Tuesday, December 21, 2010
This Wednesday, my last published work of 2010 hits stores - TEEN TITANS: COLD CASE, drawn by superstar artist Sean Murphy. It's a double-sized special with 44(!) pages of story.
Comic Book Resources has a 4 page preview of it here.
As I've hinted at before, this Teen Titans tale means quite a bit to me. To explain why, let me give you a little bit of its history.
TEEN TITANS: COLD CASE started out as a two-issue Teen Titans arc called "FATHER'S DAY", about 3-4 years ago when Geoff Johns was finishing his great run on the book. I had just written GROUNDED, and this was my first work for hire assignment. Former DC and now Marvel editor Jeanine Schaefer came up to me at New York Comic-Con, and having seen how I'd handled teens in GROUNDED, and told me I'd be perfect to pitch for a Teen Titans story.
Jeanine is someone I owe a lot to in my career. Not only did she give me my first break at DC, she also gave me a chance to write darker material with TWO-FACE: YEAR ONE, at a time when I was worried I'd get typecast as the teen superhero guy.
Along with Eddie Berganza, she helped guide me as I wrote characters that for the first time weren't my own. They also paired me with one of the best artist's I've ever worked with, Sean Murphy. At the time he was best known for his Oni book "Off Road" and Scarecrow: Year One (the latter is, coincidentally, packaged in trade paperback with my Two-Face story). Sean knocked the Titans issues out of the park...yet despite all the pages being fully inked, they never saw print.
To this day I'm not entirely sure why. We were told various things, either involving continuity or office politics. At the time, I was not happy. Now, I realize things like that happen all the time. Until this summer, I contented myself with the fact I was paid for my work, and that I had a great piece of Sean Murphy's original art on the wall - a double paged spread of The Teen Titans fighting the Flash's Rogues Gallery of villains. Not to mention that the unpublished Titans story led to me writing CYBORG, SUPERGIRL and more for DC.
Flash forward to this past summer. I'm at San Diego Comic-Con, where I don't want to be, because my father had just passed away. I forced myself to go because I didn't want to let down any of my creative or business partners, and I knew my father would want me to - no one believed in my career more than him. I run into Eddie Berganza, who congratulates me on my Teen Titans story getting published.
I'm not someone that necessarily believes in something bigger than myself, but the fact that a long lost story called "Father's Day" was going to finally see print after I'd lost my own father...I have to admit that in some way it felt like a sign.
The only problem was...I'd written the story years ago. Continuity had changed quite a bit. Some of the Titans were no longer on the team, and some of them were dead. It was written as a two issue arc, not a giant-sized one shot. And upon reading the story, I realized that the flip side of being a much better writer than I was back then is that the story needed a lot of work.
Because the story was already drawn, my options for improving it were limited. Sean had moved on to bigger and better things (Hellblazer and Grant Morrison's Joe the Barbarian, to name a few). His newfound success might be why the book was seeing print, but he couldn't have redrawn the pages if he wanted to.
I always do a dialogue pass on comics when I see the lettering. But this time, with the help of Eddie and Editor Adam Schlagman, I did the most extensive series of rewrites I've ever done on a comic. I added narration to make the continuity clear to readers (like me) who haven't picked up Titans in a while (or ever), to tie the two issues together, and to add a level of emotional depth that I thought was lacking.
In doing so, I realized that was I fortunate this story hadn't come out earlier, exposing my less polished work to the world. But more importantly, I probably wasn't able to tell the story I wanted to until the terrible events of this past summer.
TEEN TITANS: FATHERS DAY was re-named TEEN TITANS: COLD CASE. It was changed to avoid confusion with another title, to reflect the presence in the book of Captain Cold, the lead villain in the Flash's Rogues Gallery, and to play off the idea of an untold story, an unsolved mystery from the past.
But there was a reason it was originally entitled "Father's Day". When I wrote the book, Tim Drake, at that time Robin to Bruce Wayne's Batman, had just lost his father, Jack Drake, in a mini-series by Brad Meltzer called Identity Crisis. He was killed by Captain Boomerang, who he took with him to his grave. That left two sons without fathers. While the hook of the story is to two teams of super-heroes and super-villains fighting it out for the first time, it's really about two families facing grievous losses.
Until this summer, I don't think I truly understood loss. A while back in this blog, I wrote about how my father inspired me to write TWO-FACE: YEAR ONE. He was not just my dad, but my best friend, and my hero. Like Harvey Dent, he was a prosecutor in a sometimes less than ethical justice system. Unlike Harvey Dent, he was able to overcome his demons and be a real force of good. He put away spies and mafioso, and later, as a judge, helped bring fairness to the trials of both the accused and their alleged victims. The term hero gets thrown around loosely, particularly in comics, but my dad was also a guy who once physically took down a madman with a machete. I couldn't make this stuff up.
Re-writing TEEN TITANS: COLD CASE, I realized it was in some ways like a last letter to my dad. Robin, like Bruce Wayne, is struggling not only with the loss of his dad, but also with the fact that his father died with something in his hands Bruce never would have approved of - a gun. Robin was also afraid of a possible future he had glimpsed where he used a gun to kill a villain.
Metaphorically, I think those things stand in for all our fears, of losing loved ones, and of inheriting qualities of our parents that we hope to avoid.
My father carried - but never used - a gun, something I had very mixed feelings about growing up. I'm not a gun lover. But as the son of an Assistant U.S. Attorney I grew up under very real death threats aimed at my family. It's a story for another time, but I've had a gun pointed at me since I was literally in the womb. Suffice to say I understand the necessity of firearms for personal defense.
Without spoiling the story I hope you'll read, I came to many of the same conclusions Robin did. My father was faced with incredibly difficult decisions, and while I may have made different ones, that doesn't make him any less of a hero. And while, like Robin, I'm jealous of people who still have fathers (even questionable ones), I wouldn't trade my father, or the time I had with him, for anything in the world.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
My Marvel Comics debut, "What If? Spider-Man" is out in stores as of this Wednesday, December 15th 2010.
It's hard to say what means more to me, achieving my lifelong dream of working with Marvel, or having my name on another book with Paul Azaceta.
While I've enjoyed writing for DC, I was a Marvel guy growing up. The theme of my Bar Mitzvah was Marvel Comics. Somewhere out there are shirts with a caricature of me in Iron Man's silver and crimson armor with the words "I had a MARVELous time at Mark's Bar Mitzvah".
That particular Iron Man suit, along with a bearded Thor and a Black and Red Captain America, also heralded my favorite Spider-Man garb - his black and white costume. To me, that's the iconic version, and it's the one he wears through most of our What If? story.
What If? Spider-Man spins out of Joe Kelly's recent GRIM HUNT storyline. In it, Spider-Man is run through a gauntlet, with many of those close to him killed by his classic foe Kraven The Hunter. Spider-Man comes close to killing him, and our story asks what would have happen if he'd taken that next step.
There's some people I should thank for this opportunity. Editor Tom Brennan, who not only picked me for this assignment but really stepped in and made this a better story. Steve Wacker, who I wrote an as yet unpublished Spider-Man story for that got me this gig. And Mark Waid, former editor-in-chief of BOOM! Studios. Mark recommended me to Marvel when I was working on Unthinkable, and helped get my foot in the door. That was no small favor - it's hard to imagine the EIC of any major publisher recommending a writer or artist to a competitor. It speaks to the kind of guy Mark Waid is - a mensch.
While it's a dream come true, so is working with Paul again. While he did the covers for UNTHINKABLE, this is the first time we've collaborated on a story since my first published work, GROUNDED, nearly five years ago. Since that time, Paul has become one of the main Spider-Man artists, and one of the top talents in the industry. There's no greater compliment to me than an artist wanting to work with me again. If you like what we're doing here, you're going to love our creator-owned book, GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES, which should be out in 2011.
In the meantime, I hope you'll check What If? Spider-Man out. Next Wednesday, December 22nd, my last book of 2010 comes out, when I head back to DC Comics for TEEN TITANS: COLD CASE with Sean Murphy.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The reviews so far have been fantastic.
David Pepose made Rift Raiders one of Newsarama's "best shots". He said:
"If Rift Raiders is the flagship of Kickstart Comics, I have to say — this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship."
Imagine National Treasure mixed with Runaways and throw it through time instead of space, and you've got the basic gist of Mark Sable and Julian Totino Tedesco's new book. Broad enough to embrace new readers and way more stylish than it has any right to be, there is a whole lot to like about Rift Raiders."
I particularly like that he said "But the real success story in this book is Julian Totino Tedesco, who pulls a page from the Sean Murphy playbook with some looser, more cartoony lines than his work on Unthinkable — and man, does it look absolutely slick." It's not false modesty to say that, as proud as I am of writing it, Julian is the real star of this book.
I love the comparison to Sean Murphy, who is a superstar talent and a friend. He drew my upcoming Teen Titans: Cold Case book, out December 22nd. Speaking of which, Kevin Mahadeo did a great interview with me about that book at Comic Book Resources, where I discuss why that book has special meaning for me.
Finally, I did a fun interview with EJ Feddes over at Spunky Bean focusing on Rift Raiders.
Thanks David, Stewart, Kevin and EJ for the reviews and interviews. If you are a (legitimate) reviewer, and would like to review Kickstart, I can arrange for a copy to be sent your way.
Next week, Dec 15th, my first (published) Marvel work, What If? Spider-Man, comes out. It's drawn by Paul Azaceta, artist and co-creator off GROUNDED, my first published work, period. So it's like things have come full circle.
I'll have more on Spidery soon, but I have to get back to work. Which right now includes GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES, my next Image book (also drawn and co-created by Paul), DECOY, my next Kickstart book, some motion comic work for an upcoming blockbuster movie, my teaching for The Writer's Boot Camp and...god, that's not everything and already I'm both excited and stressed out.