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Write Makes Right

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Jonathan Hickman has gone from indie darling to writing Marvel’s flagship book in the span of three years. How did he do it? Well, he has “The Write Stuff”.

Being that comic books are a visual medium, it leans in favor of the artist. Over the history of comics, there have been more “superstar” artists than “superstar” writers. More people are willing to buy a comic with great art and awful writing than vice versa. Artists even have an easier time breaking into the business than writers do.

This isn’t to say that writers are completely put upon. Stan Lee, fairly or not, is given the lion’s share of the credit for creating the modern Marvel universe. Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman are recognized as geniuses in the field, and their success has lead to opportunities for them outside of the medium. Even now, writers have made moves towards parity as just having Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar and Grant Morrison names on the title can guarantee sales.

Jonathan Hickman is at home in both worlds. He both wrote and provided art for the 2006 Image series, The Nightly News.  Visually, the book looked like nothing that came before it. Hickman used his experience as a graphic designer to create a unique style of art that broke the boundaries of comic book conventions.

However, as inventive and revolutionary as his artwork was, it did not take away from his skills as a writer. The Nightly News was a satiric commentary on the news media, as its protagonist belongs to a cult dedicated to the overthrow of the oppressive news media syndicate.

Hickman followed up The Nightly News with Pax Romana, which he also provided the art for. However, two of his other follow ups, Red Mass for Mars and Transhuman, featured him working with other artists.

It is his skill as a writer that got him noticed by one of Marvel’s biggest writers, Brian Michael Bendis himself. And the company has begun to bring him along a career path that echoes one of Marvel’s other rising stars, Matt Fraction.

Fraction, like Hickman, first made a name for himself on a critically acclaimed Image book, Casanova (although Fraction had a few more credits to his name than Hickman did). Among Fraction’s first work for the company was, like Hickman, a brand new series he co-wrote with a more established writer. For Fraction, it was Immortal Iron Fist, which he co-wrote with Ed Brubaker. For Hickman, it was Secret Warriors, a book he co-wrote with the man who brought him into Marvel, Brian Michael Bendis.

Fraction then moved onto his first, high-profile Marvel ongoing series with the rebooted Punisher War Journal. Hickman is about to move onto a high-profile ongoing as well, but this is where he breaks from Fraction.

Whereas Fraction took the reins of a brand new series featuring one of Marvel’s most iconic characters, Hickman is jumping on mid-stream to Marvel’s flagship book, the one that started the present day Marvel universe, Fantastic Four. If that wasn’t enough, he’s following one of the most legendary names in modern comics in Mark Millar.  

Hickman does have something that Fraction didn’t have. Hickman is one of four writers that Marvel is heavily promoting under its “The Write Stuff” promotion. “The Write Stuff” is for writers what Marvel’s “Young Guns” was for artists, a way for Marvel to bring attention to some of its up-and-coming talent. Hickman joins Jason Aaron, Andy Diggle, and Rick Remender in the program.

So, while the perception is that writers are comics’ second class citizens, this is not the case at Marvel. They take pains to present their writers to the greatest number of fans in the best light possible. And a true talent such as Hickman is there to reap the benefits.
 
Also out this week:

Batman: Widening Gyre #1:
Last year’s Batman: Cacophony was pretty much a success for Kevin Smith. It allowed him the chance to work with Batman, it let him again use Onomatopoeia, the villain he created for the Green Arrow series, and it came out (mostly) on time. How do you follow up that success? With another shot at Batman, this time introducing a brand new hero to the DC Universe.

Not much is known about this new vigilante, but apparently he is impressive enough that Batman turns to him or her instead of his numerous other allies. Smith will follow up the twelve-issue series by writing a new ongoing featuring the character.

Yes, I said twelve. This series is the first volume of the saga. Another six-issue series will follow a few months after this one ends. Just so you know what you’re getting into.

Kevin Smith (W), Walter Flanagan (A), DC Comics, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

The Incredibles #0:
Boom! Studios’ Incredibles miniseries was a great success, so is it any wonder that Pixar’s family of superheroes would be getting their own ongoing series? As a matter of fact, yes, it is. I wonder why they didn’t just get an ongoing series from the get go!

The ongoing is written, as the mini was, by comic legend Mark Waid. In the first arc, the Incredibles must deal with a spate of normal humans developing superpowers and a situation far more dangerous—Baby Jack-Jack has developed a cold!!!

Fans looking for a comic that kids can enjoy featuring characters they recognize, look no further than right here. Pixar’s most famous fighting family is what you are looking for.

Mark Waid (W), Marcia Takara (A), BOOM! Studios, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Incredible Hulk #601:
This might be a bit confusing, and, lord knows, I might screw this up. So, let me know if you can follow this.

Last month, Marvel put out Incredible Hulk #600. This is the next issue (naturally). Typically, this means that the last Hulk series would be renumbered. Not so, since Hulk is just over a year old, they decided to keep that active without changing the numbering. There would be another option. Incredible Hercules once starred the Hulk and the title was changed when the new series started. Maybe Hercules would be booted and the Hulk retake his place in his original title.

But, no, we now have a brand new series that essentially started at issue #600, causing fits to all fans who like to keep their collections in some kind of order. What’s worse, all three titles come out the same week, just to add to the confusion.

Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente (W), Ariel Olivetti & Michael Ryan (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Jennifer's Body:
It’s not every Oscar winning screenwriter who would choose a horror film about a demonically possessed cheerleader to be their sophomore effort. But, then again, Diablo Cody isn’t like any other Oscar winning screenwriter. Her follow up to Juno, called Jennifer’s Body, stars Megan Fox and is set to hit theaters in September.

Since Megan Fox, Diablo Cody and horror all resonate to a certain extent with most comic readers, it’s only natural that the film would make a connection with comics somehow. However, if you think this anthology graphic novel will spoil the film for you, don’t worry. It is set in the universe of the film and fleshes out the characters and story, but it is not an adaptation. Think of it not as something that will spoil the meal but as something that will whet your appetite.

Rick Spears (W), Various (A), FOX Atomic Comics/BOOM! Studios, $24.99. Graphic Novel.

King City #1:
When you see this issue on the stands tomorrow, you’ll see that it will feature the logos from two different comic companies—Image and Tokyopop. You might imagine that there would be a story behind this pairing, and you would be right.

King City was originally a Tokyopop book. Only one volume was released before the partially completed second volume was cancelled due to a roll back in Tokyopop’s offerings. Since Tokyopop was unwilling to give creator Brandon Graham back the rights to the property, it looked like the story would never continue.

Enter Image. They worked out an agreement where Tokyopop would retain the rights yet the story would continue to be told. This ongoing series will reprint the first volume with new backmatter from Graham and then pick up where Tokyopop left off.

Brandon Graham (W/A), Image Comics/Tokyopop, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

The Spider: Judgment Knight #1:
The Spider was, at one time, one of the most famous heroes to come out of the pulps. Now, the character he was created to emulated, The Shadow, is better remembered. But The Spider lasted 10 years and 118 issues and made his way into movie serials and, yes, even comic books (the classic, 1990s Eclipse adaptation helmed by Tim Truman).

The character returns to comics again this week, courtesy of Moonstone Books, a company no stranger to pulp heroes and licensed materials. Will this new incarnation of the classic character steal some thunder from The Shadow? Will new readers respond the same way their grandparents did? We’ll see. 

C.J. Henderson (W), J. Anthony Kosar (A), Moonstone Comics, $3.50. One-Shot.

28 Days Later #1:
Few zombie films can be called masterpieces, but if any can, then it’s 28 Days Later. Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle’s examination of zombie survival horror revitalized the genre and served as an inspiration for many other forms of zombie fiction, most notably The Walking Dead series, and helped make a star out of Cillian Murphy.

The property is no stranger to comic books. 2007’s 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, served to partially fill in the holes between the first movie and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later. This series covers much of the same ground, but is an ongoing, so it will add a lot more detail to the time period in question. Fans of the film franchise should be sure not to miss it.
 
Michael Alan Nelson (W), Declan Shalvey (A), FOX Atomic Comics/BOOM! Studios, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Spin Angels #1:
If you looked at the solicitation for Marvel/Soleil’s Crossfire and thought, “Hmm, a book about a black-ops organization run by the Vatican. I can really get behind that. I’ll have to look for that when it comes out in August,” well, I have news for you. Don’t look for Crossfire because you won’t find it. That’s because it is now called Spin Angels.

Why was the title changed? I don’t know for sure, but it might come down to copyright violation. There has already been a Crossfire comic book, the one published in the 1980s by Eclipse and owned by Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle. I’m not saying that Evanier and Spiegle got their lawyers after Marvel, but Marvel probably didn’t want to chance it.

Jean-Luc Sala (W), Pierre-Mony Chan (A), Soleil/Marvel Comics, $5.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Blackest Knight: Titans #1:
When it comes to dead teenagers, which has the advantage: the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises or the Teen Titans? The former might have the advantages, but I’d imagine that the numbers are closer than you might think. Actually, if you add supporting characters to the mix, the Teen Titans might have a definite advantage.

So, taking that into consideration, it is no wonder why the Titans have got a Blackest Night tie-in all of their own. Now, all the people who have died in the pages of the numerous Teen Titan series’ have been resurrected by the power of the Black Lanterns. The survivors are now faced with a horrible choice—either fight their long deceased friends and family…or join them!

J.T. Krul (W), Ed Benes (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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Comments

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Aug 25, 2009 at 10:47am

    Good picks, william, looking forward to king city and FF.

  • Lee Newman

    Lee Newman Aug 25, 2009 at 6:49pm

    Nice Profile on Hickman, he is one of my faves... here's to hoping he can sustain the FF for a while.

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