FCBD Freebie: Peter David talks iPad, Avatar, digital comics

It’s Free Comic Book Day, and that means plenty of books to pick up at your local store– a new Atomic Robo and Friends from Red 5, Top Shelf’s latest FCBD Owly, Fraction and JRJR’s Iron Man and Thor, and the Archaia Fraggle Rock/ Mouse Guard double issue, among others. (If you’re in LA, Red Fraggle will be helping the Meltdown Comics staff with their FCBD celebration at 11am, 7522 Sunset Boulevard.)

If you’re going, though, remember– your local has to pay shipping to get those comics they’re giving away. Why not buy a little something while you’re there to help them make rent? I recommend Justin Theroux and Joe Casey’s Iron Man 2: Public Identity #1, the first half of a prequel to next week’s Iron Man 2; that way, you’ll be gearing up for your Friday midnight nerdgasm and helping support local business.

Image Comics and kid-friendly Image label Silverline have prepared a small FCBD sampler of their July 14th hardcover GN release, Fractured Fables… and, well, on release day, we’ll have a special surprise here at the Department for any fans of the fractured fairy-tale genre. For now, though, we’ll just hint that it involves Peter David of X-Factor and Hulk fame, and his involvement in the project.

Speaking of PAD, we got to sit and talk with him over at Golden Apple Comics last month (thanks, Ryan!), and I’ve just now gotten the time to condense the over 70 minutes of transcribed audio (!) into a few tidbits for you guys. With no further ado, here’s an assemblage of the wit and wisdom of Peter David:

On working with Claudio Sanchez of prog-rock band Coheed and Cambria on the new Coheed and Cambria novel, Year Of the Black Rainbow:

“The band’s worldbuilding is unbelievably complicated. Fallen Angel is a cakewalk to follow compared to the plethora of ideas that Claudio has for his masterpiece. It’s an amazing concept that he’s come up with…

“The novel was written over a period of six months, if I’m recalling correctly. Claudio and I worked together on it, developing the entire structure of the book, and what I was really pleased to see was that Claudio had absolutely no ego when it came to this stuff. All he was concerned about were the ideas. If there where things where I said this doesn’t work, then he accepted it. If it was something that had to work because it was already in the song, then it was my job to make it work. But anything that could be changed that I felt needed to be changed, Claudio was completely on board with it. All he cared about was making the work itself as good as it possibly could be.”

On Jim Cameron’s Avatar:

“Well, I thought the story for Avatar was good… when it was called Dances With Wolves. And I thought it was kind of okay, but not great, when I saw it as Pocahontas. I thought it was wonderful when I read it as a kid and it was called John Carter of Mars. In fact, if he’d been doing a John Carter of Mars film, I wouldn’t have taken issue with it.

“The problem with Avatar is not only that the story is overly familiar, but Cameron’s presentation of it was fatally flawed. You’ve got your protagonist essentially in someone else’s body, which means there’s no jeopardy to your actual protagonist. If his avatar winds up being killed, nothing happens to him. It means his mission is a failure, granted, but he’s going to be OK. He himself doesn’t face any real jeopardy until the very end of the film.

“For me, that’s problematic, and I don’t understand why he did it that way and why it couldn’t have been something as simple as, ‘What happens if my avatar dies?” “Yeah, well there’s a problem with that. If your avatar dies there will be a psychic feedback that will essentially turn you into a vegetable.’ So now he’s got an interesting conundrum, because you’ve got a guy who can’t walk and he has the opportunity to be in a being who can walk, but he’s taking a risk because he could wind up being even worse off than he is because he could wind up a vegetable. Then you’ve got an interesting decision and you’ve got sufficient jeopardy to make the character’s fate of interest to me.

“But what you had essentially was spending two and three quarter hours watching a guy playing a video game. I’m not that interested. It’s like watching TRON, except he doesn’t get pulled into the computer. Who wants to watch that? Who gives a crap?”

On the iPad:

“I think it does present incredible potential for comic books. The colors, from what I understand, are unbelievably vibrant. The disadvantage to it is, if I take this and [violently slams a TPB down on the counter several times] …looks OK to me! Do that with an iPad, and you’ve got a bit of a problem. I think that it would be really nifty if they came up with a way to be unbreakable.”

On digital comics and electronic publishing:

“I haven’t tried any of the digital comics platforms. I like physical comic books; I’m old fashioned. I mean, go sign your frickin’ iPad, why don’t you. I was actually at a convention and somebody was in the audience and we were doing a panel and they were talking about, ‘Ohh, books are dead, books are dead, the Kindle is everything. I have a Kindle, it’s terrific.’ And I said, ‘Are you planning to get autographs later?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’

“And I said, ‘What are you getting them signed on?’ And he went, ‘Books.’ And I said ‘Uh-huh…’ And he went ‘…ohhhh.’ He hadn’t thought about it.

“But with that said, from an ecological point of view, trees are… the concept of being able to get material out there that doesn’t require us to knock down trees for paper or drill oil in order to print… There’s something to be said for the eco-friendly aspects of electronic books and electronic comics. To say nothing of the fact that most of the cost of comic books comes from the physical production, which means that digital comics can be acquired for a fraction of the money.

“On the other hand, it could be the death knell for places like [Golden Apple]. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. People always tend to look at the most extreme aspects of things and say it’s the death knell for something else. When movies first started up, people said that’s the end of theater. When recorded music first became available, people said that’s the end of concerts. So now we have electronic books, and people say that’s the end of paper books. I don’t agree.”

On letting Aquaman win in the infamous Namor vs. Aquaman battle in Marvel vs. DC #2, March 1996:

“If I’m writing Aquaman vs. Sub-Mariner, I’m having Aquaman win, because I’m writing Aquaman! A lot of fans bitched about it, but you know what? Suck it. I was writing Aquaman, he wins.”