“Marvel Style”…at DC

I gleaned this from a Newsarama interview with Keith Giffen and Dan DiDio, talking about their collaborative approach to writing and drawing O.M.A.C.

“Giffen: Where we are when it comes to doing O.M.A.C. is somewhere midway between full script and “Marvel style.” [snip]

Nrama: You’re doing something similar with Dan [Jurgens] on Superman, where you’re doing the dialogue after the art is done, right?

Giffen: Yeah. One of the things I know that DC has been pushing and would like to get back into is that kind of collaboration. A close collaboration.”

And a bit later, DiDio states:

“Just purely about how, when we were approaching the New 52, we really wanted a better synthesis between the artist and the writer, really working together as a team, as a tandem…”

Anyone who’s been watching DC’s evolution over the last few years can spot the trend of the publisher wanting more writer/artists creating their books, mainly by promoting their regular artists into the writer spot (one might say to the detriment of other writers, both veterans and up-and-comers…) But Giffen’s comment seems to speak to an initiative for a more plot/art/dialogue approach to creating comics, much like the old “Marvel style.”

I do like this approach, at least in theory. It tends to promote a more cohesive vision between the writer and artist, and I’ve certainly had some great experiences working in this style with a few collaborators (mainly fellow Columbusite and PANEL Collective member Andy Bennett). On the other hand, it can become a nightmare for the writer if the artist decides to go off on their own and just draw whatever they want, without much regard to the plot. Think late 80s/early 90s and the rise of the Image artists at Marvel, where veteran writers like Chris Claremont and Peter David had to rewrite entire issues after they saw what their artists decided to do with their original plots.

Anyway, I’ll be curious to see how many books in DC’s lineup adopt this trend.

Donating comics to Operation Gratitude

If you’re a comic book fan, then odds are you have thousands upon thousands of comics in your house. And there’s probably quite a few that you can easily part with. Like that issue #1 of a series you decided not to follow, books from Free Comics Book Day, old series you’ll never re-read, and miscellaneous mini-series or one-shots you have no idea why you picked up in the first place. I certainly had a bunch.

Over the years I’ve managed to thin out my collection a bit by giving out comics at Halloween, offering freebies at my booth at Comfest, and at other events. I was also aware of charities that donated comics to a good cause, like Operation Comix Relief, which sends them to troops overseas. However, when I contacted the organizer recently he informed me that he is not accepting donations at the moment, as he has a major backstock of donated books he still needs to process.

So after a bit of Googling, I came across a similar effort called Operation Gratitude, which is much larger in scope. From their website:

“Operation Gratitude annually sends 100,000 care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in hostile regions, to their children left behind and to Wounded Warriors recuperating in Transition Units. Our mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member’s face and express to our Armed Forces the appreciation and support of the American people.”

Since I had plenty of comics I no longer read or felt the need to keep, I decided to gather them up and send them off to a good cause via Operation Gratitude. I tried to get a good and varied mix of books: superheroes, indie books, color, black & white, fantasy, sci-fi, Marvel, DC, etc. And just for good measure I included a few of my own comics as well, plus some PANEL anthologies. All in all, I ended up with a box full of about 150 comics.

The box was is currently on its way to the Army National Guard armory in Van Nuys, California, where Operation Gratitude sorts and assembles all the donated items into standard care packages for shipping all over the country, and the world.

So if you’re anything like me, I’m sure you have plenty of comic books that you can easily part with from your collection. Please consider donating them to this great cause. For storage purposes, they prefer that donations of goods be made during the following date ranges: March 15 to May 5 & September 15 to December 5. So as of today, you have a week to get your goods shipped to them.

However, they accept letters and financial donations anytime. Drop by their informative website and see how you can help.

Neon Talking Super Street Bat Luge…Activate!

I never got into the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series as the show was a bit too campy for my tastes. Not that I had anything against it. I think it was a fun cartoon and certainly found an audience of fans both young and old. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

However, by coincidence I caught this week’s episode, which just happened to be the series finale. And wow, what an amazing ending to a fun, wacky show! Titled “Mitefall,” it featured Batmite, the imp from the 5th dimension with an unhealthy obsession with Batman, trying to get the “goofy” show cancelled to make room for a darker, edgier, “more dramatic” Batman series. Fanboy stand-in, anyone?

Anyway, Batmite’s strategy is to alienate the show’s viewing audience by making it “jump the shark” (which he does both literally and figuratively). He gives Batman a precocious little daughter, a Scrapy-Doo like canine sidekick, switches Aquaman’s voice actor to Ted McGinley, and introduces several ridiculous Batman outfits based on the toy lines we’re all familiar with (things like arctic explorer Batman). Oh, and then there’s the aforementioned Neon Talking Super Street Bat Luge.

Series writer Paul Dini turned in a fantastically subversive, self-referential script, both acknowledging and ridiculing many of the real world entertainment and business aspects of a show like this. I’m talking about demographics, toy lines, ad executives, ratings, etc. The episode wasn’t just meta, it was hyper meta.

Oh, and it also featured Ambush Bug.

Anyway, whether you were a fan of the show or not, I’d highly recommend this episode, if only for the in-jokes and meta-commentary. And the faux new Batman CGI cartoon hinted at in the end.

Bonus for Craig: in the opening sequence, Batman teams up with Abraham Lincoln to defeat a steampunk John Wilkes Booth!

Classy…Not!

I spotted this ad on a comic news site:

I believe that’s the textbook definition of irony.

For future reference, I think it’s safe to say that no art featuring women ever produced by J. Scott Campbell can accurately be described as “classy.” Porny, maybe.

DC Nation on Cartoon Network

Did you catch the teaser trailer during the Green Lantern animated show for the “DC Nation” block of shows coming to the Cartoon Network in 2012? If not, check it out below:

They showed one of the Aardman claymation Batman shorts, and it was charming. I’m digging the various animation styles featured in the trailer above, too. And there’s a Doom Patrol clip in there as well! Maybe it’ll be on the Young Justice show? Or a short? Whatever the case may be, I’m excited for this block of DC Comics-related animation.

PS. The Green Lantern show was pretty good, with solid writing and great action sequences. Too bad the CG animation style is a big turn off for me; they look like inflated plastic toys.

Interview on Writer’s Talk

I was a guest on Writer’s Talk, a local show hosted by Doug Dangler and produced by The Ohio State University’s Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing. Doug interviews writers in various fields and disciplines, “focusing on how they produce text and communicate in a variety of genres. Its purpose is to demystify and promote writing, especially for academic writers.”

The episode I was on also featured 2 other prolific Columbus comic creators: Ken Eppstein, editor, writer, and publisher of the Nix Comics Quarterly, and Max Ink, creator, writer, and artist of Blink.

In Columbus, the show will be broadcast on the radio at these times and locations:

– Monday, November 7, 7 pm., WCRS radio 98.3 & 102.1 FM
– Wednesday, November 9, 8:00 p.m., WCBE radio central Ohio’s NPR station, 90.5 FM

Or you can watch it right here:

My Spectre story in DC Universe Holiday Special 2010 #1

December 8, 2010 saw the release of my first work as a writer for DC Comics, in the form of an 8-page Spectre story in the DC Universe Holiday Special 2010 #1. (Aside to FOX “News”: yes, that’s right. Holiday Special. Not Christmas Special. Because all your fears were correct, there really is a War on Christmas (TM) and guess who contributed to it? Me. An Iranian! Gasp! And my story deals with Norouz, the Persian New Year. So yes, feel free to invite me to one of your fine programs and browbeat and berate me in the name of saving America and its children. Any of them will do, The Hannity Factor, or Glenn O’Reilly, or any of the half dozen shows hosted by Fox Interchangeable Attractive Blonde Female Reporter Standard Model #B-726.)

Er, sorry. Where was I? Oh right, the DC Holiday Special. It’s a one-shot, costs $5, and in it you’ll find six 8-page stories featuring various DC Universe characters from different timelines dealing with an aspect of the season. And it’s all wrapped up under a nice Matt Haley cover:

DC UNIVERSE HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2010 #1

Written by DAN ABNETT & ANDY LANNING, SETH ALBANO, TONY BEDARD, JOEY CAVALIERI, KEVIN GREVIOUX and DARA NARAGHI
Art by RENATO ARLEM, ROBERTO CASTRO, RICHARD & TANYA HORIE, CARLO SORIANO and more
Cover by MATT HALEY

From the dawn of time (Anthro) to the far-flung future (Legion of Super-Heroes), sentient life has honored the winter holidays with celebrations and rituals as diverse as the universe itself! Join DC Comics – and a stellar team of writers and artists – to honor the vast and diverse holidays of the DC Universe in 6 tales of holiday cheer! Starring the aforementioned characters along with Superman, The Spectre, Jonah Hex, and Green Lantern John Stewart for a HOLIDAY SPECIAL like no other!

So I thought it would be fun to show a tiny bit of the process behind creating my story. We’ll just look at the first page. First up, my script for page 1:

Suggested Page Layout: 1 x 1

PANEL 1: Wide/Large, about 3/4 page. We open with a dramatic shot of The Spectre flying high over Tehran, Iran. It’s a sunny spring day, with the clear blue sky and the snow-capped mountain range in the background nicely juxtaposed against the densely populated urban sprawl below. (References: with mountains here and here, without mountains here)

1. Masthead/Logo: The Spectre

2. Caption (credits): “The Gift”
Dara Naraghi – Writer, etc.

3. Caption: Tehran, Iran. On the eve of the vernal equinox.

4. Caption (Crispus): Being what you’d call a non-believer, the holidays, to me, were always more about spending time with family than anything else.

5. Caption (Crispus): But after my death, they lost even that meaning.

6. Caption (Crispus): So this year, I ditched the painful memories at home for the far corners of the world. I’ve been at it for a few months.

PANEL 2: Wide. The Spectre is now “landing” on a busy street in a rich part of town, lined with high-end stores and boutiques. Show several young, attractive, trendy Iranian women carrying shopping bags. (References: here and here) Also show a beggar sitting on the sidewalk, panhandling.

7. Caption (Crispus): Guess there are a few perks to being The Spectre’s human host. No borders. No jet lag.

8. Caption (Crispus): And apparently no need for a Farsi translator. I understand what everyone around me is talking about.

9. Caption (Crispus): From the rich…

10. Caption (Crispus): …to the poor.

You’ll notice a lot of “here” and “here” talk in the descriptions. That’s where I linked to URLs of photo references for the artist in my Word document; I just didn’t reproduce them in the sample above.

Anyway, next step is the pencils, which were provided by Tom Derenick:

The pencils were then inked by Norm Rapmund, and a proof of the initial lettering was done, in this case featuring the lettering of Travis Lanham:

And finally, here’s the finished page, including colors by Chris Beckett. You’ll notice some of the lettering on the story title was tweaked from the previous stage:

And of course, editor Mike Carlin guided the whole book through from start to finish, assisted by Rachel Gluckstern. So there you have it, the magic of comic book creation, demystified.

The only small downer is that a couple of lettering mistakes that were caught during the production phase somehow didn’t get corrected before printing, and ended up in the final product. Oh well, nothing can be done about it now. I’m still quite happy with the story, and hope you’ll enjoy it as well.

So if you picked up the book, drop me an email or leave a comment below and share your thoughts. What worked and what didn’t? I’d love to hear from you.

Short story in Dark Horse Presents #4

My autobiographical story “The Protest” will see print in Dark Horse Presents #4, shipping to comic shops everywhere September 21, 2011.

Here’s a look at the official solicitation, and the two different covers for the book, by the talented Ms. Fiona Staples:

…and Mr. Geof Darrow:

Dark Horse Presents #4 – 80 color pages – no ads – $7.99

The hallmark anthology continues with another spectacular eighty-page issue! In this installment, stories by creators Howard Chaykin (The Chronicles of Solomon Kane), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), and Sanford Greene continue. Joined by exciting new shorts from Ricardo Delgado and Jim Campbell, Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, and Filipé Melo, this issue is certain to have something for everyone! Plus, the first chapters of brand-new Beasts of Burden and Criminal Macabre stories! If that wasn’t enough, we’ve included another demented strip by Patrick Alexander and an exclusive interview with Geof Darrow!

And here’s a look at a page from my story, illustrated by my frequent artistic partner in crime, Victor Santos:

Set in Iran, post-Islamic revolution, “The Protest” is a story of growing up during turbulent times, class bullies, and unexpected outcomes.

Short story in the CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Liberty Annual is a comics anthology featuring big name comic book creators, as well as some up-and-coming young’uns such as yours truly, whose sale benefits the CBLDF. This year’s book is 48 full color pages, retailing for $5, and will be available mid-October from Image Comics.

The 2011 edition comes with two covers, from personal favorite Matt Wagner (featuring his Grendel character) and fan favorite John Cassaday (featuring Uncle Sam). Here’s the solicitation for the book:

CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011

story MATT WAGNER, J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI, KAZIM ALI, DARA NARAGHI, J.H. WILLIAMS III, MARK WAID, CARLA SPEED MCNEIL, AJ LIEBERMAN, MICHAEL BRAMLEY, STEVE NILES, BRANDON MONTCLARE, JUDD WINICK, RICHARD STARKINGS

art MATT WAGNER, KEVIN SACCO, CRAIG THOMPSON, CHRIS MITTEN, J.H. WILLIAMS III, JEFF LEMIRE, CARLA SPEED MCNEIL, RILEY ROSSMO, FRANK QUITELY, SHANE DAVIS, FRED HEMBECK, MICHAEL MONTENAT & JACK PURCELL, JOËLLE JONES, GREG LAND, GREG HORN, THIAGO MICALOPULOS & RODNEY RAMOS, DUSTIN NGUYEN, DAVE COOPER, IVAN REIS, SHAKY KANE

cover A JOHN CASSADAY
cover B MATT WAGNER

OCTOBER 12
48 PAGES / FC / M
$4.99

A COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND BENEFIT BOOK!

Stand Up For Your Rights! Censorship is the ultimate form of bullying. Censors want to take away the power people have to think, speak, or create freely. In CBLDF LIBERTY ANNUAL 2011, Legendary Editor BOB SCHRECK gathers an all-star line-up of comics creators to stand up to those censoring bullies with 48 powerful pages of ALL NEW story and art about standing up for your rights! All proceeds from this book benefit the important First Amendment work of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, who’ve been fighting censorship in comics for 25 years!

This year’s Liberty Annual includes incredible contributions, including all-new original stories by superstars J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI, FRANK QUITELY, J.H. WILLIAMS III, STEVE NILES, JUDD WINICK, MARK WAID, and CARLA SPEED MCNEIL. Plus, new tales featuring GRENDEL by MATT WAGNER, COWBOY NINJA VIKING by AJ LIEBERMAN & RILEY ROSSMO, and ELEPHANTMEN by RICHARD STARKINGS & SHAKY KANE. Plus a massive, and first ever color story from indy comics master CRAIG THOMPSON! Even Marvel and DC have stepped up to show their support all-new pin-ups including BATMAN by DUSTIN NGUYEN, X-MEN by GREG LAND, GREEN LANTERN by IVAN REIS, and THE AVENGERS by GREG HORN!

All proceeds from CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011 will benefit the important First Amendment legal work of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians and readers.

My contribution is a 3-page autobiographical short on the topic of freedom of religion. Titled “The Conversion,” it deals with an incident that happened to me in Iran when I was a kid. Here’s a sneak peek at page 1, featuring the artwork of Christopher Mitten:

Please ask your retailer to save you a copy, and remember that it benefits the work of the fund in fighting censorship and protecting comic creators’ first amendment rights.

Witch & Wizard: Battle for Shadowland

Released in October 2010, the hardcover collection of my Witch & Wizard: Battle for Shadowland debuted at #4 on the New York Times Best Sellers List (Hardcover Graphic).

It was also #9 on Amazon.com’s best selling graphic novels. Now, I know that the popularity is based on the James Patterson name recognition, but hey, I’ll take it. It’s good practice for when one of my own creations eventually makes it to the top of the sales charts.

Collecting the 4-issue limited series from IDW Publishing, Battle for Shadowland is an original story based on the characters and settings from James Patterson’s young adult novel, Witch & Wizard. The story takes place between books 1 and 2 of the prose series.

“In a blink of an eye, their world has changed, with the oppressive New Order declaring all magic as evil incarnate! In this action-packed graphic novel spinning out of best-selling author James Pattersons’s #1 novel, sibling teenagers Whit & Wisty Allgood use their newly discovered magical powers to infiltrate into enemy territory of the New Order to gain control of the inter-dimensional Shadowland.”

The artwork is provided by talented Spanish artist, Victor Santos. I’ve had a blast working with Victor; his work is dynamic, fun, and full of energy. Here’s a look at his illustration for the cover of the trade paperback edition:

…and a page from the book, showing most of our main and supporting characters, starting with his pencils:

Followed by his inks:

And finally colored by Jamie Grant (All-Star Superman):

And given that IDW Publishing has fully embraced the digital distribution of comics, the book is also available through the Apple App Store for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and on the PSP through Sony’s Digital Comics storefront.

And finally, here’s a peek at an alternate cover for issue #2, courtesy of Brazilian artist Fabio Moon. First, his concept sketch:

And next the finished cover:

You can purchase a copy through any book store, comic shop, or on Amazon.com