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January 7, 2008


CR Holiday Interview #14: Sean T. Collins on The Year In Mainstream Comics

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imageIt's been a long year in North American mainstream comics, as DC and Marvel continue to do battle for the largest portion of the Direct Market revenue pie, the market for books and trades of that work continues to grow in significant fashion and have a greater say on how comics are published (although most of that success fails to match the heights reached by popular manga), and event book after event book primes an audience that is beginning to show signs of Armageddon Exhaustion. Having started as one of the prime forces behind the comics interested articles in the Abercrombie & Fitch Quarterly, having most recently worked for Wizard before being let go this year, and being an adult superhero comics reader who came to them with almost no experience with them as a child and therefore maybe the only writer-about-comics out there lacking the nostalgia gene, the writer and one-time anchor of the on-line comics commentary world Sean Collins offers what I think is a unique perspective on events in the costumed corner of the comics world. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: Sean, I don't know a whole lot about you before you showed up on-line.

SEAN T. COLLINS: Ha, I like the way you phrased that. Sort of like how one fine day a ship arrived at the Grey Havens and off hopped Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, and those two blue wizards who would be my lead characters if I ever wrote Tolkien fanfic.

SPURGEON: Bonus points, then, if it involves being sent East to combat Sauron, but is there a cocktail party version of how you went from reading comics to writing about them at Abercrombie & Fitch? How did comics gain a foothold there in the first place?

COLLINS: Actually, before I worked at A&F I was barely reading comics at all. I'd only started reading them in high school and mostly stopped in college, except for anything by Frank Miller and the occasional thing by Alan Moore and eventually, thanks to a roommate's donations, ACME Novelty Library and Savage Dragon. Then one day I flipped through a copy of Wizard that was on the desk of my boss at A&F, Savas Abadsidis, a fanboy through and through. I forget which issue it was but there was a piece on the upcoming Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely/Joe Casey/Ian Churchill relaunch of the X-Men franchise. I remembered Morrison's name from Arkham Asylum and decided to swing by the store, which was Jim Hanley's a couple blocks from Penn Station into which I commuted every day, to pick up his and Casey's first issues. The rest was history. Being in Hanley's on a regular basis exposed me to the whole panoply of alternative comics, and since I was spending Abercrombie's money I vowed to buy one book a week by someone I'd never even heard of before. That's how I picked up The Last Lonely Saturday by Jordan Crane, which led me to Non, which led me to Highwater, and blammo, comics nerd.

So comics got a foothold at A&F simply through Savas and I being readers. He'd already been running reviews of graphic novels pretty much one per issue when I got there, and I just brought another voice saying things like, "Hey, let's interview Brian Michael Bendis or Art Spiegelman" to the table. He and I also liked to use comics artists as illustrators, which led to guys like Jordan and Nick Bertozzi working for us.

As you can tell, I am for shit at cocktail parties.

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SPURGEON: Why did you end up leaving A&F and how did you end up with the gig at Wizard?

COLLINS: The Quarterly came under regular fire from Christian conservatives for its, oh, let's say relaxed attitude toward sex, as evidenced by both Bruce Weber's racy photos of naked collegiate types and by the editorial content, which was my bailiwick. Right around the time that Joe Scarborough did a segment echoing the Catholic League/Concerned Women for America line that the Quarterly constituted "porn for kids" or whatever the fuck, I believe the company's bottom line was taking an unrelated and ultimately short-lived downturn, and the Quarterly was canceled, I think mostly as an effort to show the shareholders, "Hey, we're doing something." To quote Shogun Assassin, it was a bad time for the empire.

While I was at the Quarterly I made the acquaintance of X-Men and Transformers producer Tom DeSanto. He had a relationship with Wizard for obvious reasons and put in a good word for me there. They liked the freelance assignment I did for them, an interview with Geoff Johns about Green Lantern: Rebirth, and brought me aboard to work in their Special Projects department.

SPURGEON: How would you describe your specific interest in comics? What core elements drive your interest in the art form?

COLLINS: Wow. You know, those are hard questions! It's like asking me what drives my interest in rock and roll or movies. I honestly couldn't tell you why I'm so focused on comics as opposed to, like, prose fiction. I guess it's the sense that comics is the last Wild West medium. You can pretty much do whatever the hell you want, be as weird as you want, and still be published and find a passionate audience for it. That makes me feel passionate. The feeling I get when I crack open a comic is pretty close to that feeling I get when the lights go down in a movie theater or the opening notes of a really great record come on, only if anything I think I get it more often and more viscerally from comics than I do from movies. Comics are fun, even or especially when they're really just brutal and dark and awful.

imageLately there are two sort of vibes that get me going in terms of comics. In genre comics, it's what I've come to call "the art of enthusiasm" -- a creator taking all sorts of stuff that they find awesome about the art they enjoy and presenting it for your enjoyment as filtered and expanded through their own imaginations. Things like Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction's Immortal Iron Fist, Geoff Johns's Green Lantern, Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim.

In art comics, I find the way I interact with them getting closer and closer to the way I interact with music. So I like the short story format because it's like listening to one good song. I get fired up by the tension and rhythm of repetition. I like the elements to sort of jangle against each other at angles, almost in abstract fashion, so that the impact is primarily emotional rather than intellectual, which is how I listen to music -- I mean, I can really really love a song and not be able to tell you what it's "about" at all, maybe not even be able to sing more than a lyric or two, but I really really love that song. I'm thinking of Anders Nilsen's comics in Mome, The End, and Monologues for the Coming Plague, Kevin Huizenga stuff like "Sunset" or "Untitled," John Hankiewicz's Asthma. I can't even tell you how much all of those excited me this past year. And yet I also loved finding out that there's a whole rainbow of Lantern Corps floating around the DCU. It's still rock 'n' roll to me.

SPURGEON: How have your comics reading habits changed by the kind of work writing about comics that you do? How has writing about comics changed the way you read comics?

COLLINS: My reading habits I'm not really sure about, but my buying habits definitely have, because I've been fortunate enough and successful enough in writing about comics to be granted free access, in one way or another, to around 75 percent of anything I'd want to read. This has decreased somewhat since Wizard let me go, but I'm still better off than most. So I tend to only buy alternative comics at cons like MoCCA where I'm coming across books I didn't have access to before, and I never buy pamphlets at all if it can be helped. I buy trades from the big superhero and manga companies at DCBService.com.

I don't know if writing about comics have changed what comics I read or how I read them. I think it's like Jog told Chris Mautner -- when I write about comics, or anything else, I'm basically just jotting down thoughts I'd have had anyway. I do feel like the more I read comics the more I understand what I like and don't like about them. And there are a handful of critics who've unlocked pathways in my brain toward understanding such things better than I did before.

SPURGEON: I've never talked to anyone who worked at Wizard before. What was the atmosphere like at Wizard? What was the office culture like? Was there anything that linked all of the employees there -- say a certain age, or a love for a certain kind of comic -- or drove employees into various camps?

COLLINS: The thing that linked every person I knew there on the creative end of things -- editorial, design, and research -- is that they loved comics. I think there's one exception and he knows who he is and probably wouldn't mind if you knew who he was either, but he dug the pop culture stuff we covered just as much as the rest of us dig funnybooks. No one on the creative end was there for a paycheck. Heh, to a fault.

imageThat said, definitions of "comics" varied wildly. There were and are certainly people there who fit the stereotypical Wizard-fan mold in terms of viewing Vertigo as "indie comics" and not reading anything black and white, who love Identity Crisis and early-'80s Marvel but think Jack Kirby's Fourth World books suck because Granny Goodness is a silly-sounding name. Then there are the people who you've probably heard about because they'd write things that'd get linked to by yourself and Dirk Deppey -- the Brian Warmoths and Kiel Phegleys and David Paggis and Rickey Purdins of the world -- who like independent comics, alternative comics, and webcomics and fought to cover them. And then in between you have people who are predominantly superhero readers but tackle them the way a normal critic would tackle art, rather than the weird insular approach where they're only ever judged against other superhero comics and by some standard of "accuracy" in terms of whether or not Wolverine would actually say that or what have you.

Those are the creative types. Then there was the business end, advertising and conventions and the online store and production and finance and marketing and the head honchos, or what we referred to amongst ourselves as "upstairs" because they occupied the second floor of Wizard's two-story office building in semi-upstate New York. Discretion is the better part of valor here, methinks. It is safe to say that upstairs is a culture unto itself.

I think in terms of the way Wizard's internal culture affects its coverage, the biggest problem is an unwillingness to look or fear of looking beyond the direct market comics buyer for potential Wizard buyers and readers. That leads to a self-fulfilling mandate in terms of what kind of books are covered and what isn't, even when the folks making the call would just as soon cover something that they're saying no to. It's not just non-superhero comics that are affected by this, by the way. This mindset kept the magazine from really covering broader non-superhero nerd-culture phenomena like Lost until a couple years ago, too.

But it's obviously changed in that regard, and it's possible it'll change further under Scott Gramling, who's a bright and talented guy. I always defended Wizard's coverage by saying it's basically just a mirror to the DM with, if anything, more coverage of non-Big Two stuff than sales merit, but I'd obviously love to see the magazine and website set a new agenda. In part it depends on whether there'll be a new crop of alt-comix people to take the place of guys like me and Brian Warmoth and Rick Marshall so that there's a critical mass of voices speaking in favor of that material.

SPURGEON: Now that you've had a few months to reflect, how do you think you're going to look back on your time at Wizard?

COLLINS: I will mostly focus on the friends I met there. I've never ever worked with a better class of people. I could rattle off a dozen names easy of co-workers who are among my favorite people on earth.

SPURGEON: Did you enjoy the immersion into American mainstream comics culture that you received at Wizard?

COLLINS: Oh, yes and no. So much of it is garbage, obviously, just soul-deadening crap that makes me angry and hateful inside. My big catchphrase while I was working there was putting down some terrible comic in a huff and gritting my teeth and screeching the word "RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!" But then there's a lot of great stuff that I'd never have read if it weren't for having an enormous pile of weekly comics from the big companies to go through every week.

SPURGEON: Did you notice things about those kinds of comics that you may not have noticed before, simply by virtue of having so many pass through the offices?

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COLLINS: Definitely. I think it helped me figure out what superhero comics do well, and then note how to do them well. So for example, everyone knows that superhero comics are full of fights, but I really grokked how important it is to root combat in a described physical space, and give each stage of that combat palpable physical consequences. It's the difference between the big throw down with Bullseye at the end of Bendis and Alex Maleev's Daredevil run and any given X-Men comic from the '90s where a bunch of squinty-eyed people with poorly defined energy powers in purple and blue costumes shoot lasers out of their bodies in random directions. Example number two: Superhero comics use costumes and powers as an exciting metaphor for the liberation of your secret self, so having costumes and powers that make a visual and mental impact on the reader aren't just gravy, they're part of why a character works or doesn't work, and there's no shame in that game. To use Bendis as an example again, his work on Ultimate Spider-Man suffered once he'd cycled through the major Lee/Ditko/Romita bad guys plus Venom and Carnage, all of whom are really marvels of concept and design, and then tried to build story arcs around the likes of Silver Sable and Deadpool. And I'm more sure than I ever was that superhero comics are like operas where the fighting takes the place of the singing -- an ecstatic, spectacular representation of dangerously powerful emotions. Most of the dreary superhero comics that the internet makes fun of these days have superheroes shouting or crying where they should be punching, and that's where they go wrong.

Reading a double-digit number of superhero comics every week for three years also exposed me to some specific things I wouldn't have seen otherwise. For example, I reappraised Geoff Johns. He's obviously the online whipping boy for modern superhero excess -- I think Alan David Doane has threatened to stab him with the arctic shit-knife. Now, not everything he's done is to my taste, but I think he's doing some really wonderful, fun work on Action Comics and Green Lantern these days. He's turned those books into a sort of greatest-hits tour of the Superman and GL mythoses -- Is that a word? I really should know by now. You'd be surprised how often the plural of "mythos" comes up when you write about superhero comics for three years. Anyway, it's a labor of love for those characters' buoyant, childlike pasts worthy of Morrison or Mark Waid, but written in the language of the contemporary aged superhero fan, and the result is as fun as the genre-y elements of Lost are fun. Not that he's at Waid's level of craft, let alone Morrison's, but his writing has a gut-punch quality that Waid's more studied trips down memory lane lack. And for God's sake, he brought back Superman's ability to shoot rainbow beams.

SPURGEON: Has your critical voice changed since stopping writing about comics on-line and starting up again? How so?

COLLINS: Yes it has. I try to be a lot less snarky and sarcastic, because I find that annoying. To use the cliche, it sheds more heat than light. And it's easy, too. Cheap. When I recently wrote about the Spider-Man event "One More Day," for example, I started just tearing into it with sarcasm and invective, a lot of "oh yeah, that's a brilliant idea!", that kind of thing, then stopped myself and tried to go through it point by point in a straightforward tone. It was harder and better that way.

I'm also less interested in writing about what such-and-such means for the industry, because I usually don't know, or what such-and-such means for the art form, because I usually don't care. I just want to read good comics and write about them, or write about why a bad comic isn't good.

imageAs a subset of all of the above I try to stay away from commenting on the latest dopey or controversial release from the big companies, "Mister Mask curbstomps someone" or "Mighty Maid gets an on-panel clit piercing" or whatever. All these bloggers who give themselves hernias kicking this stuff around -- why are they reading it at all? I was paid to read it. What's their excuse? I'm just going to quote myself from the post I wrote when I saw those panels from Countdown where Super-Copyright-Lawsuit-Prime tortured Mr. Mxyzptlk so bad that he vomited: "Normally I steer clear of dogpiling on stuff like this, because the material is so self-evidently, almost self-parodically bad, and because I think that since most intelligent readers have already made an informed decision as to whether or not such comics are worth their time and money, the people who stick around to complain about it have similarly made their own decision, for whatever reasons, and living with it is their problem and not mine." I'll make exceptions if I feel like I have something different or interesting to say about it, like how Superboyman-Prime was a stand-in for certain fanboys I've known as he Abu Ghraib'd the silly Silver Age character or the specific problems with "One More Day," but just to yell "This stupid piece of stupidity is stupid"? I don't want to do that anymore.

SPURGEON: You did these Thursday Morning Quarterback sessions with some other Wizard staffers, which makes me think that you must have had a really great perspective on a certain, large segment of American comics reader. Both doing that column and in general, how did your tastes clash with the average Wizard staffer? What was true about the stereotype of that kind of reader? What wasn't true?

COLLINS: There wasn't as much clashing as you think. In part this was because the fellas I can think of whose tastes differed most dramatically from mine usually couldn't participate, either because their other duties precluded them or because they liked to pretend that they did. But most of the people at Wizard did have insight into what they were reading that went beyond "Holy shit, look what Ultron just did!" I'm trying to think of the right metaphor here...We were all firing in the same direction, only I like to think that those of us whose tastes went beyond stories about extraordinary individuals solving problems through violence were using more accurate, higher-caliber weapons and hitting narrower, more rewarding targets. In the TMQBs I took part in that I felt really worked, like this one for example, I feel like we all hit the same bullseye no matter what guns and ammo we brought to the firing range.

The other stereotype is that we loved everything, or pretended to when we were writing, which wasn't true and was more demonstrably untrue in Quarterback than pretty much anyplace else at Wizard. For whatever reason, we had much freer rein to criticize in QB than we did in the print magazine, which in my experience was always looked at as the "real" Wizard. So a lot of pretty big titles got the business in that column. I know that in QB, I never censored myself or anyone else beyond removing attacks on the creator rather than the book or statements equivalent to a simplistic "this sucks."

SPURGEON: Who in comics do you suppose is the most happy to see 2007 go away and who is the most sad? Why?

COLLINS: I would guess DC's pretty glad to see the other side of '07. It's a "line-wide" market these days, and the books that clicked the most with readers and critics at DC tended to be the ones where creators just kind of went off into a corner and did their own thing -- books with All Star or Justice in the title, 52, Paul Dini's Batman: The Animated Series Goes to the DCU book Detective Comics, Johns's stuff -- he really wasn't involved in the big events anymore, "Sinestro Corps War" doesn't count because it was basically a two-book thing. Meanwhile the big top-down affairs and scheduling make-goods were a bust.

The saddest? I dunno, Rihanna? It was her year! All right, I will go out on a limb and say the saddest are people who look at the across-the-board era of good feelings that comics is having right now and anticipate a backlash of some kind in 2008 or 2009, be it market-driven or media-driven.

SPURGEON: So is DC really replacing Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman with General Zod's kid, Dick Grayson and Donna Troy and re-launching all of the original characters and concepts in an "Ultimate"-style universe?

COLLINS: I've heard that they are and I've heard that they aren't, and never through official channels in either case. A friend of mine pointed out to me that doing that would probably be a mistake, because DC fans are fanatically loyal to the idea of The DC Universe, and creating some new start-from-scratch versions of Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and Princess Diana won't cut any ice with people who still want them rooted in 70 years of continuity, and that's your average DC fan. Keep in mind that when Marvel started its Ultimate line, it didn't kill off Peter Parker.

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SPURGEON: And if that's not where they're doing, where do you see the "DC Universe" titles one and three and five years from now? I can't see a future past of all this Infinite hot-shot stuff and events. Where is DC heading? Is there ever a new status quo?

COLLINS: I think what they need to do is dissect "The Sinestro Corps War" like it contains the cure for cancer. It's an event that felt like an event, opened up major new lines of exploration for the character and concept involved, was fun, stuck the landing, sold like the dickens, and turned anything it touched to gold. They should have some sort of editorial or writers' retreat where they do an issue-by-issue apples-to-apples comparison with Amazons Attack! and just think about what's different between them. And they should reexamine 52, for that matter. The appeal wasn't "weekly book about DCU minutiae," it was "DC supergroup takes obscure characters they like and uses them as vehicles for exploring what they like about DC in particular and superheroes in general." "More killings," whether of Z-listers or superstars, does not appear to be the answer to anything. Nor does "crossover" have an inherently positive value.

imageAs for the future, I'll be honest, I'm not sure there is a future beyond events. But I don't mean that there's no future -- I mean events are the future. I think that's the new way superhero comics are going to be done from now on: The ongoing series keep on going, but there are these storytelling waves that push along the entire line-up, cresting with an event miniseries. Marvel has been better about this, though it was really only with Civil War that they developed the can't-miss business model. But you honestly can look at the whole post-Bill Jemas era of main-line Marvel Comics as telling one ongoing story that you can explain to your kids and give them a handful of books to follow, starting with Avengers Disassembled through New Avengers and House of M into Planet Hulk and Civil War to "The Initiative" and World War Hulk and Messiah Complex and eventually into whatever they've got cooking with the Skrulls, with plenty of side roads off into Astonishing X-Men or Silent War or wherever else you want to go. I dislike most of those comics as a reader, but as a nerd, I'm fascinated. I don't see any reason they can't keep one event setting the stage for the next for years.

SPURGEON: How do you generally see DC's non-DCU lines right now? What works and what doesn't?

COLLINS: I'm as baffled as everyone else about what to do regarding things like WildStorm and Vertigo. I think they had the right idea when they let Grant Morrison spearhead a relaunch of the whole WildStorm line, but that crashed and burned after a grand total of three Morrison-penned issues split between two series managed to come out over the course of a full year, and interested evaporated in everything else along with it. I don't know if you get a second shot at something like that. Vertigo's even more puzzling because I'm not sure even what the problem really is. I don't know how different what they're doing now really is from what they've always done in terms of either quality or brand identity. Maybe they're relying too heavily on the same batch of regular writers? My grand theory, if I were forced at arctic shit-knife point to give one, would be that easier access to bonafide independent, mature comics is siphoning away the traditional Vertigo readership. I am pretty much making that up, mind you.

In terms of CMX and Minx, I feel like it's impossible to comment on them aesthetically without also looking at sales data, which I don't have.

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SPURGEON: How do you generally see Marvel's overall creative effort right now? What works and what doesn't?

COLLINS: Other than what I've already talked about, the big secret to Marvel's events is that they tend to be about something, meaning they involve conflicting emotions and ideas and worldviews among the characters rather than simple plot mechanics or basic "evil guy is evil, good guy is good, fight" motivations. For example, Civil War was as successful as it was both because it was about superheroes fighting each other, which has that "inner-eight-year-old" appeal that all good superhero comics have, and because they weren't fighting because of a mix-up or mind control, but because they genuinely disagreed about something. By contrast, Countdown is about whether or not there should be a Multiverse. As someone put it and I wish I could remember who, it's a comic about being a DC editor.

So that's what works -- Marvel's events are about ideas. What doesn't work is that often those ideas are really bad. Civil War involved transforming Iron Man, a superhero so badass that fucking Ghostface Killah molded his persona around him -- and who by the way is the next high-profile Marvel movie franchise-in-waiting -- into a walking warrantless wiretap, while Captain America bravely fought for the right for him and his godlike friends to throw buses at Doctor Octopus with less government oversight than a nail salon. Over in the X-verse, Charles Xavier, Marvel's Martin Luther King, has been revealed as a slave owner -- he forced the sentient Danger Room into servitude -- not to mention the fact that he covered up the multiple murder of a whole X-Men team. The Illuminati, the group of superheroes who secretly make decisions about the big threats facing the Earth so that the hoi polloi don't have to, combine all the moral ickiness of big conspiracies -- war crimes, secret prisons, brainwashing -- with none of the efficacy -- the Skrulls still invade, the Hulk is still a menace, Secret Wars 2 is still in continuity, and so on. There are no signs that any of this will ever come back to haunt Marvel in terms of losing their audience -- that would have happened already -- but I just want good comics and that kind of thing makes for bad comics.

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SPURGEON: The recent Spider-Man plotline One More Day seems massively bizarre for a lot of us on the outside looking in, and your review of why such a story was fundamentally wrong was pretty brutal. Can you reiterate your objection?

COLLINS: There's a bunch of things wrong with it. For starters, I just think it's a fundamentally bad idea to have your flagship superhero, your most famous emblem of morality and valor, the guy who gave us the phrase "with great power comes great responsibility," literally make a deal with the devil. I think it's a bad idea for him to do so in order to get rid of the romantic relationship at the heart of his fan-adored, critically acclaimed, mass-appealing, bajillion-grossing movie franchise.

imageI think it's a bad idea to continue to involve Spidey in magic and mysticism, which has been a hallmark of writer J. Michael Straczynski's run dating back to when he ret-conned the character's practically perfect origin story to change the source of his powers from radiation to some Spider-God -- now the spider that bit him is supposed to have already had powers he was sent to transfer to Peter Parker, and the radiation was just an accident! It's a bad idea because Spidey's roots are in science fiction, his vibe is as everyday real-world as a Marvel superhero's vibe can get, and the whole point of his character -- like most Marvel characters -- isn't that he's some Chosen One selected by the Gods and tempted by devils, he's just some teenage loser who at a couple of key moments was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and had to make a choice of how to live his life after those moments. Again, replacing Lee/Ditko chance with destiny is a JMS calling card -- witness his Matrixy revamp of Doctor Strange's origin. I think it misses the point of Marvel Comics.

But my biggest objection is in terms of the deal's emotional or psychological believability. Simply put, if you asked any happily married couple to trade away their entire marriage -- past, present, and future -- in exchange for the life of an elderly mother figure who, however beloved she might be, only has a few years left to her regardless, the answer would be no. And as someone pointed out to me, it's moreover the last thing Aunt May would want them to do anyway!

And oh yeah, only a moron makes a deal with Mephisto.

SPURGEON: What's your sense of why they're doing something like this? Is it really as asserted just the desire of certain individual to see that marriage undone?

COLLINS: Joe Quesada's been pretty clear on that point -- they think Spidey being married ages the character and makes him harder to relate to. I'm sympathetic there because the young, unmarried Spidey of the Stan Lee years and Ultimate Spider-Man is much better than what's going on right now, although that's at least as much due to the creators involved as to Peter Parker's age and marital status. I think it doesn't have much to do with "relating" to him, I just think the character works better younger and with more freedom in terms of the soap operatics of his love life. I've had it pointed out to me time and time again that most people reading the character now have never read an unmarried Spider-Man in the main Marvel Universe, so I don't think there's a clamor to break Peter and Mary Jane up anywhere outside Marvel HQ.

SPURGEON: How do you think these plotlines that people pick apart in about 15 seconds become editorially mandated?

COLLINS: Well, I've heard from creators and editors over and over again that Joe Quesada's roots as an artist make Marvel a cool place to work, enough times that I believe it. I'd imagine the flip side to that is he brings an artist's temperament and self-confidence even to things like this, where a more dispassionate observer could probably point to it and say "Maybe it's a bad idea for Spider-Man to make a deal with Satan."

SPURGEON: Does any of this stuff really have an impact on a character as ultimately durable as Spider-Man?

COLLINS: I don't think it'll have any effect on the character's fortunes in the long run, any more than his amazing disappearing baby did or the clone saga ultimately did. The follow-up plans for this Brand New Day thing sound a lot more in tune with what makes the character fun. The question is whether they can put One More Day behind them fast enough to get people who were burned by it to buy the new thing. And superhero fans are nothing if not forgiving.

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SPURGEON: What happened to the X-Men books that they kind of slipped a bit down the charts a bit so quietly the last few years?

COLLINS: They just didn't have any plans in place for following up Grant Morrison, who as far as I can tell departed a bit more abruptly than planned. This was before a lot of franchise-wide or line-wide planning went on, so there was an awkward transition to the post-Jemas, post-auteur era of Nu-Marvel. I mean, they put Chuck Austen on that book. The next big coup was Joss Whedon, but he wisely opted to do his own thing rather than spearhead the line, and the other books were left searching for an identity and a reason to exist.

I was briefly tempted to say, "Maybe the X-Men's time has just passed," like how apparently the Vision was once the coolest character at Marvel, like the Wolverine figure, but now he's just some dopey old Avenger. But I don't think that's true. As long as there are teenage outcasts who grow up to be either adult nerds or gay, there'll be an audience for the X-Men.

SPURGEON: I never quite understood why that wasn't a bigger story.

COLLINS: Well, I guess there was a lot of other stuff to talk about. Or maybe people were still sick of the X-Men from their '90s reign of terror, and it was a good-riddance deal. Or maybe the movies filled people's X-jones.

SPURGEON: Are they on their way to being restored, creatively and sales-wise?

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COLLINS: It looks like it. What they now have in Ed Brubaker is a great writer and marquee name who's also a team player, which wasn't a role Morrison or Whedon signed up for. You've also got a market that's primed for crossovers and events, and is driven at least in part by nostalgia for the early '90s, which is the era of the big X-crossover. Add those three elements together and voila, success. I will say, though, that Brubaker's X-Men stuff has been my least favorite of all his Marvel work. The team seems to get away from him, and it's really the flipside of his usual formula, which is extraordinary character placed in relatively realistic milieu. The milieu for the X-Men is the Shi'ar Empire and a mansion filled with freaks and surrounded by giant robots. Even though he's still working his "you can't escape the sins and mistakes of your past or the pasts of your friends and family" sweet spot, it just feels really out of place in that environment, like when Elle Woods shows up at the swanky Hahvahd pahhhty in a Playboy Bunny costume in Legally Blonde: The Musical, which I watched off my TiVo the other night. Only in this case it's everyone else in the costumes. I feel like Bru would kill on Wolverine, though.

SPURGEON: How is it that Marvel is still on top without the X-Men being on top, and is that healthier for the company?

COLLINS: They focused their energies elsewhere, successfully -- the Ultimate line, Marvel Knights, events like Civil War, World War Hulk, and House of M, and most astonishingly to me, the Avengers. Something had to give. This is a truism, but the healthiest thing for the company would be for them to be able to all their balls in the air at once, and it looks like they're going to be giving it the old college try over the next year.

SPURGEON: Have we reached the point that the length of times these characters have been around and the number of stories in which they've been involves is more a detriment in terms of the characters and their stories being exhausted than an advantage in terms of depth and meaning and context? It just seems to me like these characters are at the end of their conceptual rope in a lot of ways.

COLLINS: Oh, I dunno. I've heard you say that before and I've thought about it some, and I'd say no. Granted I have a much higher tolerance for superheroes than you do, but I think the success of the movies proves they're still appealing. The difference between the movies and comics, though, is huge. With the movies, it's an audience that mostly hasn't lived with these characters for years, it's a blank slate continuity-wise. But that's the solution if things ever get really dire, so no, I don't think the passage of time has drowned them or exhausted them. A guy who dresses up as a bat to fight crime is always going to be an awesome idea, even as stories involving that guy getting lobotomized by a woman superhero who dresses like a stage magician because he walked in her lobotomizing a costumed rapist with nebulously defined light-bulb powers will come and go. Hopefully they'll mostly go.

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SPURGEON: In a way that's explainable to a fan that knows the characters and concepts but maybe doesn't follow them anymore, why did World War Hulk seems to work with its target fans?

COLLINS: Heck, it worked for me! Basically, it's that irresistible combination I talked about before: It's about something -- grief driving you to do things you normally wouldn't, what constitutes the greater good and whether acting in its name justifies the means, and also residual conflicts from Civil War -- and it's also the Hulk kicking the crap out of the whole Marvel Universe, which is inner-eight-year-old gold.

I'd also add that this is no accident. Greg Pak is a good, conscientious writer. The run-up to WWH had Hulk becoming a Spartacus figure on a faraway planet, and he really put in the effort of developing the different societies and races there while many writers would have just said "draw some crazy aliens." That carried over into his pacing of WWH, who fought who and how, the way the characters entered and exited the series and interacted with each other when they were there, and so on. And JRJR is a totally mint artist who was born for projects like this.

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SPURGEON: Why has DC's Countdown not worked as well as 52 with most devoted fans? What's your take on that title?

COLLINS: I read a few issues here and there, and something like three months deep I still couldn't tell you what it was about. Like, 52 was about each of those character's quests to find something they'd lost -- Renee Montoya wanted a reason for living, Steel wanted the love of his niece and to find whether there's a place for his old-school personal ethics in the modern world, Ralph Dibny wanted his wife back, Animal Man and Adam Strange and Starfire wanted to go home, Black Adam wanted to be happy again, and so on. They're stories that make sense on an emotional level, written by four talented guys with another talented guy providing unified layouts and another talented guy providing a unified look with the covers. Countdown's a series of teases for and conclusions of storylines from other books, most of which are about insular continuity questions, sort of dictated Marvel Method-style from the top down and carried out by a too-wide array of talent. Too many cooks, too many crossovers, not enough visceral oomph.

SPURGEON: Why didn't DC's One Year Later effort hit harder in terms of sales and interest?

COLLINS: It's funny -- I thought that from "OYL" on, the Batman and Superman books were as good on the whole as they'd been in my lifetime. This really baffles me. I think DC was really just a victim of its own success. Identity Crisis, the Countdown to Infinite Crisis minis, and Infinite Crisis itself were so huge with your basic fanboy. It was a marvel, seriously no pun intended, to be working at Wizard and watch the Direct Market fan culture, conditioned to view DC as an also-ran, suddenly turn on a dime and believe it could do no wrong. All those storylines were planned out so far in advance, and just knowing that was thrilling, like that bit in the beginning of every Battlestar Galactica episode where they say "And they have a plan."

Then toward the tail end of Infinite Crisis they hit delays and art hiccups, and the final issue felt rushed and smushed and kind of unsatisfactory, even though it's pretty hilarious that they're openly using Superboy-Prime as a satire of fanboys and Internet complainers. And in the canniest scheduling move ever, Marvel released Civil War #1 the very same day as Infinite Crisis #7, and I swear you could feel the balance shift under your feet. That first issue was just non-stop big beat after big beat, Steve McNiven's art was lovely, and a market DC had diddled into tumescence had a new place to plunge in. "One Year Later" wasn't the droids they were looking for.

After that, aside from 52, DC's events had this "tapdancing as fast as we can" feel. Things like Arena, where it's alternate-reality versions of Batman and Superman fighting each other like gladiators, and Salvation Run, where it's Secret Wars for villains, are all inner-eight-year-old sizzle and no big-idea steak. I haven't read them so this is probably completely unfair, but it feels less like "hey, wouldn't that be awesome?" and more like pandering.

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SPURGEON: We're about to get a big nostalgia comic with 1985, we just got away from one in the Brad Meltzer Justice League of America, and some of the critical favorites like The Brave and the Bold evoke older modes of storytelling. In fact, there's at least an element of nostalgia that's almost in ever single big project, some sort of tip of the hat to a previous reading experience. Why do you think such projects continue to work even though so many people dismiss them? Is it just the value of the kind of storytelling be reclaimed, or do comics act as such powerful nostalgia objects that they have an extra oomph that way?

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COLLINS: This is a hard question for me because I don't have any comics nostalgia at all. I didn't read them as a kid the way most people did. If I behaved myself in church while I was in nursery school my mom would take me across the street to the cigarette shop and buy me a Spidey comic off the spinner rack, because I liked him from The Electric Company and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. But I didn't read comics in elementary school. The first comic I can remember reading is The Dark Knight Returns in 6th grade, a copy that the one kid in my class who was listening to the Sex Pistols and getting blowjobs from 8th graders already stole from his older brother and gave to me because he knew how much I loved the first Tim Burton Batman movie, which had just come out the previous summer. Around that time I also collected Marvel trading cards, so I learned all the big important superheroes, like Nomad, Foolkiller, and Shatterstar. When a shop opened up nearby, I started reading comics consistently, in either 8th or 9th grade. I had my share of Spawn, "X-Cutioner's Song," "Death of Superman," "Maximum Carnage," "Knightfall" -- that one was really good -- and so on. But by the end of high school I'd cut it all down to pretty much just The Maxx and Sin City and a copy of Arkham Asylum. Then I went to Yale and basically stopped, though I'd pop into that shop on Chapel Street occasionally or flip through what my roommate was reading. Point is, I have no fond memories of the comics I read as a kid because there weren't any, and I have no fond memories of the comics I read as a teenager because 90 percent of them sucked. I still consider Dark Knight the best superhero comic I've ever read, and it was my first, so I got spoiled.

So I'm really only guessing here, but I think you're right and superhero comics are indeed nostalgia objects, as inherently nostalgic as Christmas carols. I don't know why that is. I think it's bad for the readers and bad for the art form, just as it's bad for someone who loves Christmastime as much as I do that bland pop stars can make money releasing hideous renditions of Christmas carols where they're basically just mouthing syllables without thinking at all of the meaning of the words they're singing, like kids singing "The Star-Spangled Banner," just because people are like "oooh hey Christmas carols!"

Brad Meltzer's work is a big-time offender in this regard. Nobody needed a tribute to the Detroit Justice League, nobody needs a comic where you have to be on a first-name basis with fucking Arsenal and Geo-Force to understand who they're even talking about.

So to the extent that these things aren't about recontextualizing the past but recapturing it, I don't want it. I run from it. I don't think that answers your question, but I guess I can't answer it. I don't know why they work. I wish they didn't.

SPURGEON: What should we take away from all the death in mainstream comics, the cruelty and inhumanity that drives a lot of the major titles and storylines? Is it possible to muster a defense of superhero comics that their makers compare to snuff films?

COLLINS: It's funny, because even as the mania for bloodshed has reached a new level, death is more impermanent than ever. Over the past year or two, they brought back Jason Todd, Captain Mar-Vell, even Bucky, three characters more famous for dying than living. I think you have to examine one phenomenon in light of the other. I mean, partly the killcraziness is a result of a generation of writers who didn't know anything before [Frank] Miller and [Alan] Moore, so you're seeing the insular offspring of those mid-'80s comics, the same way you could see the insular offspring of Stan & Jack material in the Marvel house style of the '70s. But another part of it is the desire or need to keep doing something big, and deaths and rebirths are as big as they come in superhero comics. But they'll get small if they're overused, and they're overused right now.

As for comparing them to snuff films, maybe a defense is that that's hilarious.

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SPURGEON: Are the Joss Whedon TV-extension comics good comics?

COLLINS: They're competent comics, at least. I'm not at all the target audience because I haven't watched a single episode of a single Joss Whedon show and think Astonishing X-Men is dull, but I know they're appealing to all my friends who are into those things. Although, a lot of my friends felt that the first arc of that Buffy comic, written by Whedon, felt too much like a teleplay and not enough like a comic -- like he was relying on the actors to give the lines verve and unique personality, but instead he had wonky likenesses from Georges Jeanty. The one issue of Brian K. Vaughan's story arc I read seemed like a big improvement -- even I could follow and enjoy it.

SPURGEON: What about the Dark Tower mini-series?

COLLINS: It was only after I forced myself to read the entire Dark Tower series of novels that I realized what a bait and switch that comic is -- it's all stuff from the existing books! It's been billed as a prequel, I think, but it's just flashback material from the youth of the main character that King himself wrote in the novels, only arranged in chronological order. But Jae Lee's art is striking, the kind of thing that really impresses people whose only previous frame of reference for comic books is old superhero comics and the funny pages. And Peter David kind of ambitiously created a whole new narrative voice for the material, shifting from King's omniscient "Uncle Steve" schtick to this sort of in-world storyteller vibe.

SPURGEON: Do they even need to be good comics?

COLLINS: I think they need to be recognizably an effort of the original creators. Which is weird, because that's not what The Dark Tower is. But somehow they pulled it off. I guess they need to be recognizably of a piece with the work of the original creators, and not just glorified fanfic, which is what most licensed comics are.

SPURGEON: Who do you read on comics -- if you do -- and why? What do you look for in terms of commentary on industry and art form issues?

COLLINS: I read a lot of blogs, actually. I do what nearly everyone does and read you, Dirk, Heidi MacDonald, and the Blog@Newsarama guys every day, a grouping that drives each member insane for being lumped in with the other ones I'm sure. I feel that keeps me up to date with the industry; I don't read the main-page news sites.

imageI try and keep up with all the creator blogs around for the artists I really like; they always seem to go on in a vacuum for months before Tom Devlin or Eric Reynolds discovers them and posts about them. I think the best of those are Paul Pope's for writing -- I find Eddie Campbell too dry for words, sorry -- and Kevin Huizenga for art.

For criticism or reviews or whatever -- the distinction eludes me and I'm tempted to just say it's bullshit -- there isn't a lot I'll read unless I've read or am interested in the book being discussed. You, actually, are literally the only person who I'll read absolutely anything and everything by. Part of that is because I love your approach to comics, just trying to crack open what they're doing and how they're doing it, what effect they have and whether it's a good or bad effect. It gives you more of an in to something you haven't read than writing based on comparison or shared experience, which you usually avoid.

But part of it is also that your reviews tend to be short. I love Joe McCulloch the way I've loved The Comics Journal -- just the existence of both has excited me -- but in both cases it's tough to feel like I'm spending my time wisely if I'm reading a long review of a book I don't know. Of course, pretty much all my blog is is long posts on stuff that only I care about, but it's my blog and I'm writing it for me, goddamn you.

But anyway, Jog's tough to beat if he's talking about something you've read or want to read. One of my new faves is the Comics Comics blog with Dan Nadel, Tim Hodler, and Frank Santoro. You just feel like they approach criticism the way I like to pretend that artists approach art -- they have a viewpoint and they go about articulating it through the prism of the project at hand. I could read them on almost anything. I think Gary Groth could be a great critic again in that mold if he decided he was going to be the change he always says he wants to see in comics criticism. Let's see... Doug Wolk is another guy with a compelling prose style who can come at a wide variety of comics but you still feel like he's grappling with the same set of issues, which gives you a point of reference that makes his criticism useful. I wish Chris Mautner published more comics crit online. I admire the cut of his jib. Ditto NeilAlien, a thinkblogger trapped in a linkblogger's body.

As for weekly-comics capsule reviews, I think you can get a pretty good feel for things if you read Graeme McMillan, Brian Hibbs, and Jeff Lester at Savage Critic. My tastes don't line up with any of theirs, but between them it's like the blind men describing the elephant -- I can understand the book they're talking about even if I don't grok their individual viewpoints. Their positions are always well articulated based on the tastes they're bringing to the table.

On the opposite end of the spectrum there are guys like Noah Berlatsky or Abhay Khosla, who say the occasional insightful thing but just bury it under meaningless contrarianism or sub-sub-sub-Cristagu performance-art jive. I also try to avoid reading criticism by people whose primary mode of interaction with comics is fury, or an attitude they developed at or copped from any of Warren Ellis' online clubhouses. And I hate to say it, but if you say you don't like Chris Ware or refuse to read Gilbert Hernandez, I pretty much find your taste ridiculous and won't listen to anything you say.

SPURGEON: 2008 will mark the 10th anniversary of the modern comic book film (Blade). It's almost impossible to succinctly define the impact of movie opportunities and actual A-list movies being made on comics because the effects are everywhere, but how do you feel comics has changed most in the last ten years since they started spending so much money on such movies?

COLLINS: With big money comes big respect from the kinds of people who respect things that involve big amounts of money, which means the gates to the mainstream entertainment and information media were thrown wide for comics. That's the main thing: The opportunity to get the message "comics exist!" beyond the usual audience is now out there. Do I think that the presence of blockbuster Spider-Man movies makes it easier to get your pitch for a review of James Sturm's America approved? Yes I do.

Then there are a lot of smaller trends. Comics aping the storytelling, dialogue, and visuals of action films. Comics that are just out-and-out movie pitches first and foremost. More people who are primarily filmmakers or television creative types writing comics, and more comics fans becoming filmmakers or television creative types. People getting into comics because they want to make money, like mercenary undergrads who join the Harvard Lampoon because writing for The Simpsons is like a fun version of i-banking or litigation. Big sales boosts for comics of finite length with a demonstrable link to their film incarnations -- Hellboy, Ghost World, Sin City, 300, and so on. Negligible sales boosts for comics of indefinite length with little demonstrable link to their film incarnations beyond the presence of characters that everyone already knows come from comics and have long since made up their minds whether they're interested in buying such things -- any of the superhero movies, basically. And in terms of the movies themselves, a lot of self-serious twaddle from superhero fans whose dignity is too wrapped up in treating the material like Faust to realize how cheesy what they're doing is -- Batman Begins, Superman Returns, the first two Spider-Man movies. I like some of the ones that everyone else likes, like the Bryan Singer X-Men films, but my favorite superhero movies of the recent wave are Spider-Man 3, X-Men 3, and Daredevil, because they're all so gleefully overblown, using the fights as opera, and that's exactly as it should be. Give me Emo Peter Parker's evil jazz dance over post-Doc Ock-fight crucifixion imagery any day.

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SPURGEON: Do you mourn the slow decline in alternative comic books as a format of choice?

COLLINS: Yes, definitely. I try to avoid buying pamphlet-format comics whenever possible because I just find trade paperbacks more pleasant to read, but so many alternative comic books actually make the format worthwhile. They lend themselves to short stories, which is my favorite form of comic these days, they're attractively designed, they're a more affordable way for publishers and readers alike to take a chance on new or outré talent. And I feel like there's so many good ones even now! Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Big Questions, Or Else, all of the Ignatz books, Cold Heat was astonishing, Angry Youth Comix... Love & Rockets announcing that changeover seems like the end of an era. Although I know Top Shelf is going to start publishing a comic book series by Jeffrey Brown, so I guess there's some juice in it yet.

SPURGEON: Will the mainstream comic book suffer that same fate?

COLLINS: I doubt it, at least not for years and years barring an unforeseen collapse of the direct market. It's an enormously conservative segment of the industry, one that fears change like Tyra Banks fears dolphins. For example, Wizard stuck with a comic-book-sized format for years even though it meant not being stacked in a lot of real-world newsstands because direct-market retailers wouldn't be able to fit them in longboxes anymore. With attitudes like that, the superhero comic book is not going away. That said, it has a lot less to recommend it than alternative comics using that format -- it's a utilitarian design that isn't very useful, you're paying for a tiny snippet of story at an unjustifiably high price point. I can count the big comics that use the format well on one hand -- All Star Superman, The Walking Dead, Criminal... that's all I got.

This is also the point in the interview where I say that years of participation in the comics blogosphere have made me really squeamish about referring to the mostly superhero-in-nature comics published by the companies in the front of the Previews catalog as "mainstream." Some of them are, but Dan Clowes is in the New York Times right now.

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SPURGEON: What do you think will be the status quo in terms of on-line offerings five years from now? Will I be able to get that year's equivalent to the Death of Captain America as a 99-cent download or will the major companies continue to negotiate this field in the same slow, awkward way that seems to define today's status quo?

COLLINS: Five years from now might be enough time for the companies to have figured out they'd make a lot of money that way, and maybe just enough time to have figured out how to square that with the concerns of retailers. If the music industry and movie industry, which are worth billions more than comics, managed to navigate these waters, there's no reason comics can't other than the business conservatism on the part of all involved parties that I mentioned earlier.

SPURGEON: For that matter, will Captain America still be dead?

COLLINS: No. I could see a guy like Ed Brubaker wanting to kill him and mean it, but in this day and age, never happen.

SPURGEON: If not, how will they bring him back?

COLLINS: I mean, people come back to life in superhero comics if Doctor Strange gets indigestion. Skrulls, spells, science, the Infinity Gauntlet -- they'll figure something out. I'll bet you $5,000 that it will involve a variant cover.

SPURGEON: Can you name five titles or comics authors that you read that you think are being under-read and would urge people to try?

COLLINS: First I'll make my plea for Geoff Johns again. Not that he needs it -- calling him "under-read" is a stretch, and that's putting it mildly. But he's under-read by the smart set, let's put it that way. I'd advise people to try his Action Comics and Green Lantern stuff; those are really the only things of his I've liked, but I like them a lot.

Second is another person I mentioned before, John Hankiewicz. It's just a completely different way of using comics. They're almost the first ones I've ever read where I feel like calling them "surreal" or "poetic" isn't the stupidest thing to say ever. And they're so clinical at the same time, like The Atrocity Exhibition. Asthma should be on everyone's year-end best list, but I feel like it's not getting a lot of attention because not a lot of people have seen it or bought it.

imageThird is Josh Cotter and Skyscrapers of the Midwest. I think that's a really commanding book, with very deft and sensual cartooning and a kind of vicious clarity about bullying, self-pity, and the relationship between vulnerable humans and vulnerable animals, a message I find powerful and disturbing. The sequence at the end of the second issue that uses insects to represent a migraine by having giant bugs literally blot out the afflicted's head, in this cosmic act of revenge against him beating his girlfriend -- that's one of my favorite comics sequences of all time, something I remember alongside the end of the World's Fair issue of ACME Novelty Library or the scene in The Diary of a Teenage Girl where they go to the beach and Minnie watches her mom's boyfriend and her friend make out.

Fourth is someone I say anytime this topic comes up, Hans Rickheit. I believe he's said on his website that real-life issues have kept him from working on comics for a couple years now, but I stumbled upon his creepy, gruesome, erotic graphic novel Chloe at Jim Hanley's way back when and bought up all his Chrome Fetus issues spread across a few MoCCA festivals and just pray to find new stuff by him any time I go to a show. Here's a guy who's just off on his own, doesn't give a fuck, drawing what he pleases, exactly what comics does so well. It's reminiscent of David Lynch and Renee French and Jim Woodring and such, but not at all derivative -- there's a visual vocabulary of gas masks, sphincters, Victoriana, tubes, and so on that's quite singular and fully formed.

imageFifth is cheating a bit because I know these folks from college and have worked with a couple of them, but Partyka. I know that this past year was sort of their breakout year, between the reviews you ran of their minis and their Ignatz and Maisie Kukoc nominations, but they're clearly still under-read by publishers, because clearly that's the only explanation as to why they don't have collections out from someone. Publisher or no, I recommend any of their sumptuously constructed minis. They've got a unique, harsh aesthetic and a rewarding fixation on monsters and myths and the way they both spring from and inform human psychology. They're also really funny, something I've known ever since I first read this awesome Archie parody that Matt Wiegle did in the Yale Herald called "Good Kids Gone Bad."

SPURGEON: If you and I were to meet at a comic shop five years from now, what will you be there to buy?

COLLINS: A chapter of Rusty Brown that still isn't the final one. Charles Burns' follow-up to Black Hole, if there's a God. Phoebe Gloeckner's second graphic novel in as many years, again, if there's a God. A Grant Morrison graphic novel from a major New York publishing house that isn't DC. Paul Pope's masterpiece. An event series about all the Kirby monsters -- still in continuity! -- attacking the Marvel Universe, led by Fin Fang Foom (idea copyright 2007 Sean T. Collins). Something awesome by Junji Ito or Makoto Yukimura. The Walking Dead. Maybe there's a little collection of my own little comics about guilt and murder that I wanted to see on the shelves.

All of that is under the assumption that I've tried and failed to snag free copies first, of course.

SPURGEON: What will you be doing?

COLLINS: Hopefully still both writing for a living and writing for fun, with more overlap between the two.

*****

* cover to the concluding chapter of Marvel's Civil War
* photo of Mr. Collins suggested by Mr. Collins and ganked from his Facebook profile
* Nick Bertozzi draws for A&F
* panel from Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker's odd Iron Fist title
* from one of Jack Kirby's Fourth World series
* cover art to a Geoff Johns Action Comics issue
* cover from the Superman Prime tortures Mr. Mxyzptlk issue of Countdown
* cover to Sinestro Corps finale
* skrulls, skrulls everywhere!
* one of Marvel's comics starring a strange, super-powered Star Chamber
* kick-off to the One More Day Spider-Man plot
* cover from that JMS Dr. Strange mini-series mentioned
* a piece of cover art from the slightly resurgent X-Men event, "Messiah Complex"
* cover from the current X-Men series, written by Mike Carey
* World War Hulk art
* Countdown cover
* art from Justice League of America run featuring writer Brad Meltzer
* The Maxx
* Buffy the Vampire Slayer art from Georges Jeanty
* Kevin Huizenga art
* from Sala's Ignatz book Delphine
* from Marvel's Captain America
* image from Skyscrapers of the Midwest
* image by Matt Wiegle of Partyka
* Collins and Wiegle collaborate on a one-pager

*****

Sean T. Collins

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the CR Holiday interview series continues through Monday with two interviews scheduled for each day. Tuesday, January 8 marks a return to this blog's full array of regular features. We thank you for your patience.
 
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