and The Witchlands, or books where I get to define the world even if I’m working with existing concepts, as with Creature of the Night and Kirby: Genesis. I assume that after I do that for a while, I’ll start to feel the itch to play in the big sandboxes again, and will want to write the Fantastic Four or the Legion or some in-continuity series again, but for now, I’m content where I am, and am coming up with more ideas for standalone projects than for DC or Marvel’s storied casts of heroes.
So I’d guess I’ll be back someday, but no immediate plans, at least.
From CHRIS:

I’m sure I could have just asked this on a message board, but I figured I would try email first because I’m lazy and it’s quicker than setting up a forum account.
I recently read for the first time Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe. For years, all I read and knew of that ‘team’ was the original 12-issue maxi series, and the Avengers issues you wrote featuring them. After finally reading Gruenwald’s epic finale, I gained new appreciation for your issues featuring the team, and re-read issues 5-6 and the ’98 Annual. And with that new appreciation came some questions (and quite honestly, I’m sure you’ve been asked these same questions multiple times before).
Now I have still haven’t read the Quasar/Squadron Supreme stuff, so my questions may be answered there, but here goes.
1) Why keep ‘Arcanna’ in the Moonglow identity and costume?
2) Was there an explanation for why Dr Spectrum got his ‘color’ back, or did you and George just prefer is original look?
3) I noticed for the first time that Len Kaminski co-wrote the ’98 Annual, did you originally plan to co-write the New World Order special together as well?
4) Slightly off topic, but I love the Swordsman character, the original and the confusing parallel doppelganger, did you have any plans for him and Magdalene after the Annual?
5) And one last incredibly stupid question to ask a writer, but I haven’t read Avengers Infinity in years, and I have no idea where my copies are, but I remember Haywire was in it and he ends up with a new lover…..Who does he end up with?
Sorry to bug you, I just got the urge to ask you these questions as soon as I finished reading.
Thanks for all your incredibly entertaining work, and keep it up.
I’ll do my best, Chris.
I’ll note that no, I haven’t been asked most of those questions before, but since you ask:
1) Largely, I think, because Mark Gruenwald did. A number of the things he did with the Squadron were done specifically to make them less like the JLA, since while there was never a problem with the Squadron being used as parody, but if someone did straight adventure stories with them, DC tended to complain that such a use was too close to the JLA and thus unprotected by parody laws. So Mark took steps to make the characters distinct and different, shaking up their world, killing some heroes, changing others, bringing in new members who weren’t obvious parallels of JLA members, and so on.
One of those many changes was giving Arcanna Jones the Moonglow identity. I didn’t see any reason to go back to the Arcanna identity, so I stuck with what Mark had done.
2) Keeping in mind that I’m doing this from memory, I’m pretty sure there was an explanation, but that Mark wrote it. Had Doc Spectrum been still in that black-and-white form when we’d picked him up, I think we’d have used him that way.
3) No, Len helped me out on the annual for schedule reasons, but the New World Order one-shot was his from start to finish.
4) I didn’t have any specific plans for Magdalene or the Swordsman, no. I was just getting them off-stage in a dynamic way. As I recall, at the time they were living in a house that Tony Stark owned, somewhere in the NYC area, so it seemed to me that if there were crises in Manhattan involving the Avengers, they’d be likely to come running to help out. And I didn’t want that—I had a plenty big cast even without them. But I didn’t want to kill them off or anything, so rather than leave them, essentially, “parked” in an uninteresting situation, it would be better to send them off on a journey. That way, any time a writer wanted to use them, he could pick them up wherever he liked—they could still be searching for a home, they could have found one but now need the Avengers’ help to protect it, they could have fallen into the clutches of enemies…having them off on a journey opens up possibilities, while having them hanging around as Tony Stark’s houseguests just didn’t seem interesting.
As such, all I was doing was getting them off my stage…but in a way that would make it possible for me (or someone else) to do something exciting with them later. And if they never return, well, we can assume they found a happy situation somewhere, instead of just sitting around twiddling their thumbs.
5) I don’t think Haywire was even in Avengers: Infinity, was he?
He was another of the characters Mark had brought into the Squadron to differentiate them from the JLA, and Len Kaminski had planned to kill him off in the opening pages of New World Order, largely because Len was trying to shift the Squadron back to something more resembling the classic JLA, albeit in an altered-enough setting to avoid DC’s ire. I thought Haywire was worth saving, so I had him stay behind rather than go off and get killed, and sent him off on another “get him off-stage but dynamically” thing.
As I recall, he cropped back up in Avengers: Celestial Quest, where Steve Englehart continued his story. I think he was involved with Silverclaw, but ultimately was still obsessed with bringing back his old girlfriend Inertia, an obsession that led to his death (or transformation; you never know when you’re dealing with cosmic beings). If it was his death, though, at least it stemmed from his own character motivations, and not just out of team membership bookkeeping.
And finally, from MIKE:

Keep checking dccomics.com to see if a new issue of Astro City has been posted… and keep being bummed. Anytime soon? I miss AC.
Right now, in the wake of all that’s happened with DC’s reorganization and the closure of Wildstorm, we’re just working away at future issues, Mike. When we’ve got enough in the can, both of Astro City and The Witchlands, we’ll launch both books on a monthly basis.
Hopefully, that won’t take too long, but in the meantime, just hold tight. We’ll be back—and while I can’t speak for that no-account scripter, I can tell you that Brent and Alex are doing gorgeous work.