Stuart Moore:
Blog, Biography, Bibliography

Monday, December 29, 2008

Spider-Man: Fear Itself (redux)


A bit late on my part, but there's a nice writeup here on the special, coming January 7th.

As a bonus, the Marvel writer has provided covers of previous Spidey/Man-Thing teamups.

Saturday, December 20, 2008



So Andy Schmidt, newly-minted editor of the IDW Star Trek line, was sitting in my "office" at Comicon San Diego* and said, "They want me to do more Alien Spotlights. They want a Tribbles Special, for God's sake!"

So I said, "I want to pitch you the Tribbles Special."

Tribbles are hard to spotlight because they don't do much except trill, breed, purr, and die just in time to fall all over Captain Kirk. But they mean well, and as soon as I came up with the idea of a whole planet full of the things, the story clicked into place.

Andy (pictured above) liked the idea, and so did Paramount. It was a tricky script to write because there are basically three groups of characters, all with their own character arcs, packed into 22 pages. There's a human freighter crew that really doesn't look for trouble the way Starfleet does; a Klingon crew that's a bit more rundown than the unstoppable Imperial fighting forces we're used to seeing; and, of course, the tribbles -- billions of them. I like the way it came out, and Mike Hawthorne (THE UN-MEN) is doing a great job on the art...not too cartoony, not too straight. I'll post some soon.

STAR TREK ALIEN SPOTLIGHT: TRIBBLES -- or, as I call it, "The Trouble with Humanoids" -- comes out in March. I hope you'll give it a try.

Photo nicked from here.

*Not on your life. Buy me a drink next year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Amazing Spider-Man Family #3


I've got a five-page story in this issue, out tomorrow (Wednesday). It's called "Bridge and Tunnel," which will mean something to the New Yorkers and -- he abruptly realized -- probably sound kind of dull to everyone else. Spider-Man must escape from the remote hell that is: Brooklyn! (And remember, he's from Queens.)

Above: a couple of uninked panels by Val Semeiks, who did a terrific job.

Update: Also in this issue is the debut of The Amazing Spider-Ma'am, written by my very cool neighbor Abby Denson and drawn by Colleen Coover! Details here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Thoughts

- We're getting ready to launch a really cool behind-the-scenes production blog on one of my new projects.

- I may have books tied in (vaguely) to two of next year's biggest films. Neither title has been announced yet.

- I'm just finishing up a WOLVERINE script that might be the best thing I've written. That one hasn't been announced, either.

More on all as it happens!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Iron Man: With Iron Hands trade paperback


This one slipped by me: In January, along with my one-shot special SPIDER-MAN: FEAR ITSELF, Marvel will collect my recent Iron Man storyline into the one-volume trade paperback WITH IRON HANDS. Two threats -- one from Tony Stark's past, the other stemming directly out of his present role as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. -- converge on Iron Man as he leads his elite Alpha Team on a mission to stop an Eastern European nuclear terrorist.

This will, sadly, be the final volume of DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D. When regular writers Daniel and Charles Knauf were unable to return to the book, Marvel decided to end the title, replacing it with the upcoming WAR MACHINE book and allowing the new INVINCIBLE IRON MAN series to carry on the red and gold tradition. In any case, I loved this story -- I tried to give S.H.I.E.L.D. its own military protocols and jargon, while keeping Iron Man himself in constant motion. The way I see the character, if he's not using both his brain and his technological strength every waking moment, he gets antsy. He needs to be doing good, as he sees it...even though things don't always work out as planned.

IRON MAN: DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D. - WITH IRON HANDS is scheduled for release the week of January 18, 2009. Here are the first two pages of the story, as published this past year in IRON MAN: DoS #29.



Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Some Things That Happened

• The wonderfully gracious and talented Colleen Doran notes THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY Volume 1's recent award, and says unduly nice things about me.

• The also-gracious Tim O'Shea posts an interview with me and Joe Harris about Volume 2.

• And, uh, something else nice too.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Award for Nightmare Factory Volume One


Just got the news: The first volume of THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY, published last year, just won the prestigious International Horror Guild Award for "Best Illustrated Narrative."

NIGHTMARE FACTORY is a class act. Congratulations to my talented cohorts: Colleen Doran, Ben Templesmith, Joe Harris, Michael Gaydos, Ted McKeever, and editor Heidi "My Name Is Bruce" Macdonald. UPDATE: And, of course, Fox Atomic ed-in-chief Eric Lieb, who started it all and whom I stupidly forgot earlier.

Thanks to Tim Lucas's Video Watchblog for the info, and congratulations to him for his own award.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nightmare Factory @ MacNally Jackson

Tomorrow -- Halloween -- night: Joe Harris, BIll Sienkiewicz, and I are scheduled to sign THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY at McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince Street between Lafayette and Mulberry, New York, New York. Details here. It looks like the signing will start around 6:30, and then I'll do a reading from a novel in progress sometime after 7:45.

Update: Yikes -- it looks as though I'm now one of three featured readers for the evening. I'll be presenting an abridged prologue from BREUCKELEN, a prose novel in progress.

And here's another teaser: Four pages from "Sect of the Idiot," one of my two stories in NMF v2. ("The Chymist," the other story, is previewed in the entry directly below this one.) This is a quiet sequence, but artist Nick Stakal really caught the creaky, old-hotel feel the story called for.





Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reminder: Hanley's Signing Tonight

Tonight at 6:00 - 8:00: Me, Joe Harris, and Bill Sienkiewicz at Jim Hanley's Universe, 44 West 33rd Street in Manhattan, signing THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY vol. 2. More details here and here.

To give you a taste: Here are the first four pages of "The Chymist," one of the four stories in NMF v2. Adapted from the original story by Thomas Ligotti, by me and artist Toby Cypress.




Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spider-Man: Fear Itself


Now soliciting: SPIDER-MAN: FEAR ITSELF, a one-shot special by me and Joe Suitor.

In this story, Peter Parker must face his greatest fear -- which, not incidentally, brings him into conflict with the Man-Thing, Marvel's resident swamp monster. And whatever knows fear experiences rapid, inexplicable combustion upon contact with the Man-Thing's leafy appendages.

You can see the gorgeous cover above by Mico Suayan. But Suitor, the interior artist/colorist, is the real star of this one. He's got a wonderfully stylized, fully realized take on all the characters -- including Spider-Man:




Even little Peter Parker!


SPIDER-MAN: FEAR ITSELF is on sale January 7th, 2009. I'll have a short preview to show at my signing, tomorrow night at Jim Hanley's Universe -- details here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Nightmare Factory Signings


I'll be out signing the new NIGHTMARE FACTORY book this week with Joe Harris and the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz, at two locations for the spooky season:

Wednesday, October 29th, 6:00 - 8:00: Jim Hanley's Universe, 44 West 33rd Street, Manhattan (around the corner from the Empire State Building). I'll bring some previews of other projects to this one, too. Stick around afterward for my friends Garth Ennis and Russ Braun, signing their new book Battlefields from 8 to 10.

Friday, October 31st, 6:30 onward: McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince Street between Lafayette and Mulberry. This signing is part of McNally Jackson's Literary Halloween Party, which features costumes, drinks, signings, and lots of readings. I might even read a selection from an upcoming novel myself. I did this last year with Colleen Doran, for Nightmare Factory Volume 1, and it was an amazingly great way to spend Halloween...sitting, drinking beer, signing books, looking at costumes and listening to scary stories. McNally Jackson is one of the few good-sized indy bookstores left in New York City, with a great selection and really nice staff.

Ain't It Cool News has a nice review of NMF Vol. 2 here.

So come on out. What? Do you have something better to do that night?


(Art from "The Chymist" by Toby Cypress, one of my contributions to the book.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Termite Blues!


This is one of the weirder projects I have coming out: December will see the second issue of CREATURE FEATURE from Th3rd World Studios -- and I've got a story in there called "Termite Blues." Or, to use its full title: "Humphrey and Gutts in: Termite Blues -- in COLOR!"*

As themed anthologies go, CREATURE FEATURE is pretty self-explanatory. Editor Mike Raicht, whom I've known since the Marvel Knights days, set up a great assemblage of talent and basically told us to have fun. I took the concept a disco-step to the side and wrote an homage to '70s cop shows, which I love, as long as I don't actually have to sit through a lot of full episodes.

We were lucky enough to get Alberto Ponticelli as artist. I've worked with Alberto before, and he's an unsung talent in this country. Look for that to change in October, when UNKNOWN SOLDIER by him and the also-underrated Josh Dysart launches from Vertigo. For now, all I can say is: Nobody draws junkies, 'fros, and giant insects like Alberto.

So for thirteen pages, travel back in time to 1978, when two crazy cops took to the street in search of giant insects and the deadly new ghetto drug called "Advil." It's fine, baby. SUPER-fine!


*I don't know if the story is actually in color.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wolverine Noir


Another project announced at the recent Diamond summit: WOLVERINE NOIR, by me and CP Smith. CP and I have collaborated on two Wolverine stories before; I love his graphic, photorealistic style. Those two previous stories -- "The Healing" and "The Package" -- are collected in the trade paperback WOLVERINE: BLOOD AND SORROW.

The panel above is from "The Package," and features a very different Wolverine than you'll meet in the Noir miniseries. The assignment here was to recreate Marvel characters in a more realistic, crime-story milieu; our book is set in the 1930s, in New York's Bowery district, at the time one of the country's worst skid rows.

WOLVERINE NOIR is scheduled for early 2009. I hope to have some art to show soon.

That Old Work for Hire Thing

This is one of the strangest arguments for creator-owned comics I've ever read. I don't know Noah Berlatsky, but he's obviously a keen observer of the comics industry. Still, his comparison with the music industry is a little misleading. I get checks from both Marvel and DC on an irregular basis for past work done with both of them. "Work for Hire" does not automatically mean "one check and then nothing, ever, for your work again." Both major companies have structures in place to pay for reprints down the line, though neither system is perfect.

But that's a side issue. The main thrust of this piece seems to be that creator ownership is desirable because it allows the creator to keep tight control of the "brand" and make sure the characters stay consistent and on-point. I'll grant that there have been creators (Berke Breathed comes to mind) who've exercised very tight control over the licensing of their popular characters over the years. But traditionally, major entertainment companies have had an enormous interest in keeping characters "on-model" and consistent, to the point of having entire quality-control departments to ensure this. If it isn't happening in one or two cases in the comics industry, that might be a glitch in the machinery, not an overall trend.

And I can certainly cite you independent comics that went off the rails -- for a large part of their readership, anyway -- as they went along. All respect to the creators' right to do whatever they want with their creations -- that's the whole point here -- but CEREBUS is probably the biggest example. FISH POLICE was a little rough toward the end, too. I'm sure there are others.

More to the point, though: Why do we care about branding anyway? Don't we want creator-owned work because it leads to original, inspired comics, not because it means the Joker will look the same every time he appears?

As a writer and occasional editor, I wish the market were more open to original properties. It takes a hell of a lot of work and time to get a creator-owned project going these days. But work for hire can be sharp, clever work too. It all depends on what you bring to it.

Thanks to Dirk Deppey for the link.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Shadrach Stone - Update


I blogged just about a year ago about SHADRACH STONE, a political science-fiction thriller I've been putting together with artist Jon Proctor. It's a story about the biggest liar in the world, and how a traumatic, world-changing event opens his eyes to a multitude of realities, and the unique part he plays in the scheme of things.

Now I'm pleased to announce that we'll be doing the book with Penny-Farthing Press, who published my title PARA a few years ago. I couldn't be happier -- they're a great bunch of people and their production work is absolutely the finest in the industry. A class outfit all around.

Penny-Farthing announced the title at the recent Diamond summit in Baltimore, and both they and I will have more details to come. But for now, here are a few more teaser images. Jon and I have been working on this for a while...I promise it's going to be something special.




Sunday, September 14, 2008

Nightmare Factory - Back For More!


The new volume of THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY is out, featuring four stories adapted from the works of cult horror legend Thomas Ligotti. My two stories are:

"The Chymist," illustrated by Toby Cypress
"Sect of the Idiot," art by Nick Stakal

There are also two other pieces:

"Gas Station Carnivals," by Joe Harris and Vasilis Lolos
"The Clown Puppet," by Joe Harris and Bill Sienkewicz

As with the previous volume, this is a gorgeous package courtesy of HarperCollins and Fox Atomic Studios -- lovely paper, lush color throughout. My two collaborators really did a fantastic job, and you can't go wrong with the rest of the talent on the book.

Heidi Macdonald, editor of the volume, talks about it here . You can read a couple of early reviews here and here.

We'll be doing promotion around Halloween -- I'll post a schedule when I have it. And I've got more projects to announce soon, so watch for this blog to get a lot more active (he said, filled as always with fresh hope).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It All Comes Together


The final issue of my IRON MAN arc, "With Iron Hands," comes out this Wednesday. It's issue #32, and I'm very proud of it. This storyline was a little bit of a slow build, but this is where the two plot threads come together, and I really like the way Carlo Pagulayan and Steve Kurth pulled off the art in this last chapter.

Comments welcome on the conclusion of the story arc. And hopefully I'll be able to announce my next Marvel projects soon...things are moving along nicely.

Edit: A six-page preview of the issue can be found here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Big Spoilery MAD MEN Post


Back from San Diego. Yes, Comicon huge, aisles crowded, Hollywood Comics SciFi Marvel Virgin Jamie Bamber. Will blog more later on that, maybe.

But right now I have to write about the season premiere of AMC’s original series MAD MEN. My wife Liz and I blew through the first-season DVDs a couple of weeks ago, and loved it. She watched the second-season opener while I was at Comicon, and was disappointed. It seemed slow and plotless. A lot of critics agreed.

When I got home, Liz and I watched the episode again together. Several minutes into a discussion afterward, we Figured It Out.

I’ve checked the usual spots like The House Next Door and, and nobody seems to have gotten this. Once you realize what’s going on, every scene in the episode reads in a different context, with at least one more level of meaning -- sometimes several.

Warnings: This is rather long. If you don’t want to know, go no further. If you’re in the middle of watching season one, DON’T read this; it will spoil many things. And if you haven’t watched the show at all, none of this will make any sense to you. The various relationships that have been built up among the characters are too tangled and complex to explain here.

Disclaimers: This was a team effort. The reasoning here is as much Liz’s as mine, though any awkward phrasing is all mine. We are both professional writers, but we have no contacts or inside information on the show -- this was all written from viewing the aired material itself.

If you do decide to read this, please tell us what you think, especially if there are details we’ve missed. But I can tell you this: We combed through the entire episode after figuring this out, and there’s no way we’re wrong.

Proceed at your own risk…



Don Draper is having an affair with Peggy. Not a frivolous, Sterling-Cooper-style romp; but a true love affair rooted in mutual respect and interests.


• When Don is late to the creative meeting, the guys gossip nastily about the possibility that he had a baby with Peggy, and that he’s sleeping with her -- hence her rapid rise in the company. This is clever on two fronts. First, it brings up the Don/Peggy connection, only to dismiss it quickly from the viewer’s mind. Second, it’s in line with the way Don is always viewed at Sterling Cooper: Everyone thinks he’s up to something -- usually an affair -- but they rarely get the details right. He’s as likely to be meeting his estranged brother, or having a physical, as he is to be rendezvousing with a woman. (See Lois, below.)

• Peggy asks Lois where Don is, and Lois responds with the barest innuendo about Don’s absence. Peggy starts to walk away, stops, and then turns on Lois harshly, telling her never to make such remarks about Don. On the surface, this seems to be the loyalty of an employee (Peggy) who owes her boss a lot because of her promotion. It also looks like Peggy lording it over the secretaries, whose ranks she’s escaped.

But it’s actually something very different. Peggy knows how the secretaries gossip about their bosses; she’s been there. She realizes that, given time, Lois will find out about her and Don, just as she herself learned about Don’s affair with Midge last season. So Peggy takes this opportunity to scare the hell out of Lois, hoping to intimidate her enough that Lois won’t spill any information casually, as (again) Peggy did to Joan last year.

• When Joan subsequently reprimands Lois, there’s also something else going on. The key to Joan is: She acts like an queen bee, but her true motive is almost always concern for other people. (Remember last season, when Peggy -- beginning to show her own true colors -- said to Joan, rather clinically: “I just realized -- you’re trying to be kind.”)

It’s not clear how much Joan knows about the Peggy/Don affair, but she clearly knows something. What she’s doing in this scene is warning Lois, very strongly, away from any confrontation with Peggy. The surface justifications are that Peggy is now “Miss Olsen” -- a higher-level employee than the secretaries -- and that Lois’s crying in the break room was inappropriate (a weak excuse for so harsh a scolding). But really, Joan knows that Peggy is linked very closely with Lois’s boss, and that no good can come to Lois from a conflict with Peggy.

• Why does Don have a lock installed on his office door? It seems like a funny throwaway, but it’s not. For the first time ever, Don is having an affair within Sterling Cooper.

• The creative staff is understandably obsessed with age. Roger and Duck are on a crusade to bring in younger blood; Paul in particular has a target painted on him. Don is also worried about this, as evidenced by his physical. Yet he seems unconcerned about the prospect of young people coming to work at Sterling Cooper, dismissing them as unimportant.

That’s because Don’s concern is not professional, but personal. Both Don and Peggy pointedly speak their ages (36 and 22) aloud in the course of the episode. Don’s midlife crisis is not about work, it’s about love.

Incidentally, keep an eye on Paul, who has a bad meeting with Don during the episode. Paul doesn’t seem to know about Don and Peggy yet; but as Joan told him last season, “You have a big mouth.”

• Further to the above: The guy reading poetry in the bar says that his book wouldn’t be to Don’s taste. The guy is significantly younger than Don; Don subsequently buys the book as a way of trying to communicate with a younger generation -- again, not for professional but for personal reasons. More on this below…

• After Betsy encounters her former roommate, Don tells Betsy the woman is clearly a “party girl.” Betsy asks him how he would know, clearly referring to Don’s extramarital activities. When Don replies, “Do you think I’m stupid?” he’s really saying: “Do you think I’d see a call girl? My affairs are much deeper than that.”

(That scene plays oddly on the surface, though. “Do you think I’m stupid?” is a clear insult to Betsy, but she doesn’t really react to it.)

• Don’s impotence with Betsy -- very well played, incidentally -- is not a result of stress and age, though it is linked to his midlife crisis. Nor is it because he’s tiring himself out with another lover; we’ve seen him juggle multiple sexual partners before. It’s because, for the first time, he’s in love with someone else.

• In the elevator, Don reacts strongly to the crude talk about a random secretary. This is unusual behavior for him -- he’s clearly accustomed to this kind of chatter in the halls of Sterling Cooper. The reason: He’s picturing people talking about Peggy that way and, again, feeling self-conscious about her age. “Get three stingers in her, she’s like a little girl.”

• The key to all this is the scene where Peggy and Sal pitch the airline ad to Don in his office. This scene would be a dead giveaway in any other show; the interaction between Don and Peggy is clearly flirty in nature. But the environment of Sterling Cooper is thick with inappropriate sexual innuendo, so -- after a full season of trysts gone wrong and boundaries constantly broken -- we don’t initially register the importance of the conversation.

When Don reacts poorly to the initial ad mockup, Peggy starts to argue with him, and Sal starts to warn her away -- but Don cuts him off. At this point, Sal seems to physically retreat from the scene. The reason: He of all people recognizes coded sexual behavior coming into play, and knows he should not be in the room. But he has no reason to leave, so he simply shrinks back.

Don and Peggy then engage in a weird, flirty exchange of ideas and slogans -- an exciting and disturbing process that displays both the romantic and creative bond between them. She challenges Don, telling him the ad is “exactly what we talked about.” “It’s obvious,” he replies. “I’m uninvolved.”

Peggy describes the ad as “Businessmen who like short skirts. Sex sells.” Don rebukes her and, in the guise of a lesson in ad creation, tells her that their relationship is much more than that. “That’s what they tell you,” he says, anticipating the staff’s reaction to their affair. “You are the product. You -- feeling something. You. Not sex.”

Then Don pulls the ad slogan out of her, prodding her to assert herself (“Is that a question?”). Ultimately, she provides a response that’s both aggressive and submissive at the same time, and also points directly to the age difference between them: “What did you bring me, daddy?”

• After which, he mails her the book.


Obviously there are a lot of questions here. Did Don help Peggy with the baby situation? Does he know who the father is? Is the baby even still alive? And, of course, what is Roger Sterling’s status?

In addition: Both Don and Peggy are deeply damaged characters. Their affair may be pure of heart, but that doesn’t mean it’ll ultimately work out, or work out to their mutual benefit.

But we think all the pieces above fit, and provide a suggestion of where this exciting and provocative show is headed.

What do you think?

Monday, July 21, 2008

San Diego '08


Light schedule for me this year: I've got a lot of work going, but a lot of my publishers have scaled down their Comicon presence for economic and other reasons. So mostly I'll be roaming the floor, and I might even get to a couple of panels this year. That'd be nice.

I will be signing at the Marvel booth, #2429, on Sunday from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Bring IRON MANs or other things with my name on them. I might have a preview or two to show, too.

If you see me on the floor, ask me about SHADRACH STONE by me and Jon Proctor (promo illustration above). We should have something big to announce on that front, very soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Avengers: Fireline


I don't usually blog much about these because they're not available in normal retail outlets. But people ask about them, so...

The latest NEW AVENGERS special created specifically for the U.S. military is FIRELINE, a tale of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and a surprise guest star fighting forest fires alongside the National Guard in California. Oh, and the Incredible Hulk, too...though I'm not ready to reveal whether he's on the heroes' side or the fire's. Art is provided by Cliff Richards, who did such a nice job on the previous volume (THE SPIRIT OF AMERICA) and who's known for his work on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

This is the third of these books that I've written for Marvel and the AAFES, which distributes them to our soldiers around the world. Earlier issues were written by Paul Jenkins, Brian Bendis, and Robert Kirkman. They're basically in-continuity one-shots teaming up super heroes with various branches of the military; they're tricky to write, but it's satisfying that people seem to like them. Sgt. Michael Dean has put up a nice website about them here.

FIRELINE is available to domestic servicemen and women in July, and overseas in August.

Oh, and don't forget: IRON MAN #31 is out today.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Old Nightmares and New


The Nightmare Factory, a book of graphic adaptations of the works of Thomas Ligotti, has been nominated for an International Horror Guild Award in the category of Illustrated Narrative. Congratulations to all my co-conspirators on this book -- particularly my own collaborators, Colleen Doran and Ben Templesmith, who not only illustrated one of my two stories in the book but is actually nominated twice in this category, once for NMF and once for his own lovely Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse.

The Nightmare Factory Volume 2 comes out in September. The page above is from the story "Sect of the Idiot," adapted by me and the very talented artist Nick Stakal. Other contributors include Joe Harris, Toby Cypress, Vasilis Lobos, and Bill Sienkewicz. Heidi Macdonald, our ace editor, has more details here.

I'll post more art as we get closer; Toby Cypress has done a striking and really offbeat job on my other adaptation this time around. Expect to see us touring and signing a bit in the New York area, just like last year.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #31


Out next Wednesday: IRON MAN: DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D. #31. Tony Stark disabled by Paladin! The Overkill Mind attacks! Tragedy in the skies! And a special treat for Dum Dum Dugan fans. I miss that guy already.

You can read the first six pages here. And an extra page, at lower quality, here.

And here's Adi Granov's cover -- possibly the finest Iron Man piece he's ever done. Which is really saying something.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thomas M. Disch 1940-2008


I don't think I ever really met him, though I remember talking with him in a group at a SFFWA cocktail party. I've read a few of his novels and at least one collection of short stories, and always found them fluid and fascinating. ON WINGS OF SONG was a mind-blower to me when I first read it serialized in F&SF magazine in the '70s. I always meant to read more -- this seems to be a common phenomenon with Disch's fiction (See Ellen Datlow's touching note on Disch's death).

But I always devoured his critical work. The recent compilation ON SF (pictured above) collects a variety of Disch miscellanea, including a devastating and very funny takedown of Ray Bradbury called "A Tableful of Twinkies." It climaxes with the line: "He is an artist only in the sense that he is not a hydraulic engineer." (I don't actually agree with the sentiment, but it always makes me laugh.)

Disch's finest piece of nonfiction, though, is the 1998 book-long essay THE DREAMS OUR STUFF IS MADE OF, a thoughtful, complex exploration of the many ways science fiction came to permeate and even dominate our culture. I can't say enough good things about this book -- it's an absorbing sf history lesson and it'll make you look at those toys on the shelf very differently.

One sequence from the book always stays with me. Disch begins a chapter on "SF as Religion" with an anecdote about his guest appearance at the Milford SF Writers Conference in 1964:

"But before the ball there was an ordeal to be undergone: I had to spend a night at the Red Fox Inn, a one-time boardinghouse some miles out of town that was the headquarters of the Centric Foundation, an organization devoted to the maximization of human potential whose founders (and only members) were the SF writing team of Walt and Leigh Richmond. Their method of collaboration was uniquely science fictional. Walt, a laconic, Burl Ives-ish fellow, would sit with a quiet smile on his lips and telepathically project his inputs to Leigh, who would translate them into their prose at the typewriter."

Funny so far, right? Disch explains the couple's background in (and excommunication from) the then-growing religion of Scientology, and describes them as "the first full-throttle, off-the-wall lunatic fringers that I met in the field of SF, and they remain the purest specimens I've known." But this isn't pointless cruelty. Disch goes on to explore, in more detail than I can quote here, the Richmonds' possible origins:

"For those who have been relegated to the category of nerd in high school years...there can be comfort in the assurance that despite being members of the chess club rather than the football team, they will have the last laugh -- as indeed many will, as they parlay their brains into scholarships to MIT or similar elite institutions. Yet there will be those, like (I imagine) Walt Richmond, whose capabilities don't gibe with their aspirations, whose chess game isn't top-notch and whose grades, even with effort, are C's and B's. How is one to reconcile, in such cases, the discrepancy between a grandiose self-image and the steady encroachments of mundane reality? The usual answer has been religion in one form or another."

I will miss Thomas Disch's thoughtful prose, which was sometimes dense and difficult, and more often liquid and absorbing. I'll miss his occasional flights into whimsy, such as the surprisingly successful BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER, also first published in F&SF. And I guess, judging from the above, I'll miss his cruel attacks on his colleagues. But most of all, I'll miss the ways he wove all those elements into an textured, illuminating worldview. I keep coming back to the word thoughtful; I can't think of a single Disch piece that ever seemed slapdash or hacked out.

And remember: If you're unsure about electricity, do not attempt to figure it out on your own. Consult a major appliance.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Life on the Moon

EL_vol3_023_tones1200 copy

Newsarama interviews a variety of creators, including me, on the state of Tokyopop. It's an interesting range of viewpoints; worth a look.

Above: Busted! A page from the now-web-only EARTHLIGHT volume 3, coming from Tokyopop this fall. Art, as always, by the amazing Christopher Schons.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Spider and his Amazing Friends


Dirk Deppey's Journalista is a great news source and links blog -- it's the first comics site I check in the morning. His breadth of interest and knowledge of indy and foreign comics is impressive. Unfortunately, when he speculates about DC and Marvel, he's usually writing as an outsider, and frequently misses the mark.

Today he has a longish editorial about systemic problems within DC Comics. Some of it is pretty spot-on and some of it is dead wrong; I'll be honest and say I have too many conflicting interests, and too many friends at both DC and Marvel, to wade into this in any detail, especially at a volatile time like this.

However, I can set the record straight on one historical matter. In discussing DC's reputation for competition within the organization, Dirk writes:

"The most striking (and admittedly anecdotal) example I’ve heard — from multiple sources — would be the way that Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan was moved from the company’s failed sci-fi line Helix over to its Vertigo division, where it was allegedly resented by editor Karen Berger for being 'imposed from outside' and thus treated like Vertigo’s Ugly Duckling ever after, regardless of its obvious sales potential."

I acquired TRANSMET for Helix and edited the title for a little over two years -- the first at Helix, the rest at Vertigo. While Karen Berger and I had our differences during that time, I can tell you there was absolutely no resistance on her part to bringing the book over to Vertigo. She was nothing but supportive of it. In fact, DC gave issue #13, the first under the Vertigo imprint, an extra promotional push -- I think it was an overship, but I can't swear to that. I do know that Warren worked with Karen and Vertigo consistently for several years after that, notably on the graphic novel ORBITER with Colleen Doran. And TRANSMET, like PREACHER, SANDMAN, and THE INVISIBLES, was consistently and regularly collected into trade paperbacks before that was the norm.

Warren or Darick, or Axel Alonso, could tell you if there were problems with TRANSMET after my time. But if this really is a prominent rumor -- that the book was resented by Vertigo or somehow foisted on the imprint -- then let me squash it right now. Nothing to it at all.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Awright Listen Up!


Thank you, Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan!

A few pressing matters:

• First and most important, since it keeps coming up: As far as I'm concerned, in my current IRON MAN storyline, Dugan (see above) is not a Skrull spy. He's the real thing. In the online prologue to SECRET INVASION, it's revealed that Dugan was killed and replaced with a Skrull just a few weeks before the Invasion began. My story takes place before that time.

So you can look at "With Iron Hands" as Dugan's last hurrah. And he gets some fun stuff to do in issue #31, next month.

All this is void where prohibited, or if Tom Brevoort decides I'm wrong.

If none of that made any sense to you, you probably have a life. Go back to it and stop making the rest of us feel bad.

• I've received word from Tokyopop that EARTHLIGHT volume 3, like most of their Original English Language manga, will not be published as a printed book, but will instead appear, free of charge, on their website at some point. Tokyopop is going through a change of business plan and, as has been widely reported, the OEL books haven't sold very well (with some definite exceptions). I'm sorry I won't be able to put volume three on the shelf next to the others -- but both Chris Schons and I have been paid in full, and this actually means more people will probably see the work. So no giant complaints.

• I don't know much about what's going on at DC right now; my interactions with them lately have been limited to some minor licensing work, and a recent, helpful interchange when the state of California decided retroactively that I and a few other freelancers owed them back taxes for work done for DC in 2005. (Spoiler: We don't.) I do wish John Nee the best. I can't say I know him well, but he's always done right by me and he inexplicably kept recommending me for jobs a few years ago. Also best wishes to Chuck Dixon, who's handled his own DC situation this past week with clarity and class.

More soon, including updates on THE 99 and new Marvel and Virgin projects.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mid-June Catchup


More frequent blogging soon -- promise! Meanwhile:

IRON MAN: DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D. #30 is out this week, featuring part two of my four-part story "With Iron Hands." The tension escalates as the Overkill Mind is born! Part One got great reviews, and I'm really pleased with the way this whole book is coming out. Previews here and here.

Heidi MacDonald tells all about THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY VOLUME TWO, coming in September. I can't wait to show you some of the art on this.

I'm not sure of the status of EARTHLIGHT VOLUME THREE at Tokyopop. As far as I know, it's still scheduled for November. More info as it comes.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Next Week: Iron Man


Heard of him?

Issue #29 features part one of the four-part "With Iron Hands," written by me with art by Roberto de la Torre and Carlo Pagulayan. On sale May 21st -- and you can read the first scene on Comic Book Resources.

CBR should have an interview up with me soon, too. Stay tuned...

Update: The preview is also up on Newsarama.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New York Comic Con!


This weekend, the Jacob Javits Center, Manhattan.

Where I'll be:

Saturday 4/19/08
1:00 - 2:00 PM: Penny-Farthing Press, booth #1513.
2:45 - 3:15 PM: HarperCollins (for THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY), booth #1814.

Sunday 4/20/08
11:00 AM - 12:00 Noon: Marvel Comics, booth #1141.
3:00 - 4:00 PM: Panel: "How I Got My Job," with Jamal Igle, Andy Schmidt, Mike Cavallero, and moderator Bob Greenberger, Teen Room 1E02.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

With Iron Hands


I discuss my IRON MAN arc on Newsarama.


Tomorrow: My New York Comic-Con schedule...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

This Is Not The Worst Thing You've Caught Me Doing

Why have I not been posting?

Because I've been writing this


and this

Four issues, starting in May (with the movie). It's a lot of work to write -- the tech and the military details all have to be right -- but Tony Stark is just a great, great character at this point. And I like the Alpha Team, too.

More soon!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Avengers / Transformers trade paperback

Out today. One volume, collecting the whole miniseries by me and Tyler Kirkham.

Below: the team-up you never thought you'd see -- Luke Cage of the New Avengers, and Ratchet of the Autobots. Discussing rescue strategy and the nature of command.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More on The Stranded


Eight things you may not know, at the Virgin blog.