Archive for May, 2016
So in previous posts I’ve given you a short course in the history of Teknophage; or at least my part of it. Last fall, after being nearly twenty years out of print, SuperGenius brought out handsome new collections of the material.
The collection includes mine and Brian’s six issue run as well as Paul Jenkins and Al Davison’s four issue follow up. The book opens with a 20 page crossover special called Wheel Of Worlds that provides the backstories and origins of all the Tekno characters. I found this a little out of place as the reader is introduced to dozens of characters who never appear in the actual Teknophage comic. But beyond that, the material is presented beautifully and the Veitch/Talbot and Jenkins/Davison stories neatly dovetail.
The political edge to the concept holds up rather well, considering the massive transfer of wealth from the middle-class to the super-rich which the world has witnessed since 1995. The indignities of modern corporate employment are clearly, if insanely, predicted all through Teknophage. Cup of Koffup, anyone?
SuperGenius has not been able or, perhaps, willing to tackle the marketing problem. To the uninitiated, the book appears to be written by Neil Gaiman. Bryan’s and my credits were on promotional images of the front cover (see below) but left off of the final version. Neil Gaiman’s Teknophage is in wide distribution (by Macmillan) and I’ve seen copies in pretty much every bookstore I’ve been in. Sadly, the whole exercise has the scent of a publishing sleight of hand that exploits Neil, as well as his fans.
Not to mention the actual artists and writers who created the material. And I had to ask SuperGenius to get a single comp copy. It has not escaped me that perhaps a book about a rapacious business predator almost requires the exploitation of its creators.
Please don’t let all that get in the way of your enjoying Teknophage though. It actually is a very cool book and I am proud of my part in making it.
When it came time for Tekno Comics to introduce the Neil Gaiman line, including Teknophage, to the world, it presented an interesting problem. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the comic book industry was undergoing a sort of business apocalypse. Hundreds of thousands of reader/collectors had abandoned comics and many who remained felt betrayed by years of slimy marketing techniques aimed at making slipshod material “collectible”.
Tekno Comics business plan was based on properties with famous names attached, (such as Issac Asimov, Mickey Spillane and Leonard Nimoy). But launching a “Neil Gaiman” line of comics that Neil wasn’t actually writing was suicide considering the fan fatigue and resentment in the marketplace. And since none of the books tried to mimic Neil’s distinctive storytelling style, even his own dedicated fans were left confused.
It was just too easy for fans to ignore the line as more phony crap being done to fleece them. Which is a shame, because the opposite is true. Behind the scenes Neil had been up to his elbows working with creators; helping them speak with their own voices, not his. I think it would have been better for all involved if Tekno could have rethought their strategy by giving Neil a more formal creative role such as “story editor” and pitched the line as “edited by Neil Gaiman”.
Instead Tekno relied on the same “collectibility” approach that had just gutted comic book publishing.
Another inspired addition to our Teknophage team was letterer, Todd Klein. Without question, Todd is the very best letterer working in comics today (as he was when he signed on to make my writing fit perfectly with Brian’s storytelling).
I’ve had the great good fortune to work with Todd on a lot of projects. Many of them, like Supreme and the ABC stuff, demanded he reach into his historical bag of tricks to uncannily duplicate period correct lettering styles from all the eras of comics.
Todd discusses designing the Teknophage logo here. Anyone wishing to learn the art of lettering comics could not do better than to explore the tips, tricks and essentials as explained on his site.