menu

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ken Lashley talks Milestone Comics and toy collecting with DC in the 80s

This interview started innocently enough: I was walking through artist's alley at the 2018 Ottawa Comiccon when I spotted a full-color Barbara Gordon Batgirl illustration in Ken Lashley's art portfolio spread out on the table in front of him. I was familiar with Ken for being the recent artist on X-Men: Gold, but that's about as far as my knowledge went.  Ken agreed to be interviewed and now you have context.

Ken Lashley smiles up at us. Photo source: Justin F

DC in the 80s: Good afternoon, Mr Lashley. How are you enjoying this comic con?

Ken: It's fun -- it's Canada, my home country. It's always great to do a show in Canada... I do a lot of international shows... so it's always good to be sort of home. Familiar territory.

DC80s: I see you inking an Infinity Gauntlet cover here... [note: it was a variant cover commission for a fan]

Ken: Yep. (happily)

DC80s: Were you reading [Starlin, Perez and Lim's] Infinity Gauntlet when it was first released in 1991? Was that a book you remember picking up in the 90s?

Ken: No, actually I didn't... I didn't buy it. Y'know, I was aware of it, but I didn't buy it in the 90s. I was very specific in the things that I liked back then, and it was out of my scope and realm. I was in school back then, so the funds weren't there to buy all the things you were looking at. I was an X-Men guy. I was buying X-Men and sporadic issues of Image Comics and the Death of Superman -- things you buy here and there -- but most of the time I was buying X-Men stuff.

Ken Lashley's cover for 2014's Superman Doomed.
Yep, that's Doomsday.

DC80s: So, you were mostly a casual comics fan who was really into X-Men?

Ken: Well, I wouldn't really say 'casual' -- you're in school so your budget is limited, right? "I can only afford 2 books a month, so I'm gonna get the X-Men book and something else that my eyes fancy." Don't get me wrong, I went to the stores and looked at them, but I couldn't purchase them at the time.

DC80s: Oh yeah, it was the same deal for me when I was younger. I used to spend lots of time digging through back issues bins for the less-expensive comics (think: 50 cent bin) -- it allowed me to pick up a four issue mini-series for the price of one new comic on the shelves.

DC80s: So what are you working on right now, project-wise?

Ken: I just wrapped up X-Men: Gold, so I just left that and I'm now working on a new Milestone relaunch: Icon & Rocket with Reggie Hudlin -- so I'm doing that. It's very much a 90s thing.

[This is the first I've heard of a Milestone Comics relaunch, so I was quite surprised by this info.]

DC80s: Yes! I had the cards! The Milestone: The Dakota Universe trading cards!



Ken: It's great to be doing it. That's what I was trying to explain a few minutes ago -- it didn't latch on to me then [in the 90s]. I knew it [Milestone] was out there, I looked through the stuff. Denys Cowan is an amazing artist, and it's kinda crazy that I can call him a friend, now.

Ken: So now I'm working on Icon & Rocket and it's an amazing opportunity for me. Getting a chance to work on some of those amazing characters, getting to give my spin on it. Y'know? It's an amazing opportunity to work with some of the most revered black comic books in the history of this business. It's really exciting.

DC80s: I was there on the ground floor; I was collecting comics at the time. Milestone came out and they launched with Icon & Rocket, there was Static, there was Hardware...

Ken: ...Blood Syndicate...

DC80s: Yeah! I remember all those characters from collecting the trading cards. The thing is: the first 3 or 4 issues of the Milestone books were in the newsstands -- I must've been about 11 or 12 at the time and I was buying them from my local corner store. Back then, you'd go to the your corner store and pick your comics off of a spinner rack.



Ken: What's a 'comic book store'? You buy them at the grocery store, you buy them at the variety store. You never went to the comic book store. There was no comic book stores in my neighborhood.

DC80s: We had one comic book store in our small town and my mom forbade me from going there because she felt all the adults hanging out there were sketchy.

Ken: "Sketchy comic book people"? Ha. I love it! (laughing)

DC80s: And the thing is, after the 3rd or 4th issue, they just weren't on the shelves anymore. I didn't really hear about them or see them again until the whole Worlds Collide cross-over event (Milestone characters and the Superman Family characters met up).




DC80s: Can you talk a bit about your new work on Icon & Rocket?

Ken: I wish I could tell you more about it, but I can't. I'll just say that it's an amazing and interesting thing, and it's very timely. It's not an OLD story spun and retold -- it's a current story that uses those Milestone characters.

DC80s: I'm remembering that Icon was an alien, and Rocket is a human with an alien belt that gives her powers...

Ken: Yeah! Very good! So far, so good! (laughs)

DC80s: ...and I'm drawing a blank after that. I think at some point she meets up with Superboy (clone of Superman) and they date?

Ken: Well, they folded those characters into the main DC universe, so you see them having interactions with the other DCU characters over the years. It's great to be able to have them, but this will be the M-universe -- it's going to be a universe unto themselves. I'm not sure if there's going to be a cross-over with the main DCU, but the M-universe is part of the multiverse. So it's still part of the DCU, we're just not in their DIRECT universe. There might be some kind of interaction at some point -- we'll see.


Rocket (of Icon & Rocket) is a member of Young Justice in the animated series.


DC80s: In the past few years, what else has been keeping you busy?

Ken: Well, I've worked on X-Men: Gold, I've worked on a lot of different covers -- I'm a bit of a cover guy -- I've worked for Hasbro toys, so I've done a lot of package art for different things. I'm currently doing the package art for X-Men Legends -- so I do the blister part for that -- I've worked on G.I. Joe, I've worked on Transformers, I've worked on a lot of different things over the years. I've done some covers for Superboy, some covers for Black Lightning... a lot of cool stuff.


Ken Lashley covers


DC80s: Speaking of Transformers... when I was younger -- again, talking about the 80s -- Transformers were too expensive. I had one or two...

Ken: (starts laughing) So you're a GO-BOT guy?

DC80s: (laughs) No... it was G.I. Joes. For some reason, my family (I had a HUGE family with about 14 aunts and uncles) would spoil me me with G.I. Joes for Christmas. I guess because they were at a cheaper price point? But I wouldn't just get action figures, I'd also get the vehicles and playsets.

Ken: Well, you can't go wrong with GI Joe. There's, like, eight thousand G.I. Joes.

G.I. Joe poster illustrated by Ken Lasley

DC80s: Did you collect G.I. Joes, too?

Ken: No,... it's weird,... my parents -- they knew I drew so they gave me papers and pencils -- but as far as buying toys and stuff, I never got that stuff. But trust me, when I became an adult, and I could make my own choices with my own money, I bought a few things. (laughs)

Ken: My collection is pretty crazy: I've got artwork, I've got toys -- I went to Japan and bought a suitcase full of robots -- I mean it was just an amazing time. I've spent a LOT of money on a LOT of crazy fun stuff. So now my wife is like "you're going to need a display case or something to put all this cool stuff". I have a full-sized Silver Surfer in my house from when the movie came out -- it's the 3D mannequin that was in the movie theater. It's in my house... with the board and everything. Dude, I am THAT guy. (laughs)

DC80s: What's your Holy Grail? Your most prized possession?

Ken: My Holy Grail were probably the robots I got in Japan. They were die-cast metal -- Shogun robots and all that stuff on my side table... and my Gamora and all that stuff. As far as comic book art Holy Grail goes, I have two pages of original Jim Lee art from his early X-Men run. So, yeah, I've got two X-Men pages -- and those are my most amazing things ever.

DC80s: Wow. Very cool. Judging from this Thanos you're sketching, I can't wait to see your new Milestone project. Thanks for chatting with us.

Ken: Anytime!


We're going to leave off with some Ken Lashley interior art. He's illustrated tons of stuff for Marvel Comics, but he's also done some interiors for DC comics (as far back as 1998):

interiors for Firestorm The Nuclear Man #33 (2007) 


interiors from Green Lantern: Secret Files #2 (1998)

-Justin

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Erik Tramontana reviewing 1988's The Weird mini-series



In the course of my ongoing Justice League International reread, I saw ads for a series I’d never heard of called The Weird. I was a little hesitant at first, but Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson, the creative team that gave the world Batman: The Cult? I couldn’t pass this up. So I bit the bullet and got the series on ebay for $3.50 plus shipping. Why such a low price, I wondered, and why haven’t I ever seen a collected edition before?

Turns out, it’s complicated. This series has phenomenal Bernie Wrightson superhero art, some of Jim Starlin's trippiest concepts ever, and yet it somehow remains excruciatingly boring. If you cut the fat and trimmed this four-issue miniseries into an 80-Page Giant, we’d likely be talking about it in the reverent tones we reserve for early Vertigo, but -- as it stands -- it is more of a curiosity of Post-Crisis "Throw Everything Against the Wall and See What Sticks" DC. Join me as I learn Who Is... What Is... THE WEIRD.

In the slums of Metropolis, a guy is doing some sort of occult ritual in his seedy apartment. The ritual somehow causes a huge explosion of light over the city.




Superman investigates and discovers a construct of pure energy. He tries to touch it and the entity knocks him backwards three miles, in the first of many physical comedy routines peppered throughout the book. Captain Atom and J’onn J’onnz show up to check it out, bringing the rest of the Justice League with them.



A note in the beginning of the issue says that the story takes place before Justice League International v1 #7 (1987), which explains why Doctor Fate is still with the team.

Fate and Guy Gardner can’t figure out what the being is, and it is resisting the Green Lantern ring’s probe, so Guy turns up the juice a bit. The energy being explodes again and blacks out the city (and Blue Beetle’s Bug along with it), and knocks Guy unconscious.

The construct splits into two smaller pieces and looks as though it is about to attack the city. One of the pieces floats around the GENEX genetic research lab, while the other lands in a funeral home and disappears with the body! Batman thinks the creature is trying to build itself a body to contain its energy, because Batman is a scientist. The creature blows up a chunk of a building but disintegrates the rubble before any can reach the ground and hit an innocent bystander.

Guy tries to contain the being inside a forcefield, only to have it emerge as if from a cocoon minutes later, in this psychedelic two-page spread:




And what emerges is this:




No, it’s not EC Comics Horror Host The Old Witch, this handsome devil is The Weird himself. The League brings the now-humanoid creature to STAR Labs and discovers that its organs are not yet fully-formed even though he appears to be an adult. Superman uses microscopic vision to determine that its alien molecular structure is unstable as an atomic bomb, and the reaction could level Metropolis at any moment. Beetle pulls a 'Cisco Ramon' and names the creature.

Guy is wrong here. It is NOT a good name.


Batman wants to take The Weird to Mars for study, but The Weird won’t allow himself to be apprehended. The Weird walks right through Guy’s ring constructs in another physical comedy routine, and then Doctor Fate tries unsuccessfully to teleport him away.

The Weird eludes the League embarrassingly easily and shows up at Jason Morgan’s apartment (remember, the half-face guy casting spells?) but Morgan isn’t home. Morgan isn’t home, so The Weird goes to check in on the family of the dead guy from the funeral home. The little kid sees him and says “Dad?”




END OF ISSUE ONE, and if the whole thing ended here the story would be all the better for it. I LOVED this first issue. It’s funny, it looks great, it’s intriguing -- it reminded me of the early issues of The Sandman, when Martian Manhunter or John Constantine would show up to help the reader make sense of this strange new comic. Plus it’s got the great Todd Klein on letters, just as The Sandman did throughout its run. But, unfortunately, here on Earth-Prime the series went on for three more issues.

Issue two picks up where we left off, as TV reporter Lance Armstrong (ha!) explains what happened in issue one. Military guys ask Superman to find The Weird and also please don’t mention that he has an unstable molecular structure that could blow up Metropolis or maybe even the world.

Batman does a bit of Bwa-Ha-Haing, but it’s Batman so the joke doesn’t really land (picture Lieutenant Holt on Brooklyn 99):





The Weird flies Billy to the beach for some father-son bonding.



Billy drops some next-level 1980s slang:




The Weird explains that Billy’s Dad’s body is his host -- he has all of his memories and looks like him, but is something bigger than before. The Weird has super strength, can alter his molecular density, and can affect energy. Then there is like seven pages of wacky exposition.



There are these energy beings, you see, called Macrolatts and Zorolatts, and The Weird was a Zorolatt. He hated his crappy life being subservient to the Macrolatts, so he came to Earth where he’d be powerful, using this dimensional bridge. So far so good.

“The Jason” is one of the bad guy Macrolatts who merged with a skid row bum so they could stabilize the dimensional bridge.




The Weird liked Earth enough to try and stop the Macrolatts from taking over so he jumped through after them, wrecking the bridge in the process. "The Jason" must be prevented from re-opening the bridge.

The Weird leaves Billy and flies off to confront The Jason but is stopped by Superman. Superman chases him through Metropolis in some scenes of top-notch physical comedy. The Weird causes a building to collapse on Superman to buy himself some time.




The news is now reporting that The Weird is unstable and highly dangerous. The Weird wastes no further time confronting The Jason at his apartment.




They do battle in Jason’s apartment bathroom. The JLI are on the scene! During the fight there’s an explosion and Guy is prevented from getting in. Doctor Fate uses protective spells to save the civilians.



The Jason puts an energy shield up around the building to prevent the outsiders from interfering in the fight.

During the battle, Jason tells his sob story -- dead dad, drunk mom murdered, nothing ever good enough, homeless, garbage man, prison, booze -- until the Macrolatts promised to make him as special as he’d always believed himself to be.

More physical comedy ensues.



The Weird tries to reason with Jason but it’s no use. Jason traps him in a bubble and tries once again to open the dimensional bridge. The Weird realizes that if he goes critical mass then he could blow up the bubble -- and a chunk of Metropolis with it. He decides it’s worth the risk.

Two Macrolatts make it through the portal.



Sadly, The Weird realizes he must kill The Jason to save the Earth. He dies right around the same time as my enthusiasm for this miniseries.

Meanwhile, Superman gets hit with a bolt of energy while flying, and, bizarrely, Nuklon from Infinity Inc disappears (Nuklon’s sudden appearance makes me wonder if this story was originally intended for the Satellite Era League, with Firestorm playing the Nuklon role. As is, it’s a weird and jarring intrusion on a fairly self-contained story).

J’onn becomes tangible and knocks out The Weird. Batman instructs Guy to take him off-planet, but suddenly Superman and Nuklon are possessed by Microlatts!



There’s a big fight with Supes and Nuklon vs the Justice League. The Weird is all, "we can’t defeat the Macrolatts and it’s pointless to even try," and frankly I agree with him. I could not care less about any of this at this point. Batman and Superman have a Dark Knight Returns style throw-down that nearly kills Batman and it’s like 'Meh'.



Macrolatt Superman and Nuklon rage through the city. The Weird bows down before them and knocks out Batman to demonstrate his loyalty to his Macrolatt overlords. The Weird offers to let the Macrolatts absorb him and assist in their takeover, all they need to do is reach out and touch him but…

meme from imgur.com. original creator: unknown

The Weird absorbs the Macrolatts and prevents the invasion. Unfortunately, he still has that pesky unstable molecular structure.

The first thing he does is build a giant ship in a bottle, as a gift to Billy. They have a tearful goodbye.

The second thing he does is ask the JLI to take him to an empty planet to die.

He goes nuclear.
THE END


Well, that’s over with. It started out so promising, but by the time I got to issue 3 it became a total slog. I would love to know the behind-the-scenes of this story because I have a million questions.

 I wouldn’t recommend reading the story, necessarily, but if you happen to find a copy of Mystery in Space Vol 2 at the library or flea market by all means pick it up and flip through. It’s worth a look for the Looney Tunes-esque action slapstick fight scenes, and for the bizarre spectacle of seeing Justice League International in a Karen Berger proto-Vertigo comic. It’s no Infinity Gauntlet or Cosmic Odyssey (and it’s definitely no Batman: The Cult), but it is trippy Jim Starlin sci-fi so how can you lose.

You may NOT remember seeing The Weird on your local spinner rack (or even in the comic book shop you frequented), but you MAY remember this full-page appearing in various 'comic journalism' publications (notably Amazing Heroes):

the ad had the same art as the cover of The Weird #1 (1988), which was illustrated by Bernie Wrightson.




-Erik

Erik Tramontana is a teacher, a dad, and a lifelong Batman fan. He blogs about 1990s DC comics at jlaclassified.tumblr.com, and we're really grateful that he writes these amazing reviews for us. View more of his DC in the 80s reviews.




If you liked this article, you may also enjoy:

-Mark Belkin's interview with Jim Starlin at the 2018 Albany Comic-Con



Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Neal Adams explains Deadman, Batman Odyssey and Coming of the Supermen

On May 11th 2018, Ottawa had the honor of featuring Neal Adams as a guest at the 2018 Ottawa Comiccon. I could not wait to interview him. I had just finished reading his new Deadman series, and had plenty of follow-up questions for him. This was the interview that ensued:

Deadman #4 (2018). Cover by Neal Adams.

Justin: "I've been dying to ask you about your NEW Deadman material. It's brand new -- released this year -- six issues have been released... and you have a sequel planned: Batman: Demigods War"

Neal: "That's true."

Justin: "Your work on the Deadman feature (in 1968's Strange Adventures) is still fresh in mind. You were writing this feature before it got cancelled due to bad marketing/poor sales..."

Neal: "No, it got cancelled because the whole of the comic book industry was imploding on itself. The comic book companies were taking returns from the distributors and nobody knew what was selling or what wasn't selling. The comic book business was on it's way down -- and if it wasn't for the direct sales business to comic book stores -- it probably would've went out of business, because the business being done was SO BAD it didn't seem like there was going to be any way to save it. Titles like Batman were failing, Superman was failing, it was a terrible time."

page from Strange Adventures #217 (1968). art by Neal Adams.


Justin: "Deadman had a HUGE cult following... fans loved it... yet it got cancelled..."

Neal: "Which is weird, y'know? How is it that we have all these collected [Deadman] issues, it gets reprinted all the time, and somehow it got cancelled? It didn't make any sense."

Justin: "They reprinted your Strange Adventures material in the mid-80s, and -- based on fan reaction to that -- they decided 'alright, let's finish Neal's Deadman story'. It didn't go to you, though, instead it went to Andrew Helfer for some reason. He wrote a Deadman mini-series that... just didn't take off. It looked as if they were hoping to turn it into a regular ongoing series, but it didn't gain momentum..."

Neal: "Well, there's a problem with Deadman, and the problem is basically this: everybody has a standard format that they do comics in, and when they come up with a NEW character -- whether it's Daredevil or whoever -- essentially what they do is 'The Adventures of Daredevil' or 'The Adventures of Deadman' or 'The Adventures of [insert character here]', but they're not doing a story ABOUT the character. The thing about Deadman is that Deadman is DEAD. The guy is DEAD. It's HIS story. People just don't die [and keep hanging around as a ghost], y'know? If they die and they're still around, that's a unique situation. It shouldn't be about how Deadman rescues a cat out of a tree, it's about Deadman -- and that's what the story SHOULD BE about. And, unfortunately, the people that were doing Deadman were doing 'The Adventures of Deadman' and rescuing cats in a tree. It's not what we want."

Justin: "So that was a wash -- the mini-series didn't go anywhere. Later in the 80s, Mike Baron wrote a few Deadman one-offs for Vertigo, and there's been a whole bunch of other stuff since then (ex: Brightest Day, Justice League Dark)... now you're getting a chance to re-tell YOUR original story and how you wanted to conclude it. And frankly, it's crazy..."

panel from Deadman #1 (2018). Art by Neal Adams.


Neal: "That's the idea. I don't want to conclude it. The idea is that this is a story ABOUT Deadman. It's as if you said 'okay, let's do a story about Superman, but we're not going to make it about Superman's adventures (as he rescues people and does stuff), it's about Superman and Krypton and his life and sitting on a psychiatrist's couch and whatever it is that Superman does. It's ABOUT Superman.' Okay, you're not going to do THAT, but Deadman is the kind of character you CAN do that with. Let's say you were going to make a film about Deadman. You're not going to make a story of the adventures of Deadman... it's going to be ABOUT Deadman -- the same way that the Hellboy film is ABOUT Hellboy. There's enough density in the character to tell his story. It's just that I started it, and then other people did 'The Adventures of' -- which is NOT what it was about -- and now I'm back doing the story of Deadman."

[Anyone who's reading this, before you continue, I'm going to warn you that there's SPOILERS coming up. Neal Adams' new six-issue Deadman series, his Superman: Coming of the Supermen (2017) and Batman Odyssey (2010/2011) is fantastic stuff and I'd strongly encourage you to pick it up and read it before continuing.]

Justin: "Regarding your new Deadman material... it's great stuff. I'm getting a very Silver Age vibe from it. There's a few things in here..."

Neal: "You see, I don't think it's Silver Age at all. Lookit, there's a reason why DC comics and Marvel comics reprint my stuff --  it's timeless. Green Lantern and Green Arrow is timeless. Deadman is timeless. Superman vs Muhammad Ali could be Superman vs Mike Tyson (or another boxer of today), except -- of course -- Muhammad Ali was very unique in his way.  These stories are timeless and you can keep on reprinting them. Deadman is DEAD -- you don't set it in a time -- he's dead. If [GuillermoDel Toro decided to make a Deadman story, he'd make it about today, right? ...and that's what it's about. If you read the Deadman story that we have now, it's about NOW.  When he goes into the next story where he goes to get the help of the greatest detective in the world (Batman), we're not going thirty years in the past...  it's Batman and Deadman today."


[Okay, so here's the part where I confess that I did read Neal's new Deadman series, but thought it was a retcon set in the past. I stand corrected. This actually created more questions than answers. Read on.]


Neal: "Now Deadman -- take all the old Deadman stories and ramp 'em forward, and now let's tell the story again. I can't go back and re-do those stories, but I can do the new ones. I'm having a great time." [laughs]

Justin: "I can see that, and it shows. You've revealed some new things about Deadman (i.e., he had a brother and sister we didn't know about) and then your whole series ends with a cliff-hanger that potentially reveals that his brother might be Ra's Al Ghul. That's what I'm leading to assume, unless there's something I'm missing?"



[Neal looks really excited -- like he's going to burst. The kind of look when you have a really great secret but can't tell anyone.]

Neal: "It can't be. It can't be Ra's Al Ghul."

Justin: "It looked like him."

Neal: "It looked like him. What the hell's the deal with that?"

Justin: "I don't know, but I'm guessing you've got something good cooked up."

Neal: "I certainly do."

Justin: "All this to say, it's a very entertaining comic and I'm loving it and the direction it's headed."

Neal: "Well, this is what I suggest. I suggest that people read Batman Odyssey before reading my newest Deadman series..."

Justin: "...because they're all connected?"

Neal: "Oh yes! It ALL connects."

Justin: "So is this like a Neal-Adams-Universe type of thing? Earth-Adams?"

Neal: "No, I'd say it's THIS universe. The universe that we in comic books are just a little afraid to play with: like fossil fuels, like energy for the world, like how countries are moving forward but are being held up by certain anti-progressive concepts, like bad politics..."

Justin: "I get the gist. I follow your twitter." [laughs]

Neal: "I'm not getting into the politics, I'm getting into the politics of THE WORLD, okay? Because guess what? That's where we are -- we LIVE in this world. Comic book characters LIVE in this world. We have to worry about what fuels we're going to fuel the world with, which people are going to control them, how they're going to control them, and what assholes they are who are controlling them the wrong way, and we have to worry about that. You know what? It can show up in the comic books and still be ENTERTAINING, and they ARE entertaining."

panels from Batman Odyssey #4 (2011). Art by Neal Adams.

"If you guys read Batman Odyssey you'd discover that, first of all, you find oil down where salt domes are. 'Oh! I missed that!' Well you shouldn't have missed that, because -- you know what? -- it's right in there. And you SHOULD know about that, and guess what?  You can go to your geology teacher and ask him about it, and that's what he'll tell you. And you should. Because I expect my audience to be intelligent, and to look and to read things to know what we're talking about. And we're talking about things... and guess what? It's going to be their life in the future. We're going to be worrying about this stuff and taking care of this stuff and solving the problems that are being raised all around us, and will also be raised in these comic books. In also Batman Odyssey, as well as Deadman, and as well as the new one that's coming up,"


Justin: "What about Superman: Coming of the Supermen? I liked that one a lot. Darkseid and the New Gods are some of my favorite characters."

Neal: "You didn't read the last page, did you?"

Justin: "I absolutely did."

Neal: "Oh yeah, what did Luthor say on the last panel of the last page?"

Justin: "He said something along the lines that he has proof that they're all human. That's a spoiler."


panel from Superman: Coming of the Supermen #6 (2017). Art by Neal Adams.


[Neal starts laughing.]

Justin: "I'm trying to frame this interview in such a way so that it doesn't spoil anything for readers who want to pick up these books for the first time. I want people to pick it up, read and find out on their own -- as opposed to me just blurting it out."

Neal: "You can blurt out whatever you want, and then people will be reading this stuff. People should be discussing this stuff. I'm not afraid of the discussion, I've still got the surprises -- they're still in my pocket. I haven't told them to YOU, but I have told you where the clues are. That last page of Superman... I gotta tell ya! It's an ass-kicker!"

"While you're thinking about that, maybe think about why Superman DOESN'T have a weird anatomy even though he comes from a strange planet?"

Justin: "Can I ask you something about that? Are you implying that Darkseid and the New Gods are all human? Luthor mentions 'the blood samples' but I only remember Luthor getting blood samples off the Krpytonians from the bottled city of Kandor..."

Neal: "Okay, let's try this: did you ever notice that when you watch Star Trek or Star Wars or you read science fiction stuff... that you have these really weird looking aliens that look like rolled up tape or things with googly eyes or whatever?  And then you have this other group of aliens that look like human beings? And Earthmen can have intercourse with them? What the hell is that? So, is there a strain -- that is even out there in space -- that's human? And if that's TRUE, then HOW did that happen?"

Justin: "It's brilliant. I've got to give you credit for really looking at things from a different perspective."

Neal: "Y'know, people say that, but I don't FEEL that way. I feel that as soon as I explain it to people they go 'yeah, I get that. I understand that.' Superman's not a roll of tape. Hey! What is he?"

Justin: "In the first or second issue of Coming of the Supermen, Superman travels back in time and meets Darkseid -- but it's not Darkseid -- it's an Egyptian pharaoh."

panel from Superman: Coming of the Supermen #1 (2017)/ Art by Neal Adams.


Neal: "That's funny, isn't it?" [said coyly]

"We all have the SAME history on the SAME earth, You've got to think about that. How does Superman have finger nails? Does he cut 'em? I'm just sayin'"

Justin: "These are really good points."

Neal: "I'm just sayin'... what the deal? Does he have tear ducts?  I mean, does he have one ear on one side and one ear on the other side? How come he's so like you and me? What's the deal? I don't get it. What is the deal with Darkseid? He may look like hell, but he looks VERY human to me. And what the hell was he doing back in Egypt?  How come that Sphinx is a lion?"

Justin: "Have you finished up Demigods War, yet? Has it been pencilled and written?"

Neal: "Yeah!"

Justin: "Is it done?"

Neal: "No, it's not done. Ha. That would be REALLY fast. Ha."

Justin: "Is there a launch date, yet?"

Neal: "No, because you have to have enough issues in before they start publicizing. So I'm working on it to get it done... to get it moving."

Justin: "Thank you, Mr Adams. This was a really fun interview. I can't wait to see what you've got coming next."


-Justin

Neal Adams, among many things, is a man of science. You can check out more about his Growing Earth - Growing Universe theories on nealadams.com and on his personal science blog.


We can't thank Agence Pink and Ottawa Comiccon for allowing us this opportunity to interview Neal Adams. Neal also hosted a Q&A session at the Ottawa Comiccon, which we'll save for another time.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Good times at the 2018 Ottawa Comiccon

The 7th edition of the Ottawa Comiccon -- which ran from May 11 - 13, 2018 -- was held on some of the sunniest days we've had in Ottawa so far this year.



This year's guests of honour included Jason Momoa (Justice League, Aquaman, Game of Thrones), Karl Urban (Star Trek), and Matt Smith (Doctor Who). [Before you ask, the answer is 'no, Jason Momoa was NOT giving interviews to the media'. Shucks.]

Jason Momoa (circa 2017). Photo by Gage Skidmore.



There was a little something  for every genre of fan this year -- featured guests included Brent Spiner (Star Trek: TNG), Finn Jones (Marvel's Iron Fist on Netflix), Doug Jones (Shape of Water), Joe Flanigan (Stargate: Atlantis), Julian Glover (Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back), Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead), and Trish Stratus (WWE).  Mike Colter (plays Luke Cage in the Marvel Netflix series) was scheduled to appear, but had to bail at the last minute. How cool would it have been to have a photo op with Power Man AND Iron Fist? Maybe next time.

All this sounds very impressive (which it is), but what really blew me away this year were the two of the featured comic book pros appearing this year: Jim Shooter AND Neal Adams! I've been wanting to talk to Shooter for a long long time (he hasn't been to Ottawa Comiccon in about seven years), as well as Adams -- who I was hoping to interview at the 2016 Montreal Comiccon with Mark Belkin, but missed out on due to scheduling conflicts. James O'Barr (The Crow), Geof Isherwood, Ty Templeton, Dan Parent (Archie), Marco Rudy, Richard Comely (Captain Canuck), Tom Fowler (Rick & Morty), Richard Serrao, Andy Bélanger, Ken Lashley (X-Men Gold), and Ron Sutton. A few of these creators were brand new to me and, God help me, I would've interviewed them all if I could.


The doors opened at noon on Friday May 11th, and by 2pm the EY Centre was already packed with fans sporting early-bird and VIP passes.

packed by 2pm. photo by Adrian K.


Our first interview was with Neal Adams. We talked about his newest DC series (2018 Deadman series) and how it tied into his other recent DC work (2010's Batman Odyssey, 2017's Superman: Coming of the Supermen), and then he was immediately rushed off to host his Q&A panel (which we also attended). Lots of great stuff in the interview and Q&A panel, which we'll be posting shortly for your reading pleasure.
Neal Adams at 2018 Ottawa Comiccon. Photo by Justin Francoeur.


Our second interview was with Jim Shooter. I know what you're thinking: 'Jim Shooter was the Editor-in-Chief for MARVEL COMICS from 1978 to 1987. Why would DC in the 80s be so excited to interview him?' Because Shooter dealt with A LOT of DC/Marvel writers and artists during that time period and he's got stories for days. Don't believe me? Check out his blog. In the meanwhile, we interviewed him and we'll post that interview shortly. 
I don't usually pose for photos with the comic pros I interview... but this was a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity. Jim Shooter and I. Photo source: Jim's lovely assistant.


Our next interview was with Marco Rudy -- artist for DC (Final Crisis, Swamp Thing) and Marvel (Marvel Knights Spider-Man, Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier). We talked about which 80s comics he read growing up, and which artists inspired him. Really friendly and talented guy.

Marco Rudy at 2018 Ottawa Comiccon. Photo by Justin Francoeur


Geof Isherwood was too busy with commissions to chat with us, but he did manage to strike a pose for us. When asked about his late 80s/early 90s run as penciller/inker in Suicide Squad v1 (issues #33 to #66), he replied "I didn't really have much to input into the series (as far as plot was concerned), Yale and Ostrander were already doing a great job as it was." Regarding which comics he was reading in the 80s? "From 1983 and onward I was too busy drawing to really be reading any comics." We really hope to catch him next time and bug him with more fanboy questions.

Geof Isherwood at the 2018 Ottawa Comiccon. Photo by Adrian K.

While I was conducting these interviews, our photographer (Adrian K) was scouring the facility for cosplay shots. Here's what he came up with:
Poison Ivy by Peekaboo Cosplay


Rorschach (left) and gender swapped Joker and Harley Quinn (right) cosplay


...and some non-DC cosplay, too:

Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan) cosplay (left), and Josh Graham [@ottawasstarlord] and Landon Graham as Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon (right)

That scout trooper who had his speeder bike stolen by an Ewok in Return of the Jedi.

----

Saturday, May 12th was another beautiful day in Ottawa. This was also the day that Jason Momoa would be appearing, so I opted to arrive early (before 10am) before the parking lot filled up. I'm glad I did.

9:30AM Saturday -- Ottawa loves it's Comiccon. Photo by Justin Francoeur.

Seeing as how Jason Momoa was the MAIN event today (I'd say about 80% of convention attendees were there to see/meet him), we saw a lot more Aquaman and Mera cosplay than usual.


Photos by Justin Francoeur


Photos by Adrian K


The 1pm Saturday panel was kind of a dilemma -- do I attend the On the Couch with Jim Shooter Q&A session hosted by Ty Templeton (which I know will be good)... or do I attend the Jason Momoa Celebrity Q&A session and hope to get the chance to stand up in front of a crowd or people and ask him if he read comics as a kid? Ultimately, I went with the Templeton option because he did such a great panel with Bob Layton last year.


We were able to grab interviews with Ken Lashley and Andy Bélanger about which 80s/90s comics they read while they were younger. One of these two will be helping to relaunch an older DC imprint that started in 1993.  Find out who in our upcoming interview (no, this isn't considered clickbait since we don't have advertisers.) 

Ken Lashley at Ottawa Comiccon 2018. Photo by Justin Francoeur


Actress/Director/Comedian Abby Hagyard -- best known as 'the mom' on Canadian sketch-com TV series You Can't Do That On Television -- was at Ottawa Comiccon doing photo ops and promoting her newest project. DC in the 80s was actually invited to attend the filming of her new project that evening (we signed a release form and everything), but unfortunately we could not make it due to schedule conflicts.

Yes, these are the ORIGINAL lockers from the 1980's YCDTOTV set.

You Can't Do That On Television ran from 1979 - 1990, and then as reruns on Nickelodeon until 1994. I actually remember this airing on Canada's YTV while I was in elementary school, and being one of the last shows I could watch that evening before having to start my homework. As a sketch comedy show aimed at a teen audience, I felt pretty 'grown up' being allowed to watch this -- I also felt pretty 'grown up' that I was allowed to read Mad Magazine at the time. The most memorable gimmick about this show was slime being dumped on the heads of any actors who said "I said don't know" during a scene. It made for pretty entertaining television when you're eight years old, so let's not judge here. Apparently, YCDTOTV also launched the career of Canadian alternative rocker Alanis Morrissette. All this to say, Ms Hagyard is a talented actress and I regret not being able to make it to the filming that evening. Check her out at abbyhagyard.com.


I spent a bit of time walking the floor, talking to people or just taking pics of whatever I found interesting (these are probably my favorite things to do at comic conventions, TBH). I've had a bit of an obsessive streak with collecting sew-on patches and pins for my jackets and etc, and did a double-take when I saw this guy:

Photos by Justin Francoeur

Now, I'm usually more of the 'less is more' school of thought when it comes to adding patches and stuff to your jackets, but this guy really pushed it to the limits. "I traveled around Europe last year and picked up a patch from every place I visited", he explained to me. You can literally point to a patch on his back and he'll tell you a story about the place. "And these cub scout badges are ones I've earned while I was a cub scout." I like this jacket because it's an automatic conversation starter.


Next up was this guy who was seriously trying not to laugh as I took his photo:

photo by Justin Francoeur
I personally don't like pins on my jackets -- they jangle when you walk, sometimes the pin comes undone and pokes you, and sometimes you mysteriously lose them in your daily travels -- and big pins (like, bigger than 1") are the worst culprits. I appreciate this gentleman's dedication to the cause -- the cause of keeping the dream of the pin alive. Sometimes you need to suffer for 80s fashion.


Raven Banner Entertainment, a Toronto-based production company, was promoting the new animated series they had saved from extinction. Todd & The Book of Pure Evil ran for two seasons on the Space Channel before being cancelled (they still had a third season in the works). Raven Banner's Todd & The Book of Pure Evil: The End of the End concludes this series in an animated film and brings a sense of closure to the series. Always great to see a production company step in and see a prematurely cancelled Canadian animated series get a respectable ending. More info here.

Photo by Justin Francoeur


The Capital City Garrison (of the 501st legion) were back again this year raising money for the Make-A-Wish foundation. This year's diorama? The Mos Eisley Cantina scene from Star Wars: A New Hope.

Not seen in this photo: there was someone in a Greedo costume wandering around.
Very sorry I missed them. Photo source: Justin Francoeur.



How about more DC cosplay? Great! Here we go:

Hot damn! It's Death of the Endless (left) and lady Joker (right). Photos by Justin Francoeur.


Batman, Supergirl and Robin (left) and Parasite (right). Photos by Justin Francoeur


Batgirl (left) and Harley Quinn (right). Photos by Justin Francoeur



Batman Beyond and Green Arrow. Photo by Adrian K.

Joker and Harley Quinn (left) and Starfire of the Teen Titans (right). Photos by Adrian K.


Photo by Adrian K

And some of our favorite non-DC cosplay we saw:

Bender(s) from Futurama. Photo source: Justin Francoeur

Megaman family. Photo by Justin Francoeur


One of the last things I typically do at any comic convention is wander around the vendor booths and try to find something cool to buy and show you guys. (Kinda like show & tell, but for fans of early 90s DC nostalgia.) This year, I managed to pick up a full set of 1995 Fleer/Skybox DC vs Marvel trading cards. This is a set I would normally overlook, but Marvel vs DC nostalgia seems to be all the rage with kids nowadays (and to be honest, this is a pretty nice set -- probably the LAST really nice DC set produced before the whole trading card market collapsed in the mid-90s), so I thought "why not?". I actually can't wait to dig in, give you a review and brief history of these cards (because I'm actually pretty curious myself). Something to do during a 'slow week', I'm sure.

1995 Fleers/Skybox DC vs Marvel cards. Photo by Justin Francoeur



Another impressive acquisition was one of the last bits of 1989 Batman movie memorabilia I had been keeping my eyes open for: a full set of Post Cereal 1989 Batman movie motion cards. Yep, that's right. I am now, officially, *that* guy who collects cereal box promos... but listen, this is legit... I actually owned one or two of these when I was younger and -- God help me -- I really don't know how I lost them since I absolutely cherished them. Anyways, we've been reunited again, and the dealer even included the box!

1989 Batman movie motion cards. Mine at last! Photos by Justin Francoeur


And of course, I picked up another full set of those promotional Batman Returns cards issued by Zellers in 1992.  Mainly because they were sitting on a dealer's table in the clearance section. Whatever. Totally my gain.



Well that wraps up our review of the 2018 Ottawa Comiccon. I hope you felt my sheer enthusiasm for this event emanating from the several thousand words I just typed. I hope you check back to read the interviews (because they're REALLY good). Thanks to Leeja Murphy and the rest of the Agence Pink for putting on such a wonderful event (they are organizing the Montreal Comiccon in July, FYI). Very big thanks to my photographer, Adrian K, who volunteered his time to snap some pics of cosplayers and anything else that looked interesting.

Justin  


P.S. If we snapped a pic of you and you didn't see it on this page, check our Facebook page.