Thursday, December 29, 2005


With the madness of the holidays fading into the realm of ever-more-distant memory by the day, my wife and I finally had a chance to go out last night to see King Kong.

I loved much about it but three hours and some spare change later was very ready to leave the theater.

In particular, Kong himself was great: savage yet noble, ferocious yet tender, completely CGI yet also completely realistic. Same goes for the various dinosaurs and bats and giant insects and millions of other creatures on Skull Island.

Also particularly good was Naomi Watts although I thought her character was a terrific pain in the ass. She was brave and had a lot of heart, sure...but she kept perpetually getting herself into danger. I actually thought Kong was too good for her. After about her six millionth time trying to escape, he should have let her go and stopped saving her from whatever creature was trying to eat her next. It would have made his life much easier (and longer) if he had been a little less selfless and worried a little more about himself.

Jack Black was OK, his character was unlikeable but he restrained himself from going completely over the top. It would have been cool if Kong stomped him into a puddle at some point. Adrien Brody is lost on me. I know he won an Oscar for that Nazi movie I never saw (I don't watch movies by Woody Allen or Roman Polanski) but he's a weird looking guy, all sharp angles with beady eyes. It's distracting to me. I would have liked his character better if he started out as more of a coward and overcame his fears (and came into his own) in order to save Naomi Watts on Skull Island.

I also think that because we all know how the movie is going to end before it even starts, the movie loses a little something. No matter how magnificent Kong is, knowing he's going to end up as bullet-riddled street pizza takes a little tension out of the whole ball of wax.

As long as Kong is, running time wise, I thought it was missing out on a few story beats. I hope there's a director's cut coming on DVD at some time, I think it could have used another 45 minutes to fill in some blanks. Like Narnia, I felt that it put the relationships out there but didn't necessarily earn them. Meaning much of the heart of the film felt flat to me. I wasn't swept away in the story, I admired it from a distance.

Kong though...Kong is the man. You will definitely believe that a giant gorilla can fight dinosaurs, get chloroformed, reluctantly star in a broadway show and fall to his tragic death. All because he fell in love with the girl from The Ring.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Being overwhelmingly swamped with work and holiday preparations, I decided to post another old comic book pitch onto the blog because it's faster and easier than thinking of something semi-interesting to write.

Back in 2001, DC Comics was looking for a new direction for their Superboy comic. At the time, I was the inker on the book and was pretty up to date with the continuity. A different editor at DC, one that I'm friendly with, helpfully suggested that I try to enlist a co-writer and pitch something together so that I'd have a chance to be taken more seriously.

Geoff Johns, who at the time was still cutting his teeth in comics, agreed to pitch something with me. I remember we had a few conversations on the phone and then I went off and wrote this, Geoff thought it was good to go, and we threw it to the Superboy editor.

It all amounted to a hill of beans. Even having Geoff on board, the pitch was never even read by the Superboy editor. The book was given to the writing due of Jimmy Palmiotti and Dan Didio (whatever happened to that guy, anyway?), I was fired off the book to make room for a new art team, and the rest is history.

However, this pitch is noteworthy because it contains ONE BIG ASS IDEA. Luckily, Geoff was eventually able to put it into play elsewhere and it's become an important story in the context of the DC Universe.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays. Catch you on the flipside of Christmas.

Prestige one shot
Keith Champagne and Geoff Johns
With the 100th issue of SUPERBOY fast approaching, the timing couldn’t be better to shake things up for Superboy. To redefine the character in a way which opens up intriguing new possibilities and directions for future creative teams to explore.

SUPERBOY: THE FAMILY TREE is a story that will make fundamental changes to the character of Superboy; changes that will make him the black sheep of the SUPERMAN family, adding a layer of tension to his relationship with Superman. Changes that will force Kon-El to reevaluate the way he thinks of himself, giving him a long-term inner conflict to resolve, as well as an immediate goal to accomplish.

SUPERBOY- For years, Kon-El has known that he’s an amalgam of Superman and Paul Westfield, a mixture of Kryptonian and human DNA. Superboy has long ago come to terms with the fact that he’s cloned from an evil man. He’s overcome his genetically tainted beginnings and established himself as a first rate hero in the DC Universe.
Or so he thinks…

AMANDA SPENCE- last seen explosively decompressing in space, Amanda is back with a vengeance. She’s come up with an ingenious plan to bring her father, Paul Westfield, back to life; a plan that will turn Superboy’s world upside down.

DEATHSTROKE THE TERMINATOR- The deadliest mercenary in the DC Universe has just been hired to capture Superboy. He doesn’t plan to fail.

ARMAGEDDON- cloned by Amanda Spence when her plan for Superboy goes awry, Armageddon is also an amalgam of Kryptonian and human DNA. In this case, a teenager created from the DNA of DOOMSDAY and LEX LUTHOR, implanted with the mind and memories of Paul Westfield.

LEX LUTHOR- what secret connection does an unsuspecting Lex share with Superboy?
(I've deleted an additional character name/potential wrinkle here in case Geoff ever decides to use it in Titans)

Amanda Spence has an idea: if Superboy was cloned using her Father’s DNA, she, in turn, could clone her father using Superboy’s DNA. In fact, the same memory implant and accelerated growth technology featured in the ‘Our World’s at War’ storyline would make it a breeze to restore her father to life.

Amanda hires Deathstroke the Terminator to capture Superboy, and for once, the deadliest mercenary in the DCU actually completes a job successfully. Having acquired Superboy, Spence sets her plan in motion. She culls Westfield’s DNA from The Kid’s human/kryptonian mix and begins to grow herself a new father.

Imagine the surprise of everyone involved when, after accelerating the new Westfield’s growth a few years, she realizes that the clone looks nothing at all like her father. There’s only one possible answer: Superboy wasn’t actually cloned from Westfield.

Superboy takes advantage of the resulting confusion to escape, but he’s left with one gigantic question: Whom is he really cloned from?

Kon-El enlists Serling Roquette to help him find out. Together, they confront the one man who may be able to provide answers: Dabney Donovan. The insane geneticist taunts Superboy with a list of names he may have been created from: Guardian, Lex Luthor, Bruce Wayne, Hal Jordan, or The Joker. Donovan also drops an additional bomb: (Deleted plot point here, sorry.)
In the meantime, a distraught Amanda Spence searches through her father’s belongings, desperately trying to find anything that will help salvage her ruined plans. What she finds is a vial containing a scrap of bone belonging to Doomsday. Her twisted mind quickly forms a plan to kill Superboy once and for all.

Superboy and Roquette are on the move. They travel around the DCU, obtaining and testing DNA samples of the various suspects. Some, like Guardian, are easy. Others, like The Joker, are terrifying. Still others, like Lex Luthor, are almost impossible. Nevertheless, one by one the various suspects are eliminated until only two remain: Lex and Bruce Wayne.

Simultaneously, Amanda Spence has completed her newest creation. She’s combined Doomsday’s DNA with the cell sample she culled from Superboy, creating a being she’s named Armageddon. On top of that, she’s implanted her father’s warped mind and memories into Armageddon, bringing Westfield back to life in a new, incredibly powerful body.

Serling performs the last two tests while Superboy anxiously awaits the results, which is when Armageddon chooses to strike. Kon-El is completely overwhelmed and outmatched. Ironically, it’s only the DNA results that save Superboy’s life. When the test confirms that Superboy was cloned from Luthor, Armageddon chooses to let Kon-El live, to suffer before being put out of his misery.

Superboy is rocked by the information. Westfield was a minnow compared to a shark like Luthor. How will Superman react, and is there any hope for Kon-El to grow into a hero when at his core, he may be evil through and through?

A few days later, a nervous Superboy meets with Luthor. Throughout their conversation, Kon-El desperately searches for a shred of decency in Lex; even the smallest bit of good in Luthor’s black soul would give Superboy hope that, possibly, Lex’s evil wouldn’t taint him.

Finding none, Superboy chooses not to disclose his secret to Luthor. Instead, he begins to search for (deleted), who may be his only hope for salvation.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The next Brad Pitt?

Someone...ANYONE...tell me my boy isn't a future movie star.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Critical Response

While on my lunchbreak, I thought I'd take a few minutes to respond to some of the feedback I've read about JSA #80. As I've said in interviews all along, whether you liked or hated this arc, it was all my fault so I'll take the blame and throw my two cents into the hat.

The first two issues of JSA that I wrote were remarkably well-received. The third has been pretty much split down the middle with most of the negative comments revolving around the deaths of the characters of Hector and Lyta, otherwise known as Dr. Fate and his wife, Fury.

As some people have speculated, their deaths were indeed editorially mandated. I believe there are big things coming up for the character of Dr. Fate during and after all this Crisis business and, unfortunately, as a direct result Hector and Lyta became expendable. While their deaths were inevitable, the manner in which they died were left up to me.

That's where most people seem to feel the ball was dropped. People aren't happy that the two were written off so quickly and in such a minor fashion; that Lyta and especially Hector, one of the integral characters of the series, deserved a better end than what they got.

And you know what? You're right. They did deserve better. They deserved a whole six-issue story where they could have gone out in a blaze of glory. What they got was a 4-page subplot spread out over 66 pages of story.

Climb aboard my rocket ship and let me take you back in time a few months, let's say...mid summer.

I'm hip deep in plotting out two major storylines for this arc: Dr. Fate's last battle with Mordru (not my choice for villain but I had a lot of fun with him) and Jakeem's misadventure in the Fifth dimension. Either one is enough to carry three issues of story on their own so doing both plotlines justice is going to be tricky. All told, I've got 66 pages of story to workwith and a ton of plot points and character beats I'm stitching together to form the story. On top of that, it's a little nerve wracking stepping onto a book so intricately linked with THE MOST POPULAR WRITER IN COMICS TODAY. Not that I ever have but I'd imagine it's like dating a girl when her last boyfriend was a porn star. problem. I'm more excited than anything else and having a great time putting things together. I'm even pushing at this point to try to get John Byrne to pencil these issues as an extra treat. As an aside, I couldn't be happier that Don instead chose to come back to the book to draw these issues, it was a great swan song for both of us and he did an amazing job.

My phone rings and I'm told that, by the way, Hector and Lyta need to die and Fate needs to evolve into the Kingdom Come, Nabu version of the character by the end of the story. I think to myself, "Cool! That's one way to make sure my storyline doesn't get lost in the shuffle."

I start to put some ideas together, take a look at the clock and realize that it's problem time. Because I don't have any extra pages allotted to do it. This story is already packed to the gills.

So I did the best that I could, which was to cut four pages from Jakeem's storyline and give them over to Hector and Lyta. Maybe if I was a better, more experienced writer I could have come up with something better. Personally though, I firmly believe thatI should get an Eisner for managing to get the job done with only four pages to work with. On top of that, I snuck in a cameo by Dream and even left the death scene open enough that, although I was told Hector and Lyta were being written out permanently, there was still an untold story there. Their bodies are still out there, preserved in the snow, so maybe they'll cheat death in some way or form eventually. Not to give any die hard Hector and Lyta fans false hope but I even got an email from Geoff Johns the other day saying the same thing.

It's comics, after all. Anything can happen and eventually...usually does.

The other main criticism I've heard is that people were left wondering how Johnny Thunder, who died a while back, now seems to live again in the Fifth Dimension. Well...I guess we all know what ground those four extra pages would have covered now, don't we?

That's not entirely true. I originally was going to give Johnny Thunder a much larger role in this story, to the point where I even cliffhangered the first issue on his surprise appearance. As I wrote the second issue, though...I changed my mind. For a dead guy, I got to thinking that Johnny had been in the book an awful lot lately and I cut him way, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back. It wasn't his story, it was Jakeem and the Thunderbolt's.

As far as how he's alive in the Fifth Dimension in the first place...who says he's alive? I have a theory about The Thunderbolt and Johnny Thunder but I'm not going to share it publically because I hope to use it as some point in the future, maybe in a Classified arc. This crackpot theory of mine explains why, after he died, did Johnny seem to temporarily merge with the Thunderbolt (who then reverted back to his original form over the next several issues) and also explores other characters, like Saradin, who had wielded the Thunderbolt's power and were also present in the Fifth Dimension.

I'll give you a hint in the form of a dialogue exchange I left on the cutting room floor. In the spirit of Christmas or whatever.

JAKEEM: Johnny? We've got room for one more. You coming home?
JOHNNY THUNDER: Thanks, Jakeem...but if you ask me, it sure does look an awful lot like HEAVEN around here.
JOHNNY THUNDER: You'll see...someday.

On that note, I've got pages waiting to be inked and a life waiting to be lived. Thanks to everyone for all the message board posts, private messages and emails. For three months, I felt like the King of the Prom.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Aeon Flux

Haven't had much time for blogging over the past week, give or take a couple of days. I actually have a little list of topics to eventually get to, covering a variety of different topics, everything from movies to comics to profiles of people I admire to life to Gracie Jiu Jitsu, just to name a few.

I slipped out a few nights ago to see Aeon Flux at the local theater. I vaguely remember the cartoon from a while back. I only saw it a few times but from what I recall, it was ugly and made little sense. But I figured it was better than Harry Potter (how many movies will it take before those kids learn how to act?) so it became my flick of choice, almost by default.

Armed with my box of goobers and diet coke (a mistake by the concession girl, I never drink diet soda but I didn't feel like getting back in line to complain. Actually, there was no line, I wanted to sit down in time to see the previews), I settled into my seat and basked in the glory.

Or lack thereof. I can't really say.

Aeon Flux may be a fantastic movie, I really wouldn't know. Within about twenty minutes, I was so bored I fell asleep and slept through the bulk of it, waking up for about the last five minutes. According to some reviews I later read, I didn't miss much but...y'know, always take those reviews with a grain of salt and form your own opinions.

Between the tickets and snacks, it was a fifteen dollar nap. Good thing comic book artists make millions of dollars a year!

Also, I think I liked Charlize Theron more before she played that serial killer. There's something about taking a pretty girl and uglying them up for a role that just...takes away from that beauty. In the back of my mind, when I look at her now I feel like I got a glimpse of what she's going to look like in twenty years after she lets herself go and spends a little time in rehab. It's not a pretty picture.

There's a lesson in here somewhere but I'm not sure if I can find it. Maybe it's don't gain weight for a role unless your last name is Deniro. Or maybe it's that bad cartoons make bad movies. Or maybe it's to take my opinion with a grain of salt and form your own.

Or maybe it's all of the above.


Friday, December 02, 2005

JSA #80 preview

Well, it's almost that time again so here's the solicitation copy for JSA #80, shipping on December 7th. Instead of pasting in the Alex Ross cover, I scanned in page two from the issue. It doesn't spoil anything so I hope I don't get yelled at for doing so.

Written by Keith Champagne
Art by Don Kramer and Champagne

The final battle between Mordru and Dr. Fate rages to its shocking conclusion through the worlds of Kingdom Come and JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NAIL! Plus, the Thunderbolt vs. Jakeem to decide the ultimate fate of the Fifth Dimension! After this issue, two members of the JSA will never be seen again!

There's been a lot of speculation and some interesting theories as to which two members of the cast aren't getting out alive. Every character is somebody's favorite so apologies in advance to whoever liked these two the most.

If I was going to pretend to be psychic, I would predict that the comment I will most stumble across in reviews for this issue is that it feels like I crammed a four-part story into three parts. I don't think another whole issue was needed (although I wouldn't have complained at the extra paycheck) but I definitely could have used five more pages of story to open things up visually for Don Kramer and include some character beats that were left on the cutting room floor. Ultimately, though...I'm happy with this issue and the story arc in general. Like I wrote last month, it's not going to cure cancer but I think it's a good, solid funny book.

As most people know, this is my last issue of JSA in any capacity and the book moves into new and exciting hands in the coming months. Going out with this issue is about as good a swan song as one can get, I think. I'll miss this group of characters.

Hope everyone enjoys reading the damn thing half as much as I did writing it. The pleasure was all mine.

Thanks for reading,