Posts Tagged ‘Dark Horse Comics’

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For as long as I can remember, Brian Wood has been one of those writers who has — to his credit — shared copyright ownership on all of his various projects with the artists involved and, in the case of the just-concluded Image series Starve, even the colorist. So if you’re an indicia-reader like myself, the “Copyright 2016 Brian Wood” in the fine print of the first issue of his new Dark Horse-published title, Briggs Land, is something of a surprise. We’re used to the artists being cut out of the action over at Aftershock, but why was Mack Chater — who does a bang-up job on this book, as you’ll see in the art reproduced below — not given co-creator credit here?

Well, the answer to that is simple : this comic has already been optioned for television and is, in fact, being developed simultaneously on the printed page and at AMC. When — or even if — it’ll hit the small screen is anyone’s guess, but make no mistake : Briggs Land reads very much like a not-yet-produced TV pilot because that’s precisely what it is. That would mean that the artist (the aforementioned Mr. Chater) and colorist (respected industry vet Lee Loughridge) were brought in well after the characters and concepts were developed (at least that’s my assumption), but still — I mean, these stories don’t draw themselves, do they? My best guess is that Wood probably had pretty solid visual ideas about how he wanted everyone to look and what have you when the rest of the team was brought on board, but this growing trend of creator-ownership for writers only — well, it kinda bugs me, because it means that if Briggs Land goes on to become the next Walking Dead, only one of the people involved with the comic is going to get rich off it.

Still, the artist knows that going in, I suppose, and hopefully he’s being paid a nice page rate, but this is a wrinkle that bears paying close attention to in the coming years — is “writer-only” creator ownership ethically and legally preferable to publisher/corporate ownership?  Sure, no question. But it’s just as much a certainty, in this critic’s view at any rate, that full-on creator ownership that spreads the wealth among artist and writer alike — in other words, the traditional creator-owned model — is ethically and legally preferable to this emerging “writer-as-sole creator” model. After all, if a book has shitty art, no one’s gonna buy it — yet the view of the artist as essentially little more than a “hired pencil” and the writer as the “brains” behind a comic is, at the end of the day, the same bullshit that Stan Lee has been trying to sell us all on for years, even though most of us know damn well that Jack Kirby and/or Steve Ditko more or less created all the characters (and even plotted — at the very least — most, if not all, of the stories) that Lee now takes credit for. So I’d say it pays to be very aware of what sort of creator ownership the purportedly “creator-owned” titles you read and enjoy really have going on. In the case of Briggs Land, it may very well be that the entire idea sprang whole-cloth from Wood’s mind, but shit — somebody still has to draw the book, right?

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Admittedly, if this first issue is any indication, this entire enterprise has been laid out in advance to a “T” — the various characters are all quite distinctive, the basics of the premise are fleshed out quickly and, it has to be said, rather magnificently, and all the principals involved have very distinctive voices, motivations, mannerisms, and agendas. Our protagonist, for instance, is Grace Briggs, a fifty-something woman who literally embodies the “strong female lead” archetype : she’s been operating as the de facto day-to-day leader of a secessionist/separatist community set on 100 wooded acres while her husband, the outfit’s official head honcho, is serving multiple life sentences for the attempted assassination of the president of the United States (which president is never stated). As our story begins, however, she’s taken it upon herself to let her old man know that his “services” — whatever they may amount to given his current residency — are no longer required, and that from now on, she’s in charge. Backing her up in this quiet coup is her youngest son, who’s just returned from a tour of duty with the Marines in Iraq, while her eldest son seems intent on remaining loyal to his dad and the middle son is — well, his allegiances are anyone’s guess, but first and foremost they seem to lie squarely with himself. So all our various bases are covered in the game of “who’s-on-who’s-side-here-anyway?”

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Taking all this in, and acting as our own “eyes and ears,” we’ve got a pair of FBI agents who are monitoring the shady (to say the least) financing of this “breakaway sect” — and who also happen to be sleeping together — and a Godfather Part II-style attempted “hit” on the family right where they live makes it clear that this power struggle has the potential to be a very violent one indeed. Throw in some philosophical differences between Grace and her husband (he’s a hard-core white nationalist while she’s a “non-racist separatist” — an idea that strains credulity every bit as much as a flying man in tights, truth be told) and all the ingredients are there for a really electrifying comic — and, yes, TV show.

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Which kinda brings us back full-circle to my original point : yes, this is a damn good comic. I enjoyed every single page of it and found myself immediately hooked. I’m sure I’ll pick it up religiously month in and month out. A lot of that is because of Brain Wood’s intriguing storyline, sharp dialogue, well-realized characters, and the palpable sense of tension he imbues the proceedings with right from jump. But a lot of it is down to Mack Chater’s evocative, dynamic, highly expressive art, as well (and having the always-amazing Tula Lotay on as cover artist certainly doesn’t hurt, either). He may not be a “co-creator” of this book, but he’s definitely a “co-author” — and in an ideal world, he’d be compensated as such.

 

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Okay, so tomorrow’s the big day, and despite being massively “under the gun” time-wise, I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about The Steam Man #1 from Dark Horse Comics just in case there are a few (or, heck, even one) of you out there looking for a good new horror comic to pick up at your LCS in honor of Halloween.

Although, in all honesty, it may not be fair to label this as purely a horror series since there are so many sci-fi influences added into the mix, particularly and most obviously of the “steampunk” variety. After all, the premise here is that an intrepid crew of five are “piloting” a gigantic steam-powered robot through the (unpaved) highways and byways of the Old West looking for trouble, so it’s more than fair to say that what we’ve got on our hands here is something of a genre mash-up.

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If that sounds appealing to you — as well it should — then name-dropping the creators involved in this five-issue series should only whet your appetite even further. Joe R, Lansdale has made a career out of the “horror western” in both novels and comics (who can forget his classic Jonah Hex stories with Timothy Truman and Sam Glanzman published under the Vertigo imprint?) and he gets credit for coming up with the story here (what we used to call “plotting” back in the day), while scripting and dialogue are handled by consummate pro Mark Alan Miller (whose name you’ve probably seen attached to any number of Boom! Studios’ Clive Barker adaptations and spin-offs), and the pencils and inks are the domain of the singularly talented Piotr Kowalski, who’s best known for his work on Image Comics’ Sex with Joe Casey but has also lent his detailed and unique abilities to last year’s Marvel Knights : Hulk and Dynamite’s Peter Milligan-scripted Terminal Hero, among other noteworthy recent endeavors. This guy gets a lot of work, and as the art samples included with this review ably demonstrate, it’s very easy to see why : he just plain brings it. Colorist-on-the-rise Kelly Fitzpatrick, who’s been popping up in all the right places lately (such as Dark Horse’s awesome reality-warping Neverboy and Dark Circle’s gritty new urbanized take on The Black Hood) rounds out the “A-list” of talent attached to this project, and if all these folks working on the same comic isn’t enough to get your “must buy this now!” juices flowing, well — you must be one tough person to please.

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Classic sci-fi elements make their presence felt in the proceedings here, as well, with the Steam Man itself originally having been created to fend off  H.G. Wells’ invasion from Mars, but when bacteria took care of that problem, it was quickly re-purposed for battle against marauding albino apes — another premise that I’m betting sounds pretty familiar to most readers out there. With those high-profile missions out of the way, though our monster-hunting crew are going about the business of taking their gigantic toy out into the wilds to tussle with a bad-ass uber-vampire who has designs on ushering in the apocalypse. Sounds like fun!

The characterization in this book is incredibly solid, with each member of the cast coming across as utterly unique individuals in the space of a few sentences of dialogue; the plot is meticulously well-constructed and incremental; and the art — well, I’ve gushed plenty about that already, but there’s no harm in doing so again since Kowalski’s renderings really are a feast for the eyes. Just look, dammit!

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So, hey, there you have it — The Steam Man #1 hit comic shop shelves last week, so if you’re looking for something both familiar and different to scratch your horror comics itch this Halloween, pick this up and get in on what promises to be a fun, creepy, wild ride that we’re being guided along by a collection of undeniable masters of the medium.

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It’s probably bad form to start off a review of one comic with less-than-generous statements about another  comic, but — is it just me, or has Scott Snyder and Jock’s Image Comics series Wytches proven, at least so far, to be a little bit less than what many of us were hoping for?

It’s not that it’s bad by any stretch of the imagination — Jock’s art is certainly solid and the core concept Snyder is playing with is a unique and creative one, but between Matt Hollingsworth’s garish color scheme and several story elements that just aren’t managing to gel together with  any sort of ease and/or flow, it’s certainly fair to say that the book hasn’t managed to live up to at least my own admittedly lofty expectations for it. I have every confidence that it still could, of course, but to this point, I’m sorry to say, it just ain’t happening.

Which brings us to Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s new Dark Horse Comics series, Harrow County. I hesitate to say anything along the lines of “this looks to be the series that Wytches is supposed to be,” since only its creators can determine what a book is “supposed” to be at all, but I will say this — one issue in (an admittedly small sample size, I know) it seems like it might be the kind of comic that I wanted Snyder and Jock’s to be.

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Amazing double-page splashes like the one reproduced directly above these very words certainly have no small part to play in the forming of this (fair enough, tentative) opinion, and Crook —who rose to prominence in the pages of B.P.R.D. — is just plain  knocking it out of the park here with his sketchy, creepy, evocative style. He’s drawing each and every page in breathtaking full color (as is Owen Gieni, who’s handling the art chores on the book’s short backup strips), as well, and while his style is comparable in some ways to Matt Kindt’s work on Mind Mgmt, truth be told that’s not even a terribly accurate comparison — it just serves as a handy reference point for folks who want to have some idea of what these spectacular pages sort of look like. More than anything else, though, it’s probably fair to say that Crook’s work is actually pretty damn original — and certainly effective.

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The same can also be said of the story. Bunn is one of those writers that I never know what to expect from — his creator-owned stuff like The Sixth Gun and The Empty Man I generally like a lot, but other projects like Wolf Moon and his run on Marvel’s Magneto monthly started out strong, only to flounder. His DC super-hero work that I’ve sampled hasn’t done squat for me at all. Like Charles Soule, the simple fact is that the guy just writes so much that there’s no way humanly possible for all of it to be good. His resume shows that he’s definitely at home working in the horror genre, though,  and this project seems pretty near and dear to his heart and based on some “things that went bump in the night” during his own rural upbringing, so it’s safe to say that he’s certain to be  bringing his “A game” here.

Dark Horse is billing this book as a  “Southern Gothic Fairy Tale, ” and that seems as apt a description as any — the exact location of the titular Harrow County is never spelled out explicitly, nor is the time period in which the story takes place, but “south of the Mason-Dixon line” and “a good while ago” seem to be fair answers to both queries. It’s the rural enclave’s sins from even further back, though, that form the basis of this tale, as the less-than-good townsfolk murdered an honest-to-goodness witch some years previously who duly swore her revenge on the community — a revenge that may now be coming to pass thanks to some special “gifts” apparently bestowed upon young farmgirl Emmy and the various subtle appearances of restless spirits known as “haints” in the local woods.Oh, and there’s something going on with a haunted tree, as well —

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How do they all tie together? I can’t claim to know for certain, but I have some pretty good guesses — and finding out which of those guesses I’m right about, and which I’m way off-base on, is sure to be part of the fun here. The main thing is, Bunn and Crook have woven a first chapter,  with a sympathetic and involving central protagonist in Emmy,  that makes you want to know more — which is probably the best you can hope for, in all honesty, from any first issue worth its salt.

So, yeah, definitely count me in for the duration — Harrow County doesn’t seem like a place I’d actually want to live, much less find my car broken down in or something, but I’m looking forward to my next trip there in about 30 days already.

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If there’s one thing that sucked most about growing up in the 1980s — among many worthy contenders from that culturally blighted decade — it was the rampant anti-drug hysteria that started with our figurehead “leaders” at the top, Ron n’ Nancy, and filtered its way down until it permeated pretty much every corner of society. Drugs — even essentially risk-free recreational stuff like pot — were considered “bad,” and their users were “bad people.” This stuf’ll kill ya, kids — why, if you don’t believe us, just turn on the TV, because that’s what every single cop show is all about.

Never mind, I suppose, that TV is the most prevalent and most harmful drug of all, or that most of the pseudo-righteous political figures profiting from drug hysteria were either being funded to the tune of millions by Wall Street cokeheads or, in the case of Bush and his Iran-Contra cronies like Ollie North, directly responsible for bringing massive quantities of drugs into the US themselves in order to bankroll the psychotic  mercenary death squad armies they had the nerve to call “freedom fighters” in Central America. Do as we say, people, not as we do — we are, after all, your “betters.”

Hmmm — now that I think about it, maybe it wasn’t anti-drug hysteria in and of itself  that was the worst thing about life in the 1980s so much as the blatant hypocrisy surrounding it. In any case, make no mistake — each and every popular culture outlet extant at the time presented a united front in terms of “drugs are evil” messaging, comic books included.  In fact, it’s no exaggeration at all to say that every single superhero was conscripted at one time or another into the “war on drugs,” and look where all that propaganda has gotten us — over three decades later we’re still “fighting” that same “war” to the tune of billions, and we’re still losing. And why wouldn’t we be? We live under a brutally remorseless system of hyper-capitalism that provides very few avenues for escape, and people — particularly the ever-swelling legion of poor people — are desperate for any sort of  relief, no matter how temporary and/or risky,  from the full-time pain caused by a world this fucking heartless and cruel. Job got you down? Lack of a job got you down even more? The easy answer to either situation is the same — self-medicate!

Psst — I’ll even let you in on a little secret : all those PSA scare films you had to watch in school are all bullshit, anyway. The truth , which you probably already knew, is that most drugs that society has classified, usually for economic reasons, as “illegal” are actually pretty goddamn fun, provided you don’t go overboard. Yes, some of them (though certainly not all) can kill you, but as we’re all aware, so can nicotine, alcohol, and most prescription pharmaceuticals, all of which are perfectly acceptable to consume in the eyes of the law. And yet — what if the situation were completely reversed? What if psychoactive and/or other pharamacological (did I spell that right?) substances not only weren’t deadly in the least, but were, in fact, something you needed in order to survive?

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Such is the intriguing premise behind Dark Horse Comics’ new four-issue series Neverboy, which comes our way courtesy of author Shaun Simon (best known for co-writing Killjoys along with Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance fame — in fact, Way himself provides the variant cover for the first issue of this book, shown later in our little review here, with the main one displayed at the top coming our way courtesy of Conor Nolan) and artist Tyler Jenkins (who’s building a nice little following for himself thanks to his work on Image’s Peter Panzerfaust). Yes, our title character, odd name aside, may look just like you and me, and have a life much like yours or mine (complete with wife and young son), but appearances, as we all know, can be mighty deceiving indeed. Neverboy seems to spend a lot of time hanging around in hospitals and the like, looking to hustle up drugs by any means necessary, and when he’s not sufficiently medicated, folks seem to completely ignore him, almost as if — well, as if he weren’t really there.

In case you hadn’t worked it out already, that’s because he’s not. Neverboy, you see, is a former imaginary friend to a child who ended up dying, and he needs pills — lots and lots of pills, apparently — to remain in the real world.  Just to further complicate matters, though, it turns out that when he’s running low, not only does he begin to disappear, but so does the barrier between our solid, three-dimensional reality, and the “fantasy world” that he’s supposed to inhabit.Obviously, things could get pretty messy pretty quickly if he doesn’t keep himself good and “hopped up,” but he’s got one other big problem, to boot — the powers that be in “dreamland” have caught on to his scam, and they’re determined to drag him back “home,” whether he wants to come or not.

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As I’m assuming is abundantly clear by now, I really dig what Simon and Jenkins (along with colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick) are doing here — the science behind it might be murky at best, but this is one of the most intriguing story pretexts to come down the pipeline in a long while, with strong characterization, smart dialogue, and nicely fluid, organic-feeling art, to boot. I’m not sure how much of a “built-in” audience a project such as this one has, so conditioned is the comics-buying public to “drugs are bad for you” nonsense, but hopefully positive word-of-mouth will see to it that it finds at least a semi-sizable cadre of fans, because this is a well-done, highly imaginative book that’s worthy of both your support and your dollars. In fact, it’s one of those “damn, I wish I’d thought of that” ideas that you actually root for, rather than seethe with envy over, simply because the creators have obviously put so much thought and heart into it.

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I admit it — hardened cynic that I may came off as (or, hell, that I may even be), I do still have a soul, and this is a comic that I’m rotting for to become the “little indie project that could” of 2015. Squares and cops may take offense to it, but since when do their opinions matter, anyway? Sit down, indulge in your favorite recreational substance of choice, and give Neverboy #1 a go. It’s definitely a trip you’re going to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

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Anybody else remember this interesting Steve Ditko one-shot published by Dark Horse back in 1993? It was a brisk little tale that spoke in the kind of didactic, black-and-white (even though the story was in color), morally absolutist terms for which latter-day Ditko work has been praised by some, reviled by others — but there’s no doubt that it was a crystalline, unfettered look inside a unique artist’s mind that, love or hate it, positively brimmed over with integrity.

I’m hopeful that the same can be said of its publisher, particularly on the specific subject of the reprint rights they’ve obtained to the old Warren Publishing back catalog via the material’s rights holders, an outfit called New Comic Company. I mentioned yesterday in the first posting in this series that I’ve been in contact with a party at Dark Horse with direct knowledge of what’s going on with the Creepy/Eerie/Warren situation, and that I would divulge more as I was able to do so, so with that in mind here’s what I’m able to specifically relate as of right now —

1. Again, Steve Ditko has been paid. I have no idea if he’ll receive royalties from future sales of the work bearing his name, or if it was a one-time courtesy payment, but a letter was included with the check asking the artist to cash it, since he’s been known, on occasion, to apparently refuse payment for work he already did on ethical grounds — ethics that stem from his fundamentalist interpretation of the philosophy espoused by Ayn Rand. Since the Warren work is not in the public domain unlike, say, his Charlton stuff, and is in fact owned by a group of rights-holders who should, in fact, be paying artists to reprint their work, I’m hopeful he will accept the remuneration and cash the check.

2. I had raised in the last post an issue Steve Bissette had also brought up on facebook about payment being made to Archie Goodwin’s widow, who is still very much alive even though her husband,sadly, passed away many years ago now. This is important for several reasons  : first, as stated in previous postings, Goodwin authored 15 of the 16 stories showcased in Creepy Presents Steve Ditko, which makes him, in the view of most reasonable observers, the co-author of the book.  Secondly, these stories are a prime example of what two creators who are absolutely “on the same page” in terms of their ideas can achieve when working together. When we think of classic creative duos in comics history, teams like  Siegel/Shuster, Englehart/Rogers, Simon/Kirby, Lee/Kirby (or, as I see it, Kirby/Lee),  Wolfman/Perez, Claremont/Byrne, Moench/Gulacy, Moore/Gibbons, etc. come to mind quite easily — and for good reason. These were pairings where each person brought out the best in the other. The comic book version of Lennon/McCartney. I would humbly suggest that the Goodwin/Ditko tandem stands proudly with any of them. and there is no doubt that Goodwin instinctively understood, and played to, Ditko’s strengths as an artist better than any other writer with whom he worked, either before or since, in his career.

Unfortunately, I was not able to obtain from Dark Horse any assurances that a check was sent to Goodwin’s estate for his contributions to this volume. My source within the company has told me that he hopes that there was,  that he’ll look into it,  and that if he finds such payment has not been issued, he will try to see to it that the situation is corrected. I appreciate the forthright nature of his response and will be personally following up with him to see that this is taken care of.

3. Richard Corben, specifically, has also received compensation for his work in conjunction with the Warren reprint volumes (althhough it’s fair to point out that he also contributed a new cover to one of them), and furthermore has given these books his enthusiastic and heartfelt endorsement. He’s praised the skilled production and restoration work brought to the series by Jose Villarubia and everyone else at DH, and he’s tried to make it very clear in as public a way possible that not only is he satisfied with the treatment he’s received in conjunction with this project, he’s downright thrilled with it.

4. As stated earlier, when I said “nobody” had been paid for this reprint work, that was quite incorrect, but when word went out from someone at Dark Horse that “all” creators whose work had been represented in the series had been compensated, that was also incorrect. I have been able to obtain specific assurances that Ditko and Corben were paid, along with Villarubia (for restoration work he’s doing on them currently), but beyond that, at least as of yet, I haven’t been informed of any specific artists and writers who were issued checks. Dark Horse’s official — and understandable — editorial policy is not to comment on payments issued to creators, but in an effort to clear this matter up they did authorize me to relate, specifically, the information that I just did. If more assurances are given about other creators being paid, and permission is granted to me to share such information, I will do so here right away. It’s probably important to state as well that just because my source within Dark Horse hasn’t been able to confirm that payments have been made to various other creators doesn’t mean that checks have not, in fact, been sent out to some, any, or all of them. It also doesn’t rule the possibility out, however, that no one else apart from those mentioned has been compensated. I just plain don’t know yet — but when I do, you will, too.

On a related note, there was apparently some confusion as to whether or not Mark Evanier was paid for his introduction to Creepy Presents Steve Ditko. I had initially said he was, then was informed via the comments section of the post from a friend of his that he wasn’t, but I now have it on good authority that he was, and that Dark Horse will be sending him a communication reminding him to cash the check, or will be happy to issue a new one of he either lost or never received it.

This might all seem like a lot of haggling over some really old work, but it’s actually a pretty vital issue. A lot of creators have been shafted pretty badly by various Warren rights-holders over the years, and I’m hoping that Dark Horse/New Comic Company are as determined to reverse that historical precedent as they seem to be. Mike Royer recently related a story about how many artists who worked for Warren never received their original art back, and that a previous legal “owner,” or executor of some sort, of the material auctioned it off to help defray his costs for obtaining what remained of the company and often received substantially more for the pages at auction than the pitiful rates the artists who drew them were paid. Needless to say, this former owner/executor/licensee/whatever didn’t see if to share those proceeds in any way with anyone other than himself.

So I guess we’ve diverged a bit today from the promised “Ditko-centricity” of the proceedings here, but I felt it was important to get this information out there since the Warren stuff, and what’s being done with it, was the impetus for this series in the first place. In the next couple of days I’ll be back with the next segment, wherein we’ll be discussing what the artist himself is doing now, why it matters in relation to the reprinting of his work, how to support his very worthy current creative efforts, and how I think so many of the folks who are proclaiming their “respect” for him the loudest are actually saying a lot about how they really feel about the man and his work when they flat-out refuse to publicize this material even though it would be no sweat off their back to do so.

 

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Very few photos of the man above are known to exist, but the product of his creative genius is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He is Steve Ditko, co-(at least) creator of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange; the Green Goblin and Electro;  Gwen Stacy and Flash Thompson;  The Question and Shade, The Changing Man; Mr. A and Hawk And Dove — and too many more classic characters to mention.

And he’s been mercilessly ripped off by the very industry he helped build. Which, sadly, hardly makes him unique — one could argue that in purely financial terms, Jack Kirby, Bill Finger, Siegel and Shuster, and Joe Simon, to name just some obvious examples off the top of my head, have been fucked over even worse than Ditko has, but this series of posts is going to have a much narrower focus for a couple of reasons — one being that Ditko is very much alive and it’s not too late for those of us concerned with him getting his due to step up to the plate and help make it happen; and the second being that about a week ago I stepped into this in a fairly outspoken way and have had a very interesting experience navigating the waters of the various issues swirling around the comics industry’s treatment of this towering creative dynamo.

The world at large knows damn well who Stan Lee is — he’s seen to that. But very few outside the comics community know Ditko’s name, and that’s perhaps the biggest shame of all.

But back to the specific business at hand here —for those who missed it, I had some rather biting critiques of Dark Horse Comics and a publication outfit called The New Comic Company, which owns the rights to CreepyEerie, and other publications formerly put out by the late Warren Publishing, in my review of the Creepy Presents Steve Ditko hardcover collection,  and some of what I said has proven to be completely and utterly inaccurate, while some of it has been proven to be true. What I got right and what I got wrong will become more clear in the days ahead as I continue this series, but let me state in no uncertain terms and for the record that I am profoundly sorry for the statements I made which proved to be false, and bear complete responsibility for them personally.

Strangely, though, I don’t regret screwing up. It’s opened up a dialogue about this issue both here and in various facebook groups — most notably Rob Imes’ “Ditkomania” group and Fester Faceplant’s  “Charlton Arrow” group — that are long overdue. It’s afforded me a direct line of communication with Dark Horse that I’ve grown to appreciate very much (and very quickly). And it’s given rise to a robust debate filled with good ideas from all sides.

Should I have kept my mouth shut about everything until I knew all the facts? Absolutely. But I’m determined to see this thing through until I’ve completely said all I have to say on the issue, and rather than cutting and running from my errors, it’s my intention to both own up to them and use them as a spingboard to draw even more attention to the issues that I raised.

But there’s no “I” in team, and let me say that a couple of people who have fought tirelessly on Ditko’s behalf, as well as for creator’s rights in general, deserve special mention here at the outset — Steve Bissette is not only a legend in the comics and horror communities, he’s also, like his fellow former Swamp Thing collaborator Alan Moore, one of the most principled folks to ever have graced the “Big Two” publishers (and countless others) with his talents. Many of the ideas we’ll be discussing in the coming days are ones that he’s been espousing for years now, and that’s he’s put into practice in his own publishing efforts. We need more people like Steve in this industry, plain and simple.

Next on my “thank you” list is veteran comics editor and artist Mort Todd. Mort’s an interesting and dare I even say iconoclastic guy with a very definite set of principles that has put the two of  us — always politely, mind you — on the opposite side of many political debates on facebook over the years, but like Ditko himself he walks the walk rather than just talks the talk, and when it comes to comics creators getting their due, he’s been outspoken and principled and frankly shows a pretty admirable streak in terms of not caring whose  feathers he ruffles. I appreciate especially his contribution of an idea that I find absolutely terrific that we’ll be getting into in the next few days, as well.

Finally, I want to say that, for all the various and contrary opinions that have been expressed in regards to the idea of simply paying Steve Ditko for his work, I have never gotten the sense that anyone doesn’t care about this man or value the amazing work he’s done and continues to do. For those of you out there who aren’t following his current  creative output published by Robin Snyder, you owe it to yourself to do so. I have next to no personal philosophical agreement with the hard-line Ayn Rand-inspired beliefs he espouses, but the uncompromising fervor with which he adheres to and promulgates his unique ethical perspectives is truly awe-inspiring, Now in his mid-80s, his work burns with a zeal and philosophical coherence that most people half, or even a quarter, of his age could never hope to capture. When I called him a “dynamo,” it wasn’t just hyperbole — it was fact.

Fortunately, there appears to be somebody at Dark Horse who shares my profound admiration for this extraordinary artist and has seen to it that his employer treats him fairly. I’m sadly not a liberty to divulge who this individual is, as he specifically requested that I remove his posts on the Creepy Presents review for a variety of reasons which I respect, but his invaluable insight into the Warren reprint series in particular has been one of the reasons I felt that not just a follow-up post correcting my errors, but a series of posts taking a comprehensive look at this entire situation is in order. Let me share one piece of very good news that I’ve been specifically authorized to relate, though —

As far as the Creepy Presents book goes, STEVE DITKO HAS BEEN PAID. I din’t ask how much. I didn’t ask when (if it was before or after I made a stink about it). I didn’t ask anything that wasn’t, frankly, any of my business. But a check was mailed to Ditko along with a letter asking him to please CASH IT. I had incorrectly stated that none of the creators whose work was being reprinted in the Warren series had seen a dime.  I was wrong. I know for a fact that Richard Corben, as well as Ditko, have both been paid. As of right now I have not been given assurances about anyone else — the question about payment being made to Archie Goodwin’s widow, which I was particularly interested in given that he wrote 15 of the 16 stories in the Ditko book, is not something my contact within Dark Horse was able to answer with certainty. He has promised to follow up on it , though, and I take him at his word since he’s kept it in all of our dealings so far.

But I feel like, in some small way, those of us who are interested in seeing the creative minds of this industry get at least something of a fairer shake are making progress. I don’t know as of yet whether or not my initial post on the Creepy book did more harm than good, or if this series I’m undertaking will do more of one or the other (if anything) as well, but right now I’m leaning toward viewing all of this, my fuck-ups included, as a step forward. This  is no time, however,  to take our collective foot off the gas. This struggle is bigger than you, me, or even Steve Ditko, and I’m just getting started — I hope you’ll be along for the ride and add your voice to the discussion. “Just Pay Ditko!” may seem an oversimplification to some — I’ve even been told it’s an insult to the man for reasons that we’ll get into — but I hope to communicate clearly and unequivocally why I remain more convinced than ever that it’s the least the industry as a whole can do for him and why it’s so important that we, as fans and concerned individuals, insist that they do so. This ride might be a bumpy one, but we owe it to Ditko and too many other screwed-over creators to mention to see it trough. They are the authors of many of our most cherished childhood memories. It’s high time we found a way to say thanks.