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Year Ender 2004: The Creators - Part II

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As part of our Year Ender feature, Broken Frontier has asked a lot of creators about how they look back on 2004 and what's in store for each of them next year.
From Monday through Friday, you'll get to find out what their answers are to the five questions we asked them.

Today: Justin Gray, Jack Lawrence, A. David Lewis, Randy Queen and Jason Rand.

 

JUSTIN GRAY

BF: Creatively, what were some of your highlights in 2004?

JG: Every issue of Monolith, because, sales be damned we made it to 12 issues! Next to that, the opportunity to work on Hawkman and the seemingly insurmountable task of following Geoff Johns. Basically, the main highlight to me is the fact that I'm still here and writing comics without gaining a hundred pounds and ripping my hair out.

BF: Which mainstream book of the past year did you enjoy reading the most and which was the best small press book in your opinion?

JG: Mainstream? Hmmm… it is a tie between We3 and DC: The New Frontier. As for small press, I have to go with Courtney Crumrin. I just love those books.

BF: Which fellow creator’s work are you dying to read in 2005?

JG: Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Darwyn Cook, Andy Diggle, Mike Bullock, Gail Simone - this is going to be a long list - Mike Carey, Garth Ennis - do I have to list everyone? I'm bound to miss people and feel bad later - Ron Marz, oh I give up and say “everyone”. There, everyone. Moving on.

BF: Are you satisfied with the way the industry evolved over the course of the year? Are there any trends in particular you noticed that are going to be relevant in 2005?

JG: Err... my whole internet persona campaign is supposed to be geared toward presenting an optimistic outlook... eh, the hell with it. The trend is big universe epics, lines being pulled together, continuity and myth building. Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled kicked open the door for a return to cohesion in superhero comics. Fans go crazy with delight! We're going to see more of the equation. What equation you say? Writer X plus Aritst Y on character A= 100,000 sales.
Mid-level books will be largely ignored and cut from the herd at an alarming rate. The exclusives cold war will thaw a little as the industry prepares to build up a new generation of artists, while writers will still face the same uphill climb they have faced for the last 100 years. Inkers will have to fight to keep their place in the industry as technology and the bottom line threaten to "revolutionize" comics.  New comic publishers will spring up while others disappear.

BF: What is up your plate in 2005?

JG: Well, there's the long awaited - by me anyway - release of The Twilight Experiment, where Jimmy and I build our own superhero universe in only six issues! Hawkman will be one surprise after another for fans young and old as we head into 2006 with a storyline that, frankly, shouldn't be missed. Jimmy, Amanda and myself are collaborating on a single issue comic that may very well outsell everything we've done to date, granted this will be no fault of our own, but just dumb luck.
Next to all that, I'm going to do some small press work for Moonstone & Vampirella as well as a few creator owned projects. I've also written three issues of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and those should be out at the end of 2005.

There's more, but it is all hush hush for now!


JACK LAWRENCE

BF: Creatively, what were some of your highlights in 2004?

JL: Well, Lions, Tigers and Bears has really taken up most of this year. I started work on that back in April/May and I haven't really had a gap since! The whole of the series has just been a huge buzz to create, but if I was going to pick a favourite bit, it'd have to be the last few pages of issue #3. Anyone who knows me or my work knows I have a thing for monsters, dark woods and mist. Those last few pages had all of those elements and more!

BF: Which mainstream book of the past year did you enjoy reading the most and which was the best small press book in your opinion?

JL: Much the same as any year, I'd have to say it's a toss-up between Robin and Nightwing. Robin clinches it, based on the art.
As for small press, the best by far - in fact, it is my favourite read this year - is Et Cetera from Tokyopop. It's a daft little manga that's just incredibly absorbing and endearing. And the art is just fantastic. I really, really loved Army of Darkness too. It was a stroke of genius to mix the cartoony art with that subject matter. The movies are, obviously very cartoony themselves, but I loved that the creators had the guts to run with it the way they have.

BF: Which fellow creator’s work are you dying to read in 2005?

JL: I'm really looking forward to LiveWires from Adam Warren and Rick Mays. I've got a lot of respect for both of those guys, and to see them collaborate on this should be a lot of fun.

BF: Are you satisfied with the way the industry evolved over the course of the year? Are there any trends in particular you noticed that are going to be relevant in 2005?

JL: I actually kinda love the way the industry seemed to evolve this past year. I think people are really looking to comics as an escape medium again. Maybe it's because we're at war, people want to just be whisked away somewhere fantastic, to a place where guns and bombs AREN'T the most influential factors. There's a lot of interest in All-Ages stuff at the moment, which I'm particularly excited about. But then, I'm biased! [Laughs]

BF: What is up your plate in 2005? 

JL: Lions, Tigers and Bears hits in January 2005 with a 4 issue series that finishes in April. Runemaster Studios will have a table at the Bristol Comic Expo over here in May. Volume 2 of LTB is underway in terms of writing, and I have a couple of my own (top secret) projects, at least one of which should be unveiled by the summer, if not already in production.


A. DAVID LEWIS

BF: Creatively, what were some of your highlights in 2004?

ADL: The MORTAL COILS: BODYLINES trade paperback was a massive personal and creative highlight for me this year, no question. I mean, I'm not claiming it's any sort of magnum opus; it was simply an incredible experience to create, collaborate on, put together, and publish. Similarly, my year is ending on a highlight: the completion of THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS graphic novel with Marv Mann, which will be in Previews in February. So, 2004 felt like a very productive, creative year to me!

BF: Which mainstream book of the past year did you enjoy reading the most and which was the best small press book in your opinion?

ADL: Amazingly enough, some X-titles managed not to disappoint - for the first time in almost a decade for me! Between Morrison and Whedon (on the NEW X-MEN conclusion and the ASTONISHING X-MEN beginning), I had a great time reading the mutants again.
As for small press, I have a number of friends and colleagues doing excellent work across the board there. But probably STREET ANGEL was the biggest, most pleasant surprise, right next to WESTERN TALES OF TERROR.

BF: Which fellow creator's work are you dying to read in 2005?

ADL: Neil Gaiman's secret project for Marvel. Also - crossing my fingers - the re-released MIRACLEMAN.
On a more personal note, it'll be nice to see more of Jason Copland and Mike Bullock's stuff in print next year as well!

BF: Are you satisfied with the way the industry evolved over the course of the year? Are there any trends in particular you noticed that are going to be relevant in 2005?

ADL: I think 2004 was a very good year for the industry overall. There certainly were low-points (e.g. Crossgen, McFarlane, CATWOMAN, Liefeld), but both mainstream and small press look not only to be flourishing - in a slow, reasonable way rather than the precocious 90s-boom - but outside media seem to be giving comic books more attention. Definitely, there are more movies being made: some good, some bad, but all raising comics' profile. But there's also mainstream press coverage, greater academic study, and wider product availability in nationwide stores. Combine that with some excellent creative production and planning, and I think 2004 was a good year.

The big trend next year? I think it's already begun: Superheroes coming to grips with Mortality (e.g. IDENTITY CRISIS, GREEN LANTERN: REBORN, BATMAN: HUSH).

BF: What is up your plate in 2005?

ADL: The big, year-long research push for Ever-Ending Battle, a scholarly study on superheroes and perceptions of death. There's already been a lot of early support for it, and I hope to take advantage of the national conventions to collect reader data on the subject. Also, though, I'll be at those shows and doing in-store events to promote the Free Comic Book Day edition of MORTAL COILS as well as the release of THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS. As ever, I'll be doing editing for companies like Silent Devil Productions on properties including DRACULA VERSUS KING ARTHUR, and I'll be faithfully writing my Library of Babble column for Broken Frontier.


RANDY QUEEN

BF: Creatively, what were some of your highlights in 2004?

RQ: We've been absolutely flying and surprising ourselves with how vital and fresh Manga Darkchylde is! Beyond that, I've had some nice breakthroughs on some other ideas that are congealing nicely. Seeing the color work by Sarah become something spectacular her first time out has been a real highlight as well.

BF: Which mainstream book of the past year did you enjoy reading the most and which was the best small press book in your opinion?

RQ: I have to admit I've been looking back and finding inspiration in works of the past instead of focusing on stuff published in 2004. Al Williamson's elegant King Comics run on Flash Gordon. The always wonderful, and fun filled work of Art Adams. Frank Miller's still relevant Dark Knight. 

BF: Which fellow creator’s work are you dying to read in 2005?

RQ: Exactly what we think is missing from the marketplace, we're creating, and I have to get behind, and champion this work.  So I think Manga Darkchylde will really be the one to watch.  That's self-serving to be sure, but the reality is I know what it's going to be, and it's more alive and exciting than anything I'm presently aware of coming down the pipeline.  Give me anything but the same old men in tights flying around saving the same characters over and over. That should always be there, but American comics are too much about only that.
There are other, compelling ideas and characters! "Lions, Tigers, and Bears" looks like it could be fun, if the story is there. Next Christmas, I'll be on my head to see Peter Jackson's King Kong, he's going to destroy everything with that one! Darth Vader, what?

BF: Are you satisfied with the way the industry evolved over the course of the year? Are there any trends in particular you noticed that are going to be relevant in 2005? 

RQ: All-ages. That's something we were planning with Manga Darkchylde, but I didn't realize there was a whole wave coming, so it's fortunate timing. I always love to see new, vibrant materials, and when it's created with real passion, you recognize it.

BF: What is on your plate in 2005?

RQ: Manga Darkchylde is all-consuming right now, and we want to give that the attention it deserves so we can properly establish it in the marketplace. I've got some great related and unrelated ideas I hope to execute this year. You can keep up to date with everything we're up to, as well as win original art and prizes at www.darkchylde.com!


JASON RAND

BF: Creatively, what were some of your highlights in 2004?

JR: Oh, that's easy - the release of Small Gods, my first published book. I tell you, there isn’t much that can top the feeling of seeing your own book for the first time, except maybe seeing it on the shelves for the first time.

BF: Which mainstream book of the past year did you enjoy reading the most and which was the best small press book in your opinion?

JR: Damn, that's a tough one. My favourite seems to change each week - it all depends on what I'm reading at the time. But consistently, the mainstream titles I enjoyed most were Daredevil, Invincible, Sleeper and Ex Machina.
Small press would have to be Street Angel. Damn funny book. There's one other title that gets more than an honourable mention there: a little Australian comic called Platinum Grit. I love that book, and only just rediscovered it after my years away from comics. It'd be my best small press book, except it's currently "no press" - new issues are all coming out online at www.platinumgrit.com. But hey, it’s one of the craziest, funniest comics ever written… and for free? How can you top that?

BF: Which fellow creator's work are you dying to read in 2005?

JR: Ellis, as usual. He's almost always got a surprise in store. Add in the guys whose books I mentioned above - Bendis, Kirkman, Brubaker, Vaughan, Rugg (Street Angel) and Cooper & Murphy (Platinum Grit) - can't wait to see what happens next with their books.

BF: Are you satisfied with the way the industry evolved over the course of the year? Are there any trends in particular you noticed that are going to be relevant in 2005?

JR: Well, that's hard to say. To be perfectly honest, the trend I pay most attention to at the moment is the numbers that Small Gods is doing. I'm still at the stage where I have to be very conscious of how we're selling.
Generally, looking at the industry as a whole, it still seems pretty stagnant. Not a lot of growth, not a lot of decline… that I noticed. Hopefully, Marvel and DC will start to figure out ways to parlay their movies into more comic sales in the new year. That'd be my New Year's resolution if I was in charge over there. We'll have to see how it goes.
Creatively, though, there were some great titles out this year. Hopefully that's one trend that'll definitely continue in 2005.

BF: What is up your plate in 2005?

JR: Hmmm... well, apart from the next few arcs of Small Gods, I've got a couple of other titles in the works. Too early to say much about them - I'm still looking at pencillers for one, in fact - but I can't wait until I can. One is going to be very cool, the other, well, the other is, in my opinion at least, some of the best writing I've ever done and I've got a top-notch art team working on it. With any luck, they'll both be coming out sometime next year.

- Frederik Hautain

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