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The Simple Comic Newsletter!
Issue #11

Table of Contents
01 Introduction
02 Writer's Age of Comics
03 Most Valuable Comic
04 Top Ten List
05 Submitting Your Work
06 Comics and Video Games Part Two
07 Classic Commercial of the Month
08 Bargain Bin Bonanza
09 Conclusion

For one month we had submissions, but now it is back to the one man show. Fear not as I have things under control. As the newsletter nears its second year, we are finally finding our stride. Now if I can just keep it on schedule. This month is a themed issue of sorts. It deals with the writers of comics. While I feel artists are important, I also feel they are overrated. A great writer can carry a mediocre artist better than the other way around. So this is my mini tribute to the men who make comics really memorable!

The Writer's Age of Comics
Comics have always been broken up into different eras, based on precious metals. There is the Golden Age when Superman and Batman got their starts and EC Comics put out some of the best stories ever. The came the Silver Age when Marvel became a force with Fantastic Four, Spiderman and Avengers. DC also revamped many of their characters like Flash, Green Lantern and others. Then came the Modern Age of comics which is still going on. But somewhere between the Silver Age and the Modern Age was a wondrous age of comics. It was one of the only ages of comics where the writers exceeded the artists in popularity. It was a wondrous age of comics that I affectionately call the "Writer's Age of Comics" and it is my favorite era of comics!

To start off, let us set the time of this era. It took place during the late 1970s to middle to late 1980s (about 1977-1989) and featured some of the best stuff ever written in comic form. It was the era when writers took chances and the comic industry showed that it could be more than just books aimed at preteen boys. It was an era that has a lasting impact on the industry of today and many of the most prominent people got their start during this time.

This was the era that saw what was arguably the most influential comics to the modern era. Books like the Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns and Maus: A Survivor's Tale all showed how powerful a medium comics could be. We saw the emergence of the new breed of horror comics in the form of Sandman from Neil Gaiman and Swamp Thing by Alan Moore.

Over at Marvel we had Frank Miller doing Daredevil and later the Wolverine miniseries. We had the only worthwhile Punisher story, in my opinion, in the form of the miniseries and the Fearful Symmetry showed that Spiderman could be a serious comic.

Some of the best stuff of the era came from the independent ranks! Cerebus and Elfquest started and grew in this era. Nexus and Badger showed that great art and great story were possible and American Flagg moved comics to a more mature audience. Mike Grell's Jon Sable showed some good characterization and Bill Willingham did some great work with the Elementals. There was the quirky Flaming Carrot and the always hilarious Groo.

There were many great stories from abroad too! We had our first glimpse of Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and DR & Quinch from Eagle Comics and a whole slew of Japanese comics first made their way over here. Books like Lone Wolf & Cub, Area 88, Mai the Psychic Girl and others showed a whole different style of comics and helped to broaden the styles of American comics.

This was definitely a time to be reading comics. New ideas and new approaches to comics were always around the corner. Every time you thought you saw the best the era had to offer, someone would come along and top it. Even the Disney books were great with the emergence of Don Rosa. Quality was everywhere and variety was king. But like all good things, it came to an end. While not completely, the era did end and the Age of the Artist emerged. Once again, the artwork took center stage and the story had to take a backseat. But for a period there, the writers were the most popular people in comics and they gave us some incredible work!

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The Most Valuable Comic

When I was young, there was one comic that was considered the most valuable comic in the world and I owned it! No, it wasn't an Action #1 or Detective #27, those books were unknown to me. This book was valuable for a whole different reason. It wasn't a first issue or a limited edition book. It featured no autographs and had a normal cover. This book was worth more than any other comic because it had a great story and tons of action. When you were a kid, that is all that mattered!

You may ask what this valuable book was? I won't hold you in suspense anymore, it was Iron Man #127! You may ask why this particular issue? It featured Iron Man fighting not one or two villains, but a whole army of them. Blizzard, Whiplash, Porcupine, Beetle, Water Wizard and more all go toe to toe with Iron Man to protect Justin Hammer from his wrath. While the story is nothing special, it does feature alot, and I mean alot of action (granted only the first third of the story featured action, but what a great 10 pages). And when you are a young boy, action is where it is at!

I can still remember how everyone wanted to trade for this issue. While I did let all my friends borrow it, I always kept control of the issue. It was a great issue and one I could always read again and again. I really didn't realize how much I miss that pure innocence of comic collecting. There were no price guides that we knew of and a comic's true worth was solely on the amount of enjoyment one derived from it. Man, I miss those days!

Top Ten List!
Going with the theme, the top ten list will be my top ten favorite writers in comics. While some names are the same as with most lists you see, there are some that aren't as big. I know there will be names missing that you may think deserve recognition, but remember that this is just my list. I am not the know all, so I wouldn't attempt to do a list of the best of all-time. But I know my likes and that is good enough for me. See how many you agree with.

10. Mike Baron-His Badger and Nexus stuff was legendary and his Flash was great. But he did have his share of less than stellar work, hence the #10 ranking.

09. Bob Burden-For awhile, his Flaming Carrots were among the funniest things in comic history. You really never knew what the Carrot was going to do next.

08. Jim Shooter-From a teenager writing Legion of Super Heroes to the man who was responsible for the rise of Valiant to the short-lived Defiant and Broadway Comics, Jim Shooter has been anything but complacent. While the only thing bigger than his resume is his ego, he is still a very talented writer and a true genius when it comes to running a company. Marvel and Valiant have not been the same since his absense.

07. Mark Waid-His work on Kingdom Come alone deserves listing here, but you add in the Flash, Impulse, Captain America and the many, many other great titles and you have one great writer! Let us hope he can keep the hot streak alive!

06. Dave Sim-While he only does one comic, Cerebus, he does it well. Who else could pull off an aardvark going from a barbarian to the pope?

05. Neil Gaiman-While his time in the comic industry was shorter than we would have liked, who will ever forget his masterful run on Sandman? Plus he redid the Prez and that takes genius to pull that off.

04. Kurt Busiek-One great series after another! Whether it be an existing book like the Avengers or his own creation like Thunderbolts, this is one exceptional writer!

03. Frank Miller-He changed Batman, transformed Daredevil (twice) and helped in developing crime noir (Sin City) and manga style stories Ronin) in comics. If that isn't enough, I have no idea what is?

02. Carl Barks-Not only were his Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck stuff excellent, but the sheer amount of it done and done consistently well is nothing short of amazing!

01. Alan Moore-The most diversified writer in comicdom! He did horror (SwampThing), superheroes (Watchmen, Miracleman), humor (DR & Quinch) and a whole lot more! This is the man that did wonders with Rob Leifeld's characters and that alone deserves top billing!

Submitting Your Work

While getting in as an artist is hard, it is much harder as a writer. It is tough to get someone to take the time and read your work. Editors are very busy people and get hundreds of submissions each week. They just don't have the time to read and respond to each one. So it takes a little more work to be noticed. Once again, Ruben Diaz, DC editor for the Justice League, gave us some great tips on how to try and break in.

The easiest (and most costly) way to get someone to see how talented you are is to create your own independent comic. This way the editor has a finished version of your work and can see how well you can do a comic. The one problem with this is that it takes a minimum of $3,000 to create your own black and white comic. Most of us don't have that much to spend.

The second way is much more affordable, but won't work for everyone. What you do is find an established comic writer and convince him/her to take you under their wing, an apprenticeship of sorts. This way you can learn the business and hopefully make some contacts. An editor is more inclined to read your story ideas if it comes recommended from a professional. There are many people who have broke in this way. The problem is finding a writer in your area and convincing them.

The third way is a little easier, but no more guaranteed. You can try approaching an editor personally and give them your pitch. This can be done at comic shows or by writing personally to different editors. Again, there are drawbacks to this method. If you meet the editor at a show, the atmosphere will be hectic and they may not have the time to read your work. What you can do to help out by being prepared. Have a copy of your work, all typed and put together in a folder of some sorts. Make sure it has your name, address and phone number clearly marked a few time on it. This way if the editor reads it later and like what he/she see, they can contact you. Make the whole package look as professional as possible.

When it comes to handing in the story, there are a few things to do. When we asked Ruben for some tips he said "Send us a springboard, which is a paragraph synopsis that is between 3-4 lines long". This way, the editor can see what your story is about without having to waste alot of time. If they like it, they may request to see more. Again, we cannot stress enough how important it is to type your work.

When your working on your story, keep in mind that most of the more popular books have established writers on them and your chances of working for them is slim at best. We once again looked to Ruben for some help "It would be best to write short stories. You have a better chance of getting into one of our anthology titles (Showcase) than it is to get into an established title". He then added "The short story could also be used as an inventory story". An inventory story is a story that is not published right away, but instead is there for when the company needs a story immediately. These could be done between the changing of creative teams, or as filler in annuals or specials.

Come back next month, when we will give you some basic information to help you out. We will also go over some of the more important points that are vital. We'll make a quick reference checklist for you to check before you send in your work.

Comics and Video Games
Part Two

This month we will look at some of the reasons why video games based on comic books, specifically superhero comics have yet to capture the true feel of a comic book. There are many reasons for this and I will do my best to cover all of them, but I am sure there are some that even I have missed. So feel free to send me your reasons and maybe we will do an update to this article.

The biggest problem with capturing the comic feel is that comic books exist in a huge world and there are many unexpected things that can happen in this world. Until recently, there wasn't the technology to recreate a whole city for the heroes to run around in. Too many of the superhero based games were too linear in their approach. You had to move in a certain direction and only had a few powers and/or moves at your disposal. This did little to capture the essence of video games.

Another thing that was missing from video games was the NPCs or as they are known, non player characters. All great comics were filled with great supporting casts. Whether it was Spiderman with Mary Jane, J. Jonah Jameson and Aunt May or Superman with Perry White, Lois Lane and Ma and Pa Kent, these people helped the fill out the book and gave a human touch to the book. In video games these characters either were non-existent or their role was limited to being a victim or giving a quick line or two. To really capture the comic feel, the world needs to be populated by these people. They need to have a certain amount of AI (artificial intelligence) and they need to carry on with their lives even when they are not onscreen. Your actions as a superhero need to affect your personal relationships for the game to really capture the feel of the book. If things are limited to just saving Mary Jane, then it is no better than any of the thousand of side scrollers. But if you are out with Mary Jane and trouble arises and you need to decide if you should sneak away to save the day or stay with her, knowing that your decision will affect your relationship with her, then you get a level of realism that is needed.

When it came to battling super villains, it was pretty cut and dried. You would beat on a bunch of minions until you reached the super villain and then after a battle, you would beat him and go on to another villain. Predictable and repetitive. The only thing that changed was the villain and the locale (but just barely). There was little to no creativity in this battle. It offered as much interaction as watching a video tape. You couldn't break that street light and use it for a club. That car was only decoration and nothing more. In the comics, Spiderman could make a wide variety of things with his web, but in the video games, he could make about three things and that was it. So your imagination had to be put on hold as there was little use for it in these games. Granted, the technology wasn't advanced enough to do much more than this. But now it is possible with DVD, tons of storage and much faster computers. But still the games that come out are something that could have anyone in the lead role. Instead of Batman, it could be a janitor or an accountant. It really doesn't matter as the world is not designed for the character, rather the world is designed and the character is dropped in.

One area of comics that is sorely lacking in video games is dialogue. Whether it be the Hulks simplistic statements or the Things boasts, the language is a major part of the book. It is what makes the characters unique and really fleshes them out. But in video games, it is almost a silence that encompasses the game. There is a bit of dialogue at the start of each level and very little else. In the comics, Spiderman is always chatting away, with one liners and bad puns. But in the games it is quite the opposite. He has almost nothing to say. He is like a mindless robot who just fights his way through the levels. The villains, whether it be the henchmen or the end of the level bosses, say almost nothing. I cannot imagine these henchmen getting beat up without anything to say about it. What is this, Night of the Living Dead? Too bad as this would breathe life into these games, especially if you randomized what they would say.

These are just a few of the things that are needed to make a really great game. To paraphrase, you need a large world that is in real time, you need to have to make choices, ones that will impact future events, you need NPCs who will enrich the game and you need dialogue to really flesh out the characters. Hopefully comic companies will start to demand more from the companies that make games (especially Acclaim who has made some of the worst superhero games ever) and not just sell to the highest bidder. These companies need to realize that these games are an extension of their comics and can either attract or turn away future readers. Tune in next month when we will take a look at a proposal I sent Marvel about an online universe.

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Classic Commercial of the Month

This month we will look at a comic book that was one of the first mail order only comics (my guess is that it was so bad no one wanted to carry it), the one and hopefully only Holoman!

First off, the costume of Holoman's is loud! Not loud, but L-O-U-D!!! We are talking wake me up in the morning like no coffee can, loud. This is one costume that you can be sure of no one else wearing to a Halloween party. He sorta looks like he lost the fight with a rainbow. Very obnoxious, to say the least.

While the costume may be a little much, the offer they are giving sounds like something straight from Ronco, the makers of the great Ginsu knife and other marvels of Western civilization. You not only get the comic, but also a record album and the space age Holodisc! No kid's collection would be complete without this wonder. On top of that, if you order promptly, you get a membership card! But wait, that's not all. The first so many suckers, errr... I mean fans will also receive an iron on transfer so that all your friends can laugh, errrr....I mean be jealous of you! All this for the low price of $8.00! A deal in any language!

Maybe it is me, but I have yet to come across one of these issues. I checked the price guide to see if there is any mention of it, but the only thing I can find is a book and record set from Marvel called Holo-Man. Is this the same character? Does anyone know if there was more than one issue of this great hero? How cool is this space age holodisc? These are questions the public wants answered, but we may never know what became of Atomic Comics and their legendary hero.

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Bargain Bin Bonanza

This month's bargain is a series that once carried some value. For a moment in time, it was a popular book. But like many a series, it is now relegated to the bargain bins. This once hot book is none other than Marvel Fanfare. The book featured great artwork and some nice stories. It was a series that featured a hero or super team for a few issues and then move onto to someone else.

The covers alone are among some of the most beautiful in comics as some of them were done by such names as Byrne, Golden, Paul Smith, Barry Windsor Smith and others. Some featured my personal favorite wraparound covers and others featured a different drawing on the back cover. It was a book for people who appreciated comics! But it has since been forgotten.

Another great feature is the amount of popular characters who graced the pages of Marvel Fanfare. From the X-Men, who kicked the book off, to Iron Man (including a great two parter drawn by Ken Steacy) to the Hulk, Spiderman and even the ever-loving Thing, you have the prime beef of the Marvel Universe.

While the price guide still reflects a decent price for this series (with #1 carrying a book price of $5.00), the buying public doesn't see it that way. I have seen every issue of the series in the bargain bins and frequently pick them up.

So next time you have a few bucks and are looking for a very good series, why not check out Marvel Fanfare. Whether you are a fan of great art or like to see the prime time players, this book delivers and now at the much reduced price, it really delivers!

The eleventh issue is now in the bag! While it ran a bit late, it was a good issue (at least in my opinion). What I need now is to hear what you the reader wants? Do you want to see comic reviews or personal stories or what? I am open to suggestions as I try to keep this newsletter going. Be creative in your suggestions and maybe we can find some great ideas that I overlooked or would never have thought of. Remember it is as much your newsletter as mine and the more input I get, the better it will be. So keep reading those classic comics and remember to let them out of their bags and boards every so often. It gets really stuffy in there!

Tom Zjaba