The Big 2 tap the Times
by Mike Baron

Great minds think alike. How else to account for the simultaneous turning by Marvel and DC toward Name Authors to helm their prestige titles? Decades ago, writers like Alfred Bester and Ray Bradbury labored in comics before they hit it big as novelists. Today, Marvel and DC cherry pick NYTimes best-selling authors to write superheroes, hoping that name recognition will bring in readers who previously turned up their noses at comics.

DC tapped Brad Meltzer to write Identity Crisis, a murder mystery involving virtually all their A-list heroes. It's all over now but the screaming over how lame the killer was, but it was a fun ride. Meltzer's dialogue sparkled with succinct individuality. The battle between the heroes and Deadshot remains a high-point of comic book combat. I read Meltzer's The Millionaires, a thriller about a young financial analyst who falls into a deadly scheme and while the writing was vivid, the story was pedestrian. Super heroes freed Meltzer's inner geek resulting in some of the best writing of his career.

This year I've been following Orson Scott Card's Ultimate Iron Man. Card hits the nail right on the head. This is the best Iron Man I've seen, even if the traditional Vietnam-era origin has been air-brushed out of the picture. Card knows enough science to make Howard Stark a convincing genius. Andy Kubert's pencils evoke a sleek, dangerous world with a touch of the old man's magic, especially in the faces. Joe never added this much detail. But Andy, that building in the East River. Beyond the visual effect it makes no sense.

So how did it do? Ultimate Iron Man #1 sold 138,753 according to That's pretty good. Ultimate Iron Man #2 did 90,197, considerably less but still comfortably in the black. It's not exactly a monthly book. Issue #4 (of 6) just came out last week. The writing prompted me to finally buy Enders Game.

Get Hooked

Gabe Eltaeb, Destroyer of Chairs, is mutating faster than Hillary Clinton. Gabe is drawing two books simultaneously, Peter Brandvold's The Devil's Lair with his left, and The Hook with his right. The Hook is about a planet where everyone is in a gang, and every gang is a musical group. It's balkanized, like today's music industry, only instead of types, they're nations. Hip-Hop Nation. Republic of Poptopia. Rapland. Industrial Goth City. The Bluegrass Survivors. It is a planet where certain harmonies can literally kill, and duels take place with guitars and amplifiers. Gabe, who never sleeps and never has enough to do, bugged me to write a four page preview for the series, which we have.

© 2005 Gabe Eltaeb

Mike Baron worked for the Boston Phoenix, Boston After Dark, and the Real Paper. He broke into comics with Nexus, his groundbreaking science fiction title co-created with illustrator Steve Rude. Baron has written Marvel's Punisher, DC's Batman, Deadman, and Flash. Nexus has garnered honors too numerous to mention, including Eisners for both creators. Baron has written Star Wars for Dark Horse, Turok, Dinosaur Hunter and Archer & Armstrong for Valiant, and has three issues of Legends of the Dark Knight in the works.

A prolific creator, Baron is at least partly responsible for The Badger, Ginger Fox, Spyke, Feud, and many other comic book titles. He is currently writing Detonator and Night Club (May) for Image, and is a regular contributor to International Studio, Argosy, and Popular Polar Bear.

Baron lives in Colorado with his wife and dogs. He collects rocks.
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