Tag: Marc Hempel

With Further Ado #288: Tarzan, the Rebooted

With Further Ado #288: Tarzan, the Rebooted

I remember in the early 90s when “upstart” publisher Malibu Comics burst on the scene with their new Tarzan comics. To add a bit of context, their efforts followed the classic runs of Tarzan comic series published by Gold Key Comics, with wonderful Russ Manning and Doug Wildey artwork, DC, with top-of-his game Joe Kubert art, and Marvel Comics, showcasing John Buscema as he was obviously loving every minute of it.

This new Malibu comic cover had a different Tarzan (albeit throwback) logo and a shocking image of the central characters with jarring colors. The front cover was by Marc Hempel and the alternate cover – flip covers were the norm back then – was painted by Simon Bisley. The cover copy taunted readers: “You’ve never seen Tarzan like this before!”

And they were right!

Writer Mark Wheatley, penciler Neil Volkes, and interior inker Hempel showcased a different approach to Tarzan. I don’t know if we were all using the word “reboot” back then, but this clearly was a reboot.

Wheatley explained to me that the Tarzan fans, at the time, were furious with him. But over time, his innovative run has now become revered and embraced.

How difficult is it to reboot a classic character? Is it necessary? Is it ever embraced initially?

Tarzan the Untamed

I just read the seventh of book in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original Tarzan series: Tarzan, the Untamed. My wife, Kathe, and I were in a wonderful comic shop in Saratoga Springs, Cosmic Capes Comics, not long ago. The cover to this hardcover caught my eye. How could it not? The insanely talented Joe Jusko is providing new covers to all the ERB books. He’s knocking it outta the park! Each cover is clever, creative and compelling. Continue reading “With Further Ado #288: Tarzan, the Rebooted”

Brainiac On Banjo: The Real Clown Prince of Crime!

Brainiac On Banjo: The Real Clown Prince of Crime!

Why do you want him? Why do you want him? Why do you want him? Why do you want him? — “Why Do You Want Him?,” written by Billie Joe Armstrong, John Kiffmeyer, and Mike Dirnt.

No doubt you’ve heard about this “internet” thing. It’s a place where we all go to show everybody else just how clever we are. For example, I’m doing that right now.

My guess is you have seen the Trump “Batman Villain” memes that have popped up all over the internet within minutes of the former Bastard-In-Chief getting fingerprinted and mug-shotted in a toilet of a Georgia jail a couple days ago. I understand the shock of this killed Harley Quinn, and that really sucks. But it’s understandable.

Legendary writer Mindy Newell and I got into a conversation about all this, and I took the position that The Joker is a better person than Trump and, for that matter, The Joker wears less makeup. Somehow that discussion boiled down to the best Trump meme would have him look like Davros, the classic Doctor Who villain who created the Daleks — and, to make a long story short, became one. I think he went to the Stanislavsky School of Villainy.

Be that as it may, the true winner of this debate is the rock group Green Day. They created, according to their Instagram post,

“the ultimate Nimrod shirt is available for 72 hours only. Limited edition shirt proceeds will be donated to T̶h̶e̶ ̶G̶i̶u̶l̶i̶a̶n̶i̶ ̶L̶e̶g̶a̶l̶ ̶D̶e̶f̶e̶n̶s̶e̶ ̶F̶u̶n̶d̶ @greatergoodmusiccharity, which brings food to those affected by the Maui wildfires.”

That meets my definition of humanity’s greatest ability, the know-how to be given shit and to turn it into a shit soufflé. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: The Real Clown Prince of Crime!”

With Further Ado #111: Wheatley’s The Witch of Everwhen

With Further Ado #111: Wheatley’s The Witch of Everwhen

Some people are just overflowing with talent, and when it spills over to other media, it’s a truly wondrous thing. Mark Wheatley is one of those people.  You may know him as an award-winning comics creator, a frequent exhibitor at San Diego Comic-Con & Baltimore Comic-Con, or as an industrious entrepreneur.  Knowing all those things about him, I was even more impressed when he told me about his newest project, a song & music video called The Witch of Everwhen.  Checkout the teaser trailer:

 

 

Wheatley is working out the details for the full-fledged Witch of Everwhen video debut. The announcement should be made soon, and you can keep up with it all here at the Mark Wheatley Gallery.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised because he’s created music videos before for previous projects like Dance with Your Brothers , Surrender and Earth’s Farewell.  But nonetheless, I had to find out more.

Ed Catto: This is a fascinating project – tell me how The Witch of Everwhen came about!

Mark Wheatley: I have been composing and recording music for as long as I have been writing and drawing comics professionally. In my early days looking for work in New York, while I was beating the pavement to show my portfolio to art directors and editors, I was also sending demo tapes to A&R reps at the various music companies. I was doing this right up until I landed my first monthly comic series, MARS.

The only musical “success” I had during that period was one of my tunes was picked for airplay on WNEW and one of their DJs was calling me to brainstorm how I would get more attention for my music. But when Marc Hempel and I signed our MARS contract [with First Comics], I decided that the time required to write and pencil a monthly comic was going to eat my life, and I stopped recording and sending out demo tapes. So, of course, two weeks after I signed the MARS contract Capitol Records offered me a three record deal, and I had to turn it down. A few months later, Columbia Records offered me a one record deal. Both of these offers would require me to also hit the road for live tours, so it was just impossible. After that, aside from recording some soundtrack music for radio and TV commercials, my musical efforts were limited to recording theme songs for my comic book creations. Continue reading “With Further Ado #111: Wheatley’s The Witch of Everwhen”

Brainiac On Banjo #069: Breathtaker – Now It Can Be Told!

Brainiac On Banjo #069: Breathtaker – Now It Can Be Told!

In my career as a comic book editor-provocateur, I have had the privilege of assisting the birth of several remarkable projects. Two such projects were offered to me by the same team: writer/artists Mark Wheatley and Marc Hempel. Oh, sure, they went on individually to do brilliant stuff such as Blood of the Innocent, Tarzan, The Sandman, Gregory, Frankenstein’s Mobster and The Escapist, but all that happened after I received their pitch for Mars.

I was editor-in-chief at First Comics, and I was specifically looking for a project that was completely original and produced by “newcomers” (quotes are due to that “overnight sensation” thing). Joe Staton and Bruce Patterson, our art director and production manager respectively, tossed the Mars proposal onto my lap and said “read this.” Not “read this, please” or “I think this is what you’re looking for;” nope, just read this.

I did, and then I called Wheatley and Hempel. As I recall, their agent was noted comics writer, marketer, publisher, and all-around swell guy Mike Friedrich. Quite rapidly, we had a deal.

After the first issues were finished and we started our promotion work, one of the major comics distributors – there actually used to be over a dozen! – told me I was making a big mistake. Nobody heard of these guys. I pointed out that nobody had heard of Mark Twain until he got published. I was told the story lacked commercial appeal. I responded, “how do you know they aren’t mutants?” Yeah, back in those days I could be quite stubborn or, as I prefer to think of it, an asshole for the cause of good.

We published the series and it became a cult classic. My definition of a cult classic was a highly regarded comic book whose sales were outflanked by the comp list. Mars did well enough and if it sold in those same volume today it would be a twice-weekly book, but the numbers weren’t likely to confound Alan Turing. It had enormous word-of-mouth going for it as well, and that inured to the benefit of the First Comics legend.

Flash forward six years to 1990. Despite the fact that Hempel was hospitalized during his time on Mars, they pitched me another project. By this time, I was a group editor and director of editorial development at DC Comics, and my job was to boldly acquire weird shit that no one had acquired before. I heard their pitch for Breathtaker in a backroom at some huge comics convention. I went for it in a heartbeat, my boss Dick Giordano was ecstatic about it (Dick had a great eye for weird shit), and we produced and published Breathtaker… Despite Hempel’s return to the hospital.

But that’s when things got dicey. Our publisher, Jenette Kahn, a fine person who had earned my respect several years before she got into comics, took one look at the cover and said it seemed like we were mocking concentration camp victims. It’s 30 years later, and I still don’t get that. But word got out that Jenette didn’t like the book. Well, that’s not true. She didn’t like the cover, and she could have called for a new one, or she could have canned the book outright. She did not, but our crack marketing department saw the onus as clear as day.

DC’s marketing director had a reputation for not putting much muscle behind comics that didn’t have a batcape and didn’t kill off anybody important. When Breathtaker was released the only people who knew about it were Wheatley and Hempel’s relatives and those friends of mine who remained amused by my incessant bitching. Despite this, the books sold well, and it got itself a trade paperback collection, which I believe went through a few printings.

Still onus-laden, Mark and Marc got the rights back – eventually. We reprinted it over at IDW in 2005, which was about the time something really interesting happened. The Normal Rockwell Museum was putting on an exhibition of some two dozen graphic novels, and Breathtaker was among those selected. We had an entire wall in their truly breathtaking museum. We were invited to the opening and they even threw us all a wonderful feast – after which many of the museum curators brought out their personal comics for us to sign.

From time to time, the museum put together a travelling version of the exhibit, and it’s still going on. According to the press release,

“Wheatley and Hempel’s Insight Studios Group will mount the “Breathtaker Exhibition,” which was created by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and will appear at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. With more than 90 original works of art, the exhibition explores the creative and physical processes that were undertaken during the original production … The exhibition will be on view August 24, 2020 through October 30, 2020.”

I should point out that McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland is just outside of Baltimore, near the abodes of the Breathtaker creators. That is sweet.

I should also point out that Breathtaker is being rereleased in collected edition by my old, old buddy Nick Landau (thanks for the sexy Hitler comic, Nick!) and his Titan Books imprimatur. Oh, and while I’m at it, I will point out that Titan is issuing an all-new companion comic, I guess for those of us who have all-new companions.

For me, this is seriously cool. Mark and Marc have been two of my closest friends, and I remain in awe of their work. If you haven’t read Breathtaker, Landau is about to make it easy for you to correct that.