March 2010 Grab Bag!

Hey guys! With all the new content coming to iFanboy, I am not sure if the Grab Bag will be needed much longer, but here we go for the month of March!   This month's edition features an interview with Ben Ross, who just published his first comic book, Belladonna, which is a first for me, some confusion on (way) old events, a movie trailer and a bit more…it's all over the place, but hey, that's the point!

One of the fun things about working with iFanboy is getting a chance to talk to comic book creators, especially, for me, the ones who are just getting started out on the medium.  I was at a very cool comic book shop in LA, Dream World Comics, where I was on the hunt for some back issues (I somehow completely missed Justice League: Cry for Justice #6) and I had the very good fortune to bump into director-turned-comic book creator Ben Ross, who was there to sign a few issues of his new comic book, Belladonna, which is out from IDW Publishing.  I am actually gonna try to make this a regular feature, to highlight the efforts of new comic book creators and get their impressions of the funny books business.  I asked him a few questions about his experience writing a comic book (his first!) and I thought I would share part of the interview with you here (three questions, in fact, which will be the name of this feature if I can actually make it a regular feature this con season):

What about the process of writing a comic book surprised you?

I was surprised how natural it felt to write. It was the best combination of worlds for me, being both directing and writing. I was able to say what I wanted in a panel, which is like doing is storyboard. It was great to know (more-or-less) what I'd be seeing later. I was also surprised by how good everything looked when pages started coming in. It truly looked better than I'd ever imagined it would, even in my own head. That was an incredible feeling, as that never happens as a director. And if someone says it does happen, honestly, I think they're lying. Or they're James Cameron. I believe him when he says that. So when it happened to me, I was overwhelmed.

How did you decide on the artist, or did IDW hook you guys up?

When I first made my deal with IDW, I ran out and bought a bunch of books, and I was really looking for female-centric books, especially by IDW. That led me right to Fallen Angel. Of all the books I picked up, that was the one that drew me the most, and the reason was simple. J.K. Woodward draws women in a way that I hadn't seen before (and I haven't really seen in anyone else). While they're sexy, they're human, they're tangible, they're real. So when IDW asked me what I wanted Belladonna to look like, I said hat I'd love to have it look like Fallen Angel, and could we find someone who could draw like that. My editor, Scott Dunbier, replied by saying he'd ask J.K. himself to come on and do it. We were introduced at Comic-Con in San Diego last year, talked about what we both saw, and then got started. We both looked at a heroine the same way: there's a difference between having a character be "sexy" and "sexual." I prefer the former, it's more aesthetic and genuine. I get laughed at when I say this, but I didn't want a character who was super busty with cleavage hanging out all over the place like a girl on Baywatch, I wanted someone who was like the good-looking girl next door. And she turned out perfectly.

What advice do you have for people who want to make their own comics?

I learned early on in my time in Los Angeles that persistence was key; you can't give up. People drop out when they don't find success quickly, and that will leave opportunities for those that remain.  I believe that everyone will get their chance, so when yours comes, make the most of it. So whatever you have to do to stay around to get your shot, do it, and don't be ashamed. I've been really fortunate to get help along the way, whether it be jobs I had, jobs people hooked me up with, and, truthfully, the support of my parents got me through the tought times, and I wouldn't have gotten my chance had they not blindly believed in me. So to anyone else, keep working on your skills, do what you have to do, take whatever help someone might offer, and don't be ashamed of having to do so. You need to stick it out and take your shot.

I enjoyed Belladonna. The story is pretty ambitious (I think they could have done a full year arc with their story), with some compelling characters and situations that make it a natural story for a comic book.  The feel of the book is very cinematic, especially in the beginning and during the action sequences, which makes some degree of sense; Ross originally imagined the story as a movie, then realized during the writing of that script that the lead character would be a great comic book character.  Though I felt the art was not always consistent (I got the feeling there was a lot of drawing on top of photos going on with a few size and perspective issues in a few of the panels), there was a muralistic feeling to some of the pages that was really intriguing.  There was so much going on in the book, both in terms of story arcs and characters, that I was in this odd position of just wanting the book slow down a bit, just because I was beginning to enjoy the possibilities of the characters and their situations but was saddled with the knowledge that the book itself was a one-shot.

The truly original one-shot is an incredible challenge, come to think of it–you do all this work, the work of creating new characters, new cities, new everything…and that's it. One book.  I would think Belladonna could keep on going as a regular series — she reminds me a bit of the guy from Incorruptible meets Harrison Ford from Regarding Henry meets Emma Frost (she wears white well), which I guess is the hope behind many a one-shot book. 

Actually, this whole experience made me realize that I don't really read many one-shot books. Like, I just…they don't even show up on my radar unless I am already familiar with the writer or the artist.  Now that we are in the con season I hope I can call more attention to these kinds of books. They serve as a kind of proof-of-inspiration, I guess–they show that making comics is possible, that it can be done, that there are stories out there from independent creators that are getting told. While I enjoyed this issue of Belladonna, I found myself wanting to have read the story over a series of books–this would be a great 8 issue series–so the creative team could have more time with the characters, to settle in.  But as I mentioned before, perhaps that's the whole point of a well-executed one-shot–leave the reader wanting more, to leave the reader with a rich world to imagine the characters in, in stories yet to be told.  Regardless, it's a solid book (literally, IDW gave it the full treatment, it is really well produced) and worth a look.


So now I go from the intrepid world of independent comics to the hypemachine of the modern day blockbuster: if you haven't seen the trailer for Tron: Legacy,  please go and do that as soon as you can.  The trailer, featuring music composed for the piece by Daft Punk (who are also doing the soundtrack, remember), is an enticing return to the world of Tron…which I never actually realized I missed until seeing the trailer.  I am actually young enough to remember seeing the original film in the theaters and I remember the big deal about it was that something like 16 minutes of the movie was entirely computer generated. Back then it was all about the world of videogames; the idea of cyberspace, the universe that could exist inside the networks of millions of connected computers, wasn't talked about at all.  Tron hinted that there was something…beyond our interactions with digital worlds. It foreshadowed the Matrix, in a way, before the World Wide Web and the Internet became the everyday, the everywhere.  I wonder if the movie will expand its world view beyond gaming.  We'll see. The trailer seems to show a pretty standard storyline (reminds me a bit of Star Trek, the orphaned kid, the guy who talks about his father, the motorcycle, the tight suits, etc (okay, kidding about the second two, but still)) but I am hoping that there is a bit more than what is hinted at in the trailer. Again, we'll see.  I'm looking forward to it, though.


I admit it–I don't really read comic book "news" sites as much as I probably should. I mean, we get a lot of news here, but when it comes to "what's coming out"-style news, I actually don't read a lot aside from the occasional leaf-through of a Comic Shop News.  Usually, this is fine–the ads in the issues of the books I read tend to set things up and I think, for the most part, that I know what's going on…except when I don't.

I first noticed this when I picked up Superman/Batman #68. On top of the issue was this header, 'Our Worlds At War Aftermath" next to a "Casualties of War!" (with the exclamation point!!) logo. Now…like…wha?  My brain reaches and thinks that it might be something to do with some kind of war involving Thanagar that was alluded to briefly in a World of New Krypton issue, but, like…that doesn't make sense because WONK is a "current" continuity book and Superman/Batman is definitely not, mostly because Superman is on Earth and mostly mostly because Bruce Wayne is Batman.  What makes it funny is that the characters keep referring to some big epic battle, which, as far as I know, never happened in any of the books I have read. 

So, I just did a search on DC Comics "Our Worlds At War" and the first thing that comes up is a wikipedia article about a crossover…from 2001.  I do a bit more searching and now..okay…yup, there was a crossover in 2001 and it has the same logo treatment…from 2001…and I am officially confused.  I will let it go and hope that it all makes sense but I gotta hand it to DC…I have never seen an "Aftermath!" issue nine years later–that's some serious aftermath madness going on, folks.  Can someone explain this to me?  Does this ever happen to you, where you get completely blindsided by something?

Finally, I had this strange experience reading comics last night, and while it doesn't really warrant a full-on article I thought I would sneak it into the Grab Bag.  I finished reading Criminal: Sinners #5, which brought the story to a close, and I realized that…well, I didn't quite like it.  And it wasn't really the story that I disliked, it just felt disconnected, like everyone just got tired of working on the book and decided to sum it up as quickly as they could.  Even Brubaker wrote at the end of the story something to the effect of, "Hope you liked it, I'm not sure if it's good or not–I hope it is, but…"  It was strange; it just felt like everyone ran out of gas, which could very well be the case since we won't see a new story until at least June or July.  I also had a similar experience reading Ex-Machina  #48, where everything just seemed to be going by the numbers…just…kind of doing the story, as opposed to telling the story.  This might have something to do with the just how the story is being told (I have no idea what is going on, like, I have no idea, and I have every issue), that it might be just the team writing for the trade as opposed to single issues.  Now, I admit, I was really tired when I read these issues and realize that I have been kind of rushing through the books a bit, but I feel like I am running into this mechanical consumption of comic books more often these days.  I mean, that last issue of Adventure Comics?  I didn't even read the last story–I just looked at the panels and all the balloons and just couldn't muster the energy to actually read the words. I couldn't muster the energy to read comics??? What does that mean?  Does this ever happen to you? I mean, that can't be good, right?  But do you ever feel that way?  When you just get the feeling that the book itself is just phoning it in, so you just find yourself not paying any attention or find your mind wandering?  

Whew. I'm glad I was able to get all that out of my head. Thanks for reading–see you next week…!



Mike Romo is an actor in LA. Most of the time. You can reach him by email or regard his ponderings on twitter.


  1. Oh Mr. Romo, there will always be a need for the Grab Bag!

    I have to confess, I have yet to see the original TRON. I guess I’ll put it on my queque and get to watching it before the new movie hits.

    And I had the same feeling after my first read through of that last issue of CRIMINAL. Not sure what it was, but I felt underwhelmed. It wasn’t until the second read through a day later that I really enjoyed the book and felt satisfied with the conclusion. Maybe you just need to try it again? Or maybe you just didn’t like it so much, that’s possible too. 😛

    Keep the Grab Bag alive!

  2. That last issue of Adventure was terrible. I couldn’t read that last story either. I tried 3 or 4 times but every time my eyes wouldn’t read it. 

  3. there’s a definintely a need for a grab bag each month.

  4. Its true, I feel the same way. If I become disinterested in a book, I will look through the pages, and sometimes I don’t even have the energy to do that, its sad. Comics bring great joy but also, great letdowns.

  5. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Man, that Tron Legacy trailer in 3D had me floored. 

  6. Tron Legacy is going to change my life (slightly).

  7. Is that "Our Worlds at War: Aftermath" thing true? Cause Our Worlds at War was the first ever event comic I read, and it would be oddly nostalgic for me if this was really coming out.

  8. @RapidEyeMovement: It’s absolutely true. DC announced a while back that they were going to use SUPERMAN/BATMAN to tie into DC events from the past. I *think* I talked about it on the show when this particular issue came out. Or, maybe I just talked about it with Josh and Ron some other time off the air.

  9. I loved that first issue of the Superman/Batman arc you’re talking about for one reason.

    The return of Deathman. Don’t know who he is? Look him up because he is a hilarious character from when Batman had a manga series in Japan. He just kills himself just to get away from the authorities. What a useless and funny power.

    Tron has never been a thing for me really, but the trailer for this looks very good. Maybe a solid rental in the future. 

  10. @conor: Ace! I think remember hearing about those past-tie-ins (possibly on your show right enough) but paid it no nevermind at the time.

  11. I didn’t read the event that they tie into, but the past couple of Superman/Batman issues have been fantastic with a fun story and awesome art by Adrian Syaf.

  12. I havent read criminal #5 yet, So i can’t agree specifically on that.  But I do unfortanetly know the feeling your talking about.  That’s usually about when i decide to drop a book.  The only way to get past that feeling and maybe not drop a particular book is to sit down and read the whole arc or miniseries or what-have-you.  Then, if its still no good as a whole, its official, time to drop.  A lot of times though the re-reading renews my faith and interest in a particular comic.  Sometimes though, you get past the point of no return and dont even want to re-read.  That is a real upset.  Thats what happened with me last month at the end of the last Conan the Cimmerian arc.  There’s a good chance it might happen with Spawn.