Ellis, Warren Ellis declassifies his upcoming run on ‘James Bond’

Although he’s written his share of secret agents in the past — John Stone keeps popping into my head as I write this — Warren Ellis will soon get his hands on the ultimate super-spy when his run on Dynamite’s James Bond comic begins later this month.

Titled “VARGR,” the first story arc has Bond returning to London after a mission of vengeance in Helsinki, to take up the workload of a fallen 00 Section agent. In his latest Orbital Operations email, sent out this past weekend, Ellis shared several details about his upcoming run on James Bond — which, as a commission via the Ian Fleming estate, will feature the secret agent from the books rather than the movies. Or, as Ellis put it, “This is meant to be Fleming’s Bond.”

This job turned out to be both incredibly hard — I had to do a LOT of research, a lot of thinking, and a lot of reading to try and approximate Fleming’s method, and ended up writing a huge long treatment to assemble the thing — and incredibly easy, as the estate has been an absolute pleasure to work with. They even forgave me for not being able to resist a film-style cold open for the first issue. Come on. I might be writing the proper Bond, but some things are just too tempting, and I may never get another chance to do that.

Jason Masters is, of course, the other half of this book, and the other half of the Fleming method – he brings all the detail to the page, makes the world real and observed in the way Fleming did in prose. I feel a bit terrible for making him do things like Google Street View his way down the route I take into Friedrichshain from Mitte, but I can’t deny the pleasure of getting him to draw the TT tower or a favourite bar.

It’s a wintry book. I wanted to go to places I knew, more or less, as Fleming did. My Berlin is, perhaps, his Jamaica – a place I go to drink and think and write. And the first time I went to Berlin was in deep winter. I believe I finished my original outline in a coffee shop off Torstrasse. The front of that notebook was full of all the things I knew about Bond: his preferred breakfasts, the source of the shirts and suits he liked, the brand of cigarette he smokes when he can’t get his bespoke cancer sticks.

He adds that between Bond and Karnak, he’s looking forward to writing “a nice guy again.” If you haven’t checked out Karnak, oh man — he’s doing some really cool stuff with the Inhuman and S.H.I.E.L.D.; it’s worth it just to see Ellis’ take on Agent Coulson.

Check out the cover to James Bond and a few preview pages below.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Eric-Nolen Weathington on ‘Modern Masters: Paolo Rivera’

While Eric Nolen-Weathington’s Modern Masters Volume 30: Paolo Rivera was released late in 2014, this has been my first opportunity to chat with one of my favorite interviewers in the comics industry about his latest projects. Added bonus, I had no idea that Rivera was mentored by David Mazzucchelli, so that added another layer of enjoyment for this interview.

For fans of Jim Aparo, there is good news about the long-awaited Modern Masters edition. More immediately though the next Modern Masters subject will be J.H. Williams III.

Thanks to Eric for the interview.

Tim O’Shea: Who picked the cover choice and how was it selected?

Eric-Nolen Weathington: Paolo unfortunately did not have time to do a new piece for the cover. He was in the early stages of working on a commission at the time that we were hoping could double as the cover, a really nice Spider-Man piece. But it soon became apparent that the painting wouldn’t get done in time for the book solicitation. So, Paolo went through some of his previous commissions and found three that he liked enough to use for the cover. I did some sample layouts with each of the images, and it was clear that the FF painting worked the best, so that’s what we went with. Paolo’s wife, April, who is a graphic designer, then did the revised final cover that ended up on the book.

Did you know David Mazzucchelli taught him before starting research on this book. Am I right in thinking it proved to an enlightening topic?

Yes, I discovered in my research that Paolo had taken Mazzucchelli’s class at RISD, but I didn’t know the story of Mazzucchelli letting Paolo use his first job for Marvel as a class project, or that Mazzucchelli was critiquing the job as Paolo was working on it. I was just hoping for a little insight into Mazzucchelli’s teaching style, so that was a great bonus.

I would love to do a Modern Masters book on Mazzucchelli. I tried approaching him through a mutual acquaintance a few years ago, but I had no luck. He seems to be one of those guys who doesn’t like to talk about his work, at least not in that type of forum. I’ve run into that roadblock a few times unfortunately.

What Rivera treasures did he unearth that thrilled you?

I love looking at artists’ sketchbooks and thumbnails—the preliminary work where they’re either playing around with ideas, or fine-tuning a concept. There’s usually more energy in those drawings that what ends up on the printed page, plus it’s a look inside their creative process. I mean, that what the Modern Masters books are all about, really. For whatever reason, I really loved this silly Punisher sketch he did as a warm-up to a Spider-Man story. But I think my favorite of that stuff was this page of sketches he did for a Spider-Man/Sandman story he ended up not being able to do. His Sandman was soooo Ditko, and there was this little sketch where Sandman is sitting on a tiny deserted island, and he’s part of the island. The pose is both funny and sad, and it made me wish he could have drawn that story.

Also, being able to zoom in on a high-res scan of Paolo’s cover for Daredevil #10 was worth the price of admission alone.

Who looked more forward to chatting about H.J. Ward, you or Rivera?

Well, we hadn’t talked about him beforehand, so I don’t think Paolo knew we’d be talking about him. I’m a fan of the old pulp magazine artists, and Ward is one of my favorites, so I was very interested in what drew Paolo to his work. We probably could have gone at least a couple of pages talking about Ward, but I had to keep things rolling.

Were there any topics he was reluctant to talk about or was he open to any topic?

No, he was very open. He’s the one who brought up his breakup with his then-girl, now-wife, and how it affected his work and deadlines. Maybe that was easier to talk about since it all ended up positively, but no, there were no issues at all. Of course, I’m not digging for dirt in these books—that’s not what they’re about. But I do like to discuss emotional topics when they affect, either positively or negatively, the artist’s creative process, so I was very happy that Paolo didn’t downplay any of that.

Was it more critical to talk to him about the collaborative dynamics on DD with Waid or Wacker?

I think they’re equally important. I mean, when an artist is doing work-for-hire with Marvel or DC, they’re going to be working with both writers and editors—it’s unavoidable. And both can require the artist to make compromises in their work on some level. So, I think it’s worth discussing when those dynamics break down, and when those dynamics create a book as wonderful as Daredevil.

Did you dictate what topics that were covered or did Rivera have a say?

Paolo was familiar with the books, already owning a few, so he knew going in my general approach to the interviews, and we didn’t really need to discuss any of that beforehand. But I knew from his blog that Paolo is a process guy and likes to talk about that stuff, so I thought it would be great to take advantage of that and break down one cover in detail. I talked that over with Paolo before we started the interviews, so that he’d have time to document something if he didn’t have enough material like that on hand. Paolo was on board for it, and he picked the cover we used and wrote the text to go along with it, and it worked out pretty well, I think.

Any chance you know the backstory on the Madman (pg 125)?

That was a pin-up for Mike Allred’s Madman in Your Face 3-D Special that came out last November. Mike, another Modern Master subject by the way, likes to have other artists whose work he likes participate when he does projects like this. Mike asked Paolo if he could do something, Paolo was honored to be asked and said yes, and this was the result. Paolo also colored it, and for the Madmanbook, Christian LeBlanc converted it to a 3-D image. I don’t know if you’ve seen the book, but it was a cool little project. I thought it was a nice touch that Mike had Marcos Martin’s pin-up on the opposite page from Paolo’s.

Care to discuss your current design work, or whatever you work you have on the horizon?

I’ve always got more Modern Masters books in the pipeline, but none at the design stage yet. J.H. Williams III should be the next one up though. I’ve got two design jobs on my desk at the moment. One is issue #31 of DRAW! magazine. I’ve been the designer for several years now, and it’s been nice to work with so many different artists there.

The other project is a book written by my good buddy and sometimes collaborator, George Khoury, called Comic Book Fever. On the surface, it’s a love letter to George’s golden age, the mid-’70s to mid-’80s. He covers all, and I mean all, the things that made comics great during that period—the top artists, the coolest stories, and even the best of the ads, like Jack Davis’ “Street Ball” ad for Spalding basketballs. But when you look a little closer, the book is more than just a trip down memory lane. Although it’s not directly addressed, the book is also about how much the comic book industry changed in the ten years between 1976 and 1986. It’s been a blast to work on, but it’s labor-intensive. It’ll be out next spring, and I can hardly wait to get some reader feedback on it. I think people are going to love it.

And the long-awaited Jim Aparo book is getting closer to completion. We won’t be announcing a release date until the book is completely done, and there’s still a lot of work to be done, but the end is within sight now.

If you were to settle on a percentage would you say the Aparo book is 75% done? 

I’d say the text is about 80% done, but there’s also the design to do. I had done some design work for the two previous false starts, but I’ll probably end up having to scrap almost all of that.

Refresh my memory, why has the book had such a long journey.

For those that don’t know, the book is ten years in the making. It was started back when Jim was still alive, but he passed away just a couple of weeks before we were set to start the interviews. Needless to say, this required a complete retooling of the book. And during the process of figuring out what the book should become and how we could achieve that, more obstacles arose. I won’t go into all the details, but both myself and my then co-author were thrown into situations where we had no time to work on the book. It was through no fault of our own or of anyone else. It was just a couple of those curveballs life throws at you from time to time—the type of curveballs that get away from the pitcher and bean you in the elbow, and you’re not sure you can stay in the game. I think you’re familiar with those.

Anyway, long story short, for many years and a few different partners, we’ve had trouble wrangling the time and the material we needed to make a book worthy of Jim Aparo. But over the past two or three years, we’ve been able to get the book back on track, and we’ve been making slow and fairly steady progress, and now we’re finally to the point where the monkey I’ve been carrying on my back these past ten years is starting to loosen his grip and feel a little lighter.

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Waid, Wu reveal ‘The Lipstick Incident’ in ‘Archie’ #4

Find out why Archie and Betty broke up Nov. 25.

Fans of the relaunched Archie series have two things to look forward to in issue #4. First, of course, is the addition of artist Annie Wu, who joins writer Mark Waid on the series, and second, the revelation of what exactly “The Lipstick Incident” was.

“Finally, the details of the #Lipstic​kIncident are revealed as we see what exactly broke up the power couple of Archie Andrews and Betty Cooper–and you’ll never guess!” Waid said in a press release. Waid and Fiona Staples, who drew the first three issues, have had fun teasing what exactly “The Lipstick Incident” is in the pages of the previous issues, and it’s nice they won’t keep us guessing much longer. Wu’s been doing some killer work on Hawkeye and Black Canary, so it’ll be interesting to see what she does in rebooted Riverdale. To get a taste, check out some preview pages below, along with all the various variant covers for the book

Archie #4, by Waid, Wu, colorists Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn, and letterer Jack Morelli, arrives Nov. 25.

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‘Nowhere Men’ returns with new artist Dave Taylor

Taylor takes over as artist from Nate Bellegrade with issue #7, which arrives in January.

Nowhere Men, the “scientists-as-rock-stars” comic by Image co-publisher Eric Stephenson, artist Nate Bellegrade and Einser award-winning colorist Jordie Bellaire, will return in January with a new artist, Dave Taylor (Batman: Death by Design, Judge Dredd, Prophet).

“It’s very cool to work on something you admire,” Taylor said in the press release. “My respect for the first series is making me work extra hard to fulfil Eric’s concept to the end, in fact, this is the best work I’ve done for years.”

Issue #7 picks up after the cliffhanger that issue #6 left us with two years ago. “It’s really exciting to finally be returning to Nowhere Men,” Stephenson said in the press release. “I’ve admired Dave’s work since I first saw it back in the ‘90s, so learning that he was a fan of of Nowhere Men and interested in working on the book was nothing short of amazing. It’s awesome to be working with him, and I’m looking forward to seeing how his style develops as we further explore the landscape created by World Corp.”

The comic tells the story of a Beatle-esque group of scientists — Dade Ellis, Simon Grimshaw, Emerson Strange and Thomas Walker — as they rise in fame and subsequently fall pretty hard when their experiments take some dark and ghastly turns.

The change in artist comes as no surprise, as Bellegrade, who received an Eisner nomination for his work on the book, release two long essays on the comics’ delays and why he wouldn’t be continuing with the series this past summer (available here and here). In that second post, he noted:

To be very honest I would have to admit that I am to some degree angry in a very general and radiant sense. Reason would show that the only person I could be angry about in this situation is myself. It wouldn’t be reasonable to be angry with Eric for not continuing to wait for something he had no guarantee of ever occurring. It wouldn’t be reasonable to be angry with Jordie or Steven for taking his side either. I am angry and therefore I can only be angry at myself because I have unknowingly manufactured this outcome. I am angry because for the past five years the bulk of world-building and character design has been for story elements that have not yet come to pass and now they never will. Ideas for devices and architecture and fashion and cultural landmarks that have so far only existed in my head, stored for future use. Sketches for covers that will never see print, diagrams of Dr. Kurt McManus’ new physiology, drawings of paintings made by Daniel Pierce’s much older sister. I used to know what was going to happen to Dr. Susan Queen, but now I do not. The worldline where those things happen has closed off, the future where they were part of the story winked away into nothing, they were not destroyed but never occurred in the first place. So I am angry that, through my actions, the years of creative euphoria and collaboration where I felt anything was possible were torn away from meaning and crushed into nothing.

Bellegrade is a hell of an artist and left some big shoes for Taylor to fill on the title; best of luck to him as he moves on to his next project.

You can chekc out the covers for issues #7 and 8 below.

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Zander Cannon’s ‘Kaijumax’ returns for second season next May

Trade paperback collecting season one arrives in February for $9.99.

Oni Press has announced that Kaijumax, Zander Cannon’s excellent giant monster/prison mash-up comic, will return next May for a second season. In addition, the first season will arrive in trade paperback in February, for the low introductory price of $9.99.

“You like monsters? YEAH! You like prison? MAYBE! C’mon in and join me for Kaijumax Season 2; the first trade is big yet cheap so people can jump aboard, and I will try not to brutalize or kill off any beloved characters this season. No promises,” Cannon said in the press release.

Kaijumax, which probably shares more in common with Oz or Orange is the New Black than it does a Godzilla movie, features a prison for giant monsters that’s made up of all sorts of interesting characters, from the various monster inmates to the guards who keep an eye on them. Its large cast includes some of the most inventive characters we’ve seen in a long time, both visually and personality wise, and it mashes together genres to create something that embraces the silliness and seriousness of both. If you haven’t checked it out, the priced-to-move trade may be up your alley.

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All You Need to Know: ‘Invincible Iron Man’ #1

Invincible Iron Man #1 Variant Covor
Iron Man needs some work…

I have a love-hate relationship with the comic works of Brian Michael Bendis. Wait, that’s too strong a sentiment; I have a like-meh relationship with his comics.

On one hand, Bendis is a well-respected, intelligent author who has reformed a lot of how comics are being written these days, done a few landmark runs with Marvel characters and has pretty much set the tone for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the other hand, reading his books gets redundant, feels like you are going nowhere and doing nothing, and is choc-a-bloc with blithe dialogue that feels less like impassioned superhero speech than something overheard by a Starbucks barista. They can be a slog to get through at times, because they rarely feel like there’s going to be a payoff at the end of the storyline. Jonathan Hickman can be a similar slog, but at least by the end of the Fantastic Four run, for example, you’ve seen characters grow, change and come out the other side as new people. Bendis just feels like he puts the pieces back too carefully or breaks them irrevocably.

That’s not to say he’s not a good writer; there’s a reason Alias is becoming a Nexflix series and why the immensely popular Marvel movies have his signature dialogue. He gets big profile books because he is a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe right now, and if anyone needs a boost, it’s Iron Man. Kieron Gillen left tons of plot lines and big changes in his wake on the title and the Superior Iron Man series felt like we sidestepped all of that for a random new story that was quickly dropped for Secret Wars and its lead-in stories. Tony Stark is a mess, and Brian Michael Bendis is the man to shore him up and put the book back on the map.

But do you really want to chew through all those word bubbles? Let me get you settled on the ALL NEW ALL DIFFERENT Iron Man and you can be the judge.

WARNING: SPOILERS. Seriously, it’s in the title of this article you’re reading right now. Grab your copy of Invincible Iron Man #1 — no, not that one, the other one. The one from this year. Invincible Iron Man. Yeah. — and read along!

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Artists unite for ‘shiny and chrome’ Fury Road Fan Zine

Furiosa and the crew ride again in a new fanzine collecting fan art based on “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

One of the things I find fun about Tumblr is seeing how much influence pop culture has on the many artists I follow. For instance, “black suit” Daredevil was all the rage when the Netflix series debuted, while Mad Men tribute pieces had their day when the series ended. And let’s not even get into Donald Trump. But the one thing that’s really made a huge impact — I still see new images in my feed to this day — is George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

It’s no surprise, especially considering how the movie resonated with audiences. Two fans, Megan and Kera, also noticed all this fan art, and they’ve recruited about 80 artists to contribute their pieces to Fury Road Fan Zine. The project is currently looking for funding on Kickstarter so they can print up 220 copies for backers.

Although they loved the movie, they write on their Kickstarter page about their one disappointment:

But we were incredibly disappointed at the lack of merchandise available. Where’s our Bloodbag masks? Where’s our Valkyrie crow feather jackets? Where’s our Furiosa action figures?

(Really — where are the Furiosa action figures? That seems like something someone should start a petition about … oh, they did).

Megan and Kera plan to donate any extra money from the project to an as-yet-undecided women’s shelter. You can find a complete list of contributors, which includes comic artist Kris Anka, right here.

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Get a ringside seat for the ‘Muscle Temple’ comics anthology

Help drop-kickstart a new wrestling-themed comics anthology featuring Box Brown, Zac Gorman and more.

Comics and wrestling have been tag-team partners for years, whether you’re talking about comics starring wrestlers, wrestlers writing comics or even comic heroes fighting super villains in the ring. It’s no surprise that wrestling counts many comic creators among its fans, and several of those creators have come together to create Muscle Temple, an anthology of wrestling comics.

Spearheaded by Frank Gibson, the anthology features enough creators to fill a battle royal, including names from webcomics, alt.comix and animation. Together they will publish a “60ish” page, two-color comic featuring “funny and weird short comics and goofy illustrations about our love and passion … PRO WRESTLING!” The roster includes Box Brown (creator of Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, one of the best wrestling-themed comics in recent memory), Zac Gorman (creator of the wonderful Magical Game Time), Jimmy Chang (whose Secret Item World webcomic I’ve been binge-reading over the last few days), Rosemary Travale (The Champ), Sam Alden, Amanda Meadows and Geoffrey Golden of the now-defunct The Devastator, and many more.

They’re currently looking for funding via Kickstarter, with prizes that include limited edition prints, T-shirts and your very own stop-motion puppet by Rosemary Travale — and of course the book itself, which can be yours for $15 plus postage. Check out some art below, or visit their Tumblr to see more.

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Dead Hemingway headbutts an angel in ‘Exodus: The Life After’ preview

Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo created one of the past few years’ most interesting and original premises in The Life After, a story set in Purgatory where a man teams up with Ernest Hemingway to fight the divine powers that be.

The revolution continues Nov. 4 in Exodus: The Life After, a new miniseries that once again stars Jude and Ernest Hemingway, as Jude’s “life” is reset in Purgatory. Here’s how Oni Press describes the first issue:

Jude has been sent right back where he started: Purgatory. With no memory of his previous adventures or relationships, Jude’s existence is stark and empty. Yet, just outside his awareness, his friends—including the late, great Ernest Hemingway and a very tenacious preteen girl—struggle to free him. Because in the quest to overthrow God himself, the only person who stands a chance is his son.

Check out a preview of the first issue below. If you missed the first series, it’s been collected and can be found at finer comic shops or on comiXology.

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