HIJACKED!

You might be wondering why I haven’t blogged on tumblr for a while.  Here’s why:

I’ve been jacked!  No, I’m not in trouble with the TSA again (that I know of).  Someone hacked my tumblr account, it was flagged for “suspicious activity”, and I haven’t been able to access it for days.

Yes, I know, it’s incredibly poor taste to use photos of the 9/11 hijackers to illustrate the point.  Although not as poor taste as the French cover to UNTHINKABLE:

(It still bugs me that not only have I still not been paid for that, nor was I given comps - I had to buy them myself…but that I wasn’t consulted on an adaptation of my own work.  It really is a disgusting cover, but I’m still proud of what’s inside.)

Unthinkable was, among other things, a commentary on how despite the fact the world was supposed to have changed on 9/11, life didn’t change for most of us here in the U.S.  This page, drawn by Julian Totino Tedesco illustrates it perfectly:

The protagonist, screenwriter Alan Ripley, is working out at Crunch in LA when he sees the towers fall.  The actress/model types next him don’t even bother to look up from their treadmills.  (Sadly, much as the world has learned little from the War on Terror, I have still not learned to stop dating actresses from their war on my sanity).

I was living in New York during 9/11, a story for another day, but the above scene was related to me as a true story.  Even if it’s not literally true, I think it has a metaphoric truth.  The day after 9/11 I went uptown to check on my ex-girlfriend (a real person, not an actress). She’d lost a firefighter friend we both knew in the attacks, a Vietnam vet who could never bring kids into the world after what he’d experienced over there). 

We had dinner around the block from her apartment, on the same street where Howard Stern lives.  As Manhattan is only 12 miles long, it was a only few miles from Ground Zero.  You could see the not just the gap in the skyline, but the plume of smoke and ash.  Worse, you could still smell that unforgettable (and likely toxic) smoldering.  Yet people were out drinking on the Upper West Side as if nothing had happened.

Maybe I’m judging them too harshly…maybe New Yorkers needed a drink more than anyone.  But it occurred to me then that if people were already forgetting this close, that soon…most of America was not going to be affected by the worst terror attack in our history.

There are exceptions, people who are affected proudly - our men and women in uniform and the families that support them.  Working on GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES has affected me profoundly, and I’ve gotten to know a ton of veterans through the book’s research and reception.

In a later posts, I’m going to talk more about that, and more importantly, about how you - particularly as comics readers - can help those veterans.  Then, don’t worry, I’ll get back to self promotion and sharing my attempts life drawing.  In the meantime, sorry to hijack your Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook feed with something serious - but at least once a year, it’s worth it.

My Epic Comics Reporter Interview

If you’re not familiar with comics journalist Tom Spurgeon, you should be.  He’s one of, if not the premiere comics journalist working today.  I’m not just saying that because I was the subject of his Sunday Interview this week. 

Among other things, Tom wrote "All These Things That Have Made Us", a profoundly moving essay about not just comics, but illness and mortality.  The fact that he was able to write about such things despite a life threatening condition is remarkable.  That he was able to do so without being maudlin was northing short of amazing.

His interview with me is the longest I’ve ever done.  It was two hours over the phone, and I think the EDITED transcript totaled something like 23 pages in Microsoft Word (he was kind enough to let me clean it up a bit before it saw print). 

It’s in depth, wide ranging and highly personal.  Yes, I talk about GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES and DECOY, but we also delve into:

-The origins of almost everything I’ve written in comics.

-How my views on women have changes since writing HAZED.

-My revelation that Marvel Comics were the theme of my Bar Mitzvah.

There’s much more, but it wouldn’t be fair to Tom to give anything else away.  While we both tried to bring some levity into the proceedings, it was flattering for someone of Tom’s stature to take me and my work this seriously after such a short time in this industry.

Thanks to Tom for his patience and hard work crafting my rambling into something readable and interesting to someone other than myself.

I hope you’ll check it out. Here’s the link again: The Comics Reporter Sunday Interview with Mark Sable.

Also…it’s been a while since I’ve blogged - I apologize for that.  This blog post was initially going to be an explanation of what I’ve been up to since I last posted on tumblr, but I thought that should wait so that Tom’s interview could be given it’s due.

I will also be at New York Comic Con, in Artist’s Alley table S16 along with artist Paul Azaceta and creator Sam Humphries.  Please stop by if you’re there this weekend.

GRAVEYARD #2 & FEARLESS REVIEWS

As Wednesday approaches, so does a chance for me to implore you to pre-order the FEARLESS trade (Diamond Order Code SEP110399) and my new OGN, DECOY (Diamond Order Code SEP111131), as well as pick up the 2nd issue of GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES (OUT NOW).

Maybe some reviews will help make my case.  Here’s a couple nice reviews for GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES #2:

"Sable manages with great skill to convey the fast paced panic that the soldiers are facing without translating that into a chaotic pacing of the issue. Even through the masses of undead, he is careful to not use the ‘Z’ word and the book retains its grounded tone throughout. Paul Azaceta’s art is astounding…

…I implore you to get on board and enjoy what is a great ride so far.”

-Comic Buzz

"It’s fucking awesome!"

- from a Multiversity video review that starts at the 6:15 mark

Back when FEARLESS was in single issue format (2007-2008) we got some nice reviews.  Here are the ones I could dig up on the internet:

"Sable and Roth set up a complex world effortlessly…Holden’s expressive, dynamic angles and distinctive character work really makes the book shine…

This is smart, fast paced and gripping superheroics with a unique twist and a great central character.”

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Alasdair Stuart, Firefox News

"…you can read (FEARLESS as a signifier of how advanced our modern understanding of the workings of the brain have become, that we can create drugs which can alleviate – sometimes even seemingly banish – insidious symptoms of mental-chemical imbalance which afflict many people in the real world as well as the fictional.

Of course, it can also be read another way – how drugs can change a person into something very different. And how that person can become dependent on those drugs. (The creators) touch on this aspect very neatly…

….subtle but effective…the first issue offers enough….to make me want to keep reading…I do like the way the play with some well-worn superhero conventions, but without trying to be too clever or postmodern about it.”

-Forbidden Planet International

a…superhero comic book…featuring better craft elements than usual…it deals with the mindset necessary for vigilante action as much as the abilities to make good on the decisions made while thinking that way. Instead of merely doing that for your average superhero they externalize it into a function of the superhero’s power, but the possibility for exploration and commentary is there.

-Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter

"Mark Sable and David Roth’s story is both interesting at the same time that it is heart-breaking. Their dialogue and pacing is fantastic. With the help of the stylish art of PJ Holden, the story blazes quickly to a satisfying conclusion. I was a huge fan of this four issue mini-series published by Image Comics when it was first released and upon reading it again I can’t help but hope that we will see these characters again. Fearless earns a strong recommendation from me and a well deserved 8 out of 10 fanboys."

-WEEBEEGAMERS.COM

CREATOR VS. CRITIC: ROUND TWO - MULTIFORCE!

The second round of CREATOR VS. CRITIC, my online “battle” with comics critic Abhay Khosla is up on The Savage Critic.  He’s a friend, but he’s also one of the most brilliant, vicious, and brilliantly vicious critics around.  When we saw Captain America in the theaters, he laughed when Bucky died.  Thankfully, this is not about him commenting on the artistic merit of my work.  I don’t think I could handle it.

The point of these interview/debates is not so much to plug my work, but to see if a comics creator can engage in critical discussion about comic books.  That might sound like an easy thing to do, but as a pro it’s really hard for me to comment on comics in any way that can be perceived negatively.  It’s a small industry made up of thin skinned creators (of which I’m not exception), and it’s not difficult to alienate colleagues, collaborators and/or employers.

Which is why we picked Mat Brinkman’s Multiforce for this months’ column.

Never heard of it before?  Neither have I.  That’s not something I’m proud of, my ignorance.  It’s an “art comic”, and is so far removed from what I do that we figured there’s never going to be any overlap between myself and Mr. Brinkman.

These battles are really less about the actual work we’re commenting on than comics in general.  In the back and forth, we spend most of the time debatin questions such as:  What is art?  What is an art comic?  Does authorial intent matter?  Multiforce is just a jumping off point.

That’s not to say I didn’t say something will get me in trouble.  It’s been suggested that I don’t do this.  But I feel like, just as with my figure drawing engaging with them on a critical level is something that’s necessary for my development as a creator.

Multiforce is as close as I’ve seen to a non-narrative comic.  It’s much more rooted in the visual arts tradition than literature or drama, which is my background.

It’s not a spoiler to say that I actually enjoyed Multiforce.  That’s despite - or perhaps before I have no frame of reference for it.

Here’s some of the interior art:

It may look a bit like something you’d doodle in high school, but there’s an energy and intricacy to it that’s astounding.

Mat Brinkman was part of an art collective called Fort Thunder.  It was a studio/living space in Rhode Island that became the epicenter of a capital A Art movement encompassing comics, music and art installations that were shown at the Whitney Biennial in 2002.

Here’s what their place looked like:

In other words…not all that different from my cluttered working/living space.

Multiforce is almost impossible to find, but you can evidently purchase it at Picture Box.  Just as long as you’ve already picked up the first two issues of GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES, and pre-ordered FEARLESS and DECOY this week first.

Let me know what you think of the column and of Multiforce.  It should be a nice palette cleanser before you gorge yourself on DC’s 52 “new” super-hero comics.

Can’t Keep The Players Straight Without a Scorecard!

Which Marine’s been blown up by the Taliban?  Who’s been bitten by a Zombie?  Whose corpse has been left to be eaten by wild dogs?

Given the extraordinary number of characters in Graveyard of Empires Paul and I thought this would be helpful.  It’s planned to be a regular feature through issue 4.

Touching on my last post, you can use this with the 1st issue to play a little Where’s Waldo and find the Taliban hidden amongst the civilian populace.

If gambling weren’t illegal I’d encourage you all to place bets on who will live, die…and come back from the dead.  (I need to remember some time to tell the story I won money by betting - legally - on a TV show I knew the outcome of).

Before I admit to any felonies, big thanks to letterer/designer Thomas Mauer for making these “mugshots” even better than I envisioned.

EDIT: when I first posted this the 2nd page was an interior page and not cast members.  should be fixed now

Batman is “Fearless”…and that’s okay.

My good friend and talented colleague has a new story in this year’s Batman 80-Page Giant.  And it’s called “Fearless”.

I have to admit, I’m very sensitive when it comes to titles.  My very first comic, GROUNDED, was originally supposed to be called POWERLESS. 

Even though it was based on a screenplay titled POWERLESS that I wrote in 2001, I had to change the name because Marvel did a mini-series called “Powerless” the same year GROUNDED came out.  (Ultimately, I think I wound up with a better title than Powerless anyway).

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work the other way around.  J. Michael Straczynski wrote (well, or at least started) a storyline in Superman called GROUNDED.  Was DC forced change it?  No.

I doubt JMS was aware of GROUNDED.  I’d be surprised if people at DC weren’t aware of it - if not the many fine DC editors I’ve worked with, then their legal department, which I’m sure has to vet the various trademarks they use.  But, you shouldn’t feel bad for me a tear for me over this any more than Dr. Doom should have shed a tear over 9/11.

I can’t tell you how many writing students I’ve had fear that their concepts will be stolen.  And I’ve felt that way myself.  I was devastated when Sky High came out, and was convinced that the storyline was ripped off from GROUNDED. 

I still get a bit upset when I see another project with a similar concept to mine (‘68 and Garth Ennis’ Stitched come to mind as being a little too close to GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES). 

As I’ve had more experience in Hollywood, I’ve come to realize that ideas don’t come out of thin air.  There is such a thing as the Zeitgeist, and if you look at history, there are an unbelievable number of cases of parallel inventions. (Caleb Calls this “Multiple independent discovery and recombinant conceptualization”) People do steal ideas, but it’s much more likely that someone else just beat you to the punch.

Regardless of whether an idea is similar to yours or not, you can’t let it bother you.  You should write every project as if it’s the last thing you’ll ever do.  But once it’s done, once it’s out there, you need to let go of it.  If you’ve only got one good idea (and I believe most people don’t have much more than that), you’re never going to succeed as a writer.

Ideas are easy.  It’s execution that’s hard.  As someone who thinks that my strength is coming up with high concepts, that’s not an easy thing to say.

If concept is less important than execution, than titles are even less meaningful.  I remember feeling frustrated with Boom! when UNTHINKABLE came out at the same time as two Mark Waid books, one called Irredeemable and another called Unknown.  No one’s been a bigger hero to me and champion of my work in comics than Mark, but I still worried there’d be confusion. 

Then I remembered that one of my favorite Mark Waid storylines was a Fantastic Four run with Mike Weiringo called “Unthinkable”, and I realized what a big hypocrite I was.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some trepidation on my part that FEARLESS is finally being collected in trade paperback…

…at the same time Marvel is releasing a Fear Itself tie-in called “The Fearless”.  Someone at Image even suggested to me that we send them a cease and desist letter.  Even if I didn’t think that would sabotage my career, I still wouldn’t do it…having felt what’s it’s like to have to change a title, I would never want to subject other creators to that same feeling.

I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit surprised when I picked up the above comic, BATMAN’S 2011 80 PAGE GIANT, and saw there was a story by Caleb Monroe entitled “Fearless”.  Worse, as I read it, I saw that the main character had his ability to experience fear surgically removed (if you haven’t read my FEARLESS, it’s about a vigilante who takes a drug that negates his ability to experience fear).

Let me back up for a minute and explain who Caleb is.  Caleb was, until this week, an employee at Meltdown Comics, my local comic shop when I’m in LA.  He also hosted the late lamented Meltcast podcast with Chris Rosa, Sam Humphries and Aaron Brewer.

He’s worked harder than just about anyone I know at breaking into comics.

He wrote THE REMNANT for Boom! 

Based on an idea by Stephen Baldwin, it should rightfully have been the kind of disaster that happens when a celebrity dabbles in comics (especially when said celebrity has strong religious views he wants to impose on his audience.). 

Instead, The Remnant turned out to be a gripping thriller.

The Remnant also marked was the American comics debut of Julian Totino Tedesco.  Along with fellow former Meltdown manager Matt Gagnon (now Editor-in-Chief at Boom!), I have Caleb to thank for Julian, who went on to bring UNTHINKABLE and RIFT RAIDERS to light.

Caleb followed up the Remnant with Hunter’s Fortune, an all-ages adventure book from Boom! Caleb pulled off the rare feat of crafting something you could both show to your children and enjoy as an adult. 

I was excited to hear that Caleb was making his DC Debut with the Batman 80 Page Giant.  The 80 Page Giants have been one of the few places DC has been giving a voice to new talent.  Earlier this year, my good friend and critic Abhay Khosla and my friend and DECOY artist Andy MacDonald told a kick-ass Jimmy Olson story in a Superman 80 Page Giant.

Caleb had not only earned this shot with talent and hard work, but he also is one of the nicest guys in comics.  You can’t spend more than a few minutes with and not notice his big heart.  It’s this genuine good nature that makes his comics voice unique and makes it impossible not to root for his success. 

Well, almost impossible.   When you are sensitive, paranoid artist like myself and until you see a his name associated with a title and a concept that cuts so close, things can get dicey.

But even if Caleb was a no-talent, lazy writer with a bad disposition, I’d still have to admit the following: Fearless is a great title, but one that I don’t own.  Neither do I have the a monopoly on the idea of removing someone’s ability to feel fear (part of the inspiration for FEARLESS was a plotline Don DeLillo’s White Noise that involves a drug given to terminally ill people that takes away their ability to fear death).

Without spoiling Caleb’s story too much, the protagonist’s willingness to have his capacity for fear removed is just one of many brilliantly ruthless things he does in order to pursue his childhood dream: becoming a supervillain worthy of defeating Batman.  

Caleb has a number of things worthy of envy his “Fearless” story, and sharing a title with me isn’t one of them.  He’s proved the maxim that a good superhero comic has more ideas on one page than entire screenplays do in 120 of them.  He’s created one of the most memorable new Batman villains in years.  And he did it all in 10 pages.

I’m still annoyed with Caleb.  But not because he “stole” a title.  I’m annoyed because he just plain out-wrote me.  And I couldn’t be prouder.

Do yourself a favor and pick up Caleb’s issue, and keep your eye on him.  He’s a talent to watch.

San Diego Comic-Con

Well, if you read this blog, or are a Facebook friend, or follow my Twitter, chances are you not only know what San Diego Comic-Con is, you’ll probably be there.

I’m going to spend most of my time signing copies of GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES and just about everything else I’ve written with Paul Azaceta at table #2729 , part of the Image Comics booth.  I’m going to be there from Wednesday to Sunday, with occasional breaks.  If you don’t see me, @ or dm me on twitter, and I’ll run back from whatever action figures I’m staring to chat with you.

Right now I’m drooling over this Marvel Universe Sentinel:

I will also be doing at least one panel for KICKSTART COMICS, where I’ll discuss RIFT RAIDERS as well as officially announce DECOY, my new graphic novel with Andy MacDonald (act surprised).  The panel is Thursday, July 21st 5:30 - 6:30 PM in Room 4.  Besides me, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joshua Williamson, Tony Lee and a host of other creators will be there.  The panel will be moderated by actress and new comics creator Alexa Vega, the daughter from Spy Kids.  The good news is that she has grown up to be a beautiful young woman.  The bad news is she’s married.  But it’s Hollywood, so hope springs eternal;)

If you are a first time #SDCC attendee, I wrote a guide on my Script Shark blog for what writers (particularly aspiring ones) can hope to expect from the con.  There are plenty of guides for surviving Comic-Con (I particularly like Jon Davis’), but mine is focused on what I’ve learned, which is to try to limit your expectations.  At the same time, I try to keep it positive, suggesting ways to maximize your networking opportunities without overstepping your bounds.  Basically, I’m trying to save others from some of the mistakes I’ve made.  Like hitting on celebrities on Tumblr.

Why, Zombie?

Paul and I have been fortunate enough to get some incredibly nice reviews for GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES.

The one bit of criticism we’ve been getting, if you can even call it that, is that some reviewers wish that GRAVEYARD was just a straight military book.   They wish their weren’t zombies in it.

I’m actually pretty surprised by that reaction.  There aren’t many war books on the stands, so it’s not like I expected that people would be hungering for them in the way they seem to be devouring zombie books left and right.  But it actually makes me happy that there’s a market for war books, because I like to read them and want to create more of them.

I’m also surprised by the surprise - this book was solicited and promoted as a zombie book.  My fear was that we’d get a lot of pissed-off zombie fans wondering why there’s only 3 pages of zombies in the 1st issue and 29 pages of Marines in Afghanistan.

Again, it’s nice to know that even with the internet, it’s still possible for someone to pick up a book without having everything about it spoiled (hopefully I’m not spoiling GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES for you now).

I can’t help that the book isn’t what some people want it to be.  Would EX MACHINA have been better if it was just about a mayor and not a mayor who was a former superhero?  Would GOTHAM CENTRAL be better if it was a straight crime drama that didn’t take place in Batman’s home town?  When those books came out, were people complaining that it wasn’t.

While I can’t make the book something it isn’t, I can explain WHY it is the way is.  So, why are there zombies?

It was NOT a commercial decision.  The zombie bandwagon left town a while ago, and I went into this fearing we’d get the “oh no, not another zombie book” reaction.  Which I get on some level, but on another…why don’t critics complain every time there’s a new super-hero book out? 

I want comics to represent as many genres as possible, and I’ve written in more than most (what other creator has done superheros, sororities, time travel and a midget Western?).  If we had 10 more zombie books, comics would still be 10 times more diverse than it is now. 

From a plot perspective - and this is a bit of a spoiler - you needed some outside force to get Marines and Taliban to cooperate with one another against a common foe.  That’s something that’s just not going to happen without something fantastic, whether it’s zombies, aliens or the Soviets invading again.  I think there’s dramatic possibilities from that kind of interaction that’s interesting to explore.

Zombies have a more important thematic role, though.  As I told Comics Alliance, the zombies represent a force not unlike the Taliban. A foe with seemingly inscrutable motives that doesn’t appear to need to eat or sleep, and no matter how many you kill…they just keep coming.

It goes deeper.  In counterinsurgency doctrine, there’s something called “insurgent math”.  The idea is that for every insurgent you kill, you wind up creating ten more.  You’ve created new enemies by pissing of his friends, family and comrades.

Now, imagine you kill someone in a place where the dead are returning to life.  That person you just killed is going to come back as a zombie, kill others, who will also return as zombies, perpetuating the cycle.

I usually don’t like explaining my work, preferring to let it speak for itself.  And I think that they “why” behind zombies will become clear as the series progresses.  Yes, there will be more horror in the next 3 issues than there was in the first.  But we are by no means getting rid of the military element - in fact, we’re delving deeper into it.

Including zombies may have been madness, but there is a method to that madness, and I thought readers (and potential readers) deserved some insight into that.

To celebreate release of the first issue of our Image Comics series GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES.  Artist  Paul  Azaceta (Amazing Spider-Man, BPRD), and I will be signing Wednesday, June 15  from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at Jim  Hanley’s Universe in New  York City.  Likely, we will be getting drinks afterwards and all are welcome to come.
Hanley’s is a great store where I do my shopping whenever I’m in the city.  It’s just opposite the Empire State Building 4 West 33rd Street (just after 5th Avenue) New York, NY 10001
I’m also going to try to have copies on hand of my last sold-out book, the hard to find RIFT RAIDERS on hand. And Paul and I will be happy whatever you bring to sign.

To celebreate release of the first issue of our Image Comics series GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES.  Artist  Paul Azaceta (Amazing Spider-Man, BPRD), and I will be signing Wednesday, June 15 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at Jim Hanley’s Universe in New York City.  Likely, we will be getting drinks afterwards and all are welcome to come.

Hanley’s is a great store where I do my shopping whenever I’m in the city.  It’s just opposite the Empire State Building
4 West 33rd Street (just after 5th Avenue)
New York, NY 10001

I’m also going to try to have copies on hand of my last sold-out book, the hard to find RIFT RAIDERS on hand. And Paul and I will be happy whatever you bring to sign.

ifanboy on GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES’ characters

Our first press so far are some behind the scenes character sketches from Paul Azaceta over at ifanboy.  Paul and I took great pains to distinguish the Marines from one another visually.  Kind of a necessity when they are all wearing the same uniforms.

Since those sketches are exclusive to ifanboy, I can’t post them here, but I can show you this:

It’s a sketch of COMBAT OUTPOST ALAMO, and it’s as much a character as the Marines, Taliban or Zombies in GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES.

You can see it’s shitty strategic position, giving the high ground to the Taliban to rain mortars down on them.  It’s also located in a densely packed town, where it will be hard to distinguish civilians from combatants.


The walls are made of HESCO barriers.  That’s basically a wire mesh that contains gravel, sand or dirt.

Note: I wanted to call it Combat Outpost ROMERO as a nod to George Romero, but Paul overruled me, feeling it was a little too on the nose.  Hopefully Alamo is better.

Thanks to Chris Arrant and the gang at ifanboy for helping us showcase our book.

Source ifanboy.com