Coober Skeber #2, the “Marvel Benefit Issue,” has been talked up online of late, notably here. So I figured I’d add my tiny pittance of anecdote to the pile.
[For those who never saw it: Coober Skeber #2 was a completely unauthorized anthology of stories featuring Marvel characters, written and drawn by alternative/indy creators, and handed out free at the San Diego Con in 1997. A precursor to books like World’s Funnest, Bizarro Comics and the recent Strange Tales, it was anarchic, irreverent and fun, a delightful breath of fresh air, as creators who wouldn’t remotely be connected to mainstream superheroes (at least not then) ran riot with childhood favorite. Some of the contributors included Seth, James Kochalka, Ron Rege, Pete Cardin, Tom Devlin and more. Click the link and/or do a web-search to find out more.]
Anyway, I was handed a copy at the San Diego Con, and I loved it. I showed it to a ton of people, marveled at the audacity of these guys practically daring Marvel to sue them (though in the end, both Marvel and DC imitated them), and got a huge kick out of the book, particularly the Seth cover, a group portrait of the original X-Men and their villains, and a short Hulk story by James Kochalka where the Hulk fights the rain.
I liked the Hulk story so much that when I got home, I photocopied the story and faxed it to Tom Brevoort at Marvel (this was in those halcyon days before scanners were common), and urged him to get someone to buy it from Kochalka and have it colored and run it as a backup somewhere. It was too cool not to show to Hulk fans everywhere.
Tom wasn’t editing Hulk at the time, but he took over the book a little later, and eventually did try to buy the story. Kochalka wanted to re-do it, so Tom hired him to re-do the story, in color, and it ran in Hulk 2001, that year’s Annual. And as Kochalka has pointed out, sequences like that story cropped up in both Hulk movies. Did they get it from that story? Who knows?
Anyway, that’s my story of my behind-the-scenes role in getting James Kochalka published at Marvel.
My other connection to Coober Skeber #2 is that I liked the cover so much I contacted Seth and asked if he’d sell me the original. He told me he didn’t sell his finished artwork, but he’d done the pencils on a separate sheet of paper and inked them on an overlay, and he’d be willing to sell me the pencils.
And I bought ’em, and that’s a piece of them you see above. Click on the image to see the whole thing.
As long as I’m not getting much done today, let me deal with some blog e-mail. First up, from a reader named Paul…
I’ve collected comics for a number of years now and Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero. Unfortunately, unlike with Batman or Superman (and maybe I’m alone on this), I feel the character has strayed the furthest from perhaps what was the creator’s original intent. I mean, look at Batman now and when he was first conceived and he’s essentially unchanged. Take Spider-Man from now and place him next to his 60’s adolescent counterpart and…yeah.
Which saddens me, but more or less brings me to my point.
The other day I was fingering through a rough stack of my old comics and pulled out some Spider-Man books I snagged during the 90’s (ugh!). Of these, only one took notice: Untold Tales Of Spider-Man #1.
I quickly thumbed to the first page…and again I was hooked!
It made me wish for something more. And I couldn’t help thinking, oddly enough, of a graphic novel I’d re-read recently: Batman: The Long Halloween. And how it garnered such critical acclaim by stripping the character to its earliest roots, telling a story in-continuity, but expanding upon it, while giving the reader something new.
And then the other day I stumbled upon your site…
I think by now you probably know where I’m going with this. But really the main reason I’m writing to you is:
1) To give my unyielding appreciation to the stories that infected my youth (I was first introduced to both the Avengers and Iron Man during your runs. BTW loved, loved, loved Avengers Forever! And Superman: Secret Identity! Although I think you hear that one a lot.); and
2) To ask if you’d ever consider doing a Spider-Man graphic novel in the vein of Untold, with the only difference being that it wouldn’t be a series in the traditional sense and would have a definite beginning, middle and end?
I know it’s a little early for Christmas (and you probably have more than enough on your plate as it is), but you can’t begrudge a guy for trying. Besides I can still dream, right?
You can always dream, Paul!
I think I’d disagree with you that Spider-Man’s farther away from his roots than Batman and Superman—things got pretty strange during the 90s for a while, but I’ve liked a lot of what I’ve read recently, and think Dan Slott’s upcoming bi-weekly run on the book should be something to see. And my memory of Batman: The Long Halloween was that it wasn’t so much a return to his roots as a sprawling thriller set the early days of his career as largely defined by Miller’s Batman: Year One.
Still, a Spider-Man maxi-series in the vein of Long Halloween, set in his younger days? That sounds like it could be a lot of fun, and something I’d enjoy doing. I’m way too busy with other stuff right now, but someday? I’d be interested in doing that someday.
Next up, Edward asks…
This new project you’re teaming up with Alex Ross. Is he going to be doing the artwork as well? Or is he just going to be co-plotter and cover artist?
Alex will do some of the interior art for Kirby: Genesis, Edward, though how much and in what way, we’re not prepared to announce just yet. But there’ll be lots more information coming, as the series moves toward becoming a reality, and I’m sure that’ll be part of it.
On to Andrew…
Not sure who this will reach but I’m hoping for some help. I love Astro City—it is simply the best comic I’ve ever read. It’s like a great album you listen to—every time you listen to/read it again you appreciate another level, a different nuance—something new every time to appreciate.
Anyway, I’m having a terrible time verifying whats out there and what I need. I’m a TPB reader but it seems there are a number of one shots I’ve messed and unfortunately it seems very hard to get information on the TPBs—what’s out, when they’ll be out, etc. Is there some kind of definitive listing on the published Astro City material I can use as a checklist? Also some board that will give me a heads up to upcoming TPB releases (as opposed to shot in the dark Amazon searches)?
Astro City is everything I’ve ever loved about comics – I don’t want to miss a page!
Glad to hear it, sir.
I’m not sure what to advise you—announcements as to what’s coming up is the sort of feature we really should have going at our sister site, The Astro City Rocket, but frankly, we get so swamped we don’t keep up. (As witness, the latest issue listed there is Dark Age Book Three #3.)
Going to the home page for Wildstorm and searching on “Astro City” will keep you posted on graphic novel publication dates—for instance, it says there that the next hardcover, Astro City – The Dark Age 2: Brothers in Arms, will be out this October.
And the fine volunteers over at Herocopia, our other sister site, keep an updated list of Astro City publications, so that’ll list anything you’re missing. And they’re way less lazy there than we are here!
If there’s a better way, someone let me know on the message board or in an e-mail, and I’ll do an update.
For the record, though, the current list of book collections is:
1. Life in the Big City
3. Family Album
4. The Tarnished Angel
5. Local Heroes
6. The Dark Age 1: Brothers & Other Strangers
7. The Dark Age 2: Brothers in Arms (forthcoming)
What’s missing from those titles is:
Astro City: A Visitor’s Guide
Astro City: Samaritan
Astro City: Beautie
Astro City: Astra #1-2
Astro City: The Silver Agent #1-2 (#2 forthcoming)
My publishers would probably prefer that I sell a few more copies of those specials by not mentioning that everything but the Visitor’s Guide will be in the next book collection, Shining Stars. But I hate to be incomplete. Still, you might want to track down the Visitor’s Guide; we haven’t collected that yet and I’m not 100% sure when we will.
Congratulations! I just heard about Astro City getting optioned for a movie. I know these things can change in the blink of an eye but I really hope this goes forward. Please please please keep us updated as often as possible on this (and any plot points would be really awesome). Best news I’ve heard in a while.
Anyway, that’s all. I’m looking forward to the Silver Agent conclusion. Keep ’em coming!
That’s the plan, Nikko.
I don’t think we’ll be able to keep you too updated—movie companies don’t like to share the development process publicly, and I can’t really blame them. Who wants the audience to wind up saying things like, “Aw, they didn’t even get their third choice for the role” or “I liked the earlier plot better.” For that matter, I’m notoriously close-mouthed about the stories I’m working of in the comics, even—I want it all to be as fresh as possible when you actually see it. But we’ll see what can be said, and when!
[Oh, and just to note: Just this minute, my in-box pinged, and there was the very last page of Silver Agent #2 from Brent. And it’s gorgeous! Plus, it’s a fine resolution and a new mystery, all at once!]
Next up, we hear from Talon…
Hiya. Just wanted to say that how you came up with the original resurrection of Jean Grey was and is amazing! (Even though it was a little confusing at first.) And I am a big Iron Man fan.
So anyway, just wanted to say that I love your work and hopefully you’ll be writing some more X-Men.
Thanks for the very kind words, Talon.
No X-Men for me in the near future, at least. But in the long run, you never know.
Next up, a note from André…
Eu estou escrevendo apenas para dizer o quanto admiro seu maravilhoso trabalho. Todos os gibis que eu leio, escritos por você, são simplesmente fantásticos. Sou fã incondicional de Marvels, Marvels II, Conan, Homem Aranha Ano: 1, entre outros.
Você é o meu roteirista favorito! Parabéns!
Google Translate tells me this says, “I’m just writing to say how much I admire your wonderful work. All the books I read, written for you are simply fantastic. I am an unconditional fan of Marvels, Marvels II, Conan, Spider-Man Year One, between others. You’re my favorite writer! Congratulations!”
To which all I can say is “Muito obrigado, André. Espero que você gosta do que está chegando, também!” and hope Google got the sentiment across, even if it probably did so awkwardly.
Next, Ken writes to say…
I am not your biggest fan. But I am a fan, and deeply appreciative of the things you’ve done, the insights you’ve shared, and the characters you’ve brought to life.
Thank you for the hours of thought provoking entertainment.
My pleasure, Ken. I’m glad of all my readers, not just the biggest fan, whomever he or she might be. So I’m glad you’ve enjoyed what I’ve put out there, and hope we both keep it up.
Next up, a letter from a reader I won’t name…
How’s it going? I was just checking out your comic work and writings for the Green Hornet. Very cool! Man you have to have a creative mind to come up with this! hahaha…I love it!
I was wondering , I’m a model and have some photos that are comic geared. Would you know how to use me as a character so that Alex Ross can illustrate me? Not sure if I’m making any sense. Bottom line is I’d love to be one of your characters somehow. If you want to talk, email me back.
He included links to a self-published book about his modeling career.
Sorry, guy. But even if I did write Green Hornet, I’d just as soon let Alex find his own models, and would rather not create characters based on real people. Best of luck, though!
And lastly, Corum has some thoughts on a familiar subject…
Let me first off say that I love your writing, every story you write is brilliant.
Secondly, I am a fan of Superman, but I’m also a fan of Thor. I read JLA/Avengers about one or two years ago (I’ve just now built up the courage to type this) and loved it, but after thinking about it and talking with some fellow Thor fans (who are well versed in the Superman mythos) I’ve come to the conclusion that you must have not done your research because there’s no way Superman could have beaten Thor at full power.
I’ve heard that you thought Thor wasn’t bullet-proof and I almost believed it simply because you said it but then I found this video reminding me that wasn’t true.
[Here, he links to a YouTube video presenting a case for Thor being bulletproof.]
I’m not saying you should apologize, I just think that you should let the fans know that you’re not an expert on Thor and that JLA/Avengers is not a reliable source for gauging power levels.
So it’s not that you want me to apologize for writing a story that didn’t operate on the premise that there’s no way Superman could have beaten Thor at full power, a position that’s hardly unanimously held—you just want me to announce that I’m no expert, and that fans engaged in “battleboard” arguments should scrap JLA/Avengers as a reference?
I think the battleboarders are going to have to manage without me on this. For one thing, I don’t have much interest—I’m delighted that those who engage in “who’d win” discussions enjoy them, but I prefer not to participate, and don’t want to referee them even to the extent of declaring what is or isn’t a reliable source. And for another, whether Thor’s bulletproof or not is irrelevant, since Superman didn’t shoot him.
[Thor’s durability to being punched real hard is a different matter, since he’s a mythic character, and not subject to consistent physics, even moreso than most comic book superheroes. He comes from a setting in which, after all, Balder was rendered near-invulnerable when his mother made everything in the world promise not to hurt him (though she forgot mistletoe, with tragic results). In a context in which rocks and plants can make binding promises, physics doesn’t stand a chance.]
I will note that everyone involved in JLA/Avengers thought that was a reasonable way for the battle to go, so even if I declared myself “not an expert,” you’d still have to get similar admissions from Tom, George, Dan and Mike. As an alternative, I’d suggest that if there’s a fight you don’t like in a comic, well, that’s par for the course. Enjoy the ones you like and move on. You don’t need a ruling from an author to disregard a scene you don’t care for, and neither Thor fans nor Superman fans are ever going to prove to the other side’s satisfaction that their guy’s better.
That said, I’m glad you like my writing, and even loved JLA/Avengers overall. And I hope you enjoy what’s coming up, none of which, at present, involves either Superman or Thor. Well, not Marvel’s Thor, at least…
While hunting through my files for something, I turned this up. It’s my typed notes to myself for the story idea that eventually got used at Marvel (by Roger Stern, John Byrne and Bob Layton) for the resurrection of Jean Grey:
Click on each page for a larger version. But in addition, a few notes:
• This wasn’t the first version of the story. The first was entirely verbal, cooked up sometime around May or June of 1980. Richard Howell, Carol Kalish and I had heard through the grapevine about the impending death of Phoenix and then-editor in chief Jim Shooter’s rules for what kind of circumstances it would take to resurrect her. We took that as a creative challenge, and came up with resurrection plans. Richard and Carol’s involved the holo-empathic crystal Lilandra gave to the X-Men, as I recall, while mine involved the revelation that Jean had never really died. We had a pleasant evening wrangling over the clear superiority of our own version over the other version, and left it at that. It’s all we’d really set out to do.
• Sometime between then and May 1982, when I graduated college and sold my first script, I started taking notes for various Marvel series I hoped to write someday, to make sure I didn’t forget any of my “great ideas,” few of which were great, or even memorable. This document would have been written sometime in there. I can tell it wasn’t simply notes on the resurrection storyline, but plans for something more extended, what with that Wolverine plot-bit stuck in the middle, that if I remember correctly, was intended to start of a storyline to get Wolverine to try to stop killing people left and right, under what I thought was the dodgy rationale of, “He comes at me with a knife (while I’m invading his lair), I’ll come at him with a gun,” or some such. Somewhere I may still have my files of where I would have gone with it all, which I think involved the X-Men becoming teachers to a new generation of mutants. But they may be mercifully lost.
• Nobody at Marvel ever saw this document. In fact, outside of my circle of friends at college at the time, no one else may ever have seen this until now. The plot idea was transmitted vocally—I recounted a version of it to Roger Stern at a convention in Ithaca in 1983, he passed it on to John Byrne over the phone at some later point, and John passed it on to Bob Layton when he heard about the plans for the creation of X-Factor. So this version was never on the table. All Marvel had was the bare concept of how Phoenix could have existed while Jean was still alive at the bottom of Jamaica Bay, translated through a game of “Telephone.” Although I do think the idea of the Phoenix Force behind it, which doesn’t appear in these notes, was part of my original idea, or at least part of what I told Roger. But at this point I can’t say for sure.
Anyway, here it is, for anyone who’s curious about what the idea started out as…