Tag Archives: Wednesday Comics

Rejection Week: Bottom banana plays second fiddle

In 2009, DC Comics hit me with a surprise. Wednesday Comics was a serialized newsprint comics broadsheet that hit stands once a week for 12 weeks. I blogged giddily about the joy I took consuming it, and even had my son take a picture of me reading it, just to demonstrate its scope:

I want to apologize right now to DC for wearing a Captain America shirt for this shoot.

Wednesday Comics was a real gamble on the part of DC. It resurrected serialized storytelling from the era when newspapers had comics of substance, and it did it with an investment in A-list talent. The whole project is so daring, I decide I want in. And I want to do it daring style. I learn that the whole shebang is the brainchild of DC art director Mark Chiarello, and I know just what I want to pitch him. In my mind, Wednesday Comics is so awesome, it will surely spawn a sequel, and I think that sequel should star Detective Chimp.

Um, that would be D-list comics celebrity Detective Chimp. He’s, you know, a chimp. And he solves mysteries. Because he’s, like, a detective. It’s all very comics-logic, and if you’re not on board with that description, then, brother, I’m not sure you’re at the right blog.

You’ll notice that the original Wednesday Comics unfurls into a broadsheet equivalent to eight pages of content. I reason that I can win Chiarello over if I combine my story pitch with a mock-up of an actual issue of Wednesday Comics. Do I know that there will be a sequel to this project? No. Am I choosing a marketable character? No. Am I approaching the right guy to launch my future career as a comics writer? Considering he’s an art director, probably not.

But if you can’t believe in something stupid, ill-conceived, star-crossed and wholly unlikely, what can you believe in?

So I did it. Exactly what I said up there above, I did that. I made the mock-up. I filled it with chimp jokes. I fashioned a mock comic strip using stick figures … including a stick figure chimp … wearing a deer stalker. I consulted with the staff at Blick’s for the ideal paper and pens to execute my vision. I practiced the ideal fold, and brainstormed ways to fill it with the right content.

And this is what came out:

See how the front and back covers perfectly mimic the real thing? I'm banking here on the "just so crazy it might work" school of logic.

Just like an issue of Wednesday Comics, there's an ad inside the first fold. My ad happens to be for the Detective Chimp Agency, rather than a Kia Soul or Robot Chicken as in the source material.

Unfurled now in all its glory, you can see the giant cover letter on the left, and the giant meta-comic on the right in which Det. Chimp and his assistant, Batson, solve the mystery of who should write his comic advenures. J. Drew Scott of course! (You get that Batson-is-Watson joke, right? That's Billy Batson, the shazam-shouting Captain Marvel who's assisting Chimp. Oh, man this thing works on SO many levels.) Note the use of an original word-math puzzle in the lower center, which I created to tease how I thought Wednesday Comics could go even further into its newspaper roots. Add pencil puzzles!

Once you build a mock broadsheet comic of those proportions, you can’t just mail it. You’ve got to keep the sizzle sizzlin’ on your comix fajita. After repeat visits to my local Paper Source, where the staff soon began to think I was just nuts, I pieced together the knowledge I needed to fashion a crude portfolio to house my creation:

Yes, they had just the right brand of monkey-themed bookcloth.

The mock-up tucked neatly into the custom protective corners (cut from banana-colored envelopes. On the right I pasted a quick salutation and an offer to meet with Mr. Chiarello at the upcoming Chicago Comic-Con.

Well, once I had gone this far, it seemed cruel just to shove this into a UPS sleeve and sling it into a busy editor’s in-box. No, I knew I wanted my submission to be seen on his desk — not just on his desk, but from the very minute it entered the DC offices in NYC. All hail the Internet, which connected me to a Manhattan gift shop that specialized in custom baskets. The proprietress seemed amused by my tale and I could tell I got her invested in my quixotic quest; she had become a Sancho Panza of simian seduction, as she and began to envision a basket loaded with bananas and monkey-themed nonsense. Here’s the photo she sent me just before delivering the payload to the DC headquarters:

Nuts, right? I mean, totally bonkers that I took this stupid little idea this far, and turned it into a Carmen Miranda halftime show. You can feel the scrappy, I’m-gonna-make-it-after-all, against-the-odds vibe here, right?

But as you know, it’s Rejection Week, and I haven’t retired early to the Caymans with my fat wages garnered as a hot comix provocateur. This story must get the Old Yeller treatment.

I did hear from Chiarello, at least, and he was very gracious. He thanked me for the basket, swearing that I didn’t have to try so hard next time. (Read: Please stop scaring us with your crazy.) He assured me that if there were going to be a Wednesday Comics 2, it would probably still be using A-list talent (and that he even had some names in mind for a Detective Chimp concept he had already been noodling). He did agreed to meet me at the Comic-Con, which is probably the best outcome I should have hoped for. We have stayed in touch from time to time, so who can say: Perhaps this rejection is the very long, drawn-out, needlessly fruit-infused beginning of an acceptance one day.

And when that day comes, we’ll all have plenty of Vitamin A and potassium.

Follow ‘Em All!
Rejection Week Day One
Rejection Week Day Two
Rejection Week Day Three
Rejection Week Day Four
(Rejection Week Day Five)

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Wednesday Comics: It’s a good time to like funnybooks

It's like a Fanny May box of chocolates. I want to eat it all.The San Diego Comic Con kicks off today, and in honor of this all-powerful nerd convention, I want to write a love letter about something truly original coming out from DC Comics right now: Wednesday Comics.

Original things are rare in comics; as I understand the industry, the business model is quite fixed, with thin margins, rising production costs, increasingly costly creative, and time-sensitive inventory, the management of which is a volatile and byzantine riddle for retailers. So to see anything different or risky kicked out of the comics machine is cause to shout. And boy does, Wednesday Comics make me want to do the Isley Brothers thing. Shout! Woo!

Wednesday Comics (named for the day new comics hit shelves each week) is a purely original way to get your comics on. It’s a weekly newsprint tabloid, a whopping 28″ x 20″, featuring 15 full-page, full-color comics created by some of the biggest names in comics. Just unpeeling the thing to get a good look is a tactile wonder. See, see!

Observe the natural stance for enjoying Wednesday Comics: arms flung wide, reared back in reclining chair. (Photography by Younger Son)

Observe the natural stance for enjoying Wednesday Comics: arms flung wide, reared back in reclining chair. (Photography by Younger Son)

Here’s are some reasons to cheer about this:

1. It’s a visual banquet. The array of colors and textures that spill out at once is big like a Michael Bay summer flick, but, you know, smarter and quieter. Check that photo, that’s the same as having eight pages of comics in front of you at once. It’s beautiful!

2. It hearkens back to the original comics experience. Back in the 1930s, the well-read gentleman sat back at his Sunday breakfast table and had a chuckle with a full page of Little Orphan Annie’s antics. Little Nemo, The Phantom, Terry and the Pirates — these are the characters who are swinging out of the Wednesday Comics pages as much as Superman and Batman. This isn’t just a novel way to experience comics, it’s an homage to another era.

3. The storytelling style comes from another era, too. In a weekly, one-page format, the creators have a real task re-discovering how to tell stories that don’t involve 32-page monthlies and six-issue arcs. This is the comics equivalent of “small ball” — there’s not even enough room to swing for the fences.

At the moment, DC Comics is also pumping out its major “summer event” series called “Blackest Night.” This is a big, loud, multi-title, intergalactic slugfest involving Green Lantern, the superhero space cop. It’s a story that has been building for years (through a couple of other major summer-event series), and it’s got a complex, continuity-heavy storyline. (“Continuity” in comics means the collective buildup of decades of stories being recognized in every new storyline; if someone develops an allergic reaction to nuts in issue #255, he better have his EpiPen ready when he fights the Mad Cashew in #600. Continuity-heavy stories can be off-putting to people who haven’t been following quite so closely.) I’ve heard good things about “Blackest Night,” but what a world away that is from these short bursts of contained story tumbling into my hand every week.

4. Oh, that creative lineup. It’s an All-Star Game in there:

* Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso on Batman. The two guys responsible for the badass “100 Bullets” series go together like AK and 47.

Azzarello and Risso, "Wednesday Comics: Batman"

Click it and lick it. Yummy!

Click it and lick it. Yummy!

* Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred on Metamorpho. This offbeat B-list character gets an offbeat treatment from these A-list creators. This example from the first week starts out rather conventionally, but weeks two and three have moved to giant, single-paneled landscapes. An unusual move, but hey, it’s Gaiman. I’m in.

Pope, "Wednesday Comics" Strange Adventures"

1. Click; 2. Love.

* Paul Pope, writing and illustrating “Strange Adventures,” the 1950s serial tracking sci-fi swashbuckler Adam Strange. Pope has a unique squiggled hand, with a rock-star-cool sensibility, like Mick Jagger is dancing on his desk as he draws. When he draws a page full of gnarly space baboons invading Adam’s personal space, I sort of tear up with glee.

* Kyle Baker on Hawkman. I know: Hawkman, Who cares, right? Well, I do, now that Baker’s convinced me. His narrator is a bird summoned by Hawkman to go on a suicide mission to stop a planeload of terrorists. The terrorists turn out to be invading aliens. Hawkman hurts them. Yeah, Hawks is one bad dude in Baker’s hands.

Kyle Baker, "Wednesday Comics: Hawkman"

*Kurt Busiek on Green Lantern, with crisp, nostalgic art by Joe Quiñones.

* Father-son team Joe and Adam Kubert on Sgt. Rock, a good ol’ WWII comics stalwart about busting up Nazis.

* Oh! Oh! The fantastic art of Amanda Conner and her husband and writing partner Jimmy Palmiotti on the supercute Supergirl, guest-starring the campy super pets from the Silver Age of Comics.

There are more, more, more great stories crammed in there. I can’t believe DC is pulling this off in the face of all those challenges I mentioned. There’s even another financial hurdle between this project and economic viability: how will these supersized comics get reprinted in the obligatory paperback collection essential to publishers recouping their costs on expensive titles? If Wednesday Comics does get the “trade paperback” treatment, it’ll be shrunk like a banana in a Ronco dehydrator. If we, the comics loving public, can make this experiment worth their while (i.e., buy this!) we may be rewarded with more innovation like Wednesday Comics in the future.

Like next summer, for example. DC, I’m clearing my calendar for you.

Have a great convention, San Diego!

Awesome overload.

Even more pages of slickitude from "Wednesday Comics"

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