HOOSIERS
(1986)
Directed by David Anspaugh. Screenplay by Angelo Pizzo.
Starring Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper and Barbara Hershey.

 Hoosiers was another entry in an apparently unending series of ‘80s “feel good” movies. The genre was actually birthed in the 1970s with Rocky and the lesser-remembered but equally influential Breaking Away. But the “triumph of the little-guy” formula was mainly an creation of the post-Jimmy Carter era, when Americans still had enough of a Vietnam/Iran-Hostage hangover to perceive our superpower nation as some kind of scrappy underdog.

We (American moviegoers, that is) couldn’t get enough of seeing our self-image inflated by Hollywood fantasies. Hoosiers fit the template: undermanned basketball team from tiny high school with misfit coach relies on sheer guts and ingenuity to win the Indiana State Championship. The sacred Indiana State Championship. But this movie transcended the genre, earned a pair of Academy Award nominations and is widely considered the best sports film ever churned out by Hollywood. Hoosiers is a well-produced, well-acted piece of entertainment, but its lasting resonance is due to the fact that Hoosiers is “based on a true story.” Yes, there was one scrappy underdog who really did win the big one.  
In the movie, the Hickory Huskers, a team from a school of just 161 students, won the 1952 Indiana State title, beating much bigger South Bend Central on a last-second shot by star player Jimmy Chitwood.
In real life, the Milan Indians, a team from a school of just 161 students, won the 1954 Indiana State title, beating much bigger Muncie Central on a last-second shot by star player Bobby Plump.

A true tale tailor-made for Hollywood. Or so it would appear.

There was one small hitch in bringing this true tale to the screen. The lives of the real Milan players and coach were, according to Hoosiers screenwriter Angelo Pizzo, “not dramatic enough. The guys were too nice. The team had no real conflict.”
And so the Hollywoodization of a story tailor-made for Hollywood began. Marvin Wood, the quiet, religious 26-year-old family man who coached Milan to the title in his second season was replaced by Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), a fiery loner in his late 40s who spent a decade in the navy after he punched one of his own players and was suspended from coaching in disgrace.

Hackman’s Dale wins the title in his first season with a team that, as the sports cliché goes, came out of nowhere. Wood was in his second year and coached Milan to the state semi-finals the season prior to winning it all. The movie also introduces an assistant coach, a hopeless alcoholic whose son just happens to be on the team – a totally made-up character and subplot.

Almost every boy in the Milan school tried out for the basketball team and Coach Wood had a full roster of 10 players. In the movie, Coach Dale barely scrapes together a squad of seven. One of those players is the team’s equipment manager, who is pressed into service to hit two crucial free throws in the semi-final game. The equipment manager is named “Ollie,” which was the real first name of Milan’s manager.

The real Ollie, however, never donned a jersey, much less took a crucial free throw.

The fictional team’s star Jimmy Chitwood refuses to play until midway through the season because he is distraught over the death of the previous coach. Chitwood’s flesh-and-blood counterpart, Bobby Plump, had no such reservations and played the entire season. (Wood did indeed replace a very popular coach, but that coach did not die, he was pink-slipped for purchasing new team uniforms without the school’s approval.)

With the championship on the line in the final seconds, when his coach plans to let another player take the final shot, the normally silent Chitwood speaks up. “I’ll make it!” he declares. And so he does.
It was Coach Wood’s plan all along to let Plump take the final shot. “I was a very shy kid,” Plump said years later. “I would never have said, ‘I’ll make it.’”
There were some slight similarities between Coach Wood and his Hollywood doppelganger. When Wood took over the team he endured the town’s approbation by closing practices to parents and drilling the team in a new style of offense. Unlike “Norman Dale,” Wood never had his job put to a vote of a town meeting. More important, the film’s most famous scene was taken straight from Wood’s playbook. Before the championship game, Dale measures the height of the basket – his point being that this massive, 15,000 seat field house was no different from the team’s own high school gym.
Wood had done exactly that before Milan’s “miracle” game.

Bobby Plump has said that “there was more truth than accuracy” in the movie (which did capture, he said, the “feel” of growing up in a tiny Indiana farm town). “The final 18 seconds were the only thing factual in the movie.” Basketball aficionados, as well as film fans, will appreciate the differences between reality and Hollywood leading up to those climactic 18 seconds. The filmed version of the game is a fast-paced affair with “Jimmy Chitwood” sinking the winning bucket with only a moment’s hesitation after an in-bounds pass.

Coach Wood ordered his team to play the “slow down” style of basketball popular in the 1950s. Bobby Plump held the ball for a full four minutes before he took his shot – and then he missed! Plump got the ball back and held on for another full minute, running out the clock before putting up the miraculous jump shot that made Hollywood history.

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING

    Guffey, Greg. The Greatest Basketball Story Ever Told: The Milan Miracle, Then and Now. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993.

    Marshall, Kerry D. A Boy, a Ball and a Dream: The Marvin Wood Story. Indianapolis: Scott Publications, 1991.

    Sports Hollywood. “The Real Hoosiers.” http://www.sportshollywood.com/hoosiers.html

 
 
COMIXOLOGY sez: "As the plot unfolds, with characters becoming darker and darker, and acting out in stranger and stranger ways, it seems that Vankin is dipping into the days of pulpy comic yesteryear. By the end of the tale, it feels like you've been thrown into a blender with equal parts classic 1950s monster movie, bizzare EC horror comic."

COMICLIST keeps the party going: "As most of the best Godzilla stories do, this book manages to illustrate that the monsters are not always as monstrous as the humans that they interact with. This is a good book to pick up and enjoy something different from the norm. I definitely loving this Legends series."

POPTARD enthuses: "I was so excited by this book that I felt I just had to share some of that joy… If you love old-school movie monsters and dinosaurs, YOU MUST GET THIS!!!!! NOW!!!!!"

GODZILLA LEGENDS #2 - RODAN written by yours truly, art by Simon Gane, colors by Ronda Pattison and editing by Bobby Curnow. It's on sale now.
 
 
JFK
(1991)

Directed by Oliver Stone. Screenplay by Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar.

Starring Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman.

JFK, it could be said, is the movie that gave birth to this book. There have been a lot of films based on actual events, and more often than not, journalists and academics greet these releases with knives sharpened and fangs bared. Justifiably, in many cases. Nothing unusual about that – but there’s never been a movie as viciously and unrelentingly flayed as Oliver Stone’s JFK. That sorry episode is what got the debate about history and Hollywood rolling for real.

Regardless of how you felt about Oliver Stone or the Kennedy assassination itself, the torrent of media bile directed at this movie had to be a little unsettling. And puzzling. There had been films about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy before. In 1973, the Dalton Trumbo-written Executive Action had a cabal of right-wing industrialists and oilmen, alarmed by Kennedy’s dangerously progressive policies, contracting a hit (“executive action”) on the president, carried out by mercenaries who station three different riflemen in Dealey Plaza and set up Lee Harvey Oswald as an innocent “patsy.”

The Executive Action conspiracy is not far removed from the plotline of  Stone’s three-hour epic 17 years later. Yet Executive Action, despite its release only a decade after the actual event, when the memory was still raw, generated no controversy worth mentioning.

The blitzkrieg on JFK commenced long before the Warner Brothers-backed movie ever threaded through a projector. Before, for that matter, the movie finished filming. The media got hold of an early draft of Stone’s script and began exenterating it while Stone was still re-enacting the Kennedy Assassination in Dallas, with Dealey Plaza now dressed up as a movie set. The rancor toward the movie and, as former Kennedy aide Frank Mankiewicz pointed out, the very idea that such a movie could exist, was savage and merciless.

The New York Times in particular dedicated almost 30 articles (including letters and op-ed pieces) to shredding the film. The Washington Post published an article by its longtime intelligence correspondent George Lardner Jr. skewering Stone’s movie for its many “errors and absurdities, large and small,” a full seven months (almost to the day) before the film’s release. Around the same premature period, a writer for Chicago Tribune-owned Dallas Morning News (hometown paper of the home of the Kennedy assassination) decried Stone’s then-unmade film as “morally repugnant.” In fact, the same article also branded as “morally repugnant” Time-Warner corporation and, indeed, “anyone who pays American money to see the film.” (Presumably foreigners spending their own currency are fine.) The week of JFK’s release, Newsweek (owned by the Washington Post) put the controversy on its cover, announcing, unambiguously, that “Oliver Stone's New Movie Can't be Trusted.”

The Times’ longtime Hollywood reporter Bernard Weinraub filed a “story” (more of an opinion piece, actually) denouncing Warner Brothers for releasing the film at all, espousing the viewpoint that movie studios have a “responsibility” to suppress politically controversial subject matter. The paper’s distinguished liberal columnist  Tom Wicker produced a particularly vehement hit piece.

Says Mankiewicz, “the New York Times and its allies in the major commercial media set out – and nearly succeeded – not just to discredit Oliver Stone and his film, but to destroy it.”

The media assault was bizarre, and unprecedented – except perhaps (as Stone himself pointed out) by the Hearst newspapers’ attack on Citizen Kane 50 years earlier. In that case, the media’s motive was plain. Kane was an unflattering character study of Hearst himself. With JFK, the question is the same as the question asked by Stone’s hypothetical “Mr. X” character, about the assassination itself.

Why?

What was it about this movie that posed a clear and present danger? In the minds of the major media, at least.

The assailants’ motives are many and varied. As Mankiewicz notes, the most adamant attackers, including Wicker and Lardner, were “directly involved in reporting the events of November 22, 1962,” but in the ensuing three decades “hardly gave the event a backward glance.” The movie indicts not only the overly credulous reporting of those journalists at the time, but the course of their entire careers and more than that, their whole view of American politics – a view which holds that the assassination, while certainly a personal tragedy and a “loss of innocence” for the American public, was insignificant in political terms. Absurd as it seems, in their view the murder of the president was a pop culture event, not a political one.

There’s also the jealousy factor. A Hollywood movie reaches far more people than a piece in the New York Times could ever hope to.

Another brand of jealousy: Some of the film’s opponents had written conspiracy books of their own. Journalist Anthony Summers and early Warren Report critic Harold Weisberg were among that number. It was Weisberg who obtained the purloined first-draft script that served as the basis for the way-early articles tearing into Stone’s project.

Whatever the psychology or hidden agendas of the pilers-on, on a superficial level they all attacked JFK for the same alleged crime: Stone “twisted history.” This is the only legitimate criticism of the film (other than aesthetic criticisms, of course). The motion picture in question, sayeth the sages, distorts historical facts to make a political point.

Does it? It would take a book of its own to address the facts in the film. There’s no way to confirm this, but JFK must be the most fact-heavy film in Hollywood history. The screenplay is a triumph of expository dialog. There’s hardly any dialog in there that doesn’t explicate one point of fact or another. Heck. We’d write that book if it hadn’t already been written. One year after JFK came out, Stone and his collaborator Zachary Sklar published JFK: The Documented Screenplay. They included 340 notes, citing the source of every major or controversial assertion of fact in the script. In the months before and after his movie came out, Stone spent plenty of time rebutting his critics, but the book was the ultimate comeback. For every time he’s accused of inventing, warping and spinning facts to suit his own ends, he can always point to research in the book. The sources can then be judged on their own merits.

The real problem was that people still bicker over the sources. For every fact cited as gospel by a conspiracy “buff,” there’s a Lone Assassin Loyalist who’ll bust a blood vessel screaming that it’s not true. And it works the other way, too. Which does not mean that the entire history of the assassination is a Rorschach blot. It means only that establishing veracity in this case has already been the subject of hundreds of books on both sides of the issue, with hundreds more to come, undoubtedly. When they say that Stone warps the historical record, they’re really saying that his facts that don’t fit their theory.

The most glaring example was Stone’s choice of a hero. He needed some central character to tie together the multifarious threads of assassination conspiracy research into something resembling a narrative – and he sure wasn’t going to use Earl Warren. That left only one choice, the only law enforcement official to ever prosecute a trial in the assassination case, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison.

From 1966 until 1969, Garrison chased a New Orleans connection to the Kennedy assassination. Garrison’s investigation culminated in the arrest and trial of a prominent New Orleans businessman, Clay Shaw, whom Garrison believed was somehow involved in planning the assassination.

Of all the JFK assassination “conspiracy theorists,” the only one who’s received wore public pillorying than Stone is Earling Carothers “Jim” Garrison. He’s been vilified as a charlatan, a political opportunist, a mafia stooge and a lunatic. The Most Trusted Man in America himself, Walter Cronkite, denounced Garrison as “evil” for his persecution of the “innocent man,” Shaw.

By the time Stone’s movie reached screens, Garrison was terminally ill. In one of his final interviews, for a documentary entitled Beyond JFK, he is shown flat on his back in a hospital bed. He died in 1992. But his frailty and impending death did not temper the renewed verbal assault directed at him then by, well, many of the same commentators who assaulted him the first time around.

They found it especially galling that Stone cast the role of Garrison with Kevin Costner. Costner was still polishing his Oscars from Dances With Wolves just a year earlier. In 1991 he was the biggest movie star in the business. Not only did Costner bear no physical or temperamental resemblance to the jocular-yet-bellicose, six-foot-six Garrison, worst of all as far as the anti-JFKers were concerned, Costner came with an onscreen persona besst described as “heroic everyman.” Kind of an updated Jimmy Stewart. The Costner likeability was at direct odds with their picture of Garrison as a reckless, ruthless, grandiloquent self-aggrandizer.

Stone’s perception of Garrison couldn’t have been more different. To him Garrison was a Capraesque figure, which was exactly the reason he cast Costner.

“I’ve never found Garrison to be the ‘kook’ pictured by a hostile press,” Stone wrote in Premiere magazine. Instead, says Stone, Garrison is a literate, eloquent and patriotic military veteran, former FBI agent and appellate judge. As to Garrison’s much publicized personality flaws (“arrogance and paranoia among them,” wrote Stone), the director chose to omit them from his portrayal because, “either you had to make Garrison the issue or make Kennedy the issue. I chose Kennedy.”

What was quite clear from the voluminous op-ed critiques of his film (though not from reviewers, who generally admired JFK), the film’s detractors would have preferred him to choose Garrison.

Stone acknowledged (in the same Premiere article) that he used Garrison as a vessel through which he channeled four decades of assassination research. Other researchers, before Garrison and after, formulated many of the ideas that issue from Costner/Garrison’s lips.

“It is typically Capraeqsue that private citizens have done the work while government bodies stagnated,” remarked Stone. Stone also invented the aforementioned “Mr. X,” supposedly an ex-military “black ops” man who meets secretly with Garrison in Washington and spells out the reasons why Kennedy was killed – on a purely anonymous basis. No such person existed, much less acted as a “Deep Throat” for Garrison. The character is based largely on Col. L. Fletcher Prouty, who was indeed an ex-military man once involved in covert operations. Many of the assertions in Mr. X’s lengthy soliloquy are Prouty’s. Far from anonymous, Prouty expresses his views in two published books and countless on-the-record interviews.

Nonetheless, in its broad outline anyway, JFK followed the course of Garrison’s investigation. It begins in 1963, shortly after the assassination, when Garrison learns that Oswald (Gary Oldman, in the movie) lived in New Orleans through the spring and summer of that year. He arrests David Ferrie, a strange-looking man and possible acquaintance of Oswald who for reasons unknown had driven to Texas through a torrential rainstorm the night of the assassination. But the FBI sets Ferrie free without charges.

Garrison picks up the investigation again in 1966, after a conversation with Louisiana Senator Russell Long. Long surprises Garrison with his cynical view of the Warren Commission Report: “That dog don’t hunt!” Garrison zeroes in on Ferrie once again, only to have Ferrie die suddenly as soon as his name surfaced in the press as a suspect. (Oddly enough – and this Stone does not include – the last known person to see Ferrie alive was journalist George Lardner Jr., the same Lardner who wrote the above-mentioned Washington Post attack piece in 1991.) At that point, Garrison decides to arrest Clay Shaw. After a month-long trial in which Garrison and his assistants went to great lengths to show that there was a conspiracy, Shaw was acquitted. Jurors late said that Garrison had persuaded them that Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, but not that Clay Shaw was part of that conspiracy.

That is the basic outline of JFK’s plot, and of the real-life Garrison investigation. Stone took many of the boilerplate dramatic liberties common to historical films. He used composite characters. The convict “Willie O’Keefe” (Kevin Bacon) was an amalgam of Garrison’s star witness Perry Russo and several other lesser figures. He melodramatizes the mundane roles of real characters. For example, Garrison’s assistant D.A. Lou Ivon did not quit his job, as does the “Lou Ivon” character in the film. Stone even invents a female member of Garrison’s investigative team, presumably to make the cast more palatable to a 90s audience. In reality, Garrison had no distaff staffers.

Naturally, he invents most of the dialog. But not all of it. Warrren Commission testimony is quoted verbatim as is testimony from Garrison’s trial of Clay Shaw. One speech that was only partially invented was Garrison’s lengthy closing argument in which he exhorts jurors to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” and calls for the opening of sealed assassination files that were mandated closed until 2039.

Curiously, some of the film’s attackers scoffed that Garrison never made a closing argument, leaving the chore to his assistants. To the contrary, he manifestly did make the statement, and his wording was very similar to the speech delivered by Costner in the film -- including the Kennedy quote and the call to open secret files.

The merits of taking such dramatic license are debatable, but there are films discussed in other chapters of this book that take far greater liberties than Stone took. So why is JFK the most vilified historical film of all time? There are probably as many reasons as there are vilifiers, but they all can be boiled down to one thing: they hated what Stone had to say. This wasn’t a matter of prettying up some celebrity’s messy life for a bio-pic, or adding a few car crashes to ratchet up the action quotient. To its critics, JFK was a film that offended their deeply held view of the world. Stone questioned their religion.

Most Hollywood movies aim for quite the opposite, to comfort and reassure their audience. JFK doesn’t ask its viewers to leave feeling good. It asks them to think. To question. Apparently, judging by the assault on the film, that is the last thing some in the media want you to do.

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING

Garrison, Jim. On the Trail of the Assassins. New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1988.

James, Rosemary and Jack Wardlaw. Plot or Politics? New Orleans, Pelican Publishing House, 1967.

Stone, Oliver and Zachary Sklar. JFK: The Documented Screenplay. New York: Applause Books, 1992.

 

 

 

 
 
Officially solicited today, my next comic. I'm really excited about this one -- GODZILLA LEGENDS #2 from IDW Publishing! This is a single-issue self-contained story about my favorite monster from the Godzilla-verse, RODAN! I'm doubly excited because the artwork is being handled by Simon Gane, with whom I worked on the graphic novel DARK RAIN when I was an editor at Vertigo. I've seen most of his pages on this book, and I can promise, they're exciting.

The book hits comic shops in December. I really hope you'll look for it. Here is IDW's official solicitation copy and one of the two awe-inspiring covers, this one by Chris Scalf (the other is by Art Adams).

Godzilla Legends #2 (of 5) 
Jonathan Vankin  (w) • Simon Gane (a) • Chris Scalf, Arthur Adams (c)
The spotlights on Godzilla’s greatest foes and allies continue! This issue focuses on the master of the skies— the mighty Rodan! When Rodan's egg is stolen and kept at military research facility, the winged beast is tireless in its attempts to retrieve it. However, the human intrigue and betrayal inside the facility will ultimately hold the key to whether Rodan and child will be reunited again!


*2 regular covers will be shipped in a 4-to-1 ratio (4 Arthur Adams, 1 Chris Scalf)


*Retailers: See your order form for incentive information.


FC • 32 pages • $3.99

*

Variant covers:
Black &White Arthur Adams cover!



Bullet points:

•    Written by Jonathan Vankin (The Search for Swamp Thing), art by Simon Gane (Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story)


•    First-ever story centering on fan-favorite kaiju, Rodan!

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It's always a little disconcerting in the world of comics when, due to the requirements of the business, they start advertising, or to use the comics-biz term, "soliciting" the conclusion of a serialized story before the beginning has even come out. But here it is, DC Comics' solicitation copy for MEN OF WAR #3, featuring the ending to my 3-part Navy SEALs story, with combat-ready artwork by the battle-tested Phil Winslade. The lead story (Sgt. Rock!) as always is written by Ivan Brandon. Below is the cover art by Victor Kalvachev. Pick it up Nov. 2!

MEN OF WAR #3
Written by IVAN BRANDON and
JONATHAN VANKIN
Art by TOM DERENICK and PHIL WINSLADE
Cover by VIKTOR KALVACHEV
On sale NOVEMBER 2
40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Sometimes even the best intel isn’t good enough. Rock and his men find themselves surrounded by dozens of guerrilla fighters when their last clip runs out – but bullets might not be their only weapon. Also: Ice and Tracker come face-to-face with a family of human shields. Can they clear the area in time for an incoming evac without harming innocents?
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First of all, even though this post is about BRIGHTEST DAY AFTERMATH: THE SEARCH FOR SWAMP THING #2, I just had to jump ahead a bit and share the incredibly beautiful variant cover to issue #3, the conclusion of the series. (And I can't believe it's over so soon...)

The artist of this wonderful painting is David Mack, best known for his long-running series Kabuki, which started in 1994 with the long-since defunct Caliber Press and has most recently been published by Marvel's Icon imprint. David also did Swamp Thing covers for Vertigo back in the early 2000s.

Anyway, I hope you like this painting as much as I do and hopefully, your local comic shop will stock the variant cover edition of #3 (on sale August 24) so you can take home your own copy. It's just a shame that they have to spoil the cover with annoying details like, for example, the title.

And now, on to some of the reviews for Issue #2. It's in stores now, or order it here.

HERETICAL JARGON
9 out of 10 stars. "Vankin is doing one hell of a job of reintroducing both Swamp Thing and John Constantine into the DCU. I’ve always loved Swamp Thing and was worried about how this reintroduction was going to play out. I couldn’t be happier!"

IGN.COM
"Vankin's handling of Constantine suits the character and his interaction with universe icons like Batman and Superman make this series worth the price of admission....witty exchanges between Constantine and Superman never fail to entertain. "

BY ODIN'S BEARD
"This title brings me what I want, John Constantine interacting with both Batman and Superman over the course of two issues and I couldn’t find it more satisfying. …Takeaway here is that if you enjoy Constantine you should be reading this mini."

NERDLOCKER
"Loving this book!" 4 of 5 Nerdskulls. (Go to 4:50 in the video.

Thanks again to everyone who read, reviewed or otherwise supported this book in any way! Stick around for the conclusion which in addition to David Mack's brilliant variant cover, brings us the final confrontation between John Constantine and the forces who would control the Green for their own less-than-benevolent purposes!


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BRIGHTEST DAY AFTERMATH: THE SEARCH FOR SWAMP THING #2 goes on sale today, July 27. The very cool variant cover by Ivan Reis (Brightest Day, Aquaman) and Joe Prado is below. FYI, if you can't find the variant at your local comic shop, you can order it at the link. Meanwhile, here are just a few more nice comments about  #1. The good reviews keep rolling in over time.

BROKEN FRONTIER

"Vankin has done a fine job at crafting a story that rings of the old Hellblazer series so far, without seeming completely hollow or stale…If you are a fan of magic, plants, and superheroes, then you will probably want to give The Search for Swamp Thing a shot."

VAULT OF HORROR

"Certainly lives up to expectations, thanks not only to Vankin's scripting, but also the engaging artwork of former 'Witchblade' penciler Marco Castiello."

BONGO CONGO
(Scroll down the page at the link)

"Vankin structures the story with just the right sense of mystery that makes the reader want to stick with this tale...a definite thumbs-up."

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to post kind words about the issue. I hope you'll like the second one even better!

And of course, thanks again (and again, and again) to everyone who bought the issue! As mentioned earlier, it was DC's 6th-bestselling comic in June. Let's put #2 up there on the charts as well!
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BRIGHTEST DAY AFTERMATH: THE SEARCH FOR SWAMP THING #2 goes on sale tomorrow, 7/27. "This is a book that should be labeled required reading for the DCnU launch in September," says this pretty nice review of the bestselling Issue #1. "It reintroduces John Constantine and Swamp Thing back into the DCU just in time for the re-launch. It even introduces one of Constantine's long time associates Chas into the universe."

And just in case anyone's wondering, no, Swamp Thing is not "rebooted" with Swamp Thing #1 by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette. The "Search" story still "counts."

I got my comps of #2 a few days ago and I gotta say, the issue looks great. Please pick it up if you can, along with Issue #1, if you missed it.

Anyway, what can I say? I had a blast writing this series and I can humbly submit that you will have a lot of fun reading it. John Constantine is a unique character for the DC Universe. He's about as different from Batman and Superman as it's possible to be, yet when he wants to be, he's as powerful as either of them. Watching them all interact was the highlight of this whole experience for me. And yeah, it felt like I was just sitting back and watching, not just writing it myself. I hope you dig it!

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UPDATE (Aug. 1, 2011): From having worked as a comics "insider" for 7 years, I can tell you that these estimated sales figures compiled by the industry news source ICv2.com are "ballpark" at best, but they're all we've got. So with that caveat, I'm extremely thrilled to see that the first issue of SEARCH FOR SWAMP THING did "estimated" sales of 51,928 copies!

The estimates are based on the sales charts released by Diamond (see below) and don't include any reorders or overseas sales, so what the heck, let's just round that number up to 52,000. Just for comparison's sake, Mighty Thor #3 did an "estimated" 48,114, Action Comics #902 did 41,960 and Astonishing X-Men #39 sold 37,127. So take that all for what it's worth, but shoot, it looks like pretty good news to me.

While #2 issues normally see a drop in sales, here's hoping that we at least hold our own in the July charts!

A big thanks to everyone involved on this series! See below for all of their names and all of the same tremendous gratitude applies! In multiples of 51,928!

ORIGINAL POST: So according to the sales charts released today by Diamond Comics Distributors, BRIGHTEST DAY AFTERMATH: THE SEARCH FOR SWAMP THING #1 was DC Comics' 6th-highest selling title in June. I'm not sure how many titles DC published in June, but there were 46 DC books in the top 100, according to Diamond. Out of all comics in June, SEARCH placed 16th. To put it in perspective, only the really heavy hitters sold better: Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Avengers, Green Lantern and the Marvel and DC "event books," Fear Itself and Flashpoint.

Neither DC nor Diamond release exact sales figures, but this ranking should put the sales number somewhere in the 50,000 ballpark. Not too shabby, when you think about it.

So, big, big thanks first of all to everyone who bought, read or otherwise supported the book!! Stick around for #2, when the story really gets revved up, in stores July 27.

And next, huge thank yous to penciler Marco Castiello, inker Vincenzo Acunzo, colorist Barb Ciardo, letterer Sal Cipriano and the cover artists Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes and Ulises Arreola -- and also to variant cover artist J.G. Jones, whose work I'm sure helped a lot with that sales number.

Of course, tremendous gratitude to DC's ace publicity staff who helped get the word out: Pamela Mullin, David Hyde and Austin Trunick.

But most of all thanks to DC's Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, DCU Executive Editor Eddie Berganza and Editor Rex Ogle. And of course, Co-Publisher Dan DiDio! Amazing work from all!

Though to be honest, I suspect a little John Constantine magic may have had something to do with it as well.



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Just wanted to link to a wonderful tribute to the dearly missed Harvey Pekar, who passed away one year ago yesterday, written by my pal Jeff Newelt. Please read it.

Harvey Pekar was the first writer I brought into Vertigo. With the success of the AMERICAN SPLENDOR movie still fresh, I edited Harvey's graphic novel THE QUITTER, his first full account of his childhood in Cleveland. With art by the award-winning Dean Haspiel, the book was notable for Harvey's surprising depiction of himself as something of a bully, or at least, a habitual street fighter. Sometime, when I have more time, I'll tell the story here of how that book came to be. It was an interesting journey.

Anyway, in the year or so before I left Vertigo, I developed a new graphic novel with Harvey. This was not long after the big economic collapse of 2008 and I thought it would be interesting and important to show a microcosm of the economic downturn through the history of one city. I asked Harvey if he wanted to tell the story of his hometown and how growing up there shaped and affected him. The project became CLEVELAND. In typical Harvey fashion, when I asked for a proposal, Harvey went ahead and wrote a whole script.

Unfortunately, for various reasons, DC/Vertigo ultimately elected not to publish the book. Not long afterward, Jeff, who edits The Pekar Project at the online Smith Magazine, took it up. A new, small publisher, ZIP Comics paid Harvey for the script and brought on an excellent young artist, Joseph Remnant, to draw the graphic novel. Harvey sadly didn't make it far enough to see this book's completion. Harvey Pekar's CLEVELAND comes out from ZIP later this year.