Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stone Arch Books...

One of the companies that I've been lucky enough to do a lot of work for in the last few years is Stone Arch Books, an imprint of Capstone Publishing. I first started to write for Stone Arch through DC Comics, by working on a few of their chapter books starring Superman and Batman and the Flash. I realized recently that while I've discussed them on my facebook page, I've neglected to mention some of my more recent Stone Arch projects on this site. The production quality on these books is really outstanding (particularly their hardcover editions), so it may be worth your while to dig a few of these up.

Last year, I worked on a prose chapter book that is part of the Tony Hawk's 900 Revolution series, and deals with a team of kids searching the globe for pieces of a magic skateboard. A bit out of my normal comfort zone, but fun to write nonetheless. My book is volume eight of the series, was released this past January, and is entitled Lockdown.

After that, my newest Batman book came out as part of The Dark Knight series of chapter books. A stand alone tale set in the world of Bruce Timm's Batman: The Animated Series, my book is titled Scarecrow's Flock of Fear and features artwork by Luciano Vecchio. It's a haunting little tale about Scarecrow and his connection to Robin, the Boy Wonder.

Next might be my favorite super-hero book for Stone Arch to date, a Die Hard-like story of a powerless Superman trapped inside The Daily Planet after Poison Ivy covers the building in a particularly nasty Kryptonite/plant hybrid. It's called Superman and the Poisoned Planet, and again features illustrations by Luciano Vecchio as part of Stone Arch's The Man of Steel series of chapter books.

Last but not least is an upcoming graphic novel adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Fall of the House of Usher. I was a big fan of Poe's work growing up, so it was a lot of fun to adapt the story into comic book format. I'll post more about this book when we get closer to the release date, but you can preorder it here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

10 Villains You Won't See in the Next Spider-Man Movie...

I have a another new Spidey-related article up over on thefw. This one will make you question everything you thought you knew about life. You can read it here:


Monday, November 5, 2012

10 Things You Didn't Know About Spider-Man...

I have a new article up over on thefw.com. I don't mean to brag, but it will change your life forever. Check it out here:


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

NYCC 2012...

This weekend I'll be headed to my favorite comic show of the year, the New York Comic Con. While I plan on spending the majority of the show catching up with old friends and wandering aimlessly around the convention floor, I do have two scheduled signings at the DK Publishing booth (# 932) to promote the release of my new book Spider-Man Chronicle: A Year by Year Visual History with my co-author Alan Cowsill.

We'll be signing from 5-6 p.m. on Friday, as well as on Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until noon. They'll also have copies on hand of my recent book 
Spider-Man: Inside the World of Your Friendly Neighborhood Hero, as well as some of my other past DK projects, so be sure to stop by and check out the booth. 

Hope to see you there...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Top 5 Spider-Man Moments...

This week marks the release of Spider-Man Chronicle: A Year by Year Visual History, DK Publishing's massive history of everyone's favorite friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. In the style of two other books I've written for, DC Comics Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle and Marvel Chronicle, Spider-Man Chronicle is a month by month history of the web-head covering his entire career. For my own part, I wrote the 1960s, 70s and 80s sections, while my co-writer Alan Cowsill tackled the 1990s through the present day. The result is easily the most thorough guide to Spidey's adventures ever printed in one volume, filled with hundreds of illustrations from 60 years of Spider-Man comics.

To coincide with the book's release, DK asked me to write a short piece about the top five most memorable Spider-Man comics in the history of the character. What follows is possibly the least controversial Spider-Man list of all time:

The Top 5 Most Memorable Spider-Man Moments:

5. The Final Chapter - While there have been many stories that depict Spider-Man's will and determination, no comic has visually captured that struggle like the single issue of The Amazing Spider-Man # 33 by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. Expanding upon what was a fairly simple story beat in Stan Lee's plot, Ditko took the reins in this issue with his brilliant 5-page sequence showcasing Spider-Man with practically the weight of the world on his shoulders. With his Aunt May's life at stake, Spidey was forced to do the impossible before his time ran out, all with the aid of Ditko's elegant storytelling.

4. The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man - In what was just a short story in the back of The Amazing Spider-Man # 248, legendary Spider-Man writer Roger Stern crafted a quiet tale that showed the human side of the wall-crawler, and the lengths he would go to bring a small amount of comfort into the life of an innocent child. Drawn by artist Ron Frenz,  this story not only retold Spidey's career from his own perspective, but it also gave readers a poignant twist ending that is still discussed to this day.

3. Kraven's Last Hunt - A normally upbeat hero despite the tragedy that was commonplace in his life, Spider-Man took a walk on the dark side in writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Zeck's gritty tale of the hunter Kraven besting Spider-Man and even burying the web-slinger alive. In an era where dark comics were the norm, this epic storyline that passed through the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man (#s 293, 294), Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (#s 131, 132) and Web of Spider-Man (#s 31, 32), stood out as a study of the crazed mind of the obsessed, as well as of the unwavering mind of the heroic.

2. The Origin of Spider-Man - Spider-Man's first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 was also one of the most perfectly balanced origin stories of its day. In a mere eleven pages, writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko gave readers a new take on the solo superhero. Peter Parker was a teen readers could identity with, a young social outcast with real problems and struggles. While many other comics of the time focused on protagonists who lived fantastic lives of wealth and adventure, Peter was an everyday student who stumbled on great power and great responsibility. A compact story complete with character motivation and growth, Spidey's origin has only been slightly altered since, proving that this tale certainly stands the test of time.

1. The Night Gwen Stacy Died - As the first regular writer of The Amazing Spider-Man after Stan Lee left the title, Gerry Conway had huge shoes to fill in the eyes of the fans. And while his stories were engaging and imaginative from the start, his work alongside artist Gil Kane in the fabled issues of The Amazing Spider-Man #s 121-122 was groundbreaking. Not only did this storyline feature the surprising death of Peter Parker's longtime girlfriend Gwen Stacy, but it also featured the demise of Spider-Man's greatest villain, the original Green Goblin. Although the story was full of dynamic action and suspense, perhaps its most memorable moment was the quiet scene at the end of issue # 122 when Peter finally collapsed in despair in the company of his friend Mary Jane Watson. In just a few short panels, Conway fleshed M.J. out as a character more than ever before, while also showing the human side of everyone's favorite wisecracking superhero.

For more details on these and hundreds of other Spidey tales, ranging from the popular to the obscure, be sure to check out Spider-Man Chronicle, out now in comic and bookstores nationwide.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

ComiConn 2012...

For anyone around the New York/Connecticut area, I'll be appearing this Saturday at ComiConn, Connecticut's largest comic book convention. I'll have a table there and plenty of copies of my most recent books. So if you're in the area, stop by and say hello.

Check out the ComiConn website for location and ticket information.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Put some pants on, Spider-Man...

From The Amazing Spider-Man # 157 (June 1976)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

On Digital Comics...

While I’ve only been writing comics professionally for a little over a decade, due to some of the books I’ve written, I’ve been handed the title of Comic Book Historian. Like any diehard comic fan seeking validation for how he’s spent the majority of his life’s free time, it’s a title I welcome with open arms and hope to exploit the fullest extent of my ability.

In that spirit, I’ve decided to write the occasional editorial here on my blog about comic history, the state of the industry, and some of the uphill battles being fought along the way.

So let’s start with digital comics.

First, it should be known that I’m not opposed to digital comics in any way, shape or form. I agree with the thinking that comic books need a “new newsstand,” a way for the mainstream populace to casually encounter a comic book and decide to plop down a few dollars for something they haven’t tried in a while. While collections of comics have made their presence felt in bookstores, bookstores themselves are becoming a thing of the past, and comics need nothing as badly as they need new readers.

But here’s the problem, a digital comic is not the same thing as a comic in print.

As much as we try to prove otherwise, constantly converting comics to be read on monitors, iPads, iPhones and the like, it’s not the same thing, and we need to stop acting like it is.

A comic book is delivered to the reader via pages. As storytellers, comic book writers and artists manipulate our audience through the use of panel size and layout. We build suspense by saving big surprises for when our reader turns the page, heighten the drama with quick panels meant to be read rapidly, or instill awe and power with the use of a large full-page splash image, or in some cases, a double-page spread.

A digital comic attacks the reader quite differently. The audience is given the choice between viewing the comic page by page, or to experience it panel by panel, depending on the size of their digital device or their personal preference.

When viewed panel by panel, the smallest frame on a page now carries the same significance as the biggest, as digital comic viewers enlarge or reduce each frame to fit the reader’s particular device. How can a two-page splash pack a huge visual punch if it’s reduced to the smallest panel on your screen?

Luckily, there are some smart folks already working on this particular problem. Not the least of which is the talented Mark Waid, who has already made several public declarations about the importance of digital comics.

Already earning his chops as one of our industry’s finest writers, Waid has put his money and skill where his mouth is, delivering teases of what’s actually possible in this new medium of digital comics with brilliant examples like his recent straight-to-digital Nova story.

In it, Waid takes advantage of the slight nuances available when readers are forced to turn the page of a digital comic without actually turning the page. Speech bubbles and caption boxes can be added to the same illustration. Focus can be altered from one part of the panel to another. The writer can force the reader to read at the pace he wishes, by pairing the words in the comic with the exact part of the panel he wants them to look at.

In short, a comic story is broken down panel by panel by someone who is hoping to not just adapt the comic format to digital form, but to enhance the experience for the reader. Digital comics are new and exciting, and they should read that way, rather than as a sometimes clunky transfer from paper to pixels.

These kind of strictly digital comics are innovative and extremely new reader friendly, but the majority of comics published digitally are still originally intended for print.

So how do DC and Marvel fix this problem, and hook old and new readers on the digital format?

They invent a new job.

Well, that's not exactly true. The job already exists. Comics aren't magically leaping onto iPads. There are many capable folks working to adapt print to digital. But they’re not being paid to deliver something other than a straight digital rerelease. In most cases, these employees are not writers or artists in the conventional sense. And they are certainly not the original creators who wrote or drew the comic in the first place. And maybe they should be.

Only those involved with the creation of a comic book understand precisely the story they set out to tell. The writer and artist know the themes and pacing they were attempting to create. They had a specific plan for what the reader feels, and when.

These are the people who need to be adapting their own comics to digital. Or at the very least, a writer needs to be brought on board the project to creatively rework a print story so that it functions as a series of same-size panels being read individually. And these writers need to be given the freedom to make changes if and when they need to, as well as the power to have the artwork be tweaked or added onto by the original series artist.

It's sort of like adapting a film from a novel. Each writer is trying to tell the same story, but each writes to the particular strengths of his medium. Novels have the ability to get inside a character’s head with little effort, and films can set a scene in a few seconds that might take a novel several paragraphs to describe.

Print comics and digital comics might not be as radically different as the written word and the visual medium of film, but they’re certainly not as alike as we currently assume them to be.

Let's call this job position the digital adapter. It may be the original writer or artist in this role, or it may be some other creative person altogether. But make no mistake about it, this needs to be a creative position. This person is in charge of taking each comic apart and putting it back together again. And not just in a way that makes the comic read the same in both formats. But in a way that makes the digital experience as unique and exciting as it has the potential of being.

Sure it’ll cost money. Creators aren’t going to provide this service for free, nor should they. But the only other alternative I can see is writing just for digital, and avoiding the print medium altogether. And there will always be readers, myself included, that like to hold a printed item in their hands and place it on a shelf for any curious houseguest to see. And while the digital medium has many factors in its favor, a physical presence isn't among them. The majority of readers still purchase printed comics, so companies need to be able to cater to both crowds.

While I'm throwing fictional money around, I might as well state that I'm of the opinion that digital comics should be no more expensive than a song on iTunes. If we want the mainstream audience to get on board, comics need to return to their impulse purchase status that sold millions of copies back in the Golden Age of the industry. To hook new readers, comics need to be as accessible and affordable as every other type of digital entertainment. That means that even new issues need to cost around a buck.

Will it be hard at first? I'd assume so. But if we want comics to be around for the long run, we need to be thinking about long run solutions and long run profits. We need to think about building an audience and introducing new readers to this inside world that we've been enjoying for decades.

Of course, that also means we need to vary the content in the stories we tell, but that’s an uphill battle for a different day.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spider-Man, Spider-Man...

Heading to the theater to see The Amazing Spider-Man this week? Need something to read during the commercials and trailers? No? How about something to sit on to see over the tall guy in front of you?

Well you're in luck, because Marvel and Disney Publishing has just released The Amazing Spider-Man Storybook Collection.

You can find this handy, readable booster seat at your local bookstore or on Amazon. It features some great artwork by the likes of Craig Rousseau and Todd Nauck, and adapts many of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's classic Spider-Man tales into a storybook format. For my part, I adapted the first appearance of Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man # 9 (February 1964). Some of the other writers include Scott Peterson, Bryan Q. Miller, Nachie Castro, Tomas Palacios, and Clarissa Wong.

And if you still have a craving for more Spidey reading, don't forget to check out my recent book for DK Publishing, Spider-Man: Inside the World of Your Friendly Neighborhood Hero.

Also, be sure to pre-order the exceptionally massive Spider-Man Chronicle: A Year by Year Visual History which should be heading to book stores in early October. Here's a glimpse of the impressive wrap-around cover:

If you sit on this one in the theater, you might get a few complaints from the people behind you. I mean, they did pay twelve dollars, and you're being a little rude.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Poem Day # 12...


When I came home
from school and noticed
that my dog Murphy
was missing, I asked
my mom where he was.
She told me they’d taken
him to live on a
farm where he would
have more room to run.
When I pointed out
that we already live
on a farm, Mom quickly
changed the subject to golf.
Which was odd, because
neither of us play golf.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Poem Day # 11...

Today's poem comes from my time living in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn several years ago:

The Vine

I have a vine growing
through my window.
When I debate cutting
it down, I can’t help but
think that it allows me
to grow, so why shouldn’t
I do the same for it?
But then I remember that
it hasn’t chipped in for
the rent or for the air
conditioner that gives it
water. So then I think
I really just want to
hack the free-loading
son of a bitch to bits.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Poem Day # 10...

My family and I took a trip to Ohio and Michigan recently, so I missed a few New Poem Days. Here are three of my favorites to make up for it:

Driving Home in Ohio

She looked over from
the passenger seat and said,
“When I was little,
and I came home from
my first day of school,
I asked my uncle why
I was the only brown girl
in class. He sat me down
on his lap and told me
that when God made people,
he baked them like cookies.
He didn’t cook the
first batch long enough,
and those were the white people.
He cooked the second batch
too long, and those
were the black people.
But the third batch was cooked
just right, and that was
us, the Mexicans. It
made me feel much
better at the time.”
I turned my head
from the dark road to
look at her and said,
“That’s the cutest racist
story I’ve ever heard.”

The Dentist on Lexington Ave.

Going to meet her
to tell her how
I felt was like
going to the dentist.
I wasn’t sure if
I was going to be
rewarded for my interest,
or if I was just
going to be drilled.
Either way, I wished
I had some out of date
magazines around to
not pay attention to.

A Girl and her Boots

I dated this girl once
who always talked about boots.
She’d somehow manage
to turn every conversation
into a complicated discussion
about the latest in boot wear.
There was this one pair of boots
that she had her eye on in particular.
Even though we’d only been dating a few weeks,
and the boots cost over two hundred dollars,
I took her constant boot discourse as a hint.
So I went out and bought her the boots.
She broke up with me the next day.
She even sent me a check for the boots.
I guess the boots scared her.
Which was odd for a person
who liked boots so much.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Poem Day # 9...

Sensei’s advice on nature

“I don’t understand
the phrase “all natural”
because really, where else
would they get the ingredients?
Even chemicals and artificial
coloring have to come from nature
at one point or another. So if not
from nature, the only other
place things could come from
would have to be another
dimension entirely. And honestly,
I would be more prone to
buy a snack bar that had the
phrase “extra-dimensional” on
it rather than “all natural”
because I think they might
have some flavors over there
that I haven’t tried yet.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

Inside the World of Your Friendly Neighborhood Hero...

Out now in bookstores nationwide is Spider-Man: Inside the World of Your Friendly Neighborhood Hero. My newest volume in DK Publishing's recent line of guidebooks (which includes Iron Man: The Ultimate Guide to the Armored Super Hero and Wolverine: Inside the World of the Living Weapon), this comprehensive look into Peter Parker's life and times was co-written by the legendary Tom DeFalco, and features hundreds of illustrations from artist from all different eras of the wall-crawler's life.

Here's a glimpse inside if you don't have a bookstore nearby:

So pick up your copy today, and soon you could be the guy who leaves the movie theatre complaining loudly about how the film version was different than the comics. Because really, who doesn't want to be that guy?

Okay, most people. But you should still buy the book.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

New Poem Day # 8...

Death and Skiing

Rob and I descended the hill,
my skis tossed over my shoulder
while Rob slid beside me
on his ski pants, not even
making the attempt to walk down
the steep slope of ice.
As the other skiers zipped
past us, spraying a fine mist
of white, I said to Rob
that if a person already had
really bad self esteem,
and they were considering suicide,
they should go skiing, and make
sure to bring a gun along.
That way, if they’re as bad
at skiing as we are,
they’ll get frustrated enough
and instead of walking back down,
they can just shoot themselves
right then and there,
and then they won’t have
to worry about returning
their skis or about people
laughing at them from the
ski lift.  Because no one
laughs at dead people.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Poem Day # 7...

To help celebrate my wife's birthday, here's a poem from a past birthday gone horribly wrong:

It’s his party

The day before my brother’s
thirteenth birthday, I threw
a stick at him while playing
in the woods.  The stick
hit him right in the eye,
and we had to rush him
to the hospital.  He came
home with a huge patch
covering his left eyeball.
The next day when all
his friends came over for
his party, Mom had to
make everyone think it was
pirate-themed just to
keep my brother from crying.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Poem Day # 6...

Today's poem helps explain why I'm not much of a sports guy:

Our Goal

When I was in second grade,
our soccer team only scored
a single, solitary goal.
None of our parents had the heart
to let a bunch of excited kids
know that we’d scored
the goal not on our
opponents, but on ourselves.
We probably should have
figured it out by the
other teams’ expressions
of joy and gratitude,
but we just thought that
they knew it was our first goal
and were genuinely happy for us.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Poem Day # 5...

Today's poem details an important lesson I learned back in college about the dangers of inviting a female friend to a "guys' night."

Male Bonding

When I agreed to let
her go out with us
to the bar, she promised
she would act like
"just one of the guys."
But there was something
in the way she kicked
me under the table
every time I'd talk
to another girl that
hinted to me she'd
gone back on her word.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Poem Day # 4...

A thought on the D train

If I could read
women like a book,
I would probably still
be just as clueless
because I’d spend all
my time rereading my
favorite chapters and
only skim through the
hard parts, which are
probably the parts that
they’d want me to pay
the most attention to.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Last bit of Spidey news...

As I mentioned last week, I have one last Spider-Man project to announce now that it's also up for pre-order on Amazon. Due in bookstores this October is Spider-Man Chronicle: A Year by Year Visual History from the good folks at DK Publishing. A perfect companion book to the fictional history of the wall-crawler in Spider-Man: Inside the World of Your Friendly Neighborhood Hero, this month by month chronicle of the events in Spider-Man's world and the people who charted them is proving to be a mammoth project, but one I'm very excited about seeing in print. I'm currently writing the 1960s through the 1980s, while my partner in crime, Alan Cowsill, will be handling the 1990s through the present. If you liked our work on the DC Year by Year book, or my sections of the Marvel Chronicle, then be sure to check out this latest volume in the series.

But to make sure the book comes out on time, I better stop writing this and get back to reading 1970s Spider-Man comics. Man, I'm really hungry for a Hostess Twinkie for some reason...

Above art by Frank Miller. Yes, that Frank Miller.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New Poem Day # 3...

This week's poem includes some helpful advice from a former karate instructor of mine.

Sensei's advice on cats

"Talking to a woman
is like trying to pet
a cat you see on the street.
Some are real affectionate
and'll come right up to you.
Others take a little nurturing
before they'll give you
the time of day. But most,
most given the opportunity
will throw themselves
under the nearest car
just to get away from you."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Spidey Storybook...

Up for pre-order now (and in bookstores on June 5th) is another one of my new Spider-Man projects, The Amazing Spider-Man Storybook Collection. An anthology of classic Stan Lee/Steve Ditko stories adapted into children's book prose, this new Disney hardcover will be over 300 pages long and will feature the work of a variety of writers and illustrators. For my story, I was asked to adapt the first appearance of Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man # 9.

Next week I'll be posting about yet another new Spider-Man project that's proving to be a lot of fun (and work) to write. So if I were you, I'd stay on this website and just keep clicking the refresh button until then. You might lose some sleep, but it will totally be worth it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Poem Day # 2...

This week's new old poem:

Their Fault

If they had
told us that
we weren't
allowed to
fiddle with the
pizza before
sending it back
in exchange
for a new one,
we never would
have formed the
pepperonis into
an angry face,
and Domino's
would still deliver
to my house.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friendly Neighborhood DK Guide...

Up now for pre-order is my new guide from DK Publishing, Spider-Man: Inside the World of Your Friendly Neighborhood Hero. Matching the style and format of my other two DK character guides, Wolverine: Inside the World of the Living Weapon and Iron Man: The Ultimate Guide to the Armored Super Hero, this book tells you everything you need to know about the wall-crawler's fictional exploits. Packed with hundreds of illustrations by some of the best artists in the business, the book is also co-written by longtime Spidey writer and expert Tom DeFalco. It's going to hit bookstores everywhere on April 30th, so reserve your copy now.

I've got a few other Spider-Man related projects in the works as well, so keep checking back as I'll be announcing one of them next week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Poem Day # 1...

It's been a while since I've updated this site, and that's mostly due to the fact that I can't yet talk about most of my upcoming projects. So in an attempt to add a bit more content to this place, I'll be introducing a few new features. In the months to come, I'll be posting the occasion editorial about some hidden gems I've discovered during my years of writing and reading comics or whatever's got me angry at the moment.

But since I'm currently bogged down with another book I can't quite talk about right now, I'm going to be posting some of my older writing in a column called New Poem Day.

Back in college (and a few years following), I wrote quite a few poems. Some were adapted into comic book form and a handful were printed in some poetry magazines. But the majority of these little guys have never seen the light of day, so I thought I'd dig them out and post one here a week.

So without further ado, here's this week's offering:

What she thinks about during my sitcom

She paused from washing dishes
to ask me why I’d ever want to be a father.
I looked up from the television and said that
sometimes, when I get home from school
and I lay down on the couch,
the cat will lay on my stomach.
I hold it, it purrs gently,
and we just look at each other.
Then usually it bites my nose.
I told her I wanted that,
but without the biting.