The Simple Comic Newsletter!
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
08 Bargain Bin Bonanza
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
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
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!
(Click on the comic
to see a larger picture of this comic)
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
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
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
PART TWO:GETTING IN AS A
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
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
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
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
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.
(Click on the ad to
see a larger version of it)
Classic Commercial of the
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
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
(Click on the comic to see a
larger picture of it)
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!